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15. Gradual Spiritual Correction

Faith above reason allows us to perceive our greatest enemy (the one who stands in our way of attaining goodness) precisely by reason. We can sense and perceive evil only to the degree that we believe in spiritual pleasure above reason. Objectively, there is nothing else but the Creator, but this realization occurs on the highest level of Kabbalistic perception.

Until that time, however, we perceive ourselves in this world as well. In the process of gaining perception, we come to understand what is: (1) the Creator (2) the First creation (3) creations (4) the pleasure that the Creator wishes to bestow upon His creations

The entire progression, naturally, unfolds in accordance with the chain of "cause and effect," rather than in accordance with time. The Creator exists. The Creator wishes to bring forth a creation in order to gratify it. The Creator generates the desire to be delighted precisely by that pleasure (both in quantity and in appearance) that He wishes to give.

The first created being is called Malchut. The first perception of the Light of the Creator by the created being is known as the “World Without End.” The term, "Without End" is used because in that state, Malchut received the Light of the Creator without limiting the amount of Light it received.

The created being gained much enjoyment from receiving the Light. However, while receiving enjoyment, it also sensed the Creator Himself – His desire to bestow. Since Malchut longed to be similar to Him, Malchut eventually rejected receiving the Light, and the Light then departed.

This action of Malchut is called “restriction” (the restriction of the reception of the Light – tzimtzum). The Creator has no lack, so Malchut cannot give to the Creator in the same way as the Creator gives to Malchut.

How can Malchut "give" to the Creator? By complying with the Creator’s Will, which is to bestow good to the created beings, and receiving from the Creator, thus pleasing the Creator. This is considered "giving" on the part of the created being.

Malchut can only change the form in which it receives. This change can be achieved by adding to the act of receiving, the intention of pleasing the Creator.

The first stage required to reach this new form is the restriction – having the Light leave. The restricted Malchut later became divided into many, many parts – souls, in which each one separately must correct its egoism.

These small portions of Malchut, devoid of the Creator’s Light, are then put in the condition and situation that we call "our world." After this, little by little, these portions abandon the desire to receive for themselves, and acquire the desire to bestow while still in "our world."

The force that aids the soul to depart from egoistic inclinations is known as the "salvaging" one, the Messiah. The levels of gradual spiritual correction are called the “spiritual worlds,” while the inner gradations are known as sefirot.

The aim of correction is the return to the original state, before the restriction, at which pleasure is received not for one’s own sake, but for the sake of the Creator. Such a condition is known as “the end of correction.”

All the thoughts and questions that arise in us about the goals of creation and the goal of one’s efforts, such as, “Is it necessary?” and “in any case, the Creator will act according to His own plan and desires, why does He require anything of me?” etc., arise because they are sent directly by the Creator. So one more question occurs to us: "What for?"

If all the questions that arose in us concerning the creation strengthened us on our way to the spiritual, then the meaning of the questions would be clear. But in those who first embark on this journey, there are constant thoughts about the difficulties, the hopelessness and the disadvantages of this path.

There is no other force and desire other than the Creator, and all is created by Him to gain an understanding of the purpose of creation, including, of course, the "disruptive" questions, thoughts and forces that hinder our progress to Him.

The Creator put many obstacles on the path that He decided should be followed for spiritual elevation, precisely in order that we should fear not reaching our goal of perceiving the Creator’s grandeur, instead remaining forever in our lowly state. This perception can convince our hearts to want altruism.

We must understand that only the Creator can open our eyes and our hearts so we can recognize the greatness of the spiritual. Disruptive questions arise specifically so we can feel this necessity.

One of the most fundamental questions that beginners ask can be phrased in the following manner: “If the Creator wanted, He would reveal Himself to me; and if He did so, then I (my body – egoism – my present dictator) immediately and automatically would agree to replace my egoistic acts with altruistic ones, and the Creator would become my dictator.

“I do not want the freedom to choose my own actions. I believe that the Creator is correct, that the best thing for me is not to think about my own gain. Only then will I truly deserve. But I cannot change myself. So let the Creator come and do that for me, since He created me in this manner, and only He can correct what He has done.”

The Creator could certainly give one a desire and feeling for the spiritual, the so-called “awakening from Above.” However, if the Creator did so, then we would never be able to escape the dictatorial rule of the egoistic desire to gratify ourselves, and then we would be forced to work for the sake of pleasure without a free choice.

Such work is not considered to be done for the sake of the Creator, but instead for the sake of receiving pleasure. The goal of the Creator is to induce us to choose the right path in life of our own free will, thus justifying His actions in creation. We can understand this only when we are completely free from egoism, regardless of personal pleasure.

