Avoiding dogmatism through realizing that human-beings are limited beings

[Based on my previous article: Nature and Dogma – The Objective Good and its limited subjective perception (2020)]

“Yet the great bird rises from the vast ocean and is borne on the great mass of air, the only support capable of carrying its immensity and soaring at an amazing height. A cicada has just hatched and a very young pigeon that saw it laughed at the big bird and said: ‘What is the use of flying so high? Why do you expose yourself like this? We who are happy enough to fly from branch to branch without leaving the suburbs; if we fall, we don’t hurt ourselves; Every day we find our necessities without fatigue. So why do you go so far? Why do you fly so high? Does not the worry increase in proportion to distance and altitude?” This is how two little creatures talk about something which is beyond their competence. A small mind does not understand what a big mind encompasses. A short experience does not extend to distant facts. The mushroom that survives only one morning does not know of a lunation. The insect that lives only one summer does not understand the sequence of the seasons. Do not ask short-living beings for information about the great tortoise, whose period is five centuries, or the great tree, whose cycle is eight thousand years. Even old P’eng-tsou will tell you nothing beyond the eight centuries that tradition ascribes to him. Every being has its own development formula.”

Excerpt of Zhuangzi’s Nanhua Zhenjing. Chapter 1. In: Léon Wieger: Les pères du système taoïste. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1950, p. 209 f. (Translation mine.)

Indeed, same as a beet, an ant or a frog cannot conceive the enormous world, as we can conceive it, we cannot really conceive that which is beyond us. And still, some people dare to see the world as an absolute and call people who believe in God in blemish ways. Even the Intelligent Design movement is sometimes called pseudoscientific, just because they advocate that there is an intellect, which created or designed the universe. At first Intelligent Design scientists are not doing pseudoscience, because they use the scientific method, so Untelligent Design is science, and in the same way, materialistic views are in no way more scientific or better. At first, the things which materialists state concerning the microevolution are not doubted by scientists advocating the Intelligent Design, they are on the small-scale and well observed and explained. In the same way, I do not doubt science, but make clear that the theory of macroevolution has severe gaps and nothing speaks against proposing a God in the beginning, or an energy, or big bang, or whatever [cp. Timo Schmitz: Das philosophische Erkenntnisproblem in Der Baum der Erkenntnis – Der Konstruktivismus evolutionärer Erkenntnistheorie (21 July 2019). In: Timo Schmitz: Ausgewählte Artikel in deutscher Sprache, 2019-2020. Berlin: epubli, 2021]. But denying Idealist views as scientific just creates an ideology, not a truth, even if it was possible that it would turn out in the future that materialists were right and we, the Idealists, were wrong. But until today, no one has an absolute proof, whether intellect or matter came first, which would satisfy everyone.

One has to understand an important thing though, materialists and idealists try to defend their position based on science and therefore, there is more than just the Neodarwinian evolutionary theory, which is just one theory among many others. However, the creationism based on religious fundamentalism, same as the evolutionism based on atheist dogmatism is no science. Nonetheless, we see this trend in the USA, where both, radical creationists and radical evolutionists try to bring their views in schools, where they shall be taught as the only truths. In Germany, we have found a proper solution: In biology lessons, the evolutionary theory is taught and in religious education, theories about God are discussed. In this way, both views are presented and students can learn to form their own perspective, which theories they prefer, though indeed it is bad that they get presented a strict atheist view and a strict church view, instead of having a moderate discussion in a neutral school subject, where a holistic scientific approach could be taught and where critical thinking could be more encouraged. Because only through critical evaluation, we can educate the masterminds of tomorrow and support their creative and their advances, which are often out-of-the-box thinking. Why is such a neutral school subject important? Because in the end, neither biologists nor theologians have the monopoly to claim that they found the one and only truth. And only a holistic science can move forward our civilization. Therefore, every barrier towards critical reasoning (because critical reasoning has to be taught actively as well) is also a disadvantage for the particular society, because those societies where these frontiers do not exist (for whatever reason) might also have an economical advantage, because they could probably think more creative, make new discoveries and these discoveries can be marketed faster, e.g. through patents, as they did not narrow their view on one basic theory. Science for science’s sake is no less democratic as a liberal society: the competition of ideas. If ideas are not in competition anymore and a theory which is set as basis remains unquestioned, then we stay in our limited box, our bubble, and we cannot advance.

