August 15, 2013

R. J. Zwi Werblowsky On The Power Problem


Brief Bio of Professor Raphael Jehuda Zwi Werblowsky [Source:]:
Prof. Raphael J.Z. Werblowsky was born in Frankfurt (Germany) in 1924. His family moved to Erets Yisrael towards the end of the 1930's and he studied at several Yeshivas. In 1945 he completed his Bachelor’s degree at the University of London. After the war he was in charge of an orphanage in Holland which prepared children that had survived the sho’ah for aliyah. He received his doctorate from the University of Geneva in 1951.

After teaching for fve years in England he immigrated to Israel in 1956 and was among the founders of the Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where he taught until his retirement in 1980. His research embraced the cultural, social, intellectual and experiential manifestations of the phenomenon “religion” in all their diversity, among them halakhah, Kabbalah, Jewish philosophy, Christian and Buddhist monasticism, the new religions of Japan, popular cults of China, and processes of modernization and secularization.
Below is an excerpt from R. J. Zwi Werblowsky's book, "Lucifer and Prometheus: A Study of Milton's Satan." 1952. Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd: London. Pg. 70-77.
"That the basic human problem which is the subject-matter of Paradise Lost, must be considered and solved on the power-level, is suggested by Milton's delineation of Christ's character. Both Satan and the Son are power-carrying figures, and Milton's 'desired end is an understanding of Christ as a figure of power not less but greater than military heroes and emperors'. [G. Wilson Knight].

Christ is conceived as the only power capable of conquering hell, both in their first battle,

O're Shields and Helmes, and helmed heads he rode
Of Thrones and mighty Seraphim prostrate, 
P.L. vi. 840-1

Yet half his strength he put not forth, but check'd
His Thunder in mid Volie, . . .
Ibid. 853-4
as well as in their last and final one:

For never but once more was either like
To meet so great a foe. . . . 
Ibid. ii. 721-2

'Undoubtedly Satan is heroic and a great power . . . such heroism and power can only be overthrown . . . by a more deeply conceived heroism and a greater power', (Knight) i.e., the Messiah.

To grasp the full import of the power problem with Milton, it is necessary to go beyond the express data of the poems, and to state the issue in its widest theological significance. For power is one of the paramount factors in life, both as an insatiable craving and appetite in man, and as the decisive fact in human affairs.

It is from an awareness of the 'power' or 'energy' (mana, orenda, wakonda), present and active in the universe, that religion, or at least the 'dynamistic' religions arose. Die primitiven Religionen in den verschiedensten Gebieten der Erde sind auf dieses Bild [der Energie] gegrundet, says Professor Jung, and consequently rejects the idea of 'animism', as used by James and Frazer, for Lovejoy's more relevant term 'primitive energetics'. In fact primitive myths and rites are originally responses to this awareness, and attempts to express and handle this mysterious power.

Scripture leaves no doubt that it considers power as an attribute, if not 'the attribute' of God. Indeed, He alone has power and every other power in heaven and on earth is derived from Him. This characteristic is not unique for power alone. Practically every positive aspect of life is conceived later along similar lines. Mere 'being' as such, as well as the various modes of being, i.e., qualities and virtues, are God's; they come from Him, and to possess them is expressed as a sort of participation in Him, 'in whom we live and move and have our being'. (Eph. iv. 6, Iohna xiv. 20-1, xvii. 21-3.) What is particularly insisted on in the passages referred to, is the participation in glory through that in active love. But all the other modes of life and being also are just so many other participations.

Life and history become a problem through the fact that there are so many uncoordinated participations, in other words, because in our 'fallen' world God's attributes are not equally, i.e., proportionally diffused and realized. Thence we meet goodness without power, and power without goodness. The conflict is, in principle, a familiar one, though in our world, where 'good and evil grow up together almost inseparably', the oppositions are never as absolute as they are in fairy tales. It is the challenge of 'authentic strength . . . matched against unrealized virtue'. The hard truth is that 'goodness, not backed by authentic energy is of all things the most pitiful and even blasphemous for it makes game of God's most cherished purpose . . . humanity in whom goodness and power coexist'. (Knight). Goodness without power is more often hollow pharisaism, sloth, lack of virility and enterprising heroism, comfortably mistaken for virtue, submission to God's will and Christian martyrdom. Power, on the other hand, even without goodness, represents a real value, though usurping its God-given possibilities for ungodly purposes. We shall discuss at a later stage Milton's awareness of this 'dilemma of civilization', propounded to Adam by Michael,

     . . . . Those whom last thou sawst
In Triumph and luxurious wealth, are they
First seen in acts of prowess eminent
And great exploits, but of true vertu void;
Who having split much blood, and don much waste
Subduing Nations, and achieved thereby 
Fame in the World, high titles, and rich prey,
P.L. xi. 787-93.

