The psyche has the capacity to experience four different realities: physical, psychological, spiritual and the divine. It belongs to Yezirah, the fluidic World of Forms. How we think, feel and act is partly instinctive, while the upper levels of the psyche connect to the spirit. In the anatomy of the psyche, we can distinguish the subconscious elements below the everyday awareness which is centred on the Yesod/ego. Above is the unconscious centred on the Tiferet/self, which is the watcher over purely psychological processes. The collective unconscious is the transpersonal aspect of the psyche.
The psyche, also called the astral body, is under celestial influences. Astrology was an ancient form of psychology and it is still useful today. Although much of a person’s character can be seen in their horoscope, deeper still are unconscious memories of earlier lives. Our fate is to learn from this life and resolve old karma as well as to develop and refine our souls in the process of reincarnation.
Ship of the Soul
London, 12 July 2015.
Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
The symbolism of a ship can help us to gain insights into different aspects of our psyche. The condition of the ship is revealing. Is it seaworthy or in need of repair? Has the ship been designed for short or long journeys? Is it just for pleasure or also for work like carrying cargo? The sea tells about our psychological weather at the moment. Is it stormy or calm? Where is the ship coming from and where is it going?
Your Unconscious as Another Country
London, 03 June 2013
Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
In this meditation we review our unconscious as another county. Our journey takes us through different terrains and landscapes which may symbolise various epochs in our life. The people whom we meet on the way represent the subpersonalities who live in this country and influence our life from afar. The destination of this journey is to visit the Wise One who resides there and to ask questions about matters that preoccupy us now.
House of the Psyche
Recorded in London in 1993
Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
The House of the Psyche is a symbolic image of the mind. Each area reveals the present state of the function and the level it represents. The basement represents the body, the garden vitality, and the pet – one’s own instinctive soul, while the hall and the surrounding rooms represent the ordinary mind. The upper floors are aspects of the unconscious soul and spirit. Take note of their states. It can be very informative.
General Scheme of the Psyche
Here, kabbalistic psychology draws upon ancient, medieval and modern terms to fill in the structure and dynamic of the Tree of Life, as this diagram is called. This will be the basic reference system of the book, always remembering that this Tree is but a part of a Ladder of Trees of all Existence. The Hebrew names are keys to the principles of the ten-plus-one sefirot (or numbers) while the twenty-two paths reveal the functions of the triads. The thesis is that a human being is a microcosm of the macrocosm of a Universe based upon a Divine plan. (Halevi).
The Psyche: Questions and Answers
A large part of Halevi’s oral teaching came in responding to students’ questions. Such group discussions sometimes covered topics that were not written down in books. These questions and answers articles are compiled from group and workshop recordings over the years to give insights into Kabbalah as a living tradition.
Q: What is the difference between the ego and the self?
A: The ego at Yesod is the psyche’s foundation. Astrologically the ego is governed by the Moon. The first seven years of infancy are important because during that time many of the ego’s patterns are set for later life. The ego can become very sophisticated if educated, but that may be just an outer persona. As the pivot of action, thinking and feeling, the ego deals with our everyday affairs. If the ego is weak or fragmented, the malfunction of these processes can manifest as disease of muscles, nerves and organs, while more serious psychosomatic conditions can originate from deeper levels of the unconscious.
The self at Tiferet is of a higher order. It is the essence of our individuality, represented in a horoscope by the Sun. Its qualities are Truth, Goodness and Beauty as it is the meeting place of the spirit, the psyche and the body. It holds the balance between the active and passive pillars as well as higher and lower consciousness at the centre of the psychological Tree. The self reflects our true psychological age whether we are mature or infantile, an old or a young soul.
Q: What is the collective unconscious?
A: Tribal customs have accumulated over many generations and they serve the purpose of preserving the collective identity of a particular society. There are many layers from simple family traditions to religious and national ideology. Such values are absorbed into the structure and dynamic of the psyche without much conscious questioning. Encountering other cultures while travelling can be revealing.
In the fluidic World of the Psyche, the everyday awareness is just ripples on the surface. The deeper currents are hidden behind the Hod-Nezah threshold in the unconscious. The experiences of this and other lives are stored there. The collective unconscious contains the archetypes of the human condition. These can change or be modified over a lifetime, particularly if an individual adopts another culture or the collective values of society change over time.
Q: What is the vital soul?
A: The vital soul, also called the Nefesh, includes the mineral, vegetable and animal levels of the lower psyche. The mineral level remains largely subconscious and usually demands attention only if something is out of the ordinary, for example too hot or too cold. The vegetable level is centred on the Yesod/ego and governs most everyday activities. Its strongest drive is survival with its libido and mortido impulses. The animal level can be observed in our social life, how we relate to our friends and enemies. We may either dominate or be dominated, wishing to be the top dog or to hide in a corner.
The vital soul maintains the body’s life processes while the psyche retreats into Yezirah during sleep. When a person is in a coma, the body is unresponsive but the psyche may be well aware of what is going on. There are many reports of near death experiences when the body is clinically dead but the psyche is more alive than ever. In such cases the “silver cord” was not yet completely broken. At death, the vital soul dissolves into the etheric field of Nature while the physical body returns to the four elements.
