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How Can Humans Claim to Know of “Other Worlds”?

How Can Humans Claim to Know of “Other Worlds”?

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Photo by Oneinfocus.
Photo by Oneinfocus.

Question:

I’ve recently started studying chassidic texts, and though I am thoroughly enjoying the teachings, there’s one issue that is bothering me. How can any human claim to know of “other worlds”? Nobody has died and come back to tell us this information. Where does it come from?

Answer:

Congratulations on entering the world of mystical teachings. I hope that you utilize your new spiritual journey to its maximum!

Now, how do the authors of these texts know what takes place in the spiritual worlds? Allow me to explain:

The basics of the teachings of Kabbalah—upon which all these texts expound and elaborate—were not invented by the human mind. They are teachings that were orally passed down through the generations, from teacher to disciple, dating back to Moses himself.

And Moses did go there and back. He spent months on Mount Sinai wandering through the various spiritual worlds, and then communicated his findings back to us. That which he didn’t personally experience was revealed to him by the Creator of all these spiritual worlds—together with the rest of the Written and Oral Torah. Even after he descended the mountain, he continued to learn directly from G‑d for the next forty years.

For many centuries these esoteric teachings were never transcribed, and were taught only to the holiest and most worthy pupils. With the writing of the Zohar (compiled by the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai), the teachings of Kabbalah became more accessible to the scholarly class. The 16th century saw another huge step in this direction, due to the efforts and teachings of the master Kabbalist the Arizal.

Ultimately, it was the growth of the chassidic movement that made the secrets of the Torah, those that were revealed to Moses some three thousand years earlier, accessible and intelligible to everyone—man and woman, young and old, scholar and layman, Jew and gentile. It also teaches how to apply these otherworldly lessons to make our own lives more spiritual and uplifted.

(Why this evolution in the accessibility of the mystical teachings of the Torah? See The Splattered Gem.)

Another important point: Throughout the generations there have been those who have experienced the spiritual worlds—and then reported their findings to the rest of us.

How did they get there? (Or, how did they get back? . . .) Well, the spiritual worlds are not a far-off location—by definition, a spiritual entity cannot be ascribed a “location”—but a deeper reality existing parallel to ours. Most of us cannot relate to this reality while still enclothed in a physical body which filters out all but that which can be sensed with the five senses. Most of us wait until the time when our soul is unencumbered by the body before experiencing the “other worlds.” But some people are sensitive to that reality. They have refined themselves and connected to G‑d, so much that their soul shines. Sometimes we call them prophets. Sometimes we call them rebbes. The point remains the same; they are sensitive to realms that we can only imagine (or study) about.

A blind person can’t visualize the vivid colors depicted by a sighted person. But he still relies on him to guide him through a busy intersection. We also rely on those who can see the spiritual side of things to help us through the maze we call reality.

Yours truly,
Rabbi Menachem Posner

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
Photo by Oneinfocus. Oneinfocus is committed to educating and inspiring people on a global scale, using photography and other forms of visual technology to spread Torah, Chassidus and positive life values.
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ruth housman marshfield hills, ma August 4, 2013

Re Violetta the significance of HEI You are so right and I am saying this out of my mystic experience of the letters, that HEI and the red HEI fer are related, and so a story that is weaving its way back to Jerusalem through the East Gate, a story that is a Promise, that will be redeemed, as we're all in this together, and we're moving fast into a new era that marries conscience with cosciousness. It's astounding, stupefying, and will bring us all to our knees. Violet is the royal color. Utlra violet. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem August 4, 2013

"A llight unto the nations" answer to Jack (and sorry for taking so long to answer) It's not a matter of an "effort". It's just being what we are and following the Torah and the light shines through. I grew up in a half Jewish neighborhood in the States with three observant families in the area. It happened a few times throughout the years that somebody would stop in and ask my parents for advice- how to bring up children with such respect for parents as we had for ours, how to bring up modest daughters. One time we heard, through closed doors, a Catholic neighbor who we were friendly with, burst into tears and say to my mother, "I saw your husband in the supermarket last week and he didn't even glance at another woman. Mine doesn't stop looking. How do you Jews do it?" So that's what it means to be a light unto the nations, even those who never heard the word Torah. We follow the Torah and they learn right from wrong. (By the way, this causes jealously and is the real cause of anti-Semitism). Perhaps Google "John Adams on the Jews". Reply

ruth housman marshfield. ma July 22, 2013

Dialogue As I read through the most recent comments this appears to be a dialogue between several but not all people on line.

