Getting to Know Your Imagination - 011 Conclusion
(Summary of the Previous Chapter: Let us now conclude the discussion on the subject of imagination. We will try to now finish this subject; there is always more we can say about this, just like in all parts of Torah. But we will try to at least conclude the main points of this matter.
In the previous chapter, we clarified that the purpose of our power of medameh is so that we can eventually come to a point in which we realize that we having nothing of our own. Our middos are not our accomplishments, because our middos are merely a continuation of Hashem’s middos; we haven’t come up with anything new when we develop good middos.
Man is called adam, which comes from the word medameh. This shows us that the only thing we can do is to utilize “medameh” – we can get ourselves to resemble Hashem. Our ultimate goal is to get even our nefesh habehaimis to realize that it has no middos of its own, because all of our middos are learned from others; since we compare ourselves with others. We need to shine this perspective, the perspective of our nefesh elokis, onto our nefesh habehaimis. The way to do it is through Torah.
This is a basic outline of what we explained in the previous chapter.)
The Deepest Sadness
We will now continue the discussion, and we will return to a point which we began to mention in the previous series given before this: the fact that imagination can be a source of sadness in a person.
Often, our imagination can be causing us to be sad. Let us now expand upon this point we mentioned briefly.
As we concluded in the previous chapter, we must realize that we have no abilities of our own. All we have is our power of medameh – we can get ourselves to resemble Hashem by having good middos, but we cannot create anything new. All we can do is to continue the good middos of Hashem.
When a person really internalizes this perspective – which is the perspective of the nefesh elokis – then his own nefesh habehaimis accepts it, but with much sadness. There is nothing sadder than this realization! The fact that we have no abilities of our own is a truly sad realization, and although it’s true, it is a deeply saddening and disappointing realization about our life.
When we feel so constricted and narrowed like this, it makes us sad. The word for sadness in Hebrew is atzvus, which comes from the word “atzuvah” – “measured.” When we feel too confined and limited, this is the deep cause for sadness. Thus, the most profound kind of sadness is the realization that we are truly limited and confined to being human – the fact that we have no real power of our own.
Most people do not reach this deep kind of sadness, because they live life superficially, thinking that they have a lot of things in their life. They never come to the deep realization that we have nothing of our own. People can identify a little with this kind of sadness when they feel despair in their life, but even despair doesn’t come from this deep realization that we are describing.
The deep sadness that exists is the fact that we have truly nothing of our own. This is the realization that we strive for, and it essentially perfects our nefesh habehaimis.
What Happens After We Realize This…?
However, this realization doesn’t always have a positive result on a person. If it doesn’t cause a person to accept this fact, the result will be something very negative: it will cause a person to strengthen his arrogance. The person will realize that he has nothing of his own on this world, so he runs away from this reality and instead convinces himself to become very arrogant, so that he can avoid the pain of the facts.
This is what happened to Esav, who is called “Edom”, from the word medameh. Esav misused his root power of medameh. What happened when he lost the firstborn rights? He grew terribly despondent, out of his great despair when he realized that he had lost it. He realized all that he had lost – but instead of using this realization to perfect himself, he ran away from this painful realization, and he instead became even worse. He then went in the opposite direction of the truth he had realized, convincing himself that he has “everything”, which led him to all of his evil behavior.
So on one hand, reaching the root of medameh can either cause a person to perfect his existence, or it can cause a person to increase his arrogance. When a person realizes “I have nothing of my own on this world”, either he will come to truly perfect himself as a result of this realization, or it will cause him to run away from this realization, resulting in an increase of his arrogance.
Most people never reach this root of their power of medameh; people who are familiar with imagination usually only make use of the branches of medameh. Only someone who has worked to clarify his soul knows what this root of medameh is.
Therefore, as long as a person still has the attitude that he has many soul abilities, he hasn’t yet reached the root of his power of medameh. If such a person tries to utilize the purpose of the power of medameh – which is to get himself to resemble the Creator (adameh l’elyon) through his abilities – he will fail. This is because a person never really discovers his true power of medameh unless he arrives at the realization that he has no other abilities other than medameh.
However, the more a person realizes that has no abilities of his own, and that medameh is his only ability – the realization that there is nothing he can do on this world except resemble Hashem’s middos – the more he refines his power of medameh. Such a person will know how to use his medameh for holy purposes, and he will also be able to get closer and closer to reaching adameh l’elyon, “I will resemble the Creator.”
The Danger of Using Imagination Without Proper Awareness
Without reaching this realization, a person uses his imagination to invent new things. The secular therapists of the world who teach people how to use imagination are all making up new things that do not exist. All of the imagination-based guidance they have come up with is based on making up things that do not exist.
What will happen if a person attempts to use imagination, if he hasn’t yet refined his nefesh habehaimis with the deeper perspective we have described here? Such a person is attempting to draw upon himself something through using his imagination, and he thinks to himself that imagination is just another one of his many various abilities that he has. He is aware that imagination is about drawing something upon himself, as opposed to coming up with something new – which is correct – but he mixes this up with the attitude that he has many other abilities as well, and that his imagination is just one of these abilities.
He is acting incorrectly, because as we said, a person has to realize that his only ability is imagination, and all other abilities are drawn upon us through imagination – but we have no abilities of our own. So if a person attempts to use his imagination in any way, without understanding that imagination is his only ability, he mixes himself up. He is correct in thinking that imagination is a way to draw something upon himself, but he is incorrect in thinking that imagination is just another one of his abilities. A mixture of good and evil is then created in his soul, resulting in a great deal of imbalance in his soul.
