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FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPALS

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Basic Concepts in Kabbalah Rav Michael Laitman, PhD - - i Behold that before the emanations were emanated and the creatures were created, The upper simple light had filled the whole existence. And there was no vacancy, such as an empty atmosphere, a hollow, or a pit, But all was fill..

Basic Concepts in Kabbalah

Rav Michael Laitman, PhD

Behold that before the emanations were emanated and the creatures were created,

    The upper simple light had filled the whole existence. And there was no vacancy, such as an empty atmosphere, a hollow, or a pit,

    But all was filled with simple, boundless light. And there was no such part as head, or tail,

    But everything was simple, smooth light, balanced evenly and equally, And it was called the Endless Light.

And when upon His simple will, came the desire to create the world and emanate the

    emanations,

    To bring to light the perfection of His deeds, His names, His appellations,

    Which was the cause of the creation of the worlds, He then restricted Himself, in the middle,

    Precisely in the center,

    He restricted the light.

    And the light drew far off to the sides around that middle point. And there remained an empty space, a vacuum

    Circling the middle point.

    And the restriction had been uniform

    Around the empty point,

    So that the space

    Was evenly circled around it.

There, after the restriction,

    Having formed a vacuum and a space

    Precisely in the middle of the endless light,

    A place was formed,

    Where the emanated and the created might reside. Then from the Endless Light a single line hung down, Lowered down into that space.

    And through that line, He emanated, created, formed, and Made all the worlds.

    Before these four worlds came to be

    There was one infinite, one name, in wondrous, hidden unity, And even In the angles closest to Him

    There is no force and no attainment in the endless, As there is no mind that can perceive Him,

    For He has no place, no boundary, no name.

     th century Kabbalist, The The ARI, a great 16

    Tree of Life

    - - i

Author’s Note

    Even though this book may seem very basic, it is not intended to be a book that conveys basic knowledge of Kabbalah. Rather, it is a book to help readers cultivate an approach to

    the concepts of Kabbalah, to spiritual objects, and to spiritual terms.

    By reading and re-reading in this book, one develops internal observations, senses, and approaches that did not previously exist within. These newly acquired observations are like sensors that feel the space around us that is hidden from our ordinary senses.

    Hence, this book is intended to foster the contemplation of spiritual terms. To the extent that we are integrated with these terms, we can begin to see with our inner vision the unveiling of the spiritual structure that surrounds us, almost as if a mist had been lifted. Again, this book is not aimed at the study of facts. Instead, it is a book for beginners who wish to awaken the deepest and subtlest sensations they can possess.

     Michael Laitman

    - - ii

    Author’s Note ................................................................................................................. ii Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 1

    Chapter 1: The Method of Perception in Kabbalah ....................................................... 4 Chapter 2: The Purpose of Kabbalah ............................................................................ 7

    Chapter 3: The Giving of Kabbalah .............................................................................. 9 Chapter 4: Perfection and the World .......................................................................... 12 Chapter 5: Freedom of Will ........................................................................................ 15

    Chapter 6: The Essence and the Purpose of Kabbalah................................................. 19 Chapter 7: From the Afterword to the Zohar............................................................... 21 Chapter 8: The Language of Kabbalah ....................................................................... 25 Chapter 9: From the Preface to the Zohar ................................................................... 28 Chapter 10: From the Introduction to the Zohar............................................................ 33

    Chapter 11: From the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot................................ 47 Chapter 12: Conditions for Disclosing the Secrets of the Wisdom of Kabbalah ............ 50

    Chapter 13: A Few Basic Concepts .............................................................................. 52 Chapter 14: FAQs ........................................................................................................ 57

    - - iii

    Introduction

    Open slightly your heart to me, and I will reveal the world to you.

    --The Book of Zohar

    ; Who am I?

    ; Why do I exist?

    ; Where did we come from? Where are we going? And what is our purpose

    here?

    ; Have we been in this world before?

    ; Why is there suffering in this world and can we avoid it?

    ; How can we attain peace, fulfillment, and happiness?

    From generation to generation, people try to find answers to these painfully insistent questions. The fact that they continue from generation to generation indicates that we still have not received satisfactory answers to them.

