ZOHAR RAVIV (DR.)(PhD in Jewish thought and mysticism).
(Lecture Notes. 25 July 2007. Monash Uni. Caulfield.)
“Between science and theology”.
His interpretation of ‘religion’ is that it is about “dogma”, not religious thought.
THEOLOGY. (Belief in a reason for our being, thinking, rationalizing, etc. on earth!)
Is it due to a God? Who, what is it?
In understanding the meaning of “GOD”,- the divinity, it can be understood in the context of:
1. the METAPHYSICAL;
2. the THEOLOGICAL;
3. the RELIGIOUS- which is the lowest denominator in the discourse!
1.METAPHYSICAL: Most notions of “GOD” are that it is the “one”,-an absolute, -existing, being. Metaphysically this is not the way it is looked upon.
Zohar explained it as "a being" like the physical “Black Hole”,- it is defined by the rotating particles around it,- while there is nothing to actually see. The “nothing” one 'sees' in the ‘black hole’, is actually the “something”, i.e. it is the 'something' we call the ’black hole’.
Quote: (Maimonides )”comprehending God is comprehension of what we don’t know”. In other words, while we cannot see it, we can intellectualise that it is “something” that is there.
2. THEOLOGIANS are not concerned with the metaphysical. For them, God exists.; there is an intent in the meaning of creation. In that case, what is that “intent”,- what does God want in creating the universe?
When reading the Torah, e.g. the ethical discourse, can be interpreted in many ways. For example, TZEDAKA, is not charity,- but the equal distribution of ‘goodness” to bring everyone up to the same level before God!
In other words, the “divine intent” = the vindication of my existence (Zohar).
“Who am I ? How did I appear on earth? This is the level of discourse required.”
3. RELIGION on the other hand is in Zohar’s opinion, purely DOGMA.
The various trappings of religious observance vary from culture to culture within each religion, let alone from religion to religion. It is easy to forget as one gets involved in rituals, WHY one is doing whatever one does.
The rituals may be important to maintain the various groups and communities together, but those who propagate the dogmas are dangerous sometimes, while their followers may be even more dangerous! Those who claim to know the will of God are the most dangerous.(Dawkins). The flaw in religious dogma is that it is a triumph of ritual over meaning. Understanding the context, is far more important than immersion in rituals and “traditions”. These are not based on true “religious discourse”.
It should be based on “who am I?”,- how we define ourselves in this world!
SCIENCE; is based on inquiry: mind and matter. Which comes first,- where is the point of entry? “Our brain is not a BarMitzvah present”!
Zohar is afraid of scientists who claim that in time all existential questions will be answered.
“THERE IS AN ENIGMA ABOUT OUR HUMAN EXISTENCE, WHETHER WE FOLLOW THE SCIENTISTS OR THE THEOLOGIANS! E.g.” How do we explain gravity?
Therefore one can discuss God without a religious discourse. Because even in Bereshit, the Zoar interprets that “from nothing” the heaven and earth was created!
Jewish mythology “let there be light” (The magicians of old used the Aramaic words in ‘abraca dabra” for ‘creation out of nothing’!)
Thus interfaith discussions can be far more meaningful if discussed theologically e.g. about the meaning of ‘God’, than religiously!
“People who don’t want to abide by a religious dogma, should not throw out the baby with the bath water!”
NB. In question time, Mark Fajgenblatt, lecturer, took exception to religion being at the bottom,- saying that he comes to these issues from the top!
'Where do ethics come from?' (Not from dogma originally.) “Laws”- also dogma!