Most of the subject matter of Chasidus is explained through logical parallels, drawn predominantly from the powers and faculties of the soul. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence who perseveres and studies assiduously is capable of understanding the subjects clearly, at least on the level of the illustration.

For example: the ten supernal sefirot parallel the ten powers of the soul. In fact, Tanya, chapter 3, describes the soul-powers as descendant from the ten sefirot. Concerning the powers of the soul, we can readily grasp the difference between the mind’s intellect and the heart’s emotions, and [more particularly], the variations among the components of the intellect and the various emotions. This knowledge is tangible, accessible. Through diligent intellectual exercise, one can continue to progress in comprehending the loftiest concepts.

As explained elsewhere1 at length, there are two types of comprehension: 1) elevation of the mind to the subject studied, and 2) descent of the subject to the mind. Each type may be subdivided into numerous categories composed of one or both main types. Essentially, the two general approaches are “abstraction” and “embodiment.” Elevation of mind is abstraction; descent of subject is embodiment.

However, the terms abstraction and embodiment are in general approximate descriptions. For each approach must include processes that are similar to those of the other.

Understanding is the result of either positive or negative reasoning. Superficially, these two processes appear to be antithetical (positive knowledge states in its terms what negative knowledge declares negatively; negative knowledge is the denial of knowing positively), but in actuality they are complementary. Positive reasoning proves the virtue of what we only know negatively; negative reasoning clarifies the positively understood. Each accentuates the virtue of the other.2 The initial step in mastery of a subject must be the knowledge of the positive, what can be known. This applies as well to abstraction and embodiment, first one examines the embodied, or lower plane of the subject.

The first step to learning, however, is [abstraction] the elevation of the mind in the ordinary sense of the word: simply—systematic devotion to intellectual activities. In time, this will lead to the achievement of the most profound, most delicate and abstract concepts.