The first thing you need to know about proactive use of your mind is that you have more than one of them.

Which is a good thing.

Because otherwise there would be nothing to talk about.

We’re talking about meditating—as per our last installment. About taking the reins of that gray matter and restructuring it for inspired living. Who’s going to take those reins? Who’s doing the restructuring? There must be some aspect of mind that transcends the gray meat and is able to look at it and say, “Naah—better off this way!” Otherwise, why would a brain care about restructuring itself—or even realize it requires restructuring?

We’ve known this for a long time. We’ve known that there is an aspect of the human being that comes wrapped with the meat and bones, whileThere’s something of the human being that doesn’t come wrapped in meat. there’s another aspect that enters from beyond. That is why, writes the 14th-century commentator, Rabbeinu Bechayei, the book of Genesis tells the story of the creation of the first human being twice: once to describe the animal called homo sapiens, and then again to describe the injection of a G‑dly soul into this creature—“And He blew into his nostrils the breath of life.”

So there are (at least) two persons in there: a basic human animal person, and a G‑dly person. Two big roommates in a small human frame—with very different tastes in interior decorating. Which can get very ugly.

For generations, the recommended strategies for conflict resolution between these two parties were generally very top-down and often quite violent. Basically: tell the animal that it’s just an animal, and should get out of the way so the G‑dly soul can do its thing. If it doesn’t listen, take away all its toys: starve it, keep it up all night, threaten it with a big stick.

It took a maverick soul they called Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov to kick off a new trend of cooperation, and even collaboration, between the two parties. Something psychoanalysts later came to call sublimation: rather than repressing or denying the natural instincts of the animal soul, channel them into positive forms.

There are other ways to train your animal other than taking away its toys.

Yet really nothing new, just rediscovered. When you read our basic creed every morning and every night—the Shema Yisrael—you read that you are to love G‑d “with all your heart.” What does “all your heart” mean?

The Talmud answers1 that it’s talking about both of those persons inside you. Not only the drive to do good, but also the natural drive towards things that are not necessarily so good—that too must be channeled towards love and awe of G‑d.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi took that idea, worked out the details, and wrote an entire book around it. He called it “The Book of the In-Between Person”—a book for those who are caught in the struggle between these two persons inside. In other words, a book “for the rest of us.” It became the foundational work of Chabad meditation. Today, it’s known simply as the first book of “The Tanya”—after the first word of the first chapter.

How to cut a deal with your inner animal

So, to put this all together, we are describing meditation as a form of negotiations between a non-meat-related soul that is basically G‑d breathing inside, principally concerned with going back to where it came from, and a human brain that comes wrapped in gray and white meat and is principally concerned with, well, meat kinds of things—eating, sleeping, procreating, collecting toys, and getting lots of people to say what a wonderful human being he is.

When is the last time you had a heart-to-heart talk with your inner beast?

A daunting task. What can the G‑dly soul possibly say that might impress this human person?

Well, first off, you need some background data on your particular human animal. What impresses it? What fascinates it? What’s its language?

For instance, my particular human animal has always been very fascinated with technology. So here’s the sort of dialogue that works for it:

GS: Hey, Animal Soul! Ever get to wondering what kind of technology sits beneath this world you occupy?

AS: Well, yeah, I sort of get the feeling that it’s some sort of massive video game, in 3‑D . . .

GS: And some amazing technology for tangibility and human consciousness . . .

AS: Oh yeah, well not just that. Just think of the massive amount of storage to hold this data. I mean, even that little bug I just accidentally squished, or just a single molecule, or even some atomic structure—that alone is huge, data-wise.

So what sort of programming do you think such a ginormous project might take?

Well, the data thing—I couldn’t do that. For one thing, we have no way to store irrational numbers. So even the whole universe couldn’t store the data to make even one tiny part of it. Wrap your head around that!

What about providing your creatures with consciousness?

I’ve always wanted to do that! That would be so kewl! Just have no clue where to start. And, hey, the degree of interaction, system stability—components even know how to heal themselves!

So what would you say if I could get you in with the Master Programmer of this entire cosmos?

Say what?

Well, you know, I have some connections . . .

How’s that?

Don’t worry about it. The point is, if you’re in, I can arrange the meeting.

Wow. Awesome. Look, the time is up to Him. I can rearrange my schedule . . .

Well, best time is early AM . . .

No problem. How many minutes do I get? I’ll rehearse my lines, get it down real pat, no wasted time . . .

Hey, you get as much time as you can handle. He’s in no hurry. What do you think you’ll be talking about?

Man, I just want to tell Him what an awesome creation He’s put together over here, how much I admire His work, the depth, the elegance, the beauty . . . like, I couldn’t even begin to achieve even one iota of any of this! And, about the squashed bug, really sorry, it was . . .

So is there anything you’d like to ask of Him?


Sure, I mean it’s His universe. He’s in control. Maybe you have some feature requests? Bug reports?

Oh man—you mean He’s gonna listen?

Sure, He’s quite interested in hearing things from your perspective. Just share whatever’s on your mind and . . .

G‑dly soul, I love you! I’m in! I’m in!

Deep Cognition

Now, what’s good about this particular conversation is that the human animal has some sort of handle on what we’re talking about. It knows what it means to program a tiny, virtual world on an electronic device. That allows it to comprehend in some small way what it would take to create a real world, such as the one we live in, and to know that . . . well . . . that he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

So, as we work further with this critter, we need to foster these cognitive faculties. Which is just the reason why Rabbi Schneur Zalman began expanding the length of his discussions of the mysteries of the cosmos, delving into greater detail and explanation of just how things work.

Have you hugged your inner animal today?

The point being that he wasn’t driven by intellectual curiosity, but by a need to take those mysteries down to a level where not just G‑dly intellect, but basic human intellect could grapple with it and feel the wonder. The same human mind that is so obsessed with the visceral world of heart-pumping, gut-wrenching human drama will now be engaged in cognitively feeling the G‑dliness reverberating throughout everything he touches, and let his heart be pumped and his guts wrenched by that miracle.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s heirs continued to develop these ideas yet further, for seven consecutive generations, aided by many very brilliant disciples who wrote down their teachings and elucidated them yet further. All those writings comprise the literature of Chabad, a veritable library of “conversations to have with your human animal.”

Yet, in a way, these transcripts—generally called maamarim—are rather like a Duncan Hines cake mix. They’re not for eating raw. It’s left up to us to do the mixing, the processing, crack a few eggs and bake in the oven. Most of all, we have to sweat over customizing these ideas to our own particular human animal, and spend the time having those conversations.

Which explains the need for our next installation: Strategies for grabbing your animal’s attention.

In the meantime, for more on the techno-beast’s view of the universe, see the series Heaven Exposed.

And here’s a KabbalaToon to illustrate the two-mind thing: