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Introduction

One chapter of a book certainly cannot address the complexity of the "spiritual realm." Ramchal gives a brief overview of certain fundamentals, some of which he will elaborate on in further chapters. We will offer some additional insight at this time and more later in the study.

1.5.1

Ramchal first addresses the physical world, noting that there are both terrestrial and celestial bodies. His words are similar to those of Paul’s:

1 Corinthians 15:39-41 - All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.

The physical world is that which is known to us. This is the world that is perceived through man’s "natural" senses. The spiritual realm and what we know of transcends man’s senses.

At this time we should review the Jewish tradition that views "existence" in terms of four "worlds."

  • The "lowest" of these is the physical world that we live in. In Hebrew this world is called "Asiyyah" meaning "making." Though considered the "physical" world, Asiyyah does have a spiritual aspect connected to it.
  • Beyond the physical world is the spiritual world of our souls and angels. In Hebrew this world is called "Yetzirah" meaning "formation." Yetzirah is the "mixed realm," where good and evil spiritual entities are intermixed. It is for this reason that God forbade activities such as divination, which extracts ideas and influence from this realm.
  • Beyond Yetzirah is a higher spiritual world consisting of the "Throne room of God" and the archangels (or "forces" as Ramchal uses). In Hebrew this world is called "Beriah" meaning "creation."

These three worlds make up "creation" (everything following Genesis 1:1). Beyond creation (i.e., before Genesis 1:1) there is a purely divine world, one that is apart from concepts such as evil or separation. This world is called "Atzilut" having to do with "nearness." Tradition views the four worlds of existence as being present in Isaiah 45:7.

The entities described by Ramchal in this chapter exist in the three lower worlds. In addition to souls, angels and forces (archangels), he also distinguishes a separate category of beings called shedim (demons) which transverse the physical (Asiyyah) and "lower" spiritual realm (Yetzirah).

As Ramchal will point out, only man via his soul has the potential to realize all four worlds.

Physical and Spiritual Counterparts

One of the principles in the tradition of Hebraic Torah study is that of, "as above so below." (See notes on 1.5.2 below for more on "tradition.") The physical world of "animals, vegetables and minerals" is highly complex. As the physical mirrors "that which is above," we can appreciate how intricate these other "worlds" are.

These "worlds," and all that exists in them, are not exclusive of each other. As we will see, the archangels and spirits of the throne room are very "close to God." They have a direct relationship with those being we call angels, as well as with our souls. Angels and souls in turn each have their own type of connection to the physical realm. This idea is seen in the vision of Ezekiel, where he describes a "wheel within a wheel," indicative of one world (and its beings) "existing within the next."

Thus what happens "down here" can and does impact the spiritual worlds beyond us, potentially to the highest levels. Conversely that which is decreed from God above "makes its way down" to us in the physical realm – sometimes via angels ("messengers") and sometimes more directly. An example of this is found in the book of Revelation with the three series of judgments, each emanating from a spiritual realm, yet impacting the physical earth.

Among the forces (archangels), angels and demons, there are various "types." Ramchal states that each type has its own laws and distinct nature. Hebraic tradition often speaks of spiritual entities in groups of ten, number symbolic of "fullness" in the spiritual realm.

For instance, in the world of Force/Archangels (Beriah) we have in a "descending" order:

  1. Metatron (the head of angels)
  2. Raziel
  3. Zaphkiel
  4. Zadkiel
  5. Samael
  6. Michael
  7. Haniel
  8. Raphael
  9. Gabriel
  10. Sandalphon

Each of the names above is associated with the general function of that archangel.

Differentiation within the angelic world is seen in Scripture verses such as these:

Exodus 25:22 - And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.

Isaiah 6:2 - Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

Jude 1:6 - And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;

In the angelic world (Yetzirah) there are "orders" of angels categorized as follows:

  1. Chaiot Hakodesh ("Holy animals" – i.e., Ezekiel 1)
  2. Orfanim
  3. Arelim
  4. Hasheralim
  5. Serafim
  6. Malachim
  7. Tarshishim
  8. Beni Elohim
  9. Ishim
  10. Kerubim

The above grouping may vary slightly within various lines in the Hebraic tradition. One of the sources in this tradition is the "Zohar," which is one of the primary texts in deeper level Torah study. The Zohar depicts the following:

