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25.2.13

I had an idea today about the role of fear of God in the ultimate scheme of things.

I had a epiphany today about the role of fear of God in the ultimate scheme of things.
The thesis I want to defend is this: there is an Intermediate Zone that looks very much like holiness. People that get stuck there inevitably have miracles that they do, and people that come to them experience all kinds of lights and miraculous events. In fact, it is almost impossible to tell that it is the Intermediate Zone --kelipat nogah (קליפת נוגה האמורה במרכבת יחזקאל או היכלי התמורות של הזוהר) except for the effects it has on the community that surrounds the tzadik, guru, or pastor. But I believe I have found a way to skip over the Intermediate Zone:  Fear of God. And this Fear of God is what is well defined in books of Mussar [Ethics]  from the Middle Ages like the Duties of the Heart and the books of the disciples of Rabbi Israel Salanter.
(מדרגת האדם מיוסף הורוויץ וכוכבי אור מיצחק בלזר)

This is the multi layered thesis I want to defend.
 
One way I want to go about this is to examine the idea of the Rambam about what leads to Fear of God: learning Physics.  [If you read Maimonides carefully (בספר המורה) you will see he holds learning the  Metaphysics of Aristotle leads to Love of God, and Physics leads to Fear of God. (In Mishneh Torah he puts it all together. Learning the works of God inspires one to love and fear God. But he does not say that about learning Torah. And this idea of the Rambam is repeated by all the major books of Musar-- that learning physics and metaphysics brings to fear of God. Or lets me say they bring the actual language of the Rambam but as far as I know they might have been thinking it means kabbalah. [I mean  in Reishit Chachma he brings the Rambam but seems unaware of what the Rambam was referring to.  And this goes for almost all Musar books after the time of Zohar was published. They all assume  Maase Bresihit מעשה בראשית and Maase Merchava מעשה מרכבה are Kabalah. Exactly not like the Rambam.] In any case I never saw kabbalah bring anyone to love and fear God, but rather to a large range of messianic illusions. Thought I think that the Ari is important as a good approach to understand Torah. But I think most people that get into Kabbalah are not thinking of it in that way. I think they are looking for a spiritual uplift (a trip) or spiritual powers. So they get caught in the Intermediate Zone of Illusions. היכלי התמורות, עץ דעת טוב ורע)
  The obvious problem is that we do not see that the Natural Sciences divisions of most universities seem to have a lot of Fear of God.
  I would have to argue that this impression is only superficial. And that sciences students in my experience have more internal integrity and fear of God than most Orthodox Jews  who excel in external signs of fear of God.

There are paths of holiness that sometimes get blocked. The  tzadik צדיק tries to clear a path, and is sometimes successful, and sometimes even if he successful, is the underbrush  grows back and makes it uncross-able.


This happened to the path of [the Rambam] Maimonides. But that is because he made the connection between fear of God and science in only one direction. The truth is there is an opposite connection also--the path to physics is by fear of God. This path is unknown to date because people do not see the metaphysical significance in natural science. They think only people with talent can learn and understand science. This is not true.

The idea here is that people assume that with talent you can learn and excel in science, and without talent you can't. This only on the superficial level of science. There is a deeper level which one can reach only by Fear of God. But this fear of God is internal and unconscious. It can't be discerned by how much a person does external religious rituals.

[Of course some people with a great amount of talent go very far in science with no apparent fear of God at all because God sometimes gives people gifts and talents for no apparent reason, but here I am referring to people of average talent like myself.]

An example is the type of scientist my Dad [Philip Rosten] was. The fear of God in our home was not overt but very much present. [My Dad was responsible for a lot of the technology that went into focusing infrared rays and creating night version of the US Army and the camera for the U-2 and the satellite communication systems for SDI and other stuff ].

