Presented by Marc Gafni
Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness. The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.
-Eric Hoffer 1954
As every man is hunted by his own daemon, vexed by his own disease, this checks all his activity.
Baseball teaches us, or has taught most of us, how to deal with failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball and, precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less often — those who hit safely in one out of three chances and become star players. I also find it fascinating that baseball, alone in sport, considers errors to be part of the game, part of its rigorous truth.
-Francis T. Vincent, Jr., Commissioner of Baseball
The Path of my Unique Pathology
1:1 Pathology — Through my Flesh – the teachings of the blood
At this point I want to significantly deepen our understanding of shadow. My interest in deepening however is not purely conceptual – it is very practical as well. I want to personalize the shadow in a way that we can begin to see that our personalized shadow is the path to revealing our personalized light.
Hereafter I am going to refer to shadow with a new word – pathology. I introduce this word because of its immediate physical association – tissue pathology. When something goes wrong in the normal functioning of the organism it causes – tissue pathology.
Now before we talk more about what medical physical pathology really means I need to re-introduce a core concept of the Kabbalah – Mib’sari Echaezeh Eloha ~ “Through my flesh I vision God.”
This quote from Job will be the guiding principle of the remainder of this chapter. For the mystical reader of the Biblical myth, to ‘vision God’ is to understand being…for God and being are one. Minimally this verse was interpreted by the Kabbalists to mean, that through my flesh – that is, my physical form and its guiding principles – I can understand much about my spiritual psychological form.
Kabbalists actually go even one step further and read this verse with a pronounced emphasis on the word ‘my’. ‘My flesh’ means not only my physical form, but the body of my unique life experience. The verse is thus taken to mean – I access the epic of being through the drama of the psyche. And I can only access psyche through my psyche, i.e. my fully unique story.
Herman Hesse in the prologue to Demian – the most important English book I read in high school – said it like this:
“I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.”
Motivated by the ‘Mibsari – through my flesh’ idea, Biblical myth constantly draws analogies between psycho-spiritual sickness and physical illness – that is to say pathology. The teachings of the blood.
The powerful point is that Shadow, or what we will now refer to as our (spiritual) pathologies, follow a similar pattern to physical pathology. Our physical organism is absolutely unique. Each human being has a fully distinctive physical signature. Our immune system immediately recognizes and destroys any foreign substances – microbes, tumors, bacteria – which seek to violate the uniqueness of our signature. If one vial of the wrong blood would be injected into a person’s system they will usually die. The foreign blood has violated their specific and unique immune pattern.
Pathology means the violation of the body’s unique system.
However, it goes even one step further.
Because of the signature singularity of the body, its pathological responses are also unique. No two tumors are the same.
For this reason doctors can only diagnose in the most general way — based on statistical probabilities. Statistics are, by definition, incomplete guides, for they ignore the radical uniqueness of every body. Every Doctor I have spoken with confirms my general feeling – that medical diagnosis is a general art which, by its very nature, ignores the uniqueness of the person in need of treatment. Of course the further away we get from the family doctor who has a sense of the whole person, the more the problem is accentuated. The specialist is by definition not holistic – he is essentially disconnected from the whole person. The tragic result is that diagnosis can turn out to be simply wrong or at best incomplete.
The following excerpt, for the biologically inclined, is from a much longer e-mail I received from my friend Dr. Mark Kirschbaum. I was sharing with Mark a broad overview of the core ideas in this chapter – when in response to my comments on biology he jumped up and said with great excitement – “You’re right, but you don’t know the half of it – this is precisely my field of research!” (and he proceeded to confirm all of my ‘intuitive observations’ about uniqueness with medical metaphors, explanations and new fascinations. Needless to say I was thrilled.
But if you are not biologically oriented you can skim or skip this excerpt from our e-mail exchange.
The uniqueness of every human being is actually a core truth of biology.
Many of the important questions facing modern molecular medicine and science are in some way related to this issue. In short, the body is constantly recognizing and repulsing ‘invaders’, for example the millions of hostile microorganisms we encounter with every breath. How? Through a complicated friend-or-foe recognition system based on the unique identifying proteins found in most cells of our body. If the foreign cell does not have a marker – like an id card for entry – then the immune system is launched into attack mode.
The cornerstone of this self-recognition system is a very tightly regulated set of proteins known as the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC). Much of our protein is routed in a very intricate manner to maintain this system. The genes that code for these proteins are located close together on chromosome 6*. Essentially, there are two major subclasses, known as Class I and Class II. Class I markers are found on almost all cell surfaces, and are grouped into subgroups. Every person has one of these 6 different sets of combinations of these subgroups. The body’s immune surveillance cells (who we’ll call ‘defenders’) will spot any cell that carries a differing set of markers from the host and target those cells destruction. This is the way the body deals with bacterial and other such ‘invaders’.
One of the fascinating areas of current research deals with the way the body inactivates this system around the developing embryo. For the embryo, being a different person, will invariably carry different markers…and yet, the child is left alone by the immune system. (for some reason, those unique cells are allowed into the system…and thus are allowed to flourish and nourish a new individual within.*)
Another interesting recent understanding is that tumors are frequently related to a breakdown of this ‘defender’ system. Tumors use many different mechanisms to down-regulate the markers from their surface, thus allowing them to elude being destroyed by the immune system. Furthermore, one of the ways the immune system keeps itself from attacking normal tissues (failure in this regard we call auto-immune disorders) is by triggering self reactive immune cells to self-destruct, a process currently intensely studied known as “apoptosis”…It has recently reported that a number of serious cancers such as melanoma and breast cancer, actually exploit this trigger (and this is not good because…) and cause the good immune cells to commit suicide! One could argue that in a sense, cancer is in part a breakdown of the individual’s unique structure at the molecular level.
“Through my flesh I vision God” teach the Kabbalists. What this means in real terms is that spiritual pathology is modeled on physical pathology. Shadow, or what we will now term pathology, is an expression of a person not living their story. Spiritual pathology is the psychological expression of the violation of the unique patterns of the spirit. When the psyche’s signature is forged, if I am living a story not my own – then pathological symptoms are not long in appearing. In a word, psychic pathology – shadow – is a result of the failure of a person to realize their soul print.
Furthermore, just as the pathology itself is unique in the physical organism — for example, no two tumors are alike – it is also unique in the psycho-spiritual realm. The specific shadow symptoms — anger, fear, phobia, jealousy, obsession — reflect the specific nature of the soul print which has been violated. Not which symptoms show up but how the symptoms show up – in what particular intensity, texture and frequency – can tell me much about the soul print that is not being expressed.
A story by Mystical Master Nachman of Bratzlav.
A son leaves his home and travels for many years in distant lands. Upon his return he tells his father that he has become a master craftsman of Menorot – Candelabrum – as well as a spiritual teacher. His father, wanting to show his son’s wisdom and craft to the community, invited all the master craftsmen to see his Menorot. The craftsmen however all quietly told his father that they found his work to be lacking. Indeed each pointed out a different deficiency in his son’s work. His father, being both hurt and disturbed, confronted his son with the poor reviews. To which his son calmly replied, “You will notice, father, that each of the criticisms addresses a different part of the Menorah. Each person saw a flaw that no one else saw! How could it be that each saw a different part to be deficient? In fact the deficiency that each person saw was a reflection, not of the Menorah, but of themselves – of their own particular emptiness. My Menorah is special only in that it illuminates to the one who beholds it his own particular flaw.
(Emily – looking for a better word than deficiency) – flaw, lack, pathology, emptiness…the original Hebrew word is chisaron meaning lack or missing, empty)
Nachman of Bratzlav said once that in one generation a person tells a story that is not clear. In another generation another story is told…which may well be the explanation of the first. Here’s a story from our generation which may shed some light on the tale above.
A story that I have told for so long that it seems like I have always known it.
It’s about Jack, a very busy businessman from Chicago. His friends are constantly saying to him that there is more to life than doing deals or chasing women, however he can’t imagine what that could be. One year a woman he was going out with told him the same thing – “You know there is more to live than doing deals and chasing woman.” He did not believe her but he did not want to put her off. She was, after all, a woman. So he said to her, “Like what?” “Like Art!” she responded defiantly. “Okay,” he said – rising to the challenge, “Where is the best Art in the world? – We’ll just go and see if you’re right.”
So the very next week he had his private plane fly him and his lady friend to Paris. Upon arrival he hired the best art guide in the country, and paid a fortune of money to the museum for a private night tour. So they set off on their tour. Now I have to say that Jack was not very impressed. In every room he would point out why the art was really no big deal, or not very beautiful or some other disparaging comment. The Guide was getting more and more angry with each proceeding remark, but being a professional he held his piece. Until finally at the end of the tour he could be silent no longer. “Messieur Jack,” he said, “You don’t seem to understand — When you go through the Louvre, it is not the Louvre which is on trial, it is you who is on trial.”
Indeed, the magic of art is its ability touch and reveal a person’s soul print. It can act like a reflecting glass put to the face of the beholder. And in essence, all great art is a reflection of the deepest place in the Artist herself. In our deepest places resides both our grandeur and our flaws. They flow from the same source.
Both the beauty and the blight are in the eyes of the beholder.
Nachaman of Bratzlav story about the Menorah is a dramatic and mystical expression of this idea. The son’s candelabra was like an illuminated mirror which reflected back to the beholder his or her unique flaws. The artist was a soul print mystic, someone intimate with his own inner landscape…just as he used his own shadow to create the menorah…so too the beholder used his shadow to inspect it. Every person looks at the Menorah differently, each seeing the imprint of his unique soul – refracted through the prism of his unique pathology…and reflected in the flaw of the Menorah. That flaw lies at the root of their personae and is a primary pathway back to their soul print light, the light of the menorah.
Identifying one’s unique flaw or emptiness, said the son, is the gateway to the true illumination that the Candelabra can provide.
To see the light is to undergo spiritual transformation – what the Book of Illumination, the Zohar, called Higher Teshuva – repentance or return.
like an empty pocket in the suit of self
This idea of not just pathology but unique pathology – not just shadow but personalized shadow – lies at the heart of the thinking of my favorite master, 19th century mystic Mordechai Lainer of Ishbitz and the school of students who followed him.
Lainer has fascinated me for years. I have taught him in Academic and popular contexts, am translating his virtually unknown work into English, and he is the subject of my Doctoral dissertation in the field of Kabblah.
In many ways I view him as my most important teacher and closest friend.
