Only the Heart Needs Correction
Michael Laitman, PhD — a major Kabbalist, scientist of biocybernetics, professor of ontology and of epistemology, and founder and director of the
Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education & Research Institute and the Ashlag Research Institute (ARI). He is the author of more than thirty books, which are translated into nine languages. Michael Laitman is a member of the World Wisdom Council, an elite gathering of experts that devote themselves to solving global problems of the modern world.
Mark Golub – founded the RTV channel in the USA: The Russian Television Network of America. It has expanded over time, and now broadcasts to the Russian community in America through ten channels, including Israel Channel 9. RTN, one of the ten channels, is still broadcast over cable television.
M. Golub: My current goal is to create the first national English-speaking Jewish channel in America. And this is why I have received video files about you and your academy. I am very impressed and touched by what you do. At this time the channel is called Shalom TV.
M. Laitman: We will also be glad to make this happen.
M. Golub: Thank you very much. Besides, this process enchants me. I have been walking around the building, and what amazes me is the loyalty of those people, which have come here from around the world to study with you and work here. For me it is a great honor to sit here with you. I am very grateful to you for this time. I would like it if you could speak in Russian with me.
When did you arrive in Israel?
M. Laitman: I arrived in Israel in 1974.
M. Golub: Why?
M. Laitman: At that time I was already a scientist of biocybernetics, and I was going to continue my scientific work. But while working in the Research Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion in the MilitaryMedicalAcademy, I asked myself about the meaning of life. While studying the functioning of a live organism I could not find the answer to “What is the purpose of existence of the organism itself?” This is why I started looking into this question, but the answer was nowhere to be found. I left Russia. I was hoping that in Israel I was going to do something that would help me find the answer to the question about the meaning of life. About five years elapsed before I found Kabbalah.
M. Golub: It was not easy for Jews to leave Russia when you left.
M. Laitman: Yes. At that time it was very difficult to leave Russia.
M. Golub: I was told that you were denied exit [from the USSR.] Is this true?
M. Laitman: Yes. For two years I was denied exit. I tried unsuccessfully to leave from Leningrad. After I moved from Leningrad to my hometown Vitebsk, I tried to leave from Vitebsk. I couldn’t. And then I moved to Vilnius. And from Vilnius, not even from Vilnius itself, but from a small Lithuanian village, I left to Israel. That is, I was traveling discreetly until I found the way out, the place where this could happen, and I left.
M. Golub: Where were your parents at that time?
M. Laitman: My parents remained in Russia. And only my wife, our small child, and I myself went to Israel. At that time it was equivalent to parting forever. I arrived precisely during the war of the Judgment Day.
M. Golub: You arrived and immediately ended up in a war.
M. Laitman: I was ready for anything. I knew that it was, here, where I was going, and nowhere else; my home was here. Immediately I got a job with the military air force. I worked there for four years repairing fighter planes. Around 1978-1979, when I was already seriously studying Kabbalah, I quit the job. It was very difficult for me to combine intense work and intense study.
M. Golub: How difficult was it for you to integrate into the life of Israel?
M. Laitman: I don’t think I even tried to integrate into the daily life of Israel. I was trying to find myself in this world, in this life. And I cannot say that life in Israel attracted me with something special, unique. I related more to a small group of people who were attaining the creation, attaining the Creator, and fulfilling man’s purpose in life.
M. Golub: Do you think that Russian culture and the time spent in Russia have helped you on this spiritual journey?
M. Laitman: Yes. That is because the search for the meaning of life awakens fairly actively in both Russian Jews and Russian people.
M. Golub: How did you come to Kabbalah?
M. Laitman: I started searching for the answer to the meaning of life. But this answer was nowhere to be found, neither in biology, nor in physics. People need to know for what they are living. And people here and there started suggesting to me where and how I could find this, that it possibly exists in Judaism, but only in the inner part of Judaism, in its secret inner part, in Kabbalah. I started searching. But several years elapsed until I found its inner part.
