Friday, October 31, 2014

Can Something come from Nothing?

Judaism teaches that Creation emerged ex nihilo- from nothing. Modern science also proposes that there was a beginning point wherein there was nothing. Both positions are essentially the same but have a difficult time explaining how something could spontaneously arise from nothing.  The religious perspective generally asserts that the something came into existence by the act of a God. This assertion is unacceptable to Science as there is no evidence of such a thing nor can the concept of God ever be anything more than simply a concept. There is another difficulty in explaining where God came from. If one is to posit the beginning of something then would God not be something?

The Jonah Myth & Its Meaning

The story of Jonah is an interesting one in that it presents a familiar albeit impossible narrative. The story recounts that Jonah was charged by God to go to the sinful city of Nineveh to cry out against it.  But Jonah was not too thrilled at the idea of going to Nineveh and indulge himself in rabble-rousing, so he hopped the first available ship out of Joppa that was headed for Tarshish in attempt “to get away from the service of the Lord.”  The Lord sends a storm that frightens the ships sailors and being superstitious they figure the gods are punishing them. This is when Jonah explains to these frightened men that he is to blame for the storm and that they should throw him overboard for their own protection. The sailors refuse to follow Jonah's advice but when the storm persists they reluctantly throw Jonah overboard and this is when a giant fish swallows Jonah and carries him in its belly for a period of three days until it arrives at the shores of Nineveh at which point the fish vomits Jonah out.
This is a fantastic story that contains a very unbelievable narrative. Jonah was swallowed by a fish or a whale as some contend and yet there isn't a fish/whale in existence that could swallow a man whole. Some have suggested that the Sperm Whale could have been the culprit however this variety of whale, which has the stomach to accommodate a human, does not possess a throat large enough to swallow a person. Further, no aquatic species, including whales, have air space in their stomachs which would be necessary for breathing and the story says that Jonah prayed in the belly of the animal which means he had to breathe.  This story presents many problems and the question we need to address is whether the story is meant as a literal event or if the story represents a legendary tale that is meant to be taken as an analogy.
Rarely considered in Judaism is the fact that in older Greek mythology the demigod Herakles (Hercules) was also swallowed by a whale, and he too had departed from Joppa.  Add to this curious coincidence that it was at Joppa also where, in Greek myth, Andromeda was bound beside the sea as a sacrifice to a sea monster.  So where was Joppa located?  In Greek myth Joppa was located in Aethiopia.   Aethiopia is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew geographic location called Kush.  Joppa was the capital of that region and a seaport city.
Like many Biblical stories, there are preceding myths of other cultures upon which they are based. This means that the book of Jonah is another tale utilizing coded elements from pre-history wisdom.  The Sea Traders of the time were Phoenicians, and like their close kin the Philistines, they worshipped Dagon, who was depicted in his statuary as a Fish God. Recall that another story occurs in 1 Samuel relating that after the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant and placed it inside the Temple of Dagon that twice the effigy of Dagon fell before the Ark. The Philistines were Israel's premier enemy in the ancient world and the Ark story is a narrative crafted to demonstrate that Israel's God is greater than the God of the Philistines. The Jonah story is a narrative crafted from earlier stories because it served the same purpose- demonstrating the superiority of Israel's God above the Phoenicians, which was the same idol of the Philistines.
Is it possible that any part of this legend might be literally true? It's improbable but a bit of deductive reasoning with a healthy dose of speculation can be applied to maintain a literal reality.
Let's surmise that Jonah took passage on a Phoenician ship, to escape God's mission for him. The Phoenicians had great carved prows on their ships, in the likeness of their Gods. This we know, from Archeological remains. So what happens when the Phoenicians realize that Jonah is the spokesperson for the Israelite God- YHVH?
Would they throw him overboard? It's very doubtful and the narrative of the story describes their reluctance. Seamen are superstitious, but not that superstitious. They threw him into the belly of the great fish, which was their ship as it was in the image of Dagon (Fish god) and likely named after him. Jonah remained in the ships belly for the designated "quarantine" spell of 40 days (also the designated fasting time for Holy festivals). Then fearing the wrath of his God, as soon as the proper formalities were out of the way, they threw him up from the fishes belly, at first landfall. Being in the belly of the ship he likely remained wet through the duration of the trip which caused his skin to prune and whiten in its appearance.
It's easy to see where over the years, even though the details of the story may have been confused, the allegory still remains at its heart.

