Gatekeeper Apprentice - St. Petersburg: An academical project
Aryeh Brodkin is a professor at the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. “The Gatekeeper Apprentice” is dedicated to introducing the mystical path to finding God and oneself. It is especially of value because it was written by a man who practices what he believes in. Apart from his spiritual and religious training, the author is a practising psychologist and psychotherapist, also having gained essential experience in the sphere of natural and exact sciences. It is also important to mention his teaching career which started in the 1980’s and that during the execution of this book he acted as rabbi for the Orthodox Jewish Society in Novgorod and is a ‘wandering preacher’.
P3 Attention! I ask that you take care of this book, as it mentions the Names of God and quotations from the Torah and other holy books. All exercises dedicated to holiness or the search for it, should not be done in ‘unclean’ places.
With many thanks to everyone who helped bring this book into this world. Specifically, to my mother Elvira bat Hava Polishjuk.
From the letter from Rabbi Zeev Dashevskij, cultural-religious centre ‘Mahanaim’.
You made me very happy with your book. I must say that I was weary when I started reading it as I do not trust various systems of spiritual training. This is not because I do not believe in their effectiveness, but because I see in them the hidden danger of substituting personality with objective achievements. However your book aims to battle against such dangers. You do not promise those who choose to follow the path you recommend an easy victory in the spiritual realms. Here I cannot help myself but remember the blessing of our forefather Jacob to his son Judas: ‘Gur-Aryeh-Ieuda, from the tortures of gain, son, you rose above’.
Your approach to personality is based on the perception passed on in our tradition, that man and the whole world were created incomplete. Man’s duty is to work together with God in order to complete himself and the world, that is become closer to God. The essence of this work is the search for the Image of the Almighty. Only in this search does the ‘self’ become unveiled and takes shape. Instead of the decorative ‘I think therefore I am’, in the Jewish approach, man should perhaps say, addressing the Creator, “I am searching for you, therefore I am”.
Your book does not try to exchange difficult questions with easy-sounding answers and makes me want to acquaint myself closer with the methods which, with God’s help, will help me become myself
Congratulations with this important book and I wish the readers much luck and happiness.
The book ‘The Gatekeeper Apprentice’ was written by a man whose personal qualities and the chosen walk of life allowed for him to show deep intuition in perceiving Jewish mystical texts. Our joint studies have shown that Aryeh Brodkin is capable of live emotional response to material which is a few centuries old. He feels comfortable with his material and is capable of guiding his readers through it. Aryeh’s spontaneous and colourful response to the specific terminology and to the Kabbalistic system of concepts reassures that the meditative exercises in this book truly come from the source of Jewish spiritual culture. Lessons with Aryeh took place in an atmosphere of frank joint experience and the text gained the illumination of images which made us closer to the borders of the unspeakable and the concealed. I hope that this book will help those who are searching for the path to the Gates of Heaven and to be strong. I am sure that this book will also serve as a strong base for gaining self-knowledge and the strengthening of faith in your own spark of holiness and help to fill with new meaning your belief in the Creator of this world.
PhD student of Jewish University in Jerusalem
p5. The book that you are holding was written by my friend and comrade Aryeh Brodkin. Today it is rare to find someone who combines such deep spirituality and learning, who is such a unique type of classical mystic, who always stands apart from the crowd. Even we, his closest friends, knew very little about his spiritual search and path and about what his life was really about. Only now and again, he would reluctantly share with us his wonderful discoveries. That is what makes this book all the more precious, in which as far as I know, Aryeh shares with us some of the exercises and approaches that he uses himself in his spiritual practice. I am especially pleased to write about this here, in the introduction to his work, because the decision to write it was made in my presence, in the USA at the end of August, beginning of September 2001. And as far as I can tell, this decision was a surprise even to the author, who had not really thought about it before.
President of ‘The Highway Foundation’
p7. “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; Him shalt thou serve; and to Him shalt thou cleave.”
Torah, Devarim 10:20
Dear readers! The book that you are holding in your hands has two main aims. The first is to help you feel your spiritual nature and the second aim is to feel the presence of God. To achieve these aims, different methods and exercises are suggested which will help with your spiritual practice. Naturally, as the author of this book, I cannot guarantee definite results when you use the suggested techniques and approaches as ultimately, it is all in the hands of the Almighty. However, the fact that they are all based on Jewish spiritual traditions which do not need to be defended here and if they are used rationally, in my opinion, it is enough to justify their use. I can confirm that the long-term use of the exercises, and for most it has been from ten to twenty years, has shown me their effectiveness. Some of the exercises are older, some are newer. It is worth mentioning that some of them were successfully used by my students, starting form 1987. However, even pure water if used wrongly can be dangerous, especially when it comes to questions of psychophysiology, psychology and the spirit. That is why I ask those who will attempt to do the exercises to be very attentive and careful. A mistake can (God forbid!) cost a great deal.
P8. On the whole, all the exercises in the book encompass a few main ideas.
That the Almighty created the world and rules in it.
That we are connected with Him. That this connection is actualised through everything that we come in contact with and that the Name (the Names) of God are in everything. Also the conception of our deepest transcendental being (soul) and the particular role of sincerity.
It can be said that, in a certain sense, the approach suggested here succeeds in the attempt to contact the immanent presence of God through the use of our transcendentality (subjectivity). Therefore we must always remember that the perception of God Himself can never be perceived by us correctly. He is absolutely transcendental and is above everything. What I’m talking about here is the gradual ‘advance’ towards Him, about gaining greater understanding.
The exercises which are offered in this book should help you feel the presence of God or (and) your spiritual nature. Although they seem very diverse, all of the exercises concentrate on only a few main ideas, such as that God created everything that is real and that He is the ruler of the worlds (the universe), that He is above everything (His transcendentality) and our conscious or subconscious connection with Him and with the whole universe which was created by Him.
This is expressed through the Torah which is His counsel and commandment. In a more instrumental sense, here, in the book, it is presented through the conception of concealment of natural processes and that inside everything there is the Name (Names) of God.
I would like to add that all exercises and methods which are communicated in this book are an introduction, the opening gates to the p9 world of the true exercise and to an extraordinary world and that it is difficult, or at least I found it so, to describe it using the dry language of classifications and instructions. Thus it is impossible to describe real instructions. When you practice your exercises and if you try to be as sincere as possible in your practice, you will undoubtedly understand what has to be done and when it will be time to stop. And that the latter is very important.
However, I realise that such ‘self-guidance’, based on personal sincerity and understanding can appear of its own accord as a result of spiritual practice, but it can also be unobtainable for some time for those who practice. That is why I recommend some of the following rules for safety of those who practice:
1) Never try to force yourself to do the exercise or do too much of it. It is better to do a little - as long as it is sincere. (It can last for as little as half a second, the time is not important. The same goes for the number of times you repeat the exercise and how hard you try). Do not fatigue yourself.
2) Do the exercises that you want to do. Do not include into your programme those to which you have a inner aversion.
3) If you get any results (and you probably will) do not be put off if you will not be able to recreate the same affect. If needs be, they will come to you themselves.
4) If you feel anything negative, even if you have been successful with your other exercises, I urgently recommend for you to stop the exercise. It is possible that you will have to do this if you feel negatively but only after you complete the exercise.
p10 5) The exercises will come to you easier if you try to live a pious life and do good deeds.
6) Keeping your body in good (most importantly healthy) shape would also help.
7) Bad moods, depression, etc. can get in the way but on the other hand you can get rid of them (and sometimes they can even help) if you do the exercises correctly and sincerely. Do not let insolence and audacity take over.
8) It is likely that you will want or be able to do only some or one exercise or method. This is normal. Do not be affronted because practically every exercise can lead you to the desired results and this does not depend on how difficult or easy it is.
9) Try to read the whole book or at least the ‘theoretical’ sections. This will help with the exercises.
Attention! Not heeding the safety rules and regulations can (God forbid) lead to negative consequences, including some extreme results!
I suggest that at the beginning you practice at a time and place where no one will disturb you.
I attempted to pick out methodically different exercises so that you can move on from one to another without difficulty and to achieve, ideally, a constant practice.
Although we understand and feel that sincerity is one of the most important and maybe the most significant element in spiritual practice, we still find it hard to define it. I feel that the closest definition of sincerity would be something like ‘act according to one’s conscience’, to give yourself fully to everything that you do, say or think. However, here we come across the understanding of ‘conscience’, which is not any easier to define. Perhaps the best explanation of the word ‘sincerity’ will be the words found in the Torah - ‘with all thy heart and with all thy soul’ (Torah, Devarim 4:29). It is extremely important that, fundamentally, the point of the Torah and the point and the aim of man’s life is to discover the Almighty (Torah, Devarim 4:30), who is Truth (EMET) and whose words are the Truth (EMET). The Torah is also called Truth (EMET) which is natural because the Torah is His word and His wisdom.
Thus, sincerity and conscience are connected with EMET, which is the Torah, which is the Truth. It also means that sincerity and conscience are a sort of Torah inside us, which is not surprising, as we were created by Him, in His image and we carry in us His qualities and traits. This means that we carry the Truth, EMET, and have a way to connect with it
p12 (this is what a psalm-reader said - ‘Your Torah is inside me’ (Tehilim, 40:9)). Everything appears to be logical if one follows the path of deliberation and logic.
But in reality, this is what happened to me. At some point, I began to understand, I began to feel that if I called out to God sincerely, he would have to answer, respond and acknowledge me. Just as a mother would drop everything that she is doing and come running if her child was sincerely calling out to her. And God will respond to us, if we call out to Him sincerely and with all our might. He is our Creator and we are His children.
So I decided to try to call to Him. I must say that I found it challenging. A few times when I thought that I should try to call out to God, I realized that I could not do it - I did not want to, I was not ready and I was not feeling sincere enough to get in contact with Him. Of course, I do not mean that I was not thinking that it would be a good, correct and important thing to do, but what I mean is that I lacked the real ‘pure’ desire to find Him, like the feeling that a child has when it desires to see and call out to its mother.