The following is a roughly sketched formulation of his idea of unique pathology woven from his writings and from the pen of his student, Tzadok the Priest:
“Everyone knows the place of his particular vulnerability to his darkness- to the attacks of his primal drives…Every person has a unique Chisaron (pathology or shadow) which inhered in them from the day of their birth…Every person has a unique soul Tikkun (fixing) to do in this world…and this fixing is connected to his unique Chisaron with which he was born.
And it is this place which is the vessel of his potential blessing.
It is with this place that the person must establish kesher…an intimate relationship.”
The first key word in the passage is Chisaron, which I have translated in the parentheses as pathology or shadow. The literal translation of Chisaron however is some combination of the English words, lack, absence or emptiness. We all are empty in different ways. There is a part of each of us that we would like to fill – a pocket of the suit of self that remains empty. According to one biblical myth teacher, the Ancient King Solomon “There is no righteous person in the land who does good and does not sin. “meaning in our terms – “there is no saint without his share of pathology.” Pathology is something we all share in common.
It is however also true that we are all pathological in wholly individual and unique ways. This is true, according to soul print theory, for the simplest of reasons. Pathology at its ultimate source is rooted in our unlived lives; in the feeling that we do not really exist in any meaningful way. We all have different unlived stories. Pathological symptoms never appear because we have not lived a story. They are a direct result of having not lived our stories. For Lainer, Pathology is a foundational soul print quality. More specifically, pathology is the unique response of the spirit to a soul print distortion…and therefore paves a yellow brick road back to soul print.
Chisaron as a signature characteristic actually reveals the unique work – calling, contribution – that the soul is called to do in this world. Stated in our terms – unique pathology is a vital path to soul print. Moreover, it is critical to note that this unique pathology is, according to Lainer, not a function of childhood. On the contrary, he states clearly that every person is born with a unique Chisaron.
We are – according to the Lurianic Kabbalah from which Lainer draws – given parents who help us actualize our soul print. This is of course the complete opposite of how we usually think. All of western myth and literature revolves around the implicit image of the parents seeking and longing for child. Child is always seen in some sense as the result of the parents. This is exactly the intuition which is reversed in the Kabbalah. (Emily – looking for a better word – flaw, lack, pathology, emptiness…the original Hebrew word is Chisaron meaning lack)
My parents are chosen by me as the best people to help me realize my soul print. That could mean that they provide the condition of love so necessary for soul print perception or conversely that they are the force against which we must rebel, or from who we must flee, in order to achieve soul print.
One last point in the Lainer citation is critical for us. He talks about establishing a Kesher, an intimate sort of relationship, with your pathology. We need to make friends with our unique pathology to understand the original and provocative approach he is suggesting we need to reflect for a moment on how we usually respond to pathology.
Most people relate to personal pathology in one of three ways.
We either deny it, hide it or treat it.
To deny it really just means that I am still able to hide it from myself. I deny my problem — whether it be anger, uncontrolled promiscuity, or excessive piety is besides the point. Everyone has their own unique pathology. “He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured” says the Ethiopian proverb. To which I would only add – he who conceals his disease ‘from himself’.
Of course denial does not fully hide it. If it was truly hidden then I would not need to exert the enormous draining energy of denial.
The denial of pathology however is even more than a critical block in our ability to access our soul print. It is the prime factor in the creation of human evil. Human evil more often than not is a result of the refusal of a person or people to own their story.
The source of denial is always laziness. Laziness is probably the greatest single cause of soul print distortion and its direct results – evil and suffering. Jung was right when he said, “The Shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort.” He goes on to say that the effort expended trying to recognize the shadow is the essential condition for any kind of self knowledge, and it therefore…meets with considerable resistance.
To recognize my story is the source of happiness. Like all pleasure providers, it requires a dimension of effort. The effort is in two forms.
The first is the effort of a detective who gathers clue after clue and uses all his powers of reason to construct a clear understanding of the crime that happened – thus unlocking the mystery. We are our own mysteries, or in the language of the mystics – “The mysteries are within us”. We need to be detectives…always paying attention, gathering clues, searching for patterns, hoping to unearth the mystery of our uniqueness.
When someone asked Einstein what the most important question was he responded, “Is the universe a friendly place?”
Einstein believed that the answer was yes.
Indeed, one of the core ideas of biblical myth is that the universe is fundamentally friendly. If we listen we can hear, in Edan St. Vincent Milet words, the “gossiping of friendly spheres” – strewn with clues to guide us on our yellow brick road. Each clue, writes Jacob Lainer of Ishbitz, is intended specifically for us. That is to say that the universe as a reflection of the infinite is naturally comprised of infinite clues, some of which are specifically intended for each human being on the face of the planet.
No one else can read our clues. The clues are our callings. Callings, teach the fourth century myth masters, are expressions of love. “Vayikra – God called…” is the language of intimacy and loving. It is addressed to every human being, separately and individually, in the language of a lover’s secret. And yet – just as a lover’s relationship requires an enormous investment in the person of my lover – so too a lover’s relationship with my-self, with the clues of my divinity, requires a genuine investment of effort.
The first kind of effort is expended in the form of remaining alert and paying attention.
More than half of biblical myth practices are exercises which invite us to pay attention.
By nature that requires an effort on our part. Paris is lovely in the
The majority of people reading the previous phrase without being given prior information did not notice that the word ‘the’ appears twice. To notice is holy. Holiness requires an investment.
The second kind of effort is of a more emotional nature. What do we do when we turn up clues that we don’t like – clues that point to ourselves as the culprit? How do we respond when we reveal ego where we thought there was altruism, or personal pathology, jealousy, where we thought there was righteous anger. If we own our pathology as ours it will reveal to us a deeper treasure than our surface perception could deem possible. Jealousy will always lead us – if recognized – to a fuller perception of soul print and a deeper vision of our unique personal mission in the world.
One case study that I have been personal involved with comes to mind. A small group of people, led by one of their number, passionately pursued a colleague and close friend of mine – doing all that they could to defame him. The leader of the group – let’s call him Jonathan – was not far in age from the man that he was so invested in defaming. If he would have listened closely to the clues he would’ve noticed three things:
One was the simple fact that for nearly 15 years he had never sat and talked with his ‘enemy’. A pleasant and even decent person in the rest of his life — in pursuit of his enemy Jonathan lost all reason and morality. However he seems to have lost his ability to “notice.” One of the demarcating characteristics of people who call other people evil is that they cannot tolerate the thought that they themselves may have sinned. Now when I say evil people – what I refer to is compartmentalized evil. People can be consistently evil in a particular area, and decent, even good, human beings in other areas. Now, having a pattern of wrongdoing in a particular area does not make a person wholly evil. Evil is not to be confused with weakness.
We are all in one area or another weaker than we feel we should be.
One of the sure signs that in a specific area we are dealing with evil and not just weakness is if in this area the person cannot bear the thought that they may have behaved in a way which was anything less than pure and noble. If Jonathan had allowed a conversation to be had, he may have seen a glimpse of the other side of the story…and may have even understood the pain he was causing (and the very ‘evil’ that he himself was propagating). But he simply would not allow that possibility to arise.
Two – If Jonathan would have listened to the clues he would have noticed that the pursuit of his agenda for fifteen years had corroded something essential in his soul. Blatant lies, anonymous faxes and phone calls became the expressions of his pathology. Afraid to look at what he had become, he intensified his effort at defamation even more so. It is a given that he thought himself a defender of sacred values against the incursion of impurity. Holy people however are rarely those fighting holy wars.
Three – Had he looked deeply into himself he would’ve seen striking parallels between himself and the object of his pursuit. Indeed if he would allow it, or if he will ever allow it in the future, he would problem become friends with his nemesis. They move in similar circles, sometimes went out with the same women and care about many of the same issues. He denied the possibility of deeply rooted jealousy and his own personal sense of inadequacy. Deeper still, had he looked at the clues, he would have realized that perhaps, like the story of the spiritual master’s candelabra, he had been projecting his own darkness — albeit in different form – onto his adversary all along.
Here he passed with flying colors another litmus test for distinguishing evil from mere weakness. A sure sign of descent into evil is scapegoating. People with weaknesses rarely scapegoat other people. Evil people, on the other hand, do it all the time. When we cannot own our own sense of imperfection we project it outwards onto other persons or peoples. A denial of my story always leads me to distort someone else’s story through scapegoating.
(some ending sentence…if he had only look at the clues…*)
Thirty six times in biblical myth — receiving more attention than any other topic in the book – there is a dramatic instruction, “Do not oppress the stranger…for you know the soul of the stranger…you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Rashi – perhaps the most important medieval myth master – asks a simple question, “Wouldn’t it be important to treat the stranger well even if the people had not been slaves in Egypt?”
He responds to his own question with an enigmatic epigram. “The blemish in yourself – do not say about your friend”. Simply understood, Rashi is making a moral point – ‘Listen, if you were a stranger yourself, then it is especially immoral of you to turn around later in life and treat someone else as a stranger. If you were once a cancer patient then you owe extra sensitivity to cancer patients. And of course it would be particularly offensive if you discriminated against cancer patients.
Understood more deeply, Rashi is making a psychological point – there is a tendency to deny the painful memory of being an outsider. Being sick, oppressed, or otherwise vulnerable are all outsider experiences. Once redeemed we often passionately pursue ‘insider status’ to assure ourselves that we are really okay now. The more I need insider status, however, the more it tends to elude me. I never quite feel like I have made it ‘inside’.
How can I reassure myself that I am indeed inside? Simple…by creating outsiders. How often do we say that ‘Us’ is defined only by our opposition to ‘Them’? We are the chosen, the elite, the holy, the sensitive, the spiritual – we are the insiders. Since however our insider status so often lacks the substance of real content — we content ourselves with disenfranchising another as the outsider.
This is Rashi’s intent – ‘You who were strangers, beware of the need to become insiders at other people’s expense.’ The oppressed – when freed – is often in the greatest danger of becoming the oppressor. How many times have we seen the revolutionary become a worse despot than the one he has overthrown? He can only feel that he has become free by enslaving others. His freedom lack real personal content.
The Zohar takes the conversation one step deeper still, making the whole issue personal and compellingly relevant. The focus is on the words, “Do not oppress the stranger, for You know the soul of the stranger.” You know the stranger in you – the darkness and the shadow in you. To know is carnal knowledge – to know intimately.
