*** The essay combines two shiurim – 11/14/2015 and 11/21/2015.***
*** Disclaimer: 1) this is not a transcript; 2) R’ Mendel didn’t write this personally ***
Zuhama And Us.
Physical and spiritual worlds.
The job of a Jew is to purify, uplift, and transform the physical world into spiritual. When this happens, only beings who transcend the physical and sufficiently develop their spirituality can “survive” in the new world.
What is a spiritual world? Is it a distinct world, in a sense “separate” from the physical one? Or there are rather two distinct views on one world – if we view it using “narrow” vision – we see the physical world, and if we expand our vision and see in a more wholesome manner – we observe the spiritual world? In other words, is the physical universe exists “out there”, or it’s a subjective view on greater reality and we’re only missing an “instrument” to see the full picture?
It’s a very interesting and important distinction to keep in mind, but let’s keep it as a question rather then trying to reconcile it.
The error of Odom Harishon.
Odom Harishon had a choice. Ultimate choice. He erred, and the history the way we know it, 6,000 years of pain, suffering, misery, filled with frustration and ignorance, was initiated.
What was his mistake? How do we understand it?
He was given two pairs of “glasses”. One – physical, another – spiritual. He was encouraged to look at the reality through spiritual “glasses”, yet at the same time he was tempted to look at the reality through physical “glasses”.
The spiritual glasses was his soul. The physical glasses was his body with its 5 senses.
How does the reality look through the eyes of spirituality? It’s the ultimate true reality of “there is nothing and nobody beyond God” – the God’s Oneness seen and experienced powerfully and directly.
How does the reality look through the eyes of physicality? It’s the limited fragmented disconnected world of independent pieces, entities, forces – disconnected from God, disconnected from each other, lacking, competing, lacking, suffering.
His choice was between physical and spiritual – before the error, and after the error. However, there is a fundamental difference between the choice he faced before the error, and the choice he (and all his descendents for that matter) faced afterward. Let’s understand the difference.
Physical and spiritual before and after.
What did Odom Harishon know without a shadow of a doubt?
- He was created by God to experience an ultimate state of being – which can be loosely understood as limitless happiness.
- God gave him a choice between two paths to the ultimate state of being and God wanted him to choose a path.
- A path of overcoming obstacles leads to more enhanced state of being than the an easy path without obstacles.
- God wanted him to “earn” more enhanced state of being by overcoming an obstacle, thus by taking a path with a greater obstacle.
What didn’t Odom Harishon know?
He didn’t know which obstacle exactly God wanted him to overcome. He needed to understand the obstacle, and thus to see the path which contains that obstacle as the one leading to the ultimate enhanced state of being.
This is exactly where Odom Harishon made a mistake. He decided that the path explicitly commanded by God was easy, while the path explicitly prohibited by God, but suggested by the Nachash, was the difficult path. In other words, he mistakenly decided that God said to him one thing, while keeping in mind the other thing, hoping that he would realize what He had in mind.
This was the original challenge of Man, the one he failed by making a mistake on intellectual level, without actually being drawn towards physicality, in fact in spite of him being drawn towards spirituality due to his elevated nature and vision of reality.
His line of reasoning was as follows. From the level he was at, it was simple and obvious that he should choose spiritual “glasses”. There was no challenge in that. However, if he goes down, into physicality, by choosing physical “glasses”, the right choice wouldn’t be that apparent any more, but he would still choose the spiritual, thus raising himself to his original level first, and then by choosing even greater spirituality would arrive to the ultimate destination prepared for him by God – an ultimate enhanced state of being.
So what went wrong? Why couldn’t he come back up swiftly and powerfully after choosing to go down, as he planned? What pulled him down? After all, isn’t a soul very powerful, being able to purify and transform the physical matter?
To answer this question, we are to realize what happened to the choice between physical and spiritual after the error, as it was no longer the same choice.
Originally Odom Harishon wasn’t tempted by the physicality the way we are. He was above and beyond. So why did he do what he did?
After the error physicality is presenting temptation, while spirituality is presenting a threat – exactly the opposite to what Odom Harishon experienced before the error.
What’s the temptation of physicality? What’s the threat of spirituality?
Spirituality gives me the experience of God’s Oneness: nothing and nobody exists except God. But this means that I don’t exist either! That is to say, I exist enough to observe and register in my consciousness the fact that I don’t exist. This view is threatening to my ego. My ego perceives it as death! I have to face the reality of my own nothingness in Allness of God. What, is it truth? Could be, but it’s a harsh truth, isn’t it?
