Master Kabbalists

The Illusion of Time and Space

What is time? Most of us think of it as the measurement of progress through hours, minutes, and seconds. We think about the hands of a clock or the date on a calendar. In Ten Luminous Emanations, Rav Ashlag explores the idea that time, as we perceive it, is actually an illusion and explains how it relates to any negativity we might experience. 

Rav Ashlag teaches that, in the physical world that we live in, time is not an innate human sense. If we were to sit in a room in complete peace with no movement or noise around us, and no clock or watch, we would not be able to tell time. We perceive time through a sense of action, by physical things happening one after another. Our mind experiences these events and tells us a certain amount of time must have passed. It is merely a construct of our minds.

In the spiritual realm, which represents the true reality, there is no physical matter, so there is also no time, space, or motion. In other words, time is not a true reality, but rather an illusion of the physical world that our mind perceives. Even in the physical world, time does not actually exist, and this is even more true in the spiritual realm.

When spiritual texts like the Torah and the Zohar use words that connote time, we have to be careful not to equate them to time as we understand it in the physical world. For instance, when we study that first the Tzimtzum occurred and then the Kav, it can be tempting to think these events occurred at certain moments in time, as if we were reading a history book. What the wisdom actually refers to is the idea of cause and effect - how one reality naturally affects another. Because we are so accustomed to thinking of time in the physical sense, our mind automatically takes these cause and effect stories to connote time, but it is not true, because there is no such thing as time.

If you think about this deeper, almost all our problems - our fears, doubts, and negative thoughts - come from the realm of time and space. We worry about what will or won’t happen tomorrow and we dwell on what happened in the past. The only true concerns we should have are about whether or not we are changing, transforming, and becoming a new spiritual form, growing closer to the Creator. Besides that, any thought that brings us unhappiness is related to time and space, because that is where the negative side exists.

In the realm above time and space, there is no negativity, it is only Light. Pain and suffering can only exist within the realm of time and space, because it can only exist within the realm of physicality. In the true world, where time and space do not exist, there cannot be pain, suffering, worry or doubt, because there is no physicality. All these negative thoughts relate to time and space – these physical constructs which are an illusion.

This explains why kabbalists were able to travel through time and space. They achieved such a strong connection to the realm above the illusion of time and space that they were no longer bound by the laws of physicality. When Rav Ashlag would travel, his students would often complain about being far away from him. He would tell them that if they were really connected to him, they wouldn’t feel the distance in space. The reason they felt the distance is because they were still operating within the realm of physicality, and therefore the realm of time and space.

In truth, we are meant to elevate our souls to a state above time and space where they no longer influence us, and therefore, where we no longer experience pain and suffering. This is an incredible lesson that Rav Ashlag shares with us, which should influence the way we understand the wisdom and the way we experience the world.

*Adapted from Michael Berg’s Ten Luminous Emanations lesson 27

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