The Way of Holiness, Enlightenment, and Redemption in the Hebrew Bible

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WAY OF HOLINESS, ENLIGHTENMENT, AND REDEMPTION:

 

INTEGRATING THE CONCEPTUAL TORAH AND THE EXPERIENTIAL TORAH, AS A HOLISTIC LIVING TORAH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please send all correspondence to:

 

Dr. Barry Hammer

 

Email: mhbj58@gmail.com

 

Phone: 207-866-3223

 

 

 

 

 

THE WAY OF HOLINESS, ENLIGHTENMENT, AND REDEMPTION:

 

INTEGRATING THE CONCEPTUAL TORAH AND THE EXPERIENTIAL TORAH, AS A HOLISTIC LIVING TORAH

 

 

 

An article, by Shaul Magid, which I read many years ago, implicitly suggests a very important issue for contemporary Jewish philosophy in regard to how Lurianic scriptural exegesis took at its starting point not only the peshat or conventional exoteric meaning of the written Torah, but placed greater emphasis upon a “predetermined meta-text,” supposedly the esoteric Torah “revealed at Sinai along with the exoteric Torah.” 1 In order to clarify this issue and address its important implications for contemporary Jewish philosophy, I am restating the issue as follows: For purposes of enhancing the soul’s holiness of being and enlightenment or divine truth revelation toward ultimate full redemption, is it better for the soul’s consciousness to stay focused exclusively upon the conceptual study of the written text of Torah and traditional exoteric commentaries upon it, or to, at least occasionally, move away from a conceptual or analytical mode of Torah study in order to achieve direct, immediate (not conceptually mediated) contact or intuitive, empathetic communion with the Living Torah, i.e., the living Spirit of God, the fully radiant expressed spiritual Light or Glory of God’s absolute being, to which the written texts of the Holy Scriptures may symbolically or metaphorically point. I will take the position in this article that the conceptual Torah and the experiential Living Torah are both necessary for enhancing the soul’s level of enlightenment or divine truth revelation, holiness of being, and ultimate full redemption. I will be contending that conceptually derived understanding of the written Scriptures and other classic Jewish religious texts, by itself alone, may not necessarily lead to the soul’s enhanced enlightenment or divine truth revelation and full redemption. However, the proper conceptual contemplation of the written text of Torah, studied with its commonplace exoteric  commentaries and analytical interpretations, can be a means of bringing the soul’s consciousness to a state of quiet receptivity, in which the Living Torah, God’s expressed spiritual Light, is able to enlighten and ultimately redeem the soul, by enabling us to develop a deeper, experiential, spiritually intuited understanding of the Divine or Spiritual Reality, moving beyond but also including the study and contemplation of more conventional, conceptually-derived, interpretations of the wording of sacred Jewish texts.

 

The Scriptures tell us that the written, conceptual Torah can be a tree of life, but only for those who grasp it (Prov. 3:18), meaning that the soul must come to a deep understanding of the essential truth of the Scriptures if the soul is to ultimately awaken as a branch of the tree of immortal everlasting spiritual Life Substance, which is its permanent redemption or eternal salvation. What is this great truth in the conceptual Torah that the soul has to grasp? It is that only God IS, which means that He/She is the Absolute Being, the absolute Good, the unconditioned Perfect Being, the only absolute Reality Presence, the Almighty, the infinite, all-inclusive wholeness of being or holiness, the Blessed Holy One, all of which refer to God as the only, and therefore only, reality presence, power, goodness, identity, and intelligence. As Abraham Heschel put it, “God is one means He alone is truly real.” 2  That is the essential message of God’s pronouncement that He is the IAM (Ex. 3:14). God was revealing Him/Herself as absolute Being, the only real Living Being, the absolute and only reality presence, identity, will or power, intelligence, and goodness. This suggests that He is infinite, omnipresent, eternal, unconditioned absolute Reality spiritual Presence, the unitary wholeness of being which lacks nothing, and in which there are no dualistic relative opposites of finite good and evil, which means that He is unconditioned Perfect Being. Being an absolute Unity, He is also unconditioned absolute Love-Happiness and Absolute Peace. All of this is consistent with what God repeatedly states in various ways throughout the Scriptures, that He is the One, the All, the absolute and only Reality Being, that only He IS: “I am God, and there is none else” (see e.g., Isa. 45:5-6, 45:21-22, 46:9; c.f. Ps. 139:7-10, Isa. 44:6,8; 48:12); “I am the Almighty God,” i.e., the only power (Gen. 17:1); Beside Me there is no savior,” (Isa. 43:11); “I am with thee and there is nothing to fear (see Isa. 41:10,13,14; Gen. 15:1); “He is the [immutable] Rock, His work is perfect” (Deut. 32:4); “I am the Lord; I change not” (Mal. 3:6); and “As for God, His way is perfect….He makes my way perfect” (2 Sam. 22:31-33, Ps. 18:30).

 

The implication of this truth is that there can be no other reality presence, power, goodness, intelligence, being, or voice for the soul to know or to be. That is, the soul must necessarily be a divine image or divine idea of God’s absolute Being, a more objectified, more manifest, abstracted, grosser, form of God’s spiritual Being substance, a reflection of, or “witness” to, God’s absolute unconditioned Perfect Being and unfolding Glory self-knowledge (Isa. 43:10,12,21; 44:8). Acknowledging and expressing the conviction of being united to, or abiding within, God’s Being connects us to the Source of Divine insight, grandeur, and limitlessly abundant blessing. Our loving communion with the written text of Torah can make us more open and receptive to the Divine Author of Torah gradually imparting into us a deeper, experiential, intuitively and empathically derived understanding of how to attune or connect ourselves to the Divine Intelligence, Will, Spirit or Living Energy Presence, and uplifting blessing power being conveyed by the text, and by the mitzvoth or religiously mandated activities associated with it. This view that we human beings are meant to reflect God’s living spirit as conveyed through Torah (including any or all commonly accepted Jewish religious texts) is supported by scriptural passages such as, Gen. 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him,” as well as by Ps. 8:5, “Thou hast made him little less than God” (see also Ps. 17:15, 82:6, and Lev. 19:2). Being made a “little less than God” suggests that the soul is of the same nature as God’s spiritual substance, but of a lesser magnitude, like the flame of a match when compared to the sun’s fire. As suggested by Deut. 32:4, God’s work, or creation, is as perfect as He is, i.e., totally absent of finite good and evil. As various scriptural passages point out, the soul, and even this entire world, are inherently immersed in God’s expressed spiritual Presence or spiritual Glory (see e.g., Isa. 6:3, Ps. 24:1, Ps. 139:7-10). If, in His Holy Spirit there is no evil (He is of “purer eyes than to behold evil” (Hab. 1:13), then there can truly be no finite good and evil in this world, either, existing independently from God’s infinite, all-inclusive, all-pervading Being. Supporting this is God’s pronouncement that His entire creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), meaning that it is truly good, with no wrongness or evil of any kind in it. All of this additionally suggests that the soul can never actually be separate from, or fall from, God’s spiritual Presence into a world of finite good and evil. In fact, the early Hasidic zaddikim (or zaddiqim) taught that if it were possible for the soul to become separate from God’s all-pervading Presence, then the soul would cease to exist. 3   Likewise, Arthur Green states that the soul can never be entirely separate from God. 4   As a spiritual form, or as an individual idea or image of the Divine Intelligence, unconditionally, necessarily, and choicelessly immersed in God’s omnipresent spiritual Substance, the soul is therefore already and inherently redeemed or perfected, as God Himself states (see Isa. 43:1-2, 44:22-23; Cf. Deut. 32:4, Ps. 82:6).

