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Foreword VII

Progress, Apocalypticism and the Completion of History, and Life

after Death in the World Religions: Introduction

Reincarnation and Personal Immortality: The Circle and the End of

History in Hinduism
N. S. S. RAMAN 8

The Immortality of the Soul and the Problem of Life and Death in
The Zen-Buddhist Thought of Dogen

On Apocalypticism in Judaism

Discussion of the Progress of History, Apocalypticism, Rebirth, and the

Immortality of the Soul in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism 75

The Progress and End of History, Life after Death, and the Resurrection
of the Human Person in Christianity

The Islamic Doctrine of the Eschatological Completion of History and

Eternal Life


Discussion of the Progress and Completion of History, Life after Death,

and the Resurrection of Human Persons in Christianity and Islam 101

The Progress and End of History, Life after Death, and the Resurrection
of the Human Person in the World Religions: An Attempt at a Synthesis
from a Christian Perspective

Concluding Discussion of the Progress and Completion of History, Life

after Death, and Resurrection in the World Religions 121

Conversation between the Representatives of the World Religions after

the Conclusion of the Public Discourse 126

Contributors 131

Index of Persons 135


The soul is so closely connected to life that one cannot think that it could ever
be separated from life and, consequently, be mortal. Therefore, it can only be
immortal. This argument from Plato's Phaedo for the immortality of the soul
exhibits both a great strength and a great weakness. Its strength is that it is dif-
ficult for anyone to think that the soul could ever exist without life. Its weakness
is, first, that not all religions accept a soul that remains the same as the center of
the person - thus one speaks, for instance, in Buddhism of a "soulless theory of
the human being" - and, second, that what is true does not depend on what we
can think, but on what we recognize in experience and thought.
The religions believe in the existence of a power that can work contrary to
our experience that the soul in death is not separated from life. How the reli-
gions believe they can establish this continued life after death and how faith in
this life is related in the religions to the interpretation of history, its progress, its
apocalyptic end, and its eschatological completion and transfiguration is the
theme of this book.
In the culture of the West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, faith in
the secular progress of the technological control of nature and the economic or-
ganization of society was the enemy of faith in the immortality of the soul. The
modern utopias understand themselves to be opponents of the religious hope in
immortality and redemption. Anyone who experienced this progress of humani-
ty, so they believed, would no longer cling to his or her individual immortality,
because he or she would experience something larger than religious hope - the
real progress of humanity. This hope of the inner-worldly utopias has not been
realized. People still cling to their individual immortality and are not satisfied
with that of humanity as a whole.
In the culture of the West, in fact of the entire world, therefore, progress is
no longer celebrated as the great savior of humanity, but must accept a more
modest evaluation. At the World Exposition EXPO 2000 in Hanover, Germany,
with its theme "The Human Person, Nature, Technology," progress was no
longer the central theme, as it was in the world expositions of the nineteenth
century, and it was not longer celebrated uncritically. The theme at the turning
of the millennium was instead the balance between the human race, nature, and
technology. Since the world expositions are a mirror of world development, the
EXPO 2000's critical and cautious view of social, economic, and technological
progress is an indication and an index of a change in the relationship with prog-


ress. The triumphalism of technology and progress has been replaced by a sober
weighing and balancing of the benefits and the costs of scientific-technological
progress. Progress is no longer, as Ernst Junger puts it, "the people's church of
the nineteenth century." It is the soberly and critically assessed, and welcome
goal of the improvement of concrete living conditions, which does not necessar-
ily stand in opposition to the goal of religion: striving for individual salvation.
This fourth volume in the series A Discourse of the World Religions docu-
ments the Fourth EXPO-Discourse, which took place on 24-25 June 2000, at the
beginning of the World Exposition EXPO 2000 in Hanover, Germany. The
theme of the conference was "The Progress and Completion of History, Life
after Death, and Resurrection in the World Religions." It was convened in the
pavilion of the Norddeutsche Landesbank (NORD/LB) at the World Exhibition
in Hanover. The organizers of the conference were the Hanover Institute of
Philosophical Research and the Foundation of Lower Saxony.
I would like to thank the Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale for its hos-
pitality to the conference in the NORD/LB Forum, its conference center at the
grounds of the World Exposition, now the Hanover Exhibition Grounds, as well
as for logistical help. I would also like to thank the Foundation of Lower Sax-
ony and the Foundation of the Hanover Institute of Philosophical Research for
making the entire project possible, as well as the members of the Hanover Insti-
tute of Philosophical Research for their support in preparing for and conducting
the EXPO-Discourses.

Peter Koslowski

Peter Koslowski

1. The Supposed Opposition of Individual Striving for Salvation and Striv·

ing for the Progress of Humanity

The progress of history and the idea of individual life after death appear to be
two ideas that do not lie at the same level. The progress always comes too late
for the dead; and the individual person always dies too early to benefit from the
progress of humanity. The theme of this book, therefore, brings together two
themes that are often not regarded as belonging together: the theme of history,
of progress, of the apocalyptic end and the eschatological completion of history;
and the theme of life after death and the resurrection of the human person.
There is tension between these two themes. The progress of history does not
seem to mean much to the individual who strives for his salvation and
resurrection or for his release from the cycle of rebirth. Of what value to the
individual is the progress that can be realized within a single human lifespan in
comparison to eternal life in glory? One might think that the interest in personal
salvation exceeds the interest in the progress of the community and of humanity
so much that little room remains for interest or even the engagement in the
progress of humanity. There is even less interest in the progress of history and
in individual life after death for the person who is convinced of the apocalyptic
end of the world and of history.
Leo Strauss - and, in a different way, also Thomas Hobbes - already had an
analogous thought about the relation of religion and politics, of individual striv-
ing for salvation and striving for political and social progress. The question of
politics, how one should live politically in the few years before eternal life, be-
come unimportant from the perspective of eternal life. Or, as Hobbes puts it:
One cannot conduct politics with people who are convinced of the idea of eter-
nal life, because they will always be prepared to place questions about eternal
life above questions about the correct order of social existence, of politics, and
of progress. These people, according to Hobbes, will also not keep political

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 1-7.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

peace, because they are not afraid of death and because with them, therefore, the
strongest power that moves people to obey the political sovereign and the laws,
namely the fear of death, is only weakly developed.
It is easy to recognize the application of this problem beyond Christianity to
other religions, such as Islam and Hinduism. The accusation is often made
against Islam that its emphasis on eternal life increases the readiness to die for
the faith in a holy war and, therefore, sometimes does not make political peace
easier. Hinduism, in tum, frequently receives the reproach that the interest of
the believing Hindu in overcoming individual rebirth outweighs his interest in a
political rebirth or in social progress so much that too little room remains for
social progress.
It is obvious that this reproach against the religions - that with their concern
for individual salvation and, therefore, about the "progress of the individual,"
they forget about the concern for political and social welfare and, therefore,
about social progress - falls short. The religions are in general aware that the
attainment of individual salvation cannot be separated from the realization of
common salvation or the common good. The progress of the individual is close-
ly connected with the progress of the community in which he lives.
Because we live in a globalized world and conduct economic activity within
a system of global division of labor, both the progress of the individual and that
of the nation are tied to the progress of the human race and the world. For the
sake of the earthly and eternal salvation of the individual human being, there-
fore, the religions must be interested in the progress of the communities and of
the human race.

2. Apocalypticism, Eschatology, and Faith in Progress

What is the nature of the tense relationship between the idea of progress and the
idea of the apocalypse of the end of the world? The Lutheran theologian Paul
Althaus said that the Christian revelation of John, according to which the Anti-
christ stands at the end of history, has only one function: to prevent us from
believing that history is a single history of progress, in which everything will
always get better, even without the individual moral effort of the individual. I

I Cf. P. Althaus, "Eschatologie VI. Religionsphilosophisch und dogmatisch," in Die Religion

in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Vol. 2 (Tiibingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1958), cols. 685 and 688: "Faith
has always expected and testified to the end of history, even as the zeitgeist revelled in the idea of
infinite progress. The modem awareness of life and thought has changed: today it is anxious
about the possible self-destruction of history. Faith may greet the change, but it does not have to
rely on it. Its knowledge about the end of history does not flow from historical and contemporary
reflection, but from the certain expectation, based in the promise of the kingdom that Jesus Christ
in person represents. His coming means the end of history, the end that is at the same time the
fulfilment of its meaning, that indeed first gives meaning to it at all.... Eschatology ... cannot and

This danger of the idea of the one great progress of history, that, with its faith in
the inevitable self-realizing progress of the human race, it will forget about in-
dividual moral and spiritual progress is a mirror image of the danger that the
individual search for salvation, with its focus on individual spiritual progress,
will forget about social progress and the common good.
There is also tension between the eschatological idea of the completion of
history and apocalypticism' s idea of the apocalyptic end of the world. Apoca-
lypticism has only a transitory character for eschatology. It is not an end in it-
self. The end of history is only the transition to its completion, just as death and
the end of the individual human person are only a transition to his eternal life
and his completion.
The religions attempt to avoid both errors, that of political-social utopianism
and that of salvation-seeking privatism and redemption-egoism, and likewise to
show the human person a way out and an orientation from the trap of the uni-
versal faith in progress, as it was advocated in the first half of the twentieth cen-
tury by the secular ideologies with catastrophic consequences, and to open up
an alternative to the quietism of only circling spiritually around one's individual
salvation. According to Christian doctrine, it is not permissible to seek one's
individual salvation without consideration of that of one's neighbor.
There is, however, also the doctrine, which is to be drawn from the disaster
of the twentieth century, that the individual cannot be exonerated from accept-
ing responsibility for his own ethical actions and to realize his "progress" as a
moral and intellectual individual by a universal idea of progress, a progressive
ideology or a collective goal. The one large progress cannot replace the small
progresses of the individual, and the small progresses of the individual must be
pursued in association with the progresses of the community in which the indi-
vidual lives.

3. The Connection between Eternal Life and the Completion of History:

Exodus on the Earth instead from the Earth

The connection between the search for individual salvation and the social condi-
tions under which the realization of the prerequisites necessary for attaining sal-
vation or eternal life or nirvana bring it about that the attainment of final salva-

may not become apocalypticism, i.e. a doctrine of the end of history, its stages and events. It must
limit itself from talking about ends and goals. Eschatology as the expectation of the salvation of
the finite from the transcendence, of God's day and deed, means a limit and moderation for all
confidence in the results of Christian activity in history. It is a "no" to the delusion that the action
of the Christian and of Christendom would create the new man, the new humanity, the new world.
But the Christian healing would be completely misunderstood and misused, if it were to lead to a
paralysis of action. From it flow instead seriousness, joyfulness, and confidence of action despite
ever new limitation and disappointment." Cf. also P. Althaus, Die letzten Dinge: Lehrbuch der
Eschatologie (1922; 10th Ed., Giitersloh: Giitersloher Verlagshaus G. Mohn, 1970).

tion or eternal life is linked to the completion of history and the world. The
completion of all human beings, who are destined as individuals for eternal life,
is linked to the final realization of the conditions that allow or make it easier for
the individual to attain eternal life. The completion of humanity to eternal life is
only possible by the completion of history.
This relationship between eternal life and the completion of history is also a
necessary relationship, because everything in the world is made for finiteness
and not for eternal life. According to the second law of thermodynamics, the
"most metaphysical of all natural laws" (Henri Bergson), all energetic states
strive for the more probable state, thus the more disordered, more undifferenti-
ated state. Negentropy or order is replaced by entropy or disorder; life by death.
The state of eternal life is not possible in a world subject to the laws of thermo-
dynamics. Resurrection, eternal life, or nirvana requires, instead, a world in
which the second law of thermodynamics is not valid. It requires an ontological
transformation of the world, its complete transformation and transfiguration.
Only a transformed world permits being able to think of eternal life as a
state, because in the world as we know it, all life and all high degrees of organi-
zation or order are subject to decay and death. Everything temporal is deter-
mined by the passage of time. As Paracelsus wrote, "Time causes decay in all
things." This decay of time in all things can be remedied only by a complete
transformation of all things. Therefore, transformation becomes a basic concept
of the religions; indeed, all of the hopes of the religions come together in the
transformability of nature and of the human life.
This is especially true of the Abrahamic religions, which set their hope in the
bodily resurrection and a bodily eternal life. The bodily resurrection and the
bodily eternal life are only conceivable under the assumption of a complete, on-
tological transformation of matter. Therefore, the transformability of matter is
among. the great hopes of mankind. Christianity - as well as Judaism and Islam
- assumes that, just as a transformation of matter and the body to coarseness
and mortality has taken place as a consequence of the fall, so an eschatological
and apocalyptic transformation of matter and corporality to the transfigured and
eternal body will be realized.
Such a hope in the transformation of matter is also the basis of the idea in
Hinduism and Buddhism of the karmic body, which with better deeds attains for
its possessor a better mode of existence and a finer materialization. To be sure,
Hinduism and Buddhism do not recognize eternal corporality and understand
the eschatological state of perfection as disembodied. The question whether the
cycle of rebirth is eternal for living beings as a whole or whether it will some-
time come to an end for all living beings, and the question whether nirvana or
rnoksha possesses characteristics of an eschatological completion are of great
significance to the dialogue of the world religions and to understanding their

answers to the question of this book, to the question of the completion of history
and eternal life.
It is only noted here that the eschatological hopes of modern technology also
cannot disregard the law of entropy and the prediction of the heat death of the
universe. Even the technological utopias of computer scientists such as Bill Joy,
who assume that modern technology will be in the position to create human
immortality, regard this as possible only under the presupposition that we leave
our solar system when its energetic potential is exhausted. 2 Even here immortal-
ity is considered to be possible only if an ontological change of the energetic
situation takes place. According to the technological vision of immortality, this
transformation of the situation of the human race can take place only if the hu-
man race performs an exodus from the earth and its galaxy to other galaxies or
worlds. One easily sees in this utopia the future of a human race that performs
one exodus after another from one star to another in order to ensure its eternal
The biblical interpretation of eternal life is not that of an exodus from the
earth, but instead one of an exodus on the earth. The biblical interpretation of
eternal life is that of an eschatological, ontological transformation of the human
person and the earth. The prophecy of the renewal of the face of the earth in the
Bible opposes the picture of the exodus from the earth as the utopia of modern
The biblical religions and the thermodynamics of physics are based on the
idea of the world as a whole, which - as it is - has a beginning, which is on the
basis of the present character of matter and energy finite, and which will have a
state of exhaustion, of ending, and of death. 3 The apocalypticism of the expecta-
tion of an end of the world and of history is, therefore, deeply inscribed in the
religion and natural science of the Western world.

2 According to Bill Joy, "Many people seriously advise us to abandon the earth as quickly as
possible. According to von Neumann, we should colonize the Milky Way with spaceships and
hop from one solar system to another. This step ... could already become necessary in the middle
of this century" [!] ("Warum die Technik uns nicht braucht: Die miichtigsten Technologien des
21. Jahrhunderts - Robotik, Gentechnik und Nanotechnologie - machen den Menschen zur
gefahrdeten Art," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 6 June 2000, pp. 49 and 51, here p. 51). On the
attempt of modern technology to ensure human immortality, see P. Koslowski, "Nature and
Technology in the Religions," in Koslowski, ed., Nature and Technology in the World Religions,
Discourse of the World Religions, Vol. 3 (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 2001), pp. llff.
3 cr. P. Koslowski, "Energie," Staatslexikon, 7th Ed., Vol. 2 (Freiburg, Basel, Wien: Herder,
1986), cols. 247-53.

4. Apocalypticism of the Modern Economy and Biblical Apocalypticism

It also still determines the economic thought of liberalism and the apocalypti-
cism characteristic of it. Western economic thought involves pushing the limit
of our resources outward and pushing the limit of poverty outward to a univer-
salization of prosperity and the good life for everyone. The classical example of
the apocalyptic ism of the economic style of Western liberalism is the "new
frontier" of America, which is nothing other than a shift of the limit outward.
The limit of the scarcity of our resources shifts outward - and that has been the
case for two hundred years - to the West. Ever new conquests of the limits and
limitedness became the "new frontier." As the westward shifting of limits final-
ly reached the Pacific, there was no longer any new land, no exodus into anoth-
er land, and a shifting ofthe (land-)border was no longer possible.
In this moment Silicon Valley was born and, lying at the westward limit of
the New World, became the expression of the new frontier of the Internet and of
information technology. The new frontier, which is actually a new limitation, is
formed by the "new economy," the ether and the ether net.
The modem economy seeks the exhaustion of the earth's resources up to the
limit, and it knows at the same time that this limit cannot be shifted outward
infinitely. Liberalism develops, therefore, its own interpretation of history as a
deferral of the apocalypse, which turns liberalism itself under the table into an
apocalypticism of halting the exhaustion of the earth's resources. The modem
economy and technology are the forces that both exhaust the earth resources
and stop and defer their exhaustion. This force is apocalyptic, and at the same
time defers the apocalypse. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Fried-
rich Schlegel (a son of the city of Hanover) already emphasized this paradoxical
union of aiming at the apocalypse and of wishing to postpone the apocalypse as
the essence of modernity. He spoke of the apocalypse as the "festival of all
festivals" and added: "It is the destiny of humankind to become worthy of per-
ishing, and yet it is not."
In the characteristic fear of the exhaustion of the earth's resources and the
hope in a transforming end of the world precisely at the moment in which it will
have exhausted itself and the number of people that will be born on it, according
to the will of God, have actually entered into life, there exists the peculiarity of
the attitude of modem Western man, which is influenced by Christian escha-
tology, but no longer maintained by it. This idea, with its mixture of aversion to
limitation and fear of exhaustion, on one hand, and expectation of the apoca-
lypse, on the other hand, must seem problematic to religions such as Hinduism
and Buddhism, which assume the eternity of the world and of change in it. It re-
mains to be seen which debates between the world religions will be sparked by
this question.

The apocalypticism of modern Christianity is paradoxical. On one hand,

Christianity shares with liberalism, on the basis of its anthropocentrism, the de-
sire to exhaust the earth's resources in order to increase the welfare of everyone,
but, on the other hand, it must, on the basis of its conviction of the centrality of
the earth, demand the preservation of the earth for the day on which it will be
transformed by God. In the view of the biblical religions, the human person can
perform an exodus only on the earth, not from the earth. However, it also cannot
be the mission of human persons to conserve the earth slavishly, because it, as it
is, cannot be the ultimate objective of history. Conservation of the creation can
only mean care for the creation, not preservation of the creation as it is for an
infinite succession of generations. The number of generations that the earth will
produce is determined by God according to dimension, number, and weight. It
is not prescribed by human beings. Nature is created for human persons, not
human persons for the preservation of nature. It is not the task of humans to en-
sure the eternity of the earth, but instead to treat the fief of the earth intelligently
and sensibly. Just as, according to the apocalypticism of the biblical religions
the eschatological transformation of the world will be preservative not, as in
Gnosticism, destructive, so the use of the earth by the human race may be nei-
ther a conserving preservation nor a destroying exhaustion.
Belief in individual immortality has its ontological foundation in the belief in
the transformability of the earth by God. Therefore, belief in individual immor-
tality goes beyond the belief in immortality of ancient philosophy, which recog-
nized only an immortality of the soul and, for the part, only the universal soul,
into which the individual soul enters after death. It is, to be sure, correct that the
soul is so closely connected to life that we cannot imagine it ever coming to an
end. But this argument secures neither personal immortality of the individual
soul nor that of the body. It appears for the time being that Aristotle's ancient
theory of the immortality of the soul is closer to the theories of Hinduism and
Buddhism of the entry of the soul into nirvana than to the biblical doctrines of
personal immortality. But the Greek theory of immortality does not recognize,
as Hinduism and Buddhism do, the idea that liberation from individuality into
the universal soul or universal life must be worked for, that it is payment and is
given only as payment for an upright life gained in the cycle of rebirths.
The understanding of personal immortality is a central question of the inter-
religious dialogue and, at the same time, a question that unites humanity like
hardly any other. For which person could say of himself that he is not afraid of
death and that he does not want to know the truth about life after death? Like
few other questions, the question of life after death and of the possible resurrec-
tion of the human person is the question of humanity as a whole and the ques-
tion of every individual person who fears death.

Translated from the German by David W. Lutz

The Circle and the End of History in Hinduism

N. S. S. Raman

To speak and write on such a vast subject is an uphill task, which I am at-
tempting in a short discourse. First of all, I must state that Hinduism is not a
monolithic religion like Judaism or Islam. It is difficult to define who a 'Hindu'l
is, because Hinduism has no fixed doctrines, no prophets, no holy book, and no
organised church acceptable to all the believers of that religion. Even the
Bhagavad-Gltti is not holy text for all Hinduism; Saivism, for instance, does not
recognize it as such, though most Hindus hold its ideas in reverence. Broadly
speaking, there are three perspectives from which we can deal with the prob-
lems in the title: i) the religio-philosophical point of view, as can be gathered
from texts like the Vedas, Upani>$ads, and the texts of the six orthodox schools
of Indian philosophy and their commentaries; ii) the popular religious per-
spective, which is derived from the mythological and epic sources, from the
Purtb:zas, local spiritual lore, and the Itihtisas, like the RdmdyalJ,a and the
Mahabhtirata, which have the character of spiritual histories (or Geistesge-
schichten, as Germans would call it); and iii) the Hindu view of life as stated in
the legal and social codes of India, the dharmastistras, as they are called,2 the
most important of which is the Code of Manu.
In the succeeding pages, I shall attempt the difficult task of elucidating and
synthesizing all of these perspectives, so as to give a total picture of reincarna-
tion, personal immortality, and the destiny of man vis-a-vis the Hindu concep-
tion of history. These points of view are more divergent than is generally sup-

I Most Indian thinkers would like to avoid the use of the term 'Hindu,' as there is no such
word anywhere in the ancient literature of India. It possibly came into vogue during the Islamic
conquest of India, when the invaders called the local inhabitants 'Hindus' (originating from the
river Indus, Sanskrit 'Sindhu'). For want of a better term, I shall use the terms 'Hindu' and 'Hin-
duism' to denote the traditional peoples and doctrines in vogue in the subcontinent oflndia.
2 The dharmasastras have been challenged by many Indians today, especially by the so-called
dalits, the ex-untouchables, who under the constitution of India have been fully integrated into
Indian society, and even given preferential treatment. But the dharmasastras have enjoyed a high
and authoritative position, not only in India, but in several parts of South-Asia, such as Thailand
and Cambodia (where they are called 'Thammasat' - see George Coedes, Les Etats Hindouises
d'Indochine et d'Indonesie, Paris, 1964).

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 8-21.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

posed and, therefore, it is difficult to reconcile philosophical Hinduism with

popular Hinduism based on the Puriir;as. 3 In this essay, we shall take into con-
sideration all three of these perspectives in our exposition and discussion of the
three problems stated above.

1. The Problem of Rebirth according to Different Schools of Indian Phil-


Most religions of the world, including Hinduism and Buddhism, accept the be-
lief that life in this world suffers from serious deficiencies and that the fullness
of a spiritual being can be realized only in the transcendental realm. In popular
Hinduism, we find the conceptions of heaven and hell, to which one goes after
death, the exact destination being determined by the deeds one has performed in
the present life. Yama is the god of death and he appears invisibly when one's
time to die has come. In Indian mythology, we have the story of Savitri, who,
upon the death of her husband Satyavan, successfully enters into a dialogue
with Yama to bring back the soul of her husband, which had been snatched
away. Another story of conquest of Yama or the god of death appears in the
philosophical text Kathopani$ad, where the youth Naciketa enters into a dia-
logue with Yama, in order to learn the secret of life and death.4 The souls thus
transported to heaven (svarga) or hell (naraka) enjoy the merits and demerits of
their good or bad actions in the earthly world by happiness or by torture by
demons and are reborn in this world, taking on another body. This is a popular
belief based on mythology, which in many respects is akin to the Greek mythol-
ogy of death and the survival of the soul after death.
Most of the philosophical systems deviate from the view of popular Hindu-
ism, which owes its origin to the accounts in various Purar;as. The Mimamsa
system, however, does talk of accumulation of merit (puflya) and sins (Papa),
and the resultant reward or punishment in the world hereafter, and also rejects
the hypothesis of God or any divine agency, which ensures such results. It in-
stead posits a transcendental law, karma, which by its unseen force (apurva) op-
erates in ensuring the results of men's actions. Its entire philosophy is devoted
to investigation into the nature of dharma, which in the context of Mimamsa
refers only to ritualistic performance, for which the interpretation of the vedic
passages is important. The law of karma determines the fruit of our actions, and
God is not necessary; the Mimamsa system is openly atheistic, and subordinates

3 There are eighteen Pur(1)as (or mythological texts): Brahma, Padma, Vi$!Ju, Siva, Bhdga-
vata, Ndrada, Mdrkandeya, Agni, Bhavi$ya, Brahmavaivarta, Linga, Vardha, Skandha, Vdmana,
Karma, Matsya, Garuc;ia, and Brahmdnc;ia. See V. Mani, Puranic Encyclopaedia (Delhi, 1978).
4 Ka!opanisad, Chaps. 1-4. For translation and commentary, see S. Radhakrishnan, Principal
Upanishads (London, 1953) and R. E. Hume, Thirteen Principal Upanishads (Oxford, 1949).
10 N. S. S. RAMAN

the human being to the dictates of the eternal law of karma. All systems of In-
dian philosophy (excluding the materialistic Carvaka, but including Canonical
Buddhism and Jainism) recognize the law of karma, even ifnot in the rigid form
of the Mimamsa system. In the philosophy of Sailkara, the main exponent of
Advaita Vedanta, the non-dualistic idealism which is as claimed by it, is an all-
inclusive philosophy, in the sense that it includes but transcends all other sys-
tems. Karma is an empirical phenomenon and has to be transcended by jfuina,
or knowledge and wisdom. Seen empirically, karma binds us to the world by its
apparently inescapable force; but we can escape from bondage to karma and the
empirical world by transcending it. One of the many ways of attaining this
transcendence is the performance of duty, without any attachment to the empir-
ical humdrum world, which can only lead to rebirth over and over again. Most
human beings are in bondage to this world (called samsara), because they do
not realize the need for spiritual fulfilment, which has greater - inestimably
greater - value than that of the ordinary empirical life of action and reaction, of
rewards and punishments, of sensuous and materialistic enjoyment and bodily
suffering. Sailkara calls liberation from this state mok$a or mukti. It is also
somewhat akin to the Mahayanist ideal of nirvalJa, though in the latter case
philosophers desist from any verbal explanation or even description of what it
is. In Advaita Vedanta, liberation is realization of the hidden higher Self, which
is possible only for specially disciplined beings. 5
Ramanuja's Vedanta (which is called Visi~~advaita, a theistic form of mon-
ism) does not agree with Sailkara's point of view, and puts forth devotion
(bhakti) and self-surrender to God. Ramanuja's form of Vai~Q.avism (called
'Srivai~Q.avism') reconciles itself very consistently with the popular beliefs re-
garding rebirth, the conception of liberated souls attaining happiness in heaven
and evil-doers being tormented in hell, etc. Souls can attain Godhead by intense
devotion and performance of the rituals prescribed by the Vedas. The Vai~Q.a­
vaite (like the Saivaite) literature is well-known for some of the finest religious
poems in Tamil, rich in depth and symbolism, being highly emotive. 6
Like Sailkara, Ramanuja and ten other Vedanta philosophers also wrote
commentaries on the three basic texts of the Vedanta: the Brahma-Sutras of
BadaraYaQ.a, the Upani$ads, and the Bhagavad-Gfta. In my view, Ramanuja is
fairer to the theistic point of view of the Bhagavad-Gfta than Sailkara - the

5 SaIikara's distinction between the empirical (vyiivahiirika) and the transcendental (piira-
miirthika) is sometimes compared to the same kind of distinction in Kant and German idealism
and is also to be found in Nagarjuna, the Mahayana-Buddhist philosopher, who preceded SaIikara
by 400 years. SaIikara seems to affirm that jniina or higher wisdom is not for ordinary mortals,
who are condemned to rebirth, but meant for practice by a few gifted men. Karma (action) and
bhakti (religious devotion), on the other hand, can be practised by all.
6 See translations by G. E. Phillips, Hymns of the Tamil Saivites (Calcutta, 1921) and A. K.
Ramanujan, Speaking of Siva (Baltimore, 1973).

latter being more metaphysical, places more stress on jfiana or philosophical

wisdom. The Bhagavad-Gfta itself attempts to reconcile all the three of the
paths to liberation, namely jfiana, karma (moral and ritualistic action), and
bhakti (devotion to God).? According to SaIikara, the highest reality is not God,
but a metaphysical Absolute called Brahman, which is better expressed by the
neuter 'It' than by the masculine 'He.' The latter is not accessible to ordinary
people in everyday life, as it cannot be realized either by sense perception or by
reason. The higher reality, the Brahman, is a spiritual being of the nature of
consciousness, and is hidden within us. Because of ignorance (avidya), we fail
to understand that the world we live in is phenomenal and is merely an appear-
ance (Maya). Theology cannot but distinguish between God and the souls, be-
tween God and the world, and between souls and the world; dualism is innate to
the religious point of view and stands in the way of a monistic understanding of
This in brief is the point of view of the Advaita Vedanta of SaIikara. Rebirth,
transmigration of souls, etc. are but phenomenal and do not belong to the realm
of the Absolute, which is one and is identical with universal consciousness. 8
One should not get the impression that the whole of Hinduism and its philos-
ophy are represented by Advaita Vedanta, or for that matter by the whole of the
Vedanta, which is but one school of thought among the many within Hinduism.
It is admitted, however, that most of the Indian thinkers in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, such as Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath
Tagore, Radhakrishnan, and K. C. Bhattacharya were influenced by SaIikara's
Vedanta has so dominated Hindu thinking for the last 150 years that one
would think that it is synonymous with Hinduism; this being the case, one has
lost sight of the fact that non-metaphysical Hinduism forms the core of popular
Hinduism, and the sources for this belief have to be found in Pura1)as, ltihasas,
and Dharmsiistras. However, the Bhagavad-Gfta synthesizes the Vedanta, Sam-
khya-Yoga, and popular Hinduism based on the Pura1)as and Itihasas, which
form the core of Indian spiritual history (or Geistesgeschichte, there being no
exact equivalent in English for this unique term). The Bhagavad-Gfta is held
with great reverence by most Hindus (exceptions being the Saivaites). There-
fore, we shall give emphasis to it in our discussion of the three problems stated
at the beginning.

7 Bhagavad-Gftii, Ch. XII.

8 Paul Deussen, who did pioneering work in interpreting the Vedanta in Germany, attempts to
reconcile it with Hegelianism. Friedrich Max MUller also gave more importance to the Vedanta.
See P. Deussen, The System a/the Vedanta, trans. C. Johnson (Chicago, 1912); and F. M. Muller,
Vedanta Philosophy (Calcutta, 1954 (reprint».
12 N. S. S. RAMAN

2. The Points of View of Various Systems of Indian Philosophy regarding

Rebirth and Liberation, as Distinguished from the Religious Perspective

Samkhya, Yoga, and the Advaita Vedanta are the three systems of Indian phil-
osophy, which can be said to complement each other in their philosophical
quest for truth and reality. The Samkhya and Yoga systems have contributed a
great deal towards developing a philosophy of the human mind and the self. Of
course, the concept of puru$a in Samkhya is not the same as that of iitman of
the Vedanta, although one definition of the Samkhya is that it is the spiritual
knowledge of the pure self. 9 At the same time, however, Samkhya speaks of the
plurality of puru~as or selves. But Samkhya is silent about the existence or non-
existence of God. Its investigations stop with the discovery of the pure self and
its modes. By implication, it is atheistic, but at the same time spiritualistic. But
the Yoga-Sutras do mention God (I§vara) at two places (1.23 and 1.25).10 But
Samkhya and Yoga agree on the nature of human bondage. Bondage is only of
an illusory nature; we become deluded because we are bound to nature and are
prevented by it from attaining purity of the self. For Advaita, however, bondage
is real and rebirth and transmigration through several bodies is also something
from which we must be liberated. These are some of the basic differences be-
tween Samkhya and Yoga on the one hand, and Advaita Vedanta on the other.
In spite of these differences, there is also some agreement: 1) The world is
the stage where successive births of human beings takes place, each human
being passing through several bodies, including those of animals. 2) The law of
karma operates, determining in what body the human being, or rather his soul,
manifests itself. This law ensures that the soul, in the case of good deeds in the
present life, takes on the body of a higher being in the following life. (This ex-
plains why there is such a wide gulf in the status of human beings in this world,
and why some people suffer more than others.) 3) Liberation means, according
to some schools of thought, that we have to escape this rigid application of the
law of karma, and escape from the chain of repeated transmigration of our
souls. 4) It is not clear from the texts of various systems of philosophy (except
the Bhagavad-Grtii) what role God plays in the operation of the law of karma.
The moral argument for the existence of God, which we find in the philosophy
of Kant in the West, is also to be found in the Bhagavad-Gftii, where God is the
arbiter of human destiny in this life and in the life hereafter.
No particular school of Indian philosophy and religion, however, can be
cited as representative of the 'Hindu' tradition. And with regard to the questions
about reincarnation, the immortality of the soul, and ultimate human destiny,

9 "Suddhatma-tattvavijfziinam Siimkhyam iti abhidhryate" (Aniruddha).

10Vacaspati Mishra, one of the most versatile scholars of Ancient India (c. lith century
A.D.), has tried to reconcile the claims of these three systems in his famous work Tattvavaisaradi.
Also see Gaspar M. Koelman, Piitanjala Yoga (Poona: Papal Athenaeum, no date given).

there is a wide divergence of views regarding their nature, although all of the
schools (except the materialist Carvaka, II which is also a Hindu school, as there
is no such thing as heresy in Hinduism and no excommunication or other simi-
lar form of punishment for holding any view) agree that there is such a happen-
ing as reincarnation of the soul, and that the law of karma operates on the world
inexorably. The other point of agreement is that they all believe that there is
such a thing as liberation or mok~a, although they differ radically in defining it.
Besides this, all Hindus accept the universal law or dharma as a command, a
moral force to be obeyed by mankind. In its social context, it includes the or-
ganization of all human beings in a hierarchy of rights and duties, which has
later developed into the now maligned caste order. All Hindus also believe in
four values of life. Two of them, dharma and mok$a, have already been stated.
The other two are artha, the goal of material happiness, and kama, the goal of
sensuous happiness. To go into them in greater detail in this essay would be
One of the reasons Indian philosophy is called 'practical' is that its main
goal is the liberation of man from bondage. The differences in doctrine arise
because each one of its various schools has its own explanation regarding the
nature of the bondage, as well as its own speculation concerning how to achieve
liberation. Even Buddhism and Jainism, with their various ramifications, accept
that man is in bondage and needs to be released from it, though here again the
speculations are not the same, even within these schools of thought. Hence it is
not really possible to unify all of these various viewpoints regarding reincarna-
tion, immortality, and ultimate human destiny within the circle of human life
and death.
There is, however, much in common regarding the nature of a moral and pi-
ous life. This may be one of the reasons why the pious Hindu today accepts the
Bhagavad-Gltii as authoritative and as good as any holy book, although it is on-
ly a chapter in that great epic, the Mahabharata. The other epic poem in Indian
tradition, the RdmdymJa, is also regarded as a holy book in India, because of its
emphasis on ethics; Rama is regarded as an embodiment of the highest virtues
of man, a God-like personality, who is indeed regarded as an incarnation of God
himself. Both the Bhagavad-Gfta and the RdmdyalJa are better known to the av-
erage Indian, or rather to an average 'Hindu,' than the Vedas or the Upani$ads,
although the Indian philosophical tradition regards the latter as scripture or sruti
(the revealed word). Therefore, in our further discussion of the questions of

II The materialists in India are known by various names: Carvaka, Lokayata, Ajivaka, and
Ajivika. See A. L. Basham, History and Doctrine of the Ajivikas: A Vanished Indian Religion
(London, 1951) and D. P. Chattopadhyaya, Lokayata: A Study in Indian Materialism (New Delhi,
1959). The latter work was written from a Marxist standpoint.
14 N. S. S. RAMAN

reincarnation and immortality, we intend to adhere to the standpoint of the Glta

(shortened title of Bhagavad-Gfta).12

3. Consideration of the View that Liberation is the Main Problem of Indian


In the earlier pages of this essay, attention has already been drawn to the basic
tenets of the various schools of the Vedanta, and to the fact that they are all
based on commentaries on the Upani$ads, the Vediinta-Sutriis (Aphorisms on
the Vedanta) of BadarayaI).a, and the Gita. The Gitii is a metaphysics of morals,
to borrow that phrase from Kant. It has much to say about incarnation and rein-
carnation, the soul and its immortality, the relation between God and man, and
the destiny of man. The ultimate goal put forth by the Gita is that of redemption
of the whole of the human race, by releasing it from ignorance and suffering.
However, those philosophers and theologians of the West who see in Indian
thought quietism, pessimism, and despair might well peruse Kautilya' s
Arthasastra, which has been compared to Machiavelli for its equally diabolical
picture of the art of statecraft, and Vatsyayana's Kiima-Siltras, for its unparal-
leled sensuality. The latter is regarded by many as one of the greatest books of
the world. The view that Hinduism is only other-worldly and life-negating is
clearly wrong, because out of the four goals of life - dharma, artha, kama, and
mok$a - only the last concerns liberation and is other-worldly.
There are some thinkers in the West who would like to stress that Indian
thought is primarily concerned with liberation or salvation and not with core
philosophical problems. Even the texts on medicine, astronomy, logic, philos-
ophyof language, music, and even painting start off their treatises with the
desirability of preparing for and attaining liberation. 13 And the picture is confus-
ing, because not all the versions of how it is achieved agree with one another. If

12 The Bhagavad-Gita is said to be the most translated religious work in the world, after the
Holy Bib/e. Several editions are available in its original version. Among the many translations in
English are S. Radhakrishnan's and Frank Edgerton's. August W. von Schlegel is said to have
translated this work for the first time into German. Among the many modem commentators of the
Gfta are Radhakrishnan, B. G. Tilak, and Mahatma Gandhi. In my view, Gandhi was responsible
for bringing the message of the GUa to all the people of India, as representing the Hindu view of
life in general.
13 Daya Krishna, in his article "Three Conceptions of Indian philosophy" (Philosophy East
and West, XV {I 965), pp. 37-52), has argued against making mok$a or liberation a basic concep-
tion of Indian philosophy, instead of dealing positively with core philosophical problems, as in
Western thought. He cites many texts, philosophical and non-philosophical, to show that all the
various texts begin with this basic concern for liberation, but do not say anything at all about this
problem in the passages that follow. Therefore, it is wrong, in Krishna's opinion, to insist that
mok$a "is the exclusive concern of Indian philosophy" (ibid., p. 50).

liberation is a state achieved after death (some philosophers in India are not
clear even on this), then the question arises as to how we can describe this state.
If the soul goes to heaven as a reward for good actions or to hell as a punish-
ment for committing sinful actions, then what happens after the soul has en-
joyed or suffered the fruits of its actions? If the hypothesis of heaven and hell as
occurring in the purii/:zic texts is rejected, then we can fall back on the concep-
tion of immediate rebirth in a higher or a lower form of life according to the
nature of merit or demerit accumulated. But then, yet another question arises as
to who keeps this ledger of life.
The philosopher SaI'lkara would reject this approach as arising out of ignor-
ance (avidya). The idea of rebirth and transmigration would also be rejected as
arising out of this ignorance, i.e. the lack of knowledge of the transcendental
nature of ultimate being that is within all of us, but we know it not. Thus ig-
norance is the root cause of suffering.

