Podcast 5: Abraham
Original Tape of Lecture V
Sources of Creative Power – Spring Semester
[Part I: Abraham]
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We have seen [Audio file starts here.] in the last session that distinctions between the concepts of faith, belief and superstition are most necessary in order to approach the question of religion rightly. We found that we could define each religion as it has appeared on the earth as a system of beliefs — unchecked beliefs and dogmas — surrounded by a system of almost magical customs, superstition, but containing in its very center a progressive nucleus of pure faith. This faith we found is concerned always with a definite concept of divinity, of whatever kind. It is important to us to approach the matter this way because the decision we have to make in our minds in our time is: Are those people right who think we should reject religious concerns — not only religion but religious concerns, religious thinking — altogether? Is it so that by progress it has been proven that all content of religious thought can better be explained by philosophical reasoning? Is it so that really religious thinking contains nothing that philosophy could not contain as well?
If this were so we would have to say that religious thinking belongs, in a way, to what we called mythical thinking — namely, is a premature thinking of man in which all kinds of thinking — scientific, artistic, philosophic — are mixed up in an amorphic form and that, as with mythical
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thinking which we had to reject, we also have to reject religious thinking. It can no longer be of use to us. Or is it that, in philosophically destroying every possible system of belief, whether of a religious nature — namely, containing this nucleus of poor faith — or of an ideological nature — i.e., those modern systems of belief which we have to destroy for their merely dogmatical content that wants to erect a tyranny over the mind of man — that in doing so we destroyed with them, or neglected with them, those nuclei of poor faith in different religions which have contained thoughts, productive creative thoughts, necessary to human life which cannot be replaced by philosophic reasoning, by the creative capability of philosophic man? That means: Is there such a thing as genuine religious creative thinking and therefore is there a necessity that man, in order to be full man, be not only philosophic man, erotic man, political man, scientific man and artistic man, but also religious man?
Is there such a necessity? In order to find that we will return through the whole course again and again to comparative studies of faith and reason and of their relation. We will be involved in the continued attempts to find out the relations between freedom and reason. Both trends shall finally meet and show a triangular relation of freedom, faith and reason. If we could find such a relation as a definite one in the human and as a probability, then it
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would mean that we have proven the point that man not only can be religious man, but perhaps should be if for no other reason than that he can be. We can in philosophy not hope to constitute any imperative of the ›you should be‹ or ›you shall be‹ kind. We can only show possibilities and then ask the question: If you can be that — namely, religious man — perhaps you will cripple yourself if you do not try to be it because you can be it. If you can show that you can be it then there is sense to it. That means that it is a living creative possibility of the human mind.
In order to find definite nuclei of pure faith in given religions we take for our model the Christian religion; first, for the obvious reason that it is the one we all know still best, although this seems to dwindle fast, too, this knowledge. I would never have thought possible what I have experienced in the last two semesters in American colleges: namely, that there is really a student body of freshmen almost 80% of whom have never read a word of the Bible in their whole life. In Europe that wouldn’t be astonishing but in America — well, the Bible has originally been almost the whole library of the people. It shows how fast developments, which I think we should not call progress, go in our time. So, one has to start sometimes from scratch and make them read the Bible, which is really funny.
Nevertheless, it is the nearest religion to us. We
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know most of this religion. It is certainly the most highly developed religion in the world. It is almost the most widely spread — not in the sense that it has more members than Buddhism, let alone Hinduism or Taoism might have — that is not the question. The question is that no other religion could ever avoid considering Judaism and Christianity and that is due to one book — the Bible. This religion is the religion of a book or rather of ›The Book of Books‹. This greatest best seller of all time, the Bible, is a book that has been read by more human beings in the course of time than any other book and that includes the even older texts of the Veda, the Indian writings, because we have to consider that those were texts that then and now are mostly read and studied by a certain class, by the educated ones only. Only the Bible is a religious book that really was read by the masses and to a certain degree still is read by the masses.
So, the influence of this book is huge, its influence on human thinking. So is the influence of the religion it stands for. Observe the fact that great scientists like Freud who make valuable discoveries in a modern scientific field like psychology nevertheless get, in the main content of their theory, so entirely fooled that they accept, e.g., the theory that there is only one energy in man — namely, sexual energy — and that all other energies, creative energies, are only derivates from this energy and that therefore
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this energy must be curbed because otherwise man can give himself out only in sex — a theory that does not hold water in any point, which is entirely metaphysical, arbitrary, and has not the slightest proof in science. It is just a pseudo-scientific repetition of the second story of creation in the Bible, the story of the Fall of Man. Much of the moral burden in or notion of sex — as well as knowledge and labor, as we will see — is due to this mythical concept of original sin. But it is so deep-seated that even for socalled absolutely objective modern scientists it is very hard to get away from pre-conceived concepts like this one is. It is even harder to become aware that one is still a prisoner of those concepts.
