Two Souls in One Body


Two Souls in One Body


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The Godly Soul and the Animal Soul

By Yechezkel Gold

We are born with two souls, a Godly soul and an animal soul. The animal soul emerges immediately with birth, while the Godly soul is hidden and only potential until we reach the age of mitzvot, twelve years old for girls and thirteen for boys.

The beginning emergence of the Godly soul corresponds approximately to the age where children develop a significantly greater ability to abstract, and a heightened awareness of self and of others. It is the time when a philosophy of life begins developing and, in most cases, has its greatest importance for the personality. Moreover, there is a greater sense of responsibility.

The ability to abstract links the individual to a reality not bounded by concrete materialism. He/she can now begin to appreciate ethics and other ideas which are not defined in physical terms. This is the dim beginning of connection to spirituality.

Greater awareness of self makes feelings, too, more prominent and personally significant. This, together with heightened awareness of others, renders self definition - as opposed to simply being oneself spontaneously like a child - more pressing and important.

The growing expectation of greater independence makes sizing up one's environment and life in general more urgent, leading the individual to work on developing a philosophy of life. The philosophy of life will mediate, to a greater or lesser extent, the individual's interactions with life. He/she no longer reacts directly and immediately to reality, purely out of considerations of pain and pleasure, love and fear.

If we think back to that time in our lives, we remember our philosophical notions were quite simplistically and rudimentally formed at first. This was merely the first emergence of the Godly soul, which tended to regard matters in rather gross, black-and-white terms. Also, paralleling the simplistic grasp of ideas was the literalness of one's notions. One understood matters in terms of letters and words, but had little insight into the spiritual reality behind the ideas.

According to Rabbi Dov Ber Scheerson, who lived about 150 years ago, the next stage in revealing the Godly soul is achieved around the age of twenty, at which time a certain perception of the reality underlying one's religious, ethical and philosophical ideas emerges. This progresses further in the course of one's life, as the Ethic's of the Father's delineates: "..At forty one achieves understanding, at fifty one is fit to give advice, at sixty one achieves old age, at seventy one is a (venerable) elder."

At any rate, the first emergence of the Godly soul occurs when the intensity of the person's energies, hopes, drives and abilities takes a quantum leap. Whereas previously, the individual was basically, reasonably satisfied and capable of orienting toward his surroundings as they are, at the age of bar- or bas mitzvah he/she experiences a great increase in the intensity of their inner life and its demands, and extrinsic reality no longer can accommodate these greater expectations by the inner person.

The result is the split described above into two souls. Rather than being comfortably meshed with outer reality, the personality develops urges, insights and perceptions, and goals to which the outer situation does not easily accommodate. Frustration of these energies leads to their developing a somewhat independent existence. In order to deal with the more intense desires from life, the personality must make greater effort to understand both its own inner life and the external situation so as to again achieve their integration. Abstraction, i.e. isolating and emphasizing the essence of one's desires and feelings, enables the personality to focus on principal goals. Too, since the stronger demands of inner life no longer permit direct, spontaneous expression, levels of personality emerge which can not readily find direct expression. Instead, they function "above the surface" or interface of the personality with the external realm, as the verse states (Gen. 1): "and the spirit of God hovers above the surface of the waters".

Thus, the amplification of inner life combined with the frustration of direct, spontaneous expression lead to development of an independent realm within. Moreover, in order to allow reasonable expression to that inner realm, a hierarchy is formed, and elements of the personality take on a more or less distinct identity. The part of personality which interfaces and deals most directly with the external situation does so mainly by being practical.

Practicality, of course, is defined not only by orientation toward effectiveness. It also presumes that one has certain goals. That is, practicality coordinates between inner life and the outer situation. The purpose of the practical sub-personality is to serve the desires and ideals of inner life.

In earlier childhood, inner life has a simple dichotomy of energies, approaching pleasure and avoiding pain and difficulty. In Jewish mystical thought this stage is associated with the right hand. (For left-handed people, their dominant hand is considered to be their right side.) Just as the right hand functions with closeness and comfort, so this stage of functioning is limited to what is close and comfortable.

As the child matures, the two combine so that the child can work and endure frustration to gain pleasure, until achievement itself becomes a source of joy and pleasure. It is at this point that the practical level of personality achieves a certain independence. In Jewish mystical thought this stage is associated with the left hand. Just as the left hand functions with control and discomfort, so this stage of functioning is defined in terms of what is challenging and exciting.

The third stage of development is a middle course between the two previous ones, taking elements of both right and left. It also has its own special character which does not derive from either of the other two. Its expression begins in earnest at the age of bar/bas mitzvah.