 

Although the soul can’t truly separate itself from God’s omnipresent Substance,, the soul’s consciousness can fall or become immersed in a dream of finite, divisive, conceptual-imaginal knowledge of good and evil, illusory shadow knowledge, or what Scripture calls the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17), which provides the soul with the illusory experience of separation from God’s spiritual Substance. That is, through the soul’s denial of the reality of God’s omnipresent Perfect Being, its consciousness turns objectively down or away from God’s expressed radiant spiritual Substance and the soul’s form, which is a conceptual-imaginal shadow substance in the unconscious part of the brain-mind of the soul. Thereby, the soul’s consciousness falls into the objective shadow of God’s spiritual substance and the soul’s form, which is a conceptual-imaginal shadow substance in the unconscious part of the brain-mind of the soul. There the soul has the capacity to create a finite conceptual-imaginal identity for itself, a conceptually-conditioned mind, a finite psychophysical existence self-image, the ego-personality psychological construct and its continuous mind chatter, inner monologue, or personal life story daydream fantasy. In the words of Mikhal of Zlotchov, “what stands between you and God like a wall is your ego. This I, this consciousness of a separate existence, is a wall between you and the Divinity.” 5   That is, as long as there are finite, divisive conceptual-imaginal objects of knowledge abiding within the soul’s unconditioned mind, they obstruct God’s spiritual Glory Presence from shining substantially into the soul’s consciousness. This is particularly the case when the soul comes to identify with, or fuses its consciousness and spiritual energy presence with, such finite objects of knowledge, which gives them a semblance of reality, making the ego-personality self-image in the soul’s consciousness a more enduring shadow presence. That enduring shadow conceptual self-image, or self-defined identity and related incessant self-generated mind chatter, functions as a barrier to God’s spiritual Presence and related impartations of deeper insights into Torah shining into the soul very substantially, like clouds in the sky obstruct the sunshine from reaching the earth, and, therefore, have a very deleterious life-degenerative effect upon the mind and body. However, with the conceptual creation of the ego-personality self-image, the soul has a means of pretending to know itself as an independent being, presence, or identity in its own right; essentially creating itself as a self-styled god in its own right, apart from God’s spiritual Presence immanent within the soul. Thus, in the construction of a conceptually-conditioned self-image, the soul essentially constructs its own psychological graven image, bearing witness to itself, which is a means of narcissistic self-worship. That is why God says of such souls in Isa. 44:9, “They are their own witnesses,” i.e., they are not bearing witness to His Glory as His divine image, the purpose for which He created the soul. These remarks find support in the writings of the Hasidic master Shneur Zalman, who noted, “The essence and root of idolatry is that [the individuality] is regarded as a thing in itself [i.e., an independent being], sundered from the Divine holiness,” i.e., God’s infinite omnipresent wholeness of being. 6   Likewise, the soul’s projection of concepts, images, and positive and negative value-judgments upon the world produce the appearances and experiences of finite good and evil, like a mirage, hallucination, dream, or a sort of collective unconscious self-hypnosis, which has been consensually validated in order to collectively deny the reality of God’s infinite and omnipresent absolute Goodness and unconditioned Perfect Being, and our intrinsic abidance within it. It is as Shakespeare noted, “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it [seem] so.” (Hamlet, Act 2, Sc.2). Green supports this with his comment that the soul may “pretend that God does not pervade all…but the ultimate truth of realizing our oneness with the all-pervading Being can only be postponed, not denied.” 7  The foregoing discussion suggests that redemption or salvation is merely a matter of undoing the soul’s fall into identification with its false, conceptually-derived sense of itself, the illusory dreamlike knowledge of being a finite mortal being apart from God’s omnipresent Absolute Being. It is a matter of God reawakening the soul to what it has always been—before, during, and then again, after the fall.”

 

The covenant that God made with the Jewish people through His various prophets is consistent with this truth that is stated throughout the conceptual written Torah. What I see as the essential basis of the covenant  is the interrelatedness and interdependence in function of God and His/Her community of soul forms. The spiritual community is naturally indivisible as its individual souls together reflect the indivisible Oneness of God through their loving connection to one another and attunement to the indivisible holistic outer letter and inner living spirit of Torah. That is, as the Hasidic master Menahem Nahum asserted, God and the community of souls within spiritual Israel comprise a unitary “single whole”:  “[God] is unwhole without us. Surely we [the Jewish community, spiritual Israel] without Him are also incomplete….” 8 As indicated by quotes given earlier, God has created His community of souls to be His means of self-knowledge, His divine images, to witness to, or reflect back to Him, His Perfect Being spiritual Presence. In return, the soul’s function is to unfold the ever higher potentials of powers of functioning and experiencing of that Perfect Being Presence, and then as God’s divine image, to reflect that back to God for His limitless ever-greater self-knowledge. When the entire community of receptive souls, or the community of spiritual Israel, performs this function for God, He is provided with ever-grander self-knowledge not only in height or depth, but also in breadth, through each of His soul form-function-potentials. Abiding within the unifying community, being attuned to the energy of true love that keeps the community cohesive and properly attuned to the greater unity or Oneness of God, and acknowledging the essential unity of Torah and reality, does not efface the distinctiveness of each individuality, but, rather, gives it a more meaningful relational context, just as individual alphabetic letters, words, and chapters of Torah naturally exist and have meaning only in their relational context, and not in isolation from one another and from the seamless whole Torah.