M. Golub: Mass departure of Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel began in the nineties. How do you participate in their lives? Do Russian repatriates come to study with you?
Michal Laitman: That is true, starting in the nineties many Jews from Russia started coming to Israel (around one million people in total.) I wrote my first three books on Kabbalah in Russian in 1983. In 1990, as soon as it became possible, I published these books and simply gave them away for free, all fifty thousand copies. And the echo of that action of dissemination still reaches us.
Also, here in Israel, I have opened a large Kabbalistic school in Russian (in addition to the Hebrew group.) And I can say that today half of my students are Russian speakers, but to tell you the truth, we study in Hebrew. There are also Kabbalistic groups in many Russian cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Odessa, Sochi, Krasnodar, Dnepropetrovsk, Kiev, and others. In general, we have a great number of Kabbalistic groups around the territory of the former Soviet Union, and we have a very close connection with them. Besides, we have a great number of groups in the USA. We have a virtual university, which has around 800,000 students.
M. Golub: It’s simply unbelievable.
M. Laitman: And amongst them there are around 150,000 to 200,000 Russian speakers.
M. Golub: I am sure that you have a lot of wonderful students from all over the world. But is there something innate, something hereditary in the Russian mentality, in the foundation, or the upbringing, which makes these people that study with you somehow special?
M. Laitman: I do not have a special connection with the Russian students, it is just like with any other students, but they have their own special predisposition towards spiritual search. I would say that it was like this until the year 2000. But during the recent years, I have been finding the same kind of interest and aspiration in Israelis. And even in the Americans, a very serious element of dedication and aspiration towards self-knowledge has awakened.
M. Golub: Can you explain why so many people from around the world over the last twenty years have come to Kabbalah, why they are trying to find an answer to the spiritual question?
M. Laitman: Over the course of its continuous existence, the world advances through human egoism. Our egoism keeps on growing. It develops in people from generation to generation, and besides, it also develops in each person individually over the course of a lifetime. We are not animals who are born and die on the same level. We develop.
During its scientific, technical, public, and social development, humanity kept on thinking that the following generation was going to be happier, work less, rest more, be more fulfilled. Even fifty years ago we were still thinking this. I remember that when I was a child, it was taught that in fifty years people were going to work three to four hours a day; there was going to be a lot of free time; everything was going to be nice, beautiful. In the end, we have come to the exact opposite.
That is, that human egoism, which kept on pushing us forward and promised us pleasure and fulfillment, in the end, has brought us to a dead end. Today we see that we can not fulfill ourselves. Before we always ran somewhere, and we thought that we were going to become fulfilled with something good. Today we no longer run anywhere. Humanity has become submerged in depression, suicide, and drugs, trying somehow to simply suppress its desires, to become oblivious. All of these things and universal terror are signs of a large common crisis. It leads us to a state when man will be forced to answer the question about the meaning of life.
And so man begins to look for answers. It says in The Book of Zohar that at the end of the twentieth century humanity will come to this question, and this is why, only then, the science of Kabbalah can be revealed. This is why it was concealed over all the thousands of years. Starting with our time (and I am a witness to this, since I have been studying Kabbalah for about thirty years,) interest in Kabbalah is gradually being born, gradually people stop fearing it. They are beginning to express interest in it directly: what can Kabbalah give me? And once they learn that Kabbalah answers the question about the meaning of life, they no longer fear studying it.
Gradually notions about Kabbalah as magic, some kind of red string, holy water, and various miracles die out. People realize that all of these attributes are merely psychological trappings and not more. Interest in true Kabbalah appears; [true Kabbalistic attainment, a state] where a person can perceive the universe, eternity, and forces that govern us, see oneself in all of the previous reincarnations, see one’s destiny, perceive why our world is made this certain way, our life, and where all this is taking us.
