Monday, December 24, 2007

Rav Ekstein's Visualizations - Amazing Astronomical Photographs


My friend Tuvia, from Yerushalayim, sent me these pictures in the context of an e-conversation we were having about R' Ekshtein's sefer, Tenai Hanefesh l'hasagas haChassidus, which is also available in English here. Desipite what one might think from the modern cover, pictured above, this sefer was written by a Djikover Chossid before the war, in the 1930's, and talks about how to expand your perspective beyond your limited experiences. He uses a method of meditation using visualizations to accomplish this.

One of his guided visualizations from the beginning of his sefer is imaging yourself looking down at yourself just above your head. And then panning back, out, higher over your street, then looking over your whole neighborhood, then your whole city, then your whole state, then from the perspective of looking over your whole country, then your continent, then the whole earth, and then moving farther and farther out into space. Then zooming back in, in one's mind, till he goes into the person, from the organ level, to the cellular level, to the molecular level, to the particle level, to the atomic level, to the sub-atomic level, etc. (Now, if someone collected another bunch of pictures for that visualization, that would be something!) This is for the purpose of breaking one's trait of egoism, where we fail to appreciate Hashem's creation and our smallness relative to it's unbelievable majesty. I wrote about a similar topic with pictures here.

Here are some pictures Tuvia forwarded me to help with getting some perspective on our size relative to the world and relative to other aspects of the universe that Hashem created...



This picture shows the scale of Earth, which is a mere dot relative to the Red Giant, Arcturus.

In this one, our sun is merely a dot compared to the star in the Scorpia contellation, Antares.
This is an enlarged view of space, where countless stars and galaxies can be seen.
Here, one of the darker spots in the above pictures is zoomed in on.

Wow.

-Dixie Yid

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really amazing to see how big we think we are when in REALITY we are very small. As Reb Zusha said- in one poocket we are "dust and ashes" and in the other pocket "the world was created for me".

avakesh said...

There is a space meditation in Taming the Raging Mind. It is not a visualization but feeling space around you and slowly extending this feeling util you fell the entire cosmos.
http://www.thereisone.com/books&music.htm

DixieYid said...

Anon, right. One side is not getting caught up in egoism, but rather remembering our smallness. But that realization can also be used by the yetzer hara to lead one to think that nothing he does matters since he is really so insignificant. Therefore, it is important to rememember that "the whole world was created for me." The key, like with the vort with Reb Zusha, is to know when is the right time to remind one's self of the appropirate concept.

Avakesh,

Thanks for the link. Have you practiced that?

-Dixie Yid

maks said...

I heard about this sefer a few years ago but could never remember the name. Thanks for the reminder! :)

Reminds me of the saying: "The more you know, the more you realize how little you know".

In this context, the more you know of how vast the universe and all of Hashem's creations are and contemplate it, the more you realize how little and completely nullified you really are. Indeed, as the pictures progressed, the smaller planets could not even be shown due to their relative insignificance. How much more so, our relative insignificance to Hashem. In numerous places we refer to ourselves as "Afar", dust. Think about one single speck of dust when maginified and then relative to everything else.

I think these thoughts coupled with idea that we are "Bonim L'Hashem", Hashem's children as well as Klal Yisroel being Hashem's "Beloved" (as in Shir HaShirim).. 2 of the closest relationships that exist, brings about a profound sense of love for Hashem. How on the one hand we are so distant and small and on the other hand so close and big (the closer you get to an object the bigger it gets). Hashem wants us up close no matter how far we are! Amazing!

Thanks for the great post!

DixieYid said...

maks,

I know! Truly amazing. How much must he love us if we are so insignificant relative to him! (Of course, even saying that is almost meaningless since anything finite can't even be compared "relative" to Hashem.) It is a mind-bending thought to stick with for any period of time.

-Dixie Yid

AX said...

That's incredible !!! Believe it or not, since my 20's I alone invented for myself a kind of meditation that is EXACTLY what you're describing about these visualization of yourself, the place you're standing, then, your town, area, country, the earth , the space,... back and forth... For years I've been doing these mental training before sleeping... I'm literally stunned reading your post, realizing that an old chassid wrote such a book...

spaceling said...

Dixie Yid wrote:
Now, if someone collected another bunch of pictures for that visualization, that would be something!

You may be interested in this short documentary film from 1977 that explores this very concept, called "Powers of Ten" by Charles Eames. More information about the film is available here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powers_of_Ten

Both the film and the book that the film is based on, Cosmic View, are exceptional and I hope you'll be able to see them.