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Stress, depression, and mental illness are the indiscernible plagues of the new century. What are these disorders, where do they come from, and how can you cure something you can't see? Kabbalist Rav Berg discusses the true source of stress, reveals the connection between depression and reincarnation, and provides a kabbalistic solution to all forms of darkness.
During this Age of Aquarius, each of us is on a journey toward the improvement of our daily lives and the expansion of our awareness. We are all on this journey regardless of whether our conscious, rational minds agree to it. And slowly but surely, the clouds of illusion are indeed becoming thinner and less imposing. For at the end of our journey, there is only one true reality ‑ the Light.
Much research suggests that many of today's mental and physical problems originate in the stresses of daily life.
So if stress is the cause of our ailments, it gives rise to a new question: What then, are the real causes of stress?
Ulcers are a classic example of stress‑related illness. Stress also plays havoc with healthy sleep patterns. Stress is responsible for the breakdown of the natural biorhythms upon which health so urgently depends. Some medical researchers even suggest that every illness originates in stress‑related problems.
Usually when researchers attempt to explain the pressures of stress, they are really describing some condition or situation that causes tension -- financial difficulties, family problems, job insecurity, and a host of other things are proposed as underlying reasons for stress. But this is still not a firm definition of what stress itself really is. Defining stress is different from defining our reaction to an aspect of our physical world ‑ the illusory world of the five senses.
Perhaps this error derives from a need to locate the cause of stress in the material realm, where it can be the subject of laboratory experiments. The reality of stress, however, remains very much in the realm of metaphysics. If worry is simply a problem‑solving activity, then why does worry lead to emotional anxiety? The conclusions of Werner Heisenberg, the physicist and Nobel Laureate, answered this dilemma through his work on the "uncertainty principle." Simply put, this principle states that we can never trust our senses completely, that what we perceive is of questionable reality. This lack of certainty in this world is what triggers worry, fear, and anxiety for most of us.
From a kabbalistic point of view, an understanding of the origin, the nature of, and the proper response to stress must look beyond the body's physiological mechanisms. Most clinical researchers claim that both the physical and emotional reactions that produce that so‑called "thing" called stress are produced by "an arousal" of the body's mechanisms. They believe that when people are stressed, the body responds by activating what medical professionals consider to be defense mechanisms, such as an increase in heart rate and blood pressure as well as other body changes that rush to help the body defend itself. Is stress, then, something that originates outside of us, a result of some unpleasant condition? If our heart begins to beat faster during a horror film, is the movie the originating factor, and is stress the condition our bodies undergo during exposure to this movie? Or is stress something internal that stimulates nerves causing a chain reaction?
This is the distinctive nonphysical quality of stress. The so‑called psychological stress of unhappy relationships, treated by many professionals as stress caused by unsuccessful interactions, is still considered from a kabbalistic viewpoint as symptomatic in origin. Stress originating from external, physical causes such as conflicts with a boss or mother‑in‑law, are no more inherently stressful than the exposure to the movie. A mother‑in‑law is not an inherently stressful relative.
We target people ‑ mothers, fathers, business associates ‑ as the source for psychosomatic sickness. But from a Kabbalistic perspective, these targets cannot be considered the origin of stress. According to Kabbalah, it is an extension of the biomedical approach to physical illness to consider stress a situation where the mind misinterprets an outside incident as unfavorable or dangerous.
Intelligence, mind, and brain are also components of an integrated physical, material body system. As such, a fragmented diagnosis of only the physical body or mental functioning will ultimately prove futile in determining the cause of stress.
These factors are not the critical events in stress and stress reactions. The intellectual systems of humankind, interacting with personal performance and emotional activity along with the myriad of other mysterious functions of the mind when creating discomfort, anxiety or worry as an expression of stress reactions, cannot be included in the kabbalistic definition of stress. This commonly understood definition is not a valid one.
Furthermore, despite numerous studies that seem to indicate that prolonged stress suppresses the body's immune system, this precise link between stress and illness remains elusive. Full recognition of the uncertainty principle will bring about a major shift in medical research. No longer will the preoccupation lie within symptoms and probabilities, but rather, with a careful study of the origin of stress as encouraged by the kabbalistic perspective of reality.
In order to enhance our understanding of the Aquarian Age and the new millennium, we must ask what happened to the much‑touted Age of Aquarius with its promise of "harmony and understanding, sympathy and love abounding." We are still inundated with strife and chaos and are no closer to the removal of chaos from our lives. Although the scientific community tells us, as recorded in our daily newspapers, that remarkable achievements will be forthcoming in the next decade.
