The Way: Using the Wisdom of Kabbalah for Spiritual Transformation and Fulfillmentby Michael Berg
A national bestseller in hardcover (The Wall Street Journal and USA Today) and chosen by One Spirit Book Club, The Way is helping countless people discover the sacred wisdom of Kabbalah. The spiritual way of Kabbalah has grown from a
"The simple and practical wisdom I have gained by reading this book and studying Kabbalah is immeasurable."Madonna
A national bestseller in hardcover (The Wall Street Journal and USA Today) and chosen by One Spirit Book Club, The Way is helping countless people discover the sacred wisdom of Kabbalah. The spiritual way of Kabbalah has grown from a hidden treasure into a widespread mainstream movement that has helped people from every walk of life, all around the world. With this book, Michael Berg of the Kabbalah Centrethe leading educational institution on the subject of Kabbalahshows readers how to recognize and understand the key spiritual laws while learning how to use them for self-improvement. At once groundbreaking and so clearly written that it is accessible to anyone following any spiritual path, The Way provides the power tools to attain true fulfillment and happiness.
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Read an Excerpt
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Can a person's nature be changed by words on a page? Canletters and words on paper so deeply influence our consciousnessthat we are literally not the same person after we've readthem? I believeI knowthat the material we are about tocover can have this effect. I have heard it over and over again,and I have discussed it and taught it on literally hundreds ofoccasions, and I discover something new every single time.
Let me preface this key topic with some brief observations.In recent years a number of books have tried to bring the wisdomof Kabbalah to a general audience. The great majority havebeen incomprehensible to most readers, and consequentlythey've failed to have a widespread impact. Not one of thesebooks has discussed the concepts we will be covering in thissectionwhich is puzzling, since they are absolutely essentialkabbalistic teachings, and they're are also quite easy to understand.
Right now, before you read any further, please think for amoment about why you're looking at this page at this particularinstant of your life. Are you browsing in a bookstore on yourlunch hour? Perhaps you've been given The Way by a friend, oryou're thinking of giving it as a gift yourself. Whatever theapparent reason, I would ask you to open yourself to anotherviewpointto the possibility that this is the exact momentwhen you are most ready to discover these teachings and takethem to heart. Itis said that Rabbi Isaac Luria, named the Ari, orlion, was so attuned to the state of people's souls that he couldoffer the precise teaching that any individual needed to hear atany given point in time. As you read this chapter, be aware thatthis ability on the part of the Ari was an expression of the overarchingintelligence of the universe itself. There is a purposethoughperhaps a concealed oneto your reading aboutKabbalah at this moment, just as there is a purpose to my writingabout it. I believe from the bottom of my heart that theteachings, you are about to discover can vastlyimmeasurablychangeyour life for the better, and empower you to helpothers in the same way.
For each of us, life is a search. It may seem as if we're searchingfor different thingssome for material wealth, others forknowledge, still others for fame and recognitionbut theseobjectives are really just the outward expressions of an essentialinner experience of well-being and joy. Kabbalah refers to thisexperience as fulfillment, a highly significant word.
Although many people gain brief moments of fulfillmentover the course of their lives, few of us know it as an ongoingreality. It's here and then it's gone, like the flame of a match thatburns for a moment and then becomes a little plume of swirlingsmoke. So our real search is not only for fulfillment, but for away to somehow keep it a presence in our lives. On the verypractical level of our daily experience, the purpose of Kabbalahis to make that happento make fulfillment a constant, not justfor each individual, but for the world.
The tools of Kabbalah presented in this book don't need tobe completely understood at the outset. They just need to beused. But as you use them, be sure to return again and again tothe principles that underlie them, which will also be presentedin these pages. These ideas should be constantly rethought. Aswe'll see, complacency is one of the greatest dangers to realgrowth. If you feel that you've thoroughly understood the conceptsand that there's no need to revisit them, take it as a signthat revisiting is exactly what you need to do.
I think it's worth mentioning that I didn't make any of thisup. Rather, I am privileged to have studied the wisdom ofKabbalah that has evolved over many centuries, and the purposeof The Way is to share that wisdom with you. There aremany books on spirituality that derive from their authors' lifeexperiences and gain their power from the authors' charisma oreloquence or depth of thought, but this is not one of thosebooks. I do consider myself a reasonably intelligent person andan honest one, but I am not the incarnation of Kabbalah. As theperson who is introducing you to this wisdom, I will try to doso to the best of my ability, but I really want you to focus onwhat I'm saying rather than how I'm saying it. For the few hoursthat you leaf through these pages, I am the medium, but themessage is much larger than me. And I think you'll see justhow vast that message really is as you proceed through thebook.
