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Kabbalah - Intellect or Experience

Yakov Leib

There has been a debate, over whether Kabbalah is a way of the "intellect" or that of "experience." I would like to suggest that according to Vedanta and Jungian theory it is BOTH -- and, actually, more -- and that the highest spiritual goal, as in everything else, is to effect a Tikkun, or unification, rather than a separation, among them. I'll discuss this first from the Vedantic and then from the Jungian point of view.



According to Vedanta (i.e, Hindusim), there are four, equally-effective methods for achieving God realization. These four "yogas" (meaning "yokes") are called "Bhakti", "Gjana (pronounced Gee-ahna), "Raja," and "Karma." (Vedanta does not include the so-called Hatha Yoga here because it is considered more of a calisthenic than spiritual practice.) I'll discuss each of these separately, below.

  1. Bhakti Yoga. This is the Way of Religion. Here one achieves union with God through ritual, prayer, devotion, surrender, supplication and the like.
  2. Gjana Yoga. This is the Scholar's Way to union with God. It focuses on Self-Realization through intellect, reasoning, study, etc.
  3. Raja Yoga. This is the Experiental Way to union with God. It's main practice is that of mediation and other mystical technologies.
  4. Karma Yoga. This is the Way of Service to union with God.

Having summarized these four yogas, I must emphasize again that according to Vedanta ANY ONE of them, when practiced correctly, can lead the seeker to the same union with the Divine, or "Self-Realization" as any other. For example, the Yoga of "experience" (Raja) is no more effective than that of the "intellect" (Gjana). Each of us gravitates to one, or at most two Yogas depending upon our personality and predispositions. Which leads us to our discussion of Jungian personality



The Swiss theologian and psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, proposed that the human personality operates on the basis of four functions: "Feeling," "Thinking," "Intuition" and "Experience." These form two, intersecting continua, as follows:

            Intuition . . . . . . . . . Experience
              (Raja)            .         (Karma)

Notice that, in fact, Jung's four functions correspond exactly to Vedanta's Four Yogas. Therefore the Spiritual Path each of us prefers to follow is largely determined by the personality function out of which we operate.

Jung goes on to say, however, that although each of us operates out of one or, at most, two of these four psychological functions, the goal is to achieve what he calls the fifth, "Transcendent Function" -- an integration of all four which is nothing less, according to him, than the Realization of God.


To summarize, each of us on the spiritual path -- whether it be Kabbalah, Zen, Sufi or whatever -- tends to believe that our Way to God is somehow superior to that of others, and this preference for one spiritual path over the other -- Devotion, Intellect, Experience or Service -- is largely determined by complicated personality factors.  Nevertheless, union with God, according to Vedanta and Jung, comes only when we function out of our full personal and spiritual potential -- thereby making it possible to enter into the Fifth, Transcendent State. This suggests that personal consciousness -- the awareness of who and what we are on a purely psychological level -- predetermines our ability to follow the fullness of not just one, but all four of the Spiritual Paths to God-Realization. It's a question of our spiritual "motors" running smoothly on all four "cylinders" or lurching ahead on only one or two. It is, as with everything else, a matter of Tikkun.

from a post to the Donmeh mail list
Fri 18 Dec 1998