Dialectical Kabbalistic Meditation

by L. Ron Gardner on December 23, 2017

What’s common to all proper descriptions of mystical meditation, including those in Kabbalah, is an activistic approach (thesis) immediately followed by a passive state (antithesis). The synthesis that results (through the medium of the influx of the Holy Spirit) is divine union. In his fine text “Kabbalah: New Perspectives,” author Moshe Idel’s descriptions of the mystical path allude to this dialectic. For example, he writes:

“Although the ecstatic Kabbalah emphasized an activistic approach to the mystical experience through its prescription of the mystical techniques, at the very moment of the experience, this activism was obliterated and replaced by a passive state.”

Elsewhere he writes:

“Devekut [cleaving to God] is here closely related to the state of poverty or ‘death’; indeed cleaving leads to the next mystical stage of total disengagement from the world. We can formulate a three-stage mystical path hinted at by R. Levi Isaac: (1) detachment from one’s corporeal needs, (2) attaching of one’s though to God, and (3) spiritual ‘poverty’ or ‘death’ at the culmination of the mystical path. Like the annihilation that comes after union in the text of the Great Maggid, his disciple assumes a spiritual death that crowns one’s experience of union.”

Although the mystical dialectical synthesis in this quote is only described as union, the cognoscenti understand that this union is precipitated by reception of the divine efflux downward (into Sacred Heart-center). Although R. Levi Isaac hints at a three-stage path, the first stage is not really a practice, but the detached mindset that precedes the dialectical practices of attaching to God (via communion with His presence) and “poverty” (utter self-emptying or letting go).

Most people associate Kabbalah with the ten Sefirot and the Tree of Life, but that Kabbalah, which Idel terms the “theosophical Kabbalah,” is the “lower Kabbalah.” The “higher Kabbalah” is the “mystical Kabbalah,” which focuses on the dialectical meditative practice of attaining union with God.

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