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Salvia



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PostSubject: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Sun Jan 06, 2013 2:11 pm

As there is no forum for 'random philosophical rambling' I'll post my ramblings here. If they are considered offensive or heretical - may the admin feel free to delete them. But I was just thinking on this and I'd like to know your thoughts.

A bit of a background. I am, as I stated earlier, not Jewish. But I am searching. My personal religious thought is very much steeped in Plotinus' Neoplatonic thought, which isn't a religion in itself, it is rather a philosophy on the Divine and our relation to it.
Well, according to Plotinus, and I share this part of his philosophy, the Divine is...well, I'll just copy paste this from wikipedia, that's much clearer:
wikipedia wrote:
The primeval Source of Being is the One and the Infinite, as opposed to the many and the finite. It is the source of all life, and therefore absolute causality and the only real existence. However, the important feature of it is that it is beyond all Being, although the source of it. Therefore, it cannot be known through reasoning or understanding, since only what is part of Being can be thus known according to Plato. Being beyond existence, it is the most real reality, source of less real things. It is, moreover, the Good, insofar as all finite things have their purpose in it, and ought to flow back to it. But one cannot attach moral attributes to the original Source of Being itself, because these would imply limitation. It has no attributes of any kind; it is being without magnitude; in strict propriety, indeed, we ought not to speak of it as existing; it is "above existence," "above goodness." It is also active without a substratum; as active force the primeval Source of Being is perpetually producing something else, without alteration, or motion, or diminution of itself. This production is not a physical process, but an emission of force; and, since the product has real existence only in virtue of the original existence working in it, Neoplatonism may be described as a species of dynamic panentheism. Directly or indirectly, everything is brought forth by the "One." In it all things, so far as they have being, are divine, and God is all in all. Derived existence, however, is not like the original Source of Being itself, but is subject to a law of diminishing completeness. It is indeed an image and reflection of the first Source of Being; but the further the line of successive projections is prolonged the smaller is its share in the true existence. The totality of being may thus be conceived as a series of concentric circles, fading away towards the verge of non-existence, the force of the original Being in the outermost circle being a vanishing quantity. Each lower stage of being is united with the "One" by all the higher stages, and receives its share of reality only by transmission through them. All derived existence, however, has a drift towards, a longing for, the higher, and bends towards it so far as its nature will permit. Plotinus' treatment of the substance or essence (ousia) of the one was to reconcile Plato and Aristotle. Where Aristotle treated the monad as a single entity made up of one substance (here as energeia). Plotinus reconciled Aristotle with Plato's "the good" by expressing the substance or essence of the one as potential or force.[9]
Although, to me, it is also:
Tennyson wrote:
Thy voice is on the rolling air;
I hear thee where the waters run;
Thou standest in the rising sun,
And in the setting thou art fair.

What art thou then? I cannot guess;
But tho' I seem in star and flower
To feel thee some diffusive power,
I do not therefore love thee less:

Far off thou art, but ever nigh;
I have thee still, and I rejoice;
I prosper, circled with thy voice;
I shall not lose thee tho' I die.

So it is something the is in essence impersonal and unknowable, but still, we can perceive it, feel it 'in star an flower', in the whole Universe. If we open up to the Divine, we can feel it in every part of our being, it blesses us and fills us with its Light every time we open up to it...that's not a statement of belief that's lived reality to me. And we can trust in it; after all, the One is Good, we are living in it and part of us is part of it, and it will guard us.
Psalm 91 wrote:

Yes, you, ONE, are my shelter!
The Highest you have made
your refuge

No evil will reach you
no plague
will come close to your tent

because He will command his angels
to guard you
on all your ways
(I translated to English my favourite translation, as the English translations don't really satisfy me and I know no Hebrew)
Paradoxically I believe in a impersonal G-d on one level and in a personal one on another: the living Universe from which all creation emanates, AND a shelter in which I may have trust. This is a Psalm I like to recitate before I go hitchhiking or engage in other 'risky' endeavours. It inspires trust in the Universe/Divine/G-D in me :)

Yes; so far, not much to do with Judaism.