For this reason, the Creator formed a condition essential to spiritual elevation: the acceptance of faith in Him and His fairness as our Supervisor. Given the above, our task amounts to the following:

1. To believe that there is a Ruler to the world

2. To recognize that, although for us faith may not be important, the Creator specifically chose this path for us

3. To believe that we must follow the path of "giving," and not the path of "receiving"

4. To believe, while working "for the sake of the Creator," that He accepts our work despite how it may look in our eyes.

5. To pass through, during the process of self-development, two categories of "faith above reason": a) proceeding with faith above reason because we have no other alternative; b) choosing to follow the path of faith above reason, even if we become sufficiently knowing so that we no longer need to rely on faith above reason.

6. To know that if work is done within the grounds of egoism, then the fruits of all success, which in our imagination we hope to reach, go towards our own pleasure. However, when a person loves the Creator, all benefits will be joyously handed over to Him, and all the fruits of his efforts to others.

7. To thank the Creator for the past, because on this depends the future, since one’s degree of appreciation for the past, for which one thanks the Creator, is equal to one’s appreciation for what is received from Above. We are then able to preserve and retain the help received from Above.

8. To carry out the primary work – which is mainly in advancing along the rightline – with a feeling of completeness. The individual is happy even with a small connection that exists with spirituality.

One is happy to have deserved to receive the desire and abilities to do even the slightest in the spiritual realm before the Creator.

9. To advance also in the left line. However, thirty minutes per day are sufficient in order to reflect on how much one prefers the love of the Creator over self-love.

To the degree that the person recognizes any lacks, to this measure one is required to pray to the Creator about these feelings, that He should draw one closer on the true path that specifically combines the two lines.

In the work itself, we must concentrate our thoughts and desires in a specific order:

1. To learn the ways of the Creator and the secrets of Kabbalah, so that this knowledge can assist in fulfilling the Creator’s will. This is the individual’s main goal.

2. To long to completely correct one’s soul, and to return it to its root – the Creator.

3. To long to recognize the Creator, and to cling to Him with the recognition of His perfection.

The Creator is in a state of absolute rest, as is the person who achieves the goal of creation. It is clear that this state of rest can only be appreciated by someone who has previously been in conditions of movement, toil and work. Since what is being referred to here is “spiritual rest,” clearly the intention is that the person’s movement, toil and work is also spiritual in nature.

Spiritual work consists of striving to bring pleasure to the Creator.

All our work begins precisely when our body (desire to receive) opposes the work, which is without any self-benefit. This is because it (the body, egoism) does not understand the implications of altruistic work, and does not feel any reward in it.

Great efforts are required from us to withstand the justifiable (in principle) complaints of the body. For a long time, we torture ourselves in an effort to gain some understanding of the spiritual.

What do we receive in return? Do you know anyone who has excelled in this task? Is it possible that the Creator wants us to suffer in this manner?

Learn from your own experience. What have you achieved? In your present state of health, can you abuse yourself as you are doing? Think of yourself, your family, your growing children.

If the Creator so desires, He will continue to lead us further in the same manner that He has brought us to Kabbalah, since in everything only the Creator rules and leads! All these complaints and many other similar ones (often heard from relatives, who are also related to the concept of the body) are absolutely justified, but there are no answers to give them.

Indeed, answers are not needed, because if we desire to exit from the boundaries of our bodies, we simply must not accept these arguments, and not pay attention to them.

Instead, we should say to ourselves: “Our bodies are right, the arguments are logical, its complaints are true. However, I want to exit my body, or in other words, exit from its desires. Therefore, I will follow the path of faith, and not the path of common sense. Only in our world is my reasoning considered to be logical.

“However, in the spiritual world, even though I don’t understand this, since I don’t yet have spiritual vision or spiritual intellect, everything works according to a different law, which at the moment appears strange to me, since it is not founded on the basis in physical reality.

“All functions by the law of the omnipotence of the Creator and by the complete and voluntary surrender to Him, both in mind and in spirit, in complete faith in His help, contrary to the body’s desire to receive and its protestations.”

This work on ourselves is called "to bestow for the sake of bestowing;" that is, a purely altruistic act, represented by the right line. We give all, simply because we desire to give. The pleasure we receive from such work emanates from our resemblance to the Creator, since one only gives, like the Creator. This is called “the light of faith or mercy,” or ohrhassadim.

If one attempts to behave in this manner, then the Creator opens to this person the feeling of His infinite grandeur and power. Faith gives way to knowledge; the body begins to feel the importance of the Creator and is ready to do everything for His sake, because it has now perceived the importance of the Great One and His acquiescence to receive anything from us.

This is accepted as the attainment of pleasure.But in this case, we once again feel that progress with the body is being made. It is not the greatness of the Creator, but the pleasure and the degree of personal confidence in the work done for the sake of the Greatest One that determines ours actions. Thus, once again we have fallen to the bosom of egoism and personal gain.

Our complete inability to perceive the Creator allows us to insist that we have undertaken all actions for His sake, both altruistically and spiritually. The revelation by the Creator that is represented by the left line is known as "the knowledge of the Light of wisdom."

