Supernatural


Even if I walk in the light, I am not the light.

Even if I am a taut stringed lute, I am not the lute player

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Seeing Michael Dowd give a discussion on his work to prevent the catastrophe of global climate change was interesting. He appeared at my local Unitarian Universalism church. Dowd outlined a “new” movement where people of all faiths are coming together with Science and scientists to discuss and hopefully combat climate change.

Religious naturalism is an approach to spirituality that is devoid of supernaturalism. The focus is on the religious attributes of the universe/nature, the understanding of it and our response to it (interpretive, spiritual and moral). These provide for the development of an eco-morality. Although it has an ancient heritage in many philosophical cultures, this modern movement is currently not well defined. Theistic or nontheistic religious naturalism is a basic theological perspective of liberal religion and religious humanism, according to some sources.

Religious naturalism is concerned about the meaning of life, but it is equally interested in living daily life in a rational, happy way. An alternative, more anthropocentric approach, is to look at it as answering the question: “What is the meaning of one’s life and does it have a purpose?” It is an approach to understanding the natural world in a religious way and does not offer a detailed system of beliefs or rituals. Religious naturalism also attempts to amalgamate the scientific examination of reality with the subjective sensory experiences of spirituality and aesthetics. As such, it is a combination of objectivity with religious emotional feelings and the aesthetic insights supplied by art, music and literature. It is a promising form of contemporary religious ethics and pluralism responding to the challenges of late modern religious transformations and ecological peril. In so doing, it is emerging as an increasingly plausible and potentially rewarding form of religious moral life consistent with the insights of the natural sciences.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_naturalism

Thank-God-for-Evolution

This is a very adimarable goal. I enjoyed Dowd’s talk, until he started discussing Humanism. Dowd himself and his wife, Connie Barlow, are partners and Co authors. Both have spent more than a decade on the road discussing their views, books and the problem of the scientific community in our modern lives.

Dowd himself admits he is a preacher, an ordained minister. Connie is described as an author of “popular science” books. Popular science books, the term doesn’t bode well.

Dowd outlined the need to view reality with reverence and the physical as sacred.

…….

The outer world of earthly existence corresponds in all its details to the inner world of man’s soul, and there is a similar correspondence between the Garden of the Heart and the Garden of the Soul, but these are only two particular  instances of the general truth that all the different domains in the Universe correspond to each other in that each is an image of the Universe itself. 

–Martin Lings, THE SYMBOL

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QVOD SVPERIVS EST EST EST SICVT ID QVOD INFERIVS
(“The top is like the below”)

MACROPROSOPVS – Macrocosm

MICROPROSOPVS – Microcosm

Now, this is great. Of course reality is sacred as is the very ground beneath my feet. Dowd admirably preaches and teaches a philosophy of reality as sacred. Hardly news to me or anyone with an ounce of sanity, in my opinion.

For Dowd, reality, or God as he interchangeably calls or labels things, is sacred and must be treated as such. Reverence for all, in order to prevent climate change… Dowd outlines this by dismissing God, destroying any notion of the supernatural and proposes that observation is our savior and will enable the unification of science and religion. Of course this is overly simplistic and not something I could get behind.

Not that scientific and aesthetic understanding is not necessary –but it should do its work faithfully and immerse itself and disappear in the truth of the relation which surpasses understanding and embraces what is understandable.

–Martin Buber (I And Thou)

By discarding the divine for:

“reality” is divine, but only that which is
” observable” we are being dishonest. By dishonest that is, to me it is dishonest.

Observation only works due to assumptions.

Assumptions include a shared language, for example if we are discussing chickens it is assumed we are discussing chickens that all have two legs and two wings, in reality what if the chicken is deformed? In a real sense this means we are assuming like and like. We are assuming that 1 (chicken) plus 1 (chicken) is 2 (chickens)…. Assuming that both chickens are equal. Which in the real world they would not be.

