Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Interview with Reb Zalman | on Mystic Experience and Mysticism for a New Humanity

Reb Zalman Rabbi Scachter-Shalomi interview by Sadiq
Father of the Neo-Hasidic Jewish Renewal movement, Reb Zalman Scachter-Shalomi is widely considered one of the world's foremost authorities on Hasidism and Jewish mysticism, a leading spiritual elder of our time and recognized as a pioneer in ecumenical dialogue. This interview with Reb Zalman was conducted early August 2008.

I opened up the interview by sharing how all the major enlightened beings, for example Moses, Buddha, Jesus or Muhammad, peace be upon them all, each has gone through initial mystical experiences at their time of enlightenment breakthrough. Sometime such experiences are perceived as outside experience (Burning Bush for Moses, mystical encounter with Archangel Garbriel for Prophet Muhammad) and sometime as inner experience (such as Buddha's awakening or receiving Quranic revelation in a lucid state for Muhammad). So we find mystical experiences very much at the heart of all tradition and thats where they started from.


Now after encountering these inner experiences, all these enlightened beings came out to the market place (from personal inner practice to the society, world) and mostly interfaced with the general people at an outer level and gave practices, commandments, teachings which necessarily helped them to journey from an outer place (through rituals, prayer) to the same inner space which was the beginning point for them personally.

Secondly there has been an interesting shift in human consciousness where it seems humanity is getting ready to receive the inner teachings more directly. More and more people are learning about all faith tradition in a more universal way. Spiritual wisdom are becoming more accessible to all. There is also an unprecedented trend in a way that very recently we have discovered and translated ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, Hidden Gnostic Gospels, similarly mystical teachings of Kabbalah are getting accessible to general people which at one time not even Jews could access them. All the mystical schools and their teachings are now getting more and more light and attention. As if we are shifting towards the original mystical teachings.

Given this as a backdrop, I asked Reb Zalman, how he envisions mysticism for a new humanity, for coming generations.

Reb Zalman began by saying, what I described (as above) is called Hagdamah in Jewish wisdom tradition, which means 'preparation for an opening'. Following is selection from his talk:

There was a brain scientist, Julian Jaynes and he wrote about two hemisphere, the right and left. He described that the people earlier were getting their spirituality as if a voice was speaking to them and this was right hemisphere experience. And I believe many of the people who spoke, and the voice of God came unto them and so on so forth, they saw it more as if were come from the outside because that's the way our nervous system works. And when you understand things about chakra, things about vibratory level - then there is a lot of history building up now.

There was a time, an amazing time that was called 'the axial age' - that was the time when there were Socrates, Aristatole, Plato, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isiaha, Zarathustra, Mahavira, The Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Confucius. So the question is, close to this same time what did they get, what was happening? The answer is that all of them practiced some kind of inner practices work. And so like a photographic plate they were able to receive the revelation that was coming down at that time.

There is revelation that coming down and there is revelation that rising up. Right now what so amazing is that while in the past people didn't pay much attention to revelation rising up, infact they considered it to be as if it came from djinn, from demons and they didn't honor it enough because what is coming up is the consciousness of our Mother, the Earth. What coming down is very much Father God. Some systems like Native America they speak about Father Sky and Mother Earth, that way.

In Kabbalah they talk about Shekinah, the Divine Presence. So there is the Feminine, the Divine Presence is manifesting a lot more now than it did before. Before we were closing it off saying it is evil, it is wrong. Its like the way in which people look at sexuality and so on. Now what's happening is that these two revelations are beginning to meet. Whereas before people would practice all kind of austerity and they didn't want to have the body involved. Today with marshal art, tai-chi and with all these things we are beginning to honor the wisdom of the body and we are beginning to pay attention to feminine because its absolutely necessary for the survival of human being that we should find a way to heal our planet.

There is a mysticism that comes from being in touch of the need of the planet. we have to do the redemptive work to pay attention to the planet. now when you look at the four yogas and you look at sharia, tariqat, marifat, haqiqat and you look in kabbalah the four letter of Divine name and you look at the word 'Allah' which has four levels too. And Alam al Malaqut, Jabarut and so and so forth - you realize these four keeps coming up. Earth, Water, Air and Fire. Sensation, feeling, reason and intuition - all of these keep coming up.

Part of it because God created us in such a way that we are hardwired, that is to say our brain operate that way. Then we have reptilian brain that is always making sure for our safety. Then we have an instinct of herd that comes from limbic brain. Then we have cortex which is the reasoning brain. Then we have so much brain which we don't even understand yet which is where intuition comes from. So when you think about Sirr, Batin all these words that we are using, what is zahir, at one point what was outside was not seen as conducive to spirituality, but now we beginning to honor the nature more that even a sunrise and sunset and all these things and even the nature that is in human being that is seen differently.

So when you look at the word Quddush that has something to do even how the body, how a male and female relate to each other in a holy bond, in hebrew its called Qiddushin because it has something to do with the sense of holiness. So the mysticism that is coming now is not so much one of austerity as before; then you have, even the Buddha himself when he was going with the Shramanas that didn't lead him to enlightenment. But it was a prelude to enlightenment. If he hadn't done with the shramana, come directly out of the palace and sat under the tree, nothing would have happened. So you have to understand the organic connection, the discipline that led him to sit under the bodhi tree and get enlightenment. For Moses, for Musa Sallalahu alihi wasaalam, there he was a shepherd. If you sit in the desert, a lot of time you have to think about how things are going on and so on and so forth. Even then you have a sense that God used a way to fascinate him with the burning bush. And the sense of Miraaj is coming up for Islam.

There is Alam-al-Mithaal. Most people think Alam-al-Mithaal as being some kind of hallucination. But Alam al-Mithal is a reality. Its translated as Mundus Imaginalis, the Imaginal World. You tell a story and the story is Mithal. For example when one say, as water runs down, so the divine grace runs down; so I use water as Mithal. Alam-al-Mithaal - you have realities that are emotional realities, they are realities of rooh (soul), not so much of nafs (psyche).

Now the point is that we don't really have yet an integrated, an integral understanding how all these forces work together. This is where Vedanta was doing it in Hinduism, Kabbalah was doing it for Jews, and Sufism and Daoism - they were all giving some kind of a way. But upto now there hasn't been a way to integrate them all into say, what is found in the seven chakras, you can find the same in ten sefirot if you understand how sefirots work. All is describing the same spiritual reality.

So the mysticism that people would not want to have anything to do because they thought it was all fancy hallucination and nothing real there. Now we are beginning to understand quantum realities, ancient medicine and all kind of other things. So whether we like it or not, mysticism comes in.

(End of First Part) >> (Next part on Reb Zalman's walking in the Sufi Path, and also his thoughts on Why Religious Reform is Necessary)


+ Names, Terms and Ideas discussed in the Interview:

. Julian Jaynes Society
. Axial Age
. Kabbalah
. Shekinah
. Mysticism
. Shramana
. Chakra
. Sefirot Pin It Now!

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