14. Review of Chapter One
The Ramchal's five key points.
1:1:5 (part 6)
Section 1: Fundamentals of Existence
Chapter 1: The Creator
This, however, is also among the things that we know from the tradition discussed earlier. It can also be verified from the laws and principles of nature that it is impossible that some Being not exist, unbound by the laws and limitations of nature. It must be impossible that this Being cease to exist or have any deficiency.
This Being must furthermore be divorced from all addition, structure, relationship, comparison, or any other quality that exists in created things.
Finally, this Being must be the true cause of everything that exists and happens. Unless all this is true, the existence and continuance of things as we know them would be utterly impossible.
In this paragraph, the Ramchal basically summarizes some points made thus far about G-d's infinite nature:
- We know these ideas from an ongoing oral tradition that stems back to the national Jewish experience at Mount Sinai.
- These points can also be logically derived, based on understanding the principles of nature.
- All of these must be necessarily true, or "the existence and continuance of things as we know them would be utterly impossible." In other words, these points are not only necessary to establish infinite existence, but they are also a necessary prerequisite for our finite existence.
Since the Ramchal chose this juncture to summarize, let's do likewise. We'll use his few lines to recap what we've said over the last 13 classes:
(1) "It is impossible that some Being not exist, unbound by the laws and limitations of nature."
If finite exists, it begs an explanation. Where did everything ultimately come from? Logically, there must be a starting point, and that starting point must be something beyond finite. (This was the topic of Class 5 and 6.)
(2) "It is impossible that this Being cease to exist."
Since G-d is not part of the system of cause-and-effect, but rather He is the creator of the system, nothing "makes G-d exist." And if G-d's existence is not contingent on anything else, then nothing can effect or influence G-d's continued existence. (This was the topic of class 7.)
(3) "... or have any deficiency"
G-d is beyond finite, and is therefore in a whole different category of existence: infinite. By definition, infinite cannot have any lackings, limitations, "edges" or imperfections. (This was the topic of Class 3.)
(4) "This Being must furthermore be divorced from all addition, structure, relationship, comparison, or any other quality that exists in created things."
The infinite is an entirely different type of existence, one that we can't even directly perceive with our finite physical and intellectual faculties. Nothing can be "like" G-d in a true sense, because there's no way to ascribe any properties or characteristics to something formless and limitless like the infinite. So even when we call G-d "wise" or "powerful," these are just human descriptions of what we experience G-d doing, relative to our perception of G-d's interaction with the world. We can talk about what G-d is not, and we can talk (in a relative sense by using subjective human levels) about what G-d does, but there is no way to even approach the notion of what G-d actually is. Any finite comparison, analogy or description would automatically limit G-d. (This was the topic of Class 11 and 12.)
(5) "This Being must be the true cause of everything that exists and happens."
The Ramchal is reiterating that there is a being who created (past tense) and sustains (present tense) all existence.
The purpose of everything we've discussed thus far has been to refine and deepen our appreciation of the idea that:
- There is a logical necessity of an infinite force guiding creation.
- This infinite Being is completely unlike anything that we've ever experienced in our world of finite.
- This Being is the ongoing animating force behind every molecule and every event in existence, at all times and everywhere.
We explained the relationship of finite to infinite as being in many ways like the relationship between the scenes that you form in your mind (like the green balloon) and their creator, you. Every aspect of the scene in your mind is just a manifestation of your will. It has no independence. This forces us into a whole new view of our finite world of physicality as a pseudo-reality, relative to the reality of infinite existence.
This review of key concepts helps us appreciate that we now understand some very abstract and difficult concepts. But beyond the philosophical-theoretical, we have hopefully achieved a paradigm shift, a whole new context to begin understanding our lives and the world around us.
Before we let this foundation settle and begin to build on it with all of the important questions that arose (purpose of creation, free will, nature of man, suffering, meaning of life, etc.), the Ramchal is going to add on just one more detail to our understanding of infinite. That will be the subject of our next class.
- Why would it be impossible to produce an analogy of what G-d is?
- In your own terms, how does life seem different when you appreciate the idea of G-d sustaining everything in your own life?