Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mabul Bit II

Addendas to my previous Mabul post, to be worked I"H into a more lengthy piece later; I recently read and hopefully will incorporate a recent essay by R. .B. Raphael Shuchat on the Sabbatical Years and the 974 generations ("Attitudes Towards Cosmogony and Evolution Among Rabbinic Thinkers in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries: The Resurgence of the Doctrine of the Sabbatical Years", Torah u-Madda Journal V.13, 2005).

-There are positions 974 Generations before Adam as being prehistoric realities; perhaps not necessarily calculable in accord with a precise geological timescale we work from now ["challenge of Creation" gives difficulties for even applying any concept of "previous cycles", but I think some of the criticisms might not be fatal, Hirhurim noted some of these issues here]. I mean that "previous generations" could be possed in a "weak" sense (using philosophy-speak), not a "strong" sense. From Adam to Avraham, distinctions between dimensions are treated as more 'subtle'; as things settled like metaphysical sediments into discrete depositions (uh...what?), in accord with the general notion that with proximity to The Kodesh, reality is more fuzzy and less defined (Yetziat Mitzraim not occuring in a conventional rate of time, Eretz Israel, the temple mount, the Kadosh haKadoshim, etc). [8/08 R. Joshua Maroof actually suggests this in terms of 'gaps'; thus 'relativity' in the way I say might be just a metaphor - seeming relativity are actually gaps!] Perhaps this applies to a condition other worlds experienced; those other worlds could be metaphorically grasped as recycled material, and churned into what constitutes us and our world as they/we are, now (including "natural" man reconsituted into "Humankind with Tzelem Elokim", T.E. being uploaded/reformated or being updated; see below) . There are also positions that these generations were destroyed (perhaps meaning destroyed for all practical purposes, but not desolved to nothingness as such; Tiferes Yisroel states the geological record evidences worlds before Adam - if they were totally destroyed...there would be no evidence), for having not produced a collective "Israel" - a group of humans capable of receiving Revelation, the yoke of world-transforming...hopefully there will be sources to come, see dovid brown's "mysteries of creation" if you're impatient (also consider that these worlds may not have had humans who collectively societally evolved to a necessary level).
So perhaps these previous worlds were civilized enough to have the requisite human potential to produce and Israel (something evidenced in the archeological record - as we keep backdating agriculture, architecture, domestication, etc) - but having not achieved it, were destroyed - but perhaps not genetically destroyed; either downgraded to non-collective levels or traumatized into a 'nonhuman' status, into raw genetic material such that the "fullness of soul" was then latent, dormant - laying fallow in the cycle of Sabatical Years - to be "souled" into Adam as we have him. And to keep mangling my metaphors, perhaps something like hibernation or plantlife over winter months transpired, more Man-as-Microcosm-of-Creation stuff - or like a harddrive being purged, leaving only a structure that will recognize an Operating System. Rav Hirsch makes an interesting allusion to spiritual dimensions of man being preserved in other dimensions or something, end of Parsha Bereshit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

ID, Anthropocentrism, Rambam and Rav Kook

(later I'd like to tie this to degrees and manners of Providence, Tzelem Elokim, etc)
Rav Kook on the relevance of the Copernican Revolution for the Torah (emphasis mine);

"We are beholden to Maimonides for elucidating [in Moreh Nevukhim III: 12-13] the Torah's independence of the opinion that man is the nucleus of Creation. Atheism proliferated with the Copernican revolution's challenge of the anthropocentric perception, and the modern cosmography's galactic perspective wherein the Earth is but a tiny point within infinite space. This appeared to demolish the religious viewpoint. It was Maimonides who redeemed religion, Torah and theology from the confines of the anthropocentric paradigm".
Z. Yavets, Toldot Yisrael, Vol. XII (Tel Aviv 1935), pp.211-219

Lest we see in this clarification of the physical mechanisms of the universe some implications for the spiritual circumstances of mankind;

