Chapter 4. A Point in the Heart – the Soul
So what is the great mystery of the soul, and exactly what is it?
The soul is a desire created by the Creator to enjoy Him (the Light).It is actually in perfect adhesion with the Creator, just as it was when it was first created. But the soul needs to accomplish this situation in its own right, to actually obtain an equivalence of form independently, and in so doing become like its Creator. In order to accomplish this task, the Creator completely separates the soul from Himself. This happens by giving the soul the exact opposite attribute that He possesses – the will to receive again.
Through this disparity of form, the soul stops sensing the Creator and is clothed in a corporeal body with the will to receive pleasure purely for its own sake. So if the soul does not sense the Creator, what does it sense? It senses “our world,” the very place that we consider our entire existence. In order to achieve that original state again, when it was complete and sensed the Creator, the soul must take on the task of attaining those attributes of the Creator. It does this through a process that is akin to giving birth to them, creating them itself.
The soul, as it exists in “our world,” is no more than a point. From this single point we can only perceive our own will, which is to delight the corporeal bodies within which we reside. Yet from this point, remote as it can possibly be from the Creator, we are at the perfect place to start our journey back toward the Creator. It is important here not to confuse the soul with the will to receive for ourselves, our current condition. Remember that the soul is a singular desire to enjoy the Creator. In a way, the soul is like a part of the Creator. It’s just that the Creator is the whole, and the soul is a part.
Everyone has a soul existing within them. When we first become aware of it, the soul is felt as a point in the heart, at the center of all desires, in our ego. But at what level is this soul? That is something we must all discover. We see millions of people all over the world with absolutely no recognizable desire except to fulfill their own wants. Within these people exists the soul as well, yet in an embryonic state. Kabbalah calls this soul, “a point in the heart.”
In this instance, the heart is the desire to take pleasure in everything around us. And that point is the one single desire out of all other desires a person possesses that is not a desire for worldly pleasures. It is the desire to reveal its Creator.
Humans develop desires for physical pleasures, and then for wealth, power, control, and knowledge. After those desires for worldly pleasures, generally called the “heart,” is the desire for spirituality. This desire is the end of the line, where nothing in this world can possibly fulfill that lack.
The desire for spirituality seems to appear within the animate desires, hence the name, “point in the heart.” Of course, those desires have nothing to do with the heart in our bodies. If we implanted a new heart in someone, it would not change a single characteristic in that person— even if we implanted a new brain. The spiritual sphere has nothing to do with our biological bodies.
The point in the heart is not really considered the soul, but the “soul in potential.” At this stage, it resembles a lack that simply cannot be filled. We know we want something, we know we are missing something, but for the life of us, we cannot figure out what we need. The point in the heart is like a drop of desire, a yearning for supreme attainment, for the Creator. If a person begins to develop it, it grows like the sperm that has fertilized a human egg and now has evolved into a fetus. When it becomes independent, it is called a “soul.”
The process of the development and birth of the soul can be favorably compared to the same process that occurs in human beings. The soul is born out of a spiritual seed, which is developed by the Light that descends on a person when studying Kabbalah. The point in the heart then begins to inflate and expand under the influence of that Light, and finally evolves into ten complete attributes Kabbalah calls Sefirot; the complete structure of the soul is called a Partzuf, or a Guf (body) of a soul. The Upper Light (the sensation of the Creator by the creature) is drawn into those ten attributes, or Sefirot. This is how a person begins to feel the spiritual world, the Upper One, the Creator.
The soul is the desire to delight in the Creator. In other words, it is the desire to receive the Light that comes from Him. A desire to receive is called a Vessel, or Kli. The purpose of the Creator is to satisfy that desire for pleasure within the soul, provided the soul itself wants it. When that happens, it will feel pleasure. The Creator solved the problem of the soul wanting to feel pleasure by distancing the soul from Him. When the soul moves away from the Creator, it begins to want to draw near Him of its own accord. That gradually creates in it the desire for Him.
The created soul is called Adam. It is, in fact, the one and only creation, a desire to receive pleasure from the Creator. The original soul is divided into 600,000 parts. A hologram serves as a good example to show that each randomly taken part of the spiritual realm consists of all the other parts, only in miniature proportions according to the part’s level.
Each part of the soul evolves gradually from that initial concealed point to a vast spiritual Vessel (620 times greater), over the course of 6,000 consecutive corrections, called “years” or “degrees.” Again, it is important not to confuse the term “years” with our earthly term; it is a measurement of corrections, not time. We will talk more about these numbers later.
