This is the Watery Vessel, the portion of consciousness contained within the limits of the GLASS VESSEL (see same). It refers to our personal sense of the subconscious, that is, as much as anything can be referenced ‘personal.' Alchemists of every period have always described subconsciousness as a vessel of water. It certainly fits the definition of a vessel, a container or vase, in that it holds everything within it on both macrocosmic and microcosmic levels. And it is composed, like everything else, of the universal watery substance, AIN SUPh AUR, though its vibratory constitution is so fine it is invisible to ordinary vision, unlike its dense, physical counterpart.
This finer, astral vessel contains a part of our subconscious self that may be identified as closer to our physical vehicle. In Cant. 8:8, she is referred to as "our little sister who has no breasts." The Hebrew for 'little sister' in that verse is אחות קטנה, achoth qateneh. Its gematria at 589 shares the value with כבוד ראשון, kabud rashun, meaning 'first honor, respect' or 'primary glory.' It is another affectionate name for Kether in Qabalistic writings. The inference is that our 'personal' subconscious body, our little sister, is the first way, within, toward our ultimate goal, Kether, the Primary Glory. That this most personal companion ought to be treated with utmost respect is an understatement. She is the body of our continuing life on the 'other side' of physical existence, and remains with us through future incarnations. Its region of awareness lay just beyond or beneath our self-conscious range of awareness.
How the males of the human species treat the females within their respective cultures is most indicative of the inner relationship with the 'personal' subconscious. If any male is to make the least headway with the inner alchemical pursuit toward union with the Higher Self, he must respect the women of the world, who are the very personifications of his subconscious mind with all her qualities and prowess. Humans experience heaven or hell from associations with the opposite sex in direct proportion to the quality of the inner relationship with the subconscious. We receive what what we exude.
Both self-conscious and subconscious modes are also contained, in turn, together with everything else, within the Universal Watery Subconscious, called the Great Sea or Binah. Qabalisits compare our ‘personal’ subconscious mind to that of a watery inlet or harbor on the coastal edges of one Great Sea, Neshamah, the World Soul. On the Tree of Life they assign this seemingly personal aspect of our nature to the ninth Sephirah, Yesod, Foundation. In modern writings it is often called the Astral Body, the body we inhabit through our dream states. Qabalists name this body the Vital Soul, Nephesh. It must be purified together with its physical brother.
Acts of alert, concentrated attention are all that is required at the beginning of the purification process. In alchemical writings subconsciousness is frequently compared to a Garden. Since the subconscious mind is always amenable to control by seed suggestions from the self-conscious level, an alchemist is most careful choosing what is planted and allowed to grow there. Chapters, even books have been and continue to be written via the psychological sciences about the delicate relationship between the self and subconscious minds. Let it be sufficient to say here that one puts nothing into the Vital Soul which may create interference or waylay progress with The Great Work. Simple mistakes, like falling asleep with an ipod plugged into the ear or with the television on, may create impediments toward this process.
Self-consciousness (our Magician and Our Mercury) is not awake and aware enough to filter the madness, enticements, mass fears, and guilt blasted across the media which subconsciousness will drink in and begin to nurture. "Be on the watch," is the simple, best advice from one of our greatest Masters. This is only half, however. It is also necessary to cleanse our Aqueous Vessel of past, erroneous implants acquired before we even heard of alchemy, and accrued from previous life-times. That part is accomplished by the RED WORK (see same) as we progress in our studies, prayers and meditations. Keep in mind that our Vital Soul, the Astral Body, is symbolized by the ninth sphere on the Tree of Life. As we progress upward and inward, Tiphareth (the One-Ego, Christ Consciousness) reaches downward and outward via the twenty-fifth path. The Temperance Tarot Key is the very picture of the alchemical process. The alchemical work is the work of the Sun (Tiphareth) and Moon (Yesod). These, being connected by the path of Samech (Temperance), are carefully cultivated by the aid of ‘Our Mercury’ (Magician). Completion, however, is affected by Universal Mercury (Kether). Refer to BALNEUM and REBIS.