Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kabbala & The Dalai Lama


Dalai Lama


And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good. 
- Notice the three elements: speaking, creation, good. We'll get back to them.
- Ok.
- Speaking of old stories: every time I pride myself on discovering something new I find out someone has been there before me, usually thousands of years before me. I'd written about the relation between Kabbala, the tradition of Jewish mysticism, and anarchism, the political system of voluntary organization without central government*, and I thought that if Kabbala corresponded in some ways in its social implication, why wouldn't it also correspond in philosophical?
- By philosophical you mean ideas of freedom, property, universals.
- Yes, and I had this crazy idea that if I went back again and looked I'd see what no one before me had seen.
- But you'd find yourself wrong there too.
- Yes but I'd have my fun while it lasted. So I looked to see what was in the Kabballa in relation to property, freedom, universals.
- And what did you discover?
- The Kabbala like the creation story associates good, language, and creativity, with the consequence that doing good is necessarily associated with change. Rules, unchanging things, are revelations from god, an incommunicable individual experience. In the Kabbala - "tradition" or "receiving" - the rules are interpreted, put into new words and formulation, the so-called oral revelation to the world as it is here and now. The tradition changes and develops the rules in their application. Similarly we ourselves have our own rules and tradition. Our self, our "rule", hovers above the joining of male and female at our conception, and in every good deed we do we weave the robe of tradition of our self more and more complete, we tell our own story, or rather, we rewrite it with each good deed, as each good we do makes us capable of more. Rules are reinterpreted in the process of our intending to do good as our selves are developed in our good deeds.
- What is the connection to property?
- In an unchanging society with unchanging roles, rules are acquired individually, creatively, actively, but learned unconsciously in childhood, with the consequence that each individual, once he wakes up and thinks about it, has an incentive to break the rules if he can without getting caught. The Kabbala turns this upsidedown. If the act of reinterpretation in following rules is an act using language, then it depends on the agreement of all speakers of the language on the meaning of words and how the language is spoken. That agreement provides the foundation of universal principle.
- How does speaking the same language make me obey a rule it is my interest to break?
- You and me are the Jewish people, in our exodus out of Egypt. We meet on Mt. Sinai with god, who makes a deal with you, and makes a deal with me. Two deals, god to individual, but god's part in the deal is a promise to both of us, delivery to the promised land. Follow?
- Yes.
- Think about it. To speak a language individually and be understood we both have agree on the meaning of words and how the language works. To cash in on god's promise we similarly need to act in agreement.
- On what?
- God's rules, delivered by Moses a few weeks later. Each individual continues his own life, giving up nothing to the other individuals yet benefiting by being delivered to the promised land.
- Why giving up nothing? We have to obey the rules.
- We want to obey the rules exactly like we want to learn words. Do you complain about words taking away your freedom?
- I do, when they get in the way of expressing myself.
- That you have anything worth while to express is due to what you made of yourself through the use of words. You mean you don't want to use words when you don't have to.
- Maybe. 
- The act of reinterpretation of tradition works in the same way we speak, is an action with the same form, producing the same result, unity of purpose.
- Assume I understand. Where does property come in?
- Revelation gives us rules.
- God gave the Jews their rules.
- In revelation, which we can describe as the experience of god, we see how many things are really one. We come to know it is best 'in this situation, do that'. Property too is rule and revelation, but has a special, magical power.
- What do you mean by magical?
- Power enabled by a different kind of language, a destructive use of language. Property is the product of ritual, of language used repetitively, not creatively. In the Kabbala language is a creative act for doing good that comes from god, whereas property comes from the limited repetitive action of a limited group of people with each other at a limited time and place. We won't be able to find a universal principle of sharing if we start from property.
- Where do we start from then?
- The self that creates to do good in the company of others doing the same, who have received the same revelation 
not of the magic of property but of creativity, and reinterpret it in each others company.
- We share with each other because we are creative with each other. And as you've said before private property is a thought-through exception, the cases where sharing would not be creative but destructive.
- Universal principle, sharing, is the result of all three things god does when he creates the world: he speaks, he creates, he does good. It is in the creative act itself universal principles arise. Rules  cannot create actual agreement among followers of rule, as seeing the rule, a sort of revelation, is individual, and does not establish a relation between people. In Plato's Republic people have to be lied to to keep the rules, indoctrinated while still children to believe they are all close family.
- I'm beginning to see. We expect sharing, universal principles, to be fixed things, But the truth is they come from change.
- When the Dalai Lama fled with his people to Tibet the time came when he said to the Jewish people, "Tell me your secret of spiritual survival in exile". A group of Jewish scholars and rabbis was invited to visit him. Right at the beginning of their discussion the Dalai Lama raised the question, What is religion? and hearing that among the Jews that question was the source of much bitter dispute, he answered, If religion does not make people more compassionate what good is it? Property is a version of revelation, a kind of magic, that makes compassion impossible.
- The religious dispute because they treat their religion like property. And property is a religion that makes compassion impossible.
- But we don't call it religion, we call it a right. The magic revelation of property is not experience of god, found privately, that leads to speaking with others who've had the same revelation about how to make a good life together. Rather it is the product of acting with others in the group, depending on each keeping without change his place in the group. There is no room for compassion. Each is the agent to the others stability and power. The user doesn't see the tool, sees only what the tool is used for. There is gratitude each to each for giving to each his power, but no real sharing of life and experience. That is possible only when language, creativity, and good come together. In creative speech towards good we all have something to offer potentially and something to gain potentially from results. The man who builds doors has nothing in common with the man who builds windows until someone starts talking about building a good house.
- Compassionate religion requires universal principles. For universal principles we need to build a society that  protects and develops change, creativity, discussion and search for what is good. Sharing isn't really a universal principle, but results from applying other principles, from talking creatively with each other. Then we don't directly want to share with each other?
- We have minds set on higher things.
- What higher things? Not new revelations, discoveries, which you said you keep thinking you are doing but find out you aren't.
- I can hope my derivative discoveries respond to a world of different people and interpret ideas differently, better for the understanding of the people who use the same words I do. But anyway it is not revelation and discoveries, of sharing, justice, principles, whatever that are important, but what we do with them. As the Dalai Lama said, what we want from the right views, the right revelation, is compassion.
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