Where is Eyn Sof?

Shalom! In the first of his 1992 Germantown, PA lectures on Kabbalah, I asked the following question. Reb Zalman’s answer follows:

Seth: Dear Reb Zalman, in this lecture, I hear you mapping the tradition onto  modern cosmology and coming up with very rich imagery. But where is Eyn Sof in space time as we imagine it? Before the Copernican revolution, or at some such time when we felt ourselves locked here on the earth and looking in the sky, we saw a kind of ceiling. Reading Bereishit, we could think that creation was light and water up there. Was the concept of Eyn Sof tied to the Copernican revolution? Did Eyn Od come in with the Kabbalists? Given our current model for the universe, Space/Time and Quantum physics, etc., as one sends one’s imagination to the ends of the universe, where is Eyn Sof?

Reb Zalman: Let me say this. I’m excited about the challenge of the update. I see in Kabbalah a software for god-ing, (if I were to use those terms).

I want to have some connection with God. If I treat if as the picture of the old guy sitting in the sky saying all those no-nos and punishing all the bad guys, etc., that’s shattered for us; Auschwitz shattered this once and for all.

So then the question is: “All right, then how do we continue to be Jews?” So, it is like needing an update on the software.

Most of the time when one talks to those who are very much on the fundamentalist level, they will want to do whatever they can to keep justifying a creation five thousand seven hundred and fifty-three years ago and say that that’s how it happened. And when one pushes back and asks: Then how is it possible to receive light that has been on the road to this planet earth much longer than that, and pointing out that space is beyond that, they will tell you that God started it five thousand seven hundred and fifty-three years ago with the light already in motion to be here. For some, that’s a possible move.

For me it’s not a possible move. My reality maps don’t work this way.

So then the question keeps coming up: How does one take the reality maps of Torah, which are much wedded to a picture that is terra-centric and everything spinning around the earth and the sun rising and setting as we observe it, but not the way in which we have come to understand it since, and map them onto our current cosmology?

Some of us are willing to say that when the Rabbis said dibra Torah b’lashon b’nei adam / the Torah spoke in the language of human beings, that this is what happened; this was the language available. And the wonderful thing about Torah is that it is organic which means that it has layers and layers and layers and layers and when you have different reality maps, you can access other parts in Torah.

That’s my working hypothesis. If I didn’t have this working hypothesis, I would have to say we have to scrap Torah. But my working hypothesis is that sacred Scriptures, the whole world, come down to us in such a form like feathers. Which means that the feathers have feathers and indeed the feathers in the feathers have feathers and this is an organic thing. And if it were to be put together from plastic, it would be amorphous; it wouldn’t have those things at the depth level. So Torah has things at the depth level which work.

And they worked for the Kabbalists and if I see what worked for them, I can then extend to make it work in the next paradigm.

Now you’re asking where do we go with Eyn Sof. I have to say Eyn Sof is right now also. And there is a simultaneity between my life and the life of Eyn Sof right now.

If I say less than that, I have to claim that Eyn Sof has abdicated; it has gone some place. And that’s not possible either because where? There is no where where to go.

So I have to say, simultaneously, that Eyn Sof is here right now and that I’m also here right now.

So the question is, on what level can I be here when that is also here. And this is where a whole vibrational understanding of reality starts coming in: Imagine for a moment that I’m looking at curves of being. And I have short curves: The curves of matter are very short and the curves of light are a little bit longer, curves of sound are still longer.

Then I get to curves that are beyond human life like the curve of Pluto. It takes about two hundred and fifty years for Pluto to have a year. So that’s why, and from this point of view I can understand that, when I talk to someone with an astrology perspective, they’re going to say that the big purposes show themselves in the trans-Uranian planets because they have curves that are much, much longer, much wider than, for instance, the Saturn curve, which is every twenty-eight/twenty-nine years and that’s a Saturn return.

So people have figured that this is a vibrational phenomenon.

Now could you imagine that if you think of the whole galaxy as breathing, by this time you have a curve that would go into millions of years, from one side of that to the other side.

And all this is simultaneous, occurring at the same time. While I’m sitting here through me go FM signals and TV signals and AM signals and CB radio: All this is simultaneous here. So curves have a way of slipping by each other.

So it is helpful to go with Kabbalah and then to start asking the question: Okay. If the ground of all this is Eyn Sof, that Eyn Sof is the ground of our being, two things become clear. Tillich when he was talking about God: God is the ground of our being. If you look at the way in which people talk about the figure/ground relationship, one of them is the figure and the figure is within a ground. Now, by saying that God is the ground of all being meaning to say that all being is in that ground, that’s the way in which we say the word, HaMakom: Hu mikomo shel olam, v’eyn haolam mikomo. The One is the space of the world but the world is not His space.

So what we come to is to be able to say this is vast.

One of the things that McLuhan pointed out to us is we can see the figure but we can’t see the ground. The whole point of that is that the ground cannot be made visible. There is a piece in the book of “Fragments of a Future Scroll” that I call “Finnegan’s awakening.” It begins, “Once the figure ground principle is understood” and it makes a whole loop of awareness and then comes back to “Once the figure ground principle is understood” because then we see that we cannot make visible that part.

So that’s a way of saying we live in God. And that’s why the people who are talking about panentheism, that’s what they’re saying: That all of life is happening, everything that’s happening, is happening in God.

So you have the field. The ground is maintained by God.

Then what do I want to call that God? Since the beginning of this century we have to give up the whole notion of substance. If I say this is made from metal and I figure that metal is irreducible, metal remains metal remains metal. At certain levels of magnification, the whole thing disappears.

So when we played along with the Aristotelian notion of substance and form, we were able to say that there is substance and there is form.

At this point, we can’t say that anymore. We have seen that substance does not exist. Substance is a web of vibrations or sometimes particles: It depends how one sees it at that time. So if I want to ask whether God is a noun, it comes back to asking is God a noun/God, an object? And I have to come to the conclusion to say that that Eyn Sof is not an object.

When I come to that conclusion that Eyn Sof is not an object, then, I can’t even use the word noun anymore.

Well what should I say the word Eyn Sof stands for? So I like to say Eyn Sof is an adverb. An adverb works eyn sof-ly. God is the infinite ing-ing. God is ing-ing infinitely. It’s an adverb; I don’t want to use it as a noun because I’m going to get into trouble if I use God as a noun. because then I project substance. And once I project substance, I’m dealing with a figure and that leads me right to one form or another of idolatry. So I have to say adverb.

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