Soncino Zohar, Raya Mehemna 43a - All things are in His power, whether He wills to lessen the number of vessels or to increase the light which springs from them, or whether He wills the contrary. Above Him, however, there is no god who could increase or lessen. Then He created ministering beings to those vessels: one throne supported on four columns and six steps to the throne: ten altogether. And the whole throne is like the chalice of benediction, in regard to which ten things are formulated, in harmony with the Torah which was given in Ten Words (Decalogue), and with the Ten Words by which the world was created. Then He prepared for the throne angelic hierarchies to serve Him: malachim (angels), erelim, seraphim, hayoth (living beings), ophanim, hamshalim, elim, elohim, be'ne (sons of) elohim, ishim (supernal "men"). To these He appointed as ministers Samael and all his groups - these are like clouds to ride upon when He descends to earth: they are like horses. That the clouds are called " chariots" is expressed in the words, "Behold the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt" (Isa. XIX, 1).

Further, in the lowest spiritual realms there are considered to be ten orders of demons. Conversely, in the highest realm (Azilut) we find ten names of God. (i.e., Ehyeh, YHVH, Elohim, Yah, El, YHVH-Elohim, YHVH-Tzvaot, Elohim-Tzvaot, Shaddai, Adonai.)

Ramchal mentions "angels" as having the role of maintaining order and bringing about changes. This occurs according to their position between the world of forces (Beriah) and the physical world (Asiyyah). Thus, nothing we experience in the physical realm is completely "random." (See footnote 37 to this section.)

Tradition also teaches certain "rules" regarding the function of angels, including the following:

  • a specific task is given to a specific angel
  • angels are given one assignment at a time
  • there is a link between angels and physical areas/kingdoms
  • angels may be given assignments for a specific or limited period of time

Ramchal concludes this section by briefly differentiating between human and animal souls. The idea of the soul in Hebraic tradition and language is not the same as found in the western/Christian world. For one, there are a number of different words for "soul" in the language of the Tenakh. The soul is in fact considered a "conglomerate," made up of multiple parts.

Generally speaking, there are considered to be five "levels" of the soul (each complex in its own right):

  1. Nefesh (soul)
  2. Ruach (spirit)
  3. Neshema (breath)
  4. Chaya (living essence)
  5. Yechida (unique essence)

Of these, only the first three levels are generally considered as functioning/accessible in the present world. The above concepts will be expounded on in Part III of this study.

1.5.2

Tradition

An important concept to derive from this chapter is the idea that what we know about the spiritual realm we know from tradition. What does this mean?

The pages of the Bible do not give us much detailed information about the worlds of spiritual forces, angels, demons, etc. From the opening story of Creation through the rest of the Torah, the prophets and the "New Testament," the spiritual realm, its inhabitants and powers are mentioned in a way that assumes a pre-existing knowledge.

Some instances of Scriptural reference to the spiritual realm include:

  • Adam and Even conversing with God in the Garden of Eden
  • The "evil serpent" in the garden
  • Jacob’s dream of angels going up and down a ladder
  • Balaam trying to use spiritual means to attack the Israelites
  • Moses experiences with Pharaoh and his "magicians"
  • "Shedim" (demons) are briefly mentioned twice in the Tenakh (Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37)
  • The Torah’s commands against contacting the dead
  • King Saul’s experience with the witch of Ein Dor
  • Ezekiel’s "chariot" vision
  • Daniel’s experience with angels visiting him
  • Elisha’s servant having his "eyes opened" to non-physical world about him
  • New Testament reference to "Satan" and "evil angels"
  • Yeshua "casting demons out of people"
  • The young girl in the book of Acts who made money for her master by telling the future
  • Paul’s discussion of being prepared for spiritual combat in his Ephesians letter
  • Jude’s reference to the "angels who left their proper abode."
  • The various "beasts" of the book of Revelation and the "anti-Messiah"

(An important example of tradition involves the idea of "The Messiah." Many Christian teachings speak of "Jesus fulfilling several hundred ‘Messianic Prophecies’ of the ‘Old Testament’." The difficulty with this however, is that "The Messiah" is nowhere mentioned anywhere in the "Old Testament" (Tenakh). Jewish teachings about "The Messiah" come from Oral Tradition [and there is no one definitive opinion]. When the writers of the New Testament make messianic claims about Yeshua, they are expressing their view of an Oral Tradition of their day.)