"The human soul's cosmic centrality that glows with infinite truth and poetry, is undiminished by the apparently fortuitous revolutions of the galaxies and the ever emerging nebulae. The timeless and boundless actually intensifies the grandeur of this spectacle [makes me think of R. Berkovits on the primary role of the encounter in adjuring the Created nature of the cosmos; one must first be Told of Nature's nature before one can see in it's processes a Biblical Creator, where here would be a valuing of evidence against "obvious" Design]. Senseless and superficial is the representation of the new cosmology as undermining religion and the human spirit's centrality, Indeed, religion remains unaffected even within the opponenets of the anthropocentric doctrine, e.g., Maimonides and his followers. Atheism's protestations are evidently groundless...The mystical perception whose religious impact had grown in recent times, is fortified by the novel discoveries that highlight our moral responsibilty and invigorate the human spirit..." (ibid; both quotes from Philosophy of Rabbi Kook, Zvi Yaron, English version by Avner Tomaschoff)

The authors of the "Obvious Proof" book and website I linked to above seem oblivious to Kubrick and (more importantly) Clarke's atheism-leaning agnosticism...also the main song from the film is actually inspired from a book by Atheist Friederich Nietzsche!

From R. Gil Student's blog (emphasis mine);

"R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, The Emergence of Ethical Man, p. 6:

Our task now is to investigate the cogency of the almost dogmatic assertion that the Bible proclaimed the separateness of man from nature and his otherness. It is certain that the fathers of the Church and also the Jewish medieval scholars believed that the Bible preached this doctrine. Medieval and even modern Jewish moralists have almost canonized this viewpoint and attributed to it apodictic validity. Yet the consensus of many, however great and distinguished, does not prove the truth or falseness of a particular belief. I have always felt that due to some erroneous conception, we have actually misunderstood the Judaic anthropology and read into the Biblical texts ideas which stem from an alien source. This feeling becomes more pronounced when we try to read the Bible not as an isolated literary text but as a manifestation of a grand tradition rooted in the very essence of our God-consciousness that transcends the bounds of the standardized and fixed text and fans out into every aspect of our existential experience. The sooner Biblical texts are placed in their proper setting - namely, the Oral Tradition with its almost endless religious awareness - the clearer and more certain I am that Judaism does not accent unreservedly the theory of man's isolationism and separatism within the natural order of things."

This is especially pointed, considering the vast predominance of christians among Intelligent Design thinkers - and R. Nosson Slifkin's recentish indictments (1, 2), of the related problems with attempts to 'kasher' ID.

[r. eliezer berkovits on the necessity of revelation for seeing the 'obvious' Source of the universe]

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Adorable little snippet

This is from Geza Vermes autobiography;

While the novices [a candidate for acceptance to a Catholic religious Order] who started with me in 1946 withdrew one after another, new recruits replaced them. One of these was Kurt Hrugy...Son of a Christian father and a Jewish mother, Kurt was born in Austria in 1921, and migrated to Palestine with his mother...For a time Kurt worked in a religious kibbutz. His modern Hebrew was fluent and his knowledge of traditional Judaism was very extensive and profound. To him I owe my first initiation into spoken Hebrew and rabbinic literature. In Palestine he became a Christian...In due course he was ordained priest by the Belgian bishop of Liege; he opted for an academic career, but til his dying day he stayed inside the church...Although his genuine attachment to Christianity cannot be doubted, those who were as close to him as I was knew that in his heart of hearts he felt like, and probably considered himself as, a nineteenth century Orthodox Jew. I used to enjoy his newsy letters enormously, pages and pages of them written in the German of a a traditionalist last-century rabbi, letters replete with biblical and talmudic quotations...I will never forget one particular episode in the house of the Fathers of Sion in Paris in the late 1950s, by which time I was no longer an insider but a passing visitor. Though not a member of the order, Kurt Hhruby had been put in charge of the place...during a summer vacation. As a capable handyman, he undertook the renovation and redecoration of the interior of the Sion chapel, which in my time used to be filled with awful traditional paster statuary. Kurt decided to get rid of the lot. I can still see him in shirt-sleeves, standing in the garden on a sunny afternoon. Dozens of angels, apostles, a Jesus with a scared heart painted on the chest, and several Virgin Marys wearin a white robe and blue cape, were lined up on the ground against the wall of the chapel. No doubt incensed by the sight of those horrors, Kurt lifted a monumental sledge hammer and with a naughty twinkle in his eye smashed the statues, one after the other, into thousands of pieces. While doing so, he recited in Hebrew with old-fashioned Ashkenazi pronunciation a conflated text of Psalm 96.5 and 135.15:

Eloyhey ha-goyim elilim, maase yedey odom
The gods of the nations are idols [reads more likely "nothing"], the work of man's hand.