In the beginning of one’s spiritual journey in this world, there is a change in a person’s desires: the desire to delight in pleasures of this world turns into a desire to delight in the Creator. This is the greatest egoistic desire of all.
There is an initial level of egoism that conceals spirituality from us called “the barrier.” Once beyond the barrier and inside the spiritual world, each part of the soul goes through a transformation from the intent for me to “for the Creator.” This transformation Kabbalah calls a “correction.” The extent of this correction is the extent of fulfillment with the Light of the Creator until the soul is finally and completely full. That sensation cannot be described in words; it is a sensation of eternity, wholeness, equivalence of form with the Creator. It is the purpose of creation.
Everyone is born into this world with the same five senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. Since we all have the same senses, we all see this corporeal world in the same way. But what are we really feeling through these senses? We are feeling our desire to enjoy, the desire for pleasure. This desire manifests in all five senses at once and is experienced on five different levels:
Animate pleasures from sex, family and food.
Pleasure from wealth and social status.
Pleasure from power (control) and fame.
Pleasure from knowledge.
Pleasure from the Creator.
Of course, we are all built a bit differently; we all aspire to different forms of pleasure. One person may wish to be a teacher, another wants to be a lawyer, and yet another might wish to drive a truck. These differences are all based upon the different combinations of those desires appearing within each of us. And according to the proportion of desires within our collective desire, each of us experiences different feelings. This is where the uniqueness of people comes from.
Now let’s return to the Sefirot for a moment. Sefirot are attributes that are given to the creature, through which to feel the Creator. That is why the Sefirot express supremacy. They are attributes that the Creator wants His creatures to attain in order for them to feel Him. The entire universe is comprised of ten Sefirot, each comprised of ten inner Sefirot, and so on, indefinitely. For that reason, each particle in the universe will always be comprised of ten parts, or Sefirot. But the proportions between the parts are always unique to that particle.
Think for a moment about how we get to know someone. Obviously, at first we are only in contact with a person visually. But as we get to know them, their ways and inner attributes, we discover what is behind that outer body, what their inner attributes are. The external part of a person is only needed for the purpose of providing a sort of outer dressing for those inner attributes.
We can say that we truly know a person only after we know all his or her attributes and reactions in varying situations. Kabbalah calls the process of getting to know the Creator, “attaining the Creator.” A person attains the Creator through the Sefirot, meaning through the Creator’s outer appearances and His attributes. Through the Sefirot we will ultimately come to know reality, which is all a dressing for the Creator, just as our bodies are a dressing for our souls.
The Creator works inside us, in our souls. So if we learn to attain the Creator, we do it by discovering His actions in our soul. In other words, we attain the Creator by the action of the Light on our point in the heart, the desire to reveal the Creator. That point is not empty, although it is felt that way, but rather is filled with goodness. However, in order to feel it, we need to experience every emotion, and only then do we learn to feel the Light as it enters a specific point in the soul. This brings a very special feeling that can only be described as “completeness.”
Completeness is a pleasure that is sensed only after there is a hunger for something and a shortage of it. I ate a cookie yesterday and remember how it tasted. I want one today and that desire is experienced as incompleteness. In other words, I remember the pleasure of eating that cookie and I now feel a lack. I can only fulfill that lack to the extent of the incompleteness I feel before I devour another cookie today.
Of course, tomorrow I will probably want another cookie. This is because nature has arranged lack and fulfillment, hunger and satisfaction, where they do not occur at the same time. This is the exact situation the Creator has placed our souls in to feel the lack, feel incomplete and thereby crave pleasure. As a result, we learn we most certainly can satisfy a lack or hunger, but we can never get our fill. No matter how many bags of cookies I buy, when the bag of cookies runs out, I will definitely be running to the store to pick up another bag.
Luckily, the Creator has a solution for this situation. He wants to delight us, which is why He sends us a very special fulfillment. Our souls try not to spoil that satisfaction by crossing the line and devouring the whole bag. It is only in this way that the soul arrives at completeness. The hunger and desire do not go away—on the contrary. As a result of this special fulfillment, the soul extends more fulfillment from a wholeness that does not fade, an eternal wholeness.
How does this special fulfillment work? I enjoy eating that cookie because prior to ripping open the bag, I feel a hunger, a lack, a sensation of shortage. In other words, I want a cookie. After I eat a few cookies, I no longer want any more because the lack has been fulfilled. But in the spiritual, the Creator gave our souls a great “trick” that prevents it from being satiated, despite the reception of pleasure. The more full our souls feel, the hungrier they grow. That is the perfection of the action of the Creator.
