December 17, 2004


What you see is what you get (Rabbi David Aaron, 12/17/04,

"Daddy, where is G-d?"

"Son, wherever you let Him in."
—Attributed to Rebbe Pinchas of Koretz

How do we open our souls' eyes to let G-d in?

The Kabbalah says, "There is no king without a nation." This point requires deep exploration. It may make sense that, in the human world, a king is dependent on having subjects who acknowledge his sovereignty. The last Emperor of China ceased to be emperor when there were no longer people who bowed when he entered the room. Even after the Communist government had exiled him, as long as people recognized him and acknowledged him as their sovereign, he was, in a very real sense, still a king, albeit without the power to rule. But G-d is reality, so how can G-d be dependent on human acknowledgment.

The world that you and I live in is a product of our perception of reality. The philosopher Immanuel Kant probed this concept. He asked: Do we see reality or do we see our perception of reality? Kant's answer, of course, is that we do not see reality, but only our perception of reality. In other words, is this world reality? No, this world is your perception of reality. Therefore, the focus and clarity of your consciousness will determine the kind of world you live in. [...]

The world you live in is a product of what you are looking and willing to see. This is expressed in the Kabbalah classic - the Zohar's commentary on the story of Jacob as he's going to Egypt to be reunited with his long-lost son Joseph. Jacob has misgivings about leaving the land of Israel, even to see his beloved son. G-d appears to Jacob and says, "Jacob, don't worry. Joseph will close your eyes." The Zohar queries, what does this mean? According to Torah, when a person passes away, someone must close the eyes of the deceased. The Zohar explains that the colors and textures and shapes of this world exist in your eyes. In order to enter a new world, a higher world, after death, the soul must first leave this world. This world exists in one's eyes, so the eyes must be closed in order to take leave of this world and see a higher world. G-d is announcing to Jacob that he is going to die in Egypt and Joseph will be there to close his eyes to this world, so that he will be able to enter, i.e. see, the next world.

Is the Zohar saying that this world is an illusion? No. The Zohar is saying that this world is your subjective perception. Your consciousness of reality determines the world you're in. Your consciousness of G-d determines how much of the light and the truth of G-d will be allowed into your world. To the extent that you acknowledge G-d, to that extent G-d will be in your life. This is a very crucial idea. Although G-d is, G-d is not revealed in your perceptual world unless you actively acknowledge and invite G-d in. [...]

Each one of us has a choice. You can believe that this world is filled with the presence of G-d who cares about it and guides it. Or you can believe that this world is one big accident, a chaotic mess. The choice is yours. But remember what you believe is ultimately what you will see. What you believe creates the world you live in.

The Talmudic Sages taught: "Everything is in the hands of G-d except awe of G-d."

The Hebrew word for awe, year, means both "awe" and "will see." Everything is in the hands of G-d, except for our acknowledging and seeing and being in awe of G-d. If we are in awe we will see G-d. If we are not in awe, if we are not open to seeing G-d, then G-d is not in our world. It's that simple and that serious.

This is the radical notion at the core of Western Civilization, particularly of the Anglosphere, that the only reason to believe in anything at all is aesthetic, but that the aesthetic justifies our faith.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2004 9:06 AM

The aesthetic can be compelling, and certainly is when we examine our hearts.

But far too many people make the serious mistake of searching for (and ultimately idolizing) a "deeper" aesthetic.

"Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds" (C.S. Lewis).

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 17, 2004 1:29 PM

The "deeper" being subjective, rather than objective.

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2004 1:47 PM

Let's just say that Sylvia Plath went too deep; Gene Simmons probably didn't go deep enough.

Poseurs like Lillian Hellman don't count.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 18, 2004 12:30 AM

So are you agreeing, OJ, that God is a subjective projection of your need for an aesthetically pleasing world? That's what Jeff, Harry and I have been telling you all along.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 18, 2004 1:58 PM


Everything is subjective. The only aethetic metaphor is God. That suffices to justify faith.

Posted by: oj at December 18, 2004 3:16 PM


Without an aethestic standard or reality, why would anyone want to project such a need? Where would the need derive from? Absent the standard, how would anyone even know what to project?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 18, 2004 4:50 PM

Does that mean that if a feminist sees fetuses as bunches of cells, they are bunches of cells?

Posted by: Joseph Hertzlinger at December 19, 2004 3:10 AM

Is this the argument that the human mind can't imagine something that doesn't exist? Even without deciding that argument, what does it mean to say that God is the aesthetic standard? How does that statement lead to God as a personal entity?

I was always taught that God stood for objective truth, but now I'm hearing that he stands for subjective feelings. Don't any or the theists on this blog see the contradiction? Joseph H hits the nail on the head as far as the implications of that line of reasoning. And this is the standard of truth that is supposed to keep fallen man on the straight and narrow track?

OJ, I take back any of my accusations of you as a Gnostic - you are a Solipsist. At least a Gnostic makes a distinction between the realm of the self and the objective realm of truth that he has a personal knowledge of.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 19, 2004 2:01 PM


People can imagine unicorns. People can write science fiction, full of time travel and aliens and nano-creatures. Some of the fiction may even 'come true' (as we have witnessed in the last hundred years).

But I do not believe people can imagine something that is formally impossible.

In a purely atheistic world, how would anyone "imagine" God? Why would they?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 19, 2004 3:04 PM


There's no rational basis for the belief in the self.

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2004 4:50 PM

How is it formally impossible? God is just an extended image of man, the Judeo-Christian god is an extended image of a certain kind of man, an Oriental despot. Why would they imagine such a being? To explain the unexplainable.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 19, 2004 5:50 PM


Everything we imagine is to explain the unexplainable. Only one explanation is lovely.

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2004 6:18 PM

An Oriental despot is lovely?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 19, 2004 9:00 PM

A Creator who makes us in His Image and therefore endows us with dignity, while setting absolute rules about the respect with which we must treat each other is the only possibility of morality in the world and, yes, is the most beautiful metaphor for the unknowable we can concoct.

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2004 9:48 PM