** the Nature of Reality **Let us touch a tiny bit on the spiritual dimension of life.
the spiritual dimension
the spiritual dimension
There is something more real and more fundamental than the physical, namely, "life". Life is the underlying essence of everything, and it is what grants existence to physical matter and animates the bodies of all living creatures through infusing the available physical means.
Both need each other mutually. The soul of life needs the physical body to reveal its ability to vivify it and the body needs the soul to be alive. It is a mutual two-way road that each needs the other. But the entire image and essence, the existence of reality is life and life is the existence of reality. The reality is a reflection of life and the LIFE is the ONLY reality - there is nothing else.
Hence, the underlying reality is not the physical, not atoms, not subatomic particles, not energy - it is life. Life is the underlying reality. (Rabbi Omer Furmanski).
This "life" originates from G-d. He is life in its absolutely true, absolutely real, most fundamental form. He is the underlying reality, the underlying essence of everything. Hence, throughout the Torah, G-d is called the "living G-d" (Jer. 10:10), in that He is the true reality - eternal life, and the underlying source of all life - "You grant life to all things" (Nech. 9:6).
This reality of G-d is concealed to varying degrees. The highest level of concealment is in inanimate objects. Atoms, physical light, energy, laws of physics, etc. These are total concealment of the Source of life. Thus, they follow cause/effect rules which are predictable and always do the same thing. They appear to be machine-like.
The next level up is in plant forms. This includes all living things without will. Here, the machine analogy begins to break down. There is simply too much going on. The effect (plant) exceeds the powers of the cause (seed). Something else is involved here. The divine manifestation begins to be noticeable.
Further up is animals with their mysterious powers of awareness, another higher form of "life". Finally we reach human beings with their vast intelligence and free will.
Hence, when one looks at a tree, if he is sensitive enough, he can sense and detect a certain "soul" to it. It grows. All of us working together couldn't create that one tree, and even if it looked like a tree it wouldn't grow. There is a creative force there.It's alive. It's not entirely machine-like.
If one looks at an animal, he will detect this stronger. If he looks in the eyes of a human being, he will sense this "life" far, far more. The animal's eyes are distant and lifeless in comparison. The most intense sensation is when looking into the eyes of a righteous person. One notices something more "real", a deeper reality about him (this comes from being ethical. By being ethical, a person connects to G-d and grows spiritually. He receives more "life". In the extreme case, the Tzadik is even able to revive the dead as explained in the Path of the Just ch.26)
On the other hand, when looking into the eyes of a wicked person, one may feel "negative" life - death. The wicked person has corrupted the life within through his evil deeds and thoughts until he radiates dark life.
Man Made Machines vs. Living Organisms
One can observe that there is a fundamental difference between a man-made machine and a living organism. Any kind of man-made machine functions in a "direct" manner, namely, one thing reacts which causes another thing to react, which causes another, etc. "motorically". For example, a mechanical clock has a battery or spring which causes one gear to turn, and that gear causes another gear to turn, etc. until eventually the hands of the clock turn. Similarly, a computer CPU has a voltage applied to a crystal oscillator which drives one circuit/transistor and that circuit/transistor drives another, etc. Every living thing, however, does not function like this. Rather it all runs simultaneously, together, everything interdependent as if some kind of invisible "force" is simultaneously animating and guiding the available means to "life". This "force" is the nefesh chaya (life spirit).
It is necessary because the required complexity for life forms is simply beyond the inherent limitations of any kind of purely physical machine, which must run in a direct, motorical way where one thing reacts which causes another to react, etc., as before, (and below the speed of light) instead of everything simultaneously. It is simply impossible to accomplish all this with the limitations of a purely physical machine.
Granted it appears from a microscope that everything visible in the cell follows the laws of physics, yet at the same time, you cannot trace it back like you can do with a machine or CPU, etc. The reason is because there is an invisible "power" animating and vivifying the countless interdependent processes simultaneously.
