18 QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
    CONCERNING THE TORAH

    by

    Aron Katsenelinboigen

                                                     

                                                 Chapter 4

GOOD AND EVIL IN THE TORAH

It is an old observation that good and evil are common features of the world. As Alfred Whitehead mentioned,

As soon as high consciousness is reached, the enjoyment of existence is entwined with pain, frustration, loss, tragedy. (Quoted from Kaplan (1962) p. 28)[55]

A myriad of writings are devoted to this subject. Certainly, it is impossible to pay attention to the huge diversity of problems and solutions that are offered by a countless number of authors. I will concentrate on some of the aspects of this gigantic problem that are related to the Torah, aspects to which I can bring a bit of insight.

GOOD AND EVIL WITHIN ONE ENTITY

There is a general question about the relationship between the categories of good and evil that exist in the nature of God: Do both good and evil exist within God? In many religions, these two categories are distributed among different entities. In Judaism, they are usually presented in God and in each living being, but in different proportions. Many scholars have studied this idea. Martin Buber (1953) devoted a whole book to the subject of good and evil in Judaism in comparison to Zoroastrianism, which assumes separate gods for good and evil. In his book (2000), Neil Gillman explicitly mentions the unity in God of good and evil in reference to Isaiah’s verse 45:7 that says: “I am the Lord … I make peace, and create evil.”

Similar ideas have been mentioned by Alan Dershowitz (2000):

In sharp contrast [to the New Testament and the Koran, A.K.], the characters in the Jewish Bible—even its heroes—are all flawed human beings. They are good people who sometimes do very bad things. As Ecclesiastes says: "There is not a righteous person in the whole earth who does only good and never sins." This tradition of human imperfection begins at the beginning, in Genesis. Even the God of Genesis can be seen as an imperfect God, neither omniscient, omnipotent, nor even always good. He "repents" the creation of man, promises not to flood the world again, and even allows Abraham to lecture Him about injustice.” (p.2)

In contrast to these scholars, the opinion that God contains internally both good and evil is not shared by some prominent Jewish theologians. Here, I will quote from the book by Mordecai Kaplan (1962) who is opposed to the idea that God contains good and evil:

For to ascribe anything that is evil, whether relative or absolute, to God is to violate the logical law of identity. None of the theodicies has ever proved convincing. The very idea of a God requiring justification is self-contradictory. The argument that whatever may appear evil to us may, from an objective standpoint, be good is just so much wasted breath, because to the extent that anything is evil, even if it be mistakenly regarded as such, it is evil and nothing else. That it is a means to the good, or that objectively considered it is no longer evil, in no way detracts from the fact that, according to the traditional theologies, it is necessary to conceive God as having to make use of means that are evil and of being the author of experiences that are subjectively not good. Historically considered, however, rabbinic teaching on the subject of evil is to be viewed as intended primarily to counter the religions that affirmed a dualistic conception of reality. According to that conception, the evil in the world was not intended as a means to the good or as part of a unitary plan in which it was subservient to the good. The dualistic religions regarded evil as coordinate in power with the good, as being the manifestation of a principle no less divine than goodness. By proclaiming its God as the author of both good and evil, the Jewish religion did not solve the question of evil, but it took an important step in the direction of a truer conception of God whereby He is identified solely with the good. The duty which Jewish religion imposes upon the Jew to bless God for the evil as well as for the good should he interpreted as implying that it is our duty so to deal with the evil in life as not to permit it to negate our belief in God. We should so identify ourselves with the divine in the world as to greet in the evil an occasion for reaffirming the reality of the divine. Evil is chaos still uninvaded by the creative energy, sheer chance unconquered by will and intelligence. (pp.72-73)

I do not share Kaplan’s opinion that God does only good things. If it were possible to find out the means independently of the ends, we could distinguish between good means and bad means. During the act of confession we judge the means that we have used as having been bad, and we admit this. This process provides closure and protects us from enduring further mental turmoil. This subject will be developed further during the discussion of Jewish ethics as it is represented in the Torah.

So, the approach to good and evil that is taken by many Jewish authorities is a radical departure from the attempt to explain all good as having originated from God and all evil as being the work of the devil.

 

 This approach upsets the picture of a utopia where God has defeated the Devil once and for all. The authors of the Torah resist the temptation of making a distinction between God and the Devil. The Devil has no place in the Torah, and therefore, no attempts to eliminate all evil in the world by destroying the Devil are depicted.

 The last point, strictly speaking, depends on the interpretation of certain passages in the Torah. The passage in question describes the ritual of shifting one's sins onto a goat on the Day of Atonement.

