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A Nonexistent Reality

Now that we understand what we can study and what we can’t, let’s see what we are actually studying and perceiving through our senses. Baal HaSulam, who researched the whole of reality and then wrote about his discoveries, said that we do not and can not know what exists outside of us. For example, we have no idea what is outside our ears, what makes our eardrums respond. All we know is that our ears are reacting to a stimulus from the outside.

Even the names we attach to phenomena have nothing to do with the phenomena themselves, but with our reactions to them. At any given moment, numerous events happen right next to us, but we are unaware of them. They go unnoticed by our senses because we relate only to phenomena that our senses can perceive. This is why we can’t perceive the Essence of anything outside of us: we only study our reactions to events and to objects, not to the events and the objects themselves.

This rule of perception applies not only to the spiritual worlds; it’s the law of the whole of Nature. Relating to reality in this way immediately makes us realize that what we see is not what actually exists. This understanding is paramount if we want to achieve spiritual progress.

To relate correctly to reality, we mustn’t think that what we are perceiving is the “real” picture. In other words, the fact that we see a red apple as red doesn’t mean that it is actually red, only that I am perceiving it as red.

Actually, if you ask physicists, they’ll tell you that the only true statement you can make about a red apple is that it’s not red. If you remember how the Masach (Screen) works, you know that it receives what it can receive in order to give to the Creator, and rejects the rest.

Similarly, an object’s color is determined by light waves that the illuminated object couldn’t absorb. We are not seeing the color of the object itself, but the light that the object rejected. The real color of the object is the light that it absorbed; but because it absorbed this light, it cannot reach our eye, and we therefore can’t see it. This is why the red apple’s real color is anything but red.

Here’s how Baal HaSulam, in the “Preface to The Book of Zohar,” relates to our lack of perception of the Essence: “It is known that what we cannot feel, we also cannot imagine; and what we cannot sense, we cannot imagine, either. … It follows that the thought has no perception of the Essence whatsoever.”

In other words, because we cannot sense an Essence, any Essence, we also cannot perceive it. But the concept that baffles most Kabbalah students the first time they study Baal HaSulam’s Prefaceis how little we really know about ourselves. Here’s what he has written in this regard: “Moreover, we do not even know our own Essence. I feel and know that I occupy a certain space in the world, that I am solid, warm, and that I think, and other such manifestations of the operations of my Essence. Yet, if you ask me what is my own Essence … I will not know what to answer you.”

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