Physicality gives me the experience of my own independence, as well as independence of other entities, forces, and phenomena. I sense an opportunity to become powerful and independent. I am no longer nothing, I am everything! What, is it false? Distortion? Could be, but it’s such a sweet lie, isn’t it?
Briefly, spirituality is viewed as death, while physicality is viewed as life!
But why the choice between physical and spiritual was transformed so drastically? Why was it clear to Odom Harishon that physicality meant death and spirituality meant life, while after the error the meanings were reversed?
Let’s understand this by the way of a metaphor.
Is it clear and obvious to you that the way a criminal, a murderer, a thief looks at the world is distorted and disgusting?
Sure it is.
So if I give you an ability to peek INTO the world of a criminal from the inside, through his eyes, just to experience it for a second – would you easily come back to your normal state? Would you be tempted to stay there for longer if you didn’t have to? Let me guess: no, you wouldn’t! You would bounce back up swiftly!
But what if… What if you acquire the criminal mind and eyes, and that would now be ALL you are, your self-identity has shifted, as you’ve lost the connection to the higher more decent human being you’ve been till now? You probably still remember you were the one, till recently, but you no longer ARE the one!
So too Odom Harishon before the error. It was clear to him that he would come back up powerfully, in a flash, thus earning spirituality, earning God’s Oneness, choosing to come back to God from a much more distant place comparing to where he was in the beginning – exactly as desired by God, or at least this is how he thought.
He didn’t consider only one small detail. As long as he remains experientially in the context of the higher vision of reality, at the same time given access to the lower vision – it would indeed be too obvious that the lower view is false, illusion, corruption, distortion, and he would run back up immediately. It would be no-brainer, it wouldn’t present any challenge, just like it didn’t look as a challenge before that.
But God was prepared for such an eventuality. He had created a concept of zuhama – a concept of extreme importance to understand. A soul can’t purify or transform zuhama. As zuhama entered the reality, the work of purification (i.e. weakening and disabling zuhama) has to be done on the level of physicality.
God didn’t actually create zuhama per se, it was created as a concept, as a potential, and it was up to Odom Harishon to give it existence and power or not. How so?
Once Odom Harishon chose to look at the world through physicality – by doing so he gave a license to zuhama to exist in actuality, he gave it a license, and the license allowed the angel in charge of zuhama to redirect God’s energy to himself, to transform into zuhama. Who was the angel? Satan himself.
Satan was overjoyed. He got a gift. He got the energy that he was able to transform into zuhama and to infuse into the world, and specifically into Odom Harishon.
What does injected zuhama accomplish?
When injected in a human being, zuhama sets up the reality level for him. That is to say, if before an injection a human being sees the lower level of reality in the context of experiencing the higher level of reality, now zuhama disconnects him from the experiencing the higher level of reality altogether. He now experiences the lower reality in its own context. What happens to the higher level? The higher reality becomes surreal, abstract, intellectual – it’s no longer perceived as real. It’s no longer experienced. Even if you know as clear as day that just a second ago the higher reality was more real to you than the lower one – now you have this as an intellectual truth, while you actually experience the truth of the lower reality. You are cutoff. You die to the higher reality, and are born into lower reality.
Worth repeating: after zuhama “injection” you are thrown down in such a way that you are now belonging to the lower reality – it becomes yours, anything above your new level of reality is now fantasy, intellectual exercise, unreal and almost surreal.
On this lower level you again have a choice, yet a different one – tempted by physicality more than before, and threatened by spirituality more than before. However, the root of the choice is the same – it’s the choice between physicality and spirituality, as physicality and spirituality are two opposite poles on the continuum. Wherever on the continuum you are, no matter how low or how high, you always have a choice to move in the direction of physicality, or in the opposite direction of spirituality – towards fragmentation and independence, or towards God and His Oneness.
Zuhama locks you up on the level you arrive. Zuhama cuts you off from the higher context. Zuhama makes the higher reality to become unreal, surreal, abstract, conceptual, non-experiential.
If not for zuhama – you would immediately bounce back up to your highest level of being, as a soul is way too more powerful than a body and can transform it in a flash! You would never remain in the lower reality for more than a few moments – perhaps just enough to satisfy your curiosity.
Satan as a zuhama manager.