In our time there already are a multitude of people on this planet, who begin asking this question, and this is why today we have a great number of students in our InternationalKabbalahAcademy.
M. Golub: As I understand, Kabbalah can be studied for many years. Is this so?
M. Laitman: Yes.
M. Golub: This means that the answers aren’t simple, it is not easy to attain them, and real understanding takes years. Is this a lifetime process?
M. Laitman: Yes, but this process captivates. It reveals to people the meaning of their existence, the meaning of their lives, and they begin to understand why people behave in a certain way, why things happen. They see the forces that govern our world. For them this world becomes transparent; they see through it; they feel it, perceive it, and they also see their eternal states behind this world, the ones before birth and after death. That is, they see the entire picture of the universe, they start relating themselves to something that exists not only within the boundaries of our world. This is why this is a special science and a special experience. It is like a continuous fairytale journey that happens to man, and every time he attains more and more, he receives more and more pleasure.
M. Golub: Could you explain in two minutes to those that do not know Kabbalah at all what Kabbalah is, the essence of the Kabbalistic answer to the question of the meaning of life, which takes an entire lifetime to learn, or at least give us a clue?
M. Laitman: The meaning of life is to attain such level of perception of the universe in this lifetime, when there is no difference between this life and death, and life in a different world, on a different level, in a different dimension. That is, when man begins to live absolutely freely in all the dimensions and not only in the one which he now perceives.
M. Golub: And what affect does this have on egoism?
M. Laitman: The problem is that while man is an egoist, he only perceives his little life, he keeps it inside himself, and this is all he perceives. And this is why there is all the suffering, all the problems. Everything that he perceives is a consequence of his ego. As soon as he is able to go beyond himself, beyond his ego, he immediately experiences the Upper exterior world. As if he rids himself of his own self, of his suffering, of his reserved, compressed sensations, and his entire life becomes an immense flow of pleasure.
M. Golub: The Jewish tradition speaks about the evil and the good beginnings in man, that both of them come from the Creator. That it is necessary to avoid suppressing the evil beginning, but to direct it towards constructive goals, that there is nothing bad in any of man’s desires, and everything only depends on the way that man uses them. This is why it seems that the Jewish tradition has a very positive attitude towards what we call egoism. How does this go with the Kabbalistic understanding of the fact that the entire problem lies in egoism?
M. Laitman: We do not need to fight the egoism. We simply need to understand the way it can properly be used. Nothing is created in vain in us. All of the properties are given in man so he would properly and fully realize them. One must not suppress anything within him. One must not cloister, and one must not fast without a reason, or practice specific limitations. Judaism in general is against this, and Kabbalah especially.
The science of Kabbalah is called the science of reception (the proper way to receive an absolute and constant pleasure.) And this can only be attained when man properly begins to work with the altruistic part of his desires, and then with his egoistic part. When he is able to bestow, to receive, then this common property, this desire appears in him, and he receives constant pleasure. He constantly feels like he is immortal, healthy, and perfect.
This is why one’s attitude toward people, oneself, and everyone else must be of absolute kindness. The entire problem lies only in learning to properly realize oneself. This is what Kabbalah teaches, this is why it is called “the science of reception,” a translation of Hochmat ha-Kabbalah.
M. Golub: You have said that the study of Kabbalah is open to every person, regardless of whether a person is Jewish or not.
M. Laitman: Yes. Absolutely to everyone.
M. Golub: Then there is something universal in the essence of Kabbalah, is this correct?
M. Laitman: Yes. It is not connected at all to Judaism, or Islam, or Christianity – nothing. It is above all this. Kabbalah simply speaks about man and about the way to lift him above our world to the realm of eternal Upper Forces.
M. Golub: Have you experienced tragedies in life?
M. Laitman: Now it is difficult for me to tell. Have I really experienced tragedies in the past? I think that not. And now [I don’t experience anything like that] for sure. When my teacher passed away, and I was left alone, of course that was painful. But on the other hand I could see and understand that I had to go on my own starting then, that he had completed his function in this world, and now I needed to do something independently.
