Mind, Perception, and Metaphysics

We developed a metaphysics based on the Rambam’s notion of the chain of forms or intellects (they are identical), called “mal’akhim” (angels), that bridge the gap from the Creator down to physical reality (part 1, part 2, part 3). Along the way we used the Leshem, a mequbal who considered himself bearer of the Vilna Gaon’s legacy, to draw strong parallels to ideas in Qabbalah, and showed how these ideas are echoed by Rav Chaim Volozhiner as well. What the Rambam sees as a Divine Thought having a thought, which in turn has a thought, in  chain, the Leshem describes as a beam of Light which causes one universe’s forms to take on substance which in turn becomes the next universe’s forms.

In the most recent post in this discussion, we applied this unity of thought and form as well that beam of Light to explain something about the nature of the human soul. A mal’akh is a given form, it exists on its plane of existence. A physical object, including our brains, exist at the lowest plane of existance. The soul encompasses the entire beam of Light.

Now I want to look at some implications of those concepts.

I

Rav Chaim Vilozhiner in Nefesh haChaim 1:6 (mentioned in the past) expounds that man alone has the power to bring sanctity into this world, because man alone is a combination of all the forces, across all the worlds.

אבל עיקרו של דבר כי הוא ית”ש אחר שברא כל העולמות ברא את האדם אחור למע”ב בריאה נפלאה כח מאסף לכל המחנות. שכלל בו כל צחצחות אורות הנפלאות והעולמות והיכלין העליונים שקדמו לו. וכל תבנית הכבוד העליון בסדר פרקי המרכבה. וכל הכחות פרטים הנמצאים בכל העולמות עליונים ותחתונים. כולם נתנו כח וחלק מעצמותם בבניינו ונכללו בו במספר פרטי כחותיו שבו. כמ”ש בזוהר יתרו ע”ה ב’ קוב”ה כד ברא לי’ לב”נ סדר בי’ כל דיוקנין דרזין עלאין דעלמא דלעילא. וכל דיוקנין דרזין תתאין דעלמא דלתתא וכלא מתחקקא בב”נ דאיהו קאים בצלם אלהים כו’ דכתיב. ויברא אלהים את האדם בצלמו ע”ש. ובפ’ תזריע מ”ח א’ תאנא כיון דנברא אדם כו’. ובריש פר’ במדבר ר”א פתח ויברא אלקים את האדם בצלמו וגו’ ת”ח כו’. ובאד”ר קל”ה א’ כמראה אדם כו’. ושם בד’ קמ”א סוף ע”א דיוקנא דכליל כל דיוקנין כו’. וברע”מ פ’ פנחס רל”ח ב’ ויאמר אלקים נעשה אדם כו’ עד והיינו נעשה אדם בצלמנו כו’. וכן אמרו זה הלשון יותר באורך בתז”ח פ”ט ע”א ע”ש. ובז”ח יתרו במעשה מרכבה ל”ב ע”ג דיוקנא דאדם דדא איהו דיוקנא דכליל כל דיוקנין כו’. ושם דף ל”ג ריש ע”א. ושם בשה”ש נ”ח ב’ ויאמר אלקים נעשה אדם בצלמנו כו’. ע”ש היטב בכל המקומות הנז’. וע’ בע”ח שער הצלם פ”א ובלק”ת פ’ תשא ופ’ האזינו. וזה כל האדם שכל כח פרטי שבו מסודר נגד עולם וכח א’ פרטי מסוד השיעור קומה של כלל הכחות והעולמות. שמסודרים כביכול כתבנית קומת אדם כמו שית’ אי”ה בשער ב’ פ”ה:

– Nefesh haChaim 1:6

In line with the first three posts in this discussion, Rav Chaim relates this view not only to Qabbalah, but to the Rambam as well:

גם הרמב”ם ז”ל כתב במורה בפ’ ע”ב מחלק הא’ שכל העולם בכללו נקרא שיעור קומה. והאריך להמשיל כלל חלקי העולם לחלקי אברי האדם וכל עניניו שבו. ושהוא ית’ הוא נשמת העולם כענין הנשמה לגוף האדם ע”ש. ודבריו ז”ל ראוים למי שאמרם. שכן מבואר בזוהר תולדות קל”ד ע”ג ע”ש. ומדבריו ז”ל נשמע לדידן לענין סדר כלל העולמות כולם יחד. ושגורה בפי רז”ל שהאדם הוא איקונין ודיוקן מלכו של עולם יתב”ש. כמ”ש בסנהדרין (מ”ו א’ וב’) לא תלין נבלתו גו’ כי קללת אלהי’ תלוי. תניא אר”מ משלו משל למה”ד לשני אחים תאומים כו’ אחד מינוהו מלך ואחד יצא ללסטיות צוה המלך ותלאוהו כל הרואה אותו אומר המלך תלוי כו’. ופירש”י אף אדם עשוי בדיוקנו של מקום ובשמות רבה פ”ל מכה איש ומת וגו’ משל לאדם שקפח איקונין של מלך כו’ אמר המלך לא קראת כו’. שכל מי שהוא נוגע באיקונין שלי הוא אבד כו’ כך אם הרג אדם נפש כו’ כאילו הוא מעביר איקונין של מלך. ר”ל זה שסיים בסיפיה דקרא הטעם ע”ז כי בצלם אלקים עשה את האדם:

Nefesh haChaim 2:5

People have unique power because we alone were created from all the forces. A physical object exists on one plane of existence. This describes the soul in contrast to the Rambam’s concept of mal’akhim as intellects which only influence the thing below them in the chain until we get down to the lowest intellect which moves objects — and with their lack of intellect the chain ends. Man is a being who has form at every level of perfection from “10 tefachim below [Hashem’s] throne of glory down to earth.” (cf Sukkah 5a) Each kind of angel exists on its plane. Only the human soul is not at a single plane, but is the entire beam of “Light” from the Source down to physical reality. The ladder in Yaaqov’s dream represents Yaaqov himself, as only a person “stands earthward with his head reaching toward heaven.”

In a sense, we can say the soul is therefore the pattern which the brain fits, encoded in the layout and attributes of its neurons, neurochamicals, glial cells, etc… This doesn’t mean the soul is only the pattern, or that the soul has no existence without the brain. The soul is the same thing, as substantiated in a higher world, one in which there is no need for a physical instantiation. The two are in sync in the same way a movie picture changes as the light from the projector flickers in its different colors.

Thus the mind is a product of the design and structure of the brain while simultaneously being a spiritual thing, our connection to a higher plane.

To use another metaphor: The soul is the flickering of the light from the movie projector to the screen, the body’s motions are the actions on the screen itself.

(This idea is akin to that in Hashgachah Peratis as a Level of Abstraction. In both, I’m arguing that the difference is one of which aspect one is describing. Both Divine Providence and nature are the same thing, both soul and the intellectual content of the brain are the same thing. The difference is the plane on which we look at the problem.)

The higher forms of the Maimonidian rationalist are the forces of the higher universes of the Qabbalist. They are two perspectives on the same notion.

II

One of my recurring questions on the Avodah email list involves the power of mezuzos. When we say that a mezuzah protects the home, do we mean that the mezuzah itself protects, or that the particular reward for the mitzvah of mezuzah is that one is protected?

The difference? What if someone checked the mezuzah as regularly as required. They did every facet of the mitzvah meticulously. However, it happens to be as a matter of unknowable fact that one of the letters of the mezuzah cracked off, and the mezuzah would no longer be kosher. Did the person get the same protection? If it depends on the object of the mezuzah, then the answer should be “no”. However, since he fulfilled the mitzvah superlatively, if it depends on the mitzvah, the answer would be “yes”.

A similar question could be asked about the concept that eating non-kosher food is “metamteim es haleiv — seals up the heart”. But what if someone relies on the laws of majority, or the like, as permitted, and happens to both follow halakhah and eat something that the Almighty Knows is non-kosher? Does it impact his heart, or not? Again — is it the object or the sin which has the metaphysical power to change the person?

With respect to mezuzah, the Rambam quite forcefully instructs us not to impart power to the scroll itself. To him, this would be belittling the mitzvah by turning it into an amulet.

Unsurprisingly, we see can find an idea in Nefesh haChaim (1:21) that would provide a rationale for assigning metaphysical power only to the mitzvah:

וזאת תורת האדם. שבעת עסקו בתורה לשמה. לשמור ולקיים ככל הכתוב בה. מטהר את גופו מראשו ועד רגליו. כמדרשם ז”ל (ברכות י”ו א’). למה נסמכו אהלים לנחלים כו’ מה נחלים מעלין את האדם מטומאה לטהרה. אף אהלים מעלין את האדם מכ”ח לכ”ז. וכענין שדרשו ז”ל גבי טהרא הטמאים במקוה. כל בשרו במים מים שכל גופו עולה בהם. כך בד”ת כל גופו של אדם עולה בהם. (ושיערו חכמים אמה על אמה ברום שלש אמות. הן הג’ עולמות. ונר”ן. מעשה דבור מחשבה בתורה). וכשם שכל גופו של אדם עולה ומזדכך ע”י עסק התורה והמצות. כך העולמות כולם אשר הן המה שיעור קומת אדם כמש”ל פ”ו. הם מזדככים ומתטהרים ומתעלים. והאדם הישר העובד אמיתי לא יפנה דעתו ומחשבתו בעת עבודתו לו ית”ש אפי’ כדי לעלות ולטהר גופו ונפשו. אלא שיעלה טוהר מחשבתו וכוונתו ופנה למעלה לתיקון וטהרת העולמות הקדושים. וזו היתה גם כל ענין עבודתם של האבות וכל הצדיקים הראשונים. שקיימו את התורה קודם נתינתה. כמו שדרז”ל ע”פ מן הבהמה הטהורה גו’ ואמרו מכאן שלמד נח תורה. ואמרו (יומא כ”ח ב’) קיים א”א את כל התורה (וכ”א בב”ר פצ”ב ובבמדבר רבה פי”ד. ובתנחומא בהר ובמדרש תהלים מזמור א’). לא שהיו מצווים ועושים כך מצד הדין. דא”כ לא היו מעמידים ח”ו על דעתם והשגתם אף שהשיגו שלפי ענין שרש נשמתם ההכרח להם לעבור ולשנות אף מקצת מאחת מכל מצות ה’. ולא היה יעקב אע”ה נושא ב’ אחיות ולא הים עמרם נושא דודתו ח”ו. רק מצד השגתם בטהר שכלם התקונים הנוראים הנעשים בכל מצוה בהעולמות וכחות העליונים ותחתונים. והפגמים הגדולים והחורבן והריסה ח”ו שיגרמו בהם אם לא יקיימום. וכן נח הקריב דוקא מן הבהמה הטהורה כי ראה והשיג הכח והשרש העליון של כל בהמה וחיה. איזה מהם כח שרשו מצד הקדושה והקריבה. ואיזה מהם כח נפשה מצד הטומאה והס”א ולא בחר בה להקריבה לפניו ית’ כי לא ירצה. וזהו ויתהלך חנוך את האלקים. את האלקים התהלך נח. האלקים אשר התהלכו אבותי לפניו. שפי’ אלקים בעל הכחות כולם. היינו שהשיגו ענייני הכחות העליונים ותחתונים וחקות שמים וארץ ומשטרם. וסדרי הנהגתם והתקשרותם והרכבתם ע”י כל ענייני מעשי האדם. וע”פ סדר וענין זה היה כל א’ מהם מתהלך ומתנהג בכל עניניו. כפי שראה והשיג התקונים העליונים לפי שורש נשמתו:

R’ Chaim Volozhiner discusses the concept that our forefathers fulfilled the entire Torah even before it was commanded. How? Because they could feel their own souls, and thus the impact of their actions on the worlds. From that, they could deduce what it would take to repair the worlds, and figured out the mitzvos on their own. This is also why despite this, we find that Yaaqov married two sisters and Amram married his aunt. Because they weren’t keeping the mitzvos as mitzvos, but they were seeking that which would repair the world — and these exceptions were part of that repair.

Notice that in this philosophy of mitzvos, it is the action which influences the soul, which influence the world. A different description of what we saw in Rav Dessler, that the person’s perspective changes which laws his world obeys.

This is the same philosophy of mitzvos from which I tried to derive the rules of resolving doubt, and why the unobservable has no halachic import, and why a psychologically important approximation that since drifted out of sync with the sun is still significant for birkhas hachamah. Because the impact of our actions are in how they change our souls.

Note that in the this Maimonidian, or Litvisher, Qabbalah, we can fully understand the metpahysical force perspective by explaining it in the intellectual terms. This might be Rav Hirsch’s intent as well. R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch’s philosophy of mitzvos revolves around the concept that they are tools Hashem uses to impart truths to man in a manner that they get internalized. Dayan Grunfeld, in his introduction to R’ Hirsch’s Horeb (pp. cxx-cxxix), notes the strong similarities between Qabbalistic metaphysical entities and the symbols Rabbi Hirsch invokes in order to explain the messages of mitzvos. It is possible that Rav Hirsch too thought that these metaphysical entities are nothing but the human comprehension of the Torah’s ideas?

III

Note that this dovetails with the Rambam’s position about prophecy and angels.

