[Avodah] Was the Rambam Really a Rationalist?

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Tue Aug 7 01:21:44 PDT 2018

I have seen some discussion elsewhere of https://www.thelehrhaus.com/scholarship/mysticism-and-its-alternatives-rethinking-maimonides/
or http://bit.ly/2njjYrK

Mysticism and its Alternatives: Rethinking Maimonides
The Lehrhaus
by David Fried

Mosaica Magazine's choice of snippet:

     Human perfection, [for Maimonides], begins with the intellectual
     knowledge of God, but the higher goal is not the knowledge itself
     but the experience of love and awe brought about by meditation and
     reflection upon that knowledge....

     The sixth [of Maimonides' seven levels of perfection] is that
     attained by individuals who have mastered the study of metaphysics,
     [whom] Maimonides exhorts to strive for the ultimate achievement
     in human perfection.... [T]he path that Maimonides advises to
     ascend from the sixth level to the seventh is clearly meditative,
     a training of the mind to dwell exclusively on God and not merely
     intellectual study....

     [According to Maimonides'] general theory of knowledge. An intellect
     that is not actively cognizing is merely a potential intellect.
     However, when one actively cognizes the form or essence of a thing,
     the form enters one's mind... and "in such a case the intellect is
     not a thing distinct from the thing comprehended."...

     We can now apply Maimonides' general theory of knowledge to [his
     seven levels of perfection]. The intellect that understands the
     idea of God, but is not actively cognizing it, knows it only in
     potential. True knowledge occurs only during the moments when one
     is actively cognizing. It further follows that just as when we
     cognize the form of a tree our intellect becomes identical with
     the form of the tree, so too when cognizing the idea of God, our
     intellect becomes identical with Him. What more powerful expression
     of mystical union with the Divine could there be?

     Additionally, there is a key difference between cognizing trees
     and cognizing God. Obviously, when cognizing the form of a tree,
     our intellect does not become a tree, for a physical tree is not the
     same as the ideal or form of the tree. Physical objects consist of
     matter that can reflect form only to greater or lesser degrees. God,
     on the other hand, does not consist of matter, and therefore the
     idea of God is not separate from the essence of God, as Maimonides
     explains [on two separate occasions], "He is the knower; He is the
     known; and He is the knowledge itself."

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             I always give much away,
micha at aishdas.org        and so gather happiness instead of pleasure.
http://www.aishdas.org           -  Rachel Levin Varnhagen
Fax: (270) 514-1507

More information about the Avodah mailing list