The more intimately you know the stranger in yourself the less you will feel compelled to project your own shadow onto others. What often makes a person evil – is that they wish to destroy evil. Unable to own the evil in themselves and unaware that most evil needs to be transformed and not destroyed – they project the evil onto someone or something else and then attempt to destroy that person or idea.
One more distinguishing characteristic of evil is worth noting. Because the source of evil is in the denial of his story – Jonathan must invest enormous effort in maintaining the appearance of goodness. This of course makes his evil difficult to spot for one who has not had long term interactions with him over a period of time. People who have caught a glimpse of Jonathan when his guard fell were always amazed at what they saw and sometimes not a little frightened by the naked jealousy and hatred.
It was philosopher Martin Buber, one of my first and most important teachers, who understood best the ‘Jonathan dynamic’. He writes, “The uncanny game of hide and seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself and hides from itself” is a primary cause of evil in our world.
Buber, a teacher of contemporary mysticism and tales, was in effect reformulating a teaching which emerges from an important Chasidic anecdote. It is a story with many versions – in each a different master stars. I will tell you the one my grandfather told me.
Once the Baal Shem was playing hide and seek with his Grandson. His son went to hide and the Baal Shem engrossed in his studies forgot to look for him. About an hour later the Baal Shem’s grandson comes out crying. The Baal Shem realizes what happened takes the boy in his arms and says – “This is how God must feel, He hides and we forget to seek. So he must remain in hiding never able to come out.” His grandson Ephraim of Sudokov grew up to be a great master.
My grandfather explained that the Baal Shem was talking about the God within us. Our divinity hides and waits for us to seek her out. We however forget to seek so she remains in hiding.
Had Jonathan paid attention he would have realized that the most ulterior motive of all is the ulterior motive of piety. He ignored Luria’s teaching that pathological pursuit of a person in my close circle usually means that we are from the same root soul and have a Tikkun – a fixing – to do together in this world. Along the way – insulated as he was in his narrow community – he did not realize that he lost important job opportunities, critical relationships were broken off or never formed with him – all because people saw his pathology clearly while he utterly refused to acknowledge its existence.
Recently he was presented with an opportunity to climb down from his tree. His adversary married and began a new chapter in life. This is an opportunity for Jonathan to pause, to initiate a meeting, to re-think, to end old and virulent hatred which in some sense damages all parties. As of this writing I have not idea whether Jonathan will be able to break the pattern of the past and chart a new direction. If he does he will win admiration and friendship in many places.
New opportunities and partnerships will present themselves. Most importantly however he will be able to move towards claiming his own magnificent soul print. I wish him well.
What is true about an individual is true about a society. A society which denies its own shadow is capable of inflicting enormous evil. That was true of Nazi Germany which clearly projected all of its shadow qualities onto the Jews. It is true as well of Communist Russia – a society which brutally killed tens of millions of people while torturing many million more.
One of the first and surest sign that a society is in danger is the denial of its story. This is usually first expressed by the revising of details of its history to fit the image it wants to preserve. This nuance was not lost on the anti—government dissidents who were one of the forces to oppose and ultimately defeat the Kremlin.
Here is a funny anecdote I heard from Yosef Begun – one of the most famous of these dissidents. I am sharing with you the version written by my friend and wonderful writer Joseph Telushkin in his book on humor.
It is a story that according to Begun went around Russian dissident circles in the Soviet Union in the early 1970’s. This is the story:
Brejnev made a decision to visit Poland. Brejnev was the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union and Poland was then undergoing enormous internal unrest, so Brejnev was going to preach the faith of communism. He wanted to bring a present to Jaruzelski who was then Poland’s Prime Minister. So he decided to bring him a present of a painting depicting Lenin’s famous trip to Poland. He commissions this painting from the Russian Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Now, of course, everyone at the Academy was aghast and deeply worried for their lives, because if you don’t give Brejnev the painting he wants you can be in very deep trouble…and the problem was that Lenin actually never visited Poland. How can you provide a picture of Lenin visiting Poland when Lenin never went to Poland?
They decided to turn to Rabinowitz. Rabinowitz was a Jew who had applied for an exit visa to Israel and had lost his apartment and his job as a result. He was known to be very wise, and what’s more, he had little left to lose. So Rabinowitz agrees to do the painting, saying, “If you can promise me that I’ll actually get to Israel with my family then I’ll do it.” “But how will you do it?” they ask. “Don’t worry, you’ll have a picture of Lenin in Poland.”
Three weeks later, Brejnev and his most trusted advisors are in the inner sanctum of the politburo. Rabinowitz walks in confidently with a canvas covered over with a drape cloth. He sets it upon an easel and dramatically removes the drape cloth. And there stands a picture of a man and woman undressed and, being a Rabbi, I can’t fully record the details of what was painted on the canvas, suffice it to say that everyone was dismayed. Stuttering, one of the advisors finally says, “I don’t understand, who is that woman?” “Why that’s Ilyah, Lenin’s wife,” says Rabinowitz. “I don’t understand!” screams out another advisor, “This is a mockery, who is that man?” “Why that’s Trotsky,” said Rabinowitz very calmly. Brejnev can not contain himself any longer and cries out, “I don’t understand, where’s Lenin!?!” “Lenin is in Poland,” replies Rabinowitz.
What the dissidents understood intuitively in their humor was the road from rewriting the story to repression and evil is a very short one indeed. The second we can claim that Lenin visited Poland, denying historical truth – and even drafting the arts in favor of our lie – is the second that human freedom, including the freedom of expression, is in grave danger.
For what is art if the not the free and honest expression of the human spirit?
The denial of the story, however, is not a failing limited to Communism. It is easy to point an accusing finger at Communism because it is so far removed from my reality. However, as the ancient folk wisdom ‘points’ out, any finger pointed at someone else has three fingers pointing back at you. Look at your hand when you point…you will notice that in the essential physical gesture of pointing there is a pointing towards your self as well. I grew up spiritually in the backyards of the mystical Hassidic masters of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It is sad for me then to see in the modern masters of my tradition a tendency to deny ‘the story’. This denial takes many forms, from the general rewriting of history to the deliberate distortion of events in order to serve what is seen as some greater spiritual agenda. What these masters do not seem to understand is that the second we distort the story – there remains no more room for the spirit. I will cite one example.
Hungary, 1944. The master from Belz, one of the great Kabbalistic centers of Europe, had to make a Sophie’s choice.
It was a tragic time for him. He and his brother were being offered an opportunity to escape the Nazis. They were forced to make a terrible decision. To die with their community or to escape. They chose to escape. They assured their disciples, in a long public letter circulated prior to their departure, that all would turn out well. They promised that Nazi horror would pass over without hurting the community. They were tragically wrong and their entire community died horrible deaths at the hands of the Nazis. Had he warned them or at least not lulled them into a pious false security, many many people could have been saved.
What was the master thinking when he made the decision to escape? Later, did he question his motives in surviving? Was he sure that he had made the right spiritual decision?
The disciples who actually survived the war and came to Israel believed that their master had escaped because he knew that he must rebuild the community. He would have rather perished, they said, with his people in Hungary. I do not now the truth of it. Did the master suspect that perhaps his shadow qualities influenced his decision? For a master in a situation like this – to save oneself as one’s community is destroyed could very well be seen as shadow quality. So many other masters, all his friends, had refused similar opportunities to escape. They were all dead now.
It is certainly not possible to judge such a decision from my apartment in Jerusalem, where as I write I sip tea and eat almonds from the tree out the window. No human being will ever know how they made that terrible decision or what torments stormed through their hearts in those dark days.
However, to deny the story ever happened is a different matter entirely. Years later the official organs of the Belz community in Israel retold the story of the master’s escape from Europe. It is told in great detail, recounting the ostensibly ‘miraculous’ nature of the master’s escape. Now I for one believe in miracles. However, in this case the miracle story is built on a lie. The storytellers completely omitted all reference of the master telling his community to stay put and promising them that the Nazi storm would leave them unscathed. In fact, the letter in which these promises were reiterated, circulated by the master and his brother only days before their escape is even included in their story. However, in the reprint they simply deleted the section in which the master reassured the people that they would be safe. Moreover, the retelling claims that the master admonished the people more than once to escape for their lives.
This is, I believe, a story about a master who failed. His failure was not necessarily in the escape itself, nor even in the mistaken letter he sent to his community assuring their safety. These things I dare not judge. What I can point out though, with the most loving criticism, is that he failed when he allowed for the distortion of the story.
To rewrite history is the first step in denying shadow. Denial of shadow and distortion of his-story always result in moral dissolution. Indeed in the community that he represents, something essential has been lost. A vitality, an authenticity that used to be there. A sense of integrity. The spiritual fire that once inspired the students of the Baal Shem is now gone in many of the communities that are heir to his traditions. I think the major reason is shadow denial. It is a community which so venerates its leaders that it rejects the notion that they may have any shadow qualities. As a result the community has become virulently opposed to many of the more modernizing trends in Israeli society. Certainly they have rejected any form of religion other than their own. And their rejection is always accompanied with vituperative invective. The reason – denial of shadow – which almost inevitable results in the projection of the shadow onto other people or groups.
I have told the stories of many great masters. I tell you this story at this juncture for two reasons. One, it is a story about shadow denial. Second told you in this book many stories of the great Biblical myth masters. They are stories about profound and wise men. They were great men. But the greatest of lights can cast the longest of shadows. This story is one of the shadow stories. If I am committed to the development of a genuine spiritual community rooted in the principles in this book then I need to own the shadow of my own masters even when they are not able.
The story however is not quite over. There is one more fascinating chapter. When the master of Belz reached Israel in 1945 he spent his first Sabbath in Tel Aviv. After the morning prayers he greeted all those and inquired of everyone’s name. The name of one of those present was Shwartzenvolf. Translated the Dark or the black wolf. The master was shocked to hear this name. For it was a name he recognized. He asked the gentleman to stand on a chair and tell all assembled the story of the original Shwartzenvolf – the man after whom he was named.
