This is a highly intuitive work attempting to advance our speculative conjecture about the cosmos – but fully comporting to our knowledge of the spectrum of various realities, across the sciences, both physical and social.
Essentially, Summa “connects-the-dots” (all of them) – and sees both a pattern and a catalyst – one-and-the-same.
Summa then delineates this (sole) overarching and unifying universal theme/dynamic.
Respectfully, this has not been done successfully prior.
Whether one plugs-in 100 dots (facts) or 1,000,000, the theme/dynamic will hold*.
The theme/dynamic is Quest for Potential∞.
No facts lie outside its realm and dominion; no facts contradict it.
Respectfully, while my initial process was intuitive, the ultimate proposition is empirical. Indeed, a unifying theory does not get more empirical than the Summa proposition.
Now, “change” is difficult – and accepting that the “cosmic code” has indeed been cracked after 5,000+ years of sundry attempts – may be difficult. Especially if it was not cracked by an Oxford don. However, the Summa proposition is “bullet-proof.” And elegant. And relatively simple.
The Summa proposition has intellectual integrity and elegance – and fire. I hope you will enjoy the ride.
The work is written within a Jewish context,
but its motifs are universal.
If the construct proposed herein proves to “stand the test of time,” science, philosophy and theology – as taught in their respective venues – will comport to its contours.
In due course... In due course...
* whether the fact is simple (like, say, 1+1=2) or whether the fact is an entire complex field (like, say Evolutionary Biology).
William Rice Kimball
President, Stanford Board of Trustees
HARVEY COHEN, Encino, CA.
STEVEN GROSS, Jerusalem *
GARY KAUFMAN, New York – Princeton
JOSHUA MILLER, Jerusalem **
SAMUEL WILCHFORT, Jerusalem ***
* formerly of Manhattan
** formerly of Great Neck, NY
*** formerly of Englewood, NJ
“A significant and possibly brand new way of seeing God and goodness as processes that can, in retrospect, be seen as embedded in the thrust of creation toward the (always still potential) fulfillment of potential...”
– Edward L. Greenstein
Professor of Bible
Tel Aviv University
“Birnbaum’s Summa Metaphysica offers the possibility of a 21st Century metaphysics quite compatible with many important and historic belief systems, including but not limited to Judaism and Gnosticism. And not necessarily contradictory to other major systems.”
– Dr. Bruce Chilton
Chairman, Theology Department
Remember the former things of old:
That I am God, and there is none else;
I am God, and there is none like Me;
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things
that are not yet done.
– Isaiah 46:9-10
Radiant is the world soul,
Full of splendor and beauty,
Full of life,
Of souls hidden,
Of treasures of the holy spirit,
Of fountains of strength,
Of greatness and beauty.
Proudly I ascend
Toward the heights of the world soul
That gives life to the universe.
– A.I. Kook, Lights of Penitence, p. 376
He hangs the world upon nothingness.
– Job 26:7
[all cited, as well, in Book 1; Part Two, Section 100:04]
God and Evil *
Dr. Sanford Drob **
* Book I (1988) of Summa Metaphysica
**Founding co-Editor, The NY Jewish Review
“Birnbaum’s proposed solution to the question of
divine origins, to the mystery of the kabbalists’ En Sof
(the infinite theistic principle giving rise to the God of Israel) is that “Holy Potential is at the epicenter of the Divine,” that God is, by His very nature, potential and possibility, “transcending, space, time and cosmos,” and ever-surging towards greater actuality. Birnbaum bases his thesis, in part, on the name by which God first became known to Moses and Israel: Eheyeh Asher Eheyeh, “I-will-be-that-which-I-will be” (Exodus 3:13-14) which he sees as a prooftext for his claim that potential is the holiest state of the Divine. Birnbaum sees the kabbalists’ sefirot* as “primal quests for potentiality” which bridge the gap from “emptiness” to “somethingness,” and thereby become the vehicles of creation.”