I don’t see at all that there can be horrible tragedies in this world. Everything depends on man’s perception. If one sees the final objective, if one sees everything through the proper perspective, then he feels that there is no evil in the world, [nothing] but absolute good.
It is necessary for man to see the proper perspective. Man must learn how he was created and for what. And then, from afar, the eternal, perfect pleasure shines at man, initially prepared just for him. And when he is in constant movement towards it (and this is true for everyone) he sees that absolute love penetrates the entire world.
This is the force of the Creator.
M. Golub: There is a lot of suffering in the world.
M. Laitman: Yes, there is a lot of suffering in the world. But this suffering is given to us to inspire in us the need to realize its origin and its purpose, similar to how one punishes a child so the child will understand that he needs to do something. Regrettably, we are the ones who cause this suffering to the extent that we require supplementing our development at a given time, and thereby become a little higher in our moral, public, and social levels, and in our relationships with one another. If we were correcting ourselves, and to the extent of our material development, we also were increasing our moral development, then we would feel very good both in this world, and in the spiritual world.
M. Golub: I would really like to hear your explanation of what actually the correction of the world is, and why this correction is necessary overall?
M. Laitman: Kabbalah reveals to man the structure of the entire world; and the following picture opens up before him: our world is surrounded with an enormous, absolutely kind force called the Creator. And this kind force absolutely, firmly governs the still, vegetative, and animal nature, and obligates this nature to follow its laws precisely.
And man keeps his freedom of will, his attitude towards himself and that which surrounds him—nature and society. It turns out that where nature, the Upper Force, left the freedom of will for man, he uses this freedom incorrectly, in a bad way, for evil. Man does not complement or respond the same way to the properties of love, which must fill this empty space.
That is, basically, nature only needs to correct man. There are no evil forces, no good forces. There is only one force, which leads us towards complete correction, shows us the suffering, and motivates us with its opposition. In this way, all of the suffering is caused by the difference in man’s attributes and those of the Creator. And there is no other solution. If one changes his attributes to match those of the Creator, starts nearing them, he will start experiencing states called the spiritual worlds, the perception of the Creator, and to that extent he will perceive good and pleasure. This is why there are no other forces but the forces of good, and all the forces of evil are our forces. We only need to correct our hearts.
M. Golub: How did people become separate from the Creator?
M. Laitman: This is done purposefully through the spreading of the light from up-down. This is how man’s separation from the Creator happened. Of course, the Creator did this himself to give man an opportunity to ascend on his own.
M. Golub: Tell me, was this the Creator, who created this kind of separation between the soul and Himself?
M. Laitman: Everything that was done in the past, everything that happened even only a second ago is all done by the Creator and no one else. There is no other power but Him. And starting with the current manifestation of evil in man, his detachment and depression, global crisis, beginning with this moment and on, the Creator instigates in man the need to correct. And here everything depends on us. But in the past, the descent of the stages from up-down, the creation of evil, all of this was caused by the Creator.
M. Golub: Is it true that there is an ability to be good inside man?
M. Laitman: No. This does not exist and we don’t see it either. Even though altruistic genes and altruistic behavior exist in animals and people, all good deeds come from some desire to benefit from it.
Man does not have any ability to do good deeds on his own. He must receive the energy from above. This is why this method is called the method of reception. Kabbalah gives man a connection to the Upper Force. From there he can receive the energy and rise. Just like a piece of metal rises from the surface under the influence of a magnet, in the same way, the Upper Force must start lifting man. We do not have any forces of our own to do this inside us.
M. Golub: Pardon me, I have a problem with this. It seems to me that those people studying with you have an incentive, which appeared from the inside.
