The Upper Worlds
Behold that before the emanations were emanated and the creatures were created, the upper simple light had filled the whole existence. And there was no vacancy, such as an empty air, a hollow, but all was filled with that simple, boundless light.
…And when upon His simple will, came the will to create the worlds and emanate the emanations, to bring to light the perfection of His deeds, His names, His appellations, which was the cause of the creation of the worlds, then the Ein Sof restricted Himself, in His middle point, precisely at the center, and … a place was formed, where the Emanations, Creations, Formations, and Actions might reside.
The Ari, The Tree of Life 
In this chapter, we will deal with the structure of reality and the upper worlds. This information will allow us to better understand life and help us see what hides behind the words in The Book of Zohar. We exist in a reality that includes the Creator, the creatures, and the system through which the Creator connects to the creatures. Through that system, the Creator leads us toward the purpose of Creation—to do good to us, meaning to allow us to be like Him.
Like a loving father, the Creator wishes to share with us all that He has. But the Creator must make us evolve to become independent; hence, He must activate His influence on us from both sides, with mercy and with judgment. Although both stem from Him, they appear to us as contradictory forces and are perceived by us as effects of good or bad, mercy or judgment, light or darkness.
When we experience life’s events we must keep in mind that even in what appears to be the most detrimental situation, He wishes only to do good to us.
If we remember to connect everything to Him, and remember that He is benevolent, then we reconnect those two lines—mercy and judgment—to the same source. And since we are the ones who connect them in our hearts and minds, we are the ones who achieve Dvekut [adhesion] with the Creator, meaning to become like the Creator.
However, when we try to do it, we discover that it is very difficult to connect all the bad and good things to the Creator, to understand that everything comes from Him only for a good purpose. We find ourselves asking Him for the strength to be able to unite everything to Him.
Studying the wisdom of Kabbalah in a group is the means that promotes us and directs us in this process. During the study and the work in the group, our egos grow and seem more intense, meaner, and crueler with each stage. Our egos try to mislead us into thinking that there is someone other than Him, and that He is not only benevolent. As a result, we are compelled to turn more and more to the Creator to receive more strength from Him to overcome the ego.
We overcome, and the ego intensifies. We overcome again, and it intensifies again. Stage by stage we rise until we succeed in exposing and correcting all the ego that was hidden in us to begin with. At that point, we achieve complete bonding with the Creator, Dvekut. We become like Him. This makes us infinite as well, allowing us to see the whole of reality without any boundaries between life and death, to understand and to feel everything, to be filled with light.
To allow us to perform the entire process, the Creator created a communication system between Him and us. Through it He leads us from above, and through it we can ask from below and receive His assistance.
This system is divided into several parts:
- Its top is the world of Ein Sof [Infinity], where the Creator’s power is out in the open.
- Below it is the world of Adam Kadmon [Primordial Man], where the Creator divides His bestowal into five types, according the level of our egos.
- Below Adam Kadmonis the world of Atzilut [Emanation], which is a system of guidance and governance that divides into five parts: Keter [Crown], Hochma [Wisdom], Bina [Understanding], Zeir Anpin [Small Face], and Malchut [Kingship]. They are also called Atik[Ancient], Arich Anpin[Long Face], Aba and Ima [Father and Mother], Dechar [male] and Nukva [female].
- The Zoharrefers to Atik and Arich Anpin as the “hidden head” or Atzilut.
- Abaand Ima are those from whom all the lights come to us.
- These lights traverse Zeir Anpinand reach the Nukva,Malchut of Atzilut, who is called “Divinity,” since all the light that is intended for the souls comes from her, from Divinity. Malchut is also called “the Assembly of Israel” because she assembles within her all the souls that wish to reach Yashar El [straight to God], meaning rise to the world of Ein Sof.
- Below the world of Atzilutare the worlds Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya (BYA),where our souls exist.
- Finally, there is this world.
In the language of The Zohar, Malchut is also called “land,” and Bina (Ima) is also called “heaven.” Zeir Anpin and Malchut have different names in The Zohar: Shochen [Dweller, in masculine form] and Shechina [Divinity, in feminine form], the Creator and the Assembly of Israel, groom and bride, male and female.
These are only a few examples because each of these elements of reality has many names in The Zohar, taken from the language of interpretations [Midrash]. To help us connect to the heart of the matter, Baal HaSulam consistently attached Kabbalistic terms to the different names.
All the worlds, Upper and lower and everything within them, was created only for man.
Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to the Preface to the Wisdom of Kabbalah”
These worlds do not exist in any physical place. Rather, they are as qualities that have no place, volume, or weight.
