Jewish Meditation Series
Preliminary Information: The Spiritual Worlds of Olam ha’Ze
What are the four worlds? The first, in terms of the least amount of hester—concealment, or the greatest amount of gilui---revelation, the greatest amount of hasaga---apprehension, comprehension of the Oneness of G-d is called “Olam Atzilut” based on the word “etzel”---near. It is the “nearest” to G-d. Who inhabits that world? No one. That is the world of the sefirot, the ten Divine emanation which I’m not going to explain now. Olam Atzilut is the greatest in terms of revelation so, were there an entity at that level, it would be the phenomenon of the sefirot---Divine emanations itself. We say that G-d “contracted” His Being, so to speak, but that idea has limited legitimacy because contraction itself is a created idea.
The next world is called “Beriya” or “Bria”---World of Creation. In that world, beings, entities exist. It is referred to also as the “World of the Throne” and a throne bears the king who sits upon it. This is the first world that “bears” G-d in a sense that it emanates from Him as an independent being in its own right. You will understand that much more when we talk about Adam Kadmon---Primordial Man because we’re going to talk about the merkava---Divine Chariot also at that time. This world is inhabited by chayos--- “highest” angelic beings having enormous quality of being which is beyond our comprehension because they are in the existential plane where the revelation of G-d is mind-boggling. There’s only a small amount of hester even in that world. It’s not the same as Atzilut in that there’s less revelation of G-d. The gilui is incredible and the hasaga is awesome. That’s the world of the chayot.
The third olam, or existential plane, is called olam Yetzira---World of Formation. It also is inhabited by entities called “malachim”—angels, the angels we know about, hear about. There are many madreigot---levels of malachim there---but I won’t get into this now.
The last world is our humble abode called olam Asiya---World of Action, Doing. Man inhabits this world, the physical world. In this world, the level of hester is enormous because it goes from Atzilut, where hester is very little, where hasaga, revelation is enormous and, inversely, it goes down, diminishes, so by the time it gets to our world, the amount of concealment is enormous. Revelation of G-d is almost non-existent and the amount of hasaga is almost nil.
All these worlds constitute olam ha’ze---this world because they exist now, existing simultaneously, each one with a different degree of the transparency of Who G-d is. Besides man occupying this physical world, there are other spiritual beings that occupy it too. When we talk about meditation, we’ll get more into that, how it’s possible to contact them. It’s important to know that beings on any level comprehend only that level and below. In other words, an angel on any level comprehends his world, apprehending G-d as much more transparent than we do, G-d sensed all around, but that angel still has a very strong sense of “I” that manifestation of G-d’s concealment manifest in a being, but nothing compared to us. He can see us and can see our concealment because he knows what revelation is. It’s easy, therefore, for him to understand what the concealment is. But, for him in Yetzira, what a greater revelation would be, he cannot understand. He cannot know what it means for an existential plane to exist where G-d is revealed even more; he can’t figure it out. The world of Beriya where the chayot are---they who inhabit Yetzira cannot figure it out, not what the sefirot are and, believe me, they’re dying to know. As soon as you lock into a little amount of gilui, you go bananas! You actually die if you cannot handle it. The reason the Jews died at Sinai when G-d gave them the Torah is because the gilui was so great that they couldn’t take being in their physical bodies. They burst the bond---that was death---and they all flew back to G-d. They saw too much; it was too much to handle, that desire to return to G-d after He shows you Who He is. It’s too much to contain. So, beings on whatever level comprehend only that level and below. They cannot contain seeing above; it’d be too much.
We who have no comprehension at all have no drive, unfortunately, because that is the onesh---punishment that we are under, that we have very little gilui, therefore we have very little drive, have no taste of what kind of treasure lies in the worlds where G-d reveals Himself.
Gradations of Being
Another important idea is that there are different kinds of being depending on the world you inhabit. In other words, the world you inhabit actually makes you a different kind of being existentially than the world below it. The kind of being you are, the atzmut---being you are depends upon the amount of revelation of G-d that is present in that world. That will determine the amount of knowledge you have about G-d, the amount of perfection you are, and the amount of dveikut---attachment you have to Him. It’s all the same idea. All these states, conditions, are equal in terms of the extent that G-d is revealed and our ability to comprehend it. The extent to which a being can have dveikut, to cling to G-d, is commensurate to the extent to which G-d reveals Himself, which is commensurate with the extent to which you are perfect. The more contact you have to Him---He Who is perfect---the more perfect you are because it follows that the further you are away from a perfect being, the more imperfect you become. The extent to which you cling to G-d is therefore equal to the extent to which you are perfected which is equal to the amount of revelation of G-d which is equal to the kind of being you are. If you are less perfect a being, you are qualitatively and existentially a different kind of being than one in a higher world. Your comprehension of who you are and who others are is also very different.
