Spiritual purposes of the "free-will puzzles" essay

In the free-will puzzles essay (.pdf), I challenge claims by some "platonic" scientists that scientific forms have an authority that is superior to other forms. I suggest that such claims are clearly false in the light of very different forms imposed by governments through criminal and civil laws. Such claims are also false in the light of forms of thought and behavior that come from spiritual sources.

The essay includes one section that is spiritual in character, which appears below in an edited form. The material is in the form of a construction and is not intended as a statement of personal principles. I have stated spiritual principles that motivate me on other pages: (...) "My personal cosmology of Jesus Christ" and (...) "Cultivating spiritual life and power."

§ 5.a  The beat is a primal temporal form in proposed models of actual life.
(Most citation references have been omitted in this edited version.)

Ancient Hebrew culture sharply contrasts with ancient Greek culture and platonic science. According to T. Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek (1960): "the thinking of the Greeks is spatial and that of the Hebrews is temporal. ... Greek and Israelite-Jewish interpretations of time are entirely different."

In Boman's construction of ancient Hebrew Thought and ancient Greek Thought, each Thought had a distinct character. In factual background, early Christians used diverse Jewish and Greek source materials in constructing the religion; scholars concerned with Christian origins have divergent views about the sources' natures and influences.

Boman's constructions are useful in my approach because they provide context for new temporal forms. Spatial forms of platonic science have references in ancient Greek culture; temporal forms of new proposed technologies have references in ancient Hebrew culture.

In his "Summary and Psychological Foundation of the Differences," Boman states: "The Greek most acutely experiences the world and existence while he stands and reflects, but the Israelite reaches his zenith in ceaseless movement. Rest, harmony, composure, and self-control – this is the Greek way; movement, life, deep emotion and power – this is the Hebrew way."

"According to the Israelite conception, everything is in eternal movement: God and man, nature and the world. The totality of existence, 'ôlam, is time, history, life."

As discussed in the essay, new proposed models of actual life are based on muscular movements. Every muscle is activated and ready all the time, maintaining tonus even when immobile. Actual muscular movements arise out of readiness. The underlying basis of all mental activity is a plenum of muscular activation. I suggest that movement, activation and readiness resonate with Hebrew Thought.

Focusing on specific temporal forms in Hebrew Thought, Boman states: "The shortest span of time, or Hebraically expressed, the shortest perception of time, is regha' – a beat, or as von Orelli so suitably suggests, the pulse-beat of time." "[T]he Hebrew regha' refers to some sort of bodily sensation such as pulse-beat, heart-beat, or twitching of the eyelid. In any case, the shortest time in Hebrew is not a point, nor a distance, nor a duration, but a beat."

In modeling actual life, the beat is a primal form of movement, a form that can change with the situation and into variant beat forms. Variant beat forms combine in waves and cycles suitable for coordination and organization. The primal beat is the thump-thump-thump of a heart, the tap-tap-tap of a musician's foot, the step step-step of marching and the "push, push, push" that is the only activity of a jellyfish.

Boman states: "In regha' there is originally something violent." Compared to other words, "regha' is more the rapacious, violent, stormy suddenness with which something takes place," e.g., when fish and birds are "suddenly ensnared" (Eccles. 9:12) or when a man is "straightaway" overcome by sexual temptation (Prov. 7:22). Several Hebrew words "are used like regha' to designate abruptness."

In the genre of horror and suspense films, directors use an audio beat in a characteristic way that conveys a "rapacious, violent, stormy suddenness" - or, more precisely, the beat is signaling that such a suddenness is about to occur. The scene on the screen may be banal, a person walking slowly towards a house, for example; meanwhile, the sound track carries a strong beat with a character like that of a heartbeat. The beat signals an impending suddenness. The beat in the horror film is pregnant with approaching action that will be rapacious, violent or stormy.

