156
NORMAN LAMM
EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE
157
What is interesting, in addition to the assertion of both divine personality and impersonality (or transpersonality), and the obviousness that even a confirmed anthropocentrist like R. Hayyim does not consider God "primarily concerned with hu­man events," is how R. Hayyim views the significance of man's spiritual conduct in the light of this theology.
Man's religious behavior—his ethical conduct, moral level, worship, observance of commandments—makes sense only from the point of view of God as He relates, as He turns outward and manifests Himself; in His absolute Essence, God is un­affected by man whose very existence is merely illusory under the impact of His ontological comprehensiveness. But for R. Hayyim this is not a static relationship, whereby all philo­sophically formulated attributes of perfection and absoluteness are assigned to Essence, and all religiously conceived qualities of action and responsiveness are designated as belonging to Relatedness. For R. Hayyim, there is a tension between the divine Essence and the divine Relatedness. There are times when God appears to withdraw into His Essence and abandon man to cosmic solitude; at other times He emerges from His hiddenness to seek man out, respond to him, engage him. Now this tension, this dynamic movement from Essence to Re­latedness and back, is not a whim of God, not an autonomous event or series of events in God's life from which man is excluded. It is man who, by his orientation to God, de­termines God's orientation to him. When man turns his back on his Creator, He reacts in the same manner: He withdraws into His Essence, and refuses to relate to him. When man seeks out God—by observance of the mitzvot, by ethical conduct, by prayer, by study of Torah—God turns to him from out of His Absoluteness, and the area of Relatedness is proportionately enlarged.
God thus remains for man both personal and impersonal, im­manent and transcendent, glorious and holy, related and abso­lute. The degree to which God appears to us in one guise or another depends upon us. But at no time is God other than both absolute and related. Man thus plays a crucial role in determining whether and how God will relate to him; but He
always remains in His infinite Essence absolutely beyond man, transcending his most vital concerns, even his very existence.
Hence, even as confirmed an anthropocentrist as R. Hayyim of Volozhin does not hold God to this one theater as a divine audience—or puppeteer—concerned "primarily with human events." God in His infinite Essence still remains aloof from all of creation, which, no matter how vast or ancient, remains for Him a non-event. Were R. Hayyim to consider the pos­sibility of extraterrestrial rational creatures, he could easily revise his system, limiting man's efficacy in affecting the Es-sence-Relatedness tension to the scene of earth. The shift from cosmological to existential terms—man influencing God's will­ingness to enter into dialogue with him alone, rather than managing the destiny of the entire cosmos and all the mystical worlds beyond it—can be made without injury to the main tenets of this thought.
We Never Were Alone
Man, we may learn conclusively in the not-too-distant future, may no longer be regarded as the purpose of creation. But his actions and his destiny are of significance to a Creator who, in His infinity, is not bewildered by numbers. While he must begin to feel a new and pervasive collective humility in the face of the immeasurable richness and variety of God's world, the psychological climate of such wonder and humility need not lead him to conclude that God is unaware of his existence.
The discovery of fellow intelligent creatures elsewhere in the universe, if indeed they do exist, will deepen and broaden our appreciation of the mysteries of the Creator and His creations. Man will be humble, but not humiliated. With renewed fervor he will be able to turn to God, whose infinite goodness and Providence are not limited to, but certainly include, one small planet on the fringes of the Milky Way.
We may learn that, as rational, sentient, and self-conscious creatures, "we are not alone." But then again, we have never felt before nor need we feel today or in the future that we are alone. "For Thou art with me."
    E.T. Life Page:   prev <   1   2   3   4   5   6   7     23   24   25       Home