KABBALAH: GETTING BACK TO THE GARDEN

By Marcia Montenegro (page 2 of 3)

The Creator and creation: light and vessels

In Kabbalah, the Creator is Ein Sof, which literally means "endless" (Matt, xxiii ). What we know as God is actually one of the higher emanations of Ein Sof, since, according to Matt, Genesis 1:1 actually says, "With beginning, It [Ein Sof] created God" (Matt, 12). Ein Sof pervades all creation, so that even a stone has divinity; Deity pervades all existence (Daniel C. Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism [NY: HarperCollins Publishers, HarperSanFrancisco, 1995], 24; Will Parfitt, The Elements of the Kabbalah [NY: Barnes & Noble, 1991], 68).

Various accounts of creation are given One is that Ein Sof emanated a spark, "from which emerged and radiated all light" and this constituted the upper world. A lower world was created from a light "without brightness," which represents a lower consciousness (Cooper, 35).

Another account explains that the physical world came about from a spark, which expanded and gave birth through various points or emanations of the divine being, with Ein Sof descending through these points until the physical world resulted. According to some commentators, this original light was hidden in the Garden of Eden; according to others, it was hidden in the Torah (Matt, 14, 16).

Another source states that there was originally energy, a Light whose essence was joy and fulfillment. In order to share this essence, the energy created a Vessel, which had an infinite desire to receive. The Vessel, however, received some of the Creator's desire to share. This tension between a desire to give and a desire to receive shattered the Vessel, and the Light withdrew. This caused the cosmological big bang, from which matter emanated. The Light stepped back to allow the Vessel "time and space in which to evolve its own divine nature" (Y. Berg, 61).

According to Rabbi David Cooper, Ein Sof "should not be called Creator, Almighty, Father, Mother, Infinite, the One, Braham, Buddhamind, Allah, Adonoy, Elohim, El, or Shaddai," and "should never be called He"(Cooper, 65). These names are merely aspects of Ein Sof; we can only know Ein Sof in ways that transcend thought (Cooper, 67-68).

The Book of Formation teaches that the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are "energy" and "frequency patterns" which were helped to mediate creation. These letters are antenna that "arouse and harness the energy of the universe" (P.S. Berg, 5; Y. Berg, 185). Meditating on, reciting, or merely scanning these letters with one's eyes, creates a channel between the Light of the Creator and one's soul, and thus creates an internal change within the soul (Y. Berg, 193).

According to Michael Berg, we receive Light by learning to share. We reconnect with the Light and are thus able to become vessels of Light. We must become like the Creator in our essence, by changing from receiving to sharing, and thus attain fulfillment and joy (M. Berg, 36, 51). He states that sharing is not a matter of good deeds, righteousness, or enlightenment, but brings us fulfillment through acting in "self-interest in the highest sense" (M. Berg, 36, 52). Phillip Berg writes that we must have the desire to "receive in order to share" so that the Vessel will be able to receive the Creator's Light "in full force" (P. Berg, 59, 246). Our actions in the physical world create "channels that connect us to the Divine" (P. Berg, 59, 246).

There seem to be some parallels between this teaching and the emphasis in Gnosticism on the remote, unknowable divine being and on the Light. In one Gnostic account, wisdom sends her daughter, Eve, to awaken Adam, who has no soul, so that "his descendants might become vessels of the light" (Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism, trans. R. McL. Wilson et al. [Leipzig, Germany: Koehler & Amelang, 1977; Edinburgh; T. & T. Clark, 1984; New York: HarperSanFrancisco and HarperCollins Publishers, 1987], 98).

The Tree of life: A Tree of light

Another core teaching of Kabbalah is the Tree of Life, which represents the 10 emanations and aspects of the Deity, Ein Sof (also called Ain Soph). Some writers refer to Ein Sof by name; others use the term "God," though these two are not always considered the same depending on what is meant by the term "God". This is graphically illustrated as an inverted tree with the root (the first point) at the top, growing downward into three "branches" that each have three points (see illustrations at http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Sefirot/Sefirot.html and http://www.projectmind.org/treeoflife.html ). The points on the right represent masculine, positive energy; the ones on the left are feminine, negative energy; and the middle points balance those on the right and left (P. Berg, 16). It is also illustrated as a chart of 10 interconnected points laid out in this same fashion. The divine Light becomes less bright as it travels down through these emanations toward the bottom point.