 

Thus, statements of this covenant in the Scriptures suggest that God will redeem the soul, meaning that He will restore the soul to its original consciousness before the Fall into illusory divisive knowledge of finite good and evil, if the soul will stand as God’s divine image, by choicelessly acknowledging and living the truth that only God IS, that He is absolute Being, absolute Good, the one infinite, omnipresent, unconditioned Perfect Being, and that there is no other reality being for the soul to know. In other words, the soul’s part of the covenant is that it must undo the cause of its experienced fall, which is desire to know itself as a finite independent being apart from God’s spiritual Presence. That is the pretended choice to know and be a presumed presence or being other than a spiritual form which reflects, or witnesses to, God’s omnipresent unconditioned Perfect Being. Thus, to fulfill its part of the covenant, the soul must choicelessly lovingly unify with God’s absolute Being, keeping His infinite omnipresent Perfect Being Presence before its consciousness all the time, first as a contemplation of God’s nature, and then communing directly with god’s Presence, when that becomes manifest to the soul’s consciousness. Without the continuous consciousness of God’s Presence in these ways, the soul is in knowledge of some other being or presence, which is a denial of the truth that only God IS, and that the soul is God’s divine image. When the soul lovingly unifies its consciousness with God in either of these ways, then in return, God blesses the soul by shining His loving spiritual Glory Light into the soul 9 , which can involve impartations of intuitively derived experiential insights into deeper meanings of Torah or Divinely revealed truth. This essential covenant is stated in various ways in the Torah, and as God’s statement to Abraham, “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect.” (Genesis 17:1), in which “walking before God” suggests that the soul is to keep God’s absolute Perfect Being Presence before its consciousness in all of its activities. Only then can God redeem the soul, i.e., fully perfect it as a conscious divine image of God’s spiritual Being. Similarly, in Isa. 44:22, God says, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” In the soul’s acknowledgment “there is none else,” meaning there is no other reality presence but God’s, the soul must choicelessly be conscious only of God, which is the soul’s redemption as a divine image of God. Likewise, Prov. 4:25-27 advises the soul to look only to God’s unconditioned Perfect Being, and not to turn away from God in order to acknowledge the relative opposites of finite good and evil as reality presences: “Let thine eyes look right on….straight before thee…Turn not to the right hand or the left: remove thy foot from evil.” Similarly, the Psalmist tells us, “I have set the Lord always before me” (Ps. 16:8). Other statements of this essential covenant include, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace , whose mind is stayed on thee” (Isaiah 26:3); “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths (Prov. 3:6); and the statement of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31:24, “Know the Lord.” Likewise, the soul is told to acknowledge no other voice but God’s as a reality presence, and, therefore, to choicelessly listen to and obey only His voice, as when God told Moses, “Obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant….and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:5-6), and in Isa. 55:2-3, “hearken diligently unto me….incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live [i.e., awaken to its immortal being nature]; and I will make an everlasting Covenant with you.

 

God’s expectation that the soul listen only to His voice, and not the conceptual-imaginal voice of the ego-personality explains His concern about Adam and Eve listening to a voice other than His: “Who told thee that thou wast naked?” (Gen. 3:11). Numerous passages also suggest that God will redeem, restore, or ascend the soul who acknowledges that He is the only will, power, or doer, e.g., Ps, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not [will or] want….He restores my soul,” as well as Isa. 40:28-31, Zech. 4:6, Ps. 127:1, 138:8. These passages affirm that once the soul has fallen into the presumption or dream of illusory separation from God, it can’t get itself out through its own efforts. Instead, God has to redeem the soul by shining into it His expressed spiritual Glory Light, enhancing the soul’s light of consciousness so that it can reawaken to its intrinsic Oneness with God’s immanent spiritual Presence or Torah, but that can happen only when the soul shows Him that it no longer wants the pretense of independent personal will and self-knowledge, but is willing to be in continuous God consciousness as His divine image, individual idea, perfect reflection, or witness. From this discussion we can now understand the Psalmist’s assertion, “I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Ps. 17:15). He seems to be suggesting that when the soul lives God’s covenant as described here, acknowledging no other reality but God’s absolute Righteousness, i.e., His absolute Goodness, His all-pervading omnipresence, then the soul will awaken from its dream of falling into the knowledge of finite good and evil, and thereby the soul will realize its own inherently fulfilling real identity as God’s divine image.

 

                My view is that the conceptual Torah and the experiential Living Torah are both required, and need to be harmoniously integrated, in the process of bringing the soul to enhanced spiritual enlightenment, divine truth revelation, and eventual full conscious awakening from the Fall, and that they should be viewed as interrelated and interdependent means to that ultimate end. By Living Torah, I am referring to the living Spirit of God, which is the immanent spiritual Love-Light-Life Presence of God to which, at best, the finite written word of the Holy Scriptures metaphorically point. Although the conceptual Torah can be very useful, to a point, it also has its limitations, and by itself alone is not sufficient to bring the soul to full salvation, which requires undoing the soul’s illusory fall into the realm of the conceptual-imaginal shadow presence, so that the soul can commune directly with God’s Living-Loving spiritual Light Presence, which is the Living Torah. As Magid correctly suggests, the abandonment of the written Torah as one’s starting point can lead one away from the truth of the Torah, as he points out in the case of the “unique” and “bizarre” aspects of Lurianic exegesis. 10  Thus, in my view, the great value of the conceptual Torah, if properly utilized (as I will describe later in this article), is that it provides the soul with the essential truth that has to be grasped if the soul is to be fully enlightened, redeemed, or awakened to its conscious immortality of being nature as God’s divine image. To truly grasp the intended truths of the conceptual Torah, as well as their experiential and transformational implications, they must not be merely ritualistically recited by rote, but continuously deeply contemplated, which is an initial means of living the covenant of continuously affirming that only God IS, keeping the mind stayed on God, acknowledging Him in all one’s ways, or lovingly unifying with God via the truths of the conceptual Torah. That is the law or truth of Perfect Being that the soul will delight in contemplating “day and night” (see Ps. 1:2), not the law of finite good and evil, because only the former will convert or redeem the soul (see Ps. 19:7), whereas the latter will retain the soul in the realm of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

 