Appendix:
It does seems to me that we have a mitzvah of learning Torah and this is an obligation on every Jewish male all the time. The Rambam goes into detail describing how everyone is obligated --young old sick weary etc. He has a whole list. But he also expands this mitzvah to include Physics and Metaphysics.
I think that just like the mitzvah of learning Torah does not depend on whether one is smart or even understands his learning or not--so with physics and metaphysics. it think it is a mitzvah to learn Physics and Metaphysics --just like the Rambam said. I have no idea why this is either ignored by some Jews and take it as a general permission to learn secular subjects( though it is not a permission for general secular  things); or people take great offense at it.
I have seen for example in the writings of Reb Natan the idea that learning the natural sciences is a terrible thing. I can see perhaps he was reacting to the Haskalah. But that learning science should be a bad thing is ridiculous and certainly not what any rishonim (first authorities) held..

My learning partner mentioned a source in the Talmud itself. We know the Rambam is bringing  his ideas from Chagiga and the story in the Talmud about R. Yochanan Ben Zakai
But there is also a story about R Ishmael ... [using science as a proof for how long the pregnancy of certain animals lasts. My writing got interrupted here so I forgot the details but I think that this was an argument between R Ishmael and the Sages in tractate Bechorot. ]





13.2.13

militant atheism

The issue of the militant atheism was brought up today in my Talmud session.


I was encouraged by my Rabbi Freifeld to learn secular studies. in this context I learned Sartre. Even though I had read some Existentialist literature in Beverly Hills  High School, then that I first tackled the thick volume of philosophy of Sartre.
 I had a small degree of philosophical knowledge already which I had accumulated by my studies of Spinoza and Plato in high school. So Sartre seemed pretty second rate to me. I had already been exposed to the Greats.
Sartre came up because he was the first that tried to disprove the existence of God. Before him there were people that did not believe but did not evangelize for that. [With my learning partner I went through the different schools of Greek thought but I can't do that here.]

Also mentioned in this conversation that my essay in which I drew a distinction between monotheism and the pantheism was inspired by Brad Scott and his essay. He had been  part of a Hindu sect and became Christian. And he noticed that in Medieval Christian theology the distinction between monotheism and pantheism was clear.

Basically it was the Christians  that paved the path to a clear understanding of Monotheism starting with Pseudo Dionysus. It is my opinion that when the Rambam borrows from Pseudo Dionysus [specifically the negative theology of the Rambam which is a distinctive Dionysus doctrine] and other Christian sources he does not mention his sources, but when he draws from Muslim sources, he does mention his sources. [The Physics of Aristotle is the obvious source for the Rambam's treatment of monotheism, but I think he also borrowed from Boethius. This would be worth  certain amount of effort to go into if anyone out there would be willing to spend the time and effort.]
Be that as it may. The type of faith that we Jews recognize as Monotheism was formulated very well by Maimonides.

Now I wanted finally to go into Godel and his formulation of  proof of Anselm.To my learning partner I just mentioned that I felt that mathematical logic was such a deep field that it would be for me like the Talmud. I would have to be involved in it for 30 years before I felt qualified to say anything intelligent about it. However from far away I can see a few things that can perhaps protect the proof of Godel from some of major critics. The compactness theorem for one.
[The Torah puts Monotheism as the foremost principle. That is the reason for the Rambam's approach.




8.2.13

The Intermediate Zone


[1] The Intermediate Zone (היכלי התמורות) (נוגה)  with the insights of Paul Brunton and Sri Aurobindo,
[2] The basic primate nature of all human beings,
[3] The need to enter the Intermediate Zone,
[4] Formation of cults around people that have only entered into the Intermediate Zone.
[5] The pseudo religions of psycho analysis, and psychiatry, and psychology which  partake of all the worst characteristics of the Intermediate Zone.
[6] Perhaps after all the above I might offer some suggestions about how the deal with the problem of the Intermediate Zone.


There is a ridiculously short amount of time today so let me just make my first major point as fast as I can.
People have to go into the Intermediate Zone. This is like university. There simply is no choice. You can't look at the writings of Aurobindo and Brunton and say well the Intermediate Zone is so dangerous, so why bother with the spiritual side of things at all? The reason is that we are all primates and the evil in our basic character comes out (from potential to action), and we fall into all the different types of viciousness that is associated with our animal nature whether we like it or not.
But to jump up to the Divine realms is not possible without preparation.
So we are stuck with the need to enter a very dangerous area of spirituality, an area in which people think because they have visions or powers that means they are enlightened. They simply do not realize that the Dark Side [Sitra Achara] is playing with them.