Power is thus the crucial test of the real and solid inner substance of goodness; the test that is to say, of whether it is a sham facade or a realization-in-power. 'Ethical superiority must not blind us to authentic power as arraigned against goodness-without-power, which is often verbose self-righteousness. Therefore the power thrust is a real challenge.' (Knight). As St. Paul has put it: '. . . the Kingdom of God is not in words, but in power'. Consequently defeat through power-failure must be accepted as an implicit condemnation, and cannot be glossed over by the self-righteous weakling's pet consolation that he has been overcome 'by sheer brute force'. '. . . the established order, which is overthrown . . . falls through not being good enough; either not sufficiently powerful or not sufficiently elastic'. (Knight).

Of course this truth easily lends itself to misrepresentations by whoever wants to misunderstand. Probably this aspect of the matter has led Sir H. Grierson to assert that Milton's doctrine is 'a dangerous one that might be used to justify Lenin or Mussolini or Hitler alike, the justification of success'. It may be worth while, by way of illustration, to follow for a moment Professor Grierson's method, and to try to clarify the issue by examples from modern history. We should then have to say that the policy of the western democracies which led up to the Second World War, was a glaring example of 'peaceful sloth', hiding behind some genuine values, but unable to meet the decisive test. The corresponding instance of value borne by authentic energy, was Gandhi's revival of the Indian doctrine of satyagraha and ahimsa, which to him was more in the nature of an ontological fact than a moral duty. In Gandhi's spiritual experience, truth, love, and non-resistance were no moral 'ideals' in our sense of the word, but ultimate goodness-equals-power facts. He believed in the efficacy of love above a machine gun in precisely the same business-like and sober way, as we believe in the superiority of a machine-gun to a dagger, or of an atomic bomb to a machine-gun.

In Scripture the power-concept undergoes a considerable and highly interesting development which is very germane to our inquiry. Even as the God of the Old Testament does not allow his goodness, holiness and mercy to overshadow his (at times daemonic) power, so his admonitions to his people always stress the connection between strength and goodness. The doctrine is borne out by the interpretation of history as given in Joshua, Samuel and Kings, as well as by the prophetic speeches. God's people are given a religious task and a promise; but as for the latter, they have to fight it out. In the books of the Old Testament 'a small but virile nation is shown, subjecting its will-to-power to the service of some transcendent God, who demands. . . an ever more sensitive goodness'. (Knight). In the course of time a process of individuation set in, in which the divine love-mercy and daemonic-power aspects differentiated ever more sharply, and which finally culminated in a complete dissociation of the two elements in the Old Testament Apocrypha and in the New Testament. Part of what was formerly God is cast out; the devil becomes what psychologists call an autonomous complex (Revelation 12, 9), and henceforward rules as the Prince of this World. On the other side God becomes the loving Father in a way which, according to Reinhold Niebuhr, makes the Christian conception of him 'more grandmotherly than fatherly'. The Kingdom can no longer be fought and striven for in an earthly effort. It can only be prayed, waited and suffered for. Christ, the Lamb of God, comes to stand exclusively for

Love without end, and without measure Greace, 

whilst God's terror and awful power is no longer a source of direct and immediate experience.

Yet the ultimate unification of power with goodness, that is to say, the vision of God's holy power triumphant on earth as it is in heaven, is so imperative a need of the human soul, and consequently so deeply embedded in Scripture, that it cannot simply get lost. It insists and obtrudes itself because it is a basic psychic necessity. But as it has no longer any foothold in the realities of the New Testament and the later Old Testament, it gets associated exclusively with the end of time and the Last Judgement. In other words, the solution of the power-problem turns eschatology!

