Wednesday, October 16, 2013

God and the Raging Soul

One who spends rigorous and existentially challenging minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years searching for God, starving for a ray of His visage, begging for a glimpse of His truth, thirsting for sensual confirmation of His Being, striving to empirically experience His closeness, and stubbornly clinging to the lowest threads hanging down from His luminous garments while staring at the stark, cold, empty, world of tears, agony, and gas chambers can feel nothing but resentment, anger, and insult when reading

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.

This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough. 

Only an atheist too proud and enticed or an agnostic too weary to continue raging could see the path to the Divine as "a single shawl/Wrapped tightly round us." Only someone that never tried or stopped attempting to fearlessly climb above the vacuum of fleeting moments of happiness and the crevices of serene fulfillment can so smugly grin at those who know the heavy price of those rare, stunning moments of touching Infinity.

Religion is not, at the outset, a refuge of grace and mercy for the despondent and desperate, an enchanted stream for crushed spirits, but a raging, clamorous torrent of man’s consciousness with all its crises, pangs, and torments. Yes, it is true that during the third Sabbath meal at dusk, as the day of rest declines and man’s soul yearns for its Creator and is afraid to depart from that realm of holiness whose name is Sabbath, into the dark and frightening, secular workday week, we sing the psalm "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters" (Ps. 23), etc., etc., and we believe with our entire hearts in the words of the psalmist. However, this psalm only describes the ultimate destination of homo religiosus, not the path leading to that destination. For the path that eventually will lead to the "green pastures" and to the "still waters" is not the royal road, but a narrow, twisting footway that threads its course along the steep mountain slope, as the terrible abyss yawns at the traveler’s feet. Many see "the Lord passing by; and a great and strong wind rending mountains and shattering rocks… and after the wind an earthquake… and after the earthquake a fire" but only a few prove worthy of hearing "the still small voice" (I Kings 19:11-12). "Out of the straights have I called, O Lord" (Ps. 118:5). "Out of the depths I have called unto Thee, O Lord" (Ps. 130:1). Out of the straits of inner oppositions and incongruities, spiritual doubts and uncertainties, out of the depths of a psyche rent with antinomies and contradictions, out of the bottomless pit of a soul that struggles with its own torments I have called, I have called unto Thee, O Lord.
And when the Torah testifies that Israel, in the end, would repent out of anguish and agony… "In your distress when all these things are come upon you… and you will return unto the Lord your God" (Deut. 4:30), it had in mind not only physical pain, but also spiritual suffering. The pangs of searching and groping, the tortures of spiritual crises and exhausting treks of the soul purify and sanctify man, cleanse his thoughts, and purge them of the husks of superficiality and the dross of vulgarity. Out of these torments there emerges a new understanding of the world, a powerful spiritual enthusiasm that shakes the very foundations of man’s existence. He arises from the agonies, purged and refined, possessed of a pure heart and a new spirit. "It is a time of agony unto Jacob, but out of it shall he be saved" (Jer. 30:7) – i.e., from out of the very midst of the agony itself he will attain eternal salvation and redemption. The spiritual stature and countenance of the man of God are chiseled and formed by the pangs of redemption themselves. 

                                 --Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man

My Soul Thirsts for You

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life.

                                     --Psalm 63

King David composed this psalm in the Judean Desert, while exiled from Jerusalem, therefore he was in a state of longing. Spiritually as well: when a divine soul finds itself in this world, it is in a desert. While it may attain a lofty degree of comprehension of G‑dliness, thus finding itself in a Judean desert, its present spiritual state cannot at all compare to its former spiritual state, before its descent into this world. Hence its thirst for God.

You are aware of only one unrest
Oh, never learn to know the other! 
Two souls, alas, are dwelling in my breast, 
And one is striving to forsake its brother. 
Unto the world in grossly loving zest, 
With clinging tendrils, one adheres; 
The other rises forcibly in quest
Of rarefied ancestral spheres.

                                               --Goethe, Faust


When Kierkegaard wrote about the sickness unto death, he was not remarking on a bronchial infection.
                                          --David Berlinski, The Devil's Delusion

Is there, is there balm in Gilead?

Quoth the raven,




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