Kabbalah and Healing: The Healing of Body and Soul – Part 13 – Physiological Systems according to Kabbalah – The Extended Model (2)

The third cognitive power of the soul is da’at. The power of da’at in the soul corresponds to the nervous system in the body. Da’at is understood in Kabbalah and Chassidut to be the seat of all of the soul’s sensitivity and feeling. The body’s sensors are its nerves.

In Kabbalah we are taught that da’at possesses two seemingly antithetical but ultimately complementary sides. The original appearance of da’at in the Torah is in the phrase, “the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.” From this we understand that da’at is a sense of spiritual or moral polarity, that between good and evil. The soul’s power to sense good and to be attracted to it is referred to as the right side of da’at, whereas the soul’s power to sense evil and to repel it is referred to as the left side of da’at. In a rectified soul, the attraction to good entails conscious self-awareness of loving the good, whereas the soul’s fear of evil responsible for repelling and fighting off the evil operates at the unconscious level of the soul.

Abstracting and extending this understanding, the right side of da’at corresponds to all of one’s conscious sensations and voluntary reactions, while the left side of da’at corresponds to all one’s unconscious sensations and involuntary reactions.

In terms of the nervous system, the “right” side of da’at corresponds to the voluntary nervous system, referred to as the cerebrospinal nervous system. Here, conscious sensation and control of the body implies self-awareness, knowing oneself. In a rectified personality, knowing oneself is for the sake of acting constructively in the world and helping others. For this reason, this side of da’at is identified with the right.

The other, “left” side of da’at corresponds to the involuntary nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, which itself divides into the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The parasympathetic system serves to slow the heart, dilate the blood vessels, increase the activity of the glands, constrict the pupils of the eyes, etc., whereas the sympathetic system does the opposite of all these.

Serving as the unconscious side of da’at, the involuntary nervous system allows all of the body’s necessary functions to perform automatically. Naturally occurring processes such as digestion and respiration function without a person’s conscious involvement. Such functions are primarily for the sake of sustaining oneself, preserving the life of the body (not out of concern for the other). For this reason, this side of da’at is identified with the left.

Directly below da’at on the middle axis of sefirotic tree, the sefirah of tiferet corresponds to the flesh (as above in our general description of the four basic physiological systems, where we saw that the flesh corresponds to the vav of God’s Name in general and to the sefirah of tiferet in particular) and muscular system of the body. The heart, which belongs both to the muscular system as well as to the system of the blood vessels, tends to the left side of the body, alluding to the combined forces of gevurah and tiferet.

Yesod, the continuation and extension of tiferet on the middle axis of the sefirotic tree, is the power of self-actualization in the soul. Here, on a physical plane it manifests itself as the reproductive system–the innate capacity to re-produce or re-create one’s own self in the form of progeny.

With further reflection it can be seen that an additional property of the soul and an additional physiological system correspond to the sign of the Holy Covenant–the Brit Milah. The act of circumcision is a twofold process performed on the skin of the male procreative organ: removal of the foreskin and peeling back the mucous membrane to reveal the crown of the organ. This process refines the initially course, physical skin, making it capable of reflecting spiritual light. This is alluded to in the phonetic affinity of the words for “skin” (or, spelled with anayin) and “light” (or, spelled with an alef) in Hebrew. Furthermore, when the brit milah is pure and rectified, it glows and all one’s skin begins to radiate, as was the case with Adam and Eve prior to the primordial sin. Hence, the brit milah, specifically the manifestation of the crown of the organ (in Hebrew, ateret hayesod), can be regarded as the origin of the physiological system of the skin.

Like the first sefirah of keter, malchut, the final sefirah (beneath yesod, the last of the sefirot along the middle axis of the sefirotic tree), also relates to internalizing a necessary component of life from the external world. Extracting the spiritual and physical “sparks” of nourishment from one’s environment–the lower realms of reality, the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms–and ingesting them, it transforms them into vital human energy. Digestion also operates as a clarification process whereby useful elements are assimilated into the body while waste products are expelled. In Kabbalah, the king is he who descends from his throne (in general, by means of word and command) to the lower realms of reality in order to extract from them their benefits for his people.

In contrast to keter–the respiratory system, which functions on a dynamic of descent of vital energy (oxygen) into the body–malchut, which represents digestion, involves the opposite dynamic, elevation of “fallen sparks” of energy (nourishment) into the body. As a feminine image in Kabbalah, malchut alludes to the digestive system, as in the Biblical description of the “woman of valor” as she who “gives food to her house [body].”

We will now return to the two remaining sefirotnetzach (the final sefirah on the right axis of the sefirotic tree) and hod (the final one on the left axis). As physiological systems, netzachcorresponds to the endocrine system, comprising glands and hormones, while hod represents the immune system. Of all the systems in the body, these are the two most recently understood in the medical world and are in fact greatly inter-related. In the words of Kabbalah, netzach and hod are “two halves of the same body,” or, colloquially, “two sides of the same coin.”

Netzach, situated under chesed on the right axis of the sefirot, means both “victory” and “eternity.” It is the ability to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of the body’s growth and development processes and those processes which ensure sound health and longevity, to nurture them through its vital hormones. Working to generate new cells and structures within the body, the hormones of the endocrine system perpetuate the life of the body and aid it to overcome the obstacles of time. Netzach, as a branch of chesed, is understood in Kabbalah as the “milk” that nurtures the growth and development motivated by chesed.

Finally, we turn to the physiological system that fights disease, the immune system. The immune system monitors what properly belongs in the body and what is a foreign invader. A healthy immune system annihilates destructive foreign intrusions into the body. We will later focus on this system in particular.

In summation:

keter
crown, super-conscious life force

respiratory system

binah
understanding, joy

blood

 

chochmah
wisdom, selflessness

bone marrow

 

da’at
knowledge, unity

nervous system

 

gevurah
might, fear

blood vessels

 

chesed
lovingkindness

skeleton

 

tiferet
beauty, mercy

flesh, muscular system

 

hod
thanksgiving, sincerity

immune system

 

netzach
victory, confidence

endocrine system

 

yesod
foundation, devotion

reproductive system

 

ateret hayesod (source of malchut)
kingship, exaltedness

skin

 

malchut
kingdom, humility

digestive system

 

A new chapter is both uploaded to the web and sent out every week via the Inner Dimension (free) weekly Torah message email list. Click here to subscribe now!