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Michael Laitman, PhD

The Language of Kabbalah: Fundamentals of Terminology

Basics of Terminology

It is thought that since Kabbalah researches the root characteristics of the universe for basic categories of our world that transcend human imagination such as space, time, and movement, scientists/Kabbalists use abstract definitions as terminology. In fact, the actual state of affairs in our science is completely opposite to the above opinion. Kabbalah, being a practical method rather than a tool of research, uses names, titles, and terms only on the condition of their genuine correspondence to the objects and phenomena which they denote. There is an iron rule that a researcher/Kabbalist follows: “Anything that has not been attained cannot be designated by name”. The word attainment itself as a term is derived from the concept existing in one of the Kabbalistic texts “when your hand attains…”. This means that it is the necessary level of knowledge defined as attainment, when there is a correspondence of the feeling equalized to the reaction of the body. Kabbalah refers to the levels of knowledge that do not correspond to the given definition as comprehension, studying, and so forth.

At this point we should briefly touch upon the following question. The problem of attainment also implies the question about the depth of attainment: what exactly in the researched phenomenon, world, or object is available for attainment, and what levels of its existence will remain outside of the framework of any research?

From the most obvious examples of human contact with the environment, it becomes clear to us that the depth of the person’s attainment is limited by his needs. There are real, daily used forces and phenomena such as physical fields and waves of which man has not yet attained their essence. However, though not even cognizant of their essence, man has learnt, researched and used their qualities and thereby given them names. The names are given according to the perceptible manifestations of an object, or even more accurately, according to their impact on man. These words enter the everyday language and generate in everyone a cluster of associations connected with the sum of manifestations of the object. This may be limited due to what this particular man is familiar with, personally or through hearsay. That is to say, this sum of associations creates a sense of an object in a person.

This is the reality of anything that is defined by the reality of a sum of impacts of a given object on the researcher’s senses. This is true for the above reason and its researched manifestations as well as for the impact of objects and bodies of our world that affect our five senses. The knowledge of them is also limited by our familiarity with their impact on us. The sum of reactions of our sensors to this impact creates a complete and sufficient image of an object in our perception despite the absence of knowledge about the inner essence of a given object.

The same will be true regarding man’s self-knowledge. Everything the person knows about himself is a superficial manifestation of some inner essence with which he is unfamiliar.

In the process of studying the basics of a science, a person initially fills the grand repository of terms with images taken from textbooks. He believes these names to be the result of an impact of the phenomena they define on the specialists who or devices that have researched these phenomena. In the process of further advancement, the reality of these terms passes on to a higher level as a result of experiencing the influence of these factors through experimentation.

This principle is true for the researches of the worlds, Partzufim, and Sefirot for whom the experienced influence of the Upper force, called the light in Kabbalah, is a complete and sufficient basis for naming every level of manifestation of this Upper force.

Therefore, one of the rules of Kabbalah states: “Everything subject to assessment and deriving from the Upper force’s expression at the different levels of nature completely satisfies the researcher’s needs.” Thus, man never needs anything that is not in the nature of the universe, which is a manifestation of the Upper force.

“The Language of Branches”

One of the conclusions from the aforesaid is that a researcher is unable to give a name to the true material of elements of the first system called the spiritual worlds. This is because our language is an instrument of consciousness, which is born from a combination of feelings and ideas. In turn, they are a result of the world’s influence limited by the categories of space, time, and movement.

The research of scientists/Kabbalists has shown that the structure of all spiritual worlds is exactly the same, the only difference being in the “material”. The difference is in the state of the element of reception in them determined by a greater or smaller degree of remoteness from the state of equivalence with the Upper force.

Therefore, every following part is the manifestation of the Upper force at a particular level of the qualitative remoteness from its character, and being like the Upper force itself, it naturally represents its purpose at this level. In this capacity the part of the system (as joining of elements of reception and influence, i.e., the achieved goal), fully constitutes the Upper force for the lower part, giving birth to it and completely defining all of its qualities.

The absolute identity of the higher level to the lower and its ability to determine it are given by the scientists in the following or similar sentences: “A grass-blade’s destiny strikes it from the Upper world compelling it to grow and reach its purpose.”

All of this gave the scientists an opportunity to apply a special system of signs called the “language of branches” for conveying the information about the levels of creation that is beyond simple description. Every word in this system is semantically bound to an object or phenomenon of our world – the branch. To the person who attained the level on which the cause of this object exists – the root, it indicates the phenomenon or object of that level.

Such is the character of the language used by the scientists/Kabbalists for conveying the information necessary for the entire world. They pass it to one another, so that it could be used in the future generations both orally and in written form. This language is quite adequate, i.e., it fully satisfies the needs of everyone who desires to study the universe and participate in the realization of its purpose.

Thus, the integrated approach to the creation of terminology in Kabbalah consists in the principle of the language of branches based on the character of structure of the universe as the subject of this science.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to give a full list of other very important aspects of the Kabbalistic system of signs, such as conveying information through graphical inscription of the Hebrew letters, or through their numeric meaning, the so called Gematria. All of this is studied in a separate course. However, for this article we need to provide a concise glossary for some of the above-mentioned terms.

Our world

The complete and self-sufficient picture which is presented to our “desire to receive” through the combination of the five senses and consciousness generated by them.

Original cause (“The Creator”)

As it has been already mentioned, a phenomenon of influence, bestowal, the nature of which has no analogues in the universe, and realization of which is in a desire to receive, is referred to as the original cause in Kabbalah. The phenomenon is achievable only by changing the desire to receive with the help of a special method until it acquires a form of influence and reaches a condition of equivalence of form. Let us cite a few definitions of the Creator:

  1. His nature is not an object of direct research because any research is possible only if the law of similarity of properties is observed. We can only research the effect of that law (it is known that one of the accepted methods of research is that an object with a set of given properties is exposed to some influence with unknown properties, which we estimate by the changes in the properties of the researched object);

  2. His influence (the light) is constant, invariable; His state is defined as absolute rest, because movement is a function of the state of deficiency;

  3. As a result of the act of creation, which left the receiving part devoid of filling His influence is felt as desired and good;

  4. The Creator is sensed as one possessing personal qualities, because in the part of the universe that is most remote from Him, which is defined by scientists as concealment of the original cause or of the Upper Governance. The objects of the universe are aware only of their personal qualities; therefore, they are projected onto the so-called Reshimot, i.e., the residual effects of the primary state, which is the world of Infinity.


This is the realization of the material of creation, called the desire to receive, on different levels of proximity to the original cause. The existence of the original cause is indefinable due to the opposition of its properties to those of the researcher; only one or another aspect of its influence can be defined.

The Goal

This is the necessary component of existence. With its apparent assessed and transcendental objectivity of the goal, it is indeed a carrier of the existential content and plays the role of the determinative factor for the location on a certain level in the hierarchy of the universe.

This World

It is defined as the feeling of extreme remoteness from the original cause, of absolute inability of even minimal contact with it, while realizing its existence and longing to reveal it entirely.

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