The relevance of this parallel from Jewish religious history to the understanding of Milton has also been noticed by Sir Herbert Grierson: 'Milton's mind has passed through the cycle, which Dr. Charles describes in the progress of Jewish prophetic and apocalyptic literature, postponing to a remoter future, and ultimately to the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, the hopes for a Messianic kingdom.'

Many of the paradoxes already mentioned find their explanation in this eschatological framework, described by Milton (P.L. iii. 311 ff.): meekness here and glorification in the hereafter, the last here being the first there, poverty on earth as laying up treasures in heaven and the like, are all images foreign, in that specific sense, to the earlier Old Testament. As far as we are concerned here, the most interesting consequence of this development is that the human craving for heroic action and noble struggle, for power-realization in the service of redemptive effort, has no correspondence in the God-Christ image. The only real, immediately accessible power-carrier is, at present, the Prince of this World, Satan. For 'where there is vigour, there is a tendency to overstep just bounds', and Lucifer incarnates both that vigour and that tendency. The corollary is that every human effort and achievement, for every achievement is the result of effort and a manifestation of power, comes perilously near to the Satanic, and is in danger of condemnation. Pietism seems the word.

It is surely not accidental that attempts to found God's Kingdom on earth always shows a strong return to the Old Testament. One of the greatest of these attempts, involving the use of military power, was the Commonwealth, to which Milton had devoted his life.

The split and conflict as regards the relation between power and goodness, inherent in the Christian scheme, is exemplarily illustrated by Milton, who mirrored it in his own nature. I believe this split to be deeper and graver than is usually assumed. Even more, I believe it the one important split in Milton's personality, whereas all the others so much talked about are either non-existent or negligible. It is not that Milton's Puritanism was divided against itself in the sense that the ethical and religious elements in him, his 'hebraic righteousness' was at odds with his republican political passions, nor, to quote a German scholar, that his art is formed by an amalgam of two conflicting character-traits. . . Mr. Hamilton seems to have fallen into the same error when judging Milton's 'vehement moral sense at odds with his poetic imagination' and concluding that 'we see in Paradise Lost a notable division  between Milton the sensuous and passionate, and Milton the Moralist' and that 'The Satan, who dominates the scene is created by Milton the sensuous and passionate poet. The voice of opposition, in which the moralist speaks alone . . . sounds . . . weak.'

This sounds all very beautiful, but it really means very little, and as far as it means anything, it is wrong. The truth rather is, as Professor Haller as pointed out, that Milton's Puritanism confirms rather than contradicts his poetry. 'The essence of his biographia literaria is that, when in the cultivation of his gifts he found his way to the poetry of the ancient world and the Renaissance, he found not distraction and escape from the Puritan urge to salvation and service, but the strongest possible confirmation'. '. . . he never acknowledges the war between poetry and Puritanism, which may be after all nothing but the reflection of our own divided souls.'

It seems to me that one-half of the really great conflict in Milton was that between his genuine New Testament Christianity and his equally strong and genuine Old Testament character, which Ezra Pound so gracefully called 'his beastly Hebraism'. When Professor Wilson Knight says that Milton's disjointed work is an X-ray of his fractured period, one might add: and of his conflicting self. This is a usually neglected part of Milton's biography, but the discord can be traced from Paradise Lost through Paradise Regained to Samson Agonistes, as well as in his prose writings. From the many ecclesiastical pamphlets we know how thoroughly he detested power in the Church. The Church of Christ should neither employ power herself, nor ally herself to the powers that be. His break with Cromwell was over the absolute separation of Church from State. But one feels that what Milton really wants is true, authentic power, and that he senses the danger threatening the Church through false and inauthentic power. It is from this danger that he feels he must save the Church, lest her sense of real power corrupt, and she become 'an ass bestriding a lion'. Yet the metaphor of the ass and the lion does not prevent us from finding in Samson Agonistes, which 'reflects Milton's own story as surely as the Tempest reflects Shakespeare's', his 'strongest revulsions projected into Dalila, his deepest longings into the divinely ordained strength of Samson', who is Milton's final attempt to fuse virility with goodness and to conceive of strength as God-given, yet proudly physical."