Saturday, November 04, 2006

The spiritual view of autism

An interesting post on the interplay of one individual's autism and her spirituality

I don't want to directly comment on her post, except to say that in some respects it meshes with my experience and in others it conflicts with it--which is to be expected, since everyone experiences the Source of All Being in their own individual way, as befits their own individual being.

First, a preliminary comment: autism may be described as not being fully connected to the world around us--or to having connections which are not correctly wired, so the experience of the outside world is not the usual one.

But I might remark on the Jewish (or rather, Kabbalistically based) view of autism. Judaism has indeed a pronounced tendency to view "mentally deficient" people as spiritually superior. (Google "Ben Goldin" for a very contemporary expression of this phenomenon.) But the more sophisticated view is to see us as souls that are not completely incarnated into our present bodies, either because we tried to withdraw from incarnating at a late stage of the process, or for other reasons. This is another way of saying that we are not fully connected to the physical plane.

The Kabbalah teaches, in essence, that between us, in the physical world, there are a series of veils between us and G-d, and that these veils are more apparent than real, and that with proper spiritual endeavour--teshuvah, tefilah, Torah: repentance, prayer, study of the Torah; and observance of the mitzvot--we can to a degree "see" through those veils, and be aware of the Omnipresent Omniexistence of the Deity. The fully incarnated soul has all of those veils between itself and Its Source. The not-so-fully incarnated soul may not have all of those veils there: its view of the Source of Existence is a shade less obscured than normal. Just a shade less. It may be possible for us to see a bit deeper and a bit more clearly, but only with effort. The yetzer harah is alive and well in us, as it is in everyone (unless you're a tzaddik. And if you're a tzaddik, you probably don't need my blathering to instruct you). But just because we are within the veils does not mean we are superior in any way. It is possible to remain stuck in the same place, and not see any further or deeper, for us just as it is for anyone else; and anyone can, as indicated above, work on themselves so they can see through the veils themselves. So we have no claim to a special place; there is nothing we can do that any other person can not also do.

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