    While studying nature and the universe, we discover that all that surrounds us exists and functions according to precise and purposeful laws. Yet, when we examine ourselves, the zenith of Creation, we find that humanity seemingly exists outside of this system of rational laws.

    For example, when we observe how wisely nature created our bodies and how precisely and purposefully every cell in our bodies functions, we are unable to answer the question: Why does the entire organism exist?

    All that surrounds us is permeated with cause-and-effect connections. Nothing is created without a purpose; the physical world is governed by precise laws of motion, transformation, and circulation. However, the main question—―Why does it all exist (not

    only us, but the entire universe)?‖—remains unanswered. Is there anyone in this world who

    has not been touched by this question at least once?

    The existing scientific theories assert that the world is governed by invariable physical laws that we are unable to influence. Our only task is to live well by using them wisely and to prepare the ground for the future generations. But good living does not resolve the question concerning why these future generations will, or should, exist.

    The question of humanity’s origins—whether from a primitive species through evolution,

    or through extraterrestrial visitations and settlementdoes not change the essential

    questions. There are two primary dates in every person’s life: birth and death. What

    happens between them can be unique and therefore priceless. It can also be meaningless if at the end of it is darkness and chasm.

    Where is our wise, omniscient, coherent nature that does nothing without purpose? Every atom, every cell in the human organism has its cause and purpose; yet, what is the purpose of the entire organism? Perhaps there exist some laws and goals that we have not yet discovered.

    - - 1

    We can research something at a lower evolutionary level than our own. We perceive and comprehend the meaning of inanimate, vegetative, and animate existence. But we cannot comprehend the meaning of human existence. Evidently, this understanding can be attained only from a higher existential level.

    Our research of the world boils down to the study of how it reacts to our influence on it. We can only research at our own level and not above it. Even when we research at our own level, we study it by applying some impact on the world and measuring the reaction to the impact. We perceive our influence on the world with our five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Otherwise, we may use instruments that expand the sensitivity range of our limited senses.

    Unfortunately, we cannot recognize anything beyond what our senses can perceive and research. It is as though nothing exists but what we perceive. Whatever does seem to exist, lives only in what we sense, and a creature with different senses would experience the same things in a totally different way.

    At the same time, we do not feel a lack of sensory organs, such as a sixth finger on our hands. Just as it is impossible to explain the meaning of eyesight to one blind from birth, so, too, will we fail to discover the concealed forms of nature with the research methods we are applying today.

    According to Kabbalah, there exists a spiritual world that is imperceptible to our sense organs. At its center is one tiny partour universe and our planet--the heart of this universe.

    This sphere of information, thoughts, and emotions affects us through the laws of the material nature and its incidents. It also places us under certain conditions upon which we must act.

    We do not choose where, when, with whom, and with what traits and inclinations we will be born. We do not choose whom to meet and in what environment to grow. These things determine all of our actions and reactions, as well as all of their consequences. So where is our freedom of will?

    According to Kabbalah, there are four mandatory kinds of knowledge to attain: Creation: The study of Creation and the evolution of the worlds, namely:

    ; The way the Creator created the worlds with the creatures that populate

    them through consecutive restrictions;

    ; The interaction laws between the spiritual and material worlds, and their

    consequences;

    ; The goal of man’s creation is to form a system with an illusion of the

    existence of free will by combining the soul with the body, and by

    controlling them through nature and the apparent factor of chance with the

    help of two mutually balanced systems of light and dark forces.

    Functioning: The study of the human essenceits interconnection and interaction with the

    spiritual world. Functioning deals with one’s arrival toand departure fromthis world. It

    also includes the Upper Worlds’ reactions to our world and towards other human beings,

    caused by man’s actions. It researches everyone’s individual path, from the creation of

    - - 2

worlds to the attainment of the ultimate goal.

    Incarnations of the Soul: The study of every soul's essence and its incarnations, as well as our actions in this life and their consequences for subsequent lives. The research of incarnations examines how and why a soul descends to a body, and what determines the acceptance of a certain soul within a certain body.