* parallel to Plato’s Forms
alert to reader of Summa Metaphysica / January 2015 /
The Appendix section for the entire series
has been moved to volume III
reminder / all volumes are available ONLINE, as well /
In the physical realms in which we deal, Quest for Potential∞ would be directly impacting organisms, and only indirectly impacting inanimate entities.
As regards metaphysical realms, clearly, according to the hypothesis herein, Q4P∞ would, at a minimum, be operational, and at a maximum, be all-pervasive and encompassing.
from Summa Metaphysica II - Beta: The Cosmic “Tool Kit”
Quest for Potential∞ is thus simultaneously –
• a FORCE
• a QUEST
• a POTENTIAL
• the ongoing open–ended COSMOS
• the Infinite Divine Extraordinariation
• the SPARK of LIFE
• the sum total of all eco–systems
• in other words, EVERYTHING as we know it
Not bad for a dynamic.
from Moreh Nevuchim chapter 72
- The Guide for the Perplexed,
by The RAMBAM – Moses Maimonides]
Friedländer translation 
lead sentence to Paragraph 1 of Chapter 72
KNOW that this Universe, in its entirety,
is nothing else but one organism
paragraph 15 (en toto)
“There also exists in the Universe a certain force which controls the whole, which sets in motion the chief and principal parts, and gives them the motive power for governing the rest. Without that force, the existence of this sphere, with its principal and secondary parts, would be impossible. It is the source of the existence of the Universe in all its parts. That force is God: blessed be His name! It is on account of this force that man is called microcosm: for he likewise possesses a certain principle which governs all the forces of the body, and on account of this comparison God is called ‘the life of the Universe,’ compare ‘and he swore by the life of the Universe’ (Daniel xii. 7).”
Introduction: The Metaphysical Gates of the Forest
by William Johnson,
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
“Why is Birnbaum’s paradigm uniquely different from
all pre-existing paradigms?”
Compare three and a half thousand year old Jewish philosophy to a majestic oak tree: roots, trunk, large branches, smaller branches and then leaves. Then figuratively, many of the daring medieval (Golden Age) Jewish philosophers often dealt with the trunk and the major branches, while many modern Jewish philosophers often deal with some of the branches, some larger, some smaller, and some of the interesting leaves. The Kabbalists often dealt with the roots,
but generally from an acutely mystical, esoteric,
and generally, obscure fashion.
Birnbaum maintains that the structural weaknesses in existing philosophical constructs, leave one no choice but to go after the major root. That if one gets a handle
on the major root, one gets a handle not only on the major root system, and not only on the entire tree, but, indeed, on the entire forest. That is, one will have in-hand the hitherto elusive key to the gate of the mythical metaphysical forest.
Birnbaum, whose works are rooted partially in Lurianic Kabbalah, goes for the root of the roots, the tap root, and in a non–mystical fashion. As a Master Diamond Cleaver might attempt to cleave an extraordinary and
large rough diamond with one deft tap, so too Birnbaum proposes to crack the cosmic code with one deft dynamic.
Birnbaum, the conceptual theorist, searched for a unique, transcendent dynamic which might, on the
one hand, almost by definition, be Eternal, and which, on the other hand, could possibly be infinitely dynamic. He conceptualizes a candidate: Potential/Possibility. Then Birnbaum asks himself if that dynamic multiplied infinite-fold, could possibly achieve the necessary ‘traction’ to ignite and then propel a cosmos? He emerges with Quest for Potential∞ (recursive to the infinite power).
Birnbaum’s approach and solution lies on the fault-line between Western and Eastern philosophy. Birnbaum avoids both classic Western linearity, as well as classic Eastern circularity in his formulation. However he will employ demanding Western Aristotelian deductive reasoning, as well as a plethora of Eastern concepts of complementarity.
