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the heart

Within, Behind the Heart 

Our spirituality is centered on inwardness. By going within, going deeper still behind the heart, and opening to the light from above, we connect with our awareness of God with us. We encounter God through our heart. But not all encounters are from God. Some encounters in spiritual guise will falsely accuse us while others will lavishly flatter us. Both are distorted reflections of one’s self-cherishing. So long as one lives on the surface of their consciousness, what they call their heart will break and harden. This same surface or case around the heart is what hardens to protect against pain and empathy. Mystics and gnostics speak of this principle of a husk, shell, or barrier which distorts perception. This is what divides the outside from the inside of the heart. The Kabbalah call this barrier a qlippah. This fundamental qlippah of one’s name, form, and personal history that prevents direct knowledge of God must be cut away. Moses was first to prescribe, Circumcise, [...] your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer (Deuteronomy 10:16). 

The Seat of Conscience

There is a kind of rigor, self-honesty, and discipline necessary to navigate between sentimental, “heart-warming” feelings on one hand and unfeeling, hardness of heart on the other. Both obstruct true conscience, which in Hebrew is lev: the heart. There is no Hebrew word for conscience other than the heart. For this reason, Judaism insists that the human heart, circumcised of its personal expectations, already knows what is true and false, what is like and unlike its divine image in God. In Moses’ final heart advice to the children of Israel, he exhorts: Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). 

As the seat of our conscience, the heart judges what we’ve said or not said, done or not done. The judgment comes not from a god of religion outside us, but from conscience within us. Our own words and deeds judge us. This takes time to really hear, feel, and live. Anxiety is often expressing a divided conscience. Always speaking from inwardness, hear how Yeshua further essentialized this mystery of divided or united conscience when he taught: This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God. (John 3:19-21). 

With All Your Heart

Mystics and gnostics describe how the heart is often divided inside from outside by a good or evil inclination. This illusion of separation—outside and inside—is the conflict in our hearts we must each master. With God's help, those like Jacob “who strive with God and prevail” experience the mystical breakthrough of Israel: They have one heart, as God is one. The Kabbalah insists that we not cut off or repress the evil inclination to receive for ourselves alone, but that we become wise in refining all of its crude energy. As we mature in self-knowledge and understand through direct experience what is and is not our portion to redeem, the evil inclination that once opposed begins merge and even unite with the good inclination. From where does resilience and resourcefulness come in the spiritual life, but the most profound self-honest dialogue with God in all of one's heart? How do any of us experience new grades of spiritual ascent without the fuel gathered and refined during descent? It’s not only possible but necessary that we love YHVH with all our heart (Deuteronomy 6:5): We desire to receive with the intention to give. Only when the inside is like the outside, and the good inclination assimilates the evil inclination, can we come to one desire: one heart: ourself in Godself.

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