Yesod, יסוד, Foundation, is the ninth sphere on the Tree of Life. This level of our consciousness lies within us, behind Malkuth. We might consider Yesod as the first, inner layer of onion. Some of us may have had the occasion to see a rare picto-graph of the Tree of Life upside down. Illustrated in that manner renders the whole Tree in another light with the direct suggestion that Yesod, as Foundation, is not so named to give support to the rest of the Tree. Yesod is correctly the Foundation of Malkuth, not the other eight spheres, and paths, appearing above it.
The root of the whole Tree is actually Kether. Viewed upside down this way illustrates the proper sense that Yesod is the root of all external materialization. Our sub-conscious mode of intelligence holds the patterns of our physical bodies as roots in the vegetable kingdom hold the images of the plants to bloom. Yesod, Qabalistically speaking, is the principal arena of the Great Work for all of us. The external body will be changed from within. At the end of the Work we will still appear externally as we have before, if we complete the Work this round, but the cellular consciousness of the body and our very blood will be changed due to the measure of Light imbued from Tiphareth. In the next incarnation, however, the physical body will appear more perfectly balanced within and without, and more efficacious to continue the Great Work.
The first, and continuing, practice approaching the inner work is three-fold: breathing, concentration and meditation, simultaneously. As ingestion of sensible foodstuffs begins the work in the physical laboratory (Malkuth), breathing, concentration and meditation prepare the inner arena, the inner Temple (Yesod).
According to the Sepher Yetzirah the ninth sphere is titled שכל טהור, Sakel Tahoor, the ‘Pure Intelligence’. Dr. W. W. Westcott comments in the 32 Paths of Wisdom: “It purifies the numerations, proves and corrects the designing of their representations, it disposes their unity with which they are combined without diminution or division.” A. E. Waite’s description is very similar.
In some respects Yesod is like a filter. Some schools of Qabalah call this מסך, masach, ‘a screen’. Yesod, in the very depths of the sub-conscious, “purifies the numerations,” that is to say the ‘numbers’ of the spheres above (within and beyond) Yesod on the Tree. This is a two-way action performed by the Consciousness personified as the Holy Guardian Archangel, on the 25th Path within Yesod. Deep within our sub-conscious we are tested and tried for fitness to receive the Influence of the Most High, from Tiphareth. On the other hand the various day-to-day activities and personality quirks are filtered out from our next physical incarnation. The superficial attributes of our present physical life are screened out of future incarnations. It is only the important essences of the other spheres that are kept concentrated in Yesod. Yes, karmic balance is a necessity in those future incarnations, but the essence of our spiritual progression and the essence of our spiritual transgressions also carry over into that next physical life. They will manifest as ever growing desire and inclination for return and unity, and to settle affairs (“disposes their unity”) with each incarnation. Like it or not, want it or not, we will progress. Best to recognize this early as possible and spare ourselves future incarnations of suffering. It may take many incarnations to bring a given soul to the point where it can participate in conscious evolution.
Tahoor, ‘pure,’ טהור, sums to 220. Another word, בחיר, bechir, meaning ‘chosen, elect,’ are those who are sufficiently clear of the ‘alchemical dross’ in Yesod that infect and keep us from Unity with Tiphareth, and otherwise cause us to behave as imbecilic children and petty tyrants. And רך, roke, ‘tender, compassionate,’ describes those who demonstrate the more pure and clean state of Yesod. The two words each sum to 220.
Qabalists aware of esoteric astrology assign the Moon to Yesod. In Hebrew this is לבנה, levanah, ‘moon’ (literary). With different vowel points to the same letters the pronunciation is lebanah, which means ‘whiteness’ (flowery) and ‘white poplar’. The color suggestion implicates the natural purity or cleanliness of deep sub-consciousness. The assignation of the Moon to Yesod agrees with other esoteric associations from mythological lore. The ‘underworld’ is attributed to various Moon goddesses throughout the ancient world. That very ‘underworld’ today is the psychological definition of the sub-conscious.
Both the physical life, Malkuth, and its ‘under-shade’ or astral body, Yesod, receive direct influences from all desires and all mental activities. They also receive direct impulses from the Central Sphere, Tiphareth. This is illustrated on our map of the Tree of Life where Netzach, sphere 7, and Hod, sphere 8, appear above (actually within and above) Yesod. Yet further within and above all four spheres below (without) is Tiphareth, located centrally and directly above Yesod.
Our Intellect and other mental activities impress sub-consciousness. In the mass mind, mass consciousness, Hod, the 8th sphere, is yet steeped in the thoughts and attitudes of the whole left side of the Tree. Also our Intellect still receives negative influences from the mass consciousness that has held ignorant habit patterns for millennia. This is described within the Pillar of Severity, the Biblical Descendancy of Cain (Adam thru Cain – Genealogy I) where the world population at large is yet mindful of advancement in the physical world devoid the conscious awareness of the Eternal Spirit within.
