WHAT IS THE EXPANDED CONSCIOUSNESS OF “BIG MIND”?
Throughout the Zohar the theme of higher and lower worlds repeats itself dozens of times: "The Holy One has disposed all things in such a way that everything in this world should be a replica of something in the world above." "There is a realm above in supernal holiness, and a realm below." "When the Holy One puts on its 'crowns,' It receives them from above and below."
The language of "above" and "below" should not be understood literally in a linear fashion. It is referring to realms of consciousness. Higher and lower realms of consciousness are not separated by space; rather, they are dimensions that represent a proximity of relationship to ultimate truth. The higher the consciousness, the less there is an illusion of separateness.
Earth represents a level of consciousness. Everything on this level has its likeness in higher consciousness. There is no object, however small, that does not have its counterpart in other realms. So when the thing below bestirs itself, the result is a simultaneous stimulation of its likeness above. The two realms form one interconnected whole.
It is as if everything in the universe were reflected by a heavenly counterpart. This companion is more than a twin, it is multifaceted as a composite of all of our elements. Assuming each individual is a composite of many sub-personalities, each time we express a part of ourselves in reality as we know it, our counterpart is being activated in other realities. The lover is there, the conniver, the little child, the judger, our inner strengths and our inner weaknesses. Whatever mode we happen to be in, this is the character that we energize in the other realms.
When we are consistently thoughtful, for example, our higher thoughtful essence is aroused. When we are erratic, our "angel" of erratic behavior is animated. When we enter into a state of loving kindness, our higher self of loving kindness is activated.
Moreover, just as all of our actions, words, or thoughts reverberate in this world, so too does the arousal of our higher beings reverberate in the heavens.
This ancient kabbalistic idea is an holistic energetic model of the universe. It cuts across layers of reality and includes every possible dimension of creation. It includes angels, demons, thoughts, feelings, past, future, this incarnation and all others. According to this Jewish mystical viewpoint, everything and every "non-thing" that ever was or will be in creation is interconnected.
Isaac the Blind, a 12th century Kabbalist who is known as the father of Kabbalah, described the medium of this interconnectedness. He called it tzippiyah, which could be translated as "contemplative observation." Tzippiyah is mystical awareness, what we experience when the sense of past and future dissolves and we are fully present, totally in the moment. This, I believe, was Isaac the Blind's personal experience and the basis for his powerful insights into the mystical nature of the universe.
When we ponder the idea of tzippiyah, it lures us into a new way of relating to the universe. Each time we move our arms, our supernal arms are being moved. Each time we write a word, a word in the heavens is being inscribed. We interact with the world and all along are simultaneously stimulating the upper worlds. Not only are we never alone, everything we do, say, or think moves universes beyond our imagination.
This is a highly provocative contemplation. It is compelling. How are we living our lives? To what extent is the world balanced on my next action? If everything reverberates in the universe, how does it affect who I am, who I have been, and who I will be? It is imperative to ask ourselves these questions. Kabbalah is quite clear on the answers.
SPHERES OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Our sense of reality directly reflects our level of consciousness. Each of us has a perspective of reality that is but a razor-thin slice of a pie. The pie itself reaches to the limits of the universe. If we change our consciousness, we can get another slice of the pie. Moreover, we can switch our perceptions more rapidly than most people realize.
It is said that "The Holy One found it necessary to create all the things in the world so that there should be a central light of awareness with many vessels encircling it." All of creation is constructed on this principle; that is to say, creation is made up of spheres of consciousness. If we could describe it from God's perspective, so to speak, we would see that everything in creation is connected to a center: the source of creation.
The story of creation in Genesis describes the unfolding of consciousness. The first day: light. The second day: cosmic fluid and separation of upper and lower fluids. The third day: earth, land, sea, plants, fruits, seeds. The fourth day: heavenly bodies, stars, sun, and moon. The fifth day: sea-life and birds and great sea creatures. The sixth day: land creatures. At the end of the sixth day: humankind. This final aspect of creation was distinguished by the language na-aseh adam betzelmaynu kidmutaynu, meaning, "Let us make a creature called Adam in our shadow, resembling us."
Of course the ancient sages wondered why this was stated in the plural. The Divine is a unity. Who or what else in addition was referred to as "our shadow?" The words imply that God was communicating with something that could communicate with It. The logical conclusion we draw from this, at the very least, is that one of the aspects of the resemblance must be that Adam would be able to communicate with the Divine.
The essential paradox of creation is the issue of how unity becomes multiplicity. How does the one, all perfect source create something less than itself? How does a total oneness that encompasses everything make room for otherness? Even if we drop the idea of "Creator," as is done in Eastern traditions, we are still left with an incongruity of the co-existence of unity and multiplicity.
