The Hotliners to God

Light of truth

There are people who claim that they have a direct link with God. They also have claims of revelations to be parted to individuals. Such preachers are many even within the church. They speak and act in God’s name.

While speaking of the idea of the holy, Rudolf Otto said about “the emotion of daunted creaturehood and the exuberant exaltation or exultation in the contrasted greatness of God.” About “varieties of religious experience,” he spoke especially of mystical experience, in which the inner emotional life plays its very noticeable part. Otto is concerned about “feelings,” whether of the mystic or the non-mystic, that are nearly always apprehensions, ways of knowing other than, perhaps more delicate and penetrating than conceptual understanding.

In the sphere of emotion or affect, feeling is rather the reverberation which the response to the fact apprehended sets up. The Hebrew idea of holiness if not originally connected to ethics and would be for Levinas and most Jews simply wrong. The Jewish Torah does not speak of holiness as an emotional experience, but as aspiration and task to be approached through a deciphered life. Otto reduced the ethical component of holiness to a mere ‘extra.’

This is not the Jewish view. To Say of God that He is the God of the poor or the God of justice involves a claim not on His attributes but rather on His essence. Otto defines holiness as the numinous minus ethics. The teachings of the Bible consider a direct link with the Divine as nothing less than idolatry.

The God of Jewish monotheism does not give Himself over to human fantasies. The desacrilization that holiness demands is in this particular case the promotion of vigilance through study and reading to clear the way for the ethical. The process of immunizing the self against religious and psychological idolatry makes it possible to recognize the distinct face of the Other. In the strongest language possibly the Bible reiterates that holiness represents the absolute opposite of idolatry. The sacred or direct contact with the absolute is unconditionally prohibited by the Bible. It is an almost ludicrous error to think of him as emphasising the importance, still less the primacy, of emotional experience in the religious life, because participation is a denial of the divine and because nothing is more direct than the face-to-face, which is straightforwardness itself. Holiness heightens our awareness of the distance between self and the divine.

The self learns not to confuse its identity with God – the distance between self and God throws us back into the drama of interpersonal affairs. Levinas declares: “God does not give Himself over to human fantasies, whatever God’s ultimate meaning may entail.” He “appears to human consciousness… ‘clothed’ in values.” This “clothing is not foreign to his nature or to his supra-nature… Religious experience… can only be primarily a moral experience.”

According to Levinas, man must love the Torah more than God; an advice that he interprets as “protection against the madness of a direct contact with the sacred that is unmediated by reason.” There is no direct link but a detour or ‘strange mission.’ As Paul Claudel’s poetry notes:

“God writes straight with crooked lines.” The pursuit of the sacred ignores the cries of the prophets who are inspired by the voice of God in its extreme straightness through the appearance of the tortuous paths it takes. This detour involves the ethical of God’s holiness. So he wrote, “There can be no ‘knowledge’ of God separated from the relationship with men.” The straight line between me and the Other’s uprightness forbids me to participate in the sacred or mystical experience.

The “stamps” on the surface of my psyche is made with His “mark” because of His holiness. “Al1 the rest” that attempt to circumvent the ethical relation in the quest for the absolute are nothing but “a dream” – the Idea of God that comes to mind in the Other’s presence. Isaiah’s relation to the Holy created the distance of impurity of tongue. Even though he is purified by fire, the distance is real. When Derrida bid adieu to Levinas saying that the essence of his language is goodness, “but the essence of language is friendship and hospitality.” It is consciousness of an attention to speech or the welcome face of hospitality and not objectification.

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