However, once, in Leningrad, I came across a re-typed book of the Names of the Almighty (at least that is how I understood it). They were written in Hebrew but in Cyrillic and it said when a certain Name for Him should be used. There were also extracts from the Tanach which corresponded to and were connected to different Names. Also there were parallels between peoples’ date of birth and the Name which they should use. Now, however, I am not convinced about the accuracy of everything that was written there. But then I thought that the time had come to call out p13 to God by His Name. I got hold of the book in the evening and decided that the next morning, after waking up, I will call out to God. I did not find the advise about the correct time, etc. important as I assumed that the most crucial thing was sincerity. I must add that the Names which were recommended in the book were different from the ones that I read in the Torah. In reality, I think that I was wrong and that they were some of the Names that I had read about.
So, when I awoke, lying in my bed, I gathered up all my sincerity and called out the Name of God, which I read in the book that morning (which corresponded to my date of birth). I heard THUNDER. I cannot possibly describe it to you. Thunder was everywhere - it was in me too. I was terrified. I have never been so scared before this event or after. It lasted for only a few moments and then everything became quite, but slowly, not all at once. My family was in the flat but no one noticed a thing and no one said anything which meant that it was only I who heard it. Slowly I came to. I had a clear and distinct feeling that the God of Israel is alive. From that moment on, I felt that He exists and not only the belief in Him. God exists. What I just described happened in the month of November, 1989. From then on, I tried to repeat the occurrence many times, to call out to God so that He would answer but I failed. At a certain point of concentration I always began to feel so afraid that I could not wish for an answer from Him, and sincerely did not want him to reply. I stopped searching for his answer as I did not have enough sincerity and I ‘switched off’ from focusing on it.
One day, in 2001, when I was in Vladimir, I managed to call out to Him sincerely three times and three times I received an answer, which was p14 similar to the one that I have just described, only much weaker. This time I used the Psalm Tehilim to pray and ask for help. This was less frightening. I used a different Name, the one I found in the psalms. Incidentally, I found out later that in 1989 I misread the Name that I used. Generally, when I ‘heard’ God answer me, I was completely certain that it was our God, the God of Jews. And as I have already said, it was always in connection with how I hailed Him, which was picked up from Jewish sources.
It is interesting that the sensation of God’s closeness, which appeared due to His kindness, were different during prayer and meditation. This is not strange, as Torah is the name for the Truth, EMET. The Almighty is called the Truth and the True (EMET and NAEMAN). It is said, that He answers to those that turn to him in Truth, in earnest (literally - BAEMET), that is in the Torah and through the Torah, which means the words and the language of the Torah. Our wise ones say and write that God’s answer depends on the Name with which He is called.
Further deliberations on sincerity
“But from thence ye will seek the Lord thy God; and thou shalt find Him, if thou search after Him with all thy heart and with all thou soul. In thy distress, when all these things are come upon thee, in the end of days, thou wilt return to the Lord thy God, and hearken unto His voice.”
Torah, Devarim, 4:29-30
p15 The words of the Torah in the epigraph say that God can be found if he is searched for with one’s ‘whole heart and soul’. This means with complete sincerity and self-sacrifice. But how do we achieve complete sincerity? How can we be sure that we are entirely sincere? Because it would mean that we know ourselves completely, but who is good enough to know himself completely? If we find someone who does, then can he be separate from God, who created him and creates every moment; can he not know Him, not be in contact with Him? No, a person like that would not be isolated or separated from God, he should know and be with Him. Thus, the extract from the Torah mentioned above does not talk about this type of person but a person who is yet to become like that. Then we come back to the beginning - how to become completely sincere - search for God with all our heart and soul.
It would seem that the search has described a full circle. But I think the answer can be found in the words that follow the quoted epigraph in the Torah, that is in Devarim 4:31-37:
“For the Lord thy God is a merciful God; He will not fail thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of they fathers which He swore upon them. For ask now of the days past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or have been heard like it? Did ever a people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before thine eyes? Unto thee it was shown, that thou mightiest know that the Lord, he is God; there is none else beside Him. Out of heaven He made thee to hear His voice, that He might instruct p16 thee; and upon earth He made thee to see His great fire; and thou didst hear His words out of the midst of the fire. And because He loved thy fathers, and chose their seed after them, and brought thee out with His presence, with His great power, out of Egypt.”
The words “For the Lord thy God is a merciful God” can be understood as “Although you cannot be completely sincere in your search for Me, as you are not perfect, you will find Me anyway, under the condition that you will try as hard as you can to be sincere in your search. You will find Me, because I am benevolent. Regardless of your mistakes, I will not destroy you in the process and will not leave you and will not forget my pact with your forefathers, to whom I swore. I took an imperfect people out of Egypt and made miracles happen for them and unveiled Myself to them and in this way they found Me.”
How can this process commence? How can we try to be as sincere as possible, as much as possible at this given moment? At every moment? I offer here two ways, two approaches. The first is more rational, natural and obvious. The second is more elevated and closely connected with the Names of the Almighty, meditation and prayer. Both methods are really two different approaches to the same process which is the striving with your soul and heart and everything you have to do good. The methods are described bellow.
The natural method to develop sincerity is that man should try to be as sincere as possible all the time. This does not mean that he has to be naive. What it means is that he must judge the situation as correctly
p17 as possible and react to the circumstances in the best and most adequate way, as your conscience dictates. There can be inner and outer circumstances. Usually sincerity starts with being sincere with ones self. Actually, we can be encouraged to be sincere by someone or something from the outside: by a friend, a film, a book or music. Undoubtedly, sincerity holds within itself an element of truthfulness. That is as certain as the fact that the truth and the aspiration to always tell the truth are not always an indication of sincerity. It seems to me that sincerity is a coming together of truth and goodness. This union is sincerity. The union can sometimes be harsh but it is never harsh without purpose. This approach to sincerity, I think, is similar to the Jewish tradition and understanding of EMET, that is, the Truth, which within the Kabbalistic framework, is one of the aspects of the idea of TIFERET, the middle line or harmony.
In practice, to develop sincerity, you can start for example by being truthful before yourself and ‘dilute’ this truthfulness with a kind view of the world and of yourself. However, if for you, truthfulness prevails over kindness, then when it comes to others, try so that kindness comes first, it should be more important. Strictly speaking, the whole exercise is about trying to be as sincere as possible, at every moment and at the present moment, with others and with oneself, when you are alone and when you are with others. Slowly this becomes a more and more normal and habitual condition.
To achieve sincerity in the holy way, the Commandments have to be fulfilled in the state of sincerity. A really effective way is to use the methods which are based on the contents of the Names of the Almighty p18 which are inside all natural processes. This especially correlates to where the Name like energy or in any other form, links directly to our “self”. The principles and examples of this kind of exercise are in the following chapters.
The definition of the locality of sincerity
In spiritual practice and in the exercises written in this book, at some point you may start to notice, that your sincerity is spread unevenly throughout your body and your perception of “self”. There are places where you are more and less sincere. These places, these points and areas are called ‘points of sincerity’. You must try to find a place where there is the most amount of sincerity and leave your conscience there. This area can move around the body. During this you complete the spiritual exercise that you are doing. After some time and practice you will start to understand what you need to do and how. This concerns the way in which you do the exercise (you must be sincere here too!) and the way you live. You will feel unity and harmony within yourself and with your conscience. You will know what to do and how and you will also know when and how to stop. Perhaps, this is the most important idea that I have written in this book.
Methods, based on the conception of God’s concealment
The concept of God’s concealment and the lessening of this concealment (that is the unveiling of God’s presence) is that God who created everything and is creating every moment, concealed himself in such a way that in our (physical) world His presence and role are not obvious and are hardly perceptible. What I mean is that our organs such as our sight, hearing, feeling, smell and taste do not detect the presence of God. To detect (unveil) his presence, you need intellectual work and work of the inner “self”. Some methods to lessen the concealment for our “self” are included in this chapter.
Through tradition, it is known that God does not have any imperfections and is the main source of all goodness, including everything that we consider to be so. In that way, whenever anything good happens to us, regardless of the reason or the nature of this good event, we can think that we have become ‘closer’ to God or He has become closer to us and that God has ‘opened up’ to us, lessening his concealment. This lessening of concealment we understand as ‘goodness’ and ‘excellence’, for example such things as luck, enjoyment and happiness and so on. Strictly speaking, the definition of ‘goodness’ is wide and includes not only what we think is good but generally everything that happens, including what we qualify as ‘evil’ and ‘vice’ as well as information that reaches us. And the p20 source and root of everything is God.
In this way, if his concealment has become less, then we perceive it as goodness and gain enjoyment from it. The different nature of the reasons why we gain this enjoyment (for example, happiness when we receive good news, the delight of good food or drink, the enjoyment from an intellectual process of comprehending something, the feeling of relief after being uncomfortable or the feeling of surprise and delight and so on) is connected with different aspects of the affect He has on us. Their root is in His different emanations (sefirot) and Names. In other words, the different types of enjoyment are connected and correlate to the different aspects of God unveiling himself (that is different aspects of lessening His concealment).
The point of this method is to realise, imagine and to think about that the feelings of enjoyment, happiness, luck etc. which we experience is the lessening of the concealment, the ‘opening up’ of God. It is similar to being in a thick fog where we cannot see anything and then we find an area where the fog is thinner.
These are good moments to turn to Him with prayer, blessings and meditation. Blessing enjoyment (delight) is actually demanded by religious law (Halaca) for Jews and for non Jews (the descendants of Noah). I presume that that is one of the reasons why man has to say a blessing when he feels delight (birkat anein) and when he receives goods (such as a new house, clothes, is rescued from danger, when he comes across beautiful and majestical nature and meets beautiful people).
P21 These words from the Torah are relevant: “in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come unto thee and bless thee.” (Torah, Shemoth 20:20). The Name of God, that it the essence of comprehending and remembering the Almighty, paying heed to his existence and presence, means lessening the concealment to the level where the idea of God enters our consciousness. This comprehension can be on different levels of depth and assortment. And what is the meaning of ‘bless’? It means, according to the book of Bahir, ‘spread my wisdom’ - chochmah; that is man becomes ‘wiser’, changes, and is imbued with the nature of the world and God becomes closer to Him.
