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Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)

The Wisdom of Kabbalah and Philosophy

What Is Spirituality?

Philosophy has gone through a great deal of trouble to prove that corporeality is the offspring of spirituality and that the soul begets the body. Still, their words are unacceptable to the heart in any manner. Their primary mistake is their erroneous perception of spirituality: they determined that spirituality fathered corporeality, which is certainly a fib.

Any parent must somehow resemble its progeny. This relation is the path and the route by which its sequel extends. In addition, every operator must have some regard to its operation by which to contact it. Since you say that spirituality is denied of any corporeal incidents, then such a path does not exist, or a relation by which the spiritual can contact and set it into any kind of motion.

However, understanding the meaning of the word, "spirituality," has nothing to do with philosophy. This is because how can they discuss something that they have never seen or felt? What do their rudiments stand on?

If there is any definition that can tell spiritual from corporeal, it belongs only to those who have attained a spiritual thing and felt it. These are the genuine Kabbalists; thus, it is the wisdom of Kabbalah that we need.

Philosophy with Regard to His Essence

Philosophy loves to concern itself with His Essence and prove which rules do not apply to Him. However, Kabbalah has no dealings whatsoever with it, for how can the unattainable and imperceptible be defined? Indeed, a negative definition is just as valid as a positive definition. For if you see an object from a distance and recognize its negatives, meaning all that it is not, that, too, is considered seeing and some extent of recognition. If an object is truly out of sight, even its negative characteristics are not apparent.

If, for example, we see a black image from a distance, but can still determine that it is neither human nor bird, it is considered vision. If it had been even farther still, we would have been unable to determine that it is not a person.

This is the origin of their confusion and invalidity. Philosophy loves to pride itself on understanding all the negatives about His essence. However, the sages of Kabbalah put their hand to their mouth at this point, and do not give Him even a simple name, for we do not define by name or word that which we do not attain. That is because a word designates some degree of attainment. However, Kabbalists do speak a great deal about His illumination in reality, meaning all those illuminations they have actually attained, as validly as tangible attainment.

The Spiritual Is a Force without a Body

That is what Kabbalists define as "spirituality" and that is what they talk about. It has no image or space or time or any corporeal value (In my opinion, philosophy has generally worn a mantle that is not its own, for it has pilfered definitions from the wisdom of Kabbalah, and made delicacies with human understanding. Had it not been for that, they would never have thought of fabricating such acumen). However, it is only a potential force, meaning not a force that is clothed in an ordinary, worldly body, but a force without a body.

A Spiritual Vessel Is Called "A Force"

This is the place to point out that the force that spirituality speaks of does not refer to the spiritual Light itself. That spiritual Light extends directly from His essence and is therefore the same as His Essence. This means that we have no perception or attainment in the spiritual Light that we may define by name. Even the name, "Light," is borrowed and is not real. Thus, we must know that the name, "Force," without a body refers specifically to the "spiritual vessel."

Lights and Vessels

Therefore, we must not inquire how the sages of the Kabbalah, which fill the entire wisdom with their insights, differentiate between the various Lights. That is because these observations do not refer to the Lights themselves, but to the impression of the vessel, being the above-mentioned force, which is affected by its encounter with the Light.

Vessels and Lights (the meaning of the words)

Here is where the line between the gift and the love that it creates must be drawn. The Lights, meaning the impression on the vessel, which is attainable, is called "form and matter together." The impression is the form and the above force is the matter.

However, the love that is created is considered a "form without matter." This means that if we separate the love from the gift itself, as though it never clothed any gift, but only in the abstract name, "the love of God," then it is regarded as a form. In that event, the practice of it is regarded as "Formative Kabbalah." However, it would still be regarded as real, without any similarity to Formative Philosophy,since the spirit of this love remains in the attainment, completely separated from the gift, being the Light itself.

Matter and Form in Kabbalah

The reason is that although this love is merely a consequence of the gift, it is still far more important than the gift itself. It is like a great king who gives an unimportant object to a person. Although the gift itself is worthless, the love and the attention of the king make it priceless and precious. Thus, it is completely separated from the matter, being the Light and the gift, in a way that the work and the distinction remain carved in the attainment with only the love itself, while the gift is seemingly forgotten from the heart. Therefore, this aspect of the wisdom is called the "Formative Wisdom of Kabbalah." Indeed, this part is the most important part of the wisdom.