This is why using the most sophisticated laboratories in the world and with the hindsight of about 100 years of research, the most eminent scientists in the world are nowhere near getting anywhere close to making the simplest possible living cell from raw materials. Indeed, all attempts to do so have been abandoned. Life only comes from life. It is simply beyond the abilities of any kind of purely physical machine.
Regarding plants, for example, all that scientists know about plants is only about its physical side. This part has such a function, that part has such a function, etc. But nobody has any clue how this inanimate seed has life, eats, drinks, expands and grows. Growth is a form of creation from nothing, for the plant forms and creates for itself leaves, flowers, etc. which were not previously there. This power is not physical. It is a creative force, a life spirit in the plant. The Kabalists call it the "nefesh tzomachat" (growth soul).
(Parenthetically, the blessing recited on fruits is "Who creates the fruit of the tree (or of the ground)". Which appears strange for the term "creates" connotes creation from nothing. And the growth of fruit does not appear to be something from nothing. But rather forming something from something - that the fruit grows from the seed. Hence, the blessing should have been "who forms the fruit of the tree". But since, the growth of the fruit is a miracle in disguise, since behold there is no possible way whatsoever to make such a contraption from raw inanimate materials, for it needs the life force. Therefore, it is indeed a form of creation from nothing. - Ha-shem Lenegdi maamar 3)
To give an analogy. When a hurricane forms, a scientist can look and identify what is happening to the wind currents, air temperature, ocean temperatures, etc. Everything seems to follow the laws of physics. But he cannot predict what is going to happen. There are too many things happening. It is beyond the realm of human grasp. This is what happens in cells. G-d is behind the order that emerges. It is a supernatural miracle. Yet, it is done in such a way that human beings are unable to see His hand due to the overwhelming complexity, minute scale, and high speed of all the biochemical reactions.
Interestingly, some scientists are starting to conclude that the DNA only provides the raw materials for living things. But the assembly of biological structures, etc. is done by "something" else which we have no clue what it is. This something else which guides it is the soul of life (nefesh).
On this the Ramchal writes (Derech H-shem 3:1):
"the mechanistic explanation of cells has really broken down. When you look at the literature now, more and more. the bolt properties to explain higher structures of the cyto-architecture of cells, you've got to look at collectives, to the properties of collectives, and higher order things. You can't see it from below. So this is in fact the beginning of a long process. In mainstream science, it might take one or two decades. But certainly, you are seeing at the level of the cell, a breakdown of that great mechanistic, mechanical idea which has dominated science certainly in the last century, in the DNA age, the genetic age, where 'everything is in the genes sort of thing'. You are seeing in fact that everything isn't in the genes. Everything isn't in the molecules. Everything isn't in the bricks. The architecture of the house is somewhere else... The former is an active principle in nature which organizes matter into the form of a living thing... basically what it is, is there are causal factors in addition to what happens at the molecular level... But it is very difficult to think about this because when we think of a complex system, we think of a machine. To start thinking of something that's not a machine is a big paradigm shift and also it's not exactly clear where this is all going. But what's happening is the machine analogy I think is failing..." (from http://youtu.be/DuNuH5pckMw )Here is another video of a university professor totally bewildered by the assembly of the hundreds of trillions of very precise connections in the human brain. She admits that science has no clue whatsoever how this happens and can only call it a miracle. The countless molecular machines, etc. appear to be "aware" of what the cell needs. They work together to build huge entities that they will never see and make them function properly. All this despite the enormous level of inherent "noise" which is replete within the cell.
Another interesting area which supports the above view of life is the inexplicable complexity of plants. Nagging research has provided mounting evidence that plants communicate and make complex intelligent decisions. See this recent report (2013) titled "the Intelligent Plant". We also find highly intelligent behavior in creatures as small as single celled-Amoebas. They stalk their prey and make all sorts of complex decisions - despite not having any brain. Michael Denton in "Nature's Destiny" (ch.10) compares their level of intelligence displayed to that of cats. see his book for more.
