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LifeKabbalah

Lorin Friesen, August 2016

The average person associates the word Kabbalah with deep mystery and magic. But that is only one side of Kabbalah. Instead, there are actually three different aspects to Kabbalah: Practical Kabbalah focuses upon magic and the supernatural. However, this aspect of Kaballah is downplayed by most practitioners of Kaballah. Meditative Kaballah practices Kaballah in order to achieve mystical union with God. Finally, theoretical Kaballah attempts to understand God in the divine realm from a Jewish perspective. This third aspect has become the primary focus of Kaballah, and it is what we will be discussing in this essay.

In simple terms, the primary goal of theoretical Kaballah, which we will now refer to as Kaballah, is to place the practice and teaching of Judaism within the framework of a God of mysticism. The previous essay examined how reformed Christian theology places Christian doctrine within the framework of a God of mysticism. The essay before that examined Martin Buber’s method of placing scientific thought within the framework of a God of mysticism. In each of these cases the concept of God has similar fundamental attributes and a similar method is used to ‘glue together’ this concept of God with rational content.

However, Kaballah is more than just mysticism and Judaism. It is also a theory of psychology, it provides insights into education, and it describes God’s grand plan of history.

The theory of mental symmetry also deals with these topics: It is a cognitive theory, it examines the process of education, it analyzes the nature of God, it provides a rational explanation for the content of the Bible, and it attempts to analyze God’s grand plan of history—including the role that Judaism plays within this grand plan.

Thomas Kuhn pointed out that it is difficult to compare one general theory with another, because each theory views the other theory through the lens of its own presuppositions. While comparing theories is difficult, I suggest that it can be done if it is possible to translate between one theory and another. This happens occasionally in physics, when two rival theories both claim to explain the same set of data. Sometimes, one theory ends up being equivalent to the other. Other times, it becomes apparent that one theory is more accurate or complete than another.

Mysticism

When one reads an introduction to Kabbalah, it is immediately apparent that the starting point for Kabbalah is a mystical concept of God. Therefore, will begin our analysis of Kabbalah by looking at mysticism.

The cognitive mechanisms behind mysticism are described in the essay on reformed theology, and I have also posted a video on mysticism. In brief, mysticism combines overgeneralization with identification. Teacher thought is the part of the mind that builds general theories while Perceiver thought is the part of the mind that handles facts. In overgeneralization, Perceiver facts become the enemy of Teacher theory, because Teacher thought is emotionally driven to make sweeping statements while Perceiver facts limit the extent of this overgeneralization. For instance, Teacher overgeneralization may may make a statement such as “All Jews are...”, while Perceiver thought will limit this overgeneralization by coming up with counterexamples in which a Jewish person does not fulfill the stereotype.

It is also possible for Teacher thought to build general theories by cooperating with Perceiver thought, which is done by placing the ‘bricks’ of Perceiver facts into the ordered structure of a general Teacher theory. This type of thinking could be described as generalization.

Overgeneralization occurs naturally when factual knowledge is limited, and it is also natural to make sweeping statements when dealing with universal topics. This means that overgeneralization will naturally be used when discussing God, because God is a universal being and it is hard to gain factual knowledge about a universal, invisible being.

Overgeneralization about God goes beyond normal overgeneralization. Normal overgeneralization makes sweeping statements about some aspect of existence, such as the weather or the behavior of some ethnic group, and it involves ignoring—or being ignorant of—some facts. Overgeneralization about God makes a sweeping statement about all of existence, which becomes possible if one ignores all facts. Perceiver facts are the enemy of normal overgeneralization, because they get in the way of sweeping statements. Perceiver thought itself becomes the enemy of overgeneralization about God, because all facts get in the way of a universal sweeping statement.

A discussion about God that is based in overgeneralization will exhibit the following traits:

  • It makes sweeping statements using adjectives such as all, every, total, utter, or never.
  • It is limited to vague generalizations and cannot subdivide a theory into more specific aspects.
  • It contains a strong emotional component.
  • It leads to a sense of certainty more solid than certainty in physical facts and common sense.
  • It says that it uses a form of thought that goes beyond rational facts.
  • It can only connect directly with content at isolated points.
  • It opposes rational thought by using adjectives such as mystery and paradox.

Looking at these points further, overgeneralization will be described through the use of sweeping statements with universal adjectives. An overgeneralized theory must remain at this level of sweeping statements, and any attempt to subdivide the sweeping statement into more specific aspects will be strongly resisted. There is an emotional drive to make sweeping statements, because Teacher thought feels good when many specific items can be summarized by a simple statement. Going further, Teacher thought feels very good when all of existence can be summarized by simple sweeping statements about the universal being of God. Strong emotions can overwhelm Perceiver thought, the part of the mind that evaluates facts. Therefore, the strong Teacher emotions produced by making sweeping statements about God will overwhelm Perceiver thought into knowing that overgeneralization describes truth about the real God, and this sense of knowing will be stronger than the knowing that comes from evaluating facts about reality. This results in Perceiver thought being turned against itself, because Perceiver thought will know with great certainty that one cannot know anything about the nature of God.

The final three points deal with the interaction between overgeneralization and rational thought. Pure Eastern mysticism combines Teacher overgeneralization with Mercy identification. Teacher thought comes up with the sweeping statement that ‘all is one’ and then Mercy thought, the part of the mind that handles personal identities, identifies with this sweeping statement. Thus, ‘all is one’ or ‘God is one’ is combined with ‘I am one with the universe’ or ‘I am united with God’.

In contrast, the mysticism that is practiced today has to coexist with factual knowledge and rational thought. Such coexistence is possible if three conditions are met. First, overgeneralization must always be regarded as going beyond rational thought. Saying this another way, rational thought must always be regarded as a subset of the sweeping statements being made by overgeneralization. Second, rational thought must also be regarded as being incapable of influencing overgeneralization. This will be done by insisting that the topics that are approached through overgeneralization are shrouded in mystery and paradox, because this will prevent rational thought from attempting to enter the realm of overgeneralization. Third, when overgeneralization does interact directly with rational content, then this interaction must always occur in an isolated manner that deals with specific situations that are viewed outside of any context. For instance, Martin Buber says that one gains a glimpse of the God of mysticism when one enters so fully into personal interaction with another human being that one ignores other people and other situations. When one focuses fully upon the current situation, then one is ignoring Perceiver facts and Server sequences that connect this specific situation with similar situations, and ignoring Perceiver facts and Server sequences makes it possible for Teacher thought to practice overgeneralization. Saying this another way, focusing fully upon the current situation is a form of identification, and mysticism requires a combination of overgeneralization and identification.

The essay on Martin Buber shows how these traits are present in the philosophy of Martin Buber, while the essay on Berkhof points out that these same traits lie behind most reformed Christian theology. This essay will begin by examining how these traits are exhibited in Kabbalah. This is easy to show, because these traits are explicitly emphasized in the introduction to Kabbalah.

This essay will be quoting from the following Jewish sources: Aish.com has a good set of introductory webpages on Kabbalah. Kabbalaonline.org has—obviously—a number of pages on Kabbalah. Chabad.org also has a series of pages on Kabbalah, from a Hasidic perspective. Another set of pages on Kabbalah can be found at Gal Einai. An extensive overview of Jewish history from an Orthodox Jewish perspective can be found at jewishhistory.org. And then there is always Wikipedia, which is surprisingly good when dealing with this kind of subject. We will also spend some time examining the illustrations that are given in these descriptions of Kabbalah, because Jewish thought regards illustrations as parables that illustrate general principles.

My Biases

Before beginning, I should mention something about my biases, starting with my theoretical bias. I am not Jewish, but I do have some Jewish blood in my background. I have not studied Torah at a yeshiva, but I have spent some time in Israel and I do speak some Hebrew. I do not subscribe to the common Christian belief that the church has replaced Israel as the ‘chosen people of God’ or that all of the promises made to Israel in the Bible were fulfilled in Jesus. But I also do not believe that being a friend of Israel means supporting the state of Israel no matter what it does. Real friends ask probing questions and encourage growth. That is how learning occurs within a Jewish yeshiva. Instead, observing history, understanding the mind, and a simple reading of the Bible all lead me to the conclusion that Israel has played—and continues to play—a vital role as God’s chosen people. I suggest that this is because Judaism and Christianity each have part of the answer, and each is naturally blind to the part of the answer that the other has.

In simple terms, I suggest that Judaism knows more about the Server side of interacting with God—what it means as a person to act in righteousness in obedience to the instructions of God, and what it means as a group to be guided through history by the providence of God. In contrast, I suggest that Christianity knows more about the Perceiver side of interacting with God—what it means to be transformed as a person by submitting to the truth of God, and what it means as a group to be motivated by the Platonic forms of the invisible kingdom of God.

I should also mention something about my personal bias. I know that the Christian church has persecuted Jews for over a thousand years, making a mockery of the teachings and example of Jesus. I am a Mennonite. My ancestors were also persecuted for hundreds of years, especially by leaders of established churches. And like the Jews, my ancestors also had to flee from one country to another in order to escape religious persecution. (Because of these extensive similarities, I find it difficult to understand why so many Mennonites areanti-Israel, and this Jewish author asks a similar question.) Looking at this more personally, I also know what it is like to be rejected as an individual by society, including being excluded from pursuing a career because of trying to follow God in a manner that differs from the opinions of society as a whole.

In conclusion, I have learned that being ‘chosen by God’ is both a promise and a threat, both a privilege and a heavy burden.

Finally, I should say that I am not picking on Judaism in this essay. Instead, we will be analyzing Kabbalah using the same cognitive perspective that I have used to analyze all major branches of Christianity, including my own branch of Anabaptism.

Kabbalah and Mysticism

Aish.com says that “Kabbalah is to Torah what philosophy is to science. Like science, the Torah gives us the facts that are fully perceived sensually and rationally quantifiable. Like philosophy, Kabbalah gives us the grander abstract picture that the facts present.” Using the language of mental symmetry, Torah provides the Perceiver facts, while Kabbalah is the general Teacher theory that integrates these facts. However, buried within this statement is an implicit assumption which can be seen by comparing philosophy to science. Thomas Kuhn pointed out that philosophy does not use the same methodology as science. Philosophy (especially analytic philosophy) is based upon words and logic, while science is ultimately based upon how the natural world functions. It is possible for philosophy to become so fixated upon words and logic that instead of presenting a ‘grand abstract picture’ of science, it presents a grand abstract picture of the methodology of philosophy.

Similarly, while Kabbalah claims to present a grand abstract picture of Torah, most of the content of Kabbalah is not based in the content of Torah but rather reflects thinking of mysticism as well as the way in which mysticism interacts with content, such as the content of Torah.

Saying this more generally, whenever mysticism is combined with rational thought, then one is dealing with three levels: There is the mysticism itself, the rational content, and the ‘glue’ that ties these two together. The rational content varies depending upon the specific group or culture. In the case of Kaballah, it comes from the content of Torah. Kabbalah deals primarily with mysticism and the glue that connects this mysticism with rational thought. (Kabbalah also interprets itself as a theory of psychology, which means that many concepts have two definitions: a primary definition based in mysticism and its interaction with rational thought, and a secondary definition based in psychology.)

Aish.com begins its description of Kabbalah by saying that “The Kabbalah is about understanding God. This brings us to a major paradox, because how can we—who are finite, understand God, who is Infinite. The Kabbalah describes God as Ein Sof, which in Hebrew means ‘without end.’ Colloquially, of course, we are accustomed to use ‘infinite’ whenever we refer to something ‘very, very big’ or ‘uncountable.’ But its real definition is ‘without borders’ or ‘without parameters.’… God is termed Bal Tachlis—He is not bound in any way. This doesn’t just mean that His powers are not limited in any way, but, more deeply, that we cannot contrast God with any experience known to humanity.”

Generalization takes a group of Perceiver facts, such as the facts of Torah, and places them within the grand abstract picture of a general Teacher theory. For instance, we saw a few paragraphs back that Aish.com says that ‘Kabbalah gives us the grander abstract picture that the facts present’. But we see here that Kabbalah actually starts with overgeneralization and not generalization. Generalization organizes Perceiver facts within the structure of a general Teacher theory; generalization involves a cooperation between Perceiver thought and Teacher thought. Overgeneralization starts with a sweeping statement within Teacher thought and then eliminates any Perceiver facts that might limit the extent of this sweeping statement; overgeneralization uses Teacher thought while suppressing Perceiver thought.

Looking at the quote in more detail, a sweeping statement jumps directly to universality, ignoring any facts that might limit the sweep of the statement. Kabbalah refers to God as Ein Sof, which means ‘without end’. In other words, God is being defined as a sweeping statement. Aish.com emphasizes that it is defining God as a sweeping statement who ‘is not bound in any way’. And this sweeping statement of God has nothing to do with any of the facts of human existence because ‘we cannot contrast God with any experience known to humanity’.

Aish.com repeats that the essence of God is based solely in overgeneralization that has nothing to do with any content of rational thought: “The same is true of God’s essence. No amount of comparison, illustration, or metaphor will bring His reality closer to our understanding. He is simply Ein Sof—indefinable, period.”

This is not a trivial point, because summarizing everything that someone says is not the same as ignoring everything that someone says. Kabbalah says that it is a summary of the content of Torah, but it starts with a concept of God that ignores all content. I suggest that mysticism must by its very nature be based upon this type of inherent contradiction. On the one hand, Teacher emotion comes from order-within-complexity. Teacher thought feels good when a simple statement summarizes many specific facts. Therefore, a statement about God will only feel universal if one believes that this statement summarizes all the facts of existence. But on the other hand, Teacher thought overgeneralizes by ignoring facts. Therefore, it is only possible to use overgeneralization to make a statement about God if one ignores all the facts of existence. Thus, mysticism must simultaneously state that it both summarizes all facts and ignores all facts.

Mysticism deals with this contradiction by declaring it to be ‘a major paradox’. Whenever one states that something is a paradox, then one is saying that it is impossible for Perceiver thought to come up with facts. This turns Perceiver thought against itself, because the belief that it is impossible to come up with facts is itself a fact. Saying this another way, one is knowing that it is impossible to know. Going further, when one states that something is a major paradox, then one is turning Perceiver thought against itself at a fundamental level.

I should point out that these principles exist within all forms of mysticism. This essay is merely examining the form that these principles take within Jewish mysticism.

Aish.com then turns to the glue that bridges the overgeneralization of God with the content of human existence: “While God Himself is Ein Sof, He has created a place of interaction between Himself and humanity that is, for our sakes, bounded and defined. This place is called hanhaga—and this is the realm within which we can make use of our understanding and knowledge.” Summarizing, God is pure overgeneralization who has nothing to do with rational content, but it is possible to use rational thought to analyze the interaction between transcendent God and human content.

Kabbalah assumes that God interacts with humanity through the content of Torah: “This is what is at work in Divine hanhaga—how we perceive God’s interaction with the universe, which, of course, is contained in the rules and laws of the Torah.” Notice the phrase ‘of course’. The underlying assumption of Judaism is that God interacts with humanity through Torah, just as the underlying assumption of Christianity is that God interacts with humanity through the Bible.

I have mentioned that overgeneralization can only interact directly with content if one focuses upon specific points and ignores the context. It is also possible for overgeneralization to interact indirectly with content. This is done by combining a mystical mindset of overgeneralization with content that is added externally and then asserting that this content comes from God in a manner that is independent of normal human thought. Reformed Christian theology does this through the concept of ‘ means of grace’, which includes baptism, communion, and reading the Bible in an official setting. Similarly, Kabbalah focuses upon doing Torah and reading the Bible and praying to God in an officially approved manner. External content, provided by religious rituals, religious icons, religious leaders, and religious buildings, makes it possible to behave as if there is content while mentally pretending that content does not exist.

Aish.com adds that studying the glue that bridges God and humanity does not lead to an understanding of God, but it does provide glimpses of God: “The Kabbalah seeks to understand the Divine hanhaga, God’s relationship as perceived from within this world, as opposed to understanding God Himself. Yet in reaching a deeper understanding of hanhaga, we get a glimpse of God Himself.” Martin Buber says something similar in his juxtaposition of mysticism and scientific thought.

We have seen that mysticism cannot connect directly with the content of human existence, for the simple reason that one cannot explain facts by using a method of thought that suppresses facts. But mysticism does produce the feeling of having a personal encounter with God, because overgeneralization generates the Teacher feeling of having a universal theory, and identification then identifies personally in Mercy thought with this Teacher feeling of universality. However, this feeling of encountering the divine can never be more than a glimpse, because thinking about a mystical encounter adds content, and this content will limit Teacher overgeneralization, causing the feeling of encountering God to go away. Again, one is dealing here with a general principle that applies to all forms of mysticism and not just to Kabbalah.

Another principle of mysticism is that one must remain at the level of sweeping statements without subdividing a universal theory into more specific aspects. However, a general theory is only capable of explaining content if it is subdivided into more specific aspects. Aish.com describes this inherent contradiction: “The building blocks of Kabbalistic terminology are the Ten Sefirot… When Kabbalah looks at various events that have transpired in the world, or various Divine commandments in the Torah, it classifies and describes them in terms of these various modes of interaction. Judaism has placed at its masthead the principle of the Oneness of God… How do we now dilute this most important of beliefs with the idea of ‘Ten Emanations’ that seems to imply God is more than one?” Summarizing this question, Kabbalah says that God interacts with humanity through ten ‘Sefirot’. This type of subdivision is needed to explain human content. But Judaism is based upon the idea that there is one God. How can one reconcile the concept of one God with the idea that God interacts with humans in ten different ways?

Kabbalah Online describes this contradiction in greater detail: “In Kabbala, the world of Adam Kadmon represents the transcendent will of G-d. G-d’s desire for the Creation and how it is manifest are planned out in one broad, all-encompassing overview, without separation into specific details.” This divine overgeneralization occurs within a single eternal moment that contains no content and cannot be subdivided into details: “In the world of Adam Kadmon everything is seen in one broad overview, but the exact details are not yet separated and ordered into the categories of reality. All the details of Creation, from the beginning of space to the end of space and from the beginning of time to the end of time, are all superimposed in this one thought, for, in Adam Kadmon, there is no concept of space and time whatsoever. There is as yet no inside and no outside, no up and no down, no before and no after. There is only a potential for these limitations. Everything is undefined, unified, and simultaneous. Here lies the root and source of all the other planes of reality, which descend from Adam Kadmon.” Notice how ‘God’s desire for the creation’ is ‘seen in one broad overview’, but this overview is not ‘separated into specific details’. On the one hand, ‘all the details of creation’ are ‘superimposed in this one thought’, while on the other hand, ‘everything is undefined, unified, and simultaneous’. This represents ‘the transcendent will of God’.

Translating this into cognitive language, Teacher overgeneralization is being used to form a concept of God, and overgeneralization by its very nature is devoid of content. But it is possible to maintain an attitude of overgeneralization in the presence of content by asserting that overgeneralization is more general than all content and that it is the ultimate source of all content. If a God of overgeneralization is more general than rational thought and action, then this means that all human thought and action ultimately has its source in a will of God that transcends all rational thought and occurs within an eternal moment.

Kabbalah says that this describes the nature of the real God. But we have seen that this type of concept of God will naturally and inevitably emerge whenever one uses overgeneralization to generate a concept of God and connects this concept of God with the content of human existence. This cognitive foundation is illustrated by the fact that one finds precisely the same combination of traits in the Christian reformed description of God. Christian reformed theology also states that all human existence and all human decisions are ultimately based in the ‘good pleasure’ of a God who resides in an eternal moment, and that God’s entire sweeping plan for creation was formed in the eternal counsel of God, but human rational thought cannot be used to analyze or subdivide this divine plan. (I am not suggesting that reformed Christianity is the only branch of Christianity to make such statements. Instead, the reformed Christian focus upon theology causes it to state explicitly the implicit beliefs that tend to be present in all branches of Christianity.)

Going further, mysticism leads naturally to a sense of knowing. That is because the potent emotions generated by the experience of ‘encountering God’ will overwhelm Perceiver thought into knowing that this emotional experience defines absolute truth. Thus, the mystic will not just say that he felt that he encountered God, he will believe that a real God exists who reflects his experience of feeling oneness with God.

That leads us to pose the following question: If the mystic’s description of God emerges naturally from the wiring of the mind, then how does one know that this description has any connection with the real God? Using an analogy, everything in the Emerald City of the land of Oz appeared green. But this was not because the objects in the Emerald City actually were green, but rather because everyone within the city wore green-tinted eyeglasses. Similarly, if both Kabbalah and reformed Christian theology say the same things about God, this does not necessarily mean that God really is that way. It could also mean that both Jewish theologians and reformed theologians are viewing God through the same eyeglasses of Teacher overgeneralization.

I am not suggesting that it is wrong to extrapolate from a mental concept of God to the nature of the real God. Genesis 1:26 says that man is made in the image of God, and both Jewish and Christian thought interpret this to mean that there is a deep correspondence between the structure of the mind and the nature of God. However, I am suggesting that it is unwise for finite creatures who live within a world of content—and cannot exist without this content—to build a mental concept of God upon a form of thought that abhors content, because this concept of God will emotionally drive people to think and behave in ways that are inherently destructive. Instead, if one wishes to extrapolate from a mental concept of God to the nature of the real God, then one should start with a mental concept of God that is based in mental wholeness.

Mysticism and Mental Content

Kabbala Online describes the method that Kabbalah uses to reconcile the overgeneralization of God with the content of human existence. The underlying problem is that one cannot reconcile overgeneralization with content. Continuing with the web page that was quoted a few paragraphs back: “It is clear that the succeeding levels of Creation, i.e. the series of worlds which descend from Adam Kadmon, particularly the lowest world, cannot possibly exist within the parameters of the existence of Adam Kadmon. Everything in Adam Kadmon is undefined, unified, and simultaneous, superimposed in a single primordial thought, which contradicts the very idea of worlds in the sense that we understand them, as limited being which presupposes separation and division. Subjectively, in terms of our awareness of G-d, the world of Adam Kadmon parallels the highest source of consciousness in man. It is the awareness of total unity with the Infinite Light.” Using cognitive language, Teacher overgeneralization cannot be reconciled with a world that is subdivided into specific content. Notice that this quote explicitly connects the mental experience of mysticism in which there is ‘awareness of total unity with the infinite light’ with the nature of the real God. However, if this concept of God ‘parallels the highest source of consciousness in man’, then how can one be certain that one is not confusing a human state of mental consciousness with the nature of God? How can one distinguish between the glasses that one is wearing and what one is seeing through these glasses?

Continuing, Kabbala Online says that “The first step in bringing about the separation and division necessary for creating the lower worlds, is by ‘breaking’ the unity of the light as it is in Adam Kadmon. As the light descends from Adam Kadmon, it breaks up into ten individual qualities or attributes (sefirot, sefira in the singular) which act as separate independent points of light. Each of these points is an extremely powerful concentration of light as it descends from Adam Kadmon. These are called the sefirot of Tohu, which means ‘chaos’ or ‘disorder’.” I have mentioned that overgeneralization can only interact with internal content at specific points, because focusing upon specific points ignores Perceiver facts and Server sequences, giving Teacher thought the freedom to overgeneralize. Similarly we see here that the ‘unity of God’ is broken up into separate independent points of light. This breaking up leads to chaos because there is no connection between these individual points of contact.

Kabbalah Online emphasizes that the connection between God and human content occurs at specific points that are totally isolated from one another: “The sefirot of Tohu are absolutely independent of each other and form no inter-relationships with each other. Thus there is no order and no structure. Moreover, each sefira in Tohu is the manifestation of only one absolute and quintessential aspect of the light of Adam Kadmon, and therefore it does not interact with the other sefirot, since they have nothing in common.”

Overgeneralization could be compared to a tribal chieftain who claims to be ‘ruler over the entire inhabited world’. It is possible to assert such a title as long as one does not encounter anyone from another tribe. But as soon as one ‘ruler over the entire inhabited world’ encounters another ruler, then the very existence of the other ruler will threaten the claim of universal rulership. Similarly, when Teacher overgeneralization is separated into ten different ‘Sefirot’, then the very existence of a multiplicity of sefirot will threaten the mindset of Teacher overgeneralization. Similarly, Kabbalah Online explains that “A consequence of this lack of interaction is that none of the sefirot of Tohu are able to limit the activity and expansion of any of the other sefirot to a level in which all the sefirot can function together. Therefore none of the sefirot can endure the activity of any of the other sefirot. This results in the disintegration, or ‘shattering’ of the sefirot of Tohu.”

When overgeneralization is used to make universal statements about God, then the mere presence of an independent fact will naturally threaten a concept of God, because overgeneralization is being used to make sweeping statements about literally everything. For instance, the reformed theologian R.C. Sproul claims that the existence of even one independent molecule leads inevitably to the concept of atheism.

However, it is also possible for overgeneralization to respond to independent facts by limiting the extent of overgeneralization. For instance, suppose that I make the sweeping statement that “It rained all summer” and that someone responds by pointing out that we had five sunny days in the middle of June. I could respond by focusing upon the feeling of overgeneralization while ignoring the facts: “Well, it sure felt like it rained all summer”. Or I could limit the extent of my generalization: “But it did rain during the entire months of July and August.”

Kabbalah describes this limiting of domain as tzimtzum, or contraction. Wikipedia explains that tzimtzum “is a term used in the Lurianic Kabbalah to explain Isaac Luria’s new doctrine that God began the process of creation by ‘contracting’ his Ein Sof (infinite) light in order to allow for a ‘conceptual space’ in which finite and seemingly independent realms could exist.”

Wikipedia adds that “tzimtzum results in the ‘empty space’ in which spiritual and physical Worlds and ultimately, free will can exist. I mentioned earlier that reformed theology and Kabbalah have similar concepts of God. But there are also differences. Kabbalah teaches that God limits his infinite light in order to leave room for human existence and free will. Thus, Kabbalah teaches the concept of human free will. Reformed theology, in contrast, does not teach that God pulled back from creation and as a result, reformed theology also states that all human decisions are ultimately predetermined by divine providence and predestination. However, if one turns from theory to practice, one observes that no reformed Christian actually acts as human will is meaningless, but instead acts as if a secular realm exists from which God has pulled back through a form of tzimtzum.

Mental symmetry suggests an alternative to both predestination and tzimtzum. If one examines how the physical world functions, one notices that it is possible to determine with mathematical precision the behavior of a group of atomic particles, but it is not possible to determine exactly what any individual atomic particle will do. Thus, divine sovereignty governs general principles, while leaving room for personal freedom within the details.

Moving on, Kabbalah says that the chaos of Tohu is followed by the restoration of Tikun. Chabad.org describes what this means: “The sefirot of Tikun were emanated in such a way that they work together interdependently and harmoniously, as partzufim (literally, ‘visages’ - sing. ‘partzuf’) - compound structures of the sefirot. A partzuf is a metaphorical figure of human likeness, used to represent the expansion of an individual sefira (or group of sefirot) into a configuration with ten sefirot of its own… the partzufim work as symbiotic harmonious systems instead of the discrete, independent, overpowering nekudot of Tohu.” Notice how the ten sefirot are now working together in an integrated manner.

