Spirituality: That of reality which escapes definition. The truth of things before we measure them.

To approach Kabbalah, we need to forget the common words we use. Forget physical. Forget spiritual. These are meaningless. Worse, they are lies.

They suggest two island kingdoms at eternal war with one another. As though the spirit is a redundant intrusion, a nuisance from another world. As though the physical stands on its own, only suffering intermittent invasions of spooky, spiritual stuff.

In the language of the Kabbalah, we talk in terms of light, of wind, of rain and of clay (see table at right).

There is no conflict, but a hierarchy, a harmony, an interdependency and a unity. Light becomes all things, as photons become electrons and protons-yet always remains connected to its source. Rain condenses from the air, just as the material is only a condensation of the spiritual. Even clay can be molded to absorb the elements from above.

What is the physical, after all? What stops my feet from plummeting through the ground beneath, my hand from passing through the cup it holds? What are the two things that meet and mutually agree to let neither pass?

Certainly, not the particles of which they are composed. These are relatively as distant from one another as the stars and the galaxies. That mug in my hand is almost entirely empty space. Especially since none of its particles occupy any real space. They are described in quantum physics as no more than infinitesimal points where x and y meet. How do mathematical points spread so sparsely feel so hard to my hand? Could empty nothingness be holding back empty nothingness?

Ask a physicist and he will tell you something mystical: The particles do not interfere with one another. Their energy fields do. The electromagnetic field that organizes the particles of your hand meets the field that organizes the mug. The two conflict. And that is the palpability we call physical: Particles that occupy no space, suspended in their positions and orbits by a force.

And what is that force? Why does it behave the way it does? Where does it come from? What is it plugged into? What causes it to be the way it is? All the measurements we make with our devices will not tell us. They may aid us to dissect its fundamental properties, trace it back further and further to its hypothetical origins. But at every turn along this road, the billboards will ask the same question: How does it come to be the way it is?

If there is one thing our foray into the realm of subatomic particles has told us, it is this: Even if we believe that crystals can be explained by molecules, molecules by atoms and atoms by their particles and fields, nevertheless we are left with one big hole: Matter does not explain itself.

So what is matter? It is a miniscule set of instances that allow a certain degree of defined measurement. That aspect of reality that our mind's perception can resolve. The vast majority of the cosmos inherently eludes definition. Therefore, we don't consider it to be part of our reality. But in fact, it is the essence of our reality. This is what the Kabbalah means when it talks about the spiritual: That which explains the material, but remains beyond it.

The material world extends from that which we call spiritual. Therefore, to understand it at all, we need to understand how it first exists in that spiritual source. This is the realm of the Kabbalah.

Previous Kabbalah Files:
What Is Kabbalah?