4. Reincarnation and Immortality in the Bhagavad-Gftii

We must pay some attention to the twin problems of incarnation and reincarna-
tion. By 'incarnation,' used in the context of religion, we mean in general the
appearance of God in human or some other form of life. In Hinduism, it is the
theory of God appearing himself again and again to save humanity from evil.
The term used in Sanskrit for 'incarnation' is 'avatara.' This belief in the re-
peated incarnations of God came into vogue in Vai~I).avism, because it is only
the God Vi~Q.u who takes his birth in the world to save it from evil (adharma).
Two famous verses in the Bhagavad-GUa l4 are often quoted to support the
avatara view. Here Lord Kr~I).a declares that whenever there is a fall in right-
eousness and a rise in evil, then he would incarnate himself in the world to save
it, for protection of the virtuous and destruction of evil-doers, so that dharma or
the rule of the divine law may be firmly established. The avatara takes place
from age to age, according to the Bhagavad-Gfta, although according to the
mythological tradition, only nine incarnations have so far taken place and the
tenth is still to come. 15 In the same context, the Lord declares to Arjuna: "You

14 Bhagavad-Gitii, IV, 7-8:

Yadd Yadd hi dharmasya gliinirbhavati bhiirata
Abhyutthdnam adharmasya tadd'tmiinam Srjdmyaham.
Parithrdr.zdya sddhUndm vindsdya ca dU$krtdm
Dharmasamsthdpandiirthdya sambhavdmi yuge yuge.
15 The ten avataras are matsya (fish), kiirma (tortoise), varaha (boar), Vamana (the dwarf
Brahmin), Rama (hero of Rdmdyal',la), ~r:ta (hero of the Mahiibhiirata), Narasimha (lion-
faced Vi~r:tu), Parasurama (destroyer of the evil K~atriya race), Balarama (brother of Kr~r:ta), and
Kalki (who is yet to come). In approximately the 10th century, some writers, such as Jayadeva,
replaced Balarama with Buddha as an avatara.
16 N. S. S. RAMAN

and I have passed through many births, and I know them all, but you do not.,,16
It appears from these passages in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad-Gfta that
there is no qualitative difference between the two kinds of incarnation: of God
and of man. Both appear and reappear in flesh and blood again and again, al-
though there is nothing like God being punished for bad actions by being made
to be reborn in a lower form of life, or rewarded for good actions. God is re-
garded as above these distinctions between good and bad; He is, like Rama in
Valmiki's Ramayaf)a, an ideal being, a super-human person (mahapuru.ya). Of
the nine avataras described in the mythological lore, only Kr~t:la dies, being
killed by a hunter's arrow. Other incarnations of God, Vi~t:lu, are not regarded
as mortal, though many of the human-like incarnations have desires, ambitions,
and emotions like any human being; Kr~l)a is even shown to indulge in childish
pranks and erotic sport, though such passages in the Bhagavata-puraf)a are in-
terpreted symbolically as representing the close relationship between God and
human souls. This child-like play of God with the souls is called 'illa.' It is
worth noting that only Vai~t:lavism speaks of 'avatara' or incarnation of God,
although Siva in Saivism possesses all the attributes of a human being, and also
assumes various forms and disguises, which, however, cannot be called incarna-
tions. The Vedic gods are natural forces like air, water, fire, etc., and the doc-
trine of incarnation is not to be found in the Vedas.
Modem Hindu sects like the A.rya Samaj have attempted to take the Hindus
back from the Puraf)as to the Vedas, and Vai~t:lavite or Saivite doctrines are not
relevant to it. The Advaiita Vedanta of SaIikara would look upon all the beliefs
of the Saivites and Vai~t:lavites as irrelevant from the transcendental standpoint,
but valid from the everyday point of view of a believing Hindu, and hence
prayer, worship, and veneration of Gods are not to be rejected or discarded.
Reincarnation or rebirth of man, or rather the assumption of different forms
by the soul in different periods of history, is somewhat on a different level than
the incarnation of God as a living form. Most Hindus (except the materialist
Carvakas) accept that they have had past lives and are bound to be reborn, either
in the same family or in a different one, at the same part of the world or at a
different one. The world is a stage where the continuous cycle of births, deaths,
and rebirths takes place. In Ramanuja's monotheism, the world is personified as
the consort ofVi~t:lu, the Goddess Sri identified with Lakshmi in Hindu mythol-
ogy. In the abstract, the world is also called Prakrti, the counterpart or the phys-
ical aspect ofPuru~a, the eternal spirit.
The escape from the vicious circle of births and rebirths is possible only with
the aid of divine grace, and obtained through bhakti (prayer, worship, and self·
surrender to God) and karma (performance of religious and moral duties). The
relation between God and man is described through many metaphorical sym-

16 Bhagavad-Gitii, IV, 5

bois, such as master and servant, the king and his subjects, the lover and the
beloved, and even through the symbolism of the bride and the bridegroom. The
Bhagavad-Grta compares the universe to a tree, where the Supreme Being is
represented by the permanent root, the various species of living beings by the
branches, and individual beings by the leaves, which sprout, decay, and fall
away. 17
The individual self, its body, its desires, hopes, and goals are not despised
and condemned; the question is posed as to how best we can control them.
Herein lies the meaning of yoga. However, if one continues to be wedded to the
body and the finite self, one cannot escape rebirth. Only the wise, the far-
sighted, and the disciplined realize the necessity of release from the vicious
circle of births and from the chain which binds one to the operation of the law
of karma. Such men are rare declares the Grta. Those who are disciplined in
action, not obsessed by desire, do their duty without minding the fruits, are in-
different to pleasure and pain and firm in their drive towards the ultimate goal
are idealized by the Gfta as the only type of beings who deserve release.
That the soul does not die, but reincarnates itself in another body, is com-
pared to casting off one's clothes when they become dirty or worn out. IS Anoth-
er verse in the Gfta declares: "The soul is never born and never dies; nor does it
exist only when it comes into being. It is unborn, eternal, timeless; although the
body can be killed, the soul cannot be.,,19 Childhood, youth, and old age are
attributed not to the soul, but to the body. In brief, the popular belief about the
soul going from one body to another is supported by this text held with high
respect by most Hindus. The view that nothing, neither body nor soul, remains
after a man dies is rejected by most believers, not only in Hinduism, but in most
religions of the world. Only the materialists hold this view. But rebirth in anoth-
er body, which goes through the life-span of youth, old age, and death succes-
sively in time, may not be accepted by non-Indian religions.
Psychical research, particularly that relating to the question of transmigration
of souls, has been undertaken by some enthusiasts. 2o But they have not come
forward with any convincing evidence that this phenomenon is actual. Parapsy-

17 Bhagavad-Gfta, XV, 1-6. The philosophical and religious implications of the incarnation
and reincarnation theory are discussed with suitable comparisons with corresponding Western
notions by Antonio T. De Nicolas, Aviitiira: The Humanisation of Philosophy through the Bhaga-
vad-Gitii (New York: Nicolas Hays, 1976).
18 Bhagavad-Gitii, II, 22.
19 Ibid. II, 20. The translation is mine.
20 Psychical research and parapsychology have not been serious academic disciplines. Some
years ago. a Department of Parapsychology was established in Rajasthan University. But after
two decades of its existence it was closed down, as its work was not commensurate with the
funding spent on its existence. There is a Society for Psychical Research in the United Kingdom,
which was ardently supported by the philosopher C. D. Broad; but its activities are almost un-
known to the outside world.
18 N. S. S. RAMAN

chology has depended mostly on make-believe hypotheses, doubtful sunnises,

and in the absence of a rigorous method of enquiry remains a pseudo-science.
However, this essay is not concerned with this academic problem. When we
deal with problems like transmigration and the reincarnation of souls, we have
to depend mostly on conjectures and religious beliefs. And every devout Hindu
believes that when a man dies, he is reborn, if not within the same family, at
least in some other family or as some other living being. The religious texts also
strongly support his belief.
The ritualistic practises of a devout Hindu are also based upon his belief that
the dead leave only their lifeless body behind. The sraddha and the tarpafJa
ceremonies are meant to call back the dead persons' souls, the pitrs, that is the
parents and grand-parents. The souls are represented by a living brahmin, who
is supposed to take the soul of the dead person on him. During the sriiddha cer-
emony, the souls of the dead are offered pifJtjas (rice balls). This is done in spite
of the belief that the dead person has taken on another body, or has attained
mok~a by going to heaven (svarga) or hell (naraka) to suffer tonnent before be-
ing pushed back to the world, so that he may take on another body. Then there
are occultists, who are supposed to act as media between the souls and the near
and dear ones of the departed souls. I am not personally convinced about the
truth of their claims, but to be honest, I have indeed observed some of these
rituals, and have talked to persons who have come out of the ordeal and con-
finned that there has indeed been such a contact with the dead. Indian Buddhists
also seem to believe in such contacts between the living and the dead. The
world knows what great pains the Tibetan Buddhists take to discover the place
and date when the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama are reborn. We cannot
dismiss the belief in transmigration as an archaic and primitive belief, fit only
for an anthropological study. The strong religious foundations of the theory of
transmigration of the soul cannot be ignored by students of Religionswissen-
schaft (religious studies).

5. Karma, contrasted with Bhakti and ]iilina

The law of karma, in which most Indian philosophers believe, has strong ethical
foundations. Most of us are convinced that such religious beliefs have important
moral functions to perfonn. The reason why evil is committed by human beings
has never been satisfactorily explained by any philosopher. The fact that there is
evil, and the fact that there are human beings who have a tendency to commit
wrong actions leaves us baffled, because we cannot properly explain the motive
forces for actions. And the fact that some persons have an overwhelming desire
to do good to others would be equally baffling. Religion does offer a way out
here. It not only provides us with explanations for human actions, and also the

possible effects of such actions. The law of karma may be said to operate inex-
orably in the external world and can be compared with the Roman conception of
lex naturalis, natural law. According to the ancient Indian texts, the same law
operates with equal force on human actions.
In Kant we find a contrast between two kinds of causality: causality as it
operates in the physical world and the causality in the moral sphere. Indian phil-
osophers (including also the Buddhists, in this context) regard dharma as the
supreme law which imposes order not only in the physical universe, but also in
the sphere of human existence. Whatever one does would inevitably lead to
reaction, and there is no escape - except by the higher knowledge that can trans-
cend the limitations of human existence. This the Vedanta calls jfuina, a con-
ception that can also be found in the Bhagavad-Gftii. Only by jfiiina can rebirth
or reincarnation be avoided. It is admitted, however, that this jfiiina, this state of
higher knowledge, cannot be explained through words; the higher state can only
be attained. It cannot be explained, because any explanation through words
would only subject it to the empirical conditions of existence. Living beings in
general continue to be ignorant, this ignorance being different from what it ordi-
narily connotes. Knowledge is not theoretical knowledge. A person may master
all the arts and sciences, but still remain ignorant of the transcendental condi-
tions of this higher knowledge. And as long as he is ignorant, he would be sub-
ject to rebirth. For the ignorant, however, religious and moral paths are always
open. By bhakti (devotion to the Divine Being and self-surrender to Him) and
by karma (performance of duty for duty's sake) one can also realize the God-
head in oneself. 21 Souls that are not condemned to be reborn and those who
have attained release from bondage are called 'Jfvanmuktas.'

6. Dharma and the Hindu View of the Universe and its History

Some comments need to be made about dharma, the eternal law referred to
above, to which karma refers as the law governing the actions of human beings.
Although freedom of the will is not explicitly mentioned by any of the Indian
texts, the emphasis on responsibility as the consequence of all conscious human
actions implies that man is free to choose and to act, and to face responsibility
for such actions. But dharma is all pervasive and also includes karma, human
action. All the dharmasiistras glorify dharma as the law pervading the whole
universe. 22 In this sense, Hinduism and early Buddhism are quite close to each
other. Dharma is an all-unifying metaphysical notion of highest significance to
Hinduism, as well as to Buddhism.

21 This is also called 'karmayoga.' Cf. the Bhagavad-Gltii, II, 39-53.

22 P. T. Raju, Idealist Thought of India (London: Allen & Unwin, 1949), pp. 282 f., brings out
the centrality of this concept in Indian thought.
20 N. S. S. RAMAN

Buddhism speaks of the ethical structure of the universe and calls it "dhar-
madhiitu" or "dharmabhuta." Dharma is the law which embraces all laws, an
ocean that includes all streams. It is also the goal of all our karma or actions, the
ultimate value and indeed the highest reality. Radhakrishnan says (in the con-
text of Buddhism): "He [the Buddha] implies the reality of what Upani~ads call
the Brahman, though he takes the liberty of giving it another name, dharma to
indicate its essentially ethical value for us on the empirical plane. The way of
the Dharma is the way of the Brahman.,,23 Kr~IJa in the Bhagavad-Gftii is the
eternal charioteer, who represents dharma, the highest reality; he is the law-
giver as well as the law.
Therefore, in ancient Indian thought, one finds a serious attempt to transcend
the merely mechanistic conception of life through the common standard of
birth-decay-death and rebirth by positing a higher reality, which the Upani~ads
have called the "Brahman," the Gftii "j§vara" or "God," and the Buddhists
"Dharma." It is not just the individual human life, but the entire history of our
civilization, which has got enmeshed in this chain. Century after century, mil-
lennium after millennium, civilizations are born, become prosperous, then de-
cay and die, only to be reborn in another civilization. In Buddhism, the order or
the law of the universe is not imposed by any divine agency, but by itself. In
Hinduism - at least in some forms, the Hinduism of the Bhagavad-Gftii, for ex-
ample - the dharma or the law is imposed by the divine arbiter, who determines
the course of all history, including that of man. There is, therefore, a direction, a
moral direction to life, an order, a system. Using the metaphor of the Gftii, the
entire universe is a dharmak~etra, a moral theatre, where men come, die, and
are reborn, only to die again, with the cycle continuing. Most men are con-
demned to lead this kind of life by being chained to the working of the law of
karma. But there comes now and then a mahiipuru$a (who could be regarded as
an avatiira or incarnation of the Supreme Being) who saves the world and the
civilizations from falling into chaos. This trend of thought is to be found more
in the Mahiibhiirata than in the Vedantic texts - though one cannot forget the
fact that the Bhagavad-Gftii, which the Vedantins have appropriated to them-
selves as one of their three basic sources of inspiration, is also a chapter in that
great epic.
The history of mankind is conceived in India's spiritual tradition in terms of
various cycles or yugas. The term 'yuga' may be translated (though somewhat
inexactly) as 'epoch.' These yugas are four in number: a) Krta or satya, lasting
for 1,725,000 years; b) Tretii, lasting for 1,296,000 years; c) Dviipara, lasting
for 865,000 years; and d) Kali (in which we are living, and which is said to have
started at the end of the Mahabharata war 5,000 years ago), which is supposed
to last for 432,000 years. The total period of all the yugas is 4,318,000 years,

23 Gautama Buddha (Calcutta, 1948), p. 49.


which is stated to be the total age of this earth. One does not know how this
number was arrived at, but it is all a part of Indian tradition. At the end there
would be 'pralaya,' chaos heralding the end of this world. According to tradi-
tion, there is progressive decline in moral standards during the periods men-
tioned above. According to the Puriil:zic tradition, the final destruction of evil
would take place at the end of Kali yuga, when Vi~I:tu would take his tenth
avatara as Kalki, finally liberating mankind from all evil.
The affirmation that there is evil in the world and that man is nevertheless
capable of choosing good actions is also a recognition of the spiritual freedom
that he is invested with. The Hindu belief that there is reincarnation of souls
may be faulty and incapable of proof, but its faith in the moral and the spiritual
structure of the universe is, to my mind, unassailable. This is what is involved in
its basic conception of dharma, which overrides the mechanical framework in
which karma is conceived. It is this dharma, which the Indians even today seek
to attain as the goal of their spiritual and moral endeavour. Man's spiritual evo-
lution in the world would not be possible without the faith in the moral order, in
dharma, which is, as the poet Rabindranath Tagore has declared, "the innermost
nature, the essence, the implicit truth of all things. ,,24

24 Siidhanii (Calcutta University, 1934), p. 74.


Kogaku Arifuku

In this paper I would like to consider above all Dogen' s refutation of the Indian,
non-Buddhist theory of the immortality of the soul and the transitoriness of the
body, which is based upon the distinctions between essence and appearance and
between soul and body. At the same time I will especially develop his basic
concept that life and death as nirvana form a non-duality, which for its part is
based on the idea of the absolute present as the time of current action. I In order
to accomplish this, I will address, first, the theory of the immortality of the soul;
second, Dogen's refutation of it on the basis of the non-duality of essence and
appearance and that of soul and body in all things; and third, his interpretation
of the relationship of life and death as nirvana (calmness) in every moment of
action. In conclusion, I will explain how the theory of the absolute present as
the time (moment) of present action is related to the idea of karma, which im-
plies a kind of causal and historical action theory, and whether there is a contra-
diction here. The paper is structured as follows: 1) The problem of the immor-
tality of the soul, 2) Dogen's refutation of the theory that the body is transitory
and the soul immortal, 3) The problem of life and death as nirvana in Dogen,
and 4) Action in the absolute present and its historicity.

1. The Problem of the Immortality of the Soul

What is the soul? What is the spirit? What is the self? Upon what is the self or
spirit based? Although we can presume the existence of the soul or spirit from
the awareness of the self, bodily actions, and different sensations that are con-
sidered to be effects of the soul or spirit, we can by no means know what it is.
For we can neither see nor touch the so-called soul, as we can the body. It could

I This paper is based on the following investigations of the immorality of the soul and of the
problem of life and death: K. Arifuku, ShObOgenz6 ni shitashimu: Dogen no shizenshis6 [Intro-
duction to ShObOgenz6: Dogen's Theory of Nature] (Tokyo: Gakuseisha, 1991), pp. 19-39; K.
Arifuku, ShOb6genz6 no kokoro [The Spirit of Sh6bOgenz6], NHK Books, No. 701 (Tokyo:
Nihon-hOso-shuppankyokai, 1994, pp. 79-100.

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 22-39.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

be that there is really nothing behind the self or mind, no substance, as is com-
monly meant by the word "soul." We humans, however, necessarily ask about it
when we wish to know, according to causal laws, about the reason and the
cause of the effects of our thinking, acting, and feeling self.
These questions are related to the additional question whether the soul or
mind ceases to function after the death of the body? That must be true, if the
soul and the body are inseparable from one another. In that case, the soul must
stand and fall with the body. But if one thinks of the soul as the substratum of
mental effects, it is not so simple to clarify the situation. In the religions, the
salvation of the soul alone was, is, and remains the eternal mission and final
end. It is a completely natural and common way of thinking, on one hand, to
consider the body indeed to be mortal, but on the other hand, to regard the soul
as immortal and non-transitory. The further one goes back in time, the more
certainly one can find this belief in the immortality of the soul. However, not
only primitive people, but also even European philosophers since Plato have
wanted to believe in and prove it.
What is the soul, understood as the subject of immortality, anyway? Accord-
ing to a standard Japanese dictionary2 the Japanese word "tamashii" or "tama"
("soul") means the entity and its principle that indwells mostly human persons
and animals, but now and then also plants, that produces the effects of the spirit
and gives life, and that can, according to general belief, exist persistently by it-
self apart from the body after the body's death. There is an on-going debate
concerning whether plants possess souls. Beyond that, it is not so easy to argue
about the existence of the soul and its immortality in more detail and more pre-
cisely. In reference to the definition of the soul, the contrast and close connec-
tion of body and soul are interesting and characteristic, which is why one ac-
knowledges the soul above all in animals. For, although the animal as a moving
thing (D6-Butsu) is a corporal being, one presumes a soul in its body, because
its movements are thoroughly self-controlled. Therefore, another Japanese word
for "soul" is "tama," which actually means "ball." The ancient Japanese imag-
ined the soul to be a round entity, self-enclosed and perfect, which could fly in
the air like a bird.
Aristotle defines the essence of the soul, for example, as "the principle of
animal life" and "the cause or source of the living body.,,3 The English verb
"animate," which is derived from the Latin "anima," means "support," "in-
spire," "encourage," etc. The adjective "inanimate" means "lifeless," "inorgan-
ic," "non-living." Furthermore, Aristotle identifies movement and sensation as
the two most important characteristics distinguishing things that have a soul

2 Nihon-Kokugo-Daijiten, 20 Vols. (Tokyo: Shogakukan, 1972-76); K6jien (Tokyo: Iwanami,

3 Aristotle, On the Soul (De Anima), trans. 1. A. Smith, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed.
Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 402a, 415b.

from things that do not. 4 Thus, the soul designates the properties that make up a
living being or life itself, so that the soul is seen as the impulse and source of
corporal and living activities. Thus, the soul is that by which we live, perceive,
and think in the primary sense. 5
I will attempt to explain this interplay of separation and relationship by look-
ing at the three following tanka (Japanese poems with thirty-one syllables), in
which the separation of the soul from the body and the influence of the soul on
the body playa role.
Hyebukyo-no-miya writes: "Tamashii ya kusamura goto ni kayou ran, nobe
no mani mani naku koe zo suru.,,6 This means: "Oh my soul! It would reach you
through the bush. Here and there in the field I hear chirping voices that cor-
respond to it." I must explain this poem in more detail: Could the voice of my
soul reach you? I hear chirping voices here and there in the field, as if they
sympathize with my soul. Here the author understands by the word "tamashii"
("soul") a being that can influence all things in general, in this case the chirping
animal. This means that the soul is clearly distinguished from the self, in so far
as the latter can operate only with my body.
Sano-no-otogame-no-otome writes: "Tamashii wa ashita yube ni tamauredo,
aga mune itashi koi no shigeki ni.,,7 This means: "I receive your soul in the
morning and in the evening. But my heart pains me, for my love for you is all
too strong." I explain this as follows: Although your soul reaches me, I can do
nothing to you, for my love for you is so strong that it pains me as if my heart
were breaking. From that one can derive the idea that the soul could exist alone
in itself separated from the body, so that the soul of the loving friend could
come to me.
Shain Yoshida, a patriot of the last period of the Shogunate, who was
sentenced to death for violating the Japanese law of that time concerning seal-
ing out the external world, wrote the following tanka shortly before his execu-
tion: "Mi wa tatoi musashi no nobe ni kuchinu torno, todome okamahi yamato
damashii [= tamashii]."s This means: "Although my body must be ruined on the
scaffold in only the twenty-ninth year of life, I would nevertheless like to wish
that my Japanese soul (i.e. my idea or form) will still remain and continue to
function after my death" This implies that the soul could exist eternally in sepa-
ration from the body. That is precisely Shein Yoshida's desire and hope. In this
way, one believed and expected that the soul, completely distinct from the body,
would be immortal. From that one can assume that we humans have a yearning

Aristotle, On the Soul, 403b.

Aristotle, On the Soul, 414a.
6 Cf. Utsubo-Monogatari, "Saga no in," in Nihon-Kotenbungaku-Taikei, Vol. 10 (Tokyo:
Iwanami, 1952), p. 227.
7 Manyoshu, Vol. 15; in Nihon-Kotenbungaku-Taikei, Vol 7 (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1962), p. 105.
S ShOin Yoshida. Ryukonroku.

for the immortal, because our human body is a finite being, which comes into
existence, grows, constantly changes, and finally disappears. Consequently, we
invented words like "soul" and "tamashii" in order to express the hope in eter-
Plato famously has Socrates - after he was sentenced to death, because he
supposedly corrupted the youth with heresy and, according to the law of Ath-
ens, had to drink poison and journey into the hereafter, the realm of the dead -
explain the immortality of the soul in the dialogue "Phaedo." After Crito had
listened to Socrates' hypothetical proof of the immorality of the soul, the fol-
lowing exchange took place between them:

But in what way would you have us bury you? - In any way that you like; only
you must get hold of me, and take care that I do not walk away from you. Then
he turned to us, and added with a smile: I cannot make Crito believe that I am the
same Socrates who have been talking and conducting the argument; he fancies
that I am the other Socrates whom he will soon see, a dead body - and he asks,
How shall he bury me? And though I have spoken many words in the endeavor
to show that when I have drunk the poison I shall leave you and go to the joys of
the blessed, - these words of mine, with which I comforted you and myself, have
had, as I perceive, no effect upon Crito. 9

In this dialogue both Crito and Socrates recognize that Socrates' body will
necessarily die. But the central point is the question of the immorality of the
soul. The necessity of bodily death is a motivation to the question of the im-
mortality of the soul, but is not at all its central point. In other words, the ques-
tion is whether the proposition "All humans are mortal" is valid for human per-
sons only as corporal beings, but not as spiritual beings. Therefore, Socrates
teaches the immortality of the soul with the following words:

And the same may be said of the immortal: if the immortal is also imperishable,
the soul when attacked by death cannot perish; for the preceding argument shows
that the soul will not admit of death, or ever be dead, any more than three or the
odd number will admit of the even, or fire or the heat in the fire, of the cold. 10

According to this theory, immortality is the essential characteristic of the

soul. Furthermore, immortality and mortality are opposing concepts. Plato is of
the opinion that the soul is immortal, although the body is mortal, so that this
immortal soul of a person departs from the body after its death, wanders in
search of a new home, and finally arrives at the appropriate place corresponding
to the change in its life. This thought originates from the universal religious be-

9 Plato, Phaedo, trans. Benjamin Jowett, in The Dialogues of Plato, trans. and ed. Jowett, 4th
Ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953), 115e-d.
10 Plato, Phaedo, I06b.

lief of the Greek populace at that time.

In the tradition of the history of Western philosophy it was Descartes who
took over the Platonic idea of the immortality of the soul. But he approached
this question from the inner self-consciousness of the thinking I-subject. Thus,
he called the proposition "cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am") the "first
and most certain of all knowledge")) and "the first principle of the philosophy
for which I was seeking.,,12 He concluded

that I was a substance the whole essence or nature of which is to think, and that
for its existence there is no need of any place, nor does it depend on any material
thing; so that this "me," that is to say, the soul by which I am what I am, is en-
tirely distinct from body, and is even more easy to know than is the latter; and
even if body were not, the soul would not cease to be what it is.13

This conclusion is as surprising to our common human understanding as a

bolt of lightening out of a blue sky. According to Descartes' sharply distin-
guished dualism of body and spirit or soul, only a mechanistic movement drives
the human body, in so far as it is an extended being (res extensa). Accordingly,
thought (pensee) belongs only to the soul (l'ame, animus), which is to be dis-
tinguished fundamentally from the body. Since Descartes understood the think-
ing self as a substance to be distinguished absolutely from matter and the body
in this way, the thinking self had to become a completely objectively and ab-
stractly separated entity. Kant saw in that a paralogism of pure reason. It con-
sists in the fact that Descartes leaped from the properties of the merely thinking
self-subject (independence from the mechanistic material body, purity, intellec-
tuality, spirituality, etc.) to the presumed, substantial, separated existence of the
self as a soul. In any case, Descartes identified the self not only with the think-
ing self, but also with the spirit (l 'esprit, mens), the soul (l 'arne, animus), reason
(/a raison, ratio), and the intellect (l'entendement, intellectus). From this way of
thinking, Descartes argued quite naturally for the immortality of the soul:

I have here enlarged a little on the subject of the soul, because it is one of the
greatest importance. For next to the error of those who deny God, which I think I
have already sufficiently refuted, there is none which is more effectual in leading
feeble spirits from the straight path of virtue, than to imagine that the soul of the
brute is of the same nature as our own, and that in consequence, after this life we
have nothing to fear or to hope for; any more than the flies and ants. As a matter
of fact, when one comes to know how greatly they differ, we understand much

IIRene Descartes, The Principles ofPhilosophy, 1-7.

12Descartes, Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking for
Truth in the Sciences, Part IV, trans. Elizabeth. S. Haldane, in The Philosophical Works of Des-
cartes, ed. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968).
13 Descartes, Discourse on the Method, Part IV.

better the reasons which go to prove that our soul is in its nature entirely inde-
pendent of body, and in consequence that it is not liable to die with it. And then,
inasmuch as we observe no other causes capable of destroying it, we are natural-
ly inclined to judge that it is immortal. 14

I will address the basis of this way of thinking again in the final section. In
the following, I would like to treat the Indian, non-Buddhists' (Senniged6) as-
sertion of the immortality of the soul and Dogen's refutation of it.

2. Dogen's Refutation of the Theory of the Immortality of the Soul and the
Transitoriness of the Body

According to orthodox Buddhist philosophical theory, one must reject the as-
sertion of the immortality of the soul explained above. For Buddhism indeed
acknowledges the importance of the practical subject of action and stresses the
significant role of the spirit and mind; but it does not at all admit the dualism of
soul and body and the theory of the immortality of the soul. On the basis of
Buddhist ontology, epistemology, and action theory, life and death, body and
spirit or soul must not be separated from one another. The Indian philosophers
who asserted the idea of the immortality of the soul are regarded by Buddhists
as heretics; their view is advocated in the Nirvana Sutra of the Brahmanist
Senika, from whom the Japanese term "Senni-Gedo" (the non-Buddhist Senika
heresy) is derived. According to the orthodox Buddhist theory, one should not
see the one as mortal and the other as immortal, but should instead regard
everything as emptiness (sunyata) without selfhood (substance). In Dogen's
primary work, Sh6b6genz6, the chapters "Sokushin-Zebutsu" ("The Spirit Itself
is Buddha"), "Bendowa" ("Speech about Learning the Way of Buddha"), and
"Bussho" ("Buddha Nature") are about the question of the immortality of the
soul. In each of these chapters Dogen asserts that the belief that the soul is im-
mortal, but the body is transitory, is the opinion of the Senika heresy and argues
forcefully against it. In the chapter "Sokushin-Zebutsu," he states the position
against which he argues:

There is a spiritual intellect [Reichi], which distinguishes between joy and suf-
fering, knows about cold and hot, and perceives pain and pleasure, and which is
neither disturbed by things nor dependent upon circumstances. Although things
come and go, although circumstances appear and pass away, the spiritual intel-
lect always exists and remains constant. This spiritual intellect exists every-
where, so that it has the ordinary person as well as those who are enlightened and
all living being without distinction in itself. Although according to false laws one
misunderstands an illusionary flower as real, things disappear and circumstances

14 Descartes, Discourse on the Method, Part V.


pass away as soon as the correct wisdom appropriately appears, so that the nature
of the spiritual intellect alone awakes clearly and always remains. Although the
body is destroyed, the spiritual intellect escapes from it, without being ruined,
just as the house occupant escapes from his burning house and continues to live.
That which alone is wide awake is called the nature of the awake and wise per-
son. This person is called Buddha or enlightenment. Both self and other possess
that by themselves, and it penetrates both misconception and enlightenment.
However all things and circumstances may be, the spiritual intellect can be nei-
ther together with circumstances not identical to things, but it remains constant
throughout eternity. The circumstances that are now present could then be seen
as true reality, if they exist on the basis of the spiritual intellect, and therefore as
real truth, because they arise out of the nature of the spiritual intellect. Neverthe-
less, they do not remain as constant as the spiritual intellect, since they disap-
pear. Since it possesses its knowledge only from itself, independently of light
and darkness, it is called the spiritual intellect. It is called the true self or the
original awakening or the original nature or the original being. To awaken to this
original nature means to return to the eternal constancy. And the one who lets
himself be inspired by this original nature is called the great man, who returns to
the truth. Afterwards one does not flow dependently on life and death, but in-
stead steps inspired into the sea (= world) of the unborn and immortal Buddha
nature. There is no truth apart from this. But if one cannot appropriate this orig-
inal nature, one must continue wandering around without pause in the Three
Worlds (Sangai = the worlds of bodies, spirits, and desires for the Buddhist way
of thinking) and along the six paths (Rokudo = the six regions of mistaken be-
ings). That is the view of the Senni-Gedo. 15

The spiritual intellect mentioned above is synonymous with the soul, as the
term for the subject that perceives cold and hot, pain and pleasure, and dis-
tinguishes between them. According to this way of thinking, the soul as eternal
enduring substance is the basis of our human spirit. Although the body comes
into existence and passes away, the soul, which indwells the body, is enduring
and constant. Such a soul would have to be a substantial, corporeal thing. That
contradicts the concept of the soul itself, since it cannot be a corporal substance.
It must be fundamentally and essentially distinguished from the body. There-
fore, Dogen warns us not to mistake the soul for the Buddha nature:

The people who learn Buddhism have often mistaken the Buddha nature for the
self of the Senni-Gedo. That is a consequence of never having met a person or a
self or a master. They have falsely seen the effects of the consciousness that
moves like wind and fire as the awareness and understanding of the Buddha na-
ture. Although the aware and knowing person is Buddha, one can neither per-
ceive nor understand the Buddha nature. If Buddha is called aware and knowing,

15 Dogen, ShObOgenzo, "Sokushin-Zebutsu, ed. Y. Mizuno, Vol. I (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1990),

pp. 141-42.

this awareness and knowledge means neither awareness as your misunderstand-

ing nor perception like movement of the wind and fire. 16

As Dogen says above, the Buddha nature may be neither a divine self nor a
soul as the subject of the effects of the consciousness and eternal substance.
Now we as ordinary human beings are of the same opinion as the Senni-Gedo,
and regard the effects of the consciousness that moves restlessly like wind and
fire, thus the feeling and perception that is dependent upon external objects, as
the perception and understanding of the Buddha nature. The Buddha nature,
however, can be neither perceived nor known by finite, human understanding,
since it must itself be an infinite life.
In the discussion of the tenth question of the chapter "Bendawa," Dogen
likewise condemns most sharply the opinion of the Senni-Ged6 that the soul
remains immortal after the death of the body as dualism of essence and appear-

There would be a spiritual intellect in its own body. It would be this spiritual
intellect, by means of whose power one could decide on each occasion between
good and evil, right and wrong, and would know about pain and pleasure, joy
and suffering. Since, when the body dies, this soul would be born in the hereafter
by escaping from the body, as a cicada or snake sheds its skin, so it would appear
to die here, but would continue to live in the hereafter, so that it would exist and
remain for a long time, without disappearing. 17

To regard this opinion as Buddhist would be, in Dogen's view

more stupid and mistaken than to regard rubble as golden treasure. This opinion
is so stupid and mistaken that nothing can be compared to it. The state master
Nanyo-EchU (Chinese: Nanyang-Huichang) (683-769) warned sternly against it.
Now, if one equates the false opinion of the constancy of the soul and transitori-
ness of the appearances with the wonderful dharma of the Buddha and believes it
is possible to liberate oneself from it by what is the true cause of life and death,
that is a mistake, is it not? That is most regrettable. Understand that it is the false
opinion of the non-Buddhists and pay no attention to it. IS