By now the multiplicity of Hebrew terms is probably getting confusing, so let us summarize, translating each step into the language of mental symmetry. First, God lives within the Teacher overgeneralization of Ein Sof, an eternal, limitless, undivided moment. This describes the kind of image of God that emerges when Teacher overgeneralization is used to make sweeping statements about universality. Second, this divine unity shatters into the chaos of Tohu, which is composed of ten sefirot that are points of light which do not interact and which are threatened by the existence of each other. This explains what happens when one attempts to add content to an overgeneralized theory. Each piece of content must be regarded as an isolated fragment that does not interact with anything else. But the end result is chaos, because the simple unity of the overgeneralized theory has been replaced by the chaos of many isolated fragments. Third, Teacher overgeneralization must pull back from its sweeping statements in order to make room for Teacher generalization through the withdrawal of Tzimtzum. Fourth, pulling back from overgeneralization makes it possible to place the fragments within a connected structure. This rebuilding is called Tikun, and the connected structures are called Partzufim.

One sees a similar progression in history. Initially, every tribal leader claims to be ruler over the entire inhabited world. When tribes encounter each other, then each tribal leader has to limit the extent of his claim. Instead of being ruler over everything, the leader becomes merely the ruler ‘from the mountains to the sea, from the great River to the desert.’ Finally, this ‘tohu’ of fragmented universal domains is replaced by the ‘tikun’ of international agreement and cooperation.

Saying this as simply as possible, overgeneralization becomes fragmented when content is added. Teacher order can be restored by limiting the sweeping statements of overgeneralization and then using generalization to construct a general Teacher theory composed of interacting elements.

This is an accurate description of the process by which Teacher overgeneralization becomes replaced by Teacher generalization. This is a major step forward because overgeneralization makes sweeping statements that suppress Perceiver facts, while generalization uses Perceiver facts as bricks from which Teacher thought constructs a general theory.

I know what this means personally, because when I, a Perceiver person, started interacting with my brother, who is a Teacher person, I thought that it was only possible for Perceiver thought to poke holes in the general theories of Teacher thought, by pointing out contradictions and counterexamples to the sweeping statements of the Teacher person. However, I eventually learned that it is also possible for Perceiver thought to build general theories by looking for connections and similarities. Poking holes in theories is relatively easy to do because it only requires a knowledge of specific facts. Building general theories is much more difficult because it requires an integrated network of factual knowledge.

That leads us to the following fundamental question: What represents the real God? Does the initial overgeneralization of Ein Sof represent God or is the final Tikun of order-within-complexity a more accurate representation of God? The answer is rather important because a God of overgeneralization is intrinsically opposed to the content within which finite human creatures live.

The answer proposed by Kabbalah can be seen in the sefira of keter (we will discuss the ten sefirot later). Aish.com explains that there is “a special sefirah that is not always counted together with the others: keter, ‘crown.’ On those occasions that we include it in the sefirot we omit the sefirah of da’at.” Aish says that keter is not included with the other sefirot because “In higher spiritual realms, keter is the primary Divine will. It does not allow itself to be analyzed. And therefore, it is not really included in the count of the sefirot, for as we explained in the beginning, the sefirot are quantifiable tools of God that interlock in a chain of cause and effect. Being that keter is only a cause, it is not really a part of this system. We can trace many steps of Divine Providence that have a cause and effect. But then we have to say that the root of all these reasons is ‘to bestow good upon His creatures.’ The question ‘Why does God want to do that?’ may not be a valid question, because we are dealing with an axiomatic level of Divine Providence.” And “the Kabbalistic works also tell us that the ‘nowhere’ is actually the sefirah of keter. It is a ‘nowhere’ for we can never face it directly, quantify it or analyze it.”

In other words, the ten sefirot come together to form a general structure, which Kabbalah interprets either as a tree or as a human body. But one of these ten sefirot can be interpreted as the alternative sefira of keter, a sefira that is intrinsically different than the others because it represents the unfathomable will of God. Saying this in more detail, the ultimate source of everything is the sefira of keter, which represents the ultimate cause of divine providence. But when discussing how the sefirot function together in an integrated manner, one replaces keter with da’at, the sefira that represents integrated understanding. That is because keter actually represents ‘nowhere’ and ‘nowhere’ cannot be placed within an integrated structure.

Notice how Kabbalah neatly sidesteps the problem through the use of a schizophrenic theory. When one uses rational thought to think about God and creation, than one refers to the sefira of da’at, which represents integrated rational thought. But when one is actually interacting with God, then one refers to the sefira of keter, which is the ‘crown’ (keter means crown) above rational thought, and the eternal source behind rational thought. Thus, one can both state that overgeneralization is above rational thought and use rational thought to analyze overgeneralization.

Looking at this cognitively, this means that Kabbalah is stretching forward from overgeneralization into rational thought while still being ultimately rooted in overgeneralization. This dilemma can be solved in one of two ways. One option is to step back from rational thought and live completely within overgeneralization. This leads away from the content of Torah to pure Eastern mysticism. The other option is to step forward into rational thought and live completely within generalization. However, this is only possible if one can come up with a rational general theory that is capable of explaining everything. The theory of mental symmetry appears to be a possible candidate because of the breadth of material that it is capable of explaining. Mental symmetry (together with most Christian theologians) suggests that the content of the universe is ultimately based in the inherent character of God. In other words, the characteristics of God, such as love, goodness, righteousness, truth, order, and justice, are not arbitrary traits that God chooses to follow but rather are natural expressions of the essence of God.

Mysticism and Monotheism

Looking at this religiously, one is dealing here with the core doctrine of Judaism, which is the doctrine of monotheism. Judaism was the first major religion to teach that there is only one God. But how does one define monotheism? This is an important topic, so let us examine what Aish.com says about the character traits of God.

Aish.com begins by saying that the Bible tells us to associate God with words and not pictures: “‘ God spoke to you from amidst the flames; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no picture; nothing but a voice.’ (Deut. 4:12) ‘ And you shall be most careful; for you did not see any picture on the day that God spoke to you at Horeb from amidst the flames. For you may become corrupt and make a statue of some image.’ (Deut. 4:15-16) Both of these verses seem to address an issue arising from the revelation at Sinai, since most people equate ‘revelation’ with some sort of ‘vision.’ Yet here was a revelation where God’s Presence was felt, His words were clearly comprehended, and yet no image was beheld, no picture was seen.” This is a significant point. Looking at this cognitively, Mercy thought uses images while Teacher thought uses words. Judaism came into existence during an age of idolatry during which people viewed God as a person with great status within Mercy thought represented by the visible object of an idol. The Bible is pointing out that God should not be associated with pictures in Mercy thought but rather connected with words in Teacher thought.

But Aish.com takes this conclusion several steps further. First, Aish.com says that the injunction against pictures means that one should not form a cognitive model of God. Second, Aish.com points out that we use cognitive models to represent people and people have emotions. Therefore, if we should not form a cognitive model of God, then this means that God does not have emotions. In the words of Aish.com, “This injunction against projecting a corporeality onto God extends not only to a primitive physical picture of God, but also to anything that places God’s being within the framework of human psyche or personality. This means that any type of study that describes God’s actions must be devoid of any suggestion that God ‘feels’ or has emotions that compel Him. The Mishna states this most emphatically.”

Aish.com then concludes that biblical passages which describe God having emotion are merely metaphors that do not mean what they say: “Maimonides points out that when God is described as ‘kind’ or ‘merciful,’ these words are to be understood as metaphors: When we speak of ‘God's character traits’ it does not mean that He has emotions, but rather that He does deeds that are similar to those deeds which a person does when he is acting with a certain emotion.” That is because God is a God of mysticism who is devoid of content: “God is completely beyond terms such as ‘emotion’ or ‘personality.’” Thus, belief in monotheism should be interpreted to mean that God is pure overgeneralization, which cannot be subdivided into any parts: “The commandment is to believe in God’s unity. While the belief in God’s unity precludes believing that there are many gods, it also precludes the belief that God has component units. Maimonides states this as well: God is One. Not two or more than two. One that is unlike any other unity. Not a unity that consists of parts, nor a corporeal unity which may be divided into parts and components, but rather a unity that is unlike any other unity.”

Notice how Kabbalah goes beyond what the Bible says in order to come up with a conclusion that is consistent with mysticism. The Bible says that one should learn about God using words and not pictures. Kabbalah goes beyond this by concluding that God does not have emotions, a statement that is contradicted by all the biblical descriptions of God having emotions, and by concluding that one should not use a cognitive model to represent God, a statement that is contradicted by the numerous biblical stories of people using human character traits in new ways to describe the nature of God, names such as YHWH-Yireh (God will provide), YHWH-Shalom (God our peace), YHWH-Ro’i (God my shepherd), and so on. I should emphasize that Kabbalah’s concept of God does not just contradict an isolated verse or two in the Bible, but rather runs contrary to the mindset being presented by numerous passages in the Bible (and I am referring here to the part of the Bible that is recognized by both Jews and Christians).

I suggest that the solution lies in recognizing that there are two kinds of emotion. Humans normally feel Mercy emotions such as pain, pleasure, status, or approval that are attached to experiences. Going further, the mind uses Mercy mental networks (MMNs) that are composed of emotional experiences as cognitive models to represent people. For instance, emotional experiences with my father will turn into an MMN within Mercy thought that represents my father. When I think of my father or meet my father, then this mental network will become activated and the way that this mental network responds will predicts how my real father will respond. (If my father becomes mentally incapacitated, then there will be a mismatch between the behavior of the MMN that represents my father and the behavior of my real father: “My father is not the person that he used to be.” Such a mismatch is deeply disconcerting.)

But Teacher thought also functions emotionally, and Teacher thought works with words and not pictures. Thus, when one uses words to learn and think about God then this will cause God to be represented by a Teacher mental network (TMN). A TMN functions emotionally, but it is guided by Teacher emotions order-within-complexity. MMNs are based upon specific experiences, such as the shape of Fred’s nose, or the cute house on the corner of Elm and Pine in which Suzie lives. TMNs, in contrast, are guided by general character traits that can be summarized verbally, such as justice, provision, peace, or health.

Kabbalah says that the prohibition against using pictures and idols to represent God means that God has no emotions and cannot be represented mentally by any psychological model. That is not what the Bible says, but it is what mysticism asserts. Mental symmetry suggests that one should learn about God using Teacher words rather than Mercy images, and that one should represent God with the TMN of a general understanding rather than with the MMNs that one uses to represent human beings. Kabbalah says that monotheism means that God is a mystical God of overgeneralization. This agrees with the overgeneralization of mysticism, but it contradicts the Bible, because the Bible repeatedly describes God as having certain character traits and not having other character traits.

Judaism was the first major religion to teach that there is only one God. But how does one define monotheism? Does one use overgeneralization to make sweeping statements about Ein Sof, ignore what the Bible says, and then attempt to shoehorn content into a framework that is incapable of handling content, or does one use generalization, guided by what the Bible says, to construct the concept of a universal God? Saying this another way, which is the more accurate concept of God, keter or da’at?

Judaism complains that Christianity has an inadequate concept of monotheism. For instance, jewishhistory.org says when discussing the apostle Paul that “He had an enormously receptive audience because he was selling the moral dream of Judaism – love, fairness, honesty, monotheism (albeit imperfect monotheism; it was certainly monotheistic in comparison to the Roman theologies of the time).” Christian monotheism is regarded as imperfect because it teaches a Trinitarian concept of God. In other words, instead of making sweeping statements about God that lack content, Christianity constructs the mental concept of a monotheistic God based in content and relationship.

However, I suggest that it is Kabbalah that is teaching an inadequate concept of monotheism, because its concept of God is based in overgeneralization, a form of thinking that the childish mind uses when factual knowledge is limited. Kabbalah describes the process by which one escapes from the sweeping statements of overgeneralization to the order and structure of generalization. If Kabbalah is an accurate description of the plan of God, and if the plan of God is to replace overgeneralization with generalization, then why does Kabbalah insist that overgeneralization is still the correct way to view God?

A similar stretching forward from childish thought to rational understanding can be seen in Judaism. When one reads Jewish history, one gains the strong impression that it is defined primarily by the rabbis who have codified Judaism, guided Judaism, and rebuilt Judaism when faced with disaster. This tells us that what ultimately controls Judaism is the Mercy mental networks that represent important people. But a rabbi is not your typical hero. Instead, the most common adjective used to describe an important rabbi is ‘genius’. For instance, the Gaon of Vilna “was undisputedly a genius among geniuses. As a young child, his fame already spread as a prodigy of note. By the time he was in his early twenties, he was renowned to such an extent that when one says, ‘the Gaon’ (‘the great one’ or the ‘incredible genius’) it refers to only one person: the Gaon of Vilna. The Gaon’s genius began with an incredible photographic memory.” Rabbis became famous by writing books. For example, “That book alone would have sufficed to make Rabbi Joseph Caro immortal. However, he wrote a second book which he says took him 25 years to write. It is the most encyclopedic book written on Jewish law until its time. It is even more encyclopedic than the Mishnah Torah. Remember, this was [a] time before computers, voice recorders and access to libraries, as we know them. To write such an encyclopedic work meant that whatever he learned remained embedded in his mind.”

This is quite different than the flavor that one gets from reading biographies of Christian heroes, who are typically described as caring, devoted, or self-sacrificing. But it does describe the mindset that one finds in the soft sciences. What matters in science is not the MMNs (Mercy mental networks) of personal status but rather the TMN (Teacher mental network) of general theories. However, what holds everything together is not the TMN of a universal understanding but rather the MMNs of various schools of thought. And Judaism is divided into various schools of thought, each associated with the rabbi or rabbis who began that branch of thinking. Again we see a stretching forward from a childish form of thinking (in this case hero worship) to an emphasis upon rational theories and rational thought.

One finds a similar mixture of emotions in the yeshiva, the Jewish school of Torah. Jewishhistory.org describes the thinking of Reb Chaim, a disciple of the Gaon of Vilna, who invented the modern yeshiva in about 1800. The yeshiva was started for four reasons: “The first point that Reb Chaim made to the Gaon of Vilna was the need for a central institution of higher learning that would so strengthen and raise the level of Torah study to challenge the students and be competition to any other form of intellectual pursuit.” In other words, secular learning was beginning to be driven by the general theories of science, and Reb Chaim wanted to come up with a Jewish form of learning that could compete intellectually with the secular sciences. Implicit in this was the second point, which is that the yeshiva would “be an institution for the best minds in the Jewish world.” We see here the desire to use rational thought, combined with a search for genius scholars.

“The fourth point Reb Chaim made was that true joy lay in the intellectual exhilaration of Torah study and Torah knowledge, not necessarily in dancing, song and good fellowship.” In other words, the focus is not just upon learning facts but upon being emotionally driven by the feelings that a general theory produces. However, this learning still occurs within an atmosphere driven by MMNs of culture and personal excitement: “The third point that Rabbi Chaim include in his blueprint for the Yeshiva Movement was that Torah had to be learned as community, not as individuals. In any yeshiva today the students are learning out loud in pairs or groups in the same room, noisy and distractive as that may. It is not like walking into a public library, where if one person coughs everyone lifts up his head from his book and gives him a look. The genius behind that is that there is enthusiasm in numbers. The noise itself raises the pitch and the level of Torah study. If you visit large yeshivas that have a few hundred boys learning all at once, you will find that it is an emotional, psychological and educational experience.”

This same kind of stretching forward can be seen in the very definition of what it means to be a Jew. A Jew is a member of a specific tribal group, and tribes are held together by MMNs of culture and personal authority. But what type of tribe is Judaism? A tribe that was entrusted with the divinely revealed words of Torah.

Stretching forward from idolatry to monotheism plays a critical role when society is guided by idolatry. Similarly, it takes time for a student to learn to be motivated by Teacher emotions of understanding. Therefore, education must begin by stretching forward from the hero worship and idolatry of the childish mind to the ‘monotheism’ of integrated understanding. However, religion today is no longer based primarily in idolatry but rather in spirituality without content. Thus, while stretching forward from idolatry to monotheism used to be a solution, is has now become part of the problem. A similar transition can often be seen in Christian denominations—and companies. It is common for a church or corporation that used to be at the cutting edge challenging the establishment to become part of the establishment that needs to be challenged by others.

A soft science turns into a hard science when the MMNs of intellectual heroes and founders of schools of thought are replaced by the TMN of an integrated universal understanding. For instance, chemistry turned into a hard science with the discovery of the periodic table of elements. Applying this to Judaism, this would mean replacing the overgeneralized God of Ein Sof with a rational God of order-within-complexity.

I have learned from personal experience that transforming a mental concept of God is not a trivial step, either intellectually or emotionally.

Therefore, I would like to point out a possible emotional reason for making this transition.

Anti-Semitism

I suggest that this juxtaposition of stretching forward from tribalism to rational thought is one of the primary causes—if not the primary cause—of anti-Semitism. The logic is simple. Tribalism focuses upon MMNs of culture and personal identity. Mental networks are threatened by input that is inconsistent with their structure. This leads naturally to traditional thinking, because MMNs of culture will drive people to do things ‘the way that they have always been done’. It will also lead to xenophobia, concluding that we are good and they are bad, simply because they are different than us. The mind uses MMNs to represent people. Therefore, a society that is driven by MMNs will focus upon the messenger rather than the message, and it will naturally reject messengers who preach or practice something different.

Rational thought makes it possible to escape this mindset. Rational thought focuses upon TMNs of understanding. Rational thought tries to be guided by an understanding of how things work rather than simply repeating traditional habits. Rational thought crosses cultures, because it looks for facts that apply to all cultures and all people. And rational thought focuses upon the message rather than the messenger.

Now let us suppose that some group of people pursues rational thought while still being ultimately based in tribalism. The rational thought will lead to wealth and prosperity. This will attract the attention of neighboring groups, who will want to share in this prosperity by learning themselves how to thinking and behave more rationally. But this copying and learning can only go so far, because eventually core MMNs of tribalism will become triggered. When this happens, then the original group will eventually feel driven by cultural MMNs to insist that they really are inherently different and superior. Similarly, the focus of other groups will turn from the message of rational thought to the messenger who is the source of this rational thought.

South Africa provides an example. The white settlers who came to South Africa used more rational thought than the black tribes who were living there. The blacks saw the physical prosperity of the white settlers and tried to learn from the whites. But what happened when the blacks became like the whites? They were not accepted as equals. Instead, white rational thought was replaced by the racism of apartheid. In response, blacks stopped listening to the message and focused on the messenger. (I know that it is politically correct today to assert that all cultures are equal. But this statement implicitly asserts that the culture of postmodern thought is superior to all other cultures, while eliminating any rational dialogue that makes it possible to question this implicit supremacy of postmodern thought.)

One can find a similar pattern in the history of Judaism. However, the situation with Judaism is far more extreme, because one is not dealing merely with a tribe that is pursuing rational thought but rather with a tribe chosen by God that is pursuing rational moral thought, which means that responses will be driven by the core mental networks of a TMN that represents God—interacting with MMNs of personal identity.

The Jews have provided an example of rational moral thought to the entire world. As Aish.com says, “The profound message that Jews bear to humanity has gained such widespread acceptance that people tend to take it for granted. Yet the ideas which originated at Sinai have literally changed the world. Few people give much thought anymore to the source of the basic moral underpinnings of Western society. Concepts such as basic human rights, the notion that the sick and the elderly should be cared for – not murdered or left to die – and the idea of society assisting the poor and disadvantaged, all seem to ‘come naturally’ nowadays. In short, Jewish concepts have civilized the world.”

The power of Judaism lies in the TMNs of God and morality that Judaism teaches. However, this message will only be effective to the extent that Jews themselves submit their identity and culture to the message that they are teaching. Quoting further from Aish.com, “Only when Jews act as Jews – only when the Torah’s message of ethics and morality is known throughout the world – can we ever hope to experience a world in which evil has been eradicated. Therein lies the exquisite irony of Jewish history. Although Jews posed no military, political or economic threat, and were never more than a tiny fraction of the world’s population, they were always a major power in the eyes of mankind. Why? Because of the message they carry – the Torah. Jewish ideas influence the world, but the world cannot absorb the message properly unless the Messengers – the Jews – know it and teach it.”

If the focus turns from the message to the messenger, then a natural response will be to try to eliminate the message by killing the messenger. As Aish.com says, “On a certain conscious level, people recognize the Jews’ message as truth. Those unwilling to embrace the truth have found that the only way to rid themselves of it is to destroy the messengers – for the message itself is too potent to be dismissed.”

The message that the Jews teach is not a normal message but rather one that affects core mental networks involving God and personal identity. In the words of Aish.com, “That is why the Christians’ hatred of the Jews was particularly intense. They, more than those of other religions, were threatened by the Jewish message. Jews said that Jesus was not God. This statement assumes a ‘wrongness’ about Christianity. The Church Fathers understood that if the Jews are right, and they remain Jews, this implies that Christianity is bankrupt. Therein lies Judaism’s colossal threat to Christianity.”

Does the continuing existence of Judaism imply that Christianity is bankrupt? It does—if religion is ultimately based in the MMNs of religious experts, because there can only be one set of valid experts, and if overgeneralization is used to form a concept of God, because a God of overgeneralization cannot be associated with a plan that is subdivided into different aspects that are being carried out by different groups of people. For instance, reformed theology insists that God is carrying out a single plan of salvation and that there is no essential difference between God’s interaction with the Jews in the ‘Old Testament’ and his interaction with Christians in the ‘New Testament’.

But if one uses rational thought to construct an integrated understanding of God, then it becomes obvious that Judaism and Christianity must both exist, because each possesses part of the picture. Judaism functions primarily at the group level as a light to the nations. However, Judaism does not have an effective message of personal salvation because it is driven so strongly by the tribal MMNs of being a chosen people.

Jewishhistory.org describes the tribalism that blinded Jewish thinking during the Jewish revolt of AD 70, and blinded is not too strong a word: “The internecine warfare among Jews destroyed whatever chance they had to hold out. The Zealots fought against the Sicarii for control of the city. Remnants of Agrippa’s army controlled other parts of the city. All three fought each other, killing thousands of people. To top it all off, Johanan Gush Halav invaded the city through the Roman lines and fought a pitched battle with the forces of the Zealots. In order to make certain that the Jews would fight to the last man the Zealots burned all of the supplies that had been stored up. They felt that the Jews would not be aggressive enough – desperate enough – to defeat the Romans if they knew they could hold out for a long time. By burning the storehouses of supplies, the Zealots guaranteed the destruction of millions of people.”

Similarly, the tribalism in the following statement from Chabad.org literally extends to the essence of personal existence and is viewed as being ordained by God: “A Jew is a unique creation, so the soul of a Jew is inherently and basically different than the soul of a non-Jew.” “The essence of a Jew, that which makes him Jewish, is his soul, and his soul is not a creation. The soul of the Jew is an eternal, infinite part of the eternal, infinite G-d; the Jew is a piece of G-d. Whoever has this soul is Jewish. Whoever doesn’t have this soul is not Jewish, but rather is a human being created by G-d, created in the six days of creation through G-d’s speech.”

“When a Jew gives tzedakah, he’s basically a Divine being accepting human obligations; he is basically humbling himself, lowering himself into the worldly human condition. When a non-Jew gives charity, he is basically a human being trying to elevate himself to something more Divine. So are the Jew and the non-Jew doing the same thing? Not at all. They’re doing opposite things. The same act, but coming from opposite directions and accomplishing opposite results.” Notice that the Jew is ‘basically a divine being accepting human obligations’ while the non-Jew is ‘basically a human being trying to elevate himself to something more Divine’. This describes a level of tribal superiority that is comparable to the reformed doctrine of double predestination.

Christianity, in contrast, or at least Protestant Christianity, is so fixated upon its message of personal salvation that it has an inadequate sense of God working through history, and places such a strong emphasis on changing the heart that it often overlooks transforming the mind. Thus, one concludes that a God of mental wholeness needs both Christianity and Judaism. (Catholicism is more Jewish in its mindset while Orthodox Christianity emphasizes mysticism.)

Mental symmetry suggests a different view of what it means to be ‘chosen by God’. My underlying hypothesis is that all humans, angels/aliens, and spiritual beings have the same kind of mind/soul, and that the only difference between these various intelligent beings is the way in which the mind/soul interacts with the physical environment. This is explored in other essays. In other words, there is no such thing as a Jewish soul or an angelic soul. Going further, God is carrying out a cosmic plan that will lead all intelligent beings to mental wholeness, similar to the Jewish idea of Tikun. In order to ensure that this plan is successful, God has to interfere in the lives of some people and some groups. If God does not intervene, then people and society will not reach maturity. But if God intervenes too much, then this will also prevent people from reaching maturity. As history shows, God has intervened—and continues to intervene—in the history of the Jewish people. God guides people and groups primarily by manipulating core mental networks. This means that people and groups that are chosen by God must be obsessed by strong mental networks that God can manipulate. We have just seen the type of ethnic obsession that exists in the Jewish people. If God’s chosen people cooperate with the leading of God, then being a chosen nation is a good thing. But if God’s chosen people rebel from God, then God will take whatever steps are required to manipulate and guide his chosen people, and anyone who is familiar with Jewish history knows what this means.

In the words of Moses, “If you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you… You shall become a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people where the LORD drives you… So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the LORD your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you. They shall become a sign and a wonder on you and your descendants forever” (Deut. 28: 15, 37, 45, 46). And I am not quoting isolated verses out of context but rather mentioning highlights from an entire chapter of warning.

Saying this more simply, I suggest that being chosen by God means that one cannot drop out of God’s school of character development. Instead, it is guaranteed that one will graduate from school, no matter how many remedial classes this takes. Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof gives a succinct description of what this means: “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”

Ten Sefirot

The ten sefirot are arranged into a structure known as the tree of life. They are subdivided into the three triplets of chochma, binah, and da’at; chesed, gevura, and tiferet; and netzach, hod, and yesod. (The English spelling varies from one website to another because Hebrew words written with Hebrew characters are being transliterated into English. I will try to be consistent in my spelling, but the quotes will preserve the spelling that is used by that website.) Each triplet contains a ‘left side’ and a ‘right side’ which is then balanced by the middle. For instance, the right side of chochma and the left side of binah are balanced by the middle of da’at.

Aish.com says that “At their fundamental level, the Ten Sefirot are a step-by-step process illuminating the Divine plan as it unfolds itself in our world. Remember once again, that the Ten Sefirot are not there because God could not do it all in one quick step, but rather in order for us to be able to gain insight and understanding of His deeds. Let us divide the Ten Sefirot into groups that reflect this step-by-step process:

  • The planning of the deed: Chochmah (wisdom), Binah, (understanding), and Daat (knowledge).

  • The substance of the deed itself: Chesed (kindness), Gevurah (strength), and Tiferet (beauty).

  • The practical implication of the deed: Netzach (victory), and Hod (awe).

  • The enactment (or transfer) of the deed: Yesod (foundation).

  • The enacted deed: Malchut (kingship).”

Summarizing, a deed starts with understanding, it expresses itself in a certain manner, and it adjusts itself to match the recipient. Finally, a deed is enacted in an integrated manner and then received by some recipient.

I mentioned earlier that Judaism focuses upon Server thought and sequences. One can see this in the description of the ten sefirot, because they are described as a step-by-step process of the deeds of God. But notice also that a proviso is added, because the author explains that the step-by-step process is for our sake and not for the sake of God because ‘God could do it all in one quick step’. We see here the conflict between rational thought and overgeneralization. Jewish rational thought focuses upon Server actions and divides sequences into steps, while overgeneralization insists that the divine plan cannot be divided into steps but rather occurs in one eternal moment. This is a significant distinction that has major implications which will be discussed later.