The record I keep is not refutable, and it is consequent to a Vow I made with G_d. What I am recording is not random, and does involve the Hebrew letters and all words and letters across Babel. It could be said, we are, in our existential lives, actualizing the potentials of the letters. This is why naming is so important and why Biblically there is so much attention to Adam, naming the animals and those myriad begats. Also of course the changes of names involving important Biblical personages. It appears to me, that it's ALL G_D and that is a deep Kabbalist truth, that is being articulated in other places, not just within Judaism.

There are many planes of existence as in Pardes. What we interpret on one level, can involve deepening insight and interpretation as we pull away the veils. This story in all its iterations, and turns, is about love. A reframing. Reply

Violeta Cortes Wittman Maine July 22, 2013

olam haba poster I have a poster here that depicts Olam Haba as a beautiful staircase coming from the letter Hei and going up to the Third Temple. This is the depiction of Olam Haba? Reply

Jack Midland Park July 9, 2013

The Other World Reply to Shoshana of Jerusalem, her July 4 message. You mention that "we are meant to be a light unto the nations and spread its meaning to all."
If you personally have done this, what has been your experience in response to this effort ? Thanks. Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel July 8, 2013

There is no Mysticism Here Faith, of New England:
It seems to me that your claims about "mystic knowledge" are badly founded. The subject does not need to be steeped to such a degree, in these strange ideals.

The trouble with religious belief is that it is 100% certain and the trouble with scientific knowledge is that it isn't. Yet both belief and knowledge figure strong in our lives. This places the agnostic is sufficiently interesting and realistic mode of thought as to not need to bring in the mysterious. The problem may be due to the inadequate use of suitable language or that the cold logic of the facts is not suitable at this level of thinking.

After all (to illustrate with a different subject), that we all have free-will is thought to be obvious--but if so, how is that such a thought is inevitable? And if not, how can I be writing this? Thus our system of thinking may be the limitation on our ability for understanding this problem rather the need to enter a spirit world for explanations. Reply

Faith New England July 5, 2013

Recognizing the source of all worlds To David Chester, I agree wholeheartedly, that though belief can be a good thing, since it sets our mind in the right direction, still, blindly accepted belief, to say, belief which has not been held up to vigorous and close examination can be a dangerous route.
This is because "belief" comes from the subjective and finite mind of man, whereas True Knowledge of "God" comes only from "God"/ Infinite Consciousness / Awareness in the form of transcendent or mystical Knowledge. To say, if the mind can imagine That .. it ain't That. : )

A desirable agnostic view is one which does not yet know but has a burning desire to know. This is often a better stance, since it leaves one open to more possibilities than blind faith belief does.
Belief typically limits That which is *ultimately* unlimited.
Typically, the true seeker is led through agnosticism / belief, to mundane mind knowledge, to transcendent mystical Knowledge.

Mystical Knowledge is not Intellectual knowledge. It is not so much what we 'read' but "how" we are able to read it. It has nothing to do with one's religious beliefs but that rare mystical Knowledge which lifts one beyond all that.

Mystical Knowledge is not owned by any particular religion or societal group. It can strike anyone at any time. Hidden within most religions is a mystical tradition which is rarely understood by that religion and is often cloaked, out of necessity, since it will be, must be misunderstood by the non mystical mind .

The dualistic Jewish tradition has the non-dual Kabbalists, the dualistic Christians have the non-dual Gnostics, the dualistic Moslems have the non-dual Sufis, and the dualistic Hindus have the non-dual Siddhas.

