An Integral Model of Consciousness
Human language can neither adequately describe all of reality, nor the person or self observing its phenomena. We need a mystical vocabulary to prepare us to consciously return to the person—the self—we are in God. So rather than thinking about the self, we need merely observe how the self arises, like a wave on the sea of Godself. As the sea is within every wave, so is all of creation mirrored in the dimensions of the human soul. This is not conceptual, but experiential. This is Kabbalah. The higher one ascends, the deeper one goes within. Through their journeys “running” in the inner space of their soul, mystics and gnostics “returning” have thoroughly mapped the universes of creation. Their teachings of the microcosm—the human soul—prepare us for the journey through the universes of the macrocosm—creation. These same Kabbalistic principles of the human soul form the vocabulary of our tradition’s unique understanding of the Messiah.
Introducing Parts of the Soul
Kabbalah proposes not one but many parts of soul. In the Holy Kabbalah, there are five aspects of soul. Here we will focus on three:
Nefesh: Ruach: Neshamah
For each of these dimensions of our soul, there are respective qualities in our experience:
Nefesh: Vital Soul: Our experience of physical vitality, strength, and health within and around our body. Nefesh is the energy of life we feel in our body. Unregenerated, Nefesh defaults to the biblical sense of “flesh” as instinct, the lack of self-control. Regenerated, Nefesh is the awareness of God's life as our own that guides our life in God.
Ruach: Intelligence-Spirit: Our experience and heart of understanding, orientation, and engagement in the world. Ruach is the energy of intelligence we feel in our mind and heart. The exterior Ruach is oriented to the world. Interior Ruach is oriented to God. Apart from the awakening of ruach—our human and divine intelligence—mind and heart may be prone to folly rather than to the wisdom of God.
Neshamah: Divine Nature: Our experience of nearness, even oneness with God. Neshamah is our divine nature that we feel in our soul. Encountering Neshamah is to remember our origin in God. Living according to the truth and light revealed in our peak, mystical experiences aligns our Ruach and Nefesh into a vessel capable of embodying our unique expression of God’s presence and power—our Holy Neshamah.
Image and Likeness
When we consider that we’re made in the image and likeness of Elohim (Genesis 1:26), this points to dimensions of our holy soul. Inmost is our image. Outermost is our likeness. Our image is who we are as we are in God: Neshamah. Our likeness is who we are as we are in ourselves: Ruach and Nefesh. Every human being bears a unique divine image—a Neshamah—that is whole and at one with God beyond time. This image was never born, but preexists all birth and endures all death. Our likeness—Ruach and Nefesh—is born, changes, and dies. As we cultivate and embody divine attributes, the difference between our inner and outer person—our image and our likeness—diminishes and might even disappear. Righteous people are those whose image freely shines through their likeness. They are light-bearers who reflect the light within others. When our likeness aligns with our image, death will not be death, but a conscious transition to greater life in God.