Satan is a zuhama manager. His main instrument of influence is zuhama. Zuhama is a force which seems to be independent from God. That is to say, even Satan himself, as well as all the other angels and heavenly beings, can’t detect its connection to God. Satan becomes delusional. Satan is drunk with power and seriously thinks that he can rival God Himself, if only he gets enough of the energy at his disposal. Yes, he gets the Divine energy to begin with, but then it becomes his own, or so he thinks in his delusion…
How is he getting more and more energy? By tempting us to choose physicality and discard spirituality – once we make a choice to his liking – he is given more access to the Divine energy and he becomes more powerful, he can inject more zuhama into the world, thus throwing the world into physicality, away from spirituality, deeper and deeper.
What does it mean to the world and its inhabitants?
It means bad news to all of us. Why?
The world was created perfect. Perfection implies harmony and balance. Nothing is lacking, and nothing is extra. Just perfect.
Once Satan grabs the Divine energy to himself – enveloping it and transforming it for his purposes – this energy is now missing from the world. Deficiency is introduced in the creation. The world no longer has enough energy!
To paraphrase the second law of thermodynamics, the entropy of a system increases, unless there is an influx of fresh energy from outside of a system. What does it mean in practical terms? It means that our lower reality doesn’t have enough energy, and everything eventually dies, gets destroyed, decomposes, decays. That’s why we call Satan a master of demolition, an angel of death, an expert of destruction. Any being is always dying, even if in its “youth” a child is replenished with energy faster than losing energy dying; when we are getting older the lack of energy manifests sound and clear – now a body is dying at a faster rate than rejuvenating, and it can’t be otherwise, as Satan is using up the missing energy to create his powerful illusions for us. The process of decomposition, demolition, destruction is never stopped – as driven by our choices the energy is redirected to Satan – who transforms it into zuhama, injecting it into the world – thus strengthening and deepening the illusion of physicality and its temptations, taking us lower and lower into the physicality, cutting us off from experiencing spirituality, making us face the choice between physicality and spirituality lower and lower, wherever we are.
Zuhama is existing non-existence. It can’t exist, but it does exist by virtue of feeding on existence, by temporarily borrowing the energy from where it really belongs, thus introducing decay, decomposition, death, pain, suffering, ignorance, etc.
This is what God meant when he told Odom Harishon that on the day he ate from the tree he would surely die. The death entered the world when zuhama was granted existence by Odom Harishon.
At the same time, Nachash didn’t lie when he told Odom Harishon that he would become just like God after eating from the tree – he said the truth – or, to be precise – the false he perceived as being true.
The hidden irony.
So zuhama is surely bad, isn’t it? By means of zuhama Satan takes the creation further away from God, doesn’t he?
Yes, it is. Yes, he does. However, the matters are not that simple…
By giving in to the temptations we allow Satan to intercept more energies and grow big, powerful, and wild, thus diminishing our vitality and being, which leads to lack and suffering, which knocks off our pride and power and our ability to enjoy and control, which in its turn… provides the necessary correction to the creation.
There are two sides of a coin. One – Oneness and Allness of God. Two – our selflessness, refinement and diminishing of our self, our “I”. The two sides go together. In a simplistic way we may say – the more I the less God, the less I the more God. Our arrogance contradicts Oneness of God. Our selflessness welcomes back Oneness of God.
There are two ways to correct the world. The pleasant way and the painful way. The way of right choices and the way of wrong choices. The right choices means voluntary diminishing of our self, allowing God to enter the world and to manifest. The wrong choices means becoming arrogant and delusional, at the same time, as we now know, initiating the painful process of knocking off the arrogance, diminishing the self, thus curing the delusional mind and at the end of a day welcoming the Divine into the world, even if somewhat unintentional…
Days of mashiach.
What is the essence of the period in the history called “the days of mashiach”?
The days of mashiach arrive when Satan’s energies are depleted, he no longer has zuhama to inject in the world. As the world has been corrected, Satan is exhausted and dies of starvation! This happens before the material world ceases to exist, transformed into the spiritual and the world to come.
What kind of the world is the physical world during the days of mashiach, i.e. the physical world without zuhama – with no zuhama in us?
We can’t imagine how the world is going to be after the material world becomes transformed into the spiritual and eventually into the world to come – those horizons are beyond our imagination, but the world of the days of mashiach is within our grasp.
All the Divine energy is showed onto the creation – without Satan stealing the energy. Our physicality becomes perfect – no pain, no disease, no suffering, no death, no weakness, no aging, no ignorance – we can all imagine this new world.
Yet, the caveat is – we all have to die before the period can begin. The process of death (combined with some processes after death) clears up the zuhama.