The case of Karl Marx is very similar. The modern proletariat is the chosen people in Marx’s theory and nothing else. We have seen — reality has shown us that as soon as the proletarian gets the opportunity to earn money, they are inclined to become worse philistines that the bourgeoisie ever can be. They outdo even them. So, there is no chosen class and perhaps no chosen people in this mythical sense that the Bible originally intended. We do not know how far we are — all of us — in our thinking still prisoners of such early concepts, and that is significant because those thoughts are fundamental and it is very difficult to change fundamental thoughts. It takes a long time.
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Fundamental thoughts set patterns for human thinking and one thinks in certain patterns unchecked and uncontrolled for centuries. It is hard later to unearth the original foundation stones on which those almost eternal patterns finally rest and are built.
The Christian and Judaic religion gives us a unique opportunity (and that is the third reason for taking it up for our purposes) to get at the hidden content of pure faith almost at once. It is very hard to do so in the Zarathustrian, the Buddhistic, the Hindu, Taoistic, and other religions, but since this religion — the Judeo-Christian religion — is built on a book and on a book that is written in continuity, in continuation, it is easier to find in it this hidden core of pure faith. One only has to look for those parts of the Bible which did not have success, which did not openly get into the context of the later Judaic and Christian religion, but stand out like sore thumbs, contradicting most of the later distortions so much that they almost can be seen at once, though it seems first to be hard to see them.
You have read Genesis, I hope, for this purpose. There we have the first phenomenon that can give us a lead — namely, the obvious contradiction between the two stories of the creation that are told in the very beginning of the Bible. In the first chapter of Genesis there is given a
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story of the creation and again in the second. Both are not only contradictory to the highest degree, they are also of an entirely different flavor. Historically, the simple story told in the first chapter of Genesis about the creation is a story that in the content of thought, as well as in that expression — that non-mythical rendering and so on — has no equal and no parallel in all mythical religious literature of the world. It is unique. It is unique in its almost non-mythical content. The second story of the creation is one of the most mythical, mysterious, allegorical and involved stories ever told in any myth. In addition to it this story is not unique; it is a Babylonian story. It is a story we find in many myths and not only in the Bible. Here it is rewritten in the context of later Judaic thinking, postAbrahamitic thinking — but it is, in its symbols as well as in its mysterious expressions, very similar to old Chaldean and Babylonian myths.
There are other parts of Babylonian myth that have been taken into Genesis — for instance the Tower of Babel, the story of the flood. But you will at once see if you recheck and read the stories which come, into the Bible from other myths that, of course, they have mythical content, they are mythical stories, but they are not mysterious at all. No apple, no tree of life, no tree of knowledge, whatever that may be, highly allegorical expressions, mysterious
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expressions, as we have them in the second story of creation — the fall of man, the snake, the serpent, the strange event that is absolutely poetically mysterious and inten-, tionally mysterious and invites ever different interpretations. There is nothing straightforward or really philosophically unambiguous in this second story of creation — on the contrary, everything is to the highest degree ambiguous. Everything is intentionally given in terms, metaphores and expressions that mislead the reader constantly and put a veil of mystery over the whole happening. If you compare this second story with the first in the first chapter, then you will at once see that there is no such thing in the first chapter. The first chapter is almost nothing but a factual account of things that supposedly really happened. God created the world in a certain order, then He created man and woman and tells them, »All the rest of the world is created for you. You are the masters. Please use it.« And there the story ends.
Now I would like that all of you would make the experiment for yourselves in re-reading the Bible, to leave out the second story of creation and to continue your reading after the first chapter with the murder of Abel and then go on. Perhaps that will give you an insight that this is the original story, that the story of the fall and sin have been later introduced into the text. Further proof you find in
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the fact that, continuing this kind of reading without the second chapter and paradise and fall and being driven out of the paradise, you will come to the Abrahamitic stories and then you might discover that this is the only part in the Bible where there is almost no mention of sin whatsoever. That is especially true in the Abrahamitic stories. Sin, the concept of sin, does not play any role at all in them.
