What’s going on in the world today is a reflection of our collective inner world. Our inner world is key. When you don’t understand your inner world, you can’t understand the outer world. One of the biggest tasks on the spiritual realm is the inner/outer balance we create in our own lives. We struggle sometimes between being too easy and being too hard. The Kabbalistic model of the Tree of Life comprises ten sefirotic energies that are essentially a pattern for all creation.
What is that pattern that we are talking about? The highest sefirot is keter, which is the Divine Will. In the liberation process eventually we merge into the Divine Will, and we are only the Divine Will expressing. The questions “Should I do this?” and “Shouldn’t I do this?” do not arise. You simply are that expression.
Next is Hokhmah, the direct knowing as wisdom, and there is also Binah, the direct understanding having an intellectual quality, from which all creation emerges. Keter, Hokhmah, and Binah are the upper three sefirot (or the Supernal Triad). They are universal in scope.
The lower six sefirot represent individual self-conscious awareness. Gevurah means severity and is about borders, boundaries, clarity, discrimination, and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong in the cosmic sense rather than relative morality (which causes a lot of confusion). On this level we also have chesed (literally, mercy), which is loving-kindness. In the middle, we have the balance symbolized by tiferet or beauty. It is the eternal working for dynamic balance between gevurah and chesed. As we both live and/or evolve, that balances shifts.
Also among the lower six sefirot is netzach, which is what I call spiritual endurance. The spiritual path requires a certain amount of persistent energy and steadiness. People can take a drug and have a great experience, but if the foundation isn’t there it doesn’t sustain. Sustaining endurance is very, very important for spiritual life.
Another lower sefirot is hod, which is awe. Awe also means, “to see”. Awe supports endurance, and endurance supports awe. Yesod, which is what we are talking about in the Torah portion this week in the story of Yosef, is the lowest of the upper nine sefirot and is the energy of Yosef. Yesod is the creative life force and also the proper sexual expression. Yosod empowers these other qualities.
Along the central column of the Tree of Life is malkut, yesod, tiferet, and da’at. Da’at is, in a sense, the psychic-spiritual mind and is not considered one of the sefirot per se. The upper nine sefirot are the heavens above the physical plane of malkut. The term heavens does not refer to the sky, sun, moon, and stars; they are the physical plane. The term heavens refers to the astral plane or non-material plane and on up.
Malkut is the earth plane. The whole concept and teaching is how do we get all of these coming in through the kingdom? It is a funneling of all of those energies into how we live in this world. The proper awareness of the 32 paths of the Tree of Life is the walk. An evolving spiritual life is the ongoing walk between the bli’mah and the mah, the Nothing and the Something respectively. It’s the spiritual challenge.
The Tree of Life pattern recapitulates from the smallest electrons to the galaxies and beyond. I am most interested in talking about how this pattern relates to our spiritual evolution here on the physical plane. This perspective takes us back to the spiritual challenges, where we really have to look closely at the balance between boundaries and clarity and loving-kindness.
If you go to a movie and all the lights stay on, then you cannot see the screen. This is chesed without gevurah or without boundaries. If you go to a movie and the lights are dimmed so you can see the movie, this is the balance of chesed and gevurah. The dimming of the light is the gevurah. The proper balance is when you can optimally see what’s happening on the movie screen. This is a physical metaphor. In our own lives, if we’re only living in gevurah or if we’re only living in chesed, it often creates a real imbalance. This is important to understand and you don’t really understand it, if you don’t understand that it is an internal discussion. If you are trying to erase one side or the other, you block coming into that divine balance.
So again, it is key in spiritual life to in every moment establishing this balance of chesed and gevurah. We can see this playing out in society, both globally and here within the U.S. We see that there is a great imbalance because both sides of that aren’t really respecting the other side. The dialogue stops at “they’re wrong.” Now Donald Trump expressed this when he stated that before we open our borders to refugees we should consider what we are doing. That is a gevurah statement. The pure chesed statement is to say that Trump is a terrible person and a bigot for saying that; this is a democracy and we should take everybody in. We’ve all heard this dialogue. I’m not making a pro-Trump statement. At one time German politician Angela Merkel was in favor of opening up all the gates to everyone in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Now, a few days after Trump’s gevurah statement, she’s changed her position because people called into question her extreme chesed position. She has since backed down to take another look at the issues as a result of others saying that this is not a balanced approach. This more balanced tiferet position is one that much of Europe has neglected to reach. Other countries such as Hungary are more gevurah and are allowing few or no Syrian refugees through their borders.
Although Trump has been painted as being a bigot off the deep end, it is now coming out that Congress is addressing the immigration issue that he was speaking to from a tiferet approach. The issues of gevurah, chesed, and tiferet are played out in socially, relationally, and internally. It helps to understand it consciously rather than with unconscious belligerence toward those polarized and to honor the legitimate respectful dialogue to find tiferet solutions to whatever conflicts arise. Just as a socially respectful dialogue is important, there needs to be an inner dialogue for ourselves on the spiritual path.
At the cosmic level, what matters is within us. Are we creating the right balance within ourselves? Are we being so strict on ourselves that we are not allowing for the simchah or spiritual joy within? Or are we being so open-hearted that we are not able to create proper boundaries? We can eat as many sweets as we want believing there will be no consequences such as diabetes. So life requires the specific thoughtful striving for balance. It is important for us to be able to see the unconscious reflection in which society is playing this out, and for us to be the consciousness aspect in spiritual life so that we can be considering what we are doing and understanding that it’s really legitimate to ask those questions within one’s self.
We see this in relationships also. People will espouse unconditional love, which is chesed rhetoric; however, in every successful relationship that I see, there is a conditional bottom line. Bottom lines are often not spoken, and this is how it gets confused. In healthy relationships, there are often articulated bottom lines. These qualities are experienced within our personal life, our relationships, and the society around us. They are all the same issues. Spiritual life requires us to acknowledge that those issues exist in for us to think about it.
This is also played out in the levels of spiritual life, which is about the walk between the bli’mah and the mah, the nothing and the something. If we only stay in the bli’mah of the nothing it makes is hard to function on the physical plane and to also receive the full lessons we are meant to have on the spiritual plane. We are walkers between the worlds, participating in all, but not solely part of either. It is this multi-level integration that is key for the highest level of Tree of Life consciousness.
May everybody be blessed that they may be able to envelope that balance within ourselves on all levels.