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"Kabbalah Revealed" Episode 12: The Difference Between Kabbalah and Religion


Anthony Kosinec introduces the process of gradual transformation that each of us goes through at every moment of our lives; the end of this process that Kabbalists have discovered we are being led to; the advantages of using the method Kabbalists have devised to speed up this process (the Path of Torah and Mitzvot), and the disadvantages of not using it (the Path of Pain).


Kabbalah Revealed #12
The Difference Between Kabbalah and Religion

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

•  Bold and indented:Original text of Rav Michael Laitman, PhD
•  Regular: Commentaries of Tony Kosinec
•  lowercase italics: emphasized words
•  Capitalized Italics: titles and transliteration from Hebrew

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

Because Kabbalah deals with the connection that a person has to the Upper forces, to the spiritual, to the Creator, it’s generally thought of as being a religion. It’s not a religion, but it’s associated that way because religious people believe in the existence of the Creator. They have a kind of relationship with the Creator through prayer and they also do things, actions, that they feel, that they are assured by their tradition are what the Creator requires of them and by doing these things, a relationship of closeness is built in the context of religion.

If they have all these things—a relationship, the existence of the Creator, actions to bring them closer—well, what else could there possibly be than that? Well, really, there isn’t more than that. It’s just a question of how that is done, the paradigm in which that occurs.

Kabbalah is not a religion; it’s a method, it’s actually a science. It’s a way of establishing a direct relationship with the Creator. It uses similar components as the religious approach does, but its paradigm is completely different.

The difference comes in whether the person approaches these very same elements with a goal of internality or externality. Kabbalah describes a process that is considered to be internality. The difference between the two is extremely marked, and if you take the approach of the paradigm of Kabbalah and apply it to these very same elements of religion, a person doing those same actions can have a completely different experience—a direct connection with the Upper Force, and an enhanced grasp and attainment, not only of the pleasures of life, but of the reality of the Creator’s mind. This is a real relationship.

Let’s take a look at what the difference is, and what it is that a person can do with these elements in order to achieve this kind of relationship.

We are going to read from an article by Rav Michael Laitman called The Difference Between Kabbalah and Religion. In this article he points out the precise difference. It’s a small thing, but the insight is life-changing. He says:
Religion assumes that the Creator changes His attitude to the person depending on the person’s actions. The science of Kabbalah however states that the Upper Force is invariable, and the actions of a person can in no way affect it. Instead, the person’s actions can change himself. He will be able to perceive the Upper Governance differently, if his own changes are aimed toward greater resemblance. He will be able to perceive the Creator as kind and good. By increasing the difference between his properties (reception) and those of the Creator (bestowal), he will feel the Creator’s attitude as more negative.

When we look at where we live, look at the environment that surrounds us, we can see that we are completely dependent on the environment. It can do anything that it wants to us.
There are huge forces out there that we try to understand. We try to learn about them through science, and to the degree that we can control them, we do—we do everything we can to control them—because they’re awesome. And when we find that we can’t control them, then we try to take another approach, we try to cut a deal with them. We ask for things from them. We make kinds of sacrifices. We try to take actions that we think will have some kind of an effect on these forces that we can’t control directly.

All of this deal-making really amounts to what you could call “prayer” because we relate to everything that we see according to how we understand things, and we believe that nature responds like we do. That is, if we do something nice to a person, that person will probably do something nice back to us. This is how we see things out of our nature. This is a quality of our egoism and because of this, we look at the laws of nature that we don’t understand and we suppose that the law of nature also acts egoistically—if I do something good to it, it will do something good to me. That’s because we’re egoists and everything that we see appears to us in that form. So we find ourselves trying to ameliorate situations in our lives and conditions against large forces by being nice to people, doing something in terms of charity or helping animals or doing something with society and making personal sacrifices. The hope is that we will get a good attitude returned to us from these hidden awesome forces.

