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"Kabbalah Revealed" Episode 15: Inanimate Vegetative Animate Human


The four levels on which all life is based.


Kabbalah Revealed #15
Inanimate Vegetative Animate Human

Lecture presented for the American television channel, Shalom TV
Anthony Kosinec

•    Bold and indented: Original text of Baal HaSulam
•    Regular: Commentaries of Tony Kosinec
•    lowercase italics: emphasized words
•    Capitalized Italics: transliteration from Hebrew

Hello again and welcome to Kabbalah Revealed. I’m Tony Kosinec.

In this lesson, we are going to look at the four levels that exist in nature: the inanimate, vegetative, animate and human.

We are familiar with these when we look at life on earth through the five senses. But because reality is constructed in the form of root and branch, that is, because there is a causal level of force that is hidden from those senses, what we are able to see and sense is only the result of that force. So, these four levels of existence we observe here are branches of four levels of this hidden Upper Force. We see them, but do we really understand anything about them?

Let’s take a look at them.

[Tony drawing]

In the physical world, these four parts of reality are distributed in terms of their quantity, in a pyramid. At the bottom of this pyramid is the greatest quantity; that’s the still level. What we’re really measuring here, according to the Kabbalists, is not simply a conglomeration of matter, but a particular quality on the root level that manifests itself on the branch level in the way that we can sort of understand it, and the quality that we are looking at is the will to receive. This is the only thing that exists in the physical world, so everything that we see here is an expression of that. That’s why on the still level, we have all the hard matter of the universe—all the rocks, all the planets and so on—and the greatest number of things are in the still because the still only has a tiny amount of will to receive. Only this level here [Tony referring to drawing]—it hardly any will to receive. Therefore it has very little will to change, ability to change. And it takes tremendous forces to get it to move in any way.

[Tony drawing]

Above that is the vegetative level—all of the organic plant matter. This level of will to receive is so much greater than the still level, dimensionally greater, that a single plant, a single flower, incorporates more will to receive than all of the still level. And because it has this extra dimension of the desire to receive, it also has the ability to grow. It can make a determination between what’s good for it and what’s bad for it, and it grows in a very limited way—towards the sun and taking certain elements from the earth and so on. It’s a simple form of life.

[Tony drawing]

Above that we have the animate level. The animate level has one animal—say a fly—has more will to receive than all of the still and vegetative levels combined. And because of that it develops it own individuality; it seeks out its good and it chooses between good and bad for its wellbeing, on an individual basis.

[Tony drawing]

Above that we have the human level. This level incorporates more will to receive than all of the levels below it; they are all incorporated in it. On this level, we have something called “mind” and “heart.” These elements allow us to experience not like an animal that only sees the present, but to be able to use our mind and our heart to compensate for those things that are not present before us. This grows our will to receive to a tremendous level. So here, this level actually incorporates all levels below it and effects all levels below it. So, the inner life of the human level is really what makes for the conditions of everything else in the universe, because it’s all really part of the human.

When the human will to receive develops to its maximum, it reaches a level we call “speaking” or what you could call “a Kabbalist.” An entirely different order appears at this point, and these very same four levels are then experienced, or at least it’s possible to experience them in the spiritual realm.

[Tony drawing]

Here, we see them laid out in a slightly different way because we’re not just dealing with the quantity of one quality, but with a comparison of quantity against quality. Here the still, animate, vegetative and speaking go by different names, you’ll see them in scriptures.

The still level is called “palaces”; the vegetative is called “robes”; the animate is called “angels”; and the speaking is called “souls.” And they’re made up of a ratio of two qualities—the will to receive and the will to bestow. In other words, once a person reaches this spiritual level, they go through a process by which the will to bestow becomes greater and greater and greater as the person ascends these levels. Then of course, above all those there is another level of pure bestowal, and that’s called, “the Creator.”