To be satisfied with knowledge of higher worlds and not fully grasp That which is the source of all those worlds, That divine One which is both the cause and the effect, is to stop way too soon. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem July 4, 2013

Torah and mankind The Torah was given to the Jews on Mt. Sinai. It is for us to keep in all it's detail.
BUT, at the same time, we are meant to be a light unto the nations and spread it's meaning to all, though not it's commandments, because those were given to the Jews, except for the seven commandments given to rest of the world, through Noah.

Reply

Jack Midland Park July 2, 2013

The other world and the Torah Reply to Shoshana of Jerusalem regarding her July 1 message. In your June 26 message, you refer to the Torah and what it means to you. Most people on earth have not read the Torah. Also, many people can not read at all.
By the way, I own five different translations of the Torah. Take your pick. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem July 1, 2013

The Five Books of Moses (Torah) I don't know about most of the people on earth, but I think that many have read the Bible.(The Torah) (It's been on the 'best seller' list for years!). The English names for the Five Books are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Highly recommended reading! Best with a proper translation and explanations. (Try Artscroll.)

But perhaps there is something to what you wrote because I read on "A Pastors Journey to Judaism" (on this web site) that they were never even given a Bible to read in church, and a comment posted by a Lutheran, I think, said that they weren't even allowed to read the Five Books of Moses at all.

Anyway, why did you mention in your reply to me that most people have not read the Torah? Reply

Jack Midland Park June 27, 2013

Other worlds, part 2 In reply to Shoshana and Anonymous both of Jerusalem.First of all, most people on earth have not read the Torah.
Second, I am familiar with near death experiences reported by many people.
Third, I believe most people
do not use most of their minds because of daily distractions. Those who do can experience near death experience.
Fourth, I will relate an experience I had several years ago. My wife and I invited a group of people to our home for meditation. Some of the visitors were strangers invited by the people we knew. One of the strangers handed a group of keys to the next person who handed them on to the next person. Eventually, the keys ended up in my hand. No one told me anything about these keys.I closed my eyes and meditated on them. After a minute, a vision appeared in my mind.It was a scene of three rivers meeting near a point of land. Above the meeting point, was a train running on a track.which I described to our group. If you know your city geography You will know that the oldest part of Pittsburgh is located at the junction of three rivers. The stranger told us that the keys used to belong to his grandfather who was a railroad train engineer working in Pittsburgh.
How do you explain that ?
I think that the children in the hospital had a similar experience. Reply

anonymous Jerusalem June 27, 2013

a proof of the next world About 10 years one of our children was hospitalized and in his room was a nine year old boy who had been in a serious car accident. His mother and little brother were slightly hurt, his 13 yr.old sister was killed, and he almost died. His parents, secular Jews, told me that when he woke up he told them that he had gone through a dark tunnel and at the end of it was a Great Light, and he had a wonderful indescribable feeling of warmth and happiness, and then he saw his sister, her face glowing, and she told him, "Go back to Mommy and Daddy and tell them that it's good for me here". Then he woke up. The eye witness testimony of a nine year old secular boy who knew nothing about Judaism

In the room next to us was a five year old boy, had also been in a car accident, and was still unconscious. His family, also secular, sat around his bed day and night, crying and saying Tehillim (Psalms). He finally woke up and excitedly told his parents, "I saw Grandma and Grandpa!" Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem June 26, 2013

answer to Jack- continued -near death experience. You asked if there is proof of near death experiences. I don't think anybody can prove or disprove this. But the thing is that so many people have had the same experience - Jews, non-Jews, religious and non-religious, people in all walks of life and from all over the world, that it seems to be true. They say they were hovering over their body and can tell you everything that went on in the operating room or at the scene of the accident. They all report, "I saw my body.." meaning that they have separated from their body and what is talking is the real "I ", the soul, and the body is left there. Many report hearing a loud bang and going through a long dark tunnel, and seeing a Great Light at the end. (exactly what the Zohar describes.} Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem June 26, 2013

to Jack - a very good question Perhaps I should have said, "wants something from us". (or, "for us") Anyway, we know this from the Torah, ( the Five Books of Moses), the Prophets, the Book of Psalms, and the Sages. All over we see that He wants us to follow His Torah. All the holy writings tell us this. The truth is that His love for us is very great and He keeps giving and giving, but He wants us to keep the Torah.