Once again, the lessening of His concealment which happens in ‘different’ ways, also means the opening up, unveiling of His different aspects and of His different Names. It must be added that God opens up towards us, lessens his concealment, and we begin to feel His presence more and at a certain point we begin to feel His existence. It is the lessening of His concealment, the closeness to Him we can perceive as goodness, kindness and ‘enjoyment’.
In effect, for spiritual practice the things that do not leave us cold and that touch upon our emotions and feelings are vital.
An example of an exercise
Feel or imagine something pleasant, then do not think about the source of this pleasant feeling but think about that fact that this feeling of enjoyment and delight is a partial lessening of His concealment and is part of the unveiling of God.
Methods, based on the conception of the sefirot
It was not in my plan to explain the theory (concept) of sefirot in this book which is more of a practical hand-book rather than anything else. Also those who are interested can find out about the sefirot without much difficulty. However, some minimal information is vital in order to complete some of the exercises. Here are extracts from ‘Tikkune Zohar’ and from a book by rabbi Moshe Kordovero (Ramak) ‘Pardes Rimmonim’ to help you.
p23 Extract from Tikkune Zohar, 17a, b
“Elijah opened (his discourse) and said: Master of the worlds, You are One but not in the numerical sense. You are exalted above all the exalted ones, hidden from all the hidden ones; no thought can grasp You at all. You are He who has brought forth ten “garments”, and we call them ten sefirot, through which to direct hidden words which are not revealed and revealed worlds; and through them You conceal Yourself from man. You are He who binds them together and unites them; and inasmuch as You are with them, whoever separates one from another of these ten sefirot, it is considered as if he had effected a separation in You. These ten sefirot process according to their order: one long, one short, and one intermediate. You are He who directs them, but there is no one who directs You - neither above, nor below, nor from any side. You have made garments for them, from which souls issue forth to man. You have made for them a number of bodies which are called ‘bodies’ in comparison with the garments which cover them; and they are described (anthropomorphically) in the following manner: chesed (kindness) - the right arm; gevurah (severity, power) - the left arm; tiferet (beauty) - the torso; netzach (eternity, victory) and hod (splendour) - the two thighs; yesod (foundation) - the end of the torso, the sign of the Holy Covenant; malkhut (kingship) - the mouth, which we call the Oral Torah; chochmah (wisdom) - the brain, that is, the thought within; binah (understanding) - the heart, by means of which the heart understands; and concerning the latter two (sefirot) it is written, “The secrets belong to the Lord our God;” supernal keter (crown) is the crown of kingship, concerning which it is said, “He declares the end from the beginning,” and it is the skull (upon which the) tefillin (are placed). Within them is the Name (whose numerical value is) forty-five (spelled thus: iod-vav-dalet hai-alef vav-alef-vav hai-alef) which is the path of atzilut (emanation); and the watering of the Tree (of the sefirot) with its arms and branches just as water irrigates a tree and it grows by that irrigation. Master of the worlds, You are the cause of causes and producer of effects, who waters the Tree through that fountain; and that fountain is as the soul to the body, which is the life of the body. In You, however, there is no similitude or likeness to anything within or without. You have created heaven and earth and brought forth from them the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets; and on earth - the trees, the green herbage, the Garden of Eden, the grasses, the beasts, the cattle, the fowl, the fish, and mankind; in order to make known through them the Supernal Realms, how the higher and lower worlds are conducted, and how the higher worlds may be known from the lower. However, there is none who can know You at all. Without You there is no unity in the higher or lower realms, and You are known as the Cause of all and the Master of all. Each sefirah has a specific Name by p24 which the angels are also designated. You, however, have no specific Name, for You permeate all the Names, and You are the perfection of them all. When You remove Yourself from them, all the Names remain as a body without a soul. You are wise, but not with a knowable attribute of wisdom; You understand, but not with a knowable attribute to understanding; You have no specific place. (You clothed Yourself in the sefirot) only to make known to mankind Your power and strength and to show them how the world is conducted through law and mercy - for there is righteousness and justice which are dispensed according to the deeds of man. Law is gevurah (severity, power); justice is the middle column; righteousness is the holy malkhut (kingship); the scales of righteousness are the two supports of truth; hin (measure) of righteousness is the sign of the Holy Covenant. All these are to show how the world is conducted, but not that You possess a knowable righteousness - which is law, nor a knowable justice - which is mercy, nor any of these attributes at all.”
Extract from ‘Pardes Rimmonim’. R. Moshe Kordovero.
The Tenth Gate (“The Gates of colours”)
“In many kabalistic texts and in ‘Tikkune Zohar’ you can find different colours which correlate to the sefirot. You must be very careful and not take this literally. Colour is something physical, something that exists, in order to describe a physical world, but the sefirot cannot be described with physical occurrences. If man sees normal colours as sefirot then he destroys the system and crosses the line which was established by the ancients. Those who are truly interested must be certain that they understand that nothing physical is meant by the sefirot.
In reality, these colours indicate results which come from higher roots. For example, the strength of Gevurah is responsible for victory in a p25 war. The colour of this sefira (sefirot) is thought to be red, the colour of blood, as there can be no war without bloodshed. The colour red expresses anger and rage, that is obvious. That is why the colour red is associated with the place of trial. The place of trial - in red. And this red emanates from the strength of its source.
Likewise, white is thought to represent mercy and peace. Everything white represents mercy and charity, like old men with white hair who do not stand for anything hostile. That is why when something is credited with chesed or rahamim (mercy), it is attached to whiteness. It is doubtless that white things receive strength which emanate from this root. That is why when someone interprets and allots colours of the sefirot, he takes them as an allegory of their actions, which comes from their nature and their contents. We do not posses other means or another structure in which to assimilate and define the nature of the differences and the divisions between the sefirot, apart from the framework of colours, which divide and multiply one in regard to the other, in accordance with the variety of colours. That is why we explain the nature of the higher actions using colours; all this is done so that we can understand unearthly things by earthly means. It is doubtless that the different shades guide us towards the function of the sefirot, and are the introductory descriptions of the functions of the sefirot and the process of emanation, the attraction and outflow of godly energy (shefa). That is why when one needs to draw towards himself the shefa of mercy from the chesed, he depicts the colour next to the name of the sefira, which is in accordance to the quality of this sefira. Thus, if it is a complete and full chesed, then the colour will be completely white. But if the chesed is not complete then the colour will not be completely white, but will be of a shade similar to the one of plaster or quicklime used in palaces.
Table of the sefirot and the colours which are associated with them
Sefirot The colour, the route of which is the sefirot Some ideas in connection with the sefirot
Keter Blinding white, a hidden colour The utmost wish, desire, modesty
Chochmah A colour that includes all colours, black, thelet, transparent Wisdom
Binah Yellow and green - karte Understanding, comprehension
Chesed White and silver Boundless love, kindness, benevolence
Gevurah Red and gold, thelet, black Aim towards an endless limitation, strength, strictness, justice
Tiferet Yellow and purple, white, green - morejki, jerarak, transparent Harmony, magnificence, beauty
Netzach Light-pink Triumph, victory, eternity, determination
Hod Dark-pink Patience, magnificence, illumination
Yesod Orange, a mixture of light and dark pink Foundation, passing on of influence
Malkhut A mixture of all colours, blue - thelet, black - shharhor, white - glowing and illuminating Receiving, end results, kingship, kingdom
The colours in the table are taken mainly from the book of r.Moshe Kordovero ‘Pardes Rimmonim’, chapter 10.
p27 Also when one feels the need to be active and ‘attract’ judgement, then this person dresses in red. Also red represents an existence that is active and being active, in red. It is so for all influences, attractions and emanations. When chesed and rahamim are needed, then one dresses in white. There is clear evidence of this; kohanim (Jewish priests) who attract the emanation from the chesed are dressed in white, in order to witness or to teach about the world. The priest in Yom-Kippur, kohen-gadol (the high priest), took off all his gold robes and dressed all in white, thus the service today is held in white robes.” (Translated by N. Zabolotnaja)
When talking about the sefirot, you can talk about their right, left or central lines. To expand on this, although this is only an approximate explanation, and picking out only one of the many definitions of the sefirot, it can be said that the right line is connected with the idea of spreading out and expanding, the left line is connected with the idea of limitation and contraction, and the central line is connected with the idea of harmony and balance. Broadly speaking, the sefirot CHESED, GEVURAH, TIFERET, NETZACH, HOD and YESOD present the sefira TIFERET where CHESED, GEVURAH, NETZACH, HOD and YESOD can be used on different levels, with different aspects of the sefira TIFERET. TIFERET is the central line and the idea of harmony is connected with it and the passing on of influence to the receiving sefira (MALKHUT).
The sefirot and the Names of God which are connected with them
1 Keter, Crown
2 Chochmah, wisdom
3 Binah, understanding
4 Chesed, love
5 Gevurah, strength
6 Tiferet, beauty
7 Netzach, victory
8 Hod, splendour
9 Yesod, foundation
10 Malkhut, kingship
p29 In the sefira TIFERET, the right line is connected with the sefirot CHESED (with which overflowing love and the desire to disperse which knows no boundaries are connected) and NETZACH, victory the point of which is the victorious overcoming of difficulties. The left line is the sefira GEVURAH (with which is connected the endless aspiration to restraint and thus, power) and sefira HOD with which are connected patience and self-restraint. Harmony is TIFERET. This short explanation will be needed in order to complete the exercises.
1. The sefirot CHESED, GEVURAH, TIFERET, NETZACH, HOD and YESOD are sometimes called ZEYR ANPIN or ‘small image’.
2. Difficulties that we come across are connected with the left line and the sefira GEVURAH.
Induce in yourself or examine a feeling or sense that already exists in connection with any of the sefirot, remembering that it is connected with a sefira and the Names of God, behind which He is concealed.
