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The word spirituality has many understandings and meanings for people. A kabbalistic understanding of spirituality draws our attention to the idea of activating the ‘creator nature’ that exists within each human being to overcome our ego and achieve our potential. By elevating our consciousness and emulating the characteristics of the Creator we can avoid chaos and live lives of lasting fulfillment.
For the reader, the title of this story will certainly seem confusing. What connection does spirituality have with chaos? Does this relationship indicate that if an individual is spiritual, then he or she can assume their lives will be free of the pain and suffering that accompany chaos? Unfortunately, the reality of existence does not bear out this supposition. Chaos appears to strike indiscriminately, without regard to people's spiritual status.
So what I would like to address is the concept of spirituality itself. To some, one on a spiritual path is seeking out the meaning of life or exploring ways to become a better person. To others, pursuing the spiritual road entails investigating the metaphysical, non‑corporeal realm of existence.
Taken all together, spirituality refers to and is bound up with the world of metaphysics. The word itself, “spirit," is a concept used in so many ways that to limit the connotation would be meaningless. The following examples indicate the difficulty in determining what “spirit" or "spirituality" means: "He's in good spirits," usually means "He's optimistic and feels good." "The spirit of St. Louis" was meant to raise the sense of adventure in all of us. And religion as spirituality conveys the idea that spirituality can lead one to become a better person.
These are just a few examples. They have one thing in common ‑ the idea of "spirit" does not refer to the material. Compare it to being asked to define wisdom. The response is that a wise person has wisdom, but just what wisdom means is not clearly explained.
SEARCH OUT THE SEED LEVEL
While we all use this commonly accepted term, “spirituality," its application does not exclusively define its meaning. Just perusing Webster's dictionary brings home how general we are in our understanding of spirituality. To take this dilemma to the extreme, we also come across the term "spirits of salt," the commercial name for hydrochloric acid, and "spirits of wine," denoting an alcoholic derivative. So where does all this lead? It leads to the need to search out the seed level of things around us and not be caught up in the maze of its branches.
Once we have established a true understanding of matters at their source, we can begin to distinguish the trees from the forests. This has always been the cardinal rule that we learn in Kabbalah: Without a proper comprehension of where things emerge from, our hopes and problem solving become as distant from us as the sun is from the earth. Pruning the branches cannot resolve the problem at its root. In my humble opinion, this has been the greatest contribution that Kabbalah provides for mankind in our desire to remove chaos from our midst.
Having been programmed since childhood to deal with the readily observable symptoms of society's ills, no sooner do we resolve one aspect of the problem of chaos than we are faced with a replacement. This never-ending process does not seem to change.
This may be for one of two reasons. First and foremost are the problems that present themselves with the least resistance. We hope and believe that by chipping away at one problem after another, we will finally achieve a life free from chaos. This, as yet, has not taken place.
The second problem ‑ and by far the most dangerous and the one that lulls us into our anesthetized state of sleep ‑ is that in our examination of any form of chaos, the appropriate place to start our investigation will and should be only at its consciousness or immaterial level.
THE IMMATERIAL REALM
As I write this incredible statement, I can hear the readers remarking, "But how else are we to analyze the chaos around us, if not on a rational level?" Why am I considering a new and entirely different level of chaotic observation, far beyond the familiar material landscape? And then (I hear you) I go on to state that those stuck on the physical, material realm are anesthetized and lulled into a sleeping state.
Research on the material level, you ‑ my readers ‑ claim, is now vibrant and productive, and much good has come from every scientific endeavor. Why am I ignoring the advancements achieved in this most fascinating century of ours? Or maybe I even sound negative when I say that we all have been put to sleep and are being kept from perceiving the total picture. The truth of this Kabbalistic matter is that I am not denying or dismissing the achievements that mankind has been privileged to benefit from during this past century. What I am trying to emphasize, however, is that if we do not place a greater degree of emphasis upon the non-corporeal, immaterial realm, we shall constantly be subject to chaos in our lives.
For example, during our lifetimes we certainly have gained some real benefits, such as medical improvements. But we dare not forget that nonetheless new, chaotic health problems appear. Breast cancer, for instance, now affects more women than ever. While oncologists have been working with a feverish momentum to arrest the spread of the plague, the new statistics that have been released indicate that one out of every three women will have breast cancer, a disease of true epidemic proportions.
