Chapter 5 from "Martin Buber's Life and Work," by Maurice Friedman
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"The noble man is that only-begotten Son of God whom the Father eternally begets." ...
[Buber] went on to assert that mysticism should be understood as a "religious solipsism," a completely isolated experience of the individual self. It is, said Buber, simply a psychological category -- the most absolute realization of that special quality of self-perception and that intensity of self-enhancement which makes possible an "apperception of God," the founding of a personal relation to a content of the soul experienced as God. Although the social forms of religion are sometimes founded on mysticism, mysticism itself negates community. For it there is only one real relationship, the relationship of the individual to God. The pure type of mystic is completely unconcerned with outer freedom, which has for him neither value nor reality in the face of the inner freedom of his relation with the divine. External unfreedom is even a positive value for him, since it pushes him invariably into isolation and thus disciplines him invariably for his task. Mysticism, "the true content of the religious experience," can have nothing to do with the normalization of the relationships between men.
This statement demonstrates dramatically how Buber's early thought did not grow all of a piece but proceeded forward in one direction while remaining behind in another. It is as if Buber were simultaneously at least four different persons at this point: the interpreter and spokesman for Hasidism -- the decidedly communal Jewish mysticism; the editor of the series of forty social-psychological monographs of Die Gesellschaft, for which he coined the category of das Zwischenmenschliche -- what is between man and man; the young prophetic voice calling the Jewish people to awareness of themselves as a people; and the lonely mystic seeking his isolated relationship with God. A long road still lay ahead to that personal integration in the mature light of which Buber criticized Kierkegaard for the very religious solipsism that he here exalted. What is more, the tendency to relegate all reality, including the religious, to the soul, against which Buber was to warn in the strongest possible terms thirteen years later, clearly triumphed here. The psychologism at the heart of his definition of mysticism is unmistakable....
The very opening of the conversation recorded in "With a Monist" is Buber's refusal to allow himself to be labeled a mystic and the consternation that this refusal creates:
"You are a mystic," said the monist, looking at me more resignedly than reproachfully. It is thus that I would represent to myself an Apollo who disdained to flay a Marsyas. He even omitted the question mark ....
"No, a rationalist," I said.
He fell out of his splendid composure. "How? ... I mean ... " he stammered.
After this, Buber led his partner in dialogue through a variety of positions culminating in what was indeed his own most mature thought: that all comprehensibility of the world is only a footstool of its incomprehensibility, but that this latter -- the confronting, shaping, bestowing in things -- can be known by the man who embraces the world, humbly and faithfully beholding what comes to meet him. This eloquent confession served only to bring the monist back to his original contention: "So for all that you are a mystic," he said and smiled in the way that a monist must "when a fellow like me, after diffuse dissembling, in the end turns out to be a hopeless reactionary." Buber reiterated his rejection of the label, this time on two grounds: the place he granted to reason and the affirmation of the sense world:
"No," I answered, and looked at him in a friendly way, "for I still grant to reason a claim that the mystic must deny to it. Beyond this, I lack the mystic's negation. I can negate convictions but never the slightest actual thing. The mystic manages, truly or apparently, to annihilate the entire world, or what he so names -- all that his senses present to him in perception and in memory -- in order, with new disembodied senses or a wholly supersensory power, to press forward to his God. But I am enormously concerned with this world, this painful and precious fullness of all that I see, hear, taste. I cannot wish away any part of its reality. I can only wish that I might heighten this reality .... the reality of the experienced world is so much the more powerful the more powerfully I experience it and realize it.... And how can I give this reality to my world except by seeing the seen with all the strength of my life, hearing the heard with all the strength of my life, tasting the tasted with all the strength of my life? Except by bending over the experienced thing with fervour and power and by melting the shell of passivity with the fire of my being until the confronting, the shaping, the bestowing side of things springs up to meet me and embraces me so that I know the world in it?" ...
Now from my own unforgettable experience I know well that there is a state in which the bonds of the personal nature of life seem to have fallen away from us and we experience undivided unity. But I do not know -- what the soul willingly imagines and indeed is bound to imagine (mine too once did) -- that in this I had attained to a union with the primal being or the godhead. That is an exaggeration no longer permitted to the responsible understanding....
