The process of transformation is known by many names. In Alchemy it is called the Great Work. In Kabbalah it is defined as the Work of Unification, which means the integration of the physical, psychological, spiritual and divine levels. The alchemist is seeking to find the Elixir of Life. The aim of a kabbalist is to connect with the Tree of Life, the eternal World of Azilut which is the source of all life.
There are many phases of purification and refinement of the body and the psyche before transformation and integration can be achieved. We also need to apply the higher principles of the spirit to our personal life. The triad Tiferet-Gevurah-Hesed is like an alchemical retort or a cauldron for distilling impressions and experiences into finer substances which are nourishment for the soul. Consciousness relates to the element of Fire and indeed, it is vital to keep that subtle flame burning if we wish to achieve lasting effects.
The Kabbalist at Work by Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
This book is about kabbalistic working methods and the background to such an effort. Here, theory and practice are set out against everyday life and history, as well as inner and outer processes related to individual and group work. The themes include specific exercises, the ways of Action, Devotion and Contemplation, past lives, and how a school of the soul operates. As a revised edition, it contains many new illustrations and diagrams which open up other dimensions to the text.
Going through previous lives
London, March 31, 2014
Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
What do you remember about your earliest incarnations maybe 10,000 years ago? How was your personal life in a hunter-gatherer family? Who were you in a tribal village, a man or a woman?
Remember various lives through the ages in a small market town, in a big city with temples and palaces, encountering different people and religions. When did you start looking for a teacher?
Who are you in this life? Become aware how Providence watches over you and all humanity in the Eternal Now.
“As study and practice of kabbalistic principles are integrated, so the level of consciousness rises. Each step raises the centre of gravity of perception. First, one becomes physically alert, then acutely aware of social situations. Then comes psychic ability, followed by lucid insight. The stage of clarity gives access to one’s own and other souls. Vision brings a transpersonal view and, in illumination, one glimpses what great prophets see. To be enlightened means one knows what all these stages are for. (Halevi, 20th century.)”
Transformation: 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: Do ideas transform people?
A: Ideas are very powerful. They originate from the World of Beriah which is the creative force behind forms. At the individual level, first a person needs to become open to a new idea. Such a possibility may arise through a combination of providential circumstances and timing. Turning points are often indicated by a planetary transit which will manifest when conditions are ripe.
Spiritual awakening is known to turn sinners into saints. There may be a series of disappointments leading to complete disillusionment which prepares the ground for change. An example is St. Frances of Assisi who abandoned his old way of life and devoted himself to the care of the poor and the sick, reconstructing himself by rebuilding a ruined chapel. Although starting off as a hermit, his example inspired others to join him. The timing of his reform was not an accident but just what was needed at that time to counterbalance the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the period.
Q: Can we transform our fate?
A: What you are today is your karma, the result of your past actions, thoughts and feelings. What you do has an accumulative effect on your fate life after life. If you are prepared to work hard and diligently and walk the extra mile, you can realise your personal potential and your transpersonal destiny.
We have no capacity to change the cosmic weather or celestial cycles which oscillate between order and chaos. We may encounter an interior or external crisis that tests us to our utmost limit. The key to a safe passage is correct conduct, that is, acting from true integrity of the soul and conscience. Even so, nobody can be sure what is waiting for us round the corner. Ideally, our fate will transform us if we understand how it reflects the universal law of cause and effect.
Q: Is it possible to transform the ego?
A: It can be both transformed and transcended, but this is not easy. The ego is a creature of habits and will resist change if it is pushed beyond its comfort zone. You need to observe the ego from the higher level of the self and the soul in order to guide it towards the necessary direction. Much depends on your intention and willingness, and also on changing circumstances which may require the ego to adjust.
Your name is a particular form related to your social persona. Others know you by your name but the name is not you, not your essence. Some people do not like their name and they change it hoping to start afresh. A serious commitment like joining a spiritual order is often marked with the person being given a new name, symbolising a transformation. For example, Abram was called Abraham after his initiation by Melchizedek indicating his new role.