Nevuah---prophecy is an intrusional phenomena whereby you can leave the body and perceive the higher worlds. Only man can do that. Now you begin to understand what we lost when we lost that ability, the ability of man to transcend olam Asiyah, this existential plane where there is a terrible amount of concealment, and can go up into olam Yetzira, up into Beriya, and shoot up into olam Atzilut. That is how high you could go with prophecy. Now you can begin to understand what Moshe Rabbeinu saw; he was a true prophet. A true prophet can jump in various ways---which we will talk about when we get to the topic of prophecy which is part of meditation---can jump from one world, one existential plane, one level of revelation of Who G-d is, to the next and the next until he reaches a level that is indescribable in human terms because, while you are still in your body, G-d has made it possible for a man or woman to jump from his plane of existence in Olam Asiya to a higher plane up to Olam Atzilut to experience the Oneness of G-d even while in Olam ha’Ze. This is what nevuah really is. It’s an intrusion of the other worlds, the perception of them, their existential planes, their dimensions, while you are still within the limits of olam Asiya. Unfortunately, we have lost that but there are certain similar practices that a person can do.
The Task of Man
We now must examine the task of man according to the design of Creation. What we have done until now is examine the design of Creation in a concise manner. The next part is to explain what is man’s task specifically, what he must do, what G-d wants him to do. If we perceive it correctly, this task must emanate exactly from the design that was stated in the last lecture. Before we get into the task, we must know that the purpose of Creation has three aspects, three objectives man has, three fundamental ideas as to why mankind was created. There is no other reason other than these three. I will begin at the “bottom-most” which leads to the second, which leads to the third and the third is the ultimate.
The First Task/Objective: Tikkun ha’Olamot
The first objective as to why man was created is for tikkun ha’olamot---rectification, or restoration, or remediation of universes, or worlds. What does this mean? When I said last week that the universe was created in a state of concealment of the Divine Presence, it was created not in one existential plane but in four, as you learned last week: Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya, which is the world we inhabit. Obviously, as the worlds have more concealment, they have less and less manifestation of Who G-d really is. Therefore, the deficiency that the universe was created in, a deficiency created by G-d Himself---we are not the cause of that deficiency, G-d is---was done so we could have the task to undo that deficiency. That task is called the “chisun ha’bria,” the deficiency that was implanted in Creation to be corrected.
What does it mean to mesaken---to rectify the world to its previous state? It means: to remove the concealment of Who G-d is. It means to restore the revelation of: 1) He is the Only One that is, 2) He is the source of all Creation, 3) He is the absolute Master. These three ideas are what man must realize and all are included under the term of “yichud metziuto”---absolute Oneness. G-d is “ein od milvado”---besides G-d there is no other. He says what goes---period.
Therefore, it is man’s task to convert, to remove the concealment of Who G-d really is, to remove that throughout all the different worlds. That is the first task, to remove these impediments that every entity throughout existence can experience the revelation of Who He is.
Second Task/Objective: Tikkun ha’Klali
When that job will have been done, that is called “tikkun ha’klali”---general rectification or restoration of all Creation to its original state. What state is that?---one in which G-d revealed Himself to be what He is in relation to the universe. That state must be achieved now. Then, and only then, can the messiah come. He cannot come before. He can only come when, in some way, Jews---that’s who is doing it now---will have corrected the world to such an extent that G-d can reveal Himself in terms of Who He really is, will have fulfilled the first objective to take things from hester yechudo---concealment of His Oneness to the state of gilui yechudo---revelation of His Oneness.
Third Task/Objective: Tikkun Atzmuto
Why does man have to do this, to fix Creation? If you fix Creation, you fix yourself. That’s the next idea---tikkun atzmuto. You must restore yourself to what the soul was created to be, to be in a state to perceive incredible revelation, to understand clearly who G-d is. G-d sent the soul down to this world for the purpose of elevating itself, to be responsible for its own elevation. The more you perceive Who G-d is, the greater your being becomes. There is an actual existential change in your being. It’s not that you just know something or feel something—no. There becomes a qualitative difference in the kind of being you are. We don’t know exactly what that means because, as far as we know, being is being and that’s the way it is! But the truth is that existential planes change and it depends on how much G-d reveals Himself. The more Creation allows for the entrance of G-d’s Presence, the more the beings of that universe change to reflect that greater perception of Oneness. Therefore, the more the universe changes, the greater is your change. Literally, your atzmut---being, the quality of your existence changes in a way that is not comprehensible now. This change means that you get shleimut---perfection. That’s what “perfection” means. Because G-d is perfect, the more in contact with the fact that He is you---or you are He---the more perfect you become. The further you are from a perfect being, the greater imperfection exists in you. So, we see how the second task of man is being a misaken---a “fixer,” removing the veil of Who G-d is. In so doing, man changes himself. The second task of man is to change himself.