From a kabbalistic point of view of reality the fundamental story of our universe is really the story of returning souls. Indeed, no mystery in the universe is so startling as the repetitious behavior of its inhabitants.
THE TRUE ORIGINS OF STRESS
Stress, as understood by the kabbalist, has its roots elsewhere far beyond the physical world. While medical science has come to view stress as a negative condition, the kabbalist traces the origin of stress to the compelling nature of the Lightforce, which is to be revealed in this Age of Aquarius. Our experience of stress is really the Lightforce, putting pressure on mankind to remove illnesses, disease, and other forms of chaos.
This can be achieved only when we choose to make the Lightforce a dominant factor in our lives. Light cannot coexist with darkness. Darkness is the term kabbalists use when referring to all forms of chaotic interference. It therefore behooves us to increase our ability to reach out to the Lightforce and to expand the receptivity of our consciousness. In so doing, we can permit the Lightforce to make its entrance into our essence and thereby to eliminate the darkness within.
The solution is certainly not the removal of the Lightforce or the lessening of its intensity. This approach does not consider how we can banish darkness from our physical and mental states. The only solution, states the Zohar (the Book of Splendor, the central text of Kabbalah), is the infusion of the Lightforce of God into our minds and bodies and into the entire environment.
VULNERABILITY AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
In a startling statement, the Zohar proclaims that failure of various organs of the body to function properly is not the deciding factor that causes the end of life. The root and origin of all illness ‑ and ultimately, death ‑ is the antithesis energy of the Lightforce, named by the kabbalists, the Satan. This expression is a code name for the force of darkness, the vacuum caused by separation and disconnection from the Light of the Creator. It is not the name of the persona commonly known as the devil.
When an individual becomes vulnerable and creates an opening because of a disconnection from the Light, he creates a space for the Satan to enter. Then, and only then, has a person embarked upon a journey of ill health. When the Satan has made an entry it will then proceed to designate a particular area of the body through which it can manifest itself.
If someone is suffering from heart problems, for example, it is a direct result of the Satan choosing that organ to express its negative energy. If a person dies as a result of heart failure, it is not due to any other factor other than the Satan's chaotic essence infiltrating the body.
While medical research has not as yet found adequate explanations for the causes of most degenerative diseases, part of any investigation must ultimately address itself to the issue of vulnerability.
To understand illness, we have to consider not only what causes the disease but also why other people are able to avoid disease in the first place. We are all open to disease. This, however, does not mean that we all will become sick. The body's defense system is so powerful and effective that most people exposed to infectious diseases maintain their health. This is the serious dilemma facing medical research. In one case, the body does battle with foreign substances and subsequently destroys them. In another, with the same self‑heating system, the body's defense mechanism fails to fight and to devastate the hidden internal enemy.
Vulnerability is the kabbalist's explanation. We have all, at some time experienced a suppression of the immune system, the body’s natural defense against disease. The cosmos, at definite moments, attacks and suppresses our defense mechanisms. The body's immune system, which keeps close tabs on any abnormal cells and then hones in for the kill, can be inhibited by negative cosmic influences. The important point here is the presence of an unseen influence that creates susceptibility.
Kabbalistic teachings show how we can prevent moments of vulnerability from occurring in the body's defense system. Let us turn for a moment to environmental hazards. The survival of our whole civilization depends on mankind's ability to recognize that human activity strongly influences our whole environment. The kabbalistic perspective of our universe closely parallels that of quantum mechanics. If we refrain from acting negatively towards nature, we are then in harmony with our surroundings in this world and with the cosmos as a whole, as well as with our fellow human beings.
However, what if others do not feel or see the necessity for improving our natural and cosmic atmosphere? How then can I prevent the influence of their negative activity from affecting me? To achieve a dynamic balance with our environment, kabbalistic teachings provide the necessary precautionary measures whereby we are neither influenced nor become vulnerable to negative stimuli.
Our responses to the environment require our participation. We play an important and active role in restoring a dynamic state of balance. We can protect ourselves that negative energy-intelligences do not invade our space ‑ whether it's the space of our own body or of a highway we are driving along, whether it's an encounter with a drunk driver or with some unwholesome food on our own dinner table.