These are very mysterious terms and I’m sure you’ve seen in scriptures. Let’s take the mystery out of them; let’s look at an article by Baal HaSulam that deals with exactly what this means. It is the Shamati article 115, from the book “Shamati.” He describes it this way:

Still is something that does not have an authority of its own. Rather, it is under the authority of its Landlord and must satisfy every wish and desire of its Landlord.
Remember, we are speaking here about the upper inner life, and we need to understand that the inanimate spiritual level has no freedom or power over itself, just as the physical level of still has no freedom, because freedom and spiritual life begins with self-control. A person who can’t control his desires is regarded as spiritually inanimate.
A person who strives for the Creator will eventually come to a state where he clearly sees that he has no power over his nature, but this makes him ask the Creator for strength to control his egoism, and his egoism is really what constitutes his nature.
He asks the Upper Force to give him power, but not just in order for him to do anything that he wants in this world; that’s the way the powerful people of this world act. They’re very focused on one dominating desire, and all of their actions follow that desire. Because of that, that kind of a person becomes an even bigger egoist. All of his small desires only serve one overpowering, selfish yearning, but the spiritual path is different.
There, a man comes to a situation in which he wants to submit all of his desires to the Creator’s will, and by doing that, he’s actually expressing his free will and at the same time he’s controlling his egoism. What he wants is for the Creator’s qualities to rule over him, but the Creator already rules over him, He already governs him anyway, but still the man aspires to achieve this state by his own free will. He himself wants to know, he wants to understand, and he wants to enjoy the Creator’s power over him. And he wants to adapt all of his thoughts and all of his desires to that, the way that a horse adapts to a rider’s commands. So, in the inanimate state, at the spiritual level, the person can’t yet agree with all the actions that the Creator is going to perform with him, but he has reached a stage where he already feels the need in himself to fulfill all of the Master’s desires.
Baal HaSulam continues:
Hence, when the Creator created creation for His glory, as it is written, “everyone that is called by My name and whom I have created for My glory,” it means that He created creation for His own needs. The nature of the Landlord is imprinted in the creatures, meaning all the creatures cannot work for another, but for themselves.

Since the Creator created all creatures for His own sake, His nature is imprinted in them. This means that each created being also does everything for its own sake. Everything that has been created is really meant only for a single purpose, and that purpose is to submit all of these little desires to the ultimate and the most satisfying one. That’s why we see this scale of growing desire in the levels in creation. Man begins to feel and to understand this, and he now knows that the Master’s properties are totally different from his own, and that there is nothing he can do about it. That is the still level; there is nothing he can do about it.

Baal HaSulam continues:
Vegetative is that which already has its own authority to some extent. It can do something that is contrary to the opinion of the Landlord, meaning it can already do things not for itself but to bestow. This is already the opposite of what exists in the will of the Landlord, which He had imprinted in the lower ones to work only with the will to receive for themselves.
Yet as we can see in corporeal flora, even though they are mobile and expand in width and length, still, all the plants have a single property. In other words, there is not a single plant that can go against the method of all the plants but they must adhere to the rules of the flora and are incapable of doing anything against the mind of their contemporaries.
Thus, they have no life of their own, but are parts of the life of all floras, meaning all the plants have a single form of life for all the plants. All the plants are like a single creature and the plants are specific organs of that animal.

So all plants exist in the same way, as if they are all parts of the same plant—they start growing, they wither and they die at the same fixed time of the year, and everything is pre-programmed and nothing depends on what they do. They develop and grow regardless of their will.

Baal HaSulam says:
Similarly, in spirituality there are people that have already acquired the force to overcome their will to receive to some degree but are confined to the environment. They cannot do the opposite of the environment they live in, yet they do the opposite of what their will to receive wants. This means that they already work with the will to bestow.
So it’s the same in the spiritual. Those who have too little power to overcome their will to receive completely are enslaved by their society. They can’t understand its influence and they can’t work outside of it, but they’re attempting to oppose their will to receive internally, meaning that they already are working with their desire to bestow, and these people are free inside, but they’re completely dependent on their society, just like the vegetative level of plants are.

The vegetative contains some manifestation of an independent desire; it can defy the master’s will. What he means by “the master’s will” is the dictates of the will to receive; the domination of the ego. This kind of a person can work to a certain degree against what the ego tells them to do because they have acquired a tool at this level, a screen, an inner force and they now can work with desires. The way that they work with the desires is that this person opposes the master’s desire—which is his own nature—and that’s the nature that the Creature gave him: his egoism.