Observation only works due to an agreed upon yardstick. To quote Dowd

“You don’t have to believe in the sea, it’s just there.”
No, you are wrong Mr Dowd. The sea is only the sea because we agree it is the sea. If we measured using an electromagnetic measuring device, for example, we may have problems separating the sea from nearby rivers. In turn, if we change our yard stick a drop of rainwater is the sea. Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrates this in his essay on the coastline of Britain, demonstrating it is of infinite length, measuring from rocks, stones, sand… atoms etc.

Dreamsmandy

The work of Werner Karl Heisenberg famously explored the problem of light being a particle and a wave, though I understand to some modern physicists the solution is that it’s a wave. At the subatomic level we can only measure where something is or its velocity, not both. To summarize Heisenberg we can simply say the
“observed and observer are inseparable ”

This means any observation is a compromise as it is fully changed by being observed. People may counter this by saying this is only at the subatomic level. Again though, it depends on our yard stick. There are numerous ways and means that demonstrate this phenomenon of the inseparable nature of observation. In the end, it is just a complex way if stating observation is dependent upon perspective and perception. For example if we only studied the sky at night we could learn many things, during the day, yet other things, at both times we observe the sky.

Every experiment destroys some of the knowledge of the system

which was obtained by previous experiments.

“Critique of the Physical Concepts of the Corpuscular Theory” in The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory (1930) as translated by Carl Eckhart and Frank C. Hoyt, p. 20; also in “The Uncertainty Principle” in The World of Mathematics : A Small Library of the Literature of Mathematics (1956) by James Roy Newman, p. 105

This isnt to mention other things like Godel’s incompleteness theorem, that demonstrates that the only logical conclusion of logic is that logic doesn’t work.

A statement sometimes known as Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem states that if number theory is consistent, then a proof of this fact does not exist using the methods of first-order predicate calculus. Stated more colloquially, any formal system that is interesting enough to formulate its own consistency can prove its own consistency iff it is inconsistent.

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/GoedelsIncompletenessTheorem.html

At a basic level, if we started to discuss Star Wars with a dog, the dog would not understand who Darth Vader is…. sadly humanists are assuming that through observation we can understand reality, just as a dog can one day discuss Luke Skywalker. Uh, no….

But the cult of the intellect knows no bounds.

The point where we seperate from our origins…or the divine/God.

It is this type of world along with its overriding orientation and pursuits which we have destroyed. Our society is man-made, not a divine order. It is one in fact which represents a projection of the human mind that has cut its links with the divine and with the earth; and in so far that it has any ideals these are purely temporal and finite and concern only the terrestrial welfare of its members.

–Philip Sherrard, MODERN SCIENCE AND THE DEHUMANIZATION OF MAN.

To a humanist mindset and many other similar groups (notably modern scientific pantheists for example) throwing out the divine makes perfect sense. If logic, observation, bar charts and other intellectual tools won’t cover reality then anything else is garbage, to the humanist (collectively humanists but each and every group with this mindset).

I am reminded by the recent book/TV show where Stephen Hawkins disproves God. All these groups seem to have one thing in common, an overly simplified verging on puerile understanding or concept of God. The science may or may not be remarkable, advanced and inspiring, but the understanding of the sacred is childlike at best. Hawkins demonstrated this very adequately in his television appearance, in his defense I have not, nor do I intend to read his book.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up til he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

–William Blake (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

Dowd, like Hawkins touches upon God, largely only in a puerile simplistic manner, the sky daddy playing chess. This overly simplistic image betrays a lack of perspective or genuine lack of investigation into the nature of God. As such, there is no place beyond the observable, the logical or even beyond the physical. As such we, to this modernist mindset, are merely dogs learning about Star Wars, one day able through language and concept to discuss the finer points of Star Wars.

Of course the talk was only an hour or so long, and I have not actually read his books, so my understanding may be limited.

Language of course fails us every time. Modernists use mathematics to overcome this.