In my approach, a beat is pregnant with multiple possible movements that may suddenly appear and that may range from rapacious violence to delicate sensitivity and even to stillness and silence. What suddenly appears will be transformational but there will also be conserved a substance that carries the characteristics of the original. The beat is not just signaling that something happened in the past or that something will be happening soon: the beat is a continuing beat that potentially unites past, present and future in movement that extends without limit.

A distinction between smooth action and jumpy or sudden action is important in my constructions. The two kinds of action turn into two kinds of control. One kind of control is continuous control and that other is saccadic (jumpy) control. Continuous controls fit forms of platonism that incorporate the continuity of geometric space; saccadic controls operate according to principles of discontinuity. "Abrupt" connotations of regha' are suggestive of saccadic controls. The suggestion is rooted in facts of actual life, where sudden or jumpy action often seizes control from smooth action. That is, in actual life, jumpy, abrupt, even violent action is often a more powerful influence than smooth action based on reason - and such power is based on the suddenness and size of the jumps.

A further temporal form in Hebrew Thought is "purely and simply a rhythmic alternation," e.g., "seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter (Gen 8.22). ... an isolated unit of time, therefore, has a rhythm which for the sake of comparison with rhythmic speech can be given the form: unaccented-accented-unaccented, or to compare it with the pulse-beat, weak-strong-weak. Thus in Hebrew the period of day and night is a rhythm of dull-bright-dull; evening-morning-evening (Gen. 1.5, 8, 13,19, 23, 31.)"

In ancient Israel, rhythms were forms of actual life. The weekly day of religious observance, the sabbath, had first importance. (Deut. 20:8-11.) Each year was organized through festivals and observances. (Id., 34:18-23.) "A longer period of time is thought of as a continued rhythm passing over into a higher time-rhythm, etc. The shortest rhythm, the day, passes over into the week-rhythm, then into the month-rhythm, and then into the rhythm of the year ... The seven-beat rhythm of the week is continued in the sabbath year and the jubilee year."

Rhythmic forms of actual life were famously set forth in Eccl. 3:2-8:

"A time to be born and a time to die;
 A time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 A time to kill and a time to heal;
 A time to break down and a time to build up;
 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
 A time to mourn and a time to dance;
 A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together."

"As space was the given thought-form for the Greeks, so for the Hebrews it was time." "For us space is like a great container that stores, arranges, and holds everything together; space is also the place where we live, breathe, and can expand freely. Time played a similar role for the Hebrews. Their consciousness is like a container in which their whole life from childhood on and the realities which they experienced or of which they had heard are stored."

In contrast to the linear form of Greek time, for the Hebrew, "time is determined by its content."

"[I]n the Indo-European languages, the future is quite preponderantly thought to lie before us, while in Hebrew future events are always expressed as coming after us."

Hebrew Thought is built around time but "time is assessed by Plato as well as by Aristotle as something vastly inferior to space, partly as an evil. Aristotle is in agreement with the maxim that time destroys ... nothing grows new or beautiful through time ... everything pertaining only to space, e.g., geometry, was so highly regarded, and the Greek gods and the divine world had to be conceived as exempt from all time, transitoriness, and change..."

For Boman, the words "dynamic" and "static" are tentative labels that distinguish between Israelite thinking that is "vigorous, passionate, and sometimes quite explosive" and Greek thinking that is "peaceful, moderate, and harmonious." In Hebrew, even words that we might use for inaction, e.g., sitting, lying and standing, designate a movement that leads to the fixed end-point. "'Dwelling' for the Hebrews is related to the person who dwells, while for the Greeks and for us it is related to the residence and the household goods."

Boman finally rejects "the antithesis static-dynamic" "The distinction lies rather in the antithesis between rest and movement."

