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Wisdom of Kabbalah and Philosophy

After conducting a comparative analysis between Kabbalah and Philosophy, we would be able to see that both of these sciences investigate the existing reality. However, the Science of Kabbalah concerns itself with the reality that manifests itself clearly. It talks about the existence revealed by a person in his sensory organs. These could be already existing physical sensory organs or an additional, so called “spiritual organ of perception” also known as “the soul”. Thus, the revelation takes place either in five or in six sensory organs.

The Science of Kabbalah is unique in the sense that it attempts to bring a person to an integral, inseparably connected full perception of all the existence to the point when there is no division of the Universe into the Upper and the lower worlds, into concealed and revealed parts. Kabbalah is striving to reveal all of this.

Baal HaSulam explains this in the “Preface to the Study of Ten Sephirot” and in a few other texts, giving definitions to such terms as “concealed part” and “revealed part”. Concealed part is defined as something that is hidden from a person because he lacks sensitivity in his organs of perception. He may soon obtain new, additional senses, allowing him to perceive much of this concealed knowledge. He may also develop in himself special sensitivity that will allow him to start sensing what has been concealed before. In this way, whatever was hidden from him in this world, will reveal itself now.

This is related to the development of our normal, natural organs of perception that are given to us by birth. We know that we have to work in order to sharpen the perception in these sensory organs, to try to understand how to work with them and to orient them towards a particular program of action using the achievements of science, knowledge, and the experience accumulated by humankind. Then we do indeed obtain some understanding about this world, which we perceive in our five sensory organs.

However, there is a certain part of existence that is concealed from human beings. No matter how much we develop our five ordinary sensory organs, we won’t be able to sense it. This part of reality is called “the concealed world” or “the Upper World”, “the spiritual world”. This world is not meant to be revealed in our physical sensory organs, no matter how developed they are. In order to perceive this part of reality a person needs to develop an additional organ of perception, which has absolutely no connection with the other sensory organs.

Here we face the task of defining the term “spiritual”. Is this just some additional part of reality, which we start to perceive? No. The difference between the material and the spiritual exists only in relation to a man - there is no difference between these elements of reality in relation to the Creator. In relation to Him, only the Upper light exists, which rests in absolute peace, staying inside one common vessel.

This existing state is constant and unchanging, as it is said: "The Creator is good that doeth good to the good and to the evil", “I the Lord do not change” and other similar expressions.

Thus, defining the spiritual as a special element of the reality is meaningful only in relation to the created beings. Perceived sensations of “pleasure and suffering or “sweet and bitter” are referred to as bodily sensations in Kabbalah. The term “bodily” does not imply a physical body - this is a sensation in the spiritual vessel of perception and inside it in particular. Whatever we perceive thanks to our goal-oriented desire, an intention, when we evaluate our sensations according to the principal “truth and lie” in the reflected light (and not according to the principal “sweet and bitter”), in Kabbalah is called perception in the sixth sensory organ, a spiritual sense, called “soul”. This is what is called the spiritual, existing beyond the material.


Essence of the Upper Force (the Creator)

The wisdom of Kabbalah neither engages in studying the upper force, nor tries to prove its laws, because it defines itself as an experimental science, and does not speak of what is outside of the scope of its attainment. It does not even negate attainment, since defining the non-existent is no less valuable than defining the existent. If you look at some essence from a distance and define all the elements missing in it, this can also be regarded as a proof and a certain realization, because were this essence too distant, it would be impossible to discern its missing elements.

Therefore, the basic principle of Kabbalah is: “The unattainable can have no name”, where a name implies a beginning of some sort of attainment. The upper light that is attained inside the soul, the sensation of the upper force (the Creator) and its actions are described in the wisdom of Kabbalah in the minutest details of an analysis and experiment, no less accurately than in the study of the material.

In other words, the Science of Kabbalah, like any other science, deals only with what it can attain. The task of this science is to expand its scope of research to all possible areas of reality. But, in essence, it is a man who achieves all the realizations. He attains the part of reality, which he is able to perceive in his sensory organs, developing them to the maximum, as much as is possible, using a special method, called the Science of Kabbalah, the wisdom of attainment.