But believing in the Divine is one thing; giving It a place in your life is another. I am very much looking for a praxis, to give G-d a place in my life, incorporate it in my daily business. I do so, in trusting in It. And meditating on it. But I would like to strenghthen my bonds with it by...honouring it. And that is why judaism interests me. I have the feeling it is the only religion compatible with my views of G-d (except for Islam, but it doesn't really speak to me; too many miracles and as I feel Jesus already as too much of an 'adornment' to what I feel as the naked truth of Divine Being, too much concrete, too far from naked truth, Jesus AND a prophet would really be far too far off the point for me), and it is a very practical religion, one that incorporates the Divine in virtually every act of daily life. It governs what you eat (and being a foody, I like the idea of expressing spirituality through food - I already feel like preparing meals for loved ones is in a way a sacred act because it is love in action (you're literally spreading love when feeding your loved ones) and you work with foodstuffs, that are, in my view, both presents from the Divine, and filled with Its force as they are part of Creation), it obliges you to bless the light of every day, which I think is important because life is the greatest good we have and we can't be too aware of the precious gift it is, and in the Shema it affirms every day the Oneness of the Divine and Creation.

You may hate me now for being interested in Judaism on superficious grounds while I actually adhere a pagan philosophy. But as I said, the pagan philosophy in question is not a religion; it is a point of view on what the Divine is. And it doesn't prescribe any praxis or statement of faith.

But I was thinking on what Covenant may mean in this context. According to the Bible, the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people is bilateral, and for the good of both. But how can an impersonal and unified G-d need a convenant with anybody? I immediately see the good for the people, as it provides a way for them to approach the Divine, express their wish to belong to it and give this a form in their lives. The act of following commandments is an act of will that on an energetical level ( :<---: ) surely builds a link between the individual and the Divine.
But the Divine? What does it gain? It doesn't NEED any gain!
So you see I'm struggling with this idea.
I might only understand it as a wish of the One that all being may return to Unity with It -giving rules so that peace and enlightenment will ensue and the original Unity of all being will be restored. But that isn't a very jewish answer.

Tennyson may provide an answer: Far off thou art, but ever nigh - I always read this phrase as alluding to the idea to a far away G-d that is close at the same time, transcedent and immanent, impersonal but also personal. Plotinus also said that from the impersonal and incomprehensible Infinite One emanated the nous, the world soul which is also the soul of the Divine AND the divine spark in every human being. If it is the nous that commands, it is the Soul of G-d that wishes to be reunited with Itself and therefore lays down commandments, that humanity, in following them, may though th act of will that adhering is, aligns itself to G-d, and by the consequences of these rules will become wiser and closer to shalom, which is a keyword of judaism I believe, and as I understand it, peace is what we're all doing it for. Like in Isajah, where Isajah says that the coming of the Messiah means basically world peace.

Owww I'm rambling. But I think I got more or less out of my philosophical knot.

This also served a bit to give you guys -to me you're all experts on Judaism- an idea of my world, where I'm coming from and what I'm searching. And why I wonder whether judaism would be compatible with me. Which is a rational question while mostly people convert to something because of a mystical revelation, or so. But my 'mystical revelations' are plenty, lol, I do believe in G-d and all, I'm just struggling to link this to a praxis, a more down-to-earth expression of religiosity. Cause mysticism is all well but not very grounded, and it doesn't give you a sound base for daily life.

edit - typos
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:17 am

[quote="Salvia"]

A bit of a background. I am, as I stated earlier, not Jewish. But I am searching. My personal religious thought is very much steeped in Plotinus' Neoplatonic thought, which isn't a religion in itself, it is rather a philosophy on the Divine and our relation to it.
Well, according to Plotinus, and I share this part of his philosophy, the Divine is...well, I'll just copy paste this from wikipedia, that's much clearer:
wikipedia wrote:
The primeval Source of Being is the One and the Infinite, as opposed to the many and the finite. It is the source of all life, and therefore absolute causality and the only real existence. However, the important feature of it is that it is beyond all Being, although the source of it. Therefore, it cannot be known through reasoning or understanding, since only what is part of Being can be thus known according to Plato. Being beyond existence, it is the most real reality, source of less real things. It is, moreover, the Good, insofar as all finite things have their purpose in it, and ought to flow back to it. But one cannot attach moral attributes to the original Source of Being itself, because these would imply limitation. It has no attributes of any kind; it is being without magnitude; in strict propriety, indeed, we ought not to speak of it as existing; it is "above existence," "above goodness." It is also active without a substratum; as active force the primeval Source of Being is perpetually producing something else, without alteration, or motion, or diminution of itself. This production is not a physical process, but an emission of force; and, since the product has real existence only in virtue of the original existence working in it, Neoplatonism may be described as a species of dynamic panentheism. Directly or indirectly, everything is brought forth by the "One." In it all things, so far as they have being, are divine, and God is all in all. Derived existence, however, is not like the original Source of Being itself, but is subject to a law of diminishing completeness. It is indeed an image and reflection of the first Source of Being; but the further the line of successive projections is prolonged the smaller is its share in the true existence. The totality of being may thus be conceived as a series of concentric circles, fading away towards the verge of non-existence, the force of the original Being in the outermost circle being a vanishing quantity. Each lower stage of being is united with the "One" by all the higher stages, and receives its share of reality only by transmission through them. All derived existence, however, has a drift towards, a longing for, the higher, and bends towards it so far as its nature will permit. Plotinus' treatment of the substance or essence (ousia) of the one was to reconcile Plato and Aristotle. Where Aristotle treated the monad as a single entity made up of one substance (here as energeia). Plotinus reconciled Aristotle with Plato's "the good" by expressing the substance or essence of the one as potential or force.[9]

