Friday, July 28, 2006

To Be, or Not To Be, Chosen

In the Corner Jonah put up an intriguing quote about chosenness from Leo Strauss, that relates both to history and the current troubles, reconstituting the spiritual notion in historico-political terms.
Finite, relative problems can be solved; infinite, absolute problems cannot be solved. In other words, human beings will never create a society which is free from contradictions. From every point of view it looks as if the Jewish people were the chosen people, at least in the sense that the Jewish problem is the most manifest symbol of the human problem insofar as it is a social or political problem.

It garnered an interesting reply from a Corner reader: Jews and the Gnostics
From the point of view of Christians, the Jews are indeed the chosen people, and Gnostics hate that because they hate history. History is free, meaning that it is the arena of human freedom and responsibility. Creation is a free act of God, and being created in the image of God is being created in freedom, and one has to freely accept that freedom & the responsibility that goes with it. Gnostics, like pagans generally, believe that freedom is irrational and history is
meaningless. They can't stand the idea that God is free, that he has freely chosen the Jews, that through them he has taught us that human responsibilty matters- in fact, that everything matters.

Gnostics (and a great modern example is Yale University's Harold Bloom- Omens of the Millenium) cannot accept that the evil in the world comes from free human actions under the judgment of God. Their attitude is: It's not my fault- it's the Demi-urge's fault, it's the government's fault, it's that people are not enlightened, etc. So they seek one of two solutions: either they escape from history through various mystical practices, or they attempt to stifle freedom by the imposition of some
kind of totalitarianism.

This piece, at Drink Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War, also has an interesting resonance with the original quotation.
Drawing from the Romantic notion of the 'noble savage' uncorrupted by modernity, German volkisch thought idealised the simple peasant farmer who in some mystical sense shaped the landscape and was in turn shaped by it. This married easily with traditional anti-Semitism, for who else could serve as the very incarnation of this ideal's antithesis as the eternal wandering Jew - cosmopolitan, secular, and - perhaps above all - landless? Yet today we are being told that the only problem anyone has with the Jews is that they now have land - because it was taken from another. So different, yet the same. For many, but by no means all, there is an underlying theme that echoes down millennia and not merely centuries: the common denominator is the question of existence itself.


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