Dealing in the realms of the infinite, Birnbaum in Book #1 brings to bear his original concepts of INFINITY-POTENTIAL, RECURSIVENESS-POTENTIAL and leveraged RETROACTIVITY-POTENTIAL, all in fashions certainly not employed previously in metaphysics or philosophy. He crafts his metaphysics methodically and very carefully anchored, while keeping a careful eye on the outer boundaries of Jewish theological tradition
In Book #2, Birnbaum labels the Genesis point as the Potential∞ Point. At the Potential∞ Point, potential Divine becomes the God of Potential. At the Potential∞ Point, potential energy becomes kinetic energy. At the Potential∞ Point, the Metaphysical becomes the Physical.
Moving to fill-out his overarching metaphysics, Birnbaum in Book #2 will daringly conceptualize and propose a series of sophisticated ‘cosmic metaphysical tools’. The approach as well as the arsenal of ‘tools’ is original and powerful. In combination with Quest for Potential∞, these ‘tools’ drive the cosmic engine of Quest for Potential∞.
In Book #2, Birnbaum introduces the concept of Infinite Divine Extraordinariation. Coupled with his patented ‘Quest for Potential∞’ dynamic, his proposed ‘Extraordinariation’ concept will be employed by the author as a daring philosophical 1-2 punch.
The series of ‘cosmic tools,’ employed in combination with the above-noted three particular ‘realm of the infinite concepts,’ merged with yeshiva scholar Birnbaum’s re-engineering of historical Lurianic and Hasidic concepts, net him his unified, overarching metaphysics. Deftly employing his key components,
he sculpts his metaphysical diamond key, which he will
use to “unlock the cosmic lock” to the metaphysical “Gates of the Forest”.
Bringing to bear a repertoire of scholarship and a wide gamut of skills, conceptual theorist Birnbaum whose first Book,God and Evil, I have assigned to Masters Degree candidates at Brandeis in Advanced Religious Philosophy in the ‘90s methodically builds his carefully constructed case. Resolutely stalking-his-quarry, the author surrounds and entraps it in one conceptual net after another.
In Book #1, God and Evil, Birnbaum does so from a Theological-Academic Philosophical Metaphysical perspective (encapsulated in his section 99.00 Unified Formulation in that book; see “Reprint of Unified Formulation” in this book #2).
In Book #2 Birnbaum constructs his case first within a Metaphysical Philosophical construct (“The Cosmic Womb of Potential”). Moving into Section 2 of the second book, he builds his case within a Poetic-Mythical perspective (“God’s 120 Guardian Angels”) and then, finally, moving into the final section of the second book, (“The Lost Manual”) Section 3 of
God and Good, he builds his case within a Holistic –
Self-Actualization Wisdom book construct.
Yeshiva Dov Revel’s inquiring-mind student in the late ’50s, Birnbaum in 2006 believes that the elusive quarry is now finally trapped and cornered. ‘Forged in intellectual fire’ under the multi-year tutelage of his rebbe and mentor, Yeshiva University’s legendary Rav Shmuel Scheinberg, yeshiva-educated Birnbaum believes he has not only firmly anchored his work meticulously in the Torah itself, but has erected fairly impregnable theological shields via the works of Rashi, Ibn Daud, Luria and Abraham Isaac Kook, in particular, to protect his Right flanks. Simultaneously, Harvard grad Birnbaum believes he has the Aristotelian camp and St. Thomas Aquinas intellectually at-bay on his Left flanks. He anticipates, probably correctly, that the Eastern philosophical camps will grant him ‘safe passage’. 18 years after the publication of God and Evil (1988) he is “good-to-go” for his long-awaited final assault on the ‘throne room’ of the Cosmic Code.
Birnbaum’s works are dressed in establishment Aristotelian-style garb; but their soul is Lurianic. This unusual duality compounds the power of his works.
Modern-day Kabbalists are highly likely to be simpatico to his treatise: After 450 years on the very periphery of mainstream philosophy, Kabbalist Luria’s ostensibly mystical 16th century En Sof is re-engineered by the author, and is now enshrined as a metaphysical centerpiece-anchor of Birnbaum’s formidable 21st century major opus, Summa Metaphysica.
According to the Author, only ‘possibility’ or its first-cousin ‘potentiality’ could have existed eternally.
“BY DEFINITION”, according to the Author.