There are many expressions in the Kabbalistic texts indicating the invariance of the Creator’s attitude towards the created beings: “I do not change My Name” (“Ani HaVaYA lo Shiniti”), “He is good and bestows goodness upon His creatures, good and bad (“Tov ve Metiv le Raim u le Tovim”), “the Upper Light is absolutely static” (“Ohr Elion Nimzta be Menucha Muchletet”).
I’m sure you’ve seen these in scriptures and in prayers and they seem really mysterious—what could this possibly be talking about?

What it speaks about is that the quality of the Creator, this quality of bestowal, is not something that changes, It’s not something that we can ask to change, and It always functions in exactly the same way, always doing exactly the same thing. It’s what is called that, “the Light is at rest.” It’s also what the meaning of Shabbat is. Shabbat is considered to be the highest connection with the highest state that a man can reach in this world, and above this world; a connection with the World of Atzilut. And this is considered to be a state of rest.

What does “rest” mean? The Light is at rest because It has a quality that never alters. It is always creating and caring for all of creation. It is a constant attitude of all-embracing love.
The Kabbalists who have exited their nature, their egoistic nature, their lower nature, and have penetrated into the spiritual world, tell us about this quality of constancy in the Upper Light and they tell us that nature functions by a completely opposite idea to the one that we have when we try to cut deals with it.
We see that the Upper Force is one that doesn’t change, nor does It need to change because if It is constant, if It is bestowal, then It can’t be bestowal sometimes and not other times because then it’s not bestowal. So, it is either an Upper Force or it’s not an Upper Force and if, as all religions say, the Creator is good, then if we can’t feel that that is so, then the problem is really with us and not with the Upper Force.
Therefore, a prayer is called self-judgment or self-analysis. This is when a person does not appeal to the Creator but judges himself instead and analyzes himself with regards to the Upper Invariable Force... As the person changes, he corrects himself relative to the Invariable and Absolute Creator.

This attitude towards himself and towards the Creator constitutes the difference between Kabbalah and religion. Even though religion calls for certain personal changes, religion is based on pleading with the Creator. In this world religions are similar to the most ancient beliefs, which extensively practice bribing the Upper forces of nature.

So if we can’t bribe Him, what do we pray for? What do we call out to Him for? We need to ask Him to change us in such a way that we can understand Him. We need to change our tools of perception and not ask that the Creator change His attitude towards us.

We know this because of what the Kabbalists have brought us, because this is not something that was created out of our nature, but comes from those who have exited that aspect of nature and brought us this idea in the books of Kabbalah, and of course the Torah and our other scriptures are all part of Kabbalah, and this is why we say that these are the words of God because they come from the level above the nature of man. And it’s telling us to take a completely different, opposite attitude towards what it is that we request in our process of development. And that is why it is said that the rule of Torah is opposite to the rule of landlords. “Torah” is the Upper Light; “Landlords” is our nature, our egoistic nature.

In the article he says:
A conviction in the change of the Creator’s attitude to the person leads to envy: who is treated by the Creator with greater love and who is more “divinely chosen”? It causes antagonism to arise not only among people, but also between religions. The representatives of various confessions dispute whose prayers the Creator is inclined to answer more willingly.
Let’s look at this paradigm, this difference between Kabbalah and religion this way.

[Tony drawing]

We see that in religion we have people in this world who believe in an Upper Force—the Creator. There are events or forces, situations that come to the people from this Upper Force. The Upper Force is responsible for everything in this conception. These events are felt either as positive events or negative events by the people in this world.
When a person feels one of these events as negative, then he begins to take action as explained to him by the religious approach. He will make actions that are determined to make an effect on the upper situation here, to change this experience from a negative to a positive. So, he will do actions of charity; he will do actions of self-sacrifice; he will do things in his community, all in order to make an effect here, to get a good result.

