In the Tree of Life, the Kabbalist model of existence, the very center of human experience is the Sefirah of Tiferet, the level of the heart. The heart is seen as the core of our conscious connection with the world and with our lives in it. The heart is the psycho-emotional nexus that serves as the soul’s platform for being present in physical reality and acting out life purpose.
In other words, as sentient beings in the world, the Kabbalah sees the heart as our full conscious presence. We are totally present and conscious in life, only if we are operating effectively from the heart. Our experience in the world, our ability to receive from it and our work within it are all based on the combination of mind and emotion operating together from the heart perspective.
Full human consciousness in the world is understood to be the melding and balance of mind and emotion, which occur at the level of the heart. Being fully human means to be heart based and centeredness in the heart involves an internal balancing of thought and emotion.
The Kabbalist view is that one’s soul engages life through the heart. To be fully oneself and be present in life requires clarity, which in turn involves experiencing day-to-day existence specifically from an unencumbered psycho-emotional position. That is, being balanced mentally and emotionally in the heart centers us and makes life a clear, unobstructed reality. It is a way of being in the world and within ourselves at the same time to the highest degree possible. Being centered in Tiferet is the path of open heartedness, acceptance and compassion.
It is not hard for us to be thrown off course in life, if our heart energy is adversely effected, because we have lost our natural, internal center of gravity. Whatever encumbers or burdens the heart immediately impairs our ability to function as ourselves in the world. What shackles the heart is imbalance and the disruption of focus.
In order to understand this, we need to remember that the heart level, Tiferet is flanked on the left and right by four other Sefirot. Surrounding Tiferet are the Sefirot of Hesed, Gevurah, Netzakh and Hod. These are the forces of mind and emotion, in human terms. When functioning properly they support and give added expression to the heart’s energy. When out of balance, however, healthy psycho-emotional function is either thrown off track or worse, distorted.
Overemphasis or excessive focus on any or all of these levels can create a bondage of the heart, a restriction of the heart’s function and a distinct loss of psychological and emotional equilibrium. A heavy concentration of energy in one Sefirah leads to a depletion of energy in another, which invariably creates serious impairment and resulting malfunction, first in the heart and subsequently in the whole of one’s conscious existence. One’s life is no longer optimal. One is not free to be oneself, because the condition of balance has been undermined.
For example, taking on the concerns of others constantly is a distortion within Hesed. Excessive concern with one’s own issues is a malfunction in Gevurah. Not being able to sufficiently distinguish one’s own emotions from those of other people is a problem in Netzakh and harsh, incessant, internal self-judgment is a curse created in Hod. These are all distortions within the realms surrounding Tiferet. They have very detrimental effects that are all constrictive, impairing our ability to be truly heart centered and thereby fully oneself in life.
If we cannot fully live our lives, unable to be ourselves because the heart center is damaged, then we as individuals are under very serious constraint. Our ability to completely express who we are is being compromised due to the malfunction at our center. So, to a large extent our ability to fulfill our life purpose is under siege and we are in battle within ourselves. We are imprisoned by our own malfunctioning system.
How does one emancipate Self from the bondage of psychological and emotional imbalance and the chains it places on our being? The answer is through the process of Internal Redemption.
The basic meaning of the term “redeem” is to rescue something or someone through the act of purchase. In Kabbalist thought, one of the chief connotations of “redeem” is to restore someone to his or her original state. Energy therefore is exerted to rectify a state of denigration and re-establish the person’s integrity.
Redemption is not the healing process, though healing is often a decided effect. Redemption is not emancipation. Becoming free is the platform on which redemption can take place, but the redemption itself is the process of restoring an individual’s freedom of complete self-expression. Redemption is the return of a positive sense of self and the re-instatement of full function as a soul operating in the world.
When our heart has been burdened, weighed down, constrained or shut down, redemption is the process of readjusting the balance between thought and feeling. It is the realignment of the mind and the emotions, so that they become a united, inner harmony, a balanced ebb and flow of psycho-emotional interplay. That is the sign of a healthy, heart-based individual, who is fully and consciously present in the world and in the moment.
So, how is this accomplished?
The key is in the center pillar of the Tree. To regain the centrality of the heart, to bring back a reality of heart-based existence, requires reversing the displacement of energy that has taken place.
To engage the areas of overload directly either will exacerbate or possibly complicate the problem. At best, if a solution can be created by working through the problem areas, it will be a complex one. One is dealing with a bewildering array of variables and interactions that occur at this level, between Hesed, Gevurah, Netzakh and Hod.
To effectively bring Tiferet back into balance primarily involves drawing on the spiritual plane and allowing ones own inner light and wisdom to emanate down from the depths of one’s being, from the hidden realm of Keter, Khochmah and Binah.
The spiritual force of the soul, when one deliberately connects with it, will reach the heart directly and re-align it with life purpose as a matter of course. The resulting restoration of the heart will then redistribute the energy and bring all of the surrounding Sefirot back to normal function and harmony. The soul has to be called to redeem the heart. The heart redeemed, then rectifies the energy balance and flow within the surrounding realms. It simply does not work the other way around.
As the Kabbalists would say, this is a great mystery and one should ponder it very carefully.