This is what he said:
There was a master who had no children. He and his wife had tried everything, medical, spiritual and beyond. To no avail. The master went to his teacher, the holy Seer of Lublin, in desperation. “What can I do?” he implored his master. “to create a child is the highest spiritual blessing. Why is it being denied us?” the Seer, who could see from one of the world to another, said sadly to his student, “I see no child in your future.” But his student would not let him go. “Please teacher, at least give me a blessing for children, for surely your blessing can open the gates of heaven.” Finally, the Seer responded, “a blessing from me will not help you. For to have children you must get a blessing from a man named Schwartzenwolf. Only he can open the gates for you. Schvartzenvolf gasped…he is a dark soul who lives in the Forest – they say that he is so ugly that merely seeing him can turn one to stone. Only from him can your blessing come, insisted the Seer. Having little choice …set off not much later to the forest near his village in search of the Dark one’s blessing. Knowing that he needed to be clever he went on Friday afternoon close to Sundown when the biblical Sabbath begins. Since it is forbidden to travel far on the Sabbath he figured that Shvartzenvolf would have little choice but to invite him in for the duration of the Sabbath. When he knocked, as the Sun was setting the woman of Shvartzenvolf opened the door a crack. The ugliest woman he had ever seen and the children behind her uglier still. Get away from here she hissed at him. I cannot he said for it almost Sabbath and I have no place to go. Very well she relented, Go to the barn and don’t you dare show your face till Sundown tomorrow eve when Sabbath is over…and then run for your life before my husband finds out you have been here.
Well you can imagine…heart sinks realizing he will never get a blessing from Shvartzenvolf and therefore never create children. He hides in the barn, frightened and infinitely sad. Sometime later in the blackest part of the night a teaching he had learned long before dances in his mind demanding attention. It is written that when you meet a just man and you are not worthy than you see all your blackness in him. Could it be he asked himself in near shock that Shvartzenvolf is a just man and I am the ugly one? And it is that radical, strange, and profoundly disturbing thought that keeps awake through the night. The twenty-four hours of the Sabbath pass quickly with…lost in thought…about himself. He sees himself in those hours in ways he never dreamed of…He is alternately happy and horrified. Until finally at towards sun down a full twenty four hours later, forgetting himself and the warning of Shvartzenvolf’s woman he lifts up his voice in the cry of soul prayer. His voice his heard…by Shvartzenvolf and in the midst of his prayer he senses a huge black shadow encompassing him. Hie is gripped by fear. He cannot even look up to see Shvartzenvolf and face his certain end. And just then he hears the gentlest voice caressing him. Come with me my friend and join me and my family for the final meal of the Sabbath. He looks up and cannot believe his eyes.
Shvartzenvolf indeed hover over him but he is the most radiant and beautiful human he has ever laid eyes on. He joins him in the house and indeed his children and wife were more beautiful even than he. “you came here for a blessing, did you not?” asked Schwartzenwolf…could barely even nod. “I bless you with the highest creative powers. I bless you with children. Promise me only one thing, that when your child is born you will name him Schwartzenwolf and he his child. And they will always faithfully tell this story of their birth.” … with that the great grandson of Schwartzenwolf, called by the same name, finished telling the story. I heard this tale from my soul sister, Dari, who heard it from her father, who heard it from one of the people who was there that Saturday morning in Tel Aviv in 1945.
Why was it so important for the master of Belz to hear this story right after his escape from Europe?
To answer that question we need to interpret the story. Schwartzenwolf – black wolf – is the projection of all the unowned darkness of the master and his entire village. Instead of owning their collective shadow they have cast it on to Schwartzenwolf and then cast him from their midst. Blessing, as we will elaborate even more fully in the next chapter, only comes when we walk through and not around our voids and our darkness. (so high you cant get over it, so low you cant under it, so wide you cant get around it, you gotta go through the door)* … needs to wrestle in his darkness to find blessing and creative power.
This is a story about blessing which comes only from honestly seeing our darkest side, our Schwartzenwolf. It is a story about prayer, which comes from our deepest shadows.2 His prayer streams out of him only after seeing his own darkness for the first time. His darkness is personified in the shadowed Schwartzenwolf which becomes visible when he begins to pray. Most of all it is a tale about the need to tell the story faithfully and the evil which results from distortion. At the end of the tale Schwartzenwolf tells him to name his children Schwartzenwolf…that is to say ‘Name your shadow, when you recognize it and call it by name it is transformed.
Finally, Schwartzenwolf requests of him, charge your children of this birth name to tell the story faithfully. For the very act of telling the story truly dissipates virtually every shadow.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the master of Belz understood that this is the story he most needed to hear. Perhaps he understood deeply the truth of the story. I can not even imagine what he must have felt like that Sabbath in Tel Aviv knowing that the entire community whose safety he had guaranteed had been brutally slaughtered. Surely he understood that it was no accident that Schwartzenwolf was there to greet him on that first sabbath. Yet, truths once held have a way of getting lost with the passage of time. Could it be that twenty years later when the biographers of Belz went to tell his story it would seem like Schwartzenwolf was no longer fresh in his mind? I do not know.
Up till this point we have discussed the denial of shadow.
Now we turn to its hiding.
Once it finds its way into the open spaces of our consciousness – i.e. when the denial fails, as it always does in the end – my reaction is often to hide it; from friends, parents, even sometimes from life partners.
Now, hiding it can work for a time and may even be of value for a time.
I once attended a seminar where in the breaks people were given assignments. The general nature of the assignment was to call and admit some pathology to a close friend or family member. ‘Come out of hiding’ it was called. Under the enormously powerful motivating force of group passion and pressure many people fulfilled their assignments. I think, and said at the time, that the seminar leaders were behaving in a reckless, irresponsible and even dangerous manner. How were they able to determine – after spending little less that several hours with a person, and not in any one on one context — whether a person was ready to come out of hiding?
“Verily thou art a hiding God” cries out the spiritual master Isaiah. The divinity in us may need to hide for a time. Almost all the major masters of biblical mysticism in eighteen and nineteenth century Europe were hidden for a time before they revealed themselves. Hiding has its place and it is well nigh impossible for a person to determine for someone else when it is time to come out of hiding. That would be to usurp his or her story. However all hiding must end. At some point the symptoms become too difficult to conceal.
One of the great ways to hide who I really am is through clothes.
In Biblical myth language clothing is called Beged. Beged in Hebrew means both ‘clothing’ as well as ‘betrayal’. The point is clear. So often we use clothing as a way of hiding from our essential story.
Indeed in Biblical myth, clothing is introduced as a mechanism for hiding. According to the mystics, in the myth of the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Even had betrayed their personhood — listening to the external voice of the snake instead of the internal prompting of their own spirit – they run and hide. Behind what do they hide? – Behind a figleaf. And that leaf becomes the first piece of human clothing.
When we dress to kill sometimes what we are killing is the God within us – our soul print. This time God searches for us and cannot find us.
Out of this biblical myth tradition comes the story of Ginzberg.
Ginzburg is a pious man, he’s prayed everyday of his entire life and never asks anything from God. At some point he becomes dejected…people don’t recognize him, don’t accord him any real dignity. He really wants something better. One night he dreams that he wins the lottery. “It can’t be he” he says when he wakes up. He opens his door to get his morning paper and sees the headline, “Unknown man named Ginzburg wins the lottery!” He can’t believe it.
Overwhelmed, he goes to collect the lottery money, and understandably then goes out to get a new suit. He gets the new suit. It’s tailored perfectly for him, its beautiful, fits his body stunningly. He looks like a different person. He decides to get his hair cut, but not just cut, he gets it styled. Three people work on him, “Mr. Ginzburg, can I help you with this, Mr. Ginzburg can I get you that. Mr. Ginzburg, what nice hair you have.” And he’s enjoying it immensely. (It was one of those upscale salons, the kind that this author can’t afford,) they soaked his hands in deliciously warm water, manicuring them while they cut his hair. No one had treated Ginzburg with such dignity before.
Next door he buys a fabulously comfortable pair of Italian shoes. Ginzburg feels like the age of the Messiah has arrived. And he sees out of the corner of his eye a Jaguar dealer across the street. In excitement, he runs across the street when suddenly comes careening down the road a large Mac truck, smashes into Ginzburg. He’s flattened on the pavement and with his last breathe he looks up to God in heaven and says, “God I don’t understand…It’s me, Ginzburg, your faithful servant. How could you do this to me? And a great voice comes booming out of heaven, “Ginzburg! – I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you.”
Ginzberg’s story always reminds me of the series of music videos by the band ZZ Top. Perhaps you remember them from the early days of MTV. No matter what the song was their videos always followed the same formula. Your typical ‘nerd’ is going about their dreary life reading a book, working a dull job, when suddenly these two good fairies of sex appeal appear, take the poor awkward kid by the collar and ‘redo’ her. The works – shoes, makeup, hair, sexy lingerie, skintight clothes. A true modern Cinderella of Sex story.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for makeovers and winning the lottery. I just would have liked for Cinderella to take her story – along, as she went riding off into the sunset. I always used to wait for the Nerd in the video to pick up the book they were reading before the miraculous makeover. But they never did. They never went back for the pieces of their soul print.
The makeover, in the video and in the Ginsberg story always signaled a rupture with their core story. And no one can survive a rupture with their story. Go back to their story again, always preferred the back of a motorcycle instead. They never did go back to their story again.
Of course biblical myth recognizes that there is a second type of clothing — soul print clothing which does not hide but helps in the expression of one’s soulprint. The symbol for this type of wear is what Biblical myth calls the clothing of the high priest. Sorry for the tease but that is going to have to wait for a chapter in the next book.
When hiding no longer works, our general response, especially in the last decade or so, has been – treat it.
Prozac, Ritalin and a host of other treatments are the rage of the contemporary western world. Clearly treatment has its place and has been of enormous help to many, many people. However in the final analysis treatment is just another way of sending the pathology back into hiding. As one Doctor friend said to me in a run-on sentence, “The great danger in drug treatment is that, although it temporarily assuages pain, it also can kill the patient, by hiding the symptoms – which are the only clues about the real nature of the disease.” And that which is hidden in the end must be revealed.
Indeed its essential hiddenness is already the beginning of revelation. For the truly hidden cannot be spoken of as hidden!
There is a fourth approach to the symptoms of pathology. In this approach I honor the pathology. I remember what Aristotle taught us about pain being the body’s indicator that something is off and requires deeper investigation. Soul symptoms need to be honored and paid heed to as soul print guides.
Lainer and his school oppose the conquering posture of much of earlier thought which suggest that all pathology can be vanquished. The shadow pathologies certainly need to be somewhat controlled. But they should not be squashed. Rather we need to make friends with our pathologies – to engage them in conversation and to gently ask them to reveal to us their secrets – the secrets of our souls.
How do I become intimate with my pathology?