In my earlier years the "religious" was for me the exception. There were hours that were taken out of the course of things. From somewhere or other the firm crust of everyday was pierced. Then the reliable permanence of appearances broke down; the attack which took place burst its law asunder. "Religious experience" was the experience of an otherness which did not fit into the context of life. It could begin with something customary, with consideration of some familiar object, but which then became unexpectedly mysterious and uncanny, finally lighting a way into the lightning-pierced darkness of the mystery itself. But also, without any intermediate state, time could be torn apart -- first the world's firm structure, then the still firmer self-assurance flew apart and you were delivered to fullness. The "religious" lifted you out. Over there now lay the accustomed existence with its affairs, but here illumination and ecstasy and rapture held, without time or sequence. Thus your own being encompassed a life here and a life beyond, and there was no bond but the actual moment of the transition.
-- Encounter With Mysticism, Chapter 5 from "Martin Buber's Life and Work," by Maurice Friedman
Part 1 of 2
Chapter 5: Encounter With Mysticism
AS IMPORTANT AS WAS BUBER'S contribution to early Zionism and the Jewish Renaissance movement, it represented in his own life and thought only the first step in his liberation from the aimlessness of the times. In 1918 he recognized what his early essays on the Jewish Renaissance show no inkling of: that becoming part of the Jewish nation does not by itself transform the Jewish man. It gives him roots, to be sure, but he can be just as poor in soul with it as without it. This does not mean that Buber later saw his early nationalistic fervor as entirely invalid. On the contrary, it was an important and essential stage that led to a further transformation. Yet it did so only because it was to him "not a satiating but a soaring, not an entering into the harbor but a setting out on the open sea." But there is a judgment here for all that. If it was a beginning rather than an ending, nonetheless it was "too easy," as he wrote Weizmann, revealing more enthusiasm than substance. "I professed Judaism before I really knew it." Only after blind groping did Buber reach his second step, wanting to know Judaism, and by knowing he did not mean the storing up of knowledge but the biblical knowing of involvement and mutual contact: the immediate, "eye-to-eye knowing of the people in its creative primal hours." It was through such knowing that Buber came to the second important stage on his way, namely, the discovery of Hasidism.
The Hebrew word Hasid means a pious man, and Hasidism is commonly identified as a form of communal pietism, the popular Jewish mysticism which arose in Eastern Europe in the eighteenth century and spread like fire among the communities of oppressed and unhappy Jews. Buber spent a lifetime expounding the uniqueness of Hasidism. Yet the encounter with Hasidism was both preceded and followed by an encounter with mysticism as such.
Ernst Simon has remarked that Buber is the finest example of Rilke's dictum that fame is the collection of misunderstandings piled around a great name. None of us is quite willing or able to dispense with categories, particularly in the case of a philosopher and thinker. But we can at least escape the trap of labeling Buber a mystic or not a mystic by focusing on his encounter with mysticism.
One of Buber's earliest encounters with mysticism was within an explicitly social context, the Neue Gemeinschaft, or New Community, founded by the brothers Heinrich and Julius Hart in or near Berlin. The New Community combined an emphasis on divine, boundless swinging upward, as opposed to comfortably settling down, with the aim of a communal settlement which should anticipate the new age in beauty, art, and religious dedication. The New Community was led and taught by the socialist Gustav Landauer. Next to his marriage, Buber's friendship with Landauer, who was eight years older, was probably the decisive relationship of his adult life. Buber met Landauer in 1899 at the time when the latter was almost twenty-nine. Landauer undoubtedly encouraged the switch in Buber's university studies from science and the history of art to Christian mysticism. In 1906, after years of study, Landauer published the first modern edition of the great German mystic Meister Eckhart, a translation which, Hans Kohn points out, bore many resemblances to the basic principles which guided Buber's first attempts to translate Hasidic writings.
During the years 1899 and 1900 Buber was close to the New Community and gave lectures there on the great Lutheran mystic Jacob Boehme and on "Old and New Community." The lecture on Boehme which Buber gave before the New Community undoubtedly formed the basis for the essay on Boehme that he published in 1901 -- the most original and impressive of his earliest writings. Certainly the "wonderful world feeling" of which Buber spoke in this essay is completely consonant with the goals of the New Community. It is more ''world feeling" and the relation of the "I" to the world that absorbed Buber than Boehme's ecstatic experience or his elaborate mystical and gnostic theosophy. What Buber said of Boehme was certainly true of his own experience at this period: for all its effect on one, the world still remained eternally distant and strange. "The individual consumes himself in dumb, hopeless solitude." Nonetheless, we have a relation to the world, which is no completed whole compelling us but is a continual process of becoming. We ourselves form and create this process in that at every moment an unconscious existential judgment about things, i.e., about sense impressions, speaks in us: this is. The changes that our creation awakes themselves become a source of numberless new and liberating sense impressions of many kinds. Thus we are not the slaves but rather the lovers of our world. We do not see the things-in-themselves but our sense impressions -- thus far Buber looked back to Kant. But we enter into a creating and loving relationship with these very sense impressions through which we have an impact on them and they on us.