In the same way, we cannot claim that because the majority believes something, the minority could have known better – majorities do not create truths, only truths create truths (in other words, the Good – or if we were scepticists: that which we call here the Good, but which exists instead of it). Science and religion, in my point of view, are no necessary contradictions at all (esp. if the religious dogmas became very thin and reason overtook the previously dogmatic stances). I believe that the believer should question the revelation critically instead of following it blindly in order to find the true core, its true content. [cp. Timo Schmitz: Die Bedeutung der Vorstellung bei Hegel (16 July 2020). In: Timo Schmitz: Politische und Philosophische Analysen. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022.] A faith based on reason should replace any dogma, so the believer has to justify why he believes that way, but metaphysics is not withdrawn or taken away from him as a legitimate instrument in the 21st century. [ibid.]

The things in the outside world as we tend to perceive them have no real being and thus are no real being – and as Grimes already made clear that everything is nothing but mind, I think that we can speak of a Panlogism, as Plato and Hegel used to exercise it.

Going back to the beginning of our investigation: The first chapter of the Zhuangzi can be translated as “A simple and happy life”.

“These terms apply today especially to the life of celestial beings, but for Zhuangzi it is Laozi’s non-acting. The author explains here what constitutes true happiness. So their aim is not, as has been said, to show that the diversity of beings is only relative and subjective, that everything is of a single and unique nature, as Heraclitus said; although the beginning, taken in isolation, might lead one to believe so. Using the example of the quail, this beginning shows us the error of small minds who believe that they are equal to the big ones.”

C. de Harlez (Ed.): Annales du Musée Guimet, Tome vingtième: Textes tâoïstes. Traduit des originaux chinois et commentés par C. de Harlez. Paris : Ernest Leroux, 1891, p. 221. (Translation mine.)

And as shown above, that is exactly, why the world struggles so much. Praising that one found the ultimate one and only truth creates ideologies and their defenders might be that deeply believing in them, that they harass other believers or try to disadvantage them. Ideologies can create terrible wars and genocides – and though they claim to act in the name of the truth, they do not inherit the truth and thus do not derive from the Good.

Timo Schmitz, 6 October 2022

Photo Credit: binaya photography – Unsplash

Connecting for unity: How two incomplete bodies make a complete one

[Based on my previous article: Nature and Dogma – The Objective Good and its limited subjective perception (2020)]

We cannot get constantly selfless, since one is still caught in the body (so we are remembered that we ‘are’ as the soul cannot leave the body to give up its ego and fully unite with the other souls forever), thus one has to grasp unity (at least for short) and through grasping one takes the impression into one’s life. The Breslov School of Chassidic Judaism teaches that:

“It is impossible to remain in a state of complete bitul (self-nullification, ego-death) for long, lest one’s existence in this world become nullified completely, God forbid. Rather one must always return from there in the same way that the angels in Ezekiel’s vision were ‘constantly running and returning’ (Ezekiel 1:14). One is then able to receive his life-force from the impression that is left from the bitul (nullification) which is the source for the revelation of Godliness (in this world).”

Avraham Sutton: Rabbi Nachman of Breslov: Hitbodedut and Bitul to Ein Sof Running and Returning. 2012.

This is why life is a constant struggle. One does not get enlightened and stays in this state without trying to keep it up. Thus, enlightenment can be a short-term or a long-term state. Or to put it in a better expression: it is an experience. Because we can experience that very moment, but same as all the other experiences, it can be bounded to a very moment. For instance, a short-term state in which we receive unity is a sexual orgasm. In sexual unification, the two lovers are able to reach a strength in which people can go beyond their body and thus it becomes an out-of-body experience, a divine unification. Sexual activity, the act itself, is a kind of communication without any words, and without any thoughts, and therefore, it is a communication beyond our thoughts. As a result, we understand divinity in this moment, because we understand the purest good of the other person in us, and as such, it is a spiritual act: a form of repairing the world. Why is that so? Because in this very moment, the incomplete bodies of both lovers are completed, they are repaired in their unification.

Anyways, we need to be aware that the physical component of the act is rather illusionary. We have no “real” information of the “outside” world, it is only sensory, but not truth, as truth is perceived through the rational part of the soul. Therefore, the mental share is more important than the corporal during the act. So it is no surprise that sex and knowledge share the same root in Hebrew. We know this too well from the Bible, e.g. Genesis 4:1 “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” (KJV) Because sex and knowledge share the same root, sex must be a form of comprehension. This is evident as many people have an extremely clear mind at the stage of an orgasm: the purity when nothing bothers the mind can be compared to what the Japanese call satori. It is a small phase of enlightenment in which knowledge and realization is gained. It is a state of ziran. Every form of legal sex is natural and thus, a characteristic of man’s nature and therefore nothing bad, nothing sinful, but good.

