The Realness of the Intangible

An exciting new understanding came to me today, in my study of the book Alei Shur, the section called ‘emunah‘ (faith). It is an insight that I value. As always, although it is tied to my particular world view I will attempt to broaden it to make it relevant for everyone, regardless of religious persuasion or ethnic group. Ultimately I like to do this for myself as well. It takes on a richer meaning for me when it makes sense to all people, because this shows that the idea has been taken to its ultimate over-arching meaning.

I am referring to the three points in time of divine revelation in the world that Jewish religious books describe as creation, Mount Sinai and the future redemption.

The faith of revelation at the time of creation is a faith in a Creator whom we cannot see with our physical eyes, yet whose existence we infer from seeing the works of creation. The world cannot have created itself and the intricacies of nature point to the presence of intentional creation and power that is beyond our comprehension.

The faith of revelation at Mount Sinai of the ten commandments is a faith in a Creator we encounter directly and with whom we dialogue face-to-face. This second revelation will feel more relevant to those who believe in its reality. I won’t go into that here.

My study partner compared the first kind of faith to the developmental stage of object permanence. The Creator is hidden from view and can only be inferred, but every time we see creation we are reminded of existence of a Creator behind it. In contrast the faith of direct encounter and direct dialogue is a different kind of faith-challenge. There is nothing tangible, such as concrete creation to look at yet the Source is present constantly.

The third kind of faith is the faith in future redemption. This revelation involves consciousness of an ideal world and a fully revealed Creator of that world.

All three of these revelations are in a sense distinct points of time in history. In another sense they are above time and as such signify constant consciousness. Each type of consciousness has a distinct quality to its awareness-constancy.

The first kind of faith means having constant appreciation and gratitude for the Source of all creation and the gifts that come to us each day. The second kind of faith means knowing this Source did not create a world only to abandon it but is always there and this knowing brings us to always keep the lines of communication open in prayer and reverence for the One we address as “you.” The third kind of faith means living with anticipation in the positive sense of knowing redemption can come at any time.

What I see here is a progression from a) inferring the existence of a Creator from the imprints of tangible creation, to b) direct dialogue on a purely spiritual, intangible plane and finally c) to the most intangible of all – a reality that does not even exist yet but which can be felt by the human spirit as potential.

This last, partially hidden revelation is in a way the most revealed revelation of all. The hiddenness is a kind of revelation because it points to something unseen. The consciousness that there is something yet-to-be-revealed is what allows us to see the “hidden revelation” or what we call from our human perspective “suffering” as perfect for what is going on right now. The ideal cannot be real now because we’re not living in an ideal world. But the ideal can always exist in potential.

I drew lines of connection between these three faith-states and the blessing we pronounce: baruch (blessed) – the Source of all blessing, ata (are You) – You who are always there, Hashem (God) – the ultimate consciousness of Oneness and unification of the whole world that always exists in potential.

When Frankl speaks about meaning in suffering, saying ‘yes’ to life and embracing all aspects of life out of the sense that absolutely everything has meaning, we are called upon to muster up this third type of faith, the faith in future redemption whether it’s on a personal, national or global scale.

It is this faith that allows us to feel the positive tension between what is and what ought to be, between the suffering that should not be and the values that life calls us to fulfill, between who we are and whom we know we can be and between what exists in reality right now and what does not yet exist.

And it is this faith in the intangible – faith in the One who created us, calls us and redeems us as well as faith in the spirit of man and faith in the spiritual reality – it is this faith in the “spiritual” that motivates us to do the most tangible things.

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