True pleasure, real pleasure, lasts as long as the desire lasts—it is insatiable. But on the spiritual level, when the desire to enjoy receives, it feels shame. You see, the soul does not just sense the pleasure, but also senses the attributes of the Giver. As it senses the Giver, it finds it not only wants the pleasure, but also wishes to relate to the Giver, to be like Him. The moment pleasure is felt from receiving, the pleasure begins to fade. The very act of the soul receiving for itself restricts the pleasure. That is why we cannot attain eternal delight by receiving, because receiving restricts the Light and even extinguishes it, virtually nullifying it.
Kabbalah calls the spiritual sensation of shame “hell.” There is nothing worse than this sensation of shame because it’s the same as being totally opposite from the Creator. The Creator purposely paired receiving with shame. He could have avoided it, but the phenomenon of shame was created specifically for us so we could learn to receive from Him, to delight without shame.
To our soul’s dismay, the very act of receiving what it wants most causes the pleasure received to vanish into thin air. But the Creator has provided a wonderful solution. It turns out that the only way for the soul to receive pleasure is to enjoy not the pleasure itself, but rather our contact with the Giver of the pleasure. If the pleasure from contact with the Giver is what you get from Him, then your pleasure will not disappear and will not diminish your desire for pleasure. On the contrary! The more you receive, the more you give, and the more you enjoy. That process lasts indefinitely!!!
Think about the first time you met someone and fell head over heels in love with them. At first, it did not matter what you did or what they did—you simply received pleasure from being with them. Their very presence made you feel wonderful. This is a vague similarity to what is being described.
There is yet another wonderful surprise in the spiritual. The pleasure that we get from feeling the One who gives is infinitely greater than the pleasure we receive when we are just taking for ourselves. This is because the first kind of taking ties us with the Complete Giver, the Eternal One, the Creator.
But the soul does not start out being able to do this. The soul, a point in each of our hearts, begins as just a point, a desire to enjoy pleasure from the Creator. It develops into a “Vessel” to receive this pleasure. Kabbalah calls this Vessel a Kli. But at this initial state, it is only a mere desire to receive and is not considered a Vessel because it is unsuitable for reception.
Right now, we are as distanced from the Creator as we can be, enveloped in a hard casing of will to receive. As we currently exist, this concealment is not apparent to us as people. We go on about our business in this world. We work, eat, sleep, play, procreate, and experience our corporeal lives without any hint that there is anything else besides what we experience in this world. Yet for one whose point in the heart has awakened, and has crossed that barrier into the spiritual, it becomes immediately obvious what this “barrier” is blocking out, what it conceals.
After the awakening of this point in the heart, we discover it is only a Vessel for giving. A “giving Vessel” is one that still cannot receive for the purpose of pleasing the Creator, but can only refrain from receiving. It is in this state because if the Vessel would receive, it would be for itself. The soul can exist without receiving the Creator’s Light because the sensation of shame caused by receiving for itself extinguishes its pleasure the moment it is received which turns the pleasure of reception into torment.
The solution that allows the soul to begin receiving at first seems ridiculous, almost backward. The soul discovers it must only receive pleasure as a means to delight the Creator. Let’s repeat that. The soul must have such an attitude that it will not receive unless the act of its own reception brings pleasure to the Creator. Its own reception is no longer the driving force; it will only receive if the purpose of that act has nothing to do with itself, but only with the Creator. It is important that you understand we are speaking of spiritual pleasure here. The tiny drop of pleasure we experience in our world simply suffices to insure our existence, so live and enjoy.
The result of this discovery is actually a change in the soul’s intent, from wanting to receive for itself to wanting to receive in order to bring pleasure to the Creator. In Kabbalah, this new and revolutionary intent is called a “screen.” Only if there is a screen over the desire to enjoy (a willingness to take pleasure only to the extent that it delights the Creator), does the soul become worthy of reception. This point in the heart can then be called a “Vessel.”
So all we really have to do is acquire a screen! It actually boils down to a change in our intent, from that of wanting to receive to that of wanting to give. But how does this screen work and how does it allow us to sense the Creator? The answer is simple; it works just like the rest of our senses.
For instance, let’s take a look at the process of hearing. How do we hear? Air waves strike a kind of screen within our ear called an “eardrum.” The eardrum is connected to specialized hearing organs that transfer the vibrations of the eardrum into electrical impulses that our brains interpret as sound.