    Incarnations of the Soul also deals with the mystery of chance, and researches human history as a result of a certain order and cycles of souls. It also follows this path over 6,000 years and studies the connection of the soul with the general governance of the system of worlds and its cycles of life and death. It also states upon what factors our path in this world depends.

    Governance: The study of our world: inanimate, vegetative, and animate levels of nature, their essence, role, and how they are governed by the spiritual world. It studies the Upper Governance and our perception of nature, time, and space. It researches the Upper Forces that move material bodies, and the way one’s inner force pushes all things, animate and

    inanimate, to the preordained goal.

    Can one solve this fundamental puzzle of human life without touching upon the question of its source? Every human being encounters this question. The search for the goal and the meaning of existence is the key question around humankind’s spiritual life. Hence, starting th century, we are observing a revival of mankind’s spiritual with the second half of the 20

    aspirations.

    The technical progress and global catastrophes that gave rise to a variety of philosophies have not brought spiritual fulfillment to humanity. As Kabbalah explains, out of all existing pleasures, our world received only a tiny sparkits presence in corporeal objects is what

    provides all our worldly pleasures.

    In other words, all our pleasant sensations, from whatever source, are caused only by the presence of this spark within them. Throughout our lives, we are placed in a forced quest of new objects of delight, hoping to receive greater and greater pleasures; we do not suspect that they might not be anything but shells.

    To receive absolute fulfillment, we must acknowledge the need for spiritual elevation above matter. There are two paths in our world to reach that goal: the path of the spiritual ascent (Kabbalah), and the path of suffering.

    The path of Kabbalah is a path of independent and voluntary realization of the need to gradually terminate egoism, when the Upper Light is used to perceive egoism as evil. Sometimes people come to this realization quite unexpectedly. A secular, well-established, calm person suddenly begins to feel acute discontent; any spark of excitement, joy, taste for living, and pleasure disappears from that person’s everyday life.

    This is the state of our generation, where material abundance gives rise to a sensation of spiritual hunger. We start searching for other sources of fulfillment, often choosing a long and prickly path. Freedom of will exists between the paths of spiritual ascent and the path of suffering. One can only wish that people will ―choose life‖ instead of embarking on the

    path of suffering, the same path upon which we so often treaded in the past.

    - - 3

    Chapter 1: The Method of Perception in Kabbalah

    Kabbalah teaches about the cause-and-effect connection between spiritual sources that unite according to absolute laws into one exalted goal: the attainment of the Creator by the created beings existing in this world.

    According to Kabbalah, all of humanity and every individual must reach this ultimate point to fully attain the goal and program of Creation. Throughout the generations, individuals have attained a certain spiritual level through individual work. These people, called ―Kabbalists,‖ climbed to the top of the spiritual ladder.

    Every material object and its action, from the smallest to the greatest, is operated by spiritual forces that fill our entire universe. It is as if our universe were resting on a net of forces.

    Take, for example, the tiniest living organism whose role is merely to reproduce and sustain its species. Think about how many forces and complex systems function within it, and how many of them remain undetected by the human eye. If we multiply them by the number of organisms living today, and by those that once lived in our universe and in the spiritual worlds, we will then have a vague idea of the vast number of forces and connections that control them.

    One can depict the spiritual forces as two interconnected and equal systems. The difference between them is that one comes from the Creator and develops from up downward through all the worlds to our world. The other begins in our world and rises according to the laws that were developed in the first system and now function in the second.

    Kabbalah defines the first system as ―The order of creation of worlds and Sefirot,‖ and the

    second as ―The attainments or levels of prophecy and spirit.‖ The second system teaches

    that people who wish to attain the ultimate degree should follow the laws of the first system, which are the laws studied in Kabbalah. When one ascends in these degrees, the second factor is born within. This is spirituality.

    The corporeal world is full of forces and phenomena that we do not feel directly, such as electricity and magnetism, but even small children are familiar with their names and the results of their actions. For example, although our knowledge of electricity is limited, we have learned to utilize this phenomenon for our purposes and define it as naturally as we give names to such things as bread and sugar.

    Similarly, it is as if all names in Kabbalah give us a real and objective idea about a spiritual object. On second thought, just as we have no idea about spiritual objects or even the Creator Himself, so are we equally ignorant of any objects, even those we can grip with our hands. This is because we perceive not the object itself, but our reaction to its impact on our senses.