ABYA

This love consists of four parts that are much like human love: when we first receive the present, we still do not refer to the giver of the gift as one who loves us, all the more so if the giver of the present is important and the receiver is not equal to him.

However, the repetitive giving and the perseverance will make even the most important person seem like a true, equal lover. This is because the law of love does not apply between great and small, as two real lovers must feel equal.

Thus, you can measure four degrees of love here. The incident is called Assiya, the repetition of the giving of gifts is called Yetzira, and the appearance of the love itself is called Beria.

It is here that the study of the Formative Wisdom of Kabbalah begins, for it is in this degree that love is separated from the presents. This is the meaning of, "and create darkness," meaning the Light is removed from the Yetzira and the love remains without Light, without its gifts.

Then comes Atzilut. After it has tasted and entirely separated the form from the matter, as in, "and create darkness," it became worthy of ascending to the degree of Atzilut, where the form clothes the substance once more, meaning Light and love together.

The Origin of the Soul

Everything spiritual is perceived as a separated force from the body because it has no corporeal image. However, because of that, it remains isolated and completely separated from the corporeal. In such a state, how can it set anything corporeal in motion, much less beget anything physical, when it has no relation by which to come in contact with the physical?

The Acidic Element

However, the truth is that the force itself is also considered a genuine matter, just as any corporeal matter in the concrete world, and the fact that it has no image that the human senses can perceive does not reduce the value of the substance, which is the "force."

Take a molecule of oxygen as an example: It is a constituent of most materials in the world. Yet, if you take a bottle with pure oxygen when it is not mixed with any other substance, you will find that it seems as though the bottle is completely empty. You will not be able to notice anything about it; it will be completely like air, intangible and invisible to the eye.

If we remove the lid and smell it, we will find no scent; if we taste it, we will find no flavor, and if we put it on a scale, it will not weigh more than the empty bottle. The same applies to hydrogen, which is also tasteless, scentless, and weightless.

However, when putting these two elements together, they will immediately become a liquid—drinking water that possesses both taste and weight. If we put the water inside active lime, it will immediately mix with it and become as solid as the lime itself.

Thus, the elements, oxygen and hydrogen, in which there is no tangible perception whatsoever, become a solid body. Therefore, how can we determine about natural forces that they are not a corporeal substance just because they are not arranged in such a way that our senses can perceive them? Moreover, we can evidently see that most of the tangible materials in our world consist preliminarily of the element of oxygen, which human senses cannot perceive and feel!

Moreover, even in the tangible reality, the solid and the liquid that we can vividly perceive in our tangible world might turn to air and fume at a certain temperature. Likewise, the vapors may turn to solids when the temperature drops.

In that event, we should wonder, how does one give that which one does not possess? We clearly see that all the tangible images come from elements that are in and of themselves intangible, and do not exist as materials in and of themselves. Likewise, all the fixed pictures that we know and use to define materials are inconsistent and do not exist in their own right. Rather, they only dress and undress forms under the influence of conditions such as heat or cold.

The primary part of the corporeal substance is the "force" in it, though we are not yet able to tell these forces apart, as with chemical elements. Perhaps in the future they will be discovered in their pure form, as we have only recently discovered the chemical elements.

Equal Force in Spiritual and Physical

In a word: all the names that we ascribe materials are completely fabricated, meaning stem from our concrete perception in our five senses. They do not exist in and of themselves. On the other hand, any definition we ascribe to the force, which separates it from the material, is also fabricated. Even when science reaches its ultimate development, we will still have to regard only the tangible reality. This means that within any material operation we see and feel, we must perceive its operator, who is also a substance, like the operation itself. There is a correlation between them, or they would not have come to it.

We must know that this erring of separating the operator from the operation comes from the Formative Philosophy, which insisted on proving that the spiritual act influences the corporeal operation. That resulted in erroneous assumptions such as the above, which Kabbalah has no need for.

