A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 11 – Education and Spiritual Growth

As we have seen, inspiration and integration are two necessary and complementary requirements of education. Inspiration initiates the learning process by arousing a passionate desire to grow and change, while integration forces one to incorporate one's will-to-good into each encounter of daily life. Teaching can thus be described as the process of stimulating will, with learning as the process of assimilating it.

Each of these two main categories–inspiration and integration–can be broken down into three intermediate stages which reflect the process of spiritual growth as outlined by the Ba'al Shem Tov, the 18th century founder of the Hassidic movement.

The Ba'al Shem Tov taught that any process of spiritual growth–and, in fact, the in-depth experience of any facet of reality–must entail a threefold series of developmental changes, summarized by the three words:

"submission"

"separation"

"sweetening"

"Submission" is the humbling of the ego that is an essential element of any honest appraisal of reality and our relation to it. Unless we neutralize the ego somehow, it will be sure to interpose its own interests between our higher self and our attempts at growth and change.

"Separation" is the process by which we identify the positive/good and negative/evil elements of reality, align ourselves with the good and disassociate from the evil. Clearly, we cannot hope to accomplish this stage without having first gone through the preceding one of eliminating the deceptive self-image derived from the ego. When we isolate the good from the evil, the light from the darkness, the good begins to shine.

Once we have clearly identified the bad and separated ourselves from it, we can proceed to "sweeten" it. At this stage, we can return to evaluate the bad itself in the positive light of the good that had been intermixed together with it. Our reinforced good allows us to objectively relate to the bad in order to "sweeten" it.

In the following chapters, we will see how these three stages of spiritual growth interface with the education process.

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