Tikkun Nehama d’Kesufa
These preliminary ideas are to frame this last idea: the tikkun of nehama d’kesufa---rectification of the condition called “Bread of Shame.” What G-d could have done is to have Created man in the world called “Olam ha’Ba”---Future World. He could have given him the ultimate state to know Who He is. Man is placed in Olam ha’Ze, that world in which man must work for the perception of G-d that he attains in the Future World. G-d want man to be responsible for his ultimate state, to be the actual cause for the state he attains. G-d doesn’t want to give the gift of well-being for free.
Man is very much into the notion of “self-respect.” It is a fundamental psychological drive, to assert oneself (without going into it extensively here). If man is constantly the recipient of external things, then he becomes embarrassed, begins to lose self-respect. Man must feel that he is something, independent, worthwhile. Man gains a sense of---not superiority---but a sense of self from being productive. When man cannot assert his being, when he is constantly dependent, he is filled with self-doubt. Since G-d wants man to be the recipient of His good, he cannot feel that if he has a sense of his own inferiority. Therefore, man must earn his state in the Future World. Man will receive the exact revelation of G-d that he himself bothered to find for himself in this world. What man gets is based upon what man earns. This is the concept of the rectification of the Bread of Shame, the purpose for G-d’s placement of man in this world.
To review: By removing the veil and to reveal G-d’s true Oneness, we change ourselves, therefore, we will have earned our status in the Future World commensurate with these efforts.
Now the question becomes, how does man do this? How does man remove G-d’s concealment and remove the illusion that he, himself, is the cause of all his satisfactions, his material status, to remove these delusions and comprehend G-d’s Oneness and dominion so his bliss in the Future World will be optimal? How can man’s hasagat ha’yichud---comprehension of Oneness be achieved?
It is done with adet yechudo---testimony to His Oneness. You testify to G-d’s Oneness, that He is the source of all being, that He is the only Being that truly exists. This is what reverses the concealment. It’s an amazing principle. The exact amount of concealment of G-d conforms to man’s belief! G-d conceals or reveals Himself depending upon man’s illusions or understanding of Him. In a sense, we control G-d in that He has subjugated Himself voluntarily to man’s expression of his belief in Him. Man’s actions are nothing more than expressions of his belief, consequential actions based on his beliefs
That reality is determined by man’s belief!---you do not know how fundamental and how significant this principle is. Again, reality as to Who G-d is, His presence or absence in this universe---and by “universe,” mean “this world”---is actually determined by what we believe
We create the existential plane by our actions, and those actions are in the service of the ades yechudo, testifying that G-d is the Absolute One.
Mathematicians will appreciate my expressing this mathematically. The fundamental equation of Judaism is: the amount of hester yehudo, the concealment of G-d in this universe, minus the amount that man testifies to His Oneness, is equal to gilui yechudo, to the revelation of G-d in this universe and how much man perceives Him.
What does it mean to say that G-d moves in or out of the universe depending on our estimation about Him? It means that Jews (as opposed to non-Jews for herein lies the difference between them, though it was not always so) in the last 4000 years since the Covenant G-d made with Avraham in the brit bein ha’Betarim---Covenant Between the Parts, have been the sole agents of influencing this. This task was given over to Avraham, the power of tikkun---rectification and kilkul---destruction, ruin. This means that the Jew, by his actions, whether he speaks, thinks, or acts, can actually move G-d in or out of the universe. If he does the right actions, G-d moves in. If a Jew does the wrong actions, G-d moves out. This is the concept of a mesaken---rectifier. The Jew is the only agent that can restore Creation to its original status. A non-Jew can do it too but only if he enters into the covenant by conversion.
If you can fix, you can also destroy. The Jew can remove G-d. That is kilkul---to destroy. A Jew acquires the power of tikkun when he becomes bar-mitzvah, when the male attains the age of 13 years, not a day before. The girl acquires it at the age of 12. Both acquire both powers, of tikkun and kilkul.
