Chapter 10. Perceiving the Spiritual
Our perception of the spiritual is actually a change in our senses. Even an insignificant change in our senses will significantly modify our perception of reality and our world. Everything we sense is called the Creation. Just as our sensations are subjective, the picture we build is also subjective.
As mentioned earlier in this book, scientists constantly try to expand the limits of our senses (with microscopes, telescopes, all kinds of sensors, and so on), but all these aids do not change the essence of our perceptions. It is as if we are imprisoned by our sensory organs. All the incoming information penetrates us through our five sensors: visual, auditory, tactual, gustatory and olfactory.
All information we receive in our senses undergoes some processing inside us, and is sensed and assessed following one algorithm: is it better or worse for us? From above, we are given the opportunity to create a sixth organ of sensation. Kabbalah teaches that the only thing created is the desire to have pleasure and delight. Our brains are aimed only at the development of this sensation, measuring it correctly. The brain is an auxiliary appliance, nothing more.
The result of studying Kabbalah correctly is a comprehensive and thorough experience of the true universe, as clear, and even clearer than our present perception of the world. The perception of both worlds gives us a full and comprehensive picture, including the highest force, the Creator who rules the entire universe. If we study it correctly, using authentic sources in a group of likeminded people and under the guidance of an authentic teacher, we can qualitatively modify our organs of sensation and discover the spiritual world and our Creator.
Our initial state is such that we do not understand or perceive that something is hidden from us. Yet if we begin to appreciate this fact during our studies, we have taken a step in the right direction. After awhile, we begin to sense a Higher Force that establishes contact with us, places us in different situations, and the causes and effects of those situations become clearer.
I begin to think, “This particular situation was sent to me by the Creator so that I could let it go” or “Perhaps in this situation, I should behave differently.” This kind of analysis and self-criticism is exactly what transports us to the level of Humans. Now we have become more than a mere animal that walks on two legs. The benefit here is that when we start sensing the Creator, we are able to see which of our actions are useful to us and which are harmful.
When we know the causes and effects of any given action, we begin to know what will be useful to us. Knowing this, we naturally will not do something that brings us punishment, but would always do what brings rewards. So the revelation of the Creator brings us the chance to behave correctly in any situation and receive maximum benefit from that situation. Such a person is called a “righteous person.” The righteous perceives the Creator, the reward for all good, as well as the additional reward for not violating a commandment.
A righteous person is one who justifies the Creator. Along our path, as we increasingly perform corrections, we receive more and more Light. That Inner Light is our perception of the Creator. With each new revelation of the Creator, we ascend the spiritual ladder one rung at a time. With our “spiritual feet” firmly on that rung, we then receive a new portion of Light.
We finally reach a level where the end result has absolutely nothing to do with us. It might be good or bad for us, but we still perform that spiritual commandment. When we have finally reached this level, we see the Creator as totally kind and every one of His actions as perfect. This all stems from reaching a certain degree of revelation of the Creator.
As we move along the 6,000 steps, we realize that everything the Creator does to us and to our fellow humans stems from the desire to endlessly delight all created beings. We are then overcome by a feeling of endless gratitude and a desire to thank the Creator.
All of our spiritual actions are aimed directly at giving to the Creator. In other words, we are doing more and more to please the Creator. This is called “the condition of eternal and endless love for the Creator.” When we reach this stage, we understand that the Creator has only wished us good in the past.
In our current uncorrected state, this condition is virtually unknown. In fact, we blame the Creator for everything in sight, from being late to watch our children in a school play to the greatest tragedies of life. We tend blame the Creator for not getting what we wanted. It was the Creator that got us in trouble and brought us grief.
What we later discover is that the Light of the Almighty is consistent and unchanging, but when that Light enters an antagonistic desire, it arouses an antagonistic feeling in us. Spirituality is perceived on that edge between the positive and negative conditions we experience. The bottom line is, we should not fear any situation, even when it seems to be negative.
Often when we begin our studies in Kabbalah, we suddenly discover problems that were previously unknown to us. This is because we have accelerated the process of our spiritual growth. If we had not begun our studies, it would have taken us years to go through what we now go through in a few months, or even weeks.
If, during our studies and work with our friends, we listen correctly, meaning with the right intent, we will begin to be more and more “inside” what we hear and learn, and pay more attention to it. We will study the process of creation, the cascading of the spiritual worlds from Above to below, in order to draw in that spiritual Light described in the material we are studying. When we do this correctly, that Light will gradually cleanse our self-centered Vessels, correct them and convert them into altruistic Vessels.
When we study with others, often we will meet students who have been studying for years who are learning alongside a student who may have only started a few months ago. Yet both are able to advance without any hindrance in the least. It may come as a surprise that today’s students come with a greater desire to understand everything. The reason for this is that their souls are more experienced, and are better prepared for the process.
Why do we study in a group? This enables us to utilize a very special means in Kabbalah. Studying the material with others of the same intent bonds us to the group’s desire. This bonding allows us to humble ourselves with respect, creating an entirely different kind of acceleration. A person who studies within a group can actually reach spiritual levels after only a few hours, while it might have taken them years of study on their own.
So we actually have two ways to accelerate the attainment of our goal. First is the study of Kabbalah, which moves our efforts towards our goal from a subconscious process to a conscious process. Then, we have the group, which dramatically accelerates the conscious process. Using such a combined technique, we can spiritually advance literally thousands of times faster than we could by taking the unconscious route.
