Sunday, May 12, 2013

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Eye to the Infinite - G-d vis-à-vis the world

We are pleased to offer Eye to the Infinite, a Torah Guide to Jewish Meditations for Divine Awareness, in a weekly serialized form.

Eye to the Infinite – A Torah Guide to Jewish Meditations to Increase Divine Awareness. Copyright © 2013 by Aharon Rubin – serialized on the Mystical Paths blog with permission.

G-d cre­ated every form and type of life, from the high­est spiri­tual intelligence to the gross physical and inanimate, and He tran­scen­ds each stage of crea­tion[1]. What might seem initially as counter-intuitive is then a priori: since He is tran­scendent, He is just as present in the mate­rial as in the spiritual; He fills the Earth as He does the Heav­ens. Albeit less ap­parent, G-d is in matter as in spirit.

Scriptures takes G-d’s omnipresence a step further. In Deuter­on­omy, Moses says, “G-d, He is L-rd[2], in the Heavens above and on Earth be­low, there is nothing else[3]” (Deut. 4:39). Moses is saying that G-d is more than ‘just’ om­ni­pres­ent, He is more even than the root of all ex­is­tence. There is nothing else be­sides Him[4]. He is. Period.

There are three distinct ways of viewing the world. The first is that nothing else exists save G-d; this is the concept of the verse ‘there is nothing else’ (ibid.). However, though this statement pre­sents the ultimate reality, this reality is vir­tually unlive­able[5]. Similar to say­ing the world is just en­ergy, it is not something we ex­peri­ence on a day-to-day basis or can properly in­ternalise [just yet], thus this truth is not intended for humanity to live their lives by.

The second worldview sees crea­tion as a gradual diffusion of the Di­vine Essence, from the G-dhead, through various stages of in­telligence and spirit, until eventu­ally manifesting in the physical. Although essentially eve­rything is G-d, or G-d’s Light, that Light (ap­parently) becomes progressively more ‘ma­terial’ and less visible as it ex­tends away from Source through the void that consti­tutes creation. This is a reality we tend to live, al­beit for the most part un­aware of the spiritual worlds that tower above our physical world.

The third paradigm is perhaps the ultimate paradox. Though crea­tion involves the dissipa­tion of Divine Light until the apparent manifestation of separate reality, the physical world, at the same time, transcendent, Hidden G-d, fills, and is the only reality of, all ex­istence.[6] A combination of the first two ideas, this paradigm is fun­damentally different in that it asks for the subjective par­ticipa­tion of man for it to become a working reality, as the in­ten­sity and type of G-d mani­fes­tation, His Pres­ence creat­ing and per­vad­ing the various uni­verses[7], the Shechinoh, and its degree of revelation, is de­pendent upon the individual’s sub­jec­tive aware­ness, an aware­ness that per­ceives[8] creation as sepa­rate from G-d, a rela­tive real­ity that has more to do with de­gree and per­spective than actu­ality.

Subjectivity is an essential and inescapable component of the human condition and the world is based on this subjectivity. On a macrocosmic and microcosmic level, thought, understanding, and focus lie at the centre of all experience. As the Baal Shem Tov stated, a person' is where their thoughts are. (We will be examining this concept later.) It is these thoughts and the level of subjectivity that stand at the crux of the causes and effects of our world.

Maimonides explains[9] that a prophet merits the Holy Spirit through so perfecting his human desires that his subjectivity be­comes, on some level, one with the objective reality of G-d’s truth. This is the perfec­tion of human awareness, the third paradigm merging with the first. The subjec­tivity of the perfected in­dividual, the Talmid Chochom [Torah sage], blends with the ultimate perfec­tion of pure objectivity, approaching the state of Adam and Eve be­fore their sin.