This dualism of body and soul is, however, not only the opinion of the non-
Buddhists, but also that of ordinary persons. And even vulgar Buddhism, which
has spread among the Japanese people until the present day as the religion of
the veneration of ancestors, appears to be based on the idea of the transitoriness
of the body and the immortality of the soul. Shain Yoshida, in his last tanka (his
"swan song"), also wished for the eternal existence of his soul (namely the real-

16 Dogen, Sh6b6genz6, "Bussho," Vol. I, p. 75.

17 Dogen, Sh6b6genz6, "Bend6wa," Vol. I, p. 33.
18 Dogen, Sh6b6genz6, "Bend6wa," Vol. I, pp. 33-34.

ization of his thought). Shortly before his execution by the cup of poison, Socra-
tes taught the immortality ofthe soul, in order to relieve the fear of his disciples.
In the historical development of European philosophy, Plato, Descartes, and
Kant, for example, indeed took up the problem of the immortality of the soul
seriously. But both the problem of the soul as an object, which one cannot com-
prehend directly with the five human senses, and the problem of death, which
one also cannot experience, remain difficult to solve.
Why did Dogen refute the theory of the transitoriness of the body and the
permanence of the soul, when both European philosophy and vulgar Buddhism
are based on it? According to Dogen, this dubious belief corresponds to a view
that distinguishes between appearance and essence and sees the two as separate
from one another. On the basis of the dualism of body and soul, one tends to-
wards a way of thinking that regards death as the beginning of joy and life as
the cause of suffering, which leads one to detest this life and death and only to
wish for nirvana in the hereafter. This way of thinking is related to the negative
tendency of neglecting the present and spending time in vain without doing
what should be done now, since one puts off until tomorrow what should be
done today. Despite this rejection of a separation of body and soul or spirit,
Dogen nevertheless believes that they are to be distinguished from one another
as factors of being. The term "non-duality-as-one" points to this interrelation-
ship of the difference and connectedness of the two factors. Dogen writes:

One should know that one speaks in Buddhism about both the unity of body and
soul and the non-duality of essence and appearance. One should not contradict
what is acknowledged in India as well as China. In the dimension of constancy
all things remain constant, so that body and soul are not to be separated from one
another. In the dimension of transitoriness all things are transitory, so that es-
sence and appearance are not to be separated from one another. Why does one
nevertheless maintain the transitoriness of the body and the pennanence of the
soul? Does that not contradict the truth? And not only that - one must be aware
that life and death are nothing other than nirvana. Until the present day, no one
has preached of a nirvana outside life and death. Not to mention the erroneous
view that the Buddhist wisdom is beyond life and death, which is based on belief
in a constant soul existing separately from the body. This soul itself, as the sub-
ject of this understanding and perception, comes into and passes out of existence,
so that it by no means remains constant. Thus, that would be a futile opinion,
would it not? 19

As mentioned here, during human life the relationship of soul and body and
of being and appearance is one of non-duality-as-one (fun i-ich inyo ), which
means that the two members of the relationship are indeed distinguishable from
one another, but are inseparable. For our life can exist only when the soul or

19 Dogen, ShObOgenzo, "Bend6wa," Vol. I, pp. 34-35.


spirit and the body influence one another and work together. There exists nei-
ther a life that accompanies only the body nor a life that accompanies only the
soul. Likewise, each thing can exist only when it possesses within itself general,
immutable elements of formal names and at the same time specific, mutable el-
ements of material bodies. Thus, the human life can consist only of the synthetic
and relative relationship of both. Therefore, we must find the path to rest and
liberation (nirvana) nowhere other than in the actual life (life and death), which
consists only in the non-duality of body and soul. We should seek and postpone
our liberation from suffering in life and death neither in death nor in mere nir-
vana as a distant future, but should instead find it here and now with ourselves
and our own hands. That is the correct attitude of life on the basis of genuine
Zen philosophy. Therefore, Dogen says at the end of the discussion of the tenth
question in the chapter "Bendowa":

Know that the theory of the essence of the soul as the origin of all appearances in
Buddhism is not accompanied by a separation of essence and appearance, and
thus does not mean a distinction between living and dying, so that there is no
such thing in the Buddhist life of awakening and practicing until bodhi (enlight-
enment) and nirvana as the essence of the soul. All things and all appearances are
only contained within the individual soul, so that there is nothing in it that is nei-
ther filled nor satisfied with this soul. All truths consist of the same individual
soul. Only someone who does not doubt this confirms that he understands the
nature of the soul. 20

The theory of the essence of the soul as the origin of all appearances (Shin-
sh6-Dais6s6), which is cited here, stems originally from the work Daij6kishin-
ron (Theory of the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana Buddhism), according to
which the immutable essence of the soul completely penetrates all appearances,
so that it means the individual soul that holds everything in itself and remains
equal and constant. According to this thesis, everything is none other than the
single, equal, constant soul, so that the dually-distinguished sides of essence and
appearance, bodhi (enlightenment) and nirvana (calmness), all originate equally
from this soul. Thus, there is nothing in the world that is not filled with it and
surrounded by it. The logic of the non-duality-as-one of the immutable and the
mutable is the central point of Dogen's theory of the Buddha nature. For one
can live in concentration by the logic of the non-duality of being and appear-
ance, and life and death, at every moment, by being able by it at every moment
to find the absolute present. Dogen developed such a way of thinking in the
slogan, "Life and death are nothing other than nirvana.,,21

20 Dogen, ShOb6genz6, "Bend6wa," Vol. I, p. 35.

21 Cf. K. Arifuku, Die Welt von Dogen (Osaka: Osaka-Shoseki, 1985), pp. 156-87 (esp. pp.
181 ff.).

3. Life and Death as Nirvana

According to the fundamental idea of Mahayana Buddhism, "passion [Bonno =

klesa] is nothing other than awakening or enlightenment [Bodai = Bodhi] and
life and death are nothing other than nirvana (the perfection of enlightenment)."
According to the Daihoto-Daijikkyo (Maha-samnipata-sutra): "If one can con-
stantly see that passion is awakening and life and death are nirvana, one is not
influenced by one's desires." According to this fundamental thesis, one should
not seek any enlightenment outside life and death. One must find enlightenment
in the midst of life and death as liberation from the suffering of life and death.
Outside life and death there is neither suffering nor pleasure, neither passion nor
enlightenment. Only within life and death can there be enlightenment as libera-
tion from the suffering of life and death, i.e. nirvana.
Accordingly, Dogen explains in the chapter "Shoji" ("Life and Death") the
relationship between Buddha as awakened being and the problem of life and
death as follows:

To attempt to find Buddha outside life and death is as absurd as pointing one's
wagon to the north and then attempting to go to the south, or as looking toward
the south to see the Great Bear, which is only in the northern sky. If one does
this, one misses the path to liberation. If one assumes that life and death is at
once nirvana, then there is neither something that one should detest as life and
death nor something that one must expect as nirvana. Only then is there true lib-
eration from life and death. 22

In order to clarify the fundamental idea of life and death as nirvana, one
must first analyze more precisely the following three well-known propositions
of the relationship between Buddha and "life and death": 1. If there is the Bud-
dha in "life and death," there is no "life and death.,,23 2. If there is no Buddha in
"life and death," one does not err in "life and death.,,24 3) This "life and death"
is Buddha's life (Japanese: Hotoke no on-inochi).25
The first and second propositions contradict one another only when consid-
ered in terms of formal logic. They are originally statements of the Chinese Zen
Masters Kassan and Jozan (Chinese: Chia-shan and Ting-shan), but cited here
by Dogen with slight alterations, as is often the case in the Sh6bogenzo. In the
chapter "Daibai" ("Tai-mei") (Daibai lived from 752 to 839) of Vol. 7 in
Keitoku-Dentoroku (Ching-te Ch 'uan-teng) the following is written:

22 Dogen, ShObOgenzo, "Shoji," Vol. IV (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1993), pp. 466-67.

23 Dogen, ShObOgenzo, "Shoji," Vol. IV, p. 466.
24 Dogen, ShObOgenzo, "Shoji," Vol. IV, p. 466.
2S Dogen, ShOb6genzo, "Shoji," Vol. IV, p. 467.

As Kassan and J6zan walked together and spoke with one another, J6zan said: If
there is no Buddha in "life and death," it is not "life and death" (neither life nor
death). Kassan replied: If there is the Buddha in life and death, one does not go
wrong in life and death. Since the two of them had not reached agreement con-
cerning these propositions, they went to their common master, Daibai, and asked
him which was better. He answered that each of them was heartfelt (advanta-
geous) and at the same time disconcerting (disadvantageous). Since neither of
them was happy with this answer, they inquired further. The Master answered:
Come again tomorrow. As they went to the Master the next day and asked him
again, he said that the fervent person does not ask about it, only the person who
is a stranger to truth. As Kassan later remembered this speech, he commented: "I
lost one eye with Daibai." That means: I have seen the truth. I previously saw
things only with my ordinary (i.e. erroneous) eyes. Through the speech I noticed
that one must have a completely different eye, in order to understand the truth of
the Buddha way.

At that time, the two disciples of Zen were still stuck in their explicit state-
ments and, therefore, only thought about which proposition was better than the
other. They still remained in the world in which one must struggle with others
for priority. They did not yet live in the reality of the idea that "life and death
are nirvana."
What is the meaning of the first proposition: "If there is the Buddha in 'life
and death,' there is no 'life and death'''? It means that if one regards "life and
death" merely as an instinctive, bestial, and unreflective life, then there is only a
roaming and wandering life, and neither the Buddha nor enlightenment nor
nirvana. But if one sees "life and death" in such a way that there is a Buddha in
"life and death," one can immediately understand by "life and death" nirvana,
overcome the problem of life and death in this way, and liberate oneself from it.
Then life and death no longer exist as captivity, but only as self-liberation. This
means that one takes over one's life and death as the concrete realization of
one's own Buddha nature. Then there is only the life of the Buddha, which is
nothing other than the life of non-life and the death of non-death, namely
What is the meaning of the second sentence: "If there is no Buddha in 'life
and death,' one does not err in 'life and death "'? One must understand that the
term "Buddha" is used here in a poor sense, in dualistic opposition to "life and
death." If one, for example, separates life and death from nirvana and from the
Buddha, the resulting tendency is that the more one wishes for nirvana, the
more strongly one detests life and death. If there is no term "Buddha," one does
not need to err in it. To imagine and assume nirvana or the Buddha objectively
outside life and death means that one wishes to stand outside life and death,
even though one can live and die only on this side of life and death. Therefore,
one cannot concentrate on action in the present moment. For in life and death
there is only life and death, and otherwise neither Buddha nor nirvana. To live

and die thoroughly means, '''Life and death' is nirvana." If one hears the name
Buddha, one clings to it. If one hears the tenn nirvana, one clings to it. Thus
think that outside life and death there is neither Buddha nor nirvana. The Chi-
nese Buddhists have translated the Sanskrit word "Tahtagata," which is one of
the ten names of the Buddha with which the Indian Buddhists wished to ven-
erate and praise his excellences, with the word "Nyorai" ("Ru-Iai"). This Nyorai
means "thus-come." That means: Buddha comes and goes as he comes and
goes. He comes and goes as naturally and as selflessly as nature. Buddha clings
neither to his coming nor to his going nor to his conduct in general. His conduct
is liberated from every kind of imprisonment and captivity. In this way "life and
death" can first become nirvana, where "life and death" can first be Buddha's
The quintessence of Dog en's theory of life and death reads as follows:

"Life and death" is Buddha's life. If one wishes to detest and abandon it, one
loses Buddha's life. If one wishes to remain attached to it, one loses Buddha's
life again. For one is then tied to the external form of Buddha. Only when one
neither detests nor anticipates it can one enter into the heart of Buddha. But one
should neither calculate with the heart nor speak with words. Only if one throws
oneself with body and soul into the house of Buddha selflessly and follows the
leading of Buddha in one's conduct, can one liberate oneself from life and death
and become a Buddha (one who is aware), without using one's power and one's
heart (consciousness). Who must still remain attached to his heart? There is an
easy way to become a Buddha. The one who neither does evil nor remains at-
tached to life and death, but acts with compassion toward all creatures, who re-
spects superiors and commiserates with subordinates, who has neither feelings of
hatred nor a covetous heart, and neither considers nor complains in the heart, that
person is a Buddha (one who is aware). One should seek nothing else. 26

One apparently important difference between Christianity and Buddhism is

that in Christianity the human person can and may never become God, while in
Buddhism, above all in Zen Buddhism, the human person can and must become
a Buddha (one who is aware). Also in Amidha Buddhism, in which belief in the
Amidha Buddha and human weaknesses, sins, and vices are stressed, no human
can become a Buddha. It would be presumptuous of the human being. There is a
difference here between the Zen Buddhist and Amidha Buddhist positions.
How can the human person become a Buddha at all, without being arrogant?
We can become a Buddha at every moment; yet we always err within life and
death. Therefore, we distance ourselves from Buddha. In order to approach
Buddha and to realize and receive our Buddhahood, we need practice - for
example, the Zazen exercises. In so far as one remains a merely erring human,
one cannot become a Buddha. The enlightenment of the human being is much

26 Dogen, ShOb6genz6, "Shoji," Vol. IV, pp. 467-68.


smaller than Buddha's enlightenment. For human enlightenment is eternally

incomplete, while Buddha's enlightenment is always complete. Anyone who
honestly believes that his enlightenment is comparable to Buddha's is an insuf-
ferable, conceited fop. Only someone who thinks that his enlightenment is much
smaller than Buddha's enlightenment, like the moon in comparison to the son,
is a reliable and trustworthy person. For us humans, it is most important that we
resolve to live our lives as Buddha's life, in other words, to realize Buddha's
life in our own. For although we are born in each moment as having Buddha na-
ture within ourselves, we nevertheless tend to distance ourselves from this real-
ity. Therefore, we constantly need the exercises, in order to be able to realize
and to receive our Buddha nature concretely. The exercises do not necessarily
have to be Zazen, though according to Dogen's view Zazen is the best method
to it, in so far as it directly realizes enlightenment. We must be aware and en-
lighten ourselves, as we awaken and operate our inner Buddha nature as our
own self (face).
For us humans, to become a Buddha, on one hand, is possible at each mo-
ment, and on the other hand, remains the eternal ideal and goal of human effort,
of which the momentary fulfillment (perfection) and at the same time the
eternal "ought" consist. Without momentary satisfaction, one cannot continue
one's exercises without interruption. Each person needs some feeling of ful-
fillment in life, some momentary contentment and joy. In Dogen's Zen, it is the
feeling of the non-duality of exercise and enlightenment. Therefore, in Zen
there is the following saying: "If one sits (meditates) for awhile, one is a Bud-
dha for awhile." That one can exercise means that one in this respect does not
err, but is instead enlightened.
Furthermore, in the chapter "Zenki" ("Complete Actualization of Life and
Death"), Dogen compares life to a voyage:

Life is like a person sailing in a ship. This ship is exactly that, whose sail I use
and whose rudder I handle, which I sail and steer. Although I move with a pole,
the ship carries me and there is no "I" there other than ship. By sailing the ship, I
can make the ship a ship and the ship can become a ship. One should learn this
present moment thoroughly. In this present moment there is nothing other than
the world of the ship. Sky, water, and shore are just in the time of the ship, so
that there is no time that is not identical to the time of the ship. Therefore, life is
what I produce, and I am what life makes of me. If one sails the ship, one's body
and spirit and all dependent and independent things are together the organ of the
ship, and the entire earth and the complete emptiness in the sky become together
the organ of the ship. The "I" as the life, as well as the life as the "I," are togeth-
er of this kind. 27

When one talks about the ship, there is nothing other than the ship. The ship

27 Dogen, ShOb6genz6, "Zenki," Vol. II (Tokyo: Iwanami, 1990), pp. 83-84.


is synonymous with the time and with the life. According to Dogen's well-
known and idiosyncratic theory of time, time immediately means being: "The
talk of being-time means that time is already being and all being is time,,28
When the ship sails, there are all things, namely sky, water, and shore, for the
voyage. The time when the ship can sail is an auspicious time. Thus sky, water,
and shore decorate, so to speak, the entire time of the voyage. That is the time
when a thing really becomes one thing, when a subject really becomes one sub-
ject, and when I really and truly become myself. It is the time of the realization
or the present becoming of the truth. That is not being, but becoming. That must
be a lively and practical matter, in other words, not only something theoretical,
but also something that is realized in action. All things have originated in mutu-
al relationship. Therefore, there can be nothing that is completely independent
and self-sufficient in itself. Thus all things are originally and actually empty and
selfless, as is stated by one of the three greatest fundamental theses of Bud-
dhism: "The selflessness of all things." Thus, life and death are genuinely and
originally nothing other than nothing, namely nirvana.
It is generally believed that Dogen wrote the chapter "Shoji" ("Life and
Death") toward the end of his life. Actually, it is impossible to determine when
he wrote some chapters of Sh6b6genz6, and "Shoji" is one of these. But in his
forty-third year Dogen had already written the chapter "Zenki" ("Complete
Actualization of Life and Death"), in which he developed a very lively, so to
say younger way of thinking about life and death. At one point in the chapter
"Zenki," Dogen says, "The complete actualization of life and death is like the
way a young man contracts and extends his elbow [i.e. does push-ups], and how
one moves one's hand in the night to find the pillow.,,29 The thoughtful Zen
master who wrote the Sh6b6genz6 as a great religious-philosophical poem and
is believed to have suffered from tuberculosis compared here the complete
actualization of life and death to youthful push-ups. This contrast between
Dogen's sickly life and the powerful words he expresses brings us pleasant and
joyful sympathy for him. One must know that these cheerful and bright aspects
exist in Dogen's thesis of "Life and death are nirvana." For in this way we can
open a broad, open, and free perspective to a better life and death, liberated
from suffering.

4. Action in the Absolute Present and its Historicity

As noted above, Dogen ruled out the assertion of the immortality of the mere
soul without an appropriate relationship to the body by maintaining the non-

28 Dogen, Sh6b6genz6, "Uji," Vol. II, p. 47.

29 Dogen, Sh6b6genz6, "Shoji," Vol. II, p. 85.

duality of body and soul and of life and death as nirvana. On the other hand, he
developed the idea of karma in three times, which implies a kind of causality
and historicity of action. According to it, there are three kinds of karma: present
karma (jungenh6ju), according to which present actions influence rewards in the
present life or world; future karma (junjihsh6ju), according to which present
actions influence rewards in the next (future) life; and after-next (after-future)
karma (jungojiju), according to which present actions influence rewards in the
after-next (after-future) life. The continuity from the present life to the future
life and the after-future life, which can no more be proved empirically than the
immortality of the soul, is nothing other than the historicity and causality of
action. In order to assert this causal continuity of action, one must be able to
assume an infinite continuity of the personality or the immortality of the soul.
When seen purely from the perspective of formal logic, the viewpoint of the
non-duality of life and death in the absolute present as the time of each human
action and the idea of karma in three times on the basis of the causal and his-
torical continuity of action appear to contradict one another. But if one thinks
about the non-duality and the difference of soul and body or life and death, and
about the aspect of action in each moment and its aspect in the historical idea or
historicity of action, there is not absolutely a contradiction.
The most important point in the Zen Buddhist theory of the non-duality of
life and death is that one must concentrate on one's current action in each mo-
ment of the absolute present. This can be seen in the slogan: "Not only life, but
also death must be completely actualized" ("Sh6ya zenkigen. shi ya zenkigen").
Nishida defines this action theory as "the immediate self-determination of the
absolute present." Thus, if one adheres to the dualistic viewpoint of life and
death and of body and soul, one tends to prefer, for example, the future to the
present and death to life, and thus to neglect the action in each moment. On the
other hand, one could also say that Buddhism was able to propagate itself in
popular belief all the more widely, because it absorbed the idea of karma. That
may indicate that human beings can neither reflect upon nor plan their own
actions without the concept of historicity. Therefore, both the idea of the non-
duality of life and death on the basis of the absolute present and the idea of kar-
ma as action theory on the basis of the historicity and causality of human action
are two indispensable elements that we humans need in order to act and live as
well as possible. Therefore, one should not use the idea of karma deterministic-
ally, but should use it for the progressive moral improvement of one's own
As is well known, Kant postulated in the dialectic of the pure practical rea-
son the concept of happiness as one of the two indispensable elements of the
concept of the highest good, although in the analytic of the pure practical reason
he emphasized the autonomy of the will and the feeling of respect, and thus ex-
cluded happiness as a determining reason of the will. Since the moral agent has

an intelligible character, he must be able to exist in himself super-temporally

and immortally. Nevertheless, Kant postulated the immortality of the soul in the
dialectic of the pure practical reason, in order to realize morality (GlUckwurdig-
keit) as the first element of the highest, perfected good (bonum consummatum).
Although human beings are conscious of the moral law and listen to its com-
mand, they can oppose it and act unlawfully, so that they are susceptible to evil
at every moment. Therefore, it is ultimately impossible in earthly life for human
persons to achieve morality as holiness of convictions. Thus, according to the
Kantian assertion, the human person can progress morally endlessly to the bet-
ter only by presupposing the immortality of the soul as "an infinitely enduring
existence and personality of the same rational being.,,30 Only then can the hu-
man person convince himself, hope, and believe that he can make holiness
possible as morality in the strict sense, that is to say, as perfect conformity of
the human will to the moral law. 31
It is actually impossible to prove the immortality of the soul, which one can
in fact neither see nor touch. Nevertheless, in the assertion of the immortality of
the soul, one can catch sight of the practical wisdom that is based on human
finiteness. In this human world there exist, I believe, the basic facts that each
person wishes his own happiness, whether large or small, and at the same time
often tends to violate the moral and legal laws, in order to realize it. In addition,
situations arise with annoying frequency in which worse persons enjoy more
material happiness than better persons. The real world, in which absolute justice
is not implemented, is often unjust. On the contrary, the world of the soul is the
world in which absolute justice should rule, and thus in which the good person
should be justly blessed and the evil person justly punished. If the world of the
immortality of the soul as the world of absolute justice were not at all possible,
or were merely an enchanted illusion, the evil person in this real world would
do as much evil as possible and would have no fear, while the better person
would lose even his weak hope in a future repayment for his good actions,
although they cannot be repaid in the present, so that he finally would lose all
courage and patience to perform good actions even in this world. At this point it
is a very profound truth that the human person must care for his soul for eternity
(i.e. not only for this momentary time, but also for unending time), as Plato
said. 32
In the Japanese expressions "Sana hilO no tamashii ni katarikakeru" ("to
speak to his soul") and "Tenchi-shinmei ni chikatte usa wa iwanu" ("swearing
by heaven not to lie") the world of the soul or the personality, in which absolute
justice rules, is presupposed, or at least expected and postulated. This world ex-

30 Immanuel Kant, Critique 0/ Practical Reason, trans. Lewis White Beck, New York: Mac-
millan, 1985, p. 127 (Pruss ian Academy Edition, p. 122).
31 cr. Kant, Critique o/Practical Reason, p. 127 (Prussian Academy Edition, p. 122).
32 cr. Plato, Phaedo, 107c.

ists only under the presupposition of the trust of persons in one another, so that
it is always threatened among egoistic persons, like a candle in the wind. Never-
theless, this world of the soul or personality is not at all a mortal and mutable
world, but an immortal and immutable world, even if this cannot be proved.
Considered from this point of view, both the spirit and the soul express human
personality, so that one can no longer distinguish between spirit and soul here,
as is also the case with Dogen. Therefore, both the spirit and the soul point to
the essential core of the human person. Zen Buddhism has expressed this truth
as follows: "The spirit (soul) itself is the Buddha [Sokushin-Zebutsu]. ,,33 That is
a typical slogan of Zen Buddhism. For this way of thinking, according to which
the spirit itself is Buddha, everything that there is - not only the spirit, but also
the body - is already Buddha. Therefore, Buddhism can treat not only humans,
but also all things that include matter, as a person. In this respect, one can and
must use the Kantian tenn "purpose in itself' in a wider sense. Then, one can
apply it ecologically.34
In Dogen's Zen Buddhism, instead of the immortality of the soul, the idea of
kanna in three times is presupposed. How then is the coexistence of the idea of
kanna and the idea of the non-duality of body and soul as nirvana possible in
each moment of action? The idea of kanna is just as difficult to understand as
the idea of the immortality of the soul. But if one applies the idea of kanna to
the concept of DNA in biology, it can to a certain extent be understood ration-
ally. For no one can doubt that all kinds of action can take place only in their
own causal relationships. The question about the contradiction and relationship
of and between the moment of action and its historicity can, therefore, be an-
swered as simply as the following: Each history of an action can only consist of
each momentary action and its complete continuous synthesis, so that there is
no history of action without the action in each moment as absolute present,
upon whose standpoint in tum the logic of the non-duality of life and death as
nirvana is based. Only by considering the causal and historical relationship as
the future consequence of his own action in each moment can the human person
orient his particular action in it and bring it to the best possible result. The pre-
supposition of both the immortality of the soul as unending continuity (person-
ality) of the agent (person) with Kant and the idea of kanna in three times as
causal-historical continuity of action in Buddhism in general are necessary for
the moral improvement (moralization) of each acting person, in which process
the human person can and should finally aim at and attain the completion of his
person in his action history.

Translated from the German by David W. Lutz

33 Dogen, ShObOgenzo, "Sokushin-Zebutsu," Vol. I, pp. 140-49.

34 Cf. Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, pp. 90, 136 (Pruss ian Academy Edition, pp.
87, 131).

Moshe Idel

1. Introduction

Judaism, like many other religions which developed over a long period of time,
is a complex phenomenon. It not only developed diacronically but also diversi-
fied itself synchronically, given the wide geographical dispersion of the Jews, as
part of their diasporic plight. Any attempt to describe the main factors which
contributed to the vitality of the constellation of practices, believes, and institu-
tions that constitute Judaism, should take in consideration also the ongoing im-
pact of messianic aspirations, prevalent in so many layers of Jewish people.
This statement does not come to minimize the importance of other religious fac-
tors like the performance of ritual or the study of the Torah - in the wide sense
of the word - neither the triggers created by interactions with various religious
and cultural environments.
Messianism is not a homogenous phenomenon and its many forms differ
from each other sometimes dramatically. Its history in the biblical times, and in
the Qumran literature, shaped some other developments in the intertestamental
period. 1 Here, we are not concerned with the huge diversity of messianic ideas
and movements, but with one important component of some of them: apocalyp-
tic ism. 2 This aspect of messianism was conceived of as a rather crucial one, and
Gershom Scholem, whose deep affinities to the apocalyptic world we shall de-

I Cf., e.g., John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction in the Jewish Matrix
of Christianity (New York: Crossroad, 1987); and Collins, "The Place of Apocalypticism in the
Religion of Israel," in P. D. Miller Jr., P. D. Hanson, and S. D. McBride, eds., Ancient Israelite
Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987), pp. 539-58. On
different types of messianism in medieval and modem Judaism, see M. Idel, Messianic Mystics
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998); and Ravitzky, note 87 below.
2 On the different meanings of apocalypse, apocalypticism, and apocalyptic, see Bernard
McGinn, Visions of the End (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), pp. 1-36; John J.
Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination (New York: Crossroad, 1987), pp. 1-17; Paul D. Hanson,
The Dawn of Apocalyptic, Rev. Ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), pp. 4-6. For the Middle Ages,
see McGinn, Apoca/ypticism in the Western Tradition (Variorum, 1994), Essays I and II; the In-
troduction of the editors, 1. Collins, 8. McGinn, and S. Stein, to the three volumes of the Encyclo-
pedia of Apoca/ypticism (New York: Continuum, 1998), pp. lX-XIII; and Joshua Bloch, On the
Apocalyptic in Judaism (Philadelphia: JQR Monograph, 1952).

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 40-74.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

scribe later on, declared that, "When the Messianic idea appears as a living
force in the world of Judaism .. .it always occurs in the closest connection with
apocalypticism.,,3 Elsewhere, when dealing with a more limited Jewish litera-
ture, the mystical one, he states that to the extent that messianism entered "as a
vital force in the messianism of the mystics, it is permeated by apocalypse and it
also reaches ... utopian conclusions which undermine the rule of the Halakhah ...
in the days of redemption. ,,4
How should we define apocalypticism? Was it indeed such a subversive
power? More than anything else, apocalypticism is a vision of the world, that
assumes an expectation of immediate and dramatic changes of the course of the
world, which will lead to an improvement described as the end of the previous
order, political, social, or religious and the installation of another, better one. 5
More evident in a religious type of world, which is easier predisposed in the be-
lief of the existence of supernatural powers that may interfere with the ordinary
events, my description of apocalypticism does not exclude the acute sense of an
end even in a secular society, though this issue is not going to preoccupy us be-
low. Apocalypticism often gravitates around powerful human protagonists, like
the Messiah in Judaism, or Jesus Christ in Christianity, or around a powerful
deity capable of and willing to intervene in the course of history or nature, or
around a combination of the two entities. Indeed, the very recourse to terms like
history and nature is to a certain extent problematic, as it assumes a dichotomy
between divine will and another, independent order, in a manner that is often-
times exaggerated or anachronistic. The order implicit in the existence of a su-
pernal powerful will is therefore the sine qua non condition for the upheaval of
the existing forms of order, which is equivalent to apocalyptic redemption. Un-
like other forms of eschatology, apocalyptic ism believes in, expects, and some-
times even calls for a manifest revolution. Nevertheless, what is characteristic
of the apocalyptic expectations, as I understand them, is the emphasis upon su-
pernatural revolution, rather than natural evolution which exploits potentialities
inherent in the ordinarily processes.
Much more a rupture than a continuation, apocalyptic salvation involves
drastic restructuring that expresses a protest toward an existing order of things.
Apocalypticism strives to solve the problem of a well-defined community, whe-
ther it is a tribe or a nation. Though it is definitely related to pondering on the
human condition,6 in Judaism it is more eminently connected to quandaries re-

3 Gershom Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism (New York: Schocken Books, 1972), p.
4. Cf. also Scholem, Kabbalah (New York: Dorset Press, 1987), pp. 68, 71-72.
4 G. Scholem, 'ad Davar (Tel Aviv: 'Am 'Oved, 1986), pp. 234-35 (Hebrew).
5 For more on apocalypticism in Judaism, with an emphasis on the axes of time and place,
topics that are not dealt with here, see M. Idel, "Jewish Apocalypticism 670-1670," Encyclopedia
ofApocalypticism, ed. B. McGinn, Vol. II, pp. 204-37.
6 Cf. especially John J. Collins, "Apocalyptic Eschatology as the Transcendence of Death,"
Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 36 (1974), pp. 21-43; Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending:

lated to the specific vicissitudes of a certain group of people. From many points
of view this is an escapist approach, especially because of the reliance on the
intervention of a superior active power. One of the most common components
of an apocalyptic mode of approaching existence is the dramatic rupture along-
side the ordinary line of time envisioned as related to the eschaton. Regular time
is conceived of as symbolic of the common and problematic sort of order that
should be transcended by attaining a new kind of order. This rupture in the
realm of time is often intertwined with a corresponding rupture on the geo-
graphical level, when the end of time will involve also a dislocation of masses.
The arena of the eschaton is rarely identical to that of ordinary life. In some
forms of apocalypticism, the restructuring of the two parameters is accompanied
by a deepening of religious life, or of intellectual activity. A spiritually more
intensive life is eventually envisioned either as the goal of apocalyptic ism, or as
its by-product.
Most of messianic dramas related to the advent of the Messiah, or Messiahs,
consist in a sequel of events, some of them having distinct apocalyptic features:
natural disasters, mass religious conversions, bloody wars ushering in mass
murder, death of messianic figures, etc. These upheavals were conceived of as
being so painful that rabbinic figures confessed that they would prefer not to
live to see them. Here, the apocalyptic nature of the eschaton is so strong that it
deters people from even wishing to witness the advent of the messianic age, and
therefore, we may assume that terror of apocalyptic ism deterred people from
wishing to partake in the eschatological process. 7

2. Sources of Jewish Apocalypticism

I would venture to say, following Whitehead, that if European philosophy may

be described as a series of footnotes to Plato, Jewish and Christian apocalypti-
cism may be conceived of as a handful of footnotes on the apocalyptic visions
of Daniel. The content of this second-century B.C.E. enigmatic book, perhaps
the most enigmatic part in the whole Biblical corpus, has tantalized generations
of Jewish and Christian authors who attempted to explore the "messages" allud-
ed to by the alleged sixth-century prophet. This is also the case of John's apoc-
alypse. To a great extent, Jewish apocalyptic writings are indebted to various
hints related to the future history of the Jews and of the Gentile empires in gen-

Studies in the Theory of Fiction (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 22; Bernard Mc-
Ginn, Apocalyptic Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), pp. 10, 13.
7 Israel Levi, "Apocalypses dans Ie Talmud," Revue des Etudes Juijs, 48 (1880), pp. 108-14;
Anthony Saldarini, "Apocalyptic and Rabbinic Literature," Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 37
(1975), pp. 348-58; Saldarini, "The Use of Apocalyptic in the Mishnah and Tosefta," Catholic
Biblical Quarterly, 39 (1977), pp. 396-409.

eral, spread over the obscure verses of this book. The mysterious figures, beasts,
reigns, invited plenty of allegorical interpretations, which attempted to find out
the precise dates and protagonists of the end. Indeed, the Book of Daniel com-
bines several aspects of apocalypticism that may appear separately, though they
are part of the apocalyptic complex: the nature of the apocalyptic events, the
protagonists of the apocalyptic drama, and the feeling that there is a precise
date, or dates, of that drama and its place or places.
The other main source for many late-antiquity and medieval discussions of
the drama at the end of time is the exodus from Egypt, which has been envi-
sioned as the prototype for the events of the redemption. While the role of Mo-
ses was now played by the future Messiah, the ancient Pharaoh was allegoric-
ally conceived of as representing powers of evil, while the exodus from Egypt
was understood as adumbrating the return of the Jews to their homeland. 8
Apocalyptic literature is mainly a religious phenomenon whose impact on
the monotheistic religions is due to its first literary expression in the inter-
testamental period. Apparently of Iranian extraction, it has been appropriated in
specific political and religious circumstances, those of prolonged expectations
for the return of the Israelite king and to the events connected to his, oftentimes
miraculous, return. In many cases, details of these eschatological events are re-
ported as a revelation from above, a topic inherent in the very etymology of the
term apocalypticism; but the revelatory aspects are less evident in discussions
concerning apocalypticism. Though rooted in earlier forms of literature, its im-
pact in the general economy of the biblical literature is small, though the dense
discussions in the Book of Daniel, written in the East, are paramount. Neverthe-
less, with the passage of time, the topic gradually grew, though it never attained
a status similar to other main topics in Judaism, like the legalistic and the inter-
pretive projects.
The developments of apocalypticism in Judaism represent a combination be-
tween a gradually growing role of the redeeming figure within a more complex
process, the messianic one, which includes in many cases apocalyptic compon-
ents. Jewish apocalyptic themes as incorporated in the Talmudic and Midrashic
literatures are almost always related to a more comprehensive topic, messian-
ism. Since the belief in the advent of the messianic is the main focus of the dis-
cussion, apocalypticism can be seen as one possible components of messianism,
though not tantamount to this broader phenomena. Though it is only very sel-
dom in Jewish sources that there are non-messianic fOnTIS of apocalypticism,
the only two significant exceptions being the cosmic cycles according to astro-
logical and Kabbalistic speculations, it is easier, though rare again, to find mes-
sianic scenarios that are totally devoid of apocalyptic motifs. The focus of the

8 Cf. Baruch Bokser, "Messianism, The Exodus Pattern, and Early Rabbinic Judaism" in
James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), pp. 239-58.

messianic scenarios is not the description of the apocalyptic sequences in them-

selves; they serve as preludes for the description of the advent of the Messiah
and of the messianic age.
In the early medieval period, however, a series of short treatises dealing with
the messianic drama were composed, most of them pseudepigraphical, attrib-
uted as they are, for example, to the biblical figure of Zerubavel, or to the early
rabbinic author R. Shim eon bar Yohai. The most famous and widely influential
on a whole range of medieval messianic figures is the Sefer Zerubavel. These
writings were collected and edited with a critical apparatus in Yehuda Even
Shemuel's basic anthology Midreshei Ge'ulah, the "Midrashim of Redemp-
tion.,,9 They elaborate upon the signs preceding the coming of the Messiah, the
terrible wars and the death of the Messiah ben Joseph, the arrival and final vic-
tory of the Messiah ben David. Though written during a period of several hun-
dred years, between the seventh and twelfth centuries, this literature is relatively
unified from the conceptual point of view. It is mythical in its approach to re-
ality: God and the Messiah are conceived of as paramount factors capable of
disrupting the course of nature and of history, and as actually doing it. Strongly
oriented toward a redemption that will take place in both time and space, it has
an obvious restorative nature, which includes the rebuilding of the temple, the
descent of the pristine city of Jerusalem from above, and the victory of Judaism
as an universal religion. 'o The main target of the whole process is the redemp-
tion of the chosen among the people of Israel; individual spiritual redemption
does not play any role in this more popular form of Jewish literature. The apoc-
alyptic material collected by Even Shemuel, thought modest in quantity, has
nevertheless exercised a considerable influence on the popular imagination of
both apocalypticism and messianism.
In the Middle Ages, Jewish apocalypticism had been influenced also by both
Muslim and Christian forms of apocalypticism. So, for example, we find num-
erous themes dealing with Christian apocalyptic ism in late-fIfteenth-century
Kabbalistic corpus named Sefer ha-Meshiv, I I while the Muslim impact is more
diffuse but found in a greater variety of cases. 12

9 Yehudah Even Shemuel, ed., Midreshei Ge'ullah: Pirqei ha-'Apocalypsah ha-Yehudit, 2nd
Ed. (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1954). Some of the apocalyptic material has been translated into
English by Raphael Patai, The Messiah Texts (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1979),
10 Cf., e.g., Seier Eliahu, in Even Shemuel, ed., Midreshei Ge'ulah, p. 48.
II M.ldel, "The Attitude to Christianity in Sefer ha-Meshiv," Immanuel, 12 (1981), pp. 77-95;
and Messianic Mystics, pp. 118-20. For the possibility that Christian themes influenced some ele-
ments in Seier Zerubavel, see Joseph Dan, "Armilus: The Jewish Antichrist," in P. Schaefer and
M. C. Cohen, eds., Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco
(Leiden: Brill, 1998), pp. 85-86,93-95.
12 Israel Friedlander, "Shiitic Influence in Jewish Sectarism," in Marc Saperstein, ed., Essen-
tial Papers on Messianic Movements and Personalities in Jewish History (New York: New York

3. Apocalypticism and Revelation

Etymologically, the term apocalypticism is related to a revelation from above,

and indeed one of the main sources of apocalyptic information is a revelation
described as received from above. This is quite obvious in some of the treatises
printed by Even Shemuel, where angels, such as Michael and Metatron, impart
eschatological information. 13 However, the revelation of the time of the end is
only one of the contents related to the end: the imminence of redemption pro-
duces deep changes in the pattern of available religious types of knowledge. In
many cases the restructuring of reality is accompanied by the disclosure of hid-
den forms of knowledge. The messianic times are often described in Kabbalistic
literature as the moment of the disclosure of the secrets of the Torah, and their
dissemination. So, for example, Abraham Abulafia explains his disclosure of
the secrets of the Guide of the Perplexed, which itself deals with the secrets of
the Torah, as follows: "These secrets will be revealed during the advent of the
Messianic era, by the Prophets who will arise, and by the Messiah Himself,
because through them l4 all of Israel and those who are drawn to them, will be
strengthened.,,15 From a late-thirteenth-century Kabbalistic treatise, composed
by a certain R. Nathan ben Se'adya Harar, who belongs to ecstatic school of

During the time of the Exile, the activity of the names has been obliterated, and
prophecy has been cancelled from Israel, because of the hindrance of the attri-
bute of judgement. This state will go on until the coming of that whom God has
chosen, and his power will be great because of what has been transmitted to him
related to their power and God will reveal the name to him, and transmit to him
the supernal keys. Then he will stand against the attribute of judgement...and the
attribute of mercy will guide him. The supernal [entity] will become lower, and
the lower will become supernal, and the Tetragrammaton, which has been con-
cealed - will be revealed, and 'Adonai, which was revealed will be concealed.
Then it will be happen to us what has been written l6 "For they shall all know me
from the least of them to the greatest of them," Then the natural, philosophical
sciences will be cancelled and concealed ... but the science of names and letters ...

