Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Tzimtzum Reconsidered

Originally posted on August 10, 2012

This title speaks to a re-thinking or re-interpretation of the Hebrew word, tzimtzum, which means contraction, and alludes to a mythic doctrine developed by Rabbi Isaac Luria in the 16th century community of Safed near the Galilee in Israel. So in the following myth I present the new story:

In the beginning God’s presence was inconceivably prolific, energetic, diverse—indeed, so vast and multi-dimensional that in order for there to be a creation, God had to only insert a part of it’s Divine energy into a space-time continuum. This contraction was the tiniest point that humans hypothesize was the “beginning” of the “great out-flowing” also known as the “big bang.” But even this tiny fraction was itself so full of psychic as well as material energy that the cosmos was insufficient to contain it all. The atoms of the cosmos were too incomplete and un-developed. And so there was “shattering of the vessels” a “shevirat ha-kelim.” The repair of this shattering, Tikkun Olam, is what the cosmos is about.

Now this is mythic, but it points to some deep issues. Consider, then, that in addition to the material universe, scientists now estimate that most of the universe is a mysterious “dark energy”—an inflow that cannot be explained at this point, and to a lesser degree, “dark matter,” which is hypothesized to explain why the galaxies don’t fly apart. And this supposed and entirely mysterious dark matter—do not think that giving a name implies that we know anything about whatever we’ve named!—still constitutes in its effect several times more than all the known matter of all the stars and planets and interplanetary gas of the hundreds of to contain them.

Now this whole contemplation was triggered by a dream that reminded me that there is a whole lot else that we are tempted to dismiss—i.e., the realm of dreams—but then, what if we didn’t? What if in addition to all the matter in this universe, there were also at a “deeper” para-dimensional level another hundred times the amount/volume/ whatever of psychic “stuff? Weird and wow, of course, but hang with me in this thought experiment. What if the whole known universe as described, of which only less than 10% were the material universe of the stars and heavens and us, was itself only 1% of the whole unknown, “psychoid,” no-manifest (and non-either-energy or matter as we can detect it) universe, which is only “our” universe. Never mind other “universes”—which used to be totally science-fiction, but now some reputable scientists are talking as if there really were such things. Boggle boggle boggle goes the mind.

Now working speculatively and rather wildly but not fully incompre-hensibly, the vast psychoid realms “contained” (if in and out and contain can be understood most loosely as metaphors imposed by 3-D beings to attempt to understand a seven to ten dimensional ultimate) dream fragments and forms, stories, archetypes, urges opening and closing, differentiating and integrating, and all other seeming dualities in process.

Rabbi Luria’s myth was that the contained universe were the vessels of the realms known as the S’firot on the Tree of Life diagram, and they couldn’t contain the Divine outpouring. I’d phrase it similarly, but differently: What can begin to contain Divine Energy is not just the atoms, but the organization of the atoms, the linking up of the elements into cosmically integrated “systems” of unbelievable complexity. This requires the evolution of minds capable of conscious reflection co-evolving with technologies that amplify the strength of those minds trillion-fold.

We are on the way to this, having progressed perhaps 10%. We should be hopeful and cheerful, because with this present interpretation, as yet half-baked, we are encouraged to keep taking responsibility, keep up the many parallel processes of:
   – continuing maintenance activities, loving, reproducing, cooking, keeping healthy, etc.
   – continue differentiating, coming up with new games, investigating new frontiers, creating new musical instruments, art media, forms of play and work, new philosophies, etc.
   – continue integrating, coming up with yet new ways of redeeming elements that have been rejected, yet which contain useful components; bringing together seeming opposites that had not previously known how to brought into balance or synthesis, etc.
   – continue exploring, growing, having adventures, enjoying life, etc.

The rate of developing consciousness has accelerated, but that’s no reason to get greedy. Learning to let go, be courageous without yet being pridefully presumptuous, learning to recognize our limited-ness and yet not letting that discourage or inhibit our engagement, these too are part of our challenge of cultural maturation.

