“The whole meaning of our existence is to reveal the hidden” — ABRAHAM ABULAFIA
“Our function in this reality is not to eat and drink, it is not to simply to reproduce ourselves. Our role is to raise the consciousness of the universe.” — MARIO SABAN
When we ask ourselves about the meaning of our existence, we are faced with two questions. The first is: does our existence on this world really has any meaning? And assuming it does, what is that meaning?
The answers have been offered from religion, philosophy, science. But, medieval scholastics such as Thomas Aquinas and Boethius of Dacia warned us that the existence of God or the origin of the world by chance or by divine creation cannot be philosophically demonstrated.
In fact, you can argue with impeccable logical apparatus and reach opposite conclusions, both that God exists and that he does not exist, both that the world is eternal, and also that it had a beginning.
The predictable result is that we end up suspecting that philosophy cannot “prove” or “demonstrate” these questions, much less whether or not human existence has a meaning and what that meaning might be.
Neither has science. Many scientists, for example, accept as a dogma of faith a singularity called the Big Bang, as the starting point of the universe we know.
Before that singularity, neither time, nor space, nor matter existed. But what existed before time, space and matter? Was there another “something”?
There are already trends and schools within astrophysics that wonder what could have existed before that Big Bang, and how that point of almost infinite density was created that later expanded and formed our visible universe. They even wonder if it really is a singularity, or if it has happened infinite times, and we are not a universe but a multiverse.
It is curious that from the notion of the Big Bang, scientists like Stephen Hawking argue that God cannot exist.
It is just as easy to suggest the opposite, that he may indeed exist, and that in his infinite wisdom he operated through that singularity to create this perceivable universe for us.
This debate among current scientists is similar to that of the medieval scholastics. And what we can infer -again, centuries later- is that the data, the information, the advances in scientific observation, do not allow us to definitively answer such questions.
It is a personal and subjective choice to assume that there is or there is not a creator God, that the Big Bang was the beginning, or that there have been other beginnings and that beginnings (always in plural) will continue forever.
Religion essentially does not argue, it asks you to accept with faith that there is such a God, creator of heaven and earth, and that he operates benevolently through his vicars in this world.
You can obtain mercy from him through prayer, commandments, mitzvot, and that, from the point of view of a consolatio vitae (a consolation of life) is perfectly understandable and very respectable.
Now: What do we do with the question about the meaning of existence? Do we suspend judgment and surrender to classical skepticism? Do we dedicate ourselves to drinking like Goliard monks in a tavern, to fornicate, to travel around the world, to consume everything we can before we die, because there is no meaning for the (our) existence, especially in these dark times of pandemic?
That is a personal choice, as much as accepting the explanation and consolation of a religion, or affirming that God does not exist because science cannot prove it.
However, there is another way to approach this matter: amazement. Yes, because it’s just amazing that there is a universe, and that within that universe a bipedal creature exists, on a tiny blue planet lost in a solar system within a spiral galaxy that he calls the Milky Way, – but that eventually is going to merge with Andromeda -, that this being is aware of the universe, and that one day lost in the dark labyrinths of History, he began to ask to the meteors and to himself these kinds of questions.
The heretical version of Baruch Spinoza is that the body of that God – a concern that causes insomnia to philosophers and theologians – is the entire universe.
There is no separation or difference between God and the world. God is this world, this universe, and for some reason, – although we do not understand it – within this world we exist, creatures that at this moment are reading this text written by a sleepless philosopher and Kabbalah student in Caracas at 3 o’clock circa the dawn.
Consequently, there is at least an infinitesimal fraction of the universe (we do not count here other possible alien species in other worlds) that is aware of itself.
Ergo, since we are part of the universe and are aware of our existence, then the universe has consciousness of himself.
Why has the universe – with God or without God, that is a medieval debate – created a fraction of itself that is conscious? Why did the Universe, through us, its creatures, become aware of itself?
These are the kind of questions Kabbalists ask themselves.
One Babylonian night, at the dawn of time, on the outskirts of Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham Avinu raised his eyes to the stars, and asked himself: “mi barah elé?” (Who created this?). That’s where it all started.
From Abraham Avinu to Stephen Hawking, billions of humanoids have passed through upon this tiny planet, born, eating, reproducing and dying without this type of concern. But others die wondering this, and even were killed for asking too deep, like Giordano Bruno.
But, Oh, perplexity!, there is a difference between Abraham and Hawking, there is a cumulative, although both were looking for the same answer. Let’s say that the universe becomes more and more sophisticated in studying itself, in becoming more aware of itself through us.
And that curiosity, that amazement, is no longer the heritage of a sect of monks in a medieval convent in Provence, nor of the sleepless students of a Yeshiva in Safed in the 16th century CE. Now, thanks to interconnection and technology, anyone can really ask himself such questions and seek – or create – his own answers.
And yes, we now have the CERN Hadron Collider and the James Webb Space Telescope.
Abraham Abulafia would laugh and repeat his eternal phrase: the meaning of our life is to reveal the hidden, or, following Aryeh Kaplan, we could say that by an unknown mechanism – which some might call a messianic algorithm – humans have come to this plane, this world, this dimension, to develop the telescope and the collider in order to answer the old question of Abraham Avinu.
I believe that the above ideas offers not insignificant arguments to support Abulafia and Saban’s statement: the meaning of our existence is to raise the consciousness of the universe. Or to discover that the universe set itself the mission of raising its own self-awareness, and that it created us for that, and has taken us by the hand from Babylon to MIT, for that purpose.
Some kind of messianic gene hidden in our DNA? Maybe, but that would already be 5th level Kabbalah.
The increase of that consciousness, To what level and until when can go before the predictable end of this universe?
We do not know. We should have the gift of prophecy, and we don’t have it, in addition to the fact that this is just a short late night note, written by a philosopher and student of Kabbalah, who does not abhor living in amazement, and who thanks these Sephardim masters for the perplexities with which they fill our lives.