One of several ways in which the Jewish preoccupation with ‘Salvation without Redemption’ exceeds the Christian versions of the same bias is pointed out by Martin Buber [‘The Way of Man’, 1965]. He also throws into a different perspective what humility really is. It is not kow towing to authority, nor bending the knee to a superior threat. It is a mystery of love that ‘does not consider itself.’
Given our very finitude, living as a specific personhood in a particular body, it is hard not to place our self at the centre of our existence.. Whether this tendency to make the self the defining criterion, the key limit, determining ‘how far we go’ in our actions, is merely biological or is a consequence of primordially falling out of God’s energies, it is a very old tendency, and ingrained. It sets an especially potent restriction on our loving, whether in Eros or in the Daemonic. Humility overcomes this. In humility, my self is no longer set at the very centre of my existence, thus concern with its survival or not, its fulfilment or not, its defense or not, its station and privilege or not, its respect and honour or not, no longer matters, and hence ceases to be an impediment to action that is extreme in its self-giving or self-sacrifice. Humility makes it possible to love, for real, and all the way..
Martin Buber [pp 26-27] has an interesting take on the lack of humility expressed in religious aspirations that, unbeknownst to the aspirant, stem from pride, not humility=
“One of the main points in which Christianity differs from Judaism is that it makes each man’s salvation his highest aim. Judaism regards each man’s soul as a serving member of God’s Creation which, by man’s work, is to become the Kingdom of God; thus no soul has its object in itself, in its own salvation. True, each is to know itself, purify itself, but not for its own sake– neither for the sake of its temporal happiness nor for that of its eternal bliss– but for the sake of the work which it is destined to perform upon the world.
The pursuit of one’s own salvation is ..regarded merely as the sublimest form of self-intending [and] self-intending is what Hasidism rejects most emphatically, and quite especially in the case of the man who has found and developed his own self [to the peak and fullness of what it can become]. ..It is written= ‘Now Korah took.’ What did he take? He wanted to take himself– therefore, nothing he did could be of any worth. This is why [tradition] contrasted the eternal Korah with.. the ‘humble man’, whose doings are not aimed at himself. [Hasidism] thus sees.. the history of mankind on its road to redemption as a process involving two kinds of men, the proud who, if sometimes in the sublimest form, think of themselves, and the humble, who in all matters think of the world. Only when pride subjects itself to humility can it be redeemed.
..A man who does not think of himself is given all the keys.”
Salvation is contradictory in this respect. It seeks to restore the ‘human design’ to its primal God-designed form, in body, soul, and spirit, as one person, and sets this whole with other whole persons in a world that is also a holistic composite. ‘Becoming what we all really are, uniquely and together’, by throwing off the harmful and distorting effects of evil, is the aim of Jewish Salvation. However, this very aim is easily confused with what Buber calls religious ‘self-intending.’ The cure= to love the neighbour as if they were the self. This is to see yourself as one among many.
Buber further clarifies the real Ex-stasis of Eros [pp 27-28]=
“..[the Zaddik] Mendel of Kotzk, once said to his congregation= ‘What, after all, do I demand of you? Only three things= not to look furtively outside yourselves, not to look furtively into others, and not to aim at yourselves.’ That is to say= firstly, everyone should preserve and hallow his own soul in its own particularity and in its own place, and not envy the particularity and place of others; secondly, everyone should respect the secret in the soul of his fellow human being, and not, with brazen curiosity, intrude upon it and take advantage of it; and thirdly, everyone, in his relationship to the world, should be careful not to set himself as his aim.”
These three things protect the Way of Salvation, by discerning the difference between humility and the pride which assumes a religious disguise.
The ‘new commandment’ unique to Yeshua, and not anywhere stated in the Jewish Bible, is ‘love your enemy.’ This points to an action of love, in the Daemonic, not possible without humility.
For it is too radical in self-giving, in self-emptying, in self-risking, to co-exist with any form, or degree, of self-intending. The language used to describe the absence of this impediment to love – the language of ‘obedience’ – is no longer helpful, because it reeks of power relations between a superior and an inferior, a master and a slave. It is nothing like that.
It is love at its most God-like.
The popular image of a feasting banquet going on up in heaven, whilst here below hell creeps ever closer to the heart of the world, is simply obscene.
It is beyond heresy. It is sinful to an extreme, it is a manifestation of the very evil that must be overcome if the world is ever to taste redemption. Feasting on bliss while your brothers and sisters taste only the bitter root of existence is not heavenly; it is hellish. If such hell is in your heart, it would not matter what ‘place’ you were finally situated. If hell is in your heart, you are in hell.
The longing for heaven, and the willingness to sacrifice nothing for the sake of redeeming the world; indeed, the desire for heaven that is happy to sacrifice the world to hell– such is the ultimate in self-intending. This is nothing to do with Christ. It is the Anti-Christ.