Back to the dream I had this morning: The idea that we are not all that far along came to me on contemplating the riot of vivid adventures I had just been having before I really awoke. It was as if I were trying to awaken more and getting out of a rather interesting architectural indoor structure and stepping outdoors so as to wake up. Then I vaguely realized that even this pseudo-awakening was still within the dreaming! There are several spin-off philosophical directions to go here, but for now, let’s focus on this one: What if our dreams are our myth-children, unruly, unfocused, pleni-potential—i.e., able to be developed in many ways—but as yet hardly focused.

That’s the seed idea: Dreams are psychic fragments, children who seek a degree of both help in becoming more focused , attuned, and yet celebrated for their unique beauty and individuality. Our ordinary minds can hardly manage this seemingly incompatible set of goals, yet that is indeed what’s needed. Saying it differently, the challenge is to focus without inhibiting the intrinsic potential for creativity. Up to now, humanity has sought order through varieties of cruel oppression. By tyrannically suppressing freedom, it has enabled certain other kinds of freedom and endeavor to unfold. Balancing containment and creativity has not come easy and even today it’s fraught with tendencies to lapse into shallow libertinism on one side or fundamentalist domination on the other. That is to say, I discern a bit of progress in the art of “civilization”—but not much—over the last few thousand years—the era of “history.”

As an aside and to offer another symbol of our actual species immaturity, note that humanity didn’t have history until we had a medium of writing becoming a part of culture, and for a number of small pre-literate cultures, that’s still happening!

Ken Wilber’s scheme (that builds on others’ work) of a scale of culture types (symbolized by colors) reflects the emergence of a body of philosophy that reflects on the evolution of consciousness—the idea itself may seem obvious to some, but it is relatively new for others. Its impliciations are profound and I suspect many haven’t contemplated these.
– Religion itself, so apparently conservative, is in fact dynamically evolving
– Psychology is gradually making its way towards the mainstream, following science, following rational empiricism, following rationalism, following the preservation of wisdom as a value, etc. There have been waves of new-paradigm thinking, and with the accumulation of energy and communications technology, human wisdom has speeded up in its own evolution. (The vast majority of humanity has hardly caught up with most of this, but no matter.)
– We are in the midst of many other paradigm shifts.

Back to the wild, mythic theme of redemption of the dream fragments, bits of shattered Divine emanation, with a ratio of  billion fragments to one coordinating consciousness (and acknowledging that there are close to seven billion of these “human minds” on this planet alone.

The theme is that we as individuals are charged with cultivating and harvesting the garden of our unconscious, each blade of grass or leaf or grain of earth being part of this rich and fertile matrix. But it tends to grow wildly, transcending any judgment of good or bad. It is what it is, with spiders eating bugs that eat whatever, and fear and micro-violence operating throughout the system. This sense that the garden metaphor might apply to the dream realm is the core here.

What is humbling is, that for all we’ve been learning about gardening, the percentage of mystery and the degree to which all may be absolutely controlled by will—or even known to consciousness—is minuscule. What if we adjust our goals to working with it all, surrendering to higher guidance, recognizing that (and this is new in psychology!) much that goes on in the mind is subtle habit. We don’t and cannot even theoretically control the process. Yet there is some guidance and influence possible with re-minding, some slight willing, some positive image-ing all helps. So we are learning how to channel the welter of impressions of our minds.

It’s sort of “stilling” the mind, at least in not responding so avidly to this or that allurement. There is an awareness of the monkey-mind, and the dream world epitomizes this welter of chaos. The goal is to redeem it, to begin gradually to bring together these psychic and spiritual elements.

Such a vision, granting a measure of “reality” to what we have ruled out of reality—i.e., “just dreams,” —requires myth for its management. It’s a task that cannot be approached in materialistic terms. It’s too wild and multi-dimensional for empirical “science.” This is in no way to dishonor science, but this kind of myth does then recognize the limitations of science, the territory into which it even theoretically could neither operate nor be applied for all practical purposes.

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