"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch. 5: "The Spiritual Realm"
We're about to begin a rather long foray into the "backdrop" behind
everything we know (and don't know)-- the spiritual realm. Let's remember
from the outset, though, that we've already discussed G-d, who can be said to
be the "backdrop *behind* the backdrop", if you will. So what we'll be
focusing upon now are the various "paraphernalia" and "tools" G-d has set up
Ramchal starts off with a rather simple lay-out of a dualistic universe,
indicating that there are *physical* things and *spiritual* things. Both
realms have their own "laws" and fulfill their own objectives. (Note to those
who'd argue that the world only appears to be dualistic, and that it's really
a combination of material and spiritual: We'll soon see that only human
beings are a true combination of material and spiritual.)
He then offers us some definitions.
Physical phenomena are things we can experience with our five senses (or with
devices that expand on them), regardless of how vast or minute, blunt or
subtle, they may be. They’re either close at hand, here on earth; or far off
in the heavens.
Spiritual phenomena are things we can't experience with our five senses (nor
by means of any devices), and they too are either "close at hand" (which is
to say, they're either *souls* that connect to physical bodies); or they're
"far off in the heavens" (or they’re *transcendent entities* that don't
connect to physical bodies).
There are two types of transcendent entities: *forces* or *angels*. We'll
explain forces later on in the course of this chapter. Angels are immaterial,
celestial agents of change, rather than the sort of "fairies", "winged
spirits", or the like they're often taken to be.
There's actually also a *third* sort of phenomenon that's neither
specifically spiritual or physical but acts as an intermediary between the
two, known as "sheidim" in Hebrew. That term is usually translated as
"demons", which has a decidedly sinister ring to it. "Phantoms" or "ghosts"
are closer to the sense of the word; but those terms also carry certain
connotations that are off the mark.
Suffice it to say that "sheidim" are phenomena that can't be experienced with
the five senses, so they might be thought to be spiritual; yet they interface
with the material world, so they might be thought to be physical. But they're
actually of a class all their own, and are neither spiritual nor physical.
It's pointed out in the Talmud that sheidim are all around us all the time.
They’re more numerous than we, and we'd in fact be thunderstruck and undone
if we were actually able to see them (Tractate Berachos 6A).
And then there’s humankind. We are the only entities that are comprised of
both a spiritual soul and a physical body. While other, lesser beings like
animals *do* have a soul, it would be more accurate to characterize their
"souls" as "energy fields" rather than actual souls. For while those energy
fields are truly the most ethereal of all physical phenomena, they're
nonetheless not spiritual.
Our human souls are utterly transcendent, and they don't express themselves
in the course of our day-to-day experiences. For, again, they’re non-physical
and hence can't be detected by any of our five senses. Hence when people
speak of "being in touch with their souls" they mean to say that they're in
touch with their deepest feelings, aspirations, or convictions. For the soul
simply can't be experienced through the senses (or the heart-- since the
things we sense in our hearts are rooted on a very deep and subtle level in
the sense of touch).
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