Monthly Archives: July 2014

UNIVERSAL JUDAISM PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY # 3 POLARIZED THINKING

 

Once again, here is the series of ten that are part of our little “mini-series” as to the practical religious philosophy of Universal Judaism.

 

1.         Universal Judaism is Truth-based

 

2.         Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous

 

3.         Universal Judaism avoids polarized thinking

 

4.         Universal Judaism values individuality

 

5.         Universal Judaism is primarily a “living morality”  and most, secondarily, a legal “system”.

 

6.         Universal Judaism is not faith-based but knowledge-based.

 

7.         Universal Judaism provides direct experience of Providence/Grace.

 

8.         Universal Judaism produces that experience called “God”.

 

9.         Universal Judaism can breed or re-breed a nation (or nations) of teachers to transform the world.

 

10.       Universal Judaism perpetuates a Life-based doctrine, both formal and flexible, without heavy-handed authoritarianism.

 

We now continue with the third in this “mini-series” as to the practical religious philosophy of Universal Judaism.

 

There are polarities that we can witness in nature:   male and female;  dark and light;  concentrated and dispersed;  up and down;  in and out.  These are all real aspects of the phenomenon we witness in life— on our scale of existence/cognition.  All these are PART of the phenomenon, but if we “worship them”, i.e. give them too much power out of CONTEXT, they become “gods”, “goddesses”, idols. And as we discussed in the last blog, Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous.

 

As Jews have maintained for millennia,  the Ultimate Reality, which some call “God”, is ONE. As the great Moses ben Maimon warned, we need to be very careful about what thinking of God as ONE by our standards of what “one” is.

 

The One God , however we think of “one” is a UNITY.  As Bertrand Russell made very clear in his Principles of Mathematics, Unity is not definable by rational (for him, mathematical) terms. A whole can be defined, as can be parts, but Unity is not provable, demonstrably, to exist.

 

Universal Judaism proclaims this, too. There is, based upon human experience, no indication (so far;  we’re open!)  at all that there is anything that has no relationship to anything else, and therefore, we “believe” in Unity  “functionally”, “practically”.  Some might say we believe it “in faith”, even though we cannot prove it. They would be right.

 

Indeed, find me the scientific experiment which does not presuppose Unity and Unity-of-Thought in relationship to each other?  You can’t!!  That’s why the duality science vs. spiritual makes no sense in Universal Judaism. Whether you call “matter” a dense form of “spirit” or call “spirit” an “energy” from which matter comes, is really a silly distinction—- though, like all the dualities above, they are interesting aspects of what we witness.

 

Based upon this— commonsense faith in the obviously-unprovable— Universal Judaism teaches a perspective which changes the way one cognizes the world. While we may witness polarities, we do not entrench in them. While we can distinguish a “this” from “that”, a “bad action” as opposed to a “good action”, the opposition, we realize, is really  “just in our minds”. This is not to say this is a fantasy, only that it is a product of the scale of Reality we inhabit day-to-day and witness. It is not its ultimate nature.

 

Universal Judaism is non-dualistic. While discriminating between polarities, it is non-polarized. It does not carve the world up into “Jew” and “non-Jew”, “saved” and “non-saved”, “profane” and “sacred”— as has done traditional religious perspectives. When one looks very carefully at these, they do so because they are anchoring, deeply, the certainty of LAW and more deeply, revelation.

To our way of thinking, have made an important contribution to thought, but, overstated their certainty. Law is not God. This is the mistake of revelation!

 

Universal Judaism teaches one how to approach one’s life in a non-polarized way. When there are conflicts, we teach how to guide the conflicts by changing our relationship to our own dualistic perspective which participates in creating the conflict. One might, using old time religious phraseology, call this “repentance”, though sadly, the flavor of this word is decidedly religious, and condemnatory, and implicitly cruel.

 

Let me give you an example:  Recently a person came to me in counselling because they were being forced into bankruptcy by their attorney and their accountant in order to protect them legally. The man was terrified!  I asked the man what was the maximum deadline he had before failure to bankrupt would cause him legal problem. He told me.  After that, I said to him, “Look, prepare the bankruptcy papers for filing on the maximum date, now let me show you what happens when we think with a Unified Mind, i.e. God is One, as they declare in Deuteronomy 6:4, in the Shema and the V’ahavtahI.

 

One step at a time, I helped him to realize that the bankruptcy threat was simply due to his own beliefs regarding his business and his finances, and there was a higher, more comprehensive way to think–  God inspired–  which could solve the problem as easily as he participated in creating it. This is the essence of Prophetic Thinking which is a consequences of a Truth-based, non-idolatrous and non-polarized perspective!  As Moses remarks in Numbers, wouldn’t it be great if all people would be prophets?