It is in this essay that Buber quoted Ludwig Feuerbach's thesis that "man with man -- the unity of I and Thou -- is God" -- only to reject it. "We stand nearer today," wrote Buber, "to the teaching of Boehme than to that of Feuerbach, to the feeling of Saint Francis of Assisi who called the trees, the birds, and the stars his brothers and still nearer to the Vedanta." By the Vedanta, Buber meant that central tradition of Hindu mysticism which in its austerest expressions in the Upanishads affirms that reality is nondual (even the statement that it is one would imply a second) and that the seeming multiplicity of the world is actually maya, or the illusion of creation. Buber may have agreed intellectually with the Vedanta at this point, but the prime fact of his experience was the division between the "I" and the world, and the rest of the essay focuses on conflict and love precisely as bridges between separated individuals. Things neither exist in rigid separation nor melt into one another, but reciprocally condition one another.
The world is for Boehme a harmony of individual tones fully developed in their individuality yet born from one movement. But Boehme does not content himself with this bridge between the individual and the world, and "it is in this that he most nearly approaches us. It is not enough that the 'I' unites itself with the world. The 'I' is the world. Since God is the unity of all forces, so each individual bears the properties of all things in himself, and what we call his individuality is only a higher grade or development of this property. Heaven and earth and all creatures and even God himself lie in man." In a curious fusion of Renaissance mysticism and turn-of-the-century vitalism, Buber freely adapted images from the Last Supper and the Christian communion: "When I bring a piece of fruit to my mouth, I feel: this is my body. And when I set wine to my lips, I feel: this is my blood."
The title of Buber's dissertation, written for the University of Vienna, is "From the History of the Problem of Individuation (Nicholas of Cusa and Jacob Boehme)." In the Foreword Buber stated that these were two segments from a larger work which would discuss the history of the problem of individuation from Aristotle to Leibniz and the newer philosophy. Buber chose Cusanus and Boehme with the hope of proving that their metaphysical individualism created the base for that ethics of personality that found its most harmonic philosophical expression in the German theologian Schleiermacher and its most far-reaching literary expression in Emerson. Both Cusanus and Boehme expounded a basic concept that characterized the renewal in Renaissance philosophy of Neo-Platonism (the mysticism of the Greek philosopher Plotinus and his followers): the development of the multiplicity of the sense world out of the unity and simplicity of the idea. For Nicholas of Cusa this meant the emanation of relative realities out of the absolute reality; for Boehme, in contrast, the actualization of the absolute possibility. For both, however, individualization was real. It is significant that Buber did not turn to mysticism, as so many modern thinkers since him have done, as the negation of the self and of personality.
What drew Buber to mysticism was, first of all, his own personal awareness of the threat of infinity and the sense of aloneness in the face of outer separateness and inner contradiction. But it was also clearly that mechanization and mass culture that Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Dostoevsky had protested against in the century that had just concluded. For the medieval mystic the individual was only the bearer of a life experience encompassing the transcendent. Individuation was given only to be renounced and overcome. In contrast to his later interpretation of Meister Eckhart as retaining some independence of the soul from God, Buber here claimed that Eckhart fully identified being with All-being and regarded everything individual as only its negation and as an obstacle on the way to perfection. Although Buber later spoke of Eckhart as the greatest mystic of the Western world, in this early essay he rejected Eckhart's view, or what he supposed it to be, as approaching, in its negation (though only in this), the modern natural sciences. For the natural sciences the individual is also not a specific problem but only in a certain measure the intersection point of several partly known, partly still unknown circles, the point at which the several, more or less investigated, natural laws become operative and are actualized. The world spirit ushered in by the astronomer Laplace would see the individual as only a combination of atoms or of energies in mathematically definable size, manner, and form and their interaction.