There are higher forms of life. Namely, the intellectual soul (Sechel). Let us consider that all the programmers on the planet working together with all the computing power of all the supercomputers networked together - cannot even come near to making a machine which can have an intelligent conversation. The ability to speak intelligently requires an intelligent "self-aware personality" and this is beyond the ability of any kind of physical machine.
As before, any kind of purely physical machine necessarily functions in a direct manner, namely, one thing reacts, which causes another to react, etc. motorically otherwise it becomes total chaos. With this limitation, it is impossible to build a system capable of rational thought and intelligent speech. We will assert that even if the machine contained a CPU network spanning the entire universe and countless terabytes of code, it is simply incapable of doing what a human being does in an instant because rational thought stems from a higher form of life - the intellectual soul (Sechel).
Likewise for tasks such as to ponder and discern "truth" in abstract thoughts, to sense and make moral decisions, this is something that is higher and beyond the limitations of physical matter. The soul is able to integrate all these aspects because its essence is not physical and its knowledge is unbound to physical matter and existence. A computer can be programmed to output speech or calculate chess moves but sooner or later, you will pick up that it is just a dead machine, forced into everything it does, not a "self-aware personality".
The computer is no more "intelligent" than a waterfall. It can execute very precise instructions very fast, but it can never have the ability to think in a conscious, self-aware manner like a human being and will always remain at the "inanimate" level on the life scale. It is important to realize that the physical universe is governed by laws which always do the same thing. Hence, any kind of physical machine is compelled by these laws and therefore cannot possess true original thought or free will intelligence like a human being.
the Early Personalities
Parenthetically, from these introductions we can start to understand a little bit how the early personalities mentioned in the Torah were able to live for hundreds of years. Their souls were more capable of infusing life into their bodies. Therefore, they aged at a much slower rate than we do. Normally, there is a regular process of deterioration, whether naturally (aging), or by increased speed of it as from illness or accident etc, namely, that in a "boom" stopped the functionality of the soul - simply because a bullet in the brain requires life-support that the nefesh-hachayah (soul of life) - for the most most part cannot support the "push" so much all at once. So it causes a very quick process of corrosion - a very accelerated one in which the cells of the body are losing the blood and life-force that run in them through the nefesh-hachayah and the nefesh-hachayah is not designed to push so many types of instant missing needs of vitality etc., for all other causes, faster or slower etc.
In any event, any type of very quick such deterioration in the pace of corrosion and disintegration is considered death - but most people also experience death slowly and more naturally and a few exceptionally never did - like Eliyahu-Hanavi or Chanoch. However - this is very very irregular or essentially does not exist in reality. So let us only look at someone that lasted longer than anyone else normally - Metushelach - 969 years on earth (Gen 5:27), the longest living person ever reported in any text. Metu means "died" in plural and "shelach" means "send/dismiss". Hence, in his name it is written that he was able, so to speak, "to send away deaths" in plural. He was able to get rid of the effect of aging in disintegration and corrosion more than any other human being. His name is also 784 in gematria (numerical value) of his hebrew letters, a perfect and exact square of 28, i.e. 28 times 28, the "perfection" of "28" - the famous gematria in hebrew of "koach" which means power/strength.
Also indicated in his name that he had special "power" and "strength" more than all other humans that resulted in 969 years of life, the maximum life-span in time of a soul that is able to do its max in the dark era where death dominates life so to speak. In the end of days, the life-force will dominate corrosion and disintegration to a higher extent than now, enough and more to sustain the body from suffering any corrosion and alike. "life" will increase its power over "death" - corrosion not only slowing down as now - but actually stopping. The outcome: eternal life without death, as written "He will destroy death forever" (Isaiah 25:8). Also indicated in his name that he had special "power" and "strength" more than all other humans that resulted in 969 years of life, the maximum life-span in time of a soul that is able to do its max in the dark era where death dominates life so to speak. In the end of days, the life-force will dominate corrosion and disintegration to a higher extent than now, enough and more to sustain the body from suffering any corrosion and alike. "life" will increase its power over "death" - corrosion not only slowing down as now - but actually stopping. The outcome: eternal life without death, as written "He will destroy death forever" (Isaiah 25:8).
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