Timo Schmitz, 6 October 2022

Photo Credit: Kenny Eliason – Unsplash

Being selfless though we have an expression of the “I”?

[Based on my previous article: Nature and Dogma – The Objective Good and its limited subjective perception (2020)]

As pointed out before, evil means that the Good is lacking and the important question is of course, how is it possible that the Good is lacking at any spot, even the smallest, as the Good engarns everything, even the darkest place. Indeed, there is an explanation for this, given by Rabbi Nachman:

“Through anger, the great accuser is awakened, who is Esau, Edom, and from the upper accuser, (other) accusers are awakened and brought down, oppressing the angry person and ruling over him. Since through anger, one’s wisdom leaves (him) and the image of God leaves his face, and (thus) he has no (longer) the face of a man; his enemies rule over him by this, for he seems to them like an animal, and they don’t fear him.”

Likutei Etzot, Anger, 5.

When anger or other negative things rule over man, even though the Good cannot disappear, and even though it is engarned in the darkest place, man can simply not see it anymore, as the negative impact is ruling over him: the fury mobilizes tremendous actions, and if others also have bijas of evil in their storehouse consciousness, the righteousness is nebulized and they cannot act according to the Good. So the lack of the Good is the lack of an insight, as the Good itself cannot disappear in nature, but it can disappear morally, through our wrong perceptions and bad thoughts (which appear through disconnecting with the Good). Now what is the storehouse consciousness and bijas in particular? In Yogacara Buddhism, there is the theory that our consciousness works like a storehouse, consisting of a field in mind. In this field, we plant seeds (bijas). The seeds stand for our actions and experiences, and with every experience and every action, we plant seeds within us: if we have a lot of negative experience and do not reappraise these situations, we have a lot of pessimism stored within us. This has severe consequences in our real life behavior, because we judge situations not on the objective facts, but we use subjective information: if someone hurts us, then we are afraid of being hurt again and everything which is connected with this situation can be a trigger. As a result, we act irrational, often without being aware of it. For this reason, Buddhism advises us to seek enlightenment.

Sometimes, we talk of becoming “selfless”, though it raises the question how we shall be without any self and still realize who we are. It seems that when we talk of letting the ego go or becoming selfless, we actually refer to a self without selfishness, but still we have a self-reference. This is an interesting point in several aspects of course. In Eastern and Western thought alike, the soul is a force, which cannot act on itself and, therefore, needs a carriage, identified with the body. [Compare for instance the discourse by Menachem Wolf: Transcendental Kabbala: Kabbala of Reincarnation. Melbourne: Spiritgrow Josef Kryss Centre, 2015.] But the body has no self-identity, it is not a part of ‘me’, but only some material. For this reason, the Chinese speak of wu-wo, literally meaning “no-me”. In contrast to that South Asian Buddhism often speaks of “no soul”, as the concept of wu-wo was originally paratman in Indian discourses, and this led to the question, whether the soul exists as an independent entity or whether the soul does not even exist as such. In contras tto that, soul is a very important concept in Chinese folk belief, and therefore, it seems that Chinese Buddhism does not reject the soul, but the permanent self, and actually, this is what the Buddha meant with paratman. The self is changing in any second, and the self of yesterday is not the self of today. Therefore, this ‘I’ which is revealed through the soul is of impermanence and we can never grasp or hold it. Anyways, the “I” exists, what is important is that the body is just the outside and that which is called the “I” is revealed through the soul. Thus, the ‘I’ itself does not vanish, because one knows that one is who one is. For example, Socrates says in the Phaedo what they shall do with him after his death and his reply is that they could try to catch him if they can. The idea behind that is that he is just the soul, so when they talk of burying the dead body, they cannot talk of “him” anymore, because he left the body and is on his way to the Hades, so the question “what shall we do with you?” shows the misunderstanding of the disciples when they talk of “him” in a bodily sense.

Timo Schmitz, 4 October 2022

Photo Credit: Katie Moum – Unsplash

Emuna as a form of experiencing God

“Those who become new creatures in Christ Jesus will bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, ‘love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.’ (Galatians 5:22, 23). They will no longer fashion themselves according to the former lusts, but by the faith of the Son of God they will follow in His steps, reflect His character, and purify themselves even as He is pure. The things they once hated they now love, and the things they once loved they hate. The proud and self-assertive become meek and lowly in heart. The vain and supercilious become serious and unobtrusive. The drunken become sober, and the profligate pure. The vain customs and fashions of the world are laid aside.”

