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Philo of Alexandria, the Logos, and the two powers theology

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  • Philo of Alexandria, the Logos, and the two powers theology

    I believe that God is the ground of all being. However, precisely because of this, I reject the notion that he literally created the universe. If God is the grouding of space and time, he must exist outside of it, meaning that he does not physically interact with his creation at any point in time. Rather, I believe in something akin to the Second Temple Jewish idea of the Two Powers in Heaven, particularly in Philo's idea of the Logos, the creative principle of God in the world. God, rather than creating the world, stimulated the cosmic evolution by emanating (outside of time), a logos principle.

    Thoughts?

    Am I getting it wrong?

  • #2
    Interesting paper on Two Powers. It seems less a serious theological position than a collective existential response to calamity.

    What differentiates the powers? Is this like the trinity minus 1?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Bamidbar 22 View Post
      Interesting paper on Two Powers. It seems less a serious theological position than a collective existential response to calamity.

      What differentiates the powers? Is this like the trinity minus 1?
      Despite what I may have said before, I think the most rational approach is to suggest that the logos is in some sense separate from God, it is a principle, or a natural law, which animates the universe. God is still creator insofar as he produces the Logos.

      Interesting that Modern Judaism has a similar notion in Kabbalah of God producing the Sefirot, the manifestations of God in creation, unless I'm misunderstanding it.

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      • #4
        That view doesn't make any sense to me. Why couldn't God create the universe if he is outside of space and time? The creative act would not entail that God therefore enters time (though some could adopt that view, it is not really entailed by creation) or that he can't create the universe. I don't see any good argument or good reason for that.

        In fact, I think it's particularly strange to think that, in order to solve this "problem", we can then posit that God eternally emanates a "creative principle" which then goes on to create the universe. Because if someone thinks God cannot create the universe by being outside of all time and space, then the same would be true of this creative principle which timelessly emanated from God. And if this creative principle did have the power to create the universe, why wouldn't God have it, too? In particular, because of the principle of proportionate causality, whatever power there might be in the "creative principle" must already be present in God in one way or another.

        The whole idea just seems to me a violation of Ockam's razor, and a particularly bizarre and improbable one at that.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Atno View Post
          That view doesn't make any sense to me. Why couldn't God create the universe if he is outside of space and time? The creative act would not entail that God therefore enters time (though some could adopt that view, it is not really entailed by creation) or that he can't create the universe. I don't see any good argument or good reason for that.

          In fact, I think it's particularly strange to think that, in order to solve this "problem", we can then posit that God eternally emanates a "creative principle" which then goes on to create the universe. Because if someone thinks God cannot create the universe by being outside of all time and space, then the same would be true of this creative principle which timelessly emanated from God. And if this creative principle did have the power to create the universe, why wouldn't God have it, too? In particular, because of the principle of proportionate causality, whatever power there might be in the "creative principle" must already be present in God in one way or another.

          The whole idea just seems to me a violation of Ockam's razor, and a particularly bizarre and improbable one at that.
          Well, there needs to be some logical limits to God's omnipotence, he cannot involve himself in time if he exists outside of it, because then he would be acting inside of time. Even if you were right, Philo's 'Logos' theory explains how God is able to perform miracles without breaking the laws of nature

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          • #6
            Perhaps I was going too far, God can be acting eternally within his creation without creating some sort of demiurgic force. That being said, this eternal act and providence of God can perhaps be called 'the Logos' since it resembles the Greek, Jewish and Christian Concept.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by The Spiritual Twitcher View Post
              Interesting that Modern Judaism has a similar notion in Kabbalah of God producing the Sefirot, the manifestations of God in creation, unless I'm misunderstanding it.
              Some do, but should they? The Rationalists reject the Sefirot for these reasons, among others:

              Originally posted by ShamanSTK
              In terms of belief, there is a different ontology at play. Especially among Chabad Hassidim, who have delved further into kabbalah than most, they subscribe to a type of pantheism. They believe that the world is fundamentally composed of the essence of the deity in a very real way. Most mekabbulim don't get this explicit. They just subscribe to a mystical ontology.


              Rationalism and Mysticism have a number of differences in ideology, but they can mostly be boiled down to metaphysics. Or at least, that's their most drastic difference. The Kabbalah has an elaborate metaphysics that is based quite strongly in the neoplatonic, pagan, tradition. Middle Platonism posited four worlds of reality which are reflected in kabbalah's four worlds. The One, Mind, World Soul, Material World. The One is a transcendent unity that is the source, and cause, of the world's oneness and is the primal cause that causes all other things. Most would call this G-d. In Platonism, absolutely nothing can be said about this because it is "above" the intelligible world. The intelligible world starts with the Mind, which holds all the forms. Or, things that can be known. So the idea of rabbit is not known to the One, but it is known to the Mind. This is important, The One is entirely unaware of any level below it. It is not intelligible, and it does not know intelligible. If it did, according to the Platonists, it would be a multiplicity. The Mind "emanates" the World Soul. The World Soul takes the individual ideas in the Mind and combines them to form the Material World, which it causes to exist. So, the World Soul is the "form" of the Material World, and the Mind is the form of the World Soul, and the One is the form of the Mind. So everything is an aspect of the One without actually being the One. Neoplatonism complicated this slightly by putting in middle terms between each of these four worlds, which roughly correspond to the Tree of Life.