Lets look for a moment at one of the real life dramas which we talked about in the last chapter – the angry man who became mayor of his small town. In that counseling relationship we worked not to let go of the anger but to transform it through focusing it in a constructive and beautiful way. It became the anger which is an agent for social change and transformation.
There is a second and no less important model of following the path of pathology back to soul print. Let’s stay with the anger example. We were talking about a married man 35 years old named Ari who had an enormous problem with anger. Very often anger and lashing out is a disguise of fear. We know this is true in the animal kingdom as well. Bears, Rattlesnakes and human beings attack not because they are vicious killers but because they are afraid. They feel their space of existence has been threatened.
This model teaches that, just like following the animal tracks (and even their droppings) to find the animal, we need to follow our anger to our fear. What is it that we are afraid of? – Of course the dead give away is always what and who makes us angry. What in that situation or person threatens us or intimidates us and why? Fear is almost always related to a threat to my very existence. Sometimes it is a threat to physical existence, other times to financial well being. More often than not the threat is to our existential selves. We feel that our unique value in the world has been challenged, weakened or undermined.
Fear means that we have an expectation of ourselves or of the world that remains unfulfilled. In eastern religion of course, there is much talk about giving up expectation.
There is enormous wisdom in that advice. When I expect something to happen I can’t very well appreciate it. Further, I am bound to be disappointed. This expectation in turn creates a lurking fear – the fear of disappointment. The downward spiral then leads us back to anger, which is a weapon we use unconsciously to vent our unheard cry of disappointment and fear.
Yet in most cases Biblical myth lovingly takes issue with the east – teaching that we must reclaim our expectations rather than let go of them. One biblical myth master teaches that after your death, you are shown a cinemagraphic “Life Review” of how you lived. During the screening you are asked four questions. The goal of living is to be able to answer yes to all for questions. The last is, “Did you have expectations?”
To lose our sense of expectation is to accept the status quo. Biblical myth is built on our sacred calling to reject the status quo and embrace the possibility of healing and transformation. Expectation, when embraced, leads to longing – the longing for my special self. If we can let go of the anger and realize that it was a disguise for fear – which was a disguise for expectations – which we hid from our selves – in order to deaden the intensity of the longing – then and only then – we have a good chance to fulfill the longing – if it should be fulfilled – or to let go of it – if we need to let go.
From this whole discussion emerge seven clearly differentiated and powerful stages which guarantee real growth.
1) Let go of the anger
2) We are able to let anger go as soon as we realize that it is but a disguise for fear
3) Let go of the fear
4) We are able to let go of fear as soon as soon we realize that it was a disguise for unfulfilled expectations
5) Understand that we hid the expectations from ourselves in order to deaden the intensity of the longing
6) Then and only then we may have a chance to fulfill, or if necessary to let go, of the longing.
7) The fulfillment or the letting go of the longing is what we refer to when we talk about personal transformation.
In Ari’s story his anger led him to fear. In this case it was a fear that his life was meaningless – that he had taken the wrong bus and couldn’t get off. The fear led to our uncovering of Ari’s expectations for himself. His self-portrait was of one who fought for social justice, championing the cause of the underdog. This picture of himself had been with him for as long as he could remember. Once he re-attached to his expectations he was able to tap into the soul-longing for a different life. Without going through these steps Ari might easily have misidentified his anger and wound up divorced from his wife or estranged from his kids. It was critical for him to honor the anger as a message from the Gods. He needed to listen deeply to the tones and textures of his anger in order to understand their hidden language.
The path we have outlined here is the path of pathology. Biblical myth reader St. John of the Cross in the 16th century said, “If one wants to be sure of the road he is on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark.” This is the darkened path of my pathology. Lainer adds to John – I walk, not just in the darkness, but in my unique darkness.
Along this path my Demons become my Daimons. Daimons are those personal angels which the Ancient Greeks believed call me to my destiny – in our words, my soul print.
Biblical myth adds an important dimension – that is, my personal Demons are my Daimons!
This idea appears in a subtly disguised but beautiful form in biblical myth. God appears in so many guises and forms that Biblical myth has many names for the one God. One of those names is “Shad-ai.” Shad-ai is a combination of the word Shad – meaning demon – and the letter Yud, which in mysticism represents the divine point. The Yud is our divine spark, it is a letter shaped like a flame, a point of light. Recall our image from the night before the story telling ritual where we take a single candle to probe the darkness. At the place of meeting between the darkness and the point of light, the deepest transformations occur. The Divine name shad-ai is that meeting between shad, the demon, the darkness and yud, the point of light. It is the divinity in us that that invites our demons to be our Daimons.
In Ari’s story the Demon of Anger led to the Daimon of Public service. The pathology of anger led to self-knowledge. One of the dictionary definitions of pathology is the “knowledge which comes from understanding my emotions”- particularly the negative ones.
(what is this***)
In the story of Ari:
1) anger led him to uncover his fear
2) which in turn revealed his expectations of himself.
3) That allowed him to reclaim the energy of his longing
4) which fueled the process of transformation.
Step four needs one more word of explanation.
Underlying the transformation is a simple law of energy. We have a finite amount of energy. The law of conservation of energy tells us that the energy always remains in the system. It can however only be channeled in finite directions. It’s like playing the stock market with a limited amount of funds. If I have deposited all of my energy in my ‘anger’ stock then I will have little left for my ‘fear’ stock. If I put all of my energy in my ‘fear’ stock then I will have little to invest in my ‘longing’ stock.
However in order to take concrete steps towards transformation we need to de-invest, even from longing, in order to begin acting like our-selves – our soul print.
In step four I re- focus the energy of longing in the world of action – even in little symbolic acts – to begin the process of transformation.
The key to transformation and soul print reclamation is to realize that I don’t need to do it all at once. Little steps provide the surest footing on the path. We need to remember as a my good friend Ohad likes to say, “Every step on an infinite path is infinite.”
A man once came to the master after having reached a certain level of consciousness. “Now that I know that I have a self which I lost – how do I go about finding it again?” The master replied with a question, as masters are wont to do. “How did you lose it?” “Well”, said the man, “I did one thing, then another, which led to a third and little by little I wasn’t acting like myself and eventually I forgot who I was.” “Well then,” said the master, “it is simple. Follow the same road back. Do one thing, then another, and that will lead to another – soon you will begin acting like yourself and eventually you will surely find yourself.”
Biblical myth language captures this entire process in one word. Chom.
Chom in Biblical myth Hebrew means anger. Chom also means intimacy. Listening to my anger leads me to my intimacy – with my self. Ultimately a person not intimate with themselves cannot receive their own soul print and certainty cannot receive the soul print of another. To receive another is not only to receive their greatness – it is also to receive their pathology, their unique Chisaron.
Chom – Anger and Intimacy – like every powerful idea, has a shadow side. When I know a person intimately I can move them to great anger because I can press all the buttons of their unique vulnerabilities and pathology.
Chom: The biblical myth word for both Anger and Intimacy.
Intimacy and loving means to perceive the unique pathology of my partner — their anger, for example, and to love them not in spite but because of it. Remember our definition of love: To love is to see the infinite and unique specialness of other – and now I would add – even or especially the infinite specialness of their unique pathology. To love is to see that my lover’s unique pathology is — their path to soul print. To love is even to sometimes see it before they do and to serve as their guide on the path.
In the middle of writing this chapter my wife and I had occasion to have Friday evening dinner by ourselves. It was an unusual opportunity…Friday is usually a time for guests, rarely just the two of us. So we decided to take advantage of it. We agreed that we would take ten minutes in silence in which each of us would try to understand what our own and each other’s unique pathology might be. After sharing with each other our conclusions we realized two amazing things. First, that Chaya understood deep things about me which I did not fully understand myself and vice versa. Second, that we each had the particular quality that the other needed in order to deal with their unique pathology.
(exercise – set aside a special night to try this…)***
There is a strange tale about healing relationships that I often tell as a present to Brides and Grooms under their wedding canopy…it is a story about pathology, about that which may be crippled in us and that which may be healed in us. It is a story of an arranged marriage, as was the custom of the time, but it may have much to say even to us modern slaves of romantic love. It is a true story about the famous Kabbalist, Chaim of Sanz.
Chaim always stayed up studying into the depths of night. After everyone left the study hall he would sit at the window learning, all the while singing gentle harmonies. It is said that birds and angels would hover together at his window to hear his song it was so spellbinding.
Late one night a distinguished looking man came to Sanz, and not being familiar with the town went to the study hall to seek directions. Being late, there was only Chaim there and he was lost in study and song. The man — no less enchanted than the birds and the Angels – hovered at the doorway, waiting for Chaim to finish. When the last note was spent, he made Chaim a proposition. “I have a daughter of marriageable age,” he said, “I would be honored if she would have a groom such as you, and you will be well pleased by her wisdom and beauty.” Much to the man’s surprise Chaim agreed on the spot and – as was the custom in those times – the date was set for a year away.
Now the man’s daughter, Sari, was an independent sort and understandably insisted on seeing her groom before the wedding. Since this was against the custom she devised her own plan. When he would arrive in her town for the wedding she’d secretly hide outside the ritual bath where he would surely immerse himself before morning prayers. Since he would not recognize her she would approach him as he left the building, pretending to be lost or the like and thereby both see his face and hear his voice.
When Chaim came to town her father greeted him and realized immediately why he had so readily agreed to the marriage. You see, in the study hall Chaim had sat throughout their entire conversation. Now – standing – it was painfully apparent that Chaim’s left leg was badly crippled. What could he say though, and he greeted Chaim warmly, all the while wondering how he was going to tell his daughter.
Of course, the very next morning Sari found out the news for herself when she ‘ran into him’ outside of the ritual bath. She so was shocked to see his crippled leg and so outraged that she had not been told – that she ran home, crying that the wedding be called off. The house was in an uproar. No one knew what to do. Yes, she was right, she should have been told — but yet there was something so special about Chaim. He was clearly no ordinary man. And yet if she refused there was little anyone could do to force her.
Word got to Chaim about the turn of events. To everyone’s surprise he came calmly to the house and asked to see the girl–alone, in a room – with no furniture save a large mirror. Needless to say all were shocked by this Unorthodox request, yet there seemed to be little else to do but acquiesce. The girl, being kind and of good heart, agreed to the meeting as long as Chaim understood that nothing he could say would change her mind.
They entered the room together.
And not until many years later – after their love was the stuff of legend and after many grandchildren were born – did she tell of what happened in that room.
