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The Integrated Brain
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

If you have seen a popular image of an MRI scan, you may get the mistaken notion that the brain consists of multiple nodes where specific processes takes place. Here’s the region that recognizes faces; over there is the calculator that you use to do math. This idea comes from colorful MRI scans that show a particular region lit up when a subject performs a specific task.

However, we now know that there is considerable overlap between brain functions. When a region of the brain “lights up” under MRI when a specific task is performed, this does not mean that the activity is taking place only in that region. In fact, many neurons from many areas of the brain are being called into service. MRI scans are a composite of thousands of images taken from many different individuals; the actual picture of brain activity is far fuzzier and less defined.

***

Chassidic philosophy, too, has a “mapping” of the mind, consisting of ten different attributes, sefirot. These ten sefirot are a reflection of G-d’s own ten attributes, with which He created the world. Three of the attributes are intellectual: Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge (the Hebrew acronym ChaBaD). The other seven are emotional: Kindness, Severity, Harmony, Persistence, Glory, Foundation and Majesty. Each attribute plays a role in creation; the power that emanates from each of these attributes is the driving force that brings the world into being.

Originally, before the creation of the physical world, these ten forces were not well integrated with each other. Each of the ten attributes “emanated” its power with full intensity. However, because some of the attributes are mutually incompatible—Kindness with Severity, for example—no creation was able to take place. The attributes cancelled themselves out, and the result was “shevirat hakelim”—a shattering of the vessels. The light of these “broken vessels” fell into the lower worlds. It is our task to gather in these fallen sparks and integrate them into the “Olam Hatikkun”—the World of Correction.

How is the World of Correction an improvement over what came before? The simple answer is, integration. In the World of Correction, the ten sefirot were not aligned in a way that they would come into conflict. Rather, the sefirot are arranged so that two conflicting sefirot converge on a third that melds them together in a harmonious fashion. The integration and harmony among sefirot is what allows the created world to come into being.

Achieving a balance between conflicting forces is also part of our task in this world. As G-d’s emissaries here on earth, we use the power of the ten sefirot that He implanted within us to achieve integration within ourselves, within our families, our societies and the world at large. Through this process, we complete the perfection of the world and bring about the state of Redemption.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.

 

 


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