Kabalistic Prayer Part 3
by Jack Courtis
If the 10 Commandments are assumed to have effect on the level of reality Assiah/Action, then it is easy to see why they are taken so literally. We believe that they are no more than a set of rules for human behaviour, moral, philosophical, ethical and practical. The other levels of reality are hidden from us and we have no idea that there is more involved. Properly understood, they are spiritual exercises designed to set into motion the hidden processes of the kosmos taken as a whole. That is, all levels interacting with each other. It is this interaction which is the key. If they are no more than a code of ethical behaviour, then we are spiritual robots, mechanically obeying rules we have learned parrot fashion. We do not develop or grow.
Let us go beyond the literal and see the spiritual meaning. Ultimately, we have to give our own interpretation, but this is a guide for the time being. First, let us see the 10 Commandments on the Tree of Life:
Note that the order of the sefirot and hence of the Commandments, follows the path of the Lightning Flash, uttered into existence by the command, "let there be light". Let us now look at each step of the hidden process as it is set into motion.
1 I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other gods before me.
I am: refers to our Divine spark. It is the connection with God and our ultimate identity. This is who we truly are. This realisation occurs when we reach the level of reality Atzilut/Emanation. This is the true Self; not our objective consciousness, sub-conscious, ego, psyche, personality, social role, or any other part of our being.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me: nothing else can be the focus of attention, striving, effort, feeling or thought. The Divine spark is the unifying principle and the means of integration.
2 Thou shalt not make idols of me nor bow down to worship and serve them.
The key word is idol. There is a difference between the Divine spark and the symbols that we create to describe it. Since we do not yet experience Unity, our divided consciousness needs polarity in order to function. Hence the Tree of Life is experienced as the masculine pillar of force, the feminine pillar of form and the central pillar of consciousness, which reconciles them. The Divine spark is on the central pillar at Keter. Our lower levels of consciousness are also on the same pillar: kosmic consciousness at Tiferet, sub-conscious at Yesod and objective consciousness at Malkhut. These lower levels are some of the idols that we have created and worship. These are inner idols. It is trite to mention external idols such as money, power, sex, etc.
The main issue is not to identify with any of the idols in our lives. External idols are easy to identify, although hard to deal with. We do not even suspect our inner idols. Nothing less than identification with the Divine spark will do.
3 Thou shalt not use the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Normally we understand this to be a comment about irreverence, the use of God’s name lightly, inappropriately. The point is, that the Name is a word of power that invokes God’s presence. It brings His Consciousness, Life and Energy. By using it in vain, we abuse ourselves by misusing the function of our Divine spark. It is simple enough to list the countless ways in which self-abuse is the norm for our lives: drugs, alcohol, greed, violence and so on. Little do we suspect that ultimately our self-abuse begins and ends with our Divine spark.
This commandment is about the proper use of our divine nature. We have a legitimate right to the abundance that the kosmos can provide us. By using the Name in vain, we pervert the kosmic processes.
4 Thou shalt keep holy the day of the Lord thy God.
Again, the ordinary meaning is trite. We think it means going to church on Sunday. To keep holy means to achieve right relationship and proper balance. It requires action on our part. We usually miss this point because we are told that there is nothing we can do for our liberation. Superficially, we understand that the day of the Lord is giving time to God. Why? What can we possibly do that is useful to God? Think of it this way, to keep holy the day of the Lord, is about consciously directed spiritual work. It is the deliberate setting into motion of the hidden processes of the kosmos.
This commandment brings to our attention time periods; the day, the week, the month, the year, our very lifetime. Right relationship means that we must act at the right time with our Divine spark. We deal with kosmic cycles and hence with timing and rhythm. We grasp the practical meaning of the 12 body functions, the 7 soul cycles, the 3 spirit states and the unity of our being.
5 Thou shalt honour thy Father and thy Mother.
We all understand this, don’t we? Why then must it be elevated to the status of a Command of God?
