There are many times that tsimtsumim (restrictions) comes into play in order to provide the opportunity for advancement. Here we will take a closer look at this with regard to Neo moving from the world of Asiyah to Yetzirah and then Beriah.
TSIMTSUM – YETZIRAH
As discussed, “knowledge” (Da’at) of one world is the gateway to the foundation (Yesod) of the next. The “combat training,” including sparring with Morpheus, is one part of what Neo undergoes to fully ‘know’ the world of Morpheus, so that he can progress to the next.
You do not truly know someone until you fight them. – Seraph
Morpheus begins to make room for and introduce new thought into Neo’s mind during the martial arts training. This is the process of tsimstum, “a contraction (of a false view) for the sake of expansion (of a correct view).”
When in the dojo sparring, Morpheus begins the process of tsimtsum by interjecting various ideas into his conversation with Neo:
“Good. Adaptation, improvisation. But your weakness is not your technique.”
“Do you believe that my being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place?”
“You think that’s air you’re breathing now?”
Along Neo’s path, Morpheus represents the level of the Matrix associated with the world of Yetzirah/Formation and the level of the soul called Ruach. This is where human beings contemplate and struggle with spiritual concepts.
This level lies ‘between’ the illusionary Matrix world (which would be the world of physical existence called Asiyah and soul level of Nefesh) and that of the Oracle (which would be the world of Beriah and level of the soul called the Neshama.)
Placing certain characters and how they relate to the worlds of existence and levels of the soul, we have:
Trinity – Asiyah – Nefesh
Morpheus – Yetzirah – Ruach
Oracle – Beriah – Neshama
Architect – Atzilut –Chaya
Machine World – Adam Kadmon – Yachid
These five levels emanate from the Four-letter Name of G-d, Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey. The fifth and highest (‘hidden’) level reflects the tiny ‘cusp’ on the letter Yud. All spiritual concepts from the Torah can be ‘mapped out’ across these five levels.
An example of this ‘mapping’ is found here: http://www.13petals.org/soulchart/
In addition to “combat training” Neo also goes through an “agent training program” which is more cerebral. This “dual level” of learning (one more physical, the other more mental) also corresponds to the spiritual level he is dealing with at this time.
Neo’s training with Morpheus is designed to get him through this level of Ruach so he can get to the level of the Oracle (the ‘mother’ of the Matrix as she is called). This is expressed in terms of his mind being made ‘free.’
In kabbalistic literature, the concept of “free,” is associated with the ‘supernal mother:’
Galatians 4:26 – “But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”
Attaining this will give Neo ‘power’ (gevurah/judgment) over all the entities (Agents, etc.) in this ‘angelic’ level of the Matrix (Yetzirah), enabling him to “miraculously” dodge bullets (as Morpheus had told him) and much more.
But as we see, there’s bumps and confusion along the way.
What are you doing here? You do not belong here! – Kamala to Neo
The reality of making spiritual connections is it seems everything in the spiritual worlds suddenly takes notice of you. You ‘unbalanced the equation” as the Oracle would put it. You “stepped in” and made an opening. And if you falter, that opening remains – and something else can enter the void.
Neo fails his first ‘test of faith.’ He gets the phone call he’s been waiting for – from Morpheus. That’s the good news. However, the ‘other’ news is that Morpheus confirms what Trinity told him at the club – he is in trouble. He is told that “they” (the agents) have their eyes on him, since he’s been poking around in the ‘spiritual worlds,’ i.e., beyond the Matrix:
“We know that you have been contacted by a certain individual. A man who calls himself Morpheus. Whatever you think you know about this man is irrelevant to the fact that he is wanted for acts of terrorism in more countries than any other man in the world. He is considered by many authorities to be the most dangerous man alive.” – Agent Smith
But there is some good news – the “bad guys” don’t know how important Neo is, so the ‘threat’ to him is not too big – yet. There is another kabbalistic principle here – the ‘evil realm’ (sitra achra = ‘other side’) is always on the lookout for tzadikim entering the world. Neo’s ‘meager origins, as Thomas Anderson the computer programmer, did not attract much attention. The same is said of Messiah in Chassidic writings – there will be nothing ‘spectacular’ about his family and upbringing, etc.