Body and Soul in the Upper Ones

The opinion of Kabbalah in this matter is crystal clear, excluding any mixture of philosophy. This is because in the minds of Kabbalists, even the spiritual, separated, conceptual entities, which philosophy denies having any corporeality and displays them as purely conceptual substance, although they are indeed spiritual, more sublime and abstract, they still consist of a body and soul, just like the physical human.

Therefore, you need not wonder how two can win the prize and say that they are complex. Furthermore, philosophy believes that anything complex will eventually disintegrate and decompose, meaning die. Thus, how can one declare that they are both complex and eternal?

Lights and Vessels

Indeed, their thoughts are not our thoughts, for the way of the sages of the Kabbalah is one of finding actual proof of attainment, making its revocation through intellectual pondering impossible. But let me make these matters so that they are clear for every person’s understanding.

First, we must know that the difference between Lights and vessels is created immediately in the first emanated being from Ein Sof (Infinity). Naturally, the first emanation is also the most complete and purer than everything that follows it. It is certain that it receives this pleasantness and completeness from His Essence, which wishes to grant it every pleasantness and pleasure.

It is known that the measurement of the pleasure is essentially the will to receive it. That is because what we most want to receive feels as the most pleasurable. Because of that, we should discern two observations in this first emanation: the "will to receive" that received Essence, and the received Essence itself.

We should also know that the will to receive is what we perceive as the "body" of the emanated, meaning its primary essence, being the vessel to receive His goodness. The second is the Essence of the good that is received, which is His Light, which is eternally extended to the emanation.

It follows that we necessarily distinguish two discernments that clothe one another even in the most sublime spiritual that the heart can conceive. It is the opposite of the opinion of philosophy, which fabricated that the separated entities are not complex materials. It is necessary that that "will to receive," which necessarily exists in the emanated (for without it there would be no pleasure but coercion, and no feeling of pleasure) is absent in His Essence. This is the reason for the name "emanated," since it is no longer His Essence, for from whom would He receive?

However, the bounty that it receives is necessarily a part of His Essence, for here there need not be any innovation. Thus, we see the great difference between the generated body and the received abundance, which is deemed His essence.

How Can a Spiritual Beget a Corporeal?

It is seemingly difficult to understand how the spiritual can beget and extend anything corporeal. This question is an ancient philosophical query that much ink has been spilt attempting to resolve.

The truth is that this question is a difficult one only if one follows their doctrine. That is because they have determined the form of spirituality without any connection to anything corporeal. That produces a difficult question: how can the spiritual lead to or father anything corporeal?

But it is the view of the sages of Kabbalah that this is not difficult at all, for their terms are the complete opposite to those of philosophers. They maintain that any spiritual quality equalizes with the corporeal quality like two drops in a pond. Thus, the relationships are of the utmost affinity and there is no separation between them, except in the substance: the spiritual consists of a spiritual substance and the corporeal consists of a corporeal substance.

However, all the qualities in spiritual materials abide in corporeal materials, too, as explained in the article, "The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah."

The old philosophy presents three opinions as obstacles before my explanation: The first is their decision that the power of the human intellect is the eternal soul, man's essence. The second is their conjecture that the body is an upshot of the soul. The third is their saying that spiritual entities are simple objects and not complex.

Materialistic Psychology

Not only is it the wrong place to argue with them about their fabricated conjectures, but also the time of supporters of such views has already passed and their authority revoked. We should also thank the experts of materialistic psychology for that, which built its plinth on the ruin of the former, winning the public’s favor. Now everyone admits to the nullity of philosophy, for it is not built on concrete foundations.

This old doctrine became a stumbling rock and a deadly thorn to the sages of Kabbalah because where they should have subdued before the sages of Kabbalah, and assume abstinence and prudence, sanctity, and purity before the sages disclosed before them even the smallest thing in spirituality, they easily received what they had wanted from the formative philosophy. Without payment or price, they watered them from their fountain of wisdom to satiation, and refrained from delving in the wisdom of Kabbalah until the wisdom has almost been forgotten from among Israel. Hence, we are grateful to materialistic psychology for handing it a deadly blow.

I Am Solomon

The above is much like a fable that our sages tell: Asmodeus (the devil) drove King Solomon four hundred parsas (a distant measurement) from Jerusalem and left Him with no money and means of sustenance. Then he sat in King Solomon’s throne while the king was begging at the doors. Every place he went, he said: "I am Ecclesiastes!" but none believed him. And so he went from town to town declaring, "I am Solomon!" But when he came to the Sanhedrin (the sages of the Talmud) they said: "A fool does not utter the same folly all the time, saying, ‘I was once a king.’"