 

 

 

 

Different translations of this part of the Torah serve to substantiate possible disagreements over its interpretation. As The Holy Scriptures (The Masoretic Text, 1955) mentions,

 

And he shall take the two goats, and set them before the Lord at the door of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the Lord, and the other for the Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat upon which the lot fell for the Lord, and offer him for a sin-offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before the Lord, to make atonement overhim, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness.  (Leviticus, 16:7-10)

Meanwhile, The Holy Bible (King James Version) says,

And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord, and the other for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness (Leviticus, 16:7-10).

With regard to the term Azazel, in Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament, Azazel stands for a scapegoat (The Encyclopedia of Religion Vol. 13, 1987, p.92). K. Steinberg's commentaries on the Russian translation of the Torah (1914) present many interpretations of the "Azazel" phenomena. Steinberg writes,

Azazel', according to some, (Targ. Jerus., Saadiah, Ibn Ezra) is a 'terrible precipice'; others (Akilas, Zemah, Theodosius) believe that the word az-zel' means a 'departing goat.' (Akvila, Cimakh, Feodosij.) More precisely, 'Azaz-el" (god Azaz) is the name of a major Egyptian horned deity Isis - local idolaters tried to convince the Israelites  into worshiping him when the latter were fleeing from Egypt (Exodus12:38). That is why idol Azazel is here the opposite of God; by the drawing of lots, the last goat is driven into the desert to mark the elimination of this idolatrous practice among the Israelites. And that is why this passage is followed by the commandment to make offerings only at the tent of meeting in order to avoid sacrifices to hairy creatures who forever tempt people (Leviticus 17,3-7). References to Azazel (goat-god) are made also in the mystical book of Noah (Genesis 5:24) and by latter gnostics, and, according to Seetzen, by modern-day Arabs of the Sinai Peninsula who use it as the name of the tempter angel.

The Jewish Encyclopedia mentions under the rubric Azazel:

according to Talmudic interpretation, the term "Azazel" designated a rugged mountain or precipice in the wilderness from which the goat was thrown down, using for it as an alternative the word () (Yoma vi. 4). An etymology is found to suit this interpretation. "Azazel"() is regarded as a compound of "az" (), strong or rough, and "el" (), mighty, therefore a strong mountain. This derivation is presented by a Baraita, cited Yoma 67b, that Azazel was the strongest of mountains.

Therefore, interpreting "Azazel" as some particular location abolishes the notion of a devil from the Torah altogether. Moreover, the pathos of the Torah is the supremacy of one God and the representation of the forces of evil as separate entities is a scheme characteristic of Zoroastrianism, and to a large extent, Christianity, especially Manichaeism. Even if Azazel is a Demon, for the authors of the Torah he is a vestige, a leftover of beliefs long past. Another candidate in the Torah for the role of a devil is the serpent, but as Nahum Sarna (1966) wisely explained, the serpent does not play this role.

This reptile figures prominently in all the world's mythologies and cults. In the Near East the serpent was a symbol of deity and fertility, and the images of serpent-goddesses have been found in the ruins of many Canaanite towns and temples. This tradition probably explains why the serpent is introduced in our story as simply one of "the subtler than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made" (Genesis 3:l). It is not an independent creature; it possesses no occult powers; it is not a demoniacal being; it is not even described as evil, merely as being extraordinarily shrewd. This reduction of the serpent to natural, insignificant, demythologized stature, is further pointed up in the difference between God's dialogues with Adam and Eve and his monologue to the serpent. God does not interrogate the serpent, and the voluble reptile utters not a sound in the presence of the Deity. The role of the creature is that of seducer, laying before the woman the enticing nature of evil and fanning her desire for it. The use of the serpent symbolism in this situation has most likely been conditioned by the place of the serpent in the old cosmic combat myth... (p.26)

In the Torah the idea that God is a whole entity that contains good and evil is applied to Man as an individual. Individuals who are blessed by God are not totally "pure" but posses certain "impurities" as well. For instance, Abraham lied or, to be more precise, told a half-truth when he introduced his wife as his sister. In reality, she was his stepsister on his father's side (Genesis 20:12). The first time Abraham did this was when he came to Egypt (Genesis 12:13). Abraham gained much as the result of this lie. Sarah was taken into the Pharaoh's house and Abraham received many large and small cattle, many menservants and maidservants, etc. (Genesis 12:15-16). Nevertheless, "the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarah Abraham's wife" (Genesis 12:17). Abraham caused damage to a man who did him no harm (Genesis 12:18-20), and he repeated this same lie to Abimelech, King of the Philistines, who did not hurt him either. If Abimelech had slept with Sarah, not knowing her real status (Genesis 20:3), he could have been punished severely by God too (Genesis 20:9).

Whereas in the above cases, Abraham lied for fear of being killed (Genesis 20:11), the lie he told to the two young men that he took along on the journey to sacrifice his son Isaac to God was completely unnecessary. On the third day of their journey, upon seeing the place of the sacrifice, Abraham said unto his young men,

Abide ye here with the ass, and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and again to you. (Genesis 22:5)

Abraham had no apparent reason to lie in order to assure them that both Abraham and Isaac would come back.