Addressing this plague has resulted in some therapeutic remedies, but no reduction in its incidence. On the contrary, what we are witnessing in our day of enormous progress is an increase in breast cancer, with little knowledge concerning its prevention.
4,000 YEARS OF HISTORY
The reason is that we are failing to explore the immaterial, non-observable realm of this illness. Kabbalistic information, while as yet not scientifically authenticated, addresses this realm. And while the information may seem so far out as to be dismissed or rejected outright, the medical establishment would do well to pay heed to material with a 4,000-year history.
Without any scientific background nor clinical substantiation to verify any statements made by Kabbalah concerning the breast, one aspect that emerges is that breastfeeding has an extremely beneficial effect upon the breast. Rav Isaac Luria presents a long discourse on this matter. The point that I am making is that scientists have for too long neglected the relationship between birth, breastfeeding and the incidence of breast cancer.
While science has found a connection between breastfeeding and breast cancer, this relationship between the breast tumor and breastfeeding is disregarded. This is precisely the point that I am presenting in this article. We simply cannot eradicate chaos from our lives so long as we ignore and fail to address unseen, metaphysical causes. It is a lot easier to treat the obvious than pursue a path that tracks along the elusive realm of the immaterial. However, were we to raise our consciousness to this awareness, then we could and would empower the field of science to recognize the need for addressing the realm of action, that plane where causal activity takes place.
FIVE LEVELS OF CONCEALMENT
From a Kabbalistic perspective, the word "spirit" relates to the spiritual or metaphysical level of Ruach, one of five levels in which the Lightforce of God is embraced, enveloped, enclosed and thus revealed. Following the Kabbalistic doctrine that for the Lightforce to become revealed it must undergo concealment, this process occurs at five levels of concealment and revealment known as Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya and Yechidah. These five levels of Lightforce become concealed within the five metaphysical, immaterial vessels known as Sefirot, which are known as Malchut, Zeir Anpin, Binah, Chochmah and Keter.
Nefesh, the lowest and smallest dimension of the revealment level of the Lightforce, is enclothed in the Sefirah of Malchut and is therefore referred to as crude spirit. I would prefer to exclude the word "spirit," for I reserve this word and Lightforce for the level of Ruach. Nefesh has a tinge of the immaterial Lightforce contained within its essence. The dominance of the physical reality as we know it is very much prevalent at the level of Nefesh ‑ Malchut.
Ascending to the next level known as Ruach, however, the Lightforce presence prevails. It should not come as any surprise as to why the Kabbalist designated this level as Ruach, or "spirit." The Hebrew word represents more than a mere vehicle for language and discussion purposes; it reveals for us an internal consciousness and definition of a particular energy. Thus the word Ruach in Hebrew provides an entrance into what the word actually means, not merely an application of the word that can be construed as meaning many things.
When we define the word "spirit," each and every usage of the word must contain its original energy consciousness. When a concept referring to the word "spirit" is considered, the application of the word must imply its original definition. Consequently, each use of the word “spirit" must of necessity include the prevailing presence of the Lightforce of God.
THE PARADOX OF CHAOS
Let us now explore what the Kabbalists meant by Ruach, the level of the Lightforce that indicates a domination of the Lightforce of God over the existing channels and vessels utilized for the revelation of the Lightforce. This may sound somewhat confusing to the newcomer, or readers not thoroughly familiar with the relationship between vessel and Light. After all, who or what can stand in the way of the Lightforce's consciousness to share and keep chaos at bay?
And yet we seem to grapple with this very paradox – How can chaos become part of our landscape? There should not exist anything that could stand in the way of the Lightforce’s desire to overwhelm the universe with the Light in which any and all forms of darkness must disappear. Light and darkness cannot co‑exist. Chaos and the Lightforce do not go together. So why does it appear that chaos appears to be the boss, driving the world's inhabitants? The Lightforce does not seem to be anywhere in sight.
