April 21, 2009


From Ben Zion Bokser’s translation of selections from Orot HaKodesh (“Holy Lights”), in his anthology “Abraham Isaac Kook” (Paulist Press: Classics of Western Spirituality series).

The Mystical Dimension That Embraces Everything

Philosophy embraces only a given part of the spiritual world. By nature it is detached from whatever is outside its sphere. By this itself it is fragmented in its being. The grace of perceiving how all feelings and tendencies, from the small to the large, are interdependent, how they act on each other, how separate worlds are organically related – this it cannot portray. For this reason, it must always remain an aristocratic discipline, set apart for special individuals.

Greater than this is the mystical quest, which by its nature penetrates to the depths of all thought, all feelings, all tendencies, all aspirations, and all worlds, from beginning to end. It recognizes the inner unity of all existence, the physical and the spiritual, the great and the small, and for this reason there is, from its perspective, no bigness or smallness. Everything is important, and everything is invested with marked value. There is no lost gesture, there is no vain imagining.

Corresponding to this there is no limit to the possibility of ascending toward the heights. There is no wisdom or perception concerning which one may say that it is enough, and that it cannot be linked to a higher illumination, in comparison with which it seems in a state of dimness. Even the Supernal Crown [“Keter,” the highest of the ten sefirot] which is a dazzling light, a pure light, is darkness in comparison with the Cause of causes, before whom all lights are turned into darkness (Tikkuney Zohar).

Because of this advantage, mystical vision, in being able to embrace within itself all thoughts and all sparks of the spiritual, is alone fit to chart for us the way to go.

Therefore, the mystical dimension is the soul of religion, the soul of the Torah. From its substance derives all that is revealed, all that is circumscribed, all that can be conceived by logic, and all that can be carried out in actions. The far- reaching unity of the mystical dimension embraces all creatures, all conditions of thought and feeling, all forms of poetry and exposition, all expressions of life, all aspirations and hopes, all objectives and ideals, from the lowest depths to the loftiest heights. The source of life deriving from the highest realm of the divine – which only the light of prophecy, the clear illumination, the light seen by Adam [prior to his fall], that the supernal lights can disclose – streams into and passes through all stirrings of thought, all movements of the spirit.

Only the mysterious mind of the Supreme One fixes the particular formations, what shall be regarded as first and what as last, which phenomenon shall obscure the unity because of its lowly state, and which is above it because of its greatness. “And before the One what can you count?” (Sefer Yezirah, ch. 1, Mishnah 7). (Orot HaKodesh, Vol. 1, pp. 9-10).