Thus, mind, influenced by character, becomes master of ex­peri­enced reality[10]. Perhaps though more importantly, mind influ­enced by charac­ter, is master of the spiritual evolution within crea­tion. This is because the effects of perception are not re­stricted to the indi­vid­ual per­ceiver but have eternal affects. One per­son’s deeds and un­der­standing has enor­mous re­per­cus­sions, changing Provi­dence and Reve­la­tion at all planes and in all uni­verses, physi­cal and spiritual, not just in the person’s own per­sonal arena, nor even for all man­kind, but in every sphere of existence[11]. This is a quan­tum leap in understanding and ap­pre­cia­t­ing man’s place and pur­pose in the cos­mic plan and therein lies the secret of his soul.

[1] See Isaiah 6:3, Targum Yonoson, “He is holy [i.e. transcendent] in the highest heav­ens, the place of His Abode, He is holy on Earth, the work of His might”, etc.

[2] In the verse, the holy Name Elokim is used, denoting complete control and power.

[3] The Hebrew words אין עוד are generally taken to mean there is no other power be­sides G-d [the word elohim means powers]; however, the sources explain that this phrase must mean even more than the omniscience of G-d; see next note.

[4] Shnei Luchos HaBris, Toras Odom. See also Zohar Vol. I, 11b, Vol. III, 225a. (This is not ‘pantheism’ or ‘panenthe­ism’. This is a reality where only G-d exists, per­haps ech­oed in Ein­stein’s unifying theory of E = mc2, where mass and energy are inter­change­able as mass is a form of energy.)

[5] This is perhaps a subject of dispute between two schools of thought, that espoused by the holy Baal Shem Tov and subsequent Chassidic thought, and the teachings of HeChos­sid HaGra (Rabbi Eliyohu of Vilna) as recorded in Nefesh HaChaim by his disciple, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin.

[6] See Sefer Habohir, 1. These three states are expressed in the three statements of the Qedushoh prayer. The first statement, a direct quotation from Isaiah’s vision (6:3), “Holy, holy, holy, the L-rd of Hosts: His Glory fills the world”, parallels the first view. The second statement, from Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 3:12), “Blessed is G-d’s Glory from His Place”, speaks of G-d’s Glory emanating and dis­seminating from His Place; this is depicted in the second para­digm. The third, “The L-rd shall reign forever, your G-d O Zion, for generation after gen­eration” (Psalms 146:10), hints at the third worldview, the com­plete realisation of the unification of transcendent G-d within the immanence of His created world.

[7] Nefesh HaChaim, Gate 3.

[8] Which connects with the Shechinoh. See also Liqutei Amorim Tanya (Rabbi Shneur Zal­man of Liadi, 1745-1812), Sha’ar Yi­chud VehoE­munah, chapter 3.

[9] Moreh Nevuchim – Guide for the Per­plexed - Chap. 26

[10] Subjective perception is not limited to the mysterious, metaphysical work­ings of our uni­verse; it influences how others behave and is present in the Torah and its hal­lachic ap­plication. Halacha is decided according to subjective observance, which brings to mind the Schroder’s cat phenomenon or Niels Bohr’s ‘Observer Effect’. (For example: if some­thing is removed from a mixture before it becomes known that the mixture contains a forbidden item, it is permitted because we assume it is from the majority; however, once it becomes known that the mixture contains an important thing that cannot be nullified, the removed item is forbidden.) Rabbi Berel Wein, his­torian and author, writes (in his essay on the Metsorah - a person afflicted with tsora’as impurity), “Though the Torah describes methods of diag­nosis, it ultimately leaves the decision to the kohein. The kohein, so to speak, creates the impurity within the person afflicted - not the disease. It is the kohein’s declaration that de­cides the issue and that declaration emanating from human lips, like all human decisions, is of necessity a subjective one. This is a remark­able, necessary insight into the mystery of tzora’as particularly and Halacha generally.” (Decision Making Process of the Kohein. B. Wein)

[11] A physical parallel can be seen in the ‘butterfly effect’ (Lorenz, Edward N. [March 1963] "Deterministic Non-periodic Flow", Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences 20 (2): 130–141; also Quantum Theory: Concepts and Methods, Peres, A. (1995)), but whereas a butterfly’s movement is distinguished for its apparent insignificance, man’s action or thought is anything but inconsequential.


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