The sense of sight is no different. Light strikes a kind of screen, the retina, where nerves are stimulated and transfer electric signals into the brain that it interprets as sight, what we see. If you remove either of the “screens” from these sensory organs, no matter how much air is moved in the form of sound waves, or how much light enters the eye, we still will not hear or see. Our other senses have the same types of screen mechanisms. The spiritual screen is no different. Light is reflected off the screen and signals are sent within us allowing us to sense the Creator.
Let’s look at this process in spiritual terms. When the will to enjoy receives and feels the Giver as well, it feels both pleasure and shame. The shame happens because by receiving, the soul senses itself as opposite to the Creator. The presence of the Giver makes the receiver feel shame, and that shame stops us from enjoyment. In spirituality, when we receive, we feel we must give something back to the Giver, to equalize with the Giver so we do not feel as if we are only receiving.
Let’s say that for years Betty and Bob have been going out to dinner every Friday night with another couple. But if Bob loses his job, he no longer has the money for this. When Bob calls the couple to tell them they cannot go out, as good friends they understand the situation and might talk Betty and Bob into letting them pick up the tab. Of course, Betty and Bob would still enjoy themselves, but perhaps not quite as much as they normally would. When that check is laid on the table, a disconcerting feeling arises.
But how about the next week when Bob is still unemployed? At some point, any of us would simply say “no thanks,” mainly stemming from that feeling of shame, that feeling that we are not doing our part. We decline because this minute amount of shame would make us miserable. Multiply that sense of shame several million times over and one begins to understand what kind of shame is involved with regard to taking pleasure from the Creator for one’s own enjoyment while sensing Him. Our souls simply cannot do it.
One might ask, if the presence of the Creator can evoke such a sensation in us, how can we say that the decision is really for the Creator? So in order for us to make an independent decision to receive for the Creator and so we can come to resemble the One who created us in order to delight us, the Creator has to be concealed, just as He is to us today. That way our decision will not be compulsory, like not sticking our hands in fire because we know fire will burn.
We actually need the original concealment. It is our guarantee that until we are ready to receive only if it pleases Him, we cannot possibly do so. In order to give us that opportunity, there must be a situation where we creatures feel that we are the only ones here. Then, all the decisions will be our own.
The soul is not apparent or awake in us from the beginning. In each of us there is an “embryo” of a soul, but whether or not the soul has come to the point where it is ready to begin growing is a totally different story. If the soul has not yet come to that state, a person will not feel any desire for spirituality, for the Creator. But once the point in the heart begins to stir and demand, we begin to sense a faint question that turns into a desperate plea to know the purpose of our lives. This burning question becomes so intense that we finally reach a point where, without the answer to that question, we simply cannot go on living.
When we reach a stage where the point in the heart begins to stir, and we begin that process of revealing the Creator, we suddenly feel drawn to something exalted. That attraction is misinterpreted. Everyone feels this preliminary sensation, but after we experience that sensation several times, it diminishes because we learn correctly and begin to create within us those Vessels that will help us feel spiritual sensations.
We stop being like embryos in the womb and become more and more mature. Our emotions are then redefined and analyzed, and we grow farther away from our preliminary situation. Instead of wanting to be “enveloped” in something higher like an embryo, we begin aspiring to attain the Upper One Himself, to consciously wrap ourselves inside His attributes and try to move forward independently. That is possible only if we begin to acquire that spiritual Vessel for progress we call the “screen.” That is exactly what Kabbalah teaches.
The soul only revokes its first restriction for one reason. What do we sense when we feel the Creator? We sense His intense desire to give, to delight us. If we do feel the desire of the Creator to please us, we can decide that despite the sensation of shame, we will accept the pleasure because that is what the Creator wants. Therefore, by doing so, we can bring pleasure to the Creator for His Sake, not for ourselves. The act remains as before, and we still receive just as we did when we felt shame, but the intent of our reception has now changed.
The decision has been taken only out of the desire to delight the Creator, despite the sensation of shame. But we as creatures discover that by acting for the Creator, we do not feel ourselves as receivers, but as givers. As creatures, through our equivalence of form with the Creator, we feel total wholeness, eternity, unending love and pleasure.
But the decision to restrict the reception of Light (the First Restriction), to receive Light only for the Creator, will come only if we feel the Creator, the Giver, because only the sensation of the Creator can awaken such a resolution in us. From that point forward, our advancement depends on us alone.