Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Touching G-d

So basically it's like this. Just as one can touch a physical, tangible object with his hand, so one can touch a mental "object" with his mind. For example, a person can rest his hand on a table; he is putting one physical thing into contact with another. How can a person put himself or herself into contact with G-d when He is Invisible and not something that we can detect with any of our physical senses? How can physical beings such as ourselves come into contact with G-d, a purely spiritual Being? How can we be even sure that He exists? This can be answered by trying to answer the question, "What am I?"

The answer is pretty simple. First we have to answer the question, "Can I percieve my self?" Am I able to say that, yes, I am definitely present, that I am definitely here? Not many people will say that they do not exist, for at the center of existence is perception. The body is the only part of me that I can see, and therefore it is no problem to conclude that it exists. However, physical sensations are invisible, but my ability to feel them tells me that they exist without a doubt. When I touch an object, I am absolutely sure that it is really there.

Emotions themselves are invisible and untouchable, as well as the sensations that they register, yet we are absolutely sure that they are real because we are able to sense them. When I feel an emotion, I am absolutely sure that it is really there, I feel it with my heart in the way that a hand feels a table.

Our minds are definitely invisible, there is nothing that we can do to see our mind, yet it is absolutely clear that our mind exists because we can sense our own perceptions and can think about the outside world, the empirical world. In the way that a hand touches a table, and in the way that a heart touches an emotion, the mind touches an idea. Therefore, just as a table is real and exists independently, so too does an emotion really exist; it is not just a product of the heart's ability to feel it any more than a hand causes a table to exist. In the same way, an idea is real and is not created by the mind's ability to perceive it any more than a hand's existence causes the table to exist. It exists externally and it comes into contact with the mind.

Imagine if we were just a body. A body itself has no powers of perception other than nerves, it is an entity in and of itself; it is an inanimate object that was designed to be able to move; we see that a dead body feels nothing. A body is not the source of its own life; we know this because when a "person" dies, the body is motionless. Therefore, we understand that there is something beyond the body that gives it life. We can say that perhaps it is the brain, but the brain being a physical organ in and of itself, dies too, so we must wonder, what is the brain's source of life?

An emotion is a sensation that a living being has in response to a variety of internal and external stimuli, allowing living beings to interact with other living beings. But emotions also are not the source of a human's being life, because a particular state of being is not the same thing as the being itself. The emotions of the human, such as anger or joy, employ the body, such as with fighting or dancing, but they do not cause it to have life. If this was so, if emotions were the source of a human's life, when the emotions ended, so would life. Therefore, we can only conclude that there is something beyond emotions that endows a person with life.

The mind allows a living being to ponder his existence beyond both his body and his emotions, it allows him to center his attention outwards, while emotions only allow the being to consider his own internal status. Therefore, a being's emotions are not the source of his ability to connect with other beings, because they are purely internal, and even though other beings also have emotions, it is the mind that allows the being to consider that other beings also have emotions. In other words, your emotions can be directed towards other people, which is fascinating really, because emotions are completely self-serving tools; it is the mind that allows us to direct our emotions towards other living beings. Therefore, it is the mind that employs the emotions and the body in order to create relationships. But the mind is also not the source of life, because the mind is just the tool that makes sense of the internal and the external happenings; the mind does not give the person life by being able to think about that life. Unfortunately, there are mental disorders where a person's mind essentially disappears, such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer's, but the person does not cease to exist in such cases. Therefore, we have to conclude that the mind is not the source of a person's existence, or life; perception is not what makes us alive, because perception can end and life continues.

The soul serves as the human's true sense of self. It cannot be said that the body is "me," because I do not necessarily feel myself to exist in the way that my body looks. My emotions are not "me" because they are ever-changing, regardless of how I understand things. Rather, they are states that I exist in in response to external and internal stimuli. My mind is not "me," although I am able to perceive and understand things by using it, and my mind can be affected in powerful ways by the information that is put into it. However, no matter what information of any sort (ideas, music, imagery, relationships, sensations) I introduce into my mind, and no matter how powerfully my understanding of things is altered due to my mind's exposure to those things, I have a sense of self deep within me that is untouched and unaltered by those things. My existence is independent from those things that I expose myself to - my nature cannot be changed. Therefore, what I am cannot be changed, a soul cannot be altered by any internal or external presences. My body feels things, my emotions run wild, my mind travels to all kinds of places, but neither of them can change my soul, rather, the ways that they are used either allow, or keep me from, getting into touch with what I am, with revealing my soul, which is really me. I can only know myself by treating my body, emotions, and mind, with respect and care, and only then am I able to get in touch with my deepest self. Once I get in touch with my deepest self, the soul, then I am able to begin treating my soul with respect and care, I can begin to put my soul into contact with G-d, which means that I have to be mindful to treat my body, emotions, and mind, as tools of holiness. This requires that I pay attention to what I do with my body, what emotions I feel, and how and what I think. Only then can I alter my soul, it can only move upwards, not downwards. The mind, emotions, and body can move downards, distancing me from my soul, but when they move upwards, they move me closer to it, and when I contact it, I can move it upwards closer to G-d.

