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19. Spiritual Levels

The entire creation can be described as a function of four parameters: time, soul, world, and source of existence. These are regulated from the inside by the Will and the Wishes of the Creator.

Time: a cause-and-effect progression of events that takes place with every single soul and with all humanity in its entirety, similar to the historical development of humanity.

Soul: everything organic (live), including human beings.

World: the entire inorganic (lifeless) universe. In the spiritual worlds, this corresponds to the inorganic level of desires .

Source of Existence: the plan for the development of events. This occurs with each of us and with humanity in general, and is the plan for governing the entire creation and bringing it to the initially predetermined condition.

When He decided to create all the worlds and the human beings in them to bring them closer to Him, the Creator gradually decreased his presence by diminishing His light in order to create our world. The four phases of gradual (from above downwards) concealment of the Creator’s presence are known as “the worlds.” These are:

Atzilut: a world in which those present are completely unified with the Creator.

Beria: a world in which those present have a connection with the Creator.

Yetzira: a world in which those present perceive the Creator.

Assiya: a world in which those present almost completely or completely do not perceive the Creator. This level includes our world as the last, the lowest and the most removed from the Creator.

All the above worlds have emerged one from the other and, in a way, are replicas of one another. Each lower world, the one further removed from the Creator, is a cruder version, yet an exact replica, of the previous one.

Interestingly, each world is a replica in all four parameters: world, soul, time, and source of existence. Thus, everything in our world is the direct result of processes that have already taken place in the past in a higher world, and all that has taken place there is the result of what took place even earlier, and so on, up to the point where all four parameters – world, time, soul, and the source of existence – merge in a single source of existence, in the Creator!

This "place" is known as Atzilut. The clothing of the Creator in the garments of the worlds Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira (His appearance to us by means of illuminations of Light through screens which weaken these worlds) is known as the Kabbalah. The clothing of the Creator in the garment of our world, the world of Assiya, is known as the written Torah.

In truth, however, there is no difference between Kabbalah and the Torah of this world. The source of everything is the Creator.

In other words, to study and to live according to the Torah, or to study and to live according to the Kabbalah, is determined by the spiritual level of the student. If one is on the level of this world, then one sees and perceives this

However, should the student move to a higher level, a different picture will emerge. The sheath of this world will vanish and what will be left are the sheaths of the worlds, Yetzira and Beria. Then the Torah and all reality will appear different, as it does to those who reach the level of the world, Yetzira.

At that point, the Bible, with all its stories about animals, wars and the objects of this world, will be transformed into Kabbalah – the description of the world, Yetzira.

If the person elevates self even further into the world of Beria or Atzilut, then an entirely new picture of the world and of the mechanism that governs it will appear, in accordance with one’s spiritual state.

There is no difference between the events of the Bible and Kabbalah, the Bible of the spiritual world. The difference is in the spiritual level of those who are involved. In fact, if two people were reading the same book, one would see in it historical events, and the other, the depiction of the dominion over the worlds, which is clearly perceived from the Creator.

Those from whom the Creator is in complete concealment exist in the world of Assiya. That is why, in the end, all appears to them as not good: the world appears as full of suffering, since they cannot perceive it otherwise due to the concealment of the Creator.

If they do, in fact, experience pleasure, it appears merely as pleasure that follows suffering. It is only when one attains the level of Yetzira that the Creator partially reveals Himself and allows a person to see His governing by reward and punishment; thus is born love (dependent on the reward) and fear (dependent on punishment) in that person.

The third step – unconditional love – appears when one realizes that the Creator has never caused one harm, but only good. This corresponds to the level of Beria. When the Creator reveals the entire picture of creation and His dominion over all the creations, then there arises in one an absolute love for the Creator, since His absolute love towards all His creations is now visible.

This understanding elevates one to the level of the world, Atzilut. Therefore, our ability to understand His actions depends only on the degree to which the Creator will reveal Himself to us, since we are created in such a way that the conduct of the Creator affects us (our thoughts, our qualities, our acts) automatically. Thus, we can only ask that He alter us.

Regardless of the fact that all acts of the Creator are inherently good, there are forces, also originating from the Creator, that appear to operate contrary to His desires. These forces often invoke criticism of His acts and thus are known as “impure.”

At every step, from the first to the final points on our path, there exist two opposing forces. Both were created by the Creator. These are pure” and “impure.” The impure force deliberately invokes in us mistrust and pushes us away from the Creator. But if, ignoring this impure force, we nevertheless strain ourselves in our plea to the Creator to help us, then we strengthen our bond with Him and instead receive a pure force. This elevates us to a higher spiritual level, and at that moment the impure force stops affecting us, since it has already performed its role.

The impure force of the world, Assiya (Step 1)

This force aspires to instill events through the denial of the existence of the Creator.

The impure force of the world, Yetzira (Step 2)

This force aspires to convince us that the world is governed not through reward and punishment, but by means of arbitrariness.