                Such contemplation of the truths of the conceptual Torah can bring one to a deep understanding and clear conviction or faith in the infinite, omnipresent absolute Reality nature of God’s spiritual Presence. 11  This deep experiential or intuited conviction of the nature of God and the soul’s inherent immortality of being nature helps to diminish identification with the ego as a separate, independent sense of identity, stills the continuous conceptual mind movement of the personal life story daydream, and quiets the soul’s fear that it is losing is real self by diminishing the ego presence. Although this contemplative practice does diminish ego identification, and in doing so, it does bring the soul into greater attunement with God’s will, the soul is not truly “holy as God is holy” as long as the soul is still identified with the ego to any extent. Since the ego conceptually-conditioned sense of self is an opposite shadow of what God’s nature is, its identity, reasoning, and volition are actually basically antithetical to God’s spiritual being, and therefore it inherently lacks true holiness and goodness of being. Therefore, the inclination of one who is identified with the ego will usually be to act in ways consistent with its shadow sense of being, which is why such an individual continues to struggle with unholy inclinations. An inherently unholy being can only pretend to act relatively good, but it cannot change its actual nature by following a behavioral theology as a prescribed code of religious-moral-social conduct. Since something unlike God’s nature can never fully unify with Him as full redemption requires, therefore, the soul identified with the false ego, as a separate sense of self or identity, can never come to full enlightenment or salvation. Regardless of how devotedly an individual follows a code of religious-moral-social conduct, as long as that person is reflecting shadow presence and not God’s spiritual Presence within its consciousness, she or he cannot truly serve as a divine image of God.

 

                Despite the usefulness of the proper contemplation of the conceptual Torah in attenuating the soul’s identification with the ego sense of self, there is also a great danger in holding exclusively to the conceptual written Torah, since doing so keeps the soul’s consciousness in the conceptually-oriented mind, the realm of the conceptual-imaginal shadow presence, and therefore retains the soul’s sense of separation from God’s spirit, which is beyond or greater than all conceptual definitions. Thus, focusing exclusively on the conceptual Torah and acquiring greater amounts of conceptual understanding as finite objects of knowledge with which to fill the soul’s consciousness, such as, thoughts, ideas, presumptions, or conceptual information about the nature of God and the soul’s relationship to God, essentially precludes the soul’s redemption by obstructing ever higher levels of enlightenment and holiness of being from accumulating within the soul’s consciousness via God’s Living Spirit, and, therefore, the soul cannot serve as a fully radiant divine image of god’s full Radiance. It is apparent, then, that one who is truly interested in one’s spiritual redemption must occasionally turn away from conceptually mediated interpretations of God, Torah, or spiritual truth, and ultimately come to directly experience the spiritual Presence of God immanent within the soul, which can take place only through the soul’s direct communion with the Living Torah, unmediated by concepts. Since that spiritual Presence is ever-present, it can become readily detectable to the soul’s consciousness in the heart-center of its being, and will grow more pronounced in the soul, when the soul’s consciousness is still, quiet, or without any self-generated finite conceptual mind movement, which like clouds blocking the sunlight, has prevented the soul’s consciousness from directly experiencing the Living spiritual Presence of God, and letting it intuitively impart its own deeper understandings of Torah into the open, receptive, mind, not cluttered or filled with its own self-initiated thought. Thus, the Psalmist tells the soul, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 4:4). As the Hasidic master Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk put it, “If there are no self-centered thoughts in the mind….but God alone [is kept in the soul’s consciousness] with true self-abandonment, then because God’s glory abides within all created beings, [in that event] God’s Glory is manifested in an individual….” 12  

 

                I have already indicated that many statements in the Scriptures of God’s covenant with the Israelites involve dropping all conceptual-imaginal self-knowledge in order to continuously keep the consciousness focused on God’s infinite omnipresent spiritual Presence. Similar, Prov. 3:5-7 advises the soul to “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thine ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes.” This suggests that in addition to turning away from personal conceptual understanding in the spiritual growth process, the soul must not rely on the personal sense of self at all for its redemption, because that would reinforce the belief that the individuality is a reality presence apart from God. The Scriptures likewise provide support that the soul cannot come to God while retaining a belief in one’s personal sense of will-power, which denies God as the Almighty God (Gen. 17:1), the only reality might, will, or power. Thus, we are told, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want [i.e., express personal will]….He leads me….He restores my soul (Ps. 23); “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6); and “They that wait upon the Lord….shall mount up with wings as eagles” (Isa. 40:31). All of these passages suggest that if the soul is to be redeemed, it has to, at least occasionally, drop all expressions of self-generated thought and let the Divine Beloved Author of Torah intuitively impart its own insights into one’s open, receptive, non-reactive, uncluttered mind and heart. That state of uncluttered receptivity, involving the willingness to be without any predetermined interpretations of Torah, is how we become open to impartations of the Living Torah, the spiritual Presence of God, discerned through the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) of intuition, as if “reading between the lines” of the written text of Torah.  Just as loving communion with another person enables us to intuitively, empathically, develop an experiential understanding of them, which can sometimes move beyond their explicit verbal or written communications, similarly, our loving attunement to certain subtler, or relatively less tangible aspects of Torah can gradually lead from relatively detached conceptual interpretations to relatively more experiential, intimate modes of understanding, like the quieter “still small voice” that followed the more dramatic and tangible wind, earthquake, and fire (I Kings 19:12). If, via one’s personal will, one tries to direct one’s own path to God, thereby presuming to be a reality presence, will-power, and intelligence apart from God, then God’s spiritual Presence is blocked from intervening and bringing the soul to salvation.

 

Attempting to know God’s presence exclusively through conceptually-mediated experience also prevents the soul from experiencing the great grandeur of God’s radiant spiritual Glory Presence directly (as well as preventing its salvation by reawakening from the dream of the Fall), because self-generated finite words and ideas about the spiritual Reality are merely dead shadows and cannot truly capture that truly living spiritual Presence. Just as reading a menu can’t satisfy the stomach’s hunger, the conceptual Torah alone can’t satisfy the soul’s hunger for direct spiritual experience. One cannot expect to end up in unification with an infinite spiritual Presence by accumulating finite knowledge about it; these are simply two different realities. Just as no words can truly capture the experience of eating an orange, but, rather, to fully appreciate the experience, one has to taste an orange for oneself, so, too, the spiritual Presence of God can’t be captured with finite words, but has to be experienced directly to be fully appreciated. That is why the scriptures tell the soul, “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8), and “Truly the light is sweet” (Eccles. 11:7). Experiencing that spiritual Glory Light-Life Presence for oneself is the only means by which the soul can truly come to discover the nature of spiritual Truth, the Living Torah, the Living Torah. Along these same lines, since finite words can’t really do justice to God’s infinite Being, the only proper acknowledgment of His grandeur is through silent communion with God’s Presence. Heschel suggests this same idea when he notes that silence is the only real praise of God.” 13