This is most strange at the first glance, because when, we read the Bible we do so with a knowledge of Christian and Jewish dogmas which put very funny spectacles on one’s nose. If we read the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah we can almost not avoid to read the concept of sin into it. How could we avoid it because Sodom has become the symbol of sin, including the terrible sin of sodomy, the greatest aberration of human sex. But if we look into this story without this prejudice then we find that no mention of sin is made at all. Sodom is not a sinful city at all. Sodom is an unrighteous city. That is all that is said. Those people are full of iniquity; they are not righteous. And what really, if you read the story itself, is going on in Sodom? The most terrible thing that can be going on since Cain and Abel in mankind — namely, civil war. War of one against the other. No law, no constitution, an atmosphere of constant civil war and conspiracy. An absolute absence of law, justice, and righteousness. This city is destroyed
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by the Jehovah, the God of Abraham. It is destroyed not with heavy accusations of sin. It is not destroyed in order to announce eternal punishment to those sinners. It is just destroyed, but it wasn’t worth to live. It has to be abolished because it has lost the path of righteousness which is the task of man on earth. That is all.
Now in the Sodom and Gomorrah story we have also the best indication, the first and best indication, of the remarkably strange concept of divinity, of God, that those Abrahamitic stories contain, a concept that has later been spoiled, redesigned already by Moses and by all other religious originators of Judaic-Christian religion, so that we always miss the point because we think those are primitive. The later stories are the better developed ones of the greater thinkers who knew their stuff better and we miss a point that those later stories contain an entirely different concept of divinity and of God than the Abrahamitic stories. They preserved some essence of the Abrahamitic concept, and to this preservation is due the fact that Judaic-Christian religion has withstood the attacks of philosophers longer than any other religion because there is hidden in it a left-over of an almost indestructible, philosophically indestructible, concept of divinity.
We want to find what this concept is. It reveals itself to us first in almost funny features. We must leave
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out God as he appears in the second creation story where He is already quite another God — a God of pure wrath, almost the God of Moses already, a God who judges absolutely, a God who knows everything. But in the other stories He is a God who doesn’t seem to know everything. The qualities of divinity, of the one God, that are ascribed to Him by Judaic, from Moses on, and Christian religion — namely, being all-powerful, being all-present, being all-knowing — does not seem to apply to this God because this is a God who commits blunders continually. He seems to be a minor God compared with this later God of Judaism and Christianity. He commits errors. He makes the creation, something goes wrong with the creation. He hates what’s going wrong and He destroys the earth by a big flood. After the big flood He tells himself, because the earth coming out again smells so good to Him, He tells himself, ›I won’t do that again. I make a covenant with Myself not to do that again because that is not the way. I have to find another way to bring things into order.‹ Now, where is the all-knowledge, where is the all-power, and where is the all-presence? He seems almost to be experimenting with his own creation.
Something worse happens to Him. He needs man. He is constantly looking for men. First he looks for Noah. ›This might be the one on whom I can rely‹ and makes a covenant with him. Later he is looking for Abraham. He tests Abraham,
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has to test him in order to find out ›Is that the man really I can cooperate with or will that again be a mistake with this guy?‹ Where is the all-knowledge? What a remarkable limited God that seems to be! And yet of Him it is said that He is the highest judge of the earth, that He is the creator of the all and the creator of man.
Contradictory as it seems, a more careful analysis would have shown us earlier in our Western thinking that there is an advantage to this concept of divinity of Abraham, this apparently limited divinity, which the so-called more highly developed concept of this God, the Mosaic, the Prophetic, the Christian, do not have. It is the stumbling block of all theologians, when they come into an earnest discussion with philosophers, that when they explain to the philosopher that this absolute being, which is absolute perfection, which is all-powerful, all-present, all that and that and that, and needing nothing but Himself, and allgoodness, all perfection — well then, the philosopher will say, ›What a monster have you designed for me? This, your concept of the highest absolute being lacks one thing which it cannot possibly have: namely, freedom.‹ A perfect being cannot be free by definition. So what kind of a monster God is that?
Here let’s compare this God of Abraham and the later God of Judaism and Christianity with the God of Zarathustra.