The impure force of the world, Beria (Step 3)

This force aspires to neutralize our perception of the Creator’s love for us, which in turn invokes our love for the Creator.

The impure force of the world, Atzilut (Step 4)

This force aspires to prove to us that the Creator does not always act in accordance with absolute love towards all His creations, thus attempting to prevent our feelings of absolute love towards the Creator.

Thus, it becomes clear that our elevation to each consecutive spiritual level, the revelation of the Creator and the attainment of pleasure from getting closer to Him, requires our overcoming the corresponding opposite forces. These arise in the forms of thought and desire. Only when they are overcome can we ascend to the next level and take another step forward on our path.

From the above, we can conclude that the range of spiritual forces and senses of the four worlds, Assiya-Yetzira- Beria-Atzilut, has a corresponding range of opposite and parallel forces and senses from the four impure worlds of Assiya-Yetzira-Beria-Atzilut. Movement forward is an alternating process.

Only after overcoming all the impure forces and obstacles sent to us by the Creator, and then asking the Creator to reveal Himself, thus endowing us with the strength needed to withstand the power of impure forces, thoughts and desires, can we reach the pure stage.

From birth, each of us is found in a state where the Creator is absolutely concealed from us. In order to begin the advance on the described spiritual path it is necessary to:

  1. Perceive our present state as unbearable.

  2. Feel, at least to some extent, that the Creator exists.

  3. Feel that we depend only on the Creator.

  4. Recognize that only the Creator can help us.

By revealing Himself, the Creator can immediately alter our desires and form within us an intelligence with a new essence. The appearance of these strong desires immediately awakens within us the powers to fulfill them.

The only thing that defines our essence is the combination and collection of our desires.

Our reason exists solely to aid us in attaining these desires. In truth, reason serves as nothing more than an assisting tool.

We advance along our path in stages, moving forward step by step, alternately being influenced by the impure (left) egoistic force and by the pure (right) altruistic one. By overcoming the forces of the left with the help of the Creator, we will acquire the characteristics of the right.

The path, then, is like two rails: the left and the right, like two forces repelling from and attracting to the Creator, similar to two desires: egoism and altruism. The farther we move away from our starting point, the stronger the opposing forces become.

By becoming more like the Creator in both desires and love, we will move forward, since the love of the Creator is the only divine feeling towards us, from which emerge all other feelings. The Creator desires to do only good for us, to bring us to the ideal state, which can only be a state resembling that of the Creator.

This is the state of immortality, filled with limitless pleasure from feeling infinite love of the Creator, Who emits a similar feeling. Since attaining this state is the purpose of creation, all other desires are considered to be impure.

The Creator’s goal is to bring us to the state of likeness to his own state. This goal is imperative for each of us and for humanity in general, whether we want it or not. We cannot possibly desire this goal simply because we can only perceive all pleasures, and find redemption from all suffering, by unifying with the Creator.

The suffering is sent by the Creator Himself to push us forward, to force us to change our environments, habits, actions and outlook, since we are instinctively ready to free ourselves from suffering. Furthermore, we cannot experience pleasure without first experiencing suffering, just as there can be no answer if there were no question; no satiation if there were no hunger.

Thus, in order to experience any sensation we must first experience its opposite. Therefore, to experience the drawing power and love for the Creator, we must experience the exact opposite feelings, such as hatred and alienation from ideas, habits and desires.

No feeling can be born out of a vacuum; there must be a definite desire to attain that feeling. For instance, a person should be taught to understand, and thus to love, music. An uneducated person cannot grasp the happiness of the educated one, who after strenuous efforts discovers something new that was being sought for a long time.

The desire for something is known in the terminology of Kabbalah as a “vessel” ( kli), since specifically the feeling of lack is a necessary condition for pleasure to fill it. The magnitude of the pleasure one will receive in the future depends, of course, on the magnitude of the vessel.

Even in our world, we can see that it is not the size of the stomach, but the desire, the sensation of hunger, that determines how much pleasure will be derived from food. The level of suffering from the absence of what is desired determines the size of the vessel, and this in turn determines the amount of pleasure to be received.

The pleasure that fulfills the desire to be gratified is known as Light,” because it endows the vessel with a feeling of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Therefore, a desire must exist that is so strong that one suffers by its lack. Only then can it be said that the vessel is prepared to receive the abundance that the person so waited for.

The purpose of the creation of impure forces (desires), known as klipot, is to create in a person a desire of infinite magnitude. If not for the desires of klipot, we would never experience the urge for more than the basic needs of the body.

Thus, we would remain on the child’s level of development. It is the klipot that compel us to search for new pleasures, since they constantly create new desires that require fulfillment and that force us to develop.

The attainment of the qualities characteristic of the world, Atzilut, is known as “the resurrection of the dead,” since in this manner we transform all the impure (dead) desires into pure form. Prior to the world of Atzilut, a person, as if moving on two rail tracks, can only alter the desires to opposite ones, but cannot transform all the desires into pure ones.