Ellen G. White: Steps to Christ, 1892, Chapter 7.

And as what the Christians name Jesus is nothing less than a spiritual quality (though Jesus as a historical figure exists of course, but the attributes given to him are of a spiritual and not of a human quality, and therefore must exist independently form the human person), every human-being no matter which religion one follows is able to receive, love, joy, peace, goodness, etc. The attributes mentioned in Galatians 5:22 f. are the attributes of emuna, which is what Jesus stands for. So we have to cultivate our emuna in our Creator. And there is a strict difference between blind following and emuna. It is not enough to believe in God, as some people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ but behave ignorant or act against the Ten Commandments willingly. Therefore, emuna is not blind following but actual faith which means that we have to clean our mind and always reflect ourselves to follow the commands of our Creator with gratitude and good faith.

Religion is a matter of experience. Already Robert Sharf noted:

“Few would question the pivotal role the category ‘experience’ has played in the modern study of religion. There would appear to be widespread agreement among both phenomenologists and historians of religion that the meaning of many religious doctrines, symbols, and rituals is to be sought in the experiences they evoke in the mind of the practitioner.”

Robert H. Sharf: Buddhist Modernism and the Rhetoric of Meditative Experience. In: NUMEN 42, 1995, 229-283. Cited from p. 229.

However, in my point of view, mind is a metaphysical term, mind is an expression of the divine, therefore, the mind of the practitioner exists not for itself, it is a part of his soul which is gifted by God and seeks to stay in touch with God, and thus the faith in God – which Christians express through Jesus – is an immediate experience leading towards a positive feeling, which is the attitude towards God, the joy of believing in God in a Hegelian sense. For Shalom Arush, emuna means “happiness with one’s lot in life” [Rav Shalom Arush: Believe and Receive. Breslev English, 18 June 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9tO9uhNxWo, retrieved on 26 January 2022.].

As is written in the Heart Sutra:

“[F]orm does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ from form.”

Seung Sahn (Ed.): Chanting with English translations and Temple Rules. Cumberland (RI): The Kwan UM – School of Zen, no date, p. 11.

Indeed, the form themselves are not graspable for us, because they are nature itself, and nature itself exists in the realm of the ideas, not in our immanent world. Emptiness, or shunyata, helps us in demasking the defilements, because too often we take things for granted and thus see something in the things which they are not, so we recognize the form, but also things which are not part of it. We mix our thoughts with feelings and act irrational. In contrast,

“The enlightened is empty of all the troublesome feelings (as they come not from the absolute) and is aware that some thoughts might be part of reason while others are not true at all as we just hear them to be said by someone (but who knows if this someone is a fool?). This is emptiness (shunyata). It is the absence of defilements, though we never are perfect, we are aware that there are defilements and we try to feel pure by knowing that we are wonderful beings, that we are there in this world, and that we have to leave the world one day, so there is nothing which is worth to be attached to, except for ultimate love. Pure love is absolute, pure reason is absolute, everything else is not.”

Timo Schmitz: Short Introduction Into My Judeo-Buddhism. In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 1. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022.

And here we come back to Galatians 5:22 f. The transformation we undergo, when we realize that we are connected to our Creator leads us in developing a peaceful and non-violent attitude towards everyone. It is the strength of emuna! As a result, we become aware of the three poisons and act actively in engaging to become better human-beings, so that we avoid the three evil deeds and do good deeds instead. Our faith encourages us to do good, because God is absolute goodness, He is the Good!

Timo Schmitz, 4 October 2022

Photo Credit: Hanny Naibaho – Unsplash

Show me your “naked heart”

Anything “outside” is environment dependent or fades over time. Nationality, age, wealth, family, educational background, work history, are all “external” decorations. I want to see the “naked heart” as it is as a person.

Nene Z: “人”を見る. Happy Body Happy Mind, 24 July 2022.

Nene Z has a very important point with this very first phrase which is of two-fold nature. It is either (a) environment dependent, or (b) fades away over time. If it depends on the environment, then it is outside of us, and therefore, we have no immediate connection with it. This means that we are only able to perceive it with our senses, creating posterior assumptions. Anything which is not dependent on the environment is prior knowledge. However, more interesting is the second point: impermanence of materialism. And indeed, nationality and age are materialistic as well, because the soul neither knows nationality nor age, the soul is immortal. The naked heart, therefore equals the person itself, it is the soul, the actual self. Our body is just a cage as we can learn in Plato’s Phaedo and true self is transmitted through the soul. The body on the contrary is force. Or to put it in Nene’s terms: external decoration.

