RABBI SIMEON, when on a journey accompanied by Rabbi Eleazar, his son, Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Jehuda, said: "How astonishing it is that men give so little consideration to the study of the secret doctrine and the precepts of the good law.83a It is written, 'My soul delights in thee during the night, yea, my spirit within me seeks thee early' (Is. XXVII. 9).Is. 26:9 Though these words have been commented upon, we will give a further interpretation of their meaning. When a man retires to rest at night, his nephesh or soul leaves the body and ascends on high. If it be said so do all souls, it is not so, for not all ascend and behold the face of the king. When the soul leaves the body, its connection with the body remains intact, by means of what is termed the silver cord or magnetic tie. In its ascent it passes through hosts of elementals, until it arrives and reaches the region of light and purity. If found undefiled and untarnished by any immoral or unjust act and deed transacted during the previous day, it mounts still higher. If, on the contrary, it bears the least mark or stain of evil, these elementary spirits gather around it, deterring its ascent with pleasing delusions of future happiness or with visions of delight that are never realized and fulfilled. In this state of false and deceitful dreaming, it remains during the night until it returns and, re-entering its body, becomes awake. Blessed are the righteous
to whom the Holy One reveals his secret things by vision or dream so that they are forewarned and preserved from coming and incumbent judgments and calamities. But woe unto those wrong and evil doers who corrupt themselves both in body and soul.
"Note that when the pure and undefiled retire to rest, their souls ascending through all the intervening different hosts and degrees of elementary spirits, direct their course towards the region of pure spirits, impelled and guided thither by their own interior impulses and, ere the day dawns, they enter into loving intercourse and converse with kindred souls, and, in company with them, behold the glory of the celestial King and visit his splendid temples. He who has attained to this stage and state of spiritual development in the higher and diviner life, will find an everlasting portion in the world to come, and also that his soul becomes an ark to his real self and spirit ego and which, when unified and blended in one, the perfected being proceeds on its eternal ascent towards the Holy One, for from the divine has it, the83a-83b spirit ego comes forth, and unto the divine will it return at length. This is then what the psalmist meant,--'My soul longeth after thee in the night,' that is, desires to ascend to its source and will suffer nothing to divert it from its course.
"The word nephesh (soul) designates the lower self in the time of sleep, whilst the term 'ruach' is applied to it in its state of wakefulness and activity on the earth plane. The nephesh and ruach proceed from one and the same origin, being only productions of one principle, the spirit or higher self. So, then, as man is a; microcosm, a copy or paradigm of the universe, he is in his constitution a reflection of the divine nature, the Supreme Wisdom. The nephesh and ruach are the two angles at the base of a triangle and with that of the apex form a whole or perfect figure. When the neshama, the spiritual ego or higher self, prevails and rules within a man, he becomes holy and divine, because he then begins to conform himself to the image or likeness of the Holy One. The nephesh is the lower part of the individuality and its personal manifestation is the outward material body. Without the one, the other could not exist. As the body is to the nephesh so is this nephesh to the ruach. The ruach is superior to the nephesh and is referred to in the words, 'Until the ruach (translated spirit) be poured upon us from on high'.
[paragraph continues] (Is. XXXII. 15). The lower self, consisting of nephesh and ruach, is susceptible of the influence of the neshama acting upon it. Thus there is a logical and intimate connection and relation between these three parts of every individuality, forming a scale of ascension from the nephesh to the neshama, whose nature and existence, its present connection with the soul and its own future state and destiny, is a most profound mystery. Though beyond human comprehension, through and by meditation thereon, we can rightly infer that all the grades of existence between the lowest and highest, between man and the zoophyte on the one hand and between man and archangel on the other, though infinite in number, are but terms in the infinite series of organic and inorganic life, the integration and summation of which is the Divine Himself, the life of all lives, the fount of all being.
"Note that the nephesh joined to the outward body has the same relation to it as the lowest part of the flame of a candle has to the wick from which it is never separable and could not exist on or manifest itself apart from it and form a basis or substratum to the higher and brighter part of the flame to which the wick and the dark or lower part of the flame give rise. Above all of them imperceptible to human vision there exists a higher and brighter flame than its lower components, giving forth a clear and perfect light. The same or similar relation exists between the component parts of every individual being, the highest of which and invisible to human eye, is the neshama or divine part of man's nature and constitution, and so when the nephesh, ruach and neshama are in harmonic relation with each other, a man becomes holy through the divine life that then flows into him, and qualifies him for the reception and perception of divine mysteries, as it is written, 'He makes known through the righteous that are on the earth, all that we wish to know of him' (Ps. XVI. 3).
"When Abraham entered the Holy land, the Holy One manifested himself unto him, as it is stated, 'And the Lord appeared unto Abraham.' This was his first initiation in the divine mysteries, the beginning of his ascension in the divine Ife, and therefore he built an altar as a symbol of the degree he had attained unto, after which he journeyed, going still towards the south, by which is signified, that passing through the various grades of initiation, he attained to that of ruach, adeptship, and subsequently to that of the neshama, symbolized
by the hexagon, that indicates the harmony and union of the higher and lower self with the Divine. This attained unto, he built another altar corresponding thereto. This union with the Divine is the mystery of all mysteries; but ere Abraham could attain unto this high degree of spiritual life and knowledge, it was necessary to subject him to trial and probation, and therefore it was that he went down into Egypt; that is, he had to intermingle and come into personal contact and intercourse with the sinful world, its seductions and charms, its allurements and enticements to sensual indulgence, against which Abraham resisted, suffering himself not to be deluded and beguiled, thereby standing firm and steadfast and impervious to all assaults, proved himself faithful to the great principles and dictates of the divine life to which he had attained; and then, as stated, 'He ascended up out of Egypt toward the south, or in other words, he came out of his ordeal and period of probation purified and inwardly illuminated, to become regarded as a guide and paradigm to all other souls who are wearily climbing their way upwards on the steep and lofty spiral of the divine life. It is further added, 'And Abraham was very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold.' 'Very rich' signifies the east, cattle the west, silver the south, gold the north, the four quarters of the world, symbolizing totality of divine knowledge and wisdom."
When Rabbi Simeon ceased his discourse, Rabbi Eleazar, along with the other students, saluted him with feelings of the deepest respect and reverence, and Rabbi Abba, deeply moved, spake and said: "When thou leavest us where shall we find another master such as thou who will teach and indoctrinate us into the esoteric meaning of the secret doctrine? Blessed are they whose privilege it is to listen to the teachings and instruction that proceed from thy lips."