 

                Therefore, even in this contemplation of the conceptual Torah, we must leave room for the spiritual Light, the Living Torah, to provide greater enlightenment of the Scripture. Contemplation must be approached with openness, without pre-commitment to any particular understanding or interpretation, but rather, waiting for an inspired, spiritually illumined revelation or understanding of the Scripture to be given by God’s spiritual Light. This is suggested by II Sam. 22:29, “For thou art my lamp, O Lord: and the Lord will lighten my darkness” (see also Ps. 119:105). Proper contemplation of the conceptual Torah, leading to the faith in the truth of God’s omnipresence and the soul as His divine image, which quiets conceptual-imaginal mind-movement within the soul’s consciousness, can bring the soul only as far as the state of pure conscious awareness, pure being, the soul’s unconditioned mind, or what has been referred to as the state of ayin. 14  This state of ayin is an intermediate state, in which the soul’s consciousness is empty of all self-generated conceptual objects of knowledge, but not yet consciously aware of God’s spiritual Presence or the Living Torah. Nevertheless, in the state of ayin, when the soul is no longer witnessing to its own self-image, but now holding itself to be a divine image of God’s unconditioned Perfect Being already, then the Living Torah can unobstructedly shine into the soul’s consciousness and gradually accumulate there, illuminating the truths of the conceptual Torah, and ultimately bringing the soul to full redemption, conscious awakening as a divine image of God’s unconditioned Perfect Being.

 

                Although initially that spiritual Presence is so pure and subtle that the soul cannot consciously detect it, gradually it accumulates more substantially in the soul’s consciousness, displacing and replacing the shadow presence in the individual’s consciousness, and growing ever more radiant as a spiritual Light, Life energy, and Loving-Warmth presence, until eventually it reaches the threshold of consciousness. The soul is now capable of experiencing or tasting of God’s spiritual Glory directly, unmediated by the veil of conceptualization and imagination; it can have its own direct taste of experience of the goodness of God’s spiritual Presence; “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). Attracted by that initial “sweet” taste of God’s spiritual Glory Light (Eccles. 11:7), now the soul may engage in silent prayer, direct silent communion or unification with God’s Spirit, His expressed spiritual Glory Light-Life-Love Presence, the heavenly Torah or the living Torah, which is referred to in Ps. 27:1 as “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” This is what God calls the new covenant, and His pronouncement, “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts….for they shall all know me” (Jer. 31:33-34), suggests that God is not satisfied with souls relating to Him through a veil of conceptualization, but now wants all souls to commune with His Living Torah directly, in the innermost heart or center of the soul’s consciousness, without obstructing conceptual clouds in the mind. Just as the sweetness of delicious food is first attractively mediated by sight and aroma, and then more directly experienced through actually tasting the food, as a process of unitive incorporation of the food into oneself, similarly, conceptual study of the explicit written text of Torah gradually leads to intuitive experiential communion with subtler, implicit, aspects of Torah, as if the attractiveness of the outer surface of Torah were  a sign, signal, bridge, or launching pad, pointing to a deeper level of sweetness of the inner flavor abiding within and beyond it. As the spiritual Light accumulates ever more in the soul’s consciousness through the soul’s loving silent communion with it, it enlightens the soul’s consciousness at quantitatively ever higher levels, ultimately bringing it to the vibrational speed of absolute Light, full Enlightenment, full transfiguration, which is the qualitative transformation of the soul’s consciousness, the ignition of the soul, so that it is now transformed from a spiritual spark to a flame of god’s fully radiant spiritual Substance. Thus the soul is liberated from its identification with the ego’s conceptually-derived finite mortal sense of self, fully restored to the consciousness of its oneness with God’s spiritual substance, which is its full transcendence of the ego personal life story daydream and reawakening to its full transcendence of the ego personal life story daydream and reawakening to its full consciousness of God’s absolute Reality spiritual Presence, which is the soul’s full redemption, full atonement (at-one-ment), immersion, or unification with God’s heavenly spiritual Substance, which is the soul’s inherent full holiness or wholeness of being, its absolute Love-Happiness, its inherent divine fulfillment or fullness of being, and consciousness of its immortality of divine being, as the fully radiant Divine Image form of God’s IAM. The implications of this process are very important to consider, not only in terms of ever higher ascension into God’s heavenly spiritual Substance as a fully radiant divine image of it, i.e., ever higher levels of holiness of being, ever greater levels of spiritual enlightenment, divine truth revelation, ever higher levels of spiritual Life energy and Loving-Warmth, soaring the soul ever higher, like on wings of eagles (see Isa. 40:31), but also in terms of what the accumulating spiritual Glory Presence can produce in the soul as limitlessly ever greater powers of functioning in the world, ever higher spiritual grandeur experiencing, as well as corresponding material provisions in the world, making the experience of the objective world more akin to the Garden of Eden as it was created to be.” 15

 

                This spiritual growth process fulfills the function for which God created the soul, which is to provide Him with self-knowledge through spiritual Israel, His collective divine image. It provides the means by which the House of Israel will become a “Kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” (Ex. 19:6), witness to God’s radiant Spiritual Glory for all the world to see (see Isa. 43:7, 9-10), because until the soul is fully enlightened, fully inflamed, the soul is not a true divine image of God’s spiritual Substance. The House of Israel will serve as the Light unto the Gentiles (see Isa. 42:6, 60:3), attracting all souls to God’s spiritual Glory. Once other souls see the superior glory as ever more glorified “trees of righteousness” (Isa. 61:3), i.e., with no shadow, evil, error, wrongness, or ungoodness inherent in the soul at all, that will be the means by which the whole world is eventually brought into the House of Israel and lives the covenant with God, is fully redeemed, and becomes part of spiritual Israel as the collective divine image of God. This gives God a truly whole, holy divine image, so that He has limitless self-knowledge not only in infinite depth or height, but also in breadth of form. Scripture suggests that God needs all souls as part of His divine image, which is why He says, All souls are mine” (Ezek. 18:4), and why He is interested in the salvation of all souls (Isa. 43:22).