The next thing Morpheus tells Neo is that he can help him elude the ones coming for him. Neo tries but fails and ends up in custody. Enter the ‘agents’ led by Smith, who interrogate him. They tempt him at the physical level (offering to forgive Neo for his ‘computer crimes’ if he cooperates with them) and when that fails they release him with a threat and worse – they ‘mark him’ by placing a ‘bug’ in him.
If you’re keeping score here, it would appear to be Agents 1 – Neo 0
This does seem to be a setback for “the One.” Fortunately for Neo, the ‘powers that be’ (from beyond the Matrix) who are looking to bring him to the truth, don’t give up on him. He gets his chance to make it right – to do teshuvah.
Neo almost chooses the wrong path. His ego almost wins the day when in the car with Trinity and the the others.
She tells him:
Trinity: Please Neo, you have to trust me.
Trinity: Because you have been down there Neo, you know that road. You know exactly where it ends. And I know that’s not where you want to be.
Neo decides to humble himself and move through the gate Trinity has placed before him.
New Score: Neo 1 – Agents 0
No, the score is not tied. With teshuvah the point you lost becomes your point – it effectively changes the past. The things you did wrong are all seen as part of what brought you to the point of teshuvah. They are then moved from the negative side of the ledger to the positive one.
Several of the characters will experience the same lesson Neo did, which is that doubt can be useful in moving us forward.
Trinity as mentioned, represents the first gate, which is malkhut/kingdom. We find both in the New Testament and through kabbalistic works, that one is to, “first seek the kingdom (malkhut, the first gate) then “ALL” else will be added to you.”
This word “all” is a very precise terms in kabbalah. In Hebrew the term is “kol” and it is specifically associated with the next Sefirah (from the bottom) which is “Yesod” meaning “foundation.” (1)
The term kol/all is used here, as once a person recognizes the spiritual path, ‘all’ the spiritual worlds are open to discovery.
Neo’s “knowledge” of the possible existence of the Matrix represents the maximal level of knowledge attainable from within the world of the Matrix. This knowledge opens the door to the foundation of the next world. It’ a kabbalistic tradition that da’at (knowledge) of a lower world is the portal to the yesod (foundation) of the one above it.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
G-d does give you exactly what you need when you need it (though it may not seem so at times – more on this later). Neo is now ready to make the jump. He’s looking at the foundation (Yesod) of all that lies beyond the world of the Matrix.
Morpheus represents the next gate – one that opens by taking the red pill. It is not by accident that this pill is red as this is the color of gevurah/judgment which is the aspect of restriction/tsimtsum, which (as discussed earlier), is needed to ‘block out’ that which clouds our view of spiritual truth.
As Neo will learn, tsimtsum always precedes moving to the next stage along the path of the Ohr Ein Sof
TSIMTSUM – BERIAH
In the first movie, we hear that Neo will soon be taken to see the Oracle, depending on his being ready:
Cypher: I just keep wondering, if Morpheus is so sure, why doesn’t he take him to see the Oracle?
Trinity: Morpheus will take him when he’s ready.
After some training sessions Morpheus announces that they are taking Neo to the Oracle. Neo goes with Morpheus to see her. They arrive at apartment and after a brief wait, Neo has his face-to-face.
However, in the second movie, when Neo seeks out the Oracle, she is in a ‘hidden’ location. Further, Neo has to ‘fight’ Seraph in order to prove he is worthy to meet with her.
What’s going on here? Who or what changed? Let’s look at a bit of dialogue from each time they met.
From the first encounter:
Oracle: Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you’re waiting for something.
Oracle: Your next life, maybe. Who knows? That’s the way these things go.