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The God of Zarathustra seems also to be such a monster, but in the consequent thinking of the philosopher Zarathustra, he put it absolutely outside everything, and denied this absolute being any contact with man. Man cannot reach Ahura-Mazda. Man can only pray for him, think about him, can be with him in thought but not communicate with him in thought. This God is not acting into the world. As soon as one does that one is consequent and the philosopher has to say to this theologian, ›Well, I can accept such a concept. You agree that such a God cannot be free, but he needn’t be free because he need not to act into the world. But your God, Christians and Jews, is a God that is apparently perfect, that means has no freedom, but acts into the world. How can he possibly do that without having freedom?‹
There is no way out of this contradiction except in the story of Abraham because here this God has become this all alone, powerful perfect being that was there before the world was there, this perfect being that has, as later philosophers say of the absolute God, the God who is the Absolute, has the reason for himself in himself. He is absolute because he is not related to anything; nothing is the condition of His existence. He is not conditioned. He contains the conditions of his existence within himself. That is philosophically speaking the right formulation for the absolute. If we design such a being in our ideas, con-
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ceive of such an idea, then the idea is the right and logical idea of a perfect absolute being. This perfect absolute being has freedom only potentially. It does not exercise freedom because it does not yet act; and now it decides to create the world. That means to create something outside Himself — and absolutely outside because this is the concept of the transcendent God. The world is not made according to this belief, the Abrahamitic belief, as well as the Judaic-Christian belief, the world is not made out of God Himself — that means the world is not flesh of the flesh of God and spirit of God as Spinoza conceives it, or the Indians conceive the world by their imminent Gods. This is the transcendent God. He is really the maker of the world. He does not, according to Christian belief, need any material for it. The material for it He creates out of nothing. In the older beliefs — the Abrahamitic, for instance, the oldest Hebrew belief — it seems, according to newer translations than the King James, as if it is supposed that matter, though in a chaotic form, was there and God takes this matter and creates out of it the world. However that might be, the absolute distinction between this absolute and the world that is created by Him which is relative, stands for the whole religion and has been accepted by all the concepts of divinity in the Judaic-Christian religion of all kinds. There they are unanimous.
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Now, according to the Abrahamitic text the things happened reasonably — I mean at least in thought. No philosopher can hold anything against this development of thought. That does not mean that the events took place, but the idea of the event and what has happened is a reasonable idea. It is a thing that could have happened in full accordance with human reason. It does not contradict human reason. That is as an implication the real secret of the Abrahamitic stories. They are not only outstanding in the Bible. They are outstanding in all religious, mythical or otherwise, literature of the world for one reason: namely, if you make the experiment to take God in the Abrahamitic stories out of those stories and make the assumption that God was, as a reality, merely there in the sense of William James who said that if I believe in a God, then this God is a reality for me — which merely means he is a mental reality in the brain of this man, in his mentality there he is a reality — if you suppose that in all of the Abrahamitic stories God exists only as a mental reality of Abraham’s, if you interpret the whole stories in the sense of a permanent inner dialogue between Abraham and his concept of God, a mere mental idea, then you will take nothing out of the meaning, nothing will be altered in those stories, the truth in them will remain the same.
That is true for no other religious story in the Bible
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as well as in all other religious literature. As soon as you would assume in any of those stories — there is one exception and those are certain stories of Jesus of Nazareth — if you would assume in all the other stories such a thing as to take God as a mental reality for the believer who experienced, lived, or told those stories, then the stories will break down, their significance will be lost, their meaning will be altered. Not so here. It is the only religious story that can be read in the full light of reason and still contain its full significance, philosophical significance and religious significance, as we will later see.
So, the concept of God given here is a concept of a limited God, in a way. This God is not the God of Zarathustra. He is the God of Zarathustra, but Zarathustra’s God is perfection only as far as He is, so to speak, the transcendent human mind. He is the perfect mind. Abraham’s God is more than mind. Abraham’s God is the perfect person, the all-person. Man is not only mind; man is more than mind and man even can rule to a certain degree his mind because he is a person. This most hidden and central quality of man is later called a soul — not that he has a soul; he is a soul. This soul does not mean more than this inherent personal quality which makes man who he is and which sets him apart from all other beings which can never possibly become persons. The God of Abraham is not taken as the absolute
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mind; he is taken as the absolute person. So is the God of Moses, the God of Judaism, the God of Christianity in all its aspects — the absolute person. But in the other concepts of the absolute person this fault of the freedom lacking in this person is not considered. Here it is considered, in the Abrahamitic concept of God. The deep thought underlying here is that this absolute being, being a person that creates the world from wherever and finally decides to create man as a free being, can do so only by making himself, who is absolute and who does not need any relation, by making himself related to the world and especially to man and therefore making himself to a certain degree relative. That means making himself to a certain degree dependent — he who is absolutely independent by definition.
This act can only be explained as an act of self-restriction, as an act of this supreme absolute being going into action and creating an act of self-limitation. With that he loses his all-power. He has to delegate some of this power to man and this power he delegates to man becomes to a certain degree uncontrollable for him because man is free and can deny him. He becomes and makes himself to a high degree dependent on man. Now he has a possible companion, this lonely absolute being, whose love could never have acted if he would not create himself a partner. This partner is man, and Abraham is this partner of God, this partner is the person
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which is not eternal person like God. He is limited person, person in time, but with the breath of God, with one quality of God: namely, understanding for the absolute, the thinking quality, and with it freedom of acting.