At this point he already perceives that his nature does emanate directly from the Creator, but now he disagrees with his own inner quality and he wants to influence it with an opposite attitude. So, at the vegetative level, a person can already give instead of just doing things for their own sake. And this is what contradicts the will of the master.

This will to receive was given to us at that point at which we were created. So, on one hand, the Creator put desire into us and he wants to fill us, and on the other hand, he wants us to acquire his property of bestowal. So really, both of these desires belong to the Creator.

Even though we are immersed in egotistical desire, at the same time, we are included in the Creator’s original desire. Conversely, when we eventually acquire altruistic desire, we will still remain inside the Creator’s will. That’s because there is nothing but the Creator’s Will, His power over us. That’s the meaning of “There is none else beside Him.” But a person can choose which power, which force he is going to submit to and which aspect of the Creator’s desire is going to influence him. He can choose one of the two. So, why don’t we then feel these two desires equally?
In the higher reality, when we enter the spiritual world and we begin ascending, we ascend in the middle line, so that these two choices—whether to be under the power of egoism, or under the power of altruism—at that point they are perceived by us as equivalent. And this state is referred to as “Klipat Noga,” which is between bestowal and reception; sometimes we belong to one, and sometimes we belong to the other. And that really is what man is like. So, what he needs to do is to place himself in the neutral position, between the properties of bestowal and reception. When he reaches that state of neutrality, then he becomes free to make his own decisions; that’s what we call “freedom.”

Baal HaSulam continues:
Animate: We see that each animal has its own characteristic; they are not confined to the environment but each of them has its own sensation and characteristic. They can certainly operate against the will of the Landlord, meaning they can work in bestowal and are also not confined to the environment, but their own life. Their vitality does not depend on their friends’ life.
Each animate creature is special in its own way; it’s not enslaved by the environment and it has its own properties and its own feelings. In the physical world, we see that every animal can move freely and independently of the others, but they still submit to the laws that are common to their species. So we see a lot of species breathe and hibernate at the same fixed periods of time, so likewise, in the spiritual, each on the animate level has its own sensations and its own properties; he is not enslaved by society anymore; he has a greater degree of freedom to go against the master’s will, against the will to receive, than the vegetative level. He can create his own environment.

He still somewhat needs his natural, egoistic society, but he’s not completely dependent on it.
Yet, they cannot feel more than their own being. In other words, they have no sensation of the other and naturally cannot care for the other.

The animate level has a high degree of independence, but it lacks one very important thing—it only has the ability to sense itself. That’s what it means by “in the present.” It doesn’t feel others, and the highest states are the interconnected states.

He describes the speaking level:
Speaking has virtues: 1—It acts against the will of the Landlord. 2—It is not confined to its contemporaries like the vegetative, meaning it is independent from society. 3—It also feels the other and hence can care for them and complement them by feeling and regretting with the collective.

It can also rejoice in the solace of the collective and receive from the past and from the future. Animals, however, feel only the present and only their own being.
In other words:
1)    He can completely defy the master’s will—he can bestow rather than receive.
2)    Unlike plants, he doesn’t depend on other people. In other words, he doesn’t depend on his environment to fill him.
3)    He feels others, so he can take care of them and satisfy their needs. That’s what bestowal is. He has the capability to do pretty much what the Creator does. His relationship to his society is that of an adult. He can create a society, and within that society, he can act completely against the master and create a society which is purely altruistic.

As he begins to nullify his egoistic properties, he finds himself increasingly interconnected with the society by choice. He discovers that there is a truer quality between him and the whole. This is the level of absolute love—when man becomes equal to the Creator. He can share the suffering of society, which means that he acquires their desires, their empty vessels. He also shares their joys, which means that now he can fill their needs with delight within himself so that all of society will feel it. By doing this, man rises to the root of his soul and he includes all other souls. In the likeness of the collective soul, Adam, he corrects all of them. The others don’t feel this correction yet, but the person at this level corrects the part of him that is in all of them. And by attaching them to himself as the corrected part of himself, he can reach his individual, final correction. Now he can receive both from the past and the future, whereas the animate level of spirituality can only feel itself in the present.
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