Two in one day! I know, I know, I promised that this would be infrequently used. Such is life.
What is the process like? I think originally this is what I was going to write about, but I guess I needed to get that other bit out of the way first. Part of the process and all that.
I shall wait for the groans to subside . . . ready?
I can't, or at least wont, make a "this is how it is for everyone, everywhere, everywhen" kind of statement. I'm not quite full enough of myself for that. My thoughts on the subject are largely influenced by Gikatilla and Luria. Which itself is interesting as Gikatilla was not a Zoharic kabbalist. In fact he was a senior, or perhaps elder, student in the same kabbalistic circle as de Leon was, and went in a different direction than de Leon did. So, there will be thoughts of "rectification" (which is kind of like redemption, but different) in here, as well as that whole spiritual proximity thing. So, Luria first, then Gikatilla, which is in reverse opperation for me, as Gikatilla's mystical theology underlies just about everything in my practice. Luria is a bit more familiar to people than Gikatilla though.
Luria's main focus seems to have been working towards Tikkun ha-Olam, the World of Rectification. He saw creation as (presumably purposfully) flawed due to the Breaking of the Vessels and that it is humanities job to fix it. This would entail both the rectification of our own selves (nefesh with ruach, ruach with neschamah, on all levels) and the rectification of the sparks of Keter that were trapped in the World of Action, and especailly in and below Malkhut so that they may be restored to their proper place. (This is somewhat of a simplification. Luria held that creation existed below Malkhut, mired almostly complete in the world of the broken vessels. Most other kabbalists take the view that physical creation exists within Malkhut, which is more or less how I understand things to be.) To me these are to different metaphors for the same thing; whether we are rectifying our own sparks or the sparks that are around us doesn't really matter, it all needs to be cleaned up by someone, and we've opted in. Kind of like theurgic Boddhisattvas, which is an idea that needs to be explored further I think.
Gikatilla, in Sha'are Orah, the Gates of Light, wrote, repeatedly, about how things in the spiritual realm interacted with one another. He reminds us that the notion of closeness is a matter of, well, matter. Spiritual things, the sefirot especially, do not exist in either space or time, so the language of closeness, which is related to both, is irrelevant. For Gikatilla, and for me, spiritual "closeness" is a mater of similarity. The more alike, spiritually (and everything that entails), to something, the closer to it I am. Again, this may be similar to bhakti, or theosis, or experiencing one's Buddha nature, which is the same everywhere. Maybe. It means that if we want to be like Christ, or Krishna, or our own higher selves, we must start to act like them, think like them, pray like them . . . . we must identify ourselves with them as much as possible. We make the male female and the female male (thanks Thomas!) This is both the process and the goal, and recalls the Vajrayana idea of using the goal as the path. It also explains why the "peak experiences" of mysticism are not the goal, but highlights along the way. We change slowly, day by day. And, all unnoticed by ourselves, we have become who we really are.