Now let’s discuss for a moment the way Kabbalah names Light. This will be easier if you will refer to the list below. We have five phases:
Phase zero – Shoresh, named Keter
Phase one – Aleph, named Hochma
Phase two – Bet, named Bina
Phase three – Gimel, named Zeir Anpin
Phase four – Dalet, named Malchut
A quick check with an English-to-Hebrew Dictionary will confirm that Aleph, Bet, Gimel, and Dalet are the first four letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is important to note that the names, Keter, Hochma, Bina, Zeir Anpin, and Malchut are not names of creatures, but rather names of phases in the process of Creation. So when we say Malchut, we are talking about the creature as it is in that stage.
In each phase, there is a different kind of Light, at least from our perspective. In reality, there is never anything but one Light, and the difference we sense is completely and totally because of our own perception. The root phase zero, Shoresh, corresponds to a Light called Keter.Phase one, Hochma, corresponds to a Light called Hochma. Phase two, Bina, corresponds to a Light called Hassadim. Phase three, Zeir Anpin, corresponds to a combination of the first two Lights, both Hochma and Hassadim. Phase four, Malchut, corresponds to the Light of Hochma once again.
Our entire existence is based upon one single fact. All that exists in this entire universe is the Creator’s desire to delight us and our desire for that pleasure. Everything in the universe happens the way it does because of this law. We are completely and totally under its rule. All different kinds of existence, be them inanimate, vegetative, animate or speaking, every single solitary thing wants to receive pleasure, to receive a spark of the Light.
We were created with only one purpose, that when we receive the Light from the Creator, we feel infinite and everlasting pleasure, not in a selfish way, but rather in a perfect and an absolute way. If the Light enters the Vessel and fills it up completely, then this Vessel can no longer receive because the desire is saturated by the Light; and in the absence of a desire, the pleasure passes away as well. It is a vicious circle. We want pleasure, we receive pleasure, the pleasure kills the desire, and so the pleasure is no longer felt. It is this exact problem that the spiritual system of Kabbalah cures.
We can only receive endlessly when we do not receive for our own sake, i.e. we enjoy for the sake of the Giver. Then the Light entering the Vessel does not neutralize the desire to receive. Through experience we all know that when we are hungry and begin to eat, after a certain time we no longer feel the hunger, even if the most delicious dishes are made available. Pleasure is experienced on the borderline between pleasure itself and the desire for it. However, as soon as pleasure enters the desire and starts to satisfy it, this desire slowly fades away. And if the pleasure is stronger than the desire, this can even lead to repulsion.
So we have a problem here, but the good news is we have a solution as well. The Creator devised a system that gives His creature a remedy for its predicament. If we choose to feel pleasure while pleasing others instead of feeling it within ourselves, the pleasure never ends. You see, this pleasure relies on how much you can give. The more pleasure you give to people, the more pleasure you get to feel. In other words, I live outside myself, outside my own will to receive. This condition produces an eternal existence, the state of perfection, which is one of the attributes of the Creator. This is exactly the state the Creator wants to usher us into.
At first glance, this idea seems totally preposterous. But think about it for a moment. Suppose everything as we know it was actually backward, and instead of experiencing pleasure when someone does something for you, it was the other way around. Imagine that every time you did something for someone else, you received this incredible pleasure far surpassing any pleasure you ever received by doing something for yourself or receiving from another.
In that case, we would be lining up to give, and to whom would not make a bit of difference. The more we gave, the more pleasure we would receive. In the blink of an eye, our entire world would change. And as crazy as it sounds, this is exactly the destination to which we are heading.
If the creature, the Vessel, chooses only to receive, it finds itself caught in a trap. The problem is that in receiving for itself, it only feels whatever is inside of it. If the creature could feel the Creator’s pleasure from delighting the creation, it would endlessly experience the pleasure, just like a mother, who selflessly gives to her children. But in its current state, everybody loses.
Fortunately, we have an absolutely perfect system in which to exist, and just as unfortunately, we choose not to exist in it. Right at our fingertips, we have unlimited knowledge, infinite existence, a feeling of eternity and harmony. Within this system, the Creator constantly pours Light on to its creature. But the creature only receives the Light if by doing so it delights the Creator. Kabbalah refers to this system as Returning Light (Ohr Hozer), as opposed to the Direct Light (Ohr Yashar) the Creator sends. See Figure-3.
But for this system to exist, the creature must first have a desire that attracts that Direct Light toward it. Previously we have spoken about a screen that reflects, just like an ear drum or the retina of the eye. This is where that screen enters the picture. A screen must be placed between that Direct Light and the creature.
This screen, known in Kabbalah as a Masach (pronounced ma-ssah), prevents the creature from receiving for its own sake. It only allows the creature to accept an amount of Light in proportion to its own strength; to accept it only for the sake of the Creator. Kabbalah calls this action “receiving in order to bestow.” In this way, the creature can resemble the Creator, be like Him. In other words, the following exchange takes place: the Creator sends pleasure to the creature, who accepts it under the exclusive condition that by doing so it pleases the Creator.
Baal HaSulam quotes the very simple and eternal example of the guest and the host. The host presents to his guest a table full of delicacies. The guest sits down but dares not eat because he does not want to be in a position to receive and he is not certain if the host is sincere in his desire to delight him. The guest is embarrassed because he has nothing to offer in return and can only receive while the host gives. That is why the guest refuses what is offered in order to understand the host’s true desire.
If the host insists, asking his guest to honor the food and assuring him that he will be very pleased if he does so, then the guest will start eating. He will do so because he is convinced that this will please the host and he no longer feels that he is receiving from the host, but is giving to him, i.e., he gives his host pleasure.
The roles have been reversed. Even if it is the host who has prepared all the food and acts as the inviter, he clearly understands that the fulfillment of his desire to please depends uniquely on his guest. The guest holds the key to the success of the dinner and consequently masters the situation.
The Creator has especially made the creature in such a way that under the influence of the Light it will feel ashamed of only receiving. The creature, using its freedom of choice freely, will finally reach a level where it does not experience pleasure selfishly, but to please the Creator. These divine attributes, these feelings, are beyond description and we cannot conceive of them. The entrance into the spiritual worlds by acquiring just one degree of similitude with the Creator already means eternity, absolute pleasure and attainment.
The science of Kabbalah studies the unfolding of Creation. It describes the path along which our world and all other worlds --indeed the whole universe-- must tread while achieving its progressive correction (Tikkun) to reach the level of the Creator, the ultimate degree of perfection and eternity. We need to undertake this work of correction while living in this world, in our everyday circumstances and dressed in our bodies.
Kabbalists have already reached this degree of perfection and described it for us. All souls without exception must reach this ultimate level in due time. Each one of us has to start from the beginning point and eventually reach the final point. There is no free will for this. Nor is there free will for us to alter the path, because everyone has to go through all the phases and feelings and progressively integrate them. In other words, we must “live” the path.