Exercise 2 - practice with colours
Since every sefirot is connected with a colour, then as soon as we see or imagine any colour or the shade of this colour, then we can think (concentrate) that this colour comes from (has its routes in) a certain sefira. For example, having seen or imagined a colour of pure yellow, we can think about the sefira TIFERET. When we see white, we can think about CHESED and so on and about everything that is connected with these sefirot. We can also think, that the sefirot are the manifestation of the
p30 Almighty, through which He influences creation and rules the worlds, etc. If we see an unclean, polluted colour or shade, then we can mentally divide the clean colour from the polluted colour and do what I have described above.
Also, if we see or imagine a colour which is a combination of a few colours, then for each or for some of these combining colours we can do what I have described above. The described method can be used when one of the sefirot can be found in another (that is a sefira within a sefira). Thus, for example, we can look at the light blue sky and we understand that the colour is blue with a bit of white mixed in. Light blue (blue) can have as its root the sefira MALCHUT and the white, the sefira CHESED. That is how the light blue of the sky can have as its root the sefira CHESED which manifests itself in the sefira MALKHUT (CHESED in MALCHUT).
MALKHUT is connected with the Almighty, who acts as the king, the ruler of all and is connected with the name of Adonoy CHESED is connected with His goodness, which is connected with the name El. .
In this way, the Almighty guides and rules over us through goodness (MALKHUT with the help of CHESED or CHESED in MALKHUT). He is the one that rules, the sefirot are only how He is perceived, that is how He influences the holy roots of the universe. In this way, through a chain of thought about the sefirot we start thinking about Him, more concretely about how we perceive Him and about His Names. At first these can be intellectual deliberations. However, with time they will become more and more real and gain a conscious-perceptional contents. While doing this exercise, keep in mind His Name.
P31 You can do only part of what I have described and not work with the Names, for example. This exercise is good because the world inside and outside us is full of colours. Our world is colourful. And even darkness, that is the lack of light can be seen for example as black, in connection with CHOCHMAH or the colour in connection with GEVURAH. Likewise, darkness can be regarded as colour that we cannot see. This leads to the sefira KETER.
In this way, after training for some time, you ideally can feel yourself constantly surrounded and submerged in godly influences and be in contact with Him. You must remember that He is infinitely, incomparably higher than any image, than our perception of Him and His influences (the sefirot) and also than His Names, he is endlessly higher than any conception of Him, that we have now and will have in the future.
Exercise 3 - an exercise with ‘enclosed’ and free space
This is an exercise to do with space. It can be external (physical) and internal (psychological, mental) space. The point of the exercise is very simple. Everything that we see or perceive in the world that surrounds us or in our internal world, either has a space boundary or it hasn’t; or it is the combination of the two - infinite space and restriction. For example, the universe is limitless (thus it is connected with the idea of infinity, limitless expansion, with the right line of the sefirot, the sefira CHESED). The middle is connected with the idea of limited space, that is with the left
p32 line of the sefirot, the sefira GEVURAH. Everything that exists in the world is tied to the different combinations of these two extreme ideas: infinity and restriction, that is with the emergence of the central line, the sefira TIFERET. For example, the walls of a room in a house are connected with GEVURAH (restriction), and the infinite space that these walls surround is connected with CHESED. The result of their interaction is space which is no longer infinite, it is restricted, a room encircled by walls.
The space inside the room is the result of CHESED+GEVURAH and is connected with TIFERET (harmony). And this happens to all objects and to people and to the sense of ‘self’ (the image of ‘self’) and so on. Every one of the sefirot and all of them together are the aspects of the influence (emanation) of the Almighty. Considering this and looking at the world that surrounds us, we teach ourselves to think about God and we will feel His presence more and more. We are virtually ‘surrounded and submerged’ in God.
This exercise is about feelings. CHESED is linked to love, GEVURAH to fear, TIFERET is linked to harmony in all its manifestations, NETZACH the feeling of victory, HOD the feeling of patience and YESOD is linked to vitality, energy and sexuality. To complete the exercise you must, when you are feeling any of these things, think about the sefirot and then about God.
And what is MALKHUT? It is the thing or the person, who receives everything and understands everything. The indication of MALKHUT can be the conscious ‘self’ of man. The next exercise has to do with this.
p33 Every feeling that we have that we think is worthy of being shared, share it with God, experience it with Him, or (and) share it with people. It can be not only feelings but even tangible and real objects - that is one of the aspects of generosity, charitability, love, and self-sacrifice.
Invoke in yourself or feel naturally any feeling to do with the right line of the sefirot. For example, a feeling of kindness or love, and try to hold onto it for some time. Remember that the root of this feeling is the sefira of the right line. You must keep in mind that this is connected with addressing God with a concrete Name or with a certain aspect of His activity in the universe.
The same as exercise 6, but now work with the left line of the sefirot. Examples of feelings are fear, feelings of empowerment or boundaries.
Do exercises 6 and 7 at the same time. Try to hold onto the feelings (or the sense) that are connected to the left and to the right lines of the sefirot. It can happen that you will feel things which are connected with these two lines alternately, they will appear in your consciousness and feelings in turn. Do everything else as instructed in exercises 6 and 7. One of the results of this exercise will be that you will feel something new, a p34 new feeling (sensation) which is linked to the central line of the sefirot (the idea of TIFERET and so on). You may concentrate on this feeling also but keep in mind the qualities and the Names (attributes and influences) of God which are linked to the central line.
As an alternative to the exercise or perhaps due to its results, you can concentrate on the feelings and sensations linked to the right, left and central lines of the sefirot in turn.
The association of parts of our body with certain sefirot (and the Names of the Almighty). Our body comes from a holy source, from the sefirot and every part and organ is connected in a certain way with one of the sefirot. An example of such a link can be found in the extract from ‘Tikkune Zohar’.
The key to this exercise is to concentrate on different parts of the body and to think about the sefirot which are connected with them or (and) about the Names of God (but you can think about only the sefirot). Everything else corresponds to the instructions given in exercise 6, 7 and 8. The only difference is that the source (initial objects) of your concentration should be parts of your body and not feelings. For example, the right hand is connected with CHESED, that is with love, the left hand is connected with strength and fear. The torso is connected with TIFERET, which is beauty, splendour and harmony. The right leg is connected with NETZACH, that is victory and the left with HOD, which is patience and the sexual organs are connected with YESOD which is vitality.
At the same time try to sense different parts of your ‘self’ which you associate with different sefirot. For example, the body is associated with
p35 MALKHUT, general sensations with TIFERET, love with CHESED, breathing (breathing organism) with YESOD, sensation (can be muscular, from overcoming physical difficulties or from victory) with HOD, the feeling of comprehension is associated with BINAH, the sensation of contemplative, deep meditation and enlightenment is connected with CHOCHMAH.
All theses exercises, in a certain sense, are an ‘admittance’ into a different state of being, different viewpoint of oneself, of the world and of God.
To conclude this chapter, it should be noted that through the concept of the sefirot regardless of the diversity of the world we can be enlightened and feel the totality and the influence of the Almighty on us and that behind this He is concealed and we can turn towards Him.
The concept of Natural Processes
The concept of ‘natural processes’ in reality is another name, a synonym of the words ‘processes and the natural phenomenon’. This embodies all processes and occurrences apart from the ones which happen due to man’s free will. On a wider scale, the concept of ‘natural processes’ includes processes and occurrences which take places in other realities (worlds). Thus, the word ‘nature’ does not necessarily mean the nature of our material world but can also mean more spiritual aspects of the universe.
What is the reason for me introducing this new concept of ‘natural processes’? There are two main reasons for this. The first reason is that the words ‘natural processes’ are too often used as a saying, as something that we are used to hearing every day and so we do not pay attention and do not grasp its real meaning. The point of the methods which use the concept of ‘natural processes’ is to understand and to look inside the natural phenomenon. Our habit to use such definitions and our mental inertia can be a serious difficulty when it comes to spirituality and to spiritual exercises.
The second reason is that the exercises that are in this book use processes which take place in the body and the psyche and they are not often referred to as the ‘processes and natural phenomenon’. That is why I
p37 have used the words ‘natural processes’ for the past twenty years and am used to them and find them suitable.
The ideology of this method of using natural processes is very simple. The point is that these processes obey the Almighty which means that they are connected with Him. (The mechanisms of this connection are not relevant right now because they are not important for the practical use of the method.) This means that all phenomenon that we perceive, connects us with Him because our perception is connected with our ‘self’. In this way the natural phenomenon are in a way connected with us and in a way connected with God. If we look at the natural processes (nature) in this way, then we will try to see His actions, His hand behind which he is concealed in everything that surrounds us, that we touch and in ourselves. All this we can see in the words of the Torah: “know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is no one else” (Torah, Devarim, 4:39) and “In all your paths, know Him”(Mishley 3:6)
The essence of the matter is that this connects us with God and leads us to know him in the aspect of Elokim (Almighty) and Meleh Olam (the King of the universe) and also it leads and points us towards Him, because “Ashem - He is Elokim” (Lord, He is God) (Torah, Devarim 4:35).
Deliberating further, we must acknowledge that inside everything, inside all natural processes there is the Name (Names) of God. This is because if natural processes are connected with God, then he is ‘reflected’ in them, influences them. This reflection and influence is the Name.
P38 Considering the matter in an analogous way, we should note that the natural processes that we perceive or that are connected with us contain our Name. (It is from here and from the interrelation and the unity of all things in the universe that everything which exists knows our Name, knows us. This is connected with the unity of God.)
In conclusion to the chapter on natural processes, let us look at the three main stances, which will be widely used in the future. They are:
- natural processes serve as a tie between us and God;
- natural processes contain the Name (Names) of God;
- natural processes contain our Name.
An example of a spiritual exercise using the concept of natural processes can be the observation of any phenomenon of nature or the human organism, etc. keeping in mind that they connect us with God, contain His Name (Names) and also our Name (the name of the observer).
