Building the Spiritual Kli (Vessel/Tool)
Making the Kli
The gist of our work is the making of the Kli. If we know how to build our tool of perception correctly, we will understand where we truly are. As we have said in the previous section of this book, our substance consists of a desire to receive delight and pleasure.
If we can make this substance sensitive to insights concerning reception and bestowal, we will be able to use it to perceive the spiritual world. It is similar to the way a block of crude iron is melted to create engine parts. When assembled correctly, they yield a working engine.
Similarly, we must work with ourselves to perceive spirituality. Building the spiritual Kli is a lot like sculpting—you must carve the raw material and file it until the desired shape appears. The raw material, in this case, consists of our desires, our thoughts, and intentions.
The Creator formed Creation with the intention of doing good to His creatures. To realize His goal, He created a Kli—a will to receive—that would receive His benefit. At first, this will is shapeless. Shaping the will to receive is the work of us all until it is robed in its final form—bestowal, the form of the Creator.
The substance itself remains as it was first made—a will to receive pleasure—but changing the intention to bestowal likens its modus operandi to that of the Creator. Thus, the intention is the form.
Kabbalah books depict the forms that one should create in the will to receive, degree-by-degree, to finally sense the benefits that come from the Creator. The general will to receive consists of 613 desires, and each of these is topped either by an aim to receive, or an aim to give. These forms of reception or bestowal that “cover” each desire determine one’s degree of spiritual attainment.
A degree is a certain level of strength of the Form of bestowal. This enables the benefits of the Creator to manifest within the will to receive. The diverse fillings within the will to receive are the origin of the many names of the Creator. It is the perceiving individual who names the Creator according to the flavors he or she feels within the Creator’s bestowal.
Once the Kabbalists attained the nature of reality and studied it, they divided the manner of recognition of reality into four levels: Matter, Form in Matter, Abstract Form, and Essence. Kabbalah is a practical study method that leads researchers thoroughly and systematically along the evolutionary trail. As in any other scientific method, Kabbalah teaches the researcher what to do, which results are to be expected, and expounds on the reasons for them. Kabbalah does not engage in depicting theoretical states that one cannot carry out independently and with full awareness.
Kabbalah defines the boundaries within which reality can be correctly perceived: Matter and Form in Matter. Kabbalists perceive the additional discernments, the Abstract Form and Essence, only vaguely and without certainty; hence Kabbalah does not engage in these forms at all.
These boundaries apply to research in both corporeal and spiritual worlds, as the soul perceives the spiritual world exactly as it perceives the physical world. Even in our world, responsible researchers and scientists do not study Abstract Forms or Essence, but explore only Matter and Form in Matter.
The Reaction of the Senses
We exist in the world, but we do not know what is outside of us. For example, we do not know what exists outside our ears, we cannot identify the “something” that pressures our eardrum. All we feel is our own reaction to that “something.”
Hence, the name we give an exterior phenomenon is actually the name of our own reaction to it. Quite possibly, there are different frequencies or phenomena from those that we create inside our ears. However, our ears react in a unique manner to the unknown “something” on the outside, and it is that reaction by which we define that phenomenon. All we can do is study our own reactions to phenomena, meaning what happens inside of us.
It follows that our perception of the world is very limited. If we begin to understand that what we see is not what is actually happening outside of us, we can approach the research on how we perceive reality in a whole new way. In fact, there is a certain Essence that operates upon us, but we will never feel it in its true form. All we can feel is our interior reaction to it. Our picture of the world is the sum of our interior reactions, but we have no way of knowing what is actually present outside of us.
If we want to relate to reality correctly, we must acknowledge the limits of our perception. We cannot delude ourselves into thinking that we perceive the real picture, as we have no true perception of its Essence or Abstract Form. We can only recognize the Form that dresses in our own Matter. Although it is regrettable that we must limit ourselves, it is nonetheless the way things are.
As we have said, we cannot perceive the full picture, only our reaction to it. We also cannot know just how close our perceived Form in our Matter is to the Abstract Form that exists outside our Matter, and affects it.