The line demarcating the area of undertaking and analysis is very clear - “The unattainable can have no name”. Meaning, this science deals only with practical investigations, only with tangible realizations in man’s sensory organs. We cannot see what is electricity or any other force invisible to us. If not for the observation of the results of its effect, we would have no understanding about electricity. In exactly the same way we cannot define either the corporeal, which is concealed from us (we feel only its external manifestation) or the spiritual, which we do not feel at all in our organs of perception. However we can sense the spiritual, if we develop in us additional organs of perception necessary for that.

It follows that the boundary of possible attainment shifts according to man’s abilities. Ultimately, we are capable of attaining everything that man is allowed to attain. The spiritual is sensed in what Kabbalists call “the spiritual vessel of reception” - the soul.

There are people who have developed in themselves this additional organ of perception of the spiritual world. In it they attained everything that is possible to attain and they tell us about their attainment. They also tell us about the states, which they haven’t undergone yet in a clearly sensible manner. Based on their experience and, and according to their assumptions, they can impart that it’s likely that these states exist when one advances further. For example, states like the Final Correction and various states that exist after it.

However, these are conclusions drawn on a basis of previous experience and analysis of existing inter-relationships. Even if Kabbalists tell us that these kinds of states exist, they clearly define what is meant by it, stressing that this is not a result of their clear sensation. It is what, according to them, is likely to happen in the future. In other words, every Kabbalist is extremely wary to even touch on something that did not come as a result of an absolute and clear attainment in his sensory organs.

We just need to define what is meant by “a clear, scientific attainment” in Kabbalah - attainment in our sensory organs that breaches any doubt. How deep do we have to delve into the material in order to declare that we have truly attained it?

Baal HaSulam describes the laws of attainment in his article “The Essence of the Science of Kabbalah”. These questions are also discussed in detail in the “Preface to the book of Zohar” where he writes that there are four types of perception: matter, form clothed in matter, abstract form, and essence. In relation to the first two types of perception of reality - matter and form clothed in matter - we are allowed to conduct research and tests. We can develop a science on the basis of these investigations. This is because we attain matter itself and its form, that is, the way form manifests in matter. We attain relatively accurately and nothing that exists beyond our organs of perceptions is left behind.

Our sensory organs perceive these two categories: matter (desire) and form of desire. In our world this manifests as matter that we sense (still, vegetative, animated nature and human) as well as form of this material (that is, properties that it has).

Meanwhile, we are not able to offer any judgment about abstract form and essence and this is because our perception of these two categories is completely abstract. It is not definite enough for us to evaluate it, and this is because we are unable to connect form and matter. This is why all our investigations of the abstract form may be incorrect. We can’t say anything about them with a sufficient degree of confidence.

In this way, the approach of the Science of Kabbalah is opposite to the approach used in Philosophy, which deals with abstract forms. The Science of Kabbalah never deals with an abstract, detached from the matter form. An unshakable, iron rule exist in Kabbalah: “The unattainable can have no name". It is strictly forbidden to ignore this rule.


Spiritual is a Force without a Body

IKabbalah defines “the spiritual” as something totally unconnected with time, space and matter. It constitutes a force, not vested in a body. While speaking about a spiritual force, we do not mean the spiritual light per se, because this light is outside of the vessel and is therefore unattainable. (It is emanated by the Creator’s essence and is equivalent to it). In other words, we are absolutely unable to understand the spiritual light so as to name and define it, because the very name “light” is metaphorical and cannot be considered true. So, a bodiless “force” is referred to as a “spiritual vessel”.

Thus, the spiritual vessel is a force. Physical forces acting in this world also cannot be clearly grasped by us. We do not sense the forces themselves, but only comprehend the results of their effect on us, the way they manifest in matter.