THOUGHT, MIND, AND CONSCIOUSNESS
To arrive at such a complete picture, the kabbalists developed not only highly refined diagnostic analyses of the cosmos but also the unique art of kabbalistic meditation that fosters connection of mental activity with the physical body and the universe. The brain's thirteen billion interconnected cells make it virtually impossible to trace the exact circuits through which consciousness operates. Although physically the brain amounts to only a few pounds of matter, its knowledge and information capacity, along with its unique switching capability, far exceed the largest computer.
Despite many scientific advances, a vast and perhaps unbridgeable gulf still exists in our understanding of the physical process of the nervous system, thought, and consciousness. While we can investigate certain connections and correlations between physical phenomena and mental processes, the nature of the link between mind and matter remains a mystery unpenetrated by scientific inquiry. It is arrogant to assume that the mystery of consciousness will ever be unraveled by conventional analytical methods. Perhaps one day, scientists will eventually have models of how impulses create thought, such as a mother's thought of "how wonderful and lovable my baby is." But that day still seems far off. Many scientific investigators of the brain and nervous system have finally come to realize that there is a quality of the mind‑brain that transcends biology. Though contemporary science has discarded the dualism of body and mind, the investigation of the brain has left science still in awe of the mind.
How does Kabbalah view the mystery of the mind? The brain and body are physical substances and are physically connected. Here the medical and psychological sciences find it easy to account for the effect of the mind‑brain on the behavior and functions of the body. Many researchers conclude that the mind and all of its functions, such as consciousness and thought, are in actuality nothing more than integrated combinations of the brain's physical activities. They give rise to memories, perceptions, and the ability of nerve cells and neurons to change with experience and mechanically execute modes of behavior impressed upon the brain.
These conclusions are, however, mere speculations ‑ for there is no evidence that the origin of the mind is in the functioning of the brain cells and nerves. What forever defies explanation is how information sensed by our nerve receptors converges in brain substance to become the subject and substance of thought. Putting this aside for a moment, science in general treats the mind as untouchable, even beyond the reach of scientific investigation. The mind, they claim, is simply the product of the mechanical activity of the brain. Science talks a lot about the brain but says little, if anything, about the mind. It cannot explain how the mind functions, how to expand the mind, and how we can use it more efficiently.
In truth, mental functions are not determined by the tidy, precise mechanics of the brain's nerve connections, consequently, can never account for every activity and phenomenon of consciousness. Herein lies the basis of the failure of medical psychiatry to resolve our mental health dilemma. Existing scientific information indicates that the mind is more than an entity that can be accounted for by the functions of the physical brain.
The brain's ability to store information and to recall it on demand still remains a mysterious phenomenon. The memory stores of the brain are filled with information from every experience in life. The operations of the brain in keeping the data in orderly sequence arranged for relevancy, is startling in its complexity. So is the remarkable ability of the mind to have an awareness of past events and then to retrieve pertinent information about these things from its limitless memory bank.
Like the most sophisticated computer, the mind has the ability to trigger the memory banks to produce a concept. Our conscious mind identifies some quality related to a concept and then commands and directs a search for the correct word or phrase. The concepts appear whole and coherent. Then there are the abstract phenomena of the brain‑mind, such as intuition, love and loyalties ‑ in addition to particular states of mind, such as dreams, illusions, and internal sensations of peace, joy, and happiness. Who pushes the button and why at these particular moments in our life? And how and why do individuals develop particular, unique, and different thinking styles?
In view of this, the kabbalistic perspective on mind‑brain relationships is a refreshing approach, and one that challenges conventional scientific notions about the origin and essence of the mind. The ideas initially may seem strange and foreign. Yet, if I am to be successful in making a serious and much needed contribution to this very important subject, these ideas must be presented. I will attempt to put them as clearly and concisely as possible.
PAST LIVES AND REINCARNATION
A good starting point for our exploration of the world of the mind and the brain, is the Zohar’s view of this complex matter. From this perspective, it is suggested that our minds contain the equivalent of a hidden “universe” of activities. According to kabbalistic teachings, this realm of mind perceives vast ranges of stimuli from many sources. The mind causes whole cascades of involuntary physiological changes in the brain. The mind performs complex pattern – recognition tasks and makes decisions that control just how much we know about what is going on around us. The mind will also determine what ambitions we wish to pursue and which we do not.