And he will also raise a request called “prayer.” Depending on the mercy of the Lord, which he sees as expressed in the variance that he believes happens here [Tony refers to drawing] in the Creator’s attitude. In other words, the Creator is inconsistent—sometimes he will do a good thing to me, sometimes He will do a bad thing to me. In this combination of actions that are taken and this pleading, there will be an influence so that instead of getting this bad result or bad attitude from the Creator, it will be changed through these things to a positive one, in the experience of the person making the request. So that means that the perception that the person has of the Creator plus the Creator’s attitude is completely inconsistent; it’s variable—it can either be positive or it can be negative. And really here, the man does not discover anything about the actual nature of the Creator because he is operating the entire system based on a governing principle that exists for him here [Tony drawing] which is to experience only good. But that’s “good” in terms of the definition of this guiding principle, which is egoism. 

That is, “I don’t want things to change here. I do not want to feel any bad things from the Creator, so I want my situation to remain the same, and I want the Creator’s attitude to change around me, while I receive a comfortable and good situation through this definition”; not only for me. I mean, maybe the person doesn’t act outwardly apparently as an egoist, they’re not trying act as an egoist, they may be concerned for their family, for their nation, for the ecosystem, but still what they’re trying to do is to get the Creator to change an attitude which is considered to be bad.

In the Kabbalistic paradigm we have exactly the same elements:
We have a Creator; we have people in the world, and we have events affecting the people. Some of these events are felt by the Kabbalist as positive or negative. Now, because the Kabbalist already starts from the principle that everything that occurs is actually good—all actions of the Creator do not change; they’re always good—therefore, all of the events that are occurring in the person’s life are also good, and where is the place that the person can appeal to for grace, as in this place here [Tony refers to drawing], where the religious person can request a good outcome, that the Creator should show grace to them?

The point of variance and the point of invariance is completely different in these two paradigms. Here [Tony refers to drawing] we find the Creator and all of these forces are invariable; here [Tony refers to drawing] we find that the person’s attitude is invariable. The person does not change, does not grow.
The Creator, being invariable, and the forces from the Creator being invariable, means that the only place of variation is in the attitude of the person themself. They are more or less able to feel the fact of the goodness behind each of these events that the Creator sends to them. And because the prayer that the Kabbalist raises is a prayer to understand both the invariability of the events and the very thought behind it, it is working by a completely different governing principle. This governing principle is the Thought of Creation that determines why everything that happens is good. So, the person is continually raising a request to make him understand how everything here is good, and as a result, the person themself rises in their understanding to see how every apparent outward event, looking good or bad, actually is just another expression of the invariably good intention that comes from the Creator. So as a result, an intimate knowledge is created for the person through this attitude. That is, the man changes, the man rises and this is a constant dynamic, whereas here [Tony refers to drawing], this is a constant stasis.

In other words, this is called by Kabbalists, “the holy still,” “the sacred still,” not because it is not connected to the Holy or the Sacred, but because it has no desire to actually change. So its prayer does not change the reality of the person. This prayer only gives a person…it’s a kind of psychological trick that gives us a kind of a peace of mind that says, “everything is okay,” whether or not I really understand how the laws of nature function or what the Creator’s actual attitude is. It allows me to feel comfortable, to say, “everything will be ok in the future, in another world, in another life, and please don’t change anything in my surroundings, but You serve me because the worlds were made for man.”

Yes, the worlds were made for man, but the worlds were made to raise man through all of the various worlds, until man would achieve the thing that the Creator intended for him, that is, to be equivalent with the Creator.
And it’s only because Kabbalists have used this method and have risen to this level that they were able to give us the scriptures and the instructions that we now read with this egoistic point of view.

This is the true meaning of what they have given to us and this is the way that we can achieve the same things that we find in the scriptures.

However, the Creator doesn’t listen to the words that we utter, but instead, reads the feelings in our hearts. Therefore, it is senseless to spend time and energy on uttering beautiful phrases that have no inner heartfelt meaning.
The only thing required of us is to strive towards the Creator with our whole being, to understand the essence of our desires and to ask the Creator to alter them. Most important, we should never stop communicating with the Creator.*
Join us again
* p. 88 in Laitman, Michael. Attaining the Worlds Beyond. Laitman Kabbalah Publishers: Toronto, 2003.

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