Kabbalism is not only a methodology for achieving a correct understanding of scripture. It is also a deeply mystical teaching. For some, the mystical side of Kabbalism might not be a direction to take. Ecstatic Kabbalism teaches us to follow our own individual path. If a person feels drawn to the mystical, then by all means do so; if not, then don‘t. If a mystical experience is personally desired, it need not be undergone through Kabbalist methods alone. There are many mystical paths to spiritual fulfillment, most of which come from Eastern teachings, like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Just as there are numerous paths to spiritual fulfillment, there are numerous paths to the mystical experience.
In 1993, Physicist and Philosopher Paul Davies tried to answer the question of whether or not humans could ever attain absolute knowledge, in his book The Mind of God. He doubted that science itself could ever achieve this, whether or not Einstein’s dream of a unified theory interconnecting the four invisible forces of nature is ever realized. Rather, he suggests absolute knowledge might only be gained through mystical experience. Davies says he has never had a mystical experience, but he seems to be hinting at a desire for one to happen to him. It seems many cutting edge physicists have a similar thirst. Unquestionably, these deep thinkers are drawn to the spiritual in a profound way, but from the Kabbalist perspective, they are going about it incorrectly by trying to make it happen rather than letting it happen..
As humans we all experience the mystical, however western culture does not teach us that many of our typical non-physical events are mystical in nature. For example, the five natural altered states of consciousness (contemplation, reflection, meditation, introspection, and prayer) are actually mystical experiences.
The mystical experience being sought is rarely something that “just happens”. It takes a profound lack of concentration, literally bringing the mind to the point of ceasing all conscious thought in order to literally disconnect from our incessant conditioning to the conscious world. Scientists, in fact all living humans, are mentally conditioned to perpetual conscious thought when awake. Few cultures teach us to meditate in ways where conscious thought ceases. Most western Judeo-Christians believe allowing consciousness to shut down is impossible. It isn’t, but in order to achieve a state of thoughtlessness, one must experience total submission, a complete lack of effort, and not “try” to make it happen. One must let it happen. My initial experience in achieving this state occurred once I focused my mind on nothing but an infinite gray-colored, blank screen, and just when I totally gave up on trying to make it happen, it did.
When the conscious mind is allowed to shut down, the first reaction is usually fear. It seems there is nothing at all, and we cannot feel our bodies in any way. It is most natural to experience fear the first time entering this state. My first time in this state, I became so instantly afraid that I immediately snapped myself out of it. The next day, I told this to a Philosophy professor who was a practicing Buddhist. He told me to do it again, allow the fear to pass, and find out what happens. He said I was almost there. That night in bed, I made another try, once again submissively giving up on focusing on the blank screen, and the experience returned. The fear immediately emerged once again, but this time I stayed with it and it did pass. Once the fear dissipated, I realized I was still aware, though physically senseless. And I understood.
I am! I exist! I might not sense my body, but I exist none-the-less. I can and do exist without my body. And, I can think without my body. My mind is not my brain!
I had experienced myself purely as soul for the first time when I was not asleep. I realized that when I sleep and dream, I dream purely as soul, and not as body symbiotically blended with soul. I do not have a soul...I am a soul. The fear initially felt was not only because I was disconnected from my physical senses and seemed to be suspended in nothing at all, but also because as purely a soul, I knew I was incomplete. To be complete, I needed a physical body to blend with. My soul deeply desires my body with a need words cannot do justice. I am one being coexistent as two perfectly blended forms in one cosmic location. We are all sybbiotic in this way. As soul, I cannot die. It is my body that must eventually wither, die, and be recycled as all physical substance must. Though I could not sense my body, I somehow knew it was still there waiting for me to return to a sensate state. Spell-bound with wonder, I then realized something else.
I was not alone.
Something or someone else was there with me; subtle, joyful, warm and soothing. It displayed an unmistakable brightness without true form. I then realized I could see. I could see without my eyes. My soul has vision. What I saw was formless, but as real as any physical object. There was no word communication, but I was made to know that eventually my experience would make total sense to me. I was influenced to use it to help humans, but only when I had found the spiritual answers to the questions that impelled me on my spiritual journey. I understood that we all have mystical potential, just as we all have intellectual potential. We are all intended to use our mystical abilities to help find our intended paths, and help humans. This is part of what it means to be the hands and eyes of God. But, we are not taught to realize our mystical nature by western civilization. Eventually I would find out how to influence humans to realize the mystical abilities they have always experienced. How each person uses it is a matter of free will.
I wanted to stay in that state of senseless beauty and perfect companionship forever. I did not understand why I was given these intuitions. I wanted to have all my questions answered then and there. But, I was made to know I wasn’t supposed to. All things in their own time. I also felt the powerful need to become one with my physical body, once again. I reluctantly allowed the state to end, and returning to my bodily sensate condition, I blissfully went to sleep.
I have returned to this state numerous times over the past 25 years, often only to reinforce that it really happens. I have been made to know I am not to enter this state routinely for it would consume me, and it is not intended for me to be consumed by a meditational state in this life. For me, meditation isn’t a transcendent state of creative explosion; I have that sort of experience routinely without meditating. I guess I’m just “wired’ like that. But, realizing I am soul as well as body, that as soul I exist without my body, that we are never alone, and I have an intended path in this life, is sufficient for my mystical needs. I feel no desire to take it any further. It’s as if that is all I, my individual self, am supposed to mystically understand in this life. It is enough.
Did I obtain absolute knowledge? Absolutely not! Through Kabbalism, I realize I cannot, nor can any other created mind. We necessarily have our mental limits. Only God, the divine perpetual creator of our universe, has absolute knowledge. We’ll never get there, but making the effort is certainly allowed, for after all we have the ability to enter into a mystical state and experience ourselves as soul, and we have the free will necessary to make it happen. We are given no restraints in our path to knowledge. Our restraints have to do with how we put knowledge to use. But, in the end we must unconditionally accept that absolute knowledge is not possible for us, and be content with that understanding.
1. Cooper, Rabbi David A.; God is a Verb : Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism; Berkley Publishing Group of Penguin Putnam Inc., New York. 1997
2. Davies, Paul; The Mind of God; Touchstone Edition; Simon and Schuster Inc., New York; 1993
3. Horgan, John; The End of Science; Broadway Books; Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, New York. 1997
Life itself is a mystical experience of sorts, although we naturally take this for granted. The awe and wonder experienced with scientific discovery is yet another profound mystical experience. So is the magical moment we experience in seeing a baby born. But, what seekers from cutting edge science seem to seek is what a psychiatrist might classify as a psychotic episode, losing bodily sensitivity and plunging alone into the cosmic depths of nothingness. This possibility both fascinates and frightens most people, including advanced scientists. For to the scientist, singular nothingness suggests a meaningless foundation to everything, which produces profound fear. Just because we are not biologically equipped to detect something does not mean we are actually experiencing nothing-at-all. The psychic experience of nothingness does not suggest a meaningless foundation to reality. It merely means we don't have a biological or conscious mental process to normally experience an aspect of reality we have never connected with before. At first it seems vaccuous, but as the experience matures we find it is in no way empty.