Planning

As Aish.com says, “The first group consisting of Chochma, Binah and Daat, all relate to the realm of intellect. This is the group of ‘planning.’” Aish.com emphasizes that God’s actions also begin with understanding and reason: “The fact that the first three of the Ten Sefirot can be grouped as relating to the intellect/planning has a tremendous ramification in our approach to grappling with God’s deeds and activities in this world. It means that God’s actions and deeds start with a platform of reason, and therefore we can never reduce Divine activity to mere fiat of diktat.”

Using cognitive language, one should not regard the activity of God as some incomprehensible expression of ‘ divine good pleasure’. Instead, one should use rational Teacher thought to analyze the structure of God’s activity within the world, because God’s actions can be placed within a general Teacher structure of order-within-complexity. In the words of Aish.com, “When a person acts straight out of whim, without reason, there is no way to impose an order or structure onto his activities. Each deed is a particular whim, perhaps only vaguely connected to the other deeds. But if a person is purposeful in his thinking and planning, then an integrated pattern can be discerned in what he does. So too with God. Because God chooses to act through the primary Sefirot of intellect/planning, we can understand each event and interaction as part of a larger, comprehensible pattern, as opposed to a series of isolated events.”

Aish.com adds that the Teacher order of God is found in three primary areas: “We can discern the imprint of ‘Divine intellect’ in the patterns that form the natural world, history and the laws of the Torah… The natural world… is clearly a very rigidly ordered place. There are consistent laws that rule this world. These laws are integrated with each other and form a clear pattern… as we got a broader and longer perspective of history—especially the history of Israel and its interactions with other nations—we can pick out a unifying thread of Divine providence… To a novice the laws of the Torah seem like a collection of odd prohibitions and proscriptions. But once we posit that all of these laws are not merely Divine dictates, but were first funneled through a common system of intellect/planning, then they must be seen as a unified system.” I also have noticed that there is a pattern and structure to history that strongly indicates divine interference, and I have also found that the Bible makes sense if one assumes that it is making rational statements about developing the mind.

These statements are precisely what mental symmetry suggests, and they summarize the approach that I have been using in my research. But the concept of a God of rational order is incompatible with the idea of God as Ein Sof, because the overgeneralization of Ein Sof cannot be subdivided into a rational plan. Instead, all deeds of God must be regarded as ‘a particular whim’ of divine pleasure.

Thus, the starting principle of the Kabbalistic tree of life is that God does not behave in a manner that is an expression of the essence of God. Christian theology does not contain such a blatant contradiction between overgeneralization and rational structure. On the one hand, the Christian concept of a Trinitarian God contains inherent order-within-complexity and is not just the pure overgeneralization of Ein Sof. On the other hand, while Christianity teaches that God is a God of order and structure, this is not usually the starting point for discussing God and religion.

Summarizing, one is not just dealing here with a minor doctrinal issue but rather with an unbridgeable gap involving the very character of God. When the behavior of God contradicts the essence of God, then I suggest that this describes an incomplete version of monotheism.

The first three sefirot of chochma, binah, and da’at attempt to bridge this unbridgeable gap. Chochma is the starting point for rational thought expressed as a flash of intuition: “Chochmah, ‘wisdom,’ is the ‘input’ into the mind. It is the information we have been taught, or more so, the flash of inspiration -- when an idea pops into our head.” Chochma comes from the contentlessness of overgeneralization: “chochmah has one other important characteristic -- it comes from ‘nowhere.’” Chochma is an expression of the God of overgeneralization that cannot be analyzed by rational thought: “It is not possible to intellectually inquire above the level of chochmah. God’s activities may be researched, inquired, thought about and analyzed up to a certain point. Past this point intellectual understanding is impossible because higher aspects of God’s providence simply do not come through intellectual channels.”

Similarly, I have repeatedly found that it is possible to have a rational discussion about God with people up to a certain point. When this point is reached, then no further discussion is possible, because the person is convinced at a deep emotional level that God is ultimately beyond rational thought. However, in most Christian circles this split between rational thought and irrational belief is implicit, and it reveals itself when attempting to discuss the topic of God. In Kabbalah, this split within the nature of God is an explicit doctrine, stated as an introductory principle.

Aish.com adds that “there is no way that ‘creativity’ can be explained in terms of logical processing. For the logical processing starts after the idea has come into being. We are colloquially on mark when we refer to such thinking as ‘creative thought,’ in the sense that creation is an ex-nihilo process. It comes from ‘nowhere.’” It is true that logic comes after ideas and creation. Using the language of mental symmetry, ideas are generated by Exhorter thought, while logical thinking is an expression of Contributor thought, which occurs after Exhorter thought. However, I suggest that it is inaccurate to state that ideas come from nowhere. Creativity does not occur within a vacuum. Instead, I keep finding that ideas occur within some context, as the mind travels intuitively along paths of pre-existing knowledge and skill. This is also true of theological thought, because the thinking of theologians always seems to be limited and guided by the general knowledge of society at large. However, when mysticism is juxtaposed with rational thought, then the only way to preserve mysticism is by asserting that mysticism is not based in rational thought but rather ‘comes from nowhere’ above and before rational thought.

Similarly, Kabbalah teaches that “It is not a system born in a vacuum. Kabbalah and its teachings—no less than Jewish Law—are an integral part of the Torah. They are traced back to the historical roots of Sinai, part and parcel of ‘Moses received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it….’” Kabbalah regards non-Jewish mysticism as inadequate precisely because it occurs out of nowhere and lacks a context: “The great mystics and philosophers outside Judaism, in the East and in the West, were honest and sincere sages. They did seek truth. They did not look for answers to justify or verify any of their preconceived notions… Some had glimpses of ultimate reality. Yet, in spite of all this, they worked in a chameleonic void.” Kabbalah is regarded as true mysticism because it occurs within the context of Torah: “Kabbalah, on the other hand, builds on the revealed truth of Torah. The validity of its speculative theories and subjective experiences must be, and is, tested and verified by that truth in order to be worthy of consideration, to be viable and acceptable.” And for many centuries, it was only permitted to study Kabbalah when one was “40 years of age and expert in Talmud and Jewish law”.

Summarizing, Kabbalah teaches that the wisdom of chochma comes ‘from the nowhere’ of God, while simultaneously teaching that Kabbalah does not ‘ come from nowhere’ but rather must be practiced within the context of Torah. This is a fundamental logical contradiction, but I suggest that it expresses a cognitive principle. Teacher emotion is based in order-within-complexity. Teacher thought does not feel strong emotion when a general statement is made ‘out of nowhere’. Instead, Teacher thought feels good when there is order-within-complexity, when many specific elements can be summarized by a simple statement. Kabbalah provides a set of simple statements that can bring order to the complexity of following Torah: “Most never make it past the tedious years of pre-bar/bat mitzvah ‘Hebrew Schools.’ Those who do are confronted at every turn by intimidating lists of do’s and don’ts, without anyone being able to depict for them the inner beauty of the mitzvot and the divine significance of their fulfillment… Many, if not most, Jews feel an urge to know that there is deep underlying meaning to the mitzvahs, that they are not merely hollow ‘rituals.’ We may not fully comprehend the mystical explanations, but everyone gains from them at least the awareness that something special is going on.” But Kabbalah finds its ‘inner beauty’ of a general theory ultimately through the Teacher overgeneralization of Ein Sof, and overgeneralization is threatened by complexity. Thus, Kabbalah acquires its Teacher order-within-complexity by making its statements of oneness within the context of Judaism, while at the same time protecting Teacher overgeneralization by asserting that its statements of oneness are independent of any context.

A similar symbiotic relationship can be seen between Confucianism and Eastern mysticism. Confucianism, like Torah, guides human activity through a complex set of rules. Eastern mysticism then ‘discovers’ unity by turning its back upon the complexity of Confucianism. Without the complexity of Confucianism, the overgeneralization of mysticism would have order but not complexity—because overgeneralization by its very nature cannot handle complexity. But it is possible to achieve implicit order-within-complexity by filling the mind with the complexity of Confucianism (or Torah) and then explicitly stating that ‘all is one’ (or ‘God is Ein Sof’) within the mental context of complexity that results from living within Confucianism—or Torah. This mental trick only works if one practices mysticism within some context, while simultaneously insisting that mysticism occurs outside of any context.

Binah

The second sefira “is binah or ‘processed wisdom,’ also known as deductive reasoning… A person has an idea—generated by chochmah—and left the way it is, the idea is not really useful; it is raw. But then one begins to analyze it. What exactly are the parameters of the idea? What axioms is it based on? What are all the ramifications of this idea, and are they internally consistent? What are its applications?” Raw ideas do provide a starting point that needs to be analyzed and explored. Using the language of mental symmetry, Exhorter thought comes up with ideas, while Contributor thought uses technical reasoning to turn these ideas into fully fledged plans and systems of thought. One can see from observing Exhorter persons that the typical Exhorter idea may be insightful but it also lacks rigor.

Similarly, the chochma of a mystical experience is typically followed by the binah of extensive rational analysis. Many esoteric tomes have been inspired by mystical encounters. But this is not a case of using rational thought to explore a seed concept. Instead, what is happening is subtly—but also totally—different.

The strong emotions of a mystical encounter do attract the attention of Exhorter thought, which then motivates Contributor-led technical thought to explore the various dimensions of this mystical encounter. But technical thought then discovers that rational analysis drives the mysticism away. Thus, every mystical scholar will warn that mysticism should not be over-analyzed, and mystics will be convinced that studying mysticism intellectually does not lead to a valid grasp of the essence of mysticism. For instance, the Jewish virtual Library says that “The greatest scholar and historian of kabbalah in this century was the late Professor Gershom Scholem of Hebrew University in Jerusalem... As a rule, mekubbalim (people who actively study and practice kabbalah) are skeptical of men like Scholem, who studied kabbalah as a university discipline and not from a personal conviction of its truth. One mekubbal, Rabbi Abraham Chen, declared on one occasion before a seminar of Scholem’s students: ‘A scholar of mysticism is like an accountant: He may know where all the treasure is, but he is not free to use it.’” The result is an inherent contradiction. On the one hand, thinking rationally about a mystical experience turns the Teacher overgeneralization into a TMN (Teacher mental network) that emotionally derives the scholar to think, talk, and write about mysticism. But on the other hand, thinking, talking, and writing about mysticism subdivides a theory into various components, and overgeneralization cannot handle being subdivided into components. Thus, the mystical scholar will use many esoteric words to say that nothing can be said.

Going further, “In Kabbalistic literature the metaphor of a ‘father’ and a ‘mother’ is used to describe this relationship of raw idea to processed idea. Just like a father sows a seed, so chochmah is a mere seed. The father’s seed is infinitesimally small, containing an undeveloped code that is mere potential. It is in the mother’s womb that it begins to develop. Every line of DNA code begins to become a human cell, a budding tissue, or a specific organ. Here is the ability to develop the germ of a human.”

Christian theology often tries to pretend that sex does not exist. But if a God of order and structure created sex, then, as Kabbalah suggests, it should be possible to find patterns of divine order within sex. We see here an example of Judaism dealing with a topic that Christianity usually avoids. However, the example of ‘the father’s seed’ is only superficially an illustration of the relationship between chochma and binah. Chochma is viewed as a point because overgeneralization can only interact with content at specific points. From a physical viewpoint, the father’s seed is ‘infinitesimally small’ compared to the form and structure of a human baby. Thus, a medieval rabbi viewing this without a microscope would conclude that sex is an example of chochma leading to binah. But sperm is not a mere point devoid of content. Instead, it contains many ‘lines of DNA code’. Thus, I suggest that what is really being illustrated is not point→content but rather information→life. Using the language of mental symmetry, male thought emphasizes the information of Perceiver facts and Server sequences, while female thought focuses upon the ‘life’ that emerges when facts and sequences function in an integrated manner as mental networks. Thus, if one takes a closer look at the example that Kabbalah uses to demonstrate that God is the Ein Sof of overgeneralization, it actually supports the view that God is a rational God of generalization.

Kaballah also uses the story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor: “The original man—Adam—was created from ‘nothing.’ He started out as lump of clay into which was instilled the Divine breath. Thus the essence of the man is that he comes from ‘nowhere’ much the same as chochmah does. Eve, however, was taken from Adam. Her very existence demonstrated that she was a davar mitoch davar, an entity coming from something.”

I also think that the story of Adam and Eve has symbolic significance. However, as with the example of sex, I suggest that it does not support the relationship between chochma and binah. Eve was not taken from an Adam of ‘nowhere’. Instead, Eve was taken from Adam after Adam had acquired the concrete skill of cultivating a garden. And Eve was the culmination of a process of searching for ‘a helper’ in which Adam developed abstract thought by naming all the animals. Eve emerged when all of this content was transformed into a living being. Again, we see that the real transition is not point→content but rather information→life.

Going further, God may have created the universe ex nihilo out of nothing, but Scripture says that this nothingness was not the emptiness of Ein Sof, but rather the internal content of rational wisdom. Proverbs 8 personifies wisdom as a voice of understanding, truth, and righteousness. Proverbs 8:22-27 explains that God had already formulated the content of chochma (the Hebrew word for wisdom) in eternity before creation: “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills I was brought forth; while He had not yet made the earth and the fields, nor the first dust of the world. When He established the heavens, I was there.” And Proverbs 3:18-19 adds that God created the heaven and earth by the wisdom of a ‘tree of life’: “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast. The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens.”

Summarizing, I suggest that Kaballah is equating two transitions that appear the same but are actually quite different. First, the fragmented content of male thought turns into the mental life of female thought as Perceiver facts and Server sequences coalesce to function as integrated mental networks. Second, abstract thought begins with overgeneralization which is then replaced by rational thought. This second transition occurs within Teacher thought as childish assumptions are replaced by adult critical thinking. (If one looks further, one realizes that this second transition can only occur because both overgeneralization and generalization are being pursued by the same cognitive module of Teacher of Teacher thought, which indicates that the flash of insight of chochma is actually occurring within the context of mental structure and not out of nowhere.)

Speaking of mental structure, Kabbalah adds a third dimension to the relationship between chochma and binah which is also superficially similar, namely the division between left cerebral hemisphere and right cerebral hemisphere: “It is interesting to compare chochma and bina with the results of right brain and left brain research. Dr. Elmer Green of the Menninger Clinic at Topeka, Kansas, is a foremost scientist in this arena. He has noted that creativity is associated with right brain activity. The left brain activity must be quieted if we are to encourage creativity to come to the fore. The left brain is the rational cortex, developing logic, rationalizing, deducing, and judging and is akin to the function of bina. The right brain tends to ‘see the whole picture’. It draws on an ‘intuitive’ response, providing inspiration and creativity that seems very close to the nature of chochma.”

Kabbalah is to be applauded for attempting to bridge theology with neurology, because the average Christian theologian does not connect these two. At a surface level, this correlation makes sense. However, knowledge about the brain has now advanced far beyond the division between left and right hemispheres. Natural Cognitive Theology takes 70 pages to examine mental symmetry in the light of the latest neurological research (almost all the papers referenced are from 2000 to 2015), and there is extensive evidence associating Teacher thought with left inferior cortex, Mercy thought with right inferior cortex, Server thought with left superior cortex, and Perceiver thought with right superior cortex.

Looking at this in more detail, Western civilization makes a sharp division between objective and subjective, as expressed by the division between binah and chochma. Objective thought is rational and tends to be specialized, an expression of binah, it is characterized by procedure and methodology, a function of Server sequence, and it is guided by verbal general theories, an expression of Teacher thought. Thus, binah will tend to be associated with the left hemisphere. Subjective thought, in contrast, focuses upon the personal, an expression of Mercy thought, and it jumps intuitively from one mental network to another, guided by a collection of disconnected mental networks. Thus, I suggest that the correlation between binah and left hemisphere, and between chochma and right hemisphere, is more an expression of the inadequate manner in which the typical ‘modern’ human brain functions rather than an indication of fundamental brain hardware. Saying this another way, neurology can reveal how the brain is functioning but it cannot reveal how the brain could function. A more nuanced understanding of brain functioning is now starting to emerge, but most researchers are not aware of these latest findings. For instance, Dr. Elmer Green, who was quoted above, earned his PhD in biopsychology in 1962, and his thinking is heavily influenced by Buddhist and Hindu philosophy. There may be some truth to this philosophy, but when one is building upon Buddhism and Hinduism, then one is not building upon Torah, and Kaballah claims that it builds upon Torah.

Going further, I have suggested that Judaism stretches forward from tribalism to monotheism. If chochma is a flash of insight that represents the nature of God, if chochma is related to the right hemisphere, if Mercy thought uses the inferior right hemisphere, and if culture and people are represented as MMNs within Mercy thought, then chochma really is culture masquerading as God.

Da’at

Da’at takes the abstract thinking of binah and chochma and turns it into concrete action: “The sefirot are a process that is the unfolding of God’s deeds in this world. Therefore the sefirot can to [sic] be pictured as an arrow with the actual deed being the final result. Daat is the tool of the intellect that get us into action mode… Without daat, no matter how profound the idea, no matter how well developed it is logically, it will not turn to action. Daat bridges the awesome gap between concepts and reality.”

I mentioned earlier that Judaism focuses upon Server actions and Server sequences. One sees this in the sefira of da’at, which describes the transition from God’s deeds to human action. Similarly, I have learned that abstract theory, especially abstract theory about God or the mind, must be applied personally thought Server actions, because if understanding does not transform into action, then existing action will warp understanding, leading to self-deception and inaccurate research. I keep encountering theologians and philosophers who end up with inadequate theories because they do not apply their understanding—and I find that deeply frightening, because I do not want to waste my life pursuing self-deception.

However, while Kabbalah is describing a profound principle, I suggest that this description is also incomplete. The connection between words and actions is actually quite arbitrary. For instance, the action of going could be described by the Hebrew word halachah, the English word going, or the German word gehen. There is no built-in, one-to-one relationship between what we say and what we do, because speech involves vibrations in the air while action involves moving physical limbs. When the action of propelling one’s body consistently accompanies the sound of the word ‘going’, then Server thought will conclude that these two are related. But another person growing up in another country will be equally convinced that the action of walking belongs together with the word ‘halachah’—or the word ‘gehen’.

The solution is to use Perceiver thought to check Server sequences. The Perceiver person is intensely aware of hypocrisy, in which a person says one thing and does another. Similarly, Perceiver thought can translate between the words halachah, going, and gehen.

Perceiver thought can check Server sequences because we live in a world of physical objects and Perceiver thought performs object recognition. Halachah, going, and gehen may be totally different words within Teacher thought but they all describe the same action being performed by physical bodies within the physical world. When language breaks down, then communication becomes reduced to this physical level of pointing to objects and actions in the real world, which is only possible because we all live within the same physical world of physical objects.

The essential role played by Perceiver thought can be seen in the illustration given of da’at: “The Torah tells us that Adam ‘knew’ as a way of referring to sexual intimacy. But this is not meant as a mere euphemism. Rather, it accurately portrays that relationship. For marriage is a process where two people become acquainted with each other. As they grow closer together intellectually and emotionally they are becoming bonded, but their relationship is still not ‘concrete.’ When the bonding becomes a physical act, it is rightfully called daat.” (Notice again the Jewish tendency to include sex as part of theology.) Sex is a Server action, but this action occurs between the physical object of one body and the physical object of another body. Without the objects of physical bodies, sex would be impossible. Going further, the intellectual and emotional bonding of marriage can only become concretized through sex because every human mind is trapped within the object of a physical body.

Zen Buddhism provides a possible explanation for why Kabbalah ignores the role that Perceiver thought plays. I have mentioned that mysticism can only interact with content at specific points. However, Zen Buddhism has discovered that it is possible to connect Server actions with mysticism if one acts in a manner that is completely spontaneous. This is based in a mental trick. On the one hand, Server action is being performed within a physical world that is composed of solid objects that move inexorably through space and time, while on the other hand, Zen is mentally ignoring these physical connections of space and time by responding intuitively and spontaneously to the needs of the moment. Saying this more simply, one can only connect mysticism with action by pretending that space and time do not exist, but one can only do this pretending if space and time actually do exist regardless of what one thinks or pretends. (‘Means of grace’ discussed earlier practices a similar mental trick of using external content to avoid internal content.)

However, when one connects words with actions in a spontaneous manner that ignores space and time, then the connection between words and actions becomes arbitrary.

Chesed

The next three sefirot are chesed, gevurah, and tiferet. Kabbala online explains that “The word chesed means kindness or benevolence. It denotes the unbounded loving-kindness with which G-d created the worlds and with which all of creation is permeated… in the language of Kabbala, ‘In the beginning, an infinite, uncompounded light filled all of Creation.’ This is the light of chesed which permeates all of Creation and through which all of Creation is built.”

In contrast, “Gevura means restrictive power. Since the infinite and unlimited chesed of G-d is intended for finite creatures unable to absorb infinite kindness and yet remain in physical existence, the attribute of chesed is controlled and limited by the aspect of gevura. Gevura means restrictive power, the power to limit and conceal the Infinite Light so that each creature can receive according to its capacity. Thus, gevura is also an aspect of G-d’s kindness, for if the outpouring of infinite kindness were to remain unrestricted, finite creatures would become instantly nullified in the infinite revelation of divine love. Therefore the sefira of gevura is the manifestation of G-d’s power to restrict and conceal the light so that His creatures can receive His loving-kindness, each according to its capacity.”

Notice that these two sefirot describe the relationship between Teacher overgeneralization and rational thought. Overgeneralization is an ‘unbounded, infinite, uncompounded light’ that fills Teacher thought, because the feeling of a universal theory is being achieved by making sweeping statements that have no limitations. In order to make room for rational thought with its content, Teacher thought has to limit the extent of its overgeneralization, which will ‘limit and conceal the infinite light’ of Teacher overgeneralization. If Teacher overgeneralization ‘were to remain unrestricted’, then the content required by ‘finite creatures would become instantly nullified in the infinite revelation’ of the Teacher emotion of ‘divine love’. Thus, the definitions of chesed and gevurah are a natural expression of the interaction between overgeneralization and rational thought within the mind.

Saying this in more detail, chochma and binah describe the relationship between overgeneralization and rational thought that occurs within abstract thought, while chesed and gevurah are the practical expressions of these two forms of thinking that occur within concrete thought. Using the language of mental symmetry, binah corresponds to abstract technical thought, while gevurah describes concrete technical thought; Chochma describes Teacher overgeneralization while chesed describes the concept of universal spirit that emerges in Mercy thought as a reflection of Teacher overgeneralization. Thus, the division between overgeneralization and rational thought is being used secondarily as a model of psychology.

The term chesed is also used to describe an act of righteousness. Righteousness can feel like overgeneralization but there are major differences between the two. Turning now to Aish.com , “Chesed is properly described as an act that has no ‘cause.’ … A chesed act, however, is an act which is not recycled—for example, an anonymous gift to dedicate a scholarship fund… Chesed is proactive—it is the initiator of interaction, and must therefore be the first in the sefirot of action… Every action in the universe has a cause—except that which is the first one. Within the sphere of visible action, chesed is without cause, a proactive expression of expansiveness.”

A significant principle is being described here, which is the concept of righteous action. In simple terms, all behavior is ultimately motivated by mental networks. Behavior is normally motivated by Mercy mental networks (MMNs) of status, personal pleasure, and culture. For instance, a person would normally give to a scholarship fund in order to receive personal approval from society. This societal approval will usually be immortalized by some sort of commemorative plaque upon which one’s name is reverentially placed. (For a more visible example, most ambulances in Israel have the name of the donor prominently displayed.) Righteousness, in contrast, is action that is motivated by the TMN of a general understanding. Because growing up within a physical world automatically fills the childish mind with MMNs, behavior is naturally driven by MMNs. Behavior will only be driven by a TMN if 1) a TMN exists, 2) this TMN guides the behavior, and 3) no MMNs are activated that will ‘take the credit’ for the action. Thus, if one views righteousness from the vantage point of concrete thought, one will conclude that it is ‘an act that has no cause’, because it is not being motivated by any MMNs. One way to ensure that MMNs of personal status do not motivate an action is by performing an action anonymously, such as donating an ambulance to Israel without having one’s name emblazoned upon the side.

But righteousness needs to be differentiated from Zen. If a person comes up with an overgeneralized theory and continues to think about this theory, then this overgeneralization will turn into a TMN, and like all TMNs, it will motivate behavior. Thus, righteousness will appear at first glance to be like the actions of Zen Buddhism described earlier. However, righteousness is motivated by the TMN of a theory with content. Therefore, the emphasis will be upon following understanding rather than approval, or in religious terms, following God rather than man. This principle is described in Matthew 6:1 in a passage where Jesus discusses righteousness: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Overgeneralization, in contrast, will focus upon spontaneous action that is guided by nothing, because overgeneralization lacks content. Kabbalah appears to be emphasizing action that comes out of nothing rather than action that is guided by understanding: “When we call creation an act of chesed, we are not only talking about creation ex nihilo, ‘out of nothing,’ in the purely physical sense. Rather, we are also referring to the interaction between God and man.”

The discussion of chesed mentions another important point, which is that chesed escapes from the realm of cause-and-effect. Concrete technical thought is based in principles of cause-and-effect: If I perform some action, then there will be a predictable result. This type of thinking guides business and lies at the heart of scientific research, but also leads to a mindset of legalism. (Abstract technical thought is based in precise definitions.) As Aish.com points out, it is common to approach God with an attitude of legalism: “The person who does not thoroughly understand that the relationship with God is built on a foundation of chesed, engages in litigation with God arguing he had been somehow ‘short-changed.’ Thus, all the dramatic debates that literature has produced concerning man calling God to task are built on the assumed argument that God ‘owes us something.’ A worker may rightfully litigate his employer and tell him, ‘you are not giving me my due pay for the work done, for behold Mr. X is doing the same work and he is being paid double.’ But an alms collector cannot logically make the same argument to a donor. Understanding that creation is an act of chesed removes the ability of man to litigate with God.” This is a significant point, and I suggest that the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6-7 describes steps that can be taken to avoid—or escape—a legalistic mindset.

Righteousness escapes the concrete realm of cause-and-effect because it is guided by abstract understanding rather than concrete goals. In other words, the aim is not merely to escape the legalistic thinking of cause-and-effect, but rather to replace this legalism with an understanding of ‘how things work’. Thus, Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount not by telling his audience to be guided by nothing but rather by instructing his listeners to build upon a more solid foundation by applying verbal understanding: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24).

Kabbalah, in contrast, says that the ultimate aim is to be motivated by nothing. For instance, “The act of burying a dead person is called chesed shel emes—‘true kindness.’ For any act of chesed that is accorded to a person during his life is never ‘pure,’ it carries within itself some of the complexities of human interaction. Maybe I owe him a favor and am uncomfortable in refusing him, or perhaps I like having him owe me one. While with regard to other mitzvot this would be a mere ‘blemish’ on an otherwise fine deed, with regard to chesed, this corrupts its very essence. For chesed by definition is ‘something for nothing.’”

Summarizing, the chesed of Kabbalah is action that is motivated by a TMN based in the overgeneralization of Ein Sof, while righteousness is action that is motivated by a TMN based in an understanding of the essential character of God. Righteousness motivates a person to behave in a manner that is consistent with the character of God, while chesed either motivates spontaneous action (in the case of Zen Buddhism), or motivates a person to follow some set of arbitrary guidelines (such as the 613 laws of Torah). We saw this same following of arbitrary guidelines when looking at da’at.