Therefore, the revelation of the Creator makes it necessary for us to apply strict restrictions on acquiring knowledge, management and perception of His grandeur. This balances the faith and the knowledge, the absence of perception and the delight in the Creator in a proportion that would ensure that we not fall prey to egoism again.

By adding a small portion of egoism to the original state, we can use that small portion and still proceed as if we had learned nothing, just as in the original state. By balancing the right line with a small amount of the left line, we create a middle line.

The part of the left line in the middle line determines the elevation of our spiritual level. The spiritual state itself is considered to be that of the "Greater One."The following progression leads up to the final and highest level, our merging with the Creator in our qualities and desires.

This occurs by the gradual, alternating increase of the right and then the left lines. The balancing of both lines takes place at each level of the spiritual ladder. In the state of the right line, we must be happy without any reason, but only from the thought that the Creator exists in our world. We do not require any other conditions for happiness.

Such a state is known as “being happy with what one has." If nothing can bring us out of this condition it is considered to be absolute. But if we begin to test our spiritual state, we will see that we do not in any way get closer to the Creator. Since we have also experienced the fact that we cannot correct ourselves, we ask the Creator for help. The Light of the Creator that helps us overcome the egoism of the body (desire to receive) is known as “the soul.”

The most assured way to determine if an act is altruistic or egoistic is to see if we feel that we are ready to disregard any outcome, be it pleasure of payment, regardless of the immense drive to gratify ourselves as a result of our own work. Only in this case, having received pleasure, can we still insist that we did it for the sake of the Creator, and not for ourselves.

The entire path of spiritual ascension is a gradual refusal to receive greater and greater pleasures: first, the pleasures of our world, and then from the real spiritual pleasures, in particular the perception of the Creator.

The Creator concealed Himself in order to allow us to gradually adjust to this task. Therefore, the concealment of the Creator should be viewed as an aspect of our correction and we should ask Him to reveal Himself to us, since as soon as we are able to perceive Him without any harm to ourselves, He will immediately reveal Himself.

If we could feel the pleasure of perceiving the Creator in our initial egoistic state, we would never gather enough strength to part with our egoism, to ask the Creator to grant us the willpower to withstand the pull of gratification. Like the night butterflies that rush toward the light that kills them, so we would perish in the flames of pleasure, but still would not be able to resist them.

Only those of us who have experienced the lack of strength in the face of great pleasure understand that we would not be capable of stopping ourselves from deriving pleasure if the enjoyment were greater than the power of our will and our recognition of evil.

The Creator hides from us specifically for our own good in order that we should not be overwhelmed by pleasures and in this way make it possible for us to go in the path of faith, and to acquire vessels of bestowal. If we want to do something that is not for our benefit, then immediately our bodies (egoism) demand an exact accounting as to whether it is worthwhile to do this.

For without a goal, without the reward of pleasure, we are not capable of working, and seek all different kinds of shortcomings, spiritual desires and defects in our spiritual goal or aims. Our bodies first ask, “For what purpose do we need to be involved in this?”

In this situation, the body is called “the evil inclination.” In the stage after this, it disturbs us from accomplishing what we have planned. In this situation it is called "satan" (in Hebrew satan is derived from the verb listot, which means to veer) because it wants to cause us to veer from the path.

After this, it kills our spirituality by taking away all of the feelings of spirituality from our learning and our involvement in Kabbalah, and specifically gives pleasures dressed in the garments of this world – in this situation, it is called “the angel of death.”

There is only one answer to all grievances of the body: “I proceed forward despite what you say to me, on the strength of faith, because so the Creator requires.”

This condition of the Creator is known as “the law of the worlds beyond.” We do not have the strength to hold ourselves back from receiving pleasure unless we first convince ourselves that it is harmful to us. That is to say, we set our minds against our hearts.

However, even in this case, it will take no more than a simple calculation of what is for our good: immediate pleasure and subsequent suffering, or avoiding the pleasure and remaining in our current situation. Whenever we reject pleasure, we must give our bodies an exact account why it is not worthwhile for us to derive pleasure from that which came to us.

Thus, we can answer our bodies in the same language that the body understands: either in the language of pleasure, that it is worthwhile to get rid of foolish and occasional pleasures now for the sake of pleasures in the afterworld, or in the language of suffering, to say that it is not worthwhile to have pleasure now, but afterwards endure the suffering of hell. In this manner, we must build the line of defense against our bodies.

We must be aware, however, that in doing this the craving for pleasures can prevent a sensible accounting, and paint a false picture of the correlation between pleasures and suffering. The only sure solution is to tell the body that we have decided to work on spirituality without any gain to ourselves.

In this case, we cut off all the connections between the action and the body, and the body can no longer interfere with its calculations or whether it is worthwhile or not to work. This answer is called “the work of the heart,” since the heart longs for pleasures.

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