What does it mean to “bring G-d back into Creation”? What kind of metaphysical idea is that? It’s simple though it can be explained in a more complex way. When a Jew does a mitzvah, that is the way a Jew testifies. G-d comes back into Creation because the Jew is being the mesaken. The other worlds change as G-d becomes more present and the beings in those worlds really see it and enjoy it, the results of our acts. Evil diminishes. People who want to destroy, to kill, to promote the idea of materialism lose power to exercise their will.
The PLO is a good example. They are ridiculed by the world which is what happened a while ago. The PLO want to destroy Jews but lost their ability to succeed. That is what it means for evil to lose power. But if the Jews commit aveirot---sins, then the PLO are enabled to do what they want by their free will. They don’t have the power independent of the Jews’ actions. If the Jews do the Will of G-d, G-d comes in and evil is diminished and Judaism and its advocates and institutions prosper. People become kinder to one another, Jews yearn to learn more Torah, those in charitable work find that millionaires are donating to them suddenly. The belief in G-d is greatly promoted. These are some of the manifestations of what happens physically when
G-d comes in or out and only the actions of the Jews move Him in or out so if you thought you were an important person, now you really know how important you are.
The Mitzvah as Testimony: Three Levels of Conflict
When we say that the mitzvah is how G-d is brought in or pushed out, what does that mean? The commandments that G-d gave are the vehicle, the instrument, the dial or lever. The objective of Judaism is not to do mitzvahs---that’s a mistake. The objective is to rectify the worlds and bring G-d back, to restore Creation through the doing of the mitzvot (plural). The mitzvah is the instrument, the vehicle, the method by which we testify to His Oneness and change reality.
The Mitzvah and its Three Levels of Conflict: Action, Will, Being
How does the mitzvah accomplish this? When you contemplate doing a mitzvah, there are three levels of conflict: Let’s assume you’re very tired, it’s raining outside and you’re debating whether or not you should go to a lecture on hashkafa---Jewish philosophy. To do so is very commendable and an act of talmud Torah---Torah study, something G-d would like you to do because such an experience would reinforce your beliefs. We can assume it is a big mitzvah because you fulfill talmud Torah by coming here. It is getting late and you don’t know if you want to go because there is also a good movie or a good boxing match on tv. This is the first level of conflict---should I go or not to listen to a lecture about Who G-d is, to understand the depth of Judaism, to reinforce my ideas and derive a great amount of support and inspiration. Should I, instead, just relax and enjoy myself? The first level of conflict is one of action, to go or not. But this is not the essence of the conflict.
The second level is the essence of the conflict, that of will. Should I go to the lecture because G-d wants me to go or should I stay home because I want to. Whose will should dominate? We must decide if we want to observe the Will of G-d. Every commandment has this conflict. Should I obey the commandment or not? Should I do what I want or what G-d wants? Why do what He wants?---because He is, in reality, all that really exists. If I don’t obey His Will, I’m perpetuating the illusion that I think I am a totally independent being, independent of G-d and entitled to exercise my will in any way I want. But we don’t see the “yechudo---Oneness” aspect yet.
The third level asks: why I should obey the Will of G-d? Since He is the only Being that really exists, and if I don’t obey His Will, I’m merely deluding myself into thinking that I’m an independent being. I don’t want to come to the lecture; I want to do what I want because I exist independent of G-d---referred to as “yesh od milvado.” The third level is the conflict of being. It is the statement of G-d’s unity or lack thereof. If G-d is the only thing that exists, then I must listen and obey, act in accordance with His Will.
We see how the mitzvah ultimately has three levels of conflict. If you obey, your act testifies to the reality that G-d is the only existence. If you commit a sin, the opposite statement is being made, that I can do whatever I want because I exist independently, or He doesn’t exist. Every mitzvah or sin carried out testifies to What you believe G-d is. If you testify consistently that G-d exists by doing mitzvahs, then you will experience G-d in the Future World in direct proportion to that. If you do the opposite, testify through lack of obedience or service that G-d is not the only true existence, or does not exist, then you will experience G-d that much less. G-d could say: you think you also have true being?--- so you will remain with that delusion and will have less of Who I really am. The consequence is measure-for-measure. You think you’re somebody then you will remain thinking so.