M. Laitman: You are absolutely correct. Each one of us has a heart, which is a reservoir of all our egoistic desires. It is said “Man’s heart is evil from birth.” But inside this heart there is a point, the so-called part of the Creator from above, a spark. It is this spark that pushes man up, ahead, towards the eternal, upper, spiritual, perfect. But it only pushes him. It cannot give him the power to ascend. It simply slightly directs him, slightly pushes him. Then everything depends only on whether he will manage to receive this power from the above.
M. Golub: But you have met special people, right?
M. Laitman: Yes.
M. Golub: What makes them special?
M. Laitman: If they have managed to restore their connection with the Upper Forces, which corrects them, then they have really become special, and if not—then not. In our world man does not have any power to save himself. No charms or tricks will help him. If he properly directs his point in the heart, receives forces from the above, which create the so-called Partzuf—the ten Sefirot, the soul, from this point. Then this soul, this part, which he has built inside, kind of begins to ascend together with him into the spiritual world. But this only happens if he receives the power from above, the Upper Light. But if he does not receive this light, then he remains in our world, in the egoistic desires, and keeps chasing around in constant search. This is the point that guides him.
M. Golub: Is this reception conscious?
M. Laitman: A person that studies Kabbalah develops a sixth sensory organ inside him. We have five sensory organs: vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. And besides, we have an embryonic sixth sensory organ, and man can develop it. And once he develops it, he begins to perceive the world outside him. This is the “Upper world,” outside of me, not limited by me. And once he perceives the universe outside of him, perceives the Upper Force there, the Creator, souls, everything that is not inside what is perceived by our five sensory organs, he then identifies himself with this world and lives simultaneously in both dimensions. And this is absolutely obvious.
M. Golub: Can a person that has never studied Kabbalah become special?
M. Laitman: Never. He can never change himself and become special.
M. Golub: One cannot be a pleasant, good person if he has never studied Kabbalah?
M. Laitman: I do not know what it means to be a “good person.” Just good because he was born this way? But this is not what it means in relation to absolute attributes. Simply he was either born this way, or these are his genes, or he was taught to be kind and good towards others. But he will only seem good to us until the egoism grows in him and turns him into an evil, arrogant, and greedy person. In our world we are under the influence and power of egoism, and we cannot be kind and good. All this can only come from certain calculations.
M. Golub: Is rejection of egoism our goal?
M. Laitman: No. Man’s goal is to properly bring both his evil and his good beginnings to such connection with each other, so that one helps the other, and both of these beginnings will lift him spiritually through the so-called middle line, the golden middle. And then all of his bad, good, and other properties, genetic skills, everything that there is in him, everything that there was in him, the past experiences over the course of all his past lives, all of these things are gathered and it lifts man up.
M. Golub: Sitting next to you there is a feeling that you are an amazing person, very pleasant, un-indifferent, sentimental, who wishes good to others. If I had met you 40 years earlier, would I have thought the same of you?
M. Laitman: Even today I don’t think that I am like you have described me. Kabbalah makes one special, but purposefully special. It’s like a father, who when it is needed, punishes his child, and when he can, he treats him with love and demonstrates this love. This is why one cannot expect that someone, who is correcting himself and is ascending spiritually, will always radiate laughter, smiles, and hugs. This is not true. He will treat the students firmly and with cruelty when needed, because they must be corrected and pulled ahead through this. Besides, I am still far from complete correction. But I strive towards it.
M. Golub: I am becoming very impressed by all that you have created here, by the people that I have met. The house that you have built here is something exceptional. The people that study here in this hall see all the groups around the world on the [television] screens. In a way you have created an international home, an international class. All of them study with you trying to ascend higher and higher, as you say, trying to become filled with light. I cannot tell you how much what you have built inspires me, how much you yourself inspire me, and how much I appreciate your tolerance of my questions. It is a big honor for me to present you even for a minute to the American audience. I hope that I will have many opportunities to become your student. I wish you luck in everything that you do, and I hope that this will be the first of many lessons that I will have with you. Thank you very much!