Something similar to what happened to Abraham happens to his son Isaac when he settles in Gerar with his wife Rebecca. He lies to local residents by saying that Rebecca is his sister for the same reasons that Abraham lied about Sarah (Genesis 26:27). Only by accident does Abimelech discover that Rebecca is Isaac’s wife (Genesis 26:28), and this prevents the people of his country from committing a sin by sleeping with her (Genesis 26:29). An open, selfish lie becomes part of life for Isaac's son Jacob. Following his mother Rebecca's suggestion, Jacob lies to Isaac so that before Isaac dies, he will bless Jacob and not his brother Esau. Jacob’s scheme is successful because his father is blind. Jacob pretends to be Esau, whom his father loves more and to whom he wants to extend his blessings (Genesis 27).

At the same time, according to the authors of the Torah, one of the moral obligations of a Jew  is not to tell lies, even though this tenet is not included in the Ten Commandments. Rather, it is mentioned in Leviticus in the verse that reads,

                     Don't steal nor lie to one another (Leviticus, 19:11).

Martin Buber (1953) makes interesting comments in his book about this statement in Leviticus. I refer the reader who is interested in this subject to pp. 7-14 of his book.

In fact, righteous individuals are noted by God as bearing the sin of any lie that is committed not for the sake of saving one's life. Though blessed by God, they succumb on occasion to the sin of drunkenness. The story of Noah getting drunk is characteristic in this respect (Genesis 9:22). It seems that Jacob was also extremely drunk after his wedding, for he could not distinguish between his beloved bride Rachel and her older sister Leah on the nuptial bed (Genesis 29:20-25).

The authors of the Torah also tell a story about the terrible sin of incest that was committed by a righteous man while very drunk. The two daughters of Lot got their father drunk for two nights in a row and were then impregnated by him. Perhaps the daughters' behavior is justified since they lived alone in a cave with their father after surviving the destruction of Sodom and probably had trouble finding husbands, but a virtuous man getting so drunk that he does not know whom he is sleeping with is another thing altogether (Genesis 19:30-38).

Even Moses sins before God and is punished, in spite of being so close to God that God sometimes accepts his advice. Because Moses has sinned, God forbids him to enter the Promised Land and decrees his death (Deuteronomy 32:48-52), although much later, Moses still has the eyesight and the strength of a young man (Deuteronomy 34:7).

And so, the biblical forefathers are portrayed as real human beings who combine righteousness with impropriety, but the vices they possess are not taken to the extreme. These bad deeds are not severe, as they do not involve murder, for example. It seems that hardened people, such as the Jews at the time of Abraham and his clan, accept this kind of behavior on the part of these righteous people as being proper enough and deserving of God's commendation. Again, I want to emphasize the fact that the authors of the Torah saw all righteous men as possessing both good and bad qualities. They do not condemn these men for their sins; they merely recount them. The attitude toward righteous men in the Torah is quite different from the portrayal of saints in the Christian religion or of the heroes in countries with totalitarian ideologies, which claim to manifest the absolute truth.[56]

Thus, the multilateral actions of God and Man stem from inner harmony, but at the same time, they stem from a struggle amongst themselves and within each of them. The source of future development is the result of a scenario that includes the perfection of God, of Man, and of their surroundings, while at the same time, this scenario includes their simultaneous imperfectness. In other words, rather than endowing God and Man with only good traits, the authors of the Torah create a dialectical image of God and Man that organically combines their strengths and weaknesses.

To summarize, the unity of good and evil in God and in Man is critical in guiding a Jew. Acknowledging the independent existence of the Devil means that the Devil could reside inside a man (as is the case in Christianity). But then, one might want to eradicate the Devil from Man's body in order to save Man's soul. This "ousting" of the Devil is sometimes accompanied by the destruction of the flesh, which may mean the burning of the body, as was performed by the Inquisition, for instance.

Accepting the Devil4s independent existence may also breed a desire to find him in some relatively small group of people who are thought to posses him. Elimination of this group of people promises to free the human race from all its ills once and for all. The concept of a Devil who assumes a human shape can be substantiated by rational reasons. In different countries and at different times, the Devil has been manifested, for example, in Jews, in Armenians, in capitalists, and so on. It was important to unmask this group and to promise the coming of a golden age once the group is eliminated. I call this method of dealing with evil zone smelting. One of the ways to obtain pure metal is to subject it to a multistage melting process. As the metal passes through the various zones of the tunnel fireplace, all the impurities collect in one place at the end of the sheet. This end is then cut off, and what remains is the purified metal.