How does the Kabbalist address this paradoxical feature of our universe? The response, declares the Kabbalist, is inextricably bound up with the Kabbalistic doctrines of "Bread of Shame" and "no coercion in spirituality." We, the recipients of the beneficence of the Lightforce, felt an awesome degree of shame in receiving constantly from the Creator. We subsequently requested a withdrawal of the Creator and the Lightforce and a cessation of the constant flow of Its beneficence. This provided a gap and a space for darkness to settle in by virtue of the Lightforce’s withdrawal. This condition brought on the chaos that we currently experience.
And when we raise the question as to why the Creator does not step in and support His creatures in their time of need, the answer given by the Kabbalist is a resounding "no coercion in spirituality." In as much as we, the created beings, did not have any desire to feel the pain of "Bread of Shame," then the Creator, in His infinite desire to share endlessly, could not extend His beneficence. This would incur coercion in spirituality.
So while there is absolutely no question as to the Creator's ability to remove chaos from our midst by a simple infusion of the Lightforce, we have now come to recognize several universal laws that govern our universe, laws that even the Creator must comply with.
A DEFINITION OF SPIRITUALITY
What does seem to emerge from this Kabbalistic response is the definition of the word "spirituality." The doctrine of "no coercion in spirituality" implies that spirituality is a term bound up and linked to the Creator. This then sheds the idea that spirituality is an energy force free from the trappings of chaos and flaws, for spirituality is the solution and remedy for all of mankind's ills and problems. Consequently, as a result of our feeling of "Bread of Shame," we preferred to work it out somehow, and not accept the gift of spirituality offered freely by the Creator.
I believe the reader can now come away with a precise definition as to what is meant by spirituality. Wherever and whatever matter is linked to the notion of spirituality, the idea expressed is the presence of the Lightforce of the Creator. When this occurs, chaos becomes a non‑influential factor. It is only when the Lightforce has been withdrawn that an empty space has taken its place.
This might be compared to switching on and off an electric bulb. When the Light is on, there is no space for darkness to set in. However, when the light is off, an empty space is created and this gives darkness an opportunity to replace the space previously occupied by the Lightforce. It is as simple as all this, but then again, it is too simple to be true.
The Kabbalists have always possessed an upper elevated state of consciousness that has been known as Ruach Hakodesh, Holy Spirit or Divine Inspiration. What does this mean? The answer lies within the word "spirit." When one possesses the spirit of the Lightforce, one's consciousness and energy are infused with the flawless and awesome power of the Creator. Can this individual be subject to darkness and chaos? The answer is obvious. The universal law dictates that when the Light or Lightforce of the Creator is present, darkness or chaos cannot occupy the same place. Anytime the switch turns the light on, darkness is forced to remove itself.
The Kabbalists always preoccupied themselves with communicating and connecting with the Lightforce of the Creator and becoming one with the Light. This is why the Kabbalist was considered a spiritual individual. His life's endeavor was for communion with the Infinite.
THE STRUGGLE WITH CHAOS
At this juncture, however, the consciousness of the Kabbalist departs from other spiritual traditions. Whereas other traditions consider the essential goal of spiritual teachings to be the improvement and betterment of our consciousness and a heightened awareness, the Kabbalist recognizes that the teachings of Kabbalah had something else in mind. The final verses of the first section of Biblical Genesis say it all. The heart's inclination of man is evil from youth or at the very start of man's journey through life. And this, says the Kabbalist, is the underlying cause of mankind's unceasing struggle with chaos, where for the most part, chaos reigns supreme.
The teachings and traditions of Kabbalah tell another story. While it goes without saying that these teachings can improve the relationship between mankind and pave the way for an elevated state of consciousness and heightened awareness, this is not their primary objective. The Kabbalist has long recognized that in moments of testing and trial, when push changes to shove, very few individuals, even kind and spiritually oriented ones, will meet the test and overcome the temptation of self survival. It is precisely for this reason that chaos continues to inflict its pain and suffering over the affairs of humankind, whether one is considered good or evil, spiritual or material.
The teachings, as the Kabbalist saw it, were to heighten the awareness of mankind to an understanding that without an improvement in one's character, there is absolutely no chance that one can avoid chaos. The hour of retribution may not even come in a present lifetime. The student of Kabbalah quickly recognizes the human frailties that beset mankind and the effort required in overcoming the temptations that lead us to believe that we can get away with it.