Upon entering the world of Atzilut, we can correct past desires, thereby reaching higher stages of spiritual elevation. This process is known as “the resurrection of the dead” (desires).

Of course, resurrection in this case does not refer to our physical bodies. They, like those of all other creations that populate this world, will disintegrate once the soul departs from them, and have no value without the presence of the soul.

If, as a result of working on self, we are no longer controlled by impure desires, yet are still distracted by them, and unable to connect with the Creator, this situation is called Shabbat (the Sabbath). But if our thoughts and longings for the Creator were diverted either by us, or through the influence of others’ thoughts, and we allowed these foreign thoughts or desires to enter (“desecration of the Sabbath”) then we do not consider these thoughts as foreign, but consider them as our own,

We are certain that they are the correct thoughts, rather than those that previously brought us directly, without doubts on our path, towards the Creator.

If a great man who is expert in a certain field joins a group of others from the same field who are second rate, and they convince him that it is better to work halfheartedly than with all of one’s soul, then this great expert will gradually lose his talent.

If, however, such an expert is found amidst mediocre workers, but comes from a different field of expertise, then that person will not be damaged, since there is no association between that person and the other workers. Therefore, one who truly desires to succeed in a particular field of expertise should strive to become part of an environment of experts who treat their jobs as an art.

Apart from this, the most remarkable difference between an expert and a common worker is that an expert derives pleasure from the work itself and its results, rather than from the wages for that work. Consequently, those who truly desire to elevate themselves spiritually should carefully check the environment and those who surround them.

If it is an environment of people who lack faith in the Creator, then those who seek spiritual elevation are like experts amongst specialists in a different field. The goal of the expert is to grow spiritually, whereas the goal of the specialists is to acquire the greatest pleasure from this world.

Therefore, the specialists’ opinions pose no great danger. Even if for an instant one were to adopt the other point of view, in the next moment it would become apparent that this point of view originated from non-believers. At that point, it would be discarded and the original goals would be restored.

However, one should beware of others who believe but do not pay proper attention to the correct reasons for fulfilling the commandments.

These people anticipate the reward that awaits them in the world to come, and observe the commandments for that purpose only. They should be studiously avoided.

One should be especially cautious of those who call themselves "Kabbalists" or mystics, and move as far away as possible from them. These people can cause damage to one’s newly acquired abilities in this area.

Kabbalah presents the creation as consisting of two components: the Creator and His desire to be gratified with closeness to Him. This desire for such gratification, as the source of infinite, absolute pleasure, is known as “the soul.” It is similar to all our desires but exists without physical form.

The cause and goal of creation is the Creator’s desire to gratify our souls. The desire of the soul is to be gratified by the Creator. The desire of the Creator and the desire of the soul are resolved as each approaches the other and they unify. When qualities and desires concur, the result is unification and closeness.

Similarly, in our world we consider another person to be close to us because of the feeling of closeness we experience, rather than the person’s proximity to us. As in our world, the greater the initial distance of separation, the greater the obstacles standing in the way of the desired, and the greater pleasure we receive from attaining that for which we strive.

For this reason, the Creator places the soul in a condition that is most distanced and opposite from Him: He absolutely conceals Himself as the source of all pleasures and plants the soul in a body with the desire to derive pleasure from everything that surrounds it.

Despite the concealment of the Creator and the obstacles set up by our body’s desires, we may develop a desire within to draw close and cling to the Creator. Then, precisely because of these obstacles caused by the opposition of the body, we will feel a much greater desire to receive pleasure from the Creator than was possible prior to the encasing of our souls into our bodies.

The method or instruction on how we can cling to the Creator is known as Kabbalah, derived from the verb "lekabel" – to receive pleasure from the Creator. With the help of words and descriptions of our world, Kabbalah relates to us the experiences of the spiritual world.

According to the Kabbalah, all that is said in the Bible (which includes the Five Books of Moses, the Writings and the Prophets) is said to teach us how to achieve the goal of creation.

Kabbalah sees this meaning in the following words: "In the beginning" (in the beginning of working on oneself, in the beginning of drawing closer to the Creator) "our forefathers" (the initial state of a person’s desires) "were idol worshippers" (all personal desires were directed towards deriving pleasure) "And afterwards, the Creator chose one of them" (from all of one’s desires, we choose one desire, which is to unite with the Creator) "and commanded him to separate from his land and people and to settle in a different place" (in order to perceive the Creator, we must raise one desire above allothers0 – the desire to perceive the Creator – and to distance ourselves from other desires).

If we can choose just one of the desires, cultivate it and live by it alone, that is the desire to unite with the Creator. Then, it is as if we pass on to a different life, a life of spirituality. If we want to move forward, or are already on the path directly towards the Creator, then we are called “Israel,” derived from the words yashar (directly), leEl (to the Creator).

The creation of the world, including its conception and management, enables the world to exist and advance according to the pre-determined plan towards the end for which it was created.

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