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"The Way of G-d"

Part 1: "The Fundamental Principles of Reality"

Ch. 5: "The Spiritual Realm"

Paragraph 1

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 and uses.

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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