 

Within two weeks, the business problem was solved without a bankruptcy, and the entire company had been re-capitalized!

 

The genius of the Jew has been non-polarized thinking, i.e. the proclamation of The One God. But unfortunately, the excessive view of sin vs. not-sin, profane vs. sacred, created a polarization which, I think, was responsible for much suffering, and indeed, I believe, historically, ultimately lead to the Holocaust, which was a water-shed event through which we had to face, nakedly, and terrifyingly, the contradictions within our own philosophies, which generated the event.

 

We are still trying to clean up the airways, so to speak, and re-construct ourselves after this event. We are really just cleaning up the religious and political philosophies that were acted out by people and the world of nations.

 

When you participate in Universal Judaism, you can leave the baggage behind!

However, never, ever, with disregard for the baggage.

 

Unity-of-thought, non-polarized thinking, requires one to examine the baggage too, for it too is part of Unity. How, indeed, is polarized thinking possible, if everything is a Unity?

 

Or, as Rabbi Gamzo, of Blessed Memory said, punning on his name, Gam zo ki tov.  “Even that is for Good”.

 

This opens us up to our next blog about individuality. We are not speaking about polarities. But individuality!

 

I’d like to hear from all of you out there. I hope I am speaking to your hearts and minds!

 

Blessings

 

R. Michael Shevack

UNIVERSAL JUDAISM PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY #2

We are continuing in our series which describes, pragmatically, the value of the Universal Judaism approach.

 

1.         Universal Judaism is Truth-based

 

2.         Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous

 

3.         Universal Judaism avoids polarized thinking

 

4.         Universal Judaism values individuality

 

5.         Universal Judaism is primarily a “living morality”  and most, secondarily, a legal “system”.

 

6.         Universal Judaism is not faith-based but knowledge-based.

 

7.         Universal Judaism provides direct experience of Providence/Grace.

 

8.         Universal Judaism produces that experience called “God”.

 

9.         Universal Judaism can breed or re-breed a nation (or nations) of teachers to transform the world.

 

10.       Universal Judaism perpetuates a Life-based doctrine, both formal and flexible, without heavy-handed authoritarianism.

 

Having explored #1, Universal Judaism is Truth-based, we proceed now to #2, which is, in a sense a corollary of #2:  Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous.

 

Because Universal Judaism is Truth-based, Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous.

We do not worship anything that is not the Truth, “The Whole Truth and Northing But the Truth”. Anything else is, to use the ancient prophetic word, an “idol”.

 

Is there a human being who has the complete truth?  No. Is there a government that has the complete truth?  No. Is there a religion? No. Is there a scientist?  No.

Is there a philosopher?  No.

 

Universal Judaism does not worship any philosophy, religion, or VIEWPOINT as the complete truth. There are countless views of truth— theories that may be partially true or not, depending on the conditions—- but VIEWS of truth are not Truth in its Entirety, the Unity of All Being/Reality/Existence, that some might call “God”.

 

Now, many of the so-called branches of Judaism (as well as many other denominations of many other religions) in practice worship their beliefs:  The whole of the oral and written law was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai— is the rabbinic dictum which is considered true.  But, when this framing of AUTHORITY is taken as the complete truth, a cemented religious doctrine—- you create a dangerous idolatry even of traditional religion!   We create an idol of ourselves!!!

 

Indeed, all idols ARE idols of ourselves.  We project into reality some certain understanding or viewpoint, and when we consider this to be TRUE, absolutely, we create an idol that then enslaves us, limiting us, preventing us from growth and experiencing MORE. A living God is always MORE!

 

Reform Judaism tends to emphasize “reason”. Orthodoxy tends to worship “rabbinic tradition”. But both these tendencies, when taken out of context, become idols and both movements, from time to time, flounder, cannot gain new fire, and cannot find new adherents.

 

Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous and therefore it is a practical guide to life.  We do not assert the Truth, like a DOGMA, creating an idol of thought, which then requires dangerous dismantling, a heresy, in order to inject new thinking into it.

 

From the very beginning, Universal Judaism solves the problem by allowing God to be Truth, and everything else to be “opinion”. Some opinions may be better than others, more comprehensive, less comprehensive—- but they are still just opinions.

 

This means that we must always be open to dialogue, internally within ourselves, and externally with others, because the impossibility of human beings having complete comprehension, REQUIRES it.

 

Universal Judaism is humble!  Yes, humble.