Timo Schmitz, 2 October 2022

Photo Credit: Garidy Sanders – Unsplash

Mercy: the basis for forgiveness

[Based on my previous article: Nature and Dogma – The Objective Good and its limited subjective perception (2020)]

“The remedy for advice is through the crying out of the heart, in that it’s necessary to cry out to HaShem from the depth of the heart; and through this, deep counsel breaks through and is revealed.”

Likutei Etzot, Advice, 5.

Indeed, a feeling (according to Hegel) is the expression of Being (das Sein), and the true Being (das wahre Sein), of course, is God. A feeling, however, is subjective, because it belongs to me. [G.W.F. Hegel: Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion. Band 1: Einleitung. Der Begriff der Religion. Neu herausgegeben von Walter Jaeschke. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1993, p. 286.] I have pointed out previously that feelings can easily alter truths, because when feelings meet our thoughts, our thoughts become emotional, and this leads to irrational actions. As the storehouse consciousness saves everything, nothing can get lost. Everything is stored somewhere. And through our suffering, we save all the negative experiences without being aware of it. We think, we forgot it, but we didn’t. Therefore, our mind gets dusty from experience to experience making it unable to see any reality, making us act irrational, since we do not act according to the situation anymore. As we know nowadays, the long-term memory has a huge capability of saving whatever we need. It can be assumed that the storage is never full, so we can always keep on learning. Anyways, to make something present in our mind at the moment, the stored information has to be transferred from the long-term to the short-term memory (a.k.a. working memory). So even though something is not present at that very moment in our working memory, it does not mean that it is not there, so we can take it back to the working memory, and everything that we deal with at the moment is active in the working memory and then later transferred back to the long-term memory.

So thoughts and feelings have to be separated and one has to be aware that a thought does not have to be accompanied by a feeling, as the feeling might have another source. On the other hand, of course, a feeling can have an affirmative function, it undermines our thoughts, such as the joy when thinking about God, as Hegel pointed out. Anyways, the joy does not really come from God, but we have this joy because of our positive attitude towards God. Also those people who have a negative attitude towards God can feel joy by changing their attitude and realize God’s goodness, though the goodness is objective, but the joy is added to it by us. It reveals our character, because it shows our conviction. 

Sometimes, we get very angry, because of simple reasons. Everybody makes bad experiences in life at some time, and when we are reminded of these experiences in any way, it might appear that we get angry at someone, because we are afraid of experiencing the same thing once again. However,

“One must break anger with mercy. Meaning, when any anger comes, one shouldn’t do any cruelty in his anger, rather, to the contrary: he should overcome with great mercy upon this, that he wanted to get angry, and (thereby) sweeten the anger with mercy.”

Likutei Etzot, Anger, 1.

Furthermore,

“Anger and cruelty are from a lack of (divine) awareness/knowledge. The more (divine) knowledge is increased, anger is nullified, and mercy, kindness, and peace increase.”

Likutei Etzot, Anger, 3.

Rabbi Nachman is right, mercy is important; it is even that important that it is the basis for forgiveness. Mercy, kindness, forgiveness and peace belong together in some way – or to be more precisely: they are good, so they are of divine quality, thus an attribution of God.

Timo Schmitz, 2 October 2022

Photo Credit: Pablo Heimplatz – Unsplash

Finding God in a pluralist approach

“A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place, or trace all the chain of circumstances in the process of conversion; but this does not prove him to be unconverted. […] Like the wind, which is invisible, yet the effects of which are plainly seen and felt, is the Spirit of God in its work upon the human heart. That regenerating power, which no human eye can see, begets a new life in the soul; it creates a new being in the image of God. While the work of the Spirit is silent and imperceptible, its effects are manifest. If the heart has been renewed by the Spirit of God, the life will bear witness to the fact. While we cannot do anything to change our hearts or to bring ourselves into harmony with God; while we must not trust at all to ourselves or our good works, our lives will reveal whether the grace of God is dwelling within us. A change will be seen in the character, the habits, the pursuits.”

Ellen G. White: Steps to Christ, 1892, Chapter 7.

