Another Shoe to Try On

By John Hertz:  While reading a collection of writings by Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935; rhymes with “look”) I was struck by this passage (B. Bokser tr., Abraham Isaac Kook pp. 233-34, 1978; written 1919).

The author is (literary present tense) a mystic.  Thus he starts talking about radiant souls.  You’ll have to see for yourself if the shoe fits and decide whether to wear it.  I had to.

Withdrawal and Sociability

The person with a radiant soul must withdraw into privacy frequently.  The constant company of other people, who are, for the most part, crude in comparison with him, even in their spirituality, dims the clear light of his higher soul.  As a result his important work will diminish.  He might have been able to benefit the people, his society, by frequent withdrawals, without terminating his relationship with them even then.  He would have kept the needs of his generation before him, to pray for them, to delineate their virtues, the treasure of goodness that is in them.  But they will suffer decline through his decline, through reducing his spiritual potency as a result of their distracting closeness to him.

It is very difficult to suffer the company of people, the encounter with persons who are totally immersed in a different world with which a person who is given to spiritually sensitive concerns, to lofty moral aspiration, has no contact.  Nevertheless, it is this very sufferance that ennobles a person and elevates him.  The spiritual influence that a person of higher stature exerts on the environment, which comes about through the constant encounter, purifies the environment.  It lends the graces of holiness and freedom on all who come in contact with him.

And this nobility of a holy grace returns after a while with stronger force and acts on the person himself who exerted the influence, and he becomes sociable, abounding in spirituality and holiness.  This is a higher attribute than the holiness in a state of withdrawal, which is the normal fate of the person to whom the higher spiritual concerns are the foundation of his life.


8 thoughts on “Another Shoe to Try On

  1. Sounds like a thoroughgoing wanker. I have an inclination to solitude, but that’s a thing with me and books, not some belief that I’ll lose my special-snowflakeness if I’m out and about too much.

  2. I certainly didn’t expect to see mention of Rav Kook (chief rabbi of British-mandate Palestine) at this site. One of my father’s father’s sisters was certain that we were related to him, but I’ve never done the research (yet). I hope he wasn’t a thoroughgoing wanker.

  3. Meredith, Sounds like a very fancy narcissistic way of describing oneself as an introvert. ?

    (fixed that for you)

  4. @Cassy B: thank you; that’s a little more publicly acceptable than my comment, and just as cutting.

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