Chassidic Psychologymain posts

Part 2 of the Emunah Series: Three Souls and Three Forms of Faith

The Three Souls

It is written at the beginning of the Tanya[1] that a person has two souls—a Divine soul and an animal soul. When delving into Chasidic literature, we discover an additional soul that mediates between the Divine soul and the animal soul—the intellectual soul.[2]

Every Jew, starting from Abraham our patriarch and onward, possesses a Divine soul in addition to the intellectual and animal souls. On the other hand, a non-Jew has two souls—the intellectual and the animal. Within a non-Jew, the psychological dynamic occurs between these two souls, creating tension and inner conflict that requires resolution. The intellectual soul of a Jew has a different nature than that of a non-Jew; it possesses human intellect combined with a unique Jewish character.

Each of these three souls possesses a complete set of faculties. According to the principle of “God made one thing opposite the other,”[3] everything that exists in the Divine soul also exists in the intellectual and animal souls. Corresponding to these three souls there are three types of faiths. Each soul has its own unique faith (its own Unknowable Head of the crown[4]), and all of its faculties are molded in the form of that type of faith.

The absolute faith of the Divine soul rectifies all the faculties of the soul transforming them into Divine faculties. Abraham merited his Divine soul by clarifying and rectifying his true faith. Thus, he acquired a new set of soul faculties, which we refer to as the “Divine soul.” Abraham identified and became one with his Divine soul to the extent that it became an inherent “genetic” phenomenon within him. He then passes on these spiritual “genes” to his descendants after him, just as physical genes are inherited by one’s offspring. This is the spiritual meaning of the words, “For in Isaac your seed will be named.”[5]

It is important to stress that when an individual embraces a true and clarified form of faith, all other variations of faith become secondary. Still, it is important to realize that even a secondary form of faith, even one that is superstitious and not based on truth, will act to construct a complete set of soul faculties that depend on it. Each faith brings about a complete soul, so to speak, which will ultimately find expression in a particular manner of craft. Each person, whether Jewish or not, has a specific faith that is characteristically expressed through their actions.

The faith of the Divine soul is the belief in the one, unified and singular God, and is revealed to a person when they reach the level of existential solitude.[6] It is when they reach this solitude that the light of God extends, descends, and permeates all manifestations of their life. At first, the light is completely abstract, and then it enclothes itself in all the garments of the soul.

The intellectual soul puts its faith in reason and knowledge (or science). A person that believes in intellect always seeks wisdom and strives to learn more and more. Such an individual does not believe in his own vanity and initial emotions but in the intellectual conclusions that are published by the academic world. Naturally, he humbles himself before anyone he believes has more knowledge or wisdom and upholds the maxim, “Accept the truth from any individual who speaks it.”

In contrast, the faith of the animal soul is the individual’s belief in himself, following the verse, “My prowess and the might of my hand have produced the success I have.”[7] In the context of mental health, when a person goes through a crisis in life, every therapist and psychologist will focus on the need to strengthen and heal his faith—i.e., his faith in himself. The psychologist of the animal soul will aim to reinforce the individual’s faith in himself. This is precisely the faith of the animal soul.

No Cancelling Here

It is important to emphasize that the healthy Divine soul does not cancel or nullify the existence of the other two souls—the intellectual and the animal—nor their faith. The faith in the wisdom of the Torah and the aspiration to know it are included in the belief in God, the giver of the Torah, and so forth. Regarding faith in human intellect, our sages said, “Believe that there is wisdom among the nations” (although, at the same time, “do not believe that there is Torah among the nations”). Also, a person's belief in himself and in his abilities, which leads to self-confidence (a necessary quality for life and a fundamental pillar of mental health, as explained in Chassidut[8]), can be positive, provided that the individual is aware of the source of his success; that he knows that all he possesses and all that he has accomplished is from God, “for it is He that gives you the strength necessary for success.”[9]