Why? First, we have to understand that He lacks nothing and needs nothing. He created the world to bestow loving kindness on us here, and so that we should merit the World to Come, there. He wants nothing for Himself, for He has no needs. When we notice the magnificent creation and the greatness of our own lives, and we thank Him and sing His praises and follow His commandments, we are coming close to Him and our lives are full of meaning. And this is what He wants from us and for us. Like a loving parent who wants his child to have a meaningful life, for the child's sake, not for his. Reply

Jack Midland Park June 25, 2013

The Other World Several comments to a difficult subject.:
1. Shoshana of Jerusalem on Jun 25 says in part. "...that G-d wants something in return." How do she know that ? Why does He ?
2. People speak of near death experiences. How can they prove this is so?
3. I think I understand what Faith P. of New England on Jun 4 is saying. I wish she could explain it in simpler terms. Thanks. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma June 25, 2013

ONE STORY I look out at a fallen tree, old, its bare limbs, angle towards earth. It seems a fallen ladder lies there. It feels like, all life is metaphor, and what deeply connects, what is the connective tissue of all life, is a ladder, Jacob's ladder from merger to merger, and within, each moment, a story, crafted not just for you, but for all Creation. This means this weave is so great, it boggles human understanding. it's a song. We used to call it, the music of the spheres. Sefirot. That every single blade of grass is accounted for. There are worlds right here, we keep exploring, discovery, for joy. We cannot plumb every book so G_d created One Verse, in which we all can dance, together, sharing that limitless wealth with each other. There is a Unitary Principle that binds ALL CREATION. The Book of Life has got to be, a Book of Eternal Love. Turn the page. Another world awaits... and then... another...When you see it, truly see it, all you want to do, is share. Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem June 25, 2013

experiencing other worlds When a person prays and asks G-d for something, and the request is granted, he should know that G-d wants something in return. He has granted our request because He loves us and wants us to know Him and come closer to Him. For a Jew, coming close to G-d means keeping His holy Torah.

When a person has mystical thoughts and perceptions of other worlds, he should realize that these are gifts from H-shem, Who wants to draw him close to Him, so that he should follow the Torah.

These gifts are opportunities. G-d wants every Jew to keep Shabbos, kashrus and family purity, so that He can give Him eternal reward in the World to Come. Otherwise, when the time will come that we will have to return our soul to our Maker, and He will ask us what we have accomplished, and all we can answer is that we had great perceptions, He will not be impressed and will say, "Those were gifts that I gave you. Where is Shabbos and all the other mitzvos of My Torah?" And what will we answer? Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel June 24, 2013

To Aaron of Jerusalem Thanks for taking the trouble to reply. By agnostic I mean someone who is unable to believe with 100% acceptance, yet is unwilling to deny that there may be something in it. We are talking about another universe where the souls reside after the death of the bodies that posses them.

I could be wrong but it seems to me that the human condition, of having doubt, usefully enables us to question our religious faith, rather than to accept it without question. This automatic acceptance is clearly not the way we should be going, since it implies a lack of serious awareness and thought. Thus having a sincere but 100% sure belief is in itself a self-contradicting phenomena.

If this is true, than my approach to have doubt should be more common amongst Jews than many orthodox ones would care to admit! Reply

Aaron Jerusalem June 22, 2013

answer to David Chester May 29 Of course you can do better! Come on over to the real "safe side" the side of Torah and mitzvos, You're almost there already. You know the truth. It's been around for 4,000 years, since the time of Avraham. What do you mean "agnostic"? You are a believer, you're just afraid to take the step. Reply

C Winkler Oregon June 7, 2013

NDEs There are stories of those who have come back from the other side to report seeing beings of light, deceased family members and guardian spirits. What about the experiences and tales of those who have experienced near-death? Reply

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