Maybe it's just because I'm tired or have a headache but this is going way over my head at the moment.

Salvia wrote:
Paradoxically I believe in a impersonal G-d on one level and in a personal one on another: the living Universe from which all creation emanates, AND a shelter in which I may have trust. This is a Psalm I like to recitate before I go hitchhiking or engage in other 'risky' endeavours. It inspires trust in the Universe/Divine/G-D in me :)

Yes; so far, not much to do with Judaism.

Have you looked at Reconstructionist thought? You may find it interesting.

Salvia wrote:
You may hate me now for being interested in Judaism on superficious grounds while I actually adhere a pagan philosophy. But as I said, the pagan philosophy in question is not a religion; it is a point of view on what the Divine is. And it doesn't prescribe any praxis or statement of faith.

I don't think you've listed superficial grounds at all. I'm not sure about the pagan philosophy as the first part of your post wasn't sinking in for me.

Salvia wrote:
But I was thinking on what Covenant may mean in this context. According to the Bible, the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people is bilateral, and for the good of both. But how can an impersonal and unified G-d need a covenant with anybody? I immediately see the good for the people, as it provides a way for them to approach the Divine, express their wish to belong to it and give this a form in their lives. The act of following commandments is an act of will that on an energetical level ( :<---: ) surely builds a link between the individual and the Divine.
But the Divine? What does it gain? It doesn't NEED any gain!
So you see I'm struggling with this idea.
I might only understand it as a wish of the One that all being may return to Unity with It -giving rules so that peace and enlightenment will ensue and the original Unity of all being will be restored. But that isn't a very jewish answer.

Again, Reconstructionist theology might be on interest to you. One can be Jewish and not believe that God needed a covenant with a people.

Salvia wrote:
Tennyson may provide an answer: Far off thou art, but ever nigh - I always read this phrase as alluding to the idea to a far away G-d that is close at the same time, transcendent and immanent, impersonal but also personal.

This idea does not contradict with Judaism. It's actually quite popular, I believe?

Salvia wrote:
Which is a rational question while mostly people convert to something because of a mystical revelation, or so.

I assure you I had no mystical revelations. Not in choosing to become a Jew; not ever.

Salvia wrote:
Cause mysticism is all well but not very grounded, and it doesn't give you a sound base for daily life.

I agree. For most of us anyway.
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:11 am

I know Plotinus is difficult to explain. That's why I left it to Wikipedia to do so.

He basically wrote that the Divine is Source of all being, from which all other being has emanated and of which all being stays a part. The Divine is unique and united and in It all that exists is one.

It is a kind of 'hardcore monotheism' in that it doesn't only say there is only one G-d; everything is one in the one G-d as well.
Which I a thought I very much appreciate.

Maybe it is easier to put it just like this.

I'll have a look at Reconstructionist thought: I have no idea of what that might be (I just know that Orthodox are the strict people who keep all the rules; Conservatives the same but a bit less, and Reform people are more relaxed; Reconstructionist is new to me!) and I'm curious :)

edit: reading the wikipedia page on it. It is.... Shocked
I might post some comments later, but describing mitsvot as 'folkways' and maintaining that the Torah isn't divinely inspired... scratch
Okay I'll read on and on other sites as well before commenting
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: different denominations in Judaism   Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:35 pm

Salvia wrote:
I just know that Orthodox are the strict people who keep all the rules; Conservatives the same but a bit less, and Reform people are more relaxed; Reconstructionist is new to me!) and I'm curious :)
This is a common (mis)understanding of the differences between major Jewish denominations based on looking only at typical levels of ritual observance, but missing key philosophical differences. The "My Jewish Learning" website has a good historical account of how the denominations developed:
Jewish denominationalism It also provides descriptions of the major movements accessible through links in the navigation column on the left side of the webpage. Also from MJL, this description of Reconstructionist Judaism: Reconstuctionist Judaism

It is not just non-Jews who do not know the differences between Jewish denominations. I have many friends of all different backgrounds and observance levels: secular, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Orthodox, as well as Israeli secular and religious Jews, and I have found that they often have incorrect ideas about what Jews who are different from themselves do or believe. Unfortunately, this often takes the shape of attributing negative characteristics to the others.
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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:54 pm

That is a great post Debbie that rings so very true.