The soul is the source of life, but however, it is not the source of its own life, because it also does not make sense that the soul willed itself into existence. Therefore, we understand that the soul was "made" by G-d, that G-d put "some of Himself" into the human body, as Genesis states. The next "step up" is G-d Himself, He is above the soul, unknowable in absolution to the human being, but nevertheless entirely and deeply experiencable, since He made us from Himself. If we are a soul, then we are deeply and absolutely intimately a part of G-d Himself, we were made in His "image." G-d's "body," His "emotions," and His "mind," are the models for our body, emotions, and mind, and the soul is a piece of G-d.

You must put yourself into contact with G-d by touching Him with your soul. How do we move our soul? Since we are souls, we have to learn how to move, in the spiritual sense. We can move our bodies, we can move our emotions, we can move our minds, but how do we move? How do we move ourselves, how do "our souls" move? Once we can do that, we can move our soul towards G-d. We use the mitzvot, the commandments. G-d can move towards us, but He waits for us to make the first movement, otherwise His movement would perplex, shock, and damage us, as if our entire foundations were suddenly changing without our understanding or will for them to change. This is why G-d gave us free will, once we desire it, it can happen. When we walk down that path, it happens, we see G-d as a direct function of the input.

The sages of the Talmud say that we must first control our bodies, emotions, and minds, and only then do our souls bring G-d into focus, and we begin to "see" Him. However, people today cannot do this on their own, or at least only a superminority of humanity can do this, which is the reason that G-d gave us the commandments, they allow us to near G-d, they teach us how to put our bodies, emotions, minds, and souls into contact with Him without having the ability to find out how on our own. Only Abraham was able to derive the commandments from within himself, but the supermajority of us have no clue how to do that.

Through our souls, we can see G-d. Where do we see Him? Since we control our bodies, our emotions, and our minds before we see G-d, we begin to see all of these things as being of G-d; we don't see G-d in them, we see them in G-d. It is then that we see our soul as being a part of G-d; we no longer see it as something that comes into contact with G-d, we understand that it, that I, that the person, is a part of G-d, that while we are we, while we are individuals, that we are seemlessly connected to G-d. The Kabbalah speaks of this process as removing the layers from an onion. When we use our bodies, emotions, and minds properly, we strip away the layers and reveal our souls, and shortly after, we reveal G-d.

G-d can do this on His own, as He has done it a few times in the Torah, but it would be in vain for Him to do it for us. Not only would it be in vain, it would be damaging, for the sudden revelation of G-d to a human, His sudden peeling back of all of the layers, skipping the process, would be extremely violent and would sent a human being into a state of shock and would probably kill him or mame him. Therefore, nearing G-d needs to be a process, not sudden and instant. Indeed, when G-d gave the Torah to the Jews, He revealed Himself to them all, and they all saw Him, without being ready. When they saw Him, they yelled to Moses, "Let us not near the foot of the mountain, lest we see G-d and die!" At the giving of the Torah, it is reported that all who were there experienced prophecy, and that they "heard lightning" and "saw thunder";the natural world itself was shattering as G-d was revealing Himself to them. This is why G-d keeps Himself "hidden" from the world. Every individual contains both the internal ability and the external commandments to expose this revelation of G-d, and He is waiting there "on the other side" for us to reveal Him, ever patiently, and when we do this, He shows Himself to us.

G-d is a figment of our imagination

A little "philosophical" nugget for the night, and I would appreciate any feedback that ya'll have on this. To cut to the chase - is it possible that G-d is really a function of the human's mind to believe that He exists, trumping if He really exists or not? Is the belief that G-d exists more important than His existence? Therefore, if G-d did not really exist, it wouldn't matter, because the belief would be more important than the fact.

Maybe G-d is an illusion of the mind. This idea is actually more far-fetched than the supposedly far-fetched belief in the existence of G-d.

Let us assume that G-d was a figment of the mind, that the mind was able to produce a notion that He exists, but which negates His actual existence. For example, it would be like wearing glasses to make your eyesight better, but which also made you see things that weren't really there. Your eyesight was improving, but you also saw things that did not really exist. If somebody sold me glasses like that, I should want my money back!

As it is, G-d is not fully knowable to the human mind; He is an absolute Being, and our knowledge of Him can always be only finite and in line with our abilities to understand. Think about it, it would be a dauntingly complex process -- the mind creates an idea of G-d that is only partially knowable so that it fools a person into thinking that G-d actually exists but is not totally knowable. As the person comes to know G-d more and on deeper levels, the mind gradually removes its own barriers and develops the idea.

This would require the brain to have infinite abilities, beyond the consciousness of the individual, meaning that the mind has a degree of independence from the human that possesses it. If the human being was in charge of his mind's own growth, it would require him to master all areas of his brain so that he could allow it to leak information to him as he became ready and to believe that he was not in control.