University Press, 1992), pp. 135-58; Bat Zion Eraqi Klonnan, Messianism and Messiahs: The
Jews of Yemen in the 19th Century (Tel Aviv: Hakibutz Hameuchad Publishing House, 1995), pp.
24-26,50-65 (Hebrew). On Muslim apocalypticism in general, see Said Amir Arjomand, "Islamic
Apocalypticism in the Classic Period," in Encyclopedia ofApocalypticism, Vol. II, pp. 238-85.
13 Cf. especially, Midreshei Ge'ulah, pp. 73, 76, 85.
14 Through the secrets.
15 Sitrei Torah, Ms. Paris BN 774, fol. 119a.
16 Jeremiah 31 :33.

will be revealed, because their [supernal] power is gradually enhancing. Then 17

"the Jews will have light and gladness.,,18

The esachaton is conceived of as the change in the nature of the ruling divine
attribute from judgment to mercy, which should be understood also as a shift
from the use of the cognomen, Adonai, to the Tetragrammaton, as we shall see
more below. The messianic figure, chosen by God, is conceived of as having
been taught secrets and powers of divine names, and he is able to start his mes-
sianic activity by resorting to this knowledge. Redemption is a consequence of
the Messiah's use of the divine names, just as the installation of the Messiah
was attained by means of the power of the divine names. Revelation of the di-
vine name and messianism, both related to a deep restructuring of reality, is
therefore conspicuous in ecstatic Kabbalah; indeed this issue is not one of the
many topics of this brand of Kabbalah, but the core of the entire system. Re-
vealing the divine names is tantamount to revealing Kabbalah itself, which is
quintessential for knowing the secret of the advent of the Messianic era. It is
quite important to dwell upon the sequence of the events related by Abulafia
and his disciple: spiritual life, described as knowing the names and loosing the
bonds, brought him to a subsequent revelation of the eschatological secrets.
Spiritualization is here a condition for redemption, not vice versa.
The revelation of the divine name, however, is only one aspect of the rela-
tionship between that name and redemption. Another messianic figure, R. Shlo-
mo Molkho, mentions again the revelation of secrets as part of the apocalyptic

With words concealed - I shall reveal to men

Choice words - Like spices.
From Mount Carmel - You were sent by God
[To be] the man [who] brings tidings - [And take] revenge upon the nations
Nations shall war- Warriors be crushed
Foreigners shall be vanquished - And to us peace
He arose from the north - To seek daughter and son
Esau who is Edom - The young Shlomo
Will consecrate - His polished sword
In aid of his nation - to redeem from nights.
Nations shall fear - And gifts bestow
Full with indignities - Due to Salvation.
Israel shall rejoice - Nations shall expire
Then repaid - Manifold
Heavenly Mercy may be - Upon the city of Jerusalem
The scales are set - For Judgement in Yemen. 19

17 Esther 8: 16.
18 Seier Sha 'arei Tzedeq, ed. 1. E. Porush (Jerusalem, 1989), p. 17.

Sometimes, the revelation of the secrets is necessary, because of the moral

corruption, which was sometimes described as preceding the messianic advent.
So, for example, R. Hayyim Vital, who had messianic aspirations, claims that

the disclosure of this lore nowadays, in these bad generations, is to safeguard us

by its means ... because in those [earlier] generations, the majority was [consti-
tuted by] men of deeds and piety, and even scanty [parts of Kabbalah] were able
to save them from all the opponents [meqatregim]. But now, as we are far remote
from the supernal source, just as yeast at the bottom of a barrel, who will safe-
guard us if not our reading this wondrous and profound lore? Especially as our
Rabbi [Luria] said: "The secrets have become exoteric [knowledge], because in
this generation prostitution and delation and slander and hate in the heart rule
and the qelippah has become widespread to such an extent that persons are
ashamed to behave in a pious manner; God shall safeguard us and forgive our

Also some ofR. Hayyim Vital's dreams exhibit a dominant element ofapoc-
alyptic messianism. In his diary there are descriptions of eschatological battles,
reminiscent of much earlier Jewish messianic literature; but they are integrated
in descriptions that characterize exclusively the individual-messianic aspect,
which differ from the more theoretical perceptions, where the apocalyptic as-
pect does not playa major role. 21 In any case, the testimonies revealing the
messianic consciousness remained sealed in Vital's manuscript diaries, hardly
known outside his family. To believe him, his success in convincing the Jews of
Damascus to repent was scant. The importance of dreams as carriers of messi-
anic, and even apocalyptic messages, as we learn not only from Vital's collec-
tion of dreams/2 but also from several other instances among the Sabbateans,
should be mentioned.
In other cases, however, we learn about attempts to appease fears of immi-
nent apocalyptic wars, by instituting vigils that will safeguard those involved in
them from the pangs of the Messiah, as we learn from the sixteenth-century
Kabbalist R. Abraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi in Jerusalem. He has been described
as "an untiring agitator and interpreter of events 'pregnant' with redemption, is
typical of a generation of Kabbalists in which the apocalyptic abyss yawned.,,23

19 David Kaufmann, "Un poeme messianique de Salomon Molkho," REJ, 34 (1897), pp.
20 R. Hayyim Vital's preface to 'Btz Hayyim, fo1. 5c.
21 Cf. David Tamar, "The Messianic Dreams and Visions of R. Hayyim Vital," Sha/em, 4
(1984), pp. 211-29 (Hebrew).
22 Cf. Morris M. Faierstein, trans., Jewish Mystical Autobiographies. Book of Visions and
Book of Secrets (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), pp. 41-263.
23 Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken Books, 1967), p. 247.

4. Mongols, Christian, and Jews in Thirteenth-Century ApocaJypticism

As a whole, Jewish apocalypticism not only stems from dualistic approaches,

whose sources are found in the East, but was also nourished in the early and
high Middle Ages by military invasions related to nations coming from the East.
Thus, it describes events imagined to occur in the future on the scene of history.
In different manners, the external events and the boundary-situation of apoca-
lypticism served as the arena for imagining past and present problems and/or
solving them, by means of a sometimes wild religious imagination. Thus, much
more than spiritual salvation or individual eschatology, which deals with psy-
chological processes, apocalyptic eschatology is dramatic. Those future events
may be portrayed by resorting to ancient traditions, in the case of Judaism those
formulated in the Bible and rabbinic literature, but also against the background
of political events contemporary to the apocalyptic writer, to which he may
The middle decades of the thirteenth century witnessed military clashes be-
tween large masses moving to the same geographical areas from different direc-
tions: Christians, driven by their religious effort to liberate the Holy Places and
maintain their strongholds in the Land of Israel; Mongols, pushing to eastern
Europe since the early twenties, and to Syria and the Land of Israel since the
end of the fifties; and, finally, the Mamelukes, inhabitants of the areas surround-
ing the Holy Land, who succeeded in restoring the status of Islam in this region,
after bloody encounters with both Christians and Mongols. The specter of con-
flagrations and real bloodshed collaborated in building up sharp tensions in
Europe; beginning with the Hungarian kingdom, which faced the imminent dan-
ger of Mongolian invasion, rumors about the savage behavior of the Godless
warriors speedily spread all over Europe. Two Crusades initiated by the Pope
against heretics in the Balkans and in Southern France, contributed to those ten-
sions. 24 Some indigenous European apocalyptic rumors, mostly from the circles
of Joachim of Fiore and apparently unrelated to the panic awakened by the
Mongols, contributed more scholarly speculations to the patrimony of eschato-
logical expectations. In Joachimite circles, the belief in the arrival of the angelic
Pope and some eschatological computations add an important tone to the apoca-
lyptic symphony of the time. Jews, a small, and oppressed, minority, both in
Europe and in the Land of Israel, could not actively participate in a meaningful
way in those fateful events. However, the vague news spreading in Europe, and
perhaps also the written apocalypses produced there, excited the hopes of Jews
and stirred their imagination. The Mongol tribes were metamorphosed into "the
hidden ones," ha-Genuzim, the ten lost Jewish Tribes, who were believed to re-

24 Yuri Stoyanov, The Hidden Tradition in Europe: The Secret History of Medieval Christian
Heresy (Arkana: Penguin Books, 1994), pp. 170-200.

tum in the eve of the eschaton, and even play an important role in the apocalyp-
tic events. 25 In some cases, expectations arose among the Jews that these tribes,
returning to history, would revenge the sufferings inflicted on them and their
ancestors by their Christian neighbors. It seems that this understanding of the
historical events was shared by a major Christian apocalypse, the well-known
prophecy on the "Cedars of Lebanon":

The sons of Israel will be liberated from captivity. A certain people called "with-
out a head" or reputed to be wanderers, will come. Woe to the clergy. A new or-
der thrives: if it should fall, woe to the Church. There will be many battles in the
world. There will be mutations of faith, of laws, and of kingdoms. The land of
the Saracens will be destroyed. 26

This vision implies a certain identity between the Mongols [an interpretation
fostered by all the scholars] and the sons oflsrae!' This point, highly significant
in the documents to be discussed below, is combined with the assumption that
the clerical establishment, the Church and the existing orders, will be the object
of punishment. We may assume that the anonymous author, as part of an
opposition-faction in Christianity, exploited the historical conjuncture in order
to express his hope in an imminent change, and the belief that, finally, the ac-
count with the oppressors will be set up. In some thirteenth-century Hebrew
documents, the repercussions of the Jewish expectations that the Mongols are
the lost tribes and their wars are part of their redemption, are clear. There were
also negative reactions on the part of the Christians, and we learn that anti-
Jewish riots were motivated by the prior expressions given by the Jews that the
Mongols, namely the lost tribes, would conquer Europe. The Hebrew docu-
ments can be dated shortly after the middle of the thirteenth century. At least in
one case, the author of such a document is a Catalan poet, R. Meshullam ben
Shlomo Dapiera, who was close to two circles of Kabbalists in Gerona. The
nexus between the rumors regarding the Mongols and the heightening of the
eschatological expectations was explicitly explicated in Dapiera's poem:

There is a witness to Redemption/ and visions and legends widespread, And the
kingdom will be renewed in our days/ for the lost nation and the dispersed com-
munities, And an offering will be brought to the son of David and Ishai/ and to
My secretaries and My officers, donations, And My Temple will be built up and
consolidated .... The tribes that were dispersed in the ancient days/ Now they

25 Cf. Aaron Zeev Aescoly, Jewish Messianic Movements, 2nd Ed., (Jerusalem: Mossad
Bialik, 1987), pp. 165,212-15,217-19 (Hebrew); M. Idel, "The Beginnings of the Kabbalah in
North Africa? The Forgotten Document of R. Yehudah ben Nissim ibn Maika," Pe 'amim, 43
(1990), pp. 8-12 (Hebrew).
26 Robert Lerner, The Power of Prophecy: The Cedar of Lebanon Vision from the Mongol On-
slaught to the Dawn of the Enlightenment (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press, 1983), p. 16.

have left the country of their sojourn, And the sign that they were sent by God is/
that plenty of princes are afraid. And their [the tribes'] time has come/, to [per-
form] an act of great redemption and they have [already] passed the passages ....
See how Babylonia was seized, and Aleppo/ and Damascus, and the towns were
devastated. 27

It is important to emphasize the poet's testimony that the rumors were wide-
spread. They affected the princes, apparently referring to the situation in the vi-
cinity of the poet, Christian Spain, and possibly also the German towns men-
tioned in another verse. The devastation of cities in the Orient adumbrates the
fate of other cities in Europe. What terrified Christians, however, became, ac-
cording to the poet, a hope of Jews. The poet explicitly indicates that the Tem-
ple will be rebuilt and the sacrifices renewed, and the conviction in the immi-
nent construction of the Temple is expressed again later in the same poem. It
seems that it would not be an exaggeration to describe R. Meshullam's tone in
this poem as acute messianism. The tribes are depicted as the messengers of
God, who is the speaker throughout these verses. Before turning to the revela-
tory tone, attention is to be drawn to the Hebrew term translated here as "pas-
sages," namely Ma 'abbarot, which means passages over a river. Indeed, a river
is mentioned shortly afterwards in the poem, and it seems that the poet hints at
the Sambatyon river, which allegedly surrounds the ten lost tribes and does not
allow them to return to the "civilised" world. The tribes' arrival at the passages
over the river is an implicit hint of the imminent redemption. The poem from
which the above lines were quoted was composed, so scholars assume, in the
summer of 1260 in Catalonia. This is unequivocal evidence of the messianic
excitation the rumors provoked among Jews in Northern Spain.
It seems, however, that the overt reaction to these historical events is not the
only way Jews expressed their longing for, and hope in, an immediate redemp-
tion. A comparison of the concerns of the Provencal Kabbalists and their fol-
lowers in Catalonia in the first third of the thirteenth century to those of the
Kabbalists since the middle of the thirteenth century demonstrate a certain as-
cent in their messianic expectations. As G. Scholem has aptly remarked, the
early Kabbalists were rather indifferent to actual messianism; whether the ex-
planation he proposed, namely that those early Kabbalists were immersed in the
contemplation of the processes of the beginning, that is the theosophical inter-
pretations of the talmudic Account of Creation, or whether such an indifference
is part of the Neoplatonic influence, which had little interest in history, may be
a matter of debate. However, in the writings of R. Yehudah ben Nissim ibn
MaIka, apparently in Morocco,28 R. Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen,29 in the Book of

27 Cf. Haim Shirman, The Hebrew Poetry in Spain and Provence, Vol. II (Devir: Mossad
Bialik, 1956), p. 317.
28 cr. M. Idel, "The Beginnings of the Kabbalah," pp. 8-9.

the Zohar in Castile/o and in the writings of Abraham Abulafia,31 composed in

various European countries, messianism plays a far more important role than in
all the texts of their Kabbalistic predecessors. One may explain this substantial
change not so much as evidence of a greater emphasis on the messianic issue,
namely as a systemic development, or as just the result of the much greater liter-
ary production that characterizes the second half of the thirteenth century Kab-
balah. The production of voluminous books may, in principle, allow a larger
share to messianism than it had earlier. Though this argument appears to be
sound, it seems that it cannot explain the emergence of elaborated messianic
discussions, motivated by a deep conviction in the messianic mission which is
characteristic of Abulafia's writings. Moreover, the Kabbalistic messianic spec-
ulations differ from each other in substantial ways and it is highly implausible
to assume that these authors depend upon each other as far as the details of their
speculations are concerned. Abulafia's messianism combines a spiritualistic un-
derstanding of eschatology with his consciousness that he is the Messiah, who
has to playa certain role on the historical scene, as his attempt to meet the pope
demonstrates. R. Isaac ha-Cohen emphasizes the apocalyptic fight between the
powers of good and evil that received cosmic dimensions in his vision of the
end. The importance of the confrontation between the two camps is absent in
the Kabbalah of Abulafia. On the other hand, according to R. Yehudah ibn
MaIka, the event of the end of days is a matter we learn from astrology, a lore
which is rather marginal in the speculations of both Abulafia and R. Isaac ha-
Cohen. Last but not least, the Zoharic eschatology, following some early medi-
eval Jewish treatises dealing with the eschatological events, adds an important
dimension by its emphasis on the importance of the theurgical activity the Kab-
balist is requested to act, by his intentional, namely mystical performance of the
commandments. It seems that the existence of a common background, the
messianic expectations connected to the imminent arrival of the lost tribes, has
to be considered as a major reason for the renewed concern in messianism
among Kabbalists. An older contemporary of R. Isaac, the poet R. Meshullam
of Dapiera, whose verses were discussed above, knows that "at the limit of
Ashkenaz, cities are terrified some of them being afraid of the sword.,,32 Writing
in Gerone, he frequented Kabbalistic circles there and was aware of the panic

29 Cf. Joseph Dan, "The Emergence of Messianic Mythology in 13th Century Kabbalah in
Spain," in Occident and Orient: A Tribute to the Memory of A. Schreiber (Budapest and Leiden:
Brill, 1988), pp. 57-68.
30 Yehuda Liebes, "The Messiah of the Zohar: On the Messianic Character of R. Simon bar
Yohai," in The Messianic Idea in Jewish Thought: A Study Conference in Honour of the Eightieth
Birthday of Gersh om Scholem (Jerusalem: Israeli Academy of Science and Humanities, 1982), pp.
87-234 (Hebrew); and Liebes Studies in the Zohar, trans. A. Schwartz, S. Nakache, and P. Peli
(Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1993).
31 M. Idel, Messianic Mystics, pp. 58-100.
32 Shirman, The Hebrew Poetry, p. 317.

that prevailed among Christians in Germany. R. Isaac ha-Cohen could hardly

ignore, in the decade following the composition of the above verse, the depth of
the terror that seized Europe.
In any case, it seems that in Castile the rumors concerning the Mongols also
reached the Kabbalists. In the Book of the Zohar, composed, or at least edited,
in Spain after the late 1280s, it is written:

The sons of Ishmael will cause fiery wars in the world and the sons of Edam will
gather and wage battles against them, one on the dry earth, another on the sea,
and one near Jerusalem. And each of them will rule over the other. And the land
of Israel will not be given to the sons of Edam. At that time, a nation [coming]
from the end of the world will awake against the wicked Rome, and will fight
there for three months. And [other] nations will gather there and fall in its hands,
until all the sons of Rome will gather together from all the comers of the world ...
and it will expel the sons of Ishmael from there. 33

The third nation, described as the victorious one, which will arrive from the cor-
ner of the world and fight both Christianity and Islam, seems to fit the conquests
of the Mongols. From the context of the above quotation, it is obvious that the
author or the editor of the Zohar understood the wars of that nation as part of
the eschatological processes. It appears that this seems to be the case also in the
second half of the thirteenth century; part of European Jewry had the impression
that the emergence of an unexpected superpower of an obscure extraction,
namely the Mongols, and the change of the military status of the Christians in
the Holy Land, are portent with messianic overtones. More than the suffering of
the Jews, the defeats of their immediate enemies, the Christians, nourished the
Jewish apocalyptic treatments. The belief that international conflagrations are
signs of the Gog and Magog battles was the natural conclusion from a reading
of the apocalyptic literature that was produced in the period between the sixth
and the tenth centuries. A talmudic dictum to the effect that when someone sees
confrontations between kingdoms, he may expect the advent of the Messiah,
seems to summarize one major reason for the apocalyptic stirs that characterize
medieval messianic expectations. If this observation is accurate, then the arrival
of the Mongols, which terrified so much of Christian Europe, must be consid-
ered the catalyst of the renewed interest in a more active attitude to Messianism
among the Jews.
R. Meshullam's poem, quoted above, was written in 1260, and includes
sharp messianic overtones. According to a contemporary treatise dealing with
the Hebrew letters and astrology, redemption will begin in year in which the
reign of Saturn, favorable to the Jews, will start. 34 The same year was also envi-

33Zohar, II, foJ. 8ab.

34Cf. R. Moshe ben Yehudah, Commentary on the Alphabet, Ms. Paris, Bibliotheque Na-
tionale 711, foJ. 66b.

sioned by Joachimite eschatologists as the date when the powers of evil will be
Sometime in early 1260, the twenty-year-old Abulafia left Tudela in search
of the river Sambatyon. Therefore, exactly at the time when R. Meshullam's
poem reflected messianic expectations in Catalonia, Abulafia undertook an
enterprise that included some elements relevant to the aspirations of his Jewish
contemporaries. The search for the mythical river is to be understood as part of
a messianic scheme, because beyond this river the ten lost tribes are allegedly
hidden. Abulafia's attempt to reach this river, taking the land of Israel as a start-
ing point, may be connected to the presence of the Mongols in this area. This
attempt could not be fulfilled, however, because of a battle that took place in the
vicinity of Acre. The protagonists of this fight were designated by Abulafia us-
ing Biblical terms, a fact that complicates the precise identification of the bellig-
erent parties. 35 "Ishmael" is a classical reference to the Muslims, in our case the
Mameluks. In some instances, however, it may refer, at least in some mid-
thirteenth-century Christian sources, to the Mongols. On the other hand, "Esau"
in Jewish medieval texts is the conventional allegory for Christianity, and it
seems that no exception to this use is available. Therefore, the fight that pre-
vented Abulafia is, apparently, a battle between Muslims, or Mongols, and
Christians. This battle was waged, apparently, late in 1260, not far from the
town of Acre in lower Galilee, in Ein Galud. Abulafia presents his journey as a
response to a call from the divine spirit, which is mentioned in the connection of
his journey to the Land of Israel, whereas the search for Sambatyon is referred
to as resulting from his own intention. If this peculiar formulation of Abulafia is
intentional, then the divine revelation included no more than a request to visit
the Holy Land. Even this reading is not strictly necessary, since, grammatically,
we may consider the phrase "the Spirit of God awoke me and moved me," oc-
curring in Abulafia's text, as dealing with a revelation that incited his travels
without referring to a specific goal. In any case, the attempt to find the Sam-
batyon river is not the result of a specific revelation or vision, but seems to be a
decision of his own. Twenty years later, Abulafia explicitly states that the be-
ginning of his prophetic experiences is to be dated to 1270, so that implicitly the
earlier awakening of 1260 would be considered, at least in retrospect, as a non-
prophetic experience. What could be the possible significance of the finding of
the legendary river? We can only speculate that, on the basis of the relationship
between the lost tribes and that river, Abulafia was interested to watch with his
own eyes the exodus of the tribes. According to the verse of R. Meshullam, the
tribes arrived to the "passages," whereas the Latin prophecy on the Cedars of
Lebanon describes "the sons of Israel," who "will be liberated from captivity." I

35 Cf. Abulafia's autobiographical passage printed by Aescoly, Jewish Messianic Movements,

p. 216 and his notes there.

would say that the formulation used by the Christian apocalyptic author may
reflect a Jewish perception of the Mongols as the ten tribes which were kept in
captivity beyond the Sambatyon river. Since this river was the main obstacle in
front of the tribes, it is reasonable to assume that Abulafia wanted to see, per-
haps in order to verify the rumors, the massive exodus of the tribes. Such an
hypothetical attempt may not include any active involvement in the very act of
the liberation of the tribes, namely any messianic mission on the side of Abu-
lafia, as he will assume later on, though such pretensions cannot, given the scar-
city of his description of this episode, be conclusively denied. According to an
important apocalyptic document, Sefer Eliahu, the tribes are supposed to leave
the river of Sambatyon on the twenty-fifth of Tishrei, namely less than a month
after the New Year.36 Did Abulafia plan his arrival in the Holy Land at the eve
of the New Year in order to witness such a fateful event? In the case of the
search for the mythical river, this theory is no more than a speculation, which
may adumbrate his much more documented messianic enterprise in 1280, when
he attempted to meet the Pope in Rome. Thus, we witness that the first possible
messianic enterprise of Abulafia, presumably related to rumors concerning the
Mongol invasion, took place in a year rife with eschatological meanings. Small
apocalyptic events open the gates for speculating on larger apocalypse.

5. Apocalypticism and Binary Thinking

The feeling that the time of the end is quite imminent is obvious in some of the
messianic figures, who not only point out their confidence that they are living
the last moments of the old order, but also depict it as the proper moment for a
dramatic upheaval. This emphasis on the upheaval creates binary visions of
good and bad, new and old. This is evident in one of the most complex apoca-
lypses composed by a Jew in the Middle Ages, Abraham Abulafia's SeJer ha-
'Ot, the Book of the Sign. Even an extreme spiritualist as this Kabbalist was,

The coming day is the day of Judgement

And it is called the day of remembrance
And the time of the trial has arrived
And the time of the end has been accomplished.
The heaven will become earth
And earth will become celestial
Because the Lord of the trial is called by the name YHWH

36 Cf. Even Shemuel, Midreshei Ge'ulah, p. 44.

And His judgement is one of truth,
And his trial is upright. 37

Elsewhere in the same book we read:

And the end of delivery and the day of redemption has arrived
But no one is paying attention to this issue to-day to know it
There is no redemption but by means of the name of YHWH
And His redemption is not for those who do not request it
In accordance to His Name.
This is why I, Zekhariyahu
The destroyer of the building
And the builder of the destruction
Has written this small book,
By the name of 'Adonay the small
In order to disclose in it the secret ofYHWH the great. 38

"Zekhariahu," which has been identified elsewhere as "the shepherd,,,39 is

none other than Abulafia himself. Though one of the most propagandistic
among the Kabbalists, including an attempt to speak with the Pope and numer-
ous attempts to disseminate his messianic Kabbalah to Christians, his language
in the apocalypse is strongly reminiscent of the anti-Christian diatribes of earlier
Jewish apocalypses.
The poetic and allegorical qualities of this book have something to do with
the solemnity of the message, and are characteristic of many apocalyptic writ-
ings in Christianity. The other apocalypses, however, composed in Sabbatean
circles, one by Nathan of Gaza and another by an anonymous Sabbatean be-
liever, apparently in Yemen, lack the poetic quality of Abulafia's Seier ha-'Ot.
The imminent apocalyptic thought as represented by most of the Jewish
sources which deal with explicit expectations - unlike the implicit apocalypti-
cism, which is much less acute - reflects a binary structure obvious in the op-
position Rome-Jerusalem, in the different fate of the two Messiahs, the son of
Joseph, the suffering and dying one, and Ben David, the victorious one, and in
the confrontation of the latter with Armilus.
Apocalypticism depicts a strong transformation, but not a process of evolu-
tion, as we learn from Abulafia's 'Otzar 'Eden Ganuz, in a text which apparent-
ly influenced the above-quoted passage from R. Nathan's Sha 'arei Tzedeq:

37 Cf. A. Jellinek, ed., "'Sefer Ha-Ot': Apokalypse des Pseudo-Propheten und Pseudo-Messias
Abraham Abulafia," in lubelschrift zum siebzigsten Geburtstage des Prof Dr. H. Graetz (Bres-
lau, 1887), p. 69.
38 Seier ha-'Ot, p. 76.
39 Ibid., p. 77.

The end of the change of the times has arrived, and so is the end of the order of
the stars, in accordance to the [divine] attributes. And the attributes and names
will change, and the languages will be mixed, and the nations and the beliefs will
be distorted, and the diadem of the Israelite [nation] will return to its former
state, and the rank of Jews will be related to the name ofthe essence [of God] not
to the name of [His] attribute. [Then] the revealed will become concealed, and
the concealed will become revealed, and the rank of the gentiles - men and
women - will be lowered and they will be vanquished, and the rank ofthe Jews -
men and women - will ascend and rise. 40

The rupture here concerns more the political status and the shift is related to
the attainment of spiritual perfection.
Unlike non-apocalyptic forms of messianism, the apocalyptic discussions in
Kabbalah, including some forms of Sabbateanism, capitalized on the binary op-
position of the Messiah to the Serpent, both having the same numerical value in
Hebrew, and depict the final struggle between them as that between good and
evil. The popular apocalyptic mythology, which has not been deserted, has been
reinterpreted in metaphysical terms. So, for example, we learn from a discus-
sion of Shlomo Molkho:

Abel is Moses, who is Abel, because all the deliverances are done by him, be-
cause his soul will transmigrate into the Messiah, and this is why he [Moses] has
been buried abroad .... It is a necessity that the Messiah will come, because he is
the power of Satan [and] Serpent, and he removed the impurity of the Serpent
from the world, and this is the reason that he goes, because in the very moment
and time that Israel will repent, they will immediately be redeemed.... This is
why in each and every generation there was a person [stemming] from [the
children of] Israel, worthwhile and prepared to become the Messiah, and fulfill
what has been written ... because it [earth] cannot subsist without the Messiah,
because of the impurity of the Serpent...because the impurity ofthe Serpent spills
over all the spheres and comes from the power of the seventh, lower sphere,
which is that of the Moon.41

Therefore, apocalyptic battles are both historically imminent, dependent as

they are on repentance, and metaphysically immanent in the ongoing confronta-
tion. This form of metaphysical myth, had a dramatic influence on Lurianic and
Sabbatean apocalypticism.
Unlike other forms of eschatology, persons biased toward explicit apocalyp-
ticism believed in, expected, and sometimes even called for an overt spiritual
revolution, which is commonly related to the preaching of the need to repent.
Nevertheless, the emphasis in the imminent apocalyptic expectations is on the
supernatural revolution, rather than the natural evolution, which exploits poten-

40 Ms. Oxford, Bodleiana 1580, fol. 41a.

41 Ms. Moscow-Guensburg 302.

tialities inherent in the ordinary processes. On this point, there is a discrepancy

between the recurrent emphasis that apocalyptic literature puts upon the catas-
trophic and the emergence of worldviews based upon more stable, naturalistic
and psycho logistic views of redemption, which occur in many of the elitist com-
positions of the Jewish Middle Ages. Much more a rupture than a continuation,
apocalyptic salvation involves drastic restructuring that expresses a protest to-
ward an existing order of things. Apocalypticism strives to solve the problem of
a well-defined community, whether it is a tribe or a nation; it starts not only
from pondering on the human condition, but more eminently from quandaries
related to the specific vicissitudes of a certain group of people. From some
points of view this is an escapist approach, especially because of the reliance on
a superior, active power.
The emergence of Jewish thought in the Middle Ages, as is the case either
with different philosophical stands or with the diverse fonus of Kabbalah,
brought to the fore much more articulated fonus of spirituality, ultimately from
Greek sources and sometimes influenced by the Sufi spirituality, which moved
away from the vision of salvation in tenus of national, objective, temporal, and
geographical changes; apocalypticism, and sometimes messianism, was under-
stood in new tenus, which emphasized changes, but was of a nature that pre-
ferred spiritual changes over material ones. This new approach did not obliter-
ate the beliefs in the apocalyptic messianism, either in the masses or in some
parts of the elite. Even extreme expressions of spiritual salvation, including
those that strive to emphasize the importance of the spiritual changes as symp-
toms or goals of redemption, or even as messianism, were not automatically di-
vorced from apocalyptic elements, either because of political reasons, namely
because they had to address larger audiences, or because their vision was much
more complex than a simple subscription to one fonu of religiosity. Interpreta-
tions of apocalyptic ism in spiritualistic tenus should be seen, therefore, not as
automatically obliterating the impact of apocalypticism per se, but as one of the
possible modes of its appropriation. There is no reason to create a stark contra-
diction between an apocalyptic consciousness and its spiritualization, and to
conceive them as incompatible. Seen from this perspective, the existence of
apocalyptic discussions, and even treatises among some medieval mystics, such
as the Zohar and Abraham Abulafia, should be seen as a case of addressing dif-
ferent issues on different levels. When describing the Kabbalistic literature of
the thirteenth century, we may assume a coexistence, complex as it may be, of
different fonus of discourse, which deal with both spiritual and corporeal fonus
of salvation. R. Abraham Abulafia, a mystic who conceived himself as a Mes-
siah, composed at least one extant book which should be considered as belong-
ing to the genre of the apocalypse, and engaged issues related to spiritual re-
demption, both within the apocalyptic treatise and elsewhere in his writings.
The detailed analysis of his vision of the end will help in understanding not only

the view of a mystical Messiah, but also the complexities of eschatological is-
sues known from bodies of literature belonging to later phases in Jewish mysti-
cism, in a more general form. So, for example, we learn about the coexistence
of a variety of meanings of the term "Messiah," found in one of the writings of
Abulafia, and that his spiritualization of the term Messiah, explicitly identified
with both the human and the independent Agent Intellect, does not preclude its
more popular usage, as the person who will bring redemption by his power. 42
The power of the human Messiah, who may be involved in an apocalyptic
event, is dependent upon his spiritual attainment, namely the union of his intel-
lect with the Agent Intellect, understood as a cosmic entity. By establishing a
link with the spiritual world, the messianic figure is able not only to increase his
knowledge or experience a unitive experience, but also to change the course of
events in the mundane world.
On the other hand, apocalyptic ism was much more concerned with a violent
break occurring in history because of the intervention of supernatural powers,
either those of God or those of the Messiah conceived as a warrior. According
to most of the apocalyptic visions in Judaism, the Messiah is a scion of David,
and the break in history is done by a person, extraordinary as it may be, which
was somehow related to history in the glorious past. God too is conceived of as
a savior. However, their extraordinary intervention will be obvious only be-
cause their redemptive action is not visible in the ordinary sequence of events.
Though possibly present throughout history, the apocalyptic Messiah and the
apocalyptic God, both conceptualized as warrior figures, refrain now from act-
ing salvifically, by creating a crisis of the present order. However, the transcen-
dent, non-personalistic Messiahs of the ecstatic Kabbalah, namely the angel
Metatron and the Agent Intellect, or the sefirah of Malkhut in the case of the
theosophical-theurgical one, are omnipresent salvific entities. It is not a crisis
that will make manifest their miraculous intervention, but rather the achieve-
ment of the perfection of the present order, namely the human intellect in the
ecstatic Kabbalah, and the Kabbalistic performance of the commandments in
the case of the other school. To a certain extent, this is also the case of the
Messiah as combating the evil powers in the present, in the above passage of
Shlomo Molkho. The critical apocalyptic approach deals, fundamentally, with
horizontal fields, as it presupposes a dramatic change in the present order of
reality, but sees the next step in terms of a continuation, despite the crisis in this
Some of the Kabbalistic systems discussed above may be better described as
vertical, because the human Messiah will not descend into history, nor have the
perfection achieved within the normal experiences of this world, but will attain

42 Cf. his Commentary on SeJer ha-Melitz, Ms. Rome-Angelica 38, fo!. 9a; M. Idel, Messianic
Mystics, pp. 65-77.

perfection by adhering to another, spiritual world. It is a "vertical" move that

allows the mystic to experience redemption now, while the apocalyptics who
attempted to transcend history, do not intend to transcend the realm of geog-
raphy. The hypostatic nature of the supernal Messiah and its incessant action
and presence, recurring in many speCUlative corpora in the Middle Ages, en-
sures, therefore, an experience that is immediately available to the elite, quite
unrelated to the advent of a redemptive figure. The Kabbalistic treatments ana-
lyzed above moved in three main and different directions, each one so powerful
that it marginalized the critical-apocalyptic and the political versions of mes-
sianism: on the one hand, more inwardly than the philosophers, and on the other
hand, more divinewardly than apocalyptic supernaturalists, as is the case in the
theosophical-theurgical Kabbalah, or more activistic than politicians, resorting
as the magical Kabbalists did to magical practices.

