Sunday, November 26, 2006

So, Where Do We Fit In? Open Question (see the bottom)

There was a very interesting article about the Pope and Islam in yesterday's WSJ:

Since the WSJ's site is subscription only, here is an excerpt from a blog:

The Wall Street Journal's Weekend Edition had a front page article today on Pope Benedict XVI (subscription required). The reporters interviewed Robert Spaemann, a conservative German Catholic philosopher who has known Benedict for years, to discuss Benedict’s vision.

For Benedict, the modern age is defined by growing secularism in the West and the rise of religious fanaticism most everywhere else. In order to fulfill its mission, he believes, the Church needs to shun both forces. Benedict is "pessimistic about the compatibility of the Church and the modern world," says Mr. Spaemann.

Benedict preaches a renewal of the Church's fundamental teachings and rituals, and is considering expanding the use of the Latin Mass. Benedict's emphasis on tradition risks alienating a broad cross-section of Catholics who argue the Church needs to become more accessible to maintain its increasingly diverse flock. Only once the Church has reclaimed its own distinct identity, he says, can it mount an effective resistance against its chief foe, a "dictatorship of relativism."

The Pope is strongly concerned about the secular world and the world of Islam. At Regensburg, Pope Benedict made a bold position. Within in his speech, he made the controversial statement that upset the Islamic world, but he made a key observation. The reporters incorporated it in the article excerpt here:

True interreligious dialogue between Islam and Catholicism is blocked because of the two faiths' divergent interpretations of the role of reason. Catholicism views reason as integral to understanding and interpreting God; Islam, he argues, sees God as being beyond reason.

Father Fessio (Head of Ignatius Press) described Benedict's position on Islam in this way: "He's saying that if your view of that he's so transcendent that he transcends all human categories, including rationality, well then you can justify the irrational, including violence, to spread religion, including terrorism."

On November 28th, Pope Benedict leaves for Turkey. This is a trip worth reading about on a daily basis. Thought the Wall Street Journal is a fine publication, I encourage one to follow John Allen at the National Catholic Reporter. He is the English speaking world's Vatican expert. In this article, Allen covers the challenges awaiting Benedict in Turkey.

and, from Wikipedia:

The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: "For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality." Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Muslim R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practice idolatry.[4]

So, where do we fit into this continuum?



  1. For Benedict, the modern age is defined by growing secularism in the West and the rise of religious fanaticism most everywhere else. In order to fulfill its mission, he believes, the Church needs to shun both forces.

    This is the key statement. I couldn’t agree more with Benedict that... just as he says the Church has to shun both religious fanataicsm and secularism, so to do we. Because it is both that have created many of the problems we face macrocosmically and microcosmically.

    On a macro scale the entire world has experienced the results of those philosophies taken to its ultimate conclusions. The holocaust is the result of secularism gone haywire. The “holocaust” of our own time, the suicide bomber who kills innocent people in the name of God is the result of religious fanaticsm.

    On a micro scale we see it in our own backyards. Clearly it is the fanatics that either promote it or do it that are responsible for acts of violence.

    The secualist extremists are those who would cause the spiritual destruction of the Jewish people. They are the Gay Pride type activists ...or those who agitate for gay marriage ...or all manner of debauchery. They have no sense of morallity and see rligion as impinging on human rights. They want to destroy any semblance of it. Such attitudes have caused great civilizatiins to disappear from the face of the earth.

    On the religious side, the only difference between a suicide bomber and a Charedi rioter in Jerusalem who burns dumpsters and throws rocks at busses is the degree with which one takes the violence. The motivation of the suicide bomber and the Charedi rioter in Shearim both stem from the same sense of “serving God”. Both serve God and feel they need to do whatever it takes to achieve God’s goal. If people get hurt in the proccess, it is God’s will.

    And as Benedict said, both need to be rejected. Wise man… (at least on this issue).

  2. 1. It is interesting to contrast Esov, klipas hagaavah, with Yishmoel, klipas hataavah. Gaavah is more mental, and would suggest a klipah of nefesh hasichlis; yishmoel then becomes the klipa of nefesh habehamis. Both will do as their inner nature drives them, but Esov will try and make a reasoned argument for what he is doing, and abide by it, whilst Yishmoel seems to have no sense of an objective reason, and just bends arguments towards his desires. You can make an agreement with Esov, he will honour his signature, but Yishmael will sign (almost) anything if it gets him his short term objectives. Yishmoel has no need of reason, if he feels that killing is the creator's will, then no argument will stop it.

    2. What does 'reason' mean, and what is the relationship between reason and revelation - gosh this is all Moreh Nevuchim stuff. As I think I pointed out before, there is the reason of the modern world, which is called 'sechel hativi'is denefesh habehamis', and there is the reason of the Rishonim and chazal, which is the faculties of nefesh hasichlis, Odom, the faculty of perception of the Divine in the world. Revelation can come whilst we are in a Yaakov state, the level of the ordinary novi who is a 'choze chalom' or it can come to an enlghtened being, Chochom odif minovi.

    3. My suspicion is that we are above this. Elokenu ve'eloke avosaynu - when we do our avoda, come to our tikkun and know Hashem, we find that what we know corresponds exactly with what has been revealed to us in the Torah - there is no conflict. R. Chim Vital says in shaarei kedusha that the mitzvos are related to nefesh hasichlis, so once you are masig that then you know the miztvos intuitively - as we find that the ovos and odom harishon kept the Torah before it was given; it is the natural state of being to know and keep the Torah.

    BTW I got an identity! zchus ovos :-))

  3. 1. Reb Tzadok has Kelipas Esav as Kinah, and both Kelipos shtamm from Ga'avah (or Kavod).

    2. I think that this issue might be a part of the divide between Chassidim and non-Mussar Misnagdim vs. the Ba'alei Mussar.

    Sounds right?

  4. Sounds right?

    Actually no; I would divide it between those that know and those that don't. The goal of the religious process is tikkun, which automatically leads to the re-finding of our higher faculties of perception. That is clear from the Rambam, Rabenu Bachaye, the Ra'avad in sefer yezirah, and I am sure all the rest but I don't know mekoros. It is also the focus of Greek philosophy. But if you don't appreciate that there is something focused and specific to be achieved here, then you can't really achieve it. I believe the Imre Emes commented on the Chofetz Chaim - who had clearly achieved higher knowledge - that he was amazed/surprised that he had done this given the lack of knowledge about it in his cultural environment. I think one of the main reasons why the non-Chasidim (i.e. both your categories) are producing so few real gedolim (i.e. baale madrego) is that the knowledge of what it is about is not in the culture; of course since the war most of the chasidim have forgotten too.