Compare this to the next time when they meet on the park bench:
The Oracle: Well, come on. I ain’t gonna bite ya. Come around here, and let me have a look at ya. My goodness, look at you! You turned out all right, didn’t you?
So Neo has ‘turned out all right.’ What does this mean?
As we saw in the first dialogue, Neo had the ability to become the One. At the time of his first visit with the Oracle, he and the younger children in the apartment are called “potentials.”
The Torah concept here is that there is a “messiah in potential” in every generation. Whether or not such a person becomes messiah has much to do with if they take the steps to merit it, as well as how receptive and worthy his generation is.
Neo provided the ‘spark from below’ and the Oracle is responding in the manner of a challenge. (Which Morpheus recognizes when Neo leaves the kitchen.) Her words were a form of ‘tsimtsum,’ a ‘contraction for the purpose of expansion’ – to which Neo rises to the occasion. Recall that the function of the Oracle/Binah is to effect change by “unbalancing the equation.”
As mentioned in the previous section, teshuvah is about ‘getting back to your true self.’ In her kitchen, the Oracle points out a plaque on the wall with the words, “Temet Nosce” – “Know Thyself,” which effectively means to “connect to your true self.” (See section on Da’at/Knowledge and Connectivity.)
Neo may be a ‘new man,’ but many “whys” abound regarding the Oracle:
- Why was she not in her apartment when he goes to find her for the second time?
- Why is she hidden in a world ‘beyond’ what Morpheus and the others had access to?
- Why did Neo have to ‘fight’ Seraph to get to her?
Let’s outline three key differences between the first and second times Neo went to the Oracle:
- The first time he had quick and easy access to her
- The second time he had to fight Seraph “her protector” in order to meet her
- The first time she was in an apartment that Morpheus and Neo both walked into
- The second time she was concealed behind a special locked door, ‘out of view’ to Morpheus
- The first time, she said Neo was not ‘ready’ to be “the One”
- The second time, she said he was “the One”
To answer an earlier question as to “What changed?” … Neo changed as did the aspect of the Oracle that he is connecting to.
With regard to Neo’s path (thus far) and the established Torah principles, we see:
- Neo’s advancement occurs in stages. As he acquires “knowledge” (Da’at) of one “world,” he gains access to the “foundation” (Yesod) of the next. Knowledge (Da’at) is the key for advancement at every stage along the “path of the One.”
- As expressed in a kabbalistic text by the Ramchal:
- Da’at is the offspring of Chochmah and Binah that spreads through everything, and indeed Da’at truly extends through all the levels of Zeir Anpin on all of the different levels. (2)
- Neo begins by seeking that which is beyond the plugged-in level of the Matrix world. This passive (illusionary) life in the Matrix is at the level of the ‘nefesh’ of the soul and corresponds to the “physical” world of Asiya (making) which we all live our day-to-day lives in. Through seeking the truth, Neo develops sufficient ‘da’at/knowledge’ that there is more to the Matrix, which enables him to make the first connection. (Consider the story of Abraham who studied the stars and moon, and came to realize there had to be something beyond, controlling these things.)
- The result of his ‘seeking the kingdom’ is making connection to Trinity (representing Malkhut). Neo passes some tests of faith (going to the club, getting in the car to see Morpheus). Trinity then (literally) opens door for Neo to meet Morpheus who is at the soul level of Ruach and world of Yetzirah (Formation).
- Neo soon “dies” to the ‘passive’ world of the Matrix, which occurs when he becomes “unplugged” for the first time.
- Neo meets the Oracle the first time AT THIS LEVEL/IN THIS WORLD. This is a key concept. It is important to not think about the Oracle so much as a specific character, but as what she represents which is the aspect of “Binah/Understanding” AT EVERY LEVEL/IN EACH WORLD. The Sefirot function different in each world, corresponding to the aspects of that world.