 

                This great truth to be found in the conceptual Torah, as shown through the sample of passages I have quoted throughout this article, is very obvious to one who reads the scriptures with openness to grasping that truth. God Himself says, “I have not spoken in secret;” this truth has been available “from ancient time” (Isa. 45:19,21; 48:16). However, most individuals haven’t grasped or accepted this truth of the true nature of God, the soul, and the true nature of God’s covenant with His chosen people, because they have a conscious or unconscious precommitment to preserving the conceptually-created ego identity as a self-styled god in its own right, with a conceptually-presumed independent will, voice, intelligence, and identity. This precommitment, which requires the belief in finite good and evil objects of knowledge as being presumed reality life presences in their own right, apart from God, presents openness to seeing the truth of God’s absolute Reality nature as infinite, omnipresent, unconditioned Perfect Being.  It therefore suits their purposes to believe that God’s law is a law of finite good and evil, which reinforces the belief in finite good and evil as a reality, rather than a law of infinite, omnipresent Perfect Being (see Ps. 19:7), in which God is the One, absolute Being, the absolute Reality, the soul is a divine image or spiritual idea form of Him, and the Torah is intuitively understood in holistic terms, as a reflection of God’s indivisible Oneness of Being, in contrast to conceptual interpretations of Torah that often tend to be more fragmentary, composite, superficial, and complex.  

 

                The conceptual study of Torah, or of any other edifying text, is meant to eventually point beyond itself as a bridge or link to the direct intuitive experience of deeper levels of reality that abide beyond the grasp of self-generated thought, familiar beliefs, prescribed codified precepts, tangible sensations, historical memory, and traditional narratives, and thereby permit the infinite Divine Mystery of Being that exceeds all finite delimited definitions and predetermined patterns of thinking, feeling, volition, and behavior to gradually lead us beyond the boundaries of what we, and our extended religious community, already know, or presume to know. Just as a good musician intuitively knows when to follow the written musical notations, when to follow the conductor of the orchestra or choir, and when to improvise by following the unpredictable flow of their own heartfelt inspiration, similarly, a religious believer or spiritual seeker who sincerely wishes to connect to the Divine Reality, Divine Music, or Divine Intelligence seeking to communicate and disclose Itself through Torah or other sacred texts that we study must be open to intuitively discerning and following subtle cues that are trying to lead us beyond the scope of what is already familiar or known to us, to a greater level of insight and transformational development. If we are overly committed to retaining our own familiar, predetermined, patterns of thinking, feeling, volition, and behavior, we thereby restrict God or the Spiritual Reality from leading us into new “territory,” expanded horizons, or higher levels of insight and more exalted perspectives, so to speak. This brings to mind Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The conceptual study of Torah, or other religiously or spiritually oriented texts, can serve to initially attune the human psyche to the Divine or Spiritual Reality communicating with us through those texts, but then we must gradually learn to follow subtler cues if we are to be led beyond what we already know or believe to the Great Mystery Source or Author of that revelation. Like a good treasure map, architectural blueprint, GPS, compass, magnet, or other homing device, the conceptual study of Torah is meant to gradually point us beyond itself, and beacon us to intuitively follow the experiential trail of our own journey of inner development Home to the Source that is gradually attracting us to itself through subtle cues, such as the “scent” or aroma of its sublime sweetness of being, the inner fountain of blessing or wellspring of living waters, or the joyful music of our own heart and soul. Like Dorothy and her companions following the Yellow Brick Road to the Wizard of Oz, we need to follow the often unpredictable, relative unstructured, winding trail of our own intuition, integrity, and inspiration, from moment to moment, if we are to develop greater levels of insight and ultimately be led home to the Source of that unfolding trail of glory.

 

There is a collective fear, which arises from the ego shadow self, but not from the soul, that contact with God’s spiritual substance will consume the soul, or negate its distinctive individuality, as expressed, e.g., in Ex. 20:19 and Jud. 13:22. This fear is totally unfounded, a mistaken presumption, because the soul is a less bright, grosser, more manifest form, image, or idea of God’s spiritual Glory Substance, and therefore inviolate, even in its full immersion in that spiritual Substance.  God’s radiant spiritual substance is the spiritual flame that doesn’t consume the fully transfigured soul (Mal. 3:6; Ex. 3:2). It does consume, or purify the soul of, the impurities of ego conceptual knowledge within the soul’s consciousness, but the soul itself endures as a unique spiritual form of God’s spiritual Substance, and forever serves its function of providing God with ever greater self-knowledge of His spiritual Glory nature.  “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Mal. 3:6). Since God is changeless absolute Being, and the soul is a form of Him, the soul, too, must be changelessly preserved in God’s absolute Being.

 

However, Scripture suggests that what Jews should legitimately be fearing is not devotedly living the truth and the covenant that God has explicitly made known through the Scriptures. God Himself has expressed great unhappiness with the Jewish people’s commitment to witnessing the separate ego identity and its belief in the divisive reality of finite good and evil, thereby denying God as the one and only Reality Presence, as well as their failure to live His Covenant devotedly, despite the availability of this truth even within the conceptual Torah (see, e.g., throughout Mal., esp. 3:7). Rather than continuing to blame God for its suffering in the world, the soul must acknowledge that through the creation of its own separate sense of personal self, its own self-defined identity, its own self-generated conceptual-imaginal voice, and divorcing itself from God’s spiritual blessing Glory Substance, the soul is actually responsible for creating its own suffering, and that only the choiceless acceptance of God’s truth will liberate the soul.

 

Jer. 31:31-34 strongly suggests that to move away from focusing exclusively upon the written conceptual Torah is not a movement away from the essence of Judaism. In that passage, God says clearly that the new covenant that He has made with the house of spiritual Israel is one in which souls will commune directly with the Living Torah, His immanent spiritual Presence, “In their inward parts….their hearts,” meaning the soul’s unconditioned mind, or pure conscious awareness, in the heart-center of the soul’s being, not in the conceptually-conditioned mind of the ego-personality. Since the suggestion is that only those who live this new covenant can be considered the true Israelites, the true seeds of Abraham, i.e., those who truly acknowledge and choicelessly obey only God’s voice, not the voice of the conceptual-imaginal ego-personality, therefore, there is a great need in Judaism to develop a deep understanding of how to integrate the conceptual Torah and Living Torah in Jewish spiritual practice so that individuals may most expeditiously grow in real spiritual experience toward full redemption and full transfiguration. Apparently, in these times, large numbers of Jews are even willing to abandon Judaism in order to find the real spiritual experience that they seek, so it also seems apparent that if Judaism is to survive at all as a meaningful religion, and retain its most highly gifted and spiritually receptive young people who have an inner hunger for real spiritual experience, enlightenment, genuine redemption, and actualization of the soul’s inherent limitless ever greater spiritual potentials, then Judaism must provide such a process that leads to direct spiritual experience as an alternative to the exclusively conceptual approach to Judaism that many Jewish thinkers, rabbis, and educators are currently offering.  As Arthur Green notes, eighty-five percent of Jews have turned away from committed traditional Jewish practice, including many Jewish spiritual seekers whom Green suggests are expressing disenchantment with traditional Judaism because it doesn’t provide spiritual experience. 16