If I may add, there are even some major differences within each group (denomination), some that people in that very group don't even know of.

hope you didn't mention that already!

And yes I agree as does Judaism, it should not be viewed as a negative, but a way to bring us together somehow.
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:57 pm

Thank you for clarifying Debbie, I'll study the link you gave me. My Jewish learning is at the root of most what I know about Judaism, together with Judaism 101 and the chabad site ;)
Never looked into the denominations, though. I'll work on my lack of knowledge!
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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:51 pm

Salvia wrote:

He basically wrote that the Divine is Source of all being, from which all other being has emanated and of which all being stays a part.

This party sounds sorta polytheistic...

Salvia wrote:
The Divine is unique and united and in It all that exists is one.

It is a kind of 'hardcore monotheism' in that it doesn't only say there is only one G-d; everything is one in the one G-d as well.
Which I a thought I very much appreciate.

And this sounds like a an idea found in Judaism, one of which I am particularly fond. You can find the idea in some Chassidic writings.

Salvia wrote:
I might post some comments later, but describing mitsvot as 'folkways' and maintaining that the Torah isn't divinely inspired... scratch
Okay I'll read on and on other sites as well before commenting

I don't believe Torah was divinely inspired. I actually agree with much of Reconstructionist theology.
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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Jan 07, 2013 5:53 pm

searchinmyroots wrote:

If I may add, there are even some major differences within each group (denomination), some that people in that very group don't even know of.

Yep. Even within one group you can find many different opinions and ideas.
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Jan 07, 2013 7:12 pm

Polytheistic? Why? The second piece you quote, which I call (with a wink) 'hardcore monotheism', is, imo, a logical consequence of the first quote, which seems polytheistic to you.
Well, it surely is offtopic, sorry.
I am happily surprised to read, though, that this idea has a parallel in jewish tradition.

I really don't know enough about denominations to have an opinion about them: please don't take my smileys for a (negative) opinion. I tried to express surprise and the thinking-machine that was set in motion by this new informations.

I'm getting fond of this site, there's so much to learn, so many points of view to ponder on Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:29 pm

Salvia wrote:
Polytheistic? Why? The second piece you quote, which I call (with a wink) 'hardcore monotheism', is, imo, a logical consequence of the first quote, which seems polytheistic to you.

I may have been interjecting something else into it when I read it. I'm going through a Yale lecture series on the history of Torah, ancient Israel and the culture of the surrounding people. I have polytheism mixed with monotheism and all sorts of things stuck in my brain. Razz

Salvia wrote:


I'm getting fond of this site, there's so much to learn, so many points of view to ponder on Very Happy

Oh, good! I am glad you are finding it useful. I like that we're having some conversations around here. Very Happy


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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Sun Feb 03, 2013 11:21 pm

Some of the (Orthodox) rabbis I have listened to on SimpletoRemember.com have talked about everything emanating from God--not just once, but continuously. If God didn't will everything into existence at every nanosecond of every day (it is said that there is an angel standing over every blade of grass, commanding it to grow), then all of Creation would cease to exist.

Everything in Creation has within it a "soul" and humans have two. (You might prefer to say everything has a Divine Spark and humans also have a soul.) So yes, you can say that everything is a part of God and God is a part of everything.

I think the rabbis might disagree that God is "above goodness" and might prefer, instead, to say that things like goodness emanate from God; He is the source. It's not just that He is good (like a person can be good), but that he IS Goodness; God and Goodness cannot be separated.

If you like mysticism and philosophy, pick up a book on Kabbalah. You might like one that I read called "God is a Verb." The author not only covers the mystical teachings of Kabbalah, but he also covers how to put these grand ideas into every day practice.
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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:05 am

an angel over every blade of grass, commanding it to grow...
That's poetic and beautiful! the living Universe is wonderful ^^

The rabbis are surely right that God=Goodness, but I was thinking one could also say that the Divine is above goodness, because it doesn't judge = is is omniesciant, it IS. Like, pure existence.
But well. I rambled enough.

Thanks for adding a book to my 'to read' list, I'll have a look at it whether it is to be found at French Amazon Thumps Up

Salvia
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PostSubject: Re: Convenant...versus the Impersonal Divine   Tue Feb 05, 2013 1:29 am

Salvia wrote:
. Like, pure existence.

That's my take.
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