The solution I really don't know, but I have found a set of basic principles that has helped me as I wade my way through this swamp of cults.


I have seen a lot of manifestations of the Intermediate Zone. Most often this is with people of some established religion. This is more than people in Eastern cults. A lot of time a person accepts an established religion, and assumes that since it is the right religion, therefore all the intuitions he or she has come from the side of Holiness and Light.   At least people in Eastern cults seem to be aware of the possibility that their visions might not all be from the Side of Light.

Of course, it is not smart to be involved in a religion that was founded on someone who was heavily in the Intermediate Zone or the Dark Side (סיטרא אחרא) like Islam. But even religions founded on enlightened individuals do not provide protection from the Intermediate Zone.

One confusing issue is the difference between the Intermediate Zone and simple mental illness. Some people  look at any spiritual manifestation as mental illness. Sometimes this is correct. Sometimes they are confusing manifestations of the Intermediate Zone with insanity.


(rest of essay deleted)

If you want to understand about cults and the Intermediate Zone I recommend learning about Scientology which gives a good template or measuring stick to understand whether your group is a cult or not. Adi Da also is a good example --or in fact even a better example because of lots of powers and miracles phenomena that appeared there.  If you want to understand this subject these two examples are important to learn about.


stripping the gurus
 This is a good reference book for Eastern spirituality. But the same could be written about spiritual leaders in other traditional chains.


6.2.13

I was just looking over the Talmud in Bava Metzia and I saw an important point. On page 104.The Mishna brings two conditions in which in renting there is a meaning that is implied "this field" in the case where one says, "I want to rent this apartment from you." These are the two strongest conditions: "This" and the person that want to rent the place. But you don't know that the  Mishna required both conditions. All the Mishna does is juxtapose this with the case of a serf. With the serf there is no requirement that the field remain the same. [It is entirely conceivable that the mishna requires neither condition and only make the difference to depend on whether the case is serfdom or rent. Or that it requires both of the strongest conditions. Or anywhere in the middle also for that matter]
It is hard to know what the Mishna means.

So when we get to Ravina and Shmuel things pick up. Ravina says, all that matters is the "this," and Shmuel says all that matters is who said it (the person that wants to rent, or the one that wants to rent out his place).
Here is where the Rambam comes in and brings the Tosepfta (teaching) that says exactly the same things as the Mishna in the case of renting and says openly it does not matter if the word "this" was used. This is a proof to the Rambam that  if the renter said it, then it does not matter. My point is it is hard to see why the Tospefta should be assumed to be a proof of the meaning of the Mishna.

5.2.13

So today I will just mention an important subject in the Talmud. What happens if a rabbi makes a mistake in a halacha.

 I wrote an essay yesterday attacking the Trinity and suggesting to Christians to repent. To my surprise almost no one looked at my blog.
So maybe I will stop attacking Christians. Maybe there's enough of that on the Internet. And after all even in my own philosophy, what matters is not what people believe, but what they do.
[Of course what they do depend slot of what they believe.]



So today I will just mention an important subject in the Talmud. What happens if a rabbi makes a mistake in a halacha. The first strange thing about this subject is the fact that Rabbi Tarfon is brought [Sanhedrin 33] as an example of a person that made a mistake in a simple thing [Devar Mishna]. The concept of Simple thing {devar mishna) is from what Rav Papa said something there is no argument about. something known and simple. In the days of r Tarfon the question of a female sheep that had the uterus taken out was not a settled question

the next thing is rav sheshet. Even thought he is quoted as referring to a devar misha still what he said makes more sense if you explain it to refer to shikul hadat.--question of judgment.

The major point i am trying to get to is to make the disagreement between rav papa and rav sheshet refer to a argument between the rambam and the geonim.

2.2.13

From what I can tell people are mammals. And not just any mammals, but part of the group of primates. Besides the basic viciousness of character come along with that, people seem to be particularly prone to physical, mental, and character illnesses.

Though I was too young to participate, I think the events of the 1960's effected me greatly.People that were not around at that time can't relate to the atmosphere. For me the world disintegrating around me caused a "crisis of world view."