The Tree of Life, remember, is a 4th dimensional glyph upon a two-dimensional medium. Netzach is illustrated in equal parlance with Hod, but due to its number, 7, suggests it is slightly ‘higher’ and within from Hod, therefore more powerful, being closer to Kether. Netzach is the Seat of Desires, according to Qabalistic psychology. History has demonstrated repeatedly that when emotions and desires are excited to inflammation they override reason, logic and sanity. Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini's Italy were perfect modern examples of emotions out of control overwhelming a nation’s historical reason and logic. Yet, when the conflagration burns itself out, regret, guilt, remorse, shame and angst from the right Pillar of Mercy, the Biblical Descendancy of Seth (Adam thru Seth – Genealogy II) ends the aberration and restores balance to world progression. These conditions see-saw with each other throughout history; imbalance with counter-balance, passion yielding again to reason, continuing the world's progression. However, the fact that all the spheres are numbered higher on the Pillar of Mercy over those numbered on the Pillar of Severity, the see-saw appearances overshadowing worldly conditions has in the past, does currently, and will continue to be a successful progression. The odd numbers within the Tree/Map, 3, 5 and 7 initiate change, and change appears dark.
Above and further within yet resides Tiphareth, the Central Self, and the Creator of both these extreme conditions for the purpose of this progressive evolution. And yet that very progression must be accomplished individually, one soul at a time. Seated in Tiphareth, Qabalists teach, is the Central Spirit, the Grand Ego, the very ego within each of us that we mistaken to be personal and behave as though it is separate from every other living thing. The more adamantly we hold on to this basic illusion the more we must suffer from the delusion of all our senses.
Within the arena of Yesod is an energy activity Qabalists call נפש, nephesh, ‘breath’. The impetus descends from the Grand Ego and therefore is more overriding and influential than Netzach (Seat of Desire) and Hod (Seat of Intellect). Aspirants in the Great Work seek sole reliance on this influence by surrendering attachment to impulses from Desire and Intellect that tend to keep us separate from that goal.
In Yesod, Nephesh (נפש), the descending impetus from Tiphareth, has its root in Binah, the World Soul, Anima Mundi. In Binah, Understanding, the influence is named Neshamah (נשמה). Both Hebrew words translate simply as ‘breath’, because they are the same save in degree. Neshamah in Binah, in turn, receives this original influence, called Chiah, from Chokmah, Wisdom. The genuine Alchemists name this Chiah influence in Chokmah, Virgin Sulfur, the Original Desire.
Qabalists instruct that Chiah (חיה) is the animating life force (AB, the Father). When Chiah is added to the above words for ‘breath’, the terms become Breath of Life or Life-Breath. In Binah, Neshamah-Chiah, נשמה-חיה, is the Life-Breath of the entire Universe, creating ‘star-stuff’ into suns and planets. In Yesod, Nephesh-Chiah, נפש-חיה, is the Life-Breath of humans, more personal but which we share with animals and plants. Qabalists teach that Binah is the seat of Intuition. Our sense of Intuition comes into our conscious awareness through the agency of Yesod (our ‘personal’ field of the subconscious), while its root is in Binah, the Universal Subconscious. This is how those of us who have 'purified' Yesod sufficiently enough come into awareness of universal principles which benefit all evolution.
Binah also shares close affinity with Yesod by their English translations. The very word ‘understanding’ suggests something underneath, supportive; that which ‘stands under’. Anything which stands under and renders support is, by definition, a ‘foundation’. Moreover, Qabalistically, Binah is the ‘substantive’ aspect of the Triune One-Thing. That substance, the Limitless Light, is the Foundation of the entire physical universe. All physical materialization is fundamentally composed of its ‘matter’. Yesod, accordingly, is the sub-conscious that supports from ‘under, within’ the physical manifestation of the conscious life.
Expiration of the physical vehicle, however, does not end the existence of the astral body, the body of sub-consciousness. The self-consciousness that resided within that body-vehicle is withdrawn, retracted, into the astral body for that personality life’s review. The personality itself disintegrates. Well before the next reincarnation the personality traits of that last life are completely extinguished, and the new physical body begets an entirely new personality life based upon its new environment with a new set of circumstances. The accrued, relevant sub-conscious (astral) essences, however, are carried over into the new experience, to continue the soul’s journey toward ultimate reunion, time after time, after time. There is very little-to-nothing of the memory of that previous incarnation. There are, however, the rare instances of genuine deja vu. On the whole, however, we begin again as we did this life; the new child personality is blank.