The mind even directs the events leading up to and including how wealthy or poor we shall become. For in the final analysis, failure comes about because we did not recognize or take notice of some item that could have assured success. To some, whatever they touch “turns to gold” but for others, “things never seem to go right.” The pervasive illusion is that we dictate the scope and direction of conscious awareness. The reality is that the mind is actually arranged by unseen forces that operate to present an already structured situation, which we comprehend only in its final, finished version.
From a kabbalistic point of view of reality, the fundamental story of our universe is really the story of retuning souls. Indeed, no mystery in the universe is so startling as the repetitious behavior of its inhabitants. This subject is so little understood that we need not be astonished at our continued insistence on destroying each other. If we must be astonished, let it be at our inability to unlock the secrets of human behavioral patterns.
What emerges from the kabbalistic view, and what I am suggesting, is that although human behavior is genetically controlled to a significant degree, the tikun (correction process) directs and dictates our every day thought patterns, feelings, and activities.
I am aware that this position challenges the more conventional view that cultural and environmental issues and not past life imperatives shape human nature. But the far – reaching effects of our internal human spirit extend to our characteristics and determine our external actions which are fully determined and executed by the cosmic forces prevailing at that time. Human actions are indeed controlled by the cosmos, but only to the extent that they were manifested in a prior lifetime. In other words, if an individual committed crimes against humanity in a previous incarnation, his soul returns and is confronted by deeds of his past lifetime. He is now given an opportunity. He can either exercise free will to thwart the cosmic scenario of repetition, or he can succumb to its influence.
The negative frames of reference established by a former lifetime are manifested in the conglomeration of cosmic activities and their position in the cosmos at the time of a person’s birth. In essence, the cosmos merely presents the opportunity and framework for enactment of the script of our lifetime activity. The cosmic strings of activity are not the cause of the script’s structure; this has already been determined by our former lifetime. The set of circumstances occurring in our present lifetime is a result of the accumulation of cosmic influences coming together at this time and affecting our tikun requirements, thus producing a unique life scenario.
DEPRESSION, DARKNESS, AND THE LIGHT
Let us reflect for a moment on the word “depression.” For example, when an automobile tire loses its air, we refer to that situation as a depressed tire, meaning that the air has leaked out, leaving the tire deflated. So too, says the kabbalist, the lack of fulfillment or tack of being fitted by the Lightforce is behind all forms of depression. To fill this void one needs to infuse and inflate the depressed entity with fulfillment, which is synonymous with the Lightforce.
From a kabbalistic perspective, the objective and how to remove chaos is not surgery upon chaos but rather the infusion of the Lightforce, which ultimately brings with it the universal law that darkness or chaos cannot coexist with the Light. How and why chaos will disappear simply by the presence of the Lightforce is no less a question than why does darkness disappear when the light switch is turned on. True, you may never have questioned where the darkness goes, but one thing of which you can be certain is that presently, the darkness has not been eliminated or annihilated. The proof of that is that when the lights are turned off, the darkness immediately returns.
We may never find an answer to questions like, why does darkness disappear and where does it go once it has gone?
Nevertheless, we accept this disappearance because it is physically manifested. In the absence of any other remedy that we can apply to the elimination of the various incurable illnesses and chaotic surroundings that cause havoc in our lives, the drawing to ourselves of that awesome energy known as the Lightforce might very well be the solution that we have been searching for over so many millennia.
The same principle applies to the chaotic environment that exists outside of our homes. Have we ever questioned why a thief will choose a particular home as his mark and not the other ten residences at the same location? Logically, no answer is forthcoming. However, here too the Zohar reveals that can we apply that same universal principle, which now stretches beyond the physical reality and into a truly cosmic, all‑inclusive relationship. If we can make an effort to create an abundance of the Lightforce within our sphere of existence, then all darkness that seeks to penetrate our environment can be held off and made to disappear. The remarkable achievements of science are in fact the direct result of the presence of the Age of Aquarius and the forthcoming revelation in the year 5760. Medical science makes attempts to take the credit for the dramatic increase in human life span, which in 1900 was 45 years and has now reached 75. Yet there is sufficient evidence to indicate that science might not be responsible. From a kabbalistic perspective long life and immortality are the direct results of the revelation of the Lightforce by the Zohar in the 20th Century which over the millenniums remained concealed, hidden in an ancient vault.
Now, as millions of people embrace the need to draw the Lightforce into our universe, the darkness that has plagued mankind over the millennia can indeed be seen as coming to an end.
This article originally appeared in Kabbalah Magazine Vol. 5, Issue 2, April 2000.