The Mystical Significance of the Internet
a series of reckless and arbitrary articles
by Avraham Levitt
with your help
Over the coming weeks, months and possibly years I will undertake an ambitious interactive project aimed at fleshing out the mystical significance of the Internet from a uniquely Jewish perspective. In order to do so I will investigate the Internet as an historical and spiritual phenomenon well within the purview of Jewish philosophy, and also attempt to examine and describe it in a coherent language which would be readily understood by Jewish scholars of even, and especially the most ancient times. This investigation will be oriented, ultimately, towards determining the significance to the educated Jewish mind and soul of the contemporary (albeit patently secular) project of developing the Internet. At the same time, I will undertake to critique this project, once again from the perspective of traditional Jewish thought, as a spiritual, ethical and moral phenomenon.
My intention here is not to create something which could be conceived of as a definitive document in any way shape or form. I do not intend to make prescriptions, nor blanket condemnations and I utterly and formally reject the notion that what is produced in this context will be by any means authoritative on the topic. In the perennial mystical tradition it is my sole intention here to explore these fascinating and rapidly emerging phenomena from my unique vantage point as one curious bystander. I hope to enlist the support of numerous others in the pursuit of this goal, since I subscribe to the school of thought which believes that we're all in this together. I hope that this document will develop by the natural processes of evolution which must accompany any sort of growth through space and time. To that end I open this work to the free and untrammeled participation of all people of good will, so that my ongoing exploration and reflection will be enriched by the input of more enlightened minds than my own.
Although I intend for this introduction to remain unchanged, at the time of its publication none of the projected further stages have been written. Few have been sketched out in any detail, and it is impossible for me to know where any of this will take us. I am fully prepared to write this all by myself, but I fear that that would be a terrible loss- to myself above all. Please consider the outline that I will develop on these pages, and the subsequent documents that will grow out of it. Any and all comments, corrections, criticisms and suggestions will be welcomed. I will collect your emails, and read every last one of them. All participation will be kept strictly confidential upon request, and all will be considered and incorporated, wherever possible into the work in progress. As each section is published I will list the names of those participants who wish to be recognized, and who affected its final form. Once a section has been published, it too is liable to remain unchanged- so get your thoughts in early. Wherever necessary, later developments may refer back to and even adjust our final judgments of the earlier passages.
My library for the purpose of developing these ideas will be principally a traditional Jewish one, although I am bound to draw upon the idioms of popular culture and the claims of contemporary science and philosophy in expressing myself. Any well- formulated ideas which could conceivably aid in shedding light on these matters will be welcome, even if they go so far as to be essentially hostile to the fundamental axioms and premises upon which I will build the enterprise. I can't believe that everything will be used, but everything will be welcome, and the total organism will be made that much stronger for the strength and diversity of the minds which contributed to it.
What follows is a general outline of the eight sections which I intend to publish in the pursuit of this project. Each will be released when it is ready, each in this order and, very probably, each will bear the titles given below. As far as the final content and conclusions- at this point you may very well know more about that than I do.
Once each of these installments is published, the headings below will link to the relevant article.
I. The Multiverse as a Complex Interactive Community
This section will explore the forces connecting worlds, minds, worlds in minds and minds in worlds in all possible created universes. We will lay down the foundations of the very possibility of communication on any level, the nature of communication between all levels and the broader framework that holds all things together. We will address the different known and suspected planes of existence, the three aspects of Man and whether a necessary relationship exists between these things.
II. There Is Nothing New Under the Sun
Kohelet, identified with King Solomon- although literally translated as the one who assembles community- once said that whatever you think you thought of, somebody already thought of it first. We are going to find out what means ancient civilizations, Jewish or otherwise, employed in order to facilitate communication between distant minds. This will be of special interest to the crackpots and weirdoes among you. It will detail all sorts of mystical and fantastic notions that have been posited across the world and throughout the annals of human experience. Of special interest will be the Tower of Babel and other great physical constructs, as well as the Jewish 'Mesora' or chain of Torah transmission. We're also going to look at some ancient Jewish artifacts in the light of current and breaking technology- notably the High Priest's 'Choshen' or breastplate, and the Tablets of the Covenant.
III. Angels and Packets: The Mechanisms of Transfer
So we've got the systems and we've got the programmers. We've got lots of machines and they're all connected somehow. So how does the data get from one place to the next? We're going to talk about who or what carries the messages, how they do it and who put them up to it.
IV. Aleph: Why Does the System Work, and What Happens When It Breaks Down?
With such an infinitely large and complex system at work, almost anything could and certainly must go wrong- almost all the time. We'll talk about the backup power supply and the emergency repair crews. We'll also talk about demons and ghosts, surges and noise to signal ratios. And by the time we're done we'll know a whole lot more about the basic engineering of it all, and probably be very impressed.
V. Copper vs. Fiberoptics
Now we'll be getting into the really interesting stuff. Pipelines- the guts of this business. A few years ago, somebody figured out that pulses of highly focused light were a better and more reliable mode of transferring information than electric currents. Without giving too much away, I hope it will suffice to say that some Rabbis thought of that a long long time ago.
VI. Just Who is This Adam Guy Anyway?
So why humanity? And a little bit more controversial: when? We'll be wondering about just what is so special about the human being, and we might even get a few insights into its basic engineering. We'll examine what the mystics had to say about primordial Adam- his body, his mind and his soul and, inevitably, we'll probably need to take a good look at what evolutionary psychology has to say. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up with a fat dose of cognitive theory and cybernetics before we're through.
VII. The Great Central Server In the Sky
So, now we get to the money question: God- yes or no? Put another way, is there a center to this business, is it aware, is it aware of itself and is it a whole lot smarter than any of us? We're going to take the models we've built over the past few chapters, turn them around in our personal holographic CAD displays, dig through them and try to find out what makes them tick. And we're going to hope that we don't break anything important.
VIII. The Fine Art of Golem Production
Once upon a time, in a city called Prague, some guy named Rabbi Yehuda Loewe built what might have been the world's first robot. Or one of. Or maybe not. According to legend, Rabbi Loewe used the mystical 'Sefer Yetzira' to animate the golem. According to my edition, the mystical 'Sefer Yetzira' is just a bunch of numbers and letters. What's gives? And isn't the internet just a whole lot of 0s and 1s? We'll wrap this baby up, give it a bath and go home.
©2001 by Avraham Levitt
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