Gevurah

In the same way that Chesed combines two subtly different definitions, Gevurah also involves two definitions that are not quite the same.

The secondary definition is that of legalistic rules of cause-and-effect: “Gevurah or ‘strength’ is usually understood as God’s mode of punishing the wicked and judging humanity in general. It is the foundation of stringency, absolute adherence to the letter of the law, and strict meting out of justice.”

However, gevurah also has a deeper meaning: “Although the above colloquial interpretation is not wrong, the roots of gevurah are deeper than the mere sense of strictness and judgment.”

This deeper meaning is based upon the conflict between overgeneralization and rational thought. We have seen that chesed expresses overgeneralization. Gevurah, in contrast, is the rational thinking that becomes possible when overgeneralization is limited. Quoting further from Aish.com, “To gain the more basic sense of gevurah, let us return to the act of creation, which involved unbounded chesed. The rabbis teach us that: When God said, ‘Let there be a firmament,’ the world kept stretching and expanding, until God said, ‘Enough!’ and it came to a standstill. (Chagiga 12a). Chesed on its own is endless. However, the transactions that are ‘tit for tat,’ or ‘measure for measure’ are based on what one deserves and are clearly defined and limited. The second element limits the first element. If goods are sold for money, then the amount of money given defines and limits the amount of items sold.” Notice that ‘chesed on its own is endless’ and that the creative word of God was an overgeneralization that ‘kept stretching and expanding’. Gevurah, in contrast, is ‘clearly defined and limited’, and the precisely defined categorization of gevurah ‘limits the first element’ of chesed.

Stating this in cognitive language, divine treatment of humanity is being divided into two categories: 1) There is boundless goodness that is an expression of Teacher overgeneralization; 2) Where overgeneralization is limited, interaction is governed by concrete technical thought, with its strict rules of cause-and-effect. This division reflects the primary split of Western society, which feels that the subjective realm is governed by irrational mental networks, while the objective realm is governed by technical thought, with its well-defined rules. Mental symmetry, in contrast, suggests that the goal is to integrate the mind by placing mental networks and technical specializations within a framework of normal thought with its analogies and similarities, held together by the TMN of a meta-theory. On the one hand, God is more than overgeneralization and personal existence is more than legalism. On the other hand, technical thought with its legalistic rules is not the only form of rational thought. There is also normal thought, with its partially certain patterns and analogies.

Talmudic reasoning uses this kind of analogical reasoning extensively. However, none of the sefirot describe analogical reasoning. If Kabbalah is to be a legitimate theory of cognition, then it must include a category for one of the primary forms of thought that is used by Jewish rabbis. Using an analogy, a theory about cars must be able to explain the vehicle that one is driving as well as the vehicles that one sees other people driving. Similarly, a theory about thinking must be able to explain the thinking that a researcher is doing as well as the thinking that the researcher is observing (One of the major features of mental symmetry is that it is capable of explaining the thinking of the person who is using mental symmetry to explain thinking.)

I recently did a cognitive analysis of the book of Revelation. A God of mysticism that is expressed either through boundless mercy or through technical thought corresponds rather closely to the description of the Dragon and the two beasts given in Revelation 13. This is a strong statement, so I will try to re-state it as clearly as possible. The Dragon in Revelation 13 is described as a form of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, and I suggest that the serpent is a cognitively natural symbol of mysticism. In Revelation 13, the serpent is associated with two beasts: The first beast appears to be rational technical thought that is limited to the objective realm, expressed primarily as technology. The second beast appears to be a form of ‘love and unity’ that is achieved by eliminating all personal differences. The first beast corresponds rather closely to gevurah, while the second beast is an expression of chesed. As far as I can tell, Revelation 10-22 describes the process by which God replaces this split form of thinking with an integrated rational concept of God.

Thus, I suggest that God’s plan of history is to replace Kabbalah with the concept of a rational, universal God. Notice that I am not saying that Judaism will be replaced by Christianity. Much of Christianity is also an expression of the Dragon and the two beasts, because Christianity also tends to juxtapose mysticism with legalism. I should also emphasize that I am not picking on Judaism, because the essays on the Garden of Eden and the book of Revelation were written before I knew the structure of Kabbalah. Instead, I am pointing out that Kabbalah is consistent with the spirit of this age that currently dominates religion, academia, and society in general. Kabbalah is only one—well developed—illustration of the spirit of this age. The fundamental problem, I suggest, does not lie with Judaism but rather with Kabbalah and its mystical God of Ein Sof.

The description of gevurah contains a significant cognitive principle, which I suggest is almost correct but subtly inaccurate, similar to the Kabbalistic description of chesed and righteousness. The cognitive principle is that a person needs outside help to get started: “Let us analyze parents raising a child, or a wealthy man deciding to bestow kindness upon a pauper. They both realize that the best way to help a person is by providing him with a means of independent sustenance. The parents proceed to give the child an excellent education and the wealthy man gives the pauper a job. In both these cases the initial act was chesed.” But providing a person with too much help destroys self-worth. “If God were to treat us only via the perspective of His infinite gifts, then we might have many gifts but our existence would cease to have any meaning. For whatever existed in the world would be due to His magnanimity. We could be here or not, the world would receive and continue to receive, regardless.”

Thus, the assistance of chesed is seen as the opposite of the independence of gevurah, just as overgeneralization is viewed as the opposite of legalism. We need God’s help, but if God were to provide everything, then we would be like “an infirm person [who] is totally dependent on caregivers, and on financial providers. All of his needs are taken care of, yet he begins to shrivel up mentally and emotionally. He feels that as a person he does not exist.” This is an important principle that Christian theology (and socialism) often misses. Instead, Christianity typically rejects the Jewish view as ‘salvation by works’ and emphasizes that God does everything and man can do nothing.

Mental symmetry suggests that both viewpoints are inadequate because assume that the only two alternatives are ‘God does everything’ and ‘salvation by works’. Major aspects of Christianity may officially teach that God does everything and man can do nothing, especially when it comes to personal salvation, but every Christian that I have met spends most of his time—and acquires his self-worth from—living in a ‘secular’ realm in which he assumes that man can do something. Thus, Christians unofficially practice the juxtaposition between ‘grace’ and ‘works’ that Kabbalah officially teaches.

I suggest that we can understand what is happening by looking at school. The person who enrolls in a school leaves the concrete physical world of cause-and-effect in order to enter the abstract realm of understanding. And Western civilization has concluded that every human child needs an education. Using the language of Christianity, every child needs to be saved from childish thinking and be ‘transformed by the renewing of the mind’. But what one acquires in school is not the nothingness of keter that comes in some mysterious way from a God of Ein Sof, but rather the mature understanding of da’at guided by a God of righteousness and understanding. School is a form of grace, because a student cannot teach himself but must receive help from above. But this grace is not the limitless expansion of chesed but rather an understanding of how things work. Similarly, modern society is filled with machines and laborsaving devices that save us in many ways from the drudgery of manual labor. But we still have to learn how to design, build, and use these machines.

Moving further, Kabbalah says that the judgment of God is primarily the withholding of chesed: “The primary mode of God’s punishment is a withholding of good that might have otherwise been bestowed upon man. God need not ‘kill’ someone; He simply refrains from giving him life. He need not impoverish a nation; He simply stops giving rain. Gevurah is primarily an act of constraint and restraint.” There is truth to this statement. But it contradicts the previous illustration. In the previous example the withholding of chesed is something good that is done to preserve the self-image of the child, whereas in this example, the withholding of chesed is something bad that is done to punish the criminal. What is the difference between God teaching a child and God punishing a criminal? I suggest that the solution is to recognize that the grace of God makes it possible for humans to function at a higher level of order, integrity, sensitivity, and understanding. When God withholds his grace, then humans continue functioning at (and decaying from) their current level of chaos, self-deception, crudeness, and ignorance. And because we all start life as self-deceived, ignorant creatures of chaos, it is punishment when God withholds his grace. Similarly, it is punishment to prevent a child from going to school, but it is not punishment to allow a student to graduate from school. That is because the goal of school is to obtain grace so that one can re-enter the world of cause-and-effect at a higher and more comfortable level. But the person who graduates from school does not stop receiving grace, because we will always need grace as finite and fallible creatures.

Going further, Aish.com says that chesed and gevurah work together similar to the way that the left-hand works with the right hand: “chesed and gevurah may work simultaneously. Thus when a certain event occurs, we may analyze the chesed components and the gevurah components that are simultaneously a part of the event. The metaphor most commonly used to describe this phenomenon is right and left… The sefirot of chesed and gevurah find their representation in the hands. The reason is that they are the primary vehicles for God’s ‘actions’ in the same way that the hands are the primary vehicle for human activity.”

This is a fine metaphor, and I agree that chesed and gevurah need to work hand-in-hand, but unfortunately this contradicts the primary definitions of chesed and gevurah. The left and right hands are capable of working together because 1) they are both attached to a single body and 2) they are both controlled by a single motor program within the mind. However, chesed and gevurah do not satisfy these requirements. 1) The content of gevurah can only occur in the absence of the overgeneralization of chesed. These two ways of thinking may occur within the same mind, but they are totally disconnected. 2) Chesed and gevurah represent two incompatible methods of using Teacher thought. One cannot simultaneously build structure and use overgeneralization.

Looking at this more generally, kabbalah is faced with an impossible task, which is using a wall as a bridge. A wall separates, while a bridge connects. Chesed and gevurah are defined primarily in terms of the wall that separates overgeneralization from rational thought. One cannot magically turn this wall into a bridge of cooperation. Mental symmetry integrates overgeneralization and rational thought by suggesting that they are different ways of using the same cognitive module of Teacher thought. But if one uses the method of mental symmetry, then mysticism becomes reduced to being merely one way of using Teacher thought. This destroys mysticism, because mysticism can only function if a person believes that mysticism is above rational thought and not merely one aspect that can be explained by rational thought. Therefore, Kabbalah is forced to try to fit concepts together that cannot fit.

This impossible task of building a bridge out of a wall lies at the heart of Judaism. We saw earlier that chabad teaches that the soul of the Jew is fundamentally different than the soul of the Gentile. In other words, the Jew is separated from the Gentile at the very core of his being by a wall that was created by God himself. Starting with this wall, Judaism then attempts to build the bridge of a monotheistic God who is God of everyone—both Jew and Gentile. But one cannot build bridges out of walls.

Kabbalah use the example of a sculptor to illustrate how chesed cooperates with gevurah: “A sculptor’s right hand chisels stone, while his left hand holds the stone steady. In these examples, the right and left hand are cooperating—by acting in a counter fashion! We see from this that chesed and gevurah are acting simultaneously towards the same goal—by exerting forces in opposite directions.” We have already seen that this illustration is invalid because chesed and gevurah are not connected and thus cannot be guided by a single plan. However, I suggest that the illustration is a significant one that bears analysis. I suggested earlier in the discussion on free will that humans have limited free will within a general context of divine sovereignty. Applying this to the current example, humans can make small changes within a predictable and solid world that is governed by natural law. Thus, the stone stays fixed and the chisel acts in a predictable manner because human action occurs within the context of universal order and structure. But the sculptor can use the chisel to shape the stone because humans have some freedom within the universal order and structure of God.

However, if human freedom is to have beneficial results, then this freedom must be combined with understanding. This brings us back to the previous illustration of school and the need for education and personal transformation. The childish mind does not naturally use human freedom in a way that leads to beneficial results, but rather behaves in a childish manner that lacks TMNs of rational understanding, as well as in a lawless manner that is driven by personal MMNs to violate the understanding that it does have.

Unfortunately, Western civilization uses education (and Kabbalah defines chochma, chesed, binah, and gevurah) in a manner that actually makes the problem worse. On the one hand, objective scientific thought makes it possible to construct machines that magnify human freedom. On the other hand, subjective irrationalism leaves the underlying MMNs of childish motivation intact, while the overgeneralized view of believing that ‘God is utterly beyond human rational thought’ leads to the conclusion that humans are incapable of disrupting the context of universal order and structure. But the two world wars have shown us that childish human motivation enabled by technology is capable of destroying the societal structure of the entire civilized world, while global warming is showing us that childish human motivation enabled by technology is capable of disrupting the structure of the entire physical earth.

Aish.com says something similar, but interprets it in terms of overgeneralization versus rational thought as well as ignoring the role played by Perceiver thought. The discussion begins by describing the interplay between reality and Platonic forms: “Matter and form are concept familiar to anyone with a passing acquaintance with Greek philosophy. The most familiar example of their interaction is a sculpture—the stone is the matter and the chiseling the form... Simply summed up: the matter is the physical material, and the form is the concept imprinted on the matter (or material).

Platonic forms play a major role in the theory of mental symmetry. In brief, a Platonic form is an imaginary image of simplicity and perfection that emerges within Mercy thought when Teacher thought simplifies Perceiver facts about reality. For instance, if I see many round objects, then Perceiver thought will come up with the category of ‘round object’, prompting Teacher thought to come up with a theory of roundness that summarizes the essence of what it means to be round. This Teacher theory will then lead indirectly in Mercy thought to the imaginary image of the perfect, ideal circle. Going further, if all general Teacher theories are ultimately held together by the universal Teacher theory of a concept of God, then all of the Platonic forms will coalesce to create a single ‘form of the Good’, leading to a mental concept of a Holy Spirit of God within Mercy thought. Chesed, in contrast, is the concept of divine spirit that emerges within Mercy thought when Teacher thought uses overgeneralization to form a concept of God. Saying this another way, Chesed is the Platonic ‘form of the Good’ that results from overgeneralization.

However, Aish.com interprets Platonic forms in terms of Server actions rather than Perceiver objects: “Let us take a closer look at this interplay. Matter is the material that is there, while form is that which is not there. The stone that is present in the statue is the material, while the form is created by chiseling away and removing the stone.” This Server interpretation is adopted because Torah tells a person what to do: “Torah is form—it tells us how to use each and every element in the universe to create the Divine picture. The Torah restrains mankind and defines man’s scope of activity, giving shape and form to the world. This is parallel to the sefira of gevurah, which, as was explained, often manifests itself as restraint.”

But when one is sculpting a statue, one is working with a physical object, and physical objects involve the factual, spatial object recognition that is performed by Perceiver thought. Sculpting does involve the action of chiseling, but this action is being performed upon an object. If these objects are removed, then actions become impossible. However, if the action is stopped, the objects still remain. This may sound like a trivial distinction, but it typifies the thinking of Judaism, which tends to focus upon Server actions while ignoring Perceiver facts. And we are seeing that Kabbalah reinforces this Jewish tendency to focus upon Server thought.

This idea of sculpting and narrowing is then applied to the idea of life as a ‘school’: “The world is full of things: earth, rocks, trees, animals, oceans, forests, etc. This is not the content of the world that was meant to be, but rather the raw material from which the true world is meant to be sculpted from. This is the matter. The true form of the world is brought into being by using the raw material in a meaningful way… We come into the world and look around us, and our senses urge us to ‘take it all.’ The Torah then imposes a discipline on our desires—this is for purpose A, this is for purpose B, this is used only in certain specific occasions. At first the discipline of the Torah seems restrictive. But then we realize that God is teaching us to build ourselves in His image from the raw materials at hand.”

I encountered this kind of thinking when teaching in South Korea. The average Westerner views rules as a set of walls or boundaries defined by Perceiver thought that must not be crossed. Koreans, in contrast, think in terms of Server channels rather than Perceiver walls. The Korean child is not disciplined but rather channeled. It is not uncommon for the entire waking existence of a high school student to consist of one program after another: school, music lessons, taekwondo, English classes, private tutoring, exam preparation, and so on.

This is far superior to the typical North American attitude which believes that no shaping and pruning of the child is either necessary or desired, but instead every child should be given the freedom to express his personal desires fully. But it is still only the Server side of the answer. Using an analogy, it is good to turn the raw material of the earth and rocks into the finished product of a car. But who will be using the car, and where will they be driving? Answering those questions requires the use of Perceiver facts and Mercy experiences.

When school ignores Perceiver truth and Mercy identity, then the students will become like well-tuned cars with no place to go. This is illustrated by the attempt of modern scientific thought to suppress the concept of teleology. But a human cannot exist without personal goals in Mercy thought. If a person is not explicitly taught how to formulate meaningful goals, then personal goals will be implicitly acquired from the environment. For instance, the typical Korean child experiences intense pressure from family to achieve personal success, and many Korean students choose their career-based upon what their parents want them to do and not because of what they want to do themselves. (I know that this principle also applies to other Asian societies, but I am personally familiar with the Korean version.) It is interesting that the mother plays an excessively dominant role in both Korean society and Jewish society. Cognitively speaking, the MMNs of the matriarch are providing the personal goals that the school of shaping and pruning does not provide.

It is also possible for personal goals to be provided by government. This can lead to bad results because dictatorial governments need well-trained professionals with flexible morals to dominate a population. For instance, entertainment and banking are currently dominated by well-trained Jews with flexible morals.

The potential for abuse becomes greater when a cultural group believes that it is inherently different and better than other groups, because there will be a natural tendency for a well-trained professional within this cultural group to respect and follow the MMNs of his own culture while regarding the MMNs of other cultures as unimportant and insignificant. For instance, it is good that Israelis show such a high regard for life, but what message is being conveyed when one Israeli soldier is exchanged for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, including 280 sentenced to life in prison for terrorism. Is a Jewish soul 1,027 times more valuable than an Arab soul? If one believes, as chabad does, that Jewish souls are inherently different than Gentile souls, then one would naturally answer in the affirmative.

Love and Fear of God

The discussion of chesed and gevurah in Aish.com is quite extensive. The final aspect that is examined is the relationship between these two sefirot and love and fear of God: “As God reveals Himself to us through the sefirot of chesed (kindness) and gevurah (strength), we react with the emotions of love and fear.” “When a person contemplates God’s most wondrous creations and deeds, and sees therein His Wisdom which is unending and incomparable, the person immediately begins to love and praise [God] and he is overwhelmed by a tremendous desire to know the Great God. As King David said, ‘My soul thirsts for God, the living God.’ And as a person thinks about this point, he is immediately thrown back and filled with awe, realizing that he is a small, tiny benighted creature, standing before the Perfect Intellect. As King David stated, ‘When I behold Your heavens, Your handiwork, [I ask], Who is man that you remember him?’ (Rambam Yesodei HaTorah 2-1,2) We see in Maimonides that love and fear are reactions that exactly parallel to chesed and gevurah. Love is the desire to expand, to broaden one’s self. Fear, on the other hand, is mode of contraction, of imploding one’s personality into the realization of God’s overwhelming greatness.”

Summarizing, love of God relates to the expansion of chesed, as one contemplates the ‘unending and incomparable’ wisdom of God. Awe or fear relates to the contraction of gevurah, as one realizes how small one is compared to God. Saying this more succinctly, “Every mitzvah is a bond between man and God. As such, the attitude towards the mitzvah must relate to both these points. Man must find himself in the mitzvah, and he must find God in the mitzvah. Love is the mode of the person finding himself in the mitzvah. Awe is the mode of finding God in the mitzvah.”

Explaining this cognitively, mysticism is a direct emotional connection between an overgeneralized concept of God in Teacher thought and personal identity in Mercy thought. When these two come together, then the TMN that represents God will feel much bigger than the MMN that represents personal identity, leading to feelings of awe. Going the other way, the MMN will feel enveloped by the TMN that represents God, leading to feelings of love. A similar combination can be seen in Christian ‘praise and worship’. Praise makes the TMN that represents God feel big, leading to feelings of awe, while worship places the MMN of personal identity within this emotional environment, leading to feelings of love and intimacy. Thus, Aish.com is accurate when it states that these two “sefirot of ‘action’ engender love and fear on our part, the two ‘wings’ which we need to soar up to the heavens.”

As usual, a problem arises one attempts to take a definition that is based in mysticism and apply it to the realm of content. Kabbalah is saying that love is an expression of the boundless expansion of chesed, while fear is an expression of the restrictions of gevurah, and gevurah is defined as legalistic rules of cause-and-effect. And Aish.com backs this up with two quotes from King David. But King David describes in great detail what he feels about God’s law in Psalm 119, the longest of the 150 psalms, and it does not agree with what Kabbalah says that King David is saying. King David says—in extensive detail—in Psalm 119 that he loves the law of God, while Kabbalah says that the law of God is associated with negative feelings of fear and awe and not with positive feelings of love. Putting this bluntly, I suggest that Kabbalah is being guided by feelings of mysticism to put words into King David’s mouth.

This is not a trivial distinction, because I suggest that it lies at the heart of the difference between overgeneralization and generalization. The mystic loves a God of overgeneralization that lacks content. Such a God is safe to love, because a God that lacks content cannot impose content. Saying this more cynically, a God of mysticism accepts me just the way I am without condemning me or suggesting that I need to change. This reduces God cognitively to the level of a pet dog, who also accepts me just the way I am without condemning me or suggesting that I need to change. Similarly, the Christian who is enjoying praise and worship loves to bask in the love of a God who ‘loves me unconditionally’. Content, in contrast, is threatening. It questions sweeping statements about Ein Sof; it faces me with uncomfortable truth. King David is saying in Psalm 119 that he loves a God of moral content.

It is interesting to compare this to the response of God to King Saul in 1 Samuel 13. King Saul was afraid that his followers would abandon him, and so he disobeyed the instructions of God in order to worship God; he embraced the mystical God of worship rather than a God of content. God responds by telling King Saul that he will replace him with another king (which ends up being King David) who is ‘a man after his own heart’ (v.14). This scenario repeats itself in Samuel 15. Again King Saul chooses worship over obedience, disobeying the command of God in order to ‘sacrifice to the Lord your God’ (v.16). The prophet Samuel then responds with the well-known verse “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15: 22). King Saul responds by pleading—twice—to be able to ‘worship the Lord’, and the chapter ends by saying that “the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel”.

In other words, I suggest that a simple reading of the biblical text will lead to the conclusion that the God of the Bible is a God of content and not a God of mysticism. But Kabbalah does not believe in a simple reading of the biblical text. Instead, it looks for hidden meanings based in anagrams, numerology, and verses pulled out of context. I suggest that there is a cognitive reason for this approach. I have mentioned that overgeneralization can only interact with content at specific points that are removed from the context. This leads naturally to a method of reading the Bible that pulls verses and phrases out of context. When the context is removed, then what is left is technical thought with its focus upon specific details, and abstract technical thought manipulates words and looks for numerical patterns. Saying this another way, Kabbalah with its combination of mysticism and technical thought reflects the spirit of this age with its juxtaposition of subjective irrationality and objective technical thought. The end result is not exegesis—examining what the text says, but rather eisegesis—projecting cognitive presuppositions and biases onto the text.

In contrast, I find myself driven both by a fear of God and a love of God to respect what the Biblical text says. Looking at this cognitively, when a general theory turns into a TMN, then this TMN will use emotional pressure to impose its structure upon the mind. Kabbalah is emotionally driven by the TMN of a theory of overgeneralization, and we are seeing that this drives Kabbalah to explain everything in terms of the juxtaposition between overgeneralization and rational thought.

Looking at this more generally, every academic is driven by the TMNs of his general theories to perform eisegesis. There is no such thing as studying a topic theoretically apart from the biases imposed by some set of theoretical glasses. Even if one adopts the theory that one should examine the facts and ignore theories (as does Dallas Willard), this un-theory will still turn into a set of theoretical glasses.

I too am guided by the TMN of a general theory: the theory of mental symmetry. And this theory suggests that the character of God is expressed through the universal laws of ‘how things work’. I ‘love God’ because understanding how things work leads to a better grasp of the character of God—and vice versa. And I ‘fear God’ because I know that behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with character of God will lead inevitably to painful personal results, because I will be behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with how things work. This is similar to my relationship with electricity as an electrical engineer. I love electricity because of all the cool gadgets and helpful devices that it makes possible. But I also fear electricity because I know that behaving in a manner that is inconsistent with the character of electricity can have shocking—and possibly deadly—results.

Tiferet

Tiferet, which means glory, is the sefira that brings balance to chesed and gevurah. However, chesed and gevurah are total opposites: “Chesed has an innate ‘ideology’ of goodness. It wants to give for the sake of giving. It sees in this the ultimate goal, and the more one gives—regardless who is deserving—the greater and better things. Gevurah, on the other hand, sees giving as poisonous. Only things earned by equal and fair labor are ‘good.’ Thus, it has a powerful ideology of ‘quid quo pro’ and ‘no free lunches.’ It sees the ultimate goal of creation as every creature earning its own way. Tiferet comes along creating a synthesis of both of these approaches. It includes both these approaches because it has a broader goal in mind, and therefore makes use of both. Its goal is ‘the development of the human being to his greatest potential.’”

Because chesed and gevurah are such opposites, tiferet achieves its balance not through compromise but rather by playing one against the other: “This is why it is called tiferet, ‘beauty,’ for beauty is always attained by integrating elements and playing them off against each other. Black and white are opposites; their proper integration creates beauty. Beauty does not adjudicate contrasts and turn everything gray; rather, beauty integrates both black and white into a picture of depth.”

Notice that Kabbalah again finds itself in the position of trying to build bridges out walls. Chesed is based in overgeneralization, which lacks content. Thus, chesed ‘wants to give for the sake of giving’, ‘regardless who is deserving’. Chesed cannot take the facts of the situation into account because it is based in a form of thought that abhors facts. Gevurah, on the other hand, is nothing but facts and bottom-line thinking, because it describes the cold reasoning that remains when mysticism takes personal identity and a concept of God and removes them from human existence.

But this leads again to to a fundamental contradiction. What is more basic, the wall or the bridge? Kabbalah says that the wall separating the formless God of Ein Sof from the content of creation is unbridgeable. That is a fundamental doctrine of Kabbalah. But tiferet ‘includes both these approaches because it has a broader goal in mind, and therefore makes use of both’. If there is a broader goal, then this means that there is something above the wall separating overgeneralization from content that bridges these two. Kabbalah addresses this problem by saying that tiferet does not actually bridge these two but instead plays one off against the other. But this still means that tiferet is being guided by some higher strategy that involves both chesed and gevurah, which means that the absolute wall is not absolute.

This fundamental contradiction occurs whenever one tends to combine mysticism with rational thought. Martin Buber addresses this problem explicitly in his system of thought. The standard solution is as follows: 1) Mysticism is separated from rational thought by an unbridgeable wall. 2) This wall cannot be integrated through any form of rational thought. 3) Human existence consists of alternating between the two incompatible realms of mysticism and rational thought. 4) Above these two realms lies a God who is pure overgeneralization. 5) The overgeneralization of God transcends the wall that bridges rational from irrational. 6) This is a mystery that does not make sense, which ‘proves’ that everything is ultimately held together by a unity that transcends rational thought.

Kabbalah formalizes this solution by saying that tiferet bridges the unbridgeable sefirot of chesed and gevurah. However, formalizing the solution actually makes the problem worse, because the non-rational bridge that integrates mysticism with rational thought has now been turned into a rational theory that applies to normal human existence, which means that one can use rational thought to integrate mysticism with rational thought. But mysticism cannot survive rational thought; it must insist that irrational mystery transcends all rational thought.