Some methods, based on work with the body
Work with the body generally presupposes that you will remain conscious of your presence in the body, that is, you will remain conscious of the sense of the body. As it was said early, many of the methods suggested in this book correlate with one another. This can be said for this chapter also. The method of working with the body has a lot in common with the methods based on the natural processes, based on communication, where the object or the subject of the communication is the body itself (or its parts) and the feelings that appear in the body. It is up to the reader to connect this method with any others as the number of concrete exercises and aspects and ways in which to do even one exercise can be great and hard to explain. That is why in the book I suggest only a few examples of the main exercises with the body and some important regulations.
The first thing that we should consider is that the body and the sensations that occur in it is what God gave us for wonderful purposes only known to him. This means that a part of these sensations are in us and are in contact with our ‘self’ and the other part is connected with Him in a way that I will not elaborate on now. In other words, the body and the sensations of the body are also a way to connect with God. It is a channel or a ‘language’ that we use to communicate with Him, where instead of hearing words we sense with our body. We can use this channel to help us contact Him, the blessed. In other words, there are many methods in
p40 which God can speak to us, but he also speaks to us using the language of our body and our bodily sensations. Theoretically, we can learn this language and make this a two-way connection. It would be of especial benefit to use this channel because the body is with us for as long as we are alive thus the connection, ideally, can be constant or practically so. Another advantage of this method is that the body from being an ‘opponent’ which distracts us from spirituality turns to being an ally and a powerful means to connect with God.
The next important phase is that since bodily functions and sensations are directed by Him (God), it means that they are constantly connected with Him (we are not look at how this happens exactly). This also means that on a certain level, every bodily sensation summons His Name, that is every sensation that we feel, repeats the Name of God.
And (or) addresses Him. Or (and) He addresses us through the body. This is the basis for the exercises.
Another thing that is important to mention is that we do not realise that many of the bodily functions take place (such as chemical metabolism, changes in our inner organs, etc.) but that does not mean that they do not transpire. The more we do the exercises with bodily sensations the more we will be conscious of the bodily processes. More and more sensations and bodily processes will be used as a language to communicate with the Almighty.
One of the results will be that the body will reach new levels of spirituality. But isn’t this one of the aspects of finding ‘light in the
p41 darkness’ and putting the world to rights? In fact, we have to treat our bodies in this way all our lives, all the time, and then maybe our relationship with matter will change and the ‘new world’ will come? Breathing is one of the bodily functions but because it is such an important aspect, there is a chapter dedicated to it in this book.
This is an exercise with muscular sensation. Any feeling that you may have from working muscles (for example, whilst lifting something heavy or whilst walking) can be seen as your prayer to God, when you do not use words but communicate through the sensation of working muscles. We may not know at first what the prayer is about but with time we will feel and understand it more. Also we will understand ourselves better and how we realise ourselves as individuals and as people.
This exercise is practically the same as exercise 1 but here do not regard your muscular sensations as prayer, but as the repetition of the Names of God, which are expressed in the language of muscular sensation.
In most cases, you should not think of a concrete Name as you do not know which Name is suitable for you at this moment and a mistake can be quite (extremely!) dangerous. It is right to think that ‘inside’ the sensation there is definitely a Name of God which is suitable only for you.
P42 Likewise, the sensation will contain your real (true) Name, with which God addresses you.
But what it is can also be unknown.
The bodily sensations can be seen as God addressing you. It is not expressed in normal words but in a specific language, the language of sensation. This exercise is the same as exercise 1, only from the addressee you turn into the one being addressed (see Note to exercise 2).
This exercise is the combination of exercise 1, 2 and 3 done synchronously or in turn.
Instead of muscular sensation, you can use other bodily functions, such as warmth for example. The same with emotions, anger, for example.
Do not do any of these exercises in unclean places, such as the toilet or in places with a bad smell.
Some exercises with the pulse
‘for the blood is the life’
Torah, Devarim, 12:23
The feeling of the pulse is the feeling of the blood pressure. (See epigraph)
The first thing you should do is feel your pulse. Place your hand on a place where you can feel it (your neck or your wrist) and begin to listen (sense) it. After some practice you will be able to feel the pulse in your body without your hand.
Consider the pulse as something like energy or a sensation which contains the Name of God (or many Names of God). It is possible that you may not know the Names. It is so for every beat of the pulse.
The same as for the previous exercise, only the Name (or Names) are not in one beat but in many beats of the pulse.
Consider the pulse as our appeal to God which we do not with words but with the beats of our pulse.
Regard the pulse as God addressing us, where ‘words’ are the beats of the pulse.
Regard the pulse as something that contains our Name (our real Name which we might not know)
Imagine the beat (beats) of the pulse as ‘ihud’ (unity) of God’s Name and our (real) Name ( the letters of God’s name alternate with the letters of our Name).
The energy (sensation) of the pulse goes into our real ‘self’. It goes into the real subject and not into its reflection of physical matter (which is the body) or into its reflection in the sphere of feelings, thoughts and so on, that is into what is our perception of ourselves (the image of ‘self’).
The same as in exercise 7, only the other way round, the energy of the pulse is going towards (or ‘into’) our image of ‘self’.
This exercise is to combine any of the previous exercises in any way you wish.
This exercise is to combine any of the exercises with the pulse with any other type of exercise (for example, combine an exercise with the pulse and an exercise with breathing).
Methods based on breathing
‘Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’
‘Every breath praises God’
Breathing is one of the most useful and appropriate functions of the body for spiritual practice. This is connected to the following factors:
1. Breathing is the source of life energy, it delivers air into the organism which is vital for chemical and physical processes which take place in the body (oxygen).
2. Stopping breathing is in most cases dangerous and that is why there is a natural tendency to notice it due to the instinct of self-preservation.
3. It is relatively easy to control our breathing (primarily, its rhythm).
4. Breathing is a constant process and it happens for as long as we live and that is why we can use it as ‘material’ for exercises when it is convenient for us.
5. Breathing is closely linked to emotions and to the thought process as well as to our physical state.
p46 6. The Torah informs us that breathing links us with God in a special way and with our spiritual nature and out souls (see Bereshith 2:7).
There is no need to dwell on the fact that breathing is an example of a natural process which happens in the body. All the ideas that apply to the Natural processes apply to breathing too.
This is a preliminary exercise to learn to observe your breathing. This can be done in different ways: you can observe your breathing with an ‘inner’ gaze, feeling or listening to it. A combination of different methods is also possible. You can observe the oxygen that moves through you or you can observe how your body (stomach or chest) moves when you are breathing.
The position of the body is not important but it is preferable for you to be comfortable whilst doing the exercise.
Start by observing your breathing. Keep in mind that every breath you take pronounces the Name of God (or His different Names) in its own ‘breathing’ language.
There are different versions of this exercise. Usually a whole cycle of breaths ‘inhaling - holding - exhaling - holding’ is mistaken for one breath. The exercise above can be done with only inhaling or with only exhaling or with inhaling, exhaling and holding your breath. A version of p47 the exercise is when not just one cycle of ‘inhaling - holding - exhaling - holding’ is seen as containing or pronouncing the Name, but a few or many breathing cycles. In this way, throughout our lifetime we pronounce one long Name of God from birth till death. Our breathing contains our real Name (the real Name of our ‘self’). This concept can be seen in the next exercise.
Observe your breathing, keeping in mind that it pronounces our real (true) Name.
Observe your breathing, keeping in mind that it contains the combination of our normal name and our real (true) Name and the Names of God.
Different combinations of these Names are possible and it is possible to do this exercise alternating the letters of our Name and the Name (Names) of God.
Observe your breathing, keeping in mind that it connects us with God. The proof that this connection exists can be found in the words of the Torah: ‘Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’ (Bereshith 2:7)
Observe your breathing and regard it as an independent process which has nothing to do with you: regard it as an entity who is pronouncing the Name (Names) of God or who is praying to Him or who p48 is blessing Him or who is just communicating with Him in its own language. You are the third party in this. Observe that your breathing does not stop its contact with Him and completely obeys Him. Witness this.
While doing exercise 6, at a certain point, start to communicate with Him, but this must come naturally! There are three of you, you, breathing and Him. Then clear your mind and talk to Him, it is only you and Him. Forget about your breathing. At a certain point you will forget about yourself.
While doing exercise 7, if it is right and natural for you, include in your communication anything that you wish: your breathing, body, everything that you see and hear. The whole world...
If you completed exercise 8, remember what it felt like. Then quickly switch to a similar prayer, blessing or communication with Him with your body, your inner sensations, sight, hearing and so on. Think about it. This exercise can be done with different parts of your body or different elements of your perception or disposition.
Observe your breathing, concentrating on the edge of the area which feels like it borders your breathing, concentrate on the border of your ‘breathing self’ (on the borders of the breathing body). This area is the border between the ‘self’ and the ‘non-self’. What is inside it is what you feel your ‘self’ to be and what is outside is your ‘non-self’. Concentrate on p49 this small border area and do exercises from chapters 1 to 5.
This border is linked with the sefirot YESOD and TIFERET. You, who perceives this is MALKHUT. On the border there is a possibility of zivut (uniting) and neshika (a kiss) between the ‘self’ and the ‘non-self’ (‘you’), between MALKHUT and TIFERET.
Do exercise 10 but adjust it to be like exercises 7, 8 and 9.
If during practice you feel that your breathing has spread throughout your body (this will probably happen after you start practising your breathing exercises) then imagine that inside your body or inside the sensation that you’re having, there are patches (or holes) through which it is easier to make a connection with the Almighty. (Here, as is everywhere, there is a connection with CHESED and GEVURAH, ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’). Breathe through these ‘holes’ which are connected with CHESED and with ‘heaven’ with a prayer or by addressing Him, with His Names or without them.
Regard breathing as God communicating with us in the language of breathing (or which is inside the breath).
Understand breathing as energy which is flowing into our inner ‘self’ which exists inside the body. This inner ‘self’ can exists on many levels. It can be the ‘image of self’ which is our ‘sense of self’, our inner perception of ourselves. It can also be simply the subject, our real ‘self’. P50 On the whole, depending on the level of the perception of ‘self’, this exercise can be divided into a whole separate group of exercise which are methodically similar but their point is different.