Neo has some knowledge (=connectivity) at this level, and has the potential of being “the One,” as she says to him – but he is early on the Path of the One, and there are many challenges ahead. What she says to him the first time is coming from the level of Binah/Understanding at the level he was presently at – which is why it was meant “only for him,” as Morpheus tells Neo when he leaves the kitchen:
“What was said was for you and you alone.”
- By learning from Morpheus and interacting (fighting) with him and then with Smith (again, at this particular level), Neo attains knowledge (da’at) of the soul level of Ruach and world of Yetzirah. (Remember, fighting in the Matrix is linked to gaining knowledge as Seraph later tells Neo.)
- Neo then dies to this world of the Matrix, which occurs when Smith kills him in the hallway. This reflects the important idea of the tzadik being ‘faithful unto death’ and then being able ‘to do more in death than in life.’
- Upon his resurrection/rebirth, he has “knowledge” of the Matrix at a level exceeding his mentor, Morpheus, as he now, “does not have to dodge bullets” (as Morpheus told him earlier).
- Neo encounters more tests and ‘proves himself’ to Seraph, who (again, literally) opens the door to the Oracle. Note that Trinity opens the door to Morpheus, Seraph the door to the Oracle and later the Keymaker, the door to the Architect.)
- Neo’s second meeting with the Oracle is now at her level which is the level of the soul called Neshama and the world of Beriah (Creation). Neo, having achieved da’at/knowledge of the world of Morpheus (Ruach/Yetzirah) is now at the foundation of the world of the Oracle (Neshama/Beriah).
- As we see, Morpheus and the others do not have knowledge of/connection to the Oracle AT THIS LEVEL/IN THIS WORLD. Only Neo is allowed to ‘go up this mountain’ as his ‘soul’ merits it:
The Torah analogy is from Exodus 19:12-13:
“You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds long, they shall come near the mountain.”
It is also interesting to note, that Neo, now having attained the level of Beriah/Neshama (and the dimension of “time”) is not as ‘subject’ to the restrictions of the lower worlds:
“You have the sight now, Neo. You are looking at the world without time.”
Neo’s new “sight” as the Oracle expressed it, is rooted in the idea of the soul of Mashiach extending back to the very highest level of creation which transcends time and space.
As the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov explain:
“Keter actually has two levels, a lower level corresponding to Arikh Anpin and an upper level, the intellect of Arikh Anpin, which corresponds to Atik. Atik is referred to in the holy writings by several names: Atik (“The Ancient One”), Atik Yomin (“The Ancient of Days”), Atika Kadisha (“The Holy Ancient One”). … The connection between Mashiach and Atik is learned from Daniel’s vision: “A man came and he approached (the level of) the Ancient of Days …” Rashi explains that this refers to Mashiach, who will minister justice to the entire world. … Atik thus transcends anything that we can conceive — giving and receiving, right and left, reward and punishment, and so on. At this level there is neither past or future. Everything is in the present. And, as we have seen, every part of Creation, from the first constriction, until the lowest level of the world of Asiyah, is contained within Keter. Thus Atik includes all time and space — yet transcends it all. The soul of Mashiach “resides” within Atik, and it is from this level that all his powers will be drawn. And, since he transcends time and space, Mashiach can transcend every transgression ever committed and rectify it — for since he can transcend everything ever done, he can bring each person to a state prior to his having sinned. … With this power inherent in this exalted level, Mashiach will be able to bring the world to a state of perfection.” (3)
The process of advancement has far from ended for Neo however. Additional tsimstumim will be required, another of the Oracle’s ‘hidden messages:’
Neo: Then why can’t I see what happens to her?
Oracle: We can never see past the choices we don’t understand.
New levels of Da’at of Binah/Understanding lie ahead, as the Ramchal taught in the quote above.
(1) Sha’are Orah (Gates of Light) section II.
(2) From 138 Gates of Wisdom, Gate 124, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
(3) “Mashiach – Who? What? Why? How? Where? When?,” Chaim Kramer, Breslov Resarch Institute, Jerusalem, pp. 208-209.