April 20, 2009


The following excerpt is actually a meditative visualization exercise from the writings of a somewhat obscure early 20th century Hasidic thinker. The translation below by Rabbi Bezalel Naor appears in his “Lights of Prophecy” (Orthodox Union), pp. 50-52. We have taken the liberty of adding the subtitle. A complete volume of Rabbi Eckstein’s work was translated by Yehoshus Starrett and published as “Visions of a Compassionate World: Guided Imagery for Spiritual Growth and Social Transformation” (Urim).

Curing Delusion

How is it possible to be cured of those delusions [engendered by ego]? Regarding this question too, Hasidism gives a most simple solution: by other images which are true. It would be proper for us to become accustomed already in our youth to working with the imaginative ability which is in us, to develop and perfect it, in order to enable us to picture in our minds true images, so as to gradually weaken the vain delusions within and be cured of them....

To begin, we shall explain the imagination which illumines us and opens our eyes to see our true situation and value in the world and our terrible lowliness. In order to reach this, one should commence thus: First we shall attempt to picture in our minds by means of the imaginative ability within us, the planet Earth. We shall imagine that we see from afar the entire globe with its continents and all the seas which encircle them. We should picture too all the nations which inhabit the con tinents, according to their languages and borders, and the total population of each nation and tongue. All this we should picture vividly, as if seeing this vista right before us with our corporeal sense of vision. Initially this imaging will not affect us much, for it is as yet novel. Our imagination is yet weak, for we have not yet made much use of it, but gradually, if we apply ourselves and exercise daily (and when possible, several times a day), we shall behold this, with our spiritual eyes and our minds' eyes, with increasing clarity and vividness, as if it were possible to touch this vision with the hands.

We should imagine not only people, but also the other creations found in the world: All the animals and beasts with which we are acquainted, where they are found, their appearances and natures – the multitude of predators in the deserts and forests; the domestic animals, how men use them and benefit from them; other tiny creatures, such as flies, and those large, such as elephants; serpents and reptiles, how they creep, run, rest, eat, are born and die. All the species of birds, the endless variations of chirping and singing, sung in air, in trees, in fields and vineyards. The multitude of fish in seas and rivers, how they swim, are swallowed, born, captured and die. All the species of plants, grains, vegetables, grasses, thorns, flowers, gardens, orchards, fields, vineyards and forests. All those as we know them: their appearance, how they grow, develop, mature, dry, wither and fall. All this we should picture in great detail and specificity, and again as a whole, as we know them, either directly or through reading and education.

After a certain amount of time – depending on individual nature and assiduity – this project will become quite clear, we will see these scenes with great clarity, until we are affected and feel how this great vision influences and charms us, like the man who has been moved by the beauty of nature which he sees with his physical eyes. Then we shall proceed further and attempt to picture the place where we are now standing, and try to present ourselves among all those people and creations. At first it will be exceedingly difficult to picture this, for the ego and self-importance so deeply ingrained in us will resist and not allow us in any way to become lost and submerged in the crowd of all those creatures, will not allow us to sacrifice our imaginary grandeur, and see the not so pleasant truth, which is our terrible lowliness and smallness. However, habit will do its part; eventually we will succeed in overcoming all blocks, and it shall become increasingly easy to picture with our gift of imagination this marvelous vision.

R. Menahem Eckstein, Tena’ey ha-Nefesh le-Hassagat ha-Hasidut / Conditions of the Soul for Attainment of Hasidut (Vienna, 5621) 2-4.