Heaven Scent Messages
But if one really wants to explore possible answers to this question, it isn't hard to do. There are countless inspired rabbinical commentaries on the matter, and if one truly wants to understand scripture, it is absolutely necessary to acquaint oneself with at least a few of these. It is no different than the great enlightened gurus of Hinduism, who traditionally demonstrate their wisdom by writing commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita or the Upanishads. Scripture does not "speak for itself," but must be "lit up" from the inside out by inspired interpretation. In my book, I compare it to the reflector lights on the back of a car, which are only illuminated by the light that is shined into them. In the end, the Bible can only be illuminated by your own head's light, or not at all. But the fact that this is even possible is, in my opinion, a genuine mirrorcle.
It is critical to bear in mind that the primary concern of scripture is always the inward, not the outward, i.e., the soul. It is trying to impart lessons about life that address multiple levels of our existence -- both horizontal and vertical -- everything from conjugal relations, to child-rearing, to how to treat your fellow man, to how to relate to God, to how to regard death. To cite just one example, last summer I did a series on the esoteric interpretation of the ten commandments, starting with the observation that the first five commandments are vertical and have to do with man-to-God relations, while the second five address the horizontal -- or the vertical "prolonged" into the horizontal -- through proper man-to-man relations.
So it is important not to get "hung up" on what Maimonides and Eckhart called the "outer kernal" of scripture, because at the very least, scripture addresses four levels, 1) the literal, 2) the symbolic, 3) the moral, and 4) the mystical. As Schuon writes, "God cannot contradict himself in essence, but He can appear to contradict Himself within forms and levels." How can contradiction not occur, if God, the distant Abbasolute father, is to manifest in a user-friendly format to his relative children? I'm trying to imagine a good analogy. I hope it isn't a banalogy. But what if you were to try to play Beethoven's Ninth on a... on a Jew's harp, shall we say? What would that sound like, to have something so majestic transposed into a rudimentary human instrument? Obviously, some imagination is required to intuit the substance behind the form.
But to extend the analogy, I am reminded again of that outstanding Howlin' Wolf documentary I saw the other day. I was thinking about this yesterday, and realized that I do not really like music. Rather, I only like artists, because music that is not channelled through the medium of a true artist -- not a mere virtuoso -- is merely sound. Bach was not an artist because his music was great. Rather, his music was great because he was an artist. Certain people will no doubt object to the comparison, but the same is true of someone as "primitive" as Howlin' Wolf. Thousands of people perform the blues, but only a handful are artists, so the gulf between them is more or less absolute. Only a few can make the hair on your arms stand up.
Now, much of the old testament is written in rather rustic language and speaks of rather mundane matters. And yet, it is obviously possible to intuit the "force" behind it. Schuon, for example, writes that "We are always astonished by the fact that unbelievers and even certain believers are strangely insensitive to the direct language of the sacred Messages: that they do not perceive from the very first that the Psalms, the Gospel, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, could only come from Heaven, and that -- from the point of view of credibility -- the spiritual perfume of these Books dispenses with all theological analysis as well as with all historical research." In fact, "Personally, even if we were neither metaphysician nor esoterist, we would be a believer without the least difficulty; we would be convinced at the outset upon contact with the sacred in all its forms."
Schuon is, of course, talking about our highly developed coon scent or soulfactory organ with which we are able to "sniff out" the divine from miles away. In fact, this is also how we are able to detect false prophets -- sharpies, frauds, and spiritual con-men of various types. They either have no scent at all, or a particularly acrid one (i.e., Deepak Chopra, who burns our sensitive soulfactory membranes).
But let us say that you are a rank and file (possibly even rank and foul) earthling with neither coon vision nor coon scent. What if you are a complete skeptic, trapped within the human state with no lifeline to the suprasensible? Then what?
First of all, few people are truly that spiritually disabled, at least innately. Rather, there is usually some easily recognizable mind parasite responsible for the disability -- pride, anger, resentment, narcissism, a spirit of rebellion, arrested adolescence, spiritual trauma during childhood, even just plain stupidity. But the human soul is miraculously proportioned to the Divine, which easily proves the existence of both -- for why would the soul be so adequately proportioned to something that does not exist? It would make no sense. As one grows spiritually, one's understanding increases exponentially. How is it possible to understand that which cannot be understood? Let alone deeply understand, for how does one deeply understand nothing, unless one is a leftist university professor?
Even so, if you approach scripture with an open mind and no preconceived agenda, it is possible to appreciate its depths solely on a rational basis. This is what Leon Kass, a University of Chicago professor, has been doing for a couple of decades. The fruit of this approach is a fascinating book entitled The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis.
What is so fascinating about this book is that Kass and his students approach the old testament with no preconceptions whatsover, regarding it solely as a work of philosophy with potentially good or bad, deep or shallow, universal or parochial, wise or unwise, lessons to impart. They literally proceed line by line, verse by verse, attempting to mine the deeper meaning from the text. In the end, students realize that, at the very least, the Bible presents a coherent anthropology and compelling philosophy that "rivals anything produced by the great philosophers," including profound and timeless insights into "the problematic character of human reason, speech, freedom, sexual desire, the love of the beautiful, pride, shame, anger, guilt, death, the arts, the hazards of unity and aloneness, the meaning of the city and its quest for self-sufficiency, and man's desire for fame and immortality."
To paraphrase Kass, you might say that Genesis doesn't just explain what happened once upon a time long ago, but what happens every time. And once you make this rational conclusion, it leads you directly to the threshold of something transcending reason. For what possible rational explanation is there for these chosen barbarians to have known so much more about you than you will ever know about them?