Part two of a two-part series. Click here to read part one.

We left you, Nesham'la, standing in astonishment, dismay, and utter befuddlement before a dignified heavenly tribunal that appeared to be coercing you to take several absurd oaths prior to your descent into a formidable mission to finally enlighten and liberate the lowly world. The court clerk had summarily cut down your aspirations for heroism, declaring you “mediocre” and “attitudinal.”

Finally, traumatized and shattered, you were sent back by tribunal order for further consultation with your advisor and registered guardian angel, known as “Coach.”

Back to the Lab

The lab was in magic forest simulation mode—a forest between Eden and Earth. Waterfalls of micro-gems plummeted downward, splashing outward in multiple dimensions, reflecting colors of many spectrums in their crystal gleam. A rich variety of trees bore ripe, delicious fruits. Songbirds of magnificent plumage nested in their boughs, singing in exquisite harmony.

You walked along a path with your coach in silence, hoping that the therapy of this stroll would somehow allow all you had just experienced to fall neatly into place.

It wasn't working.

Finally, Coach said, “If there was one question, what would it be?”

“What transcends light and darkness?” you asked. And with that, a floodgate of questions burst open.

“Isn’t darkness just the absence of light? Why even bother with darkness? Just bring in light. Like, what’s wrong with my game plan? I want to inundate the lower worlds with light to such an extreme that darkness will have no place to hide! Isn’t that the whole point of Torah wisdom and all these mitzvahs? Why won't they let me be the hero I truly am?”

“That's a lot more than one question,” Coach commented.

“Okay. What’s wrong with my plan?”

“Boring. Too predictable. A neshamah enters from a place of light. Brings light—of course. Darkness is vanquished, obviously. End of story. So why create darkness to begin with?”

Coach sat down on a log by the waterfall, and you perched upon a rock face to face.

“Look, we're sending you down there to do something creative and original," he said. “You're a neshamah, after all. You're not like the rest of us. You have more than light. You have a spark of The Essence inside you.”

“So what’s the big deal with darkness?” you asked.

Coach sunk into deep thought. Words eventually emerged, as though channeled from a higher world.

“They found Light,” Coach uttered, “sitting all alone in a room.”

And suddenly, you were in that room.

“They asked Light, ‘Have you ever met Darkness?’ And Light said, ‘No.’”

“So they said, ‘Well, Darkness is in the next room, and it really would like to meet you. Will you come?’”

“And Light responded, ‘I would be delighted.’”

“So they opened the door, and Light flooded into the next room. And Light said, ‘Where is Darkness? I came all this way to see Darkness, and Darkness is gone!’”

And you were back in the forest.

“I don’t get it,” you said. “How does that answer anything?”

“It is an answer you cannot hear and comprehend. You can only live it and know it. The Essence of All Being is not an idea. It is a reality. It is the only reality. Our world cannot convey an absolute reality. Only down there, where everything feels as though it is the absolute reality itself, there you can touch The Essence. Not with your mind, but with your very core of being.”

“And you have no simulation for this?” you asked.

Coach stared at you intensely.

“I mean, it’s a lot to ask to just trust them on something that makes no sense to me without even tasting it first.”

Still no response.

“They tell me to consider myself a rasha and then tell me that it’s a plan for disaster. They said that themselves!”

“You don’t understand what they are saying,” said Coach.

“And you’re telling me I can’t understand unless I try it out.”

“Basically,” said Coach.

“So, no simulation?”

“It’s never been tried before.”

“There’s always a first.”

“And they often crash.”

“I’ll trust you on this,” you said.

Coach laughed. First time you ever heard Coach laugh.

“The tribunal you won’t trust," Coach said. “And they’ve been doing this from the get-go. Me, you’ll trust on something that’s not even at beta testing yet. You’re nuts.”

“Hey, aren’t you my assigned guardian angel?" you asked. “If I can't trust you, who can I trust?”

Coach snapped back to his standard serious mode. More serious than you had ever seen.

“Then come with me,” Coach said.

