"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch. 3: "Mankind"
Ramchal begins by pointing out that a certain cosmic condition had to exist
if we're ever to achieve perfection on our own, and to thus draw close to
G-d. We humans had to have been pre-programmed to be of two minds, if you
will: body-oriented, and soul-oriented. And each must do its best to hold
This touches upon a prevailing attitude which we’d do well to discuss at this
point. Many would argue that the idea that we’re inherently dualistic (i.e.,
that we’re part-this and part-that), is spurious. "We aren't partly
soul-oriented, partly body-oriented", they’d insist, "we're wholly *body and
While the point's well taken, it's nonetheless misguided.
The truth be known, if we were to pull back a great distance-- say from a
"G-d's eye-view"-- we'd determine that we *were* indeed wholly body and soul
oriented, that the breakdown into two isn't actually real, and that from that
perspective we're indeed whole beings comprised of a body-soul. (Many make
reference to this idea when they speak of the "mind-body connection".)
But despite the utter truth of that, looking at things from that perspective
is absurd-- and counter-productive. For we don't *experience* ourselves from
a "G-d's eye-view". Our very real, very human struggles-- and our victories,
too-- are based on the fact that we experience a split in ourselves. One huge
and electric part of us experiences the whole of us as of this earth, while
another huge and electric part experiences the whole of us as transcendent.
Granted, there are great and holy individuals who *know* there isn't a split,
who indeed experience the whole of themselves in everything they do, and
don't struggle within their beings. But the great preponderance of us simply
don't experience that, and are "of two minds" in this world.
Hence it would be wise to accept the reality we experience if we're ever to
evolve into the experience of utter reality.
Our next point is that Ramchal depicts body and soul in a rather unique way.
He portrays the body as "earthy" and "cloudy", and the soul as "intelligent"
The body is apparently "earthy" because it's comprised of the same elements
everything else on earth is. And the soul is apparently "intelligent" because
the least earthy thing we know of is pure abstract thought.
The two other depictions of body and soul-- "cloudy" and "clear"-- offer
another insight. For we find that while cloudiness and clarity are indeed two
points on an illumination continuum, neither is an extreme.
For were we to draw such a continuum we'd lay it out thusly (with an infinite
number of degrees in between):
Pitch black cloudy clear glaringly bright.
Ramchal’s point thus seems to be that being body-oriented (i.e., being
"cloudy") isn't at all the most material you can be-- being "pitch black" or
evil is. And being soul-oriented (i.e., being "clear") isn't at all the most
spiritual you can be-- being "glaringly bright" or G-dly is.
His argument would then be that we'd each do well to determine just where we
lie on the continuum over-all, and to strive higher.
And Ramchal's final point here is that once the soul dominates the body, both
are elevated and the individual achieves perfection. Whereas when the body
dominates the soul, both are denigrated and the individual is denied his or
her perfection, and is even said to be rejected by G-d. How daunting a
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