"I Saw a Reversed World"
(Babylonian Talmud, Tract Pesachim)
What is reality? How do we perceive it? Does it exist without us, or is it a picture created within us, depending on our inner qualities?
It seems obvious—reality is everything we see around us: houses, people, the entire universe…. Reality is what we can see, touch, hear, taste and smell. This is reality. Or is it?
It’s morning. You open your eyes and stretch. It's a new day, the sun is shining, and the birds are tweeting. But deep inside, you feel that something isn't right. You woke up on the wrong side of bed, and the last thing you feel like doing is getting up. But you remember that yesterday was a perfect day; you knew that it was going to be a great day the moment you woke up, and you shone all day long. And today, you don’t even want to get out of bed.
So what actually changed? Did reality change? Or did you?
According to Kabbalah, the picture of the world as we know it is, in fact, non-existent. "The world" is a phenomenon felt by human beings. It reflects the extent to which a person's qualities match the quality of the abstract force outside of him, the force of Nature.
So what is this force of Nature that surrounds us? Kabbalists describe it as the quality of absolute love and giving. Furthermore, they explain that the degree of equivalence between man's qualities and the quality of Nature is what man perceives as "the world."
What does this mean? Let's use a radio receiver to demonstrate. The radio stations are continuously broadcasting, but we hear their broadcasts only when we tune the radio to a certain frequency. How does the radio receiver "catch" the broadcast? It generates an inner frequency that is identical to the sound waves in the air outside of it. So, the radio receiver "caught" the broadcast only after it has changed its inner frequency, but the sound waves were there all along.
Kabbalists explain that we perceive the reality outside of us in the exact same way—according to the "frequency" that we generate within us. In other words, the reality that surrounds us is completely dependent on our inner qualities. Hence, only we can change it.
One's Life Is Within Oneself
In order to understand the way we perceive reality, let's picture man as a closed box with five "openings": eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hands. These organs represent our five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. We perceive reality through these five senses. The range of tones we can hear, sights we can see and so forth, are completely dependent on the perception of our senses.
For example, let's have a look at how our hearing mechanism works. First, the sound waves assemble next to the ear drum and cause it to vibrate. The ear drum's vibrations move the bones in the middle ear, and as a result signals are sent to the brain. The brain then translates the sound waves into sounds or voices. This is how we hear. In other words, the entire hearing process takes place within us. All our other senses work the same way.
The signals that arrive through all our senses go to the brain's control center. There, the newly received information is compared with the existing information in our memory. Based on this comparison, our brain then depicts a picture of a world that seems to exist “in front” of us. This process creates the feeling that we live in a specific "place," even though that place is really inside of us.
So what do we truly perceive? Only our inner reaction to the external stimuli—not what is actually outside. We are "closed inside our box," hence we can't really tell what's out there.
Our pictures of reality, therefore, result from the structure of our senses and the existing information in our brains. Years ago, science discovered that electrically stimulating the human brain will make us feel as if we’re in a certain place and situation.
In fact, natural scientists already know that different creatures perceive the world differently. A cat's ability to see through darkness is six times greater than ours. The dog's sense of hearing is much sharper and sensitive than ours—dogs can hear regular sounds long before people hear them. The human eye is tuned to a wavelength that ranges between purple and red. That is why we can't see a shorter wavelength than purple, such as ultraviolet. However, bees are able to perceive ultraviolet radiation and use it to locate different types of flowers.
Such examples easily show that if humans had other senses, they would perceive a completely different picture of reality.
It Was All a Dream
Kabbalists explain that man can perceive reality on two levels, and both are completely influenced by his inner qualities:
On the first level, a human being’s inner quality is "egoism," which is opposite to the quality of Nature. This quality of egoism, which we presently possess, makes us feel separated from others and even encourages us to take advantage of them. Egoism is also the reason that our picture of reality is a world of warfare, struggle, poverty and corruption.
However, gradually our life experience makes us realize that egoistic perception does not bring us true satisfaction, since it can never experience a pleasure that lasts.
On the second, higher level, our inner quality is absolute love and giving—just like the quality of Nature's force. Those who perceive the world this way can see how all people function as parts of one system, working in reciprocity and creating a circle of endless pleasure.
According to Kabbalah, our existence on the first level is just a phase we go through, and its whole purpose is to let us independently change our perception of reality. Kabbalists, who learned how to change their perception, define our present existence as "the imaginary life" or "the imaginary reality."
In contrast, they call the corrected, whole and perfect existence "real life" or "the true reality." When looking back on their previous, egoistic perceptions, they describe them as a dream by saying, "we were like unto them that dream." (Psalms 126:1)
This means that presently the true reality is concealed from us. We do not feel it because we perceive ourselves and the world according to our inner qualities, which are presently egoistic. At the moment, we do not sense that all people are connected as one because we repel such a relationship. The egoistic desire imprinted within us is not interested in such connections, and that is why it does not let us see the true picture of reality.
If we invert our egoism to the quality of Nature—loving and giving—we will feel and perceive completely different things around us that we did not notice before. Moreover, everything we saw before will look completely different—whole, eternal and purposeful. This is what Kabbalists mean in the verse, "I saw a reversed world" (Babylonian Talmud, Tract Pesachim).
Taste and See
The wisdom of Kabbalah teaches that our purpose in life is to independently rise from our present, limited existence to the true, eternal existence.
How do we do it? The only way to break free of egoistic perception is to make contact with the reality that exists outside of it. To do this, we need authentic Kabbalah books because they were written by those who discovered the true picture of reality. In their books, Kabbalists tell us about the perfect reality that is, in fact, right next to us. We just need to change our inner frequencies in order to pick up the broadcast.
As one reads about the true reality, the fog is gradually cleared over one's senses, and he starts sensing that reality. In fact, Kabbalists explain that it isn't by understanding the text that we change our qualities. Even if a person does not understand what he reads, his desire to understand attunes his perception.
"Although they do not understand what they learn, through the yearning and the great desire to understand what they learn, they awaken upon themselves the lights that surround their souls… Hence, even when one does not have the vessels, when he engages in this wisdom and mentions the names of the lights and the vessels related to his soul, they immediately shine upon him to a certain measure…"
"Introduction to Talmud Eser Sefirot"
The difference between our present sensation of life and the one we could achieve is enormous. In order to somewhat describe it, The Book of Zohar compares it to the difference between a thin candle's light and an infinite light, or as one grain of sand compared to the whole world. However, if you really want to know what it means, Kabbalists suggest that you see for yourself.
"Taste and see that the Lord is good."