The Dragon of Darkness

Lab 5786 had no visible floor or ceiling. The luminous display monitors that formed the walls may as well have been infinite in number. You and Coach hovered over a bluish-white sphere, many times your size, suspended in the center of the room.

“Looks beautiful,” you said. “What’s the challenge?”

“From beyond, it looks beautiful,” said Coach. “But once you enter within, it’s a disaster. We’ve infected it with deeply nested doses of lethal otherness. Eventually, that gave rise to an entity that believes it is all that exists and that it created this planet for itself to rule. A beast formed almost entirely of absolutely nothing. We call it the dragon of darkness.”


“Your mission in this simulation,” continued Coach, “is to harness that dragon of darkness and unleash its potential to rectify its world so that the subjective experience will match this objective view you behold now.”

“That makes no sense,” you said. “If it’s formed of absolutely nothing, an artifact of otherness, how can it have any power to do anything at all, never mind fix its own world?”

“So you’re not interested, then,” said Coach. “You would rather engage in something predictable and boring.”

“Well…uh…so what are my weapons?”

“What do you need?”

“A dynamic energy shield. As thick as I can handle and retain mobility. Multispectrum goggles. And a light dagger.”

“They’re yours. What else?”

“Can you make me invincible? And eternal?”

“You always were, Nesham’la. And, besides, this is a simulation.”

“So what's the risk factor? Like, no skin in the game?”

Coach gave you that stare again. “Visceral emotions of dread and terror. Excruciating pain. Scenes of gory violence and simulated death.”

“No sweat. I’m going in.”

And you were there. Within the deep sphere of inverted light.

Blinding Shadows

The creamy white clouds, it transpired, were a deception. From below, they oozed a dark gray substance that rained downward in a torrent and glazed everything below.

As you made your descent, swarms of tiny dark organisms flew toward you, emitting a thunderous roar of a multitude of screaming voices. You focused your mind upon your subliminal connection to the beyond, as Coach had taught you to do. Your shield responded with a pulsating glow. As the swarm encompassed you, you swung out your light dagger.

Immediately, the outer shell of these beings vanished. All that remained was a sparkling dust of many colors that rose higher and yet higher, eventually to be absorbed into the glow of the upper surface of the clouds.

A part of you was immersed within this subjective experience. A part of you remained outside, hovering there with Coach, observing all that transpired with the aid of the monitoring displays.

“So far, a piece of cake,” that part of you said.

Coach scanned the displays and said not a word.

You traveled deeper and yet deeper, liberating yet more sparks from the approaching swarms. Gradually, the light from beyond the clouds was able to enter, first in isolated beams, then in pockets of daylight reaching to the mountaintops of a murky, hazy planet.

As you descended through many atmospheres and deeper clouds, the swarms intensified in density and difficulty. Inevitably, a swarm approached that was not responsive to your light. As intensely as you focused your meditation, as bright as your shield glowed, these nasty creatures only grew more belligerent and hostile until they became dark gray spheres of negative energy, absorbing the light of your shield and dagger to become larger and yet more terrifying.

One such dark sphere lunged straight towards you, its toxic gases choking your breath, its negative energy field sucking in all your light until you, too, were sucked inside its shell.

Now you began the entire process again, descending through this sphere as you had through its parent. The upper strata allowed for some sparks to be liberated with light. As you proceeded lower, greater challenges ensued until, again, you were absorbed into a hostile, yet darker sphere. And then again. And again. The recursion became impossible to count, each time more challenging, bringing more failure, more darkness.

There was only one way out. You had to plunge below, to the ground beneath the clouds, and deal with the darkness at its origin. But your light shield would not permit you to sink to ground level.

So you ripped it off.

Outside, in the lab, Coach turned to your transcendent self and said, “I thought you wanted to remain a tzaddik.”

You heard those words, but you had no chance to respond. Your mind had no room for anything right now other than keeping your other self alive.

Ground Zero

That self was on the ground now, standing with two legs upon the thick mud of a world dimly lit by geothermal energy seeping through cracks in the rocks. There were sounds of movement about you, but in whatever spectrum you chose to perceive, there was nothing there. Nothing but your anticipation of what must be.