We see that every mitzvah presents the conflict of yesh od milvado or ein od milvado. Reality conforms to the mitzvah. If you decide to do it, if you express your faith with the mitzvah, G-d removes his concealment based on your testimony. If you do the aveira, that’s the reverse testimony. Therefore, it’s an equal and opposite reaction called “hester yechudo.”
This is not unlike Newton’s law in physics. The laws of the universe are based on the environment man must be within so that he can fulfill the purpose of G-d.
It’s like the Law of Motion, that there’s an exact opposite and equal reaction but it’s not limited to motion; it’s also a rule of the actions of man. This principle is embedded in the essential form of Creation because that is really what the predicament of man is. If you testify to His Oneness, you get that. If you negate His Oneness, you get that.
The fundamental statement that a Jew makes with his life’s work is “Shema Yisrael, ha’Shem elokeinu, ha’Shem echad---Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d is One.” In fact, a Jew is supposed to make this statement before He dies. Why do we say this? Why not say “the Lord is good” or “the Lord is kind,” or “the Lord is smart”? Why do our lives have to be the endeavor of proclaiming His Oneness? Why only that attribute? Now you understand. The entire purpose of Creation is not to know G-d is good or He is kind. Those attributes are merely vehicles to the great understanding that G-d is One, is absolute, the source and master of all being and existence itself. The last letter of the Shema is “ayin” and the last letter of echad is “daled.” Together, they spell “ayd”---witness. Creation pivots around the idea of His absolute Oneness.
Most people do not know this although they know that the “Shema” prayer is very significant. They know it is the greatest proclamation they can make but they never asked themselves why it says “One” and why it is significant. Now you know. To proclaim His “Oneness” is our task through the mitzvot thereby bringing G-d back into Creation.
Four Dimensions of Man: Physical, Mental/Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual
The task of man addresses itself to the four dimensions of man. What are they? Man is a physical being, therefore man has physical tasks. What are they? They are the mitzvot regarding acts and speech. There are many mitzvot we do that are acts such as eating or sitting in a sukkah, putting on tefillin, etc. There are acts involving speech: praying, utterances of statements that we make and so on. This is the physical dimension. The task of man to testify to G-d’s Oneness must involve certain mitzvot done on the plane of physicality.
The second dimension of man is the mental, the intellectual dimension. This too requires commandments, mitzvot done whereby testifying to His Oneness can be accomplished. We learn Torah, hear lectures. We think about G-d to maintain belief in G-d. We foster kavana---intent when we do mitzvot. The mind either contributes to the performance of another mitzvah and act or the mitzvah itself is mental.
The third dimension is the emotional one, the area of feelings, of affect. Man must declare His Oneness with his emotions. How? You must love G-d, right? You must fear G-d and develop certain characteristics, for instance having kind feelings toward others, feeling pity.
The Spiritual Dimension and Meditation as Jewish Avoda---service
There is one more dimension, the spiritual. That is the meditative avoda---service. It is a series of tasks which a person performs which comprises the concept of meditation whereby he declares the Oneness of G-d but it’s more than a declaration. Through meditative avoda, one not only testifies to His Oneness but one perceives that Oneness. Ruach ha’kodesh---Divine inspiration, nevuah---prophecy is achieved through meditative avoda.
G-d wants testimony on all these dimensions however, in the area of meditation on the spiritual aspect which we’ll understand much more of later on, G-d wants man, while in this world, before he dies, to experience Who He is, to actually perceive Him. There was a time---and we’ll get into that later when we review the history of meditation---when G-d actually wanted man to end the journey of seeking G-d; He wanted man to experience Himself in this world without leaving the body. Somehow, man can transcend himself and perceive G-d in another dimension. The culmination of the avoda of the journey of man would result in man’s experience of G-d. This was true during the long period of Jewish history however it is not true today. It is true on certain levels which we’ll talk about when we get into the topic of prophecy but it is no longer true on that level itself.
So, to review: there are the physical, mental, emotional tasks whereby man declares and testifies to the Oneness of G-d and there’s the meditative of which man engages in certain labors to perceive G-d, not merely testify to His Oneness.
This is why meditation is not a foreign idea and not something Judaism bars as something “from the east.” It is nothing to apologize for; it’s an intrinsic part of the Jewish experience, Jewish avoda but it’s not part of avoda now. We will see that there are aspects of meditation that a person can engage in even now but, basically, meditation is part the avoda of Judaism.
I’m now ending the portion of the talk about the task. We now know what it is, the objectives of man according to Judaism. We know that we will get that perception of Oneness at the time that the Oneness is revealed. We also know that the deficiency of the universe was created, that absence of the perception of His Oneness.
