Kabbalah and Technology
Dialogue from the New Kabbalah Guest Book, E-mails and Letters to the Author.
Email inquiries with my response are subject to editing. I will not post your comments if you do not want me to, so if you are not willing to have your inquiry or comments posted please let me know.
Re: Mars Landing
and the Kabbalah. From: Charles
I watched the PBS NOVA program last evening on the successful Mars landing by the "Spirit" spacecraft, and I thought that the "search for life" may be an interesting New Kabbalah topic. The scientific and engineering skills of the crew, and their emotions (elation and fear) during the intense six-minute landing were interesting to watch. Previous successful missions to Mars, which were fewer than the unsuccessful ones, were deficient, as reported in NOVA, in terms of "science return." So we might say that the new mission was designed with a renewed scientific "will" which, however, had to be tempered with engineering knowledge concerning risk and probabilities of success. So these two technical activities took place in an opposing or dialectical manner, and an appropriate spacecraft was thereby created which served their needs. Looking at the space program more broadly, might we say that the tragedies of the space shuttles are analogous to "Breaking of the Vessels" and a "Tikkun" mending may be underway, perhaps a mending which is emphasizing unmanned technology? At a different level, the NOVA program showed a similar analogy in the wind and gravity forces which initially broke the landing parachute and the ballooning devices, and a restoration was necessary to demonstrate that, at least by tests on earth, that the equipment as a system would work properly. Finally, an analogy might be drawn concerning the search for life in general. The Science publication (vol 303, p59) reports that only one-tenth of the stars in our galaxy might provide the right conditions to support life, and that based on very conservative parameters, a "galactic habitable zone" for the Milky Way has been defined. The Mars mission used only the criteria of a possible earlier presence of water to decide where to look for life. The criteria will no doubt need to be expanded in the future. It seems that what may be at play here is God's desire for self-awareness, and all of these efforts might be considered to be contributory to an evolutionary increase of this Awareness.
What I find most interesting are your comments about the literal Breaking of the Vessels with the space shuttle, which possibly brought about a Tikkun, emendation or repair in the space program. I think that the entire dynamic from Ein-sof through Tzimtzum, Sefirot, Shevirah and Tikkun articulates the creative process in general, and it is hardly surprising to find rupture (Shevirah) and emendation (Tikkun) in virtually every successful endeavor.
With respect to God’s increase in self-awareness, one might say that the great obstacles to travel, discovery, and understanding posed by the physical universe, provide the ideal setting to push “mind” or “spirit” to the utmost limits of its capabilities; in Hegelian terms conditioning the progress of the world-spirit and “Absolute” and in Kabbalistic terms, actualizing the potential of Ein-sof, and developing the Sefirot (e.g. wisdom, knowledge and understanding) to their greatest level of actuality. The same, of course, can be said of all challenges to human enterprise and creativity: the challenges associated with disease, war, inhumanity, etc., each of which bring humanity to the “brink,” imposing a real chance of disaster, but also providing the possibility that the sefirotic qualities that are said by the Kabbalists to be the traits of God and the archetypal components of the world will be actualized to their fullest. As Adin Steinsaltz has put it, only a world on the brink, one in which there is a genuine possibility of failure but within which there is yet hope, can be a world in which creation is actualized to its fullest. Such a world, the worst of all possible worlds in which there is yet hope, can become the best of all possible worlds—in which divinity/humanity is most fully realized. When I think of the vastness of the astronomical cosmos and the challenges it poses to human knowledge and enterprise I am reminded of Rav Steinsaltz’s theorem.
Re: Nanotechnology and Kabbalah: From:
Here are a few more thoughts on technology, or more specifically the advance of technology in a Tikkun context. Nanotechnology is portrayed in the press as one of the next technological leaps, which will transform life on earth in countless ways including the manufacture of products using atoms and molecules as building blocks, and such things as nanocomputers and nanocameras which increase thinking capacity and move through bloodstreams for medical diagnostic purposes. What is involved is the manipulation of matter at the atomic level, and the main promoter of this technology, Dr. K. Eric Drexler, speaks of using tools at the molecular level almost like we speak of the use of tools in our garage tool chest! Apparently one of the key strengths of nanotechnology, but also a significant danger, is the possibility of evolution and replication of small-sized robots (perhaps with evil intentions), and the possibility of multiplying out of control, resulting in "a microscopic mechanical cancer," according to Kenneth Chang, writer for the New York Times (December 9, 2003). The popular writer, Michael Crichton's novel, Prey, treats the possibility of this technology going awry in this way. So we might say that the Tikkun (restoration) aspect of technology is almost simultaneously opposed by a Shevirah (Breaking of the Vessels) aspect. Since the start of the industrial revolution (and prior in more primitive settings), advances were always accompanied by negativities: dangers inherent in the automobile, industrial destruction of the environment, etc. Perhaps the Shevirah aspect is even stronger in consideration of the development of scientific byproducts such as weapons of mass destruction. Accordingly, a dialectical understanding encompassing both Tikkun and Shevirah, seems to be most appropriate here. And when the Shevirah aspect seems particularly strong, we might remember what you said about Adin Steinsaltz' statement that only a world on the brink, yet with hope, can become the best of all possible worlds in which divinity/humanity is most fully realized. Another Kabbalistic consideration might be that the idea of control (Din) will become increasingly important to contain the unbounded nature of science advancement in general, and the nanotechnology replication problem in particular!
(Also, Sanford, I just read your website article on the "Double Movement" and found it terrific. It seems that the necessity to understand transcendent and immanent solutions in a dialectical manner, as you described, is needed in all religions. I have found that this thought is taking root in some places in progressive Christianity today. It is interesting that the understanding goes way back in the Kabbalah…)
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