As soon as this is the case, God has to experiment with the world. Something goes suddenly wrong, it must go wrong with this creation. Not the fall itself. I propose to leave the story of the fall out. If we leave it out, we find that the next thing is the murder of Abel by Cain. In the first chapter of the creation God gives the command, and this is not a command, it is a permission to man who is already men and women and says to them »multiply and fill the earth and take possession of everything there is in the world, subdue them, rule them.«1 So multiplication being the intention, how could it then be sin, according to the second chapter, that man makes use of this permission? Here is the deepest contradiction. The second story of the creation contains three decided discriminations and deformations: the deformation of knowledge, the deformation of sex, and the deformation of labor.
Labor is introduced after the fall as the punishment for the sin he has committed in sex, for the sin he has committed in eating the apple and trying for knowledge. Now as Freud has shown us in his performance, one thing is true: the discrimination of sex is the mightiest weapon ever inven-
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ted to rule the mind of man — and the Mosaic religion needed this mightiest weapon. Also, a mighty weapon is the discrimination of labor for ruling castes who want to preserve this knowledge for themselves. All those weapons are contained in the second story of the creation, the story of the fall. None of them whatsoever is indicated in the first chapter.
In the first chapter is described that if man wants to make use of all things and rule all the things on earth, he has to work. It is his task. A task is given to him — a free task — and if he is permitted to multiply, it means that he should make use of sex. There is no discrimination of sex whatsoever. Of knowledge no word is said because it is self-evident that the rule over the earth and things, the job of putting the world in order and using it rightly, can only be done by free beings who develop their knowledge. So everything is quite simple, direct, obvious and clear in the first story of the creation. Everything is absolutely unclear, obscure, contradictory and mysterious in the second story of the creation. Those are the real contradictions in both stories.
Now, if we disregard the second story, then within the possibility of man who has been set free by God and made free, is the possibility of sin — not sin here in this degrading and disgracing sense that the second story gives.
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that man must be a sinner because Adam had sinned — but he has the possibility of crime. What does crime mean? The first crime committed is the crime of the murder of a brother. Cain murders Abel. A human being, a free person created in order to cooperate with God on the earth decides to murder another human person — that means the highest crime in the world. By doing so he hurts this God, this God who is himself a person. He destroys the principle of person itself in another man. That is original crime: namely, it is crime against origin; it is crime against the free origin of human and divine creativeness. With that sin has not come into the world, but that has come into the world which as a possibility has been brought into the world by God himself, by this God.
The most severe trouble Jewish and Christians theologians of the later time also run into is that if they go into mystical thinking about the real foundations of this thought, they have become heretics. Hundreds of the best thinkers of the Jewish and Christian creed have become heretics again and again because they pursued their thinking so far and so well that they came to the unavoidable conclusion that God is the responsible creator of sin and evil, that God, of course, has created evil and not man. And this is so. If there is original sin, if man is evil, then, of course, God is responsible for it. The contradictions of the second
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story of creation have led to the most funny interpretations. Hegel, for instance, has said, ›The serpent was right because knowledge is the highest good of man. How could God deny it. God just used the serpent in order to bring man to knowledge and to his highest capacity.‹2 So the Devil serves God, which is funny and contradictory. Different interpretations are as remarkably funny because there is no way out. If God has condemned man if he is looking for knowledge, if he wants to work, if he wants to multiply and tries to do so — if he is then already condemned to original sin, then God has brought evil into the world.
But this God of Abraham did not bring evil into the world. This God of Abraham has created and must have created man because there is no other choice reasonable, and this is a quite reasonable God. To create man free means to create him as a creative being, as a creative creature. Giving him this creative capability must mean that his reason can overstep its border, that he can conceive of himself as God. Having the idea of the absolute and a possible insight to something absolute — namely, God or an absolute idea — he can also mistake himself for this absolute and he can, like Cain, make himself the highest judge of the world, the one who, like God, could judge the other human being and put him to death. As soon as man does that he commits crime, original crime, the crime against origin: namely, he oversteps the
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lines of humanity.
