Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain, Founder & Spiritual Director
"[God] is known and grasped to the degree that one opens the gates of imagination! The capacity to connect with the Spirit of Wisdom, to imagine in one's heart-mind -- this is how God becomes known." (Zohar 1:103a-b)
There is Mind and there are the thoughts of the Mind. And whereas my mind is God's Mind, my thoughts are not always His thoughts, and furthermore my mind is the lesser mind that His Mind also is. As Jung says:
"The Self is a quantity that is supraordinate to the conscious ego. It embraces not only the conscious but the unconscious Psyche and is therefore, so to speak, a personality which we also are." (Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, CW 7, par. 274)
The Greater is surrounded by the lesser -- the "Spark" by the "shell" -- the Nitzot by the Kelipah -- and so it says, "Open for me the Gates of Righteousness that I may enter and praise the Lord" (Psalm 118). This is the relationship between Sefirah Tiferet and Sefirah Keter in Kabbalah -- Ze'ir Anpin ("Smaller Face") and Arikh Anpin ("Larger Face") as they are also known, respectively -- or as the Zohar calls them, the "Mirror that Does Not Shine" and the "Mirror that Shines."
For this reason we are told, "Be still and know that I am God," and elsewhere, "I am listening; what is Yahweh saying?" (Ps. 85:8) Which means that by the act of mind observing Mind -- "thought" observing "Thought" -- and in that moment asking, as Sri Ramana Maharshi asks, "Who am I" -- the Greater of the two (the "Mirror that Shines") is apprehended by the lesser (the "Mirror that Does Not Shine") and "this" knows "That," as we are told by the Vedanta, because what had once been the same and then became different now sees and recognizes itself in the reflection of the other. If we observe our thoughts in meditation, we discover a hall of mirrors in which there is the thought, the thinker-of-the-thought and the Observer of the thinker-of-the-thought. But beyond even that, there is the Unknowable Knower to which Edinger alludes:
"The experience of being the knowing subject . . . . is only one half of the process of knowledge. The other half is the experience of being the known object. The ego as knower conquers the outer or inner 'other' by relegating it to the status of known object. But this is not consciousness in the full sense of 'knowing-with,' it is only science or simple knowing. To achieve authentic consciousness the ego must also go through the experience of being the object of knowledge with the function of the knowing subject residing in the 'other.'" (Edward F. Edinger, The Creation of Consciousness: Jung's Myth for Modern Man, p. 41)
We see this graphically represented in the 16th century, Kabbalistic diagram of the Ten Sefirot as conceived of by R. Isaac Luria:
Thus, the act of Knowing begins with the process of untangling this from That before one can realize, as in the Hindu formula, Om Tat Sat -- "That is this." The "thinker" must separate himself from the "thought" in order to intuit the common origin of both, the Unknowable Knower which C. G. Jung describes as "the One who dwells within [us], whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses [us] on all sides, fathomless as the abysms of the earth and vast as the sky." (Answer to Job, par. 758)
Now let me develop this idea just a bit further: If, in meditation for example, I am observing my thoughts then there must be a separation between them -- a separation between object (the thought) and subject (the thinker). That is, in the act of the latter observing the former I have untangled one from the other, "ego" from "mind."
But the greater question arises: Who is this Third participant, this Other, whom I gradually become aware is observing me, as if from a great distance, observing this separation between "me" and my "thought, and within whom the entire process seems to be contained and taking place?
In other words, if I pay close attention (with my eyes either shut or open) I discover that there are three personalities at work in this process: the thought, the thinker, and the Observer-of-the-Thinker-of-the-Thought -- the latter of which, although elusive and ephemeral, can be apprehended and identified as the Unknown-Knower, the "Self," or as our good friend Alice Howell calls Him in her own writings, the "Divine Guest."
Thus, the "Unknowable Knower" becomes known by that which it knows. But how can that be if it is, as we say, "unknowable"? The Zohar replies:
"He is known and grasped to the degree that one opens the gates of imagination! The capacity to connect with the Spirit of Wisdom, to imagine in one's heart-mind -- this is how God becomes known." (Zohar 1:103a-b)