Though Ellen White refers to the conversion to a Christian believer here, I would see it in a much broader sense: the conversion to realizing God’s truth. It is not a very ritual which makes a believer become a believer in God, but the enlightenment in which one discovers the miracles performed by God. Indeed, the Spirit of God worked on the human heart. This fundamental change is caused by divine interference, because she clearly talks of God’s spirit and a wind-like quality. The word for spirit or wind is ruach in Hebrew and pneuma in Greek, actually referring to the soul and its wind-like quality as is written in Genesis 2:7:

 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

KJV

However, in this specific passage, one can find an even more specific term: neshama, the actual Hebrew term for soul. As Yanki Tauber from the Chassidic School of Lubavitch (Chabad) explained:

“The soul, or neshamah in Jewish thought, is the self, the ‘I’ that inhabits the body and acts through it. There are many words for the soul in Hebrew, but the most commonly used are nefesh and neshamah—both of which mean ‘breath.’ […]But it is the human soul that is both the most complex and the most lofty of souls. […]The Divine essence of the human soul is what sets the human being above and apart from all other creations, even the angels. The angel may be more spiritual, but the human being is more G‑dly. No creation can possess true freedom of choice—a creation, by definition, has and consists of only what its creator has imparted to it; this is its “nature,” and its every inclination and action will be dictated by that nature.”

Yanki Tauber: What is a Soul (Neshamah)?. Chabad.org, no date.

So human-beings are conscious beings that can conduct rational choices, and as Plato already clarified, reason is expressed through the soul; as prominent rabbis such as Yanki Tauber and Menachem Wolf explained: The “I” is expressed through the soul. This is perfectly in accordance which Plato who wrote in his Phaedo that the actual being is the soul and not the body. The soul has a connection to the Creator through its reasoned part.

In contrast, Ellen White describes that our lives reveal, if the grace of God dwells in us. But what will decide whether the grace of God is in us or not? Surely not the Christian doctrine, because God is the creator of every human-being, and therefore, not only of Christians. Secondly, why should Christians alone be saved while the others are not?

There are three common views: Pluralism, Inclusivism, and Exclusivism. Pluralism rejects that it is necessary to believe that Jesus is the only savior and that faith in Christ is necessary to be saved. Inclusivists believe that Jesus is the only savior, but that it is not necessary to be a Christian to be rescued:

“So, even though Christ is the only Savior, people do not have to know about or believe in Christ to be saved.”

Bruce Ware: Only One Way? The Exclusivity of Jesus Christ and the Gospel. 9 April 2009.

Exclusivists sometimes refer to Luke 24:40-49, Romans 10:1-4, or Acts 10. However, the passage in Luke only explains that the Christian teaching will spread starting in Jerusalem to all nations to let them know about their doctrine. The same goes to Romans 10:1-4: There is no claim of exclusiveness, though it is said that Jesus is righteousness for every believer. But how about the non-believer? This remains quite uncertain, as we can see from the following passages in Roman 10:5-9. Those passages just assure that believers in Jesus will be saved, but the back-reference to Moses and the passages Leviticus 18:5 as well as Deuteronomy 30:12-14 clearly indicate that the Jewish law is still intact, there is no break with that law, but just an additional mentioning:

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:9, NIV

According to Paul, this is perfectly in accordance with the passages which he cites before. Paul wants his Jewish fellowman to be saved and tells them that Jesus is the savior. But his desire for Jesus is neither a claim of exclusivity, nor an affirmation of inclusivity. Paul only thinks that the Jewish people have to wake up and realize that Jesus is the messiah, but there is in no way any reference against the Jewish teaching. It seems to me that according to this passage, he simply believes that his Jewish fellow citizens lack the very last step to fulfill the Biblical prophecy, and thus, he wants to encourage the community in Rome to realize that very last step and accept Jesus as savior. So the passage rather refers to Paul’s own euphoria instead of a revelation of exclusiveness. The letter therefore has to be seen within its historical purpose and Paul’s own personal background, as well as his own theological insights. It is a very interesting passage for Pauline theology, but not the very passage to condemn all non-believers.

The idea why any exclusivity claim is a rather arrogant thought is clear. Why should Christians be favored over others? The root of Christianity lies in Judaism, and Judaism is a religion of tolerance:

“One of the main differences that separates Judaism from the other major monotheistic religions – Christianity and Islam – is the matter of exclusivity. The rabbis of the Talmud long ago reiterated the traditional Jewish position that ‘the righteous of the nations of the world all have a share in the World to Come.’ This meant immortality of the soul and heavenly reward once one passes on from this life. One need not be Jewish to gain holiness, immortality and heavenly eternal reward. I have always been reminded of the famous advertisement so popular in New York City decades ago which loudly proclaimed: ‘You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy Levy’s rye bread.’ Well, immortality and heavenly reward aren’t rye bread but you get the idea I am trying to communicate.”

Berel Wein: Exclusivity and Tolerance. Blog of Rabbi Wein, no date.