Just as certain things are best grasped using a positive description (i.e., describing what they are), other things need to be described by negation (i.e., by describing what they are not).[10] Pure faith can mainly be grasped through the negating approach, and if one wants to sense a little of what faith in God is, one must strip away the nature of the other faiths: faith in God is not of the same nature as faith that translates into self-confidence nor is of the same type as faith in scientific knowledge. Self-confidence belongs to the emotional faculties (loving-kindness through kingdom). Faith in reason (or science), of course, belongs to the intellectual faculties (wisdom, understanding, and knowledge). In contrast, faith in God is not grounded in either the intellect or in the emotions but transcends them. Faith in God resides higher, in the super-conscious faculties found in the crown—in the true Radla, the Unknowable Head.

Levels of Faith in the Divine Soul

In general, according to Kabbalah and Chassidut, in a rectified state, wherever there are multiple elements, there must be inter-inclusion (הִתְכַּלְּלוּת) between them. What this means is that every element contains an aspect of all the other elements. To illustrate, let us begin with the three aspects of faith within the Divine soul itself:

As mentioned,[11] the faith of the Divine soul is the faith in the One, Singular, and Unique God, which through the existential loneliness already discussed. That is the essence of the Divine soul’s faith.

The intellectual aspect of faith within the Divine soul (the intellectual soul within the Divine soul) is faith in the Torah. The Zohar says,[12] “Torah emerged from wisdom” (אוֹרָיְתָא מֵחָכְמָה נָפְקַת). The Torah, like wisdom, unfolds and makes progress, as stated in the Zohar numerous times: “Rabbi Shimon opened….” In every generation, the wise person of the generation opens new channels of abundance, of a new Torah. Of course, one cannot compare the wisdom of the Torah to any other wisdom, and likewise, one cannot compare faith in the wisdom of the Torah to faith in human intellect and its achievements. On the other hand, the unique character of the Torah lies precisely in the fact that despite its essence being Divine, it is also absorbed by the human intellect. What faith in the Torah and faith in reason have in common is that even the Jew, from the perspective of his Divine soul, believes in wisdom (the Torah’s wisdom) and pursues it, trying to know it.

Turning to the animal soul’s faith within the Divine soul’s faith, we can clearly associate it with a lofty level of the animal soul described as the holy “behemoth” (בְּהֵמוֹת). In the Tanya,[13] this level of animal soul is described as “the animal that precedes [the World] of Emanation.” Faith that lies above the intellect is called behemoth by King David when he says, “I am an ignoramus, I do not know; I am [like] a behemoth with You. Yet, I am constantly with You; You have taken hold of my right hand”[14] (וַאֲנִי בַעַר וְלֹא אֵדָע בְּהֵמוֹת הָיִיתִי עִמָּךְ. וַאֲנִי תָמִיד עִמָּךְ אָחַזְתָּ בְּיַד יְמִינִי). King David describes his faith as if he were following God like a behemoth, with the power of earnest faith found in the souls of the simplest of Jews. In contrast to the Divine consciousness or the Torah wisdom found in people of great stature, within every Jew (be they as unlearned as they might be) is engraved an earnest and innate faith in God.

Indeed, the Baal Shem Tov taught that just as one must believe in God, that He is present here, everywhere, and at all times, so must one believe in every Jew in every situation they may be in. Faith in every Jew is different from what is known as “faith in the righteous” (אֱמוּנַת צַדִּיקִים). This type of faith pertains to the trust put in the tzaddikim that have lofty souls and are referred to as “the seed of men.”[15] The faith in every Jew pertains to every single Jew, even those with the lower souls, the common folk, referred to as “the seed of beasts.”[16] A Jew is required not only to love everyone who is part of the Jewish people, but also to have faith in them, to believe in the hidden dimension in each individual.