There are other overt references besides the above list, as well as allusions to the spiritual realm. However, throughout Scripture, we are given little if any detailed explanation about these things. This is not saying that Scripture deems the spiritual realm and its inhabitants unimportant, as they are quite significant. However, the written Scriptures do not give us much information regarding the "who, what, why, where and how," of these things.

For the student of Scripture, this leads to an important question. Are we free to "invent" our own approach and answers to the questions regarding these matters or is there a tradition to guide us?

The Hebraic tradition (as Ramchal teaches) is grounded in an unbroken chain of transmission going back well before the time of Yeshua. This includes not only the "Oral Torah" given to Moses and developed since Sinai, but even other teachings that are said to go back to Abraham and some to Adam himself. (i.e., What was Enoch teaching everyone?)

The pages of the Talmud as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls show well-developed ideas concerning the spiritual realm from the period just prior to Yeshua. It is such a tradition that the authors and characters of both the Tenakh and the New Testament draw from.

As an advisory, many of the ideas presented by Ramchal (here and in subsequent chapters) as well as other we will mention (also from Judaism), will not correspond to those in the Christian tradition. When they differ, one must ask, from where does Christianity draw its ideas? For instance, there are churches today that not only have teachings about the dark side of the spiritual realm, but also how to come against it. (Delivering people from demons, etc.)

These Christian concepts and methods came about long after the early Messianic (Nazarene) communities were obliterated by the Romans. At times they differ greatly from what the Jews of Yeshua’s time believed. As a simple example, many churches teach that demons are the "fallen angels." That is the "Christian Tradition" regarding this topic. As Ramchal states, demons and angels are very different types of entities. That is the Jewish tradition.

More on Tradition and the Oral Torah

Many people feel that the written Bible does not need an Oral Tradition to go along with it. After all, if it’s in writing, isn’t that the best method to convey the information from generation to generation?

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan speaks about this in his "Handbook of Jewish Thought" (Moznaim 1979):

The Oral Torah was originally meant to be transmitted by word of mouth. It was transmitted from master to student in such a manner that if the student had any question, he would be able to ask, and thus avoid ambiguity. A written text, on the other hand, no matter how perfect, is always subject to misinterpretation...

Furthermore, the Oral Torah was meant to cover the infinitude of cases which would arise in the course of time. It could never have been written in its entirety. It is thus written (Ecclesiastes 12:12), "Of making many books there is no end." God therefore gave Moses a set of rules through which the Torah could be applied to every possible case ...

If the entire Torah would have been given in writing, everyone would be able to interpret it as he desired. This would lead to division and discord among people who followed the Torah in different ways. The Oral Torah, on the other hand, would require a central authority to preserve it, thus assuring the unity of Israel.

1.5.3

Ramchal elaborates on the spiritual "forces" saying that these were the first things created. This idea parallels modern science regarding the physical universe, which teaches that there are four fundamental forces (i.e., gravity, electro-magnetism, the weak force and the strong force).

This is reflected in the creation account of Genesis. Many critics of the Bible point to inconsistencies with the first three books of Genesis. These are resolved when one understands how creation "unfolded" as follows:

Genesis chapter 1 is an account of creation at the level of these forces (Beriah). "Adam" at this point is a single "spiritual being" made up of both the male and female aspects of the image of God in which he was created. The "plants" and "animals" discussed in Genesis 1 also exist in this state. Note how Genesis 1:26-30 describes the creation of man, yet this seems to be repeated in Genesis 2:7. Further, Genesis 1:11-12 tells us that plant life "exists" yet in Genesis 2:4-5 we are given a summary statement that no vegetable matter was yet present, as God had not caused it to "rain upon the earth yet."

In Genesis 2 we see the next level of creation come about, (Yetzirah/Formation) where Chavah (Eve) is now formed into a separate entity and animals are given distinct names. At this point however, Adam and Eve, as well as all animals and vegetables, do not yet exist in the physical state that we do today. This occurs with their banishment from Eden into the lowest world of creation, the physical realm, beginning in Genesis 3:24, where Adam will now have to "work" the (physical) land.

Thus we see that in a sense, the spiritual and physical realms are "images" of each other.

As Scripture begins with a "hidden" account of these three worlds of creation, it also closes with such. The book of Revelation depicts three sets of "seven judgments." These mirror the three worlds of creation, formation and physical. (See our online Revelation study for more details on this concept.)

