I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Descent to the Chariot: A Hebrew Catholic Mystical Insight

In Jewish mysticism an important concept is making the spiritual descent to the chariot (merkabah). In order to ascend one must first descend to where the chariot awaits the soul. Jacob Frank and other Jewish Tzaddikim, such as Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, also speak of descending into the lower levels of the spiritual abyss in order to do the great tikkunim (reparations)for sinners who have been trapped in these lowest levels. This idea is often misunderstood as it was in the case of Jacob Frank. It is part of the mysteries of shiflut (lowliness), bitul (selflessness or nullification of the self) and mesirat nefesh (total self-sacrifice).

Rabbi Isaac Ginsburgh writes about shiflut: "...In contrast to bitul ("selflessness")... shiflut does not imply the negation of self, but rather the experience of oneself as existentially "lowly," "far away" from God. In shiflut, one experiences an innate state of sin, as David...expresses in Psalms (51:7): "and in sin has my mother conceived me." As a holy attribute of Torah, one which serves to link one's consciousness to God, it is said of shiflut that "from afar God appears to me." God's very essence is revealed to the soul who, in shiflut, feels himself "afar," more so than to he who feels himself "near."Shiflut is the ultimate source of the soul's motivation to return in teshuvah to Hashem. The above quoted psalm of David is the quintessential expression of teshuvah in the Bible. The Ba'al Shem Tov (a descendant of David) teaches that the beginning of all Divine service is to experience an existential sense of identification with all the most lowly creatures on earth, as though saying to himself: "they all fulfill God's intentions for them faithfully; were only I able to do the same."..." The virgin Miriam ha Kedosha, a daughter of David, demonstrates this concept of shiflut in the magnificat-"He has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid". One enters God's kingdom (malkhut)through shiflut. At this level one seeks to follow God's Will as his humble servant.

Rabbi Ginsburgh states in regard to bitul: "Bitul is the spiritual state associated with the inner experience of chochmah, whereby one's consciousness opens up to a continuous flow of Divine wisdom and new insight through one's nullifying his sense of autonomous and self-sustained being. Bitul is the experience of ayin, of being nothing within the omnipresent radiance of God's infinite light." In Jewish mysticism there are two levels of bitul. The lower bitul is called bitul ha yesh (nullification of the somethingness)and at this level one cooperates with divine grace in a spiritual nullification of the soul- this is a seeking to prepare one for the Dwelling in Divine Will- this is a uniting of the soul with the Divine Will which is called Devekut (clinging). One must always keep in mind that this nullification of the soul and the human will is a spiritual or mystical nullification not a literal nullification. The Alter Rebbe of Chabad Hasidism stressed that this nullification was not a form of quietism but a process that would then allow an influx of the infinite Light of God to manifest on earth. It would draw one deeper into prayer and mitzvot even when there are no more consolations from prayer but only desolation or the desert experience. This is also found in the mystical teachings of the Great Catholic mystics such as John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. This then allows one to attain to the state of mesirat nefesh (total self sacrifice) where one lives totally for the other in a pure manner without selfish motives. One then attains to hitpashtut mi-gashmiut (shedding of wordliness)in order to focus solely on the Divine Will and the tikkunim for others. One still lives in the world but now one's actions in the world are done only for Godly purposes. One thus becomes the servant of all.

Rabbi Isaac Ginsburgh

The higher level of bitul is that of being so nullified that one Lives or dwells in Divine Will (ratzon)with no sense of independent existence or action outside the Will of God. Here one must be careful to remember that one's will or soul still exists but it no longer lives or has independent movement outside the Will of God. This allows the soul to enter into eternity and God's omnipresence in order to draw the Divine Light of God's Will into all Creation- past, present and future. This manifests a great tikun (reparation). This higher bitul is called bitul b'metziut ( mystical nullification of independent existence). All the saints in Heaven live at this stage and on earth only certain souls receive this grace of dwelling in the Divine Will by faith (emunah). The Jewish and Catholic saints of the past only knew of this grace in inklings and traces and some were granted the grace to live in the effects of this gift. As the full knowledge of this gift of Living in Divine Will had not been revealed only Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived in this state on earth. However in 1889 the full knowledge and gift of this grace was given to Luisa Piccarreta. Since then certain other souls have been granted this grace.

One such soul was Archbishop Luis Martinez who wrote: "... In the spiritual life, souls humble themselves with more or less effort, yet ever retaining the conviction that they must become little. But when they descend to a certain depth, they become dismayed and grow weary of descending. It seems to them that they are being deceived and that the time has now come for them to ascend, because they are not aware that, in the way of spirituality, one ascends only by descending, and that, to arrive at the summit, the soul must never weary of going downward. Let this "never" be understood, for, just as in the beginnings of the purgative way, so also in the heights of the unitive, the one and only secret for ascending is to descend. With the light of God, the soul makes steady progress in seeing its own misery and in sinking down into it;...We can always descend lower. We can always sink deeper in our misery. And to the measure that we descend, we ascend, because thus we come nearer to God... hence with each new revelation of our misery, our confusion inceases...Therefore, in perceiving that they are apparently descending under the impact of temptations, the weight of their faults, and the void of their souls caused by desolations, they grow confused and grieve because they forget the paradoxes of the spiritual life...Some day we will understand that among the greatest graces God has given us in our life are precisely those disconcerting ones which make us think that God is abandoning us...Our miserableness, when it is acknowledged and accepted by us, exerts an irrestible attraction on Him. What, save misery alone, can attract mercy? What, save emptiness, can appeal to plenitude? Whither shall the infinite ocean of Goodness pour itself except in to the immense abyss of our nothingness..." [from Secrets of the Interior Life].