Kabbalah deals with this problem within a problem through the sefirah of keter, which it describes as the sefirah thatis not a sefirah. “Therefore, keter is in some ways a sefirah and in some ways not. It definitely exists and is the source of all the sefirot, but ought not to really be counted amongst it. We once quoted a verse, ‘and chochmah comes from nowhere.’ We explained then that hochmah is the first sefirah. Yet the Kabbalistic works also tell us that the ‘nowhere’ is actually the sefirah of keter. It is a ‘nowhere’ for we can never face it directly, quantify it or analyze it. But by seeing chochmah, we know that it was preceded by keter. Like a spring bursting out of the earth, the first drop of visible water is chochmah, but we always know that there is a source—forever unseen—from whence this originated. And that source is keter.” Thus, keter describes the irrational mystery that transcends all rational thought. As was mentioned before, this gives Kabbalah an inherent split personality. When one is thinking of Kabbalah as a rational system of human thought, then one refers to da’at and not keter. But when one is using Kabbalah as a path to mysticism, then one replaces rational da’at with mystical keter. But one is still using a rational system to explain why one should not use a rational system. And that is cheating. Not normal cheating, but rather cheating at the deepest level of God and human existence.

Now suppose that the Jews really are chosen by God to be a light to the nations and carry out God’s plan of history. How can God direct a group of people who insist that God has no content, because directing a person requires content: “Go straight for two blocks and then turn left.” The only option is for God to impose content upon the Jews through some outside source, and this imposed content from God must be sufficiently potent to override the core mental network of Kabbalah which insists that God has no content. This is like trying to give instructions to someone who believes that I am not a person. I cannot speak to him because he insists that I am incapable of speaking. I cannot tap him on the shoulder because he insists that I have no hands. Instead, my only option is to hit him hard enough to temporarily snap him out of his belief that I am not a person. Jewish history is largely composed of God hitting the Jews hard enough to get their attention. What else can God do?

Mental symmetry suggests another solution which Aish.com describes but does not define. Continuing from a previous quote: “Tiferet comes along creating a synthesis of both of these approaches. It includes both these approaches because it has a broader goal in mind, and therefore makes use of both. Its goal is ‘the development of the human being to his greatest potential.’” However, one can only know what it means for a person to reach ‘his greatest potential’ if one understands how the mind works and how it could work more effectively. Mental symmetry is a cognitive model that describes how the mind works, and it defines ‘reaching one’s greatest potential’ as all seven cognitive modules working together in harmony—a definition that can be explored and refined.

More specifically, mental symmetry integrates the split between emotional mysticism and rational content through the two concepts of mental networks and normal thought. A mental network is a group of memories that function as a unit, which use emotional pressure to impose their structure upon the mind. For instance, when one loves a person, one is interacting emotionally with someone who has specific likes and dislikes. For instance, Itzhak may love teiglach and hate gefilte fish, while Alexander may prefer chamin to cutlets. In other words, love is not the shapelessness of chesed, but rather an emotion that is guided by the content of mental networks. When I love someone, I try to meet their needs and satisfy their desires.

Because a mental network uses emotional pressure to impose content, rational thought is required to evaluate and improve the content of mental networks. For instance, Ahava may love to eat honey cake, but giving her an endless diet of sweets would not enhance her well-being. Similarly, God is mentally represented by a Teacher mental network, which also combines emotions and content. God is a personal being with likes and dislikes, and it hurts God when people act in an unrighteous manner that is inconsistent with the character of God. Dividing chesed and gevurah into two incompatible categories is a sign of incomplete mental maturity, because love demands intelligence, and intelligence becomes inhuman and destructive when it is not combined with love.

Going the other way, mental symmetry suggests that both technical thought and mental networks function within the context of normal thought. Stating this more formally, both abstract thought and concrete thought can function in one of three ways: 1) Mental networks are collections of similar emotional memories that function as a unit. When one memory in a mental network comes to mind, then the entire mental network will be triggered, which will then use emotional pressure to impose its content upon the mind. To a first approximation, chochma corresponds to TMNs, while chesed describes MMNs. However, Kabbalah states that chochma and chesed lack content in order to make them compatible with overgeneralization. 2) Technical thought is guided by carefully defined Perceiver facts and Server sequences within some limited context. Abstract technical thought is based upon precise definitions, while concrete technical thought is based upon cause-and-effect. Technical thought is rational and non-emotional, but it is guided by the bottom line of some MMN, or else functions within the paradigm of some TMN. Binah describes abstract technical thought, while Gevurah describes concrete technical thought. Kabbalah describes these two but does not provide any explanation of how they function. 3) Normal thought uses the analogies and patterns of Perceiver facts and Server sequences to provide a grid within which mental networks and technical thought can function. Kabbalah tries to integrate binah and chochma with da’at as well as integrate gevurah and chesed with tiferet. But this integration is not possible because the definitions of the sefirot come from the distinction between overgeneralization and rational thought—and these two are fundamentally incompatible.

The relationship between mental networks, technical thought, and normal thought is illustrated by the layout of the typical city. If the mind is like a city, then the MMNs would be the homes and residences as well as the buildings of culture and entertainment, while the TMNs would be the libraries, the government buildings, and possibly the churches. Concrete technical thought would be all the businesses, while abstract technical thought would be the schools, university, and research establishments. Finally, normal thought would be the land upon which these various buildings are placed, as well as the roads and infrastructure connecting these various buildings.

Summarizing, the sefirot make some sense as a psychological model, but this model is twisted because it is ultimately based in the interaction between mysticism and rational thought. However, this twisted psychological model corresponds with the twisted way in which Western civilization tends to use the mind. On the one hand, technical thought tends to be regarded as the only valid form of rational thinking, and the assumption is that technical thought can be divorced from emotions. On the other hand, emotions tend to be equated with irrational mental networks that must be respected but cannot be questioned or analyzed. Western society separates these two by a wall that divides objective from subjective. The end result is that the sefirot describe the typical mind of Western civilization that is partially developed but also deeply split.

Kabbalah says that the sefirot are expressions of a God of infinite perfection, and Kabbalah also says that the sefirot describe the human mind, because man is made in the image of God. However, our examination of these sefirot has shown that they portray a concept of God that emerges naturally in a mind that lacks knowledge and suppresses truth, while they describe most accurately the fragmented minds of Western civilization and not a mind that is functioning in an integrated manner.

Judaism does not believe that humans are ‘born in sin’. Instead, “The doctrine of original sin is totally unacceptable to Jews... Jews believe that man enters the world free of sin, with a soul that is pure and innocent and untainted.” However, Kabbalah can accurately be described as a theology that is born in sin, because it is based in a concept of God that results from childish, ignorant thought, and it presents a cognitive model of fragmented, partially developed humanity.

Having opened this theological can of worms, I need to define precisely the concept of ‘being born in sin’ that emerges from the theory of mental symmetry. As far as I can tell, there is nothing inherently sinful about the structure of the mind, if it functions in an integrated manner in which all seven cognitive modules operate together in harmony. However, growing up within a human body will inevitably cause the mind to develop in a manner that is incomplete, fragmented—and sinful. This is because 1) the physical body imposes content upon the mind, leading to idolatry and hedonism, and 2) the body matures automatically while the mind does not, making it possible to physically enjoy experiences for which one is not yet mentally prepared. These two limitations force the mind of the infant to start working, but they also ensure that the mind will function in a childish manner. Thus, if one wishes to reach mental wholeness, then cognitive development needs to be followed by personal transformation. The topic of personal transformation will come up again when discussing the four worlds.

Saying this more simply, if Kabbalah with its inadequate concept of God and incomplete human functioning describes the standard of human perfection, then there is no need for a doctrine of ‘being born in sin’ because the human mind can reach this incomplete level of ‘perfection’ without having to go through personal transformation.

Finally, relating this to Adam and the Garden of Eden, it is possible that the interaction between the mind and the physical world was altered in some fundamental way after Adam ate the forbidden fruit. This would mean that all of the descendents of Adam are born in sin, leading to a doctrine of ‘original sin’.

Netzach and Hod

The next pair of sefirot are described as ‘tactical’, because “their purpose is not inherent in themselves, but rather as a means for something else.” They describe an attitude that is buried within the opposite attitude: “Netzach refers to actions of God that are chesed, ‘kindness,’ in essence, but are presented through a prelude of harshness. Hod refers specifically to those events where the ‘wicked prosper.’ It is retribution—gevurah, ‘strength/restraint,’ in essence, but presented by a prelude of pleasantness.”

Saying this in more detail, “The Kabbalah teaches that the questions of Job (‘why do the righteous that [sic] suffer?’) and of King David (‘why do the wicked prosper?’) find an answer in the attributes of netzach and hod. For instance, the suffering of the righteous may be a test in order to heighten their reward, or a way to cleanse them in this world of their few sins so that they are pure and perfect in the World to Come. The wicked may be prospering in order that their feeling of complacency forestalls their repentance or in order that they should receive their entire reward on earth so their later destruction can be total.”

These two sefirot address deep questions that the persecuted Jew will find himself asking God, such as “If we are chosen by God, then why is God allowing us to be persecuted for following Torah?” or “Why doesn’t God judge the king of Spain (or Czar of Russia, or Führer of Germany) for persecuting the Jews so horribly?” Netzach says that even though things seem black now, it is the blackness that comes before the dawn of morning. Using a scriptural example, God may have allowed Job to be tormented by Satan, but eventually God blessed Job. Hod goes the other way. Things may look good for the wicked now, but eventually there will be justice. These are both valid principles that are mentioned in the Bible and can give comfort to those who are in the midst of persecution or suffering.

Mental symmetry suggests that God often blesses people in ‘cruel’ ways because an external blessing will only last if one has the internal ability to handle this blessing. Examples of this principle are easy to find. There is a common saying in charismatic Christian circles that “Your anointing can take you to a place where your character cannot sustain you.” Similarly, one study showed that “44% of those who have ever won large lottery prizes were broke within five years… Other studies show that lottery winners frequently become estranged from family and friends, and incur a greater incidence of depression, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, and suicide than the average American.” Likewise, Time magazine says that 70% of rich families lose their wealth by the second generation, and mentions some of the reasons: “Most of them have no clue as to the value of money or how to handle it. Generation Threes are usually doomed. It takes the average recipient of an inheritance 19 days until they buy a new car.”

The primary reason for this was mentioned before, which is that the physical body matures without personal intervention while the human mind only matures to the extent that a person pursues a path towards mental wholeness. Thus, the physical body may be mature enough to handle a good experience while the mind lacks the content that is required to enjoy this experience in a beneficial manner. An obvious example is teenage sex, because the teenage body can copulate while the teenage mind lacks the ability to form meaningful long-term relationships. The ‘cruelty’ that occurs before the blessing builds the mental maturity that is required to be able to handle the blessing without becoming internally corrupted or destroyed by that blessing.

Turning now to hod, mental symmetry suggests that God ‘allows the wicked to prosper’ in order to enable free will. In brief, I suggest that free will is real but limited. Exhorter thought creates urges and desires based upon the strong emotions of mental networks within Teacher and Mercy thought. Contributor thought then uses free will to choose between various Exhorter urges. If the mind is fixated upon a single potent mental network, then free will will be limited, because there will be nothing to choose between. This is illustrated by the ‘choices’ that were presented to the voter in the typical Soviet communist election. (Similarly, American voters in the current presidential election are being forced to choose between insanity and corruption .)

Free will becomes greatest when a person is faced with incompatible core mental networks, because this incompatibility presents the mind with a real choice. If God immediately judged a rebellious person or society, then the law of God would be obvious to everyone and no free will would be possible or required. But when a person can disobey divine law and prosper for a while, this creates a temporary conflict that enables free will. To some extent, this free will occurs in the person who is doing the rebelling, because he is being given time to repent. But the primary free will occurs in the minds of other individuals, because they must choose between internal content that tells them to follow universal principles and external content which suggests that there is no need to follow universal principles.

I suggest that the two questions addressed by netzach and hod would inevitably be raised by a group of people that really were chosen by God to carry out a plan of civilizing society. If one is to lead society, then one must first acquire—and submit to—internal content that is not present in other individuals, which means experiencing netzach. And when one is being driven by divine providence to grow and develop internally, then is easy to envy the average person who is being permitted to live a ‘normal life’, leading to feelings of hod. Such feelings of netzach and hod would become intensified if the people that God had chosen to lead society proved to be uncooperative and had to be prodded by divine interference.

Turning now to Kabbalah, while the sefirot of netzach and hod address meaningful questions, I do not think that they provide meaningful answers. Instead, I suggest that what we have seen so far of Kabbalah could be compared to the story of the drunk man searching for something at night under a streetlamp. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was searching for his keys. When asked why he was searching there, the drunk answered that he knew his keys were not under the streetlamp but he was searching there because that was where the light was. Similarly, the scholar of Kabbalah has become ‘drunk’ by the emotions of mysticism. Therefore, he searches for the keys to the meaning of life under the light of the mystical encounter, even though he knows that the answer cannot be found there—because one cannot find a reason for content in a mystical encounter that lacks content.

In other words, the sefirot of Kabbalah claim to provide an explanation for human existence, but they are not based in observation of human existence but rather are permutations of the Jewish mystical experience. Looking at this symbolically, suppose that a person is blinded by a flash of brilliant light that is so bright that one cannot see any details but only blinding glare. That describes what happens mentally when overgeneralization leads to a mystical experience, and this blinding flash corresponds to the sefira of chochma. After the blinding flash is over, a person will sit in the dark and try to understand what happened, corresponding to the sefira of bina. Eventually, the shock will wear off, and a person will resume normal existence, corresponding to the sefira of da’at. A person will then realize that normal existence also contains episodes of expanding light, corresponding to chesed, as well as episodes of thinking in the dark, corresponding to gevurah. Going further, a person will realize that he, a single being, had both the experience of the blinding flash as well as the experience of thinking in the dark, corresponding to the sefira of tiferet. Going further, a person will observe that situations are often composed of light followed by darkness, corresponding to hod, while darkness can be followed by light, corresponding to netzach. Finally, a person will look back and realize that this all began with a flash of blinding light, corresponding to the sefira of keter.

Thus, the sefirot all have their basis in the blinding internal light of the mystical experience. Kabbalah then tries to shoehorn as much human existence as possible into various ways of interpreting and responding to this blinding light (and it does manage to capture some of the dimensions of human existence). Using the analogy of the drunk, Kabbalah looks for the keys to human existence under the streetlamp of the mystical experience. But Kabbalah itself says that the keys are not under the streetlamp, because the internal light of mysticism is so blinding that it ‘vaporizes’ all mental objects—including keys—into oblivion.

But if Kabbalah knows that the keys are not under the streetlamp, then why does insist upon searching under the streetlamp? Because the mystical experience has hijacked the part of the mind that searches for general explanations. Teacher thought comes up with general theories by looking for simple statements that summarize the essence of many specific situations. But the mystical experience occurs when Teacher thought uses overgeneralization to make the ultimate sweeping statement about existence. If Teacher thought is already using overgeneralization to come up with a universal theory, then any further thinking by Teacher thought will have to be in the light of this universal theory, because there is only room for one universal theory. Thus, if the scholar of Kabbalah starts with the universal theory that God is Ein Sof, then he will be forced to try to fit all human existence into permutations of this universal theory. Using the illustration of the drunk, mysticism says that the light of mysticism is a universal light that illuminates everything. If this is true, then all of human existence lies under this light and one can find the key to everything by searching under this light. But is mysticism the light of a sun that illuminates the entire Earth, or is it merely the light of a streetlamp that provides an artificial illumination to the human mind when overgeneralization is combined with identification?

One can answer this question by examining the extent of the light of Kabbalah. How much does Kabbalah actually explain? Instead of attempting to understand the character of God, it declares God to be an incomprehensible mystery. Instead of trying to explain biblical content, it ignores much of what the Bible actually says. It talks about economics, but does not explain why the mind is driven to think in terms of economics. It gives examples of explaining math and science to students, but does not analyze the basis for math and science. It mentions some principles of psychology, but does not explain how the mind works. Stated bluntly, it is an inadequate theory of everything. The scholars of Kabbalah have done an impressive job with the material that they have, but one can only do so much if all one has to work with is a flash of blinding light.

The apostle Paul is responsible for formulating most of the theology of Christianity. It is interesting that his belief in Christianity also began with a flash of blinding light: “As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.’ The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:3-9).

We saw earlier that Kabbalah interprets the prohibition against using pictures to represent God as meaning that God has no feelings and must not be represented by models of human psychology. Paul hears a voice which Paul’s companions also hear, but Paul only sees a bright light without form, while his companions see nothing. Thus, this encounter is consistent with the statement of Torah that one must learn about God through words and not pictures. (The icons of Orthodox Christianity violate this prohibition, but Orthodox Christianity rationalizes this violation by saying that an icon portrays the inner character of a person and is being venerated and not worshiped.) But Paul’s encounter violates Kabbalah’s interpretation of Torah. The blinding light has emotions, because it claims that it is being persecuted by Saul. And the light uses a psychological model of a person to represent itself, because it calls itself Jesus. (One might complain that Paul is using the MMN of the historical person of Jesus to represent the blinding light, but Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:16 that “from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.”)

But unlike Kabbalah, Paul did not build an entire theology upon his encounter with a blinding light. In fact, I am not aware of any reference to a blinding light in the theology of Paul.

Yesod

The sefira of yesod connects abstract concepts with concrete actions: “All of the lofty transcendental concepts that are in the higher worlds are meant to become a part of our experience and cognizance. All of those tangible commandments—such as those pertaining totefillin, matzahs, charity and mourning—all started as lofty transcendental concepts, which the attribute of yesod carefully translated into the corresponding action. For instance, rational communication with God finds its manifestation in vocal prayer, whereas the communication of pure emotion may find its realization in the sound of the shofar.”

This is a significant concept that lies behind both righteousness and science. Righteousness acts in a way that is consistent with divine character, while science believes that the natural world behaves in a manner that is consistent with universal law. As I have mentioned before, Judaism tends to have a better grasp of this principle than Christianity.

Aish.com adds that yesod has the following three qualities: “It sums up and includes within itself the entirety of God’s proposed interactions with man. It translates these purported interactions into a mode perceivable and tangible to man. And this translation takes place with no addition or subtraction to the original message, and with no distortion or aberration.” The first quality describes the property of a general Teacher theory, because a theory is a simple statement that describes the essence of many specific elements. Mental symmetry suggests that a concept of God emerges when a sufficiently general theory applies to personal identity. What is being described here is a universal concept of God based in a general theory because yesod ‘sums up’ the ‘entirety of God’s proposed interactions with man’. Finally, every general theory acts as a set of glasses through which one views reality. Yesod is described as a good set of glasses through which one can view the scene accurately without distortion.

Looking at this cognitively, yesod describes how a TMN naturally behaves. When a mental network is triggered, then it will use emotional pressure to impose its structure upon thought and behavior. When a general theory turns into a TMN, then any situation that triggers the TMN will create a desire to interpret the specific situation in the light of this theory. Saying this another way, the TMN will act as a set of glasses through which one views specific situations. For instance, whenever I use a phrase such as ‘looking at this cognitively’, I am viewing the situation through the lens of mental symmetry.

As far as I can tell, mental networks rule the mind. Therefore, thought and behavior will either be evaluated in the light of the TMN of some general theory or else evaluated in the light of the MMN representing some important person. One’s system of belief will ultimately be based either in the TMN of some general theory or concept of God, or in the MMN of some ultimate authority, such as a rabbi or holy book. The ideal would be to evaluate everything in the light of some universal theory that accurately summarizes the essence of everything, which is what yesod describes.

Because increasing the generality of a theory leads to positive emotion, there is a natural tendency to extend a limited theory beyond its legitimate area of application. This describes the motivation behind mysticism, because it is driven by a desire to make sweeping statements about everything. When one is using a general theory within its area of application, then this could be described as using a theory about apples to think about apples. But when a theory is extended beyond its legitimate area, then one is using a theory about apples to think about oranges, and the end result will be a distorted picture that views an orange as a sort of strange apple. For instance, Americans sometimes assume that American law applies everywhere, but its legitimate area of application is only the United States.

The theory of mental symmetry began as a list of seven spiritual gifts mentioned in the 12th chapter of Paul’s book to the Romans. But the context of this passage is thinking styles, integrated thought, and being transformed by the renewing of the mind. Thus, I suggest that it is appropriate to use this list as a general Teacher theory for describing human thought. Saying this symbolically, one is using a theory of apples to think about apples. This theory was then expanded through an analysis of 200 biographies (by my older brother Lane Friesen). In other words, one is expanding a theory about apples by examining many apples. I then realized that the theory of mental symmetry could be extended to include other areas of human cognition, and that the theory is especially good at explaining religious doctrine. After all, it makes sense to extend a theory about cognition to examine the cognition that occurs in various areas. Again, one is using a theory about apples to think about apples. When one uses a theory about apples to think about apples then the theory will introduce a minimum of distortion.

Kabbalah, in contrast, uses a theory about oranges to think about apples. We have seen that the general concepts of Kabbalah, as well as the various sefirot, are accurate descriptions of the nature of Teacher overgeneralization as well as the interaction between overgeneralization and rational thought. But Kabbalah is also being extended to explain various aspects of human thought and behavior, and we have noted that this extension invariably introduces distortion. That is because one is using a theory about the nature of God which specifically states that one should not form a cognitive model of God as a general theory of human cognition. Saying this symbolically, one is using a theory of oranges to explain apples, even though the theory about oranges says that oranges are nothing like apples. This will lead inevitably to major distortion, which means that the theory of Kabbalah with its ten (actually 11) sefirot fails the test of the sefira of yesod.

This inadequacy cannot be resolved because Kabbalah is taking advantage of a quirk in the wiring of the mind. An overgeneralization is not a legitimate theory because it is a sweeping statement that ignores facts. But when one continues to think about an overgeneralization, then it will turn into a TMN, which will impose itself upon facts when it is triggered. Thus, there is a natural drive to treat an overgeneralization as a theory, even though it is not a theory. When one overgeneralizes from a limited set of facts, it is possible to turn this overgeneralization into a legitimate theory by examining more facts. All rational theories start this way as hypotheses based upon limited information that are used to make predictions, which are then tested with further information. But the overgeneralization of mysticism does not start from some facts, but rather eliminates all facts in order to make a pure sweeping statement.

Aish.com says that Torah has the attribute of yesod, because it faithfully translates from God to human action: “All of the Divine Wisdom (that was intended for interaction with humans) was indeed incorporated into the Torah. Some of it is open, some of it implied, some of it alluded to, but all of it finds a place in the Torah. Maimonides explains that the verse ‘for it is not in heavens’ tells us that all of Torah was given to us, and none was held back. Torah is a bridge between God and man and contains elements of both. Thus Torah contains ‘the words of a living God’ and yet it speaks in ‘the language of man.’”

Interpretation

Because Torah is regarded by Judaism as the means by which God has delivered his message to mankind, it is important to examine the relationship between Torah, faithful translation, and interpretation.

Interpretation is impossible to avoid. As I have mentioned, one always interprets words or situations in the light of some mental network. Aish.com says that what matters when interpreting Torah is not the specific words but rather the general spirit and the context: “When one gives an interpretation of any aspect of Torah or Jewish law using a rational (as opposed to mystical) perspective, one need not have a direct source for the statement. The statement needs to fit in with the general spirit of Torah, and must make sense in the context that it is presented. It ought to have some support from other areas as well.”

It is fine to go beyond the ‘letter of the law’ to the ‘spirit of the law’ as long as the spirit—or mental network—that is being followed does not contradict the written text.

I suggest that the spirit may violate the text in three main ways: The first way is the most obvious, which is using the wrong mental network. For instance, the text of a book that is written in English will be misinterpreted if one is guided by the TMN of French language and grammar. More subtly, a book that is written in the 19th or 20th century will be misinterpreted if it is read in the light of current cultural mental networks. For instance, many old children’s books are now considered to be politically incorrect and have either been rewritten or rejected.

The second way to misinterpret a text is by using the wrong kind of mental network. In particular, one should not use MMNs to interpret text that expresses a TMN, and one should not place MMNs of personal interaction within a straitjacket of TMN thought. The first principle can be seen in modern law. Lady Justice, the symbol of law, is normally portrayed as wearing a blindfold and holding a balance scale. The blindfold indicates that law is not being guided by MMNs of personal status while the scales suggests that law uses Perceiver thought to compare one situation with another, guided by the TMN of a general understanding of law. However, in many cases the primary goal of a lawyer is not to apply law to a situation but rather to defend some client. Thus, the text of the law is being interpreted by the spirit of protecting the MMNs of specific individuals. For instance, if an institution has sufficient Mercy status, then it may be viewed as ‘too big to fail’ and be regarded as above the law. Similarly, when Hillary Clinton was recently indicted for using a private email server for top-secret emails, then she escaped punishment even though she committed a crime that would normally be punished, because she was regarded as too important to prosecute.

Going the other way, personal existence is guided by MMNs of culture and identity. A bureaucracy places people and personal interaction within the TMN of some set of systematic rules and procedures. As we saw when looking at the rule of law, it is good to be guided by the TMN of an impartial set of rules when dealing with people. But if one forgets that people have personal desires and personal identities that are represented by MMNs, then the end result will be an inhuman bureaucracy that attempts to help people by turning individuals into numbers and statistics.

The third way to misinterpret a text is to use the right cognitive module in the wrong way. Kabbalah illustrates this kind of misinterpretation. I suggest that Kabbalah is correct in using Teacher thought to think about God, but I also suggest that it is using Teacher thought in the wrong way, because a ‘theory’ that is based in overgeneralization is being used as a general theory to explain human behavior.

It is also possible to use Mercy thought in an inappropriate way. Mercy thought can be guided by MMNs that represent important people to generate emotions of personal status. But Mercy thought can also be guided by experiences to generate emotions of pain and pleasure. I played violin professionally for a number of years and I learned the difference between these two. When a person plays in public, then it is easy to be guided by Mercy feelings of approval, such as ‘Will they applaud my performance?’ or ‘Will I make a mistake in front of others?’ However, the real goal of music is to create sounds that feel good, guided by MMNs based in tone, phrasing, melody, harmony (as well as TMNs of form and structure). Thus, I have found that the way to become free of stage fright is to learn to use Mercy thought in a different way. Instead of attempting to be faithful to the demands of the people, one is faithful to the demands of the music; one is ultimately guided by mental networks of musical beauty rather than mental networks of personal approval.

Returning now to Torah, Aish.com says that ‘one need not have a direct source for the statement’ but instead ‘the statement needs to fit in with the general spirit of Torah’. But what is the ‘general spirit’ into which Torah is being fitted? Going further, if one states that a ‘direct source’ is not required, then it becomes possible for the spirit to become completely disconnected from the text, and for one to follow a spirit that has nothing to do with the text.

Jewish thought has added two levels of interpretation to the written text of the biblical Torah. The first is the Oral Torah, the collection of rabbinical interpretations of the biblical text that has been compiled within the Talmud. The entire Talmud is over 6200 pages long, which far exceeds the length of the biblical text. Aish.com uses the example of university lectures to explain the need for an oral Torah: “Why isn’t it enough just to read the notes to be considered a Harvard graduate? Because you need to hear the lectures. The professors add so much information that the notes simply don’t present a full view of the subject. If you want to get a full understanding of a text, what’s the best way to find out? Ask the experts: ‘What’s behind this? Please explain it.’” Aish.com adds that “Torah is meant to be lived and internalized. To do that, you need to know it backwards and forwards. That’s why God gave us both a Written Torah and an Oral Torah. The basics are laid out in writing, but the rest of it must be learned orally, encouraging every Jew to constantly review and remember.”

