Monday, April 08, 2013

Ordinary Mystics #9: Three Garments of the Soul

Chapter Seven: Three Garments of the Soul

As we have said, the relationship between the absolute world and the relative world is like that of the ocean to its waves. The waves are the ocean in a specific pattern at a specific place and time. What is the pattern the absolute takes that allows it to manifest the relative?

There are many from the physiological to the ethereal, but for our purposes there are three patterns that matter most: thought, word, and deed. These are called in Judaism the Three Garments of the Soul.

The soul is the equivalent to mochin d’gadlut, spacious mind, that level of consciousness that knows the relative to be the absolute in time and place. The Garments of the Soul are the ways mochin d’gadlut breaks into mochin d’katnut and reveals the narrow world of competing selves to be but one pole of the nondual reality of God.

The Three Garments of the Soul exist in the realm of the relative, in the realm of mochin d’katnut. Because of this they can become stained by excessive influence of Yetzer haRah. When our thought, words, and deeds are driven by selfishness rather than a genuine concern for both self and others, they become soiled.

 From the Jewish point of view cleansing the Garments of the Soul is what spiritual practice is all about. Our thoughts can be liberating or imprisoning. Our words can be healing or hurtful. Our deeds can be helping or harming. The more they reflect the narrow perspective of mochin d’katnut and Yetzer haRah the more our thoughts are imprisoning, our words are hurtful, and our deeds are harming. The more they reflect the spacious perspective of mochin d’gadlut and Yetzer haTov the more our thoughts are liberating, our words are healing, and our deeds are helpful.

The task of the Nazirite is to move from the perspective of mochin d’katnut to that of mochin d’gadlut. The way we do this is by cleansing the Three Garments of the Soul through the three abstinences of the Vow.

We cleanse the Garment of Thought by abstaining from dead bodies, understood as dead thinking. We cleanse the Garment of Word by abstaining from intoxicants of mindless media and needless drama that often lead us to saying things that are untrue and unnecessarily hurtful. We cleanse the Garment of Deed by abstaining from cutting our hair: that is when we stop giving into the psychology of victimization and grow our power to honor both self and other.

 Discovering this link between the Nazirite Vow and the Three Garments of the Soul leads us to a toolbox of spiritual techniques that Jewish sages have honed over centuries.

We will focus on four such tools: Shmirat haLashon, guarding our speech, Gemilut Chasadim, doing random acts of kindness for others, Cheshbon haNefesh, taking a nightly inventory of our character, and Hitbodedut, taking solitary refuge in God.

The next few chapters will take up each of these in turn.

1 comment:

rbarenblat said...

Now this is beginning to be interesting to me. I like your way of rereading the abstinences of the traditional Nazirite vow.