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Parashat Shemot 5782 — 12/25/2021

Parashat Shemot 5782 — 12/25/2021

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.

Shemot 1:1 – 6.1

Last week we discovered that, according to Rambam, there are two “kinds” of intellect (perhaps it would be better to say two modes of activity of the intellect) – one is the ability to discern “good” and “bad,” with the emphasis on sensual distinctions. The other, and higher value, is the ability to discern between Truth and falsehood. Today I want to consider these two aspects of the intellect.

The ability to discern between Truth and falsehood, Rambam asserts, is inherent in human nature (much as it seems that many people seem unwilling or unable to use it). It is most emphatically not the ability to distinguish “good” and “bad,” which Rambam identifies with conventional judgments about the desirability of objects. This kind of distinguishing ability is associated more with the senses – the fruit “looked good to eat” – and is the quality shared by animals. He identifies the sin of Adam and Eve as directing their lives towards the superficial aspects of creation, namely the objects of the senses, the outer, objective world, rather than towards the life of ideas, of abstract truth. In other words, it appears that to Rambam the ideal of human existence is that of the philosopher, who deals with the abstract and more or less leaves aside the concrete.

There is quite a lot to be said for this approach. We experience in our TM practice that as the mind settles down our thoughts become more and more abstract, expanded and powerful. Eventually, when the nervous system is completely purified, we identify our individual self with the purely abstract universal Self, Pure Consciousness, which lies at the basis of both our subjective world and the objective world. In order for our activity to be most effective, it needs to spring from this purely abstract level, from which it draws on the infinite power of the source of creation.

Nonetheless, we need to live in the world of activity. Pure Consciousness may experience itself on its own level, but it creates a world of action that can project human nervous systems that can appreciate Pure Consciousness “from the outside” as it were. Maharishi has said that the reason for this is that the human nervous system can appreciate the wholeness of the absolute Pure Consciousness together with the relative creation – a level of wholeness that is greater than the sum of its parts. So Pure Consciousness creates within itself to avail itself of a greater wholeness than it can have if it remains by itself alone!

This is, in fact, a very Jewish perspective on the reality of this world. While recognizing that Gd is the only real existence, Judaism is a very this-worldly religion. We do not denigrate this world, and we don’t negate it in order to reach a spiritual existence. Rather the Jewish approach is to sanctify this world and raise its level of holiness through mitzvah performance, and through avoidance of improper action.

I think we can understand this idea of sanctifying the world through the lens of the different states of consciousness that Vedic Science delineates:

  • In Transcendental Consciousness the mind expands and experiences the transcendent directly. It becomes sanctified, holy, in the sense that it is the transcendent, at least during the moment of transcendence. This state is temporary and we return to more or less the same state, although the purification that we receive by contact of the mind with the transcendent allows our mind to function in a clearer and purer manner. This is a step towards permanent sanctification…
  • In Cosmic Consciousness, Pure Consciousness has been so established as the nature of the mind that it persists through waking, dreaming and sleeping. This is a first level of permanent sanctification – the relative states of consciousness that are associated with the individuality, the world of diversity, are suffused with the sanctity of the transcendent.
  • In Unity Consciousness perception gets involved. Not only is our mind infused with Pure Consciousness, our senses perceive all objects to be nothing other than Pure Consciousness expressing itself, similar to the same way that physics describes all particles as states of an underlying Unified Field. In the most advanced state of Unity Consciousness we perceive Pure Consciousness to be the all-pervading substance and substrate of creation. Everything is numinous, nothing hides Pure Consciousness any more.