This is an exercise for a married couple. During an embrace, try to breath in each other. Inhale and exhale. “Those who are in love drink each other’s breath”. When the air runs out, breath in again.
Breathing, at any stage and during any exercise can present itself as the pure Name or spiritual energy, if it comes to you easily and naturally.
Many of the exercises in this chapter can be done breathing noisily. You can regard the noise and the vibrations as a natural process, the pronouncing of the Name (Names) of God, communicating with Him, praising Him, expressing our prayers and connecting us with Him. This applies also to speech and to the words of the Torah.
Some methods, based on work with the feeling of fear
“Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; Him shalt thou serve...”
Torah, Devarim, 10:20
“Everything is in the hands of heaven, apart from fear before it”
Babylonian Talmud, Berahot 33b
“189. BERESHIT BARA ELOKIM (at first the Almighty created) - this is the first commandment, the base and the origin of everything. And it is called the ‘fear of the Creator’ or Reshit (beginning), it is said: “The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Creator”. The fear of the Creator is the beginning of wisdom, because fear is called the beginning. These are the gates through which one comes to believe. The whole world is based on this commandment .
190. There are three types of fear, two of which do not have a true basis and one of which does. If a man fears for his children so that they would live, or if he fears for his health or fears pain or if he is scared to lose his material wealth then this kind of fear, even though he constantly feels it, is not the true fear because only unwanted things are an outcome of this fear. This is called fear of punishment in this world. There is also fear which is punished in the next world, in hell. These two types of fear, fear of punishment in this world and the next are not the true and main type of fear.
191. The true type of fear, is fear of the Creator, because He is great and almighty, because He is the source of everything and p52 everything else is like nothing before Him. And man will dedicate himself to achieving this type of fear.”
From the book of Zoar .
The point of this method and exercise is: 1) fulfilling the commandment about fear of God; 2) in developing and strengthening this fear; 3) slowly to reach the point where you are only scared of the Almighty.
As a result, man is only scared of the Almighty and is not scared of anyone or anything else; pathological and psychological complexes disintegrate and we become free and without fear and we realise ourselves as people. Then our feelings of being connected with the Creator become stronger and we understand our connection with Him.
However, first and foremost is that the commandment which is the wish of God for us to fear Him is fulfilled. The point of the method is that every time we feel fear for any reason it is vital to savour this feeling but to forget about the source of this feeling and imagine that we are feeling like this because we are fearing God. Thus it turns out that we are not fearing some misfortune or bad event but Him, as it is written in the book of Zoar in 191. Slowly as we get used to doing this, we will get closer and closer to what is called the True fear of the Creator and we will fear other things less and less, freeing ourselves from all other (bad) types of fear. In other words, the more we fear God, the more fearless we become.
P53 Some important notes:
1. The method that is described above can (and I recommend it) be used regularly. If fear does not come naturally or if you do not feel fear then you can evoke it purposefully. For example, imagine or think of anything that you may be scared of; then holding onto the feeling of fear itself, ‘forget’ about its ‘source’, concentrate on the fact that you are fearing God.
2. This is very important: during the time when you feel fear naturally or because you have evoked it, it is very important to use sources and reasons for this fear which are not very important to you. It might be hard or even impossible to distract yourself from them in order to hold onto the feeling of fear and imagine that it is related to the Almighty. Also, you may put yourself under real stress and you may become upset. Use the sources of fear which are not very important and are not close to you. I hope it is clear that you should not imagine that something happens (God forbid) to people that you love and so on. Think about something like the fine that you will have to pay if you cross the road in the wrong place. In connection with this, please note that our thoughts and feelings have a certain power and can affect the world in ways that we cannot always understand or foresee.
3. Do not over tire yourself when doing the exercises. Their quantity and quality, intensity and sincerity should be at the level which is best for you. The most important safety principle is the feeling of sincere comfort p54 when doing the exercises.
4. The feeling of fear is connected with the name Elokim and the sefira GEVURAH (see the chapter and exercises on the sefirot).
Example of an exercise
As a source of fear (slight fear!), take the fear of getting caught in the rain. For most people it is unpleasant at most, the cause of this fear is not very important to us. What is important is the desired emotion which is not very strong. Imagine that we can get wet. Imagine that it is starting to rain and you do not have an umbrella or wait until this actually happens. Feel the fear of getting drenched and then forget about the rain whether it is real or imagined and hang onto this fear. At the same time start thinking that it is God we are fearing. That this fear is of Him alone. “I fear God”. You can say this out loud or do the exercise in silence, realising that “I fear God” can be of any shape or size. It can be useful at some point to stop thinking altogether and linger on the feeling of fear of Him.
In this kind of exercise, it may help to realise that any material or immaterial reasons for our fear, whatever they may be, should worry us only if God agrees to realise them. In other words, nothing will happen to us if it is against God’s will. Thus, if we will fear someone or something, it should only be Him.
P55 Naturally, the feeling of fear can be evoked without imagining (seeing, hearing, feeling, etc.) anything negative. It is important that when we feel fear, to relate it only to God and not to a material or an imagined source.
“192. Rabbi Shimon cried and lamented: ‘Oh if I reveal this but oh if I do not: if I say this then the sinners will find out how to work for the Creator and if I say nothing it will not reach my companions. Because in the place where there is true fear there is in opposition to it bad fear, which thrashes and blames, it is a whip which thrashes the sinners (which punishes their sins. That is why I am scared to reveal it because the sinners can find out about how to free themselves from their punishment but their punishment is their salvation!)
193. But those who are afraid of physical punishment cannot reach the true fear of the Creator but the bad type of fear, the fear of punishment with the whip.
194. That is why the place that is called fear of the Creator is called the beginning of knowledge. That is why the commandment is included here. It is the basis and the source of all other commandments of the Torah. Those who fulfil the commandment of fear of the Creator fulfils everything. Those who do not fulfil the commandment of fear of the Creator do not fulfil other commandments of the Torah, because this commandment is the foundation of all other commandments.”
From the book of Zoar.
About our Love of God
“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”
Torah, Devarim 6:5
Our wise ones say and write that every Jew loves God or at least there is potential for this love.
There are different types of love. There is the so-called ‘natural, instinctive love’ and love which is the result of contemplating God and the result of the conscious activity of the human ‘self’ in connection with Him. I have a method to activate and awaken this potential and concealed love of God by concentrating on the Names of God which are in the natural processes. If love exists in our hearts (and not only in our hearts!) then the repetition of the Name of our Loved One who was forgotten while we were ‘rocked to sleep’ by this materialistic life, should ‘awaken’ us and force us to remember Him. Only then will we consciously, with all our soul, reach out to God.
The technical method consists of concentrating, contemplating and meditating on that our natural processes embody (repeat) the Names of God and also consist of and realise our communication with Him (for example pray or praise Him).
Breathing or our heartbeat are good natural processes for this p57 purpose because they are constant and are connected with giving us life. Consequently, they hold more of our life energy and easily attract and hold onto our attention. Apart from that, even if an exercise that we are doing ends in ‘de facto’, the natural processes carry on repeating the name of God and addressing Him. In this way, an ‘exercise’ is repeated over and over subconsciously which gives us an opportunity to reach a state of constant prayer and overwhelming love of God easily and naturally. Also our ‘attachment’ to Him (dvekut) which is one of our life’s aims.
1. The exercise described above will help us to perfect ourselves in fulfilling the commandment of loving people and God.
2. Love and fear which are connected with the sefirot CHESED and GEVURAH respectively are our base feeling. All other feelings include these feelings in them. From this comes the opportunity to do many exercises with feelings and the sefirot.
“And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul;”
Torah, Devarim 10:12
“Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; Him shalt thou serve; and to Him shalt thou cleave.”
Torah, Devarim 10:20
“Each breath praises the Lord”
The effects of singing, dancing and music
“It is good to sing to our God”
“It is good that God sings to us”
I am not aware of a more easy, pleasant and at the same time wonderful way to feel God’s closeness to us than to sing to God, sing with God and sometimes listen to how the words and the melody of a song turn into Him addressing us.
This is the point of the method. Every time you heart is overwhelmed by feelings of wonderment or love or thankfulness or delight - share this feeling with God. Feel these things for Him. Sing to Him. Dance with Him and for Him, be happy with Him. Be happy for Him.
In order to feel this, you should sing or listen to music that touches your heart and give this feeling to Him. If you can say a blessing at the same time (when you see a wonderful view for example), say it keeping in mind the feeling that you experience. Give and share with God not only your words but your feelings too. Also, anything wonderful and good that touches you means that He is unveiled to you (the lessening of His concealment). God has become closer.
If we talk about music, singing and dancing then you can use anything that touches you. But you should be aware and not use forbidden topics and words (for example those that are connected with idol worshipping and rude expressions).
1. You can sing, listed to music and even dance! - inside yourself, in silence.
2. Dancing and exercises in connection with dancing apply to exercises in this chapter as well as to the exercises in the chapter “Some methods, based on work with the body”.
3. Take into account everything which you read in the notes in chapter 5.
An introduction, placed in the middle
The seed of this book was planted I think on one of the days of 1962 or 1963. I was little, I think I was about three years old. I was quite a boisterous child and my parents (and sometimes my grandparents too) in order to calm me down, threatened to lock me up in the little dark room, that was in this flat. (I have to say that they punished me extremely rarely, they mainly tried to scare me. Now I am surprised at how patient and soft my parents were with me.)
Anyway, during one of our visits to my grandparents’ house, (if I remember correctly, it was the house on the corner of Baskov lane and Vosstania street in St. Petersburg, then Leningrad. They lived on the sixth floor, up an awful staircase with no lift. The entrance lead straight into the kitchen and here was also the door to the memorable little room!) So one day I was locked in the room. However they took pity on me and didn’t switch off the light. And then something happened to me. I looked around me, at the painted walls and understood and clearly felt that I am not what is considered to be me. That I am not who everyone, my close ones speak to, that I am something else. That the body that everyone takes for me, for my I, is not my self, that is it is something that is connected with me but is not me.
