Kabbalah is not theology in the strict sense of the word, theology implies God and world, as if they are separate, as Kabbalah comes to dispel this notion. Neither is it strictly speaking a mystical branch of thought. Mysticism implies the fallacy of our empirical perception and sense experiences, the mystic is ascetic and not attached, whereas Kabbalah asks us to trust our senses yet sense the deeper within, to live within world yet not feel trapped therein.
Kabbalah is referred to as The Tree of Life. In the following essay I wish to explore the three fundamental truths of our lives; our Source of being, who we are, and where we are, in other words the Divine, man and world. Once we secure a better understanding of the above mentioned we can begin to understand the kabbalistic weltanschauung of life, both our personal, collective and cosmic purpose.
Ultimately, the journey of life should make us ‘more’ not ‘less’ via ‘expansion’ not ‘denial’, with a renewed gratitude and appreciation for the beauty of all that life contains.
The Or Ein Sof – the endless light, is one, infinite, unity. The light is unified and yet when you look around you see many, duality, up and down, right and left, past and future, the question is why? Why do we see duality and many?
On all level of existence multiplicity seems to be the operative term; time appears to flow from a gone-by past into the fleeting present, impregnating a distant future. Space functions within clear and fixed dimensions. Historically speaking, history, superficially observed seems to be a great unfolding of unrelated events and stringed together episodes. Psychologically, we tend to view our inner psyche as an inner battle between various forces within us. Because of this, it seems if we are not warring between each other, then we are collectively warring against our environment, or warring within ourselves.
Creation is not a process of converting pure energy, infinite spirit into reified finite contextualized matter. Rather creation occurs through a great quantum leap, a Tzimtzum-contraction of the light within itself. So while there was and is only the ‘Or Ein Sof- the endless light’, to create otherness and apparent separation there was a tzimtzum – contraction and concealment of the Ein Sof that allowed finite otherness to come into focus.
We have the Godlike power to create, but to do so we need to blend with it the practice of ‘tzimtzum’-contraction and holding back. The most beautiful of creations is that which emerges from the union of two people. Healthy relationships with others are founded on the balance between creating and giving, and standing back and listening. Learn to speak properly, but also learn to listen, and listen deeply. The greatest gift we can give another is to listen to them and allow them to be.
Initially, the ‘otherness’ took shape as an undifferentiated actual containing the possibility for all eventual individuated life, and then slowly a ‘line’ was formed, with distinct points, and an up-and-down structure, with a clear beginning and a definite end.
These original points are the Sefiros, as in the screens through which the infinite light penetrates our reality. These distinct ‘formed’ ‘shaped’ and ‘colored’ vessels serve as curtains, or colored containers through which the infinite colorless, formless, unified light is reflected into our world, albeit in a way that it seems differentiated and colored.
The order of the Sefiros is as follows;
First there are the three intellectual sefiros; Chochmah – intuition and wisdom, Binah- cognition and reason, and Da’as- knowledge and awareness.
Next are the three primary ‘internal emotions’; on the right expansive column is Chesed love and giving. On the left, restrictive column is Gevurah – strength and restraint. In the middle is their synthesis, Tiferes –compassion and harmony. –The idea of the ‘giver’ giving with a sensitivity of how much the ‘receiver’ could and needs to receive.–
The ‘outer’ emotions are also divided into three; on the right expansive column is Netzach – confidence and perseverance. On the left column is Hod – humility and devotion, and in the middle is the unifying agent, connecting the ‘giver’ and the ‘receiver’ the idea of Yesod- relationship and intimacy. Malchus- kingship is receptiveness, as it represents the vessel that receives from the preceding nine Sefiros and re-channels the energies downward, thus becoming the ‘crown’ for the subsequent Partzuf – structure of Sefiros.
So while the light is one and formless when the light is projected into our reality it seems differentiated and colored. We delve deeply into the mystery of creation and observe the Ein Sof’s Chochmah / wisdom, or we sit and watch the sunset over the horizon and observe the Ein Sof’s Tiferes/ beauty. It’s the same ‘light’ just manifesting through a different vessel.
When life seems difficult, and we are observing the LIGHT as reflected through gevurah- non- openness and restrictiveness, remember there is only ONE. Everything that we experience in life is a reflection of The ONE, and the ONE creates out of love.
Yet, as the instrument of our understanding is our brain, a binary apparatus by its very existence, the image we have of the Ein Sof, as it is in its pure nature, is that it is detached and transcendent, beyond the Tzimtzum. Pure formless light is beyond creation and what we can appreciate is merely the rays of the infinite light reflected within our finite world. What we get is ‘manifestation’ not ‘essence’ yet, the primary book of Kabbalah, the book of Zohar –illumination teaches, “There is no thought that can grasp You, – though You can be grasped- by the arousal of the heart.”