This demonic possibility of man has nothing to do with sin, the concept of sin in the Bible. It is a much more dangerous concept and a much more responsible one. It puts all the responsibility for never crossing the lines, for never mistaking oneself for a divine person on man and on every person himself and on nobody else. In the second story of the creation, on the other hand, is contained a great relief: namely, the relief that man must sin because Adam sinned. It is felt and has always been felt, even by non-thinkers who have not become heretics and have not gone so deep into the matter but have a very good feeling for given basic positions in the world — including most Christian and Jewish believers — that, of course, God is responsible for sin, that they have somebody co-responsible, that part of their fault can be put on the bigger shoulders of big brother, God; and that gives tremendous relief.
The Abrahamitic concept does not give this relief. Here man being in the full power of his reason is himself responsible not to cross those lines and if he crosses them then God has not brought crime into the world, man has brought crime into the world. God only had to take that risk and God had taken that risk that man could bring crime into the world as Cain did. This God of Abraham is a personal God. He is not only a person himself, the absolute person who
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limits himself in order to create limited, very limited, other persons — namely, human beings — and create them free. He also communicates with them only as with persons and only persons. The communication of the highest God — namely, the absolute God — let’s not talk about the highest God because the highest God is again an expression of a relation.
That is just the genius of Abraham as a religious thinker that he saw the same thing and saw it before Zarathustra: namely, that much as man might strive to overcome one God by another God in the world by getting a higher and higher concept of God, the highest God must be an absolute God. People in Abraham’s time spoke of the priest of the highest God and called Abraham the servant of the highest God. They were looking for the highest God. At that time in Egypt they were looking for the one God. But it was of no use because they rejected one after the other to find a higher one and a higher one and they always found only a relative power. The idea of absolute transcendent power, the absolute God, is the idea of Abraham and it is the higher idea because he makes this absolute God then limit himself out of his absolute power. That is the genius of this clear religious conception that Abraham must have had and that we have in the Bible.
This absolute God, therefore, brought with this con-
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ception, conceived by man, another absolute new idea and that is the idea expressed in the first words of the Bible: »In the beginning.« There is no literature in all religion and mythology before that that can use the word beginning rightly. Though there are many stories of creation told in Babylonian myth, though we have many so-called stories of creation in Indian myth, and everywhere else, they are not beginnings. The time concept of them is always time running circular: namely, everything has always been. It comes again and again. Those creations of worlds and worlds are always creations out of the existing world already. They are imminent and therefore they do not set a beginning of the world in time. Here in those words it is said, because of the concept of the absolute being. This absolute being, being the absolute person, becomes the creator. The moment he decides to create the world this world comes into being by his word. That means the world has a beginning in time. It might possibly have an end in time as later speculation in this line develops it, but here is only said that it has a definite beginning in time.
That means that we have a time concept here which is historical and not natural. If you look into all other myths with the circular time running then you find that this is a natural concept of time as time works or manifests itself in nature. Modern physicists say, ›Well, we butt into a line of
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certain occurrences but we can never say what is first and what is next. Out of mere physical observation we cannot see any direction of time.‹ [Audio file ends here.] And they can’t because natural time has no direction, no possible development that indicates that in this time the old things will not happen again and again and again in a circular time movement, but that new things can happen, new things can be brought into the world. This is a world where creators are active, a world and a time in which things can be done. It is historical time, and this historical time is the time of man, of the person, of the working person in the world — a concept that has come straight out of this absolute person that the GodCreator is. Out of this concept again comes logically the concept of a task of man with the world, a task that man can do in the world — and this task is a common task with God. That means as soon as historical time is introduced it must be abandoned and brought from behind back into a circular time concept if, like in later Judaism and especially Christianity, we want to get out of it concepts of abolishing the creation and all those things. They bring the time back into a circular movement.
In the Abrahamitic concept this is impossible. Time from now on is going straight on; time depends on man and on his task on the earth and with the world. And that means that the later concepts of Judaism and Christianity cannot be
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reconciled with this concept because the later concepts have an idea of the creation completed as in the second story of the creation. In the Abrahamitic story and in the first chapter of Genesis creation is by no means completed. Creation is going on; there is a possibility of creation going on; man has a task with the world; the world has to be perfected by him. We saw that in Zarathustra, also. There is a responsibility of man for the world, and also for nature because there is something lacking in creation: the absolute human community is lacking. First, righteousness is lacking and has to be brought into the world by man who can also bring crime into the world. The endless fight for bringing justice, creativeness, meaning into the world has begun; and there is the unending danger of ruining the creation that is not completed, by man’s more and more introducing, bringing crime into the world, becoming less and less human instead of more and more human and ruining himself with the world.