 

This though, does not mean that Universal Judaism is “anything goes”. This is hardly the case.  We live in Reality which has an Order. It is an Order OF Truth, what we might call a “Creation”.  In this ORDER there are requirements:  we need air to breathe, for example. We are not ever dealing— first and foremost— with ABSTRACT TRUTH. This is the problem with the “rationalism” of the previous era. It became so abstract, that it placed opinion (or theory) higher than Reality, and created a dangerous idolatry, which gave human thought priority over the planet.  Our entire ecological nightmare is the result of that!

 

Unviersal Judaism holds to REAL TRUTH as the most critical criterion. One may be able to prove that 2=4, but if that Truth means that I can kill two of four people, and nothing has taken place, then, this truth is not the TRUTH of Universal Judaism.

 

It is an idol to create an automobile that belches carbon monoxide into the air, putting our needs before the needs of other created-beings!

 

Idolatry is the cause of all our problems!!!!

 

We do not live in an ABSTRACT TRUTH, but in a REAL TRUTH, with real relationships. Each of these relationships is a piece of the puzzle. Each of these relationships is valuable and possesses some measure of truth. But, when we consider the relationship out of context to the WHOLE (and God is Living Whole, so the WHOLE always becomes more than itself), then the relationships become idols.

 

E=MC2 is an idol—- when it is taken out of context. Darwin is an idol—- when taken out of context.  Human love is an idol—- when taken out of context. Justice is an idol—- when taken out of context.

 

The CONTEXT is Real. How Life Works!!!  How this World IS?  Not, how we imagine it. And what is real and good so humankind can grow and prosper, in alignment with How Life Works!!!

 

So, the usual religious-bickering and divisiveness has no place in Universal Judaism. We learn from everything and everyone, and hold no thing and no one to be an idol we worship.

 

We are open to learning, but refuse to accept ANY learning, as absolute!

 

Look around you.  Who are you worshipping? What ideas do you hold SO sacred that you are not flexible, not thinking it through?  What are your prejudices, even religious prejudices that you have inherited?

 

If you are having difficult marriages, strained finances, political problems at the office, you may, if you look deeply, find idols there you didn’t know you had.

You are seeding the world with idolatrous thinking and experiencing, personally, the result of your errors!

 

If you are not willing to look, deeply, at yourselves and your beliefs, Universal Judaism is not for you!  If you ARE willing, then, you will open yourself up to the Prophetic Experience of being an instrument for revealed Truth— you, yes, you!!!!

 

It’s a gift open to everyone. Once, that is, you’ve cast off idols.

 

And if enough people join together in this task— then, we can accomplish something marvellous.  The de-idolatrizing of the world.  A world that SEEKS REAL TRUTH together, and does not get trapped in its political and economic idols— which are the cause of the great turmoil in our world.

 

BE FREE. BE WITHOUT IDOLS!!!

UNIVERSAL JUDAISM PRACTICAL SPIRITUALITY # 1

It was suggested by one my students, David Waterman, in England, to do a series of 10 blogs, which explain in simple, practical terms, why Universal Judaism is so very valuable.

 

I thought that was a good idea, and with the help of David, who is interested in becoming a Universal Judaism rabbi, I have put together this.

 

Let me outline the series, and then, one by one, each week by each week, I will elucidate further.

 

Universal Judaism is such practical spirituality– applicable to Jews, Christians, Muslims and our entire secular World Global Cultural, all of which share the prophetic-historical foundation– because:

 

1.         Universal Judaism is Truth-based

 

2.         Universal Judaism is non-idolatrous

 

3.         Universal Judaism avoids polarized thinking

 

4.         Universal Judaism values individuality

 

5.         Universal Judaism is primarily a “living morality” and most, secondarily, a legal “system”.

 

6.         Universal Judaism is not faith-based but knowledge-based.

 

7.         Universal Judaism provides direct experience of Providence/Grace.

 

8.         Universal Judaism produces that experience called “God”.

 

9.         Universal Judaism can breed or re-breed a nation (or nations) of teachers to transform the world.

 

10.       Universal Judaism perpetuates a Life-based doctrine, both formal and flexible, without heavy-handed authoritarianism.

 

Allow me, in this blog to address, clearly, succinctly, #1: 

Universal Judaism is Truth-based

 

What do we mean by Truth-based?

 

Truth-based  means that it has a correspondence to Reality.

 

What does “Reality” mean?

 

If an ant is crawling up a tree, does it see the same

bark that a child does, seated on a swing tied to the tree-limb?

 

By the same token, if we were to look at the tree under a microscope, would we

see  the same tree as either the ant or a child?  Or, if we, as we now know post-Einstein, mathematically “see” that the tree is really “energy”, even though we might call it “matter” when we “see” it by touching, then are any of the views of the trees here true?