The middle course between right and left is a balance which achieves a certain objectivity and independence from self interest. After all, both right and left modes of functioning directly seek self interest and pleasure, the right mode in immediate experience and the left through accomplishment. The middle course, though, is a balance which relies on the ability to function independently of considerations of self.

The special character which the middle course introduces is pleasure derived from objectivity, from what is right, true, proper, good, aesthetic, spiritual and ideal, independent of considerations of self advantage. This pleasure is not even necessarily experienced as personal pleasure. Indeed, to the extent that this aspect of personality is differentiated, it is experienced as having reality independent of and separate from self, as is the pleasure one derives from it. This is the Godly soul.

Torah study, accordingly, greatly facilitates bringing the Godly soul into awareness. By objectively learning religious and ethical matters, the knowledge, subtlety, sensitivity, awareness and scope of the Godly soul is expanded. Moreover, precisely through the rigorously objective attitude requisite for Torah study, the mind gains access to the Godly soul's Godly perspective of love and involved concern objectively extending to all. Unlike the popular erroneous stereotype which derives from science, true objective intellect is openly, experientially connected to all. True objectivity as it appears in Torah study is an attitude of love.

Even when the soul disapproves of bad behavior, this is imposed by considerations of truth and morality deriving from the soul's perception of the real best interests of all created beings. Even in that case, though, as the Psalm states: "Those who love the Lord, despise evil". They despise evil but not, generally, evil doers, because they can still repent.

Performing God's commandments, too, imbues the personality with the light of the Godly soul, not infrequently in a more powerful manner than simply through study. However, unless one focuses on making this spiritual light of the commandments conscious and integrating it into one's awareness, the effect tends to be temporary. This conscious integration is, then, an aspect of Torah study.

As Tanya discusses at length, the result in most people is the development of two souls, a Godly soul whose character we have discussed, and an animal soul. Most of us do not transform each element of our personality into a genuinely Godly expression. Generally, we perceive the animal soul as our selves, and the Godly soul as independent of ourselves. Only the tzaddikim, (the truly righteous individuals) those who have transformed the animal soul into Godliness, have fully integrated all aspects of their personality and are wholeheartedly religious. For the rest of us, there are episodes, such as reciting the shema and silent prayer, or during moments of genuine inspiration, when all of our soul ascends to the lofty level of tzaddikim. Generally, though, we feel the Godly soul's revelation in us to be apart from ourselves. It is the Divine operating objectively within us, sometimes even against our will.

The mission of the Godly soul, then, is to convince the animal soul of the rightness of the Godly way and convert it into a holy fervor and passion for Godliness. As we have discussed, this is accomplished mainly through Torah study greatly aided by performance of the commandments. An intermediary level between spontaneous, passionate involvement of the animal soul in Godliness and indifference is when one is persuaded that one's fulfillment and purpose is through clinging to God and His ways, but not so thoroughly as to make one spontaneously act accordingly.

In actuality, this intermediate level is an opportunity for the Godly soul to penetrate to a spiritual level to which it ordinarily does not have access. It is the spiritual expression of Rachel, whose manifestation in each Jew is within the Godly soul. As the verse states (Jeremiah 31): "A voice is heard in Rama, wailing and embitterment. Rachel is weeping over her children who are missing." These are the Children of Israel, or at least the spiritual aspects of the children who are still estranged from God, who are not spontaneously moved to follow God's will, to do what is right. Nevertheless, they are aware of the call of the Divine; they hear Rachel's weeping. If her children are touched by her distress, at least they will deliberately overcome their inertia and come closer to God.

They do His will by referring to the awareness of what God wills, developed by Torah study supplemented by intuition. Their Godly soul knows what to do, thereby, or at least knows it must seek the Godly truth.

This subtle awareness, as described above, is of an objective reality, not experienced as self. Really, though, this awareness of God's will is more self than the revealed self is, and derives its tremendous energy and pleasure from being the ideal of self. However, the intensity and fervor of the hopes and wishes of the Godly soul transcend the simple sense of self. Thus, we experience the Godly soul as transcendent, not as simple self.

As the Godly soul addresses those elements of personality which are not spontaneously moved by Godly considerations, it must convince those aspects of the person's being in their own terms. The first level of persuasion addresses frank self interest through fear. This level is termed "lower fear" because the individual is induced to follow God's will out of fear for him/herself. His/her own interests otherwise might be for something else but he/she thereby accepts the yoke of Heaven.

A somewhat higher level is when the individual's motivation to obey God's commandments derives from perception of his/her own self interest lying in doing God's will, as the verse states (Psalms 73): "And I, the nearness of God is good for me".

These two levels lie "outside the curtain", not subsumed within the realm of true Godliness but only as Godliness relates to what is outside of the Godly realm. They are nevertheless influenced by Godly considerations.