What is the Meaning of Life?

I get asked this question so often and resultantly I have decided to post a short answer to this question herein on this blog. Whenever someone wants to know the meaning of life or the purpose of existence I generally explain why the whole of existence was generated and what the purpose of the cosmic gestation engendered on an experiential level.

Question: What is the meaning of Life?

Answer:  Consciousness is all that has ever been as it states in Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer:
"Before the world was created the holy one blessed be he with his name alone existed, and the thought arose in him to create the world."

but it has a perogative to be conscious of some-thing thus the objective birthed the subjective. This perogative is spoken of in Midrash Rabbah:

"Rabbi Yudan said: The day in which the Holy One blessed be He was one with his universe, for there was only him in Existence..."
"God willed to behold Himself."

The subjective is an image reflected back at the objective primordial consciousness and within the subjective space or void was the plenum of all possibilities formed. The formation was Consciousness- focused as energy- in the form of matter- creating a illusionary nature to the subjective called polarity= form and force. This subsequently gives rise to the subjective observer who perceives dualism and thus is conscious of its own existence. The generated experiences of the subjective observer contribute to a collective consciousness and enables the Object Observer to behold itself as in a mirror and as Consciousness beholds Consciousness it become self-aware and fulfills is perogative.

This is the purpose of Existence... and the meaning of life is the accumulation of your various experiences which contribute to the generation of the Collective thus generating self-awareness.

Musings About the Nature of "God"

The Sages ask a question: "Why does the Torah begin with a beit?" [Beit is the second letter of the Hebrew aleph-beit (alphabet)] The question is a fundamental of Torah scholarship and is the first and most important question as it lays the foundation for understanding the whole of the Torah itself. If one does not understand the answer and its implications then the rest of ones Torah study will be deficient. Of course there is more than one way to answer this question but I will herein lay out a brief answer which covers the essentials.

The Torah begins with the letter beit which is the second letter of the Hebrew aleph-beit. Why would the Torah begin with the letter beit and not the first letter- aleph? An equivalent way of looking at this question is to understand that each Hebrew letter is also a numeral. Thus we could ask why does the Torah start with the numeral two instead of the numeral one? The Torah starts with the beit (two) because the opening of the Torah is a description of the creation of dualism as opposed to the singularity of oneness embedded within the aleph.

The Midrash states that the purpose behind Creation is for "God to behold God."  In other words, Consciousness arose within the Primordial Essence of the Divine Source and the subsequent need of Consciousness is self-expression; this is the only way for Consciousness to experience Itself (i.e. become Self-Aware).

This concept is fundamental to the entire Torah based world-view that "He and His Name are One" and the declaration "Hear O Israel, Adonai your Eloheynu, Adonai Is One."  God experiencing Itself is a very important concept and can only occur within the parameters of a construct of duality.  Thus Creation emerged as a Divine expression from the beit of B'reishit (first letter of Genesis).  The Torah narrative begins with a beit representing the numerical value of 2 (dualism), meaning the potential actualized for "this" and "that."  The reason why the Creation emerged in this manner was simply because it is only possible within the context of conflicting expressions that Self-Consciousness can be actualized.  For example, we say that God is benevolent but how can we perceive the concept of benevolence without an alternative experience of malevolence?  If we say that God is Perfect then we must have another perception of Imperfection.  The natural laws of existence are defined in terms of one thing "opposite" the other.  Natural laws that define dualism don't simply oppose or harmonize though, their interrelation actually defines the concept of the "other," which is our experience of reality.  The manifestation of one quality automatically insures an opposite manifestation of a seemingly contradictory quality.  This is the nature of subjective Consciousness as the Consciousness of experience is dependent upon the opposing characteristics of dualism, which serve to define and create perceptions of the self (sense of identity).

The very concept of "God" cannot be experienced without the perception of its existence (as opposed to Its non-existence).  We perceive Some-Thing in our contextual experience and thus define God according to that experience.  However, the evolved personal consciousness realizes the illusory nature of its own perceptions and knows it cannot define God.  Therefore the individual personal consciousness casts off the restrictive definitions of God being Some-Thing and acknowledges that it is really No-Thing (from the perspective of the subjective creature).  This is the only objective reality, everything else is subjective experience.