Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Lewis on Reality; Suggestions for Regnant "rationalisms" in Modern Orthodoxy
"[T]he mere idea of a new reality, a New Nature, a nature beyond nature, a systematic and diversified reality which is “supernatural”
in relation to the world of our five present senses but “natural” from [within] its own point of view, is profoundly shocking to a certain philosophical preconception from which we all may be expressed by saying that we are prepared to believe either in a reality with one floor or a reality with two floors, but not in a reality like a skyscraper with several floors. We are prepared on the one hand, for a reality that naturalists believe in; that is a one-floor reality. That is the sort of reality which naturalists believe in; this present nature is all there is. We are also prepared for reality as ["rationalist"?] 'religion' sees it; a reality with a ground floor (Nature), and then above that one other floor and one only - an eternal, spaceless, timeless Something, of which we can have no images and which, if it presents itself to human consciousness at all, does so in a mystical experience which shatters all our [inherited, intuited or contrived] categories of thought. What we are not prepared for is anything in between. We feel quite sure that the first step beyond the world of our present experience must lead either nowhere at all [what naturalism believes] or else into the blinding abyss of undifferentiated spirituality, the unconditioned, the [philosophical/religious "rationalist"] Absolute. That is why many believe in God who cannot believe in angels and an angelic world…I cannot now understand, but I well remember, the passionate conviction with which I myself once defended this prejudice. Any rumour of floors or levels intermediate between the Unconditioned and the world revealed by our present senses I rejected without trial as 'mythology' [no casual "turn of phrase" for an Oxford professor THOROUGHLY schooled in comparative study of mythologies as well as study of "myth" as such]. Yet it is very difficult to see any rational grounds for the dogma that reality must have no more than two levels. There cannot, from the nature of the case, be evidence that God never created and will never create, more than one system."
Miracles, pp. 153-55.

Regarding the mentioned "categories of thought", perhaps inherited from philosophy, pagan angelologies concurrent with Israel's neighbors ("Zoroastrian influence") or inherited from forebearers - which in the "rationalist" (oh, sorry - pashut), reading of words of prophets are merely "turns of phrase", spoken "loshon b'nei Adam"? Sources here and more recently here and here by R. Marc Shapiro on other, but general matters of "what was believed at the time of authorship/Revelation"). Why not admit certain of pagan views of reality and thought are 'true' (maxims of Divine similar to Rambam's "Yesod ha yesodei", etc), and certain acts mandated (as Rambam notes about sacrifices), as we do so often with other matters; why do we deny such a view here, regarding a complex reality, as science helps us see it (though even there not exhaustively), that appears simple, as our sense help us see it - though even there not exhaustively...)?;

…Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect…Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed.
Mere Christianity, p. 42

Given my comment and last quote from Lewis, I think it ironic that science as we know and do it is wed to religion in the West in origin and soil - both have origin in Biblically-transformed view of the senses, of reality. I also can't help but note that so often, traditional Jewish authors of the modern era accuse Christianity of Manicheanisms and dualisms of flesh and spirit. Yet it is the milieu of culture steeped in the Christian Bible (Septuagint and other sources), that gave rise to science and Western Culture - not Tanach, not Talmud. Even Greek and economic sources claimed for influence of science were the result of a Latin and Greek-reading (and ultimately vernacular-reading) Biblical and Christian Europe that - within monasteries (just one example) - reproduced Classics and spread certain economic concepts and practices wherever they were built - not a Hebrew-reading, Aramaic-reading, Talmud-learning Rabbinic culture.


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