Parts of the Soul
|T H E T R E E O F L I F E|
According to the Qabalistic scheme, the human soul has four distinct facets which are projected out of integral Divinity. These four facets are associated with the letters of the Tetragrammaton, and correspond to the Four Worlds of Qabalah. The lowest level of the soul is Nefesh, or the Animal Soul, which is the spark of life that animates and energizes the body and maintains it's subconscious functions, such as breathing and the beating of the heart. Nefesh corresponds to the element of Earth and the last letter Heh of the Tetragrammaton.
"Above" Nefesh is Ruach, literally translated as "wind", which is the general soul manifesting as consciousness. Ruach animates and energizes the personal consciousness and intellect within the physical vehicle. Ruach corresponds to Air and the Vav of Tetragrammaton. Nefesh and Ruach are the existential aspects of the soul, while the aspects corresponding to Water and Fire are abstract, intangible to physical experience, existing at an almost purely subjective level of manifestation.
The first level of the soul higher than Ruach is called Neshamah. This is the Jewish concept of the "Higher" soul, i.e., the higher level of spiritual consciousness inherent in the individual but often unrecognized. The full potential of the Neshamah is realized through religious and mystical discipline. Within the technical structure of Qabala, the Neshamah is the source of individual identity, the source of the ego, or sense of self. Contrarily, the next level of the soul, termed Chiah, is the general living force. It is the part of the soul which is connected with all life, every living, growing thing. This concept embraces all Creation, as all of Creation is in a constant state of growth and development. Chiah corresponds to Fire and the Neshamah to Water. As the highest level of the soul, Chiah is closest to the Divine Source (called Yechidah in relation to the soul) and is in constant contact with all life and all of Creation. Neshamah is the first specification of form or identity from this general life-force, and, as such, Neshamah is the source of personal identity or self consciousness. This relationship between Chiah and Neshamah directly corresponds to the relationship between Fire and Water, and to Yod and Heh of the Tetragrammaton, and Chochmah and Binah of the Supernal Triad.. Chiah, equated with Fire, is amorphous and undefined as to function. Neshamah, equated with Water, specifies and directs the force of Chiah into a specific individual, giving them personal consciousness with spiritual motivations. This personal consciousness manifests existentially as Ruach, which is contained in the physical body, which, in turn, is animated and sustained by Nefesh.
Generally, the Ruach is only consciously linked to Nefesh, and it's perceptions are limited to the physical senses, while Neshamah functions - at best - only at a purely unconscious level. Sometimes Neshamah joins Ruach in dreams, and can bring important insights to an individual. But, generally, this is rare. In psychological terms, we can identify the four aspects of the soul (Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, and Chiah) with the concepts of the subconscious, the conscious, the unconscious, and the collective unconscious (respectively).