One must distinguish between fear of punishment by God and fear of negative consequences which one does not perceive as coming from God, such as social disapproval. Similarly, one must distinguish between valuing and loving closeness to God and His Torah and Mitzvahs, and self aggrandizement which happens to come through sources with a religious association.

When the self-motivated fear or love are from genuine connection to God, the person can appeal to the knowledge and intuition of the Godly soul, as discussed above, to do God's will even when the true motivations of his/her animal soul are not really Godly. Since one knows the Godly soul and the objective, Godly perspective of Torah, even though one's spontaneous impulses are not at that level, one can overcome inner resistance to doing God's will and give expression to Godliness: one is serving God.

However, when religious practice derives from self-interest without fear or love of God, then one merely is serving worldly ends in religious guise.

A higher level, on the "other side of the curtain", is the Godly soul's functioning itself, where Godly considerations deriving from inspiration, objectivity and ideals, and the feelings they evoke move the soul to selfless action

This is the level on which Godly meditation focuses. Through dwelling at length on the matters of the soul, and generally, on the Godly, objectively loving perspective expressed in Torah, Godly matters become increasingly cogent and significant to the individual, and mundane concerns lessen in importance. When this meditation becomes sufficiently powerful to affect even the animal soul, the latter reacts by serving God out of genuine fear or love of God, overcoming its own resistance or even transforming the energies of the animal soul into Godliness.

The culmination of this meditation's effect on the animal soul is termed "accepting the yoke of Heaven". For this to occur, two conditions are necessary. First, one's Godly meditation must arrive at the conclusion that it is necessary to accept the yoke of Heaven. This conclusion is general: it is proper to follow God's will. It can be greatly bolstered and sensitized through arriving at this type of conclusion regarding the specifics of the Commandments and of the Torah system. Thus, as the truth or significance of a particular Mitzvah, or of the Torah's notions of God, creation, man, sin, Israel, reward and punishment, etc. becomes apparent, one's earnestness in serving God, culminating in accepting the yoke of Heaven, increases.

Second, this conclusion must affect the animal soul to the extent that it does not waver, even if thoughts, feelings, or circumstances tend to hinder practical implementation of one's commitment. It is only at this point that one may speak of the notion of malchus, of God's faculty of kingdom, which joins the Divine and secular realms. This permanence is more readily accomplished through fear of Heaven than through love, though each approach has advantages.

Through malchus, the Divine attributes are revealed and expressed. This system of attributes like loving objectivity reflects the Divine. The Godly attributes connect with secular reality and extend beyond the purely spiritual and theoretical to the actual through malchus. Though these Divine attributes are only Godly, and not, of course, God Himself, yet their expression in the Godly soul renders that Godly soul truly a part of God Above, as is explained in Tanya, because these attributes are the ones through which God is manifested.

Malchus connects the infinite and Divine to the finite and secular. Thus, malchus has its infinite aspect and its finite aspect. Its infinite aspect is that the requirements of being a true subject of God are without limit: secular considerations are insignificant and nul in the presence of the Holy King. Its finite aspect is that to extend the Godly into the finite realm requires taking proper and respectful account of the creation. This entails being realistic and not ignoring worldy considerations through being totally enamored and engrossed in pure spirituality. Integrating these two aspects of malchus is a crucial step in tikun, (repair) in perfecting the creation, and it is the true purpose of malchus.

We can compare this integration of the sacred and secular to professionalism. A professional has knowledge, experience and allegiance to a body of objective, professional knowledge, and accepts the role of applying this knowledge for the secular, i.e. nonprofessional realm. This fact does not automatically eliminate or even reduce his personal considerations, such as family, friends, individual nonprofessional interests and the like. Nevertheless, being professional entails identifying oneself as the medium for applying professional knowledge, and one's personal considerations are largely given secondary importance.

Similarly, in accepting the yoke of Heaven, which consummates the Godly soul's development, the individual becomes like a professional, mediating between the Godly knowledge and sensitivity of Torah and spirituality, on the one hand, and the practical domain, on the other.

Moreover, linking these two disparate realms means determining the connection between the practical, external situation and the Godly by inferring the spiritual import and response dictated by the specific situation. It means being able to assess the situation as it is and decide the appropriate Halachic approach. It means the Godly soul must have a practical and worldy, realistic orientation simultaneous to its ideal Torah and Mitzvah grounding.

Every Jew has a Godly soul. Recognizing that reality and taking steps to discover, develop, and express the Divine residing within us is the privilege and life role of each of us.

Yechezkel Gold is a psychotherapist who lives with his family in Jerusalem


from the May 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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