God is a word that frightens many people, for many differentreasons.
Over the centuries, a multitude of different meanings andemotions have been attached to the word, many of them decidedlynegative. The word God has been used to strike fear in childrenand to create guilt in adults. It has been used to justifymilitary aggression and political ambition. It has come to signifya powerful and unpredictable entity that exists somewhereacross a vast metaphysical dividea being about whom it's difficultto say anything definite except that he, she, or it is verydifferent from you or me. We've even heard fear of Goddescribed as if it were a good thing, as when someone is calleda "God-fearing man."
In short, God is a word that carries a lot of baggage, and youmay be surprised to learn that it's a word used rather sparinglyin the kabbalistic teachings. One reason is the imprecise natureof the word itself. The first sentence of the Torah, for example, isusually translated, "In the beginning God created heaven andearth." A great deal has been written about this sentence, and Iwill have more to say about it soon, but for now let's focus onthe word for God in the original Hebrew text. The Hebrew wordis Elohim, which refers specifically to God's judgmentas distinctfrom God's mercy, or from a more all-inclusive sense ofGod as an omniscient presence. In general, Kabbalah refers toGod as the Creator, or as ein sof, which can loosely be translatedas "the infinite."
In keeping with this preference, we'll rarely use the wordGod in this book, and most often we'll speak of the Creator.Although we will occasionally use the personal pronoun "He"when referring to the Creator, this is only for the sake of grammaticalefficiency. Kabbalah teaches that a distinction does existbetween male and female energies, but that the Creator transcendsthese gender categories. "He" encompasses both formsof energy. The Creator is an infinite force of positive energy,without beginning or end; the essence of all hope, peace, contentment,mercy, and fulfillment; the source of everything inCreation that opposes the forces of confusion and chaos andsuffering and pain; an endless source of Light; and an unnamabletimeless presence.
But these are attributes of the Creator, in the same way thatjudgment and mercy are attributes. They are the Creator'screationsbut the whole of the Creator is unknowable andbeyond our comprehension.
The energy of the Creator is carefully and lovingly distributedin our world, because the Creator's deepest intention is toshare with us peace, joy, kindness, and love.
Kabbalah teaches that this sharing permeates the naturalworldin physical things such as apples and airplanes, as wellas in intangibles such as affection, loyalty, and kindness.Through these and all the other infinite varieties of matter andfeeling, we catch a tiny glimpseand only a glimpseof theCreator's nature.
The Light of the Creator
Kabbalah refers to all these manifestations as the Light of theCreator. The Light is not only knowable, it is something weencounter in one form or another virtually every day. When welook into the eyes of children and are overwhelmed by theirinnocence and perfection, this is an aspect of the Light of theCreator. When we take pride in a job well done, when we treatothers with respect, when we marvel at natural beauty or at abeautifully realized work of art, we are encountering the Light;conversely, sadness, loss of hope, and negativity in our lives areexpressions of our separation from the Light. Kabbalah tells usthat the feelings of peace, joy, and understanding that we gainfrom experiences of the Light in the physical realm only hint atthe infinite fulfillment that is the Creator's essence. Andwhether we realize it or not, it is union with this essence thatwe're all searching for.
Unfortunately, the real meaning of this union and of the fulfillmentthat it brings are difficult concepts for most people tounderstand. Very often they're misconstrued as money, fame,power, or other tangible and temporary attributes of everydaylife. Many of us are searching for those things, and we takepleasure in the excitement and satisfaction that they bring. Butwhat if there were a way to make fulfillment a permanentpresence, not just in your own life, but for literally everyone inthe world?
The principles of Kabbalah introduced in this book guaranteethat fulfillment. They just need to be used, and they canbe used even before they're fully understood. Intellectualunderstanding is not the ultimate goal. Thinking about the conceptsandespecially putting them into action in the realworldare what counts.
Kabbalah gives us the tools to stay connected to the Creator'sLight, and we accomplish this by drawing out the Lightthat is already within us.