Therefore, those Christians who claim exclusivity of their religion proclaim a paradox: Their religion seemingly received an add-on, and this is add-on should be that powerful to make all the previous values obsolete? Is it an add-on after all, or is it just an allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament virtues united in personification? As Rabbi Wein points out correctly:

“Our father Avraham was so named because of his ability to be the ‘father of many nations.’ Judaism and the Jewish people were meant to be the catalyst for bringing the ideas of monotheism, goodness, concern for others and the recognition of the universality of the Creator to all of humankind. To a large extent, it has succeeded in this mission for, as I mentioned above, its worldview has become pretty much that of Western civilization.”

Ibid.

And this is the important thing: The realization that God, the one and only God, is our Creator, and that through the soul, we are able to witness His existence, and through faith, we can deepen this divine connection (this is what Christians call trinity). So why should one be more than others? We worship the same God, the one and only creator – human-beings are one family, created by the same God. And Jesus is not something additional, but rather a personified explanation for a spiritual quality, though Jesus was of course also a historical person: a very profound rabbi who sought to unite the Jewish nation and was executed for this attempt by the Roman occupants.

So why shall we force others to believe in God in only one way when our planet is so pluralistic? If God wanted, He could have created mankind homogenously, but he made it possible that all the nations were created, so why should one nation, one religion, one thought be worthier than any other. Instead, we shall aim in trying to understand God, so that God will give the insight of His truths in our hearts: no matter if one is Jewish, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. And therefore, we need a pluralistic understanding of religion! 

Timo Schmitz, 2 October 2022

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Don’t run after others, instead start your change today!

Socrates: My dear Euthyphro, their ridicule is perhaps of no consequence. For the Athenians, I fancy, are not much concerned, if they think a man is clever, provided he does not impart his clever notions to others; but when they think he makes others to be like himself, they are angry with him, either through jealousy, as you say, or for some other reason. […] Now if, as I was saying just now, they were to laugh at me, as you say they do at you, it would not be at all unpleasant to pass the time in the court with jests and laughter; but if they are in earnest, then only soothsayers like you can tell how this will end.

Plato: Euthyphro, 3c-d. Translated by Harold North Fowler. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 1. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1966.

Jealousy is a big illness in today’s society: people have no sense of being happy for others anymore. Instead, we live in an era of competition. We want to have what others have, we want to be the way they are. In the age of influencers, this trend even becomes more severe. And if one has the feeling of not having what others have, whether it is really worth to achieve or not, leads to jealousy, caused by anger which is one of the three poisons, as we know from Buddhism. The strong sense of envy even leads to shaming and quarrels, because one is confronted with the jealous person’s greed, which is disguised as “personal opinion”. But hate is no opinion, hate is nothing we can compromise on. Some people are even that jealous of others that they search for that person’s past mistakes in the hope to destroy his or her very career. But every single human being made mistakes in one’s life, there is no one who is perfect, so one can always find an imperfection about another person. And if one does not find the other person’s imperfection, then one constructs rumors and lies about the person one is jealous of, isn’t that crazy? But this is nothing exclusive of today’s society. Even Socrates had to face that situation, when he was charged for ἀσέβεια in court. His enemies constructed a case in which this pious man was accused of not believing in the official gods (which Plato equals with atheism, and Plato shows too well that Socrates was not an atheist but a pious man). Some people might only ridicule or laugh at us for who we are, but some people have such an anger at us that they really try to harm us, such as the Athenians wanted to harm Socrates. Therefore keep always in mind: You are not perfect, and neither are other human-beings, so don’t judge them for their past. If you feel an envy for someone, don’t try to find something negative and don’t shame that person for the sake of feeling better. You can be happy for who you are, and as a human-being you are not worth any less than another human-being, no matter what’s your background: your sex, skin color and religion doesn’t matter, and there is no need to change who you are; your past mistakes are past, it is important that you shape the future for better; no matter how often you laughed about others or ridiculed them, you can start your change today. You are worth to be happy! Don’t run after others, but be yourself instead!