6. Who Were the Jewish Apocalyptic Authors?

The authors of the ancient Jewish apocalypses, as well as those who composed
the early-medieval treatises, are unknown. Speculations about their social status
and religious physiognomy are, therefore, futile. It is only with the Middle Ages
that we may identify the authors of the few apocalypses. Almost all of them are
Kabbalists, whose identity is better known in comparison to the veil of darkness
that hides the ancient writers. The question is whether the elitist groups of Kab-
balists were open at all to the apocalyptic elements, or whether their messianism
was of a radically different sort, namely shaped by the relatively more sophis-
ticated types of thought. The tensions between the popular apocalypticism and
the more elitist views is well-known already in the rabbinic attitude to this is-
sue, and it is exemplified by the reactions of great Halakhists like Maimonides
or R. Shlomo ibn Adret. Leaders of mystical groups, such as R. Yehudah he-
Hasid in Germany and ibn Adret in Catalonia, were much more reticent, if not
openly hostile toward popular forms, and sometimes even elite forms of messi-
anism. Thus, independent of their own visions of messianism, it seems that the
very approach of the first elite in respect to new popular moves was often both
cautious and suspicious.
Even more open toward apocalyptic themes were two major Kabbalistic cor-
pora: the different layers of the Book of the Zohar and the Kabbalistic writings
belonging to the circle of Sefer ha-Meshiv. 43 In these two major cases, we may

43 Gershom Scholem, "The Revelations Attributed to the Maggid (Angelic Messenger) of

Rabbi Joseph Taytaczack," Sefunot, Vol. II (1971-78), pp. 73-74 (Hebrew); Georges Vajda,
"Passages anti-chretiens dans KafHa-Qetoret," Revue de I'histoire des religions, 117 (1980), pp.
45-58; M. Idel, "Inquiries in the Doctrine of Sefer Ha-Meshiv," Sefunot, ed. J. Hacker, Vol. 17
(Jerusalem, 1983), pp. 185-266 (Hebrew); Idel, "Magic and Kabbalah in the Book of the

assume that we deal with authors who can be identified as secondary elite, and
even in these cases the cloak of anonymity they assumed was protective of their
identity. In other words, messianic claims and sometimes messianic ideas have
been the prerogative of figures who belong to secondary elite, which may be
characterized as more eager to engage new ideas, had a greater role in the rein-
terpretations of traditional ideas, and was more mobile and more eager to dis-
seminate their insights into larger masses. Abraham Abulafia, Shlomo Molkho,
Sabbatai Tzevi, Abraham Michael Cardoso, Nathan of Gaza, Moses Hayyim
Luzzatto, and the Besht were itinerant figures. Messianic ideas should be under-
stood as part of the cultivation of a broader range of topics that are characteristic
of the creativity of secondary elite, like more complex forms of hermeneutics, a
propensity for exoteric ism or an interest in magic.
While the apocalyptic elements are more congenial with larger and popular
segments of the Jewish society, the more sophisticated amalgams of ancient
Jewish eschatological material and speculative approaches are more consonant
with the secondary elites. The primary elites attempted to preserve the canonical
eschatology as a theological and teleological dogma, by significantly moderat-
ing its catastrophic apocalyptic cargo, but only rarely to feature strong spiritual-
istic interpretations of the rabbinic material concerning the Messiah. Each sig-
nificant segment of Jewish society created its own sort of messianism, or was
attuned to a certain wavelength coming from the past that fitted its expectations,
created by various forms of acculturation. Notwithstanding the shared stock of
eschatological themes, the various parts of Jewish society over the ages have
cultivated some special forms of messianic tendencies, and their apocalyptic
ingredients more than others. Moreover, the intensity of experiencing the
messianic themes presumably differed from one sector to another, as we have
attempted to distinguish above between the categories of Messiahs, the propa-
gators of the ideas or self-consciousness of those Messiahs, and finally their
believers. In lieu of speaking of messianism in general, a more nuanced concept
of distribution of aspirations, experiences, concepts, and beliefs will help a bet-
ter understanding of the manner in which the messianic themes and motives
worked. I propose to differentiate drastically between the reverberations of the
various facets of what is vaguely called messianism alongside much more strati-
fied parts of the Jewish population involved in a messianic event. The apocalyp-
tic messianism of the masses sometimes induced the messianic figures to inter-
pret less apocalyptic messianic concepts strongly and often quite radically in
apocalyptic terms. In fact, we may assume a pyramidal structure of the messi-
anic movements, with the top of the pyramid often involved in less apocalyptic
speculations, even when discussing messianism, while the apostles of these

Responding Entity," in M. I. Gruber, ed., The Solomon Goldman Lectures (Chicago: Spertus
College ofJudaica Press, 1993), pp. 125-38.

messianic figures, who had to translate the messianic message to the basis of the
pyramid, had to resort to apocalyptic imagery, dominant in popular imagination.
The ongoing concerns with the very preservation of the spiritual identity of
the group, with its national continuation and physical existence, have strength-
ened the apocalyptic elements in popular circles. However, after the emergence
of the axial spiritual attitudes, with their emphases upon spiritual attainments
rather than physical survival, or individual achievements rather than group well
being, a variety of syntheses between the primal and the axial values have taken
place, as hermeneutical moves that enabled the primal elements to survive,
while differentiating in new forms.

7. Astrology and Apocalypticism

Astrological worldviews made substantial inroads among Jewish thinkers, es-

pecially since the middle of the twelfth century, and produced a variety of what
I would call macro chronic views, dealing with cosmic cycles of seven thousand
or forty-nine thousand years. 44 Astrological calculations, dealing with the dates
of the conjunctions of two major planets, Saturn and Jupiter, in the house of Pis-
ces, recur in Arabic and Jewish astrology, as the belief was that major religious
changes take place under this conjunction, described as conjunctio maior. Jew-
ish authors believed that the figure to emerge then will be the Messiah. Such
calculations started with Abu Mashar, but were cultivated by Jewish authors
since the twelfth century and remained in use until the seventeenth century. The
assumption that the change is immanent in the very nature of mundane reality,
presided by celestial bodies and their revolutions, renders this astrological view
as apocalyptic, especially because of its deterministic nature. One of those fig-
ures influenced by this theory was R. Yehudah ibn Maika, who attests that the
rumors about the "Tatars" triggered his attempt to understand historical events
by resorting to astrology, and he portrays the arrival of an eschatological
figure. 45
Much more influential, however, was another Kabbalistic discussion that
includes an astrological element. A passage from R. Joseph Ashkenazi's
Commentary on Seier Yetzirah, which has been quoted, quite faithfully, by R.
Abraham Peretz, a disciple of Nathan of Gaza, reads as follows:

44 On this term, see M. Idel, "Some Concepts of Time and History in Kabbalah," Jewish
History and Jewish Memory: Essays in Honor of Yosef Hayim Yerusha/mi, E. Carlebach, J. M.
Efron, and D. N. Myers, eds. (Hanover, New Hampshire: Brandeis University Press, 1998), pp.
45 Cf. M. Idel, "The Beginnings of the Kabbalah," pp. 8-12.

These are the words of Metatron to holy Qanah called Sefer ha-Peliy'ah who is a
wondrous man and it is found in our hands in a manuscript, and his words had
been copied by Rabad in his Commentary on Sefer Yetzirah .... And these are the
words of Metatron to the holy Qanah, and these are his [Qanah's) words: "He
has appointed the letter Bet over life and bound a crown to it and formed [the
planet) by it Sabbatai in the world .... It is the head on 'the power of the Keter
'Elyon.' And he put in it the power of Hokhmah and formed in it the planet of
SabbataLand the latter gave wisdom to Sabbatai. He said: 'Our master tell us
why Sabbatai is the planet of destruction ... .' He told him: Despite the fact that
Sabbatai is the power of destruction, by the [dint of the] Shemittot, it possesses
the power of Hokhmah, and the reason it is appointed over destruction is that it is
not concerned with any issue of the corporeal issues and this is the reason that it
destroys them and does not mind them neither their adornments, but is concerned
with the separated intelligences, that are the sefirot, [and the comprehensions of
the heptades) and the comprehension of God, blessed be He, ... and it is appointed
over the Jews and this is the reason they are in trouble in this world .... And be-
cause it is appointed on the weight, it designates darkness and on everything that
is black and on the black bile46 ... and the planet of Sabbatai is appointed on them
and because it is appointed over the perpetuation [of things) it, when it will ar-
rive to the ascent, it will not decline forever as it is said that 'the spirit of God
dwells upon him, the spirit of Hokhmah and ofBinah.'47 See and understand that
this is the secret of 'Meshiyah YHWH. ,48

Seier ha-Peli'yah, from which the student of Nathan of Gaza has quoted, is
attributed to a second-century Tannaitic figure, a revered mystic named R.
Nehuniah ben ha-Qanah, who is described as engaging in various mystical dia-
logues with Metatron, the highest of the angels. Both the occurrence of the
name of this mystic and the fact that this book is conceived of as being revealed
from above, were bound to add to the authority of the discussion of Sabbatai-
Saturn. Actually this is a late-fourteenth-century Byzantine Kabbalistic book,
which informed Sabbatai Tzevi's studies of Kabbalah.

8. Apocalypticism and Magic

The biblical scenario of the exodus from Egypt is replete with miracles, and

46 Namely melancholy.
47 Isaiah 11 :2.
48 Commentary on Seier Yetzirah (Jerusalem, 1961), fols. 51b-52a; Seier ha-Peli'yah, part I,
fol. 57ac, quoted according to the version found in the Epistle of R. Abraham Peretz, named
"Magen Abraham" printed in Gershom Scholem: Researches in Sabbateanism, ed., Yehuda
Liebes (Tel Aviv: 'Am 'Oved, 1991), pp. 175-76 (Hebrew), which slightly differs from the origi-
nal in Seier ha-Peliy'ah. For more on this issue see M. Idel, "Saturn and Sabbatai Tzevi: A New
Approach to Sabbateanism," in P. Schaefer and M. C. Cohen, eds., Toward the Millennium
(Leiden: Brill, 1998), pp. 185-199.

Moses, one of the major prototypes for the figures of the Messiah, was con-
ceived as a miracle-doer. In general, this may be part of a larger picture of Mo-
ses as magician. 49 The extraordinary powers of the Messiah, especially Messiah
ben David, recur in the early medieval apocalyptic writings collected by Even
Shemuel. Major upheavals need powerful agents. Even a figure like Abraham
Abulafia, whose system does not allow a very high role to magic, succumbs to a
magical understanding of the death of the Pope, whom he wanted to meet in
Rome in 1280:

His enemy died in Rome

In his rebellion, by the power of the Name
lEI Hay ve-Qayam because
The Tetragrammaton fought him, by Land and Sea.
Against YHWH and against His Messiah
This will be a sign and a proof
And a faithful testimony
Because we have been victorious, by the name BYT50 ?

I believe that this poem was formulated as part of a sharp controversy be-
tween Abulafia and R. Shlomo ibn Adret, focused upon the former's prophetic
and messianic claims. While earlier in 1280, when he describes the death of the
Pope, Abulafia does not mention any involvement of divine names, neither the
inimical role of the Pope, when the controversy exploded, he resorted to a mag-
ical vision of that death. In an untitled treatise of Abulafia's we learn about the
tools of the Messiah:

The powers of the Special Name52 are the tools of Messiah53 in order to change
the natures by their means, because itsS4 powers are above Man, Lion, Ox, and
Eagle. And know that leHeYeH is the Special Name and this is why it comprises
all the living beasts. ss

Again, the name leheyeh, which has been revealed to Moses, plays a role in
the messianic scenario, apparently as part of the Exodus pattern.
Much more evident is the nexus between apocalypticism and magic in the
Kabbalistic literary corpus called Seier ha-Meshiv. The binding of the chiefs of
the demonic powers, Sammael and Amon of No, is conceived to be part of the

49 John G. Gager, "Moses the Magician: Hero of an Ancient Counter-Culture?" Helios, 2112
(1994), pp. 179-88.
50 BYT in gematria is 21, the gematria of the divine name leHeYeH.
51 Sefer ha-'Ot, p. 67.
52 ha-Shem ha-Meyuhad, in gematria 418.
53 Kelei Mashiah = 418.
54 The name's.
55 Ms. Firenze-Laurentiana, lI.48, fo1. 22b.

preparation of the advent of the Messiah. The legend about such an enterprise is
connected to the names of R. Joseph della Reina and Shlomo Molkho and it had
a lasting impact on Jewish apocalypticism. 56
From an enigmatic missive written in ~ramaic by the Sabbatean prophet Na-
than of Gaza, we may learn that his visit to Rome in 1668 and his circumambu-
lation of the Holy See was conceived in terms of a battle, which should be read
on two levels. On the plain level, I propose to read some of Nathan's imagery as
pointing to the fall of Jericho. At the very beginning of the epistle, Nathan men-
tions a "precious shofar"; and the shofar was the main tool that brought down
the walls of Jericho. He mentions additionally a variety of arms used in his bat-
tle: spear, sword, bow, and stones. 57 However, this war is to be understood as
waged against the powers of evil, as we learn explicitly from the epistle. Nathan
describes himself as descending to, actually as falling into, the realm of evil and
operating there by the virtue of a light that he is able to draw down upon him-
self. He mentions that he fights by the power of the "Menorah of Sabbath,"
which is a metaphor for Sabbatai Tzevi, his Messiah, and this Lamp is visible
during the night58 at the distance of a mile. Apparently, this is the source from
which he "dr[ e]w down the light upon us, from that seal and we had gone
around59 the land.,,60 I interpret "metal/eli" as "going around," one of the pos-
sible philological interpretations of this verb, which is corroborated by the
phrase "saviv saviv." "Lamp," "seal," and "the powers of evil" point quite ex-
plicitly to a magical confrontation, whose purpose is the destruction of evil as
part of the messianic mission.

9. Kabbalistic Interiorizations of Apocalypticism

As important as apocalypticism was in many Jewish circles, there were also

important cases when apocalypticism was marginalized. This is the case in
some rabbinic circles in late antiquity, and in several philosophical versions of

S6 Cf. Gershom Scholem, "On the Story of R. Joseph della Reina," Hokhma Bina veDaat,
Studies in Jewish Religious and Intellectual History Presented to Alexander Altmann on the
Occasion of his 70th Birthday, ed. Siegfried Stein and Raphael Loewe (University, Alabama:
University of Alabama Press, 1979), pp. 100-8 (Hebrew); Joseph Dan, "The Story of Joseph della
Reina," Sefunot, Vol. 6 (Jerusalem: Makhon Ben Tzvi, 1962), pp. 311-26 (Hebrew); Michal Oron,
"The Expectation of Redemption, History and Literature in the Story of R. Joseph della Reina,"
Between History and Literature (Tel Aviv, 1983), pp. 79-80 (Hebrew); M. Idel, "Inquiries," pp.
226-32, 244-50; Idel, "Shlomo Molkho as Magician," Sefunot, Vol. 18 (1985), pp. 194-98
57 Cf. Ya'aqov Sasportas, Tzitzat Novel Tzevi, ed. Z. Schwartz and I. Tishby (Jerusalem: Mos-
sad Bialik, 1954), p. 268 (Hebrew).
58 Or, according to another version, Levant.
59 me'alelei.
60 Ibid., p. 268.

messianism, more prominently in Maimonides' thought. 61 The psychological

system that Maimonides introduced into Judaism triggered a series of spiritual
understandings of the term Messiah, resurrection, and the end of time among his
disciples and followers in the period between the thirteenth and fifteenth centu-
ries. 62 Following Maimonides' suspicion toward the possibility of radical
changes in external nature, Abraham Abulafia introduced an interesting herme-
neutical move toward apocalyptic themes: he interpreted external events as
allegories for internal transformations. Notwithstanding the apocalyptic under-
standings of the imminent end we have seen above in his apocalypse, we find
expressions of a spiritual vision of the end, which assumes not only its historical
imminence, but also its immanence within the spiritual experience. So, for
example, we read:

Your, lovers of the day that validates the revivification, Open the eye of your
heart and see the time of its advent, because the time of the end has already
come, so that you shall awake, and cause the awakening of the sleepers of the
dust, from the sleep of their darkness and the slumber oftheir ignorance. 63

Here the apocalyptic expression stemming from the Book of Daniel "'Et
qetz," has been interpreted in a rather skillful manner: the end, qetz, is used
twice in one passage: once as pointing to a point in time, and then in order to
point to an emergence of a spiritual awakeness, extracted from the false simi-
larity between qetz and lehaqitz. The end is not only the historical termination
of a period in time, which, interestingly enough, is not defined here as exile, but
as the end of the sleep of ignorance. 64 Similarly, we read later that Abulafia is
thanking God for sending a messenger to him: "In order to vivify my soul, and
awake my spirit, and cause the awakening of my heart from the sleep of
death.,,65 Again, in another similar context we learn that: "The Holy God is
awaking the hearts of the sleepers and revives the dead by His giving a new

61 Cf. Yoel L. Kraemer, "On Maimonides' Messianic Posture," in 1. Twersky, ed., Studies in
Medieval Jewish History and Literature, Vol. II (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,
1984), pp. 109-42; Aviezer Ravitzky, "'To the Utmost of Human Capacity': Maimonides on the
Days of the Messiah" in loel L. Kraemer, ed., Perspectives on Maimonides: Philosophical and
Historical Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 221-56; Amos Funkenstein,
"Maimonides: Political Theory and Realistic Messianism," in his Perceptions oj Jewish History
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 131-54; Lenn E. Goodman, On Justice: An
Essay in Jewish Philosophy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 169-74, 177-83;
David Hartman, The Living Covenant: the Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism (New York:
Free Press, 1985), pp. 249-54, 288-91; Hartman, "Maimonides' Approach to Messianism and its
Contemporary Implications," Da 'at, 2-3 (1978/9), pp. 5-33.
62 Cf. Dov Schwartz, Messianism in Medieval Jewish Thought (Ramat Gan: Bar Han Univer-
sity, 1997), esp. pp. 191-211 (Hebrew).
63 SeJer ha-'Ot, p. 79.
64 This is a topos in ancient and medieval mystical literature.
65 SeJer ha-'Ot, p. 83.

spirit in them, so that they will be resurrected. And whoever will not awake
from his sleep and who will not be awakened by his [higher] soul,66 he will
sleep an eternal sleep and will not come to life.,,67
Redemption is, therefore, not only the arrival of the time of the end, but also,
and perhaps even more eminently, the arousal of the soul of man to a spiritual
life. This mystical arousal is described here as conditioned by the advent of the
end of time, but it affects the spirit rather than the body of man. In a rather cal-
culated manner, Abulafia resorts to expressions related to the resurrection of the
dead, namely the resurrection of the bodies, which is interpreted allegorically as
pointing to the arousal of the sou1. 68 In an anonymous Kabbalistic writing, auth-
ored either by Abulafia or by one of his disciples, it is said that: "This points on
the knowledge of the end and the end of knowledge namely on the telos of man,
because he is created in the image of God.,,69 The knowledge of the end, namely
of the human telos is also the highest type of knowledge, and both are eschato-
logical. What is important from our point of view is the resort to the term qetz,
end, which plays such a central role in apocalyptic speCUlations. Moreover, in
his Commentary on Genesis, the ecstatic Kabbalist writes:

God, blessed be He, said to Jacob in this dream "Behold, I am with you and I
shall protect you in whatever way you shall go,,70 , and then it is immediately
written: "And Jacob has awakened from his sleep,,71 and it is said "and he was
afraid and he said: How dreadful"n all this is a hint at the exile of Israel and at
the redemption at the end. 73

The resort to the verse that mentions the verb "to awake" and the mention of
"the redemption at the end" may reflect a juxtaposition between the two, name-
ly the attempt to interpret the awakening as meaning the end. It should be men-
tioned that also other eschatological terms, e.g. Mashiah, teshu 'ah, which oc-
curred in another quotation,74 and ge'u/ah, have been interpreted by Abulafia as
pointing to spiritual state: "Indeed in [the year of] five thousand and fifty75
which is the end of the world and the time of the end, the paths of the revolu-
tions will be revealed and will be changed.,,76

ve-lo' taqitzehu nishmato.

Seier ha-'Ot, p. 79.
68 This point is also evident on ibid., p. 79.
69 Ms. Firenze-Laurentiana, lIA8, fo!' 4b.
70 Genesis, 27: 15.
71 Ibid., 16.
72 Ibid., 17.
73 Seier Mafteah ha-Hokhmah, Ms. Panna de Rossi 141, fo!. 30a.
74 Cf. Seier ha-'Ot, p. 79. Cf. also ibid., p. 76.
75 According to the Jewish calendar this year is equivalent to 1290.
76 'Olzar 'Eden Ganuz, Ms. Oxford, 1580, fo!' 105b. This book was composed during late
1285 and early 1286 in Messina.

Abulafia's Kabbalah has been deeply involved in formulating his spiritual

interpretations of this topic. Moreover, his efforts to preach his eschatological
visions, either spiritualistic or apocalyptic, both to the Christians and to the
Jews, demonstrate a strong propagandistic tendency that was not matched by
earlier or later messianic figures. In fact, Abulafia is a fine example of a cate-
gory of prophets described by Neher as "christique," namely prophets who be-
lieve that they are contemporaries of the eschatology they are prophesying.77
However, while those figures, like Daniel, described as christique did not iden-
tify themselves with the Messianic figure par excellence, being more harbingers
of the imminent advent, Abulafia combined in one person the claims for both
prophecy and actual messianism.
Another similar move is found in one of the discussions of the cosmic Jubi-
lee by R. Isaac ben Shmuel of Acre, active in the late-13th and early-fourteenth
centuries. After quoting the astronomical vision of the Jubilee as occurring in
the fiftieth millennium and assuming the destruction of the world in macro-
chronic time, he writes

about the destruction of their passions related to the matters of the body alone,
because someone who destroys his passions while alive and the body is waste,
[he is] as if he has no body, and they are dead while alive but after their death
they are alive 78 .••• And everyone who believes in the Torah of Moses and in the
Prophets confesses that in the fiftieth millennium the world will return to chaos
as it was before the six days of creation, and this is the cancellation of the evil
impulse. 79

What was understood as a cosmic catastrophe, the destruction of the material

world in the seventh or the forty-nine thousandth year, turns out to be an inner
The analyses of the various versions of messianism may detect two major
developments related to these themes but also to Judaism in general. In addition
to the more historical and nationally-oriented forms of religion, as represented
in the Bible and rabbinic literature, some forms of Kabbalah offered a more
inward version, influenced by Greek philosophy on the one hand, and a more
cosmic version, influenced by astrological views on the other. By detecting the
ultimate flaw less in outward history and more in the various spiritual domains:

77 Andre Neher, Prophetes et propheties: L 'essence du prophetisme (Paris: Editions Payot &
Rivares, 1995), pp. 57-59.
7 For the various sources of this view found in Neoplatonism, in the Talmud, and in ecstatic
Kabbalah, see M. Idel, The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia, trans. Jonathan Chipman
(Albany, New York: SUNY Press, 1987), pp. 180-84; Michael Fishbane, The Kiss of God: Spir-
itual and Mystical Death in Judaism (Seattle: Washington University Press, 1995), pp. 20-23,
79 Sefer Me'irat 'Einayyim, pp. 240-41.

the psychological or the noetic process on the one hand, and the divine or the
demonic on the other, those realms became the main subject of discussion. It
should be emphasized, however, that when contemplated from a more modem,
sceptical point of view, the three realms may be conceived as more orderly or
controllable than the political realm, where the play of powers is hardly pre-
dictable, as is also the advent of the apocalyptic Messiah. Even the flaw in the
divine system is still understood as part of the possibilities inherent in a certain
system, and therefore can be repaired; there is a rationale, a certain inner logic
in the theosophical-theurgical Kabbalah that transcends the totally mythical dis-
course concerning Messiah and his deeds in the more popular apocalypses.
Most of the Kabbalists, unlike most of the apocalyptically oriented Jewish
thinkers, took as their point of reference not the national and religious catastro-
phe - the destruction of the temple - which is paramountly an historical event,
but rather the sin of Adam, a pre-historical, or meta-historical event, which took
place before the formation of a Jewish nation and kingdom. To a great extent,
the regular, ordinary life has acquired in this literature a new sense, which is
established in the awareness that the Jews, more especially the Kabbalists, may
and should perfect basic processes which shape reality in general,or human
nature in particular, not only those which affect the Jews. This is more evident
in the ecstatic Kabbalah, where the study of philosophy and the practice of
mystical techniques are both available and recommended tools for generating
"messianic" experiences of the individuals. In this case, the flaw is projected
within the spiritual realm of the individual and thus becomes part of inner na-
ture, which can, in principle, according to Abulafia, be controlled.

10. Apocalypticism in Modern Scholarship

As seen in section 1. above, Gershom Scholem conceived apocalypticism as a

vital element within the framework of Judaism, but which at the same time
could reach subversive conclusions, because of the strong utopian aspects it
envisioned. There can be no doubt that one of his great merits is that put in
relief the importance of apocalyptic thought, previously marginalized in Jewish
scholarship, for the better understanding of both Jewish thought and history.
The historical approach that he initiated emphasized in particular the apocalyp-
tic mode of messianism and its translation into mass movements, to such an
extent that a cluster of different concepts, known under the general term of
"messianism," has been implicitly identified as apocalypticism in its entirety.
Though manifesting ways of thought and types of experience sometimes at odds
with apocalyptic trends, the more radical among the Jewish spiritualists would
nonetheless only rarely reject the apocalyptic mythologies in explicit terms;
rather, as seen above, they would attempt to interpret them spiritually or offer

an eschatological discourse in addition to the apocalyptic one. Thus, a continu-

ity between the various phases of Jewish literature regarding messianism could
be demonstrated when restricting the scholarly analysis mostly to apocalyptic
elements. Consequently, the domineering scholarly surveys found a rather
monolithic strand of apocalypticism running over millennia. The precise forms
of the conduit of the apocalyptic elements throughout the centuries, either writ-
ten or oral, still demand detailed inquiry. In such a framework, however, one of
the medieval forms of Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, was accorded by Scholem a
significant role for only two centuries, between the mid-sixteenth and mid-
eighteenth centuries, since, allegedly, only in this period were the apocalyptic
elements combined with the Kabbalistic ones. When dealing with the Kabbalis-
tic treatment of apocalyptic issues after the expulsion from Spain, Scholem
claims that during the first generation of expellees, "the teachings of the early
Kabbalah continued without basic change;80 the important thing now was
propaganda, the dissemination of the apocalyptic message. ,,81
In other words, apocalypticism was conceived of as being continuously in-
fluential, but Kabbalistic literature was - according to this view - a conduit of
this approach for only a short period. The question of the precise conduits for
the lasting influence of apocalyptic messianism was not addressed in an elabo-
rate manner by Scholem. It is not problematic, however, to accept the view that
in popular sources, messianic ideas, in a variety of apocalyptic variations, were
propagated in a more active form, or at least were dormant in several wide-
spread types of texts.
As an alternative to the above approach, which reduces the role of Kabbalah,
especially the early one, in the overall economy of Jewish apocalypticism and
messianism, I propose to attribute to some of the Kabbalistic schools a greater
concern with apocalyptic themes, beliefs, and experiences, without however
restricting them to the apocalyptic type of messianism alone. So, for example,
Abraham Abulafia's treatment of apocalypticism demonstrates, as pointed out
above, that his Kabbalah was deeply involved in formulating his spiritual inter-
pretations of this topic. Moreover, his efforts to preach his eschatological vi-
sion, whether spiritualistic or not, to the Christians, and even more to the Jews,
demonstrate a strong propagandistic tendency that was not matched by earlier or
most of the later messianic figures. Moreover, the presence of apocalyptic
themes in the Book of the Zohar suffices to elicit a more continuous type of
relationship between the Kabbalah, in all its major forms, and apocalypticism.

80 Namely without any absorption of messianic or apocalyptic elements, that were described
earlier by Scholem as absent in early Kabbalah.
81 G. Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism, p. 41. Cf. also his, Sabbatai Sevi. the Mystical
Messiah, trans. R. J. Z. Werblowsky (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), pp. 18-20; and
J. Bloch, On the Apocalyptic in Judaism, p. 82.

Scholem was interested mostly in one specific form of Jewish messianism:

the apocalyptic mode:

Jewish Messianism - he says - in its origins and by its nature - this cannot be
sufficiently emphasized - is a theory of catastrophe. This theory stresses the rev-
olutionary, cataclysmic element in the transition from every historical present to
the Messianic future .... The elements of the catastrophic and the vision of the
doom are present in peculiar fashion in the Messianic vision.,,82

His immense contribution to the study of Jewish mysticism notwithstanding,

it is obvious that it was apocalyptic ism that captured Scholem's imagination
perhaps more than mystical concepts permeating Jewish mystical literatures.
This is the reason he characterized R. Abraham ben Eliezer ha-Ievi, in a sen-
tence quoted above, as being "typical" for "a generation of Kabbalists," a gener-
alization for which I hardly see any justification.
Fascinated by the antinomian potentialities inherent in the extreme forms of
mysticism, he regarded the more mystical and less radical interpretations of
messianism as forms of "neutralizations" of this phenomenon, even as its "liqui-
dation,,,83 Though he would never expressly deny the messianic beliefs of any
of the Jewish philosophers or mystics, Scholem would nevertheless conceive
the more individualistic forms of Jewish eschatology as very significantly devi-
ating from the vital version of apocalyptic messianism. He was more attracted
to the dramatic, revolutionary, and public manifestations of messianism than to
its private, inner, or spiritual aspects. Indeed, Scholem was adequately de-
scribed as having "an obsession with the imagery of catastrophe.,,84
Thus, by returning the apocalyptic components to the entire range of mes-
sianic phenomena, after their neglect by some earlier scholars, Scholem actually
identified, to a great extent, and fused the two concepts. His project was inten-
ded, as he had explicitly indicated, against the marginalization of apocalypti-
cism in Jewish scholarship during the previous century, which preferred less
dramatic versions of Judaism. This less apocalyptic reading of messianism is
still evident in the way Joseph Sarachek has treated the doctrine of the Messiah,
with a strong emphasis upon the philosophical literature, and relegating the
Kabbalistic literature to the periphery and totally ignoring Messiahs such as
Abraham Abulafia and Shlomo Molkho, or major discussions of the Messiah in

82 G. Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism, pp. 7-8. For a critique of Scholem's emphasis
of the catastrophic in rabbinic literature, see Ephraim E. Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and
Beliefs (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1979), p. 990, note 3.
83 G. Scholem, The Messianic Idea in Judaism, p. 217.
84 Cf. Harold Bloom, "Scholem: Unhistorical or Jewish Gnosticism," in Gershom Scholem,
ed., Bloom (New York: Chelsea House Publisher, 1987), p. 217. Cf. also David Biale, Gershom
Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979),
pp. 154, 174.

the Book of the Zohar. 85

Scholem's attempt to offer a much more dramatic and mythical version of
the messianic idea in Judaism, important as it was against an apologetic ap-
proach in earlier scholarship, took him too far, which means, in my opinion, to
an overemphasis on the centrality of one of the extant versions of messianism,
apocalypticism understood as, implicitly, the solely authentic one, while other
versions were neglected or relegated to the state of derivative phenomena. His
efforts to escape the essentialist approach of some of his predecessors in matter
of definition of Judaism had provoked, in fact, the establishment of another
strong form of essentialism, which gravitates around what Scholem would call
the "radical" elements implicit in the apocalyptic idea. What concerns me here
is his emphasis upon the "oneness" of the messianic idea. So, for example,
Scholem wrote, "If I have demonstrated something [at all], in my writings I
have shown that ancient apocalypse has accepted some forms and replaced
them, but it is one under its metamorphoses after the destruction of the second
temple, and one is it in its first metamorphoses beforehand.,,86
It should be pointed out, however, that prominent figures in Israeli cultural
life - such as Zalman Rubashov (who later adopted the name Shazar), a former
minister of education and the third President of the State of Israel; or Ben-Zion
Dinaburg (later Dinur), one of the ministers of education - were scholars in
Jewish studies who contributed to the research of Jewish messianism. The lead-
ing, or at least one of the most influential poets active during the second third of
the twentieth century, Uri Zvi Greenberg, cultivated strong apocalyptic lean-
ings, and early in his career even published poems signed by the pseudonym
Molkho, the messianic figure of the sixteenth century.
Nevertheless, another important thinker active for many years in Jerusalem,
Martin Buber, disliked apocalypticism. The opposition between the radical
apocalyptic event and more mundane and gradual salvation is a major theme in
his novel For the Sake of Heaven, in which some early-nineteenth-century Ha-
sidic masters confront themselves in a dramatic manner, when attempting to de-
fine the nature of messianism. In this novel there is a confrontation between two
Hasidic figures: the Holy Yehudi, namely R. Yitzhaq Ya'aqov ofPzysca, a mid-
eighteenth-century Hasidic master plays the role of the more patient waiter and

85 Joseph Sarachek, The Doctrine of the Messiah in Medieval Jewish Literature, 2nd Ed.
(New York: Hermon Press, 1968).
86 G. Scholem, 'Od Davar, p. 240. Cf. also his concluding remarks in The Messianic Idea in
Jewish Thought, pp. 254-56 (Hebrew); 1. Bloch, On the Apocalyptic In Judaism, p. 82. The im-
portance of messianism for Scholem and for his intellectual ambiance has been emphasized re-
cently. Cf. M. Idel, Messianic Mystics, pp. 30-37,281-83; Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin, "Messianism
and Zionism in the Writings of Rabbi Yizthaq ha-Kohen Kook and Gershom Scholem," in Chris-
toph Mithing, ed., PoUtik und Religion im Judemtum (Tiibingen: Niemeyer, 1999), pp. 223-38. In
more general terms see his The National Narration of Exile: Zionist Historiography and Medieval
Jewry (Ph.D. Thesis, Tel Aviv, 1996) (Hebrew).

gradual preparator of the coming of the Messiah, while his master, R. Yitzhaq
Ya'aqov, the seer of Lublin, embodies the more apocalyptic, and what Buber
called magical view about messianic apocalypticism. Also as a thinker, Buber
obviously preferred the former approach and from this point of view his thought
inscribes itself in the dissemination of messianic aspirations that develop gradu-
ally, among many in lieu of its concentration solely in the hands of the mythical
one, an attitude that attracted a critical observation addressed to Christian mes-
In the last generation, apocalyptic scenarios emerged in some right-wing
groups in Israel, related to studies of Kabbalah, where the assumption was that
the destruction of the mosques on the Temple of the Mount may usher in an
eschatological war that will be decided by divine intervention. This was part of
underground organizations, which intended to implement their beliefs. It seems,
therefore, that it is only recently that apocalypticism, Kabbalah, and politics
were strongly intertwined. 8?