The problem with secular liberals, as distinct from traditionalist liberals and traditionalist conservatives, is that they insist on inventing reality by denying any higher truth than themselves. They deny the natural law of holistic education, including the metalaw of holistic haqq, which is to be sought heuristic ally and holistically not created by human fiat.

By claiming the source of truth they deny the essence of anything and anything, because without essence everything is relative and truth cannot exist. If everything is relavistic, there is no purpose, then the practice of human responsibilities and the corresponding and resulting human rights has no logical basis.

The denial of any reality beyond the power of personal preference is the source of all totalitarian ideologies, beginning with the liberal logic of the French Revolution, which produced Communism, Fascism, and both Zionist and Muslim Statism today, where the sovereign state or global caliphate claims divinity based on top-down political process of might makes right.

 The Metalaw of Holistic Haqq: Toward a Just Third Way beyond Capitalism and Socialism in the Holy Land
by Robert Dickson Crane

….

In conclusion, Dowd and other humanists make giant compromises. Dowd does however stress the urgency of climate change. His concepts work for the ignorant i.e. those expecting the rapture, denying evolution, biblical aging of the planet and other ridiculous literalisms that demonstrate once again observer and observed change things; as literalisms as found in modern times, never existed in the ancient world. However, Dowd is educating the small of understanding, the ones that arguably need to be spoon fed understanding. His goals are also good ones. However, I don’t agree with all his political leanings. Sadly, I think Dowd’s allusions fit well at my church amongst the right people (which may or may not be a good thing depending on your perspective). I enjoyed his conclusions i.e. live in harmony with the earth or die, it is not all doom and gloom, we may do better in regards to combating climate change.

                       .

yet the crisis itself is not first of all an ecological crisis. It is not first of all a
crisis concerning our environment. It is first of all a crisis concerning the way we think. We are treating our planet in an inhuman, God-forsaken manner because we see things in an inhuman and God-forsaken way. How we see the world depends above all upon how we see ourselves. Our model of the universe – our worldview – is based upon the model we have of ourselves, upon our own self image. Unless our own evaluation of ourselves, and of what constitutes the true nature of our being, changes, the way we treat the world around us will not change either. The industrial and technological inferno we have produced around us, and by means of which we are now devastating our world, is not something that has come about accidentally. On the contrary, it is a direct consequence
of our allowing ourselves to be dominated by a certain paradigm of thought that impels us to look upon ourselves as little more than two-legged animals whose destiny and needs can best be fulfilled through the pursuit of social, political and economic self-interest. And to correspond with this self-image we have invented a worldview in which nature is seen as an impersonal commodity, a soulless source of food, raw materials, wealth,
power and so on, which we think we are entitled to abuse by means of any scientific and mechanical technique we can devise and produce, in order to satisfy our self-interest. Having in our own minds de-sanctified ourselves, we have de-sanctified nature as well.

Our contemporary secular scientific mentality goes hand-in-hand with a
corresponding and increased erosion in us of the sense of the sacred. We do not have any respect, let alone reverence, for the world of nature because we do not fundamentally have any respect, let alone reverence, for ourselves. It is because we have lost the sense of our own reality that we have lost the sense of every other reality as well. It is because we cripple and mutilate ourselves that we cripple and mutilate everything else as well. Our contemporary crisis is really our own depravity writ large.

So the only real answer to this crisis is to stop depraving ourselves. It is to
recover a sense of our true identity and dignity, of our creation in the image of God, of our self image as sacred beings. Once we repossess a sense of our own holiness, we will recover a sense of the holiness of the world about us as well and we will then act towards the world about us with the awe and humility that we should possess when we enter a sacred shrine, a temple of love and beauty in which we are to worship and adore the Creator. Without a sense of the holy – that everything that lives is holy – and without
humility towards the whole – towards man, towards nature and to God Himself Who is beyond both man and nature, their transcendent source and origin – we will simply proceed headlong along the course to self-destruction to which we are now committed and which is our own choosing and for which we are entirely responsible.

