Online Classroom - Introduction to the Outer Court
The image in the banner shows an ancient high priest of the Israelites revealing a vision of the sacred Arc of the Covenant. He wears a breast-plate, the Hoshen, embedded with twelve precious stones, each stone representing one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
The Arc of the Covenant was the holiest of shrines and was kept in the Tabernacle, a large tent erected among the Twelve Tribes in the desert. Also called the Tabernacle of Moses, it was divided into two parts, the Outer Court, and the Inner Temple.
The Outer Court housed the Menorah, a solid gold lampstand of seven (or nine) candles, the Mizbeah, an altar for offering incense, and the Shulhan, a table for blessing the bread that was made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold. The Outer Court was where the priests prepared themselves before entering into the Inner Temple, the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of the Arc of the Covenant.
Separating the Outer Court from the Inner Temple was a vast curtain called the Veil of the Temple or Veil of the Cherubim. Only the highest priest was allowed to pass through this curtain who, alone, entered into the Inner Temple.
Kabbalah teaches that, while in incarnation, a person exists in four levels of being or consciousness, each of which corresponds to one of the Four Worlds. The two "lower" levels (that are just as sacred as the "upper" levels) are the worlds of Assiah (the Sephirah of Malkuth) and Yetzirah (the six Sephiroth of Yesod to Chesed). Assiah, the World of Action, is the dwelling place of the physical body. Yetzirah represents the emotions (Yesod), the lower concrete mind, the ego or persona (Hod and Netzach), and the higher abstract mind, the Higher Self, the Soul (Tiphareth, Geburah and Chesed). The two "higher" levels of consciousness are in the Worlds of Briah (the Sephiroth Binah and Chokmah) and Atziluth (the Sephirah Kether). Briah is the dwelling place of the Spirit, and Atziluth represents the Monad, the pure spark of Ain Force, also called Yechidah.
In the same way that the Inner Temple of the Tabernacle is separated from the Outer Court by the Veil of the Temple, there is also a veil, called Paroketh, which separates the brilliant light of the Higher Inner Self from the Outer Self or persona. This veil is drawn across the Tree of Life just below Tiphareth, separating the World of Yetzirah into an "upper" half (Single Truth) and a "lower" half. The Veil of Paroketh, also called the 'Mists of Paroketh' or the 'Veil of Illusion', is a symbolic barrier that hides the blinding light of Single Truth from ordinary human consciousness. On the other side of Paroketh lies Tiphareth, the Sphere of the pure, brilliant spiritual light of Cosmic Truth. This light is so brilliant that, without the protection of Paroketh, the human Personality would be blinded out of existence. This is a "lower" form of the spiritual experience of Chokmah, the Vision of God face to face. "Thou cants not stare upon the Face of God and live".
On very rare occasions, there will be some among us who will experience a momentary lifting of the Veil of Paroketh. Such moments for these persons, are described as profound, with no recollection of time. It might have been a few seconds, or maybe a tiny fraction of a second, but in all cases, their lives have forever been changed and previous values have been discarded in the light of a more profound spiritual meaning.
So, if the whole purpose for the study of Kabbalah is to rend the Veil of Paroketh and attain to the consciousness of Tiphareth, the very centre of the Tree of Life, then how must the student proceed when there are as many different ways to reach this state as there are people on this planet? Traditionally, it was by being taken in charge, and to follow the teachings of an experienced teacher. If the Veil separates worldly existence from the archetypal, it becomes a symbolic representation of the forgetfulness of our earlier identity when our Souls came into earthly life, living inside of the many-faceted perceptions of the ego or the persona.
So, in answer to the question of what path to take to reach this enlightenment, this will occur when the Soul has reached a point in evolution where It "remembers Itself". It intentionally sets in motion those actions necessary to overcome the inertia of the ego. Then will the Veil of Paroketh between the ego and the Soul begin to disperse, and gradually disappear altogether, revealing the Light of Tiphareth on the other side.
When the enlightenment of Tiphareth occurs, the student "hears" the Voice Within from the Higher Self. The teacher then disappears from the student's life as his work is finished. The Higher Self now becomes the Greater Master, and the student is freed from the lower worlds of illusion to become master of his or her own destiny.
Like the Outer Court of the Tabernacle, the IOK classroom is a place of preparation. It is here that members and outside visitors meet and exchange ideas, attend lectures and can deepen their understanding of the Kabbalah and apply Its teachings to everyday life. It can also be said of esoteric orders that they are a "forcing house" that offer the student of Kabbalah the possibilities of delving deeper within themselves in their quest to "Know Thyself", a maxim that was inscribed in the outer court of the Greek Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Apollo, in his Helios form, is identified with the Titan God of the Sun. The sun is the mundane chakra of the Sephirah Tiphareth, shining brilliantly on the other side of Paroketh. It is for this reason that, for the serious student, the Outer Court can indeed lead the way to the Gates of the Inner Temple.