    These reactions give us the semblance of knowledge, though the essence of the object itself remains totally concealed from us. Moreover, we are utterly unable to understand even ourselves. All that we know about ourselves is limited to our actions and reactions. As an instrument of the world’s research, science divides into two parts: the study of properties of matter and the study of its form. In other words, there is nothing in the

    - - 4

    universe that does not consist of matter and form. For example, a table is a combination of matter and form, where matter, such as wood, is the basis that carries the formthat of a

    table. Or take the word, ―liar, where matter (one’s body) is a carrier of the form, falsehood.

    A science that studies materials is based on tests--experiments that lead to scientific conclusions. However, a science that studies forms irrespective of matter, and separates them abstractly, cannot be based on an experiment. This is even truer with forms that were never connected to matter, because a form without matter does not exist in our world. A form can be separated from matter only in one’s imagination. Therefore, all conclusions

    in such cases will be based purely on theoretical assumptions. All of philosophy refers to this kind of science, and humanity has often suffered from the unsubstantiated conclusions of philosophers. Most modern scientists have rejected this kind of research because its conclusions are completely unreliable.

    While researching the spiritual worlds, we discover that our perceptions are merely a will from Above that wants us to feel as if we are a separately existing entity, and not a part of the Creator. The entire surrounding world is actually the result of the influence of spiritual forces on us. This is why the surrounding world is considered a world of illusions. Let me explain what I mean with an allegory:

    ―Once upon a time there lived a coachman. He had a pair of horses, a house, and a family.

    Suddenly, he had a wave of bad luck: his horses died and so did his wife and children, and his house collapsed. Soon enough the coachman died of grief. At the celestial court, it was discussed what could be given to such a tormented soul. Finally, it was decided to let him feel as if he were alive, with his family in his house, as if he had good horses, and was happy with his work and life.‖

    These sensations are sometimes perceived in the same way that a dream seems real. Indeed, only our sensations create our pictures of the surrounding world. So how can we tell illusion from reality?

    As with all sciences, Kabbalah, too, is divided into the study of matter and the study of form. Nevertheless, it has a remarkable feature and an edge over other sciences: Even the part of it that studies form abstracted from matter is based entirely on experimental control; that is, it is subject to empirical testing!

    When a Kabbalist has risen to the spiritual level of the studied object, he or she acquires its qualities and thereby has full insight. This person can practically operate various forms of matter, even before they manifest in matter, as if observing our illusions from aside! Just as with any other teaching, Kabbalah uses certain terminology and symbols to describe objects and actions: a spiritual force, a world, or a Sefira is called by the name of the

    worldly object it controls.

    Since every material object or force corresponds to the spiritual object or force that controls it, an utterly precise conformity is created between the name taken from the corporeal world and its spiritual root, its source.

    Therefore, only a Kabbalist, who clearly knows the correspondence between spiritual forces and material objects, can assign names to spiritual objects. Only one who has attained the spiritual level of an object can see the consequence of its influence in our world.

    - - 5

Kabbalists write books and pass their knowledge to others using the language of the

    branches.‖ This language is exceptionally accurate because it is based on the connection between the spiritual root and the corporeal branch. It cannot be altered due to the invariable connection between an object and its spiritual root. At the same time, our earthly language is gradually losing its accuracy because it is connected only to the branch and not to the root.

    However, mere nominal knowledge of the language is insufficient because simply knowing the name of a material object provides no understanding of its spiritual form. Only the knowledge of the spiritual form enables one to see its material result, its branch. We can thus conclude that one should first attain the spiritual root, its nature and properties. Only then can one pass the name on to its branch in this world and study the interconnection between the spiritual root and the material branch. Only then can one understand the ―language of the branches,thus facilitating a precise exchange of spiritual

    information.

    We may ask, ―If one should attain the spiritual root first, how can a beginner master this science without correct understanding of the teacher? The answer is that through the great

    desire for spirituality, the student finds the right way and acquires the sensation of the Upper World. This is done by studying authentic sources only, as well as by detaching from any material rituals.

    - - 6

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