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Tikkun Olam


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This is from the site, Inner Frontier:

 

Tikkun Olam: Perfecting the World

 

Isaac Luria, the renowned sixteenth century Kabbalist, used the phrase “tikkun olam,” usually translated as repairing the world, to encapsulate the true role of humanity in the ongoing evolution and spiritualization of the cosmos. Luria taught that God created the world by forming vessels of light to hold the Divine Light. But as God poured the Light into the vessels, they catastrophically shattered, tumbling down toward the realm of matter. Thus, our world consists of countless shards of the original vessels entrapping sparks of the Divine Light. Humanity’s great task involves helping God by freeing and reuniting the scattered Light, raising the sparks back to Divinity and restoring the broken world.

 

We meet related concepts in other religions. Christ promised to return with the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and exhorted people to prepare through love, wakefulness, and charity. In Buddhism, the Bodhisattva vows to forgo final liberation until all beings have been freed from suffering. The Gnostics held that a spark of Divinity resides entrapped within the soul of humans.

 

Tikkun olam encompasses both the outer and the inner, both service to society by helping those in need and service to the Divine by liberating the spark within. As we are, the Divine spark lies hidden beneath our layers of egoistic self-centeredness. That spark is our conscience, through which the promptings of the Divine Will flow toward us. By pursuing spiritual inner work to strengthen our soul and purify our heart, we grow more able to bear that spark without shattering, more willing to act on what we know to be right, less willing to act in harmful or grasping ways, and more able to notice the quiet presence of conscience beneath the din of our chattering minds and reactive emotions. The work of transformation, of building a soul creates a proper vessel for the Divine spark, for our unique share of the Divine Will, returning that spark to the service of the One Who sent it. By working to perfect ourselves, perfect our soul, and serve society, we each contribute in our own unique way to the perfecting of the world. This is our duty and our calling as human beings.

 

To contemplate and enter the process of tikkun olam, repairing or perfecting the world, we need to understand the concept of world. All the major religious traditions present a hierarchy of worlds or levels of being, from the one we ordinarily inhabit to the ultimate world of Divinity.

 

In Kabbalah, for example, the worlds include Asiyah or Action, Yetzirah or Formation, Beriyah or Creation, and Atzilut or Emanation. Beyond and permeating all these is the Ein Sof, the One God, the Boundless and Unconditioned. Each of the worlds corresponds to a progressively higher level of spiritual energy and its related level of soul. The world of Action utilizes the sensitive energy, from which the nefesh soul forms. The world of Formation is built on the conscious energy, the basis of awareness, from which the ruach forms. The world of Creation and Light works with the creative energy, from which the neshama forms. The world of Emanation brings the high energy of love, from which the chaya forms. And corresponding to the ultimate Ein Sof, touching the yechida soul, we have the transcendent energy.

 

The basic principle of Kabbalah is that the seeker pursues spiritual practice to transform his or her being and rise through the levels of worlds, to bring his or her own will back to the Divine will, while opening a way for the higher energies to flow down to this world, and thereby advancing the great process of tikkun olam. For millennia Kabbalists have sought to serve this process, for example by meditating on and opening to the higher energy, the Divine light, the light of the Shechina above their head. They allow the light to spread through them as if sitting in its midst and draw the light down for the Earth, for life, for their own soul. The possibility of opening to the Divine light stands within reach of us all, if we are prepared to do the necessary inner work.

 

Tikkun olam places our spiritual practice at the heart of the epic, unfolding history of the universe: the evolution and spiritualization of the whole of creation. With each small act of kindness, with each moment of presence and practice, with each effort to see, cleanse, and integrate our inner life, with each heartfelt prayer opening to the higher energies and the higher will, we build the new world and serve the Divine Architect of meaning. Rather than view tikkun olam as a return to the perfection that existed before God created the universe, we consider the spiritualizing action as reaching toward a new and greater perfection than existed before, toward perfecting this flawed world by imbuing the whole of it with the Divine spirit. Because of the freedom God necessarily placed into the world, we can surmise that the outcome of the whole process truly remains uncertain, that our free choice to serve the Divine and our planet through fulfilling our highest destiny really matters, that despite our insignificant size with respect to the universe our personal inner work makes a difference. If we can raise ourselves to the station where the Divine can see and act through us, then we complete the momentous work of restoring at least one part to the Whole. And so, with the great Kabbalist, we discover a vision of unbounded meaning: perfecting ourselves, perfecting the world, and helping God.

