200.01 General Quest for Potential (pps.78-81)
a Natural Order
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God, as the cosmic ruler, is beheld in His boundless majesty reigning supreme over creation, His will crystallized in the natural law, His word determining the behavioral patterns of nature.
The Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters and over the void. And God said, Let there be light.
From there on through this day the majesty of creation seeks its maximal potential.275 Life is daring.276 The cosmos strives not just for survival; it quests for its maximal potential:277 Long before Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to man, God grasped life from out of the void and created fire and man.278
Man inevitably seeks out the highest mountain, literally and allegorically. He girds himself and summons the guts, energy, and means to challenge it. Sometimes quixotically, sometimes daringly. Sometimes a fine line.280
Man will construct gossamer cathedrals with spires reaching heavenward, and project space probes to the far ends of the cosmos.281 Man stands questing, hands lifted heavenward.282
Soloveitchik describes “Adam the first”283 as “aggressive, bold, and victory-minded. His motto is success, triumph over cosmic forces. He engages in creative work, trying to imitate his Maker (imitatio Dei).”283
200.0 1c Universal
The universe seeks its maximum and optimal potential- inexorably.285 For this, we postulate, is its raison d’Ãªtre. We can only speculate on the precise hierarchic standing of various potentialities, but we suspect that spirituality is near the apex.286
For those philosophers who are of the opinion that God
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274 Soloveitchik, “The Lonely Man of Faith,” p. 31.
275 See Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 289. “The divine power spreading from the sefiroth into Creation . . .also descends below the human domain to living beings of a lower order, even to plants.”
276 “That they may know from the rising of the sun from the east. and its setting westward, that there is none beside Me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:6).
277 See Kant, Idea of a Universal History, First Proposition, as cited in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 216. “All the capacities implanted in a creature by nature, are destined to unfold themselves, con~pletely and con- formably to their end, in the course of time.” “Who can fail to discover that the hand of the Lord is behind all this!” (Job 12:9).
278 See Soloveitchik, “The Lonely Man of Faith,” p. 32 (citing Bereshit Rabbah 59): “Our sages said that before Abraham appeared, majestes dei (the glory of God) was reflected only by the distant heavens and it was a mute nature which ‘spoke’ of the glory of God. It was Abraham who ‘crowned’ Him the God of the earth, i.e., the God of men.”
279 See Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, p. 339, expounding on the views of the “Gerona circle” of kabbalists. “In this view, primordial man is . . . only a configuration of the supreme potencies.”
280 See Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 129. “Akiba, the rabbinic sage, is asked by Tinneius Rufus. the pagan, ‘whose works are greater, those of God or those of man?’ Akiba replies that the works of man excel, and as evidence places before him sheaves of wheat and dishes of cakes. Akiba regards the latter as greater not because he would denigrate God. For Akiba God and the human being are not contending forces. The sheaves represent the nonhuman givenness-the product of seed, water, soil, and sun: the cakes represent the transformation of that givenness, the actualization of the potential for the sake of the sustenance of humanity. It is bread and wine, not sheaves and grapes, which are sanctified in praise of the transaction which with human hands brings the natural process to controlled perfection. The ideals are not the final reality already extant in some realm of being. Rabbinic wisdom expresses the faith which calls for transformation. ‘Every- thing needs to be acted upon. The lupine must be soaked, the mustard seed sweetened, the wheat ground, and man must be perfected. Everything re- quires repair.’ ”
281 According to Herder, men of different ages are linked by a “golden chain of improvement.” Herder. Ideas, bk. IX, chap. 1, p. 231, as cited in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 223.
282 See the discussion of Soloveitchik in Peli, On Repentance, p. 14. Cf. “. . . a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, / Or what’s a heaven for?” Browning, Andrea del Sarto.
283 There are two places where Scripture relates the creation of man. The first is near the end of Genesis I; the second, in Genesis 2. There has been considerable discussion on the differences in wording and nuance between the two chapters. See Soloveitchik’s classic “The Lonely Man of Faith.”
284 Ibid., p. 15.
285 See Herbert Spencer, Social Statics, ed. cit., pt. I, chap. 11, #4, 65, as cited in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man. p. 241. “Progress . . . is not an accident, but a necessity.” See also Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p. 121. “Why did the universe start out with so nearly the critical rate of expansion that separates models that recollapse from those that go on expanding forever, so that even now, ten thousand million years later, it is still expanding at nearly the critical rate? If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size.”
286 Faith is described as “the queen of virtues” by Philo, On Abraham, XLVI, 270 (Loeb ed., vol. 6. p. 133).as cited in Passmore, The Perfectibility of Man, p. 61.
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