It seems as though the name is not the essence of a person, but rather the owner of the name is. Therefore, how can a wise man such as Solomon not be recognized if he is indeed the owner of the name? Moreover, it is the person that dignifies the name and he should display his wisdom!

Three Preventions

There are three reasons that prevent us from knowing the owner of a name:

  1. Because of its truthfulness, the wisdom becomes clear only when all its details appear together. Therefore, before one knows the whole wisdom, it is impossible to see even a fraction of it. Thus, it is the publicity of its truthfulness that we need, so as to have enough prior faith in it to make a great effort.

  2. Just as Asmodeus, the demon, wore the clothes of King Solomon and inherited his throne, philosophy sat on the throne of Kabbalah with easier concepts to grasp, for the lie is quickly accepted. Therefore, there is a twofold trouble here: first, the wisdom of truth is profound and laborious, while philosophy is false and easily grasped; and second, it is superfluous, because philosophy is quite satisfying.

  3. As the demon claims that King Solomon is mad, philosophy mocks and dismisses Kabbalah.

However, as long as wisdom is sublime, it is elevated above the people and separated from it. Because he was the wisest man, he was also higher than every man. Thus, the finest scholars could not understand him, except those friends, meaning the Sanhedrin, whom he taught his wisdom to every day for days and years. They are the ones who understood him and publicized his name in the entire world.

The reason for it is that minute wisdom is perceived in five minutes, and is thus attainable by anyone and can be easily publicized. However, a weighty concept will not be understood in less than several hours. It may even take days or years, depending on the intelligence. Accordingly, the greatest scholars will be understood only by a selected few in the generation, because profound concepts are founded on much prior knowledge.

It is therefore not surprising that the wisest of all men, who was exiled to a place where he was not known, could not demonstrate his wisdom or even show a hint of his wisdom before they believed that he was the owner of the name.

It is the same with the wisdom of Kabbalah in our time: the troubles and the exile that have come upon us brought us to forget it (and if there are people who do practice it, it is not in its favor, but rather harms it, for they did not receive it from a Kabbalist sage). Hence, in this generation, it is as King Solomon was in exile, declaring, "I am the wisdom, and all the flavors of religion and Torah are in me," yet none believe it.

But this is perplexing, for if it is a genuine wisdom, can it not display itself like all other wisdoms? It cannot. As King Solomon could not display his wisdom to the scholars at the place of his exile and had to come to Jerusalem, the place of the Sanhedrin, who studied and knew King Solomon, and testified to the depth of his wisdom, so it is with the wisdom of Kabbalah: it requires great sages who examine their hearts to study it for twenty or thirty years. Only then will they be able to testify to it.

And as King Solomon could not prevent Asmodeus from sitting on his throne, pretending to be him until he arrived in Jerusalem, sages of Kabbalah observe philosophic theology and complain that they have stolen the upper shell of their wisdom, which Plato and his Greek predecessors had acquired while studying with the disciples of the prophets in Israel. They have stolen basic elements from the wisdom of Israel and wore a cloak that is not their own. To this day, philosophic theology sits on the throne of Kabbalah, being heir under her mistress.

And who would believe the sages of Kabbalah while others sit on their throne? It is as when they did not believe King Solomon in exile, for they knew him to be sitting on his throne, meaning the demon, Asmodeus. As with King Solomon, it is hopeless that the truth will be exposed, for the wisdom is deep and cannot be revealed by testimony or by experimentation except to those believers that dedicate themselves to it with heart and soul.

Just as the Sanhedrin did not recognize King Solomon as long as the falsehood of Asmodeus did not appear, Kabbalah cannot prove its nature and truthfulness, and no revelations will suffice for the world to know it before the futility and falsehood of theological philosophy that has taken its throne becomes apparent.

Therefore, there was no such salvation for Israel as when the materialistic psychology appeared and struck theological philosophy on its head a lethal blow. Now, every person who seeks the Lord must bring Kabbalah back to its throne, and restore its past glory.

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