In the same way we feel our surroundings, the spiritual Kli perceives the spiritual reality. This Kli can feel only its own reaction to the Light within it; it cannot say anything about the Light outside of the Kli that perceives it.
It is through its intrinsic reaction that the Kli understands and determines what is Light, what is a Kli, what the Light wants of the Kli, and what the Kli wants of the Light. All of these depictions have no connection at all to the phenomenon as it is outside the Kli.
Baal HaSulam was very insistent on explaining these matters in his Preface to the Book of Zohar, since Kabbalah deals solely with building a Kli for the perception of reality:
For example, the sense of sight offers us only shadows of the visible essence, according to how they are formed opposite the Light. Similarly, the sense of hearing is but a force of striking of some essence on the air. The air is rejected because of its force, strikes the drum in our ear, and we hear that there is some essence in our proximity.
The sense of smell is but air that comes out of the essence, strikes out nerves of scent, and we smell. Also, the sense of taste is but a result of the touching of some essence on our nerves of taste.
Thus, all that these four senses offer us are but manifestations of the operations that stem from some essence, and nothing of the essence itself.
Even the sense of touch, the strongest of the senses, separating hot from cold, and solid from soft, all these are but manifestations of operations within the essence; they are but incidents of the essence. The hot can be chilled, the cold can be heated; the solid can be turned to liquid through chemical operations, and the liquid made into air, meaning only gas, where any discernment in our five senses has been expired. Yet, the essence still exists, because you can once more turn the air into liquid, and the liquid into solid.
Thus, you evidently see that the five senses do not reveal to us any essence at all, but only incidents and manifestations of operations of the essence.
--Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam),
Preface to the Book of Zohar, item 12
Thus, proper perception of reality is of paramount importance to us. The boundaries are not set to limit or diminish our knowledge or to stop us from engaging in some forbidden matters. On the contrary, when we detach ourselves from the parts we do not control, we spare ourselves confusion. If we limit our field of vision to the range we can control, we will perceive the true picture of reality. Following this condition rigorously will enable us to progress correctly.
In our present state, we have no perception of the Upper Light at all. This is so because of the oppositeness between our egoistic vessels and the altruistic Light. If our vessels were to match the Light, meaning if we were to match the desire to receive and the Light, we would be able to perceive it. Such “matchmaking” is called “clothing.” Clothing pertains to attaining the intention to bestow over the desire to receive, an intention that one can receive only from the Light.
To receive that intention from the Light, one must have “a point in the heart,” or a fragment of Light within the will to receive. Using this, one can begin to nurture one’s matching between one’s Kli and the Light. The point in the heart is a fragment of intention to bestow, and with it one can begin to use the rest of “the heart,” meaning the rest of the will to receive. If one can use one’s desire with the intention to bestow, this will be considered “clothing the Light.”
Let us return for a minute to the way our sense of hearing functions: To hear, we must always maintain equilibrium of pressures between ourselves and our surroundings. To balance the pressure on our eardrum from without, a delicate mechanism creates equal pressure in the opposite direction from within. Hence, we seemingly measure the pressure from the outside, but in fact, we measure the pressure we create within, in response to the pressure from without.
All our measurement tools work according to this principle. We can demonstrate it using a mechanical weight. Several objects participate in this measurement: a spring, a dial, and the object about to be weighed. Placing the object on the device creates a downward pressure (Figure 13). To balance the pressure, the spring pulls upward. The dial then measures the upward pressure the spring is applying, and presents it as the weight of the object. Measuring the pressure of our internal mechanism is defined as “measuring Form in Matter and Matter.”
Now let us return to the spiritual Kli. Form in Matter, in spirituality, is the reaction of the Kli to what is outside of it. It is called “intention.” The intention with which the substance (will to receive) is used balances what comes from Above, i.e. from the Creator. With it, a Kabbalist can measure the similarity of intention to the Creator’s intention toward him or her.
