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Parashat Vayelech 5782 — 09/11/2021

Beginning with Bereishit 5781 (17 October 2020) we embarked on a new format. We will be considering Rambam’s (Maimonides’) great philosophical work Moreh Nevukim (Guide for the Perplexed) in the light of the knowledge of Vedic Science as expounded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The individual essays will therefore not necessarily have anything to do with the weekly Torah portion, although certainly there will be plenty of references to the Torah, the rest of the Bible, and to the Rabbinic literature. For Bereishit we described the project. The next four parshiyyot, Noach through Chayei Sarah, laid out a foundational understanding of Vedic Science, to the degree I am capable of doing so. Beginning with Toledot we started examining Moreh Nevukim.

Shabbat Shuvah

Devarim 31:1 – 31:30
I want to finish our discussion of Prof. Pines’ introduction with his consideration of the influence of Averroes (ibn Rushd). Averroes, like Rambam, was a Spanish Aristotelian (1126-1198) and the two were roughly contemporaneous (Rambam was born in 1138 and died in 1205). As might be expected, in many areas the views of Rambam and Averroes align, if not due to direct influence on one another, then because of their common geographical and philosophical origins. On the other hand, Rambam wrote Moreh Nevukim after having been in Egypt and Israel for many years. Egypt is between Spain, the western end of Islam (Google says 4434 km from Averroes’ Cordobá to Cairo), and Persia, the eastern end (Google says 2313 km from Avicenna’s Hamadan to Cairo). The eastern influence put more emphasis on mystical experience (prophetic revelation?) as a legitimate subject of inquiry, and this, as we have seen, also influenced Rambam’s thought. We are coming to the end of our consideration of influences on Rambam. I think it is quite worthwhile to remember that Rambam was a Jew and an independent thinker and whatever may have influenced his thought was just that – an influence which he wove into his own original tapestry of knowledge.

One area of commonality between Averroes and Rambam appears to be in the relationship between physics (i.e. knowledge of the physical world) and metaphysics (knowledge of the immaterial world, including knowledge of Gd).

Avicenna introduced into that system his speculations concerning mystical experience and his investigation of self-awareness and of the ego regarded as a central notion of psychology, and at least the second of these two lines of inquiry, neither of which is pursued either by Maimonides or by Averroes, seems to have been very much in the foreground of his thought.
   It is even more to the point that according to him, the science of metaphysics or the “divine science” deals with several subjects. It is notably concerned with (1) knowledge of Gd and other incorporeal substances, and (2) knowledge of being and its various modes. This includes the knowledge of the difference between essence and existence and between necessary and contingent being, which, according to Avicenna, may without any recourse to natural science prove the existence of Gd. [emphasis mine]
In several important particulars the views of both Maimonides and Averroes on the status of physical theory and its relation with “divine science,” i.e., metaphysics, stand in contrast to this attitude. They are similar, though by no means identical; some of the divergencies are due to the fact that, in contradistinction to Maimonides’ general usage, Averroes did not hesitate to propound his own personal interpretation with regard to purely theoretical questions not connected with theological debates. Thus he considers that the primary and main object of metaphysics is knowledge of the highest formal and final causes, i.e., in the final resort, of Gd (and the immaterial substances). Maimonides, on the other hand, in his early work on logic – and there is no reason to think that he changed his position later on – states that the “divine science” has two main subjects: (1) Gd and the immaterial substances, and (2) general notions such as being.

Seen from this angle, metaphysics is closely connected with, and in a way based on, physics, which it prolongs. This seems to be exactly Mainmonides’ conception of the connection between the two sciences…
   According to Avicenna’s conception, such a reference, though legitimate, is not indispensable; for Gd’s existence may be demonstrated without straying beyond the bounds of metaphysics by showing that contingent being necessarily presupposes Necessary Being, both of which are purely metaphysical notions. [Emphasis mine]

What differentiates between science and metaphysics? We all have learned in elementary school that scientists observe phenomena, make hypotheses as to the causes of these phenomena (causes that may be abstract and unseen). They then use these hypotheses to predict new phenomena. If the predictions work out, that is a verification of the theory. Further testing might find counter-examples and the theory may have to be adjusted or scrapped for a more inclusive theory. This is a simplified description of the progress of science, but the main point is that theory is always tested against physical reality. Even in the “soft” sciences, we create measuring instruments to give us a peek into the phenomena we are interested in; whatever it is we are measuring, those measurements will either confirm or refute a theory.