DEVIL’S BEAUTY

The development of a predisposition is greatly enhanced by many components. At the same time, highly dangerous components emerge that could reverse the sign of development. That is, these components could bring forth the destruction of the earth. Therefore, development at this point assumes a sophisticated balance between good and evil, beauty and ugliness.

If during the process of integration, good components prevail over evil ones, the result can be judged as good, and the beauty that accompanies it can be termed divine beauty.

As Walt Whitman (1819-1892) writes in a letter from March 19, 1863,

He [President Abraham Lincoln] has a face like a hoosier Michael Angelo, so awful ugly it becomes beautiful, with its strange mouth, its deep‑cut, criss‑cross lines and its doughnut complexion. (Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 1992 ed., p.383)

Conversely, if evil components prevail, the judgment of the result should be treated as ugly and called devil’s beauty. The Oxford English Dictionary (1989) defines

beauté du diable" [Fr., lit. ‘devil’s beauty’]  as superficial attractiveness or captivating charm. The following examples illustrate this definition: 1936 E. BOWEN in Verschoyle Eng. Novelists 104 Henry Crawford is more energetic, dashing and unscrupulous. He has a certain beauté du diable. 1967 H. MCCLOY Further Side of Fear iii. 41 He studied both photographs. ‘They can't mean ugly as sin! They must mean beauté du diable.

  The predisposition behind devil's beauty contains essential components that are good. Observers are attracted to these components, and they underestimate the evil ones. The latter act of underestimating evil can be so dangerous that it could ultimately ruin the whole system.

  I will also characterize devil’s beauty by using some real-life and fiction stories. Let me start with the real-life stories. The difference between robbers and terrorists serves as an example of the difference between ugliness and devil’s beauty. The ugliness of robbers is beyond doubt, because they ruin the life of people in the name of their own selfish needs. Terrorists have ideologies that they want to implement to improve mankind. They have good intentions, but what is wrong with them? The answer is the dreadful means they use to attain their goals. Terrorists represent devil’s beauty.

 

 

Now consider Robin Hood. Many people perceive him as a hero. He takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He holds certain ideals and pursues them with bravery, wit, and charm against bloodsucking aristocrats. Many people find these qualities admirable and worthy of imitation, and they treat Robin Hood’s behavior as beautiful.

Also consider the situation in Crime and Punishment by Fedor Dostoevsky. Raskolnikov, the major protagonist, tries to take the money from a rich pawnbroker and give it to widows who do not have enough money to feed their children.

However, the means that Robin Hood and Raskolnikov employ is linked with murder. Their means are ugly, and in general, their behavior could be characterized as devil’s beauty.

A predisposition that is judged as devil’s beauty exhibits grave consequences. History yields many examples. The Russian communists desired to create a paradise for the people, but in the name of this goal, they robbed banks to fill party coffers and performed other brutal activities. What do these cases tell us? They tell us that when one's means have a character independent of one's goals, it is important to carefully evaluate one's means. To neglect to do so is to pursue a course fraught with pitfalls.

Two examples will confirm this. The first one concerns the fate of the enemies of Thomas More (1477-1535). This man was famous not only as a great utopian but also as the Lord Chancellor of England (1529-1532) in the time of the King Henry VIII. More refused to accept the King as the head of the Church of England. In response, the King organized a false trial for More that sentenced him to capital punishment. What then happened to the participants in the trial, including More’s beloved disciple, who falsely testified against him? All of them died in an unnatural way, except for his disciple who became the Lord Chancellor of England. This story is well depicted by Robert Bolt (1960), and a great movie was produced based on his book. 

A similar situation occurred with regard to the leading Russian communists who participated in the October Revolution of 1917. All of the people who were Lenin's close associates in 1917 disappeared for one reason or another by the mid 1930's. In actuality, Stalin had murdered most of them. As the only survivor, Stalin was able to replace Lenin as the leader of Russia.

 

THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE

The well-known myth in the Torah about the Tree of Knowledge illustrates devil’s beauty. Of course, the Tree of Knowledge is the tree that combines in one place both good and evil, and it allows a person to distinguish between them in life. As Nahum Sarna (1966) mentioned,

 

The most remarkable break of all with Near Eastern mythology lies in the subtle shift of emphasis. As far as is known, the "tree of knowledge" has no parallel outside of our biblical Garden of Eden story. Yet it is upon this tree, and not upon the well-known "tree of life," that the narrative focuses its main attention. (p.26)

It seems to me that the Sarna’s statement is not completely correct. Roger Shattuck in his book (1997) emphasized on a certain isomorphism between the structure of the legend about the Tree of Knowledge and the Greek legend of Pandora's Box. In Greek mythology, Pandora (whose name means all-giving”) is the first woman on earth, just like Eve (Eve was so called because she was "the mother of all living.”) Hephaestus was ordered by Zeus to create her as a counterbalance to the blessing of fire that Prometheus stole from heaven. Pandora married Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus.  She found a box in his house, but opening this box was prohibited. Overflowing with curiosity, Pandora opened the box anyway, and out of it came evils that disseminated throughout the world. “In classical Western painting, Pandora went on to become an allegorical figure for ‘beautiful evil’.“ (Shattuck, p.15)

