I and thou; Existentialism

  • Existentialist philosophy demands for the existence which is man who lives on the earth to take control and solve the conflicts which exist between religions and make peace with God not only for himself also for the whole world.
  • Existentialism does not reject religion but seeks to unite the religions of the world for the sake of the individual, for the sake of life and peace.
  • The fulfillment of the revelation of God on earth will be when the whole world and all of mankind are artisans of peace which means prophets of God.

Martin Buber born in Austria 1878 grew up in a religious Jewish family and broke off from the traditional Jewish direction to become a Jewish philosopher.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in literature ten times and the Nobel Peace prize seven times.  He is known for his book “I thou” which is connected to existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophy for all human beings to seek out the essence of life by acquiring self-knowledge and applying this knowledge in life. In existentialism existence precedes essence, the importance of the individual is stressed even before the importance of God.  The goal in life as described by Martin Buber in his book “I Thou” is to unite the individual with the essence which is God.  Existentialism stresses happiness, it also stresses peace as a purpose in life. 

The difference between existentialism and religion is that religion places the essence first and the existence which is the creation secondary to the essence.  The essence is called “I” in the singular. Existence is God as he is revealed in life.  Each religion whether it be Judaism, Christianity, or Islam claims to be the only way of life, the divine commandment of God.  In each of the Sacred Scriptures which came down from heaven through a prophet of God is sealed with the signature “I am the Lord your God.”  God reveals himself to the world which is his creation, reality and existence through these prophets and their scriptures in the way of “I am the Lord.”  Scriptures are the revealed word of God through the prophets of God.  “Thou” is explained as the unknown essence.  God is above the intellect of man in a realm of essence. 

According to Martin Buber because God is unknown “Thou” he can become revealed in various religions; not just in one religion.  God the unknown “Thou” is unlimited to be called “I am the Lord” in one religion as is claimed by each religion.  Therefore in the end of six thousand years of creation there can be three major religions in the world claiming to be the only way.  Existentialist philosophy demands for the existence which is man who lives on the earth to take control and solve the conflicts which exist between religions and make peace with God not only for himself also for the whole world.  On the side of “I am the Lord” there is commandment and obligation which demands self-sacrifice of the existence man and his world.  The goal of existentialism is to unite the “I” and the “Thou”. 

Martin Buber a Jewish philosopher wrote about a unity between man and God but he himself in his life was faced with difficulties achieving this goal.  Growing up in a religious Jewish home he left his religion to become a secular philosopher and married out of his religion.  His apology for leaving his religion and his people was through writing his books on Chassidism.  He later became connected with Zionism and moved to Israel where he was a professor of philosophy in Hebrew University. 

Existentialism “I thou” philosophy is messianic.  The Messiah will come into the world to unite all the religions of the world in peace. Like it says in Psalms 102, to bring the people of the world together and the nations to serve God together.  The obstacle to achieving this goal is the “I” of each religion which claims to be the only true way.  Chassidism came to Judaism in the 1700s bringing into Judaism a Messianic goal of world unity and peace, a universal goal.  Chassidism is based on the teachings of the Zohar, the Book of Splendor which was discovered in Spain in the 1500s.  The Zohar contained in it an existentialist messianic direction which was suppressed in Judaism based exclusively on the learning of the laws of the Torah without seeking the goal of Peace with God and Truth. Religion preserves the teachings of their prophet and preaches self-sacrifice of the human emotions which are emphasized in existentialism.  Following the word of God is more important in religion than the goals of the individual.  Religion is national, not only Judaism and Islamic religion.  In religion there is “I thou”.  Religion begins with Thou, the discovery of God and his unity by the prophet of God from the unknown into the existence the world of man.  From the aspect of “Thou” God comes into the world as “I am the Lord”.  This is the way Judaism began at Mount Sinai when the whole nation of the Jewish People together received the revelation of knowing God the unknown for several moments.  Then Moses the prophets of truth brought this revelation in the world from “Thou” to “I am the Lord,” the giving of the Old Testament, the five books of Moses and Jewish Law to the people of Israel to build their nation.  Afterwards came Jesus and Mohammed to add to this revelation for the sake of the existence to bring to the world all the aspects of “Thou” which was still needed to be revealed to make the complete revelation of God on earth including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 

Judaism, and the Jewish people the first religion claiming “I am the Lord” is closed on the side of “I am” not to accept another God.  It is difficult for Jews who were the first “I am” to accept another God or religion.  This has been the cause of anti-Semitism from the time of Mount Sinai.  Not only was there jealousy when was established the Holy Nation of Israel but after its destruction entered the world other religions and their followers also claiming “I am”. These religions came from “Thou” where there is peace and unity.  When they came down to earth each religion made its own claim “I am.”  There was the crusades, Spanish inquisition and Islamic wars.  Judaism is also at war to maintain its religion which is the foundation of its nation.

God has brought his revelation into the world in various ways. Existentialism does not reject religion but seeks to unite the religions of the world for the sake of the individual, for the sake of life and peace.  Martin Buber had this revelation of “I Thou” and made it known through his books.  Each person is an artisan of peace to unite religion with the individual, with himself and with others to build a world of peace but not to reject religion.  The foundation of faith in God begins with the first passage of the Torah, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  On earth we receive the Torah the law of God and unite the Torah in our everyday lives each person as an artisan of peace.

The knowledge of God came from “Thou” from the heavens where God is unknown.  It came down to the world in the way of “I am” in religion. Now the job of the artisans of peace is to return the word of God as it is “I am” to its source in “Thou” where there is only peace, where is the name of God which is Shalom. 

The Western world works with the Bible as the beginning to reach to the level of “Thou” to bring essence into existence.  Eastern religion Hinduism, Buddhism does it without the Bible but comes to the same essence emphasizing less the “I am” of religion.  In one way Eastern Religion is more peaceful than Western Religion but less organized.  The way to truth is more difficult in Eastern Religion almost impossible without the guidance of the Guru. Western Religion emphasize learning of scriptures, but the scriptures are not enough without prophets to renew the word of God each day.  Martin Buber was less religious than other Torah observant Jews, but he had prophecy which they were lacking.

The revelation of God on earth begins with “Thou.”  Thou is resurrection.  Adam was created from the dust of the earth which implies resurrection.  He lived in the Garden of Eden as a product of resurrection which is peace, which is Sabbath.  When he left the Garden of Eden, he left the revelation of resurrection into a world of chaos.  On Mount Sinai through Moses was renewed the revelation of resurrection for a few moments.  After the sin of the Golden Calf began Western Religion through the Torah the five books of Moses, the law of God “I am the Lord.”  This revelation of “I am the Lord” needed renewal through Christianity and Islam.  Today it is being renewed through Chassidism.  Renewal means connecting “I and Thou.”  “I am” is religion.  “Thou” is revelation. The fulfillment of the revelation of God on earth will be when the whole world and all of mankind are artisans of peace which means prophets of God. Moses revealed this wish in Numbers 11:29, “It should only be that all of the people will be prophets, that the holy spirit should be given to them.”

(The picture above is of Martin Buber the author of the book “I and thou”)

David Wexelman

Rabbi David Wexelman is the  author of five books on the topics of World Unity and Peace, and Progressive Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Wexelman is a member of the American Friends of Maccabee, a charitable organization helping the poor in the United States and in Israel.  Donations are tax deductible in the USA.
http://www.worldunitypeace.org

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