Both ways are opened in this straight time that is going ahead in infinity from here on, according to this concept. That is why God needs man; He has delegated power. The creation is not completed; He could have not created a free human being, and the Abrahamitic stories alone, among all religions except in a few sayings of Jesus of Nazareth, contain the only religious concept that is built
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according to free man. Every other religious concept cannot really say that it can use free men — it cannot. Man is the servant in any other religious concept. This is the only — not philosophical but religious concept (Zarathustra’s was more a philosophical concept than religious) — this is really a religious concept and it is the only one where man is taken into account and fits into this concept as a free being where he can be free, but also fully responsible for his own doings in the world, not as to sin but as to crime.
There is a concept of free human beings and a concept of free humanity within this religious concept which is still richer. God created man — however that might be. Let’s take the first proposition of the first chapter — Adam and Eve at once: man — this still means that the first concept of absolute human equality is introduced into the human world by a religious thought. If humanity has begun with one pair of human persons that means that there is no possible reason whatsoever for discrimination between races or persons. Everybody who has the human face which is the image of God, so to speak, is fundamentally equal. I cannot think of any greater mythical or religious scheme or thought to make that one thought sure forever than this invention that mankind has sprung from one pair of parents. It does not mean brotherhood — brotherhood has only been made out of it later — but what it decidedly means is that there is not
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and can never be a qualitative difference between different human beings. In their innermost human quality they are all alike and they are all equal. God created man so that mankind would be the offspring of man — this is, of course, a symbolic story but it tries to make sure of this basic law which is, of course, the idea of mankind, of humanity. Here for the first time is introduced the first concept of humanity as a whole.
So this is the greatness of the Judaic religion, spoiled as it later becomes; and it had to be spoiled because a people could never have been made with a God who cares only for persons, and who is as powerless as He appears in the Abrahamitic stories. When, e.g., Abraham comes to Egypt to Pharaoh and Pharaoh wants to take Sarah, his wife, away, Abraham is so afraid that he says he is her brother because otherwise he knows Pharaoh, in addition to everything else, will kill him, what does God do?3 Does he sound the trombones and the drums and does he show a tremendous might that frightens the Egyptians — is He a show-off like the God of Moses? Does he manifest Himself publicly? Does He show His might for all the people, that He the mighty Jewish God will prevail over all the people and show this power before all the peoples? He does no such thing. He talks to Pharaoh in a dream: that means he mobilizes the conscience of Pharaoh. He has only one power and this power is to communicate with
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human persons by talking to their conscience. This God of Abraham talks only to the mind. Of Abraham it is said he hears His voice. Well! — God’s voice. Where does the voice come from? He does not go as a column of smoke before the people of Israel coming out of Egypt; He doesn’t perform any miracles. He talks — he thinks in common with man — with the man who can receive His thinking. He communicates with man in thinking.
This God, of course, could have been the God of a very heroic tribe led by Abraham and could produce the highest faith ever produced. The pure personal faith in the personal God. But this concept of God, of course, would have been of no use to bring Israel out of Egypt and to make out of a lump of rabble and slaves by terrific means a nation within forty years. They needed another concept of God and they got it; and later peoples needed it, too, and got their concept of God. But one thing has prevailed of Abrahamitic thinking through all Jewish and finally Christian religion: this concept of humanity, the social conscience of the Jewish people, the feeling that this task they now have — though now they are the chosen people in Moses’ time — is nevertheless a task that can only be justified as a task for God and finally a task for humanity. In the end all shall become Jews — which is a funny kind of saying: all shall be man — what Abraham meant. They didn’t have any other way but the concept was, in a way, preserved.
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That is what makes Judaism and Christianity later so especially able to become world religions. Also in Christianity, the church of the Popes has done much — even in political matters in medieval times — to abolish national differences and always to reintroduce this vague concept of the whole of humanity again and again. Both religions have proved so especially resistant even in Nazi times, although the Catholic church for political reasons wanted to go as far as possible with Hitler. The last thing — namely, to say, to agree to the proposition that a Jew who has become a Christian is no more a Jew then, but a Christian — the Catholic church could not agree because for their concept to be a Christian was to be a man — like for the Jewish concept to become a Jew was to became a man, belong to humanity. And the Catholic church could not give in on that and it made its fight, and it had to make its fight back against the wall. That means if a little remainder of faith in an original concept of divinity is left in such a religion, it will still provide a guarantee that the humanity of human beings cannot be ruined entirely.
But here in Abraham’s stories we have the original concept, where the full concept of humanity is contained, and it is a concept of a dream-like wonderful quality. This man really believed and practiced the belief that because God can communicate with human persons, that human persons have to communicate with each other from person to person.