In order for man---really the Jew, because that is who does it today---to influence that concealment, to rectify Creation (we can be professionals now and use the term “tikkun”---rectify) not only of this world but all four existential planes because G-d must be perceived in all four, man has to “be existing” on all four existential dimensions in order for him to affect all the olamot---worlds, the areas where G-d’s presence, His true nature and relationship with this world is concealed.
How does this occur? How is it possible for a person to remove the concealment of G-d’s Oneness from all Creation if all we are is here? We are not there, do not exist on those planes. We can barely do it here, let alone there. That is the next area to be explored, the concept of “self.” Who, what, is “self”? The next concept is that of the “mind.” We want to understand the structure of the self and the mind, the components of the elements of these. After that, we are going to get into the spiritual structure of man, what the soul is. Once we understand the components of man, we will be able to understand how man can ascertain the universe enabling us to “slip into” our understanding of this fundamental area of man as metaken---a “fixer.”
What is self? That’s a rather funny question because everybody’s sitting here listening to me with their “selves.” The self is an indivisible and discrete entity or being. What does that mean? This means that you are not two but are one, one self, one being. You are not two people---“ourselves.” The self cannot be divided in two. I can’t walk over to you and split you. The self does not admit the plurality, doesn’t accept multiplicity. It is one entity that is indivisible which is contrary to all other entities in this world. Everything can be split, and further split, and further split. Just like G-d cannot be split, the self cannot be split; that is what “indivisibility” means.
The self is also discrete. You, as a self, are distinct, differentiated from other selves you know. There are clearly boundaries between selves. You are not the same as some other self. You experience distinction or differentiation from other beings.
Self has an intrinsic and extrinsic identity. Self possesses an intrinsic identity whereby it is recognized as differentiated from other selves. There is something about you that you know is you and not somebody else. You have some kind of feeling of self that you know you are you. We don’t know what that intrinsic identity is, but it’s there and it gives you the feeling that you are you and unique. You know you are not somebody else. If you didn’t have that intrinsic identity, you would begin to feel that you are “other.” The boundaries between you and others would become vague and clouded. It seems to be the same self no matter what garb it assumes. You know that no matter what suit of clothes you put on, you know you are still you. We will see that self has a garb and it is the extrinsic identity, but no matter what body you assume---and you are capable of many bodies---you always know who you are.
Self doesn’t comprehend its true nature nor does it perceive its intrinsic identity. You don’t know who you really are. You are all sitting here looking out. You in this room knows not who you really are. Self doesn’t know its own nature. It is a complete and absolute mystery, the self divested of all garb. You cannot perceive the identity of your nature that identifies you as always being the same, and that identifies as being different from others you know. But this doesn’t stop you from having a sense of self and sense of closeness to who you are.
Garb: Body, Personality
The self also possesses an extrinsic identity called a “personal identity.” Through its garb, it recognizes that it is, what it is and what it’s not, and not the same as another self. It is important to know that you are not identical with your garb. You are not the body. You are a self in the body. The body is your garb which you assume for a certain period of time. You inhabit, or reside, in it. You own the garb but you are not identical with it.
What does this garb consist of? It consists of, first, a body. All of you have a physical body wherein you reside.
The second aspect of the garb is that you, it, has a personality. What is “personality”? Psychologically speaking, it’s the total behavioral pattern of a person. It is the pattern of manifested behavior that a person exhibits. Incidentally, personality is learned not inherited. You cannot blame it on your mothers and fathers (DNA) if you’re not satisfied with who you are. It is learned and it is consistent. You will never change your personality. It is possible to unlearn; that’s the only way you can change your personality and that’s what therapy tries to do.
The third aspect of personality is that it’s predictable. If I meet you today, I see you one way. If I see you over the course of a week, I will perceive you has having become predictable. I need only see the total range of your behaviors to know who you are. It’s not possible for me to see you four years from now and see a completely different person. You may have changed because there are aspects of change that are built-in, but that is the result of the process of learning. Personality is a learned, consistent, predictable phenomenon.
Brief Detour: Personality as Opposed to Temperament or Constitution---Inherited as Opposed to Acquired
As an aside, there is a distinction between personality and “temperament” or “constitution” and, often, they are confused with “personality.” Temperament or constitution is not learned; it is inherited and consists of four elements regarding stimulus sensitivity. All infants differ in the amount of stimulus they are sensitive towards. You’ll notice that some infants cry at the slightest noise and some don’t care. Some don’t mind if they’re in a wet diaper yet some infants can’t take it for ten minutes. For those who are mothers, they certainly know what I mean. That’s called “stimulus sensitivity” and it is not learned. How sensitive you are is a predisposition or tendency that is part of temperament or constitution.