The heart metaphor is indicative of a non brain – dualistic insight rather a deep heart awareness.
The image of Or/light being separate or ‘higher’ then the ‘vessel’, the infinite being beyond the finite is merely another construct of duality and separateness, in the world of absolute oneness there is only ONE, and both infinite ‘light’ and finite ‘vessel’ are both simply manifestations of the ONE. This one is referred to as ‘Etzem’ or ‘Atzmus’– pure essence, that which is beyond finite, but also beyond infinite, and even beyond the definition as being the source of the infinite.
Essence is inclusive transcendence, as it is beyond all expression thus able to contain all expressions, even those that seem contradictory and paradoxical. Not pantheism, though the world is a divine expression it is not the totality of Essence. In the words of the ancient sages, “He is the place of the universe, but the universe is not His place.”
All of reality is essence being expressed. Clearly, there are no separate practices or meditations on essence, because essence is not a separate phenomenon on which we can meditate. In this sense we cannot be ‘aware’ of Essence. We can only be essence-consciousness. When we live in this condition we live in oneness within our selves, with our creator, with our community, with other people, with our environment, with the world at large and the entire created reality.
All creative existence, referred to as yesh is an expression of the ultimate existence, yesh amiti, the essence. Being a reality that is a manifestation of the Real it too is real. The universe and its manifest energy is a radiant expression of the absolute oneness.
The uniqueness of physicality, in the spiritual scheme of creation is that it lives in the illusion that it is self- referential and independent of a creator. Yet, from a more expansive state of awareness, the physical reality does not exist the way we may perceive it, separate and autonomous, rather, it is merely another expression of essence, and enfolded therein.
In our mind perception, for the infinite light to appear as a finite vessel, for oneness to manifest as many, there needs to first be a Tzimtzum – contraction and concealment.
Creation occurs through a shattering, and this process is replicated throughout all creation. Every creation we achieve is through a course of shattering. Birth on a macrocosmic level, as in the birth of the entire creation, and on a microcosmic level, the birth of child all ensues with a form of concealment, with pangs of birth. But even in our day-to- day life experiences every creative birth, every new moment begins with a Tzimtzum of sort, a withdrawal from the past to create the new.
On a cosmic level; first there is ‘one’ which excludes the ‘two’ then a Tzimtzum occurs which gives rise to ‘twoness’ and duality, our cosmic, collective and personal purpose is realized when we integrate the ‘two’ within the ‘one.’ Tikun – elevation and repair is achieved when we realize the ‘divine sparks’ of oneness within all of ‘twoness’ creation. Now, having attained Tikun the ‘one’ does not exclude the two- rather, it gathers the two within it’s transcendent embrace.
Our innate ontological condition is for Tikun. This natural way of being is manifest in our bodies’ organic ways of healing, in our passionate desire to heal the world at large, and to spiritually reintegrate within ourselves.
Whereas Freud spoke of the motivating factor of human motivation as one’s sexual drive, Jung was a bit more spiritual, speaking of a collective consciousness that is manifest through archetypical dreams and aspirations. Adler in turn speaks of the notion of seeking power, while Abraham Maslow speaks of self-actualization. Integration and oneness is Kabbalisticaly our primary motivating factor, the notion of transforming ‘twoness’ into ‘one.’ This powerful innate desire, to reunify with the infinite light is the underlying drive of all desires, and nothing will give us satisfaction; no object, subject, gadget or even person until we realize this truth.
We all seek Tikun, to repair and bring the world of ‘two’ into ‘one’, we all desire ‘oneness.’ We all crave relationships, to bring together ‘two’ and live in a condition of ‘one.’ Sadly, this primordial spiritual force when undirected compels us to buy more shoes then we need, and consume more food than desired. Walking around with a deep sense of emptiness and as we desire to feel ‘connected’ we erroneously assume that if we reach out and connect with the newest version of the i-pod, or buy the latest model SUV we will feel connected and satisfied, but of course it never comes. It is like trying to patch an existential wound with a bandage.
We all seek oneness, within and with others, the two into the one. One alone is like the infinite before creation, absolute oneness excluding all otherness, but now life is about relationships, bringing two into one. Whether it is a relationship with other people, or with other ‘things’ when we understand the spiritual nature of our attractions a deeper relationship is forged, and everything in our life, all the ‘twoness’ is included within the transcendent context of the oneness.
