Redefining What You Are…
Chassidut speaks of many different types of selflessness, each reflecting a different attitude. Selflessness is the product of self-nullification. Thus, most people who study Chassidut are familiar with the two main types of selflessness: nullification of being (bitul hayesh) and nullification in reality (bitul bimetzi’ut). The sensitive reader may already feel the difference between the two. Whereas nullification of being implies that the person has a “sense of being,” which undergoes nullification, nullification in reality makes no such implication; the individual may be without any sense of self to begin with.
Recalling our discussion of lowliness, we can see the similarity that nullification of being has to it. Both start with the problem of our sense of self, our feeling of being separate and distant from the Almighty, and alleviate it. But, where lowliness “uses” our sense of self to give us a reality check about who and what we actually are, and how we have no justification in feeling superior to anyone else, nullification of being does try to get rid of the actual sense of self.
As the introduction to the original article states, selflessness and lowliness together constitute the reality of the rectified individual. So, though they treat the sense of self differently, they do work together. How is this?
Kabbalah and Chassidut introduced a special mode of analysis, which we call in translation inter-inclusion, or holographic thinking (hitkalelut, in Hebrew). Inter-inclusion means that given two (or more) objects or ideas, we can analyze them in such a way as to reveal how each includes in some aspect, the other (or others). This is also called holographic thinking or analysis because one of the amazing characteristics of a holograph written on some medium (like a crystal) is that if you break off a small chunk of the medium, it will contain a smaller version of the entire holograph, indicating that every part of the medium contains the whole. Thus, holographs are an example of an inter-inclusive state in nature.
In order to illustrate how lowliness and selflessness inter-include one another, we will use a parable (mashal) brought by the master of Chassidic parables, Rabbi Isaac of Homil. Rabbi Isaac introduces a third type of nullification, “essential nullification” (bitul be’etzem). He writes the following:
In all, it seems that Rabbi Isaac has described three types of nullification. From first to last they are:
As “steps” on the way to achieving the final aim of nullification, these three types of nullification correspond to the basic three-stage psychological process introduced by the Ba’al Shem Tov: submission, separation, and sweetening. The first merely involves the servant submitting to his master’s will. The second already requires a rejection (albeit, potentially only a temporary one) of one’s sense of self. But the third completely transforms or sweetens the servant’s perspective of his self.
What remains for us to see is how the change of perspective induced by the total essential nullification can be divided into two types, leaving us in the end with four types of nullification. Once we have four types we will see how they paint the holographic picture of inter-inclusion between selflessness and lowliness.