That Occult and Mysticism are  bad things seems to be getting to be a fundamental of faith.

I would not go that far.  To me it seems there were genuine mystics like Rav Isaac Luria, the Reshash and Rav Yaakov Abuchatzaira.
However the tendency seems to be clear. That one measure of mysticism brings ten measures of delusion.

It is too bad that there does not seem to be an accurate measuring stick or test to tell the authentic from the counterfeit.

 The basic approach of Reb Israel Salanter is much more significant than most people realize. It contains the seed of the new future. The modern world as is seen clearly is in the decay of post modernism. There is no unifying factor as faith was during the Middle Ages. But the Middle Ages still provides the seeds of the future. The books of Ethics written then.

[Civilization needs certain unifying factors. Though faith was certainly that factor during the Middle Ages, that faith needs some kind of synthesis with later developments. The Middle Ages got a lot right--much more than we admit today. But still there were areas that were naive.]
One important insight of the Middle Ages was the synthesis of Faith and Reason. They knew very well that religious fanaticism is poison. But they also knew the need for faith and morality based on the Torah. [The Middle Ages had  a great idea what to do with religious fanatics-- lock them up in some institution where they can do their thing without bothering anyone else.]

[ In the Middle Ages synthesis of Faith and Reason meant (more or less) Torah with Neo Platonic thought. The tilt towards Aristotle happened almost towards the end of the Middle Ages. Both Maimonides and Saadia Gaon were Neo Platonic.]

[I was never that much into the mind set that looked down on the Middle Ages. But going to yeshiva in NY was even for me a eye opener. The son of Rav Freifeld [Moti Freifeld] told me "Rishonim can not be wrong. Achronim can be wrong."] ["Rishonim" means mediaeval authorities. Achronim means authorities from the Beit Yoseph and after-including the Beit Yoseph (Rav Joseph Karo)]
Besides that it always was (and still is) the basic emphasis of all authentic Litvak yeshivas to emphasize rishonim.

[From where this idea of the superiority of th modern age over the Middle Ages is not clear to me.]


Reb Israel Salanter

(1) To me it seems clear that Reb Israel Salanter was right about starting what is called the Musar Movement. The thing is today it needs modifications. I mean to say that not only has it changed a lot from the original idea, but also the original idea needs modification.
(2) The original idea was really defined in the Letter of Musar [אגרת המוסר]. The idea was the importance of everyone learning books of Ethics from the Middle Ages. [Rishonim].
(3) The modification I suggest is that it should include the Guide of the Rambam and the אמונות ודעות (Faiths and Knowledges ) of Rav Saadia Gaon.
(4) Another modification is the "משגיח" really needs to be dropped. [The person that in yeshivas gives the "Musar Shmooz". [Musar Talks] These are mainly just rosh yeshiva "want-to-be"s.

Maybe people need somewhere to go for spiritual advice--but that is never a mashgiach.

In yeshiva, I talked with the rosh yeshiva himself, Reb Shmuel Berenbaum, not the mashgiach.
(Also descendants of Rav Yaakov Abuchatzaira are good to go to for advice.)
(5) Outdoor and survival skills contributes a lot towards good character--learning to work as a team. Thus a part of Musar ought to be camping and survival skills in nature.

"Does knowledge of God come through knowledge of nature?" To Hegel you would have to say yes, but visa versa also.

I think Hegel can best be understood as a synthesis of the schools of thought that preceded him.  Though in my own mind I have in general thought of Hegel as the continuation of Aristotle, but now I realize he is  a lot more comprehensive than that.
One thing I noticed is that he wants to answer a problem that arose in the Middle Ages. "Does knowledge of God come through knowledge of nature?"

This provides a lot of insight into Hegel. Hegel is thinking that by knowledge of the Divine come knowledge of nature. [Not that he would put it that way, but rather "Absolute Spirit".] But Hegel is also using the idea of dialectics to go from nature up to the Divine also.

[This is to me very similar to Dr. Kelley Ross's "Ontological Un-decidablity."]

My own feeling about this [I mentioned many times] is on the side of Maimonides. That is that knowledge of Physics and Metaphysics is a prerequisite to come to love and fear of God.
The most obvious reason is that knowledge of nature provides constraints against religious delusions. This is not the reason why the Rambam considers it a prerequisite but still you can see its obvious advantage. Just too many religious people think of themselves as being super holy and super smart simply by the fact of their adherence to certain rituals.
I do feel however I gained the experience of Absolute Spirit in Safed after a few years of being in in the Mirrer Yeshiva in NY. And that was at a time I was doing only Torah learning [i.e. the Old Testament and the Talmud [Gemara Rashi Tosphot]].


confidence in Torah

Reb Nachman's critique of Torah teachers may seem to some people as not a good thing, but to me  it reinforced my confidence in Torah.
If there had never been any awareness of this problem, I think that would have been strange to me. How can people that are externally keeping Torah (and even teaching it) be wicked?