So you ripped off the goggles. And there it was. Breathing its icy darkness right in your face.

You couldn’t have seen it before because it had no light. It was a shadow—but a three-dimensional shadow, about the same size and dimensions as you occupied. Even the fire that blew from its nostrils was a dark, cold shadow of a fire.

You had one device left—your light dagger. You used it now.

The dagger flashed its light, illuminating the landscape to the heavens. The darkness vanished. And so did the dragon.

You switched it off, hesitating to place it back in its sheath. Good thing. The dragon was instantly back again, larger and fiercer than before.

Backing off, you attempted the same move again. Foolishly. The result was no different. As long as the dagger emitted its photons, the dragon was gone. As soon as it switched off, the dragon was immediately back.

“They found light sitting in a room,” you heard the voice of your Coach echoing in your mind. “Light, would you like to meet darkness?”

You racked down the intensity setting of your light dagger. As low as it would go. You aimed for the heart of the beast and switched the dagger back on.

The beast remained. Its heart did not. You adjusted the aim of the dagger. Wherever it was aimed, there was no dragon. When it left, there it was, yet more formidable.

“So, is it an artifact or what?” you asked yourself.

Above, Coach answered your question, speaking softly to your transcendent self. “Darkness and light, both the same, are creations, generated from a singularity that transcends both. At The Essence, at the beginning that cannot be known, they are one. At the end, where you stand now, they must also become one.”

How this was to be accomplished, you had no idea. You had no opportunity to even think about it—the dragon of darkness was now chasing you down. The light of your dagger provided illumination and protection—but it also seemed to feed the very same monster that it negated.

You ran in terror. If you were a creature of light, what could such a being do to you?

You found a cavern amidst the geothermal stream. It was warm. It was good. In some distant, fleeting way, it reminded you of the bliss of your garden above. Oh, how you yearned to return there.

The cavern provided an opportunity to reconsider your strategy. Yet instead, you found yourself absorbing the experience of just being there. It was a tangible, very earthly pleasure. The pleasure above swept away your sense of self. Here, on a physical plane, you could sense the warmth and remain an entity of your own.

“For now,” you thought, “this is not so bad. Let me enjoy this.”

That is when the mouth of the cavern clamped down. The ground beneath you began to flow like an organ of a living being. And it dawned on you that this was not a cavern.

The massive teeth of the dragon were hard as diamonds, sharp as razors, and swift as bullets to do their job.

Metabolic Power

“There’s no signal,” said Coach, scanning the monitors.

“So what the heck do I do now?” your transcendent self yelled.

“Can’t do much if you’re no longer in the game,” Coach answered.

“But you told me I would be invincible!”

“You’re still here.”

“Down there! I have to be indestructible even down there!”

“It’s a simulation. Not even beta,” Coach answered.

Frantically, you scanned the displays for some signal, anything. Nothing.

So you stopped. You stood perfectly still, as though you had just slapped yourself back to your senses. You breathed deeply, breathed deeply again, and then closed your eyes and focused your mind, all of it.

“Nesham’la,” whispered Coach. “You can’t connect to something that’s no longer there.”

“I’m there,” you answered. “I’m a neshama. Nothing can destroy me. Nothing can destroy even the proxy of me. Perhaps my form can be diminished. But even then, not for long.”

You turned to face Coach and gave back that trademark stare. “A neshama is a child of The Essence,” you said. “Beyond darkness and light. Beyond life and death. Beyond being and not being. So you can’t help me. But He still believes in me!”

Coach stared back, holding cool. “Very good then,” Coach instructed you. “Focus your mind now on what it is to be a dragon.”

That took a few moments to sink in. But you did it. You imagined life as an organism made of darkness that revels in its power and destroys all that challenges it. You felt the urges and the instincts of a meat and blood entity. You saw the world from the perspective of darkness rather than light. And within that image, you found yourself.