This is key, because aside from the elegance and power of the SUMMA formulation, “BY DEFINITION” is what may very well render this construct quite uniquely “bullet-proof”, and further secure its position in the pantheon of philosophy. By definition, according to the Author, only “Eheyeh” “Potential/Possibility” (Eheyeh Asher Eheyeh – I WILL BE THAT WHICH I WILL BE) Luria’s “En Sof” can be eternal.
According to Birnbaum, metaphysical potentials –
in parallel to Luria’s sefirot, Rashi’s angels, Plato’s Forms – are the offspring. Our cosmos, in turn, is a latter-level reality–morphing of the same transcendent metaphysical dynamic. Philosophically and theologically elegant. As these esoteric matters go, Birnbaum’s formulation “keeps it simple” and straightforward enough.
Birnbaum’s Quest for Potential∞ (recursive to the infinite power), after Luria’s En Sof, is the turbo-charged version of “Potential/Possibility.” And everything according to the Author’s hypothesis, is both part of – and driven by this one – overarching sui generis transcendent dynamic. (The Baal Shem Tov, founder
of Hassidism, would certainly smile.)
Simply put, Birnbaum’s Summa Metaphysica proposition attempts to totally overhaul the way the world – East and West – looks at absolutely everything.
His proposed paradigm endeavors to totally change the contours and boundaries of, among other fields, Philosophy, Metaphysics, Cosmology, Cosmogony, Physics and Biology, for starters.
As of this November, 2006, Birnbaum’s key proposition of “Eheyeh” Holy Quest for Potential∞ (recursive to the Infinite power) and the Unified Formulation (see “Reprint of Unified Formulation” in this book) meticulously articulated therein, will have withstood 18 years of international scrutiny since the publication of God and Evil by Ktav in November 1988.
The Author posits: Discern and delineate the “highest common denominator” of the cosmos and that will lead you to the essence and core of Eternity, and, consequently, of the Infinite Divine Extraordinariation; Conceptualize/Discern an all-embracing unifying dynamic in the cosmos, and directly flowing from that dynamic, all major philosophical conundrums will melt before your eyes. Discern the dynamic and the key missing pieces in all the major sciences, including physics, anthropology and biology, let alone theology/philosophy/metaphysics, will inexorably fall into place, as well.
According to the Author, Quest for Potential∞ (to the infinite recursive power) is the Holy Qi that flows through Creation, through the smallest cell, through the oak tree, through Beethoven’s symphonies, through the athlete, the hunter and the shop keeper, through the sunflower and butterfly, through the Biblical texts and through the far reaches of the Milky Way and the cosmos beyond. It flows through the lovers’ twinkle, the baby’s smile, and the intricate nine extraordinary months of fetal development.
However, a concept of the order of potential power noted above, is not proffered forth every day. It is challenging to “get one’s arms around it”. And, as noted above, the philosophical writer Birnbaum has employed two complete inter-related masterworks, conceptualized and crafted over multiple decades,
to achieve that ambitious and formidable end.
Yeshiva Dov Revel’s 1964 valedictorian has now completed his final homework assignment.
Summa Metaphysica will emerge as a pivotal landmark work in the history of ideas.
Professor William Johnson
(With credit for the idea for the title of this piece
to Elie Wiesel’s The Gates of the Forest.)
Summa Metaphysica respectfully proposes an original
and simultaneous solution to these key inter-related
classic problems in philosophy/metaphysics/theology.
The fount, “origins,” evolution, structure and prime
dynamics of the cosmos
The so-to-speak “origins” of the “Infinite Divine”
or more broadly, of the Primal Force of the cosmos,
(if such exists)
The purpose/end-goal of the universe and existence
(if indeed, there is purpose)
The classic Problem of Evil:
If there is a God who is all-powerful and all-merciful,
why is there (gross) evil
David Birnbaum Summa Metaphysica philosophy treatise proposes its signature Potentialism Theory. See also David Birnbaum Quest for Potential (Q4P), Theory of Everything metaphysics Unifying Science & Religion.