 

Given the current trend of mass departure of Jews from Judaism, there clearly is a great need to develop a vision for Jewish spiritual renewal that is grounded in a well-articulated, meaningful, and useful process for achieving inspirational, transformational spiritual experience, spiritual growth, and spiritual redemption. I am hopeful that this article will serve as a stimulus to Jewish educators, philosophers, rabbis, and other leaders who want to truly serve God’s will and the Jewish people, and who want to contribute to bringing about the fulfillment of God’s desire for the community of spiritual Israel to actualize its greatest spiritual potentials, so that it may serve as a holy community, a spiritual beacon established on earth, as a “light to all other nations.” It is time now for all of us to sing unto the Lord a truly new song. (Ps. 96:1).

 

References

 

 

 

  1. Shaul Magid, “From Theosophy to Midrash: Lurianic Exegesis on Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden,” Postmodern Jewish Philosophy Network, 4(2) (June, 1995), 16.

  2. Abraham J. Heschel, Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion (NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1951), 117-18.

  3. See, e.g., Dov Baer, Maggid Devarav le Ya’aqov, Rivka Schatz-Uffenheimer, ed. (Jerusalem: Magnes Press of the Hebrew University, 1976), 124, and 197-198. Cf. Shneur Zalman, “Shaar HaYichud VehaEmunah,” Chapter 3 in Tanya (New York: Kehot Publishers, 1981), 293. Cf. Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev, Kedushat Levi  (Bnei Brak: Heikhal ha-Sefer, no date), 47B-48A

  4. Arthur Green, “Judaism for the Post-Modern Era,” The Samuel H. Goldenson Lecture (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Dec. 12, 1994), 12.

  5. Lewis Newman, Hasidic Anthology, 427, quoting Mikhal of Zlotchov in Chaim Bloch, Priester der Leibe (Vienna, 1930), 84.

  6. Shneur Zalman, Tanya, 93.

  7. Green, “Judaism,” 12.

  8. Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl, Upright Practices, The Light of the Eyes. Arthur Green, trans. (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), 92.

  9. Ibid., 92-93.

  10. Magid, “Lurianic Exegesis,” 12, 15.

  11. Nathan Kuperstok, “Extended Consciousness and Hasidic Thought,” in Mystics and Medics, ed., Reuven P. Bulka (New York: Human Sciences Press, 1979), 92, quoting Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Tanya (Vol. 1), trans. N. Mindel (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot Publication Society, 1965), 192.

  12. Menahem Mendel of Vitebsk, Sefer Pri ha-Aretz. (New York: Israel Wolf, 1954), 43.

  13. Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. (New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1955), 123.

  14. Daniel Matt, “Ayin: The Concept of Nothingness in Jewish Mysticism,”  in The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy, ed. Robert K.C. Forman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 139. Cf. Dov Baer, Maggid Deverav, 186.

  15. Elimelekh of Lizhensk, No’am Elimelekh, ed. Gidaliah Nigal. (Jerusalem: Mosad ha-Rav Kook, 1978), 4-5.

  16. Green, “Judaism,” 3,4,11.

 

 

 