Static objects at rest fit into forms of knowledge that are different from those that fit active persons. "Ruldolf Bultmann has drawn out an elaborate comparison and contrast between the Greek and Hebrew conceptions of knowledge. ...The Greek conceives of the process of knowing as analogous to seeing; that is, he externalizes the object of knowledge, contemplates (θεωρει) [theorei]) it from a distance, and endeavors to ascertain its essential qualities, so as to grasp or master [] its reality []. It is the thing in itself, as static, that he seeks to grasp, eliminating so far as may be its movements and changes, as being derogatory to its real, permanent essence. ... The Hebrew on the other hand conceives knowledge as consisting in experience of the object in its relation to the subject. [Yada] (Heb. "to know") implies an immediate awareness of something as affecting oneself, and as such can be used of experiencing such things as sickness (Is. liii 3), or the loss of children (Is. xlvii 8), or divine punishment (Ezek. xxv 14) or inward quietness (Job xx 20) ... Thus it is the object in action and in its effects, rather than the thing in itself, that is known; and in knowing there is activity of the subject in relation to the object." (Dodd, An Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, original emphases; transliterations and translation added.)

"[T]he Greeks were organized in a predominantly visual way and the Hebrews in a predominantly auditory way." (Boman.) Plato, it is said, "is a man of sight, of seeing. His thinking is a thinking with the eyes, proceeding from what is seen ... his doctrine of Ideas is in many ways tied to vision. ... Quite as decided in the Old Testament is the emphasis upon the significance of hearing and of the word in its being spoken."

In the literature of ancient Israel, "A seer, ro'eh, is a man of God who sees what is hidden from other men, be it runaway domestic animals, hidden sins or future events. ... his observation is of an entirely different kind from the Platonic. Greek thinking is clear, logical knowing." In contrast to the Greek concept of truth based on "that which is," the "Hebrew concept of truth is expressed by means of the derivatives of the verb 'aman – 'to be steady, faithful'; 'amen –' 'verily, surely'; 'omen – 'faithfulness'; 'umnam – 'really'; 'emeth – 'constancy, trustworthiness, certainty, fidelity to reported facts, truth'."

Summing up corresponding terms, dabhar ("word" in Biblical Hebrew) and logos ("word" in first century Greek), Boman declares: "these two words teach us what the two people considered primary and essential in mental life: on the one side the dynamic, masterful, energetic – on the other side, the ordered, moderate, thought out, calculated, meaningful, rational."

"In the Old Testament, dabhar adonai – 'word of the Lord' – is frequently used of God's communications with men, His self-revelation, especially through the prophets, to whom 'the word of the Lord came'. The totality of God's self-revelation is denominated 'torah,' or 'Law', a term which is often parallel or virtually synonymous with dabhar adonai." (Dodd, transliterations and translations added.)

"For the Hebrew, the decisive reality of the world of experience was the word; for the Greek it was the thing." (Boman.) Hence, for Hebrews, "Things do not have the immovable fixity and inflexibility that they have for us, but they are changeable and in motion."

"True being for the Hebrews is the 'word', dabhar, which comprises all Hebraic realities: word, deed and concrete object. Non-being, nothing (no-thing) is signified correspondingly by 'not-word', lo-dabhar. ... the lie is the internal decay and destruction of the word ... That which is powerless, empty, and vain is a lie: a spring which gives no water lies (Isa. 58.11, kazabh)." "When the Hebrews represent dabhar as the great reality of existence, they show their dynamic conception of reality."

Ideas and impersonal invariants stand as the highest forms of Greek Thought and platonic science. Ancient Hebrews had a different conception of the most high.

"Consciousness comprises an entire life and cannot be divided like space ... When a song is being sung, its beginning, in our spatial manner of thinking, already belongs to the past and its end still to the future; but, essentially, the song is a living unity which, even after it has been sung to the end and logically belongs to the past, is something present ... In a similar way, significant historical events remain indestructible facts in the life of a people. The consequences of the events can be altered in a positive or negative direction by new deeds or failures, but the events themselves can never be altered..."

"God revealed himself to the Israelites in history and not in Ideas; he revealed himself when he acted and created. His being is not learned through propositions but known in actions. ... The people's past, present and future is a continuous whole where everything lives. ... Analogous to the life of an individual man, the people's life is experienced as a whole ... The nation is a person."

In ancient Israel, "the word of Jahveh is never a force of nature as in Assyria and Babylonia, but is always a function of a conscious and moral personality."

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