              So, starting from the top. Ein Soph is the One. You do not direct your prayers to Ein Soph. Ein Soph is exalted beyond this World and is unconcerned with it. The Mind is the ChaBaD sephiros, that which is technically intelligible. Keter forms the middle term. The idea of a numerical one is intelligible, and it is one, but the One isn't numerically One. ChaBa is Wisdom and Understanding, the Mind, and Daas is the middle between the Mind and the World Soul. It is knowledge of what exists, more concrete mental activity as opposed to the more abstract notions of Wisdom and Understanding. The World Soul is represented by the "Tipheres Circle." Tipheres represents the balance between Love and Power (or expansion and repression) and the forces of nature (Netzah and Hod, the "hands" of G-d). This is the form of the World. Blessing "flows" downwards from the One in the form of continued existence. This "circle" creates the Material World (Malchus) in its image (Yesod which is the link between the two), and changes in the Material World affect changes in the World Soul since they are intimately linked. This is where good and evil come from.


              For example, the Rabbit. The Rabbit and Fire get abstract existence which are morally neutral in the Mind. They become combined in the World Soul in different ways. The World Soul may combine them in a "good" way that ensures their continued existence. The World Soul may place a nice cozy fireplace and a sleeping Rabbit all warm and happy next to it. Or, it can make an "evil" combination of a burning rabbit. Also, if a man saw a burning rabbit, put it out, nursed it to health, and placed it next to a cozy fire, the man has "repaired the world" is so far as it repairs the balance of Good and Evil in the World Soul.


              This is where my issues with Kabbalah come from. Partzufim, check the wiki page. Just as in the pagan tradition, everything above the material world is a "god". Or in kabbalah, a face of the divine which has its own existence apart from the others complete with differing relationships and personalities. The "tipheres circle" is Zeir Anpin, or the G-d of the Torah. This places a divinity higher than G-d, makes G-d have parts (6 of them if not 10/11), and makes the True G-d, the One, completely unaware of us. To the mystics' credit, this aspect is downplayed in modern kabbalah and it would come to a shock to most kabbalists that this tree of life is an elaborate pagan family tree.


              The rationalists take an entirely different approach. It is a much simpler system because it reinterprets what a form is. To an Aristotelian philosopher/rationalist, a form is what the object is apart from its physical make up. Forms don't exist in an outside mind, they exist in the object. So a table is in the form of a table, even if it is made of stone or wood or metal. The table and the stone are one thing, but have two aspects which both exist in the object. This is different than Platonism because in Platonism, the form exists outside the object, and the object is just a "reflection" of the higher level. So, since forms exist in the universe, there is only The One and the Material Universe. The Rambam allowed for a World Soul to exist conceptually provided it is just considered the form of the aggregate material universe. Therefore, the world is made of substance and form, and G-d is a unity. Aristotelian metaphysics defines knowledge in terms of four classes of causes. Back to the table. Why is the table hard? It is made of wood, the material cause. Why is the table study? Because its legs are equal length, the formal cause, i.e. it is in the "form" of a table. Why does the table exist? This takes two causes. The carpenter built it, the efficient cause, or the "actual" cause in modern conceptions of cause and effect. And also, it exists to hold stuff, the final cause, or the "purpose".


              G-d knows the universe exists because the One knows itself, and because it knows itself, it knows itself as the cause of the universe. If you know all the causes, you know everything there is to know about an object. This does not compromise the One's unity because the One is the Thinker, the Thought, and the Object of thought. Since the Object of thought and the Thinker are the same thing, and the Thought concerns the Object of thought, they are all three the exact same thing. It doesn't make sense to differentiate them because they aren't material, and they are the same ontological concept. So the One is a perfect unity.


              How this plays out in other aspects of thought, such as holiness, ethics, etc. are complicated. However, these metaphysical systems are very different and lead to different conclusions when asking questions on a second order from metaphysics. If you're looking for concrete examples of differences, I can provide them. Or you can see Maimonides Confrontation with Mysticism by Kellner. Very well researched book. But to finish the example of the rabbit, we can look at the final cause of the rabbit to see a rationalist ethic at play. The purpose of the rabbit is to exist, reproduce, and hop around. Anything that interferes with that telos is bad for the rabbit. A fire for the rabbit is bad for the rabbit. It interferes with its telos to exist. We fix this by removing the obstacle. That is putting out the fire and rehabilitating the rabbit. To see how this plays out for humans, see my comment here.
              The boldface is my emphasis. Here's where Christianity posits the "generation" of another divine person: G-d's knowledge of Himself "generates" the son, eternally so.

              Toahar HaYichud: The Oneness of G-d In Its Purity is the anti-Kabbalah manifesto.
              Last edited by Bamidbar 22; 08-31-2019, 04:59 AM.

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