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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

From My Flesh I Shall See God

Qualification for the Nurturing of the Soul

It is impossible to sustain one’s body in the world without a certain amount of knowledge about the corporeal nature, such as knowing which drugs are lethal, and what things burn and do harm, as well as knowledge and assessment of what is in one’s friend’s heart, without which it is impossible to exist in the material world.

Just so, man’s soul cannot exist in the next world until it has acquired a certain amount of the nature of the systems of the spiritual worlds, their changes, couplings, and generations.

We discern three periods in the body: The first is from the time of birth, when one has no knowledge whatsoever, and all that is required to know in order to exist comes from the father and mother, and one is sustained by their keeping and wisdom. This state is the first Katnut (nursing).

The second is when a person has grown and acquired some knowledge. At that time one can keep from things that harm one’s body through joint keeping—that of the father and mother, and that of one’s own. This is the second Katnut.

The third is the state of Gadlut (adulthood), when one has acquired sufficient knowledge for life, to look after oneself enough to survive. At that time one departs the authority of one’s father and mother and acquires self-rule. This is the third state, the state of Gadlut.

Likewise, concerning the soul, a person reincarnates until one acquires the wisdom of truth in full. Without them, the soul cannot reach its full level. But it is not that the knowledge one has acquired raises the level of the soul. Rather, it is the soul’s inherent nature that it will not grow by its own effort before it has acquired the knowledge of the spiritual nature. Its growth depends on the measure of its knowledge.

The reason this is so is that if it could grow without knowing, it would be harmed, like an infant who is ignorant and cannot walk. If it could walk on its own feet, it would throw itself into a fire.

However, the growth comes primarily through good deeds, which depend on attaining the wisdom of truth. And both—the knowledge and the good deeds—depend on attaining the wisdom of truth. And for the above reason, both come together. This is the meaning of, “If you know not ... go forth,” “go forth and see,” etc.

Therefore, each complete soul attains all the souls from Adam HaRishon to the end of correction, as one perceives one’s acquaintances and neighbors, and according to one’s knowledge guards oneself from them, or connects and lives with them. And it is not surprising that one attains all the souls, since spirituality does not depend on time or place, and there is no death there.

Body and Soul

Every body is impatient and ill-tempered, for its livelihood is through incarnations through the seven years of famine and the seven years of abundance. It is an inexorable law that the years of famine cause the years of abundance to be forgotten and the body reincarnates between them like stones grinded by water. And another plight awaits all around it—it imagines that one’s friend is happy and content.

This comes because at its basis, the soul is grinded between the good inclination and the evil inclination. It incarnates between them, at times feeling relief by the surrounding good inclination, and at times suffering an additional plight by the surrounding evil inclination.

Obtaining Knowledge in Corporeality and in Spirituality

The connection between the body and the soul is only that in the former, things happen to it naturally and by themselves, and in the latter they happen through work and joint relation between the spiritual and the corporeal.

The advantage of the spiritual over the corporeal is that in the corporeal there is reality even without attaining all the incidents, similar to the perception of an infant, who does not know the reason for the thing, and will also not eat something that is harmful. But in the spiritual, no reality is attained prior to knowing the events and their outcomes. To the extent of the knowledge of the events, so is the attainment of one’s own greatness, and the attainment of the surrounding spiritual reality.

Revelation of the Works of the Creator—in Concealment

“Then I was by Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily a delight.” Our sages interpreted it to mean, to inform, that prior to the days of the Messiah, when receiving proselytes, the craftsmen come out toward them, and each craftsman plays with him. On the first day he reveals the light, on the second he makes the firmament, etc. These are the six workdays, and all delight in resting on the seventh day, placing in it sanctity and blessing to the worlds.

This is the meaning of what our sages said, that prior to bringing the first fruit, all the craftsmen stand before them. That is, precisely when they are called “wise.” However, the craftsmen do not stand before disciples of the wise. Come and see how great is a commandment in its time.

The merit of the Sabbath is that in it is the blessing and sanctity to correct all the weekdays. And although it seems as though the correction depends on the work days and not on the days of rest, in which one does not work at all, it is not so. Rather, the blessing and sanctity of the Sabbath corrects the weekdays.

Indeed, each correction seemingly requires work. But in truth, the power of the Creator appears in full only in concealment, for when the power of concealment disappears from the world, perfection promptly appears by itself. And as one who throws one’s staff to the firmament, the staff flies up because the power of the thrower is in it. Therefore, the entire duration of the flight is attributed to the power of the thrower. Also, the strength of the thrower appears at that time.

Conversely, during its whole return and fall toward the earth, the power of the thrower is not attributed to the fall at all. Rather, it returns to its root by itself, without any assistance.

Similarly, in all the concealments, the work of the Creator is apparent. But in the return to perfection, no work or power are required because in the absence of the preventing force, it returns to its root and perfection by itself.