Vessel and Light

It is possible to attain the light (i.e. the vessel’s impression). Such an attainment is called “matter and form”, since the impression is a “form” and a force constitutes “matter”. However, the sensation of love that fills the vessel is defined as a “form without matter”. If we abstract love from a gift, as though it had never been dressed in the particular gift and merely constitutes an abstract name (the Creator’s love), then it is defined as a form. Engaging in it is called an “acquisition of form”. This is a concrete research, bec ause the spirit of this love remains in our attainment as the light’s essence, a notion that is totally abstract from the gift.

Although this love is a result of the gift, it is immeasurably more important than the gift itself, because it is determined by the greatness of the giver and not by the value of the gift. Love and appreciation gives this state an infinite significance. Therefore, love becomes absolutely abstract from matter (the light and the gift), so that only the attainment of love remains, while the gift leaves no trace in the heart

This love is divided into four levels that are similar to the degrees of human love. When the gift is received for the first time, the person is not yet ready to love the giver, especially if the giver’s status is much higher than that of the receiver. However, as the number of gifts steadily grow, the receiver feels that even a very important giver can be genuinely loved and perceived as an equal. The law of love states that the lovers should feel the equality between them.

Accordingly, four levels of love can be defined:

    1. Presenting the gift is called the world of Assiya.

    2. Increasing the number of gifts is called the world of Yetzira.

    3. Revelation of love’s essence is called the world of Beria. Here the study of form in the wisdom of Kabbalah begins, because at this stage love was separated from the gift – the light leaves the world of Yetzira, love remains without the light, without its gifts.

    4. After love tried and finally separated form from matter, the person can ascend from the state of darkness to the level of Atzilut, where form returns and dresses into matter, meaning that the light and love are felt as one.

A man begins to realize the relationship between the vessel and the light only according to his level of development. Throughout our entire life, all our education deals with investigation of the relationship between the light and the vessel: what desires allow us to receive a certain fulfillment.

The relationship between the light and the vessel is the subject matter of all our sciences - physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, philosophy, psychology, and social sciences. It doesn’t matter what is the field of research - when it comes to any realization, we always deal with the relationship between the vessel and the light.

Humanity is trying to find a universal formula, which would be able to give an answer for all occasions: what kind of results can it get on account of certain desires. And vise versa, if I want to get certain results - what vessels - desires do I have to prepare for it? If we knew such a universal formula, we would acquire an infinite vessel, inside of all that exists. Man has always strived for this goal and this is why he developed different sciences.

Undeveloped man encounters only sensations that matter itself invokes in him. This means that he deals only with “bodily” forms - desires to receive good, pleasant sensations and is satisfied with this. This level of development is called “still”. When he starts to see that according to changes in the desire to receive he attains all kinds of additional forms of pleasure (fulfillment of the desire to receive) then it is considered that he is at the “vegetative” level. When he starts to depend on a more remote surrounding (stays in motion, searching for fulfillment), this is already called the “animated” level. And when he develops to a level where he realizes that his vessel is not constrained by time (past and future), and is not constrained by space, but rather covers everything (from one end to the other) where he is not in his physical body then he is called “human”.

We investigate the possibility of finding a universal formula for all these four levels of development of the desire to receive. This unified formula should include everything: how each of all the existing desires reveals, defines, and assimilates the fulfillment meant for it. This is what we want to know.

This is what all our knowledge about our world, about reality is. In essence, what is science? Science is knowledge about what is inside man’s vessel of reception, what might be in it, and thanks to what he can receive what he desires. Inside our shell, our vessel - this is where, in essence, all sciences exist, this is what we study in them.

Kabbalists study the functioning of this vessel. Einstein, who was striving to achieve complete knowledge about the entire Universe, was searching for a universal formula, which would contain all possible consequences and everything that exists in creation – he was looking for the connection between the vessel and its fulfillment. To investigate interaction between the light and the vessel means to deal with matter and form clothed in matter. Matter is the vessel, while form of matter is the light filling it.


Force is Matter

We perceive the spiritual as a force separated from a body, having no material image. It is a separate property and has no contact with the material world. But if the spiritual has no contact with the material, then how can it give birth and put the material into motion?