Faith, in general, is what captures the concealed dimension that is invisible to the eye; the corollary is of course that when something is visible, there is no need for faith. Faith itself is a secret, and a secret is inherently uncertain. Still, faith affords us an inner sense of certainty in its existence and verity. To believe in the secret of one’s fellow actually means to believe in the part of God that resides within them. It is obvious that one must believe in the Jewish people as a whole, in the power of the community, in the Congregation of Israel. The novel proposition made by the Ba’al Shem Tov is the faith bestowed on every individual of the Jewish people, in every situation they may be in. This ties in strongly with the Baal Shem Tov’s innovation regarding personal Divine Providence (in contrast to previous conceptions of God’s Providence, which limited its scope to the world as a whole).

But it is important to stress that the faith in every individual member of the Jewish people is based precisely on the so-called behemoth level of faith within the Divine soul. In effect, the simple faith of the Divine soul in me resonates with the same simple faith found within the Divine soul of every Jew. It is this resonance that then produces the tune of “love of Israel” that binds all Jews together. Even the individuals of high stature recognize the melody made by the joining of two Jewish souls together through the virtue of simple faith and strive to connect with it and contribute to it.

Thus, one of the central foundations of Chasidut is the tripartite belief of the Divine soul in God, in Torah, and in every Jew. This pillar of Chasidic life is echoed in the oft-quoted words of the Zohar, “Three knots are intertwined: Israel, the Torah, and the Holy Blessed One.”[17] Another well-known quote from the Zohar reiterates this principle: “Israel, the Torah, and the Holy Blessed One are all one.”[18] Both quotes refer to the inter-inclusion of the intellectual and animal souls brands of faith within the Divine soul—the Divine soul’s faith in God, the intellectual soul’s faith in the Torah, and the animal soul’s faith in every Jew, in whatever state they might be.

Levels of faith in the intellectual soul

What are the three inter-included forms of faith found in the intellectual soul?

A straightforward assumption is that every faculty or attribute that exists consciously in the soul must originate in the soul’s super-conscious part. For example, intelligence appears in the mind like lightning that emanates from a dark sky and strikes the ground (the dark sky represents the super-consciousness and the ground our consciousness).

Most physicists today understand that for the Universe to exist, there must be some consciousness. What remains to be investigated is whether this consciousness is that of the individual observing a specific phenomenon, whether it is the collective consciousness of humanity as a whole, or whether it is an altogether abstract consciousness. The more we recognize that the consciousness in question is actually the consciousness of the Creator, the clearer we will be that objects exist even before a particular consciousness comes to know it. Or as the Torah states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” reveals that the laws of nature have an independent existence, whether or not we are conscious of them.

Every scientist wants to discover more and more knowledge. However, beyond all the knowledge that can be discovered, there is undoubtedly an infinite treasure of knowledge that can still be discovered. Let us call this treasure the “unconsciousness of the Universe’s general consciousness.” Whoever recognizes this infinite wellspring of knowledge has become attuned to the Universe’s intelligence. Believing in the Universe’s intelligence is very close to believing in God, a correlation which is captured in the famous numerical equivalence (gematria) of the Hebrew word for “nature” (הַטֶּבַע) and God’s Name, Elokim (אֱ-לֹהִים).

This belief is definitely shared by Jews and non-Jews alike. Even Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, believed in Elokim (again, equivalent with “nature”), but he did not believe in God’s essential Name, Havayah, as he says, “I do not recognize Havayah.”[19] Pharaoh did not recognize Havayah because this knowledge is unique to the Jewish people who say twice daily, “Hear, O’ Israel, Havayah is our God, Havayah is one.”[20] Still, belief in the Universe’s intelligence constitutes the inter-inclusion of the Divine soul within the Intellectual soul’s faith.

There are those, however, who though they do not believe in this Universal intelligence do believe in the verity of our existing knowledge—the knowledge collected today by scientists, doctors, and so on. Such an individual does not necessarily deny that the Universe is intelligent and the knowledge we can collect is limitless, but everything beyond what we currently know is deemed irrelevant. Such is the essential aspect of intellectual faith exercised by the intellectual soul.