This is the meaning of, “And God rested on the seventh day ... for in it, He rested from all His work.” That is, on that day the power of the work of the Creator was removed from the world, after having worked to establish it in its current form throughout the work days. But on the seventh day, no power worked, but it was left alone, as it is written, “And I will take away My hand.” Thus, naturally, the force of perfection is imprinted specifically on that day so that the power of concealment will not work here.

Attaining the Spiritual Form

It is likewise in attaining the spiritual form. The attaining errs in its two forms: 1) that it will not be imaginary whatsoever; 2) that its attainment will be beyond any doubt, just as one does not doubt one’s own existence.

The title, “spiritual,” indicates that it is resembled to the wind (in Hebrew Ruach means both “spirit” and “wind”), where although the wind has no edge, similitude, or appearance, no person doubts its existence, since one’s life depends on it. If the wind is sucked out of a house, should an animal be taken there, it will die. Hence, its existence is obvious for it is one’s life.

And from the corporeal we can understand the spiritual: The essence of the inner mind is similar to the interior of the body, which is called “the soul of every flesh,” regarded as HaVaYaH with its deficiency.

Likewise, the internality of the mind, called “the intellectual soul,” is also deficient HaVaYaH.

It is so because such a being, which feels its existence, feels its deficiencies. This is not so in animals, which are completely devoid of that perception and are completely devoid of the intellectual soul and its internality.

Because of it, they feel its deficiency to the extent required for their physical existence. Its vitality is measured by the extent of the consistency of the sensation of lack. And if it does not feel a lack, it cannot feed itself and continue its existence, and it dies. Moreover, its size and health depend on the sensation of the lack, like the corporeal body, where the healthier also has a greater appetite, and therefore eats more, and thus grows bigger and healthier.

The Need to Attain the Emanator

We must still know the lack that the intellectual soul feels. Let me tell you that it is the need to attain its emanator, for it is engraved in its nature to crave to know its emanator and creator, since it feels its own existence. That is, it has been prepared by default to search what is above.

It cannot be said that this lack is not defined in attaining its emanator, but that it rather pursues all the secrets and wishes to know about supernatural things and incarnations, and about what is in one’s friend’s heart, and so forth.

This is not according to the rule that I have written above, that the internality of the matter is that which does not extend oneself. If it were, a lack for attainment would be depicted only in its maker. But it is clear that only this attainment is an internal lack, which is not called “an offshoot.” But an inquiry in the creatures is an extension toward others, for had there not been creations in the world—such as if it were the only creation—it would not have been pursuing to attain them whatsoever.

But attaining its emanator is a deficiency toward itself, and this is its being. That is, it feels itself as an emanated being. All its events aim toward it, and this is the deficiency that it feels—that it will be able to attain its emanator. And to the extent that it perceives that vision, we can accurately measure the size of its own body.

Attaining the Emanator

It is written, “For you did not see any image.” This requires interpretation, for what fool would think and gather that there is any corporeal similitude in the Creator? But in truth, this is why there is attainment in the Creator in the world, for no desire awakens for that which does not exist in reality.

Rather, we can discuss this in the spiritual kind and in its ordinances, which is more spiritual than the whole of reality. This is the meaning of the mind, whose form grips man’s sensation in discerning truth and falsehood. This distinction is called “the mind’s body,” according to the perception of the corporeal ones. For this reason, this discernment was defined as “part of God above,” which is truly devoid of any similitude, but is only gripped in the senses and is called “a decision” or “reality,” or “absence of reality,” which is clarified in laws and ways. That verse is called “the body of the mind and its image.” We can say about it that this verse is part of God above, for which this image is included in oneself and one’s perception of oneself and one’s existence.

The image in this verse is a complete and constant image of its situation, which cannot be completely annulled, or slightly. It is called “a proven and necessary form without additions or subtractions.”

This is the meaning of “‘I, and you shall not have,’ we heard them from the Mighty One.” The word, “I,” also includes “You shall not have,” meaning that if the Creator had necessarily been revealed to them, no law or warning would have been depicted—“You shall not have”—but the Creator would have been revealed to them by His will, and it would not be an imperative.

It is like a person who shows his wealth to his friend and tells him, “I can show it to you, but now you do not recognize my wealth at all. So exert yourself to remember this form, and then I will want to give you part of my wealth, let alone that you will see all my wealth, as long as you keep this form in your memory. That is, I did not give you that decision by an imperative on which there is no ruler. Rather, I am the ruler, for all the earth is mine.” All the seeing is with His simple will. And when I want, you will not remember even what you saw in the vision. And when I do want, you will always see Me. Moreover, I will also remind you all the forgotten things. This is from the wonders of the Creator, who cannot be depicted by any intellect, meaning to grasp the matter in full while keeping that man’s mind, and it is voluntary and not compulsory to remain for the governance of the upper one.

