The Path to Empowerment -
The Education of a Secular Kabbalist 3 - Doubt
"God is Truth" -- Talmud
The goal of the secular kabbalist is the revelation of transcendent reality. As Einstein said, "There comes a point where the mind takes a higher plane of knowledge, but can never prove how it got there. All great discoveries have involved such a leap." This is a scientist's view of transcendent reality. However, in science, that "leap" is limited by our prior knowledge of demonstrated reality.
In the case of the metaphysicist, that limitation is not necessarily present. As discussed in an earlier article ("The Search for Reality"), much of our "reality" is a creation of our mind. That "reality" is based on words. It varies from person to person depending on how each of us chooses to interpret those words. Our faith is the product of words. Then, how can we leap into transcendent reality with any degree of confidence?
From this, we see that the greatest barrier to transcendent reality is the self. Our world is largely of our own making and we stubbornly protect it. The "I" stands guard firmly at the gate.
What is needed is a singular reality against which our self-imposed reality can be tested. Further, we need a process for carrying out the test. Maimonides has provided us with a model for the former. "There is nothing else in existence but God and His works, the latter including all existing things besides Him: we can only obtain a knowledge of Him through His works." Then, creation itself provides us with the external standard we seek.
Now, we need the means to get beyond the "gate". That process is doubt. The typical view of faith and doubt is that doubt implies lack of faith. From the perspective of the secular kabbalist, a proper balance of faith and doubt is the means to a meaningful leap into transcendent reality. Unconstrained faith leads to fantasy. Unconstrained doubt leads to cynicism and rejection. When held in proper balance they provide passage through the "gate of I".
In the previous article on faith, almost every paragraph contained a question. This was done to illustrate the number of questions that a simple word like faith can generate. Questions are the tools of doubt. The most important step in resolving doubt is finding the right question to ask.
These ideas are not new. The Christian existentialist, Søren Kierkegaard thought that to have belief is at the same time to have doubt. In Zen Buddhism, Koans e.g. "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" are meant to provoke the "Great Doubt". The concept of doubt is very important in the Linji school of Zen. The Zen master Dahui Zonggao warned his students that they must doubt words to not be fooled by them. -- "Within great doubt there necessarily exists great enlightenment." He also said that this practice is also a form of meditation that "can be carried out by laymen in the midst of their daily activities." Another, Wumen Huikai, said, "... [understanding Zen is] just a matter of rousing the mass of doubt throughout your body, day and night, and never letting up."
Similar, a secular kabbalist must provoke the "Great Doubt" by raising questions about every word and assumption that created our inner reality. This process is very difficult and, possibly very dangerous. Our inner reality defines our identity. That is why our "I" fiercely guards the "gate" of our identity. In order to take us out of ourselves and into meaningful transcendent reality we must confront and challenge our identity. This is the path to empowerment. As the "Ethics of the Fathers" teaches, "Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations."
Then, let's take the first step. Examine your own doubts and choose one. Formulate a question that relates to that doubt. Next, during the week, use every available moment to focus your thoughts on that question. Be persistent and see if this brings some light to the inner darkness of your world.
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