Thursday, June 27, 2013

Releasing Suppressed Lights

I was thinking today about what our sages say about Queen Esther. Some say that she was the most beautiful woman ever. Other’s say that she was extremely ugly. These seem like quite opposite views. However, things seem to converge at the extremes. It’s a funny thing. The source of this is that all is light and the deepest darkness is really the highest light, just in a state of suppression. So too, the depths of ugliness contains a very striking beauty. So really both explanations are the same - two sides of the same coin.

It was quite appropriate for Esther to be a model of this truth because she personifies the divine feminine. The ultimate expression of the divine feminine is the afterglow left in the wake of the primordial contraction. It was extremely dark in relation to the Infinite Light with withdrew from her area - casting her as “ugly of ugly”. Yet, she contained the highest light - the “beautiful of beautiful”. This was a light so powerful that it survived the primordial contraction. All the pressures of withdrawal couldn’t affect her to vacate from her location. She stayed put!

I was also contemplating this underlying concept in another situation earlier today.  However, I temporarily seem to have forgotten what it was.

Yes ... the notion that we need a right balance between light and dark to do our job in this world. It actually takes off of this morning’s meditation. I left off with the question if darkness is really the highest light then why should we want revealed light?

The answer is that we need the revealed lights as tools for unraveling the darkness and opening up it’s lights. It’s not because the revealed lights are stronger. It’s only because light attracts light. The attraction lures the hidden light out of concealment. This is what happens with the body during the resurrection and beyond. The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that just like until now the body lives off the soul, during the resurrection the opposite will happen, the soul will live off of the body. This is consistent with Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s futuristic scenario where the body slowly dissipates into the soul. This is what happens to food. It slowly dissipates into the entity which is eating it. So this union between body and soul can be seen as a kind of eating - the soul is eating the body.

The question is why does the soul find the lowly body so sustaining? The answer might be because the body is from darker substance, meaning from greater suppressed light. Compared to the soul, it resembles a “relative afterglow”. In fact, there definitely is an afterglow of the soul within the body. It was once there and left an imprinted trace. So the soul finds the body spiritually nutritious and as she manages to dissolve more and more of the body into herself, she becomes spiritually brighter and brighter. Again, the power to dissolve the body does not happen because she’s ultimately more powerful. It mainly happens because “light attracts light”. So the revealed lights of the soul attract the hidden lights of the body inviting them to open up in her, as if they met a long lost confidante.   

However, this seems to happen slowly over time. It’s an evolution. The fact that it does not happen in an instant, further supports the notion that the afterglow or the body is very spiritually powerful and the suppression runs very deep. Therefore, the lights of the body dissolve and illuminate the soul slowly, over a process of thousands of years. It’s a slow digestion. Its possible that the strength gained from previous openings of the lights are needed to elicit new openings of lights.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Layers of Monotheistic Belief

“If you truly believe in the Oneness then you truly believe that you are ultimately a soul mate with everyone and everything.”

To me, father Abraham’s work of introducing the world to monotheism is far from done. As long as people are not at peace and automatically loving each other, there’s still so much more to do to introduce monotheism to the world. Clearly, father Abraham has left over a big piece of this work for our generation.

Monotheism is a layered belief. Though there are no layers or levels to the Creator's Oneness, there are layers and levels of monotheistic concepts absorbed by human minds. One level might be proclaimed in the declaration, “There’s no deity other than God.” This means that there’s no being who is in ultimate control other than God.

A higher level, is expressed in the understanding that the Creator has no image or form. He's invisible because He's are indivisible. Under this umbrella comes notions of His seamless Oneness and Infinity.

Yet a higher level, is expressed in monotheism becoming monism. On this level, it is no longer sufficient to believe that there’s no deity other than God. This level calls for a belief that there’s nothing at all other than Him.

Now there’s philosophical room to turn the Biblical directive of “Love your fellow as yourself” over on its conventionally understood head. By loving my fellow, I am loving myself. I am doing “love your fellow, love yourself”. This is because we are both in the Oneness, where ultimately all distinctions disappear.

This can serve as a foundation for world peace and for programs to live in a state of kindness. As we understand that we are all One, we treat otherness differently. Someone else’s suffering becomes our own. Someone else’s joy becomes our own. So we do not want to participate in another’s suffering on any level. We want to erase any suffering we see in others. We want others to be happy, only happy. The motive for this is does not rest on the strength of belief alone, eventually it rests an experience of connectivity with Higher Self.

