800.20 KNOWLEDGE AND FREEDOM (pps.112-114)

hard cover page 113

God endowed man with a rational faculty, which is also referred to as lev (literally: heart) in order to actualize every soul’s potential in due time.
-Abraham Ibn Ezra468

In the final chapter of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed, four levels of human perfection are listed in ascending order, with the acquisition of metaphysical knowledge regarded as the true end, the highest perfection, the mark of man, and the path to immortality.469

. . . the possession of notions which lead to true metaphysical opinions as regards God. With this man has obtained . . . the highest human perfection . . . which gives him immortality, and on its account he is called man.

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One can make a case for a correlation between the intellect and active Providence, but we would make it in precisely the opposite manner as Maimonides seems to do, and we would make the case on a collective level, as opposed to the individual level. That is, Maimonides correlates Providence directly with the individual’s intellectual and spiritual attainment; we correlate a contraction of Divine here-and-now consciousness with civilization’s intellectual attainment.

We posit that as the cumulative knowledge of Israel and civilization rises, the cumulative psyche of man demands greater freedom (in accordance with the dynamics of Eden).471 This in turn demands a corresponding contraction of hereand-now consciousness on the part of the Deity to yield man greater freedom and concomitant privacy, responsibility, and selfhood.472

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468 See ibid., p. 129.
Cf. ibid., p. 124. “The search for taame ha-mitmot (the reason for the mizuot) is the practice and intellection over them by which the neshamah rises to the Divine Presence. To fathom the divine wisdom and establish patterns of thought and behavior is conducive to coming near to God. They provide the best specific means for actualizing man’s potential. . . .
“. . . Mere observance without a quest for the reason behind practice is insufficient. The quest is crucial to the neshamah’s ultimate transcendence and nearness to God.”
Cf. ibid., p. 126. “Maimonides regarded the works of Ibn Ezra superior to any other Jewish scholar. In his ‘Letter of Instruction to His Son Abraham,’ he admonished . . . [that] Ibn Ezra’s [works] alone are meaningful and profitable to all who study them. . . . Ibn Ezra was in spirit similar to our patriarch Abraham.”

469 Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 42.

470 Maimonides, Guide 3:54.
Cf. R. N. Flew, The Idea of Perfection in Christian Theology, as cited in Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 42. “The attainment of perfect intellection is the highest aspiration of Thomas’ man. For him, as for Maimonides, the active, moral, social life is important but auxilliary to the contemplative ideal.”

471 See Wolfson on Spinoza in Religious Philosophy, p. 260. According to Spinoza, “Freedom is power, the power of reason by which man may control and guide the forces of his own nature, just as by the same power of reason he can control and guide the forces of external nature.”

472 Amplified below in Section 900.10.


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