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A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth

A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 12 – Inspiration and Spiritual Growth

Let us look at the phase of initiation/inspiration and its expression in will. 

Phase of
Education

Stage of
Spiritual Growth

State of
Will

 Initiation/ Inspiration

3. sweetening

Desire to unite with God

2. separation

Desire to grow spiritually

1. submission

Desire to serve God

The state of will that initiates any aspect of the education process is a pure, unambivalent desire to serve God in any way possible. This initial turning toward spiritual service requires what the Ba'al Shem Tov calls "submission," the surrender of personal will to God's will. It means accepting the restrictions and obligations of spiritual work, and ignoring the selfish, opportunistic demands of ego.

Then follows a slightly more developed statement of will. This is the desire to achieve a state of being where every act is performed for the sole purpose of supporting spiritual growth. This corresponds to the Ba'al Shem Tov's stage of "separation" because it demands a high degree of discrimination. One must continually choose between actions that will further spiritual development–such as fulfilling the commandments of the Torah–and actions that are simply mundane.

The final phase in the arousal of will is a desire to realize the inherent sanctity of every act–to use each moment, each thing, no matter how mundane, as an opportunity for direct unification with God. The Book of Proverbs describes this phase in a simple statement: "In all your ways, know Him." "In all your ways" means through all your actions. "Know Him" refers to contact and communion with God.

According to the Ba'al Shem Tov, we can only "sweeten" the apparent blandness or even bitterness of ordinary reality if we have first perfected and internalized the skill of discrimination, for the work of transmuting evil into good is founded upon an ability to distinguish reality from illusion. It is obvious that those who have not perfected the preliminary stage of "separation" will not be reliable in differentiating between the true purpose and the illusory ones. Their actions and intentions may therefore not actually reflect God's will, and may have a negative or stunting effect, rather than a nurturing and empowering one. The most common mistake among spiritually aspiring people is the desire to "sweeten" without first making the requisite distinctions.

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