Meister Eckhart's theology knows a "Godhead" of which no qualities, except unity and being, can be predicated; it "is becoming," it is not yet Lord of itself, and it represents an absolute coincidence of opposites: "But its simple nature is of forms formless; of becoming becomingless; of beings beingless; of things thingless," etc. Union of opposites is equivalent to unconsciousness, so far as human logic goes, for consciousness presupposes a differentiation into subject and object and a relation between them. Where there is no "other," or it does not yet exist, all possibility of consciousness ceases. Only the Father, the God "welling" out of the Godhead, "notices himself," becomes "beknown to himself," and "confronts himself as a Person." So, from the Father, comes the Son, as the Father's thought of his own being. In his original unity "he knows nothing" except the "suprareal" One which he is. As the Godhead is essentially unconscious, so too is the man who lives in God. In his sermon on "The Poor in Spirit" (Matt. 5: 3), the Meister says: "The man who has this poverty has everything he was when he lived not in any wise, neither in himself, nor in truth, nor in God. He is so quit and empty of all knowing that no knowledge of God is alive in him; for while he stood in the eternal nature of God, there lived in him not another: what lived there was himself. And so we say this man is as empty of his own knowledge as he was when he was not anything; he lets God work what he will, and he stands empty as when he came from God." Therefore he should love God in the following way: "Love him as he is: a not-God, a not-spirit, a not-person, a not-image; as a sheer, pure, clear One, which he is, sundered from all secondness; and in this One let us sink eternally, from nothing to nothing. So help us God. Amen."
The world-embracing spirit of Meister Eckhart knew, without discursive knowledge, the primordial mystical experience of India as well as of the Gnostics, and was itself the finest flower on the tree of the "Free Spirit" that flourished at the beginning of the eleventh century. Well might the writings of this Master lie buried for six hundred years, for "his time was not yet come." Only in the nineteenth century did he find a public at all capable of appreciating the grandeur of his mind.
-- Aion, by C.G. Jung
Cusanus resumed in modern form, said Buber, the perseverance and the absolute value of the individual in his particularity. But individualism for Buber at this juncture, as for Cusanus, did not mean mere difference. It meant uniqueness -- that which makes a person or thing of value in itself, that which is unrepeatable and for which no other value can be substituted, that which is not a matter of usefulness or function but, however much it may exist in relation to others, is an absolute center in itself. This concept of uniqueness -- the uniqueness of the person but also the uniqueness of every thing -- is the first necessary step on Buber's way to the philosophy of dialogue, the "I-Thou" relationship. It is not a sufficient step, however, and for years it was for Buber himself a block to dialogue. Yet the true meaning of the unique relation of the unique person to the unique reality that he encounters can be neither understood nor approached except by way of this concept. This and the idea of the coincidentia oppositorum -- the coincidence of opposites which unites them without diminishing their oppositeness -- are two of the essential ingredients of the "life of dialogue" that Buber took from Nicholas of Cusa and Renaissance mysticism at the beginning of his way. "The seeing of your eye cannot be the seeing of any other eye," he wrote. "The individual is the center point of an infinite world process."
This peculiar linking-together of opposites -- knowledge with ignorance, cynicism with fanaticism -- is one of the chief distinguishing marks of Oceanic society. The official ideology abounds with contradictions even when there is no practical reason for them. Thus, the Party rejects and vilifies every principle for which the Socialist movement originally stood, and it chooses to do this in the name of Socialism. It preaches a contempt for the working class unexampled for centuries past, and it dresses its members in a uniform which was at one time peculiar to manual workers and was adopted for that reason. It systematically undermines the solidarity of the family, and it calls its leader by a name which is a direct appeal to the sentiment of family loyalty. Even the names of the four Ministries by which we are governed exhibit a sort of impudence in their deliberate reversal of the facts. The Ministry of Peace concerns itself with war, the Ministry of Truth with lies, the Ministry of Love with torture and the Ministry of Plenty with starvation. These contradictions are not accidental, nor do they result from ordinary hypocrisy; they are deliberate exercises in doublethink. For it is only by reconciling contradictions that power can be retained indefinitely. In no other way could the ancient cycle be broken. If human equality is to be for ever averted -- if the High, as we have called them, are to keep their places permanently -- then the prevailing mental condition must be controlled insanity.
-- Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), by George Orwell
Each creature is perfect even if in relation to another it appears less than perfect, Buber wrote. Each wants to persist in its own being. Even if this persistence should lead to conflict, this conflict is the source of becoming as well as of destruction. And only through the fact that each unfolds itself with all its powers does the harmony of the world-happening awaken, which figures forth the one God in the numberless variety. Over against this multiplicity of absolutely different, indeed opposite, things stands the absolute unity and identity of the divine ground of the world. All is God: the undivided origin, the unfolded world, and the goal of the unification of all being. In Him all things, even the opposites, are included without losing their opposition: He is the complicatio contradictoriorum, the coincidentia oppositorum. The activation and realization of the spiritual power of God is the goal of the creation and of every particular being. The universe is included in each thing, but in each as this particular thing. Everything concrete attains rest in God as in its perfection. Each creature has its line of realization; but God is the point in which all lines of perfection meet. God does not want to abolish the differences of the things in which he reveals himself but to perfect himself in them.
In Boehme, Buber found a more modern thinker than Cusanus and one whose influence on him was equally great and lasting. Boehme combined a really modern dynamic with a dialectic of good and evil taken from the Hebrew Kabbala, a dialectic which Buber later encountered anew in another child of the Kabbala -- Hasidism. "Each thing longs for the other, for it is determined by the other." Its powers are lured out of it and made actual through its encounter with the other. This process leads again not to the overcoming but to the intensification and spread of individuation. Even "fire," Boehme's "lower ternary" into which everything is drawn and consumed, indirectly serves the "upper ternary" of light. The higher it flames up, the higher is the light.
Suspicions aroused by the facts that the Zohar was discovered by one person, and that it refers to historical events of the post-Talmudic period while purporting to be from an earlier time, caused the authorship to be questioned from the outset. Joseph Jacobs and Isaac Broyde, in their article on the Zohar for the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, cite a story involving the noted Kabbalist Isaac of Acco, who is supposed to have heard directly from the widow of de Leon that her husband proclaimed authorship by Shimon bar Yochai for profit:
A story tells that after the death of Moses de Leon, a rich man of Avila named Joseph offered Moses' widow (who had been left without any means of supporting herself) a large sum of money for the original from which her husband had made the copy. She confessed that her husband himself was the author of the work. She had asked him several times, she said, why he had chosen to credit his own teachings to another, and he had always answered that doctrines put into the mouth of the miracle-working Shimon bar Yochai would be a rich source of profit. The story indicates that shortly after its appearance the work was believed by some to have been written by Moses de Leon.
-- Zohar, by Wikipedia
We have learnt that on the dread day when a man's time comes to depart from the world, four quarters of the world indict him, and punishments rise up from all four quarters, and four elements fall to quarrelling and seek to depart each to its own side. Then a herald goes forth and makes proclamation, which is heard in two hundred and seventy worlds. If the man is worthy, all the worlds welcome him with joy, but if not, alas for that man and his portion! We have learnt that when the herald makes proclamation, a flame goes forth from the North and passes through the "stream of fire", and divides itself to the four quarters of the world to burn the souls of sinners. It then goes forth and flies up and down till it alights between the wings of a black cock. The cock then flaps its wings and cries out at the threshold of the gate. The first time it cries: "Behold, the day cometh burning like a furnace, etc." (Mal. III, 19). The second time it cries: "For lo, he that formeth the mountains and createth the wind and declareth unto man what is his thought" (Amos IV, 13); that is the time when a man's deeds testify against him and he acknowledges them. The third time is when they come to remove his soul from him and the cock cries: "Who would not fear thee, King of the nations? For to thee doth it appertain, etc." (Jer. X, 7).
Said R. Jose: 'Why must it be a black cock?'
R. Judah replied: 'Whatever the Almighty does has a mystic significance. We have learnt that chastisement does not fall save upon a place which is akin to it. Now black is the symbol of the side of Judgement, and therefore when the flame goes forth, it strikes the wings of a black cock, as being the most appropriate. So when man's judgement hour is near, it commences to call to him, and no one knows save the patient himself, as we have learnt, that when a man is ill and his time is approaching to depart from the world a new spirit enters into him from above, in virtue of which he sees things which he could not see before, and then he departs from the world. So it is written: "For man shall not see me and live"; in their lifetime they may not see, but at the hour of death they may.
