Even though, in writing these
essays, my attempt is to elucidate the basics, they are not
meant to define THE first steps in the mystical tradition. This
is merely one approach. In fact, you may find more basic
concepts than these. However, these concepts are not merely
basic but also foundational, and part and parcel of so many
advanced ideas. Without this concept of ‘man as a microcosm’,
much knowledge will be hard to put in a context. As you grasp
any one core idea in Kabbalah, it is like grabbing onto a piece
of that which is infinite. When you grasp a piece on infinity at
any point, though, you are grasping onto the whole thing. There
can't truly be a separate piece of infinity; it just appears
that way to our limited understanding. Therefore if this thought
is expanded and connected by the reader, he will begin to piece
many parts of the puzzle together.
For example, when you first begin to
understand electricity, you begin to understand automatically
how all electrical appliances work and your home becomes more
understandable to you, you understand why some appliances need
cords, why they stop when unplugged; you understand why sockets
can be deadly, etc.
One concept brings so much into
focus. In various Jewish texts man is referred to as an 'olam
katan', a small universe. This is a clear reference to the idea
we are touching on.
Mankind is the fusion of
spirituality and physicality.
We will look at different aspects
of this microcosm idea: One example of this is that man embodies
vastly different elements brought together to form a unit. As
you read this page you tie together the physical world and the
spiritual realm by you, a finite being, reaching out to the
infinite. You do this because God fused those two realms
together when He formed man. We are both a symbol and also an
expression of the very fabric of all creation. We are at once
both physical and spiritual. In a similar vein, the human body
contains the four basic elements of creation. Also we know the
body is mostly water yet it doesn't leak; it knows how and when
to release liquid from itself. It is also surprisingly
waterproof, rain rolls right off. We can produce a kind of wind
from our lungs. There is a natural heat within us. Lastly, God
in Genesis 2:7 said He created man from the dust of the ground.
We see water, air, fire, and earth, all four primordial elements
of creation in man.
Another example of this idea is
the analogy of the soul in man. Man's soul in the body parallels
God's presence in the universe. The soul fills the body just as
God's presence fills the universe. The soul is the life-giver to
the body, just as God is the life-giver to the universe.
(Judaism teaches that God didn't just make the universe and
leave it, He constantly wills it to exist.) The soul is the only
reason for the body's existence, the body exists to serve the
soul, and similarly the universe exists to serve its creator.
The soul cannot be seen yet you know it is there, just as God
can't be seen yet we know He is there. This is one way of
understanding the verse in Genesis 1:26 when God said, "Let us
make man in our image." This means that there are a number of
similarities in the way God manifests Himself in our world and
how the soul manifests itself in the body.
We control the universe.
Another basic understanding of
the kabbalists that man is interwoven with the universe in a way
that causes the entire universe to be spiritually elevated when
man elevates himself, and lowered when man lowers himself. For
example, if you give a poor person some money, or a job, you
have changed yourself, molded yourself to be a little bit more
like the Almighty. You have increased the positive energy in the
world, and removed some of its negativity. Because you are
interwoven with the fabric of the universe you have elevated not
only yourself, but also the entire creation. There is now more
mercy and kindness in all of creation.
To conclude, in advanced Kabbalah
there are a many references to spiritual limbs, analogies to the
human form, and conceptual links to personality traits, gender,
and the body. The references are metaphor, yet they do represent
man’s connection to the spiritual realm. All the spiritual
realms are contained in man. All wisdom is contained in man.
This 'microcosm' concept will
come up explicitly and implicitly in the rest of the essays.