School for Biblical, Judaic & Spiritual Studies
Shabat Shuva, 2015
A Rational Kabbalistic Guide to
What We Need to Contemplate as We Seek to Do Teshuva
by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
Rationalism and Kabbalah are
usually presented as being the opposites of one another. But what if I told you
that this isn't so. Rationalism means that beliefs are supposed to make sense,
that beliefs and practices are founded on the realities of this world, and not
based upon assumed or believed realities of some parallel dimension. Kabbalah
all too often jumps into parallel dimensions (supernal worlds), and stays there.
Yet, almost no one bothers to ask the most obvious of questions, just where
exactly are these supernal worlds?
Rather than get long winded with
unnecessary explanations, let me be brief and simply state that the supernal
worlds of the Kabbalah, be they Atzilut, Beriah and Yetzirah are not “out there”
somewhere. Rather they are realms within our collective human condition. The
supernal worlds are nothing other than specific levels of consciousness within
every human psyche. With this understanding we can rightfully redeem Kabbalah
from the shrouds of anti-rationalist, mysticism, and return it to its rightful
place as a rational exploration of human psychology.
Kabbalah, when understood properly
is a school of psychology. Granted it uses all kinds of wild metaphors to
describe the inner realities, but once we possess the “Rosetta stone” to
translate and understand the Kabbalistic metaphors, we see revealed before us a
unique and beautiful, rational system that ever so eloquently describes our
human condition. This “Rosetta stone” for translating “Kabbalah speak” into the
language of normal psychology has long been in our possession. Unfortunately,
for the most part, it has been ignored by all those who thrive on the
emotionalism of mystery, and the magical.
Mystery and magic are fine when
relegated to the pages of novels and stories. But mystery and magic are not
viable ways for one to embrace as one lives a life in the real world. Granted,
there are always real mysteries surrounding us at all times, and granted, life
itself is the greatest magic. Nevertheless, the mysteries surrounding us are
there for us to explore, and to discover their secrets. The magic of life is no
mystery. It is a wonder for all to appreciate, and to enjoy. The true magic of
life is that it is not magical at all, but rather, it is very, very much
down-to-earth, natural and normal.
Mystery and magic have their
places, but each must be understood within its proper context, and place. For
outside of their places, mystery and magic can take on lives of their own, and
lead the lives of those who embrace them ever so incorrectly down many painful
When mystery and magic are
recognized as metaphors for a rational life, they are emancipated from the
shrouds of misunderstanding. Mystery and magic then serve us as the wondrous
tools of metaphor that they are. But when the metaphor becomes confused with the
literal, then clarity in life is lost. Fear and superstition set in, and fantasy
and delusions rule one's life, eventually turning one's life into no life worth
living at all. When religion becomes superstitious, this is what is happening.
When Kabbalah loses its rational focus, this is what is happening.
Kabbalah speaks about “the Other
Side,” and the forces of Tumah (uncleanliness), including the existence of
unclean spirits, and the like. None of these forces are literal, or physical.
All of these forces are describing that which is experienced in the “shadow”
side of consciousness. All of these forces are psychological in nature. They are
only the metaphorical “demons” that haunt us. Most, if not all of these “demons”
are products of our own design, and creation. The forces of evil are indeed
real, but they do not exist autonomously, and independently outside in the outer
world. Rather, they are inner creations of our own. They exist inside of us, and
it is there, inside of each individual mind where the real war between good and
evil forces takes place.
Being that the Kabbalistic forces, and the Kabbalistic worlds are inner realms of human psychology, we each have what it takes to bring to these worlds rectification, harmony and union. By bringing psychological Tikun (rectification) to these “supernal” worlds, we are essentially bringing psychological, and emotional healing to ourselves. This is the true purpose and intent of authentic Kabbalistic practice.
Healing the “supernal” worlds means to heal all internal psychological worlds inside ourselves. Yet, in order to accomplish this most important of tasks, one must first confront, and overcome one's inner “shadow-self.” This is the subconscious fears, and anxieties that each individual creates within oneself. Unfortunately, there are definitely elements within religion, and within Kabbalah that wrongly perpetuate irrational fears, and religious superstition.
These superstitious, scare tactic religious myths need to be exposed to the light of rational day. They must be proven to only have power in the mind of the believer, and powerless over anyone with the common sense and intelligence not to believe fairy-tales. When we shine the light, darkness goes away. When we embrace the light of rational thinking and comprehension, we dispel the gloomy spirits of the “Other Side,” and break the constricting powers of the Klipot (forces of evil) that imprison our minds and hearts. It is all within us to do. We have the power! It is all a matter of education, and will.
Throughout the Kabbalah of the Ari, the purpose of kavanot and yihudim meditations is focused upon “bringing down the mohin into the head of ZA.” Cutting away the metaphors, what this means is this: ZA represents us, collective humanity. Bringing down the mohin into “his” head means to bring into human consciousness the intellectual awareness (consciousness) of the sefirot, Hokhma and Binah. These represent the imaginative and intellectual faculties of the mind. In other words, the more that each individual sharpens his/her mind, the greater the light of the Sefirotic mohin in ZA. The metaphor of ZA serves to represent us, and our human condition. The metaphors are not speaking about some far away spiritual dimension somewhere “out there.” The metaphors are speaking about the dimensions of the mind within each one of us. Those well-trained in the Kabbalah of the Ari know this. Unfortunately, those not well trained remain in the majority, and continue to propagate misunderstanding about the entire Lurianic system.
The concept of Teshuva (return to God) is well known in Torah. The process of returning to God is interpreted to mean the return of each individual person to the inner Image of God which resides within us all. We, as a race, are created in the Divine Image. Therefore, to return to God is to return to the Divine Image within us. This is not a theological concept, rather it is a psychological state of inner alignment, balance and harmony. This inner state is what is defined by the Kabbalistic teachings about the sefirot, the worlds, the partzufim (sefiotic faces), and the reception of the mohin.
The proper study of Kabbalah, within its correct psychological parameters is an excellent path for returning to God. For the Kabbalah describes the Inner Image using its profound system of metaphors to describe our human psychological condition. Proper Kabbalah study, therefore, can serve year round as an excellent tool for self exploration, and psychological discovery. When Kabbalah is properly understood in this light, it is stripped of its shell of superstition and myth, and the underlying layers of rational wisdom become revealed.
Contemplating these things, and learning to understand them correctly helps us better understand ourselves, to better understand the Image of God within us, and to better understand our Creator, by our learning more about Him, reflected through that which He has made. This is true Teshuva.
To help my KosherTorah students appreciate this message, and to learn more about the rational Kabbalah understanding of human psychology, I offer this free course from the classic kabbalistic text, Da'at u'Tevunah. The audio lesson are free online in our KosherTorah Store free audio library. Please feel free to make use of them.
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The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright (C) 1997 - 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.