Then I stopped being afraid. Then a beautiful, indescribable feeling of ‘I exist’, of freedom, joy, lightness and something else, something which is hard to describe in words came to me. And peace, especially peace. I felt my real ‘self’ for what seemed like a second. But this second, a fragment of this feeling was enough to change and influence the rest of my life. From then on I always consciously or subconsciously tried (and try!) to repeat, to recreate this experiment.
As I recollect now, the question that occurred to me ‘Why Me?’, that is why does everyone consider that ‘I’ is me, why does everyone take me for someone who I am really not?
Some time went by. Now, having grown up and become interested in spiritual questions, I understand that what happened to me then was a spontaneous meditation, which affected my life and changed it. All my values reach up to the standard of that true, real ‘self’ which I then touched and of which I saw a fragment.
To say this in a ‘normal’ way, then, in the little room, I experienced the realization that I am a soul. What I experienced then I tried to recreate and repeat throughout my childhood and my grown up life. Then, thank God, there were other revelations which, I think, I did not deserve. But what happened to me in childhood was the first contact, the first push! My parents let me out of the room quite quickly. (Perhaps it seemed too quickly to me.) Trying to roughly decipher the train of my childhood thoughts and trying to explain what happened to me, it seems this is what I was thinking: “They (my parents) wanted to frighten me, but I was not frightened, which means that he who they were trying to frighten, he who they considered to be me, is not ‘me’. But who am I? Why do they consider me, not me? Why me...?
The one that they wanted to scare was not me. But they considered this ‘not me’, me and spoke ‘to me’ as if they were talking to the one that they took me for. This person that they took me for was someone that they saw, that is the body. However, I am real, and that is different. I was not scared. This, what they consider to be me, is not the real ‘self’. What am I? Why am ‘I’ is a question which asks why am I considered as ‘me’? And then there was a blast, a flash and for a second I felt the Different SELF. The real ‘self’. Wonderful, indescribable feelings and happiness came over me. And peace. And something else...
If I were to explain this on an emotional level I think I would have to say that I was excited and tense because I was waiting for something bad, a punishment that was talked about for a long time as something serious and scary. Sitting in the little room did not turn out to be frightening or dangerous and the first flash of relief, of being free from any danger, the mental energy of tense expectations, exploded inside my thoughts and as a result there was the revelation.
If I was a grownup this perhaps would not have happened. The belief of a child, the belief in parents and in grownups, it stimulated this energy through a high level of the expected SOMETHING.
Generally, it seems that it was a classical example of entering a state of meditation where the object of my concentration (meditation) was the question of the nature of ‘self’ and the strength of concentration and energy came from the belief, mental tenseness and emotions of a child.
Why have I describes this in such great detail? Firstly, because I wished to share with the reader one of the greatest (for me) events in my life. Secondly, because I wanted to show that the Truth and spiritual existence is much closer to us than we usually consider, being submerged in the ordinariness of every day life. Thirdly, maybe someone p63 has experienced something similar and they will be pleased to know that this is normal. And finally, I think that attempts to understand what happens to us, to verbalize and comprehend it and talk about it, can help us to understand the Truth better.
It was probably from my childhood desire to return, to relive the state of ‘myself’ came the interest in meditation and spiritual methods.
Following this, I began my search for God, to search for contact with Him and I also searched and worked out a system of methods which would allow me, ideally, to never forget about the existence of the Almighty and our spiritual nature. This is important because most people cannot constantly concentrate on objects of spiritual nature. That is why I tried to find or create exercises which would allow us to switch from one type of activity to another while constantly reminding us about God and keeping us in contact with our spiritual nature.
Some methods, based on work with thoughts
Group A: Methods based on the usual thoughts and conceptions.
1. Teach yourself to think about questions to do with the Torah and with the search for Truth, whether it is in small or large manifestation.
2. This is a method to do with what you imagine. Imagine events to do with spiritual sources and spiritual practice. For example, recall the events in connection with leaving Egypt or standing in front of Mountain Sinai. Examine the sources and imagine all of this.
3. This is a method where you concentrate on the right assertions and ideas. Contemplate or concentrate on an idea from the Torah or on an idea which is the Truth for you. Do this regularly. Learn to love this process. For example, it is very good to concentrate on the thought that “I was created by God”. Or that every person should say to himself “the world was created for me” and so on. A good time to do this are moments when you are in a natural state of ‘pre-meditation’, in the morning when you have just woken up.
A different example of this exercise is for a married couple. You p65 must think about love and predestination of the first people that were created by God, Adam and Eve. Think about their relationship, about God’s existence, and about what he wishes from this relationship. In connection with this, think about your own relationship with your husband or wife, even when you are being intimate.
Group B: Methods to withdraw from the thought process.
The fact that contemporary society and education almost completely ignore the existence of our inner world, which was given to us by God for purposes known only to Him, is part of us and should be controlled and improved by us, is surprising. We learn to control our bodies in childhood, to walk, move our arms and fingers, co-ordinate our movements. Similarly, we should learn to control our thoughts, co-ordinate our feelings, realise their connection between ourselves and our bodies, find and comprehend our ‘self’. It is doubtless that our perception of reality is marred and incomplete, similarly to the world of someone who cannot walk.
The methods which I suggest here should partly fill the gap and they are mostly dedicated to work with the thought process. The first thing which should be realized is that thought is not a simple occurrence, it has a complex structure. And really, what is thought? One thought can be expressed completely differently: visually or verbally (sound or word); it can be expressed or kept to yourself. In the same way, a thought inside us p66 can be said out-loud or not (inner dialogue). A thought can be expressed with images, symbols or with different types of hieroglyphs. Once again I would like to stress that the contents of a thought can be ‘incorporated’ into different methods of expressing this one thought. In other words, the literal meaning of a thought can be different from how it may be expressed. If we are interested in the contents of the though, its meaning then there is no real need to look at how it is expressed. We can teach ourselves to think in this way and not to pay attention to any kind of thought images and then our thinking will function in a faster and more effective way. Apart from this, things which are unusual become real like intuitions, premonition, telepathy and a certain ‘penetration of objects’. It must be noted that if we look at what I describe above in a different way, then everything, even our reality can be seen as mere images which contain some kind of meaning. In this way, a subject which realizes the thinking on the level of meaning, becomes independent from the forms and images which contain and conceal this meaning, that is, it becomes free from the limitations of the form of thinking and other forms and becomes liberated. That is why the results of this kind of exercise can be one or all of the following: independence from thought, controlling intuition, aptitude for insightfulness, premonitions and telepathy. Another result is the ability to achieve the state of meditation and self-awareness of the ‘self’ on other, new levels. However, this type of exercise must be done with the utmost care because if you are not careful the damage to your psyche can be great.
P67 Before we take on the methods of spiritual practice in connection with observing thoughts we must understand that there is a great difference between a spiritual or material object and the thought about this object. We will observe specifically the thought. The most difficult will be to understand what thought you are observing and not to get distracted.
1. There is a connection between the object and the thought about this object as they have the same root.
2. In Cabbalistic terminology, the meaning of a thought is the light or and the method of expressing it is the image or vessel, kli.
All the exercises in this chapter must not be done in a negative emotional state.
If you feel any kind of mental pressure then stop doing the exercise and start doing something else, which has nothing to do with thinking and paying attention.
I recommend that you switch to something completely different which is pleasant for you, like exercise or listening to beautiful music.
Observe thoughts which are expressed with pictures (pictures of thoughts).
Start to observe the pictures of your thoughts which appear in your head. To start you off, you can evoke an image of your choice. As an observer, you must look at this image from the side, as if you were in the cinema. Let your thoughts come and go. Try to maintain your position of
p68 an observer and not go inside the image and become part of the action.
Do the same as exercise 1 but now allow yourself to enter the image and become part of your thought. Then, when you want, leave the image and become an observer. You can do this a few times (but do not over tire yourself).
The same as exercise 2, but when you are ‘inside’ and are part of your thought, try to remember that you ‘came into’ it from the ‘outside’, from the position of the observer. Remember this and observe.
The same as exercise 3, but try to be inside the thought and an observer at the same time.
This is an exercise for thoughts which are expressed with words (verbal thinking). Allow thoughts to come and go. Observe them without interfering with their flow. This is similar to when an observer is hiding in a bush and is observing people or animals.
The same as exercises 1 and 5, but now pay attention to the gaps (empty spaces) between your thoughts.
Analogous to exercises 1 and 5, but as the object of your observations, take the thoughts which are expressed with hieroglyphs and symbols.
Now observe the gaps between the thoughts which are expressed with hieroglyphs and symbols.
The division of thoughts and physical reality. Take turns to observe thoughts and then physical reality, but be aware of what reality you are observing. To help, you can say it out-loud when doing the exercise.
When doing exercises 1 to 9, it is important to choose the type of thoughts that you will observe.
This is the same as exercise 9, but distinguish between thoughts and emotions.
This is the same as exercise 10, but now distinguish between emotions and physical reality.
Hold on to contrary thoughts (for example, opposite opinion) about something. At first, do this in turn with the other exercises and then do it at the same time. Pairs of opposites are connected with CHESED and GEVURAH (with the right and left lines of the sefirot) and what is not the opposite is connected with EMET (the Truth) or the central line of the sefirot, TIFERET. In this exercise you will always be the third party.
Observe the meaning of the contents of the objects in your thoughts and move onto thinking without objects.
The most simple version of this is when a thought comes to you, ask yourself, what is this thought about? When you get the hang of this, the next version of the exercise is to hold your attention on and observe only the meaning of this thought (that is, the inner meaning).
‘The realization of self’ in the sphere of thoughts. While observing thoughts, notice that they are the objects and you are the subject. You are a live subject. You are.
Address the ‘self’.
Act as if the ‘self’ is a different person (friend, loved one, comrade)
Ask this ‘self’ for energy or support.