In the realm of metaphysics – philosophy and mathematics – the only criterion for a theory is logical consistency. There are many mathematical theories that are logically consistent and extremely interesting, but don’t describe an actual physical reality. The structures they describe are quite real, but at a much more abstract level. It has been said that “mathematics is a game played in the mind, and one keeps score with pencil and paper.”

It would seem clear that metaphysical realities, being non-physical, cannot be subject to scientific investigation, and that is true if we confine ourselves to the objective means of gaining knowledge – that is sense impressions (enhanced by instrumentation). We don’t have to confine ourselves to objective science however. There are subjective means of gaining knowledge. This is clear, for otherwise how would we have any knowledge of metaphysical reality?! The problem with the subjective means of gaining knowledge is that it is variable. Our thoughts are colored by our experiences, our environment, our language, etc. The great philosophical disputes attest to the fact that there has been no way to reach consensus in the subjective realm.

Vedic Science is called a science for a reason. It provides a systematic technique to explore, within our consciousness, progressively more abstract regions of thought, all the way to the transcendental level of Pure Consciousness. In this way we can study and “measure,” as it were, anything metaphysical. This kind of knowledge is, in fact, more direct than objective knowledge, because it is direct knowledge on the level of the Knower, which is Pure Consciousness. And knowledge on this level is unchanging, because Pure Consciousness is unchanging and common to all.

In the highest state of human awareness, one’s direct perception is that Pure Consciousness is the one, unified, all-pervading reality and all of “objective” creation is nothing more than the internal dynamics of Pure Consciousness, which is what we are. In this state, the subjective and objective worlds meld into one unbroken wholeness, and we know that wholeness to be our own Self. We have direct, internal, intuitive knowledge of both the physical world and the metaphysical world, which are seen as just different levels of expression of Pure Consciousness. This is Pure Knowledge, complete knowledge, perfect knowledge – surely the goal of all science and philosophy. As Maharishi once put it, “we’re going to make Gd a scientific reality!”


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Vayelech  (“And he went”)
Although Vayelech means “and he went,” Moses says to the people “I am 120 years old today and I can no longer go out or in.” The symbolism of 120 as 3 x 40 is strongly suggestive: 40 days of the flood, 40 days twice to receive Torah, 40 the age at which Isaac and Esau married… “Forty” seems to be symbolic of Fulfillment. Three times forty seems to be symbolic of three levels of Fulfillment, the surface, the depth and the Wholeness.

To not be able to go in and out is symbolic of being established in Wholeness, in God, so that every motion is within and there is never any going out or coming back.

Very inspiring to have a leader who is so established, very promising to us that we can also achieve this state.

In Parashat Vayelech, Moses told our ancestors (and us) to have courage as they pass over the Jordan into the Promised Land: Gd is with you, and will destroy your enemies. But Moses also said that that our ancestors will turn from Torah, and Gd will hide His Face from us, but that Torah shall not be forgotten from the mouths of their descendants.

This means that though we close our heart and turn away from Torah, yet at any time, we can open our heart and Torah will be seen there as It Always Is (Torah is the Word of God, the Liveliness of Gd, never separate, always there).

When we open our heart, we are new people, descendants of the old people that we no longer are but our descendants, new people, people in whom Torah and Gd are alive in our hearts, our words, our actions and in the response of Gd to us.

As Rosh HaShanah passes and Yom Kippur nears, this is a reminder that the New Year is not only a New Year in calendar time but an opportunity for a new year in our hearts, souls, thoughts, speech, action and in the response Gd gives us — a time when we open to Gd and Gd opens to us so no part of Gd’s Face is hidden and we remember and live the Oneness which we always are (though we may not realize it).

All around us, Gd/Torah singing to us, dancing to us, in the sky, earth, pebbles, streams and leaves — everywhere.

It is a reminder that the Day of Atonement really is the Day of At-Onement, a day in which all our vows to Gd are annulled because the separation between Gd and us is annulled.

This is a preview of the opportunity for the celebration of Purity, A Clean Slate. Fulfilled Year, Fulfilled Us, Fulfilled World

A great time!

Baruch HaShem