Spiritual teachers in Eastern traditions refer to our view of reality as maya, or illusion. We are trapped behind a series of veils that "distort" reality. These teachers suggest that there is only one reality and that all multiplicity is imaginary. The world seems pluralistic only because our awareness has limitations. This leads to a theology of non-duality, the monistic systems of total unity.
The Kabbalist, on the other hand, does not say that our view of reality is distorted; rather that it is merely the reality of human consciousness. For example, we might hypothesize that a mosquito has a different level of consciousness in that its universe is made up of elementary components such as heat, cold, softness, hardness, light, dark, and so forth. Assuming this is so, we cannot say that it has a distorted perception. Rather, it has a perfect "mosquito perception" of reality, whatever that may be.
From the perspective of higher planes of consciousness, human awareness is comparable to the mosquito. The greater our awareness, the more our perception of multiplicity dissolves. This is a universal wisdom teaching, with one essential difference emphasized in Kabbalah. Whereas many traditions accentuate the illusory nature of the world in a way that debases our reality, Kabbalah goes in the opposite direction. It emphasizes the holistic nature of all levels of awareness and suggests that each is a reflection of all the others.
Thus, the kabbalistic approach is to suggest that through our reality, however limited it may be, we have access to all others. When we add to this perspective that human life is based on conscious free will, as opposed to most other aspects of creation, the importance of our potential impact on the unfolding of the universe is enormous. So, whereas in many traditions we can hardly wait to get out of our bodies, in Kabbalah we try to maximize the precious time we have in this body. From the kabbalistic perspective, multiplicity is a purposeful aspect in the totality of creation.
This idea of the holistic nature of creation is a way to work with paradox. We can be a unity and pluralistic simultaneously. Each cell in our body does its own task, yet each has a set of chromosomes identical to every other cell in the body. Some day, from a single cell, we will be able to clone a whole new body. We can choose to focus on the separateness or on the unity. One is rational, the other requires fuzzy logic--it is here, it is not here.
People who dwell in the realms of intuition have no difficulty with a discussion of souls, where they come from, where they go, death, angels, demons, heaven or hell. Those who are drawn more to rational, analytical foundations of reality are more challenged by these ideas. But there is no right or wrong way to explore the mysteries of life and death. If the holistic model is correct, each of us is connected to the center of creation in her or his own way. We simply need to discover the inner language that helps us communicate with the hidden parts of the soul.
Clearly, human consciousness is a process that is different from other forms of life. Certain types of symbolic thinking, imagination, reflection, projection, planning, and humor are, in general, unique activities of human consciousness. But if in fact human consciousness is equated to mosquito consciousness relative to the universe, we must ask a key question: What happens to human reality as we continue to expand our consciousness?
In Kabbalah expanded consciousness is called mochin de gadlut, which literally means "mind of bigness." Many techniques are used to achieve this state. We can get a hint of it by doing a simple exercise. If you are willing, allow your vision to expand peripherally. You do not have to turn your head away from these words to look around. Just notice that you can look at this book, read these words, and still take in more visual information about what is happening around you at this moment.
Now, notice how it feels to widen your visual awareness. You will discover immediately a sense of more alertness and greater presence. At first it may take an effort to sustain this alertness, but soon it becomes natural. Although you may occasionally slip away out of habit, and simply see the words before you without noticing much else, with a simple reminder you will find that you can rapidly expand your sense of visual awareness.
You can do the same by paying more attention to sounds that are occurring around you at this moment. Normally there are sounds that we ignore while we are concentrating on something. But suddenly you will notice that a sound has been present all this time, and has gone unnoticed. You do not have to stop reading to intensify your listening. This too gives us a sense of a higher state of awareness.
One more thing, notice your body. You can feel pressure of something under your buttocks if you are sitting. You can feel how your feet touch the ground, you can be aware of the position of your torso and arms, you can notice your neck, head, and eye movements. All of these details are constantly furnishing us with a steady flow of information. The more we become consciousness and pay attention to this, the more we feel a sense of alertness. We become sharper, more present, more attuned to each moment. All this is the process of enhancing our natural awareness.
Most of us develop rote patterns through repetition and we become unaware of the nuances in each situation. With so much happening around us and so little time in our lives, we go on automatic. As long as the routine remains familiar we cope. Unfortunately, when we live for years in this automatic state of mind, the mirror of life tends to become foggy and our spirit lags. It is no surprise that today, in the extraordinary busyness of the world, the feelings of apathy, frustration, futility, and despair have reached almost epidemic proportions.
We have far more awareness potential than we normally actualize. Usually we are daydreaming, our minds are busily reviewing things that have already happened or fantasizing about future events that will rarely come to pass as we envision them. As we are busy with all of this mind activity, we are missing what is happening right here and right now.
We can expand our minds far wider without much effort. All we need is a reminder, an inner clock that rings an alarm to awaken us each time we slip into our more contracted state of awareness. Every time this inner alarm rings, we learn to instantly invite in bigness of mind, mochin de gadlut.