When prophets speak of the fact that they received a prophecy, they say that they received it from an angel, or from God; but even in the latter case it was likewise received through an angel. Our Sages, therefore, explain the words, “And the Lord said unto her” that He spake through an angel. You must know that whenever Scripture relates that the Lord or an angel spoke to a person, this took place in a dream or in a prophetic vision.

- Moreh Nevuchim 2:41

According to the Rambam’s definition of mal’akhim, to see an angel means to see the higher level of reality beyond the physics of the situation. Someone who develops within themselves an understanding of these higher abstractions would naturally be aware of them, and their psyche would clothe that awareness in visions.

In the following chapter (2:42) the Rambam applies this idea to the story of Avraham’s three guests who turn out to be angels, which is somewhat well known because of the Ramban’s objection to his position. Here’s how I described the dispute in Mesukim miDevash on parashas Mishpatim (addressing the question of Who was the man in the throne seen by the elders at Mt Sinai?):

We find an instance of a similar debate in their understandings of the beginning of Parashas Vayeira. According to the Rambam, any narrative that involves people seeing mal’akhim must be the retelling of a prophecy. Mal’akhim do not have physical substance; they cannot be physically seen. Therefore, the Rambam holds that the parashah opens by telling us that Hashem visited Avraham, and then elaborates by telling us the substance of the visit, the prophecy that Avraham received. In other words, Avraham did not interrupt Hashem’s visit to welcome what he thought were three people. Rather, the visit itself was the vision in which Avraham hosted the three mal’akhim .

The Ramban takes issue with this understanding. After all, did these mal’akhim not then proceed to Sodom where they saved Lot? Was Lot not really saved? According to the Ramban, the story physically occurred. Avraham saw the mal’akhim in the regular sense, actually fed them food, etc…

What does the Rambam do with the Ramban’s question? The Abarbanel, in his commentary on the Moreh Nevuchim, writes that according to the Rambam, things seen in prophecy really occur. They are visions of events happening in higher planes of reality. The prophet’s mind and pen may make sense of the vision by interpreting its contents as things familiar from normal sensory experience, but the event seen is real. This is consistent with the Rambam’s position on our verse [the Throne vision]. Since G-d does not have a body in any plane of existence, their vision had to be of kevod Hashem, something created to be a metaphor [of G-d’s Glory] for them to see.

So it is unsurprising that the Rambam considers prophecy a natural consequence of development of the appropriate knowledge. In fact, it is the absence of prophecy when G-d doesn’t want the prophet to get his vision that the Rambam considers the miracle.

Prophecy is sight of angels, ie higher forms, ie existence at more abstract and rarefied levels of description, and thus closer to the original and unfathomable Thought of G-d.

IV

To tie to yet another theme that recurs in this blog: This idea that a person can can choose where his consciousness resides withint this “beam” appears in Rav Dessler’s explanation of the Maharal’s position on nissim (miracles). (See Mesukim miDevash for Beshalach and this entry on the role of perception.) One can live in the empirical world, where the absolutes are laws of gravity, or one can spend a life elevating oneself to a moral plane, olam ha’yetzirah, where the absolutes are notions like freedom vs oppression, and physics becomes fuzzier. Quoting my “Mesukim” article:

The Maharal … writes that rather than being an exception to the rule, nissim follow their own rules. Indeed, miracles occur all the time, but on their own plane of reality. This is why Yehoshua requests “shemesh beGiv’on dom – the sun should stand still in Giv’on.” (Yehoshua 10:13) The sun stopped for the Jews in Giv’on, who were on a plane where miracles operate, but not for anyone else. Literally two different realities were simultaneously experienced. Not two different perceptions of the same event, but two conflicting things were real, depending upon which world one occupied.

Most of us live within a world in which the laws we call “teva” apply. R’ Chanina ben Dosa, however, lived in a world where the laws of neis applied. In this world, oil and vinegar are equally flammable…. Rav Eliyahu Dessler elaborates on this principle. Mequbalim speak of four olamos, each of a higher level than the previous: asiyah (action), yetzirah (formation), beri’ah (creation) and atzilus (emanation)….

People have two sources of information that they consider absolute. The first is their senses – sight, sound, and so on. The second is their self-awareness. The senses bring us information about the physical world. Self awareness brings us concepts like truth, freedom and oppression. Someone mired in the desires of the senses lives in the physical world. He focuses his attention on it, just as everyone focuses on that which is important to them. “Every tailor notices and looks at the clothing of the people in the street; and similarly every shoemaker, shoes…” The man of the senses therefore perceives it as more objective and more absolute than the world of the self…. This is olam ha’asiyah.

