Friday, 11 November 2011

Prayer as Ascent through the Four Worlds


Here are some of my scribb notes notes from the lecture on Heavenly ascent and angel adjuration in (early) Jewish ritual practice. This particular part refers to how the concepts are used in prayer to this day and are taken in part from "Walking in the Fire" by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok:

  • Daily prayer is structured to reflect the ascent of the practitioner through four “worlds”.
  • Staring off in “Assiyah” the realm of action. The prayers in this part are mainly about blessings for physical things and reciting sections of Oral Law related to sacrifices in the temple.
  • The next world is “Yetzirah” - the realm of emotion. These prayers are focused around selected Psalms. Yetzirah means creation of something from something.
  • Then the practitioner ascends to “Beriah” - the world of mind. Here the prayer is all about the declaration of faith “Listen Israel, G-d your Lord, G-d is One”. Beriah is the word meaning creation of something from nothing.
  • Finally the practitioner reaches “Atzilut” - the realm of spirit. This is a realm of emanation and not considered to be separated from the Ayn Sof or Ohr Ayn Sof in the way that Tzimtzum (Divine contractions) separate the lower worlds.
  • Prayer is meant to be reflective rather than a give-me, give-me exercise. It's supposed to motivate us to change our actions, feelings and thoughts.
  • At each level or world in prayer we elevate the fallen sparks of that world. Visualization of specific Divine names is the way in which a person elevates those sparks
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of 4 worlds in Kabbalistic thought and would like an introduction, I recommend reading "The Thirteen Petaled Rose" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.