Faith, Knowledge, and Accountability: Deep Thoughts, Public Lands, A Cardinal and Two Doves

Deep Thoughts for a Cardinal. I think it’s a male northern cardinal. Although I also saw the bird’s female mate, she flew away before I could get the camera.
Faith —> Knowledge —–> Faith

In the Augustine paradigm, the relationship between faith and knowledge is portrayed as cyclical, where the word faith is perhaps used synonymously with understanding, and knowledge perhaps is used synonymously with reason. It is not unlike learning about imaginary numbers. It isn’t too hard to learn the rules with the abstract symbol i (and I highly encourage people to do this before understanding why), but learning can be difficult if one constantly contemplates what imaginary numbers mean. Once the rules are learned, when confronted with the description of many problems in the physical world (diffraction, dynamic systems, or even quadratic or higher order polynomial equations requiring solution), it can be in practice difficult if not impossible to proceed to a solution of these problems without i. The imaginary number essentially allows the description of a variable with an observable with 2 dimensions simultaneously present, and its formulation, provides an interesting and, for reasons not fully understood by me, accurate set of rules for how to manipulate variables (add, subtract, multiply, and divide) when both dimensions are present, so that information is not lost.

In the Gregorian paradigm one has:
Ignorance —> Faith ———> Knowledge.

So contemplating how I visualize the system, my initial conception is to see the Gregorian axis modifiied with an Augustine cycle between knowledge and faith, and with a secondary axis perhaps linearly independent but that is largely scientific between fallacy and truth.

Now here, I discern the cries of the scientists: is not then science a superior method of distilling truth, as it is seemingly a more certain path? I would argue, again using imaginary numbers as an example, that there are some questions that cannot be discerned with scientific methods, and that faith may be required to proceed in the solution of the problem because of its dimensionality. So, just like the number i, we have what we can describe as God, or “that with no name”, that has power and existence which is manifest in the world. From a conceptual point view, then, God is defined in our world, although only God’s projection onto our mind may be accurately contemplated. We are now left with the task of distilling from the various historical descriptions, revelations through humans, and understandings, as well as our own experience of the physical world, God’s projection onto our own mind.

I once asked someone what they thought the definition of a good scientist was. They gave me an answer I have kept with me for many years:

“A good scientist is someone who always asks why, but can be satisfied with how.”

This statement probably summarizes the dimensionality problem.

So in terms of drives, both faith and knowledge are representative of a drive to know truth. Such drives (yetzer) understood by the heart (levav)are described even in the Torah as I learned yesterday morning. Are these drives good (yetzer hatov)? or evil (yetzer harah)?. If one assigns to God that which is good, and perceives in man, made by God, that which is evil, from whence does evil come? Does evil really exist? There are many descendent cultures that make use of “the evil eye” as the conceptualization of a source of evil that can be possessed by some humans. Although not mentioned in the Torah, the evil eye seemingly is mentioned in the Pirkei Avot, and the hand of Miriam (sister of Moses) is said to protect against it. In Christian tradition, Jesus is said to have “looked at a fig tree, and made it wither.” hence owning or possessing a power of equal or greater force than this “evil eye”. It is to my knowledge, a highly unique story of the Bible in that it is the only story where Jesus is stated to have wished or induced something ill on another living thing (Mark 11:20-22; Matthew 21:19).

In the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible), although evil is described in man (and the snake), a powerful evil force is not given a name. It may be that naming something gives it power (in Jewish tradition G_d is not even spelled out or really named). Although there is extensive talk of foreign gods, and gods of other nations, for example Baal, there is no mention of Satan. One often hears talk of the wrathful nature of the Old Testament God. This conceptualization may be ascribed to the fact that good and evil potency are not yet split in the conception of God. Thus God is capable of causing both good and evil in the world in that conception. In this conceptualization, God is similar to man in that God possesses both good and evil inclinations or drives. The primary distinction of God from man is that of potency. The first mention of an entirely evil force larger than man occurs in 1 Chronicles 21:1 where Satan is a force that influenced David to take a census. The Jewish conceptualization of an entirely evil entity larger than man and able to influence and inhabit man probably occurs during Babylonian exile when Chronicles was written – with influence from Babylonian culture. Interestingly, in the Qu’ran, written much later, but also derived from nomadic middle eastern culture slightly divergent from Judaism, the story of Genesis has Satan present from the very beginning. In the Qu’ran, good and evil potency ARE split from the very beginning in the conceptualization of God. God is all good; albeit capable of authoring bad acts to distribute justice. Evil influence over humans derives from Satan. God never desires that we act in an evil way. In the Judaic tradition, rabbis have often commented on the difficulty that God is seen to use certain people to evil purposes. This is seemingly a contrast in the two traditions: that God may be a source of evil influence on man. The commentaries of the rabbis focus on the difficulty of justice of such a system. A person may in fact simply be given a bad lot in life subject to forces larger than themselves, and how does one hold an individual accountable for an evil influence if it derives from God?

A Silent Pair of Living Mourning Doves
In order for accountability to exist (to the world, to other humans, and to God), there must be present an ability to choose one’s behavior. I will leave this question here for the moment, in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah next week.

Yesterday was also National Park Lands Day, and the day after the autumnal equinox, that is the first full day of autumn.

Although I was in Torah study or Humash, when the time to volunteer was scheduled, I did visit Rock Creek Park and the local forest with my dogs in one of the scheduled events for the day. I wanted to honor the parks who have given so much to me. When I breathed in the air and life of the forest, I was tempted to go for a 3 mile unstructured hike. I was carefully guided back onto the more gentle 0.5 mile loop by the very nice ranger where we proceeded to study a variety of mushrooms.

I’m told that a big bag of the right ones will sell at Balducci’s for about $70.

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