A Guide for the Kabbalist Hitchhiker
Exploring the unknown paths of the spiritual world is a lot like hitchhiking through unexplored territory in this world – except it happens in a realm beyond time, space and motion.
If you’ve ever taken a road trip, you probably remember confusedly scanning through your worn-out pocket dictionary in a desperate attempt to find the meaning of an unfamiliar word on a road sign. But just when you need it most, that reference guide seems to be missing.
Thankfully, a friendly local usually happens to appear out of nowhere and takes pity on the miserable tourist, patiently explaining how to get to the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal in Agra. If you happen to be somewhere no one understands your language, then a pair of creative hands and a healthy dose of imagination are sure to help build a bridge between you and others. We all live in the same world; hence, we can always find a common language with others, a way to communicate. In the spiritual world, however, road trips can turn out a bit different.
The Language of Kabbalah
“Bear in mind, that the entire wisdom of Kabbalah is founded on spiritual matters that do not take up time or space.” These are Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag’s (Baal HaSulam’s) opening words to the most important book of modern Kabbalah, Talmud Eser HaSefirot (Study of the Ten Sefirot).
They hint at the difficulties facing anyone who seeks to describe the dimension that lies beyond language and even beyond the human imagination.
How can we possibly understand a world that is completely out of range for us, beyond our regular five senses’ perception? The wildest hand movements, combined with the kookiest facial expressions, just can’t help the Kabbalist hitchhiker.
In order to describe the experience of spiritual revelation and to bring us closer to it, Kabbalists have developed a special code language that helps them express the seemingly inexpressible. It’s similar to how scientists describe their findings with the help of formulas: Kabbalists document their revelations of the spiritual world with the help of metaphors and names derived from our everyday life.
This system of “metaphoric description” is called “The Language of Branches”- a language that connects the spiritual, upper root of every phenomenon with its corporeal “branch” (manifestation) here in this world.
Yet, as Baal HaSulam writes in Talmut Eser HaSefirot, “It is difficult for a novice, for he perceives matters by means of the corporeal boundaries of time, space, change and exchange.” This means that when reading Kabbalistic books, we must strive to disconnect ourselves from all earthly, corporeal notions and try to perceive the concepts that appear in Kabbalah books. We must keep in mind that when such books mention actions or places, they actually depict the stages of one’s inner, spiritual journey.
A Useful Pocket Dictionary
"For that reason I will make an effort to give every word its spiritual identity ... It is upon the readers to memorize the meaning of these words thoroughly” (Baal HaSulam, Talmud Eser HaSefirot).
Baal HaSulam has actually created a Kabbalistic dictionary for us to use on our journey into the spiritual world. Within it he provides simple definitions for words used in Kabbalah books. So if you decide to take a different kind of journey - a voyage to the spiritual world, here are some basic definitions that will help you understand what the road maps - the Kabbalah books - are talking about, and where they are leading you.
(It’s highly recommended that you cut out this pocket dictionary and keep it in your wallet, to have it handy whenever you might need it along your journey.)
Adam HaRishon (The First Man) – This is not the primitive caveman who ran around naked in the Garden of Eden, but the collective soul of humanity, incorporating all the souls of all the people in the world.
Guf (Body) – This is the will to receive that drives all of man’s thoughts and actions. This will to receive can either be used for the sake of ourselves, or for the sake of others and the Creator.
Ahava (Love) – When a person starts perceiving spirituality, he reveals the general plan that Nature or the Creator has for him and for all humanity. He then discovers that Nature’s attitude toward the whole of humanity is one of absolute, unchanging love.
Ohr (Light) – This is what a person feels when he perceives the Creator. In other words, one who changes his nature from self-love to love for others is filled with a new sensation called “Light.”
Boreh (Creator) – This word comes from the combination of the words, Bo and Reh – “come” and “see.” In other words, a person is invited to come and see the Creator - to attain his next spiritual degree, which is always called “the Creator.”