Geza Vermes, himself Jewish (his parents died in the Holocaust), was baptised Catholic as a child; he became a priest, as well as a scholar of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the author of much material around the significance of the Scrolls for early Christian history, also the author of tremendous controversy around the questions it raised. He's left the Catholic church and taken up with London's Liberal Jewish Synagogue (give him a break!; he's an old academic, an old jewish one at that).

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Mabul Bit
note to self; NEVER do anything important on a public library PC...this will be perpetually edited
I've been neglecting this Mabul piece mostly out of deep, concerted laziness. Also out of the sheer volume of material and ideas I have to present...Also out of rabbinic 'neglect' of my requests for 'concept review'. Hopefully their suggestions, if they are forthcoming, will play into this. Recently I found an essay on Yonah that delivers some ideas similar to how I might use them (I might try and unpack later the parallels of boats, deliverance, destruction, etc, in both narratives), were I to formulate something intelligible about the empirical occurance of the Mabul..which this may or may not be. In addition to there being those who lower themselves to a place where they cannot discern between good and evil (roshoyim), I would offer that perhaps there was a time in a very distant past, where there were many who did not develop into a state within the perview of Good and Evil - beyond judgement in a sense - not "culpable", for certain usages of the term (a consequence of this is that, for the Mabul to affect man, wouldn't necessarily have to be global to be universal; I offer up here the possibility that the Mabul is a regional event). It might have taken different groups different amounts of time and experiences to either fall or rise to such a default state (think of a series of stairs, where one may fall or rise to a landing - or slide down the banister). R. Hirsch in Bereshit discusses the spiritual anthropology of early man - one feature is that pastoral peoples were the first Idolators - not tribal, hunter-gatherers; this is in accord with the "UrMonotheismus" approach to the "Origins of Religion", as well as maybe Rambam on the rise of idolatry, Hilchot Avodah Zara 1:1->. The more culturally/technologically "advanced" societies perhaps experienced a "Rashoyim Stage" before being 'default'.

sudden digression!
"Soul Loss" being not at all a strange idea in shamanistic society, in which ("secularly speaking") humankind has spent 99% of their shamanism perhaps being "PreAdamic". This would make sense if one accepts a position of the 974 generations being actual, along with those who have held Adam as having biological forebearers (consider also that our cousins the non-human Neanderthal, had enough of a spiritual grasp of the cosmos that they buried their dead, and did so with tools, jewelry, etc..some sort of spiritual cognizance might not be bound to the Neshamah level alone). Perhaps Rabbinic/Kabbalistic sources have assigned degrees of "spiritual comprehension" to the NaRaN - Nefesh, Ruach and Neshamah (plus) levels. Maybe "PreAdamic Man" had latent NaRaN, essentially "default" level, and societies contemporary to those in the area of the Mabul manifested Nefesh and Ruach and perhaps Neshamah to degrees not "quite" in fulfillment of their potential - where those in the Mabul region had full NaRaN - and were hense culpable for survival or destruction.