There is some truth here. It is not possible to describe all of the details of a system of understanding within a single book. And listening to a set of live lectures adds an extra dimension to the written text. But what is the ultimate authority? If the text is held together by the TMN of a general understanding, then experts are only secondary authorities that can help to clarify or expand understanding. Going further, if the ultimate authority is the TMN of a general theory based in solid facts, then a book is often better than a set of oral lectures, because a book makes a permanent record of words and organizes these words into a systematic structure of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters. Applying this to the interpretation of Torah, MMNs of rabbinical status play a major role in deciphering the Bible. Thus, one wonders if rabbi Aleph and rabbi Bet’s comments about the biblical text are being regarded as more important than what the words of the text actually say. One is reminded of the joke of the theologians who decided to read the Bible to see if it would throw some light on their commentaries.

It is important to realize that the Bible is a ‘living book’ and not just a collection of words on a page. One can add this living element by placing the biblical text within the social context of MMNs of personal interaction and Jewish culture. But this again is a secondary method, because talking about life is not the same as living life. If a general theory applies to personal identity and describes the process of transforming personal identity, then this theory becomes alive by applying it to my personal identity and using it to transform myself.

Applying these principles to mental symmetry, the ultimate authority is not the MMN that represents Lorin Friesen (or my brother Lane Friesen, or Don and Katie Fortune). Instead, the ultimate authority is the TMN of the theory of mental symmetry, and this theory can be tested and expanded by using it to explain what others say about the mind and how it functions. (Thus, my current research consists primarily of analyzing what others say about the mind and how it functions.) And the theory of mental symmetry becomes alive by using it to observe and transform personal identity.

Moses as the Source of Kabbalah?

We have examined ways in which the Oral Torah may be misinterpreting the biblical text of the written Torah. While one can suggest with reasonable confidence that the mindset of the Oral Torah might be misinterpreting the Bible, one can conclude with considerable confidence that the mindset of the Kabbalah is misinterpreting the Bible.

Aish.com says that “One of the reasons that the mystical tradition of Judaism is called Kabbalah (meaning ‘received’) is in order to emphasize that one must have received this mystical understanding of the Torah. The elements of Kabbalah were revealed by God at the same time as the rest of the Torah and then transmitted from one initiate to another, unlike other aspects of the Oral Tradition which involved interpretation.” Chabad.org adds that “Jewish mystical teachings were always an integral part of the Oral Law and were transmitted together with the rest of the Oral Law by Moses to Joshua, through the era of the Prophets and the Men of the Great Assembly, until the time of the redactors of the Talmud. The Five Books of Moses and the Prophets describe numerous mystical visions and experiences but do not explain them or the methods used to achieve them. There is no doubt that explanation and the methods of achieving prophecy were expounded in an oral tradition, just like the rest of Torah. However, because of their esoteric nature, these mystical teachings were not published together with the remainder of the Oral Law.”

In other words, Kabbalah says that when Moses received the written Torah on Mount Sinai over 3000 years ago, he also received the mystical knowledge of Kabbalah, which was then secretly passed down by word-of-mouth from one generation to another. This secret knowledge was finally written down by Rabbi Shimon in the Zohar in about 135 AD, when the Romans were killing all the Jewish intellectuals.

That would be like me claiming that Jesus was the original Mennonite who secretly started the Mennonite faith, which was then passed on in person from one generation to another before being publicly revealed by Menno Simons. (Believe it or not, this is essentially what Fundamentalist Baptists claim, because they state that there was an unbroken succession of ‘Baptist churches’ throughout history that included historical groups such as the Waldensians and the Mennonites.) Obviously, there is no historical proof that Jesus was a Mennonite, but when one claims that everything was passed down verbally without being written down, then there is no need for historical proof and one can make whatever claim one wishes.

In fact, most scholars of Kabbalah agree that the Zohar was not written in AD 135 but rather in the 1300s by Rabbi Moshe de Leon. Quoting from chabad.org, “Rabbi Moshe de Leon began disseminating the text of the Zohar around the early 1300s. The prevailing academic opinion (although there are some notable dissenters) is that Moshe de Leon himself wrote the Zohar. These claims are based on the testimony of Rabbi Yitzchak of Acco, on an analysis of the names of places mentioned in the Zohar, on linguistic arguments, on the use of terminology which first appeared in medieval times, and so on.” Therefore, if the Zohar, the most important book on Kabbalah, claims to be written in the 2 nd century but was probably written in the 14th century, then it is quite probable that the claim that Kabbalah began with Moses is also false. In other words, if the origins of the Kabbalah that can be checked are fraudulent, then this strongly suggests that the origins that cannot be checked are also fraudulent.

One can also examine the origins of Kabbalah from a cognitive perspective. I have mentioned that theology is invariably a product of its age. In other words, theologians can only describe God and religion using concepts and words that are part of the society in which they live. For instance, it is only possible to come up with a cognitive analysis of God and religion today because of the understanding that society has gained of cognition through psychology, neurology, and computers. It would have been impossible for a first century rabbi to come up with a cognitive theory of religion because first century society knew very little about cognition.

Strangely enough, the written record of the sayings of Jesus as well as the written letters of the apostle Paul (who were both Jewish rabbis) actually make eminent sense when viewed from a cognitive perspective. In fact, they make more cognitive sense than books written today on the topic of human cognition. This provides strong written evidence that the New Testament has a supernatural source, because it is far too clever to have been written by the rabbis of its time.

One can apply this same logic to the thinking that was prevalent during the time of Moses. If one examines the society in which Moses lived, is it reasonable to state that Moses came up with Kabbalah and mysticism? Mysticism is a primary expression of Buddhism, and Buddha lived about 400 BC. Hinduism also has elements of mysticism in it, and the earliest Upanishads date back to the sixth century BC. Both of these are well after the time of Moses who probably lived in the 13th century BC.

The dominant mindset during Moses’ time was idolatry and not mysticism. Idolatry builds the mind upon MMNs that are based in physical objects and people. For instance, Egyptians regarded the Pharaoh as a god and described natural process in terms of physical gods doing physical actions. Mysticism, in contrast, is not rooted in external objects but rather is an internal concept that emerges from the TMN of overgeneralization. Idolatry with its magical thinking is an expression of Piaget’s preoperational stage, while mysticism, with its invisible Teacher theory of overgeneralization is probably an early expression of Piaget’s formal operational stage. Thus, it does not make cognitive sense to suggest that Moses was the originator of Kabbalah, because Moses lived in an age that thought in terms of idolatry rather than mysticism. This explains why 19 of the 613 laws of Torah (24, 27-42, 46, 53, 203) are prohibitions against some aspect of idolatry.

One can examine this further by looking at the written Biblical text. When Moses spent too much time at the top of Mount Sinai, the Israelites constructed the physical idol of a golden calf to replace the visible leader of Moses: “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god’” (Ex. 32:1-4). After Moses descended from Mount Sinai, the Israelites would stare at the person of Moses when he walked to the tent of meeting, and they would worship when the visible cloud of the presence of God rested above this tent: “Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent” (Ex. 33:7-10). Similarly, after receiving the law on Mount Sinai, Moses asked to be able to see the glory of God: “Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’” (Ex. 33:18-20). Thus, if one examines the written account of Moses receiving Torah from God, one notices that it occurs within a mindset of idolatry, consistent with what we know about the thinking of that age. Even Moses expressed this societal need for a visible God that one can see.

The Torah does contain content that is too clever to be written during its time, such as laws involving medicine and personal hygiene. One also notices that the Jews were led in a manner that was compatible with idolatry while encouraging the mind go beyond idolatry. For instance, the Bible says that Israel was led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Both are visible objects that lack specific shape, forcing the mind to think in terms of general Teacher theories rather than specific Mercy objects. Similarly, the ark of the covenant was a specific object, but it could not be worshiped as a visible object because it was kept hidden within a tent most the time.

However, if one examines the 613 laws of Torah, one does not find a single one that advocates any form of mysticism. In contrast, there are five laws concerning prophets—who proclaim verbal content in the name of God (9, 42-45). In addition, 15 laws tell a person to offer valuable living content (animals) to God and not to diminish the value of this living content (336-346, 403, 440-442). Value compares the content of one object with the content of another. Thus, people are supposed to interact with God guided by a mental strategy that thinks in terms of content, rather than in a mystical manner that avoids content.

Kabbalah bypasses this written content by saying that mystical worship of God was only taught to the experts and hidden from the average person. Quoting from chabad.org: “Throughout the period of the Prophets, the Kabbala was guarded by the master prophets and transmitted to select disciples… By the time of the building of the Second Temple, the keys to the Kabbala tradition had been entrusted to the last prophets of the Jewish people as well as to its greatest sages. Together, they constituted the 120 Men of the Great Assembly. It was this body of sages that formulated the Mishna in Tractate Chagigah, stating: ‘The Maaseh Merkava [chariot vision of Ezekiel] may be taught only to individual students [one at a time], and they must be wise, understanding with their own knowledge.’ They thus insured the continued transmission of the Kabbala tradition by restricting its practices to the smallest possible circle of masters. Outside of this circle these practices would remain almost totally unknown. This policy continued until after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. It was only then that things began to change.”

Looking at this cognitively, the average person is being guided by MMNs of respect for the sages, viewing the sages as sources of knowledge. But the sages are not being guided by TMNs of rational understanding but rather being guided by the TMN of mysticism. However, the sages are hiding this mysticism from the people in order to pretend that they pursue knowledge.

It is possible that this sort of thing was happening by the time of the Babylonian exile because Ezekiel, writing during the time of Ezekiel and his chariot vision, describes—and condemns—this symbiotic relationship: “For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers. The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, ‘Please read this,’ he will say, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’ Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, ‘Please read this.’ And he will say, ‘I cannot read.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed” (Is. 29:10-14).

Notice how the average person is responding to written knowledge about God by claiming to be uneducated, while the educated person is responding by saying that this knowledge is a mystery. Isaiah says that this describes, not hidden knowledge, but rather a spirit of sleep in which one does not know about God (mystical knowledge is sometimes compared to the mindset of being half-asleep). Isaiah adds that this does not cause personal identity to be unified with God but rather removes one’s heart far from God, because one is saying empty words guided by human tradition. Finally, Isaiah says that God will respond by eliminating the wisdom of the sages and dealing directly with the realm of human content, something which mysticism says is impossible.

I have encountered a similar sort of symbiotic relationship today. When I attempt to discuss God and rational thought with average people, then they typically respond by saying that they lack the education that is required to discuss such concepts intelligently. But when I attempt to discuss God and rational thought with those who are educated, then the typical response is that ‘God is a transcendent mystery. Knowledge about God is a sealed book.’ But this mystery of God will be described using esoteric language, quoting from esteemed church fathers and ancient tomes. Thus, the religious expert conveys the impression that he has deep knowledge about God, while in fact believing that one cannot know anything about God. I am not suggesting that one should ignore religious experts and that there is no need to study theology, but I am saying that studying theology is worthless if all one learns is that one cannot know anything. One goes to school to become educated and not just to learn how to describe ignorance with a larger vocabulary.

Returning now to history, one can see from the philosophy of Philo of Alexandria that Jewish society was capable of thinking in terms of mysticism during the time when the Zohar was allegedly written, so it is cognitively possible that some aspects of Zohar had their origins in first century Jewish thought. In addition, the Zohar contains many elements of the third century Neoplatonism. Finally, it is possible that the religious elite were starting to practice some form of mystical thought during the time of Isaiah and Ezekiel.

But cognitive evidence strongly suggests that Kabbalah could not have started with Moses because Moses, the Jewish tribe, and the age in which Moses lived all thought in terms of idolatry and were mentally incapable of going beyond idolatry to mysticism. Consistent with this, the biblical book of Judges, describing Jewish history right after Moses, does not mention mysticism but rather describes Jewish society repeatedly backsliding into idolatry.

However, we also saw earlier in this essay that mysticism can only be combined with rational content if one believes that mysticism is above rational content. Thus, Kabbalah must claim that the content of the written Torah is superseded by some sort of divine revelation of Kabbalah. Restating this in terms of yesod and being a faithful transmission, Kabbalah is driven by the cognitive requirements of mysticism to be an unfaithful witness of Torah at a fundamental level by making fraudulent claims regarding the origins of Kabbalah and Torah.

PARDES

The Kabbalistic view of Torah is formalized by the Hebrew acronym Pardes, which says that there are four levels of meaning to Torah: the surface meaning, the symbolic meaning, the comparative meaning, and the esoteric or mystical meaning. The Wikipedia article explains that “The real truth is the secret hidden within the deceptive covering. The fourth level of exegesis: Sod-Secret belongs to the esoteric Nistar-Hidden interpretations of Scripture found alternatively in Jewish mysticism-Kabbalah or in Jewish philosophy-Metaphysics. Religious adherents of Kabbalah and of Rationalism fought over their alternative claims to know the esoteric meaning. In Medieval Jewish Rationalism, the hidden truth within Scripture was human-centred Divine transcendence philosophical depths. In Kabbalistic mysticism it was God’s Persona-centred Divine immanence emanations.” In other words, the Sod level of meaning either reflects the Greek-influenced philosophical view of God being a transcendent being or the Jewish religious version of God being a transcendent being. In both cases, Teacher overgeneralization is being used to think of God. (The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides is the most important book of medieval Jewish philosophy. Maimonides uses apophatic theology to talk about God, which is the method that Orthodox Christianity uses to combine a mystical concept of God with biblical content. Apophatic theology says that one can only say what God is not, but it uses a large vocabulary to describe ignorance about God.)

Mental symmetry suggests an alternative hierarchy of biblical interpretations. The first level is obviously the ‘Peshat’ or surface meaning based upon a simple reading of the text.

Going further, I have found that much of the biblical text also has a symbolic or ‘Remez’ meaning that is based upon allegory. I suggest that the theory of mental symmetry makes it possible to study biblical symbolism in a more rigorous manner by using symbolism that is cognitively natural. Stated briefly, a symbol is cognitively natural if the same cognitive module is used to interpret both the symbol and what the symbol represents. For instance, Perceiver thought searches internally for facts by looking for solid, repeatable connections between individual experiences. But Perceiver thought also examines the physical world for objects by looking for physical matter that is connected together in a solid and repeatable manner. Thus, a rock is a cognitively natural symbol for a solid fact, because Perceiver thought recognizes both solid rocks and solid facts. A cognitively natural symbol will also tend to be part of normal speech. For instance one speaks of life being like shifting sand or of searching for solid ground. As I have mentioned previously, if one uses cognitively natural symbols to interpret the Christian book of Revelation, then it makes sense as a single rational connected sequence of cognitive steps. Summarizing, I suggest that one can add rigor to symbolic interpretation by using symbols that are cognitively natural as well as interpreting a symbol the same way every time that it is used within the Bible.

The third level of meaning is ‘Darash’, found through similar occurrences. In this vein, I have found that it is possible to build bridges between theology and other disciplines by looking for common underlying principles. For instance, the interaction between mysticism and rational thought is a common thread that can be found in many religious and philosophical forms of thought. As with symbology, I have found that a search for common underlying principles becomes more rigorous if one understands how the mind functions.

That brings us to the fourth level of meaning described as ‘Sod’ or secret. I have suggested in this essay that one can explain what Kabbalah calls sod as the set of mental tricks that one must follow internally to juxtapose Teacher overgeneralization with rational thought. Stated bluntly, this means that the sod of Kabbalah makes it possible to worship and serve the God of Buddhism while appearing to follow the God of Judaism. I am not suggesting that Jewish rabbis were explicitly influenced by the writings of the Gautama Buddha, but rather that the Buddhist God of Teacher overgeneralization emerges naturally whenever factual knowledge is limited and one has moved cognitively beyond idolatry. This implicit cognitive connection may explain why so many modern Israelis take aspiritualdrug-enhanced pilgrimage to India after serving in the Israeli Army.

However, I have come to the conclusion that there is a sort of fourth level sod meaning. It is not secret because it uses a quirk of the mind as mysticism does, but rather it is secret because the human mind is interacting with a radically different environment. In other words, the mind is the same, but this mind is interacting with the environment through a different kind of body, which inhabits a different kind of environment. Again stated briefly, the physical realm interacts with the mind through a body that is directly connected to concrete thought (Mercy thought acquires emotional experiences directly from the external world and Server thought can express itself directly through physical action.) Similarly, it appears that biblical and extra-biblical descriptions of spirituality make sense if one postulates the existence of a spiritual realm that interacts with the mind through a ‘body’ that is directly connected to mental networks. Likewise, it appears that biblical descriptions of angels as well as extra-biblical descriptions of ‘UFO aliens’ make sense if one postulates the existence of an angelic realm that interacts with the mind through a ‘body’ that is directly connected to abstract thought. This is similar to the idea that the mind of Adam did not change after the fall, but Adam’s body was altered as was his environment. The angelic realm and spiritual realm are not secrets in the sense of being hidden beneath the biblical text, because the Bible is full of stories involving angels and spirits. Instead, the ‘secret’ involves the extensive transformation that is needed to stop viewing everything through the ‘glasses’ of the modern materialistic mindset and start to ‘see’ what is happening in the unseen, and this transformation occurs within the internal—secret—world of the mind that no one else can see.

Malchut

The final sefirah is malchut, which means ‘kingdom’. Aish.com describes this attribute: “The real teacher is the one who inspires his students, so that they realize that their own real feelings and values are those espoused by their teacher. This is malchut in the true sense. It is God’s actions and attributes – not as expressed by God, but rather as human beings express them. It is as if God’s actions have struck a resonant chord in us, and we thereby act in a similar manner… The first nine are a continuous stream of God’s actions which strike humanity and affect us. When we then absorb these influences of God, find them in ourselves, change and thereby reflect God’s glory – then we evincemalchut. It is in this sense that this is the most important sefirah. In malchut, God does not act merely by Himself, but rather God actsthrough us. Malchut is the goal that God had in mind when He created the world. All of the other sefirot are only the means to see malchut emerge.”

Using the language of mental symmetry, the previous sefira of yesod describes the manner in which a TMN imposes its structure upon thought and behavior. Malchut describes MMNs of personal identity naturally behaving in a manner that is consistent with the TMN of a concept of God.

Aish.com compares the method of the monarch with the method of the dictator: “The way we respond to God is often expressed by commentators as the contrast of two synonyms: Malchut meaning monarchial reign, and Mamlacha meaning dictatorial rule… If we are to define the sefirah of malchut correctly, we need to be clear that (unlike the other nine) it is an attribute of God which does not emanate from God directly. Rather it emanates from God’s creation—when that creation reflects and evinces God’s glory from within itself.”

The concept of malchut is totally consistent with what mental symmetry would suggest. The ultimate goal is for creation and its inhabitants to naturally behave in a manner that reflects the character of God. We saw earlier that the first eight sefirot expand upon different aspects of the interaction between mysticism and rational thought, and that these sefirot do an inadequate job when one uses them to explain how the mind works. The last two sefirot of yesod and malchut, in contrast, are accurate descriptions of mental functioning. I suggest that this transition reflects what is happening within the mind.

Mysticism uses overgeneralization to make sweeping statements about God. The overgeneralization of mysticism behaves like infinity does in mathematics. As this blog and many others have pointed out, “ Infinity is not a number. It’s a mathematical concept related to numbers, but it is not, not a number.” One can count with numbers: 3 + 1 = 4, 4 + 1 = 5, and so on. But infinity plus one is still infinity. That is because infinity is defined as being beyond the realm of numbers. Similarly, the overgeneralization of mysticism is not a theory. That is because one is making sweeping statements about God by abandoning the realm of facts. However, even though infinity is not a number, it is possible to treat infinity as if it is a sort of number that can be reached through mathematical operations. For instance, 6/2 = 3; 6/1 = 6; 6/0 = infinity. Similarly, if the overgeneralization of mysticism turns into a TMN, then the mind will treat it as if it is a theory, even though it is not.

Applying this to the ten sefirot, the first eight sefirot describe various attributes of the ‘infinity’ of the mystical God of Ein Sof. These attributes do not apply well to the world of finite existence because Ein Sof is not a theory about God, just as infinity is not a number. The last two sefirot, in contrast, describe how any general theory behaves when it turns into a TMN. These are universal statements because they apply to all general theories and not just to the infinite not-a-theory of mysticism.

Christianity and Malchut

Returning now to the sefira of malchut, it is a noble goal to want to follow God naturally rather than through a sense of fear or duty. However, I suggest that this is only possible if certain requirements are met. First, the commands of God cannot be random statements but rather must be an accurate description of how things work. Second, obeying God must lead to personal benefits. If these two requirements are not met, then the commands of God will continually fight with the demands and opportunities of reality, leading to feelings such as “I want to have a successful career, raise a family, and have a nice house, but I need to follow God by being a missionary.” Christianity has historically associated following God with denying self, and I suggest that such an attitude of religious self-denial naturally emerges when God is represented by a powerful MMN within Mercy thought, because if God is important then this implies that I am not important, and submitting to the MMN of God implicitly means not following MMNs of personal identity.

I have come to the conclusion that this shortcoming is an expression of fundamentalism with its attitude of self-denial and is not an inherent flaw in Christianity. The reason for this is as follows: The theory of mental symmetry appears to describe how the mind works. If one studies this theory, then it will turn into a TMN, and if one applies this theory personally then it will turn into a concept of God. Like any TMN that forms a concept of God, the theory of mental symmetry will exhibit the traits of yesod and attempt to impose itself upon personal behavior, translating theory into practice. If one uses the theory of mental symmetry as a guide to reach mental wholeness, then one will exhibit the traits of malchut by naturally thinking and behaving in a manner that reflects one’s concept of God, and one will want to reflect the character of God because having a mind that is whole opens the doorway to an entire world of personal benefits. If one compares the theory of mental symmetry with Christian doctrine, and the path of reaching mental wholeness with the Christian path of salvation, one notices that there is a detailed correspondence between these two. In fact, the theory of mental symmetry ends up explaining core Christian doctrines that most Christian theologians regard as incomprehensible mystery, as well as strange passages that most Christian theologians ignore. Summarizing, if Christianity makes more sense when it is based in the TMN of a cognitive theory rather than in the MMN of respect for the Bible, then this suggests that it is meant to be treated as a general theory and not as fundamentalist doctrine.

I have also noticed that the theory of mental symmetry motivates a person to follow biblical principles more closely than the typical ‘devoted’ Christian. That is because one is no longer following Christianity out of a sense of duty but rather from a deep internal conviction that Christian doctrine describes the key to reaching mental wholeness, and mental wholeness is the key to every lasting goodness. This is not just a handwaving overgeneralization, but is described in detail in the book Natural Cognitive Theology, as well as in the various essays on this website.

Looking at this in more detail, mental symmetry suggests that the path to mental wholeness can be divided into three primary stages: The first stage uses personal honesty to construct a mental concept of God. The Christian prayer of salvation—if it is applied honestly and intelligently—makes it mentally and emotionally possible to practice such personal honesty. (These three stages and the prayer of salvation are described in this video segment.) The end result of the first stage is the TMN of a concept of God. The second stage allows Server actions to be guided by the TMN of a concept of God, leading to the personal trait of righteousness. The sefira of yesod portrays what it means to follow the second stage of righteousness. The end result of the second stage is an internal grid of rational thought and behavior that reflects the TMN of God within which personal identity could live. In the third stage of rebirth, the childish MMNs of personal identity fall apart and become reborn within this internal grid of rational thought. Malchut portrays what it is like to be reborn in this manner.

Notice that current Christianity and current Judaism are both partial expressions of this three-stage process. Christianity contains the keys that are required to practice the first stage of personal honesty and to build a rational concept of God. But the Christian prayer of salvation is often viewed as a magic formula and the feeling of having one’s sins forgiven by God is so striking that many Christians think that the goal is to teach the magic formula to as many people as possible, so that they too can have the feeling of being forgiven by God. But I suggest that this prayer should be viewed as a doorway rather than as a final goal. Using an analogy, many Asian students think that the ultimate goal of life is to become enrolled in a good university. Instead, I suggest that one should become enrolled in a university so that one can gain the general understanding of an education in order to use this understanding to transform the way that one lives in real life. Thus, Christianity has become largely stuck at the first stage, practicing some honesty and partially constructing a concept of God but not pursuing this sufficiently to make it possible to fully enter the second stage of righteousness.

Judaism skips directly to the second stage because it starts by saying that God told the Jews how to act by revealing Torah through Moses on Mount Sinai. Thus, Judaism tends to have a better concept of righteousness than Christianity because Judaism starts with a system of righteousness.

Christianity has a better concept of personal rebirth than Judaism, because Christianity focuses upon personal honesty before God. Judaism, in contrast, tends to have a better concept of societal rebirth than Christianity because persecution (often perpetrated upon Jews by Christians) has repeatedly forced Judaism to go through rebirth. But because Judaism received Torah as a chosen tribe, it also tends to practice righteousness within the culture of a chosen tribe, as well as experience rebirth as a chosen tribe, which historically has meant experiencing sufficient trauma as a Jewish people to force tribal rebirth.

Kabbalah is Judaism’s attempt to provide a substitute for the missing first stage. The end result of the first stage is a system of theology—and current Christianity has developed a partial system of theology. In contrast, Judaism does not really have a system of theology. (For instance, there is a huge Wikipedia page on Christian theology, but no page on Jewish theology. Instead, searching Wikipedia for Jewish theology leads to the page on Jewish philosophy.) Kabbalah starts with the mystical God of overgeneralization and attempts to construct a system of theology upon this foundation in order to provide a rationale for the righteousness of following Torah.

The purpose of this essay is to evaluate how well Kabbalah performs the function of substituting for theology. That is why we have focused specifically upon Kabbalah rather than Judaism as a whole. My hypothesis is that Christian theology does a better job than Kabbalah, but only if Christian theology can be released from the shackles of fundamentalism and reformulated as a universal cognitive theory. I have met messianic Jews who attempt to combine fundamentalist Christianity with Orthodox Judaism, and the result can be double religious arrogance combined with double emotional bondage. The fundamentalist messianic Jew often believes that he has been chosen by God twice, first by being born a Jew and second by believing that Jesus is his Messiah. Similarly, he may feel that he is bound by religious duty to obey two sets of divinely ordained rules.

Let us summarize the cognitive qualities of malchut by quoting from Aish.com. “It is only when we hear the voice of God echoing from within us – which is malchut – that we are truly transformed.” When one is being guided by a ‘voice of God within us’, then one is dealing with a mental concept of God that has turned into a TMN. Going further, “In malchut, God does not act merely by Himself, but rather God acts through us”, which means that the TMN that represents God is guiding personal behavior. Finally, “When we then absorb these influences of God, find them in ourselves, change and thereby reflect God’s glory – then we evince malchut.” This indicates that the TMN that represents God has now acquired sufficient content and structure to make it possible for MMNs of personal identity to live within the domain of this TMN.

When one lives within the domain of some TMN, then two questions become critical. In simplest terms, how big is my prison and how nice is my prison? Using another analogy, if I become a citizen of some country and have to live within its borders, then how big is this country and how nice is it?

