“Light”—the Kabbalistic Meaning
The word "Light" brings all kinds of positive associations to mind. But in Kabbalah, Light is higher than anything we can imagine—it is, in fact, a quality of the Creator Himself
“And God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light,’” “The light at the end of the tunnel,” “You are the light of my life,” “I saw the light.” If you recorded the amount of times you heard “light” referred to each day, you would find hundreds of references to it in one form or another. Phrases like “in light of,” “shed some light on,” “illuminated” and “radiance” are metaphors often used to describe thoughts about wisdom, hope and goodness. We usually say “an enlightened person” to describe someone who is wise or is able to see the world in a unique way.
We enjoy the light of the sun and we plan vacations in places where we can relax and enjoy its radiance. We are attracted to the warmth of firelight and we gather around the light of campfires. As human beings, we often relate to light in an emotional, almost sensual way.
It’s hard to imagine that after thousands of years of research, scientists are still not exactly certain about the nature of light. There is, however, no argument that light is the wellspring of life on earth.
It is no coincidence that just the thought of light produces such profound sensations. The wisdom of Kabbalah teaches us that there is, in fact, a “spiritual Light” that affects us, even though we are not aware of its presence. This Light is the quality of the force that created us—the Creator.
The great 16th century Kabbalist, Isaac Luria (the Ari), wrote in his book, Tree of Life:
"Behold that before the emanations were emanated and the creatures were created,
The Simple Upper Light had filled the whole existence.
And there was no vacancy, such as an empty atmosphere, a hollow or a pit,
But all was filled with Simple Boundless Light."
What is the nature of the spiritual Light? Just as physical light fulfills us in physical ways, making us feel warm and comfortable, so the spiritual Light fulfills our spiritual needs, the needs of our souls. Kabbalists explain that while living in our world, one can fill one’s soul with spiritual Light and thereby experience boundless joy and fulfillment.
As one’s soul becomes filled with Light, one begins sensing an internal realm called “the Upper World” and perceiving phenomena completely beyond what we know from the physical world.
How is the Upper World different from our regular sensations? In this world, all of our perceptions evolve naturally through our five senses. And yet, we are obviously affected by many forces of nature that are invisible to us. The oxygen we breathe, for instance, is invisible, but without it we could not survive in the physical world. In the same way, the Upper World is an area of reality that is imperceptible to our five senses, but we begin to feel it as our souls become filled by the spiritual Light.
Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, one of the scientists who made the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know!?, explains this from the viewpoint of quantum physics: “Quantum theory shows that there is something working beyond mere mechanism, outside the physical world.”
This is why Kabbalah is also called “the wisdom of the hidden”—because it discloses that part of reality that is hidden from our five senses. It is a method enabling us to fill our souls with Light, and simultaneously feel both the Upper World and our world.