Before Cosmic Consciousness, the mind is dominated by the objects of the senses. Thus, the distinctions we make are on the level of the objects of the senses, the “lower” level of intellect as described by Rambam. In Unity Consciousness, on the other hand, we evaluate the nature of every object as being eternal, unchanging Pure Consciousness. Now Maharishi has defined Truth as “that which never changes.” Pure Consciousness is that which never changes; everything in the objective world is always-changing, never the same. Pure Consciousness is therefore Truth. An object or system is true only to the extent that it doesn’t change – once it does change, anything we might say about it has also changed, and is no longer true. In other words, to distinguish between Truth and falsehood simply means being in Unity Consciousness! Then our direct perception is of the Truth permeating all falsehood, and distinguishing between the two is just a question of on what level we wish to station our awareness. Thus, the highest level of intellect is obtained in Unity Consciousness alone, because it is only in Unity Consciousness that we have both Truth and its opposite available on the level of direct perception – the choice between them is glaringly obvious. The philosopher (“lover of Truth”) finds fulfillment in this state, and the devotee of Gd also finds fulfillment in this state. Whichever path one is on, the goal is the same.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Shemot

This parshah concludes with Gd telling Moses that redemption is close at hand but before that promise is given, we see the collapse of Wholeness in the awareness of the Egyptian people and several hundred years of slavery for the Children of Israel.

“A new pharaoh arose in Egypt who knew not Joseph.”

Joseph and his family brought Canaan (synchronicity, Wholeness) to Egypt (Mitzraim, restrictions).

The pharaoh of Joseph’s time knew Joseph, and thus knew Wholeness and respected all representatives of Wholeness. When a pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph, it means he was lost in restrictions and could not see and respect Wholeness and its representatives.

As a result, this pharaoh saw Joseph and the Children of Israel as threats and not as blessings. He reduced them to slavery and began murdering the newborn males. Of course, for this to have happened, there must have been some diminishing of purity, of wholeness, on the part of the Israelites, not just ritual impurity but some diminishing of their “Loving Gd with all their heart, their soul, all their might” and some diminishing of their “loving their neighbor as their self, their Self.

The most important lesson we learn is to honor these two commandments of Gd so that we are always happy, loving and perceived that way by others. Then everyone, including the most powerful rulers and the most desperate criminals would always see us as friends and never even think of doing us harm.

When the Children of Israel in Egypt had been reduced to slavery and Pharaoh was murdering the male children, the cries of the Israelites rose to Gd and Gd decided the time for the Exodus had come – the return to Canaan, to Wholeness.

Gd spoke to Moses from a burning bush, a bush that was not consumed by the flames, and told Moses that He will rescue them and lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey. He told Moses to speak to Pharaoh to release the Children of Israel for three days to make offerings to their Gd in the desert. Gd also tells Moses that Pharaoh will refuse and that Gd will, with a mighty hand perform miracles and then Pharaoh will let the Children of Israel go and they will leave and not go empty handed but with all of the wealth of Egypt.

Moses asked Gd what name shall he tell the Children of Israel when they ask him who sent him.

Gd responds, “Ehyeh hasher Ehyeh”: I Will Be what I Will Be.” But also, He says tell them the Gd of their forefathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has sent you so they will have confidence that He who rescued their forefathers will rescue them

We can learn from this that Gd the Omnipotent who “Will Be what He Will Be” cannot be interfered with and does answer prayers: He will answer ours but perhaps our troubles are long-standing, like the slavery of the Children of Israel in Egypt. Then perhaps Gd will answer the prayers step-by-step, perhaps by sending us some person with wisdom, such as a business advisor, a teacher, a health professional, to lead us out of our troubles. Some person who has a history of success.

Perhaps He will answer our prayers by giving us some flash of insight, which like the burning bush, continues, does not pass away, gives us confidence it is reliable advice we can act on.

Perhaps He will answer our prayers by giving us continual Awareness of His Wholeness, His “I Will Be What I Will Be” and thus give us direct experience of this Wholeness, this All-in-All, that governs according to His Will and through which we can solve problems and prevent problems.

We need to be alert and open for we do not know how Gd will answer our prayers and transform our problems into blessings.: He Will Be What He Will Be.

And we need to be the leaders of our own lives: we need to be our own Moses and to continue communicating with Gd—through prayer, through our good lives, through whatever means we have to “love Gd with all our heart and soul” and to “love our neighbor as ourself” so that through our love we become open to Gd’s Love, Gd’s Blessings, Gd’s restoration to us of our birthright: Oneness with the One, the “I will Be What I will Be”.

Baruch HaShem