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Michael Laitman, PhD

The Five-Rung Ladder

The cycle of spiritual reality is like a ladder. This ladder is probably not available at your local hardware store, but you could ask. The Spiritual Light is at the top of the ladder. It is the starting point, the zero, or Root point, in Kabbalistic language. The starting point is Phase Zero, which we introduced in Chapter 5, but here we are referring to it as the beginning of the circle, hence the different name. Kabbalists often use different names to the same spiritual states, to emphasize a different function of the same spiritual entity or degree.

The Light came down in four steps: 1, 2, 3, 4. Because the cycle starts at the root or zero, Kabbalah’s ladder has five stages and four steps. A barrier at the end of Phase 4 stops the spiritual Light, except for a fraction of Light, which evolves into our universe.

Note the similarity to the five levels of human desire presented in Chapter 4. Kabbalah is a system in which cycles in one aspect of existence match cycles in another. The five levels of desire in our world correspond to the five cycles in the spiritual reality of the Upper Worlds. As you will see throughout this chapter, the number 5 reappears in Kabbalah in different ways, describing different aspects of an overall Kabbalistic journey to spiritual attainment.

The fraction of Light that went through the barrier continued to evolve, and Earth was formed. The planet cooled and vegetative life appeared, then animals, humans, and finally humans who are reaching the last degree of evolution—the desire for spirituality. So the Creator came “down” the ladder to Earth, and Kabbalah helps us follow the same path “up” the ladder to the Creator, which the Creator took to get “down” to us.

Five Phases or Five Sefirot

Because the Creator started out by giving, this is the foundation for the relationship with the Creator, marked by five phases of spiritual development. The starting point for you and I involves receiving. The Creator gives, and we receive.

So Phase Zero is the Creator, the desire to give, and happily receiving is Phase 1 in the cycle of spirituality. But the Creator gave humans more than a mere desire to enjoy. He gave us the desire to become like Him because what could be better than being like Him? Because being like the Creator is even better than mere receiving, Phase 2 is wanting to give, and in this case, it means wanting to give back to the Creator.

In Phase 3, we (the created beings) understand that the only way to give to the Creator is to do what He wants because there is nothing else we can give Him. Because He wants us to receive, that’s what we do in Phase 3. But note the difference: this isn’t like the receiving in Phase 1. Here, in Phase 3 we receive because He wants to give, not because we wish to receive. Our intention has changed from receiving for ourselves to receiving for the Creator. This, in Kabbalah, is considered giving.

Phase 3 could have been the end of the process if it hadn’t been for this tiny issue called “the third stage.” We previously said that our goal is not merely to be attached to the Creator, but to become like Him. This can only happen when we have His Thoughts, when we know and actually participate in the Thought of Creation. Therefore, Phase 4 introduces a new thrill: the desire to understand the actual Thought of Creation. Here you want to understand what the giving is for, what makes it pleasurable, why giving creates everything, and what wisdom it provides.

The four phases and their root each have a second name. Phase Zero is also called Keter, Phase 1 — Hochma, Phase 2 — Bina, Phase 3 — Tifferet or Zeir Anpin (ZA), and Phase 4 — Malchut. These additional names are called Sefirot (Sapphires), because they shine like sapphires.



The whole business with the Sefirot may sound confusing, but it is less so if we remember that they stand for desires. Keter is the Creator’s desire to give Light (pleasure); Hochma is our reception of the pleasure; Bina stands for our desire to give back to the Creator; ZA is our desire to receive in order to give to the Creator; and Malchut is our pure desire to receive, the actual root of the creatures—us.


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