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Understanding the Kabbalah
2. Understanding the Sefirot: the First Triad
by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
Before we continue discussing the Sefirot, let us digress for a moment to define mysticism. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines mysticism as, “the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight),” and, “vague speculation: a belief without sound basis.”1 Both of these definitions postulate a subjective reality, one that can only be known to the individual. Knowledge of this type was not acquired through an academic interpretation of human interactions with the outside world. Mystical knowledge is, by definition, something learned through self introspection, inner contemplation, and intuitive insights. As such, mystical knowledge rises up from within the depths of the human psyche, as compared to scientific knowledge that is learned from the outside, to the exclusion of any personal, internal interpretations.
Opposite mysticism, we have science. Science is defined as, “knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.”2 Scientific knowledge must be verifiable. Mystical knowledge, by definition, can never be. Scientific knowledge defines the objective reality of the universe surrounding us. Mystical knowledge defines the subjective reality of the universe as perceived by the human psyche. Scientific and mystical knowledge are both equally real and valid. However, they describe things in totally opposite, often contradictory ways. They are like two sides of the same coin, or two halves to the same circle. Both are necessary to see the greater whole, and it is the very definition of imbalance to see only one side, at the expense of the other.
Understanding the Sefirot requires one to balance both a scientific (cognitive behavioral), and mystical (archetypal, psychological) point of view. Often these two are viewed as mutually exclusive. However, the two opposites need to be integrated as one, because they both emanate from the singular source of the human mind. The human mind is our human source of all knowledge and experience, be it internal or external, intuitive or academic, natural or “supernatural.” Our human brain (mind) is the singular receiver, and transmitter that enables each individual to have awareness, and to learn. This is not a philosophical concept. This is, instead, a physiological fact.
Two modes of human consciousness, and learning have been recognized, and known since early Grecian times. In modern times, science has come to understand the workings of the two lobes of the brain. This has given rise to the popular cultural expressions of right brain, and left brain thinking. There is nothing new in any of this. Physiologically, this is as old as is the human species. Philosophically, and psychologically, this awareness is thousands of years old. It is the explanation as to why men and women think, and perceive life differently from one another, and also explains the marked difference of perception between the scientist, and the artist.
There are two modes of consciousness, some call them two actual brains. For the Kabbalists, the two modes, and the two brains are represented by two Sefirot. The two Sefirot are numbers two, and three, and form two-thirds of the first pyramidic triad of Sefirotic arrangement. These two are named Hokhma, and Binah respectively. Now, it is important for us to remember here that the entire Kabbalistic system is an expression of the artistic mind. Kabbalah, in using modern jargon, is right brain thinking. Its language is metaphorical, symbolic, and intentionally rich with archetypal imagery. Forget this, and you might as well forget Kabbalah. But we cannot do this! Kabbalah is the artistic side of Judaism, as Talmud is the rational (scientific) side. One without the other leaves one “half-brained,” with all the negative connotations of the modern slang meaning of the term.
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The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright (C) 1997 - 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.