God in Search of Man, Abraham Joshua Heschel

04 Feb 2022 09:29 - 19 Nov 2023 12:29
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    • Philosophy may be defined as the art of asking the right questions....in it, the awareness of the problem outlives all solutions...In religion, on the other hand, the mystery of the answer hovers over all questions. Philosophy deals with problems as universal issues; to religion the universal issues are personal problems. Philosophy, then, stresses the primacy of the problem, religion stresses the primacy of the person. The fundamentalists claim that all ultimate questions have been answered; the logical positivists maintain that all ultimate questions are meaningless. Those of us who share neither the conceit of the former nor the unconcern of the latter, and reject both specious answers and false evasions, know that an ultimate issue is at stake in our existence, the relevance of which surpasses all final formulations. It is this embarrassment that is the starting point for our thinking.
    • On Nature

    • The object of science is to explain the processes of nature. Every scientific explanation of a natural phenomenon rests upon the assumption that things behave in a way which is fundamentallyh rational and intelligenble to the human reason.....however, the essence of reality remains incompatible with our categories. Nature being as being, and even the very act of thinking, lie beyond the scope of apprehension. The essence of things is ineffable and thus incompatible with the human mind, and it is precisely this incompatibility that is the source of all creative thinking in art, religion, and moral living. We may, therefore, suggest that just as the discovery of reality's compatibility with the human mind is the root of science, so the discovery of the world's incompatibility with the human mind is the root of artistic and religious insight. (p104)
      • This is resonating with my current struggles with Weird Studies. And of course I come from a field that has no problem thinking it can model the human mind.
    • On the absolute

    • To say that our search for God is a search for the idea of the absolute is to eliminate the problem which we are trying to explore. A first cause or an idea of the absolute—devoid of life, devoid of freedom—is an issue for science or metaphysics rather than a concern of the soul or the conscience. An Affirmation of such a cause or such an idea would be an answer unrelated to our question. The living soul is not concerned with a dead cause but a living God. Our goal is to ascertain the existence of a Being to whom we may confess our sins, of a God who loves, of a God who is not above concern with our inquiry and search for Him, a father, not an absolute. (p125)
    • Radical Amazement

    • Wonder or radical amazement
      A cousin of Weird Studies/Radical Mystery perhaps
      is the chief characteristic of the religious man’s attitude toward history and nature. One attitude is alien to his spirit: taking things for granted, regarding events as a natural course of things....As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines...Awareness of the divine begins with wonder. It is the result of what man does with his higher incomprehension. The greatest hindrance to such awareness is our adjustment to conventional notions, to mental clichés. Wonder or radical amazement, the state of maladjustment to words and notions, is therefore a prerequisite for an authentic awareness of that which is. (p 46)
    • The mystery of God remains for ever sealed to man. Thou canst not see My face, for man shall not see Me and live. Even the seraphim cover their faces with their wings in the presence of God (Isaiah 6:2). Solomon, who built the great Temple in jerusalem, knew that the Lord who fixed the sun in the heavens decided ”to dwell in deep darkness” (‘arafel) (I Kings 8:12) He made darkness His hiding place (Psalms 18:12). “God is great, beyond our knowledge” (Job 36:26)... (p 61)
    • Jewish observance is a constant reminder, an intense appeal, to be attentive to Him who is beyond nature, even while we are engaged in dealing with nature. The awareness of mystery, not often expressed, is always implied....the true name of God is a mystery...Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, was the Ineffable Name uttered by the High Priest at the Temple in Jerusalem...The Decalogue does not contain any commandment to worship God...It tells us “honor they father and thy mother”, it does not tell us, “honor thy God...” The only reference to worship is indirect and negative: Thou shalt not take My name in vain. (p 63)
    • This, then is the minimum of meaning which the word God holds for us: God is alive. To assume the opposite, namely that the word God means a Being devoid of life and freedom...would immediately invalidate the problem we are concerned with...Indeed, there are essentially only two ways to begin: to think of God in terms of free and spontaneous being or in terms of inanimate being;; either He is alive or devoid of life. Both premises are beyond demonstration, and yet the second premise in the form of saying, God is the great unknown, appears to most people to be more respectable. ... We cannot utter words and deny at the same time that there are words, and we cannot in religious thinking say God and deny at the same time that He is alive. If God is dead, then worship is madness....The problem of religious thinking is not only whether God is dead or alive, but also whether we are dead or alive to His realness.... (p 126)
    • Religion becomes sinful when it begins to advocate the segregation of God, to forget that the true sanctuary has no walls...we must not regard any human institution or object as being an end in itself. Man's achievements in this world are but attempts, and a temple that comes to mean more than a reminder of the living God is an abomination...even the laws of the Torah are not absolutes. Nothing is deified, neither power nor wisdom, neither heros nor institutions. To ascribe divine qualities to all of these, to anything, sublime and lofty as it may be, is to distort both the idea it represents and the concept of the divine which we bestow upon it (p 415)