“We both stood silent with our heads lowered for what seemed like forever. Slowly I raised my head, as did he. He looked into my eyes so deeply that I felt fully exposed. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. He said five words. “Please look in the Mirror”. I looked in the mirror and froze in fright. He was completely healed. However, my left leg was crippled in exactly the way his had been. “What does it mean?” – I finally managed to sputter *out.
“As you know,” answered Chaim, “I am fifteen years older than you. When I was fifteen I began to yearn for my soul mate. I knew it was not yet time but I could not wait. I demanded in heaven that I know your name. Indeed I was told your name but it was not enough for me. I longed to see you – I fasted and prayed, storming heaven until at last I was granted a vision of many women. I was told by a heavenly voice that I had to find which woman was my soul mate. I looked at all the women. But it was clear to me that it could only be you. You were so beautiful – I loved you so – but I also saw in your soul that you would be severely crippled in your left leg. I knew that you can only see the crippled places that clearly in the one who is your soul mate. I prayed and prayed for your healing but the heavens could not grant my request. So instead I prayed to be able to take your crippled leg myself if only you would be spared. After great effort and much conflict in heaven, the exchange was allowed.”
For me this story, incomplete and strange as it is, never the less captures at least one critical dimension of loving. Love is to perceive the infinite beauty of your partner – even, and perhaps especially, through that part of them that is crippled. For Chaim of Sanz it is physical pathology which is perceived and then cured. Yet the story is understood as but a parable for the part of the soul that is crippled. If we see that brokenness in our friend or lover and are willing to take it on ourselves then healing is not far behind. And if we both perceive and accept what is crippled in the other – then we may even have the power to heal each other. Together we both become whole. Healing can only happen if our unique pathology is first seen and accepted by a significant other.
1:1~The Scratch in the Design
Emerson writes that there is a crack in everything God has made. Miester Eckhardt understood, six hundred years earlier, that the major crack is built into us. Not, however, as punishment or even as a test, but rather as a directional signal, a hint in our search for soul print. Eckhardt liked to say, “To get at the core of God at his greatest, one must first get into the core of himself at his least.” We understand that God at his greatest is perhaps more – but never less – than me at my best…me in my soul print. God comes through our wound.
That is only the beginning of the story however. The key is step two. In the uniqueness of the wound is the secret of my soul print.
Remember the anecdote about a king who has a particularly rare and beautiful set of fine silver serving dishes. The intricacy of the design was unmatched anywhere and the king took great pride in serving his closest friends on these plates. One day the king notices that somehow one of the pieces has gotten scratched up. No one knows how it happened. But even worse, no artist can promise to fix it without marring the design.
That is until one unknown artist appears and says he can do the job. Despite his hesitancy the king has no one else to turn to so he entrusts the man with the contract. Strangely enough the artist requests that the entire set — even though they were not scratched – be sent to his studio. And so it was. A full month later the artist returns. The king is shocked…the plates are beautiful! The artist had integrated the scratch into the plate – actually making the flaw the guiding principle of the new design. All of the other plates were repainted accordingly…making an even more magnificent set than before.
It is our unique scratch which needs to be our guiding principle in revealing to ourselves our unique beauty.
The image of the scratched vessel returns us to the Kabbalistic metaphor with which we began our discussion- the paradigm of the shattered vessels. Initially I suggested that the vessels shatter because they can not hold our light. At this point I can explain more deeply. The vessels shatter in order to hold our light. For the paradox of the vessels in Kabbalah is that the reconstituted vessel is far more powerful than the vessel before it shattered. Our full light can only be held after we have shattered and used the uniqueness of our own particular shattering – the scratch – to fashion the vessel of our full beauty.
One dimension of our unique scratch is captured in the words of the biblical myth master of Slonim, writing from a small non-descript house in the depths of Jerusalem.
“The unique service of the generation is to serve through our point of resistance. Every human being has a unique resistance which reveals to us the unique reason for our being in the world…and that is the key to service.”
One way to understand this is that we all have our own special challenges in the world. For some it is financial integrity, for another fidelity, for a third honesty and for a fourth hunger for attention…and for many of us all of the above and then some. Everyone, however, has one area in which they are particularly challenged. That area tells us something about our calling. If your issue for example is martial fidelity than your calling is not just to NOT have an affair. Perhaps it is that you have a unique ability to create gorgeous and powerful love and intimacy in the world. Furthermore, chances are that there is a particular person in your life with whom that relationship can be created. And it is probable that both the revealed and hidden long term results of that relationship are of overwhelming cosmic significance. Exactly for this reason, to be seduced by the attraction of a passing affair is for you a soul print violation. For someone else who is not as uniquely challenged in this area as you are, falling into an affair may be simply wrong but not a soul print violation.
The same logic can be applied to whatever area you are uniquely vulnerable. Vulnerability is a good indication that you are in soul print territory.
Whenever you live your soul print you are plugged in to the essential cosmic energy and are at your most beautiful and powerful.
In the beginning of our discussion we made a distinction between the paths of lower and higher Teshuva. In Lower Teshuva the key point was to do the right thing. One tried to rack up as many good guy points as possible in the world and hope that when it came time for good deeds to be weighed against bad deeds on the proverbial scales of justice, then the good would outweigh the bad. Now it is certainly a good idea to do as many good things in your life as you can. However, the path of higher Teshuva teaches that only through using your unique pathology as a guide to soul print can you ever find your way back to your story. It is very possible that it is better to rack up one or two less good deeds and invest more effort in letting go of the masks and getting to your story.
The ultimate healing of the world depends on us all living our own stories. And we cannot get to our stories except by following the tracks made by our muddy boots. The way the Biblical myth masters used to express this idea was in a wonderful story about that great mystic who we are continuously encountering on our pages – the Baal Shem Tov, master of a good name. Name, you remember, is a soul print expression, thus making The Baal Shem the quintessential soul print master. As such he was critically concerned with providing for people a path to their soul print. Such is the subtle intent of this almost comical story:
A man once came to the master to complain. “I am glad to give charity,” he said, “but all the people who come to the door track up the house with their muddy boots”. The Baal Shem looked deep in his eyes and said. “Giving charity is not enough – you must never underestimate the power of someone’s muddy boots.” The Baal Shem motioned to dismiss the man – a long line was waiting – but the man did not budge. Apparently the Baal Shem’s intended subtly was lost on him, as it may have been lost on my dear reader. “I see you don’t understand,” said the Baal Shem. “Let me tell you a story:”
“There was a man who lived in Stanislav who was having an inordinately difficulty time making a living. Finally he decided to take what little funds he had and trek his way to the Lublin fair – for he heard that there his particular skills were in demand. He left his wife and children with food for three months and set off. Arriving at the fair he sees that his skills are indeed in demand and sets to work. Time slips by and the rainy season is almost upon them. He realizes that it is a week’s trip to return and that in just that time his family will run out of provision.
Before he can set out however the fist downpour arrives. He is told by all that he must remain in Lublin for the rainy season, for it will be impossible for his horse and wagon to navigate the way without getting stuck in the mud in the forest. He cannot wait, however, his family needs him. And so he sets out. He manages well enough despite some close calls until he gets about halfway through his trip. There his wagon gets stuck in treacherously deep mud and there is nothing he can do to get unstuck. His horse simply does not have the strength. He is stuck there for two days sinking deeper and deeper into the mud and he thinks this is surely his end. But Lo and behold he finally sees a stunningly beautiful carriage drawn by six white steeds approaching. And thank the heavens it stops and out steps a man…a not so friendly looking man, with a caustic gaze and a reluctance to help. But thank the heavens he is moved by all that mud, and for the next half a day works side by side with the artisan until the horse and carriage are freed.
Now the true concern of our story is actually that caustic gentleman in the carriage…for, two months later, he passes away. He arrives at the heavenly tribunal and they are ready to send him to hell. After all, he had been consistently rotten and they could find no good deed that he had ever committed.”
“But I of course did not want that to happen,” said the Baal Shem. “So I ascended to heaven and tried to intercede for him. However I too could find no good deed that he had done. That is until I saw the story of the carriage and the mud in his book of life. Now the scales of justice were tipped completely against him. Knowing the power of one good deed I placed it confidently on the side of merit, confident that it would balance the scales. However, it was not to be. It had some slight affect but the scales were still weighted heavily against him. This had never happened to me before and I was admittedly a bit panicked. And I said to the angels, ‘Well, the merit of this good deed affected not just the man in the mud, but also the man’s entire family’. So I put all of them on the scale as well. Still however, to my great surprise, the scales remained weighted against him.
At this point I was desperate. I didn’t know what to do. So I took the carriage and its old horse and placed them on the scale of justice. This time the side of merit shifted, but still remained dangling far above the bad. At this point, the angels were confident they had defeated me. As is customary in the heavenly court, when the verdict is about to be given they placed the defendant on the side most weighted down. So they placed him there amongst his evil deeds and were about to pronounce sentence. Frantically my mind raced, what could I do? And in the last second I had a flash of inspiration. I took all of the mud that was on the carriage and placed it too on the side of merit. And before the angels knew what happened, the merits tipped all the way to the bottom, catapulting the defendant into heaven.”
The Baal Shem finished telling the story and said to the wealthy man “Never, Never underestimate the power of people’s mud.”
The story has two powerful points. The first and obvious point is the importance of following your mud tracks – your unique pathology to your soul print. The second, implicit in the dramatic tension of the story, is that by living your soul print – no matter how muddy it be – you can bypass the old rules of justice. The mud makes the classical image of the good dead versus bad deed weighed on a scale suddenly irrelevant! This is the path of higher Teshuva.
The Mud is the symbol for symptoms. Our knee jerk response to psychological symptoms is to want them to go away. However that approach is equally dangerous in the physical and spiritual realm. Both the symptom and the accompanying pain are pointing to a more profound underlying issue.
“Summoned or not, the Gods will come,” was the inscription chiseled in stone at the entrance to Jung’s house. Jung’s Gods are what we call symptoms. They are the protective mechanisms of both body and spirit. In the body the inability to feel the symptoms of pain is a most dangerous situation. A doctor friend pointed out to me that the disease of leprosy in the ancient world was considered so horrible because it caused extreme deformity and disfigurement. However this was only an indirect side effect of the disease. The agent of the disease itself was a bacteria called Hansen’s Bacillus which destroyed the nerve fibers which carried the sensation of pain. In this painless state a person could continue walking on a broken leg, thus causing irreparable damage and disfigurement.