 

Where is the Truth? They all have a certain correspondence to Reality!

 

Many  religious philosophies, mostly meditative or mystical varieties, when faced with the quandary of “perception” vs. “Reality”, have made the assertion that “it’s all illusion”. This is largely to help open up higher spiritual faculties which are not limited to usual bodily-sense-based cognition. But, in a scientific era this statement “it’s all illusion” is ridiculous, and is itself illusion.

 

An illusion that is orderly? An illusion that is mathematically understandable? If the tree is mere illusion, then it is hardly a meaningless jumble or fantasy. (Even fantasies have a foundation in Reality!)   The tree has an ORDER to it. Each mode of viewing it, the ant, the child, the microscope, the mathematics, reveals this order through different “lenses”,  meaning  different cognitive-scales involved. In a sense you can say that each view is VALID—within the cognitive parameters used— but is INVALID beyond that. Valid we might say is “contingently True”  given “such and such’.

 

This is similar to the mathematically analogy between Euclidean and Reimannian geometry. In Euclidean geometry it is assumed that parallel lines never intersect. In Reimannian  geometry it is assumed that they can. Each assumption produces a different geometry that is VALID within its own system, and has its own UTILITY for various tasks.

 

Similarly, different beliefs or religions or philosophies may be different in certain assumptions, but each should be VALID within its own system, and also possess its own UTILITY for various tasks.

 

And of course, some of these beliefs or religions or philosophies, may be based upon assumptions that while valid are not true:  It is not true that the earth is the center of the universe any more. This is still somewhat a valid viewpoint, here upon the earth, but it is not true— i.e. valid in all circumstances and all viewpoints throughout all times. Actually its validity is so small, one might legitimately call this an “illusion”, but it is never completely lacking truth.

 

It is TRUE if you don’t feed a baby it will die. This is universally-valid, provided the baby we are speaking of is real, earthly, flesh and blood, and not some other viewpoint such as a ‘soul’.  Can anyone find me a baby that would not die if not fed, and contradict this? I doubt it. But, I’m open to learning. The experience of a “living soul” (to use Genesis’ phrase) is not the same as a “disembodied soul”. It is 100% true that living souls must eat, and we cannot find any exceptions to this.

 

See? Some things ARE absolutely-true. These days, though, in an age of relativism, we tend to no longer see what’s actually true any  more.

 

Being Truth-based, Universal Judaism does not need to pit one “view” against another; labeling one “false” and the other “true”, “damned” or “saved”. What we do is ask the question:  “What is the truth in each view, and under what circumstances is this truth valid, and beyond what circumstances is this truth in-valid?”  “What is the truth in this in-valid view? When might it be true?”

 

Did Hitler have any viewpoints that were valid?  Did he have any ideas that were based upon certain viewpoints that are true?  Can we see him, not as a “cartoon” of evil, but as a human being?  Yes, Universal Judaism would even dare to do this. Dare to look at the truth of Hitler’s viewpoints, and not just get lost in the pain and see everything “black and white”, though, some things are so True they may actually be that black and white.

 

Universal Judaism is for discerning intellects and open hearts;  it is not recommended for the faint-hearted or dull-minded, unless they wish to learn courage and sharpen their wits. Nonetheless, all are welcome!

 

Now, the Ultimate Truth is something we might call “The Lord”, “God”. What is Ultimate Truth?  I do not know.  I’m merely mortal, at least to the best of my limited self-view. How do I know I’m limited?  I cannot even tell you what happens to me when I sleep, so how can I claim to know?

 

Therefore because Universal Judaism is Truth-based it is about searching, learning, wrestling with the Truth, and yet, remains humble not haughty.

 

While we human beings are gifted with the great ability to search out the mysteries of creation, what the Bible might term “made in the image and likeness of God”, we are nonetheless just a viewpoint, a humble viewpoint— and of course a dangerous one:  These days we can push one button and destroy the so-called “illusion” by one bomb. Humble yes, but a dangerous humbleness!!

 

Living UNDER the Truth, learning the Truth, identifying, qualifying and circumscribing (sometimes circumcising) the Truth— but never, ever believing that YOU HAVE the Truth, that you possess a pure, perfect, fixed REVELATION of Truth—- that is what makes Universal Judaism different than the other “Torah-worshipping” approaches to Hebrew thought, including Christianity and Islam, which have inherited this same religious viewpoint.

 

However, even a “Torah-worshipping” approach is VALID, given the circumstances of the history which generated them, though this is beyond the scope of this little blog.

 

More to come!  Stay tuned for #2!

 

Blessings to all of you who have been forthright and approached me to study.

May we continue this dialogue for Truth, together!!

 

Rabbi Shevack