Even someone who is unsure whether he has married his soul mate can find his spouse’s soul connected to his own in the Oneness. Obviously, the same applies vice versa. She can find his soul connected to her own in the Oneness. What a soul mate conventionally means is a larger soul which has been split apart into a male soul and female soul. If the two souls are worthy, as earth dwelling humans they will meet and marry. If they aren’t worthy, the Zohar teaches that they meet and marry someone else.

While this can sound like a downer, as one does not know whether s/he is worthy and has married his/her other half, this can actually be a tremendous source of optimism. A couple who are not soul mates in a conventional sense, by working harder on appreciating the Oneness, can find a place where they are truly spiritually one and work from there to thread Oneness through the life they share together. They can shine a light into the world from their shared source in the Oneness. It's their unique spiritual revelation to the world, which no one else can duplicate. So a non- soul mate couple can sometimes find a deeper Oneness than a soul mate couple can - as more relationship barriers force them to reach up yet Higher. There’s so much here. Whole programs of life and marriage therapy can be built on a proper understanding of the Oneness for those who are open to it.

We are so addicted to our fragmented views of life that maybe it’s worth a twelve step program designed just to clear us from our fragmented perspectives. While we need to see distinctions in order to function and play our roles, we also need to be aware of the Oneness to function and play our roles. Both views are necessary.

Ultimate Soul Mate

If you truly believe in the Oneness then you truly believe that ultimately you are a soul mate with everyone and everything.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reflections on Rabbi Luzzatto’s Definition of Kabbalah

“…the entire Wisdom of Truth (i.e. the Kabbalah) comes only to demonstrate the truth of faith.”

~ “138 Openings of Wisdom”, Opening One.

The above quote is likely Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s definition of theoretical Kabbalah – i.e. a wisdom of truth that demonstrates the truth of faith. The notion of faith is very central to this definition. So for this definition to work at all, there needs to be clarification of Judaism’s core faith based beliefs. Since Judaism’s articles of faith were first voiced during the Middle Ages, it’s not likely Rabbi Luzzatto is referring to experiential Kabbalah which predates the current formulation of these articles of faith; a device designed to help Jews define their position on questions raised in dialogue with other belief systems.

This does not mean that they were invented at that time. It just means that Judaism’s vast body of teachings had to be carefully examined to extract out Judaism’s inherent template of core beliefs. Until then it was like a beautiful piece of music played without a drummer. For the music to be truly moving, there had to be an inherent beat all along - one silently followed by the musicians. One day a competing ensemble questioned the integrity of their inherent beat. So the musicians were forced to add a drummer to their ranks. Thereby, exposing their beat and quelling the scandal.

Unlike experiential Kabbalah, it seems like theoretical Kabbalah really took off from the Middle Ages onward - coinciding with the period when the articles of faith were more clearly exposed. It’s the mind trying to play a catch up game with the mystical experience and while going very far, never really catching up - for mystical experiences comes with facets beyond the grasp of the highest reaches of the human mind.  
Rabbi Luzzatto’s definition seems to bring wisdom to bear on faith, as Kabbalah is a wisdom of truth that demonstrates the truth of faith. One would expect wisdom and faith to be opposites. Wisdom indicates thinking. Whereas, faith applies to what’s beyond the highest reaches of human thought. Once a faith based concept is fully proved by the mind, removing any potential for doubt, the concept transfers from the category of faith to the category of wisdom, i.e. intellect.  Moreover, the term “wisdom of truth” seems to further underscore intellectual verifiability – as “truth” is something the mind usually arrives at only after careful deliberation.

In 10th grade geometry, I learned that every geometric proof relies on accepted axioms. These axioms aren’t provable. They’re just accepted as true. By the time I finished high school, I realized that this applies across board to any wisdom, not just to geometry. I realized that the ancient philosophers had their axioms that they must have worked off of to build their arguments. Science takes the experimental method and mathematics as axiomatic. The axioms are like the soul of the wisdom and the information overlaying the axioms forms the body of the wisdom. This is a basic structure of every discipline, be it history, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, mathematics and yes, Judaism too.