At any point during any exercise stop observing something and completely stop any sort of control. Allow for full relaxation of your psyche.
Time and space (inside and outside us) can also be regarded as thought and objects suitable for these exercises. Also everything that this space includes in itself (including sounds).
Repeat exercise 2, but take the text of the Torah or something similar in order to ‘go inside’. You can imagine yourself to be a character from the Tanach or a few characters at the same time or in turn; you can also be a witness to the events described in the Tanach.
This exercise is the same as exercise 20 but done following the method of exercise 3.
This exercise is the same as exercise 20 but done following the method of exercise 4.
This exercise explains the method of getting closer to the Almighty and the prayers with the use of the previous techniques and the Tanach. The places in the Tanach where the unveiling of the Almighty is described, for example, in his talk with the righteous men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others are not only places of unveiling in the text, they are places of unveiling in our consciousness and in our imagination. Having done exercises 2, 3, 4 or 20, 21, 22 we can, having taken part in the events of the Tanach, feel the closeness of the Almighty and turn to Him with prayer. We can do this remaining in the world of the events of the Tanach or we can ‘exit’ into our reality. Do as is most comfortable for you. The only thing, which is important is to hold on to the feeling of being in contact with God. In this exercise, you address Him from your ‘I’, from your self although you can do it through a righteous man like Abraham or Jacob.
1. In this way you can ‘communicate’ with the righteous men.
2. Every unveiling of the Almighty has its own features and is connected with different aspects of His actions and with His different Names. That is why your prayers and requests should correspond to different events in the Tanah. For example, if you are searching for kindness of the Almighty, use the place in the Tanah where He is unveiled as kind; if you are searching for His strength, use the place where He is revealed as kind and powerful and so on. In other words, it is connected with the sefirot. The forefathers of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as of Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David are the ‘representatives’ of the six sefirot ZEIR ANPIN (small image, TIFERET) and MALKHUT.
Positive adjustment of thoughts.
While observing your thoughts, try to comprehend and think that every thought comes from God and loves Him and is addressed to Him in a way we will not discuss or try to understand for now. Our thoughts contain the Name of God as does everything: the whole world, all signs, images, sounds, space, time...
....Everything is for Him.
About comprehending yourself
1. The first normal, real dialogue in the Torah between God and man was started by God’s question to Adam: ‘Ajeka?’ - in Hebrew, where are you? This question actually contains two different questions: ‘where is your self?’ and ‘what or who are you?’, that is ‘what is your self?’ and where is it? Where is our real ‘self’?
It is clear that the question asked by God our Creator demands reflection and for you to ask yourself this question and only then can you answer. If an answer is needed at all. God knows the answer to the question and it is doubtful that He will need an answer. The question is asked purely for you to reflect on it, to search for your ‘self’ and find it. ‘Where have I been concealed?’ Amongst what trees am I? Why? What for? I am hiding from God. I am hiding from God?!? Who am I?
From the one who loves me and who has created me?
How do I leave this place, this forest?
This, or something similar, should be taking place inside man’s soul. In order to ‘leave’, you will probably have to remember and understand how you got there.
Thus, we can see that the search for your ‘self’, self-realization, stands in first place in the Torah. The first task, the first problematic situation in connection with man’s freedom of choice, with the realization p74 of his human nature and the first question which God and the Torah ask man who is separating from God is ‘Where are you?’ and “Who are you?’. In other words, we have to look for ourselves, for our ‘I’ which has been lost inside the physical and psychological world. How? On the one hand, the Torah by unrolling its tale answers this question. Man’s development which is described in the Torah: finding God, the earth and happiness all result in an answer to this question. The way is to follow the Torah and fulfil the Commandments. On the other hand, the questions ‘Where are you?’ and a number of Commandments which are connected with the Commandment ‘know’, in way or another speak about the importance of immediately gaining self-knowledge. Otherwise who is supposed to know and who is supposed to fulfil the Commandments? And truly, the question at hand is in the category of questions above all questions. But the answer...But my task is much more modest. I mainly want to turn the reader’s attention to some methods which are dedicated to analysis in this area.
2. One of the most important questions when it comes to the study of man’s ‘self’ is the object of the analysis. What are we examining? What is understood as ‘self’? Unfortunately, quite often and especially in more popular publications, this question is completely ignored and the multi-faceted ‘object’ of the study is substituted for its psychological and psychophysiological aspects. Apart from this, questions of ideology are often incorporated in the study of this question which do not help the real search for the Truth. So, what is the ‘self’ and how do we ‘study’ it? The p75 main difference in studying the ‘self’ is that what is considered to be the ‘self’ consists not only of an object, but also of a subject. What makes the study of the nature of the ‘self’ different from everything else is the fact that there is a subject and subjectivity. I will try to explain this better: imagine that someone wishes to study himself. He starts to observe himself. Soon, it turns out that there are occurrences, processes which he can observe similarly to how he would observe outer objects. They are the body, feelings, emotions, thoughts, energy, the conception of the self (his ‘image of self’) and so on. There is someone who makes the observations and there is the perceiving subject, who is inside all that is perceived. He is not the object as we understand this word and to study him is impossible. At the same time, it is he, this subject who is our real, true ‘self’. It is possible to lose an object, whether physical or psychological: we can lose (God forbid) a part of our body or stop feeling some kind of emotion, understand thoughts and so on but the one who perceives these objects, remains. That is why it is our true ‘self’. How can we feel subjectivity? How can we feel OURSELVES? We are used to perceiving and feeling OBJECTS. How do we move on from feeling the objects to ‘being aware’ of the subject? Perhaps by stopping or by at least lessening the part of feelings which are evoked by the world of objects. This has always been called renunciation and was achieved with the help of special exercises or with God’s help. The exercises were all different and demanded a certain level of rejection or detachment but they all lead to the subjective-objective perception of the world to change. It is hard to see p76 oneself and perceive oneself as an object, but you can become oneself - the way we are.
Further is the key to many of the exercises, including the ones which are in this book. In connection to the problem discussed above, I would like to bring your attention to some more interesting questions. The first is about the relationship and the connection of the subject with the world of objects and this is to do with physiology and psychology. The second question is about communication: which ‘self’ do people address when they talk to each other, and animals; to which ‘self’ is music addressed to and books and so on? To which ‘self’ is the Torah addressed to? The Torah was given to man and the Almighty knew who He was entrusting it to and knew what part of the Torah is for what part of man. In different parts of the Torah man is shown differently: Adam, Enosh and Ish. There are many interesting questions but we will not look into them now. Instead I would like to suggest some exercises. But before, I would like to say that the subject in itself is transcendental to the world of objects, and that ‘subjectivity’, transcendentality and spirituality are closely linked, if not more so. And I think that the word ‘soul’ in its narrow sense, from ancient times has meant the subjectivity in man.
If man ignores the subject in himself and in others, it will lead to soullessness, manipulative, consumerative attitude; it leads to individual and collective egoism. In the square of creation: nature, plants, animals and man - means the bringing down of the last three to one of the previous stages.
Ask yourself the question ‘Who am I?’. You can do this while meditating or during ‘normal’ life. Try to not only repeat this question but to think about it carefully. Try to perceive its point and the point of its words.
The same as exercise 1, but change the subject to ‘Where am I?’
This is an exercise to find yourself ‘among the trees’. Anything that comes into your attention: the body, feelings, thoughts, perception of space, time and so on - say to yourself (think) - ‘not this’ or ‘not that’. This is also connected to your perception of yourself. This is an ancient exercise which was also written about in non-Jewish texts, like the Vedanta .
Start to observe your thoughts, how they come and go. Do not enter inside the thought process. Observe from the side. At some point, understand that you are the one who is observing. Relax inside this observer and just be. Just exist.
Start to observe the movements of your body. They can be any type of movements, but what is most important is not to think too much about them, let them happen without you controlling them. At a certain point, try to realize that it is you who is observing and perceiving them. Relax inside this observer and just be. Just exist without thinking or worrying about anything.
The same as exercise 5, but instead of observing the body, observe nature or listen to silence.
Although it is important for us to search, to find ourselves, the paradox is that we will always be ourselves and are always with ourselves, p78 with our ‘self’, in the company of ourselves. In principle, it can be enough to just ‘relax’ in a certain way which I cannot describe and feel YOURSELF, become YOURSELF. This is connected with the harmonious rejection of everything.
Understand, that you are always with yourself, regard your presence (which is felt or not) as the presence of a very close friend.
Look into your eyes in the mirror and understand that the eyes you see are you looking back at yourself.
Take into account that everything written above is not only about and for you but for others also so treat them well.
An exercise for a married couple. Look into your partner’s eyes, instead of in the mirror (see exercise 9).
All the exercises in this chapter demand especial harmony in your inner world, a measured and careful approach. You must leave the ‘forest’ and not destroy it.
Having found yourself in the ‘forest’, do not neglect it, the purpose of man is to ‘to cultivate and guard it’ (Breshit 2:15). In other words, when you find your true ‘self’, you must build the right kind of relationship with your inner and outer worlds.
How can someone be happy if he does not know himself?...
Chapter 1 - On Sincerity..........................................................................p
Chapter 2 - Methods, based on the conception of God’s concealment......p
Chapter 3 - Methods, based on the conception of the sefirot....................p
Chapter 4 - The concept of Natural Processes.........................................p
Chapter 5 - Some methods, based on work with the body........................p
Chapter 6 - Some exercises with the pulse...............................................p
Chapter 7 - Methods based on breathing..................................................p
Chapter 8 - Some methods, based on work with the feeling of fear..........p
Chapter 9 - About our Love of God.........................................................p
Chapter 10 - The effects of singing, dancing and music...........................p
Chapter 11 - An introduction, placed in the middle..................................p
Chapter 12 - Some methods, based on work with thoughts......................p
Chapter 13 - About comprehending yourself...........................................p
Cover by U. S. Aleksandrov
Art editor V.G. Bahtin
Proof-read by O. Abramovich
Translated by Sonia Zhuravlyova