Spiritual achievement is only possible if man utilizes his intellect and acquires a degree of philosophic depth, emotional sensitivity, and moral sensibility.
The most elementary prerequisite for spiritual growth is the utilization of the mind. The great 11th century Torah sage, Rashi, comments on man being created in the “image of God” and suggests that man was created with a unique ability to “understand and conceptualize.” What does it mean to “understand and conceptualize”?
Man is endowed with sophisticated cognitive abilities. First, man is able to consciously engage his cognitive abilities. Unlike animals, whose cognitive capabilities are subconscious and instinctual, man can will to use his mind.
Additionally, man is able to engage in abstract thinking. Due to this ability, man can operate on a theoretical level and engage in mental imagery. He can transcend superficial perceptions, anticipate results, and identify underlying principles in the world around him.
Man is elevated because he can consciously form abstract thoughts, and through this, “understand” underlying concepts and “conceptualize” theoretic realties.
Man’s utilization of this unique capacity expresses itself in various realms. Let us briefly explore three primary expressions. First and foremost, man’s abstract thinking is expressed in his ability to ponder things from a philosophical perspective. He can seek to understand the significance of various events and uncover deeper meaning in the things he encounters. Philosophic thought also provides an opportunity to acquire self-awareness. Philosophic thinking patterns lead man to contemplate the meaning of his life and give him the tools to consider the nature of his own existence. Man is not only able to observe reality, but he can also ponder its deeper meaning.
Part of man’s ability to see beyond the superficial is reflected in his perception and appreciation of excellence, majesty, and beauty. Man is able to see people, events, and objects in greater contexts and appreciate their qualitative value. As a result, man can seek out excellence, majesty, beauty, and the like, and attempt to create for himself an environment that will reflect those ideals. Due to this form of intelligence, man experiences life in a way that is far richer and deeper than that of the animals.
A second expression is man’s emotional intelligence. Although animals have emotions and passions, they are largely instinctual and not calculated. Animals can emote, but only mankind is endowed with the ability to understand emotions. Man can detect others’ feelings and appreciate them, and also relate to complicated emotional experiences. He can decipher fear, pain, and joy, and respond with words of reassurance, empathy, or shared excitement. Man can also manage his emotions &ndash at times allowing them to manifest themselves and at times suppressing their expression.
Indeed, animals, like humans, can instinctually express many basic emotions. However, the ability to relate to these emotions, such as channeling or controlling them, is solely human and due to man’s emotional intelligence. The emotional realm is especially manifest in the relationships that human beings build with one another. Unlike the instinctual relationships found between animals, man can build emotional relationships that continue to grow and deepen over time.
Lastly, man is endowed with moral intelligence. This form of intelligence enables man to understand concepts such as justice, kindness, cruelty, and respect. Moral intelligence facilitates appreciation of noble character and self-control, as well as contempt for lowly behavior, moral decadence, and excessive indulgence. Utilizing moral thinking, man is able to learn to identify right from wrong and is empowered to make moral judgments.
Spiritual achievement is only possible if man utilizes his intellect and acquires a degree of philosophic depth, emotional sensitivity, and moral sensibility. Development of the mind and the acquisition of moral virtue are absolute necessities if man is to transform himself into a vessel for increased divine energy and light.
The utilization of the mind to acquires philosophical, emotional, and moral wisdom is not enough if man wishes to become a vessel for increased divinity. Man must also live by the wisdom he has acquired.
Man’s intellect might teach him emotional wisdom, but man must also take steps to implement that acquired wisdom. Hence, man must not only learn to identify emotions and understand the influence they exert in human interactions, but he must also train himself in how to relate to emotions.
Concerning himself, man must gain the ability to modulate his emotions. He must exercise control over them, knowing when they are to be expressed and when they are to be suppressed. Concerning others, his emotional wisdom must teach him how to relate to others and value their feelings.
Similarly, after man acquires moral wisdom, he must engage his free will to then make moral decisions: choose right over wrong, choose justice over injustice, and choose kindness over cruelty. It is not enough for him to clarify moral truths; he must also live by moral truths. In the realm of philosophic wisdom as well, if man’s philosophic thought leads him to a deeper perspective on life, he must figure out concrete ways to implement that knowledge and live a deeper existence.
The more man uses his mind to acquire wisdom and implements that wisdom in his life, the more of a vessel he becomes for heightened spirituality, holiness, and divinity.