It seems that the Greeks created the legend of Pandora's Box independently of the story of the Tree of Knowledge and at a much later date, in fact, several hundred years later, because they were not aware of Jewish culture for a long time and even confused the Jews with the Phoenicians.[57]

Let us return to the legend of the Tree of Knowledge. There are many interpretations concerning the Tree of Knowledge.  Martin Buber (1982, pp. 16-18) has mentioned four of them. I will not touch on those, because I want to concentrate mainly on my own interpretation of this legend.

Based on my definition of beauty, it is possible to assume that the Tree of Knowledge, as described in the Torah, looks beautiful in the eyes of Eve:

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight for the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6)

As one can see from the verse, the material components of the Tree, like the edible fruits, are good; the relational objects of the Tree, expressed via its appearance, look delightful.  The Tree of Knowledge also has very dangerous material objects: the knowledge of good and evil. Generally speaking, this knowledge is highly sophisticated, because it combines judgments that are based on a relatively clear-cut, short-term view, as well as those that are based on a rather fuzzy, long-range perspective. People, especially if they lack experience or mature conceptual thinking, are oftentimes tempted to solve their problems in the short term, ignoring the long-range ramifications of their solutions, especially when these solutions are unclear. [58]  The Torah mentions the attitude of God with regard to the flood that happened at a much later time than Adam’s and Eve’s deportation from the Garden of Eden:

 

And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. (Genesis 8:21)

 

Moreover, the knowledge of good and evil, when it concerns a long-term duration, is linked to uncertainty, because it is impossible to know everything in advance. Under such conditions, it is important that the creator has the knowledge and the might to recognize a future situation when it happens and to fix it. However, human beings did not and do not have such knowledge or might, and that is why it is very dangerous for them to become acquainted with good and evil. 

One could speculate that God takes into account the danger of human beings coming in contact with the Tree of Knowledge and thus warns Eve and Adam about this Tree (Genesis 3:2-3), prohibiting them from eating from it and promising severe punishment for violating this constraint. Still, the beauty of the Tree of Knowledge in the eyes of Eve was so great that it was easy for the serpent to seduce her into eating the fruits of this tree and giving them to her husband as well. As promised, God severely punishes them for violating this constraint.[59]

Perhaps there are deep reasons for this attitude toward knowledge in the Torah. As early as 1941, Arno Poebal, the well-known Sumerologist, advanced an interesting hypothesis that the Sumerians were the ancestors of the Jews. This hypothesis was tested by Samuel Kramer (1981, pp.297-299), another noted Sumerologist. Sumer is considered to be the cradle of modern civilization; just in the table of contents of Kramer's book (1981), there are 39 innovations. Each chapter of the book is devoted to one such innovation. Sumer had a rather advanced industry, agriculture, and trade. People made use of various technological methods that were introduced from the outside (metallurgy, for instance), as well as those that they seem to have discovered themselves: potter's wheel, wheel carriage, and the sailboat. Fine art also flourished in Sumer, especially sculpture and architecture. Mathematics was the most advanced area of science.

Boris Moisheson (2001) worked out a very original theory of the pre-biblical history of the Jews that is based on the most recent discoveries in archaeology, linguistics, and history. In his opinion, even before Sumer came into existence, people who could be thought of as "pre-Jews" were in the epicenter of technological progress. For instance, they achieved great success in metallurgy, developing new metal alloys from heterogeneous substances, as well as developing new metal products.[60]

So, having a long-term awareness of the potential power of technological progress might frighten the Jews with its unpredictability. Quite possibly, all peoples who evolve into sophisticated cultures that embrace technological progress later become afraid of its consequences (Katsenelinboigen, 1980). This is largely corroborated by the history of ancient Greece, China, and India.

Another ancient Greek myth (along with that of Pandora's Box) is the myth of how Prometheus brought fire to the people. Perhaps it symbolizes the danger of Man discovering the use of fire. In those times, the destructive power of fire could be compared  to the present day danger of atomic power.

As Albert Schweitzer mentions in his book (1948), the fact that there was a split more than 2000 years ago in China between Confucians and anti-Confucians regarding technological innovations – for instance, the shadoof in the well – indicates that ancient people understood not only the advantages, but also the drawbacks of technological progress.

Since halting technological progress altogether was rather difficult, the civilized countries of the time tried to place it in the custody of the most responsible and competent people. May be they were priests, who were thought to be able to contact God. In any way, in some religions in their name the ban on the creation of new things was declared. According to Alexander Gorbovskii (1966), India achieved a high stage of technological development prior to the advent of Buddhism, and control over technological innovations rested with the priests.