Q: Can we transform other people?
A: Sometimes indirectly. If you are able to raise your own level of being and knowledge, that will have an influence on those that you are in contact with. Somebody at a crucial point of their development may ask questions which you may be able to answer and point them towards the next step. However, they need to do the work themselves.
If you try to transform others forcefully, that may have the opposite effect and create resistance which can put the other person off the interior path. You need to be discreet and also question your own motivation. How can you be sure what is best for another person and why do you want to change them? Knowledge is power and it needs to be applied wisely.
Q: Is evolution also transformation?
A: Evolution is transformation at a universal scale. What started as a single cell organism has evolved into sophisticated plants and animals. It is inherent in the nature of existence that nothing stays the same and life seeks new forms to express itself. Even at the cosmic level, stars and galaxies are born, mature, grow old and die.
Human beings are part of the general evolution. However, humans are in a unique position because they have access to four Worlds: physical, psychological, spiritual and divine. All other creatures, including the angels, are confined to their particular function and level in the grand scheme of Jacob’s Ladder. Moreover, because humans have free will, they can accelerate their own development and transform their lives within the limits of their circumstances.
Q: Is death the ultimate transformation?
A: At death, it is only the body that falls away and returns to the four elements. The psyche retains its form with its characteristics and memories. We are told that there is a period of Purgatory in the afterlife when the soul reviews its past life and all its consequences. The judgement is performed by the soul itself weighing every incident with Justice and Mercy. The ultimate Judgement comes at the End of Time when all existence returns to its Source.
When the cleansing in Purgatory is complete, there is a kind of synthesis that is retained in the essence of the soul. The lessons that have not yet been learned and the work yet to be done will follow the soul to the next incarnation. A horoscope is an outline of the new life which is again an opportunity to grow out of old patterns that are no longer useful, and to create new ones.
Q: Does individuation transform us?
A: Individuation means that we become who we truly are. Much of our psychological make-up contains elements which we have acquired from the external world. Some of those forms are useful but in time they may crystallise and prevent further development. The voice of the super-ego, although in the unconscious, can be very demanding or intimidating. The persona built around Yesod does not necessarily reflect our true self. Before we can know the self, first we need to distinguish what it is not.
The place of Tiferet is at the centre of the psychological Tree on the middle pillar of consciousness. Slowly when our centre of gravity rises up, we gain more self-knowledge and freedom of self-expression. Individuation is a fluidic yeziratic process which is repeated life after life.
Q: What are the seven steps?
A: In this context we speak about the seven levels of psychological consciousness, also called the seven lower halls. Each step has a distinct quality. One needs to be grounded in physical awareness, acuity of everyday perception and sensitivity of feelings. Crossing the threshold of the awakening triad brings lucidity, while the hallmark of the soul is clarity. At the transpersonal level one may reach cosmic consciousness and visions, while the Keter of Yezirah touches the divine presence within.
Such an ascent is the result of much interior work in both study and practice. Each step is an ordered progression while increasing consciousness brings its own rewards. When enough psychological integrity has been achieved, it becomes possible to glimpse the seven upper halls which are the higher levels of the spirit.
Q: Has the Teaching evolved?
A: The origins of esoteric teachings are in remote antiquity. The transmission was either horizontal from the teacher to students or vertical in direct revelation to some individuals. New generations contributed to theory and practice according to their understanding, and metaphysical considerations started to emerge to complement mythology and symbolism. In time, the oral line became the written teaching which sometimes crystallised into orthodoxy. However, esoteric enquiry keeps the teaching alive for those who want to know.
In the 20th century, Kabbalah adapted to explore science and psychology of our time. We find that universal principles are embedded also in current views and knowledge. Now we have a more detailed presentation and interpretation of Kabbalah in the diagram of Jacob’s Ladder. It is an invaluable tool for studying the macrocosm of the four Worlds as well as the microcosm of a human being. If as an old Chinese proverb says one picture is worth a thousand words, this one diagram is worth more than ten thousand.
Artwork by Freda Edis