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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Search for Reality
"Go out to yourself." – Genesis 12:1
The above translation is a little different from the ones that appear in most biblical translations, but it is a valid alternative translation of the biblical Hebrew.  Hidden in the ancient language of the Torah is the guidance to the path of self-empowerment.  Just as these words set Abraham on his divine journey, so can they show us the path to ours.
Of all the mysteries in the universe, the most mysterious is ourselves.  Although we think we know ourselves, more and more research reveals that we don't.  It appears that our mind is encased in a shell of genetics, family and cultural influences that hide reality from us.  If we can't confront reality, then we can't empower ourselves to deal with it.  We become helpless in the presence of reality.  This is why science is so very careful to separate the observed from the observer.
Cultural influences determine our “national reality”.  What if we accept that “national reality” as part of our internal reality?  Then we lose our power “to form a more perfect union”.
The sages have taught that “The Lord God is truth.”   For a kabbalist/scientist this leads to a fascinating syllogism.  God is Truth.  Truth is Reality.  Therefore, God is Reality.  If the kabbalist is to achieve his/her mission of acquiring knowledge of God, he/she must confront reality.  This might be why Ralph Waldo Emerson said “the religion that fears science insults G-d and commits suicide.” 
The following parable might help to illustrate the way the mind distorts our perception of reality.  You are driving along a country road dotted with farm houses.  In the distance you see what appears to be a person standing at the edge of the road.  As you approach, you become certain you are seeing a person.  Then, as you draw close, you discover that it is a mailbox.  If you had turned off the road before the point of recognition, you would have sworn that you saw a person.  Many people have experienced this phenomenon.
What happened?  Your mind is filled with a vast amount of data.  At a distance, it began to assemble some of that data and formed an image of what it expected to see based on past experience.  If you turned off the road, you would have retained that image in your memory.  In addition, that memory will add to the data for future identification.
This is the way that, from before childhood, we create a world within our minds that can be substantially different from reality.  This is what makes it possible for humans to turn fantasy into facts and facts into fantasy.  If we must confront reality in order to achieve self-empowerment, then how do we break through the shell of our minds?
This takes us to the meaning of "Go out to yourself."  The sages tell us that, on his journey, Abraham experienced ten "tests" which transformed him.  The tests required that he confront reality as it is, not a world as he wanted it to be.  With each confrontation he aligned his inner world with the real world.  Amazingly, in this process of revealing the world around him, he discovered himself and the power that resided within him. 
This concept of self discovery through confrontation with the world, as it is, is common to mystical systems and psychology.  In contemporary terms, Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” said When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves. 
However, this leads to another paradox.  If our initial view of reality is distorted, how can we be sure that our changed view is any closer to reality?  The journey to self-empowerment continues.

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