Lastly, there are those who believe in the assumptions and conventions of the culture in which they live. The individual with this aspect of intellectual faith, builds his life based on faith in the existing cultural-dictated morality. The main thing for him in life is to be a servant to society and culture. He invests all his faith into living in accordance with his peers and being accepted by society. He believes that this morality is the truth and there is nothing higher than it. Faith of this nature constitutes the inter-inclusion of the animal soul into the intellectual soul’s faith.

Levels of faith in the animal soul

Just as we have seen the three aspects of the Divine soul’s faith and the intellectual soul’s faith which represents their inter-inclusion with each of the other souls, so we can identify three distinct aspects of faith in the animal soul.

Jewish law distinguishes between the cruder domesticated animals such as the ox and the more delicate ones like goats and sheep. So first, let us consider those more people with a more refined animal soul, which resembles the more delicate animals. These individuals will believe in their ability to access higher powers, spiritual guides, and extraterrestrial mentors, etc.; they have a strong belief in the reality of the supernatural. Although these powers seemingly transcend this person’s intellect, he or she will consider them part of themselves. They see it as the super-intellectual dimension of their selfhood. Such individuals believe they have a super-intellectual connection from which they draw inspiration, and according to which they live their lives. This is the crown of the animal soul’s faith, or the inter-inclusion of the Divine soul within the animal soul’s faith.

A second type of individual places his faith in his own wisdom and in his ability to succeed by its virtue. He believes that with his wisdom, he can achieve everything he wants in life. When a person believes in his own intellect, it does not stem from the intellectual soul but rather from the animal soul; he identifies his intellect with himself and believes in himself. He does not nullify himself before anyone who is wiser than he is. This is pure ego stemming from the animal soul, but the object of the ego’s faith is his own intellect.

Lastly, there is a person whose faith is in his body. This does not refer only to his physical body and its physical strength or abilities (although there are such individuals; think of a star quarterback), but also to his character and emotional strengths. This is the animal soul’s essential faith, described in the Torah as faith in, “my strength and the might of my hand.”[21]

In conclusion, even in the animal soul, there is an integration of all three aspects of faith—faith in one’s supra-conscious powers, faith in one’s intellect, and faith in one’s body and emotions.

Let us summarize all that we have seen in a chart:


  Divine aspect Intellectual aspect Animal aspect
Of Divine Soul


Absolute faith in God as One, Singular, and Unique Faith in the Torah Faith in what is above the intellect and reason. Faith in a Jew.
Of Intellectual Soul Faith in an unknowable, universal, and infinite source of knowledge


Faith in present knowledge Faith in human culture
Of Animal Soul Faith in the spiritual and super-natural


Faith in one’s own intellectual abilities Faith in one’s emotional traits and character



[1]. Chs. 1 and 2.

[2]. Likkutei Torah Vayikra 43c and ff.

[3]. Ecclesiastes 7:14.

[4]. See the first part of this series.

[5]. Genesis 21:12. See Nedarim 31a, “’In Isaac’ [part of Isaac] and not all of ‘Isaac,’” for only Jacob and his descendants are named after Abraham.

[6]. See the first part of this series for more on existential solitude.

[7]. Deuteronomy 8:17.

[8]. See Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn’s Klalei HaChinuch VeHaHadrachah, Addendum to Sefer HaSichot 5703, ch. 10.

[9]. Deuteronomy 8:18.

[10]. Knowledge by negation when it relates to the Divine is called apophatic theology. Maimonides and the Zoharic literature use this type of description, when they say that “God is wise, but not with the wisdom we are conscious of.”

[11]. In part 1 of this series.

[12]. Zohar 2:85a.

[13]. Ch. 46.

[14]. Psalms 73:22-23.

[15]. Jeremiah 31:26

[16]. Ibid.

[17]. See Zohar 3:73a.

[18]. Zohar 1:24a, 2:60a; Tanya ch. 3.

[19]. Exodus 5:2.

[20]. Deuteronomy 6:4.

[21]. Deuteronomy 8:17.

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