donderdag 31 oktober 2013


All religion is all alike, so you can regularly hear and read. Traditions that once were clearly defined today are more intertwined. More and more people assemble their own philosophy of life from a range of different traditions. The reason for that, says for example the magazine Happinez, is that people are looking for guidance and ‘something’ existential that transcends us. And some of that may be found in any tradition.

But sometimes one can – I think – surely draw clear marking lines between religions. A sharp line, namely between Judaism and Christianity, I came across lately concerning the question of where to look for deeper truths.

I read about the great Christian mystic Meister Eckhart. From him comes the statement “Why do you seek it outside of you? Why don’t you stay in your innermost and grab what is good in yourself? After all, you carry the whole truth substantially within you”.

This may sound familiar to us, not only from a knowledge of ancient or medieval mystics, but also from more contemporary self-centered spiritual training programs like Avatar or Landmark. The idea that the entire cosmos is rooted in yourself, is apparently deeply anchored in the Western genes.

This is different in the Jewish tradition. Judaism also knows the belief that each person is a cosmos in itself, according to the Talmudic statement that who rescues a person rescues a  world. But the fascination here is connected rather to the radical differences between the cosmoses, than to the radical otherness of another person.

A corollary of this fascination is the belief that one therefore does not carry the whole world  substantially within oneself. On the contrary: somethings keep slipping from me, namely that in which another person is substantially other indeed. In a way that I never could imagine beforehand.

With this approach the Jewish tradition creates its own puzzles and questions: how can we understand each other, how can we, with those radical differences, live together ?

It is clear, anyway, that the self is never self-sufficient.

Also see Holy Fire and Secular Varieties