Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz has written over 60 books. His books cover a wide range of subjects from interpretation of Jewish thought, philosophy and Halacha to spiritualism and mysticism. The books come in many forms, from reference guides and full commentary on the classical Jewish books, to original and comprehensive writing. The Rabbi's writing simplifies complex ideas without losing their insightfulness, making them accessible and suitable for beginners and experts. The books were published or translated into many languages including: English, French, Russian, Spanish and Chinese.
The Thirteen Petalled Rose
The physical world in which we live, the objectively observed universe around us, is only a part of an inconceivably vast system of worlds. Most of these worlds are spiritual in their essence; they are of a different order from our known world. Which does not necessarily mean that they exist somewhere else, but means rather that they exist in different dimensions of being. What is more, the various worlds interpenetrate and interact in such a way that they can be considered counterparts of one another, each reflecting or projecting itself on the one below or above it, with all the modifications, changes, and even distortions that are the result of such interaction. It is the sum of this infinitely complex exchange of influence back and forth among different domains that comprises the specific world of reality we experience in our everyday life.
In speaking of higher or lower worlds, I do not mean to describe an actual physical relation; for in the realm of the spiritual there is no such division, and the words "high” and "low” refer only to the place of any particular world on the ladder of causality. To call a world higher signifies that it is more primary, more basic in terms of being close to a primal source of influence; while a lower world would be a secondary world – in a sense, a copy. Yet the copy is not just an imitation but rather a whole system, with a more or less independent life of its own, its own variety of experience, characteristics, and properties.
The world in which we ordinarily live, with all that it embraces, is called the "world of action;” and it includes the world of both our sensual and our nonsensual apprehension. But this world of action itself is
not all of the same essence and the same quality. The lower part of the world of action is what is known as the "world of physical nature” and of more or less mechanical processes – that is to say, the world where natural law prevails; while above this world of physical nature is another part of the same world which we may call the "world of spiritual action.” What is common to these two domains of the world of action is man, the human creature so situated between them that he partakes of both.
As a part of the physical system of the universe, man is subordinate to the physical, chemical, and biological laws of nature; while from the standpoint of his consciousness, even when this consciousness is totally occupied with matters of a lower order, man belongs to the spiritual world, the world of ideas. To be sure, these ideas of the world of action are almost completely bound up with the material world, growing out of it and reaching farther, but never really getting out of it; and this is as true for the heights of the most far-reaching and encompassing philosophy as it is for the thought processes of the ignorant person, the primitive savage, or the child. Every aspect of human existence is therefore made up of both
matter and spirit. And at the same time, in the world of action the spiritual is subordinate to the material, in keeping with the fact that the laws of nature determine the face and form of all things and serve as focal points for all processes. In this world the spirit can appear and perform its role only on the solid basis of the workings of what we call the "forces of nature.” In other words, no matter how abstract or divorced it is from so-called reality, thought still belongs to the world of action.
The world of action, however, is only one world in a general system of four fundamental dimensions of being, or four different worlds, each with its own cosmos of varying essences. These four worlds have
been called, in order from the highest to the lowest, "emanation,” "creation,” "formation,” and "action.” Thus, the world directly above ours is the world of formation. To understand the difference, one must first
understand certain factors common to all four worlds. These factors were traditionally known as "world,” "year,” and "soul;” nowadays we would call them "space,” "time,” and "self ” (experience of one’s being). Each world is distinguished from the others by the way these three factors are manifested in it. For example, in our world, physical place is a necessary external element for the existence of things; it is the background against which all objects move and all creatures function. In the higher worlds, and also in the world of spiritual action, that which is analogous to space in the world of physical action is called a "mansion.” It is the framework within which various forms and beings converge and connect.
Perhaps one may compare it to those self-contained systems – known in mathematics as "groups” or "fields” – in each of which all the unit parts are related in a definite way to the other parts and to the whole. Such systems may be inhabited or full to capacity, or they may be relatively sparse or empty. Whatever the case, such a system of related existences constitutes a "place” in the abstract – a "mansion” in the higher worlds. Time also has a different significance in the other worlds. In our domain of experience, time is measured by the movement of physical objects in space. The "year,” as it is called abstractly, constitutes the very process of change; it is the passage from one thing to another, from form
to form, and it also includes within itself the concept of causality as that which keeps all transition from form to form within the bounds of law.
Indeed, upon ascending the order of worlds, this time system becomes increasingly abstract and less and less representative of anything that we know as time in the physical world; it becomes no more than the purest essence of change, or even of the possibility of potential change. Finally, what we call "soul” is, in the physical dimension, the totality of living creatures functioning in the time and space dimensions of this world. Although they are an essential part of this world, they are distinguished from the general background by their self-consciousness and knowledge of this world. Similarly, in the higher world, the souls are self-conscious essences acting within the framework of the mansion and the year of their world. The world of formation may be said to be, in its essence, a world of feeling.
It is a world whose main substance, or type of experience, is emotion of one kind or another, and in which such emotions are the elements that determine its patterns. The living beings in it are conscious manifestations of particular impulses – impulses to perform one or another act or responding one or another way – or of the power to carry through an incentive, to realize, to fulfill the tendency of an inclination or an inspiration. The living creatures of the world of formation, the beings who function in it as we function in the world of action, are called, in a general way, "angels.”