Recognizing the Attainment—Only by the Path of Torah

I wonder at the researchers of Godliness, whose entire research is a disgrace to us, for they exert to bring evidence to what is known and does not require evidence, and repel and slight what is concealed from the denial of the corporeal boundaries.

The truth is that the first perception does not need any philosophical proof, since it is the first concept wherever one turns. It is similar to asking a person, “Who wrote this wondrous book of wisdom?” And he answered that indeed, there is no such a sage in the world, but it just happened that his little boy spilled ink on those parchments, which then spread in the form of letters, creating these combinations in connections of wondrous words of wisdom.

Indeed, all concealments are from His Providence to the creatures, and their denial is also among the corporeal boundaries. But about this they keep utterly silent, for indeed it can only be kept in the way of Torah and Mitzvot (commandments), and not by any scrutiny in the world.

You should also know that the existence of realty must extend from the sensation of Providence. This is called “complete awareness,” which brings with it His love and His pleasant bounty. It is not so with that which extends through the dry, intellectual scrutiny; this knowledge neither adds nor subtracts.

This is the meaning of what our sages said, that there is he who is present, and he who is absent. It follows that all the souls of Israel were present at the foot of Mount Sinai because from that event extend all the souls of Israel throughout the generations. It is as we said, that it concerns the bodily soul, which is HaVaYaH and its deficiency with it. Extending its vitality depends on determining the deficiency, for were the seeing not positive, the intellectual soul would not have been deficient any longer. Thus, it would not be able to eat to satiation, and would therefore be cancelled altogether.

But it is a wonder that the rule about seeing is that the desire promptly accompanies it without any forcing, and promptly gives nourishment to establish this desire, as it is written, “that your days may be multiplied,” which is the keeping of the Torah and its statutes. In this way, the law about seeing is evident as though they have received it from Sinai today, and each day it is as new to them, for on that depends the law regarding seeing. But when they break any law in the Torah, they promptly remain in the dark, as blind people who have never seen light.

The Essence of the Intellectual Perception

You already know that the intellectual ones, with bodies, are not robbed of knowing their emanator whatsoever, just as they are not robbed of knowing their friends, who are like them. It is so because a friend, like a brother, does not recognize only their spirit and internality, without any clothing, since the mind itself is already wrapped in clothing, meaning the power of imagination.

And because one cannot imagine a spiritual form, that whole kind is invisible to him. And yet, his gaze constantly falls on the externality, meaning one’s friend’s body and physical movements. And by persistence, they will thoroughly recognize all the spiritual degrees in it, for this is all he wants to know, and not his own bodily flesh, of course.

He will not feel any lack or sadness at not knowing his mind and degrees in its actual spiritual form, for he is not obligated to know his friend more than he knows himself. And even his own internality he does not attain.

For this reason, when the creature is well versed in all the laws of nature and its corporeal ordinances, and observes them diligently, it can be said that he knows the Creator face to face. It is as one speaks to one’s friend, where each of his parts is adhered to his friend in similarity, meaning a power of imagination of intellectual forms and movements.

And when we research the essence of the mind to the best of our ability, we will find that it is by the gathering of spiritual beings, and from that collection extends its “conducts.” That is, all of man’s advantage over the beast is that in man there is an organ that can gather within it spiritual beings.

Likewise, the advantage of one person over another is in the amount of the power of the abovementioned extension, and in the forms of the beings themselves, for one extends important beings, and another—beings that are not so important.

The difference between a spiritual being and the governance is that a boundary of the being is an intellectual image that extends and is present in one’s mind unchanged, meaning it cannot be explained through events that happen over time.

And the governance falls under the influence of time and place. It is just as one who is naturally stingy can give a big donation once in his life, due to the place or the timing.

Extensions that Gather in Man’s Mind

Know that the abovementioned preparation, called “man’s mind,” is like a drop from the extract of all the organs and qualities of the corporeal body. It becomes attached to the first extensions that gather and extend to one’s mind.

For example, while still a child, a person watches the conducts of the world and its Creator. Some of them become attached to knowledge, some to wealth, and some to power. If he chooses the quality of knowledge, because he likes it, it follows that he drew into himself a good creation, from which good conducts will extend. But if he clings to wealth, it is said that he drew into his mind an inferior spiritual being.

Later, when he grows, he sees more measures. For example: One man leaves all his corporeal possessions and dedicates himself to learning, while another chooses learning, but still engages in worldly matters. If the child nurtures the merit of the first, then he has extended a good being into his mind. But if he favors the second one, then he has drawn into himself an inferior being.

Afterward come types of learning—from the Creator or from the creatures—and afterward he checks whether to receive reward or to not receive reward. All those images are created beings, and from that collection, one substance is made, titled “mind.”

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