However, one can rise above that to the olam ha’yetzirah. This is not merely another level, but another world with its own laws, laws that do not conflict with free will. Those who focus on this world have no question that free will exists. To them, it is the ideals of this world that are more objective and absolute, and the senses, more subjective. Rav Dessler explains that this is how nissim can impact one person’s senses and not another’s. Yetzirah is the Maharal’s plane of nissim, and as the Maharal noted different people will perceive the miraculous differently, or not at all. And so the sea split in olam hayetzirah, but not in olam ha’asiyah.

But now we can give this metaphysical significance.

We saw that forms are ideas are points on the Divine Light as it intersects each level of abstraction. The Leshem (Kelalim 2) writes that the forms of one world is the substance of another world. In Rav Dessler’s terms, we are saying that the laws of nature are the substance with which the laws of morality are implemented. The more abstract ideas are ontologically prior, as we saw in the Rambam (Yesodei haTorah 2) — each level further from the Creator is more contingent and dependent on the one above it.

We can manipulate the physical world by changing its underpinnings — the ideas and our relationships to them. Rav Dessler’s explanation of the Maharal tells us how — thought creates reality. Therefore, our actions and reactions change our perceptions, and our perceptions change the world. Not the unknown and unknowable state of my mezuzah or piece of meat. The mechanics of metaphysics depends on us, the sole ladder that unifies the physical world with the higher ones.

People are unique in that we think in different planes of abstraction. But that is just another way of saying what we said in the first section of this essay — the human soul is the only thing which contains the forces of all the worlds, which is the entire “beam of Light”. And within that resides prophecy, miracles, and all the metaphysical causality discussed in Qabbalah.

We can choose whether to put the world into physical causal categories, moral ones, or climb to unfathomed worlds above them. An object exists in the physical world. An angel has its place on its plane. In Qabbalah’s model of a Light of creation, these things are the light hitting different worlds, slices of the full reality. We live in a world of our perceptions, therefore our choice changes the world we live in.

13 thoughts on “Mind, Perception, and Metaphysics

  1. I’m just quoting the Maharal’s intro to Gevuras Hashem, as well as the Michtav meiEliyahu who further develops it.

    However, there is a theological reason to say that Hashem’s plan is perfect, and thus that His system accommodates every possible human interaction, without needing one-off exceptions.

    IMHO, the two positions only have an illusory difference. The gap between Hashem responding in a once-off way to human action and His having a system set up in advance is on when you pretend Hashem makes the decision. Hashem has no “when” to His decisions, so it really is a pretense; a model we have to use in order to approximate what is really going on. See this post.

    -micha

  2. Shiurei Daa’s (R. Yosef Leib Bloch) also discusses some of these themes at length in many different contexts. Specifically see “ki kol bashamayim va’aretz” and “dor haflaga.”

    BTW, R. Bloch has some connection with the Leshem, and is one of the finest examples of Litvishe Kabbalah.

  3. So, how do you analyze the statement: “No blade of grass grows without its mazal above telling it to grow”? Does it mean that the mazal:

    1) send a signal to the blade that interacts with its matter/physiology
    2) creates the matter of the blade
    3) creates the properties of the blade
    4) creates the particular local instance of laws of physics that allow the physiology of the blade to work and grow

    (not sure that 2, 3, and 4 are different)

    • CA,

      You’re referring to Bereishis Rabba 10:6-7:

      אמר רבי סימון: אין לך כל עשב ועשב, שאין לו מזל ברקיע, שמכה אותו ואומר לו גדל, הדא הוא דכתיב (שם לח): הידעת חקות שמים אם תשים משטרו בארץ וגו’. לשון שוטר (שם י).
      התקשר מעדנות כימה, או מושכות כסיל תפתח.

      I would say that the mazal doesn’t create the local instance of the laws of physics, but is that instance. Caused by, or as the Rambam would put it “contingent upon” the more general mal’ach who is the law in general.

  4. So, extending that to the soul, would you say that the same applies (locally*) to the soul? I.e., given soul = an instantiation (to use OOP moshol) of laws of physics that create/govern given instance of the brain?

    ______
    * Difference from mazal being that soul extends all the way to keilim of Atzilus (or, perhaps, to Atzmus E”S), while the mazal extends only to Yetzira.