Timo Schmitz, 2 October 2022

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Pluralism is important in a society

[Based on my previous article: Nature and Dogma – The Objective Good and its limited subjective perception (2020)]

It is said that “It’s necessary to greatly distance oneself from the advice of the common people, the majority of all of it being bad and very faulty advice. How much more so, then, is the advice of the wicked and those who raise dispute and oppose the truth – of whom it is necessary to distance oneself from more and more, for from them come all faults and blemishes, since their advice is the aspect of the original snake.” [Likutei Etzot, Advice, 1. Online: https://breslovbooks.com/pdf/english-likutei-etzot.pdf, retrieved on 31 July 2020.] Indeed, just because a majority says something, it does not mean that they are right. History shows this too well, where majorities accepted gruesome systems and deeds. And though these systems and deeds were not good, it is wrong to state that human-beings in general are wicked, as everyone has a basic goodness. But due to education and experiences, it can happen that human-beings become defiled and conduct wicked deeds. But those deeds are not part of the Good, which means they did not realize the Good. I pointed out before “that just because everything is for good, not everything that ever happened is reasonable: wars and genocides in no way can be good – we can even doubt their good intention, because how can killing innocent people be good? The lack of goodness in the case is so evident that it seems that there must be an objective evil in this case”. [Timo Schmitz: Short Introduction Into My Judeo-Buddhism (2019). In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 1. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022.] And the idea that there might be an objective evil means that there is a wickedness for itself. But if there was an objective evil, then it would contest the Good, and then we would have more than one creator, which would mean that there must be a creator above good and evil. And this is impossible, as nature itself is not evil. Everything in nature is good. Therefore, evil cannot be objective.

So how can we explain evil? “We might talk about providence here, because someone allowed this injustice; many people at the same time did not reject this injustice and even helped doing the unjust thing, and societal and political issues might fuel such a behavior. So all the possible variables become so powerful that even though many single people might resist, the wave of interaction is too powerful to stop the bad thing. But why did these people not realize the evil? Why did they think that they act just? – Because they suffer! Their heart is as dirty as the deeds which they commit. They cannot see the good anymore, because they do not feel good themselves. They have a low self-esteem leading to a big ego behavior which has to defend this little confidence in oneself and the belief in the universe.” [ibid.] Following blindly a majority can bring forth wickedness, if no one questions societal norms anymore – which means wickedness is the absence of the Good and thus a disconnection with the Creator. In other words, there is no good without God.

In the same way, we cannot live without nature which forms our environment and we are just a system in our environment. [cp. Humberto Maturana & Francisco Varela: Der Baum der Erkenntnis – Die biologischen Wurzeln menschlichen Erkennens. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag, 2015; Timo Schmitz: Das philosophische Erkenntnisproblem in Der Baum der Erkenntnis – Der Konstruktivismus evolutionärer Erkenntnistheorie (21 July 2019). In: Timo Schmitz: Ausgewählte Artikel in deutscher Sprache, 2019-2020. Berlin: epubli, 2021.] Nature, however has two meanings: on the one hand, nature can be understood as ‘ziran’, the environment in general, its characteristics, that what lies in it, etc. Secondly, nature can be understood as environment without that which man adds to it. Concerning the first, we can differentiate between l’être dans la nature who lives according to his nature (ziran), and l’être dans la société which rather focusses on the collective and what others think of it. Concerning the second, we can differentiate between system-environment relations. I have already pointed out, that since we are a zoon politikon (Aristotle!), it makes sense to form a society. However, within a society, we are already more than one person, and therefore, we have plenty of different opinions. However, each of us shapes his reality in mind, which means that our reality is not the absolute reality, and that most of our reality is actually only mind. On the other hand, reality exists, because otherwise, interactions were not possible and we would be caught in ourselves, unable to communicate. And it is evident that there must be an outside world, because there could not be any system-environment relations, if no environment existed. If we were able to grasp an ultimate truth, there would not be any need for pluralism, but, of course, we need pluralism, we need to be able to point out our views, so once again we come to the conclusion that the Objective Good cannot be universally grasped.

Timo Schmitz, 2 October 2022

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Can we grasp the objective Good?

[Based on my previous article: Nature and Dogma – The Objective Good and its limited subjective perception (2020)]

The ideal world is nature in itself: it contains the whole world through the ideas. Our perceptual world in contrast is just a copy. God’s plan is manifested in this world and through reason, we can grasp the ideas behind it though we cannot see the pure ideas themselves. [Timo Schmitz: Short Introduction Into My Judeo-Buddhism (2019). In: Timo Schmitz: A Divinely Way to Philosophy, Vol. 1. Trier & Vachendorf: Graf Berthold Verlag, 2022.] So reality is real, it is in the realm of the ideas, but what we see as reality is not real, and therefore our reality is not reasonable, since it is a subjective reality, while the actual reality is objective, but we have no direct access to it. Second, we know that God is good, because there is no form of evil, however, misinterpretations of the Good appear because of mental defilements and wrong perception of what is good. And though we cannot grasp the objective Good, we can be pure, through feeling that we are worth to be, who we are. [ibid.]

Timo Schmitz, 2 October 2022

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