A Grain of Sand

"I will multiply you as the stars in heaven and as the sand upon the shore." - Genesis 22:17

"I can see the master's hand in every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand." - Dylan, Every Grain of Sand (on Shot of Love)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nietzsche is Dead, part II

I pointed in the last post on this topic to an article from nytimes.com about religion in the modern world. The article points out that the truth claims of religion have been limited by modernity.

I see two points in the article. First, in modern, diverse democracies, multiple truths are accepted as legitimate. In the absence of any broad shared Truth (capital T truth) we use tolerance as a way to live together. In the good old days, we could condemn a heretic because they rejected a truth that was universally accepted. In the more complicated modern world no one has the authority to say that someone's take on Truth is wrong. This is the 'practical' problem of religion in modern society - our diverse society just can't function without a very broad and deep tolerance of multiple Truth systems.

Is anyone still reading? The second limit on religious truth claims in the modern world is not practical but substantive: science and history have decimated traditional religious views, at least in the realm of the 'revealed' religions.

These are two distinct problems and I won't deal with either of them here! I will deal with them both eventually.

Let me just say two things: first, I don't have a definitive answer to these problems. I struggle with this essential problem often, constantly, but I have been unable to resolve it in a way that the philosophically trained part of me finds satisfactory.

Ultimately the part of me that continues to need and affirm my relationship to the Holy One simply trumps my philosophical impulses. To those reading (?) who are inclined toward rationalism - or rather those whose rationalism is totalizing - that will sound ludicrous. And I can actually empathize with, I can inhabit, that view.

I feel very much of two minds. It is as though there are two distinct consciousnesses within me that really should not be able to live together but do. And their cohabitation (!) is not due to their harmony. It is due ultimately to my emunah that there is something true but unresolved in their cohabitation.

Ultimately I believe that this philosophically trained part of me is blind so something that is more elemental and true. What that is, and why that is, cannot, by necessity, be explained rationally. Nor can I convince anyone of it.


  1. Yes, someone is reading your blog.
    Here's a thought...Maybe having two distinct consciousnesses is easier than you'd expect because you only deal with one of them at a time? Or maybe because you can put the current information in a broader perspective and see that there was a creator still, responsible for everything, even for the various Truths. Just a thought.

  2. As difficult as it is to reconcile two truths simultaneously, I have heard that it is even harder to manage the trinity.

  3. roxanne - good comment. there is certainly a tradition of rational mysticism, if you will, in judaism. the rambam (maimonides) is usually the first example given of this trend. it is not that i reject that as a possibility but rather that in my experience, thoe non rational dimensions of religious experience are those that ultimately give me a religious 'knowing'. but it cant be a competition between these two modes of knowing. judaism is fundamentally linked to knowledge in the formal sense to ever just surrender it as being ancillary to the religious search. so maube referring to these as modes is exactly right - the are different ways of knowing and we need them both.

    moepackman - no comment!