“The gastric juices are releasing their enzymes,” you said. “I’m being swiftly metabolized. My cells are entering its bloodstream.”

“Go for its neural pathways,” Coach advised.

“I’m finding those neurons now. Traveling through them on multiple paths. They cluster at the brain. There’s a high-level frontal cortex. I’ll reassemble there.”

“What are you going to do from there?” asked Coach.

“Kill the bugger,” you answered.

“So you’ll destroy its entire world,” said Coach. “What’s the point of that?”

“What else can I do from inside its brain?” you asked.

And then you answered yourself: “Inside its brain. I can’t think of a more strategic position to effect transformation than from inside its brain.”

Quickly, you switched back into deep focus mode. Once again, you imagined being the dragon—this time, a flying dragon. A dragon that yearned for light.

You spoke to the dragon from inside its mind, describing the many worlds beyond its darkness, portraying the dragons of light of which it was a mere shadow and how they craved to reach yet higher, to merge within their origin beyond.

You explained in meathead, dragon terms how its reality was truly a divine reality, and its entire purpose was to discover, realize, and reveal that truth. You described how beautiful its world appeared from beyond, and how it could become that way from within, as well.

You told it sci-fi adventures of dragons transformed into enlightened beings by neshamahs.

You painted upon the walls of its mind and heart a picture of the utter bliss that had been your home just outside of Eden.

Coach heard all your thoughts.

“To a dragon,” Coach said, “just outside Eden is not good enough. A dragon wants it all.”

“If a neshama can only experience the glow of Eden, how can I promise a dragon Eden itself?”

“Because,” Coach answered, “now you have a dragon to ride upon. Together, you can arrive.”

A furnace burst aflame within the dragon’s heart, and it started to fly. The clouds began to disperse. Patches of blue appeared, through which beams of light shot down to the planet floor, evaporating the goo that encased its denizens. The dragon soared yet higher.

Coach was in awe.

“This is wondrous,” Coach said, “Darkness behaving as light and yet retaining all its power as darkness. Even its world is transformed—from the inside out. This could only be with the power of The Essence.”

“Now you only need to fly it high enough that a tzaddik with a light shield can reconnect its spark to its origin.”

“Hey, I can take care of that myself,” you shot back.

“Nesham’la,” said Coach, “you left your shield, your dagger, and your spectrum goggles behind. You had to, in order to arrive here. You are a dragon now. To reconnect the dragon, you must stand beyond it. You are within it.”

“This dragon is transformed,” you said. “This dragon is the ultimate tzaddik. Beyond a tzaddik. Way beyond.”

“Watch this,” you said. “Auto-pilot.”

No sooner had you said those words than your dragon began to plunge. You attempted to regain control, but it was too late. A mightier dragon caught it on its descent, swallowing it alive.

“So I’ll transform this one, as well!” you yelled.

The recursive loop you had experienced upon entry now kicked back in, unfolding as a relentless hierarchy of dragon within dragon within dragon. There was no escape.

Except for reboot. Which Coach did.

In an instant, there was no dragon. No sky. No planet. Even the lab was gone, all of it.

You stood once again before the tribunal as though you had never left.

“Promise us, Nesham’la, that you will be a tzaddik,” said Mike.

“I will try, when I can,” you said.

“Good. And you will not be a rasha.”

“With your help,” you answered, “and the help from The Essence from which I come, I will not be a rasha.”

“And if the whole world says you are a tzaddik?” continued Mike. “Promise that even then, you will consider yourself similar to a rasha.”

You paused. Not to hesitate. You needed to really mean those words you were to utter now. You felt yourself once again looking out upon a dark world through the glaring eyes of a dragon.

You felt its meaty heart pounding, its blood burning, its synapses firing in heated agitation. You took a deep breath and held tight to its reins. You felt its power under the steady control of your thoughts, its heart beginning to resonate with your mind.

“Yes,” you answered. “Until the entire planet shines, I will work to transform its darkness from within. Until the dragon reaches Eden, it is still a dragon.”

Raph smiled. “Why stop there, Nesham’la? Why stop there?”