These emanations were a "primal beginning" (Matt, Zohar, xxiii) and are called the ten sefirot (sefira in the singular). The sefirot represent the model of man's original nature (Matt, Zohar, xxvi). From the top down, the first one is Keter (crown), which adorns the head of Adam, made in the image of God. The next two are Hokhmah (wisdom) on the right and Binah (understanding) on the left (spellings may vary; for example, Hokhmah can also be found as Chochmah ). Binah is the womb, the "Divine Mother," who conceives the seven lower sefirot (P. Berg, 18; Matt, Zohar, xxvi). These seven lower sefirot, according to some, represent lower or ordinary consciousness and what happens in the physical world (Cooper, 91).

The lower seven points are, in order downward: first, on the right, Hesed (or Chesed; loving kindness, also known as Gedullah, greatness), and on the left, Gevurah (judgment, strength); in the middle as a balance is Tiferet (beauty), son of Hokhmah and Binah. Second, on the right is Netsah (victory or eternity) and on the left, Hod (splendor), both being the source of prophecy; in the middle is the ninth sefira, Yesod (foundation), which represents the phallus, the "procreative life force of the cosmos" (Matt, Zohar, xxvii). Finally, the tenth point at the bottom and in the middle is Malkhut (kingdom), a manifestation of the material universe where we live (P. Berg, 20). Gevurah, also known as Din, the fifth emanation, is the beginning of physicality, and associated with this sefirah is the archangel Samael, known as the Adversary. Gevurah can thus be destructive (P. Berg, 20).

Philip Berg states that it is at the point of Malkhut (which he spells Malchut) that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil "sinks its roots in a mirror image of the Tree of Life" (P. Berg, 21). On the other hand, Matt calls this point Shekhinah, the divine feminine, and states that the union of the lower Shekhinah with the upper Tiferet is the goal of spiritual life, and is seen in the human marriage bonds (Matt, Zohar, xvii; the breaking of this male-female tie is considered by some to be Adam's sin). Shekhinah is frequently spoken of in books on the Kabbalah as the "Divine Feminine or the feminine face of God" (Andrew Harvey and Anne Baring, The Divine Feminine [Berkeley: Godsfield Press, 1996], 86), "the female aspect of the Light" (P. Berg, 87), or as the feminine "Divine Presence" (Matt, Zohar, 8). The Shekhinah is also referred to as the Apple Orchard or the Mystical Garden of Eden (Harvey, 89).

Kabbalah teaches that God's blessings flow to the world through the Tree of Life when there is ethical behavior among humans; evil actions disrupt the union of the sefirot and empower demonic activity. God and humankind are interdependent ? God needs man in order to manifest God's attributes in the world (Matt, Zohar, xxix). Matt writes that man is to be a vessel for God's power and creativity, and that without us, God is incomplete and cannot realize the divine "design in and for the world" (Matt, Zohar, xvi). Thus, we are "co-creators with "God Itself" (Matt, Zohar, xvi).

According to Kabbalah, a person must metaphorically and spiritually ascend the 10 points of the Tree of Life to reunite with the Divine. As one increases his or her spiritual capabilities, one increases the capacity to contain more of the Light pouring down through these 10 emanations, and so draws nearer to the Creator as he or she ascends (P. Berg, 15). Thus, the Tree of Life both symbolizes the Divine Being, and offers the way back for humans to be reunited with the source from whence he came. Kabbalah, according to one writer, is not about worship or belief, but rather "becomes a direct path of communion between the individual and the Divine" (Harvey, 86).

The Tree of Life and the sefirot have been used in New Age and occult teachings, and aligned with occult tools such as the Tarot. Indeed, the Kabbalah has been a basis for Western occult teaching for several centuries, though it should be noted that many Kabbalists and traditional Kabbalist rabbis do not sanction such activity.

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