11. Concluding Remarks

The discussions above invite some broader reflections regarding the dynamics
of Jewish apocalypticism. The major question to be raised is: what are the basic
catalysts that might and may trigger the activation of the sometimes dormant
apocalyptic elements in Judaism? Are they basically an antidote to one, unique,
negative event, connected to the fate of the people ofIsrael, drastic as it may be,
which suffices to kindle the messianic hopes and transform them into a consum-
ing fire? If this is the manner in which the question is asked, the answer is, in
my opinion, that the reaction of the Jews to the unprecedented massacres of the
Crusaders in 1096 in France and Germany, or to the pogroms in Spain in 1391,
was not a messianic response, even less an apocalyptic one. Much more excited,
eschatologically speaking, were the Jews in their expectations following the fall
of Byzantine Constantinopole in the hands of the Turks in 1453. Jews recurrent-
ly mentioned this year as fraught with messianic significance. After the expul-
sion from Spain, the messianic expectations ofR. Abraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi,
a Kabbalist profoundly interested in eschatology more than any other among the
Kabbalists of his generation, envisioned the defeats of the Christians by the
Turks in the Mediterranean as a messianic sign, whereas the date of the expul-
sion is ignored as a meaningful step in the general economy of the eschatology
of this author. On the other hand, R. Hayyim Vital's description of eschatolog-

87 For more on modem messianism, see Aviezer Ravitzky, "The Messianism of Success in
Modem Judaism," in The Encyclopedia ofApocalypticism, Vol. III, pp. 204-29; and in more gen-
eral tenns in his Messianism. Zionism and Jewish Religious Radicalism, trans. Michael Swirsky
and Jonathan Chipman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

ical events in which he himself is involved are closer to the apocalyptic mode,
despite the fact that it is difficult to detect a specific historical upheaval con-
nected to Jewish history.
This apocalyptic attitude of a major elite figure creates a problem for Schol-
em's claim that the masses alone subscribed to the apocalyptic vision of re-
demption, while the spiritual elite was concerned with the Lurianic theory of
tiqqun. 88 Moreover, there is quite an apocalyptic description of the Messiah in
another Safedian Kabbalist, a former teacher of Vital: R. Moses Cordovero. In
the vein of a certain Talmudic view, he calls for repentance, and he has dreams
that include dramatic elements that do not betray any form ofprogression. 89
As seen above, there are indeed examples that the feeling of the imminent
end triggers revelations of secrets. Thus a nexus between revelation and the
concern with the end is quite obvious. This seems to be already the case in the
Book of Daniel. Indeed, given the relatively minor role of the Book of Daniel in
the late-ancient rabbinic tradition, apocalypticism did not become a main topic
in the subsequent rabbinic literature of the Middle Ages, though it played a
much more important role in messianic and mystical medieval literatures.
The major point that I would like to make here is that ancient Jewish messi-
anism, closely related to apocalypticism, maintained in the Middle Ages some
of its concerns with power, with transmission of energy, and with magic and
violent overcoming of the enemy. Nevertheless, some of those elements had
been indeed attenuated by the more systematic medieval forms of thought, but
have never been totally domesticated. Representative of divine will, rather than
of divine wisdom, most of the ancient concepts of the Messiah did not radically
succumb to philosophical and mystical systematizations of medieval thinkers. It
is this confrontation between new types of order that were accepted in the Mid-
dle Ages and the "disorder" or the impenetrable order, represented by the pre-
ponderance of the impenetrable divine will as embodied by the magical powers
of the Messiah, that characterizes the history of medieval Jewish messianism.
Last but not least, as suggested above, historical upheavals, like the invasion
of Eastern Europe and the Middle East by the Mongols, created apocalyptic ex-
pectations among Jews and in another manner, among Christians, as the Tripoli
prophecy testifies. Thus, Jewish apocalypticism should not be understood basic-
ally against the background of a lachrymose history, as a simple reaction to the
suffering of the Jews, but as part of much larger historical circumstances, in
which feelings, real or imaginary, that the Jews' enemies are gravely endan-
gered, elicited outbursts of apocalyptic imagination. Moreover, in periods rife
with apocalypticism among the majority cultures, also Jews as a minority might
have been impacted, as seems to be the case with the sixteenth-century Christ-

88 Cf. his Sabbatai Sevi: the Mystical Messiah, p. 52.

89 Cf. the text printed and analyzed by Bracha Sack, The Kabbalah of Rabbi Moshe Cor-
dovero (Beer Sheva: Ben Gurion University Press, 1995), pp. 232-33 (Hebrew).

ian and Jewish concerns with apocalypticism. It is Italy in this period that
hosted the most explicit messianic and apocalyptic speculations and activities. 90
It seems that from Italy, the messianic effervescence was one of the sources of
the Safedian interest in apocalypticism.
Though subscribing to the view that the redemptive events are still ahead,
Jewish sources produced only a few apocalyptic documents, unlike Christianity,
which assumed that the main redemptive act already took place in the past, but
produced a much more voluminous and exquisite apocalyptic literature. In com-
parison to other Jewish literary corpora, like the Halakhic, Kabbalistic, philo-
sophical, or poetic, the apocalyptic one is quantitatively marginal. This scarcity
of this literary genre has little to do with the history of suffering of the Jewish
communities, as it had to do with the scarcity of the upheavals of the majority
cultures, which could be understood as adumbrating the coming of the redemp-
tion of the Jews. The seventh century, which produced the apocalyptic genre in
Hebrew, and the thirteenth century, which produced the apocalyptic writings of
Abulafia and the Zohar, may hardly be included in the list of the most terrible
periods in Jewish history. However, upheavals like the 1098/99 pogroms in
Germany, and the expUlsions of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula at the end
of the fifteenth century did not generate parallel apocalyptic literatures. Though
the emergence of messianic, and sometimes apocalyptic writings can be de-
tected in the aftermath of the expulsion, as it is the case with R. Isaac Abravanel
or the anonymous author discovered by Isaiah Tishby,91 sixteenth-century Kab-
balists were much less inclined toward apocalypticism.

90 Cf. Harry Levin, The Myth of the Golden Age in the Renaissance (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1969); R. B. Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis: Apoca/ypticism in the Wake of the
Lutheran Reformation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), and his contribution to The
Encyclopedia of Apocaiypticism, Vol. II, pp. 143-84; Marjorie Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy
in the Late Middle Ages: A Study in Joachimism (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame
Press, 1993), pp. 429-52. For a detailed study of messianic speculations in sixteenth-century Italy,
see Yoram Jacobson, Along the Paths of Exile and Redemption: The Doctrine of Redemption of
Rabbi Mordecai Dato (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1996) (Hebrew).
91 Messianism in the Time of the Expulsion from Spain and Portugal (Jerusalem: Merkaz
Zalman Shazar, 1985) (Hebrew).

N. S. S. RAMAN: Reincarnation and Personal Immortality:
The Circle and the End of History in
KOGAKU ARIFUKU: The Immortality of the Soul and the
Problem of Life and Death in Buddhism
MOSHE IDEL: On Apocalypticism in Judaism


1. Is it possible, according to the Buddhist faith, for human beings to save them-
selves and, if so, how many accomplish this?

People can save themselves only on their own, by their own power. We can, to
be sure, presuppose a God; but what is this God and where does he live? If we
regard him as a power, where does this power originate? Salvation in the sense
of nirvana exists only in the midst of life and death. Buddha or God exists only
in our power. In Buddhism, one must hold two perspectives in view. Becoming
a Buddha is one of them. This is the final objective, the ideal, towards which
one strives. The other is that the human being is a finite, imperfect being; there-
fore he must work hard to attain this objective. One can at every moment of his
actions experience nirvana, contentedness, and still remain a finite being.
There is no single Buddhist doctrine. In many of the Buddha's texts the non-
existence of the soul is maintained; but other texts assume different rebirths of
the Buddha, and thus a continued existence of the soul. Dogen's Zen Buddhist
theory assumes as its starting point that the soul dies with the body; all other
Indian schools, on the contrary, believe in the transmigration of the soul. People
want to know what will happen to them after death. In popular Hinduism there

P. Koslowsld (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 75-79.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

are ceremonies in which one calls the soul of a dead person back to life through
a medium. Many Hindus believe in this. (RAMAN)
In a certain sense all of our speakers are correct; but in what sense? RAMAN
brings the half-Kantian, half-Hindu theory of John Hick into play, by assuming
that all cultures in some way participate in an unknown total truth. All religions,
cultures, and philosophies asymptotically approach something that one can call
reality. Each culture experiences this reality differently. By virtue of their fan-
tasy, Buddhists believe that their form of salvation is salvation simpliciter. The
same is true of other religions. Two vectors stimulate people's fantasy. The first
gives them the impression of fullness and lets them imagine a world of abun-
dance, which they can attain subjectively. Whether they can also do so objec-
tively remains an open question. The other vector is that of scepticism. For the
sceptic, reality remains outside our grasp. Thus, each of us creates for himself in
some way a particular reality and thus opens for himself the possibility of striv-
ing for this as a kind of perfection. For many people, the idea of God facilitates
the feeling of perfection; for others - such as Buddhists - precisely the idea of
the non-existence of God communicates the feeling of salvation. (IDEL)
Christianity's concern was to maintain, in contrast to Greek antiquity and
Judaism, a strong concept of salvation for itself, namely the hope in bodily
resurrection after death. Is that only an idea specific to Christianity, which has
nothing to do with the other religions, or does this idea of bodily resurrection
also exist in other religions, for instance in Buddhism that is not influenced by
Dogen's theory? (KOSLOWSKI)
Buddhism cannot believe in a bodily resurrection; it can say nothing about it.
Dogen, to be sure, introduces the idea of karma in three times, but it is question-
able whether he means by it a resurrection of the physical body. This idea, like
all ideas of resurrection, rebirth, apocalypse, karma, etc., is only a myth, which
was fabricated for moral reasons, so that people would act rightly in the present.
We can say nothing about a future life in the hereafter. We only know that our
actions have causes, as well as effects that bind us. Therefore, according to Zen
Buddhism, we should concentrate everything we do on the present moment. The
idea of transmigration does not playa role here. It cannot prove it. (ARIFUKU)

2. How do the different religions understand salvation? Does eternity exists

within time or is it timeless? How especially does Christianity understand eter-

In Christianity there are two ways of experiencing God, which are related to
different ways of experiencing time. God meets us in time as a personal being
amongst other beings. In addition, there is the mystical experience of God as the

One that exists outside space and time and is One and All (cf. Meister Eckhart).
Hinduism has developed different understandings of the nature of salvation
or self-realization (rnok$a or nirvana), depending upon the theological school.
In many forms of Vaishnavism, in which the element of theism predominates,
rnok$a is seen as the perfect identification of the soul with God. In other cases,
one characterizes the relationship between God and the soul with the image of
lord and servant. According to this view, the soul can never become God. The
question of creation does not playa role here. God creates the world and souls.
They migrate from body to body, without remembering their earlier lives, since
memory takes place only within a body. Many Indian philosophers consider the
soul to be atomistic, others regard it as a spirit. Buddhism includes sects that be-
lieve in the complete destruction of the soul at death, as well as others that deny
this and advocate the idea of the transmigration of the soul. (RAMAN)
Buddhism, according to Dogen, has two perspectives of time. The first as-
sumes the absolute separation of before and after as its starting point. This per-
spective sees time as an eternal now, a simultaneity with everyone who is holy
or inspired (all Buddhas) and permits free action at every moment. The other
perspective is that of the causal time continuum. We live in history and have
historical relationships. But this perspective restricts our freedom; therefore we
need both. (ARIFUKU)
Since time is created by God, according to the Christian understanding, God
can also eliminate it. Therefore, according to Christianity, "eternity" cannot
mean eternal duration in time. But there are actually two distinct conceptions of
salvation in Christianity. There is the more spiritual-mystical conception, which
is closer to the Asian religions. In it the finiteness of the soul ceases with the
entry in God into the infinite, the individual into the universal. The other con-
ception, advocated by the churches, denies such a mingling of Creator and crea-
tion and, consequently, emphasizes that human corporality and individuality
remains preserved with salvation. Therefore, it is closer to Islam and Judaism.

3. What roles does the idea of bodily resurrection play in Judaism and Islam?

Considered historically, we find nothing in the Hebrew Bible by way of bodily

resurrection. This idea came later and influenced above all the rabbinic litera-
ture, but was never undisputed. Many Jews understand bodily resurrection sym-
bolically as an image of spiritual resurrection. The possibility bodily resurrec-
tion can be understood both statically (by the assumption of infinite time) and
medically (by artificial conservation of human life). That has, of course, nothing
to do with religion. Religion brought this idea of resurrection into play in order

to improve life in this world. The promise of a better future has a moralizing
function. (IDEL)
The isomorphic conception of the uniformity of the human body and the
divine body is extremely important in biblical Judaism. It influenced the West-
ern biblical-Christian tradition and was developed in the rabbinic literature.
Besides that, however, there was also the dualistic idea, coming from Greek
philosophy, of the separation of the body, which was considered to be of lesser
value, from the soul or intellect, which was regarded as more valuable. From
that a particular spirituality, which also influenced Christianity and Islam, was
developed. Perfection meant the liberation of the spirit in identification or unity
with the divine spirit. Both ideas of salvation, the monistic and the dualistic, ex-
ist within Judaism, and it has also experienced the collision of the two. One can
understand this with the image of the pyramid in my paper (pp. 60-61 of this
volume) understood as a clash between the first elite (the established church)
and the second elite (the mystical-spiritual religious understanding). (I DEL)
Islam understands resurrection differently than Christianity does: we will not
be resurrected with our present bodies. Paradise already exists in this life. Life
in the hereafter is only the mirror of what we have done in this life. There are in
the Qur'an verses that can be interpreted in the sense of bodily resurrection, but
this interpretation is disputed. Many Muslims believe only in a spiritual resur-
rection. Sufis picture it as drops of water (human beings) that must disperse in
the ocean (God) in order to become one with him. Like Hinduism and Bud-
dhism, Islam also has diverse schools of religious thought; it is not a monolithic
complex. (comment from the audience)

4. Apocalypticism in Judaism

In response to a question from the audience, IDEL sketched the philosophical

background of apocalypticism once again: Apocalypticism is essentially a col-
lective experience, which follows forms of causality that break through regular
causality in order to introduce a higher form of causality according to apocalyp-
tic belief, for instance, that of the immediate presence of the divine, that of the
destruction of evil, that of a new form of knowledge, etc.
IDEL replied to a question about the apocalyptic understanding of time: In
many medieval texts, time in this world was considered to be short. In order to
intensify the experience of existence, "low" time had to be broken through for
the sake of "higher" time. Not the origin of apocalypticism itself, but its recep-
tion, took place under the influence of particular historical events.
IDEL commented on the distinction between messianic and non-messianic
forms of apocalypticism that apocalypticism is fundamentally concentrated on a
particular person. In rare cases, however, there arises a form of apocalypticism

whose theme is primarily that of a future destruction that does not involve a
divine or human protagonist. Instead, a potential already existing in reality is
realized from an inner order of reality.

5. Rebirth in Buddhism and Hinduism

We can say nothing about rebirth. This idea is a myth that should motivate us to
let the evil person within us die and the good person within us be resurrected in
every moment of our lives. (ARIFUKU)
Popular Hinduism believe in the transmigration of the soul from one body to
another, where the good deeds in the life of a person lead in the following life to
ascent to a (socially) higher rank, and bad deeds to descent to a lower rank.
Even a Brahman can descend to a lower cast. Considered philosophically, in the
sense of the Bhagavad-Gita for instance, one should nevertheless act disinter-
estedly, i.e. desire the good for its own sake and not in view of some future re-
ward. The ultimate goal of the human person is union with the deity. (RAMAN)

6. Materialism and Idealism in Buddhism

ARIFUKU replied to a question about Buddhism's intermediate position between

materialism and idealism and the contradictions arising from it: Zen Buddhism
has both idealistic and materialistic elements, but cannot be described as either
idealistic or materialistic (or nihilistic). When someone dies physically, not ev-
erything is destroyed. To be sure, this person will not be reborn; but something
of him remains, from which transformation, the new, then emerges. All ele-
ments of the old are needed for the origin of the new. Buddha is also present in
nature, in plants, bodies of water, the air, etc. This is the idealistic aspect of

Wolfbart Pannenberg

It is not easy to deny that there can be, in addition to backward steps, also for-
ward steps in the course of history. It is much less easy, however, to make plau-
sible the confidence that there could be, despite all set-backs, continual progress
in history. Even less self-evident is the hope in a future completion of history.
The position one takes in relation to such questions depends to a great extent
upon what one means by "history." If one says that God acts in history in the
Bible, then "history" is used in a different sense than in contemporary, secular
historical writing and its historical-critical research, or in the Marxist concep-
tion of the unrelenting progress of the human race in its history. Different
understandings of what "history" really is have, of course, consequences for
whether and how to speak about progress and about an end of history.

1. God's History

The Western understanding of history has been decisively influenced and

shaped by the Bible. Modernity's secularized consciousness of history has its
origin in the ancient Hebrew theology of history, which has been further devel-
oped in Christian doctrine. The idea of the history of the human race as an ir-
reversible course of events directed toward a future end originates from this
theology of history. For ancient Israel, it is God, of course, the God of Israel,
who directs the sequence of events irreversibly toward the future end. A modem
critic of this conception has maintained that the Old Testament has no word for
"history" at its disposal, so that the central meaning of this theme was first read
into the text by later interpreters (J. Barr). J But that is not correct. There is in
fact a Hebrew expression for "history." It is rna 'aseh Jahwe, that which God has
done, or qual rna 'aseh Jahwe, everything that God has done. Thus, in the Book
of Joshua it is said of the elders of the people that they knew "all the work that

I James Barr, Old and New in Interpretation: A Study of the Two Testaments (New York: Har-
per & Row, 1966), p. 69.

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 80-88.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Jahwe did for Israel" (Josh. 24,31). This means leading them out of Egypt, de-
livering them from the Egyptian pursuers and the dangers of wandering in the
desert, as well as finally enabling them to take the land of Palestine. But God's
action in history is not restricted to these events, which were so fundamental for
Israel. The prophet Isaiah expected the chosen people also to be able to recog-
nize God's action in their own day. Consequently, he reproached his contem-
poraries for "not regarding the deeds of the Lord, and not seeing the work of his
hands" (Isa. 5,12).
This biblical expression for "history," to be sure, does not mean precisely
what is usually denoted by "history" today. It does not mean primarily the ac-
tions of human persons, but the acts of God. But it does refer to the acts and ex-
periences of human persons, in so far as God's action comprehends the actions
of human persons and makes use of their actions for his purposes. That is al-
ready expressed in one of the earliest examples of ancient Hebrew historical
writing, in the account of the succession to the throne of David (2 Sam. 7-20,
I Kings 1-2). Its theme is how, through all kinds of turmoil, the promise of God
to David through the prophet Nathan that one of his sons would follow him as
the successor to his throne was finally fulfilled in the person of Solomon. In the
course of the events, the intervention of God becomes far less important. With
the birth of Solomon, it is only mentioned that God loves him (2 Sam. 12,24).
Later (2 Sam. 17,14) it says that with the rebellion of Absalom against David
the prudent counsel of a wise advisor was thwarted by God, so that Absalom did
not heed it, in order to clear the way for Solomon to become the successor to
David's throne. God thus acted in history by directing the human persons par-
ticipating in it and the connections between events. That is the basis of the
relationships among and the result of the events. The acts of the participating
human persons do indeed contribute to the content of the events, but do not
establish their relationships and do not decide their results.
Similarly, in the 8th century B.c., the prophet Isaiah portrayed the Assyrian
Empire as an instrument of the historical action of God, this time as the instru-
ment of his action of judging his people. A century later, the prophet Jeremiah
even called the Neobabylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, who pillaged and de-
stroyed Jerusalem, the "servant" into whose hand the God of Israel gave the
nations ruled by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27,6). The second Isaiah even named the
Persian Cyrus, who founded the new Persian Empire after the victory over Bab-
ylon, the Lord's "anointed," the Messiah (Isa. 45,1), a name given until then
only to the Jewish King. The history of the world empires is thus the field of the
historical action of God. Daniel also saw the rise and fall of the Hellenistic Em-
pires from this perspective. And the later Daniel interpretation extended this
way of looking at things completely logically to the origin and continuation of
the Roman Empire.
One result of creation faith and the conviction linked to it that the God of

Israel was the sole deity was that the idea of the history-constituting function of
divine action was thus universalized and, consequently, reality as a whole was
understood as history. This transfonnation of the understanding of reality de-
rives from the Hebrew understanding of God, because God described himself to
Moses as "I shall be [at each moment] who I shall be" (Ex. 3,14). From this
understanding of God arose the understanding of all reality as a sequence of
events brought about by God, and thus as history. Through God's promises and
through his choosing of the people of Israel, history received a direction toward
a future fulfillment, and in this sense it remains correct that the consciousness of
history, in the comprehensive sense of a universal history leading towards a
future completion, has its origin in the Old Testament. It was then transmitted to
Western civilization through the Christian theology of history.

2. The Completion of History

The idea of a future completion of history is closely tied to its conception as a

field of and a product of divine action. Its goal is also set by God's action, be-
cause God's action is tied to promises and to the choosing of persons. In the
Book of Daniel's visions of the sequence of empires according to God's plan,
the goal and completion of history are thus related to the establishment of the
Kingdom of God itself at the end of the series of world empires (Dan. 2,44-45;
7,13-14). Along the way to this end, there exists no inner-historical progress.
The character of the world empires appears, instead, to deteriorate in their se-
quential order. Humanity is first realized by the rule of God itself, so that the
last empire is symbolized by the fonn of a human being, instead of by an animal
fonn.2 That was in accordance with the earlier prophetic expectation that right
and justice - and consequently peace as well - would first be realized among
the nations, if all of them would make a pilgrimage to the Mount of Zion, in
order to let their legal disputes be settled by the God of Israel (Mic. 4,1-4; Isa.
For the Bible, in contrast to Immanuel Kant, eternal peace among human
persons, which is born out of agreement about right and justice, cannot exist
without God, but only as a fruit of the common reverence of the one God. Since
the 17th century, since the end of the post-refonnational religious wars, it has
been believed in Europe that social peace would be possible only with the ex-
clusion of religious differences and the religious theme in general, on the basis
of what is universally human. This belief still continues today, even though the
previous century has seen some of the most murderous wars of human history.

2 Klaus Koch, "Spatisraelitisches Geschichtsdenken am Beispiel des Buches Daniel," Histor-

ische ZeitschriJt, 193 (1961), pp. 1-32, p. 24.

According to the biblical tradition, in contrast, right and peace among persons
are to be expected only as the fruit of a common change of direction toward the
one God. Consequently, a completion of history is only to be expected from
God, from the coming of his kingdom. That also follows from the fact that God'
action is constitutive for the concept of history. A history shaped by human
action alone could hardly be entitled to the expectation of a completion of its
course, although modern ideologies have expected precisely that, the production
of a truly human society by human action. From the perspective of the biblical
theology of history, only God can bring about the completion of history, by the
coming of his kingdom.
The future of the rule of God and its imminence, which already places de-
mands on the conduct of human persons, was the theme of Jesus' Gospel, but
with the special feature that by his activity and among those who accept his
message the future of the rule of God already begins now. Jesus' disciples ac-
cordingly experienced his resurrection from the dead as the beginning of the
completion of history, whose conclusion was expected with the near return of
the resurrected one as the ruler of the last days. For the Christian, therefore, the
completion of history has already begun with the appearance of Jesus Christ,
but it has not yet reached its conclusion and public acknowledgment. In the
Epistle to the Ephesians, it is written that the divine plan of history, the "mys-
tery of his will" (Eph. 1,9), is revealed with Jesus Christ (3,3), that "all things in
heaven and on earth are gathered up in Christ" (1,10). God has ordered the
course of time toward its fulfillment in this way (ibid.). The goal of the gather-
ing together in Jesus Christ means that in him "the gentiles are co-heirs, mem-
bers, and sharers of the promise" (3,6). The Christian world mission is thus con-
ceived as the unfolding of the completion of the history that has already begun
in Jesus Christ. For the resurrected Christ, as Paul writes, is the second man, the
new man from heaven, in whose image everyone will be formed, just as since
their creation as human persons they have all borne the form of Adam, the first
man (1 Cor. 15,49). The course of history directed by God is thus, as Ignatius of
Antioch wrote to the Ephesians in the 2nd century, characterized as an oiko-
nomia eis ton kainon anthropon, as a plan that aims at the new man, who has
become reality in Jesus Christ (Jgn. Eph. 20,1). Irenaios of Lyon developed this
thought extensively in his theology of history. The idea of the "new man" as the
goal of history has remained effective in Christian and in secularized form up to
the modern era. In its archetypical form with Paul, it means the man blessed by
the resurrection of Jesus and by connection with him in the baptism of commu-
nion with God and his eternal life, in contrast to the life of the sinner, who has
separated himself from God and, therefore, from the source of his life itself, and
thus has in his life become subject to death.
The Christian understanding of the completion of history is thus to be found,
on one hand, in the Kingdom of God, in which God has come to his kingly rule

in the heart of human persons, and on the other hand, in the fact that the "new
man" makes evident a new form of human life. The two are closely connected,
because the new man is the man who is thoroughly determined by God, and
thus liberated to his own determination, and blessed with eternal life in com-
munion with God. There is also progress on the way to this goal, for example,
with the calling of Abraham and the promises given to him, with the choosing
of Israel and the formation of the covenant through Moses, with the promises of
a final salvation future through the prophets of the time of the exile, and with
the fulfillment of these promises in the appearance of Jesus Christ. There can be
progress even after the appearance of Christ, namely, progress in spreading the
faith in the revelation of God that has taken place in Jesus Christ, and progress
in understanding its content. Nevertheless, such progress does not lead beyond
what is contained in this event, but only deeper into it. If the completion of all
history has already begun in the Gospel and history of Jesus, then there can be
no substantive progress above and beyond it, but only in the universal realiza-
tion of the salvation of the communion with God and in God, which has already
begun in Jesus' Gospel and with his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus is
treated as the precursor of a prophecy leading beyond himself, then the distinc-
tive, eschatological claim of his appearance is not thereby recognized. There-
fore, already in the 2nd century, the Church rejected the prophecy of Montanus,
who understood himself as the incarnation of the spirit announced by Jesus him-
self. But the work of the Holy Spirit consists only in proclaiming and glorifying
Jesus and his relationship with the Father. It does not lead above and beyond the
revelation of God that has taken place in Jesus. Therefore, the Church had to
reject the claim of the prophecy of Montanus, and the same viewpoint also de-
termined later the relationship of Christianity to the prophecy of Mohammed.

3. The Resurrection of the Dead

The Christian understanding of the completion of history, which has already be-
gun with Jesus, includes, besides hope in the Kingdom of God, the salvation of
human persons, and indeed both the salvation of the human community through
right and peace and the salvation of the individual in the community with God
and with his eternal life. The salvation for humanity as a race is accorded not
only to a future generation, which experiences the coming of the Kingdom of
God, as was the case with the Marxist hope in the classless society of the future.
According to Christian hope, all individual persons who have ever lived have
the opportunity to share in the completion of history with the coming of the
Kingdom of God. That is made possible, because Christian hope connects the
expected future of the rule of God with the expectation of a universal resurrec-
tion of the dead. Without the resurrection of the dead, the coming Kingdom of

God could not be the salvation future of the entire human race, because humani-
ty has reality only in the diversity of its individuals. To be sure, the resurrection
of the dead does not also mean that each individual shares automatically and
equally in salvation, because not everything that belongs to the life of human
persons in their earthly existence can survive in the light of God's eternity. The
light of divine glory, which according to the expectation of the Apostle Paul is
transformed into sharing in God's eternal life (1 Cor. 15,50-52), will also bum
away everything in us that cannot survive in the presence of the eternal God.
That is the purifying judgment that Paul describes in 1 Cor. 3,13ff. as a fire that
will consume much in each individual case, but differently. The faithful com-
plies with this purifying fire, which can be understood as the other side of the
light of the divine glory, with confidence, because it will liberate him or her
from everything that cannot survive in the presence of God and separates us
from God.
In Hellenistic antiquity, Christian resurrection hope came up against the
Greek idea - going back primarily to Plato - of the immortality of the soul that
survives death by separating itself from the body of the dead person at the mo-
ment of death. The immortality of the soul in the Platonic sense is a form of life
after death different from that of the Christian resurrection hope. Resurrection
hope does not really mean a life after death, but a new life that is given to the
dead person by God. Nevertheless, since the 2nd century, the idea of an immor-
tal soul has been associated with resurrection hope by Christian theologians.
That idea was, of course, tied to the Platonic conception only with drastic revi-
sions. The immortal soul in Plato's sense is not a component of the individual
human being, whose life takes place between birth and death. It instead pre-
cedes the birth of the person, and its embodiment is only one among many such
incarnations. It was previously embodied in other bodies and will be embodied
after the death of the individual again in a new form. Plato thus taught a trans-
migration of the soul, and the soul that goes through many re-embodiments is
not the soul of just one individual person. The Christian Church Fathers rejected
this conception, along with the Platonic belief in the divinity of the soul. God
creates for each new human person his or her own soul at the time of their ori-
gin. According to Christian doctrine, the soul is, like the body to which it is
bound, a component of the human individual. With this understanding of the
soul, the Church Fathers followed Aristotle more than Plato. In contrast to Aris-
totle, however, they considered this individual soul to be separable from the
body, and thus immortal, when the person dies. This idea had a definite function
in Christian doctrine: The soul that continues to live after the death of the hu-
man person will bridge the gap between the death of the person and the future
resurrection of the dead. The continuing life of the soul guaranteed the identity
of the future resurrected persons with the persons now dead. In addition, the
soul was ascribed only a diminished existence between the death and the future

resurrection of the person; for both soul and body belong to the full reality of
the person, because God created the person with body and soul. For the Chris-
tian apologetics of the 2nd century, especially for Athenagoras, this affinity of
soul and body was the most important argument for the Christian hope in a
physical resurrection, because the salvation of the person, who is soul and body,
could not consist merely in the immortality of the soul. Only if a body is also
created for it will the entire person be restored to a new life.
The Christian Church Fathers were, of course, already aware of the great dif-
ficulties connected with such an idea, not to mention its realizability. The soul
will not receive a completely different body at the time of the resurrection of the
dead, but will be reunited with the physical existence that it possessed in this
earthly form of existence. "For this perishable body must put on imperishabili-
ty," Paul said, "and this mortal body must put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15,53).
But does the body of the dead person not decompose in the grave? And what
happens with bodies that are eaten by wild animals or are otherwise destroyed?
To answer this question, Origenes already took recourse to the Pauline compar-
ison of individual death to the seed that is buried in the earth in order to rise to
new life (1 Cor. 15,36), and he interpreted the soul of the human person as this
seed: The soul contains the program (the ins ita ratio) of the corporeal reality of
the body, which is put into the human person (princ. II, 10,3), so that the same
body can be restored according to this program. And Thomas Aquinas under-
stood the soul similarly as the essential form of its body (ScG II, 58). The body
can be produced again according to the blueprint lying in the soul, even if from
other material components. The physical identity of the person does not depend
on the identity of the material components. The components of our bodies are
constantly exchanged for similar elements even in this life, as Thomas pointed
out (ScG IV, 81). This argument is still plausible today, even if St. Thomas's
metaphysical theory of the soul is replaced by the idea of a genetic program, ac-
cording to which the human body forms and renews itself.
For Christian eschatological hope, the assumption of an immortal soul sep-
arated in death from its body served the function of making plausible the iden-
tity of the human person who exists physically at some particular time and the
person of the future who is resurrected from the dead to a new life. This func-
tion was also served by the idea of the program of the physical reality of the
human person contained in the soul. But the identity of the present embodied
existence of an individual with the future life form renewed by the resurrection
of the dead can be established in yet another way, independently of the assump-
tion of a soul that is separated from the body at death and continues to exist
without it. While the earthly, embodied life history of a human person is ended
for him and for those living with him by his death, it remains present to the eter-
nal God, who has created this person. In any event, only the Creator can give
this person, whose individual life remains present to him, a new existence of his

or her own, as Christian hope in the resurrection of the dead anticipates. The
God in whom Abraham believed, Paul says in Romans 4,17, is the God "who
brings the dead to life and calls into existence the things that do not exist." Both
belong together. The resurrection of the dead can be compared only to the act of
creation and can be expected only of the God who is the Creator of all things.
Christian future hope thus focuses completely on God and the communion of
the believer with him. The psalmist of the 73rd Psalm already expressed this
hope: "My body and mind may fail; but God is my rock and my portion forev-
er" (Ps. 73,26). The relationship with the eternal God guarantees to the believer
a future of life beyond death. Resurrection hope has merely fine-tuned this basic
idea. It is directed toward the belief that God will give the dead person his or
her own independent existence once again. This confidence is based on the con-
viction that the eternal God is the Creator of the human person. As the Creator,
he, who is from eternity to eternity the same, will stand by his creation will
without wavering, even in the face of death. Thus, creation faith and hope in the
resurrection of the dead to an abiding life in communion with the eternal God
belong together. The act of creation finds its completion in the act of the resur-
rection of the dead. It shows that God stands for all eternity by his intention to
give his creatures an independent existence that is different from himself. God
is a God of the living, not of the dead, Jesus countered to the Sadducees' lack of
belief in the resurrection of the dead (Mk. 12,27).
From the perspective of an eschatological completion of the creative action
of God, the hope of the individual in a life beyond death by the resurrection of
the dead and the humanity-hope in a completion of history and of human com-
munal life in the future of the Kingdom of God move even closer together: The
completion of the world, if God is its Creator, cannot be conceived without the
glory of God in it, and to this glory of God in his creation belongs also the over-
coming of death, which separates the creatures from the presence of God and
his life.
According to the Revelation to John, God will wipe away every tear, and
death will be no more (Rev. 21,4). That will be the answer to the theodicy ques-
tion, which so persistently rejects all merely theoretically answers. Only the
kingdom and glory of God in his creation will also realize the salvation of his
creatures, because they receive their lives from God and, therefore, only find
their salvation in communion with God.

4. The Uniqueness and Irreversibility of the Completion of History

Christian theology has insisted since its beginning that the completion of the
world in the Kingdom of God and the resurrection of the individual to a new life
in communion with the eternal God are unique and irreversible events, towards

which we are approaching. It has, therefore, rejected ancient ideas of periodic

repetition of the course of world history just as much as, regarding the life of
the individual, the idea of an innumerable series of re-embodiments in new
forms of physical life. Christian faith permits only one re-embodiment, the res-
urrection of the dead in the future of the Kingdom of God. In Book XII of The
City of God, Augustine presents most forcefully the arguments which forbid the
Christian to follow the idea of reincarnation, so popular in antiquity: Christ died
for our sins only one time. But after he arose from the dead, he dies no more,
and death will no longer have power over him. Accordingly, after our resurrec-
tion we also will always be with the Lord (De civ. Dei XII, 13, 2). How could
happiness (beatitudo) be able to exist, if it could not be certain of eternity? Or
how could the soul desire to return to the misery of this temporal life, after it
has once attained happiness? (XII, 13, 1) Thus something new will happen in
time, something very new, which will have no chronological end (Ibid.).
From the Christian understanding of redemption as unique, unrepeatable,
and irreversible follows the irreversibility of the process of history and its
course toward a final fulfillment, which is definitive and irreversible. To that
corresponds the conviction of the uniqueness of the individual life between birth
and death. Precisely because of its uniqueness, this life and the decisions that
are made in it have significance for all eternity. For the future beyond death, for
which Christians wait, does not contain a completely different life in place of
the present life, but its transformation and immortalization in the light of the
eternity of God. "This mortal body must put on immortality," Paul writes (1
Cor. 15,53). The emphatic emphasis of the eternity-significance of the unique,
individual life is characteristic of Christian faith, since Jesus has said that the
Father seeks each individual lost sheep of his flock with eternal love (Mt. 18,
12-14). The conviction of the eternal value of each individual life has found its
expression in the argument for physical resurrection as a condition of a comple-
tion of human life and of its yearning for redemption, as well as in the Christian
reconstruction of the Platonic idea of the immortality of the soul. Yet this em-
phasis on the individual person does not contain an individualism that makes
the individual completely independent of the human community. Instead, the
individual is and remains by love a member of the human community, which
will find its completion in the Kingdom of God. The affinity of these two as-
pects, the individual and the communal, is expressed in Christian eschatology
by the fact that resurrection is not expected for each individual for himself,
immediately after the death of the individual, but as one event concerning all
human persons in common at the end of the history of this world, as the univer-
sal resurrection of the dead at the completion of the Kingdom of God with the
Second Coming of the Messiah.

Translated from the German by David W. Lutz


Mahmoud Zakzouk

1. Introduction

The constantly repeated backward look at history and its interpretation from the
perspective of eternity - above all at the history of the prophets and the people
to whom they were sent - goes hand in hand in the Quran with a forward look at
the eschatological completion of history. For what happens in this world, the
Quran reminds us again and again, becomes really distinct and meaningful only
in the light of the next world, the promised eternal life. In this way, the thor-
ough connection of this world, the next world, and the Last Day and completion
of history is revealed in the faith piece by piece.

2. This World

This earthly life - considered rationally and religiously - is only apparently

based on purely material foundations. For, as the Quran says, its necessary sup-
port comes from heaven: "In the heaven is your provision, and that which you
are promised" (51,22).1 That tells us that what the human person receives in life,
and what the creation again and again renews, is basically the same as what was
originally created: the will of its Creator and his mercy as proclaimed in the
Quran, which promises salvation to the just person. These are statements of
faith, and the question remains how they can be verified or how they become
believ-able. In the end, however, only by faith. But this faith can be established
again and again through the many millennia of human history. It is a central
matter, not a peripheral one. To be sure, one can decide to accept or not to ac-
cept the faith. It is certain, however, that the many human cultures of our history

I Translator's note: All citations of the Qur'an are based on Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali
and Muhammad Muhsin Khan, trans., Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur/an in the
English Language: A Summarized Version of at-Tabari. al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir. with Com-
ments from Sahih al-Bukhari (Riyadh: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 1994), but have been corrected in
some cases by Mahmoud Zakzouk.