The same is true of the mud of psychic symptoms and pain. It is a signal that something is wrong. The holistic psychic cure must be to return the soul to wholeness. This can only happen by reclaiming and living the unlived parts of my story, my unlived life.
As the poet Howard Schwartz wrote:
Even the unlived life within us
Is worth examining.
Maybe it is all we have
Lainer’s assumption is that the symptoms are the calling card of the soul print. In Jung’s sharp turn of phrase, “The Gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer rules Olympus but rather the Solar Pleux and produced curious specimens for the doctor and psychologist’s consulting room.”
The analogy between sin and illness, as we pointed out, is a given in the biblical myth tradition – expressed in at least a dozen major texts. Sin, in the literal translation, means “to miss the mark.” I may be bending the bow and aiming well but I am a sinner if I am shooting at the wrong target – living the wrong story. Sin begins with our longing to be ourselves. Each sin pulls us in the direction of becoming the I that each of us was born to be, the I who is Divine. Each human being is God’s most original idea, an irreplaceable strand in his tapestry.
Sin is sometimes our way of escaping the call of our own gorgeousness. Every sin is a message to myself from myself, and the subject of the message is my-self. The message must sometimes comes through in pathology and sin because we are not getting it in other ways.
In the image of one mystic every sin has the potential to draw us closer to our soul print. Imagine that you are connected to your soul by a string. Each sin breaks the string. Each piece of wisdom gained by the sin causes the torn string to be retired. But the key is that each time the string is tied it is that much shorter, and that much closer to its source!
In the intentionally graphic image of the mystical masters, every time a person sins a voice comes out of heaven saying, “See how my son has found a new way to draw close to me.”
Sin and pathology for the mystics sometimes had nothing to do with concrete actions. There is an aesthetic sin of inelegance which is expressed primarily in the feeling that I am not living my full beauty. I am functional but not elegant, efficient but not beautiful. Soul prints are always beautiful. People living their soul print always radiate an inner joy and beauty no matter what external features the universe may or may not have graced them with.
“It is burdensome to envy. The terrible heartburn of envy. Envy catches you by the throat and squeezes your eyes from their sockets.”
-From the Novel “Envy” written by Russian Writer Yuri Olesha
One of the best examples of unique pathology that can potentially guide a person back to soul print is jealousy.
Jealousy is the classic shadow quality. Our usual response is to deny it or hide it. Now when I refer to jealousy I am clearly not talking about the passing kind of jealousy when see that the neighbor bought a new car. Fleeting thoughts or even feelings of jealousy occur to everyone and are generally harmless. I refer rather to the Jealousy that can eat us at the core, cause us to lose sleep and send sharp streaks of emotional pain through our system. This kind of jealousy is the classical expression of shadow in accordance with the ideas which we have developed in this chapter. Shadow and pathology are unique human expressions which result from soul print distortion. This being true, they can be our surest guide in our quest to identify and connect with our soul print.
How does this work in the specific example of Jealousy?
First we need to understand jealousy in a general sort of way. When I am living my story I will rarely be moved to jealousy. So if I find jealousy to be a major factor in my life then it is probably because I am in the wrong story (or am having a hard time fully living in the right one.)
Second, success – especially if it is someone I know well – is often not enough to arouse my jealousy. For example if I have a friend who is a successful lawyer but calls me every night to tell me how he despises law – his success will probably not arouse my envy. Envy is usually aroused in us when we meet someone who exudes that sense that they are living their story. To rephrase the biting and intentionally convoluted aphorism of the 19th century Kabbalists –
“If I who am not I, meets you who are you, then I will not probably not like you, because you remind me that I am not I.”
Jealousy then is a function of the meeting between someone who is living their story and someone who is not living their story. Clearly jealousy is an extremely important soul print topic. Jealousy then is one of the most important soul print barometers available.
Let’s turn for a moment to Biblical myth. A wonderful passage from the fourth century Biblical myth masters seeks to understand the following question. What was it about the people wandering in the desert that enabled them to achieve such a high degree of spiritual refinement, psychological balance and meditative consciousness that they were able to somehow receive the book we call the Bible? The answer given –
“When they set up camp, every person helped his friend set up, each helping the other to find a place to pitch their tent.”
A strange example of higher consciousness!
Strange…unless I understand that personal spiritual development is about living in my place, in my story, in my tent. When I am in my place I have no reason to be jealous of any else and I can love my friend enough to help him find his place.
Indeed the biblical myth word for jealousy is Kanah – which etymologically derives from the Hebrew word for ownership. Jealousy, suggests biblical myth, is related to ownership in two powerful ways.
The first is control. The jealous husband or wife may be saying I own you and therefore I want to control you. I don’t want you to develop a deep relationship with any one else but me. This can be true by the way of same sex friends as will as opposite sex friends. If it is rooted in a sense of ownership it will not matter whether his wife’s new friend is a gay man or a woman. Jealousy in its pathological expression is rooted not in a legitimate sexual threat but in a distorted sense of ownership.
Here is it important to point out that a legitimate threat to the relationship may be existential as well as sexual. If one of the partners feels that their partner’s primary place of emotional sharing and fulfillment is outside of the primary relationship then they have good reason to be jealous. Our primary intimacy should be with our primary partners. That’s the whole point of having a primary partner. However the primary partner relationship should absolutely not be the ONLY intimate relationship. Emotional intimacy has many shapes, forms and expressions and no one relationship, no matter how good it may be, can bear the burden of all the intimate needs of any one person. To prevent a partner from other intimacies outside the primary relationship is therefore a pathological expression of jealousy and control.
The need to control another person always is a sign that my life is not under control. Rather than do the hard work of exercising self-control we all too often find it easier to exercise control over someone else.
The biblical myth connection between ownership and jealousy however is deeper still. Jealousy means I want a piece of your story. The desire for a piece of someone else’s story is always a sure indication that I have not owned my own story. It may be that I do not know what my story is and it is easier to want someone else’s than to figure out my own.
It may be that there is some initial pain in embracing my story which I want to avoid. In this sense Jung was right when he said that all Neurosis is a way of avoiding legitimate sufferings. What he meant was that before I get to my grandeur I need to be willing to ‘suffer’ my-self. About this psychological reality the old cliche (cliche only get to be cliches because they posses an elemental truth), “The grass is always greener on the other side” certainly holds true.
That is just the beginning however. Biblical myth goes one critical step further in understanding jealousy. In the second generation of humanity, according to the literary presentation of biblical myth – there is a person whose name is Jealousy. He is better known by his English name Cain. Cain in Hebrew derives from the same root as ownership and jealousy.
Indeed one Italian Renaissance myth reader named Ovadiah Seforno understood the major dialogue between Cain and God to be about Jealousy. The story you may remember from your own reading or from earlier in the book. Cain and his brother Abel both offer sacrifices. Offering sacrifices here is clearly a metaphor for their stories.*(why*) Cain is a farmer and Abel is a shepherd – making it an archetypal tale about two people living fully different stories. At a particular juncture God is responsive to Abel’s gesture. Cain believes, in my reading of the story, that the fact that God responded to Abel must mean that God will not respond to him. He interprets Abel’s acceptance as his rejection. He is unable to separate his story from Abel’s. He lacks ownership of his own story.
In Seforno’s reading God says to him, “Why are you jealous – if you are good you will rise.” The emphasis on ‘If you are Good’ shows that your only competition is yourself. (He doesn’t say, “if you are better than your brother you will rise,” or “if you are the best around.” He says, ‘if you are good for yourself, if you are the best of yourself.’ But Cain cannot hear the divine voice within him and feels that he can only exist if he destroys Abel.
The difference between Cain and Abel is indicated in the text in only one way. Abel brings the best of his sheep to offer up – Cain, though, does not bring the best of his produce. Clearly this is an image for the best of themselves. Abel is fully living his story, Cain is not. That is precisely what drives Cain so crazy. So the first murder of humankind is committed by a man in desperate search for his story.
There is a debate among the ancient masters as to the deeper subject of the conflict between Cain and Abel. Some say it was over a woman, others say the topic was power, while still others maintain it was spirituality – i.e. the first religious war. According to this last opinion, the source of conflict was the location of the temple. Cain said that the temple should be built in his place – on his land – and Abel claimed the temple should be built in his place. Each one was convinced that their way was the best way to God…Cain was willing to kill to protect his way.
It was with this reading in their minds’ eye that another group of ancient biblical myth readers wove the story of how the actual place of the temple was chosen.
Two brothers worked side by side in the field their father had left them. After every day they would evenly divide the grain they had gathered, bid each other a good night and go home for supper. The first brother lived alone in a quiet little house on one side of the field, while the second brother had a bustling house full of children on the other side.
One day, the brother in the house bustling with children thought to himself, “My poor brother goes home to an empty house every night, with no one even to greet him. Look at me, I have children who will provide for me in my old age, but he has no one. What will he do when he grows old?” And so late each night he would secretly take a portion from his own granary, cross the field, and deposit it in his brother’s.
Little did he know that his brother had also started thinking to himself, “My poor brother goes home to a house full of hungry mouths every night. Look at me, I have only myself to feed. Why should I get half the produce when surely he needs more.” And so late each night he would secretly take a portion of his grain to his brother.
And sure enough by the morning light each brother mysteriously found their grain supply replenished.
One night, with heaping bundles of grain in their arms, the brothers ran smack into each other in the middle of the field. Astonished, they dropped their bundles and when they realized what had happened, each took his brother in his arms instead. A voice rang out in heaven that the place of their embrace was holy ground. There God’s temple would be built. For God is found where each person finds their brother or sister in an act of love.
Actually there is a biblical myth commandment against jealousy. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, house etc. How is possible to tell someone not to covet? Covet, of course, is a jealousy word. Ibn Ezra, a teacher in the 13th century, writes that there is only one way to avoid coveting your neighbor’s wife. He suggests a visualization where you imagine your neighbor’s wife as the daughter of the king. Now in the medieval world that means that she is totally inaccessible – light years beyond your reach.
A nice suggestion on Ibn Ezra’s part, but in seminary it did not seem to me to be a very effective protective device against jealousy. That is, until many years later when I realized what he meant. The idea is that that which is part of my neighbor’s story is not part of my story. The King’s daughter was the Ibn Ezra’a medieval way of saying “Not part of my story”. The nature of healthy ego is that the second I realize something is really not part of my story then it just doesn’t interest me…it is not mine to be jealous of, it is not mine to own.