The second idea about temperament or constitution is what’s called “vigor” or “energy level.”
Some infants are very active and some are very quiet. This too is temperament. The extent to which someone is active or passive affects their growth, maturation.
The third aspect of self which is inherited is the capacity for intelligence or alertness even though intelligence is shaped by environment to a great extent. There is a certain innate capacity for intelligence.
The fourth area is “stress tolerance.” A person has only a certain amount of tolerance for psychic pain and tension. Beyond that, he can’t really take it. You are born with that.
Environment can shape what you were born with, but there’s a certain amount that you come into the world with, but it’s not that which we term “personality.”
Returning to the concept of personality as the second element of the garb that the self assumes, it has three areas: the first is “characteristics” or “traits.” The second is the “behavioral patterns” or “modes” that a person uses toward fulfilling needs i.e. getting a job, supporting oneself. That is learned because you know one way succeeds and the other fails. The third is “reactivity,” the patterns you deploy to avoid threats, obstructions, or stress. All three “stamp” you for who you really are and are the second distinct feature of the garb, the intrinsic and extrinsic identity and, thus, your personal identity. The third distinct feature of the garb is what we call “experiences,” what you went through. You know yourself not only because you know what body and personality you have but you also know yourself because you have peculiar kinds of thoughts, certain mental images, certain feelings and sensory and bodily sensations. You feel sensations coming from your body, from your senses, what you see and hear, etc.
The fourth element of the garb is past memories. You know who you are because you remember specific and distinct events, experiences that happened to you. If you went into another body, you would know who you are because you take the memories with you. Imagine if you didn’t have the same body, the same personality, did not have particular experiences and memories! Who, I ask, are you? You would not know who you are because everything that you know as “self” has been stripped away. You have no extrinsic identity, no personal identity. The only way to know who you are and distinct from someone else is through your intrinsic identity. If you do not feel who your intrinsic identity is when you leave the body, you have an awful lot of tzuris---trouble.
You know yourself through body, through personality, through experiences that you’ve gone through and memories of them. Due to these, you know that you are you and not somebody else.
Of course, you do know your intrinsic identity when you leave the body but it is only when we are in the body that we do not know who we really are. We assume we are the body, the personality, the experiences and the memory because that’s the only way we can find ourselves, locate ourselves. It comes out that the garb of the body which is our extrinsic identity---the body, the personality, the experiences, the memory---enables the self to achieve an extrinsic or personal identity, to achieve what’s called a “working identity” because that’s the only thing that works for you here, whereby the self can, ultimately, comprehend one’s own nature. Here, you will think that you are your body. That’s what you think you are; it enables you to identify the sameness even when you put on different clothing, go to a different spot. You know who you are because these things follow you. They also enable you to differentiate yourself from other selves.
I want to mention that this extrinsic, or personal, identity that you achieve through your garb is really an illusion. You are not any of these things. There is something about you---which we will talk about---that has nothing to do with these ideas and that is who you really are---your intrinsic identity, your true nature.
To delve deeper into the concept of “self,” there is another fascinating area---and these are crucial ideas to understand in order to comprehend meditation, the Eastern religions. This is the only way to do it because the Eastern religions do deal with the understanding of these ideas. The self is aware, conscious of its own existence through its continuous experience of reality. In other words---and this is very, very mystical---it comprehends its existence always through some perception: thought, a mental image, a feeling, a bodily sensation. In other words, while you are thinking, you know you are. In the very act of perception itself, the self senses its own being. The self cannot, or does not, observe itself or sense its own being except through the perception it experiences. That is a very bizarre kind of thought but it’s true if you think about it. There is no way you can experience self except when you are exercising being or experiencing reality via one or more of these four: thinking, feeling, conjuring mental imagery, perceiving bodily sensation including that of the senses.
I don’t know if you realize how narrow is your “lock-in” to reality. If you stop thinking, feeling seeing things in your mind, and stop sensing bodily sensation or physical sensation, what would you experience?---nothing. Would you experience self? How?
I will leave you with those ideas because we’re gonna explore them at greater length when we go into the topic of yoga. Remember, you think and, behind the thought, is the self. Behind the feeling is “I know I am” because I feel. Sounds familiar, right?---Descarte’s “I think therefore I am.” You cannot experience self any other way than through experiencing reality. It cannot sense its existence through the self-as-self alone. Can the self know itself without experiencing reality?---no, but can it be achieved? We’ll see.