Judaism’s articles of faith are the axioms of Judaism. That’s why they are taken on faith. What Rabbi Luzzatto seems to be explaining is that theoretical Kabbalah is a wisdom which is built on Judaism’s articles of faith. Take Judaism’s axiomatic articles of faith and with deliberate logic work out their major implications to the fullest extent logically possible. The outcome of the endeavor will be theoretical Kabbalah. For example, work out the real implications of the Creator’s Oneness and it’s impossible to explain how the world exists without resorting to notions of divine emanations, spiritual realms, angels and the like. Another example, the notion of a messiah means that the world is moving towards a goal and every event no matter how big or small somehow feeds into that goal. To explain how this is so, one has to come onto concepts like “repairing the world”. Again, another mainstay of theoretical Kabbalah.

Since faith forms the axiomatic foundation and wisdom builds the logical structure, Kabbalah embraces both wisdom and faith at once. This clarifies why Kabbalah is characterized as, “A wisdom of truth that demonstrates the truth of faith.” However, working from the foundation of axioms, one might expect Rabbi Luzzatto to write something like, “A wisdom of truth built upon the truth of faith.” Why does he use the word “demonstrates”?

Usually, axioms are used to demonstrate the truth of a wisdom. The truth of a wisdom is not normally used to demonstrate the truth of its own axioms. It seems like Rabbi Luzzatto is saying that the body of wisdom demonstrates the truth of the axioms used, which can be viewed as going in the wrong direction - a misalignment with the normative path of logic.

Sometimes, a wisdom’s accumulated body of knowledge is more psychologically impactful than the axioms which it was built on. Once enchanted by the wisdom, the person can possess a greater appreciation for the axioms that were used to build these beautiful ideas.  I remember how uninterested I was in the technical side of physics during my college years. Later on, I learned about some of Einstein’s theories, like relativity and time dilation.  I was hooked! I loved the idea of how matter and energy are just two sides of the same reality and I also loved the notion of time travel. Suddenly, I was interested in what was behind these theories; such underlying notions like the speed of light's constancy (whether you are running towards a light beam or away from it, it still approaches you at the exact same speed) or the relationship between mass and energy. The underlying building blocks came alive to me. I acquired a thirst for the axioms.

Like well-behaved children reflect positively on their parents, the beauty of a wisdom can reflect back on its axioms, and inspire someone to look in their direction and ultimately, accept them as truths.  This seems to me to be what Rabbi Luzzatto is conveying. Once a person is enchanted by the beauty of Kabbalah, the articles of faith which it is built upon will suddenly become more fully alive. It won’t be such a struggle to believe. It will be a joy!

Why did Rabbi Luzzatto refer to theoretical Kabbalah as “The Wisdom of Truth” and not by another commonly used term, “The Hidden Wisdom”? I don’t know for sure. It seems likely to me that “The Wisdom of Truth” is the body of mystical teachings which are derived from the articles of faith (as discussed above). Whereas, the “The Hidden Wisdom” might be mystical teachings more closely associated with revelations, i.e. experiential Kabbalah.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

“The Opening of our Eyes”


Look around you with eyes of flesh. Peer into a microscope or telescope. What do you see? The universe of astronomy and Physics.

Now look around you with eyes of nefesh, biological soul. What do you see? A universe of underlying life forces. Here everything familiar shimmers with deeper life.

Now look around you with eyes of ruach, emotional soul. What do you see? A universe comprised of feelings. Here’s where the angels sing and souls are enraptured with divine love.

Now look around you with eyes of neshama, logical soul. What do you see? A universe comprised of thought forms. Here’s where the deeper supernal Torah discussions happen. It’s the academy on high.

Now look around you with eyes of chaya, intuitive soul. What do you see? A universe comprised of formless thoughts. Here symbols, archetypes and divine names prevail.

Now look around you with eyes of yechida, volitional soul. What do you see? A universe comprised of core divine will. It’s pre-thought.

Now look around you with eyes of Yechud, Infinite Oneness. What do you see? No division! Just seamless pure Self.

After following this inspired trail, you see that spiritual realms are not “different places” nor is the Creator “elsewhere”. There’s only seamless Infinite Oneness.

What is seen by us depends on the opening of our eyes.