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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Antidote 
"To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction"  -- Sir Isaac Newton

Idolatry is the result of an excess of self-awareness.  This excess comes about as we see the world more and more in our terms.  Our imagination determines what the world and God must be.  We cease to be the observer that we were intended to be, and project our imagination on to the world.  In this way, we create gods in our image.

The gift of self-awareness that made it possible for us to acquire knowledge of God and God's creation must be limited in order for us to fulfill its promise.  In all things, metaphysical and scientific, we must be able to "step aside" from what we are observing.  However, if we put too much "distance" between ourselves and the observed, then the observed becomes increasingly nebulous.  As a result, we are driven to fill in the lost information with our imagination.  It is necessary to limit the "distance" between the observed and the observer.  This is particularly difficult when the observer is also part of the observed.

It is at this point metaphysics and physics join.  Newton's third law states "for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction".  Kabbalah teaches that for every created attribute there must be an equal and opposite attribute.  The opposing attribute that limits self-awareness is "other-awareness".  Other-awareness is the recognition that there is an observable world that exists beyond your imagination.  We are a part of the observed in that world.  If being the observer provides the knowledge that leads to dominion, then being the observed leads to humility and respect for others. Humility is not self-depreciation or submissiveness. These are the excesses of humility, just as arrogance and narcissism are the excesses of dominion.  Humility is the antidote for narcissism, arrogance and idolatry.  It is respecting others as you respect yourself.  Alternatively, to put in biblical terms, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself".

Like the opposing actions in Newtonian physics, the opposing actions of dominion and humility ensure that our actions remain within the boundaries of God's creation.  It sustains the harmonious balance of that creation, and avoids the chaos of excess.

What if Cain had recognized that Abel was a human being like himself?  And, that both he and Abel were striving to please God.  Then he might have understood that his shortcomings were his own, and Abel bore no blame for them.

What might have happened if the people of Noah's time had recognized that everyone deserved the same respect for their person and property?  Finally, what might have happened to the people of Babel, if they had acknowledged that there is an entity that governs creation and they were subject to its boundaries?

When humility is carried to the extreme, it leads to a loss of self.  Consequently, we lose the power to take responsibility for our actions.  In terms of the Anthropic Principle, we lose the capacity to be an observer.

It is this tension between dominion and humility that permits us to acquire knowledge of God through God's creation, not our imagination.  The concept of action - reaction in metaphysics is essential in Kabbalah, just as its counterpart in physics.  It is essential to the Kabbalistic model of the Sefirot.  Some call this model "the Tree of Life" or "the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil".  I would like to add a third name, the "Tree of True Self-Empowerment".  It also addresses the meaning of Gen. 1:27, "And God created man in His image".  The action - reaction pair of dominion - humility is one of the elements that are part of the Sefirot.

From this, we learn that true self-empowerment comes when we learn to balance the opposing actions within ourselves.  In this case, we must become aware that dominion and humility in ourselves are not mutually exclusive.  We can recognize the talents and capabilities that make us special.  At the same time, we can recognize the talents and capabilities that make others special.  Being able to maintain this balance is, indeed, empowering.
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