 

 

 

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Edited by Jeannot
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John :

 

Thanks for this post. I studied a lot of this about fifteen years ago at a very well stocked library at a Hebrew Institution of higher learning in the midwest. At about the same time I studied some very old books and folios dating to and concerning the golden age of alchemy in Europe, from about 1300-1600 ad, or up until about the time that Newton et al began to revolutionize scientific studies and research practices. Newton, by the way had a wide knowledge and grounding in alchemical theory and practice, which has its roots in ancient India and China.

 

The Sefirot which was not mentioned in the above article, consisted of ten emanations, which are understood through powerful symbolic representations. The Sefirot represented stages or levels of power in the creation processes that flowed from the EinSof, at least that's how I remember it. This is all very similar to meditations that were triggered through symbolic representations and the study and interpretation of them in the processes of alchemy. One thing symbolically leads to another, and the final result is creation ab nihilo, creation from nothing.

 

Kabbalism seemed to arise in Spain in the middle ages, and it's founding father, so to speak, was supposedly Moses DeLeon, Moses of the lion. Many believe that this is a veiled reference to activities at Alhambra and the Court and Fountain of the Red Lions which dates to Islamic times prior to 1200 ad . I have mentioned elsewhere here that much of the mathematical and technical knowledge of ancient civilizations was preserved and passed on through Islamic institutions in Africa, Spain, and the Middle East while Europe slumbered in the dark ages.

 

What I'm driving at here is that it should be recognized that there are simlarities to mystical religious practices and forms of scientific blue-sky theorizing. The processes and formats have some basic similarities, and their purposes, the creation of new ideas and novel thought processes, seem to run in parallel directions and are driven by the study of symbols. I have also been very interested in the synchronicity of the facts that the Jews, the community where Kabbalism first arose in Spain, were evicted from Spain by the Church in 1492,;and, of course, that Christopher Columbus was dispatched by the Queen of Spain to "discover" new worlds in the same year.

 

flow.... :)

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John :

 

Thanks for this post. I studied a lot of this about fifteen years ago at a very well stocked library at a Hebrew Institution of higher learning in the midwest. At about the same time I studied some very old books and folios dating to and concerning the golden age of alchemy in Europe, from about 1300-1600 ad, or up until about the time that Newton et al began to revolutionize scientific studies and research practices. Newton, by the way had a wide knowledge and grounding in alchemical theory and practice, which has its roots in ancient India and China.

 

The Sefirot which was not mentioned in the above article, consisted of ten emanations, which are understood through powerful symbolic representations. The Sefirot represented stages or levels of power in the creation processes that flowed from the EinSof, at least that's how I remember it. This is all very similar to meditations that were triggered through symbolic representations and the study and interpretation of them in the processes of alchemy. One thing symbolically leads to another, and the final result is creation ab nihilo, creation from nothing.

 

Kabbalism seemed to arise in Spain in the middle ages, and it's founding father, so to speak, was supposedly Moses DeLeon, Moses of the lion. Many believe that this is a veiled reference to activities at Alhambra and the Court and Fountain of the Red Lions which dates to Islamic times prior to 1200 ad . I have mentioned elsewhere here that much of the mathematical and technical knowledge of ancient civilizations was preserved and passed on through Islamic institutions in Africa, Spain, and the Middle East while Europe slumbered in the dark ages.

 

What I'm driving at here is that it should be recognized  that there are simlarities to mystical religious practices and  forms of scientific blue-sky theorizing. The processes and formats have some basic similarities, and their purposes, the creation of new ideas and novel thought processes, seem to run in parallel directions and are driven by the study of symbols. I have also been very interested in the synchronicity of the facts that the Jews, the community where Kabbalism first arose in Spain, were evicted from Spain by the Church in 1492,;and, of course, that Christopher Columbus was dispatched by the Queen of Spain to "discover"  new worlds in the same year.

 

flow.... :)

 

 

True. I believe that Moses Maimonides, for example, was both a theological and scientific adept. And I've seen some modern books relating the two fields.

 

With God as creator, perhaps there should be a more unitive approach to these questions, involving both science and religion.

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I first learned about this metaphor/myth in an excellent novel and movie "Bee Season". I suspect that it is a good metaphor to work with, although it had an odd affect on one of the characters in the novel.

Edited by fatherman
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