A week ago, we began the annual cycle of Torah readings with parshah B’reishith — the section that includes the account of Creation. Much of our understanding of Torah and worship proceeds from our understanding of what “creation” means. 

“The great cosmic order of the universe, which man did not create, is an outward picture of God’s thought. In it we behold the Meditation of God, the Body of God, God seeing Himself in what He does.”  [1]

“An outward picture…” —

Newton and Einstein each saw in the orderliness of the universe an almost indisputable suggestion that there is an Intellect behind the orderliness that first conceives order and then creates it. What did they mean by “orderliness?” They meant “natural law.” Although they referred to its comprehensiveness somewhat differently, they would have agreed that the Mind that conceived that orderliness was separate from what It set in order — just as an architect is separate from the building he or she designs. 

Ernest Holmes wrote the above quote. He came from the same “New Thought” background as Rabbis Morris Lichtenstein, Clifton Harby Levy and Alfred Geiger Moses (and later, Rabbi Joseph H. Gelberman). Above, he declares that the universe, in all its cosmic orderliness, is “an outward picture of God’s thought.” He means: We can’t directly perceive “God’s thought” because “thought” itself is not an object of perception. What we can see is Its activity, Its outward expression in the things that are created and the consistent ways in which they interact. Yet, the outer expression doesn’t exist without the inner “thought.”

Even in ourselves, we can’t perceive our own thoughts at their most essential level. We perceive them as they rise, becoming encased and expressed in words. The entire theory of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on recognizing the words and sentences we’re telling ourselves that are creating our desirable (e.g. happiness-producing) or undesirable (i.e. sadness- or anxiety-producing) emotions.

Yet, we would not call our thoughts “ourselves.” They are the outward expression of something deeper that is truly “us.” 

“the Meditation of God” —

We might interpret this in an unending number of ways, but Dr. Holmes gives us his meaning: God’s “Meditation” is “God seeing Himself in what He does.” 

He means that creation is God’s Awareness, God’s Recognition of all He can be. 

This can be difficult to understand because as human beings, we might become aware of our potential to do or be something, but that awareness is separate from our actual accomplishment, and requires “outer” means or materials.  

For God, however, His awareness, His means and His materials are all One.

“Meditation” here means God’s Self-knowledge; God’s Self-recognition.

We could conceive of this as infinite and eternal variations that take place within creation.

But if we do, we could be making a fundamental mistake. 

“Time” itself is part of creation. God is aware of each aspect of creation individually, but not one — or any other number — at a time. God comprehends everything that He can be simultaneously.

Leo Schaya wrote:

“While hochmah, ontological wisdom, only determines [i.e. God’s perception of] the pure being of all things — that being which is one, indistinct and infinite — on the other hand, binah, onto-cosmolgical ‘intelligence’, determines [i.e. God’s perception of] their pure quality, their particular aspect of Divinity…” [2]

Dr. Holmes’ words overlap the themes and concerns of Kabbalah and, later Hasidut.

“The Body of God” —

This phrase could be problematic if we take it too literally.

It’s axiomatic within Judaism that we reject any representation of God in any form whatsoever.  Thus, to speak of God’s “body” sounds like a suggestion of God’s “form.”

But nowhere in Dr. Holmes’ writings — and they are extensive — does he express any belief in a Divine “form.” So, we must take his words here somewhat metaphorically; poetically. 

In its simplest sense, he is simply re-iterating the idea that the universe, with all its cosmic orderliness, is merely an “outer expression;” a “body” — for something more spiritual: i.e. Divine Self-Awareness. He is also saying — unlike Newton and Einstein — that God remains in the things that are created. We can never be separate from God. 

Torah says of Adam and Havah that to them, God “walked in the Garden in the cool of the day.” We can understand this literally — and have an unenviably difficult time explaining what we mean — or we can understand this to mean that before their disobedience, Adam and Havah experienced no separation from God. To them, God’s Presence was as real as that of someone walking in the Garden with them.

Similarly, Dr. Holmes’ reference to God’s “body” is meant to convey recognizing an aspect of God without simultaneously recognizing its Divine Source.

These ideas are not familiar to most Jews, I know. They are found in Kabbalah and, to some extent, within “Jewish philosophy,” but aren’t commonly discussed in Torah crashes on Shabbat or even in typical Torah classes.

Yet — there’s a hunger for them.

Perhaps the upcoming generation of Jewish educators will pick up the standard, so to speak, thereby lifting the level of Jewish meaning and inspiration immeasurably. 


[1] Holmes, Ernest; How to Use the Science of Mind; © 2005 by Science of Mind Publishing; p. 72

[2] Schaya, Leo; The Universal Meaning of the Kabbalah; Penguin Books; © 1973, p. 43