If one views Kabbalah as a country—or prison—within which one is forced to live, then one concludes that it is more a prison than a country. The first eight sephira refer primarily to the process of experiencing a blinding light and attempting to recover cognitively from this experience. This is then extended to the idea of living within some country, by using the first sefirot to describe aspects of abstract thought and concrete thought. The last two sephira accurately describe what it means to live within a country but they do not define the nature of this country. Kabbalah would respond that the country in which one actually lives is the country of Torah with its 613 laws, expanded through the Talmud, and interpreted by rabbis. But that is cheating because the sephirot do not say anything about the content of Torah. In other words, Kabbalah is largely a figurehead monarch with a ceremonial role who does not pass real legislation, and Kabbalah describes the ceremony that is involved in maintaining a figurehead monarch. In contrast, the theory of mental symmetry has now been extended to the point to which one could actually conceive of living within the domain of this theory. One can comprehend this distinction by comparing what it meant to practice Judaism within some shtetl in Eastern Europe versus practicing Judaism as a citizen of Israel within a land of Israel.

The Four Worlds

We have finished our examination of the ten sefirot. We will now return to the topic of tzimtzum, which describes the process by which Teacher overgeneralization limits itself in order to make room for rational thought and personal existence. Kabbalah says that the concealment of God went through four stages. Wikipedia describes these four worlds of Kabbalah, which are labeled Atziluth (emanation), Beri’ah (creation), Yetzirah (formation), and Assiah (action). Each of these worlds is dominated by specific sefirot, which is why we are discussing them after looking at the ten sefirot.

The first level is Atziluth. Wikipedia explains that “The theory of emanation, which is conceived as a free act of the will of God, endeavors to surmount the difficulties that attach to the idea of creation in its relation to God. These difficulties are threefold: the act of creation involves a change in the unchangeable being of God; it is incomprehensible how the absolutely infinite and perfect being could have produced such imperfect and finite beings; a creatio ex nihilo is difficult to imagine.” Looking at this from a cognitive perspective, how can one jump from the overgeneralization of mysticism, which cannot handle content, to the content of the universe?

The following paragraphs are based in the Wikipedia description of the four worlds:

Kabbalah says that the ten sefirot emerge within the realm of Atziluth, with chochma dominating. This realm is a dimensionless point, in which only divine unity exists and there is no self-awareness. I mentioned at the beginning of this essay that overgeneralization can only interact with content at specific points. Atziluth portrays this interaction as a dimensionless point, and the total lack of self-awareness indicates that one is mentally so caught up in the moment that one is not even aware of time or space. As we saw before, this type of focus upon the moment is characteristic of the sefira of chochma.

Summarizing, the world of Atziluth corresponds cognitively to the connection between overgeneralization and rational thought.

Atziluth is sometimes preceded by the primordial world of Adam Kadmon, which is above conscious thought. In this primordial level one is united with the Ein Sof of God and the dominant sefira is the shapeless sefira of keter. This level is beyond all names and beyond good and bad.

Looking at this cognitively, Adam Kadmon describes the realm of pure Teacher overgeneralization, in which one ignores all factual content in order to make universal sweeping statements. When one is pursuing Teacher overgeneralization in such a pure manner, then even assigning meanings to Teacher words will limit overgeneralization. That is why Adam Kadmon is regarded as beyond all names. However, by giving the primordial world the name of Adam Kadmon, one is actually contradicting the concept that this realm is beyond all names. This inherent contradiction illustrates the nature of a TMN. The overgeneralization of mysticism is not a theory, just as infinity is not a number, but thinking about this overgeneralization will turn it into a TMN which will then impose its structure upon the mind as if it is a theory. The end result is an irresistible urge to use words to say that one cannot use words, and to give names to that which cannot be named.

Atziluth is followed by the second realm of Beri’ah or creation. This realm is dominated by the sefira of binah, which means that it describes the realm of abstract thought. This realm lacks shape and form, which is also characteristic of abstract thought. Mental symmetry explains this lack of shape and form in the following manner: The basic element for abstract thought is the Server sequence. This could be a sequence of words, a sequence of mathematical symbols, or the sequence of some natural process. Abstract thought then uses Perceiver thought to connect these Server sequences into integrated structures. For instance, the basic element on the Internet is the webpage, which consist primarily of a sequence of words. One moves through the Internet by clicking on links; a hyperlink is a Perceiver connection from one webpage to another. The end result is an interconnected collection of webpages known as the Internet. Similarly, Beri’ah is related to the third interpretation level (in PaRDeS) of Darash, which looks for connections.

One is aware that self exists at this level, but one does not think in terms of self but rather suppresses feelings of identity. Interpreting this cognitively, abstract thought is guided by Teacher emotion, but because Teacher emotions of generality feel the same as Mercy emotions of personal like and dislike, abstract thought will usually try to isolate itself from personal emotions in order to avoid being clouded by subjective bias. (If personal identity becomes transformed to the level of malchut, then personal Mercy emotions can assist abstract thought, because personal behavior will naturally behave in a manner that reflects abstract understanding. However, abstract thought usually tries to avoid Mercy emotions by remaining objective.)

The third realm is Yetzirah or formation. Yetzirah describes the realm of emotions and is related to the six central sefirot of chesed through yesod. When people talk about emotions they invariably mean the concrete realm of Mercy emotions. Thus, I suggest that yetzirah refers cognitively to the realm of internal concrete thought. Shape and form exist at this level. I mentioned that the basic element for abstract thought is the Server sequence. In contrast, concrete thought works with Perceiver objects that have shape and form.

The relation of Yetzirah to internal concrete thought can be seen in the description given by chabad.org: “The next stage is the world of Yetzirah (formation). It is in this world that finite plans are drawn up for actual creation… This world is where emotional attachment to the project forms and it takes on a momentum of its own. The entire project is no longer merely a concept and concrete steps are being taken to actualize the idea.” At this level of internal concrete existence, one is aware of both self and others. Same as cognitively, the mind represents people as MMNs within Mercy thought.

Yetzirah is related to the second interpretation level of Remez or symbol. Symbols represent ideas and situations as internal images within Mercy thought. A symbol is a kind of Platonic form, which is an invisible idealized image in Mercy thought. (When we discussed PaRDeS, I suggested that one should interpret scriptural symbolism using cognitively natural symbols. Saying this another way, one should interpret Scripture using the Platonic forms that naturally emerge from a general understanding of how the mind functions.)

The final realm is Assiah, which means action. This describes using concrete thought to interact with the physical world. Since human beings are only capable of altering the physical world through physical action, Assiah is a realm of action. However, physical action requires the presence of the physical object of a body that is capable of acting as well as the existence of physical objects upon which one can act. As usual, I suggest that Jewish thought is focusing upon the Server side while ignoring the Perceiver side.

The dominant sefira here is malchut, which means that one is living in a physical reality that reflects the order and structure of God. At the higher levels, one senses God through mysticism. At the concrete level of Assiah, one sees God reflected in the structure of existence. Chabad.org compares these two vantage points: “It is in this world, where one cannot perceive the Light manifest in the higher realms, that one can truly appreciate Atzmut (essence of G-d). In this world, we perceive ourselves as separate and distinct from the flow of G-dliness, and it is this feeling of being apart that permits us to behold the essence of G-d to a greater degree. Ironically, there is a vantage point to the observer in this world. In the higher worlds, one is blinded somewhat by rays of the ‘Divine Light’ (Giluyim). The higher one goes, either in the lower or higher Garden of Eden, the more sublime the revelation and the more blinded a person is. Yet, from Earth, we can appreciate the sun in a far greater manner. It is specifically in this realm where there is a total eclipse of this Divine Light that the observer can actually come into contact with Atzmut Himself. Though He stands far beyond comprehension, one can observe creation and realize that this can only be the work of G-d Himself.”

This statement needs to be analyzed, because it has implications regarding the nature of God. Earlier, I compared the first eight sefirot to being blinded by a light and then attempting to recover. Similarly, Chabad.org says that ‘the higher one goes, the more sublime the revelation and the more blinded a person is’. When physical reality and personal behavior reflect the nature of God, as described by malchut, then one will ‘observe creation and realize that this can only be the work of God himself’. According to this quote, one is not really seeing God when one is mentally blinded by the overgeneralization of mysticism. Instead, one sees ‘the essence of God’ most clearly when physical reality expresses the order and structure of Teacher generalization. This implies that the ‘essence of God’ is actually related to Teacher generalization with its contact and not to Teacher overgeneralization with its lack of content.

The Four Worlds and Personal Transformation

Kabbalaonline.org describes these various levels from the psychological vantage point of personal transformation, starting with Assiah and moving up to Atzilut.

The first step involves the acquisition of new habits: “The first step toward genuine growth requires you to take control of your inner ‘world of action’ (Asiya), becoming conscious of your day-to-day and hour-to-hour behavioral patterns and conduct, and introducing the critically needed changes you need to make in your schedule… The initial step to take in climbing ‘Jacob’s ladder’ is a commitment to change undesirable habits on a tangible, behavioral level.” This essay has discussed the nature of mental networks, but we have not mentioned Perceiver confidence and Server confidence. Stated simply, Perceiver thought gains confidence in a fact when it sees a set of connections being repeated. Similarly, Server thought gains confidence in a sequence when it sees a set of steps being repeated. Perceiver confidence can only be acquired by observing facts being repeated, while Server confidence can be acquired either by observing a sequence being repeated or by choosing to repeat some sequence of actions (because Server thought can affect the physical world directly through action). Forming a new habit repeats an action in order to build Server confidence. Because Teacher thought is influenced by Server thought (this relationship is shown as an arrow from Teacher to Server on the diagram of mental symmetry), a new habit will lead to the formation of a nonverbal TMN within Teacher thought, and this implicit TMN will emotionally drive a person to continue carrying out the habit. Though some Christian theologians think that personal transformation involves primarily the gaining of new habits, I agree with Kabbalah that this describes a peripheral form of personal transformation that does not affect the core of personal identity.

Moving on, kabbalaonline.org says that “The second step in growth calls on you to explore the inner formations of your psyche. In the world of Yetzira you need to examine your inner attitudes, motives and temperaments that give birth to your daily conduct and behavior. You must muster the strength to reformat your internal emotional structure.” This goes beyond acquiring new habits to changing the MMNs that motivate habits, and this deeper level “helps us weed out our selfish, beastly and egocentric inclinations, cravings and attitudes and transcend our shame, fear and resentment. It helps us rewire our inner emotional structure and reformat our feelings and passions.”

Most self-help books of psychology work with this second level of personal motivation. This goes beyond physical behavior to internal motivation but still deals only with concrete thought. The result will be reformation and growth, but not transformation. Symbolically speaking, one cannot move the leg on which one is standing. In order to move this leg, one must first place one’s weight upon the other leg. Similarly, one cannot transform core MMNs using a strategy that is limited to concrete thought. If one wishes to transform concrete thought, one must first build the mind upon a solid foundation that goes beyond concrete thought.

Kabbalaonline.org describes this inherent limitation: “But how about the scars and wounds that have become entrenched in our psyche? How about the abuse and inner turmoil that have seeped into the very stuff of our chemistry? Can we ever heal from them? For this you must process to the third layer of consciousness, to the world of Beriya.”

Kabbalaonline.org continues: “In this state of consciousness you do not merely reform yourself (as in the layer of formation), but you are empowered to recreate yourself. Here, in the world of Beriya, you surrender all that you previously claimed as yours to the divine vision of life, allowing for the higher power to recreate your identity all over again, from nothing to something.”

Using the language of mental symmetry, one mental network has to be replaced by another mental network. Therefore, one can only transform core MMNs by building the mind upon a TMN within abstract thought. This is precisely what mental symmetry suggests. During the first stage of personal salvation, one constructs the TMN of a concept of God that is rooted in personal honesty rather than self-deception. During the second stage of righteousness, one chooses to be guided by this TMN instead of following MMNs of childish identity.

As kabbalaonline.org states, this “may feel like jumping off a cliff. Yet, when you take that jump, you allow yourself to experience rebirth, soaring far and beyond the limitations and parameters of your previously finite and flawed emotional structure.” That is because one is choosing to be guided by a new emotional drive based in invisible understanding rather than being driven by MMNs based in visible experiences and visible authority figures.

It is at this point that Kabbalah diverges from mental symmetry. Both agree that personal transformation means being guided by a TMN of God rather than by MMNs of hedonism, culture, and approval. But Kabbalah acquires its TMN from the overgeneralization of mysticism while mental symmetry constructs the TMN of a concept of God guided by the content of scripture as well as the structure of how the mind works and how the natural world functions. In other words, Kabbalah skips the first stage of personal salvation.

Kabbalaonline.org says that the fourth stage of Atzilut involves letting go of the concept of ‘I’ in order to behave in a selfless manner: “Even after your entry into the third world, you haven’t become one with reality. You have surrendered your notion of selfhood for the sake of ultimate reality, but there is still an ‘I’ attempting to experience oneness. I am experiencing you; I am experiencing G-d and the very awareness of self indicates that I am still alienated from true reality. Take dancing as an example. How do you know that you are truly immersed in the ecstasy of the dance? The answer: when you are unaware of the fact that you are totally engrossed in the dance. The moment your ‘I’ is begins to observe that your body is moving around uninhibitedly, you are not fully present in the dance. When you become truly one with somebody or something, you don't experience the oneness. You’re just one.”

I suggest that Kabbalah is confusing intuitive expertise with Zen Buddhism. I have mentioned that in the third stage of rebirth, MMNs of personal identity become reborn within a grid of rational understanding that is held together by the TMN of a general theory. One can see this in the intuitive excellence of the expert. The true expert does not try to think or behave in an expert manner, but rather exhibits expertise naturally, as the mind travels emotionally along channels of skill and knowledge that have been developed through years of learning and practice. In other words, intuitive expertise is guided by the TMN of a general understanding that contains extensive content within which personal identity can live.

Zen Buddhism, in contrast, ignores content and behaves in a spontaneous manner in order to be guided by a TMN of overgeneralization that lacks content. Zen Buddhism often cheats cognitively by using knowledge, understanding, and practice to build an internal grid of expertise, and then pretending that action is spontaneous without content, while actually being guided implicitly by extensive internal content.

Thus, what Kabbalah calls the fourth level of entering into Atzilut is actually a form of mysticism with its overgeneralization and identification: “we are invited, in prayer, into the fourth and deepest world, that of Atzilut. Here you give up everything, even the feeling that you have given up everything. You allow yourself to melt away in the all-pervading reality of the one G-d. You achieve intimacy with the divine; your entire personality becomes a transparent conduit through which the oneness of G-d shines forth. This is the fourth section of prayer, known as the silent Standing Prayer. During this prayer, silence must reign supreme, for there is no ‘I’ present to become excited and inspired. We do not reach out to attempt and experience lofty transcendence and sublime oneness. We simply address G-d firsthand, as ‘You’, and unite with Him in profound intimacy.” Notice how the prayer allows one to ‘melt away in the all pervading reality of the one God’ leading to ‘intimacy with the divine’. Overgeneralization views God as ‘lofty transcendence and sublime oneness’ while identification ‘unites with him in profound intimacy’. What is being described here is not the malchut of thinking and behaving in a manner that is similar to the character of God but rather the mystic ecstasy of identifying with overgeneralization. As we have seen, this type of identification with the infinite can occur when a person focuses upon the immediate personal situation and ignores the general context. As Kabbalahonline.org explains, “this part of the prayer is the most ‘physical’ and concrete of the entire morning service, focusing on each person’s material needs.”

But there is nothing inherently moral or righteous about this kind of Zen identification, because one is identifying with a concept of God that has no content. Therefore, one can take any action and view it as an expression of the divine nature, including the action ofkilling a person with a super sharp sword.

The Birth of Science

I suggested earlier that divine providence cooperates with human free will: God’s universal law applies to generalities while humans have freedom within the specifics. Judaism states (and I agree) that Jews have been chosen by God to help carry out God’s grand plan of history. However, Deuteronomy 31 records both God and Moses predicting that the Jewish people will turn away from God. This means that Jewish history should contain incidents where the Jews could have achieved some grand result but did not because of rebellion against God. The standard trap when searching for such incidents is to assume that God’s plan is limited to the religious realm. However, we have already seen that religious thought always occurs within the context of the knowledge and assumptions of society.

I would like to discuss a period of time that comes to mind when Jewish history is examined from this larger perspective. This incident is seldom mentioned when discussing Jews and God’s plan of history, but I suggest that this is because both Judaism and Christianity have inadequate concepts of God.

In brief, I suggest that God wanted the Jews to give birth to science. Science almost came into being in Alexandria between about 300 BC – 100 BC, but it did not. There are several obvious reasons why Alexandria was the right time and the right place. Alexandria had one of the largest libraries in the ancient world, housing between 40,000 and 400,000 scrolls. Alexandria had the ancient version of a university, known as the musaeum (from which we get the word museum). Many of the best minds of that time came to work at the musaeum, and the government provided free meals, free room and board, free servants, and a salary to over 1000 scholars. Alexandria was also a cultural melting pot: “Throughout the entire span of Graeco-Roman antiquity Alexandria represented a meeting place for many ethnic cultures and the city itself was subject to a wide range of local developments, which created and formatted a distinct Alexandrine ‘culture’ as well as several distinct ‘cultures’.”

And there is a major Jewish connection with Alexandria because “At its height, Alexandria was the wealthiest, most powerful, most influential and most sophisticated Jewish community… In their view, Jerusalem was a very provincial, small, backward city. It was not a city of the world. The situation was similar to the way the Jews of New York sometimes feel vis-a-vis anywhere else in the world… The Jews in Alexandria were so influential that the Greek rulers of the Ptolemaic empire became very interested in Jewish customs, ideas and behavior.” One primary result was that the Greek translation of the Jewish Bible known as the Septuagint was produced in Alexandria during this period of time, making it possible for non-Jewish people to read the Jewish Scriptures.

One of the primary tenets of scientific thought is that the natural world is governed by universal laws that are independent of religion or culture. The museaum of Alexandria encouraged scholars to look for universal laws, and the library enabled this search. The cross-cultural atmosphere of Alexandria made it possible for these scholars to break free of the emotional bondage of cultural MMNs. The huge Jewish community meant that God’s chosen people could play a critical role in birthing science, while the Septuagint made it possible for scholars to study the law of God outside of the cultural constraints of Judaism. One gains the distinct impression that God was trying—very hard—to accomplish something.

But it did not happen. Instead, “The irony is that in about 300 years they would disappear as though they never existed. In Jewish history, there are a number of such aberrations, of great Jewish communities that looked like they would last forever, and then it was as if somebody just pulled the plug on them. They disappeared. Alexandria was one of those communities.”

Unfortunately, Jewish scholars were more concerned about preserving Jewish culture and identity than they were about discovering universal principles in the Bible. “Despite advantages to teaching the non-Jewish world the Written Torah, the Sages of Israel did not welcome the opportunity. ‘The day when the Torah was written in Greek was as unfortunate for Israel as the day of the Golden Calf’ (Soferim 1:7). They even combined it with two tragedies – the death of Ezra and the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem – and made it a public fast day (the tenth of Teves). Perhaps the reason was because they saw that the translation would open the door for usurpers and new religions claiming to supplant or succeed the Torah. At the same time, the translation gave a dangerous stamp of approval to Greek language and culture. This allowed Greek culture and values to enter the Jewish world. From the time of the Septuagint onward, it was very hard to draw a line and say, ‘We are going to take this amount of Greek culture, but we are not going to take the rest.’”

I suggested earlier that Judaism is a tribal religion that stretches forward to monotheism. That is a strong statement. However, when Jewish sages regard the translation of God’s word into another language as such a great tragedy that it requires a public day of fast, then one can conclude that the tribalism is stronger than the monotheism. For if there is one God who is God of everyone, and if this God has revealed himself in the Torah, then it is imperative to translate the Torah into other languages so that everyone can learn about the one God who is God of everyone.

This is a principle that Islam has not learned. In the words of Wikipedia, “Translation of the Qur’an has always been a problematic and difficult issue in Islamic theology. Since Muslims revere the Qur’an as miraculous and inimitable (i’jaz al-Qur’an), they argue that the Qur’anic text should not be isolated from its true form to another language or form, at least not without keeping the Arabic text along with… According to modern Islamic theology, the Qur’an is a revelation very specifically in Arabic, and so it should only be recited in Quranic Arabic. Translations into other languages are necessarily the work of humans and so, according to Muslims, no longer possess the uniquely sacred character of the Arabic original.”

Jewish Thought and Science

The Jewish connection with the possible birth of science in Alexandria extends beyond being merely in the right place at the right time. That is because there is an extensive cognitive resonance between the mindset of Judaism and the thinking of science. I have mentioned that Judaism focuses on Server sequences rather than Perceiver facts. One of the basic principles of science is that one must look beyond the Perceiver objects of the world to search for Server sequences. Saying this more scientifically, science is a search for natural processes. Going further, science ignores the fundamental questions of existence that have historically attracted the attention of philosophy and focuses instead upon simple, everyday Server sequences, such as the behavior of a lamp that is swinging to and fro. Similarly, most of the laws of Torah address simple, everyday actions. Science believes that these everyday actions are governed by universal laws that can be described using the words of mathematics. Similarly, Judaism believes that everyday actions are governed by the laws of the universal being of God, and that these laws can be described using the words of the Bible. Finally, science is a group effort, in which scholars keep each other honest through the critical dialogue of peer review, recorded in scientific journals. Similarly, Judaism is also a group effort, in which rabbis keep each other honest through the critical dialogue that has been recorded in the Talmud.

This cognitive resonance between Judaism and scientific thought is illustrated by the success that modern Jewish scholars have at practicing science. For instance, Jews or people of Jewish descent have won 20% of the Nobel Prizes, even though Jews comprise only 0.2% of the world’s population.

Thus, when I suggest that it was God’s plan for the Jews to discover science, I am making a statement that is backed up by extensive historical and cognitive evidence.

I am not suggesting that Judaism by itself was enough to discover science. Instead, I am suggesting that Judaism combined with Greek philosophy created an ideal set of conditions for the birth of science. In addition to the Jewish focus upon divinely ordained sequence, science also requires the Greek concept of Platonic forms, invented by Plato in the 4th century BC. Finally, studying science means studying real experiences from the physical world, and the Greek mindset emphasized the physical realm, worshiping gods that were basically amplified versions of human beings.

The thinking of science is analyzed extensively in the book Natural Cognitive Theology, but it is possible to mention some key principles in this essay. I am familiar with the basic concepts of math and physics because I currently tutor both math and physics up to the level of first-year university.

Problems in physics involve everyday situations, such as the movement of a hockey puck along an ice surface or the electric field generated by a current through a wire. The first step in solving a problem of physics is to replace all of the real items by Platonic forms. For instance, hockey pucks and ice surfaces figure prominently in introductory physics textbooks because they approximate the Platonic form of movement along a perfectly level, frictionless surface. Similarly, a real wire will typically be replaced by the Platonic form of an imaginary wire of uniform composition with a perfectly round cross-section. The behavior of this idealized situation is then calculated by manipulating mathematical equations that describe universal laws of physical behavior. Notice how both Greek and Jewish assumptions are required. One needs the Greek attitude of focusing upon reality as well as the Greek concept of Platonic forms. But one also needs the Jewish attitude of focusing upon actions and sequence as well as the Jewish idea that everyday behavior is governed by the divinely ordained universal words of God.

The Jewish virtual library describes the Jewish thinking of Alexandria, and one can see that many of the factors that we have mentioned were present: “The Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria were familiar with the works of the ancient Greek poets and philosophers and acknowledged their universal appeal. They would not, however, give up their own religion, nor could they accept the prevailing Hellenistic culture with its polytheistic foundations and pagan practice. Thus they came to create their own version of Hellenistic culture. They contended that Greek philosophy had derived its concepts from Jewish sources and that there was no contradiction between the two systems of thought. On the other hand, they also gave Judaism an interpretation of their own, turning the Jewish concept of God into an abstraction and His relationship to the world into a subject of metaphysical speculation. Alexandrine Jewish philosophers stressed the universal aspects of Jewish law and the prophets, de-emphasized the national Jewish aspects of Jewish religion, and sought to provide rational motives for Jewish religious practice.” In other words, there was extensive interaction between Jewish thought and Greek thought. Jews emphasized the universal nature of God and Jewish law as well as de-emphasizing the tribal aspects of Judaism.

The Stillbirth of Science

Despite all of these positive factors, the fact still remains that science did not emerge in Alexandria. I would like to suggest three primary reasons.

The first reason has to do with mysticism and Teacher overgeneralization. I know that Kabbalah in its current form was developed by Isaac Luria in the 16th century, and that most, if not all, of the Zohar was probably written in the 13th century. However, one can gain a reasonable idea about the thinking of intellectual Jews in Alexandria by looking at the philosophy of Philo of Alexandria. Philo’s primary concept is that God is utterly and totally transcendent. According from Wikipedia, “his God existed neither in time nor space and had no human attributes or emotions. He argued that God has no attributes, in consequence no name, and for that reason he cannot be perceived by man. Further, God cannot change: He is always the same. He needs no other being, and is self-sufficient. God can never perish. He is the simply existent, and has no relations with any other being.” In other words, Philo’s concept of God was pure Teacher overgeneralization.

Philo rejected all biblical descriptions of God as a person who thinks and feels: “Philo characterizes as a monstrous impiety the anthropomorphism of the Bible, which ascribes to God hands and feet, eyes and ears, tongue and windpipe. Scripture, he says, adapts itself to human conceptions; and for pedagogic reasons God is occasionally represented as a man. The same holds good also as regards God’s anthropopathic attributes. God as such is untouched by unreasonable emotions, as appears, e.g., from Exodus ii. 12, where Moses, torn by his emotions, perceives God alone to be calm. He is free from sorrow, pain, and all such affections. But He is frequently represented as endowed with human emotions; and this serves to explain expressions referring to His repentance.”

Thus, all of the statements that have been made in this essay regarding Teacher overgeneralization and the Kabbalistic God of Ein Sof would apply in amplified form to the philosophy of Philo.

It is fairly easy to see that such a concept of God would have made it impossible to discover science. That is because there is only room for one universal theory in Teacher thought. If Teacher overgeneralization with its abhorrence of facts is used to form a concept of God, then there will be no room for the general theories of science that are built upon facts. Now that science exists, mysticism has had to modify itself to allow for the rational thinking of science and technology, but we are looking here at a period of time in which science did not yet exist. The absence of rational scientific thought made it possible for Philo to hold to a strong version of a God of overgeneralization, which would have prevented science from coming to birth.

However, Judaism believes that God has continually intervened in Jewish history, which contradicts the idea of a mystical God who has nothing to do with human existence. The end result was that Philo the Jew contradicted Philo the philosopher. Quoting from Wikipedia, “Philo’s transcendent conception of the idea of God precluded the Creation as well as any activity of God in the world; it entirely separated God from man; and it deprived ethics of all religious basis. But Philo, who was a pious Jew, could not accept the un-Jewish, pagan conception of the world and the irreligious attitude which would have been the logical result of his own system; and so he accepted the Stoic doctrine of the immanence of God, which led him to statements opposed to those he had previously made. While he at first had placed God entirely outside of the world, he now regarded Him as the only actual being therein.”

Philo’s mystical concept of God ultimately prevailed over his Jewish concept of God: “Although, as shown above, Philo repeatedly endeavored to find the Divine Being active and acting in the world, in agreement with Stoicism, yet his Platonic repugnance to matter predominated, and consequently whenever he posited that the divine could not have any contact with evil, he defined evil as matter, with the result that he placed God outside of the world. Hence he was obliged to separate from the Divine Being the activity displayed in the world and to transfer it to the divine powers, which accordingly were sometimes inherent in God and at other times exterior to God.”

