The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health

Kabbalah and Psychology: Anxiety Relief – The Kabbalah Approach to Mental Health – Part 11 – Light and Darkness

Speech, as we said, is the most effective tool that can be used in healing a person's psychological ailments. On the other hand, as we also noted that there are situations in which silence is called for.

The act of articulation brings feelings and emotions that would otherwise remain buried in the subconscious into the light of the conscious mind. However, getting the subconscious to speak is no simple matter, and special care must be exercised when coaxing it to reveal its secrets. Otherwise, the effects of doing so could be detrimental rather than salubrious.

In the symbolism of the Torah, the subconscious mind is considered darkness and the conscious mind light. Thus, we are told that in the beginning, the earth was unformed, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the abyss. And the spirit of G-d hovered over the waters. "And G-d said, Let there be light! And there was light" (Genesis 12-3). The earth symbolizes man's soul as it has descended to enter and enliven the body. (In its disembodied, pristine form, it is symbolized by heaven.) The three descriptions of the primordial earth, unformed, void, and dark symbolize the three components of the subconscious mind (faith, delight, and the will). The spirit of G-d hovering over the waters symbolizes the intermediate level of consciousness between the subconscious and conscious minds (in psychological terminology the preconscious), which hovers between the obscurity of the subconscious and the revelation of the conscious mind. The revelation of the secrets of the subconscious mind are revealed by speech "And G-d said, Let there be light."

The purpose of Divine service in general and psychological therapy in particular is to enable the light of consciousness to shine on more and more of the darkness of the subconscious. As more and more of the hidden secrets of the dark regions of the mind are brought to light, the more they can be elevated into the realm of holiness. The more a person succeeds in exposing and rectifying his darker side, the less he will be plagued by invasive thoughts and urges surfacing from it involuntarily. This state of freedom from one s unrectified, lower self is the true mental well-being sought after by the therapeutic techniques proscribed by Chassidic thought. Unfettered by evil, the creative good in man can shine forth and impress its unique expression of Divinity on reality with optimum effectiveness.

In the symbolism of the Torah, the primal urges of the subconscious mind that temporarily hold sway over the psyche are symbolized by the seven pagan Canaanite nations who occupied the land of Israel before the Jewish People entered it. The Jewish Nation is commanded to uproot these nations and their idolatrous culture from the Holy Land; this symbolizes the eradication of evil from the psyche through the therapeutic means we are describing.

In the conflict between light and darkness, light by its very nature wins. A little light dispels a lot of darkness. How much the more so does a lot of light dispel darkness completely and take its place as the rightful inheritor of the person s mind.

The duality of light and darkness in man's psyche is alluded to in the prophetic vision of the Divine chariot as witnessed by the prophet Ezekiel. This vision, which encompasses the first chapter of the book written by this prophet, is considered the most obscure and mystical passage of the Bible. In it, Ezekiel (14) describes how the heavens opened, "and I saw visions of G-d."

And I saw, and behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a flashing fire, and a brightness surrounded it, and out of the midst of it, out of the midst of the fire, was something like the chashmal

The word chashmal appears in the Bible only in the context of this vision and is understood by tradition as a type of light or energy, which is also personified as a specific type of angel. The word is taken as a compound of the words for silent (chash) and speaking (mal); these angels are therefore said to be sometimes silent, sometimes speaking.

Thus, the dynamic interplay between silence and speech is an integral part of the process of Divine revelation, and the proper use of speech is essential for the healing of the sick parts of the soul.


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