sudden redigression!
There are many sources from Chazzal around the different manners by which HKBH engages the world; according to several very strong sources, Providence may extend over species, but not be utilized over individuals of that species (I"H will add links to these sources later). Maybe this could explain more on the situation of those living outside the region of what could be a regional Mabul. They had lowered over time (through different ways and rates in accord with differing peoples; natural disasters, despotic individuality-crushing regimes, slave states, warfare - all of which flourished to a degree we cannot imagine in the Late Holocene), to a least a moral state beyond direct Providence, beyond where they might be partners in a relationship with HKBH - to a state where standards such as "punishment and reward" no longer apply.
This is not to say they necessarily fell culturally, technologically or economically to a caveman level; the 20th Century can evidence how quickly and easily over a few short years (even moments) very 'advanced' nations and groups of peoples can be twisted to a "Roshoyim Stage" - where people honestly argue that "mob rule" was in such affect that it would excuse their behaviors. For others who do not 'achieve' the Roshoyim level; In a time known to be warlike and filled with despots and natural upheavals, many millions of people over the earth could very well have not had very far to fall (and we could perhaps consider the general body of such tyrranical societies somewhat less culpable than the "Higher Ups", who may have even considered themselves, and so considered by others, to be divine). Their "soul loss" need only be for a short time (the duration of the punishing aspect of the Mabul), overlapping maybe in more or less time in that state than the duration of the Mabul's 'potch'. Perhaps "time" only meant something in regards to those in the "Mabul Zone", as 'human' only meant something regarding them as well. The Mabul regarded meanings; there were those who valued them and those who did not; Roshoyim who were destroyed for willfully disregarding meanings, relationships, etc.
I'm not so sure about that "millions of people" in the last paragraph. Assuming for the moment the validity of the geological time scale, 70,000 plus years ago there were only 10,000 reproducing humans on the whole planet. Maybe there have been other similar episodes since then, but before historiography. Very ancient oral narratives (the Holocene era), abound with epic destructions (online accounts abound, maybe links later).
Following this possible scenario, in the course of time - and most essentially with the dispersion of descendants of those who directly experienced the Mabul and Bavel, etc - the Soul levels of these traumatized people was reinvigorated via with the help of a sort of "spiritual Magen David Adom" (including Shem, Cham and Ever, etc). The peoples had experienced natural destruction and the power of nature before. By recounting The Mabul to them - with its narrative of the consequences of sin and redemption, etc, this "Magen David Adom" of the soul could disseminate new perspectives, etc, so the peoples could really grasp the Mabul in their own experiences - much as we do, but in a way most safe westerners can't imagine. (Those who were "coming up the stairs" to that landing experienced something closer to a Peace Corps intervention, though the 'landing' is the same affective situation for both those who rose, fell or slid to the "Default" level).
Was it really necessary for these Tzelemed peoples to be direct historical descendants of Noach - to learn the value of the historical experience of Noach and his offspring? If one considers humans on the earth in addition to Noach (but with the "soul scenario" above in mind), it doesn't seem imperative. What is imperative is a full, comprehensive, creative and morally culpable human soul. This group of "Relief Workers" would have the skills necessary to teach and elevate them in accord with whatever degree they needed to reach "Tzelem Elokim" stage. Rambam, as understood by Rabbi Nosson Wiesz (at least before the censoring of the linked text), saw Adam haRishon having just such a relationship with Shait (Seth/"Shais"). The actual Rambam he uses, on a full reading (also with selected bits of Jose Faur from "Homo Mysticus"; specific page #'s to follow I"H), could apply here regarding "soul regaining" as the reestablishment of mankind outside the Mabul. Perhaps this is an example of "Min haMabul" - those who were "not there" in a literally sense (also in the slang sense we often use, as in "abnormal" people; even if they had been there, they wouldn't "get it"), were there in some spiritual sense (Rav Hirsh says something very strange and allusive in the end of Parashat Bereshit, 6:7), since that in all of creation which was most fully human was there, and was experienced there, in the destruction of the Roshoyim and the redemption of the Righteous. The world outside the region of the Mabul needed afterward to reattain a state, through whatever means, where the full Tzelem Elokim could be established via "Missionizing", mixing culturally and such with the fully-souled humanity out from the Mabul. Something like a planet in a spiritual "suspended animation", whilst only one region of humanity could have experienced the spiritual event fully, in the spiritual cognitive sense as well as the impact.
Anyways, this proposed 'particularized' experiencing of the Divine engagement in the world has similarities to events later in history. Avraham Avinu was a latter-day individual - here HKBH decided to establish a relationship through a family, and through that family to the world (again, Rav Hirsch from Bereshit through to Lekh Lekha), fluctuations of fulfilled potential followed by a transitional generation, then a generation of destruction. Noach and Sons were perhaps such a "from an individual to the world" scenario. Of course the scenario I present here is the only way this could have been accomplished.

What about this regional Mabul I keep assuming as historical?....
This looks promising, also discussed here, here and here.

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