Moving on, the second reason why science failed to emerge involves the Jewish view of Torah. Kabbalah is similar in many ways to science. Kabbalah believes that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet have deep significance. Similarly, science is based in the belief that the written symbols of mathematics have deep significance. Kabbalah practices gematria, which assigns numerical values to Hebrew letters. Similarly, science also assigns numerical values to the written symbols of mathematics. Kabbalah places great emphasis upon manipulating Hebrew letters and words. Likewise, mathematics could be described as a set of rules for manipulating letters and symbols. Kabbalah believes that it is possible to make statements about the nature of the universal God by manipulating Hebrew words and letters. Similarly, science believes that it is possible to make statements about the nature of the universe by manipulating mathematical words and letters. Finally, Kabbalah limits its symbolic manipulation to the words and letters of Hebrew, which are treated with great care and precision. Likewise, science limits its symbolic manipulation to the words and letters of mathematics, which are treated with great care and precision.

But Kabbalah limits its analysis to the words of the Hebrew Bible. It is possible that there is hidden structure in the biblical text. However, the impression that I have gained over the years is that symbolic manipulation of the words of Torah often becomes a way of using technical thought to think about the Bible while ignoring the personal and moral implications of what the Bible says. Stated bluntly, it appears to be largely a waste of time that does not lead either to a knowledge of God or to personal transformation. In contrast, the mathematical manipulation of science is not a waste of time, but instead leads to an understanding of how the natural world functions as well as enabling the societal transformation of technology.

I suggest that one is dealing here with a Jewish version of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism believes that the words of some book are absolute because the author of this book is represented by an MMN with great emotional status within Mercy thought. For instance, Moses is the most highly respected prophet of Judaism, and Moses is the author of the five books of Moses. Christian fundamentalism associates the words of a holy book with Perceiver facts. Thus, the Bible is viewed as the ultimate source of absolute truth, and it is the duty of the Christian to believe the facts and truths of the Bible. When Perceiver thought believes the words of the Bible, then this will lead to the formation of artificial Platonic forms within Mercy thought. These Platonic forms will be divorced from reality, because they are based in Teacher words and Perceiver facts that come from a specific book, rather than from a Teacher understanding of Perceiver facts that describe reality. That is why I refer to them as artificial Platonic forms. However, they will create emotionally potent religious images within Mercy thought that will become the focus of attention. The end result is a personal mindset that tends to be ‘so heavenly minded that it is no earthly good’.

Jewish fundamentalism, in contrast, associates the words of a holy book with Server actions. Thus, the Bible is viewed as the ultimate source of absolute instructions, and it is the duty of the Jew to practice the commands of the Bible. When Server thought acts out the words of the Bible, then this will lead implicitly to the formation of artificial general theories in Teacher thought, similar to the way that a habit leads to the formation of a TMN. But these are not truly general Teacher theories, because they are based in the Teacher words of a specific book and the Server actions of a specific group of people, and not in a general Teacher understanding of how things work. That is why I refer to them as artificial. However, they will create emotionally potent theories within Teacher thought that will become the focus of attention. The end result is a theoretical mindset that tends to be so fixated upon the words of Torah that it becomes divorced from reality.

Saying this more simply, the fundamentalist Christian views the Bible as the only valid source of absolute truth, instead of viewing it as an accurate source of universal truth. Similarly, the fundamentalist Jew views the Bible as the only valid source of absolute instruction and order, instead of viewing it as an accurate source of universal principles.

Applying this now to Kabbalah, we have seen that Kabbalah applies a form of thinking that is similar to the thinking of science, but it limits this thinking to the holy book of the written Torah. In order to discover science, one must take this same kind of thinking and apply it to the natural world at large. Instead of limiting one’s thinking to how God has told the Jew to behave in the Torah, one must apply the same kind of thinking to understanding how God has told the natural world to behave in the universal laws of nature.

Similarly, the way to escape fundamentalist Christianity is by applying the concept of truth to the world at large. Instead of limiting one’s thinking to the truth that God has proclaimed in the Bible, one must search for the universal principles of truth that can be found in the world at large.

It feels very reverent to search the Torah for mathematical meaning, but because one is limiting one’s thinking to the words of a specific book, the resulting general theories will not be potent enough to overcome either the TMN of a God of mysticism or the TMNs of surrounding secular theories. Thus, one will loudly proclaim the order and structure of the God of the Bible while in practice worshiping a God of mysticism and becoming assimilated by secular academic thought. Mysticism cannot be escaped because the belief that God is the transcendent source of Torah is more fundamental than the belief that Torah describes how God behaves. And secular assimilation cannot be avoided because the theories of Torah do not apply to the secular realm.

Similarly, it feels very reverent to believe every word of the Bible as absolute truth, but because one is limiting one’s beliefs to the words of a specific book, the resulting Platonic forms will not be potent enough to overcome either the religious attitude of self-denial or the MMNs of secular culture. Thus, one will loudly proclaim the truth of the God of the Bible, while in practice denying self rather than transforming self, as well as becoming assimilated by the norms of the surrounding culture. One cannot escape self-denial because the belief that God is the important source of the Bible is more fundamental than the belief that the Bible describes the character of God. And one cannot escape cultural norms because the internal images of heavenly perfection have no connection to the cultural norms of Earth.

Moving on, I suggest that feelings of cultural and racial superiority provide a third key reason why science did not emerge in Alexandria. The TMNs of scientific thought were not discovered because both Jews and Greeks were too busy trying to prove to everyone that their religious and cultural MMNs were inherently superior. In other words, there was some cross-cultural interaction in Alexandria but not enough. Wikipedia describes the Greek side of this cultural arrogance: “Alexandrian Greeks placed an emphasis on Greek culture in part to exclude and subjugate non-Greeks. Also the Law in Alexandria was based on Greek—especially Attic—law. There were two institutions in Alexandria that were devoted to the preservation and study of Greek culture and which helped to exclude non-Greeks. In literature, non-Greek texts could only be kept in the library once they had been translated into Greek and notably, there were few references made to Egypt or native Egyptians in Alexandrian poetry; one of the few references to native Egyptians presents them as ‘muggers.’ There were large ostentatious religious processions in the streets that displayed the wealth and power of the Ptolemies, but also celebrated and affirmed Greekness. These processions were used to shout Greek superiority over any non-Greeks that were watching, thereby widening the divide between cultures.”

Going the other way, Philo of Alexandria proclaimed the inherent superiority of Judaism: “In contrast to how infrequently Philo claims Jewish originality, he often proclaims its superiority, both conceptually and practically. Moses offers better answers to philosophical problems, and his surpassing philosophical insight renders anything else second-best: after he has taught that virtue is a thing for joy, what need is there to extol the philosophers who declare virtue a state of happy feeling? Consequently, to use philosophical concepts in biblical exegesis is entirely legitimate, since Moses is the superior, indeed proper philosopher, just as Judaism is philosophy par excellence. There is no question of importing ‘foreign’ methods alien to Scripture, because truth is unified. At a pragmatic level, Jewish superiority encompasses the whole range of life: worship, cult, social relationships, marriage and sexuality, law, and one’s approach to death. Why are the Jews so superior to everyone else? Because they are the ‘race which the Father and King of the Universe and the source of all things has taken for his portion.” Notice the final sentence, which states Philo’s ultimate basis for his statements of Jewish superiority: Jews are chosen by God. Again we see tribalism stretching forth to monotheism.

Summarizing, I suggest three primary Jewish reasons why science did not emerge in Alexandria: 1) Mysticism with its Teacher overgeneralization prevented scholars from realizing that the physical world is governed by rational universal laws. 2) Fundamentalism with its fixation upon a holy book limited Jewish thought largely to the realm of the Torah. 3) Cultural arrogance elevated MMNs of culture and religion above TMNs of understanding.

These three points are a dominant feature of Kabbalah: 1) The starting point for Kabbalah is not attempting to understand how the mind or world functions, but rather attempting to bridge mysticism with rational thought. 2) Kabbalah assumes the practice of Torah and plumbs the depths of the words of Torah for hidden meaning. 3) Kabbalah is primarily a Jewish system of thought that can only be mastered by becoming immersed within Judaism. Jewfaq says that “One prominent Orthodox Jew, when introducing a speaker on the subject of Jewish mysticism, said basically, ‘it’s nonsense, but it’s Jewish nonsense, and the study of anything Jewish, even nonsense, is worthwhile.’”

In contrast, 1) The starting point for mental symmetry is understanding how the mind functions. It is true that mental symmetry began as a list of ‘ spiritual gifts’ mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Romans, but my brother and I spent countless hours in the 1980s analyzing how the mind works, guided by my brother’s in-depth study of 200 biographies. 2) I have repeatedly discovered that one of the best ways to clarify what the biblical text is saying is by reading and studying what non-biblical authors say about the functioning of the mind. I have also repeatedly found that those who limit their analysis to the biblical text end up twisting the text. 3) I am doing my best not to use purely Christian vocabulary but rather to translate Christian concepts into language that is used outside the Christian subculture, to the extent that many Christians reject my concepts because I am not using enough Christian words and making sufficient Christian cultural references.

Jesus?

One of the principles of free will is that the real choosing occurs before a crisis in which one’s choice is publicly made. Saying this in more detail, free will always occurs within the context of underlying desires, which are generated by mental networks. This means that a person has maximum free will when faced with conflicting mental networks. For instance, Jews had significant free will in Alexandria, because they had to choose between conflicting core mental networks of Judaism and Greek thought. The choices that Jews made during this period of time of Hellenization constructed the mental networks that drove Jews to respond in a certain manner when faced with major crises later on, crises such as the Macabbean revolt, the Great revolt, the Bar Kokhba revolt—as well as the response of Jews to Jesus.

I know that endless ink has been spilled (as well as a lot of blood) over the decision of Judaism to reject Jesus’ claim of being the Messiah. It is impossible to avoid discussing this topic when examining Judaism from a Christian perspective. But I suggest that most discussions focus upon the wrong time and the wrong Jesus. The real choice to accept or reject Jesus was not made when Jesus was preaching in the Jewish Temple or when he was standing before Pontius Pilate. That was when the choice became apparent. However, I suggest that the actual choices were made in the centuries preceding the life of Jesus. Similarly, the discussion usually focuses upon the acceptance or rejection of Jesus the Jewish rabbi who lived in Palestine during the first century. However, I suggest that one is dealing with a much deeper issue involving Jesus the incarnation. This distinction between Jesus-as-man and Jesus-as-God is discussed in extensive detail in a previous essay.

The connection between Jesus-as-God and the birth of science becomes apparent if one examines how a concept of incarnation forms within the mind, because a scientific understanding of how the world functions is cognitively equivalent to a mental concept of incarnation. In other words, cognitive evidence strongly suggests that if Judaism had discovered science in Alexandria, then the response of Judaism to Jesus would have been totally different. In other words, I suggest that the real Jewish choice to reject Jesus was not made during the life of Jesus, but rather was the inevitable byproduct of Judaism (together with the Greeks) not discovering science in Alexandria. Notice that we are dealing with two related, though distinct, questions: 1) How would Judaism have responded to the idea of an incarnation of God if science had been discovered in Alexandria? 2) Is Jesus a valid incarnation of God? The second question is asked quite often, but I suggest that the answer to the second question is largely determined by the answer to the first question. Saying this another way, Jews accepted Bar Kochba as Messiah while rejecting Jesus as Messiah because Bar Kochba fit the Jewish concept of Messiah while Jesus did not. If science had emerged in Alexandria, then this would have radically altered the Jewish concept of Messiah.

One can make an even stronger statement. When one focuses upon Jesus-as-man, then it is apparent that Christians explicitly accept Jesus while most Jews explicitly reject Jesus. However, if one examines incarnation from a cognitive perspective, then one observes that Judaism actually has a better implicit grasp of Jesus-as-God than Christianity. Saying this another way, Christians may say that they believe in Jesus as Messiah, but Christianity does not have a good grasp of what it means for Jesus to be the incarnation of God. Instead, most Christian theology declares the concept of incarnation to be an incomprehensible mystery. Judaism may say that it does not believe in Jesus as Messiah, but Judaism today has a better implicit grasp of what it means to be guided internally by the concept of an incarnation of God. Thus, when I suggest that Christianity and Judaism both have part of the picture, I really mean this, and I am not just being polite.

Let us start by looking at the big picture. How does one connect the infinite God with finite humanity? Mysticism juxtaposes these two by suppressing content. As I have mentioned several times, overgeneralization ignores mental content in Teacher thought while identification ignores content within Mercy thought (because identification is a form of pretense that ignores facts about personal identity). This leads to the feeling that ‘I am one with God’. Kabbalah tries to perform the impossible task of starting with mysticism and then adding content.

Incarnation, in contrast, is a bridge of content that connects the infinite God with finite humanity. One can examine this indirectly by analyzing how a mental concept of incarnation bridges the mental concept of a rational God with mental concepts of personal identity. If this cognitive analysis matches in detail the content of the Bible (in this case primarily, but not exclusively, the content of the Christian New Testament) then one can postulate with reasonable confidence that this cognitive analysis of incarnation corresponds to a real incarnation—because if the Bible is describing content about the mind that is too clever to have been written by human authors of its time, then it must have a supernatural source, and a supernatural source implies interference by a real God.

Let us turn now to the diagram of mental symmetry. Teacher thought is the part of the mind that comes up with general theories, and the mind represents the concept of a monotheistic God as a TMN within Teacher thought. Mercy thought is the part of the mind that remembers personal experiences and the mind represents people as MMNs within Mercy thought. It is possible to connect Teacher with Mercy directly through the horizontal gray line labeled emotion. This describes the path taken by mysticism. This option runs through the Exhorter, and Exhorter thought provides motivation for the mind, which means that the path of mysticism tends to be addictive. It is also possible to connect Teacher and Mercy indirectly by going through Server, Contributor, and Perceiver. This describes the path of incarnation. Incarnation itself involves Contributor thought, but a concept of incarnation must be expanded by using Server and Perceiver thought. (This is explained in a video segment.)

Christianity, with its focus upon Perceiver truth, emphasizes the personal side of incarnation. Thus, the emphasis is upon Jesus-the-man who lived in Judea and Galilee 2000 years ago. Perceiver thought adds two primary aspects to the concept of incarnation. The first is Platonic forms. This turns Jesus-the-man into the imaginary image of Jesus-the-ideal-man who ‘lives within your heart’ and who ‘died personally for your sins’. As far as I know, these concepts do not exist in Judaism.

Christian fundamentalism limits the Perceiver side of incarnation, turning Platonic forms into imaginary religious images of alternate reality that have nothing to do with the real world. However, Perceiver thought can also expand incarnation by translating between one language and another, and by turning religious concepts of absolute truth into universal ideals. This expansion is the second aspect that Prceiver thought adds to the concept of incarnation. Similarly, the typical student of science initially believes the facts of science because they are written in a science textbook. The student goes beyond this initial attitude of fundamentalism by translating the language of this textbook into the language of real-life, and by learning that the science textbook describes universal principles about reality.

Jewish thought focuses upon the left hemisphere, analytical side of incarnation, emphasizing the connection between the words of God in Teacher thought and human action in Server thought. This side of incarnation is described in the beginning of the gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3,14). Teacher thought handles words, while flesh involves Server thought with its physical actions. When the word becomes flesh, then Teacher thought is becoming connected with Server thought. Judaism knows implicitly what it means for the word to become flesh, because the word of God written in the Torah becomes flesh through the actions of Jews, while God’s universal plan of history in Teacher thought is described in the words of the Bible and has been made flesh through the history of the Jewish people.

Similarly, Jesus says repeatedly in the Gospels that he is not acting on his own initiative but rather doing what he sees God doing: “He answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.’ For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner’” (John 5:17-19). Notice that his audience does not respond by thinking of the Jewish concept of ‘the word made flesh’ but rather by protecting the mystical concept that God is completely divorced from human action. However, if science had been discovered rather than mysticism, then Jesus’ audience would have responded by thinking of the Jewish scientific concept of ‘the word made flesh’ rather than trying to defend a mystical concept of God.

As I have mentioned, science is also based on ‘the word becoming flesh’, because science turns the words of mathematics into the flesh of experiment and technology. Perceiver thought expands incarnation through the Platonic form. Science, in contrast, connects word and flesh primarily through the exemplar, a concept introduced by Thomas Kuhn. An exemplar is an action that represents many similar actions. Thomas Kuhn pointed out that one learns physics primarily by the solving of problems and not by the teaching of general theory. For instance, I mentioned the physics problem of a puck traveling on ice. Almost every physics textbook has problems involving hockey pucks and ice surfaces. That is because solving this kind of problem teaches certain fundamental concepts of physics. The learning is through the doing. One is never simply doing a specific action. Rather, specific actions are exemplars that illustrate general principles. Judaism has a better intuitive grasp of this concept than Christianity.

Unfortunately, Kabbalah contradicts this intuitive Jewish grasp of the word becoming flesh, primarily through the three factors mentioned earlier. First, incarnation connects the universal content of God with the finite content of humanity. But Teacher overgeneralization insists that is not possible to mention God and content in the same sentence. For instance, the gospel of John begins by saying that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” But Kabbalah insists that the overgeneralization of Ein Sof cannot coexist with the content of the Word.

Second, Kabbalah says that it relates the word of God to human actions, but it actually performs a more limited task, which is relating the words of the Jewish Bible, as amplified and expanded by Jewish experts, to human actions done by Jews. That brings us to the third factor. What is the ultimate goal of Kabbalah? Is it a search for the monotheistic God of all creation, or is it a way of protecting Jewish culture and Jewish identity from the onslaught of modern science and technology? Saying this more bluntly, is Kabbalah significant because it teaches universal wisdom or because it is ‘Jewish nonsense’?

We have looked at the Perceiver and Server aspects of incarnation. Let us turn now to the core of incarnation, which is Contributor thought. One is dealing here with a rather complicated mental circuit, so we will limit our discussion to primary features. Contributor can tie together Server and Perceiver in one of two ways. Abstract Contributor thought connects Server sequences of Teacher words with Perceiver meanings. Saying this another way, abstract technical thought (which is under the control of Contributor thought) becomes possible when words acquire precise meaning. Concrete Contributor thought connects Server actions with Perceiver facts. Saying this another way, concrete technical thought (which is under the control of Contributor thought) is based on connections of cause-and-effect (because cause-and-effect examines the Perceiver facts that are associated with Server actions).

A mental concept of incarnation emerges when abstract Contributor thought becomes integrated with concrete Contributor thought, because abstract Contributor thought works with general theories in Teacher thought while concrete Contributor thought works with specific experiences in Mercy thought.

This can be illustrated with a simple physics problem. The typical problem starts with some situation in real life, such as a person hitting a puck with a hockey stick. This real-world situation is then turned into a physics problem by focusing upon cause-and-effect: If the puck is hit by a stick, then what will be the result? Posing the problem as a question of cause-and-effect brings the problem into the realm of concrete technical thought. This concrete technical problem is then turned into an abstract technical problem by replacing all of the specific elements with Platonic forms. The ice surface becomes a frictionless, perfectly flat surface, the puck is represented by a point mass, the hit of the hockey stick becomes a uniform force applied for a specific period of time, and so on. The abstract technical problem is then evaluated using the precise definitions of mathematics. Finally, the mathematical equation is then translated back into concrete reality through the use of exemplars: The Server steps of solving the math problem are exemplars of the behavior of a group of related concrete situations. Doing the math problem makes it possible to determine what the puck will do in this situation, as well as in similar situations.

Summarizing, abstract Contributor thought works with precise definitions guided by general theories (such as the laws of physics) in Teacher thought. Concrete Contributor thought works with cause-and-effect guided by specific goals within Mercy thought. Incarnation ties these two halves of Contributor thought together, assisted by Platonic forms in Perceiver thought and exemplars in Server thought.

This essay has used examples from math and physics to illustrate general principles. Christian books seldom contain these kinds of academic illustrations. In contrast, I have noticed that most of the examples given on Kabbalah webpages involve math, physics, or academia in some manner, illustrating the natural resonance between Jewish thought and science. However, I suggest that Kabbalah is cheating when it uses such examples. That is because Kabbalah is what emerged instead of science, because Judaism was blinded by mysticism, Torah, and Jewish identity. Mental symmetry can explain scientific thought, while Kabbalah is attempting to build a rational theory upon premises that contradict scientific thought.

One can see what this means by comparing what has just been said about incarnation with the sefirot of Kabbalah. The sefira of binah is a reasonably good description of abstract technical thought. (Mental symmetry provides a cognitive circuit that can explain how abstract technical thought functions, while binah is merely a verbal label that is applied to a category of thought.) Abstract technical thought by itself is not sufficient to act as incarnation. Instead, abstract technical thought has to be combined with universal Teacher theories. Science likes to give the impression that it is using abstract technical thought to develop and evaluate universal theories, but Thomas Kuhn made it clear that the average scientist spends most of his time solving technical puzzles and not working with general theories. Using the language of Kabbalah, binah needs to be combined with chochma. However, chochma does not use Teacher thought to develop general theories that are compatible with the abstract technical thinking of binah. Instead, chochma uses overgeneralization to come up with sweeping statements that are incompatible with abstract technical thought. Kabbalah recognizes that binah needs to be combined with chochma by proposing the combination sefira of da’at. However, da’at does not actually integrate chochma and bina, but rather acts as if they are both valid.

Moving on, the sefira of gevurah is a reasonably good description of concrete technical thought. (Notice again that Kabbalah gives a description while mental symmetry provides a cognitive circuit.) however, concrete technical thought by itself is not sufficient to act as incarnation. For instance, the Contributor person is naturally good at using the cause-and-effect thinking of concrete technical throught to improve things and pursue objective bottom lines, but incarnation needs to save people and not just improve things. (The name Jesus means ‘savior’.) Using the language of Kabbalah, gevurah needs to be combined with chesed, because chesed helps people. But chesed does not help people in a manner that is compatible with the cause-and-effect thinking of gevurah. Instead, chesed helps people in a sweeping manner that expresses the overgeneralization of chochma. Kabbalah recognizes that gevurah needs to be combined with chesed by proposing the combination sefira of tiferet. But tiferet does not actually integrate gevurah and chesed but rather alternates between these two, guided by some overarching strategy—for which no cognitive explanation is provided.

Summarizing, one can find the basic elements of incarnation within the sefirot, but it is a false incarnation that cannot truly integrate God and man because it is crowned by a keter of overgeneralization rather than by an intelligent God of Judaism.

A Rational Concept of God

I have mentioned several times that overgeneralization leads to an inadequate concept of a monotheistic God. What happens if one uses generalization and rational thought to come up with a concept of God? What is the result?

It is probably best to answer this question by explaining briefly how my concept of God has developed. As a child, I attended Sunday school regularly, where I was taught primarily the stories of the Bible. After graduating from high school, I attended one year of Bible school, where I studied pragmatic theology. I have a Masters degree in engineering, where I learned to appreciate the order and structure of the natural universe. Looking back, I notice that I never encountered any form of mysticism as I was growing up. When I was in college, my older brother encountered the list of ‘seven spiritual gifts’ from Paul’s book of Romans, and he collated quotes from 200 biographies in order to determine the behavior of each of the seven cognitive styles. We then spent several years together trying to explain the list of traits that he had gathered, guided by engineering principles, common sense, and clues from neurology. My goal was not to understand religion or to form a concept of God, but rather to understand how the mind works. However, I discovered to my surprise that theological concepts started to emerge from our research. For instance, one of the standard questions that one is asked when teaching ‘spiritual gifts’ is “What was the spiritual gift of Jesus?” And the standard answer is that ‘Jesus has all of the gifts’, because everyone ‘knows’ that Jesus is a sort of Superman who is not limited by normal human categories. In contrast, the description of Jesus in the Gospels led me to the conclusion that Jesus had the cognitive style of Contributor.

Skipping ahead, I gradually realized that the type of concept of God that emerges depends upon how one programs the mind. The concept of God that emerges when all seven parts of the mind are working together in harmony is that of a Christian Trinitarian God. (I suggested earlier in the essay that a mental concept of the Holy Spirit emerges when all Platonic forms become integrated to form a form of the Good.) This Trinitarian concept is a concept of God because it is a concept of universal intelligent thought, it is Trinitarian because it involves a concept of universal order in Teacher thought, universal loving interaction in Mercy thought, and a universal plan in Contributor thought. But it is also monotheistic because these three aspects of universality function together in an integrated manner guided by a general understanding in Teacher thought. When one examines the behavior of the seven cognitive styles, one notices that three of them have a unique ability to concentrate: Teacher thought can concentrate on a theory, Mercy thought can concentrate on a goal, and Contributor thought can concentrate on a plan. (There are three corresponding acetylcholine circuits in the brain. These circuits are heavily damaged in Alzheimer’s disease, which could be described as a fragmentation of the mind resulting from a loss of the ability to concentrate.)

When cognitive research about a concept of God leads to conclusions that agree in detail with content written at least 2000 years ago, then this provides strong corroborative evidence that one is on the right track. But how does one know if this is a valid concept of God? If one has constructed an accurate concept of a God who rules over everything, then an understanding of this God should be capable of explaining everything. I do not know if the theory of mental symmetry is capable of explaining everything, but I have discovered that it is capable of acting as a meta-theory that ties together a vast array of topics. (Christians often say that ‘If you could explain everything, then you would be God’. I suggest that this is inaccurate. For instance, explaining everything about cars does not make you an automobile. Obviously, a finite human is incapable of explaining everything in exhaustive detail. However, I am suggesting that a concept of God becomes increasingly valid as one gains the ability to explain the essentials of more things.)

I use the term meta-theory because this integration is not a logically rigorous theory of technical thought. Instead, it is a semi-rigorous theory based upon common patterns and similar functions, which ties together the specializations of technical thought as well as the ruling loves of mental networks. The end result is a rational concept of God that is capable of acting as a valid alternative to the sweeping statement that ‘God is a monotheistic transcendent mystery’.

One final point. The theory of mental symmetry is rooted in the concept of seven interacting cognitive modules. If one can explain everything in terms of these seven cognitive modules, then these seven basic forms of thought should in some way be part of the essence of God. It is interesting that the Christian book of Revelation refers four times to the ‘seven spirits of God’.

One might complain that a Trinitarian God with seven spirits is incapable of satisfying the definition of a monotheistic God. However, every human mind is composed of these seven cognitive modules, as well as these three forms of concentration. Despite this, every normal person refers to himself as ‘I’ and not ‘we’. If these seven cognitive modules and three modes of concentration can interact within the human mind and lead to a unified sense of personal identity, then it makes sense that the same seven spirits and same three modes of concentration could interact within the mind of God and lead to the unified sense of a monotheistic God. This correspondence is based in the statement made in Genesis 1:27 that man was created in the image of God.

In fact, I suggest that it is only possible for God to behave in an integrated manner if the essence of God is subdivided into interacting aspects, just as it is only possible for a machine to behave in an integrated manner if that machine is subdivided into interacting parts. And the seven cognitive modules combined with the three modes of concentration appear to be the simplest combination of elements that is capable of explaining both physical and personal existence in an integrated manner. Of course one can always say that there is no answer or that the answer is beyond human comprehension.

But that is not the way of Judaism. Jews want rational answers and will not be satisfied until they find one.