  5. CA,

    Yes, in a human soul, the nefesh is the embodiment of the laws of thought that are implemented in this brain. But the soul is the entire “column” of Or Ein Sof from “10 tefachim below the kisei hakavod” (the height the gemara tells us Moshe’s consciousness reached) down to the brain. Once one goes above the nefesh, the influence runs both ways. One can enmire one’s consciousness (a function of ruach) in gashmius or elevate it in ruchnius. That is bechirah — that feedback loop between more abstract and less abstract laws.

    (In this hashkafah, the Tanya’s stark contrast between kinds of human souls doesn’t exist — I mean all human souls. I also put that parenthetic remark about consciousness being within ruach because I figure the terms may be used in a way that is alien to someone who had more exposure to Chassidus than to the Gra’s Qabbalah.)

    Another distinction, inherent in a single “s” in your comment. A mazal is /a/ law. A soul is a dynamic of multiple laws.

  6. But do you think that neshama creates the matter of the moach, yesh m’ayin, or the laws of physics (e.g., V = IR) that result in the emergent properties and processes of cognition? (Again, I am not sure we can differentiate between the two.)

    The “laws of cognition” result from local anatomy of brain circuits and cells, as well as from the laws of physics that govern interactions between molecules.

  7. CA,

    As I wrote before, “I would say that the mazal doesn’t create the local instance of the laws of physics, but is that instance.”

    The soul is a beam of Or Ein Sof. Unlike physical objects, which is the “bottom” slice of that beam as it exists in the olam ha’asiyah, or mal’akhim which are the kochos (RCV) as they exist in higher olamos. RCV makes a strong point about how the soul alone is the unity of forces from all the olamos, which is how people have the power to effect spiritual change.

    The neshamah doesn’t create the moach, the tzurah of the moach is the bottom “surface” of the neshamah. As the Leshem puts it, the chomer of one world are the tzuros of the world below. It’s not a causal connection but an identity. I discussed this in more length at the previous post.

  8. But what is the difference between, say, alive brain (or blade of grass) and a dead one? Looking “from the bottom”, it’s just that the matter is scrambled up in a non-useful way (the cells are ruptured, the electrochemical gradients are down, etc.). A dead brain resembles more a broken engine (some gears are cracked, or the belt is torn) than a computer that is disconnected from electricity (the hardware is there and in the right combination, but no juice to power it).

    The laws of physics are the same in the dead brain as in alive one. Chomer is also the same. Tzura is different… so, would you say that what creates this tzura is a different mazal than the neshama?

    Also, what about brain slices from animals, or, for instance, pieces of brain tissue that are taken from epileptic patients. Those pieces of tissue are still alive; one can record from them and arguably even study building blocks of “thought”. (Although, one could argue that it takes large populations of cells synchronized together to make a unit of thought.) Is neshama somehow present in them, or, once they are taken from the main brain, they are given over to a mazal?

    (Interestingly, as my wife points out, there is an opinion that a person is halachically alive as long as even a single cell of his brain is alive.)

    Why doesn’t Tanya’s contrast between different souls not exist in your model? (Btw, I found a ma’amor Chassidus that discusses soul–body relationship. I’ll post it, iyH, on my blog.)

  9. A living brain or blade of grass has a tzurah capable of supporting a dynamic process. This means the tzurah itself is amenable to higher levels of abstraction — tzuros in higher olamos. In the case of a human, much much higher. We can contemplate morality and sanctity — our souls have tzuros in every olam.

    The soul of a niftar lacks a physical implementation. It ends just above olam ha’asiyah. The brain has a physical form, but there is no spiritual tzurah, no love, no moral calling, no spiritual pull, that was the tzurah of the physical tzurah. The soul of someone with brain damage or a mental incapacity is only partially implemented. Less of the form reaches olam haasiyah. For that matter, every soul is only partially implemented, as no brain fully expresses the potential of the soul; compared to their souls, even R’ Chaim Brisker’s or Einstein’s brains are too limited.

    You ask a third time about mazalos creating tzuros… And a third time I must reply that the mazal IS the tzurah, not its cause. It’s like asking whether the bit being saved in your computer’s memory caused the transistor to shut off. The bit is a higher level abstraction, and when it reaches that transistor, it is part of the form of the transistor.

    In the Gra’s writings, there is no dichotomy of nefesh beheimis and nefesh Elokis. (And for that matter, his conception of nefesh vs. neshamah within naran is closer to the Tanya’s NB vs NE than to the Tanya’s naran.) The entire language you are assuming in order to discuss the Tanya’s position doesn’t exist.

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And your thoughts...?