The Inner Approach To Changing Our Middos
Therefore, we arrive at the following deep point.
How can a person switch his middos? Let’s say a person is lazy, and he wants to switch this and instead attain the quality of zerizus (performing the mitzvos with zeal). Or, let’s say a person is sad, and he would like to switch this middah of sadness and instead be happy. How, indeed, can one change his bad middos into good?
He has to realize that since his entire power is to draw upon himself the middos of Hashem – as opposed to being able to create new good middos from within himself - all he can do is give back his middos to their Source. If he has this attitude, he can attempt to draw upon himself the good middos of Hashem, because with this attitude, he truly is aware that he is switching his middos.
This is a totally different attitude about our middos than what we are used to. If someone gets used to this attitude, he will come to totally nullify all of his middos to Hashem. It is a great fundamental about our soul: all of our middos are essentially a continuation of Hashem’s middos which we draw upon ourselves. Therefore, unlike popular thinking, we don’t have to “break” our bad middos! All we have to do is have this fundamental attitude about how we understand our middos – and that will perfect all our middos.
Attaching Ourselves to the Middos of the Torah
According to this deeper approach, we can also come to the following point. (Although this is a broader subject than how we are describing it briefly, we will still touch upon it). Our middos do not come from ourselves. There are thirteen Middos of the Torah; if a person thinks that his middos are his own, then this in turn means that his own middos are a contradiction to the middos of the Torah. The middos of the Torah will then not work together with his own middos…
Therefore, one has to change his perspective about how he views his middos. One has to nullify himself to the middos of the Torah, by realizing that he has no middos of his own, as we have explained. Our entire existence is to take ourselves and resemble the Torah. “Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world” – this shows us that we have to take ourselves and resemble the Torah, which is by nullifying ourselves to them.
This is what we must realize: that the only thing we can do is to use our power of medameh, by nullifying our middos to the Torah. This is the depth behind how we must connect to the middos of the Torah.
The more a person realizes this matter, the more he reaches the deep sadness inherent in Creation. As we said, this can either cause a person to elevate himself and perfect himself – or it can cause him to convince himself otherwise, which will turn him into a complete baal gaavah (haughty person).
Conclusion: Navigating Your Way Through All Of This
Therefore, we must not jump to this deep realization if we begin to develop our power of medameh. One should work on his power of medameh in steps – going in order of the chapters here, and he should absolutely not try to skip to the final stage, which was the discussion in this chapter. We must first work on the beginning stage, which is to develop our nefesh habehaimis – described in the earlier chapters – and only after that can anyone attempt to work on the matter described in this chapter, which describes how one can get his nefesh habehaimis to adapt the view of the nefesh elokis.
We have so far discussed the subject of imagination, and we have touched upon the subject of the deep sadness that a person reaches the more he refines his imagination. However, this entire series is just a part of a larger series, which we began before this. The previous series that we began before this one will continue, with the help of Hashem, after this; we will continue the subject that we left off with, which was the subject of discovering our causes for sadness.
It should be noted that not everything said here applies to all people. Different people need different methods.
If someone is finding these matters to be helpful to him, then he can continue to learn about these matters we will discuss, but if someone is not finding these matters to be helpful, then it’s just wasting time from his Torah learning, and there is nothing wrong if he doesn’t continue anymore with these classes; it’s better for such a person to just sit and learn in the beis midrash. There are also those who will only get more confused if they hear about these matters – for such people, it’s better for them not to come at all, because learning about this will only be harmful to them. For whatever reason, such people’s souls are not meant to work on these matters.
These continuing classes are only for those who are finding them to be of practical help – otherwise, to come hear about these matters and to try to work them is just bittul Torah.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH THE RAV
Q: How do we know if we are having a real thought (machshavah), or if it is just imagination (dimyon)?
A: We are usually imagining. Anyone has never developed his thoughts is imagining most of the time. But when a person penetrates into the Torah and into the reality of Hashem, he is in touch with reality. Most people’s thoughts are imagination, except for a few rare people who are totally immersed in learning Torah and who are attached with Hashem.
Only someone who is truly connected to the Torah – someone who learns Torah lishmah – has come out of his imagination. Anyone else is still in his imagination; except for a little light of the Torah which has penetrated him a little bit. It’s possible that a person lives his whole life and he never even had one true thought, because all of his life is spent within his imagination.
Q: If we are supposed to think that our middos are not our own, how do we work on our bad middos, since they are anyways not our own? Are we supposed to think, “I am working on a bad middah that is not my own…?”
A: We have to realize that all of our bad middos are not a part of us, like a “strange god” that resides in us. Someone who realizes this more and more had begun to experience his personal redemption.
Q: How am I supposed to view my imagination – is it that “I” have in myself a power to imagine, or is that my very “I” is being felt through my imagination?
A: The latter.
Q: How is that my “I” is being felt only through my imagination, if imagination is merely part of the thoughts?
A: The sensing of our existence, havayah, is initially felt through one’s imagination.
Q: How can a person progress from working on one good middah to working on another good middah?
A: When working on our middos, we aren’t supposed to be working on all of the many details of this. What we have to do is work at the root of our middos. If we work at the root of our negative middos – which is our imagination – then all of the various details of all our bad middos will improve as well. Our main job in working on our middos is to work at solving the root of bad middos – which is to uproot our imagination and refine it.
However, this only works when a person works on his middos with that attitude, that the root can solve all the branches of the problem. If a person just works at the root of the problem but he’s not aware that this also solves the many branches of his problem, it doesn’t work. We can solve all our problems when we work to get rid of the root of the problem, but only if we go into it with that attitude.