A person who still resides in the inborn egoistic desires is regarded as being in this world, in terms of one’s qualities. If the point in the heart awakens and one begins to wish to grow in spirituality, if one aspires for a higher dimension, it is considered being in the worlds BYA, in one’s qualities.
Working on oneself in a group that studies the wisdom of Kabbalah, one begins to evoke the light that reforms from the degree of Ein Sof, through all the worlds. That light creates a desire to reach Malchut of Atzilut along with one’s group. When one is included in Malchut of Atzilut, one evokes the desire to feel Him, to give back to Him, in return for the Creator’s giving.
This general will of the souls rises from Malchut to Zeir Anpin of Atzilut. Zeir Anpin raises that will to Aba and Ima of Atzilut, and from there it rises further through Ein Sof. Then, light pours down from Ein Sof through the entire system down to Aba and Ima, from them to Zeir Anpin, and from there to Malchut, and the souls in Malchut receive the filling.
When the souls receive the filling, they grow and unite with Zeir Anpin. This is called “the unification of Divinity with the Creator,” or “the unification of the souls with the Creator.”
It requires many such operations before all the desires in the souls realize themselves. When all the desires are corrected and aim to give to the Creator as the Creator gives to them, the end of correction will arrive.
What causes this process? The Creator has an inherent desire to give. Hence, there is no need to ask Him to give abundance and pleasure, as we normally do. The Creator has what to give, as well as an infinite desire to give it, but He wants us to not merely be receivers, inferior to Him, but for us to be like Him—great, independent, giving—similar in qualities to the Creator.
We are accustomed to asking for fulfillment. Instead, we should be asking for correction. When we acquire the correction, meaning become givers ourselves, we will immediately begin to feel all the abundance of the Creator and be filled with it. In other words, our problem is that we don’t understand what to ask of the Creator. We are in an ocean of bounty, goodness, and delight, but we lack the proper receptacle in which to sense it. That Kli [vessel] is the quality of love and giving, and this is what we should ask of the Creator to give us. The more we have of this quality, the more we will feel the abundance that fills us.
On the Creator’s part there is only one limitation on our reception of abundance—we should be like Him. He wishes for us to enjoy as much as He enjoys.
What does that mean? Let us assume that I come to visit a respectable personality. The host serves me all kinds of delicacies, invites me to play golf with him, listen to classical music … but alas, I am an uncultured person. I have no interest in any of these offerings. I never experienced these sophisticated delights and I have no desire for them. I look at the host, bewildered, and say, “What do you want from me? I didn’t come to you to enjoy what you like. I came to enjoy what I like!”
And the host replies, “My friend, I wish to give you pleasures beyond your imagination. Make a little effort, get used to them and believe me, you will see the beauty in them. You will feel that they are giving you much greater pleasure than you are feeling now.”
What should I do? I can go along with the host and try to learn those new pleasures, although I have no desire for them, and then I will indeed gradually begin to experience a very special pleasure in them, a real taste of heaven. I can also tell the host, “You know what? It’s too hard for me to get used to these new things. I can’t, so let’s drop it. I’m going back to my simple life.”
“Fine, go back,” he’ll reply.
But when I return to my old life, I now feel that it’s not such a bargain after all. And then I remember those words of the host about those other pleasures, the superior ones, and I return to him after all.
And perhaps I will go back to my old life once more, and then again to him several times. But in the end, I will understand that I have no choice but to return to the host to change my taste into his, because I already know that in them I will feel the taste of life.
Indeed, if we set our hearts to answer but one very famous question, I am certain that all these questions and doubts would vanish from the horizon, and you will look unto their place to find them gone. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, “What is the meaning of my life?”
In other words, these numbered years of our life that cost us so heavily, and the numerous pains and torments that we suffer for them, to complete them to the fullest, who is it who enjoys them? Or even more precisely, whom do I delight?
It is indeed true that historians have grown weary contemplating it, and particularly in our generation. No one even wishes to consider it.
Yet the question stands as bitterly and as vehemently as ever. Sometimes it meets us uninvited, pecks at our minds and humiliates us to the ground before we find the famous ploy of flowing mindlessly in the currents of life as always.
Indeed, it is to resolve this great riddle that the verse writes, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to The Study of the Ten Sefirot,” Items 2-3
 The Ari, The Tree of Life, Gate 1, Branch 2
All Are His Words
If you only listen,
If you only open your heart,
You will begin to see
That He wishes to speak with you,
That He is speaking to you.
Everything that passes
Through your mind and heart
Within you and around you,
Is all His words.
All that you hear,
All that you see,
There is nothing,
No one else.
You are speaking only with Him,
And it is His language.
The world’s appearance,
The sensation of reality,
The sensation of the self,
Are all the Creator
Speaking with you.
The Understanding Heart