A force in itself is a true matter, no less than all the other matter of our world. The lack of an image that can be perceived by our senses does not diminish its value.

For example let’s take oxygen, which happens to be a component of most materials in the world. If we take a bottle of pure oxygen isolated from any other material, it looks like an empty bottle, because being a gas, oxygen cannot be seen, smelled, tasted or touched. The same is true about hydrogen.

Yet, if we combine these two substances, they will instantly turn into liquid, water, good for drinking, possessing weight and taste. If we add this water to quicklime, it will be immediately absorbed and will turn into a solid substance similar to lime itself. Thus the imperceptible chemical elements oxygen and hydrogen turn into a solid substance.

The same may be said about the forces that act in nature. Usually they are not regarded as matter, because it is impossible to perceive them in our senses. On the other hand, we see that the reality (solid and liquid substances) tangibly perceived in our world may be transformed (if heated) into gas, which in turn (if sufficiently cooled) may return to a solid state.

From this it follows that all the perceived pictures originate from the basics that may not be called materials and are impossible to feel. Therefore, all the familiar pictures imprinted in our consciousness, with the help of which we define the materials, do not permanently exist due to their special properties. Their form is a derivative of temperature.

So the essence of matter is in the “force” contained in it. However, with regards to us the forces do not manifest by themselves as chemical elements. Their essence will be revealed in the future, as chemical elements were discovered only during the last centuries.

In short, all the names that derived from the pictures of matter are totally made-up, because they are products of our perception in the five senses. Therefore these names can change and do not exist by t hemselves.

Yet on the other hand, any definition of a force that we give by denying its connection with matter is also far-fetched. We should only take the concrete reality into consideration until science develops sufficiently to reach its perfect form. In other words, all the material actions that we see and feel ought to be analyzed in connection with the person who performs it. We should understand that he (like the action) essentially consists of matter. Otherwise it would be impossible to comprehend him.

Yet on the other hand, any definition of a force that we give by denying its connection with matter is also far-fetched. We should only take the concrete reality into consideration until science develops sufficiently to reach its perfect form. In other words, all the material actions that we see and feel ought to be analyzed in connection with the person who performs it. We should understand that he (like the action) essentially consists of matter. Otherwise it would be impossible to comprehend him.

Since Kabbalah is a true science, it seeks the real attainment of the universe, when no difficult question can refute a hard fact.

The universe consists of a vessel (desire) and the light (pleasure). The difference between the two manifests in the first creation that came apart from the upper force. The first creation is purer and more filled than any other that follows. It receives delight from the essence of the upper force that wishes to fill it.

Delight can be measured by the desire to receive it. Whatever one longs to receive, more is felt as greater pleasure. Therefore the first creation (“desire to receive”) is divided into two categories:

    1. The receiver’s essence – the desire to receive, the body of creation, the vessel for the reception of delight.

    2. The essence of the received delight - the Creator’s light constantly flowing to the creation.

The entire universe and any of its parts always consists of two interpenetrating qualities, because the “desire to receive”, essential in the creation, was absent in the upper force. Hence it is called the creation, something that does not exist in the upper force. The received abundance is certainly a part of the upper force’s essence, so an enormous distance separates it from a newly created body and the received abundance, similar to the essence of the Upper Force.


How the Spiritual can Beget the Material

On the face of it, it is difficult to understand how the spiritual can beget and sustain something material. But this is so if we only consider that the spiritual is in no way connected with the material.

But if we take the opinion of the Kabbalists, who discover that any spiritual property is similar to the material one, it will be clear that the difference lies only in matter – spiritual or substantial. However, all the qualities of the spiritual matter act in substance as well.

There are three erroneous assertions in the understanding of the spiritual and the material:

    1. The power of human thought is man’s essence, his immortal soul.

    2. The body is the soul’s extension and result.

    3. The spiritual substances are simple and not composite.

These false suppositions were disproved by materialistic psychology and since then anyone who wishes to attain the upper force can do so through the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah.


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