Chapter 9-10: The ultimate struggle. Who are you?

In a fascinating article Rabbi Simon Jacobson explains the application of Tanya’s presentation of the struggle between G-dly and animal souls and how this gives a fresh perspective of who you are and what is at your disposal for your personal struggles.

Click here for full article.

All that is speculation. Let’s get back to history.

Preceding all these thinkers, was Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s psychological model, which is defined by three revolutionary principles:

1/ Human self-control is inherent, not acquired.

2/ The essence of a human is good and Divine; the Yid, not the Id.

3/ Even mans’ intrinsic self and selfishness (“itness”) is rooted in the Essence of the Divine Self.

Here’s a brief overview of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s model.

A person carries two voices, two souls: The animal soul and the Divine one. In the words of Ecclesiastes, “The human spirit ascends on high; the spirit of the beast descends down into the earth.” They are in constant struggle, with the animal soul seeking instant gratification and pleasure (like the Id), and the Divine soul seeking transcendence and unity. The animal spirit wants to be “more animal,” hence more self-ego. The Divine spirit wants to be “more Divine,” more selfless.

The domain of the animal manifests in the impulsive emotions, while the domain of the Divine spirit rests in the reflective mind, which can control and temper impulsive reactions. A young child for instance, is controlled entirely by emotion, and yells out “I want it and I want it all now.” Similarly the animal within us selfishly barks “give, give.” As our minds develop we gain the ability to reflect, repress, temper or channel our impulses.

The question of course is, as mentioned earlier, which is our most dominant force?

The answer is the Divine soul. The inner good in man is the most dominant force in our lives. Yet, this force is locked in battle with the animal soul. We have the freedom and the ability to overcome any temptation if we so wish through self control (“moach shalit al halev,” the mind’s dominance over the emotions).

Self Control

An argument can be made that self-control is an acquired skill that comes later in life, and is superimposed over the inherent impulses of the heart. And as a rule, an acquired skill will never be as powerful as an inherent one. It can dominate for a while, but when “push comes to shove,” and survival is at stake, we will gravitate to the inherent.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman categorically rejects that argument, and unequivocally states that the power of self-control is natural and inherent to the human being. We are born with that quality. But like other talents, kit takes time for it to emerge in our lives. As our mind develops, it brings out our inherent self-control.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman actually supports this with a verse in Ecclesiastes, which equates the dominance of the mind over folly [of the impulsive heart] to the natural dominance of light over darkness. Unlike fire and water, two equal adversaries, which have the power to extinguish each other, light naturally dispels darkness.

All that is speculation. Let’s get back to history.

Preceding all these thinkers, was Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s psychological model, which is defined by three revolutionary principles:

1/ Human self-control is inherent, not acquired.

2/ The essence of a human is good and Divine; the Yid, not the Id.

3/ Even mans’ intrinsic self and selfishness (“itness”) is rooted in the Essence of the Divine Self.

Here’s a brief overview of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s model.

A person carries two voices, two souls: The animal soul and the Divine one. In the words of Ecclesiastes, “The human spirit ascends on high; the spirit of the beast descends down into the earth.” They are in constant struggle, with the animal soul seeking instant gratification and pleasure (like the Id), and the Divine soul seeking transcendence and unity. The animal spirit wants to be “more animal,” hence more self-ego. The Divine spirit wants to be “more Divine,” more selfless.

The domain of the animal manifests in the impulsive emotions, while the domain of the Divine spirit rests in the reflective mind, which can control and temper impulsive reactions. A young child for instance, is controlled entirely by emotion, and yells out “I want it and I want it all now.” Similarly the animal within us selfishly barks “give, give.” As our minds develop we gain the ability to reflect, repress, temper or channel our impulses.

The question of course is, as mentioned earlier, which is our most dominant force?

The answer is the Divine soul. The inner good in man is the most dominant force in our lives. Yet, this force is locked in battle with the animal soul. We have the freedom and the ability to overcome any temptation if we so wish through self control (“moach shalit al halev,” the mind’s dominance over the emotions).

Self Control

An argument can be made that self-control is an acquired skill that comes later in life, and is superimposed over the inherent impulses of the heart. And as a rule, an acquired skill will never be as powerful as an inherent one. It can dominate for a while, but when “push comes to shove,” and survival is at stake, we will gravitate to the inherent.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman categorically rejects that argument, and unequivocally states that the power of self-control is natural and inherent to the human being. We are born with that quality. But like other talents, kit takes time for it to emerge in our lives. As our mind develops, it brings out our inherent self-control.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman actually supports this with a verse in Ecclesiastes, which equates the dominance of the mind over folly [of the impulsive heart] to the natural dominance of light over darkness. Unlike fire and water, two equal adversaries, which have the power to extinguish each other, light naturally dispels darkness…..

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