"The Way of G-d"
Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"
Ch 5: The Different Realms and Their Specific Situations
In general, reality is comprised of two realms: a physical one and
spiritual one 1. The physical realm itself is comprised of
the things that we can experience with our senses 2, be they
the more astronomical sorts of things like the stars and planets, or the
more terrestrial ones like the earth, seas, and sky, and all the other
things that we can sense.
The spiritual realm is comprised of immaterial things that we can’t
experience with our senses. They’re either souls which are the purely
spiritual phenomena that enter into, are circumscribed by and are deeply
connected to bodies so as to affect them in various ways and at
different stages 3. Or they’re transcendent phenomena that
never enter into physical bodies like the “forces” 4 and
angels 5. The transcendent phenomena exist on different
levels, they each have unique natures, and they’re so highly variable
that each would seem to be in a class of its own, but they’re all of one
There’s one specific entity, though, that’s a cross between the physical
and spiritual in that it can’t be detected by the senses and isn’t bound
by the constraints and laws of physicality, and yet it’s very different
from angels and forces (despite some similarities). These entities are
known as “demons” 6. And they, too, have specific inborn
attributes and make-ups, and are also so highly variable that each would
seem to be in a class of its own, but are likewise all of one sort.
It’s important to know that only humans consist of the two opposite
components of an exalted soul and a lowly body. For while animals have
“souls”, those souls aren’t actually spiritual phenomena -- even though
they’re the most spiritual of material phenomena. And while the same
sort “soul” is in humans as well given that we too are mortal beings, we
nonetheless also have immortal souls 7 which is an utterly
unique entity that’s completely different than a body and incomparable
to it, and which comes to us from and is connected to G-d for the
reasons we explained above 8.
1. See Ma’amar HaIkkurim, “B’Ruchniyim”, and Da’at Tevunot 78.
2. Or with devices that expand on them, regardless of how vast or
minute, blunt or subtle they may be.
3. The idea that “souls … affect (bodies) in various ways and at
different stages” refers to the relationship between bodies and souls in
life, in the afterlife, in the resurrection of the dead, and in the
world to come.
4. They’re termed “the roots of (all) created phenomena” in 4:6:13
below and are referred to as the Sephirot by the Kabbalists. See Ma’amar
HaChochma, “HaSephirot” and elsewhere about them.
5. See 4:6:13 below as well as Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 108-109,
Klallei Pitchei Chochma v’Da’at 5, Da’at Tevunot 116, 118, 126, 160,
Derech Eitz Chaim p. 137, Messilat Yesharim Ch. 6, Adir Bamarom pp. 260,
6. As demons are the most foreign to us of all of the above, they
call for explanation. For one thing, it’s pointed out in the Talmud that
demons 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 (Berachot 6A). So they’re obviously a force to be reckoned
with. For an exposition about them see Chagiga 16a, Yevamot 122a, Zohar
3:76b, etc. Also see Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalms 106:37 for Biblical
references to them.
Rambam denies their existence in his commentary to Avodah
Zarah 4:7 and in Mishne Torah, Avodat Kochavim 11:6, but the Gaon of
Vilna excoriates him for that opinion (Yoreh Deah 179:13). See Ramchal’s
Iggerot 50 and Derech Eitz Chaim p. 142. Also see Eitz Chaim 50:8 for
the Ari’s understanding of them.
7. As it’s said, “And G-d the L-rd formed man out of the dust of
the ground and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man
became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7).
The type of soul that both animals and humans have is known
as the Nephesh, while the one that’s unique to humans is known as the
Neshama. See 3:1:1-6 below on the different parts of the human soul.
See Rambam’s Sh’mone Perakim, Ch. 1 as well as Ramchal’s
Da’at Tevunot 24 and Adir Bamarom pp. 47, 275.
8. In short, only human beings are comprised of the two
components of reality itself, both physicality and spirituality, at one
and the same time. The forces, angels, and the like are spiritual but
not material, and animals are physical but not spiritual (though they
have something akin to a soul), and “demons” which seem to be a
combination of the two aren’t really so (since they’re not physical, yet
they’re also not angelic).
That’s why we humans are referred to as microcosms of the
universe (see Tanchuma, Pekudei 3), given that only we are comprised of
those two components. Ramchal apparently makes this point to underscore
his ongoing idea about our unique situation in the universe.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.