Life is not about denial; for everything in life is a divine expression and should be appreciated as such. Everything in our lives, whether people, objects or subjects can and should be included within oneness, in this way we achieve our Tikun and feel spiritually satisfied.
Our unique purpose and tikun is fulfilled when we are truly honest with ourselves. When we are fully aware of our strengths, and pursue them, and equally attuned to our weaknesses and aspire to overcome them. Write a daily journal, or mentally review your day before retiring to bed and observe your strengths and weaknesses.
Practically the notion of two into the one translates that in order for us to personally reach our own Tikun, which will help and empower us to bring a world Tikun, we need to be fully honest with ourselves. We need to uncover what our unique ‘two’ is all about, so we can express the infinity within our diversity. Simply this means following the patterns of your life, whether mentally or through writing a journal and realizing your genius, knowing your strong points, your passion and pursuing them. And also, noticing your weaknesses, your challenges, the areas in life you keep on stumbling on, and aspiring to overcome them. Engage in the positive and do so with all your strength of being, and the negative proclivities refrain from, and stay away with all the power of your soul.
Inclusion and oneness is what we seek; in our relationship with the Divine, with others, and within ourselves. Experiencing Unity within is to begin to looking at ourselves as one unit, both a composite of utterly transcendent oneness-consciousness enclosed within a temporary body with a strong healthy ego; transcendence and oneness together with total individuation and uniqueness.
Ego/nefesh –consciousness seeks survival. Much like all of created reality we too are impelled to self-survive. As a tree bends towards her light, our bodies naturally are inclined to seek out what helps perpetuation, whether it is the food our body craves, or the sleep in needs. The body desires self –perpetuation. In fact, it is healthy and adaptive for our growth to be ego based, especially in our younger years of life. Yet, deep within we sense yechidah/ oneness. Reflectively we jump into a fire to save someone else’s life, even a person we have never encountered. Deeply we are aware that the ‘other’ is part of ‘you.’
Body and soul, or ego and transcendence, while they way appear as divergent conflicting forces, one seeking unity the other diversity, one aspiring oneness the other individuation, they are not opposing, and they are both to be included within the context of oneness.
Healthy living is balancing our ego with our transcendence. Life is not about ignoring self and your needs and living like a doormat, nor is it only about self and your needs and ignoring others. You exist and so does the other. Acknowledge your greatness, and then train yourself to see the greatness in others. Practice looking for the good in others. Remember life is a mirror.
Our challenge becomes not to nullify the ego, as in our sense of selfhood and self-value, but rather to render the ego at the service of our deeper selves.
We can choose to come to life from a pure egocentric point of view, in which case the context is ‘me or you.’ Life is a living ‘hell.’ When every person is an ‘Other’ one’s life becomes a battleground, a clash of egos, between one person and the next, or one group and the next.
An ‘ego’ that is walking down the street and is thirsty and then sees a little boy walking to school sipping his milk, the ‘ego’ naturally grabs the milk. Clearly, an ego that is unchecked and not balanced when it needs to drink and does not have the means to properly attain the drink will steal or do something worse to get his needs met.
Wherein the ego is self-serving, urging and inspiring us to self -fulfill, securing and sustaining our corporeal existence, it is our task to harness and steer our ego inclination within a greater paradigm of Oneness. Transparency not nullification; to make the ego less opaque and dense and more of an instrument of the transcendence. Acknowledging/honoring the idea of individuality, with a strong sense of distinct and unique self, yet, always realizing that we are all ‘part of the oneness.’ Each of us expressing our own uniqueness and thus expressing another finite facet of the infinite manifestations.
Ego within transcendence, body within soul is a context of ‘me and you.’ I sense my selfhood. I acknowledge that I am unique and have something special to contribute, I am fully aware that my true potential of being is articulated when I express myself in the unique way I think, feel and function, yet, I simultaneously acknowledge that you too are unique and have a particular way of being. I have my genius and you have yours, and together we are both finite expressions of the infinite ONE.
TO READ MORE, PLEASE SEE RAV PINSON’S BOOK: THE GARDEN OF PARADOX: THE ESSENCE OF NON-DUAL KABBALAH
SOurce of this discussion: http://www.esotericonline.net/group/kabbalah/forum/topics/the-heart...
Thanks, dear Rosey, I am a Kabbalah student and have been for quite a while,
I first studied Quabalah through some other initiation studies, but truly the study of this knowledge i real deep and I read the Zohar as a continuous guide to the true understanding of this science.
I like this dissertation, a lot.
Thanks for the post.