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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In the Beginning

"Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." -- Albert Einstein

Recent evidence appears to reveal that the earliest beginnings of civilization were stimulated by religion. This is based on the archeological discovery of a 12 thousand year old temple that was erected for burial rites1,2. This occurred during the hunter-gatherer period of human history. Its construction required social organization and local agriculture. This led to the creation of cities and the beginning of civilized society. From this beginning, we see the intimate relationship between civilization and religion, for better or worse, through the history of the ancient nations of Babylonia, Egypt, Israel, Greece and Rome. And, this relationship continues until today. In its essence religion evolved from three essential issues: death, social cohesion and humanity's place in creation.

Death rituals raise the question of the value, meaning and purpose of an individual's life. Morals, ethics and justice address the individual's role within a connected community. Questions of humanity's place in creation have given birth to science.

Religion gave birth to science? In our age, when religion and science appear to be in opposition to each other, how can this be? The need for fixed and dependable agriculture became essential for the evolution of cities. This required the ability to predict the cycles of the seasons. People soon discovered the correlation between the seasons and the cycles of the sun, moon and constellations. In studying these heavenly bodies, they came to realize that their very existence depended on mysterious forces. These forces were far removed from them and, humanity had no control over them.

The response to these mysteries was both science and religion. Science sought to understand the processes involved in these mysteries. Religion sought to understand the effects of these mysteries on the human condition. The two were complementary paths to the same objective. Then, came the great breach, and they became contending paths.

Despite the contention, the reality is that science and religion are complementary. The revelation of the mystery of our true place in creation depends on a balanced approach to both. This begins when we recognize that there is no separation between the material and the spiritual. They are an overlapping continuum. Each affects the other.

There is a parable that illustrates this. There was once a cruel king that that built an extremely complex maze below his castle window. Whenever a criminal was brought to him for sentencing, he would send him into the maze with the promise that if he came out the other end he would be rewarded with great wealth. None ever survived to collect the reward. Until a tall blind man and a lame man were brought before him. The king thought it would be very amusing to send both of them into the maze together. The king watched with great amusement as the two helplessly stumbled and staggered. Then the two came together. The lame man climbed on the shoulders of the blind man. Being able to see over the hedges, the lame man was easily able to guide the blind man to the exit of the maze and a shared reward.

To demonstrate the validity of this approach, it is necessary to connect the realities of life in the here and now with the "spiritual realities" of religion. The challenge is made more complex when we realize that our scientific knowledge today is only a small fraction of the total knowledge required to understand the material creation. Similarly, Maimonides teaches that the perfection of humanity is in the acquisition of knowledge of God. This implies that we are far from complete knowledge of God and God's governance.

The sages tell us that we are not required to complete the task, but neither are we permitted to refrain from it. This is the purpose and mission of the Secular Kabbalist.




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