The urgency to form my own consistent world view has existed ever since then.

For this reason I looked at different religions and philosophies;-- all with the interest to form my own world view that had internal consistency and would correspond in fact with the real world.
I don't have time right now to go through all the mistakes and things that I can't tell if they were mistakes or not.
[I did a lot of searching in: Spinoza, Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese philosophy, the Jewish Orthodox world, Christan streams of though, Islam etc. Though I never got that interested in Islam I had long discussions for several years with Muslim Imams and lived nearby a Muslim village. I have been around enough so that little that people do surprise me.  European philosophy is the most impressive of the bunch of world views I have seen and Plotinus and Maimonides, Kant and John Locke have to rate at the very top. (With honorable mention to  Anselm,  Aquinas, .)



Right now I will just state for the record my basic conclusion. If I have time I will try to go into the path that led me to this conclusion.
First the basic structure of my world view is that of Plotinus-- the neo-Platonic philosopher. But this comes with a slight modification. I don't think that Plotinus can be defended except by Immanuel Kant . Without immediate non intuitive knowledge there is no reason to assume to be true anything that Plotinus says. There is no ground for any of it. It comes across as ancient mysticism. But with Kant, Hegel and Schopenhauer a whole world opens up--the world that Plotinus navigated.

The meaning of this and it relevance for issues today is thus: It means that I am firmly in medieval school of thought of Jewish thinkers like the Chovot LeVavot [Duties of the Heart] and Maimonides (who was far more neo-Platonic than people realize).


The practical relevance for all this is that I know that some people feel free to ignore facts and reality in their pursuit of religious purity. I am not among them.

\
From what I can tell people are mammals. and not just any mammals but part of the group of primates. Besides the basic viciousness of character come along with that people seem to be particularly prone to physical mental and character illnesses.
Religions that claim people are basically good are false.
Psychology is just another religion with its own false doctrines and high priests.

This is not to say that mental illness and character illness are not real problems.
But in terms of applying the basic principles of the Torah to real life situation. I find the Talmud and the books of the medieval thinkers like Maimonides are the best.
I think sin is a cause of lots of problems and also bad character traits like anger or pride. As far as that goes Israel Salanter was right. The only hope for people to improve their character is to make a whole movement around learning the books of ethics that deal with that issue









1.2.13

However it seems to me that it is safe to say that the idea of closeness with a tzadik [saint or Guru] is not in the Torah.

In a neo Platonic system there is a possibility of having a central personality.
You can see this in the thought of  Eastern Religions.
However it seems to me that it is safe to say that the idea of closeness with a tzadik [saint or Guru]  is not in the Torah.
Just the opposite. There were plenty of people that were close to King Saul and King David that did not end up very well. I might mention Doeg and Avshalom, but to me the most striking example is Yoav ben Tzeruya
This is the saddest story in the Torah. King David would have been nothing without this fellow. Zilch. Talk about "shimush talmidai chachamim."
[Yoav was the general of David and he stood by David when all his friends turned against him.]



 I can see this as perhaps one reason the Rambam went to Aristotle.
The simple truth is that the Torah does not look very Neo Platonic.



He might have and does have many character flaws. It means simply someone attached to God in some abstract way and someone that one can also become attached to God by means of some connection with this person. --Like with me hearing his talk on Shabat and by being in the land of Israel.]
On the other hand it is hard to know the meaning of this Light. It does not seem to imply higher knowledge or better character.
In the Torah, the central point is to keep the commandments of God which are 613.And of all the commandments there are ten that are central. And in these commandments, the place of ones physical father and mother occupy a central place, not any prophet tzadik  or other role model. [The commandment of the Torah to honor ones father and mother refer to ones physical parents.It does not mean one can exchange them for what one wants to believe are his spiritual parents and then make up a commandment to honor them. this is falsifying the meaning of the Torah.] The reason for this is simple if one has learned a bit of the writings of Isaac Luria. The father provides one with his or her outer protective light. and ones mother provides him or her with the internal light.

Plotinus makes a very good point about human personalities, those closer to music or love need more direction than those closer to metaphysics.