Barry Hammer
Dr. Barry Hammer (born 1958) has a specialization in the History of Religions. For many years, he has studied the historical impact of particular religions upon the culture and great creative works of various regions of the world, as well as the essential process of psychological and spiritual transformation, and its applicability to compassionately renewing individual life, personal relationships, and society. This involves spiritually shifting or rebirthing the individual, relational, and collective consciousness of humanity. Barry Has developed many original insights into the historical and possible future development of human consciousness, building upon insights by other interpreters of human history, psychology, and spirituality, including the insights of his beloved late father, Dr. Max Hammer (1930-2011, a Professor of Psychology and Psychotherapist). Dr. Max Hammer is the primary author of two books that Barry is promoting; Barry and Dr. Alan C. Butler (a Clinical Psychology/Psychotherapy colleage and friend of Max Hammer's) are secondary contributing authors. These books are: Psychological Healing Through Creative Self-Understanding and Self-Transformation (ISBN: 978-1-62857-075-5) and Deepening Your Personal Relationships: Developing Emotional Intimacy and Good Communication. (ISBN: 978-1-61897-590-4). A publicity flier describing the books and providing links to Barry's blogs follows immediately below: NEW EMPOWERING SELF-HELP BOOKS AVAILABLE, WITH LIBERATING EXPERIENTIAL INSIGHTS AS THE BASIS OF SELF-DISCOVERY AND TRANSFORMATIONAL SELF-DEVELOPMENT These books will be very valuable for anyone who is seeking to achieve greater wellbeing and compassionately transform their individual life, personal relationships, and society, as well as being valuable for human services professionals such as, psychotherapists, counselors, life coaches, educators, social workers, and clergy. This involves developing true experiential self-understanding as the basis of liberating self-transformation, healing emotional pain and inner conflict, developing inner peace, happiness, creativity, spiritual awareness; as well as developing psychologically healthy, deeply satisfying, successful, personal relationships, with true love, empathic emotional intimacy, and good communication; and extending similar principles as a way of transforming social networks, local communities, and global society for the better. PRIMARY AUTHOR: DR. MAX HAMMER (WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM DR. BARRY J. HAMMER AND DR. ALAN C. BUTLER) THE TITLES OF OUR NEW BOOKS ARE: 1) “DEEPENING YOUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: DEVELOPING EMOTIONAL INTIMACY AND GOOD COMMUNICATION” (ISBN: 978-1-61897-590-4) 2) “PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALING THROUGH CREATIVE SELF-UNDERSTANDING AND SELF-TRANSFORMATION.” (ISBN: 978-1-62857-075-5) THESE BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE (IN SOFT COVER PRINT AND VARIOUS ELECTRONIC VERSIONS ) THROUGH AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE, AND THE AUTHOR/PUBLISHER WEBSITE, http://sbprabooks.com/MaxHammer Wholesalers please email bookorder@sbpra.net LINKS TO RELATED INSPIRATIONAL/TRANSFORMATIONAL BLOGS, RADIO INTERVIEWS, AND YOUTUBE VIDEOS ARE ALSO AVAILABLE ON OUR WEBSITE. ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Dr. Max Hammer and Dr. Alan C. Butler are psychologists from Maine, with distinguished careers as Psychology faculty at the University of Maine Psychology Department (Dr. Max Hammer at the rank of Full Professor and Dr. Alan C. Butler at the rank of Cooperative Associate Professor), psychotherapists, clinical psychology consultants, diagnosticians, as well as supervisors of graduate students and interns in the practice of psychotherapy. Dr. Max Hammer was one of the core founders of the Clinical Psychology program at the University of Maine. Dr. Alan C. Butler was one of the original staff members at the University of Maine counseling center, also served as Director of its Internship training program for over thirty years, and was instrumental in developing that program. Dr. Barry J. Hammer, also from Maine, has a specialization in the history of world religions, and for many years has studied the process of psychological and spiritual transformation, and its applicability to compassionately enhancing individual life, personal relationships, and society. This involves spiritually shifting or deeply rebirthing the individual, relational, and collective consciousness of humanity. Barry has developed many key original insights into the historical and possible future development of human consciousness, building upon insights by other eminent interpreters of human history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and spirituality. The primary author, the late Dr. Max Hammer, was an editor and a major contributor of two previously published books, The Theory and Practice of Psychotherapy with Specific Disorders (Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 1972) and The Practice of Psychotherapy with Children (Homewood, Illinois: The Dorsey Press, 1967). f Links to Interviews where the books and authors are discussed: http://mysteryschoolsinternational.com/tv/episode-94-overcome-emotional-pain-inner-conflict/ Barry Hammer, Psychological Healing Through Creative Self-Understanding and Self-Transformation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVrtJWHe1Dc&feature=youtu.be Barry Hammer, Deepening Your Personal Relationships http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFu2YZrpzj4&feature=youtu.be http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authormarketingideasradio/2014/01/27/first-interview-with-barry-hammer http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authormarketingideasradio/2014/01/28/second-interview-with-barry-hammer http://www.blogtalkradio.com/authormarketingideasradio/2014/01/29/third-interview-with-barry-hammer Links to blogs by Dr. Barry Hammer http://sbprabooks.com/maxhammer/?page_id=143 https://booksbymaxhammer.wordpress.com/ Cultivating True Beauty in what we Make and Do http://goo.gl/1c1txZ Developing Empathy http://goo.gl/tcmusi Developing Intuition http://goo.gl/Kle9me Sacred Sexuality http://goo.gl/34Y5fN --------------------------------------------------------------------- Transformational Life Coach and Relationship Advisor Dr. Barry Hammer I can help you explore any kind of interpersonal relationship issue, including marriage and family relationships, or enhancing other kinds of significant personal relationships. I can also help you gain insight in regard to any kind of vocational, psychological, spiritual, or societal, issue that may be important to you, e.g., clarifying your basic goals in life; actualizing your natural individual potentials (through work, recreational hobbies, and other activities); enhancing your level of creative and productive functioning; coping with difficult life circumstances; facing opportunities for constructive personal transformation; helping other individuals and contributing to positive social transformation through one's career, volunteer work, and personal life, and so on. I will show you how to deal effectively with the necessary challenges of life that one has to face. In my relationship counseling services, I help you learn how to develop open, honest, sincere, respectful, nonjudgmental, compassionate, meaningful, communication with other individuals, as a way of producing greater levels of mutual empathic understanding, constructive conflict resolution, and co-creative transformational empowerment, in your personal relationships. I can also help you understand how connecting to other individuals, in unselfish, deeply caring, relationships, can enable you to tap into a relational source of regenerative life energy, for enhanced vitality, psychological transformation and spiritual growth, optimal wellbeing, creative insight and inspiration, as well as holistic healing of heart, mind, and body. In addition to providing counseling dealing with issues pertaining to enhancing one's own personal relationships and individual life, I am also able to provide counseling for issues related to contributing to the constructive transformation of contemporary society. This involves understanding how the synergistic/co-creative power of love can gradually, constructively, transform the collective heart of humanity, from a predominantly selfish, fearful, abusive, predatory, addictive, toxic, orientation, to a more unselfish, compassionate, relaxed, secure, psychologically healthy, orientation. I am also able to serve as a spiritual Vision Quest facilitator for individuals and groups who wish to tap into and explore the Great Mystery source of creative insight, inspiration, sublime beauty, revitalization, compassionate transformation, deep holistic healing, wellbeing, and fulfillment. My Credentials: I have interdisciplinary PhD in Religious Studies/Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and a Masters degree in Religious Studies/History of Religions from Harvard. My graduate studies emphasized the role of religion and spirituality in shaping the history and culture of various regions of the world. I have also taken extensive graduate level coursework and supervised practicums in Psychology and Counseling. I have many years of experience in counseling and mentoring, and have published two books, one focusing on developing true experiential psychological self-understanding and constructive personal transformation, and the other dealing with developing deeply caring interpersonal relationships, involving good communication, emotional closeness, co-creative/synergistic empowerment, and holistic transformation of one's consciousness and functioning. Contact Information: Emails: mhbj8@hotmail.com and mhbj58@gmail.com Please also see my two published books, 1) Psychological Healing Through Creative Self-Understanding and Self-Transformation. (ISBN: 978-1-62857-075-5) and 2) Deepening Your Personal Relationships: Developing Emotional Intimacy and Good Communication. (ISBN: 978-1-61897-590-4). Primary author: Dr. Max Hammer (my beloved late father), with contributions from secondary authors Dr. Barry J. Hammer (me) and Dr. Alan C. Butler. These books can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or our author/publisher website, http://sbprabooks.com/MaxHammer. The latter website also posts our other blogs, and describes our books and us as authors. My books and blogs will be very valuable for anyone who is seeking to compassionately transform their individual life, personal relationships, and society. This involves developing true experiential self-understanding as the basis of liberating self-transformation, healing emotional pain and inner conflict, developing inner peace, happiness, creativity, spiritual awareness; as well as developing psychologically healthy, deeply satisfying, successful, personal relationships, with true love, empathic emotional/experiential intimacy, and good communication; and extending similar principles as a way of transforming social networks, local communities, and global society for the better. Contact Information: Dr. Barry Hammer Email: mhbj58@gmail.com
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