The Torah is also full with examples of innovations. I will show below that as usual they are coming from God. The Torah does not mention how God’s instructions concerning innovation have been passed in a rational way to human beings. I could only speculate that the involvement of God in the creation of innovations reflects the necessity to do it mainly via people close to God and trusted by God.

 

TECHNOLOGICAL AND ORGANIZATIONAL INNOVATIONS IN EXTROVERT AND INTROVERT CULTURES

Extrovert culture produces great benefits for the human race, with plenty of consumer goods, medicine, protection from “inner-space and outer-space” catastrophes, and so on. At the same time, there are at least four perils inherent in the phenomenon of extrovert culture. The first two are: 1) excessive pollution due to massive waste from industrial production, along with the depletion of natural resources and 2) the threat of a cataclysmic world war due to the existence of powerful means of mass-annihilation.

Perhaps these two perils could, in principle, be prevented by political means, but the next two perils are inherently bound to technological progress because their side effects are impossible to predict. They are 1) the creation of a new kind of species (via biological and computer experiments) that threatens the existence of mankind due to the difficulty of formulating and instilling into it necessary constraints and 2) physical experiments that could spark an unstoppable chain (for example, accelerators for detecting elementary particles).

The development of new technologies, once they overstep a certain threshold, becomes ugly, as does any dangerous situation, transforming divine beauty into devil's beauty. The dangerous nature of all these means could induce those in power to stop, or at least to slow down, the development of ugly technologies for the sake of their own survival. Thus, the element of ugliness inherent in innovations could save the world and make complementary the two seemingly contradictory statements in question.

Comparable to the complexity of the material objects created by God in the beginning, the Torah speaks of the creation in the “post creation time” of a very limited number of new "anatomical" structures. Innovations by humans were taboo since creation is impossible without differentiating the value of the designed object. Having been created in the image and likeness of God, and after having come to know good and evil, people began to create independently, making new things on their own.

What do they discover after eating the fruit? They realize their nakedness (Genesis 3:7). In other words, they discover that they can only use those things that God created. That is why they themselves start to create new things. The first such item is clothing. They "sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons" (Genesis 3:7). Although the original cloth is very simple and covers only a small area of the body, it is probably quite sufficient for the Garden of Eden. Only after God expels Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden does God make new, more durable clothes for them: "Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21). It seems that these new clothes probably cover a greater part of the body and are suitable for more severe conditions than those in the Garden of Eden. The new material objects that appear after the six days in which the universe was created include: clothing (Genesis 3:7,21), construction of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), manna being a new kind of plant (Exodus16:15,31), etc.

It is true that the Torah describes new methods of action and new technologies, but it does this using mainly well-known material objects that have been greatly strengthened by God. The purpose of this is to destroy those components that are unwanted by God and those components that may be harmful to God. The technological methods that utilize previously-created material objects that God has strengthened include: the flood (Genesis 6:17); the rain of brimstone and fire used in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is like the eruption of a volcano (Genesis 19:24); the swarms of flies, hail, locusts, darkness etc. that were used to punish the Pharaoh (Exodus8-11); and the parting of the earth that subsumed Korah and its surroundings (Numbers, 16:24-34). In modern terms, these methods represent a mild version of meteorological, bacteriological, and even geological warfare. At the same time, the Torah does not mention crossbreeding or any widespread practice of developing new kinds of plants and animals. In fact, it is stated in the Torah:

 

Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. (Leviticus, 19:19)

New technological devices capable of evolving into structures comparable in power to Man or animals (not to speak of the structures superior to man, such as medieval Golem) are not mentioned in the Torah. Perhaps, there are deep reasons for rejecting the role of new technologies and their means of implementation in the development of the universe.

Allow me to remind the reader about the actions of God after expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. When changing conditions necessitate the creation of new objects, God takes the initiative. God provides the creative impulse, brings it to life, and does not allow people to create new objects on their own. This example provides us with some general principles for analyzing the creation of material objects and the methods of actions (“technologies”) that happen after the creation of the universe. These principles are presented in Figure 4.1 as a two-dimensional matrix. One axis represents the initiator of the innovation and the second specifies its actual doer.

Each dimension involves God and Man, because both of them can be initiators for an innovation and its actual doer. It is interesting to note that the authors of the Torah almost always specify both the cause of the innovation and the one who implements it. In a few cases, a technological device is described without attributing it to any particular inventor; rather, it is mentioned as already existing, for instance, a knife (Genesis 22:6), a sword (Exodus17:13), and a spear (Numbers, 25:7). Sometimes, the country of the object's origin is given, for instance, the wagons sent by the Egyptian pharaoh for Jacob and his sons at the time of Joseph's triumph (Genesis 46:5).