The Kabbalist understands that we must once again reassert the Creator aspect within us. Just as we have come to the realization that the Master of the Universe has no fear of chaos, and is not subject to the ups and downs of life's experience, so too mankind, when the God‑like feature within us prevails, becomes free from the turmoil of chaos.
EMULATE THE BEHAVIOR OF THE CREATOR
The improvement that the Kabbalist sought in his daily life was to behave in a manner that matches up to the behavior of the Creator Himself. The first and foremost step is being proactive rather than reactive. Human nature has always followed a pattern of reacting and responding to the stimuli that influence our daily activities. Essentially our decision making has more or less become dependent upon these various encroachments on our individual lifestyles.
However, I can hear many a reader responding to this cardinal rule of being and acting like the Creator: "Well, we are not God. If we were, then our nature would react in the same matter as God Himself. However, we are not, and therefore we cannot but help react in a way that is not the same as the nature of God."
And here is precisely where the Kabbalists disagree, and wholeheartedly endorse the idea that we are indeed like God. But if we are to assume that the Kabbalist is correct, then how come we do not observe this God-like feature within us and consequently take hold of the reins that lead the direction in which our lives are shaped? To which, the Kabbalist firmly responds that we simply do not believe it. Our consciousness is barren from this way of thinking, despite the Biblical description of man's creation which was "in the image of God."
Spirituality, then, embraces this God‑like feature included within mankind. Spirit, or matters related to the subject of spirit are, from a Kabbalistic perspective, closely connected to the revelation of the God‑like feature that is part and parcel of humankind. Consequently, one may be a kind and good individual and yet not be considered a spiritual person.
When one has reached a degree of spirituality, the implication of this level of consciousness is that the individual has labored and made an effort to act like the Creator. And there can be no greater demonstration of this feature than when the person refuses to react to outside stimuli, but rather considers this influence as an opportunity to display the God‑like feature and resist falling prey to the chaos that these stimuli generally bring.
EMPOWER THE COSMOS
While the varied meanings of the concept of spirituality are all correct, the essence has eluded those seeking the origin of this mysterious word. However, with the widespread interest in Kabbalah has come the critical mass of practitioners that now empower the cosmos to permit the Lightforce to have an enormous impact upon the consciousness of mankind. It is precisely this dissemination of Kabbalah in this century that has empowered the cosmos to raise the consciousness and heighten the awareness of the physicist to see the same physical landscape and perceive the perspective of a new universe from another dimension.
To effect change in the search for a world without violence and chaos requires a complete overhaul of the way we perceive things. It is our spirit within us, our consciousness that determines the visible and observable world that we experience.
If mankind's spirit is raised to a level of positivity, then our frame of reference compares to the Lightforce of God, whose intrinsic nature is one of sharing and positivity. And when the Lightforce has dominion and reigns over the physical, material level, then the interference of physical reality becomes neutral and we are able to raise our paradigm to the level of spiritual control or spirituality.
Consequently, our options for the ultimate removal of chaos are severely limited, if not restricted, to this one central idea: Humankind must undergo a complete transformation from a historical path of negativity and reactivity to one of positivity and proactivity. If we deny this chance of choosing spirituality, the only alternative is the chaos that has plagued us over the centuries.
In this period of the Aquarian Age, the cosmos is fully prepared to support and assist an effort by mankind to achieve the degree of spirituality necessary to make the change this universe so sorely needs. This assurance comes from no less an authority than Rav Shimon Bar Yochai in the Zohar when he declared: "In the days of the Age of Aquarius, there will no longer be the necessity for one to request of his neighbor, teach me wisdom, as it is written, 'One day they will no longer teach every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the youngest to the oldest of them.' "
From a Kabbalistic perspective, knowing is the connection. This prophetic vision of the Zohar is, for me, the assurance that there is some hope for mankind to achieve the ultimate contentment and the pursuit of happiness. The Zohar assures us that we shall "know the Lord," meaning we shall become connected to the intrinsic character of the Lord, which is the concept of spirituality.
Spirituality or chaos! In this day and age, the future looks good. For the people of this universe have Kabbalah.
Kabbalah is the knowledge and therefore the connection.
This article originally appeared in Kabbalah Magazine Vol. 3, Issue 1, January 1998.