"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch. 3: "Mankind"
We backtrack a bit this time and set our sights on the afterlife.
But first this point. It's become clear in our readings to now that the body
and soul are neither antagonistic nor antithetical to each other. They
compliment and nourish each other on a very deep level, and prove to be a
single entity with separate parts in the bigger picture. But one only comes
to see that after having arrived at the ultimate end and looking back, as is
so often true.
Ramchal offers a fascinating parable in "The Path of the Just" (Ch. 3) that
illustrates this last point. He presents us with a form of recreation that
was once popular involving a huge sculptered garden-maze with a gazebo in the
center. The point of the game was to find your way through the various
nearly-identical, confounding pathways to the gazebo as quickly as you could.
His point is that the people participating in the game at the time are
invariably stymied, and run about from pathway to pathway. But those who will
have reached the gazebo already couldn't help but laugh. After all, from
their vantage point the choice was clear. One only had to have experienced
the game and finished it to see "the big picture".
So, too, in the biggest picture of them all-- reality.
In the course of things it seems that body and soul were born of different
parents, they subsisted on disparate diets, and had utterly different
life-goals. In the end, though, it will prove that they were twins separated
at birth with identical native dreams and proclivities, and the same family
name. None of that becomes self evident though until the Resurrection of the
Dead and the World to Come.
Life as we know it now feeds the illusion that body and soul are
antithetical, and the experience of the afterlife will nourish that
impression as well. But the truth will become clear in the end.
Again, though, we focus now upon the afterlife.
After death the soul must have its experience, and the body its own, until
they can reunite.
The body must decompose and return to its material elements; and the soul--
while certainly not decomposing-- must return to its Divine elements.
The environment in which the soul finds itself after leaving the body is
known as the Soul Realm. It's what we take to be "Heaven". It's much the same
as the World to Come, in that it's utterly and unfathomably sublimely
delightful. And one's situation there is akin to his situation in the World
to Come, but somehow less so (we simply haven't the words to compare or
contrast the two experiences).
Oddly enough, Ramchal says nothing of what we refer to as "Hell", known as
Gehenom in Hebrew. He mentions it elsewhere, and just in passing, as a place
of pain and suffering appropriate to one's misdeeds in life. But he doesn't
go into it in detail as others do.
He points out only that the body must undergo decay and decomposition, and
remain in the earth for as long as it has to before it's to be re-formed and
reunited with the soul.
He seems to be implying that the experience of postmortem pain and suffering
known as Gehenom is only experienced by the body. After all, the soul is in
the Soul Realm, as he said.
But if the body is inanimate by that point, how could it experience "pain and
The answer lies in the fact that while the body has been separated from the
soul, it hasn't been separated from the *spirit*. The spirit is perhaps best
described as the ego disembodied-- the self removed from its material
trappings. It's not the *soul*, though, which is far more transcendent and
out of our experience. (A quick explanation: there are five "grades" to the
soul; the "spirit" is the lowest of the five, but still a part of it.)
His point is that the body *and the spirit* suffer the sorrows and travails
of decomposition and decay after death-- which is it's Gehenom. But that the
full soul is far removed from all that.
And that while the spirit must indeed die, the body and the *full soul*
(spirit included) will resurrect and reunite in the World to Come.
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