The Essence of the Science of Kabbalah
What is the basis of the science of Kabbalah?
The science of Kabbalah is a cause-and-effect order of descent of the Upper forces. It submits to invariable and absolute laws that are interconnected and aimed at revelation of the Upper force (the Creator) to man in this world.
The Law of the General and the Particular
The law of the general consists in the fact that at the end of its development humankind is destined to reveal the Upper force and completely attain it.
The law of the particular asserts that even before all of humanity achieves such a perfect state, certain individuals in every generation can accomplish this task.
Plurality of Spiritual Bodies, Sefirot and Worlds
The science of Kabbalah studies ways of achieving the ultimate purpose – man’s similarity to the Upper force. Consequently, it studies the structure and interconnections between multitudes of spiritual bodies.
To make this clear, let us take for example a small animal, whose role is confined to subsistence and survival for a period of time necessary for reproduction, thus ensuring continued existence of the species. While researching it, we discover that it constitutes a complex conglomerate consisting of thousands and thousands of fibers and tendons. Physiologists and anatomists have ascertained it as a fact, although many thousands of other such conglomerates still remain unknown to man.
By analogy from this example we can understand the variety of multiple combinations and connections that we need to learn in order to reach the ultimate purpose.
Two Paths: from Up Down and from Down Up
The science of Kabbalah is divided into two parallel paths of attainment of the Upper force. They are equal, the only difference between them being that the first path descends from up down to this world, whereas the second path begins in this world and ascends along the same levels that were formed by the first one. The Upper roots descend from above along the first path and gradually manifest, therefore Kabbalah calls it “the order of descent of the worlds, Partzufim, and Sefirot”. The second path is referred to as “the attainment of the Upper force”.
While attaining the Upper force, man must ascend along the same path, gradually apprehending every detail and each level in complete accordance with the laws that were established during the descent of the Upper force. The complete attainment of the Upper force is a gradual process. It is perceived in man’s sensations during a certain period of time and depends on the pace of purification of his egoism, until he attains all the properties of all the descending levels.
Consecutive attainment of all spiritual levels is predetermined; each subsequent attainment being higher than the preceding one. This resembles rungs of a ladder.
Many people mistakenly assume that all the names and notions used in the science of Kabbalah are abstract. This erroneous view appeared because Kabbalah studies the Upper world that transcends time and space, the realm that can only be perceived by someone who has mastered the Kabbalistic method.
Since very few people master this wisdom and attain the Upper world, many a man believe that whatever concerns the Upper worlds is a number of abstract categories totally detached from reality.
In fact, everything is quite the contrary: Kabbalah describes nothing that does not reflect the reality attained by Kabbalists. The stringent Kabbalistic law states: “Only the true attainment can be described and named. Whatever is unattained cannot be defined by words”.
An attainment in Kabbalah means a higher level of understanding. Kabbalists refer to attainment only when a clear and tangible realization is achieved. Otherwise, they use different definitions, such as comprehension, knowledge, etc.
Reality Comprised in the Science of Kabbalah
Similarly, there are things that we perceive in our material reality whose essence we are unable to grasp even in imagination. Let us take for example such phenomena as electricity and magnetism. Who will say that they are unreal, while our knowledge of them is quite satisfactory and the fact that we have no idea of their essence is totally irrelevant. Their names are so real and familiar, as if we can actually feel them. Even small children know the word “electricity” as well as “bread” or “sugar”, etc.
Furthermore, as little as we can attain the essence of the Upper force, the essence of beings created by it is equally unattainable. All the material objects that our hand can touch are attained through actions, which provide us with an impression as a result of our senses’ interaction with them. This satisfies us completely, despite the fact that we know nothing of their essence. Nor do we attain our own essence; all we know about ourselves is a sequence of actions that stem from the essence.
Hence all the terms and definitions found in Kabbalistic books are real although we cannot attain their essence. A person is quite satisfied with his complete knowledge, although only the actions are attained. This attainment is achieved as a result of interaction between man and the Upper force.
However, this is quite sufficient for us, and we do not feel any lack of knowledge as we do not feel any need for the sixth finger being perfectly content with five.
The Difficulty of Describing the Upper Attainment
We cannot express the notions of the Upper world by using the sounds and letters of our world because our vocabulary is a reflection of what we perceive in our senses. It becomes crucial when we need to put into words the accurate knowledge that was received by way of discussions. This is a usual kind of research typical for this science, and a Kabbalist has to use very precise definitions in order to pass the relevant information.
The Law of Root and Branch in the Worlds
The universe consists of four worlds called in their descending order Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya. From the highest world of Atzilut down to our material world of Assiya all of them have the same structure absolutely identical in all the details. Reality and all of its manifestations existing in the first world are present in the next one below it without any changes. The same is true with all the subsequent worlds down to the material world we perceive.
