Sunday, July 8, 2012

Two Thoughts of Faith

The following two ideas that I had learned some 25 years ago from Rabbi Saadia Gaon’s Philosophical work the “Book of Beliefs & Opinions”  (circa 6th or 7th Century) had inspired my faith in moments of doubt:

A) Addressing those who question whether the world has a Creator, Rabbi Saadia wrote that if the world created itself before it existed, it was not yet present to create itself. On the other hand, if the world created itself after it already came into existence, what’s the point in creating what already exists? Since either way the world couldn't create itself, it has to have a Creator.

B) Addressing those who question the belief in a soul, Rabbi Saadia wrote that nothing can give what it can't access. One who denies the existence of a soul is really claiming that non-consciousness gave rise to consciousness.  Since non-consciousness can’t access consciousness, it can't make a being conscious. Therefore, the source of consciousness has to be elsewhere, i.e. a soul.


  1. Comments to this post from FaceBook:

    Terian C: The point about creation is excellent and this I will use with my students this fall. I often ask my students if they believe that G-d created the universe. They will say, "no" or that there is no scientific evidence that G-d exists. I then ask them to explain each part of creation as science knows it and then when they get to the Big Bang they get stuck (of course) because there is no explanation that even with the Big Bang there would have to have been a catalyst.

    Terian C: The soul is trickier with students because of evolution and the rise of plants then animals and then our intelligence. They can explain it all away as the development of intelligence through millions of years of struggle for survival. My point to them is always, "But why then do humans believe in G-d? Why not, like wolves, have no G-d, no fear, no beauty, no art -- imagination and our understanding of a supreme being makes us vulnerable as is not necessary for survival" (as for wolves). They find this satisfactory...but the idea that the source of consciousness is the soul is excellent.

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: Dear Terian C, While I am not a big fan of evolutionary theory, there should be no contradiction between evolution and having a soul. The scientific narrative of evolution can be recast as a kind of evolution of consciousness. Simply speaking, as life forms develop further they are being formed into more sophisticated vessels to receive higher and more luminous souls. Higher spiritual development is good for a species, as it means greater capacity to participate in more areas of life. So the soul that inhabits a mammal is higher than what inhabits a lizard and certainly the soul the inhabits a human is yet higher. Even though this is not necessarily where I am coming from, it's an idea that can help you reduce the resistance you might get in the classroom when discussing the notion of a soul. I don't ignore scientific findings, I just have my own understanding which is based on Lurianic Kabbalah. It can be found on my blog in an essay called . My sharing this link with you is not designed to toot my own horn. Its simply to allow you access to where I am coming from. Best wishes :)

    Terian C: Who...would EVER think...that you would toot your own horn? Thank you very much for the link--I will take time with it today.
    Tuesday at 1:27pm · Unlike · 1

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: Enjoy it. If you can, please let me know what you think. I always value your perspective. :)

    Terian C: A great which I completely agree with. I know I mentioned to you and gave you this link I think about Carl Sagan's demonstration of dimensions interacting with one another and the inability to see the dimensions directly ABOVE us but it is possible for us to look clearly at the ones BELOW us. Consciousness on our level is very limited and not diverse. We are prisoners of this dimenison and most of our missteps are from our inability to see things clearly.

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: Very true. Opening those dimensions might have a lot to do with the long awaited messianic era and the spiritual enlightenment that's due to accompany it. I truly appreciated those Carl Sagan links you gave me.

  2. More FaceBook Comments:

    Sara L. : I used to live in Rechov Sa'adia HaGaon in Benei Beraq..... just sayin. Very well put together Choni Elchonon Kihleel thank you.

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: To Sara L., I learned the above ideas when I took courses in Medieval Jewish Philosophy in Touro College.

    Sara L.: ‎Choni Elchonon Kihleel, that sounds really heavy stuff, please forgive the expression. :)

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: To Sara L., Nothing wrong with the expression (not at least on this side of the Atlantic). My time in Medieval Jewish Philosophy really helped me with my worldview - including with understanding Chassidus and Kabbalah (I know that some will take that as a surprise.) In the past few years, I've had a kind of personal renaissance with reviewing what I learned in my college days from Medieval Jewish Philosophy. Right now, I'm reviewing the Rambam's "Guide for Perplexed" and some of "Duties of the Heart". However, I still haven't gotten to review Rabbi Saadia Gaon's "Emunot V'Deot". B"H hopefully, in the near future.

    Sara L. : Wow Choni Elchonon Kihleel you take my breath away with all your learning!! Unreal "chazak" my friend :)

    Choni Elchonon Kihleel: Thank you Sara L. I'm pretty sure that what I do many others can also. It's just takes a love for what the Torah teaches us about life. :)

  3. I'd really enjoy reading this very much! thanks, Choni! Amazing!!!!

    1. To Yamile: My pleasure. It's really me who should thank you for taking out the time to enjoy it :)