Philip Sherrard (1922-1995)
(The Rape of Man & Nature: An Inquiry Into the Origins and Consequences of Modern Science)

Maharal Sagas
A. Introduction
by
Jacobus Swart
Wherever one finds the name of the great Rabbi Loew of Prague, the Maharal, ones immediate thought is that “he made a Golem.” The many tales of the Maharal and his magical anthropoid have been so entrenched in the minds of those with a predilection for occult arcana, that few would consider the many sagas on the life of the Maharal crediting him with other, equally “mysterious” abilities, e.g. Rabbi Loew’s role in saving the lives of a family imprisoned inside a pit by an “evil sorceror,” a “duke,” as reported in “The Chronicle of Ephraim” and recounted by Howard Schwartz in his wonderfulLilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural.”
We are told that as the mother had given birth to a boy named Shlomo inside the pit, the duke offered to spare their lives on the condition that the baby be delivered to him. Following this deal, the duke and his wife raised the boy as their own son, and hid his true identity. Being extremely intelligent and well educated, the duke introduced him to the “secrets of magic.” The boy was also a most skilled musician, and on his tenth birthday the duke presented him with a mysterious musical instrument the working of which have been lost. Naturally, as is the case with all such tales, our young hero mastered it in no time at all, but there was trouble in the air.
A few months prior to his thirteenth birthday, the young man started to have a recurring dream in which he encountered an individual claiming to be his real father. Finally, on his thirteenth birthday, he was lured away in his sleep, and when he woke found himself standing outside a synagogue. There he met his real father who revealed the true saga of his life. Serious drama ensued when the duke discovered that his “son” had been “spirited away” by some sort of rival magic, and at first he planned to kill the young man, but changed his mind and attempted to lure him back. This is where the Maharal comes in. The family consulted with the great Rabbi who employed a Kabbalistic “dream question” technique to ascertain a solution to the dilemma. Following some more magical twists and turns, the saga finally ended in a most satisfactory manner, and all is well that ends well. The young man and his real family lived happily ever after.
The Kabbalistic “She’elat Chalom” (Dream Question) is certainly one of the most interesting divinatory techniques. One description has it that the practice comprises purification, fasting and meditation on the powerful “Name of Seventy-two Names.” This is said to induce the required prophetic state which will lead to questions, seriously contemplated prior to sleep, receiving a divine response in dream. However, alternative methods can be found in the writings of Rabbi Chaim Vital, who himself resorted to the “She’elat Halom” technique when confronted with difficult issues. In his so-called “New Writings” (Ketavim Hadashim me-Rabbenu Hayyim) we are offered two methods to successfully work the Kabbalistic “Dream Question” practice.
Chaim Vital informed us that we should “Visualize that above the firmament of ‘Aravot‘ [the seventh and highest “Heaven”] there is a very great white curtain, upon which the Tetragrammaton is inscribed in [colour] white as snow, in Assyrian writing [the standard square Hebrew script known as Ashurit] in a certain color….. and the great letters are inscribed there, each one large as a mountain or a hill. And you should imagine in your thought that you ask your question from those combinations of letters written there, and they will answer your question, or they will dwell their spirit in your mouth, or you will be drowsy and they will answer you, like in a dream.” A few paragraphs later he said “you shall go to bed to sleep, pray ‘Let it be Your Will,’ and use one of the pronunciations of the [divine] names written in front of you, and direct your thought to which of the mystical spheres it is related. Then mention your question either to discover issues related to a dream and future things, or to achieve whatever thing you wish, and afterwards ask [the question].”
Of course, these are not the only “Dream Question” techniques used by Kabbalists. Others have been preserved in the vast literature penned by Kabbalists down the centuries. Whilst some involve chanting Yichudim, etc., others rely on severe psychological factors which impact rather drastically on the psyche of the practitioner, i.e. intense fasting and incessant “mystical weeping” deliberately induced.
In the following brief tales, we encounter those “paranormal” abilities assigned the Maharal of Prague, other than the usual ones pertaining to “Golem-making,” which appear to have been of great importance in the life of the great Rabbi!!
B. The Count Who Wanted to Study Kabbalah
(A 19th century East European tale recounted in
Gabriel’s Palace: Jewish Mystical Tales”
by
Howard Schwartz)
In the days of Rabbi Judah Loew of Prague, known as “the Maharal,” there lived a weathy Count who devoted himself to the study of astrology and alchemy and to finding the Philosopher’s Stone. This Count knew that the Maharal was well versed in the secrets of the Kabbalah, so he invited him to his castle.
There the Count told the Maharal that he wanted to be initiated into the study of the Kabbalah, but the Maharal refused his request. He told the Count of the great difficulties involved, even for one who was Jewish. How much more so for one who was not? But the Count demanded that the Maharal serve as his teacher, and he threatened to go to the Emperor and bring great harm upon the Jews if he did not. When the Maharal saw that he had no other choice, he agreed to begin their studies at once.
The Count led the Maharal to a room he had prepared for his mystical studies. It was dark and empty, except for a single lamp, and filled with a sense of foreboding. For a long time the Maharal was silent, but at last he said: “before we begin, I must ask you if you are free of all guilt. For any guilt that you bring with you could lead you into danger.”
“I am, said the Count.
“In that case,” said the Maharal, “look behind you!”
And when the Count looked around, he saw a woman standing there with an infant in her arms. The Count began to tremble with fear.
“Do you know who they are?” the Maharal asked.
“It is my sister and her child. But how can they be here? They are both dead!” cried the Count.
“The are here because you killed them!” said the Maharal. “For that child was your child, and you killed them to keep your sin a secret.”
The the Count fainted. And when he came to his senses, he told the Maharal that he would abandon his quest to study the Kabbalah. But he warned the Maharal never to reveal his secret, lest he seek revenge against the Jews. The Maharal promised to keep the secret and went on his way. But every night after that, The Count saw his sister and their infant in his dreams, and he woke up screaming. Nor did he go back to his mystical studies, but for the rest of his days he was a broken man.
C. The Dream Question of the Maharal