The matrix reveals that, according to the authors of the Torah, control over technological progress manifests itself much of the time in the fact that God is the one providing the creative impulse for the innovation; the actual implementation can be carried out by man. It was basically considered ill-advised for a man who is not blessed by God, or even for someone who is blessed by God but who has violated some of God's bans, to provide both the impulse for the innovation and the means for its implementation.

Figure 4.1 shows three cases from the Torah where Man represents both the source of the creative impulse as well as the means of its realization. In one case, the creation of the aprons (Genesis 11:3), God was indifferent. In the second case, the building of the Tower of Babel by nations descending from the sons of Noah (Genesis 11:3), God becomes furious. Since God did not want the Tower of Babel to be built, God interferes in the builders' plans and mixes their languages, so that they cannot understand each other.

I know of only one case in which the creative impulse for the innovation and the means of its implementation came from Man and the authors of the Torah considered this invention to be pleasing to God. This is the device invented by Jacob to increase his herd. It is described in the following passage:

 

And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chestnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. nd he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink." (Genesis 30:37-38)

 

And it came to pass, when so ever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods. But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban's. and the stronger Jacob's." (Genesis 30:41-42)

Although this invention has "Lysenko-like" overtones, it would still be interesting to test it, but I do not know if this has ever been tried or not. According to the authors of the Torah, it is primarily through God’s impulse that new technological innovations that are pleasing to God can be introduced. As Figure 4.1 indicates, most of the innovations (objects or technologies) involve God as the source of the creative impulse and Man as means of its realization.

As I have mentioned before, during the period following the creation of the universe, growth in the set of material objects is very slow, in the sense that qualitatively new objects are created. The authors of the Torah put the thrust of development upon the extensive use of already existing means. Innovations appear sporadically, and they are presented as single, unique objects. The authors of the Torah do not even attempt to generalize the experience that is gained from the creation of these objects, something that is necessary in order to develop and construct new objects on a systematic basis.

Nevertheless, the authors of the Torah focus their attention on the intensive development of different methods of organization in times that follow the creation of the world. These methods include different institutions that govern the relationship between God, Nature, and Man. The Torah abounds with such innovations.

In the relationship between God and Man in the case of the grain reserves that are used to save Egypt from the famine (Genesis 41), God does not tell Man, who is represented by the Pharaoh and Joseph in this case, what to do directly. Joseph is a man who believes that God has imbued him and the Pharaoh with ideas:

 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace. (Genesis 41:15-16)

In other words, here, Man is an interpreter of the ideas that God gives to the Pharaoh while the Pharaoh is asleep (Genesis 41:25,28,32). Man is also the one who executes the suggestions that God gives to Joseph regarding the situations that are described in these dreams.

Here is another example. The idea of having a hierarchical system for governing the Jews after their exodus from Egypt is presented by the authors of the Torah in the following way: The idea is suggested to Moses by his father-in-law, and Moses carries it out without any direct assistance from God.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. And Moses' father in law said unto him, ‘The thing that thou doest is not good.    Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou, and this people that is with thee: for this thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it thyself alone. Hearken now unto my voice, I will give thee council, and God shall be with thee: Be thou for the people to God-ward, that thou may est bring the causes unto God: And thou shalt teach them ordinances and laws, and shalt shew them the way wherein they must walk, and the work that they must do. Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee. If thou shalt do this thing, and God command thee so, then thou shalt be able to endure, and all this people shall also go to their place in peace. So Moses hearkened to the voice of his father in law, and did all that he had said. (Exodus18:13-26)

In all of these examples, we see the principle of creation that has been discussed previously concerning innovations that are related to material things. I could create a second 2x2 matrix, Figure 4.2, that represents the source of the impulse for creation, God or Man, and the source of its implementation, God or Man concerning socio-organizational innovations in the Torah.

Again, we see the great role that God plays as an entity that creates the impulse for creations, even if Man implements them.

So, the Torah does not ignore innovations. Meanwhile, it shows a deep understanding of the danger of creation of novelties by ordinary people.

SOURCES OF GOOD AND EVIL

Sources of evil are of two kinds. The first one is exogenous and comes from natural developments (e.g., earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.), animals and humans fight with each other due the diversity of their values (which could be positive or negative depending on circumstances.) Some of these values are fixed and act as independent variables that are expressed in such phenomenon as unmotivated behavior. To the latter belongs such an evil phenomenon as sadism.

The second source of evil comes directly from God who, however, has no inclination to be malicious unlike his mythological counterpart, the Devil. Evil, at this point, can be interpreted as unforeseen consequences of God’s deeds. By this, I of course mean an indeterministic God who does not know the future and who only creates a predisposition for it.