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concluding covenants with each other as God concluded a covenant with Abraham, and that by this very means, and only by means of personal contact and communication in truth, in trust and in faith can the final unification of all humanity be brought about. That is the idea Abraham was living and fighting for.
So, I hope we have now an over-all idea of the richness of this coherent concept of the one Absolute God-Creator, Who, in a way, created man even for a philosopher. I said that if we take God out of the Abrahamitic stories and leave him only as a mental reality, then one thing is sure and can be proved: the human capability of transcending the world absolutely — that means the whole of the world — in thought and showing to himself by it that he is a real essential thinker, that he has a mind that can overreach everything. The discovery of this possibility of the mind — namely, transcending not only this thing and this thing and this thing but the world as a whole, and by that being able to conceive of the world as a whole — this great power of the human mind would never have been discovered without the help of the one God-Creator. It has, as a matter of fact, been discovered by the help of the idea of the one GodCreator, that much is sure, and that is the philosophical profundity of the Abrahamitic stories — that here both things, faith and reason, are so near together that it gives a reason-
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able faith and a faithful reason as a possible product. We will later approach the same problem from Socrates’ side, from the side of reason — from reason approaching and almost touching faith. Here, faith touches reason. A faith of such purity has been developed that we get the most astonishing results in reason by it: namely, the discovery of the transcendence of the human mind.
Next time we will see what faith in this sense is, how it is developed in the Abrahamitic stories, how Abraham is really the father of faith and not the knight of faith, as Kierkegaard wants to have him. He didn’t need to be a knight of faith because faith he had. He didn’t have to acquire it. Kierkegaard wanted to acquire it. To develop this concept of faith will be our purpose in the next session. Here I will only still make the transition.
We have another unique opportunity in the Abrahamitic stories and with the person of Abraham whom we approach here; namely, that this is the only example known to us in all history of a religious man, a religious thinker, who brings forth an absolutely new concept of divinity without any belief. Abraham left Ur in Chaldea. Abraham is the first absolutely lonely man known to us in the religious sense. Abraham rejected all beliefs which contained a grain of faith that were around him and that he was taught. We know today that Abraham, if he lived at that time, must have been a
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highly educated person, speaking probably five to six languages, knowing all the welter of religion and myth all around him from Asia to Egypt. Rejecting all those propositions, really overcoming them by thinking them through into their consequences and rejecting them — that was his deed. That means he started as a nonbeliever. We have a man before us who was reduced to pure faith; he had nothing left but pure faith in its most historical sense. He never doubted the existence of divinity, as we did in the 19th Century — that he never did. He was not Kierkegaard. He did not have to make a jump into faith. Faith never left him; on the contrary, he became full of faith because he had rejected any available belief.
Here we have a religious man, a religious thinker, who starts really not from scratch but from the nucleus itself, from pure faith because everything else, every system of belief, every superstition around him, everything has been rejected and has left him. He is alone; he has only one faith and that is that divinity exists and now he goes on the search for the one true God. And what he finds — as we all must agree, believers or nonbelievers — what he finds in this search for the one true God is the most fruitful, purest, and philosophically greatest concept of religious divinity ever proposed by
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any man. That at least he found and to that we can stick and that we can analyze and with that we can operate for our purposes.
So, he is religious man himself and because he is religious man, because he went away from his people, his country, and everybody, he was not only reduced to the minimum of a nucleus of pure faith; he was also reduced to the human person itself — he was reduced to himself. What he could not find in himself, as a quality, he would never again find. He had to do it all out of himself and so being forced to be man in the abstract and nothing but man, this one person that is only man, he found the God of man, the God who is the God for the human person, and with Him he walked the earth in deliberations, discussions and mutual thinking and communication. Whether that has gone on only in his mind or not is not of our concern here. The fact that this deed has been done in the mind of man is enough for us and our philosophical purposes. We want to find out what faith is and what can faith do for man, and what man can do by faith — by faith alone.
It is not true as Kierkegaard said that Abraham is a non-thinking man, that Abraham is just a pure believer. For Kierkegaard faith and belief are the same. Abraham is the greatest religious thinker we have ever seen in this world and he is a pure religious thinker. All stories of Abraham are told in a way of deeds — with a few discussions thrown in.
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We almost never hear or see him thinking; he is doing things— but all his doings are thoughts; they are doing of thoughts. Abraham is an active thinker in this aspect and what he can reveal to us as to the possibilities of faith and reason in their relations we will have to consider the next time; and then we will conclude with Abraham.
1 Genesis 1:28.
2 Probably from G. W. Hegel: Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, Part 3.
3 Genesis 12:10-23.