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    Table of Contents

    A Rectified Experience of the Divine

    When a person experiences an elevated spiritual experience from a holy source, he is liable to fall into a state of self-content and turn the experience of the Divine into his goal. His ego swells from the experience thus separating him from the Source of his experience.

    The advice Hassidism offers in order to retain the enthusiasm from the experience, without wallowing in the sensations it arouses, is to nullify egocentric feelings, thus opening oneself to yet higher levels of Divine illumination. In this way an individual may eventually experience the revelation of the true Divine essence of his Jewish soul.

    Once a person reaches a state of bitul, “nullification,” his feelings and experiences become contained within the intensity of that nullification. They are therefore no longer considered separate entities that are liable to lead to the negative effects described above. However, this does not solve the problem completely, since even if the nullification is as described, and there is a certain openness to an elevated Divine illumination, the ego has still not been nullified completely. Although the nullification achieves a weakening of the feeling and experience, we have still not reached the goal of maximum connection between the Divine illumination and the basest reality that is the ultimate state of nullification, “nullification of existence.” This is hachna'ah, the submission stage of the process of rectification through avodat hayichudim, the “service of unification.”

    Another way to retain the positive effects of an uplifting experience, suggested in Hassidism, is to deepen and enlarge the sensation until it reaches the level of pure, essential pleasure. This pleasure can be expressed in one of two ways:

    • First, the pleasure comes from the sensation of ayin, existential “nothingness.” The psyche identifies strongly with this feeling and feels that this is its correct place, precisely when it experiences the nullification of its existence as a distinct entity. Here we again find the appearance in the psyche of an existential paradox, where pleasure is revealed in the psyche precisely because of the disappearance of the feeling of the self-subsistence and self-existence of the psyche.

    • Second, the psyche becomes filled with conscious, physical pleasure, as a result of experiencing the Divine. Of Rabbi Nahum of Chernobyl, it is told that, even though he was an ascetic, he possessed a corpulent body, which resulted from the pleasure he felt when reciting “Amen, may His great Name be blessed…”

    Once a person reaches such a great and essential pleasure from Divinity, all other pleasures become foreign to him; these pleasures are no longer a temptation when compared to the pleasure felt by clinging to God. From here we can already discern a connection between the base reality and the Divine Light that illuminates it. These two methods relate to the stage of havdalah, “separation” in the rectification process.

    A third way to retain the positive effects of a true spiritual experience is the manifestation of the deepest level, revealed in the simplest and lowest level. Here the main emphasis is on a person's natural reaction to his experience of the Divine. In a rectified state, when a person merits a revelation of Divine illumination in him, a feeling of gratitude to God naturally wells up in him for being given the opportunity to experience Divinity. This feeling of gratitude comes from a natural experience of life in which a person recognizes his boundaries and limitations. He does not expect to be able to sense God's Infinite Goodness, and when he does, he recognizes that God is the Source of the goodness, and he humbly thanks God for having experienced it.

    This natural, almost “automatic” expression of gratitude is an essential part of the rectified state of “Natural Consciousness”; thus, “Natural Consciousness” is the correct tool for the development of knowledge of the Divine, and for development of the living experience of Divinity. This is the stage of hamtakah, “sweetening,” the Divine pleasure permeating all of one's being, even the lower, sensual side of one's being (which brings one to an even more rectified state of hachna'ah, “submission,” for the sincere feeling and expression of gratitude, from the depth of one's being, implies true and complete submission to the Giver, as will be explained).

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