The information that a person’s brain records cannot come together in a coherent whole if the person does not believe that there is a pervasive unity to all that exists. If there was no unity in all that exists, then all information, and everything that exists, would exist in discordance with everything else, and eco-systems, for example, would be impossible. In an eco-system, everything is related in some intricate way; in the same vein, the entire world is an eco-system, and in a world where concepts exist and not just physical objects, we must have an eco-system of concepts.

Nobody can deny the importance of an eco-system, and it is hard to deny the importance of understanding the function of the parts in the eco-system in their relation to the whole. It would be equally foolish to conclude that there is no whole, that only the parts exist. This discordant view would cause the world to fall apart, which is why every religious and philosophical system believes in a coherent whole. Perhaps evolution can be credited for creating the physical world’s eco-system, but we cannot credit evolution for its creation of the need for a conceptual eco-system. Even if everything is united, if the parts “just happened to fall together perfectly” and were not put together, then nothing would keep them from falling apart. If the forces that created this world and the order in it were random, then they could just as easily randomly cease to function, but this hasn’t happened yet.

Thinking that G-d exists because humans desire Him to exist, would be like creating and programming a computer to help you with life's most difficult problems, but to cause yourself to forget that you were the one that programmed it in the first place. In reality, since you were the one that programmed the computer, you don't really need it because all the information that it contains, it contains because you contained it and programmed it likewise. It would be far more feasible to believe that the computer really did know everything, and that it was programmed by somebody much more knowledgable than you. The former concept is incredibly far-fetched because we are still discovering basic functions of the brain itself - it would be impossible to say that we, as human beings, endowed the brain with all of the information that it has. It is more logical to believe that something else created the brain, which we already believe was evolution.

It would be rediculous and impossible to conclude that G-d is a figment of our imagination. This would mean that the mind is, as we go along, inventing an infinite, perfect, and absolute notion of G-d, and as we near understanding more, it invents more information to make accessible to us, and it does so completely arbitrarily! If the brain was actually able to create a perfect idea and to contain it in an accessible lobe, then the brain would be G-d!

This is an eery notion that says that, somehow, every brain is made in the same way with the same abilities, and that tabs are kept on each brain in order to know when to give it more information; it is as if each brain were hooked into a "Matrix" of sorts, and observed all the time by an external consciousness, which acted upon it from time to time. It says that each brain is actually part of a bigger brain and that each human being has a section of that brain in his or her head; it says that we are all hooked into a Matrix. Somewhere, there is a huge brain just sitting and thinking, a huge conscious, intelligent, brain, and we are just mini-brains with bodies. Our brain (the one in our head) would have to be "more infinite" than the (supposedly) infinite ideas it leaked into our minds. In other words, if the brain was able to complete such a daunting and complicated task, it would have to have unlimited and unrestricted access to information, and the ability to leak information to us as it wanted, and yes, it would also have to posses free will, the ability to decide - it would have to have a mind of its own, a connection to a mainframe.

If brains had minds, i.e., they would not be under our control, it would render any creature with a brain a hopelessly schizophrenic being. This is not too far-fetched, for our brain takes care of the majority of our body's functions, such as digestion, breathing, keeping us alive while we sleep, and causing us to drop hot things, and we have absolutely nothing to do with these things. Our body is truly schizophrenic, but this is normal. The brain takes care of all of these tasks independently and without our permission, but we are incredibly thankful (or at least we should be), so can we say that the brain has a mind of its own?

Indeed, this is what certain types of scientists say about G-d, that it is a schizophrenic but distinctly human voice inside the head. Interestingly enough, they do not say that the body's functioning is a product of the human's desire for it to function! Is digestion a figment of our imagination in the same way that the brain's mental functions are?! The brain's physical functions are automatic and necessary, but the brain's mental functions are not! Is this not a physical age?! Does digestion occur because we wish for it to occur? If so, we would be dead by now, because we have other things to do than worry about making our bodies carry out vital functions; we wouldn't have gotten so far evolutionary if we had to spend all day long thinking about making our body's work.

Scientists do not say that our body is schizophrenic, rather, they exalt and revere its amazing abilities, but at the same time brand belief in G-d as schizophrenic, and primitive. Is the body's primitiveness not the its key to survival? Perhaps "primitive" is the wrong word, perhaps "simplicity" is more accurate. All of this smacks of intelligent design.

We have not even begun to tap into the full potentials of the brain, so the notion that the brain somehow is a carrier of dense amounts of information is not far-fetched at all, and it is a wonder if we will ever be able to approach the horizon of the brain's outerlimits. It is hard to imagine that evolution has created such an organ through random chance alone. People who assert that G-d is a figment of the mind's imagination, probably unknowingly, are buying into this theory without realizing how impossible it really is; it is more likely that G-d exists, and it leaves the former alternative unbelievable and full of superstition and the latter starkly believable and rational.