All this explains why the popular kid in high school is so annoying. Adolescence is a time when we are searching for our soul print. Lacking a clear sense of the contours of our own story – someone else’s story which seems really well defined and secure can be more than annoying. One way to move beyond this jealousy is to find my story – my soul print. A second no less important way is to recognize that they have a soul print which is usually much deeper and more complex than the veneer of popularity.
When you come across a person who intimidates you with their popularity, power or otherwise perfected personas…imagine them standing there naked, that is, with their soul print exposed, without its outer garments. Remember that, just like you, they have their own singular swirl of lines…of pathologies, quirks and qualities. Intimidation turns to intimacy, where you see a person’s soul print instead of their position of power.
(add in way to deal realize that they are not symbols but people with there own complex stories — tell gedieon story Augma Mara met years later yellow dress shettel vivacity shimmering sadly gone…CHAYA)???? ***exp.
Now we step to the heart of the matter. There is a key biblical myth jealousy story which validates our thesis, namely that the uniqueness of my pathology leads me back to my unique soul print.
The story is that of Rachel, most beloved of the four wives of Jacob. Her sister Leah gives birth to three sons. We do not hear a peep of jealousy from Rachel throughout. But the second Leah gives birth to a fourth child there is an explosion from Rachel. The text says, “Rachel was jealous of her sister.”
Until this point she did not know if she really loved Jacob or wanted to bear his children. The text only says that Jacob loved her and never that she loved Jacob.
It is this experience of Jealousy which told Rachel that she also needed to mother Jacob’s children. The jealousy taught her that having Jacob’s children was part of her story.
“Rachel knew (prophetically) that Jacob was to have 12 sons. She thought that if he had four wives, each would bear three sons. The fact that she had not borne Jacob any children did not bother her because she felt distant from Jacob and spiritually disconnected from the prophecy.
However when Leah had a fourth son Rachel becomes Jealous. Three was fine, expected, the fulfillment of her lot. But four! That meant one less for Rachel. This was already a potential infringement on Rachel. The person most surprised at Rachel’s feeling of jealousy was Rachel.
I am never deeply jealous of a person who is unrelated to my soul print. For example I love swimming but it is not an essential part of my story. So when I was a kid and Mark Spitz won seven gold medals I was not jealous. On the other hand when a well-known figure in the US started a National talk show which was supposed to be a combination of thought and inspiration I felt definitive pangs of jealousy. Clearly that told me that teaching through the media may be part of my story.
Rachel’s jealousy is the first step towards her becoming a mother. Rachel becomes not only a literal mother when she bears children with Jacob – she is in biblical myth and Kabbalistic sources the Archetype of motherhood. The path of pathology, her surprising jealousy, is what guides her to her unique soul print of becoming the Archetypal mother of the people.
This all becomes far more intense when the person in question is not Mark Spitz Olympic swimmer or some other public figure that we know only through the media…but when the person is part of our own immediate world. When we feel that a friend, colleague or even a family member is usurping part of our soul print – then the jealousy rages almost out of control.
Jealousy is always a soul print map. Personally, it helped me make one of the
important decisions of my life. Almost a decade ago I took off three years from teaching to work with a close friend who was buying and restructuring hi tech companies in Israel. I had just finished – for the second time in my few years on this planet – a marriage that didn’t work. The decision to go into business was mine and it came from deep feelings of emptiness and loneliness. Although I was enjoying wonderful success as a teacher I felt like I needed to spend several years in quiet contemplation trying to understand all the things I had run away from. For me the best way to take a vacation is to work hard in something which is not really close to my heart. So for several years hi tech became my world, but a world I could leave at the end of the workday.
At the end of three years of working with my friend I had numerous other offers which were enormously lucrative. In the end I turned them all down and went back to teaching. It involved a substantial cut in pay and standard of living but I was happy to do it. It was absolutely clear to me that I had made the right choice. My guide in making the choice was jealousy. Here is what happened:
I used to jog back from my office on the western edge of Jerusalem to my home on the eastern edge several times a week. It was an intense run of Jerusalem’s hills and sunsets and I loved it. At some point, almost subconsciously, I found my self jogging a different route on Wednesdays than I did the rest of the week. It dawned on me that if I ran my regular path then I would pass by an auditorium where people were streaming in to hear a popular clergy man, whom I did not particularly like, give the largest public lecture in the city. At the same time I realized this coincidence I also realized that I had no particular reason not to like this man.
I reviewed the past several months and realized that in private conversations with two close friends I had made critical marks about him of an unusually sharp nature. All of the sudden it became crystal clear and I burst out laughing aloud. I was jealous of him. I wanted to be giving those lectures. He was living my life. I realized as well that my three friends who has taken high tech companies public had not elicited even a hint of jealousy. At that moment all my wrestling with uncertainty was over. I knew I needed to turn down the lucrative hi tech offers and return to public teaching. Jealousy reminded me of my story and my soul print.
A close student of mine who I asked to review the manuscript suggested that I remove this part. He said with all good intentions, “How can you admit that you were Jealous – won’t that undermine your spiritual credibility?” We all want our teachers to be perfect. Any admission of pathology on their part scares us. Although we say that this is not so, when a teacher displays any genuine sign of humanness we either respect them less as a guide or worse – we crucify them. In response to my students objection I told him the following story.
It is a story about Zusia of Onipol the master who believed not in depth but in simplicity, not in magic but in unconditional love. There was a business man who used to bring him a donation every year. One year Zusia’s patron informed him that he would no longer support him as he was moving his support to another master. Upon inquiring Zusia realized that the reason for his Patron’s decision was that he had seen Zusia do what the Patron understood to be a sin. Zusia, as was his way, did not protest.
After some months the Patron sought out Zusia…obviously distraught. “What ails you?” asked Zusia with genuine kindness. “Ever since I stopped supporting you I had failure after failure in my business. I have lost more than half my fortune. Have you cursed me Zusia? Will you accept my gifts again?” the man pleaded. “God forbid that I would curse you,” said Zusia. “The explanation is far simpler. Just as in the beginning you gave without regard to whether the recipient truly deserved or not…so God gave to you with out regard to whether you deserved it or not. The second you changed your practice and were only prepared to support one who was worthy – God changed his practice in the exact same way.”
The good news about jealousy is that once you become aware of it and laugh at it, its hold over you is almost completely broken. There of course are many more fascinating, important and really helpful things to know about jealousy, its twin sisters love and laughter…but I am going to save that for our next soul prints book. For our purposes it is enough to see our jealousies as classic examples of unique pathology which can lead the way back to soul print. My jealousy is absolutely unique, unlike anyone else’s in the world. Not only are we all jealous of different people or types of people – the jealousy has its own music which is always the disguised siren’s call of soul print.
In this discussion we have crystallized two soul print ways to honor the
Pathology of Jealousy.
1) The first way is two own it. The biblical myth word for Jealousy is ownership because the best way to dispel jealousy is to own it.
2) If owning it does not dispel the jealousy then chances are that I need to adopt the second approach to jealousy. The second way to honor jealousy is to let it be my guide. I need to do this by neither denying, hiding nor treating it. Rather, I need to feel it – even relish it in order to let it recall me to my own story.
In the more physical plane of things there is a similar treatment system called Feldenkrais. The key to the system is to accentuate whatever the physical pathology is – under the belief that the body will ultimately reject the pathology and opt for health. For example, if your foot is twisted to the left then twist it gently a little more to the left. By doing so you make the physical pathology visible and throw into gear the natural corrective mechanisms of the body.
Similarly If you feel even a little twinge of jealousy blow it up, exaggerate it so you can see it clearly. You meet a new co-worker. You feel an twinge of envy which you immediately deny. That envy will very rarely go away. It will however go underground. From it’s invisible place it will fester and sore effecting your moods, your relationship and your judgment. Eventually this may cause untold damage in the form of blow ups at work or costly misjudgments.
William Blake captured an identical dynamic with anger in his classic poem, “A Poison Tree”:
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I watered it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
I would take issue with Blake only on the ending. Often we are the ones who wind up outstretched beneath the tree victims of our own apples.
Instead of going through this painful and draining process you could however choose another option. Exaggerate! As soon as you feel the first twinge take it – and let it take you. Magnify it!
That will serve to make the jealousy far more focused and clear. You may be able to understand root causes of the jealousy. Do you have an unlived soul print moment which you see fulfilled in this person? Transform the person into your soul print guide. Transform the meeting into a spiritual provocation to growth. Exaggerating jealousy is often the best way to pick up the signals necessary accessing soul print.
We will close with a wonderful story told about one of the early 19th centuries greatest teachers of Kabbalah. His name was Elimelech of Lishensk and many people came to seek his counsel. The custom was for the supplicants to immerse themselves in the water of the ritual bath before their meeting with the master. One such supplicant was just emerging from the ritual bath when he was asked —apparently by another pilgrim – if he was going to see the master. When he replied in the affirmative the man said, “What a waste, the man’s a liar.” The supplicant was outraged at this impunity and protested loudly. To no avail however. “Not only is he a liar, he is a thief!” Now the pilgrim was fully incensed and began to shout at the offender. To no avail however. “Not only that, but he is an adulterer!”
At this point the supplicant could take it no longer; he struck the man and ran from the ritual bath. You can imagine his consternation when he was called for his audience with the master the next day. Upon entering the master’s study he realized…it was the same man! “I am so sorry,” he said, “but why did you provoke me with all those falsehoods about your person? – You who are a scholar, a lover of the poor, a saint.” “What you say about me is true my friend,” replied the master, “But what I said about me is true as well. You see I am only a scholar because I am a liar, I love the poor because I am a thief, and I am a saint because I am an adulterer.”
Pathology could be poetically read as the knowledge of paths. Etymologically it derives from the word pathos- that which arouses intense feeling. Whatever my unique pathology is may guide me to my path. Follow the feeling, even the bad feeling. On someone else’s path we always get lost. The poet William Blake chose his word carefully, “If the fool would follow his folly he would become wise.” For us, the stress is on HIS folly, his crooked path to wisdom.
In the story telling ritual, which we described in great depth earlier in the book, the essential challenge is to try and tell the story of our folly- with wit, acceptance and laughter and through the telling, to find our own personalized yellow brick road to the soul.
1. See our discussion of ‘hide and seek’ in Soul Prints
2. See earlier the term tzelutah **for the relationship of prayer to shadow.