P. Koslowski (ed.). Progress. Apocalypse. and Completion of History and Life cifter Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions. 89-100.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

were built on religious faith and were able to develop and continue from that
Only when people awake in faith to their spiritual nature, religion teaches,
and when they from their heart (or also their reason) let themselves be led to the
seat of faith, are they also able to perceive life as the events of the actions of
God with the human race and this world as the place of testing human persons
in their responsible actions. In this way, they set out - led by the "Signs" of
God, which are depicted again and again in the Quran - on the way to their true
home in the next world. This is, as it is called at one point in the Quran, the
"home of peace" (10,25) - for God is peace.
God revealed himself to humans during all periods of history, the Quran
teaches, beginning with Adam, and offered them his forgiveness and his correct
guidance, but under the condition that they are freely accepted and earned. Es-
chatological concepts, such as the next world, the resurrection after death, the
last judgment, paradise, hell, and eternal life, are found in all great religions as
universal, symbolic references to transcendental realities and future visions,
which are affirmed and acknowledged freely in the faith as true, but which can
also be rejected or denied in unbelief. For human persons are free to believe,
and also free not to believe, whatever they wish, a fact emphasized again and
again in the Quran.
The difference between faith and knowledge is that in knowledge so-called
verifiable ideas are grasped, while in faith ideas are anticipated and there is al-
ways more reason to accept them the more one becomes involved with them.
The Quran teaches that the final truth about eschatological matters is fully clear
to the human understanding only after death: "And to Allah belongs the unseen
of the heavens and the earth" (16,77). Therefore, human persons let themselves
be led by faith, as they trust in God.
The seat of faith - and thus the locus of the person's turning towards God -
according to Islamic doctrine is the heart, the site of the origin of hope, but also
of fear. The longing of human persons for justice, their deep need for peace, as
well as the fear of forfeiting both of them by their own actions, both of these
basic feelings lead them, if they think about it, to faith and strengthen them even
It is, therefore, no accident that when eschatological prophesies are talked
about in the Quran, there is frequently also reference to two entirely different
categories of persons. One of them fears the Last Judgment; but the other - as
the Quran also expresses it (6,31) - denies the meeting with God (i.e. the Last
Day or Hour). These latter persons are liars, according to Quranic doctrine; they
lie to themselves (6,28 and elsewhere) and consequently bring about their own
destruction in the end.
In order to elucidate these and related eschatological doctrines of Islam more
closely, we will first discuss the doctrine of the next world in more detail and, in

connection to it, especially the doctrine of the resurrection of the human person
after death. On the basis of these explanations, we will then attempt to develop
an entrance into the Islamic doctrine of the Last Day and eternal life.

3. The Beyond

In a Hadith (a saying of the Prophet Muhammad) we read of this world and the
next world and their relevance to human actions: "Live in this world as if you
will live forever, and live for the next world as if you will die tomorrow" (see
also Sura 28,77). As human persons - seen by the Quran as God's governors on
earth - thus lovingly and responsibly, each in his or her sphere, devote them-
selves to the good of this world, as if they would live forever, they thereby si-
multaneously satisfy the demands of the next world, in which the promised
"home of peace" awaits them. Since he or she will perhaps die tomorrow, each
person must fulfill his or her duties every day with the greatest conscientious-
From this perspective, therefore, history is salvation history, the history of
God's action with human persons and their response to it in their actions: "For
them (the believers) will be the home of peace (Paradise) with their Lord. And
He will be their Waif (Helper and Protector) because of what they used to do"
(6,127). The just actions of the faithful will not only be rewarded in the next
world, but - and this is very important for the correct understanding of Islamic
eschatological doctrine - will already be rewarded by God's protection in this
life, because of their responsible actions. This is God's will. In this way, the
faithful, amidst the struggle against injustice and for peace in this world, hope
for the better world promised to them, in which they finally will be truly at
home. For they know: "Far better is the house in the Hereafter for those who are
A1Muttaqun (the pious or the just)" (6,32). This world appears to them only too
frequently, as the Quran expresses it, to be "play and amusement" (ibid.).
Thus, while the faithful build their lives in the hope of God's protection and
of the next world, the next world is denied by all those who make a god of their
own vain desires, as the Quran puts it (45,23). They allow no room for God in
their world. They cannot see beyond earthly concerns, since they make them-
selves prisoners of this world, without realizing it, by their own irresponsible
actions. And for this reason they claim that "there is nothing but our life of this
world, we die and we live and nothing destroys us except Ad-Dahr (the time)"
(45,24). The Quran also says about them:

And they swear by Allah their strongest oaths, that Allah will not raise up him
who dies. Yes, (He will raise them up), a promise (binding) upon Him in truth,
but most of mankind know not. He will make manifest to them the truth of that
wherein they differ, that those who disbelieved (in Resurrection, and in the One-

ness of Allah) may know that they were liars. Verily! Our Word unto a thing
when We intend it, is only that We say unto it: "Be!" and it is (16,38-40).

The Quran replies to the assertions of those who deny the next world: "And
they have no knowledge of it, they only conjecture" (45,24). While they destroy
themselves by their irresponsible, unjust actions (6,12 and elsewhere), they
claim that the faithful are dedicated to destruction, because they have followed
the messages of the Prophets, and thus the messages of mere humans, not

If you were to obey a human being like yourselves, then verily! You indeed
would be losers. Does he promise you that when you have died and have become
dust and bones, you shall come out alive (resurrected)? Far, very far is that
which you are promised. There is nothing but our life of this world! We die and
we live! And we are not going to be resurrected! He (the prophet) is only a man
who has invented something about Allah, but we are not going to believe in him

While those who deny the next world wish to support themselves by the fact
of this world and the fact that death stands before everyone, the faithful support
themselves by their faith and the fact of the creation, which speaks of its Crea-
tor. For this reason the Prophet Abraham also said, as he spoke with King
Nimrod: "My Lord (Allah) is He Who gives life and causes death." The King
replied to him, "I give life and cause death." But Abraham refuted his assertion
by saying, "Verily! Allah causes the sun to rise from the east; then cause it to
rise from the west" (2,258). Now the unbeliever was brought to silence. God
does not guide the unjust (see also 2,259).
Those who believe that they can find their salvation only in this world, there-
fore, according to the teaching of the Quran, are already punished in this life,
not only in the Last Judgment, because they have separated themselves from the
source of all life itself by their false beliefs. The Quran says concerning those
who deny God's revelation: "But whosoever turns away from My Reminder
(i.e. neither believes in this Qur'an nor acts on its orders, etc.) verily, for him is
a life of hardship, and We shall raise him up blind on the Day of Resurrection"
(20,124; see also 28,42).
The messages of all the prophets were mostly rejected by all the peoples to
whom they were sent. With this rejection of the divine revelations, however,
they brought their own destruction upon themselves, without knowing it, while,
for example, the Prophet Noah was able to save himself and those who followed
him in his ark. After the prophesied flood buried the entire world under itself,
the faithful survived with Noah and took possession of the earth for themselves,
when they emerged after the receding of the flood.

It is possible for God, the Quran teaches, to produce the earth again without
the least difficulty after its destruction: "As We began the first creation, We
shall repeat it" (21,104). This renewed creation is also called elsewhere "a new
earth" (14,48).

4. Resurrection

Were We then tired with the first creation? Nay, They are in confused doubt
about a new creation (50,15).

The doctrine of the resurrection implies the production of a new creation.

The Quran says concerning the Day of Resurrection:

And (remember) the Day when We shall roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled
up. As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it, (it is) a promise binding
upon Us. Truly, We shall do it. And indeed We have written in Zabur (Psalms
and the other revelations), that My righteous servants shall inherit the earth

A Hadith says concerning the Day of Resurrection:

God will fold up heaven on the Day of Resurrection and then take it in his right
hand and say: "I am the king. Where then are the mighty? Where are the proud?"
Then He will fold up the earth in his left hand and say: "I am the king. Where are
the mighty? Where are the proud?"

On the Day of Resurrection people will receive their reward. While indeed
all persons must die, the separation of the spirits according to their merits will
then begin: "Everyone shall taste death. And only on the Day of Resurrection
shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the
Fire and admitted to Paradise, he indeed is successful. The life of this world is
only the enjoyment of deception" (3,185).
It all depends, as the Quran never grows tired of emphasizing, upon the
actions of the person. This fact and with it the demand for moral responsibility,
however, is denied willingly by many persons, since they believe it is of no
relevance to their lives. For if they were to believe in it, that would mean over-
throwing all of their values and beginning anew. They instead shy away from
this enormous effort. For this reason, they prefer to refuse cursorily everything
that is related to this demand for a new beginning in their lives. The creation re-
mains merely this world for them, and God, at most, someone to whom they
tum only in the most extreme emergencies. In contrast to that, however, the
Quran points out that we decide by all our actions in this world not only our

destiny in this world, but above all in the next world as well, where the possibil-
ity of gaining merit for oneself no longer exists:

And He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six Days and His
Throne was on the water, that He might try you, which of you is the best in
deeds. But if you were to say to them: "You shall indeed be raised up after
death," those who disbelieve would be sure to say, "This is nothing but obvious
magic (deception)" (11,7).

At the same time, the Quran says, the unbelievers are themselves in reality
"those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they
were acquiring good by their deeds!" (18,104) They are lost, because they have
chosen this world and the things it appears to offer as their objective: "Whoever
wishes for the quick-passing (transitory enjoyment of this world), We readily
grant him what We will for whom We like. Then, afterwards, We have ap-
pointed for him Hell" (17,18).
Since they do not believe in the encounter with God on the Day of Resurrec-
tion, all of their works are in vain: "They are those who deny the Ayat (proofs,
evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of their Lord and the Meeting
with Him (in the Hereafter). So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Res-
urrection, We shall not give them any weight" (18,105). What harms them
above all is their conceited belief that they know everything and have every-
thing in hand. Only on the Day of Resurrection will it be revealed to them what
they have done: "In the end unto Him will be your return. Then He will inform
you what you used to do" (6,60). The exclusive belief in the reality of merely
material things is misleading: "And they say: 'When we are bones and frag-
ments (destroyed), should we really be resurrected (to) a new creation?'"
Eschatological matters are not conceivable for the human understanding and
can only become realities in the sphere of reason and of faith:

Then, they will say: "Who shall bring us back (to life)?" Say: "He Who created
you first!" Then, they will shake their heads at you and say: "When will that
be?" Say: "Perhaps it is near!" On the Day when He will call you, and you will
answer with His Praise, and you will think that you have stayed (in this world)
but a little while! (17,51-2)

Again and again the Quran emphasizes the miracle of the creation and the
fact that the proclaimed resurrection is only another of the many miracles of the
Creator, who wishes to heal his creatures from their addiction to this world and
calls them back to himself: "And man (often) says: "When I am dead, shall I
then be raised up alive?" Does not man remember that We created him already
before, when he was nothing?" (19,66-7)

The Quran also compares the Resurrection to the restored life of the dried-up
earth when it receives water:

And you see the earth barren, but when We send down water (rain) on it, it is
stirred (to life), it swells and puts forth every lovely kind (of growth} (22,5).

And among His Signs (in this), that you see the earth barren, but when We send
down water (rain) to it, it is stirred to life and growth (of vegetations). Verily, He
Who gives it life, surely, (He) is Able to give life to the dead (on the Day of
Resurrection). Indeed! He is Able to do all things (41,39).

The creation itself is the proof of the omnipotence of the Creator: "Do they
not see that Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, and was not wearied
by their creation, is Able to give life to the dead? Yes, He surely is Able to do
all things" (46,33; see also 35,9;36,33). Only on the Day of Resurrection will
the omnipotence of the Creator become present to all, including unbelievers:
"They made not a just estimate of Allah such as is due to Him. And on the Day
of Resurrection the whole of the earth will be grasped by His Hand and the
heavens will be rolled up in His Right Hand" (39,67). The entire creation is in
God's hand: "Allah gives you life, then causes you to die, then He will assem-
ble you on the Day of Resurrection about which there is no doubt. But most of
mankind know not" (45,26). The Resurrection is the day of reward and balance:
"Verily, We give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before
(them), and their traces, and all things We have recorded with numbers (as a
record) in a Clear Book" (36,12). The Quran also speaks of Jesus being raised
to God and of his disciples being set over the disbelievers and returning to God
on the Day of Resurrection, who will judge between them and the disbelievers
(3,55). On the Day of Resurrection Jesus will be a witness against them (4,159).
Nothing can escape God's omniscience: "Have you not seen that Allah
knows whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth? .. He is with
them (with His Knowledge) wheresoever they may be; and afterwards on the
Day of Resurrection, He will inform them of what they did" (58,7). Therefore,
the revelations of the Quran tirelessly exhort us to think about our fate (in this
world and the next), since we determine it by our own deeds:

Nay! (Man denies Resurrection and Reckoning. So) he desires to continue com-
mitting sins. He asks: "When will be this Day of Resurrection?" So, when the
sight shall be dazed, And the moon will be eclipsed, And the sun and moon will
be joined together (by going one into the other or folded up or deprived of their
light, etc.) On that Day man will say: "Where (is the refuge) to flee?" No! There
is no refuge! Unto your Lord (Alone) will be the place of rest that Day. On that
Day man will be informed of what he sent forward (of his evil or good deeds),
and what he left behind (of his good or evil traditions). Nay! Man will be a wit-
ness against himself. Though he may put forth his excuses (75,5-15).

The Last Judgment will finally inform everyone of the truth.

5. Doomsday

Only God knows the time of the Last Judgment, or as it is also called, the Hour.
But the Quran informs us that it will occur suddenly:

They ask you about the Hour (Day of Resurrection): "When will be its appointed
time?" Say: "The knowledge thereof is with my Lord (Alone). None can reveal
its time but He. Heavy is its burden through the heavens and the earth. It shall
not come upon you except all of a sudden." They ask you as if you have a good
knowledge of it. Say: "The knowledge thereof is with Allah (Alone) but most of
mankind know not" (7,187).

Thus, no one knows the Hour, but it makes itself noticeable and knowable:
for it weighs heavily upon the heavens and the earth. The Last Day, like all es-
chatologicalevents, is one of the hidden things and, consequently, is not con-
ceivable for human understanding within the bounds of space and time, but is
conceivable for the understanding that seeks and tracks down meaning. The
Quran provides an additional hint about the Hour when it says that it will be de-
cided within a blink of the eye - or even more quickly (!) - i.e. at an inconceiv-
able point in time. The Quran establishes this by affirming that God has power
over all things: "And to Allah belongs the unseen of the heavens and the earth.
And the matter of the Hour is not but as a twinkling of the eye, or even nearer.
Truly! Allah is Able to do all things" (16,77). Because humans have loved this
present world, which passes away quickly according to the Quran (75,20), too
much and have neglected the next world (75,21), they will be punished on the
Last Day; i.e. at a point in time when they can no longer make amends for their
unjust and unmerciful deeds.
For God created man to be his deputy on the earth, and his creation obligates
us to just and merciful actions. This will be made obvious to each person, at the
latest, on the Last Day:

(Some) hearts that Day will shake with fear and anxiety. Their eyes cast down.
They say: "Shall we indeed be returned to (our) former state of life? Even after
we are crumbled bones?" They say: "It would in that case, be a return with loss!"
But only, it will be a single Zajrah (shout). When, behold, they find themselves
over the earth alive after their death (79,8-14).

On that Day will man remember, but how will that remembrance (then) avail
him? He will say: "Alas! Would that I had sent forth (good deeds) for (this) my
life!" (89,23-4).

After their death, human persons are unable to act and, therefore, have fi-
nally forfeited every opportunity to tum themselves toward God and to prove
themselves through their faith and good deeds. They can no longer lay any good

deeds, which would speak for them, on the scale. The Last Day is the final ca-
tastrophe. An entire sura (1 1) of the Quran is devoted to it:

Al-Qari'ah (the striking Hour i.e. the Day of Resurrection), What is the striking
(Hour)? And what will make you know what the striking (Hour) is? It is a Day
whereon mankind will be like moths scattered about, And the mountains will be
like carded wool, Then as for him whose balance (of good deeds) will be heavy,
He will live a pleasant life (in Paradise). But as for him whose balance (of good
deeds) will be light, He will have his home in Hawiyah (pit, i.e. Hell). And what
will make you know what it is? (It is) a hot blazing Fire!

With the reckoning on the Last Day, the actions of men and women will be
tested with complete accuracy. Everyone will, as it reads in the Quran, "be
shown their deeds. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or
a small ant), shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an
atom (or a small ant), shall see it" (99,6-8). Good and evil rest above all in the
intention of the acting person. In a Hadith of the Prophet Mohammed, it is said:

Deeds will be evaluated according to their intentions. Now, he who has traveled
in search of God and his envoys, his travel counts as if it were to God and to his
envoys. But he who has traveled in the search of earthly interests or because of a
woman he would like to marry, his travel will count merely as to that to which he
has traveled.

The Prophet determines the following as a general rule of action: "Seek the
golden mean and justice, and know that none of you is saved on the basis of his
deeds. They said: 'Not even you, Oh envoy of God?' He said: 'Not even I, un-
less God covered me with mercy and grace from himself.'"
According to Islamic doctrine, as is evident from the preceding discussion,
when someone harms others, he acts also against his own interests, and when he
helps others, he also helps himself, that is to say, his eternal soul.
Considered from this perspective, paradise and hell are those places or con-
ditions to which people irrevocably send themselves (after death) by their own
deeds. What distinguishes these consequences from the effects of their actions
that they already experience in this world is the fact of their eternity. The Last
Day is, therefore, also called the Day of Eternity (50,34). Paradise and hell are
The soul that has earned the Rest of God (Sakinah; 9,26-40) by its faith and
good works enters into paradise (the Garden of Eden: 98,7-8; 20,75-6). "The
one in (complete) rest and satisfaction" returns to his Lord, well-pleased and

well-pleasing to him (89,27-30; see also 2,82). For God, the Quran says (2,257),
protects believers and brings them out of darkness into light:

(It will be said): "This is what you were promised, - (it is) for those oft-returning
(to Allah) in sincere repentance, and those who preserve their covenant with
Allah. Who feared the Most Beneficent (Allah) in the Ghaib (unseen): (i.e. in
this worldly life before seeing and meeting Him), and brought a heart turned in
repentance, Enter you therein in peace and security; this is a Day of eternal life!"
There they will have all that they desire, and We have more (50,32-35).

Hell is no less eternal than paradise. For death makes it impossible for unbe-
lievers in fact to convert the remorse that they will feel on the Last Day into
deeds. In the fire of hell they can neither die nor live (20,74; see also 2,39). It is
their sins, as they must themselves recognize, that hold them captive in the fire
eternally (2,81). Instead of believing in God and following him, they worshiped
some idols or other, something transitory; and their idols led them into the deep-
est darkness: "As for those who disbelieve, their Auliya (supporters and helpers)
are Taghut (false deities and false leaders, etc.), they bring them out from light
into darkness. Those are the dwellers of the Fire, and they will abide therein for-
ever" (2,257). The deeds of those who tum back from their faith are in vain, as
the Quran emphasizes, both in this world and in the next (2,217).
When faith is under discussion, what is meant by it is what the Quran also
calls in one passage the "pure faith"; it is also called "true religion." God has
created man for this faith:

So set you your face steadily and truly to the faith: (establish) God's handiwork
according to the pattern on which He has made mankind: (let there be) no change
in the work wrought by God: that is the straight religion, but most among man-
kind understand not (30,30).
Thus human persons shall direct themselves with their entire beings in com-
plete seriousness toward the true faith, since only thereby are they enabled to
lead their lives according to faith. Each act of playing with the faith, therefore,
has catastrophic effects. This is especially true of hypocrites. The Quran says
concerning them:

And of mankind, there are some (hypocrites) who say: "We believe in AlHih and
the Last Day" while in fact they believe not. They (think to) deceive Allah and
those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive (it) not!
... When it is said to them: "Make not mischief on the earth," they say: "We are
only peacemakers." Verily! They are the ones who make mischief, but they per-
ceive noL..Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindled a fire; then, when
it lighted all around him, Allah took away their light and left them in darkness.

(So) they could not see. They are deaf, dumb, and blind, so they convert not

The Quran says that hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the fire, and
no helper will be found for them (4,145).
There are statements in the Quran, however, according to which the eternity
of hell can be shortened. For, according to the Quran, God can transform it, if
he wishes, into a period of time. He will say on the Last Day: "The Fire be your
dwelling place, you will dwell therein forever, except as AWih may will. Cer-
tainly your Lord is All Wise, All Knowing" (6,128). Even more than paradise is
promised to true believers, namely eternal life, or happiness, the happiness of
the soul. This is, as the Quran expresses it, "the Good Pleasure of Allah. That is
the supreme success" (9,72). For the best of their deeds - thus not only corres-
ponding to their merits - the faithful are rewarded. The highest wage consists in
what is imperishable (16,96). "Everything will perish save His Face" (28,88;
see also 55,26-7). Thus the Quran calls out to selfless action and says: "Keep
yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and afternoon,
seeking His Face" (18,28). Therefore, the Islamic mystic Rabia al-Adawiya,
who was famous for her love of God, replied to the question of what she
thought about paradise: "First the neighbor, then the house." And she prayed,
"Oh my Lord, if I worship you out of fear of hell, then let me bum in it, and if I
worship you in the hope of paradise, then banish me from it; but when I worship
you for your own sake, then do not hide from me your eternal beauty."

6. Conclusion

The religion of Islam teaches that the genuine human vocation consists in ser-
vice to God. For their devoted service on earth, God's creation, human persons
receive the eternal life promised to them - happiness in the sight of God.
Islam, like Christianity, gives men and women the hope that can never be
limited, since it is the hope in a new creation and in eternal life. Thanks to it,
human beings can do their utmost in this creation, which has been entrusted to
them. It enables them to participate vigorously in the ever renewed efforts -
despite all setbacks, in common with all persons of good will - to build a just
and merciful world.
In a Hadith of the Prophet Mohammed, it is said: "And even if the destruc-
tion of the world should take place tomorrow, still plant another tree today."
The tree is the symbol of the union between heaven and earth, which man
creates, following his calling, in his responsible actions. Because the tree is
deeply rooted in the earth, it prevents it from silting up and so becoming barren.
By digesting the light of the sun, the tree becomes fruitful.
Even in the face of threatened destruction of the world, the Quran teaches,
people must not give up hope. For that they will be richly rewarded, not only in
this world, but also in the next.

Translated from the German by David W Lutz


WOLFHART PANNENBERG: The Progress and End of History, Life
after Death, and the Resurrection of the
Human Person in Christianity
MAHMOUD ZAKZOUK: The Islamic Doctrine of the Eschatolog-
(represented by M. Shama) ical Completion of History and Eternal

1. Faith and Reason

PANNENBERG replied to a question about the apparent opposition of faith and

reason in Christian theology: Our ability to understand has limits; that is the
nature of human reason. If there is something beyond the limits of our under-
standing, that does not contradict reason. On the contrary, faith and reason
complete one another, if the latter is correctly understood, not with the claim of
being able to understand and evaluate everything, and if, at the same time, faith
does not regard itself as omniscient. Our theological knowledge is "incom-
plete," as Paul says, and therefore finite. The humility of faith itself brings us to
this understanding of reason in the knowledge that completion is still in the
Religion is something developing, not static. The Bible is constantly inter-
preted, and misinterpreted, in new ways. All of this works together in a religion
and has a religious function. A religion never remains tied to the content of a
book, no matter how significant it is. (IDEL)
According to the Christian faith, there is nothing that goes beyond the human
person's relationship with God, beyond participation in the eternal community
of the Father with the Son. In this respect, nothing essentially new happens in

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 101-103.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

history. We can and should make progress in our knowledge, without limits.
This is true especially of theological knowledge. (P ANNENBERG)

2. Time and Eternity

How can we know about the completion of history when only the now exists
and the past is nothing other than our memory, the future nothing other than our
expectation, our wish, or our fear? (ARIFUKU)
We live only in the now, and have no direct relationship even with the now,
since we always go beyond it by memory or expectation. We understand the
now, but only from the connection of memory and expectation, similarly to the
way we can understand a song or a sentence only from the entirety of the se-
quence of notes in the melody or syllables in the sentence. In the same way,
there is a widened now, in which and with which we live as we pass through
time. Augustine sees therein a weak reflection of divine eternity, in which ev-
erything in the past remains present and everything expected is already present,
and indeed as itself. The end of time is not to be understood as a sudden break-
up, of a death. History instead ends in eternity, which encloses the entirety of
life and of time, just as God sees it as an eternal present. The resurrection of
Jesus Christ is a unique event, which is not to be taken symbolically, but literal-
ly. In this respect, time is understood as irreversible; every event is unique, even
if its type can be repeated. As a type of event, the resurrection of all human be-
ings takes place at the end of history. (PANNENBERG in reply to a question from
Eternity does not mean timelessness, but the presence of the entire life.
There are situations in which we can imagine this condition, for instance, cele-
brating a festival, hearing a piece of music, etc. (PANNENBERG in reply to a
question from ALBRECHT)

3. Freedom and Determinism

SHAMA responded to a question about the problem of the tension between free-
dom and predetermination and its solution in Islam: Three important ideas de-
termine Islamic theology: God, the prophets, and the hereafter. God created
everything: nature, history, and the human race. Between the beginning and the
end of history there are human actions. When evil becomes too strong in history
a prophet arrives to restore order. Mohammed was the last prophet. But we can
say nothing about when the end will happen. We know about the hereafter only
from the revelation of the Qur'an. The hereafter is not so much repayment as
punishment, without which there can be no order in the world. History has

shown us that. When society is influenced by religion, it has ordered conditions.

The hereafter serves to restore justice, which is not always guaranteed, by future
punishment of people's evil deeds. There is no discussion of this in Islam. There
is, however, discussion about the kind of punishment, whether it is physical,
psychological, or both.
Concerning the extent to which we are free and the extent to which we are
controlled by God, there is disagreement within Islamic theology. Some theo-
logians defend the position that we have a free will, but that God knows the
intention of this will. Since we do not know this, we act as free persons who are
not compelled by God. Other theologians believe, on the contrary;~t we are
only God's tools, but nevertheless are punished for our inclination to~rd evil.
Therefore, the fact that we find ourselves in a world in which there is ~ready
evil, without personally having anything to do with it, is not considered to be
problematic. (SHAMA)
An Attempt at a Synthesis from a Christian Perspective

Richard Schenk OP

1. Goal and Method

What can it mean in the context of our fourth EXPo-Discourse to attempt a syn-
thesis from the viewpoint of one religion? Certainly it cannot be a synthesis
which claims to absorb another religion, much less all other religions, into one's
own; nor can it mean an attempt to develop beyond older religions a new meta-
religion as the result (or the prerequisite) of our dialogue (which new religion, if
compared to the older ones, would demand an even newer one, generating an
infinite regress); nor, again, can a synthesis be content to list ethical platitudes
which are capable of general consent. For this reason, the task is also not merely
to develop a synthesis of common anthropological structures or of comparable
religious phenomena merely through a philosophy of religions or through the
science of comparative religions. The idea of a synthesis from the viewpoint of
one particular religion can be made clear by a contrast with the concept of an
honest broker, which attained fame through a comment by Otto von Bismarck.
On the 19th of February, 1878, Bismarck stated in the Reichstag:

The mediation of peace which I have in mind is not so much that, for divergent
points of view, we would play the role of an impartial umpire, ruling that "the
peace should be such and such, and behind this decision stands the power of the
German empire," but rather I am thinking of something more humble, namely to
play the role of an honest broker who still does want to bring the business to its
completion. I

Just as Bismarck claimed that he did not want to play the role of an impartial
umpire for divergent points of view, so, similarly, it cannot be the task of a syn-
thesis of the first results of a discourse among religions to umpire their discus-

I Horst Kohl, ed., Die politischen Reden des Fursten Bismarck, 2nd Ed., Vol. VII (Aalen:
Scientia, 1970), p. 92.

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 104-120.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

sions. As Bismarck claimed here to think more humbly, so, too, a certain degree
of humility will hardly be detrimental to a theologian in this present task. In
synthesizing the results of our discourse from the viewpoint of one religion, it
cannot be a matter of trying to mediate the final peace among religions as the
end of every disagreement, as if we were to say that, from now on, the peace
should be such and such, and that behind this decision stands the power of the
Catholic Church. The description of our task as the attempt to develop a syn-
thesis from the viewpoint of one particular religion admits implicitly that we do
not expect to be able to absorb everything which other religions confess and that
we do not intend by our synthesis that several religions should be able to agree
with every point of a synthesis which comes from the point of view of one
single religion. At the same time, the admittedly provisional character of the
synthesis sought here liberates us from the pressure to appear as an entirely im-
partial broker, a broker without any self-interest in a broker's commission. We
will have more in common with a party interested in making a purchase and
acquiring something. In the context of the fourth Expo-Discourse, it has to be a
matter of asking other religions what would have to be absorbed into a synthesis
from the viewpoint of one's own religion in order for one's own religion to be
augmented and corrected in such a way that she can come to her fullest expres-
sion. We have to examine our own religion in the context of the multilateral dis-
cussion in order to come to see what deficiencies in it can be corrected, where it
has traditions which have not been taken up adequately, and where it might
have potentialities which have yet to be developed. That is admittedly less than
an ultimate mediation of peace, and yet even this limited notion of synthesis can
move a step forward toward the goal of mediating religious peace, since we
learn here to see through our own eyes elements in other religions which at first
had seemed so foreign to us.
Today's EXPo-Discourse wants to contribute to reflection about the triad,
"human being - nature - technology," by entering into interreligious dialogue
on the topic of history, its end and/or fulfillment. The Expo theme is to be
brought into a sharper relief by being viewed against the background of the
interreligious understanding of time. The intention of this paper, to look for a
synthesis of the results of this dialogue from a Christian point of view, demands
of the Christian participants something that used to be called the restatement or
clarification of the hermeneutical situation. 2 Here, it is not so much a matter of
the initial examination of preconceptions, reflecting upon the customary, aver-
age, and usually inadequate view of other religions generally or in particular of
their concepts of time, its end and/or fulfillment. A synthesis from the Christian
vantage-point demands more importantly that, in an early phase of the dis-

2 Cf. Martin Heidegger, "Phanomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles," in Dilthey-

Jahrbuch 6 (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989), pp. 237-69, especially pp. 237 sqq.; and
Sein und Zeit, 12th Ed. (Tubingen: Max Niemeyer, 1972), pp. 150, 232, 310 sq.

course, we develop some idea of what the concepts of temporality in other

religions might possibly be able to contribute in order to complement and/or
correct the concept of history's end and/or fulfillment in our own religion (an
initial expectation of possible solutions to the problem posed). Only against the
background of this kind of initial expectation is it possible to "listen to" and
then "hear" what the others have to say in detail (a preliminary sense of where
individual statements might fit in); only then is it possible to check whether our
initial expectations are confirmed or contradicted, and only then is it possible to
be surprised by what has been said. This paper will attempt to articulate in a
provisional way what the continuation of the discourse conducted this weekend
could mean for Christian thought. This synthesis necessarily will remain provi-
sional, both in regards to the future of Christian eschatology and in regards to
dialogue with other religions. Despite its preliminary nature, such reflection on
the hermeneutical situation of future discourse is necessary, if Christian theol-
ogy is to focus on the expressions by other religions of their convictions about
the end and/or fulfillment of time; and to do so in such a way that our discourse
can shed light upon the problems involved in the web of human beings, nature,
and technology. The pre-questions noted will now be posed to each of the non-
Christian religions.

2. The Discourse of Christianity with Judaism

Moshe Idel discussed apocalypticism in Judaism. 3 "Apocalyptic ism" names a

topic which awakens fascination and fear both in Christian theology and in non-
theological, even in post-Christian, segments of society in Western industrial
nations. The idea of apocalypticism both attracts and repels. For this reason,
there is both a flight from apocalypticism and, just as extreme, a flight into
apocalypticism. Idel describes the distribution of the main bearers of apocalyp-
tic ideas in medieval and early modem Judaism with the figure of a pyramid. At
the highest point, the summit of the primary elite, there are but few representa-
tives of apocalypse. At the opposite end, the base of the pyramid, namely at the
popular level, there is wide acceptance of apocalyptic ideas, taken in their literal
form and meant to enhance the unity and identity of a people. Between these
two extremes, among the so-called secondary elite, there are several representa-
tives of a pure or at least a hybrid apocalyptic ism, representatives who often try
to remain anonymous, especially when they intend to make known to a larger
Jewish public the hopes and ideals of history.
The situation of Christianity today and of Western society at large can be
compared only partially to this pyramid. At the basic level of the churches, pur-

3 Cf. pp. 40-74 above.


er apocalypticism is found only rarely. Apocalypticism has long since become

the property of Christian sects and groups on the fringe of Christianity. On the
other hand, similar to the pyramid described by Idel, at the highest levels of the
Christian pyramid, in the church leadership, for example among those most
responsible for formulating the shape of church publicity in Germany for the
celebration of the year 2000, there is very little interest in retrieving basic apoc-
alyptic insights. In this point, the church leadership also has much in common
with today's leadership in the social sphere, for example among those respon-
sible for the shape and look of the Expo 2000. In both cases, we can hear gener-
al warnings against any and all elements of apocalyptic reflection. These high-
est levels of leadership in church and society will see in apocalypticism at the
very most a thoroughly false answer to what is possibly and in part a genuine
problem; at these levels, even the problem itself tends to be played down. But in
that secondary elite, called theology, as well as among diverse social critics,
notably among those who are trying to raise popular consciousness about eco-
logical problems, we do hear now and again scattered voices urging us to learn
from the history of apocalyptic ism about what could be complemented and cor-
rected about a church and a society which have come largely to forget nature
and to remain instead fixated on the idea of an unbroken law of progress largely
unrestricted by naturallimits. 4
If Christian theology were therefore to approach this EXPo-Discourse with
the expectation of learning something more about apocalyptic insights for her
own future synthesis of historical hope, she will be surprised to find that the
arguments brought by Idel are moving in the opposite direction. From his re-
flections it would seem at first that we need not more apocalypticism, but less,
certainly a less exclusive and less literal or dramatized form of apocalypticism.
Idel acknowledges the significance of that rediscovery of apocalyptic motifs
which has developed since Gershom Sholem's research into forms of Jewish
hope common since the inter-testamental era. At the same time, Idel argues that
there has been a two-fold reduction of that history. As he shows at length and
convincingly, apocalyptic ism was never the only form of Jewish hope, nor did it
always come to expression in a pure form. There were other expressions of
Messianic hope alongside apocalyptic forms of hope, as is clear from his refer-
ences to halachistic and kabbalistic thought, as well as to other forms of mysti-
cism. But there are also numerous thinkers, shown here especially with the ex-
ample of Abraham Abulafia (1240 - after 1291), who developed hybrid forms of

4 On the deeply ambivalent potential of apocalyptic ideas, cf. Ulrich H. 1. Kartner, Weltangst
und Weltende: Eine theologische Interpretation der Apokalyptik (Gattingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 1988); and "Die Entdeckung der Endlichkeit: Zur theologischen Herausforderung apok-
alyptischen Denkens an der lahrtausendwende," in Richard Schenk and Wolfgang V5gele, eds.,
Aktuelle Apokalyptik (Loccumer Protokolle 20/99) (Loccum: Evangelische Akademie Loccum,
2000), pp. 223-39.

hope, where apocalyptic elements play an important, but by no means exclu-

sive, role. Spiritualization, internalization, de-temporalization, universalization,
and rationalization all work against the more dramatic and literal forms of apoc-
alypticism, but a figure such as Abulafia demonstrates the possibility of bring-
ing markedly apocalyptic elements into a synthesis with other forms of genuine
hope. That is all the more significant for our attempt to form a synthesis from a
Christian point of view, as it seems that a particularly dramatic form of apoca-
lypticism was instrumental for the beginning of Christianity itself (arguably that
movement of Jewish apocalyptic ism which has proven the most problematic for
the religion from which it first developed). In the early years of modernity,
Christian apocalypticism in tum affected apocalyptic movements within Juda-
ism, including Sabbatianism.
Idel understands the historical differences he mentions as being more than
references to matters of pure fact. By recalling the historical diversity of the
forms of Jewish hope and the diversity of the reception of Jewish apocalyptic
ideas, Idel also wants to underscore the legitimacy of non-apocalyptic forms of
hope. His reference to Martin Buber is one such document drawn from recent
history. Without calling into doubt the legitimacy of apocalyptic thought as an
alternative form of genuine hope, at least in principle, some of the syntheses
mentioned here in combination with apocalyptic motifs seem to make a contri-
bution towards overcoming some of the weaker points of apocalyptic ism.
Among the weak points mentioned are mythical escapism and the sometimes
excessive domination of antithetical schemata, such as friend/foe; good/evil;
own people/foreign peoples; mercy/justice; Jerusalem/Rome; the Messiah ben
David/the Messiah ben Josef; revolution/evolution; and revelationlhiddenness.
Referring to apocalyptic movements of recent years in Israel, Idel can also show
possible practical disadvantages to forms of apocalypticism which are all too
dramatized. The history of an apocalypticism which has been synthesized with
other forms of hope shows that such combinations do not necessarily entail a
neutralization or liquidation of Jewish hope. It does not in fact force hope to
existentialize or privatize itself; on the contrary, it can mean that hope becomes
extended to all human beings as well as to non-rational beings.
It still remains to be asked whether such an overcoming of particularization,
suggested for example by the kabbalistic transformation of a historical catas-
trophe into a prehistoric event, threatens to undermine that solidarity with the
victims of concrete history which has often been described as belonging to the
more advantageous impulses of apocalyptic thought. On the other hand, even
apocalyptic texts extended the horizon of history well beyond that of Israel. Idel
notes that many of the most impressive apocalyptic writings of medieval Juda-
ism did not come from the times of greatest persecution, nor did every increase
in repression automatically lead to an increase in apocalyptic literary produc-

tion. 5 That corresponds to the observation made by Karlheinz Muller that even
at the beginning of the early Jewish reception of apocalyptic motives (which
were known in several nations from Iran to Egypt and among their many reli-
gions) that the first peak of the Jewish apocalyptic interpretation of history, for
example in The Apocalypse of the Ten Weeks, preserved in The Ethiopian Book
of Henoch, followed the successful completion of the Maccabean wars.6 What
led to the apocalyptic conviction about the incommensurability of history and
salvation seems to be less the persecution itself than the disappointment about
continuing political compromises after the persecution, here, the disappointment
with Maccabean and Hasmonean politics after the military successes. It is a dis-
appointment about a history which continues on in so banal a way, which shows
how very sorely the historical experience of salvation lags behind the intensity
of that experience of persecution which remains etched in memory. At the Expo
2000 it is clear that the urgent nature of the theme of sustainable development is
not always most emphasized by those countries where this urgency is now most
painfully evident; a certain distance, some breathing room, seems to be needed.
Similarly, the relaxed fear of immediate persecution allows a less tangent anxi-
ety to reappear in apocalyptic form, which in tum brings with it new chances
along with new dangers for interpreting history.
With a merely partial reception of apocalyptic elements, a future synthesis of
our discourse from a Christian point of view would want to seek an eschatology
with an increased sense of the historical crisis of nature. Apocalypticism seems
of its essence to be too ambivalent to be recommended as a whole, even when it
is to be admitted that some trivializations of apocalypticism, such as wanting to
calculate precisely the final date of history, could be avoided. The prayers of the
rabbinical tradition to be spared the suffering of the final days, but also the hesi-
tancy of Jewish and Christian traditions to acknowledge apocalyptic writings
among their canonical or even among their authoritative texts, are further symp-
toms of the immanent limitations of the purely apocalyptic model of salvation.
The fascination with the catastrophic nature of salvation, the temptation to form
sects, the new division of society into friend and foe, the tendency to become
fully passive and abstinent over and against historical developments, technology
and politics: all of these are tendencies of pure apocalypticism which stand in
the way of absorbing key apocalyptic elements in a fruitful way. "In a strictly
theocentric and apocalyptic model of salvation there was barely room for a sav-