This deals with the principle of polarity and gender, of right relationship between spirit and matter, male and female, active and passive. Thou: refers to our little "self" operating from our objective consciousness and sub-consciousness. To honour is to deliberately focus attention upon and enter into a right relationship with:
- the Father: as both God and our Divine spark, which are identical in truth, if we could only understand this; and
- the Mother: the lowest level of reality, personified as Nature in general and our individual vehicle of consciousness, our body, in particular.
Thus we must become aware that we are both spiritual and physical beings and we must reconcile many polarities: subjective/objective, prayer/work, knowledge/love, severity/mercy, grace/effort, joy/pain, spirit/matter, good/evil. Polarity is a great mystery and operates on all levels of the Tree of Life and hence of our being. We understand this Commandment only by plunging into the polarities, not by avoiding them.
6 Thou shalt not kill.
Again, an obvious statement, hardly needing God to get involved. Again, more difficult and subtle than it seems. Remember, these Commandments are statements of spiritual action as well of physical conduct. It means essentially, not to interfere with the kosmic scheme, but rather to fulfill our role, mission and purpose according to God’s will. We must consciously harmonise with the Divine spark and the Great Work of spiritual evolution. We are not to impose our will upon the kosmos, but to work with it. If we do otherwise, we kill.
This Commandment implies harmlessness and proper alignment. The Lord Buddha spoke of this.
7 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Adultery: is the loss of the state of pureness, clearness, concentration and integration, which is rightly ours. It implies the disintegration of our being into separate parts like, objective consciousness, sub-consciousness, desire, intellect, etc. In this sense, we are all adulterers. It is this state of disintegration that makes it easy for us to "mate" with wrong thinking, feeling and action. Thus we do things because they are "practical" or "expedient", or "everyone does it".
On the Tree of Life, this Commandment focuses on desire. To want what is wrong, brings dissociation, confusion and misery. To want what is right, brings synthesis, peace, clarity, certainty and joy. Righteousness is so obviously desirable, it is a wonder that we choose adultery so often.
8 Thou shalt not steal.
We steal when we take something physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, which does not belong to us. This is not just about honesty and respect for others. It is an injunction about not using our will to take what we want to gratify ourselves. Rather, we must take that which God gives to us for our good and growth. It means to grow consciously according to the will of the Divine spark, together with our obligations to society and nature.
More subtly, it is about growth that is neither forced nor hindered. It requires self-knowledge that goes far deeper than either philosophy or psychology can take us. It requires gnosis.
9 Thou shalt not bear false witness.
We bear false witness whenever we affirm anything not centred on truth or reality. This is much more than ordinary concepts of honesty. Anything contrary to the will of the Divine spark is false witness in this sense. True, we must not think, feel, say or act in any way that we know is false. But more than that, we can only be true to our Divine spark if we centre our being upon it. That is harder than it sounds and more vital than we can imagine.
Again, yet again, self-knowledge is required.
10 Thou shalt not covet the wife or any of the possessions of thy neighbour.
Have we not already spoken of adultery and stealing? Why the repetition? It is because this Commandment is closest to the literal interpretation that we normally give. It deals with right human relationships as the beginning of the process that takes us to right relations with the Divine spark.
Put simply, this Commandment requires us to be what we are, with what we have, in order to become who we shall be, according to the will of the Divine spark. If we see something someone else has, we should not desire it without working for it and creating it by our own efforts. More subtly, it is about evolving at the right time and unfolding naturally. The "wife of our neighbour" includes his faculties and feminine principle. The "possessions of our neighbour" include not only what he owns but also what he is.
Even this most literal of Commandments requires a degree of self-knowledge that most of us would rather not have. Knowledge implies responsibility. How many of us want that?
Let us end this examination of prayer by noting that if we follow the 10 Commandments, we are praying in the sense that we are deliberately setting into motion the hidden processes of the kosmos. But this is only the beginning, because the Commandments are to be performed here and now through our vehicle of consciousness, the body. This is only the first level. The next part of this series will examine the Lord’s Prayer and the effect it has on the next level of reality, Yetzirah/Formation. That is our soul level.