Thursday, August 11, 2011

Body and soul, part 3

brain, heart, soul, body

I am continuing my musings (including links from Chassidic texts) about body–soul relationship.

Part 1.
Part 2.

In this part, I would like to quote Mitteler Rebbe from prakim 10 and 12 of his Sha'ar HaYichud, the Gate of Unity.

Briefly, as a background, in Chapter 10, Mitteler Rebbe says that there are three levels of unity within the Essence of the Infinite Light. At the first level, it is impossible to say that there are 10 Spheroes "unified", because they exist in absolute simplicity. The Rebbe gives an example of the soul, which has power of kindness, power of intellect, power of sight, etc. But in the essence of the soul (Yechida), these powers are not unified; they exist in potential. I.e., you don't have many different forces rooming together in the essence of the soul. You have one phenomenon, which has a potential to be expressed in a number of different ways.

The second and third level involve estimation and preparation of a force to be expressed in action. On these two levels, one can say that different forces of the soul exist in unification with each other, since they are indeed distinct forces; it's just that they are still unified, because they have not yet been actualized.

What's interesting to me at this point is the language the Mitteler Rebbe uses when talking about the actualization of the soul's power (the brackets are from the translator and editor; I am not copying the Hebrew text, because it's a major pain to edit, but you can refer to the original in the above link):

[All of these three levels] are before anything came out into actuality. For example, in the power of movement, [this entire estimation] is before any actual physical movement. Or, in the spiritual force, [this preparation] is before it actually comes into a physical body. 
Then, there is a change from a spiritual existence to a physical existence, such as a physical movement and physical life force. The same is true in the example of the physical growth. 
For this [change of existence] it is necessary for there to be an initial Tzimtzum — contraction and restrains in the revelation of the spiritual [potential]. This is so that there may be a [transition] from spiritual to physical (as will be explained in chapter 12).
Examining this loshon, one gets the impression that Mitteler Rebbe would not agree that the force that results in a growth of a limb is the same phenomenon as the growth itself — or, indeed, the physiological processes in the limb that constitute the growth. Instead, the Rebbe insists, there is a tzimtzum between the spiritual force and the physical process that results from the "actualization" of the force in the body. Just, one might say, as there is a tzimtzum between the Light that creates a stone and the actual chomer/tzura of the stone.

Going further, to the relevant part of Chapter 12, we find this analogy for the Tzimtzum of Oir Ein Soif:
The second type of analogy [of Tzimtzum], which is the life of the soul [as it is invested] in the body, also brings out the same point as above. This is that in order for there to be a change from the essential spiritual life of the soul, to a [physical] life of flesh, it is necessary for there to be an initial concealment and contraction of the light of the soul. This is because there is no comparison between them. 
Nonetheless, the soul is affected by the occurrences of the body. Therefore, even the light of the physical life [force] is connected and bound with the spiritual light of the essence. This is similar to [how the aforementioned] physical growth is bound to the spiritual power of growth. [Note the distinction! — CA]
However, when one’s [physical] limb becomes severed [G-d forbid,] this does not cause a loss to the spiritual light and life force of that limb. The proof of this is from [the fact that] a blind person can give birth to a whole person, as is known. This [shows that] the spiritual [life force] is merely concealed, but it still exists, hovering over the physical life force of the body. This is called “Tzelem Ish — The form of man”. This is similar to how the aforementioned [breadth and length of] knowledge which is concealed, [encompasses the brief teaching,] etc. (All of this is explained elsewhere at length.) 
Likewise, when the spiritual power of movement comes into an [actual] physical movement, it becomes constrained within itself *. Nonetheless, the physical movement is connected and bound to the spiritual [power of] movement. There are many other examples of this as well, such as the matter of having insight into a particular concept, which comes from the power of conceptualization [of his soul], which rests upon him in a concealed [fashion]. [This means that in order for there to be a particular flash of insight into a particular field of knowledge, it is necessary for there to be a Tzimtzum in his essential power of conceptualization (Koach HaMaskil).]
[* I am not sure what "it becomes constrained within itself" means. — CA]
Again, it seems that the Rebbe is saying that "there is no comparison" between the "life" of the body and the soul power that is the source of that life, the former being spiritual and the latter physical.

Although, one could also interpret the above as the Rebbe saying that there needs to be tzimtzum between the Light of the soul as it exists in Yechida (the essence of the soul) and the specific koach of the soul as it enlivens the specific body part (e.g., koach ha'reiyah as it "enlivens" the eye, the visual cortices, etc.). It would seem to me, however, that the first interpretation is closer to the pshat of the text.

The nature of the bottom-to-up influence of the body on the soul is not as clear to me from the text.

But the above text does seem to answer my objection to the idea that soul is the tzura of moach vis-a-vis brain death: if the cortex is destroyed, then the tzura of the cortex is destroyed; in that case, the soul is no longer there... and yet we rule Halachically that the person is alive. Based on what the Mitteler Rebbe said about loss of the limb and the life-force of the limb not being lost, but "hovering over the physical life-force of the body", one could answer my objection: certain aspects of the soul (koach ha'maskil, for instance) have become concealed and disconnected from the body, since their keili has been destroyed, r"l, but, first of all, the rest of the soul is still connected to the body, since those of its powers that enliven it (and are responsible for breathing and heartbeat, for instance) are still present, and second, koach ha'maskil is "hovering" over the life-force of the body; it has not been disconnected, merely concealed.

To be continued...

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