My Jewish pal and writing partner Dr. Lauri Loewenberg “the Dream Lady” was on The Today Show this morning. They flew her up to NYC. Lauri emailed this evening saying,
On the flight back from NY I was sitting across from a mother and her daughter who was probably three years old. The little girl obviously had some form of cancer as she had hardly any hair and was wearing a surgical mask. I heard her tell her mother, “Everything looks dizzy Mommy.”
Sigh. I’m having a hard time getting over it. I realize at least I CAN eventually get over it… but that poor little girl and her mommy… [they may never heal]
I wrote back to her with a less coherent and more rambling version of the following:
Oh how tragic.
I’ve given MUCH thought to this subject of suffering children since Rhea (my just turned four-year-old daughter) has kidney disease and has endured much. I run into suffering children whenever Rhea has gone into the hospital and she has had a fair amount of suffering herself, to the point of developing PTSD. Many opportunities make me ponder this topic. (Rhea however is doing great since her surgery two months ago).
Just last night I stood in the bookstore and read the stirring conclusion of The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks & Feels. It’s by the same guy who wrote How the Irish Saved Civilization and Why The Greeks Matter — Thomas Cahill, a non-Jew with very clear sight of history. Anyway, his stirring and sobering conclusion quotes Dostoevsky, “The suffering of children is the greatest proof against the existence of God.”
I remember reading that same thing in philosophy class (Dostoevsky’s novels are considered works of philosophy) and being depressed by it. I think it’s in Crime and Punishment.
I recently read in one of the books from Kabbalah.com that all the bad deeds and evil thoughts of mankind sort of rise up and mix together into a kind of black cloud. Pardon the simplistic explanation of this concept, but I just today formed these thoughts in order to explain it to my kids. So bear with me, here…. Sometimes bolts of that darkness cloud come down and hit a child, a baby even, give them cancer, an abusive parent. Or bad bolts of darkness from humanity’s collective crap hit a woman who then gets raped, a young man who gets murdered, etc. The dark cloud then gets fed some more and grows even bigger. Innocents suffer because of all the negativity humans do and think.
Michael Berg writes that by changing our own consciousness from one of “wanting and getting to one of sharing and giving,” we can actually not contribute to this black cloud that affects us all so badly. Furthermore, if enough of us keep doing that — adopt an attitude and even a way of life that is focused on giving and sharing and never on wanting and getting, getting, getting — we will gradually create a cloud of Light above us all, so to speak, that will cancel out that bad black cloud.
A critical mass can be reached. We can leap forward out of this endless cycle where children suffer and life seems horrid so often.
Then something else clicked when I read a certain part of the Kabbalah book I mentioned above (the book I was reading is, The Secret by Michael Berg NOT the Law of Attraction movie The Secret, but a book which gives a true Secret, an unselfish, utterly unmaterialistic spiritual Secret).
In philosophy they call this “problem” the Problem of Evil or theodicy. Anyway, I wrote in the margins of The Secret by Michael Berg the other night that we all agreed in unison to come to earth, to incarnate into bodies and live a life (or lives if you believe in reincarnation) in order that humanity might evolve, leap into the next level or phase. I imagined a sort of pep talk God/dess gave all of humanity before we and God together(!) decided to create this planet and populate it. Perhaps S/He said to all of us, “Some of you will die before you’re ever born. Some of you will be filthy rich while others of you will starve to death, end up in prison, be born with terrible diseases.” But. Sick children and even crime victims “teach” other members of this human race so many valuable lessons… you’ve heard how a sick child “touches lives” and indeed on the plane last night one such touched my friend. Evidently we all work as a team to help the collective Mind come to higher awareness. Poignant moments, suffering, shake us up, make us think, make us SEARCH for the meaning of death, life and the meaning of suffering, existence, evil and all those cosmic questions. Suffering and diseases like my daughter’s and cancer compel some of us into scientific research, but for the vast majority of us, they make us question and ponder the cosmic doctrines like origins of life, why the hell innocents have to suffer, does God exist, what the freak are we here for, etc.
So I think we all said, okay, I agree. Even if I have to be a kid with terrible cancer, or a senseless murder victim in order to help some others of us, my fellow human-thinkers, head down the deep-thinking path, thus leading us all collectively a bit closer toward the Leap of Evolution we hope to make, so be it. How noble we all must’ve been (hah) to make such a choice. It is said some people didn’t want to come to earth on this rather frightening mission to help consciousness make this evolutionary leap. They felt they were not cut out for such a scary adventure, and those folks remained in whatever state they were in, and/or perhaps became angels. In Judaism and the Kabbalah both (sometimes they are different) it is agreed that there was a finite number of souls “sent” to earth to fill the Hall of Souls. It all makes sense to me when I merge it with my other metaphysical studies and philosophy studies. I just love Kabbalah. (Now that I’m forty plus, hee hee).