The only distinction between the worlds consists in the quality of material they are made of. This quality determines each world’s level so that the material of the highest world is the “thinnest” as compared with the lower ones. The second world’s material is “coarser” than that of the first, but “thinner” than the subsequent lower levels. This order continues down to our world, whose material is “coarser” and “darker” than in all preceding worlds.
Yet objects and forms in each world are similar in all their details, both in quantity and in quality. This resembles an imprint of a seal, where every slight detail of the seal passes on to the imprint. The same is true with the worlds: the lower world is like an imprint of the one above it. All the forms existing in the higher world are imprinted in the lower one.
So there is not a slightest detail or phenomenon in the lower world that is absent in the higher one. This is called “the root and the branch”, and it means that every detail in the lower world constitutes a branch, a copy of its root, its original in the higher world. This detail originates in the higher world and is imprinted in the lower one. In other words, the root called “fate” compels it to grow both qualitatively and quantitatively and to acquire the qualities inherent in the seal’s imprint. This law of root and branch is in force in each world, in all manifestations of reality with regard to the higher world.
The Kabbalistic Language of Branches
The language of branches means that it was created according to commands and instructions received by the branches in our world from their roots in the Upper world. There is nothing in the lower world that does not originate in the higher one. A root in the Upper world compels a corresponding branch below to take its form and acquire its properties.
From a connection between roots and branches Kabbalists created a vocabulary that enables them to speak about the Upper world’s spiritual roots by using the name of their branches, which are clearly perceived in the sensations of this world. This makes it possible for the receiver of information to attain the Upper root because the material branch, being the result of its root, precisely points at it.
This way every object of our world provides us with an accurate name that refers to its Upper root, although the root itself, being beyond any imagination, cannot be named by word or sound. However, owing to the presence of branches perceptible in this world, verbal expression of the Upper roots has a right to exist.
This is the essence of the Kabbalists’ spoken language with the help of which they share their attainments with one another, passing them from generation to generation, both orally and in writing. Their mutual understanding is quite sufficient because it possesses an adequate degree of accuracy that is necessary for the research in this science. Kabbalists set such a precise and failproof framework because every detail has its unique name inherent in it alone, hence it precisely indicates its spiritual root.
Passing Knowledge from Teacher to Student
The words uttered by a teacher cannot render any supreme knowledge that is beyond time, space, and movement. Only “the language of branches” is able to express the interconnection between branches and their Upper roots.
However, only the person who sees the interconnection between branches and their roots can understand this language. The root-branch connection cannot be attained from down up, i.e., by looking at the branches below it is impossible to discern any analogy to the Upper roots or imagine it with the help of fantasy. On the contrary, one should first attain the Upper roots, and only then will one be able to see the connection between each branch and its root in the Upper world.
Only after discovering and attaining the connection between the root and the branch, will man acquire a common language with his teacher-Kabbalist. The language of branches will enable the teacher to pass to his disciple all the nuances of his wisdom and the information about the Upper worlds that he received from his teachers and attained by himself. This is because now they have a common language and can understand each other.
But unless the student knows this language and sees the connection between roots and branches, the teacher has no way of explaining to him even a single word of the Upper wisdom. While having no common language, they will not be able to talk about the Kabbalistic research. In other words, there is no way to pass the knowledge of Kabbalah to the person who neither knows nor understands.
But how can the student attain the knowledge of this language all by himself? This can be accomplished with the help of Kabbalistic books that will gradually usher him into the perception of the Upper world. Only upon attaining at least a minimal level of the Upper world and having mastered the language of branches on that level, will he be able to receive the wisdom from his teacher-Kabbalist for now they have a common language.
“Rude” Names in Kabbalah
From the above we may understand why Kabbalists use such words as “kiss”, “coition”, “embrace”, and “childbirth” to express very exalted ideas. It transpires that this science cannot be explained by any other language than “the language of branches”, which most accurately indicates the connections between each root with its corresponding branch. Thus it is impossible to reject any of the branches due to the baseness of its level, and stop using it for the description of connections in Kabbalah, because no other branch in our world can substitute for it.
If we decline to use some name, it will lead not only to the loss of the corresponding spiritual notion, but will also very seriously harm the science as a whole. In that case, one of the links in the chain of the wisdom will fall out and upset the interconnection between all the links.
We should not be surprised by the use of “indecent” words because in this case we have no freedom of choice and must not replace an indecent word with a more decent one. Kabbalists are obliged to be accurate in using a branch that clearly points at its Upper root. Besides they must provide a detailed explanation, formulate a precise definition sufficient for the students.