Monday, February 11, 2008

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The Spiritual Perspective, Part 16

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

Then, what is the spiritual? If we cannot define it, or taste it, how do we know that it is genuine? Is every spiritual experience positive?

Be careful here. There are many spiritual possibilities in the world, and the vast majority of them turn out to be extremely negative. Why “turn out” to be negative and not simply, “are negative”? Because, in their initial stages they seem positive, very positive. Almost every religion has some type of spiritual manifestation. Some of these experiences are induced by fasting, chanting, or intense belief. Some come about from meditative techniques, asceticism, or from unclean spiritual practices, such as necromancy or magic.

The Zohar teaches that whatever man becomes attached to in his spiritual practice, that will be what he brings down from the spiritual world.[i] This means that even unclean practices bring some type of spiritual results! This is why it is so essential to live within the physical specifications of the Torah. The body, the physicality of the Torah and mitzvahs, guides us safely toward the proper spiritual goal.

Most religions of the world teach that the more “spiritual” their believers become, the further they will move away from the world. They believe, if they want to grow spiritually they must avoid the world; that the world is an illusion, a trap, or some even say that the world is evil! The deeper their spiritual experiences, the further away they will go.

To cite one common example, a Buddhist monk might look very young for his years. His face could be almost completely free of wrinkles. His skin might even seem to glow. All this looks so very positive. After all, doesn’t the world try to stay young?

How does he accomplish this amazing feat? His teacher taught him their traditional secret. For the rest of his life he is to wander aimlessly, and while he wanders he is to count his steps. He is to count every step he takes until he gets to one hundred, and then he is to start over again. One, two, three, four, no home, five, six, no property, seven, eight, no wife, nine, ten, no children, no work, no books, eleven, count, and let go of the world around you. He becomes so entirely detached from his physical surroundings that his natural soul shines unimpeded. His face relaxes. He lives a, problem-free, peaceful—and empty—existence.

The Torah teaches the exact opposite of this. The more spiritual you become, the greater is our obligation (and privilege) to help our fellow man. We are told that we have been put in this physical world to elevate it, to make it a better place, not to ignore it. And the way we do this is by using the physical world for spiritual purposes. The Torah tells us to get wrinkled, Jewish wrinkles; wrinkles that come from concern and effort for the world around us.

But if there are clean and unclean spiritual experiences, what are the true experiences that we are to seek? The highest possible spiritual attainment in this world is the revelation of G-d’s Presence. And the successful steps along the way will reveal brief moments of this Glory. In fact, this is the purpose of life in this world. We are to reveal the true Being who fills all.

But these glorious experiences do not come automatically by doing a mitzvah, or when learning Torah. If they would, thousands and thousands of Jews would be talking about them. And no one is. They must be striven for. Special attention has to be given to the spiritual perspective, or it will not be seen. In fact, it has to be your daily priority and goal. Instead of talking to G-d only three times a day when you pray, if you truly seek spiritual awareness, you will talk to G-d all day long. Instead of talking to yourself in your thoughts, you will talk to G-d. G-d will become your constant “companion.”

“Know this day, and take it to your heart that the L-rd He is G-d; in the heavens above and upon the earth below there is nothing else.”[ii]

To really know that G-d is all that exists is the ultimate spiritual understanding. But for this knowledge to become your spiritual awareness, that is, real in your life, you must take this understanding to heart again and again. It is not enough to have one or two warm experiences, or a few amazing flashes of deep understanding. Spiritual thinking has to become your ongoing mindset. The more time you spend developing the spiritual perspective, the sooner it will become your reality. And when it does, and when you are blessed with the great blessing of His revelation, you will say, “It was for this that I was created.”

Even though our ongoing mindset becomes spiritual, this spiritual thinking does not take us out of the world. Instead, it gives us greater compassion for others, and greater resolve to try to elevate all that we can. It turns out that this greatest spiritual revelation shows us both the essential opportunity that the world gives us, and its relative unimportance when compared to the spiritual. Although the spiritual is the goal, the physical is the tool. The carpenter wants the house, that is why he is working, but he also loves his tools that allow him to build it.

[i] Zohar 1:99b
[ii] Deuteronomy 4:39

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