We have further learnt that at the time of a man's death he is allowed to see his relatives and companions from the other world. If he is virtuous, they all rejoice before him and give him greeting, but if not, then he is recognized only by the sinners who every day are thrust down to Gehinnom. They are all in great gloom and begin and end their converse with "woe!". Raising his eyes, he beholds them like a flame shooting up from the fire, and he also exclaims "woe!".
We have learnt that when a man's soul departs from him, all his relatives and companions in the other world join it and show it the place of delight and the place of torture. If he is virtuous he beholds his place and ascends and sits there and enjoys the delights of the other world. But if he is not virtuous, his soul remains in this world until his body is buried in the dust, and then the executioners take hold of him and drag him down to Dumah and to his appointed storey in Gehinhom.'
R. Judah said: 'For seven days the soul goes to and fro from his house to his grave, and from his grave to his house, mourning for the body, [219a] as it is written: "His flesh shall suffer pain for him, and his soul shall mourn for it" (Job XIV, 22), and it grieves to behold the sadness in the house. We have learnt that after seven days the body begins to decay, and the soul goes in to its place. It enters the cave of Machpelah, where it is allowed in up to a certain point according to its deserts. It then reaches the place of the Garden of Eden and meets the Cherubim and the flashing sword which is in the lower Garden of Eden, and if it is worthy to enter, it enters. We have learnt that four pillars are waiting there with the form of a body in their hands, and with this it gleefully clothes itself and then remains in its appointed circle in the Garden of Eden for its allotted time.
Then a herald makes proclamation and a pillar of three colours is brought forward, which is called "the habitation of Mount Zion" (Is. IV, 5). By means of this pillar it ascends to the gate of righteousness, in which are Zion and Jerusalem. If it is worthy to ascend further, then happy is its portion and lot that it becomes attached to the Body of the King. If it is not worthy to ascend further, then "he that is left in Zion and he that remaineth in Jerusalem shall be called holy" But if it is privileged to ascend further, then it beholds the glory of the King, and enjoys the supernal delight from the place which is called Heaven. Happy he that is vouchsafed this grace.'
-- The Zohar, by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon
The Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig published one passage from Buber's dissertation as his contribution to a volume of "unknown writings" issued in honor of Buber's fiftieth birthday. The passage in question was a brief side discussion of the teaching of Valentin Weigel, who seemed, to the Buber of that period, to offer a more satisfactory answer to the problem of opposites than Boehme, who treated it historically, as a problem of creation. Boehme oscillates between theism and pantheism, wrote Buber, and never worked his way out of this conflict.
Oscillation noun \ˌä-sə-ˈlā-shən\: the act of regularly moving from one position to another and back to the original position; a frequent change from one state, position, or amount to another; the act of changing from one belief, feeling, etc., to an opposite one.
-- Oscillation, by Merriam Webster
Weigel, like Buber himself at this period, points to "the becoming God" -- a teaching which Buber many years later rejected categorically. In 1904, however, Buber suggested that Weigel went beyond Boehme precisely in his doctrine that only through the creation of the world does God become God and the doctrine that God comes to that self-knowledge which completes consciousness only in man, i.e., in the evolution of creation, the evolution of God in the world. Rosenzweig rightly contrasts this statement with Buber's later (1923) condemnation of "the hopelessly perverted conception that God is not but rather becomes -- in man or in mankind." Buber himself pointed to it later as something that had been destroyed in him during the First World War:
Since 1900 I had first been under the influence of German mysticism from Meister Eckhart to Angelus Silesius ....
Angelus Silesius echoes:
Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born
And not within thyself, thy soul will be forlorn.
The Cross on Golgotha thou lookest to in vain
Unless within thyself it be set up again.
-- The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, by Max Heindel
according to which the primal ground (Urgrund) of being, the nameless, impersonal godhead, comes to "birth" in the human soul; then I had been under the influence of the later Kabbala and of Hasidism, according to which man has the power to unite the God who is over the world with his shekinah dwelling in the world. In this way there arose in me the thought of a realization of God through man; man appeared to me as the being through whose existence the Absolute, resting in its truth, can gain the character of reality.
