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They bear convincing witness to the tragic truth that humanity is still only a potentiality and far from being a reality.
In the endless development of the human race towards its ideal spirit of holiness alone may the individual soul achieve its immortality. It [the soul] is always only the upswing, always only the totality of the upswings that are gathered together in the endless development.
The metaphysics of Leon Stitskin’s philosophy of “personalism”379 “delineates man as potential, a self-identifying activity of consciousness to be actualized by constant involvement with life’s experiences, and a process of conceptualization when ideas are transformed from being mere copies of phenomena to becoming ultimate purposes.”380
And so man, created as a personal being in the image of God, is only the raw material for a further and more difficult stage of God’s creative work.
Man surpasses himself infinitely.
To be a man means to try to be God.
Human reality is a pure effort to become God, to become ens causa suz.
. . . the spirituality of our nature makes us potentially God-like. The potentiality must be actualized.
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377 Berkovits, God, Man and History, p. 145.
378 Hermann Cohen, Die Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums, as cited in Berkovits, Major Themes in Modern Philosophies of Judaism, p. 31.
379 Stitskin, Eight Jewish Philosophers, p. 4. Cf. ibid., pp. 15-16, 18, 35. “Personalism, on the other hand, puts the mark on the human potential and insists that man is neither a tragic creature nor a perfect being.
“The notion of man as a potential is attested to by biblical, rabbinic and philosophic traditions. The biblical delineation of the creation of man in the divine image (zelem elokim), is an endowment in a state of potentiality to be actualized when man stakes his existence on the penetration into his being of concepts, essences, and empirical experiences. Every person is sacred because this divine potential is present in him. …
“As potential beings, we are given a Torah not only as a prescription of laws to follow, but as an exposition to analyze, to study and explicate in order to develop our human intellect. . . .
“. . . personalism posits a realm of the spirit where the self exists in an undefined, functional, developmental situation. . .
“. . . The overriding motive for commitment in personalism is grounded in a positive affirmation of life which stresses the gradual unfolding of the spirit and is based upon man’s limitless pontentialities for self fulfillment.”
380 See Saadia Gaon, Opinions and Beliefs, fifth treatise.
Cf. Goethe: “When we take man as he is, we make him worse; but when we take man as if he were already what he should be, we promote him to what he can be.” Cited in Frankl, From Death Camp to Existentialism, p. 110.
381 Hick, Readings in the Philosophy of Religion, p. 515.
382 Pascal, PensÃ©es, no. 434, as cited in Herberg, Judaism and Modern Man, p. 69.
383 Jean-Paul Sartre, L’etre et le nÃ©ant (Paris: Gallimard, 1943), P. 655: Ralph Harper, Existentialism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1948), p. 104. As cited in Herberg, Judaism and Modern Man, p. 31.
384 Merton, The New Man, p. 122.
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