We don't have to reach out to acquire anything new. Weonly need to take control of the power that has already beengiven to us. In fact, this power, the Light of the Creator, is thevery stuff of which we are madeand deep down, we know thisto be true. We feel that there's something transcendent withinus, if only we could somehow make contact with it.
Much research has demonstrated that the overwhelmingmajority of us believe in some form of higher power, and manybelieve in God in a very traditional sense: God is all-powerful,and God is good. But how can an omnipotent, benevolent Godallow the obvious pain and suffering that afflict our world tocome into being, much less continue and even intensify? Is itnaive to declare that this just doesn't make any sense?According to Kabbalah, it's not in the least naive. It's a majorrealization, and it's also the first step toward understandingwhat the Creator really intended. By revealing the Light of theCreator in ourselves and in the world around us, we can at lastrealize that intention. We can bring peace, joy, and fulfillment toall mankind.
The rocky path to transformation
Not long ago a student at the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angelesadopted a baby from China. Lori was nine months old at thetime of her adoption, but her physical development was that ofa child at least four months younger. She had spent almost herwhole life lying flat on her back in an orphanage crib. She couldnot sit up or even roll over by herself. The back of her head hadactually begun to flatten out due to her lack of mobility, andthere was a large bald spot where her hair had been unable togrow.
When she arrived in America, for the first time Lori had achance to move around on her own. Following the instructionsof their pediatrician, her parents put a blanket on the floor andgently placed Lori in the center of it. At first she was so terrifiedthat she seemed to enter a sort of trancelike state in order toescape the new and completely disorienting situation in whichshe found herself. And if any attempt was made to turn herover or stimulate her, she cried bitterly and quickly returned toher "comfort zone" on her back. To her parents, Lori seemed tobe making no progress at allyet Lori's doctor was surprisinglyconfident. There was no evidence of underlying neuromusculardamage, and, as the doctor put it, "Lori will eventually learn towalk because that's what she is meant to do. She's also meant toexperience difficulty in walking, so that by overcoming thosedifficulties she can become stronger."
Before long, day by day, Lori began to make progress,though at first even the smallest transitions seemed terriblypainful. If she managed to turn over, she immediately cried outin pain and again rolled onto her back. But latersometimesafter an hour, and sometimes after a full dayshe would tryagain. Gradually progress happened more quickly, and withinsix months what had once seemed impossible had become reality.Lori had caught up. She could do everything that was to beexpected of a child her age.
Why did Lori not simply give up when her first attempts atgrowth were so painful? Why did she not behave in accordancewith a behaviorist model of pain avoidance? Why did this child,in her small way, choose to transform herself from one mode ofexistence to another? The answer, as her doctor pointed out, isthat it was in her nature to do so. The difficulties she experienced,however painful they may have seemed, were simply ofa different order of magnitude than the deeply ingrained objectiveof learning to walk.
On the path to transformation, you will undergo exactly thissort of experience. The path includes many obstacles, but theobstacles themselves are opportunities to renew your journeytoward joy and fulfillment. It's misleading to speak of Kabbalahas difficult or demanding, because that places emphasis in thewrong place. Again, the obstacles are of a different order of magnitudethan the objective. When you learned to walk, to speak, toread, or even to ride a bicycle, there were certainly mistakes andscraped knees and perhaps even a broken bone or two, but itwas in your nature to accept and even to seek out those experiencesas the price of positive change and ultimate fulfillment.
Thisnot sorrow, pain, or deathis your true destiny. Butyou are not just a recipient of this fulfillment. The Creatorintends for you to be an essential participant in bringing itabout, using the spiritual tools of Kabbalah that have beengiven to all mankind.
The Way is a user's manual for those tools. But it is not aquick fix. As we've discussed, transformation is not easy, nor isit supposed to be easy.
Excerpted from The Way by MICHAEL BERG. Copyright © 2001 by Michael Berg. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Rewriting the Rules of Risk
By RON S. DEMBO, ANDREW FREEMAN
JOHN WILEY & SONS, INC.
Copyright © 1998 Ron S. Dembo and Andrew Freeman. All rights reserved.
Meet the Author
RABBI MICHAEL BERG is one of the key figures at The Kabbalah Centre, which has branches in many countries and a Web site, kabbalah.com. As part of his life's work dedicated to bringing kabbalistic wisdom to the forefront, he has just completed the monumental task of editing and producing the first-ever English translation and commentary of the Zohar, the comprehensive text of Kabbalah. He regularly presents lectures and seminars all around the world.
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