There are three types of men who drive away the Shekinah from the world, making it impossible for the Holy One, blessed be He, to fix His abode in the universe, and causing prayer to be unanswered. One is he who cohabits with a woman in the days of her separation. There is no impurity comparable with this. He defiles himself and all connected with him. The child born of such a union is shapen in impurity, imbibes the spirit of impurity, and its whole life is founded on impurity. Next is he who lies with a heathen woman, for he profanes herewith the sacred sign of the covenant which constitutes the support of the sacred Name and the essence of faith. As soon as "the people committed whoredom" with the daughters of Moab, the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel (Num. XXV, 1-3). The leaders of the people, who did not endeavour to prevent them, were the first to be punished, and in every generation it is the leaders who are made responsible for all the members of the community in regard to the profanation of the sign of the covenant, which is "sun and shield": as the sun gives light to the world, so does the holy sign give light to the body, and as the shield protects, so does the holy sign protect. He who keeps it in purity is guarded from evil. But he who transfers this sign of holiness into a strange domain, breaks the commandment, "Thou shalt have no other gods but Me"; for to deny the king's seal is equivalent to denying the king himself. Next is he who purposely prevents the seed from coming to fruition, for he destroys the King's workmanship and so causes the Holy One to depart from the world. This sin is the cause of war, famine, and pestilence, and it prevents the Shekinah from finding any resting place in the world. For these abominations the spirit of holiness weeps. Woe to him who causes this: it were better that he had never been born.
-- The Zohar, by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon
It is clear from this confession that Meister Eckhart had more decisive and lasting influence on Buber than his doctoral dissertation suggests. The eternal birth of God in the soul, the dialogue between the soul and God in which God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back at God, the emphasis upon life as more basic than the meaning of life -- all entered not only into Buber's early mysticism but into his later existentialism and his philosophy of dialogue.
[HI 150] Are you lonely, Oh , I see no entourage and no companions around you; is only your other half. You live with flowers, trees, and birds, but not with men. Should you not live with men? Are you still a man? Do you want nothing from men? Do you not see how they stand together and concoct rumors and childish fairy tales about you? Do you not want to go to them and say that you are a man and a mortal as they are, and that you want to love them? Oh , you laugh? I understand you. Just now I ran into your garden and wanted to tear out of you what I had to understand from within myself.
Oh , I understand: immediately I made you into a savior who lets himself be consumed and bound with gifts. That's what men are like, you think; they are all still Christians. But they want even more: they want you as you are, otherwise you would not be to them and they would be inconsolable, if they could find no bearer for their legends. Hence they would also laugh, if you approached them and said you were as mortal as they are and want to love them. If you did that, you would not be . They want you, , but not another mortal who suffers from the same ills as they do.
I understand you, Oh , you are a true / [150/151] lover, since you love your soul for the sake of men, because they need a king who lives from himself and owes no one gratitude for his life. They want to have you thus. You fulfill the wish of the people and you vanish. You are a vessel of fables. You would besmirch yourself if you went to men as a man, since they would all laugh and call you a liar and a swindler, since is not a man.
I saw, Oh , that crease in your face: you were young once and wanted to be a man among men. But the Christian animals did not love your pagan humanity, since they felt in you what they needed. They always sought the branded one, and when they caught him somewhere in freedom, they locked him in a golden cage and took from him the force of his masculinity, so that he was paralyzed and sat in silence. Then they praise him and devise fables about him. I know, they call this veneration. And if they do not find the true one, they at least have a Pope, whose occupation it is to represent the divine comedy. But the true one always disowns himself, since he knows nothing higher than to be a man.
Are you laughing, Oh ? I understand you: it irked you to be a man like others. And because you truly loved being human, you voluntarily locked it away so that you could be for men at least what they wanted to have from you. Therefore I see you, Oh , not with men, but wholly with flowers, the trees and the birds and all waters flowing and still that do not besmirch your humanity. For you are not to the flowers, trees, and birds, but a man. Yet what solitude, what inhumanity! / [151/152]
[HI 152] Why are you laughing, Oh , I cannot fathom you. But do I not see the blue air of your garden? What happy shades surround you? Does the sun hatch blue midday specters around you?