I really like the way the Kabbalah Centre people deal with the Problem of Evil. They don’t even call it that, not being philosophers but rather kabbalists. They sure are tight writers, the Bergs, consisting of a father and his two 30-something sons. All three of them have the Jewish gift of parable. Just like Jesus had… Man can they come up with the most perfect little teaching stories. Short and sweet and they sink right into your consciousness like a Zen lightbulb blazing on. The Berg’s mother, Karen, wrote God Wears Lipstick: Kabbalah for Women. I like it immensely, too. Cool deck of cards available to go with it. She doesn’t use the parable gift like the men in her family, but cites cool little case stories, letters she’s gotten, conversations she’s had, and vignettes from her life. It’s sad the way critics excoriate and even mock the Kabbalah Centre and the Bergs. I have been around the block these past couple of decades reading, meditating, studying all manner of spiritual systems from Self-Realization Fellowship, to Advaita Vedanta, Buddhism, Golden Dawn, Gnosticism, Judaism, New Age, Shamanism, pre-Christian European religion, Zen, Osho, Metaphysics, Hermetics, Christian Qabalah, Ken Wilber and my favorite tradition (the one I never left and still work in) esoteric or alternative Christianity. I have learned to spot false gurus, greedy teachers, have been fooled by more than one. The Kabbalah Centre people are not such. I don’t know them personally of course, but I can read in the multitudinous words they write in blogs, books, website articles, that they are truly unselfish, giving people. Ye shall know them by their fruits, said Yeshua. And let the teachings they offer speak for themselves, ’cause it is good stuff. Ancient stuff… with Judeo-Christianity all over it. No prosperity Gospel (Jesus was a rich man, so should you be!) crap or get-rich-off-Christ stuff like Joel Osteen and others. No get rich by winding up God. And no winding up yourself since you are the Creator God, or co-creator, as is taught in the other book by that name, Secret: Law of Attraction.
As for other answers to the Problem of Evil….I’ve never liked the eastern concept of Karma. It doesn’t resonate with me, never has seemed quite believable though it does seem neat and tidy. But it means my daughter Rhea was a bad person in a previous life so was born to suffer and “pay” for her sins this time. Hogwash. Ken Wilber and other modern philosophers also disagree with this you-deserve-it idea. Ken Wilber speaks elegantly against the New Age concept that if you think hard enough, focus and believe, you can do anything, cure anyone, get any materialistic thing (the “we each create our own reality” doctrine). Ken’s wife Treya died of cancer and Ken couldn’t heal her. And now he himself has a debilitating illness. He’s one of the greatest thinkers to ever live, not to mention very spiritual — got the mind-spirit union goin’ on. Yet his mental power isn’t good enough, strong enough in his conviction to accomplish mind over matter healing? Even deep thinkers like Ken, and holy men and women around the world can’t snap their mental fingers and win the lottery or heal someone of cancer. Mind over matter just isn’t that strong. I think the Kabbalah Centre does teach that the Zohar can heal like that…it can bring about miracles, but it is a holy book, not someone’s personal wish for healing or riches.
Such poignant moments as what my friend witnessed on the plane, reach into us and give our heart and our very soul a little shake. They compel us to think deeper than we normally do. To exercise our right as a thinking one (the term mankind comes from the word mannaz which means the thinking ones). Furthermore, we must each of us be a meaning-seeker. The one thing that makes us different from animals is our ability and our drive to find meaning in everything from dream symbols to suffering to ink blots. We are the same as the animal kingdom, going about seeking food, shelter and pleasure, unless we think and seek meaning in life.
We are kept on track by suffering. Negativity encourages us to keep digging, keep seeking the meaning of life, not just stop evolving and be complacent life-enjoyers, pleasure seekers. Slogan idea: To be meaning seekers, not pleasure seekers. By seeking meaning we help humanity as a whole leap into the next phase of our evolution and then all pleasures will be available to us. Or at least we will have a new fuller understanding of what the heck pleasure is, and may not really want it for pleasure’s sake. One thing is promised however, if we can make it to humanity’s next level: pain and suffering won’t be around.
Perhaps we’ll be bored, who knows. Or perhaps we’re part of the Creator’s mind, each of us a firing neuron in His/Her “brain” or of some Godling’s brain. A Godling is awakening and we are part of that evolution to help him/her reach immortality. Immortality would be a painful existence and might go horribly wrong if the Being in question doesn’t go thru proper phases of evolution. Freaky thought — we are all part of an awakening God’s/Goddess’ mind. That reminds me of yet another book I had to read in a philosophy class, in fact the first philosophy class of all, Phil 101. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. It describes in a classic sci-fi format how all earthlings combine into one Overmind, mature and “leap” into the next phase. “Initiation,” Blavatsky would call it. Becoming god, the New Age and perhaps even the Kabbalah Centre and the Theosis doctrine of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church would call it…