The fact that Reb Nachman pointed this out gave me renewed confidence in Torah,-- because I could separate what the Torah actually teaches from the Torah of the Dark Side that the religious world teaches.  


supposed teachers of Torah.

Most of what passes today as authentic Torah are  tricks of the Sitra Achra [The Shadow Realm]
The trouble is the religious world is just too full of cults and cult leaders.

In this, the Na Nach people definitely are on the right track-- in terms of suspecting automatically anyone that claims to teach Torah. They might go a little overboard, but this approach tends to protect them from the agents of the Dark Side.

[I have mentioned before that because of this problem, the best thing is to get your own Vilna Shas and  the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach and to learn Torah at home.]

[In this the Na Nach people are going with statements of Reb Nachman who warned against false teachers. The idea of being aware of this problem still is ignored however.]
What Reb Nachman says about most supposed teachers of Torah is highly shocking. That is until you have experienced it yourself and then you see the point. It took me some real horrific experiences until I saw the truth of Reb Nachman's words. And that brings me to the question "How to tell the difference ?" As a rule if you go with the Gra you are safe. What he excluded ought to be rigorously excluded. [This however does not exclude Reb Nachman in spite of what most people think. But it does mean to take the signature of the Gra on the letter of excommunication seriously.]

[The trouble is however in the entire religious world. Even what you would think are straight Litvak yeshivas often have this problem.]

[I would not make such a big deal out of this if not for the damage that false teachers of Torah cause in the lives of all who are misled by them. ]

Moral obligations are so inherently hard to know -the best approach is to pray

Prayer I think is sometimes effective. But I think it has to go along with general life style. That is ones's actions and words and thoughts  should also be prayer. Prayer by itself does not work if it is unrelated to one's actions.
There were times that in my own life I think prayer was effective.
I broke my leg fending off vicious dogs. And I had prayed before that for help from God. For the month in was in the hospital I was wondering what good was my prayer? Then the last day there it occurred to me that this  business with my leg got me out of  a much  worse situation than I had been in ever before. But I could not escape until the event of the broken leg.

This maybe is not very much of an inspiring lesson but it does help me get to my point. That Rosh Hashanah is about teshuva repentance. But  since moral obligations are obscure what I think is a good idea is to spend time praying to merit to repent. My logic is that at least a few times in my life when I prayed or something, the prayers seemed to get answered.
I was in Safed in Israel and I remember one time my wife was asking me about parnasa [money]. I told her I would go out and pray about it. So I went out [not by kivrei tzadikim but rather in the forest] and for one hour I prayed only about parnasa--nothing else. After that in fact there was a kind of help n that direction.

There were other times when things were more desperate. There was a time I was in the shiloach [underground steam] in Jerusalem which is at the bottom of  along flight of stairs. The Arabs on the top of the stair case were throwing large stones down the stair case in order to kill me  so I prayed then a short prayer. "God, if they succeed, my children will never know who I was.  I have no army and no weapons. But I have You." And then I started walking up the stairs. The shower of rocks stopped. When I reached the top the Arabs were there and one called out to the others "Here he is," and they started throwing rocks again. They were in point blank range. But not one rock hit me. As I was walking away, I saw a stream of rocks flowing by my head, but not one hit me.

So I definitely feel prayer is sometimes effective; but in some way that is not clear. It is not just a matter of how hard one prays or sincere one is.

What I am trying to get at is that moral obligations are so inherently hard to know -the best approach is to pray to be put on the right path. At least one day in the year that is Rosh Hashanah.

It is not that the laws of Torah are ambiguous, but rather their application in everyday life. Another problem is people that make money supposedly teaching Torah are liars.That makes it difficult to know what the Torah really says. [So to have a decent idea of what Torah says you have two choices, (1) either find a straight normal Lithuanian yeshiva like Ponovitch or the Ivy League NY Litvak Yeshivas.   Or (2) learn Talmud and Musar and the Avi Ezri at home. I should mention that even though I have no first hand knowledge, but Mizrachi or Bnei Akiva kinds of Yeshivas also seem pretty good to me. I do not know ll the names they go by. One name I have heard is דתי לאומ (religious Zionist) and these places seem very good to me. They seem to have "balance."
The basic premise of the great Litvak yeshivas is that virtue can be learned and taught. And they seem to come to that goal to a large degree. But the kind of approach I think that brings to virtue is to learn Musar, Physics, and survival skills.