There are a few pitfalls to avoid. In today’s times, Kabbalah has sometimes been corrupted into a fad, promising everything from a better sex-life to making more money. Of course, students will still receive some spiritual benefit for their efforts, but if the intent is not to reveal the Creator, but rather to gain some mundane benefit, they will be moving at a snail’s pace.
There are also fanatics who actually do not have any clue as to the true purpose of Kabbalah. We call these people “pseudo-Kabbalists.” For this reason, a new student should study only authentic literature and join a highly focused, single-minded group led by one teacher. Actually there are many stages one passes through before one ever discovers Kabbalah, but the last few stages involve a desperate search for the spiritual.
There have been times when a student wonders if it is acceptable to study other books or even look at different ideas claiming to be spiritual paths, and my response is the same. Kabbalists have always taught that “One should do exactly what the heart is leading them to do. For if other concepts of spirituality are on one’s mind, they cannot even come close to the focus it will take to begin the study of Kabbalah in the proper manner. It is much better for a person to go and get it out of their system now, then after a few weeks, months or years, come back and work with a full and correct intent.
It is important to find authentic Kabbalistic sources whose content will induce thoughts about the Creator and the goal you need to reach. Then there is no doubt you will reach it. The sources that divert you from the true goal will not bring any good. The Surrounding Light, Ohr Makif, is drawn according to your desire. The Light will not shine if your desire does not aim at a genuine goal.
A prime example of this is none other than myself. I was first exposed to Kabbalah in my early twenties. I knew I was looking for something, but I was not exactly sure what that something was. I did study for a period, but then left and studied many other paths that claimed a quicker avenue to spirituality. It took many years for me to finally understand that Kabbalah is about only one thing—finding a form in which one can perceive the spiritual. The Hebrew term for this is Hishtavut Tzura, equivalence of form. It is precisely this goal that we must come to before we can seriously begin trying to reach the spiritual worlds.
You see, the spiritual world permeates our material world and shapes everything that exists in it. In other words, the roots of everything in our world lie in the spiritual world. By understanding those spiritual roots and our interaction with them, we can study our world correctly, allowing us to avoid making errors.
Most people are quite surprised when they first read Talmud Eser Sefirot (The Study of the Ten Sefirot) and find that the birth of the soul is incredibly similar to the conception of a human in the mother’s womb, including the periods of pregnancy, birth and feeding. If the material were read like a novel, one might come to the conclusion that it is pure medicine. We then begin to grasp why we perceive such consequences of the spiritual laws of development in our world. The development of the soul is explained in a language that describes the development of the body in our world.
Horoscopes, astrology and predictions have nothing to do with Kabbalah. They are related to the body and its animal property to help us sense different things. Dogs and cats can also feel the approaching of some natural phenomena. In present times many people rush to use “New Age” techniques, trying to change themselves, their lives and their destinies. Destiny may be changed, in fact, if you exert an influence on your soul and learn how to control it. But again, this has nothing to do with the revelation of the Creator, which is about the desires within us and whom we intend to please through them.
There is another unique phenomenon when studying Kabbalah. As we become familiar with the laws of the spiritual world, we find that we can more easily understand the laws of our world. Sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, etc., actually become simpler and clearer when examined from the viewpoint of Kabbalah. A Kabbalist dreams of rising above the present level, but not of descending. Kabbalists may perceive the roots of development of all sciences, if they wish.
Baal HaSulam, Rav Ashlag, sometimes wrote about the correlation between spiritual and material sciences. A great Kabbalist, the Vilna Gaon, enjoyed making comparisons between spiritual and material laws. He even wrote a book on geometry. Perceiving one of the highest spiritual worlds, he was able to draw a connection directly from there down to the science of our world.
As for those of us with no idea of the spiritual worlds, we shall read these books, pronounce the words, and try to understand their meaning. But even by just pronouncing these words with the right desire at heart, we are invisibly linking ourselves to the spiritual by attracting Ohr Makif (Surrounding Light) from a certain level where the author was. When reading the books of the genuine Kabbalists, we allow the Ohr Makif to drive us forward.
The diversity of levels and types of Kabbalist souls account for the variety of styles expressed in Kabbalistic works, as well as the various degrees of Light intensity we may draw while studying them. However, the Light emanating from the various books of the Torah, including, from its special part, Kabbalah, always exists.
The Kabbalist Moses wrote a book about the wandering of his people in the desert. If we only take these writings literally as stories, then the Torah will have no impact on us. But if we delve deeper, and understand what is truly described there, the Five Books become a Kabbalistic revelation, wherein all the degrees of understanding of the spiritual worlds are expounded. This is exactly what Moses wanted to pass on.
The same relates to King Solomon’s Song of Songs. Everything depends on how it is read and perceived. It can be taken just as a love song or as a spiritual revelation, which The Zohar describes as the highest connection to the Creator.
We constantly breed different desires, whatever they are. Our development depends on the level of these desires. In the beginning our desires are on the lowest level, the so-called animal desires. Later these are followed by desires for wealth, honor, social position, and so on. On a higher level are the desires for knowledge, music, art, culture, etc. Finally, we find the more elevated desire for spirituality. Such desires gradually appear in the souls after many incarnations in this world or, as we say, with the development of generations.
First the souls living exclusively in their animal nature life were incarnated in our world. The following generations of souls experienced desires for money, honor and power. Finally, these desires gave way to the desire for sciences and for something higher that the sciences cannot provide. To discover these desires is to discover the gateway to perceiving the spiritual.