The self has awareness, has consciousness of its garb and external reality. You know who you are and you know external reality. The self also has “self-awareness, “ aware of that faculty of awareness. You are aware that you are aware! Not only do you know reality but you know that you know reality. You know that you are a self. Man is the only creature, the only entity as far as we know, that has self-awareness. Animals do not. They know things but are not aware of themselves or an abstract entity called “self.” To have that is to have a higher level of thinking.
Self is the owner, or possessor of the thoughts, the images, the feelings, and the sensations. You own them but you are not them. You are not your thought or your feeling, not your bodily sensation. You’re not the image in your mind. You possess them; they are an activity you engage in but self is not the experience.
We are now up to the concept of “mind” and its elements which we must address before we try to fully understand “self.” “Mind” is based in, and emerges from, the physical organ called the “brain.” That is the location of your mind. It is nowhere else.
The second idea is that “mind” is where all mental activity or phenomena take place, where it all happens. It is the repository of all mental activity and phenomena. The existential dimension of the mind is called the “mental plane” as opposed to the existential dimension of the body which is called the “physical plane.”
The mind consists of the following mental activities:
1- Thoughts: occur in the mind as a mental activity that exists in a mental plane. Thoughts include: recall of ideas, memories
2- Intellect: gives rise to thoughts, reasoning that consists of concepts judgments, syllogisms, etc.
3- Imagination: gives rise to images and perceptions
4- Memory: allows the intellect to recall former thoughts
5- Feelings / Affect: experienced in the mind, occurring in the mental plane
6- Sensations: bodily sensation, including the five senses
7- Will: when the self (which exists in the mind) decides, makes a decision
8- Consciousness / Awareness: ability to be awake, to be conscious of reality
Regarding bodily sensation, let’s say, for instance, somebody bangs on the table and creates sound waves which, physically, strikes the eardrum, vibrates nerves, and goes into the brain. We do not hear a sound. We hear a mental representation of what the sound is. That is what we “hear.” In the end, it is a mental construct which brings us to an interesting idea: we do not know if we are all experiencing the same thing because the truth is you experience reality purely in the mind. It’s all mental. I don’t know if you’re looking or seeing the same thing I do. Who knows? You may see an entirely different reality than I do. For example, the tape recorder is black. I see something that I know to be “black.” Maybe you see what I think to be “brown” because everyone calls it “black” you also call it “black.” We can never know if we are experiencing the same reality because we are only experiencing externals in the mind.
Regarding “consciousness,” some people employ consciousness more than others. There are people who are more turned off than on, but that varies from individual to individual. In any case, consciousness or awareness is a mental activity that happens because of the mind.
Regarding “will,” when the mind makes a decision, it “wills” but what does that mean? There is a mechanism that exists between self and the body that connects the self to the body and, suddenly, it triggers physical action. The will is that which activates that trigger, that physical action. It “fires” brain cells which then fires nerve cells which fires muscle cells so that physical action results. What is the connection between the self and brain? We don’t know. Nobody knows, but it’s termed “will.” The will is the faculty in the mind that the self uses to activate, to fire up, brain cells to initiate physical action in the physical plane.
The self resides in the mind but is not synonymous or identical with the mind nor is it an activity of the mind. You are not your mind. You don’t pop out of your mind. You are not the result of a mental activity as some scientists have suggested. If it were so, who started the mind generating to pop itself out? It’s putting the cart before the horse. Self is an entity independent of mind. It uses mind to interface with the physical world. That’s the way you get around, using the mind to interface and interact with the physical world. Self exists in the mental plane, the mental sphere or mental dimension; that’s where you’re located—not on the physical plane. You are located in the mind and interface with the world through the “device” called “mind” via its many faculties of imagination, intellect, will, etc. The self receives input from the physical world through the mind and, therefore, receives this input on the mental plane.
I don’t know if you realize this but what goes on in your mind is the total extent of your experience in reality. You’re either thinking or feeling or sensing or imagining or asleep, in which case there is no consciousness about any of these activities. There’s nothing else you do that constitutes involvement with reality. I say this not to give you an inferiority complex but to express a reality of how limited we really are in our confrontation with reality. We’ve got to interpret reality via this little thing called “mind,” to figure out this entire Creation. The self interacts with this physical world through the mind to achieve its desires and goals because once you can will and activate the brain, which activates the action, you can involve yourself, can interact with the world.