 

 

Moreover, if we also assume that God has feelings, we should accept the fact that there must be the whole range of them – from positive to negative. Feelings assist one in making fast decisions (often via reflexes) since they require less time than a rational thinking. Time may become a crucial factor in cases when a rapidly evolving situation might not permit a purely rational response.[61]  But oftentimes acting on a feeling brings negative results because one overlooks adverse consequences of a decision. That is why combining feelings and rationality may prove an optimal choice. Unfortunately, a happy marriage of feelings and rationality is rare, and the former usually prevail.

Therefore the flood may also be interpreted as God’s emotional response on his own failure to predict the evil behavior of his creatures.

 

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (Genesis 6:5-7)

 

When God, being in a more harmonious mood, analyzed what was done with the Flood, God deemed these actions to be bad and promised never to repeat them.

And Noah built an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

 

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. (Genesis 8: 20-21)

 


NOTES.

[55] Some interesting comments concerning the meaning of good and evil have been made by John Cobbs & David Griffin, the followers of Alfred Whitehead, in the section Why So Much Evil in the World? of their book (1976), pp. 69-75.

[56]. Christian saints always perform noble deeds or attain sainthood by overcoming evil deeds. Soviet Communist ideology, especially during Stalin's time, portrayed each man who was canonized as a saint as being absolutely virtuous, of never committing any unsightly acts or anything bad. The constellation of the saints includes, for example, Ivan the Terrible, Pushkin, Lenin, and the reigning leader himself, along with his myrmidons. (Even an ordinary instructor from Central Committee of Communist Party of the Soviet Union, as long as he was still in office, was not subject to public criticism for his past or  present actions.)

[57]. I am grateful to Professor Martin Oswald for his comments about some relations between the legends of the Jews and the Greeks.

[58]. See Isaac Asimov's book (1970); in a more general fashion, the uncontrollability of humankind's own creations is presented in William Wymark Jacobs' story (1975).

[59]. This is primarily the result of the disproportionately large size of the embryo's head as compared to other parts of the body. Women's birth organs have not changed very much. The greater part of post-natal injuries in an infant (which do heal themselves within 48 hours) have to do with skull deformation during birth. It would be interesting to compare the size of the vagina of female marsupials with the size of the embryos and the vagina of the females of non-marsupials.

[60]. About 12000 years ago, the life of the people underwent drastic changes. First houses and fortified settlements appeared, as well as jewelry and stone vessels. People began to develop agriculture and raise cattle. The archaeologists called these milestones the "neolithic revolution." Presently, the neolithic revolution is associated with the so called Natufian culture which evolved on the territory of Israel. The first city-metropolis "Jericho" was also situated there. Our present day knowledge of the neolithic and subsequent cultures indicates that their development evolved continuously both in space and in time. New centers came into existence and disappeared afterwards, but eventually the neolithic revolution covered larger and larger territory. First, it was Northern Mesopotamia and the southern region of Anatolia, then it extended to western Anatolia, Greece, and the Balkans, then to the region beyond the Caucasus, Western and Northern Iran, Southern Turkmenia and Southern Mesopotamia. At about the seventh millennium B.C., Anatolia and Mesopotamia were inhabited by people who had ceramics and possessed rudimentary knowledge of metallurgy. These cultures belonged to the so called Haliolitic era. Progress radiated from this area to the west, south, and east. The next archaeological period is called the bronze age (4000 B.C. to 1200 A.D.). Its cultural centers were undoubtfully in Gassul - the Beersheba culture and in Northern Syria, in Sumer, and in the Caucasus afterwards. We get a similar picture if we analyze the archaeological and the written data from the so called iron age (about 1200 B.C.) Besides the continuity of the development (in space and in time) initiated by the Neolithic revolution, archaeologists have also uncovered a lot of long-term connections and similarities between cultures rather distant from each other. They have discovered that a number of very important changes and innovations that took place in different cultures occurred simultaneously. Sometimes, it seems that freedom of choice and random events play a role in the progress of mankind only locally. As a whole, this process seems to be coordinated and directed. This almost mystical feeling can be rationalized once we assume some sort of compatibility and interrelationships among some stable segment of the active part of the population hidden behind this inanimate archeological evidence. The aforementioned evidence of the ancient sculpture, the deformed skulls dating back as far as the neolithic era, and anthropological connections between various centers of metallurgy, all point in one direction: the stable segment of the population taking part in the process of cultural evolution during the neolithic and subsequent eras, the people responsible for the compatibility and inner connections among various cultures belonged to the anthropological group known as the armenoids. Moreover, armenoid like images of kings and gods, skulls deformed in an "armenoid like" fashion associated with nobility make an even stronger assumption quite feasible. In very ancient times (about 10000 B.C.), armenoids were associated with the upper class, at least in the cultural centers of the central part of the Near East and their spread basically coincides with the growth of this center." (Moisheson, 1984, p.226)

[61]. For example, at a construction field people are instructed to react based on their instinct when they see a falling object rather than elaborate a rational decision.

 


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