Q: What is the difference between feelings and emotions?
A: The feeling triad Yesod-Hod-Nezah is constantly fluctuating. Feelings are often affected by the body’s chemistry and electromagnetic field which create different moods of ease or tension. Feelings can react to external impressions with instinctive likes and dislikes, which in turn influence thinking and action processes. A sensitive Yesod or Hod can also have a psychic capacity, a “gut feeling” that picks up signals from other people or distant events.
While feelings can be sentimental, emotions are much deeper at the soul level of Tiferet-Gevurah-Hesed. Such emotions may contain a love or hate that can last a lifetime, if not many. We may encounter someone who seems familiar to us at first sight. That can indicate a real soul connection from another life. When emotions are evoked, they move us more profoundly than transient feelings.
Q: Why does a ship symbolise the soul?
A: The language of the psyche is symbolism. When you look at the soul triad on the Tree diagram, it is like a vessel that floats on the waters of Yezirah. When you visualise your soul as a ship, its form and condition tell you much about the state of your soul at the moment. Is the ship seaworthy or about to sink? Is the sea calm or stormy? What kind of cargo and crew are on board? Where is the ship going? How is your soul sailing through the journey of this life?
Another useful symbol that can be used in active imagination or guided meditation is to perceive the psyche in the form of a house. The basement relates to the body, while the ground floor rooms symbolise the thinking, action and feeling processes as well as one’s social life. Upstairs in the chamber of the soul one has access to old memories, while higher still the sanctuary is the place of the spiritual aspects of the psyche where one may attain a contact with the Divine Presence.
Q: How does meditation affect the psyche?
A: The purpose of meditation is to go inwards towards the centre and to align oneself with the central line of consciousness. The method is secondary, be it a quiet or a guided meditation. Training the psyche allows us to ascend and descend safely. In active imagination we use the kabbalistic model of pre-existing archetypes in order to rise up vertically. In some other forms of active imagination you could move horizontally, but that would not lift you up to the higher worlds.
Repeating a prayer or a mantra is a different operation. It can focus the mind at Tiferet and bring a sense of calm.
The self has access to three realities. When you touch the Keter of Asiyyah you feel at one with the universe because Keter is the point of unity in Nature. The Tiferet of Yezirah is the watcher and coordinating faculty of the psyche, while the Malkhut of Beriah is the transpersonal essence of the self. Thus individuality is both unique and universal.
Q: How do we learn to know our psyche?
A: “Know thyself” is an ancient working method. Self-observation is the key. Be mindful of your thoughts, feelings and actions as they reveal much about who you are. If you notice an imbalance, try to correct it. An inflated self is much more dangerous than an inflated ego. It is called hubris or Lucific pride, which may come as a temptation when you start to develop.
Study your horoscope; it is your self-portrait. Your personal and professional relationships can be a useful mirror. It may be helpful to consult a professional therapist, but sometimes analysis can go too far. There is a story about a psychoanalyst who goes out and meets a postman who says, “Good morning”. “What did he mean by that?” the analyst mumbles as he walks on.
Q: What is the function of dreams?
A: Dreams are one of the ways for the unconscious to draw our attention to something that we are not aware of. There are three orders of dreams. Ordinary dreams occur when the psyche is digesting the impressions and events of the previous day and displays them on the screen of Yesod. Lucid dreams are memorable and related to issues concerning the soul and its development. Prophetic dreams can foresee personal or collective future events and are often warnings. Visions can occur in dreams or in a waking state of everyday activity.
Daydreaming is a form of psychological sleep. It can be just harmless interior entertainment, but it may result in dangerous fantasies and obsessions. In contrast, active imagination is conscious use of the dreaming faculty and it is a necessary part of creative work. Imagination is also used in guided meditations when we review interior levels and perceive them in symbolic and archetypal forms.
Q: Why do we forget?
A: The ability to recall past events is crucial as memory builds up a sense of continuity and identity in the psyche. The loss of memory due to physical or mental illness can be debilitating. However, memories are stored at the deeper levels of the psyche and they can be retrieved if the person recovers.
In a normal psyche memories build up a web of associations which cluster together as emotional and intellectual complexes. Some are highly charged with pain or pleasure while others may be weak and unimportant. Forgetfulness can be a defence mechanism to protect the ego in order to preserve its balance. However, it is also necessary to be able to forget and to file issues in the vast archives of the unconscious so as to free the mind for new experiences.
Q: What is the higher self?
A: For most people their identity is their body and their ego. For them their Tiferet is their higher self as it is the watcher over their Yesod. The Path of Honesty between Yesod and Tiferet is crucial as it allows Tiferet to intervene if the path is open. Because Tiferet connects with the spiritual triad of higher intellect and cosmic consciousness, it is capable of a much wider view than just personal considerations.
Keter at the Crown of the psyche is the higher self in relation to Tiferet. It is the point of origin and the radiant ground bed of the psyche. The light of divine consciousness can be experienced in a moment of illumination or as an act of Grace. The timescale of Keter is not just this life: it is Eternity.