A Kabbalist perceives the full scope of the will to receive delight and pleasure. If the Kabbalist can use part of it with the intention to bestow, this would be a spiritual act. This is because using any part of the will to receive with the intention to bestow means he or she has thus balanced the Creator’s pressure. Such an act is called “building a spiritual Partzuf “(face), a term that indicates a measure of equivalence between the Creator and the creature, between the Light and the Kli.
Kabbalists use Partzufim (plural for Partzuf) to test how much the Creator wants to give and how much pleasure they can give back to the Creator. For example, if the strength of the intention to bestow that one can work with clothes twenty percent of the Light, the remaining eighty percent of the Light will be rejected without receiving them. In other words, one can only balance with the Creator in twenty percent of one’s will to receive, one’s substance. This is why that person will not activate the remaining eighty percent of the will to receive, and will restrict them.
Our perception of the Creator depends on the power of our intention over our Matter. Just like the weight and the spring, we cannot measure anything but our own intention. The intention to bestow is the Form that we measure, hence the term, “Formative Learning,” that Kabbalists use to describe how we learn.
We often called the intention to bestow “a sixth sense.” This term emphasizes that with the intention to bestow, one can feel what is present beyond one’s five natural senses.
Our sixth sense works just as our five senses do. The only difference between them is that the five original senses are naturally present in us, while the sixth sense is one that we must build by ourselves. While the sensitivity of the natural senses may vary with age or other elements, it is generally true that it is natural for us to have five properly working senses.
As previously stated, it is we who must build the sixth sense. This is because the sixth sense is not a sense in the usual meaning of the word, but is rather an intention. Our task is to study the forms by which the Creator bestows, and when we do so independently, we build ourselves as “creatures” that exist in our own right. This is the difference between humankind and all other parts of Creation.
Building the Right Forms
The spiritual world is hidden from us. Hence, we cannot understand how to attune our tools of perception correctly; we simply do not know what it is we must perceive. For this reason Kabbalists come to our aid and advise as to how we should position our tools of perception so we can perceive the Upper Light.
Kabbalists say that the Upper Light is abstract. However, that does not mean that any form that human beings might create will enable them to perceive anything of the Upper Light. Perception of the Upper Light is possible only when one adjusts one’s Kli to one of the 125 Forms intended for just that purpose.
Thus, the spiritual ladder consists of 125 degrees. Each degree designates a more advanced form of receiving Light in one’s Kli. Kabbalists describe how we can locate these forms, study them, and apply them to our Matter. They also teach us how to design our will to receive in such a way that we can “present ourselves” before the Upper Light in forms that are “suitable” for the Light.
There is a similar phenomenon that manifests itself on the corporeal level. Many researchers claim that humankind cannot perceive an external phenomenon as long as it is not present in a similar form in that person’s mind.
The film, What the Bleep Do We Know?, offers a good example of that concept with a story about the Native Americans who watched Columbus’ armada arrive at the shores of America. The story has it that the Indians standing at the seashore couldn’t actually see the ships that anchored not far from land. The shaman, an imaginative man, was troubled by the unusual movement of the ripples without any apparent reason. For many hours he gazed at the water trying to figure out what was causing the ripples.
Through his efforts, he finally managed to discern the shape of the body that produced the ripples and thus was able to see the ships. Subsequently, he described what he saw to his tribesmen, and because they trusted him, they, too, succeeded in creating the form of the ships, until they all saw Columbus’ ships.
Kabbalah asserts that nothing exists outside the human mind. Creating the model of the ship in the shaman’s mind built the picture of the ship for him, which the shaman thought existed outside of him. Actually, a ship does not exist on the outside whatsoever; it is only we who are conditioned to relate to reality as independently existing in an outside reality in which we are making daily discoveries. Kabbalists, however, say that all innovations are merely new models inside our own minds.
Once we acquire a true vision of reality, we feel that the previous vision was completely fictitious, like a dream. If we want to perceive the actual reality, we must build real models within us. This is the meaning of the ascent from the fictitious world to the real world. Indeed, this is why humankind was given the wisdom of Kabbalah, and what evokes these models within us.