“Happy are the poor in spirit, for in them is the Kingdom of Heaven.” -Matthew 5:3
Perhaps the most interesting perspective to come from Kabbalah is the idea that heaven isn’t a far away place. It’s not something to look forward to eventually, but rather something here and now, if we will open our eyes and see it. This is because Kabbalah is about perception. “Change perception, change reality.” This is the last of the Seven Principles of Mormon Kabbalah. Heaven is in us and around us, if we will but see it. How then do we find heaven? We start with a walk in the orchard.
We’ve discussed the four Pardes (Hebrew for “orchard”): P’shat (“surface”), Remez (“hints”), D’rash (“concept”), and Sod (“mystery”). And, we added a fifth: Kabbalah (“reception”). Kabbalah isn’t a Parades, it’s all of the Pardes. And, it is an extension of Sod. In Kabbalah it is said the Torah has 70 faces, which is to say there are 70 ways of looking at each of the four Pardes. How can this be? Why didn’t God merely tell the authors of the scriptures exactly what He wanted to say?
God meets us where we are. How can God do this if there is only one meaning for the Word and we are not yet ready to hear it? Simple, He finds a better way. And He did! This is why the scriptures are so vast in their wisdom, anyone truly seeking will find. All scripture is “alive” in that it speaks to us where we are. This is why one person can read a portion of the text and gain wisdom and insight rejected by others. We all shape the scriptures by our various perspectives, and if we are truly wise our perspectives are then further shaped by the scriptures.
If we were to take every word in the scriptures, then every sentence, then every verse, then every paragraph, then every chapter, then every book, then every collection of books, then every grouping of words, then every combination of grouping every passage together to come to new conclusions (D’rash), and any other way we can think of to study scripture, multiply these by four, then again by 70… I’m not sure if we’ve reached infinity, but that’s a lot of perspectives. And, that’s the point. The scriptures can speak to all of us, meeting us where we are, all at the same time.
The Purpose and the Warning
What is Kabbalah? Ask ten people, and one will likely receive ten answers. However, the similarity one should find in all of these answers is: to teach us there is a deeper truth to life, and as we find that truth brings us closer to God.
“The Sages taught: Four entered the orchard and they are as follows: Ben Azzai; and ben Zoma; Aḥer, and Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva said to them: When you reach pure marble stones, do not say: Water, water, because it is stated: “He who speaks falsehood shall not be established before My eyes” (Psalms 101:7). Ben Azzai glimpsed and died. And with regard to him the verse states: Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His pious ones (Psalms 116:15). Ben Zoma glimpsed at the Divine Presence and was harmed. And with regard to him the verse states: Have you found honey? Eat as much as is sufficient for you, lest you become full from it and vomit it (Proverbs 25:16). Aḥer chopped down the shoots. Rabbi Akiva came out safely.” –Chagigah 14b
What does this tell us? The orchard is Pardes, the study of the Torah. The sages enter seeking paradise. They see God, the divine presence. The first dies. The second went crazy. The third became a heretic, the fourth left unharmed.
Does this mean we will meet the fate of one of these men if we study and learn of God? If we meet God? If we receive the Second Comforter? No. Remember, in Kabbalah, we are everyone. Everyone is us. The fate of these men is the fate of us, or our desires. When we meet God, we will die. This is to say, we will no longer be the person we once were. Our wicked desires will have been purged.
Will we go mad? Our perception will change. People won’t understand because they have not experienced it. Look at what happened to Galileo when he said the sun was the center, not the earth. Likewise, because of this change in our perception, the traditions of men will see us as heretics. We will abandon the authority of men for the authority of God. But we, our true selves, will walk away unharmed. This is to say, we will become our true selves. And that, as they say, is the point of all of this.
“The Kingdom of God will not come by looking for it: don’t tell people to look here, or to look there; indeed, the Kingdom of God is inside you.” -Luke 17:20-21