1.5.4

Ramchal stresses the importance of man’s free will exists as the exception to the rule that everything in the physical realm is caused by what is dictated by the higher forces.

This is reflected in the following teaching:

Talmud, Berachoth 33b - Everything is in the hand of heaven except the fear of heaven.

A critical concept brought forth here is the fact that our reality consists of both "deterministic" and "indeterministic" influences existing at the same time. Because man, via his soul, interacts with the spiritual realm – particularly the "mixed realm" of Yetzirah (the world of angels) he is in a position to alter events, sometimes even drastically. God created every "point A" and "point B," but allows for much leeway in how we get from one to another.

There is an interesting teaching in Judaism on this issue, that being that "no negative prophecy has to come true." This is based on the idea that man has free will to repent or sin. A classic case is Ninevah. Jonah was told by God to tell the inhabitants of that city that they had been judged and would die. The divine message was not, "unless you repent" – it was too late for that – God had declared his judgment. Yet, the city did repent, and this judgment was nullified (for a while at least!)

We see the same with science’s teachings on the physical realm, which speaks of both "linear" and "random" events. In any situation, (from microbiology to world or cosmic events), if we have enough information, we can make an "educated guess" about how things will "play out." Yet – because of this "random" factor (uncertainty principle), nothing is 100 percent certain.

As stated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan:

It is interesting to note that according to the most modern scientific picture of the world, free will is an integral part of creation. Science teaches us that there is an element of indeterminancy or "free will" inherent in the very quantum nature of matte, and this clearly indicates that the universe was created as an arena for a free-willed creature such as man. It is this freedom of will that gives man a wider choice than merely to react to his surroundings. Although an individual's actions may be influenced by his heredity and environment, neither of these absolutely determines his actions. 1

1.5.5

Key here is the idea that man can influence the highest forces (in the very Throne Room of God) in a positive or negative fashion. As with the physical realm, the slightest such alteration at the "cause" can result in enormous changes with the "effect."

Sin of any type "energizes" the negative aspects of the spiritual realm. Ramchal points out that even words and thoughts have this capacity.

This mirrors Yeshua’s teachings:

Matthew 15:11 - Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."

Matthew 5:28 - But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Our existence in multiple worlds and the impact sin can have helps us understand the deeper meaning of New Testament teachings such as this one:

Colossians 3:1-11 - If then you were raised with Messiah, seek those things which are above, where Messiah is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in God. When Messiah who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Messiah is all and in all.

1.5.6

 Everything that occurs, what we consider both "good" and "bad" is "best for creation," as everything that "comes our way" in life, is arranged by God.

This is reflected in one of Paul’s letters (compare to Talmud, Berachoth 33b above):

Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Ramchal hints at the complexity of "how divine providence works." This will be discussed in a future chapter.

1.5.7

Here we may entertain the idea of a "fifth dimension" of existence. We can understand our world of four dimensions. These include the three dimensions of space (up-down, north-south, east-west), as well as the fourth dimension of time. The fifth dimension extends beyond the physical however, and is a "moral" dimension. (i.e., holy versus unholy, clean versus unclean, etc.)

As Ramchal states, the fundamental Forces either exists in a state of "good" or otherwise. An example of these Forces existing in a negative state and the effect this has on the physical realm is seen in the book of Revelation. The "four horsemen" of Revelation chapter 6 are representative of these Forces. The effect they have on the earth (a negative one due to man’s sin) is seen in the subsequent series of judgments as mentioned earlier. (See our online Revelation study for more on this.)

1.5.8

Ramchal states that the activity of the evil Forces is tied to the extent to which God’s light is concealed, which of course is determined by mankind’s actions. When these Forces are made strong (through man’s failure to repent) then the lower worlds of existence (angelic and physical) suffer the consequences.

Turning again to the harsh judgments (evil) found in the book of Revelation we see:

Revelation 16:9 - And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.

1.5.9

Ramchal describes some of the various results of evil. As we will see throughout this study, the multiple facets and commandments of the Torah are given to us to deal with the battle between good/evil on multiple levels of our existence. He closes by reiterating the specific role of angels as discussed above.


1. The Aryeh Kaplan Reader, Mesorah Publications Ltd., Brooklyn NY, 1985, p. 153.



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