Are you laughing, Oh ? Alas, I understand you: humanity has completely faded for you, but its shadow has arisen for you. How much greater and happier the shadow of humanity is than it is itself! The blue midday shadows of the dead! Alas, there is your humanity, Oh , you are a teacher and friend of the dead. They stand sighing in the shade of your house, they live under the branches of your trees. They drink the dew of your tears, they warm themselves at the goodness of your heart, they hunger after the words of your wisdom, which sounds full to them, full of the sounds of life. I saw you, Oh , at the noonday hour when the sun stood highest; you stood speaking with a blue shade, blood stuck to its forehead and solemn torment darkened it. I can guess, Oh , who your midday guest was.  How blind I was, fool that I am! That is you, Oh ! But who am I! I go my way, shaking my head, and people's looks follow me and I remain silent. Oh despairing silence! / [152/153] [HI 153]
-- The Red Book: Liber Novus, by C.G. Jung
In 1921 Buber was to quote, as a companion saying to the central teaching of Hasidism, one of the propositions of Meister Eckhart condemned by the Pope in 1329: "The noble man is that only-begotten Son of God whom the Father eternally begets."
The frame of society is aristocratic, the taste of the people is loyal. The estates, names, and manners of the nobles flatter the fancy of the people, and conciliate the necessary support. In spite of broken faith, stolen charters, and the devastation of society by the profligacy of the court, we take sides as we read for the loyal England and King Charles’ “return to his right” with his Cavaliers,—knowing what a heartless trifler he is, and what a crew of God-forsaken robbers they are. The people of England knew as much. But the fair idea of a settled government connecting itself with heraldic names, with the written and oral history of Europe, and, at last, with the Hebrew religion, and the oldest traditions of the world, was too pleasing a vision to be shattered by a few offensive realities, and the politics of shoemakers and costermongers. The hopes of the commoners take the same direction with the interest of the patricians. Every man who becomes rich buys land, and does what he can to fortify the nobility, into which he hopes to rise. The Anglican clergy are identified with the aristocracy. Time and law have made the joining and moulding perfect in every part. The Cathedrals, the Universities, the national music, the popular romances, conspire to uphold the heraldry, which the current politics of the day are sapping. The taste of the people is conservative. They are proud of the castles, and of the language and symbol of chivalry. Even the word lord is the luckiest style that is used in any language to designate a patrician. The superior education and manners of the nobles recommend them to the country.
The Norwegian pirate got what he could, and held it for his eldest son. The Norman noble, who was the Norwegian pirate baptized, did likewise. There was this advantage of western over oriental nobility, that this was recruited from below. English history is aristocracy with the doors open. Who has courage and faculty, let him come in. Of course, the terms of admission to this club are hard and high. The selfishness of the nobles comes in aid of the interest of the nation to require signal merit. Piracy and war gave place to trade, politics, and letters; the war-lord to the law-lord; the law-lord to the merchant and the mill-owner; but the privilege was kept, whilst the means of obtaining it were changed.
The foundations of these families lie deep in Norwegian exploits by sea, and Saxon sturdiness on land. All nobility in its beginnings was somebody’s natural superiority. The things these English have done were not done without peril of life nor without wisdom and conduct; and the first hands, it may be presumed, were often challenged to show their right to their honors, or yield them to better men. “He that will be a head, let him be a bridge,” said the Welsh chief Benegridran, when he carried all his men over the river on his back. “He shall have the book,” said the mother of Alfred, “who can read it;” and Alfred won it by that title: and I make no doubt that feudal tenure was no sinecure, but baron, knight, and tenant often had their memories refreshed, in regard to the service by which they held their lands. The De Veres, Bohuns, Mowbrays, and Plantagenets were not addicted to contemplation. The Middle Age adorned itself with proofs of manhood and devotion. Of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, the Emperor told Henry V. that no Christian king had such another knight for wisdom, nurture, and manhood, and caused him to be named, “Father of curtesie.” “Our success in France,” says the historian, “lived and died with him.”
-- Aristocracy, from "Essays and English Traits," by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Buber opened his 1904 article on Landauer's writings with a quotation from Landauer's translation of Meister Eckhart. Through this article we can understand Landauer's impact on Buber and the way in which the dialogue between the two men issued into a fruitful dialectic in Buber's own thought. Though none of Buber's own writings even hint at the radical skepticism that underlay Landauer's mysticism as well as his anarchism and his socialism, it is clear that Buber confronted that skepticism and developed his own thinking in response to it. The modern mystic has often, indeed, come to his mysticism by way of radical negation.
"My own role? Nothing. Zero ... So one day, if the Dalai Lama becomes a mass murderer, he will become the most deadly of mass murderers." [Laughs]
-- The Dalai Lama Interview, by Amitabha Pal