Even though, in writing these essays, my attempt is to elucidate the basics, they are not meant to define THE first steps in the mystical tradition. This is merely one approach. In fact, you may find more basic concepts than these. However, these concepts are not merely basic but also foundational, and part and parcel of so many advanced ideas. Without this concept of ‘man as a microcosm’, much knowledge will be hard to put in a context. As you grasp any one core idea in Kabbalah, it is like grabbing onto a piece of that which is infinite. When you grasp a piece on infinity at any point, though, you are grasping onto the whole thing. There can’t truly be a separate piece of infinity; it just appears that way to our limited understanding. Therefore if this thought is expanded and connected by the reader, he will begin to piece many parts of the puzzle together.
For example, when you first begin to understand electricity, you begin to understand automatically how all electrical appliances work and your home becomes more understandable to you, you understand why some appliances need cords, why they stop when unplugged; you understand why sockets can be deadly, etc.
One concept brings so much into focus. In various Jewish texts man is referred to as an ‘olam katan’, a small universe. This is a clear reference to the idea we are touching on.
Mankind is the fusion of spirituality and physicality.
We will look at different aspects of this microcosm idea: One example of this is that man embodies vastly different elements brought together to form a unit. As you read this page you tie together the physical world and the spiritual realm by you, a finite being, reaching out to the infinite. You do this because God fused those two realms together when He formed man. We are both a symbol and also an expression of the very fabric of all creation. We are at once both physical and spiritual. In a similar vein, the human body contains the four basic elements of creation. Also we know the body is mostly water yet it doesn’t leak; it knows how and when to release liquid from itself. It is also surprisingly waterproof, rain rolls right off. We can produce a kind of wind from our lungs. There is a natural heat within us. Lastly, God in Genesis 2:7 said He created man from the dust of the ground. We see water, air, fire, and earth, all four primordial elements of creation in man.
Another example of this idea is the analogy of the soul in man. Man’s soul in the body parallels God’s presence in the universe. The soul fills the body just as God’s presence fills the universe. The soul is the life-giver to the body, just as God is the life-giver to the universe. (Judaism teaches that God didn’t just make the universe and leave it, He constantly wills it to exist.) The soul is the only reason for the body’s existence, the body exists to serve the soul, and similarly the universe exists to serve its creator. The soul cannot be seen yet you know it is there, just as God can’t be seen yet we know He is there. This is one way of understanding the verse in Genesis 1:26 when God said, “Let us make man in our image.” This means that there are a number of similarities in the way God manifests Himself in our world and how the soul manifests itself in the body.
We control the universe.
Another basic understanding of the kabbalists that man is interwoven with the universe in a way that causes the entire universe to be spiritually elevated when man elevates himself, and lowered when man lowers himself. For example, if you give a poor person some money, or a job, you have changed yourself, molded yourself to be a little bit more like the Almighty. You have increased the positive energy in the world, and removed some of its negativity. Because you are interwoven with the fabric of the universe you have elevated not only yourself, but also the entire creation. There is now more mercy and kindness in all of creation.
To conclude, in advanced Kabbalah there are a many references to spiritual limbs, analogies to the human form, and conceptual links to personality traits, gender, and the body. The references are metaphor, yet they do represent man’s connection to the spiritual realm. All the spiritual realms are contained in man. All wisdom is contained in man.
This ‘microcosm’ concept will come up explicitly and implicitly in the rest of the essays.