(A 19th century East European tale recounted in
Gabriel’s Palace: Jewish Mystical Tales”
by
Howard Schwartz)
To protect the Jews of Prague from the Blood Libel and the pogroms that followed every Passover, Rabbi Judah Loew created a man of clay known as the “golem” and brought him to life with the power of the Name. After that the golem guarded the Jews of Prague against every danger, not only from without, but also from within.
One Yom Kippur a terrible incident occurred. One of the worshippers, who had been called to life the scroll of the Torah after the portion had been read, lost his grip and dropped it. Everyone was horrified, for they knew that this was an evil sign on the very Day of Judgment, when a person’s fate for the coming year is sealed in the Book of Life.
The Maharal, more than anyone else, wondered about htis incident and prayed for an answer. And that night, in a dream, he overheard an angel say a string of words. When he awoke he remembered this cryptic message and wrote it down, but it made no sense. Then the Maharal decided to write each letter of those words on a separate slip of paper. Then he called in the golem and asked him to arrange those fifteen letters as he saw fit. Without any hesitation, the golem arranged them, but no word was formed. The Maharal was puzzled at first, but all at once he recognized that those were the initial letters of a biblical verse that read on Yom Kippur: Moreover you shall not lie with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her (Leviticus 28:20).
Then the Maharal met with the man who had dropped the scroll and demanded that he confess to having sinned with someone’s wife, for that is why the scroll had fallen on Yom Kippur. The man, who knew of the Maharal’s powers of perception, saw that there was no escape, and he confessed his guilt. And he and the woman who had sinned with him were punished according to the Law.