Sunday, January 14, 2007

Free the creative soul!

I am reading Orot Hakodesh by Harav Kook Z”L and will be posting occasionally pieces that speak to me particularly loudly. I am no translator so I will paraphrase most of the time and therefore must caution that my own understanding of his words may not be what he meant. Here is a short piece on creativity and learning.

Someone who has the soul of a creator must create ideas and thoughts. He cannot limit himself to superficial study because one cannot control the soaring flame of one’s soul.

A thinking person always strives for broadness of thought. Superficial study tends to rein in thought and confuses it at the moment of birth. Constant superficial study exacerbates this sickness of constrained thinking and we must use all efforts to liberate ourselves from it so that we redeem our souls from self-imposed pressures and take it out of Egypt and slavery.

What this means to me:

In every area of thought we have to start with acquainting ourselves with the current state of the information. We cannot go back every time to the start and investigate from scratch. In physics for example we have to learn and understand the current science and only then can we move on if we want answers to the many open questions. The same goes with Jewish thought. We have to study the texts and understand them before we can develop our own understanding. The goal though is to develop a personal understanding because knowing the unknowable is very personal and cannot be transmitted. That is the meaning of the Mishna in Hagigah “Ein dorshin… velo bemerkavah beyachid ela im kein hayah Chacham umeivin mida’ato” – one does not teach in public … nor does one teach metaphysics to one unless he is wise and can extrapolate on his own. Rambam legislates this Mishna as follows:( Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 4:11)

שעניין מעשה מרכבה, אפילו לאחד אין דורשין בו, אלא אם כן היה חכם ומבין מדעתו, נותנין לו ראשי הפרקים

Metaphysic we do not teach even one person, unless he is wise and can extrapolate on his own in which case we transmit to him chapter headings.

Knowing the current state of thought in metaphysics is only a stepping-stone for further personal extrapolation.

Reading the text literally and insisting that it is the ultimate truth as read because Chazal or great Rishonim wrote it and that interpretation is heretic, Apikorsus, stifles the human creative soul. Freeing the mind, letting it take the accumulated information and translate it into a meaningful understanding that allows for glimpses of the ultimate truth is the goal of a freed creative mind. In his introduction to MN Rambam describes the experience as follows:

At times the truth shines so brilliantly that we perceive it as clear as day. Our nature and habit then draw a veil over our perception, and we return to a darkness almost as dense as before. We are like those who, though beholding frequent flashes of lightning, still find themselves in the thickest darkness of the night.”

In the search for the truth one must allow the creative side of our personality to expand and soar. After all we are searching for the Creator, the ultimate source of creativity.

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