Myth and Modernity

If you believe the Bible is the literal truth, then you believe the earth was created in 6 days, that people should be stoned to death for breaking the Sabbath, and a whole bunch of other things.

If you believe in the theory of evolution, you probably don't believe the Bible as factual history. And you might also think that religious people are backward because they don't understand the "scientific basis" of the world. 

There is an alternative to this dichotomy: Accept myth as a valid form of knowledge. A myth cannot be proven or disproven based on empirical evidence because it resides beyond the material world. It can help explain the physical world or it can confuse your understanding of the physical world. Let me give an example from my life - or else I'll end up sounding like a philosophy student.  

I was very wary of embracing Kabbalah as a legitimate form of knowledge. Let's face it: most Jews are raised to believe mysticism is backward and has no place in the Age of Reason. And then I was introduced to the Lurianic myth. Suddenly, the Big Bang theory made sense to me. I could integrate religious belief with scientific knowledge. And I began to feel like I was bringing together disparate parts of myself. 

The Big Bang Theory goes something like this: in the beginning, all matter in this universe was condensed into one place. And then it expanded, creating space and planets and stars and stuff. There was one and now there's multitudes. A more scientific explanation is offered on this site.

Now for Isaac Luria's idea: in the beginning, there was Ain Sof (The Infinite Divine). There was only Divinity. Ain Sof had to contract, to make non-Divine space as the first step in differentiating the universe and allowing anything besides Ain Sof to exist. So creation begins with Divine exile. Next, Divine Light entered the universe in vessels. Those vessels were broken and/or shattered when they came in contact with the non-Divine space, leaving holy sparks. Holy sparks emanate from within everything. These holy sparks are fundamentally broken and our responsibiity is to heal ourselves and the world in order to heal the DIvine. Wikipedia has a longer explanation of this myth.

In my mind, the Big Bang Theory and the Lurianic Myth of Creation can comfortably live together. I cannot fully explain what a relief this is.

As a child, I was taught the creation myth of Genesis (6 days of creation, Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, etc). And as a six year-old, I couldn't square those stories with the fact that dinosaurs existed long before humans. Since no one offered me a way to understand religious history in a way that didn't require turning off my rational mind, I decided the Bible was silly, arcane mythology and left it at that. Later, I was enveloped by the peaceful meditation of prayer. Flash forward a few more years. It was easy to dismiss my religious experience as an irrational band-aid to deal with a crazy environment. But now, by understanding Biblical history as a cultural myth that can deepen my understanding of humanity and help me be a better person, I don't have to reject religion in order to accept my rational mind. And Lurianic Kabbalah gives me a frame for that journey. 

In the past, I spent all of my free time doing political activism. While being an informed citizen is still important to me, my spiritual path has become more important. I hope to show how spirituality and rationality can reside within a person comfortably. And I hope to encourage more people to make space in their life for a wisdom tradition. And ultimately, I hope to nurture a community of like-minded individuals who are using the wisdom of neo-Hasidic Kabbalistic Judaism to fulfill their life's purpose.


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