5 On Jewish apocalyticism immediately before and after the Spanish expulsion of 1492, cr.,
however, Johann Maier's references to Isaac Abrabanel, Abraham ben Eliezer Hallevi, and David
ha-Re'ubeni in, "Judische Apokalyptik im Mittelalter," in Richard Schenk und Wolfgang Vogele,
eds., Apokalypse: Vortragsreihe zum Ende des lahrtausends (Loccumer Protokolle 31/99) (Loc-
cum: Evangelische Akademie Loccum, 2000), pp. 247-88, esp. pp. 280 ff.
6 Karlheinz Muller, "ApokalyptiklApokalypsen III: Die judische Apokalyptik: Anfange und
Merkmale, in Theologische Realenzyklopaedie, Vol. 3 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1978/1993), pp. 202-

ior. What is a savior supposed to do, where God keeps everything in his own
If, however, on the basis of these limitations of pure apocalypticism, we
would only hear the call to flee apocalyptic elements altogether, then any syn-
thesis of religious thought about the end and fulfillment of time would lose
numerous impulses important for the formation of future history. The flight
from apocalypticism can be as irresponsible as the flight into it. The basic apoc-
alyptic insight consists in this: " ... that salvation is not the result of developments
merely from within history itself, within human calculations and perspectives,
but rather remains a prerogative ofGod."g In the principal Christian reception of
apocalyptic motifs in the Apocalypse of John and through the traditions most
influenced by this last book of the younger Testament, there was a reception of
that particular potentiality of the apocalyptic tradition which strengthens the
hope in a salvation for the world which comes directly from God. Although
they were hidden by the mythical form of direct, divine sanctions, the results of
human misconduct in the Apocalypse of John for the future of disease and war,
of drought and desiccation as well as of the pollution of water and air corres-
pond to fears which today no longer come simply from resentment against over-
whelmingly powerful persecutors; rather, these fears are today for the first time
a real possibility about the future shape of the world. 9 Theocentric hope for the
world can underline the solidarity with those humans as well as those non-
human creatures whose fulfillment seems to have been made impossible due to
human misconduct. The eschatological vision of Matthew 25 underscores this
tie between apocalyptic expectation and solidarity with the victims of history.
This vision resists the simple internalization and privatization of hope. It is the
form of hope which orients itself less according to the idea of maximizing the
possible perfection of the future world than along the lines of a solidarity with
what most clearly has wounded the elementary dignity of creation, now called
again into memory by the very loss of those creatures. A future synthesis has to
listen to such traditions even where their anxiety leaves behind many uneven
notions all too painfully evident. One can trust that God can speak even through
human beings in states of acute anxiety. The synthesis which is to be sought

7 Karlheinz Muller, "Apokalyptik," in Lexikon for Theologie und Kirche I, 3rd Ed., (Freiburg
im Breisgau: Herder, 1993), cols. 814-17.
8 Ibid.
9 On the now realistic sources of a culture of panic, cf. Peter Sloterdijk, Eurotaoismus: Zur
Kritik der politischen Kinetik (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989), pp. 102-3. However, the author fails
to draw the same realistic conclusions about technology found in the analysis of J. B. Metz:
"Dieser 'neue Mensch' ist nun immer weniger sein Gedachtnis, immer mehr nur noch sein eigen-
es Experiment": "Gott und Zeit - Zur Zukunft des apokalyptischen Erbes," in Richard Schenk and
Wolfgang Vogele, eds., Apokalypse: Vortragsreihe zum Ende des Jahrtausends (Loccumer
Protokolle 31/99) (Loccum: Evangelische Akademie Loccum, 2000), pp. 289-302, here p. 290.

here has to take its clue from the partial goals which Johann Baptist Metz for-
mulated, in part with, in part against, the traditions of apocalypticism:

Human memory needs be sharpened on the basis of inspiration of the apocalyptic

recollection of suffering; ... the work of peace among human beings needs to be
furthered by a sensibility for suffering coming out of the apocalyptic traditions;
.. .In light of the apocalyptic memory of suffering, a new relationships should be
formed among religions in the sense of an indirect ecumenism of religions, that
is to say, based on the common praxis of responsibility for the world. 10

3. The Discourse of Christianity with Islam

The term "responsibility for the world" also names something of great impor-
tance for a Christian theology interested in a synthesis of history in dialogue
with Islam. Since Islam from its beginnings goes back to Jewish sources direct-
ly and not only by way of their Christian reception, Islam offers to Christian
theologians the opportunity to check their own reception of the First Testament
by comparison with the Islamic reception of the same source. The major weight
of Mahmoud Zakzouk's paper shows how the apocalyptic figure of the last
judgement dominates the Islamic reception of First Testament eschatology and
was seen in close association with the command to assume responsibility for the
world of history. I I In close association with the apocalyptic figure of final
judgement, there is special emphasis placed on merit and reward, good works
and accountability. Even the concept of faith stands here in close relationship to
the responsibility of the faithful for the world and its history, even though faith
is closely associated by the texts cited with trust in God.
Those are all concepts which for Christian theology recall inner-Christian
debates, not only among the confessions, but within each confession. The
Common Declaration on Justification signed in 1999 could not find a common
formulation about the perceived role of concepts such as merit and reward. In
§ 38 sq. a broadly parallel formulation was offered: Catholics mean by good
works one thing, while Lutherans emphasize under righteousness another. 12

10 Johann Baptist Metz, "Gott: Wider den Mythos von der Ewigkeit der Zeit," in Tierno
Rainer Peters and Claus Urban, eds., Ende der Zeit? Die Provokation der Rede von Gott (Mainz:
Grunewald, 1999), pp. 32-50, esp. pp. 41-44.
II pp. 89-100. On the widespread doubt within Roman Catholicism about the reality of final
separation, cf. Richard Schenk, "The Epoche of Factical Damnation? On the Costs of Bracketing
Out the Likelihood of Final Loss," in Logos (St. Paul, Minnesota) I (1997), pp. 122-54; and Jo-
hann Baptist Metz, op. cit., pp. 39 f., on the "question of maintaining the hope of justice for the
victims and the vanquished of history": "In den apokalyptischen Traditionen ist die Hoffnung auf
die Auferweckung der Toten der Ausdruck einer Sehnsucht nach universaler Gerechtigkeit."
12 38. "According to Catholic understanding, good works, made possible by grace and the
working of the Holy Spirit, contribute to growth in grace, so that the righteousness that comes

This small concession of abiding difference was at odds with the basic tendency
of the document towards harmonization. It remained outside the theme of the
documents signed to pursue the question of how the idea of merit or the rela-
tionship between forensic justification and internal renewal had characterized
dissent within the individual confessions themselves, for example, in the his-
torical controversies, not only between Lutheran and Reformed Christians, but
between Genesio-Lutherans and Philippistic Lutherans or between Catholics of
the Molinist and the Thomistic schools. Nor did the declaration ask what the
consequences would be of glossing over historical controversies of this type. A
further question was avoided: whether the acclaimed progress on inner Christ-
ian ecumenism would be voided by progress on inter-religious dialogue.
In the discourse of Christianity with Islam, the question becomes unavoid-
able for Christian theology: whether or not the Islamic re-working of their com-
mon apocalyptic tradition offers the simpler alternative. Gotthold Ephraim Les-
sing formulated in 1752 what he expected would be the self-understanding of a
Muslim: "Take a look at Mohammed's law! What do you find there that is not
perfectly in accord with strictest reason? We believe in one God. We believe in
future punishment and reward, both of which will come to us according to the
measure of our deeds. This is what we believe."l3 Lessing has his Muslim par-
ticipant in this four-way discourse refer to the starting position of Christians as
being more complicated and further removed from simple reason. The Christian
theologian in today's discourse will need to examine whether the tensions be-
tween merit and grace, between having an effect on history and the eschatolog-
ical reservation about all historical perfections, between taking responsibility
for the world and a strictly theocentric hope, as well as between the end and the
fulfillment of history, tensions which appear over and over again in Christianity,
could not in fact be resolved, perhaps in an Islamic fashion.
Unlike Moshe Idel, Mahmoud Zakzouk does not make the diversity of his
own religious tradition an explicit theme of his paper, but he does refer in sev-

from God is preserved and communion with Christ is deepened. When Catholics affirm the 'mer-
itorious' character of good works, they wish to say that, according to the biblical witness, a re-
ward in heaven is promised to these works. Their intention is to emphasize the responsibility of
persons for their actions, not to contest the character of those works as gifts, or far less to deny
that justification always remains the unmerited gift of grace."
39. "The concept of a preservation of grace and a growth in grace and faith is also held by Luther-
ans. They do emphasize that righteousness as acceptance by God and sharing in the righteousness
of Christ is always complete. At the same time, they state that there can be growth in its effects in
Christian living. When they view the good works of Christians as the fruits and signs of justifica-
tion and not as one's own 'merits,' they nevertheless also understand eternal life in accord with
the New Testament as unmerited 'reward' in the sense of the fulfillment of God's promise to the
believer. "
13 Cited from G. E. Lessing's Rettung des Hieronymus Cardanus (1752) by Friedrich Nie-
wohner, "Das muslimische Familientreffen: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing und die Ringparabel, oder:
Der Islam als narurliche Religion," Franlifurter Allgemeine Zeitung, No. 129,5 Juni 1999, p. N6.

eral places to the sense which Islam has about these kinds of tension. As op-
posed to Lessing, Zakzouk speaks of the irreducible duality of faith and reason
as well as the duality of mercy and justice. Lessing's "salvation" of Islam suf-
fers under the impression that this religion would become superfluous for the
one who understood and so saved it. As opposed to this, Zakzouk underlines the
conviction of Islam that the works of anyone who does not believe in the resur-
rection are in vain. Besides this, the text of Koran 16, 96 is cited here: "For the
best of their deeds, the faithful are rewarded - but not according to their merit,
for the highest reward consists in the one who is himself imperishable." With
the words of the mystic, Rabia al-Adawiya, even enlightened self-interest is re-
jected. In the concluding Hadith of the Prophet about a need to plant a tree even
on the eve of the world's end, human actions appear to take on at best a sym-
bolic significance.
Here the unity-in-tension of merit vis-a-vis grace becomes tangible, together
with a further tension felt as well in Christian theology when working out the
relationship between God's omnipotence and what he makes. In our discourse
with Islam, Christians need to ask to what degree the distinct poles of the ten-
sions felt here found within Islam defenders of just one or the other side. For a
synthesis from the Christian point of view, we need to consider how solidarity
with the victims of history can best be reconciled with the hope vertically from
God for humans and the rest of nature and whether for the foreseeable future we
could sacrifice confessional complementarity and still express this well. This
question of tension between merit and grace becomes concrete even in the at-
tempt to determine ecumenically the role which the Christian community plays
in its celebration the Eucharist, exercising a more active, or perhaps rather a
purely passive solidarity with those who are suffering and with those who have
already died. The question appears to many to be merely one of everyday praxis
which could be solved pragmatically, but in fact the eschatological dimension
of the Eucharist itself demands that we wrestle with the apocalyptic tradition of
Christianity and with the tension perceived there between the gift of having an
effect on history and historical impotence. 14 Especially the Christian partner

14 Cf. Eberhard Jungel, "Einheit der Kirche ereignet sich bereits": Auf dem Weg zur Eucharis-
tiegemeinschaft," in KNA Do/cumentation, No.8, 14 July 1998, e.g. p. 3: "The Lord's Supper is-
sues no demands, which would demand deeds of us. Here, the commanding law is silent. There is
no room here for the demands of an imperative mood, only for the grace-filled indicative mood of
the gospel. That is an indicative which transforms us from doers to receivers" ("1m Abendmahl
wird keine Forderung laut, die Taten von uns fordert. Hier schweigt das gebietende Gesetz. Hier
ist kein fordernder Imperativ am Platz. Hier regiert allein der Gnade ausstromende Indikativ des
Evangeliums. Und das ist ein Indikativ, der uns aus Tiitern zu Empfangenden ... macht"); or p. 5:
"Rather, Christ's self-sacrifice does not call for our sacrifice, does not call for our deeds at all, but
rather for our receptivity, from which there flow, however, Christian deeds, just as the new work-
week proceeds from the creative passivity of the Sabbath" ("Doch Christi Selbstopfer ruft gerade
nicht unser Opfer, ruft ilberhaupt nicht unser Tun, sondern unser Empfangen, aus dem dann aller-

should learn from the discourse a certain cautiousness: Whoever objects to the
lack of historical and systematic differentiation in today's self-presentation of
Islam, needs to ask if Christianity is truly helped by glossing over its differ-
ences, presenting itself as post-confessional, standardized, without contours or
character. Seeing the speck of harmonization in the eye of our brother, we
should come by and by to notice the log of ecumenical uniformitization in our

4. The Discourse of Christianity with Buddhism

In its more concrete tasks, inner-Christian ecumenism has tended to follow

more the model of increasing uniformity rather than the possibilities of an ecu-
men ism of relationality. In similar fashion, the hermeneutics of interreligious
discourse, inspired by this paradigm of convergent ecumenism, has often suf-
fered under the impression that the dialogue sought here may be measured only
according to the standard of whether religions are actually close to each other or
far apart; only ever greater approximation would count as religious ecumenism.
As opposed to this, Christian theology, even in its dialogue with the non-
Abrahamic religions, will have to pose the question of whether these other reli-
gions have not in fact done better at developing something which in the Christ-
ian sphere of things is for the most part but deficiently realized: something of
central importance, if Christian theology is ever to come to its full development,
even should the shape of this reality in the end need to be of a somewhat differ-
ent kind. By contrast, from its discourse with other religions, Christian theology
discovers at times in itself areas which in fact are not yet different enough from
other religions. It will then be in a position to clarify its relationship to them
more clearly and through that relationship come more fully to its own specific
form. Here again the question is posed: what does the attempt to find some syn-
thesis of the ideas of history discussed during this fourth discourse have to say
from a Christian vantage-point in order to help us face the problems suggested
by the triad, "Human beings - nature - technology"?
Kogaku Arifuku helps us in his paper to appreciate the teachings of Dogen
(1200-1253) at a time when Buddhism developed by differentiating itself more
clearly than before from the religious traditions which today we associate with
Hinduism. 15 That process of self-definition through relational dialogue is itself
an example for the possibilities of an interreligious ecumenism. In a second
aspect, as well, there is a parallel here to the interreligious dynamic of the Abra-

dings das christliche Tun - wie aus der kreativen Passivitiit des Sabbats die neue Arbeitswoche -
hervorgeht") .
IS pp. 22-39.

hamic religions. As N. S. S. Raman makes clear in his paper,16 Hinduism re-

sponded in turn to the Buddhist reception and development of its ideas, just as,
by the way, Moshe Idel shows that Judaism responded to the Christian reception
of its apocalyptic tradition. The common division of religions into older and
newer ones is only partially valid, since those forms which at first were older
also came to rejuvenate themselves by re-appropriating or by rejecting aspects
of traditions which had sprang from them. A similar dynamic can be seen in the
relationship of Neo-Hinduism to Christian ethics. In this sense, interreligious
discourse simply makes thematic what for a long time had already been con-
stitutive for the religions themselves.
Arifuku describes a specific form of Buddhism, showing the distinction of
Dogen both from other formal schools of Buddhism and also from popular
forms of Buddhism. The specific form of Buddhism which Dogen represents
places at the center of Buddhism a relativization of the differences between life
and death. The non-duality of life and death itself is said to be nirwana. Even
though St. Paul, too, thought that he was right to suggest a certain relativization
of the difference of whether we live or die (Rom 8: 38; Phil 1: 20; I Thess 4: 15;
5: 10; etc.), Dogen based his own relativization of life and death on a more fun-
damental refutation of the difference between body and soul. Without excluding
altogether every possibility of future or post-mortal retribution (karma), Dogen
denies decidedly the relevance of such retribution for human action. The com-
parison by Arifuku between Dogen and Kant shows that Dogen seems to be of
the opinion that even the kind of postulate about immortality which is presup-
posed in a practical and non-thematic assumption would prove to be harmful for
human action; Dogen's idea of mortality seems axiomatic. The difference could
not be greater to the Islamic focus on the apocalyptic figure of the last judge-
ment for the purpose of accentuating human responsibility. By contrast, Dogen
intends to develop the temporality of the human being in such a way that the
horizon of the future, and a fortiori the horizon of the post-mortal future, is ab-
sorbed as much as possible into the horizon of the present. Past and future are to
be folded into the present.
The relativization of the difference between life and death that is central here
appears only to confirm a certain pre-understanding of Buddhism, which was
developed in the interest of trying to reform Christian thought and Western
society, in particular, by a kind of "anamnetic" culture. This alternative, based
on the memoria passionis and its significance for an earthly or even a post-
mortal future, takes as its basis the remembrance of suffering. Johann Baptist
Metz mentions this pre-understanding of Buddhism in order to develop by way
of contrast a vision of revitalized Christianity. As Metz writes:

16 pp. 8-21.

The mysticism of apocalyptically inspired traditions is at its heart a mysticism of

open eyes with its unconditional obligation to see the sufferings of others. From
the founding legends of Buddhism, it is clear that Buddha, too, was changed by
encountering the sufferings of strangers; but, in the end, he flees into the royal
palace of his inner self, finding in a mysticism of shut eyes an interior landscape
immune to suffering and immune to the provocation of a limited time. Con-
trasted with this, the mysticism of Jesus is a kind of "weak" mysticism. Jesus
cannot transport himself outside and beyond the landscape of suffering. His
mysticism leads to an apocalyptic outcry. 17

Interreligious dialogue needs to develop in greater detail a theme only

touched upon in today's discourse: a comparison of the two ideas of compas-
sion in Christianity and Buddhism. In both religions this concept plays a central
role for the whole of the religion and in particular for the religious understand-
ing of history. There is an ideal of compassion in all forms of Buddhism,18
named in the Sanskrit texts "karuna," a form of compassion which will be
"without limits," not just towards human beings, but rather a "healing conver-
sion to all beings.,,19 Carried by a form of holistic wisdom, Dogen, who himself
is often compared to Meister Eckhart, proposes a non-egotistical form of com-
passion, a conversion which comes out of a holistic form of wisdom and which
shows little interest in changing political history. Even a benevolent interpreta-
tion claims

that the Kamakura-Reformation in fact aided the appearance of feudalism in the

Tokugawa-epoch. The reason for this might well be that Kamakura-Buddhism,
with some few exceptions, was not able to free its believers from the totality of
the ruling Heian-paradigma. Rather, it became internalized, as with Dogen in the
personal holism of the original Buddha nature (bussho); or it was rediscovered as
natural holism (jinen honi) by Shinran; or, as with Nichiren, it was set into a
holism of the final mystery of the end of history. 20

There is an idea of compassion in Christian circles, named in Latin "miseri-

cordia," which attempts to correct and purify Christianity of its Stoic perver-
sion, which had viewed suffering distantly from the perspective of the entire
cosmos. From the self-distancing perspective of the entire cosmos, the Stoics

17 Gatt; Wider den Mythos von der Ewigkeit der Zeit, op. cit., pp. 44 sq.
18On this "cardinal virtue" of Buddhism, cf. also the present Dalai Lama, The Four Noble
Truths: Fundamentals of the Buddhist Teachings: Compassion as the basis of human happiness.
Although there are restrictions placed here on the sense of dedication to anything like the cause of
Tibet, it could be asked if the practical wisdom behind that kind of pietas isn't in fact a greater
guide to wisdom than the self-relativizing basis of theoretical compassion.
19 Michael von Bruck and Whalen Lai, Buddhismus und Christentum: Geschichte, Konfron-
lation, Dialog (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1997), p. 372.
20 Op. cit., p. 637.

attempted to view their own sufferings as if they were the sufferings of others,
rather than, quite to the contrary, viewing the sufferings of others as if they
were one's own sufferings (" ... Quia autem tristitia seu dolor est de proprio
malo, intantum aliquis de miseria aliena tristatur aut dolet inquantum miseriam
alienam apprehendit ut suam,,21). For this purpose, the anti-Stoic idea of com-
passion had to work out the idea of a qualified self ("as one's own," "ut suam").
The discourse with Buddhism can clarify how this idea of compassion still
needs to be developed by Christianity in order to provide in a future synthesis a
genuine and adequate alternative. I would like to name four such necessary
- First, the Christian idea of misericordia will have to free itself even further
from its Stoic transformation, a transformation which appears already in st.
Paul and which relativizes the way in which suffering and death are realities
which should not be. The alternative, non-Stoic and genuinely Christian tradi-
tion of misericordia will have to search in its own history for traditions which
have not yet been adequately taken up and for the beginnings of a comprehen-
sive "theology of mourning," which could set its "theology of hope" for the
development and completion of history onto a more solid basis;22
- Secondly, this idea of misericordia will have to free itself from the tradi-
tional way of speaking of the requirement of complete unselfishness for love
(rather, it will see the suffering of others "as one's own," "ut suam"); connected
with this, it will have to free itself from a notion of eternity based merely on the
model of the intensified present, seeking instead to intensify the three temporal
horizons of the historical self;
- Thirdly, this idea of misericordia will have to look more intensely at the
sufferings of strangers and "the other" ("miseriam alienam apprehendit") in
order to draw out the political and religious consequences of the sufferings of
others with greater consequence and rigor than has been common in the past.
This will need to include a focus on Christianity's own historical failings in this
- Finally, this idea of misericordia will have to alter its traditionally one-
sided anthropocentric viewpoint in order to imitate what Buddhism has already
accomplished to a large degree, finding its own healing conversion to all beings
("miseriam alienam apprehendit"). In this case, however, what must motivate
this tum will be an idea of God as a self with the will to bring forth concrete and
different species. The creation-story relates how the results of each of the six
days of creation was judged as being "good," "bonum" (Gen 1: 4, 10, 12, 18,

21 Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, II-II 30, 2 co.; cf. the retrieval of this basis for miser-
icordia which can extend to non-human animals in the "Thomistic" tum of Alasdair MacIntyre,
Dependent Rational Animals (Peru, Illinois: Open Court, 1999).
22 Cf. Richard Schenk, ''Tod und Theodizee: Ansatze zu einer Theologie der Trauer bei Tho-
mas von Aquin," Forum Katholische Theologie, 10 (1994) pp. 161-78.

21, 25); but only the entirety of all species taken together is called there "very
good," "va/de bonum," marking the transition to the Sabbath of rest. In this
way, the significance of the difference between all beings is not relativized but
underlined; and yet, by acknowledging these other specific beings, the divine
self behind them, and the human self alongside them, by viewing the sufferings
of non-human species as their own as well, human beings will find their own
dignity as well as friendship with their common creator. 23

5. The Discourse of Christianity with Hinduism

N. S. S. Raman leads us in his paper 24 toward understanding something more of

the diversity of those religious and philosophical traditions which, at least since
s. Vivekananda's participation in "the Parliament of Religions" 1893 in Chi-
cago, have come to be known with the only partially helpful, generic concept,
"Hinduism," as one of the world religions. Most of the traditions grouped to-
gether as Hinduism have sharpened and further reflected their faith-claims
through their secondary distinction from the Buddhistic traditions which had
already proceeded from them. Strengthened in its special shape by this redefini-
tion, Hinduism generally underscores a relative independence of something like
the soul by stressing the temporal and the eschatological significance of the
soul's ever increasing independence and its final liberation from the cycle of
earthly history, as well as from the reincarnations into this history (samsara).
On the basis of this historicality (cf. karma), these traditions underline the ur-
gency of accepting responsibility within history.
Whereas the discourse with Buddhism leads Christianity back to its own un-
finished task of wrestling with its own Stoic inheritance, so the Christian dis-
course with Hinduism leads a Christian theology looking for a new synthesis
back to the unfinished task of dealing with its own Platonic inheritance. What is
sought in this multilateral discourse with Hinduism and Buddhism at once is a
conception of the abiding center of a self which can change history and, yet,
which nevertheless remains in continuity with the physical nature in which it
came to be. Wolfhart Pannenberg's contribution to our Discourse discusses this
goal of interreligious dialogue in his own paper. 25
Nevertheless, I would like to make four remarks here about Platonism in the
Christian theology of today which are of particular relevance for Christianity'S
discourse with Hinduism.

23 Cf. Richard Schenk, "Der Mensch - Krone der Schopfung?" in Schenk and Reinhard Low,
eds., Natur in der Krise: Philosophische Essays zur Naturtheorie und Bioethik (Hildesheim:
BernwardIMorus, 1994), pp. 53-80.
24 Op. cit.
25 pp. 80-88 above.

First of all: although the concept of Platonism in the Christian theology of

today is largely a pejorative concept, there is little agreement based on historical
research about what Platonism actually means. It is generally thought that Plato-
nism is dualistic, but such descriptions often fail to face the problem that at least
the form of neo-Platonism which began with Plotinus was convinced that it was
the intentional opponent of all Gnostic dualisms, including the Christian form of
the same. Despite all the diversity of its divergent development, neo-Platonism
in its different non-Christian schools thought it could locate this dualism in the
Christian doctrine of a creator transcendent to nature and a creatio ex nihilo, as
well as in the doctrines about the opposition of nature and grace and the pos-
sible, eschatological revisions of the created angelic and human orders. As
much as Christian theology still wants to hold to most of these convictions, she
will have to ask herself whether she should not therefore be more hesitant than
usual in rejecting the dualities stressed by Hinduism.
Secondly, the attempts of Christian theology today to overcome its own Pla-
tonism have often led nolens volens to an unexpected and unwanted intensifica-
tion of its own dualistic problematic, notably in Roman-Catholic eschatology.
This is evident in the Roman-Catholic acceptance and transformation of that
theory of resurrection-in-death which is said to come about by human history'S
becoming ultimately valid at death (eternity here as the sum of the ripened
validity of history). While the theology of grace behind this widely accepted
Roman-Catholic position seems to overcome more than it should want to of the
duality of grace and history, it encounters just the opposite, dualistic danger of
spiritualizing and individualizing the fulfillment of the human being more than
ever before. For the discourse of Christianity with Hinduism, this insight de-
mands of Christianity the constant task of asking itself self-critically whether
any given synthesis, newly developed from a Christian viewpoint, does in fact
reach its goal of locating human beings more in the context of nature than often
has been the case in the past.
Thirdly, in its goal of overcoming its own Platonism, Christianity today
would have to deal with Plato and Platonism differently than did Christian
patristics or even Christian scholasticism. Ever since the patristic apologists,
Christian theology had been interested almost exclusively in those statements of
antiquity which seem to affirm the immortality of the soul. A future Christian
theology will have to assign greater weight to those statements which underline
the abiding lack of fulfillment stemming from the immanent dynamic of human
and natural history. Plato's occasional statements about death as punishment
and even, perhaps, as judgement; his frequent references to the non-philosoph-
ical and uncertain character of the stories about post-mortal existence, his ac-
knowledgement of the antinomy which remains in the conflict between doubt
and hope with its religious-mythical character; his references to the dependence
of the deceased on the benevolence of the gods; the relationship of the three

parts of the soul among themselves, including their reference to passions and to
nature; the ethical-political and the epistemological functions of the Platonic
teaching on reincarnation and, with that, the relation of its doctrine to our his-
torical reality. And, finally, theology will need to pay more attention to the
internal development of Plato's statements, moving from the optimism of his
early judgements about Socrates' death towards the greater reticence of his
hopes and a greater acknowledgement of his mourning in the epigram at the
death ofDion in the year 354. 26
For its future dialogue with Hinduism, the Christian side similarly will need
to pay more attention to those Hindu-traditions which placed in question the
liberating character of death. Among these should be counted both of the stories
cited by N. S. S. Raman about human beings trying to outwit Yama, the god of
death: in these stories, the death of the protagonists and their loved ones appears
as something other than a liberation, something rather to be liberated from. For
a Christian theology looking for a new synthesis on the fulfillment and end of
history, such doubts about post-mortal existence underscore the conviction that
the fulfillment of nature and history are in the end conceivable only as some-
thing which can be newly granted by the God of life.
Finally: The way in which Christian theology deals today with Plato and Pla-
tonism is at least in one point inferior to the methods of Christian scholasticism.
Christian scholasticism found its initial access to the sources of ancient philos-
ophy in a dialogue with Judaism and Islam and in light of a comparison with
their ways of reading the ancient sources. Despite all the advantages of a direct
access to such texts, there remains at the end of the initial phase of this inter-
religious discourse the hope of continuing the discourse in a multilateral way.

26 Cf. Richard Schenk, Die Gnade vollendeter Endlichkeit: Zur transzendentaltheologischen

Auslegung der thomanischen Anthropologie (Freiburg: Herder, 1989), pp. 445-53 and 114-283;
and "Auferstehung oder Reinkamation? Zum Wesen der christlichen Hoffnung," in Franz Breid,
ed., Die letzten Dinge (Steyr: Ennsthaler, 1992), pp. 189-220.

RICHARD SCHENK OP: The Progress and End of History, Life
after Death, and the Resurrection of the
Human Person in the World Religions:
An Attempt at a Synthesis from a
Christian Perspective

1. How do Islam and Christianity address the tense relationship between pre-
destination and freedom?

Islam understands the Last Judgment primarily as repayment for good or evil
deeds. Therefore, it sees the human person, on one hand, as a creator of history,
but on the other hand, stresses that only God is the Creator and Finisher of his-
torical reality. This tension between predestination and freedom, which has
never been resolved, also exists in Christianity. A kind of predestination that
abolishes human freedom (in the sense of so-called double predestination to
salvation or to hell) is to be rejected (question from the audience). God does not
predestine anyone to evil or to destruction. We can speak of the predestination
of history insofar as God wishes to guide history to its completion; but he al-
lows it to become something in the meantime. (SCHENK)
There were always different answers to the question of the relationship be-
tween predestination and freedom in Western and Eastern (Orthodox) Christi-
anity. In Eastern Orthodoxy, the principle of God's energy (i.e. his grace in the
world) is dominant. On the basis of this idea of the energetic effect of God in
the world, human freedom is stressed much more in the Orthodox than in the
Western tradition. The difference between their views goes back to the first
religious argument between the two churches in the dispute about Pelagianism.
Orthodoxy advocated neither the theory of Pelagius nor that of Augustine,

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 121-125.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

which placed more emphasis on the idea of predestination, but instead sup-
ported itself on Johannes Cassianus, and thus assumed a more moderate posi-
tion with respect to Augustine than did the Roman Catholic Church, which later
condemned Cassian's theory as semi-Pelagian. (HORUZHY)

2. How do the world religions understand hell and paradise, as well as the be-
ginning and end of history?

One must treat paradise or salvation, on one hand, and hell or condemnation, on
the other, as two separate problems. We have no revelation and thus no knowl-
edge of what hell looks like. The idea of condemnation, just like the idea of
eternity, has undergone a revision within Christian theology during the past
thirty years. In Roman Catholic theology, the idea, going back to Pelagius, that
eternity is the completion of history, is strongly advocated. Of course, not
everyone agrees with this view. The thesis of the death of history, which the
Lutheran Paul Althaus defended for a long time, and which is supported by the
image in John's Revelation of the appearance of the Antichrist and the catastro-
phe at the end of time (see KOSLOWSKI's introduction to this volume), was later
rejected by Althaus himself, since it makes God's Last Judgment impossible.
The question of the end of history is closely related to that of the beginning.
That is true just as much for Christianity as for Islam. Christianity understands
this end not simply as a return to the original situation, though, but as something
qualitatively new. It understands the end as the accomplishment of history. How
that happens is the theme of the apocalypse. We presume that the development
of history takes place teleologically, but not simply according to the law of evo-
lution, which determines everything. Instead accidents, catastrophes, etc. must
be integrated into this development. Furthermore, according to the Christian
faith, there must be a relationship between the destiny of the individual person
and that of history. The theme of death and resurrection, which plays an espe-
cially important role in Orthodox Christianity, belongs to this context. History
is, in the words of Boris Pasternak, life's answer to the challenge of death. It is a
mysterious system to overcoming death, to which each religion makes its own
contribution. Orthodoxy also sees here the common foundation of all religions
and the basis for the dialogue between them. (HORUZHY)
The idea of a completion of history is foreign to Japanese Buddhism. There
is, to be sure, a kind of Buddhist philosophy of history. It distinguishes three
time periods: that of the teachings of Buddha, that of putting these teachings
into practice, and that in which there is neither the teachings nor their practice.
This is, however, a myth of little significance. The idea that every moment of

life is at the same time the end of life and of history and their beginning is more
central to Buddhism. (ARIFUKU)

3. What role does the idea of retribution play in the world religions?

One basic principle of law is that no proven crime can remain unpunished. At
what points does Islam go beyond pure legalism? (KOSLOWSKI) How is Islam's
idea of the hereafter related to human freedom? (question from the audience)
Punishment and reward accomplish more than merely providing motives for
ethical conduct. The core of Islam is not punishment, but the human person. All
of the commandments revealed in the Qur'an serve only to make people's lives
easier in this world, to help them to live better. Not the hereafter, but this life, is
important. Ethics and morality, like ritual actions, fasting, and praying, are only
aids for a successful human life. God does not need our service to him, but we
do. (Shama)
The Qur'an works out precisely what punishments people can expect for
their evil deeds. But since the texts are to be understood symbolically, we need
theology's interpretation. Many Islamic theologians understand heaven and hell
as a spiritual state. The primary goal of the Qur'an is to sensitize the soul to the
distinction between good and evil, so that when it commits an evil deed, it
suffers under it and perceives this as its worst punishment. But since the soul
can become insensitive to evil, we also need concrete punishment. (comment
from the audience)
Judaism has several answers to the question of retribution. Repayment is
also a biblical idea, but it means here a repayment that takes place on earth. This
is also a theme of the Book of Job. The biblical concepts of heaven and hell are
not to be understood in the way that they were used later. The idea of a world in
the hereafter surfaced only later in the rabbinic literature, in which heaven ap-
pears as a mirror of the joy of this world, thus, for the rabbi, for instance as a
life of permanent study. Then in the Middle Ages, under the influence of Islam-
ic Sufis, there originated a spiritualization that especially characterized Jewish
mysticism. Death appears here as a spiritual advent. Some extreme forms of
Jewish mysticism also believe in the experience of heaven and hell on earth.
Judaism developed different logics, depending upon the respective religious
structures of the different spiritual traditions: When the person stands in the
center, there is the idea of a repayment in this world or the next. When spiritual
experience is central, it is interpreted as an image of the experience of heaven or
hell. (IDEL)

4. Do the world religions believe that persons of other faiths can be saved?
What role does the idea of mission play in the world religions?

The Western religions have much in common with the Eastern traditions of
faith: We consider everything in this life to be deceptive and unreliable, and
death to be inevitable, and believe in the significance of good deeds for a later
life. We are essentially in agreement about the content of our ideas of morality
and ethics. The veneration of God plays an important role, in one way or anoth-
er, in all religions. Our ideas of heaven and hell are also comparable, and we all
recognize some fonn of apocalypticism. Even so, there are essential differences:
According to the Bhagavad-Gita, everyone, regardless of which religion he be-
longs to, attains his liberation (salvation), if he acts correctly, i.e. fulfills his
ethical duty for its own sake. We all assume that there is only one reality and
one God, whatever its name may be, in which we believe. This view that basic-
ally everyone who lives ethically is saved is shared by Hinduism and Buddhism.
What do the Abrahamic have to say about this? (RAMAN)
Christianity has never denied that non-Christians can be and are saved.
There is a problem only when the Gospel is explicitly rejected. It is easier to
conceive of salvation than of the failure to attain salvation, since nothing is re-
vealed to us about the latter. We should not call God's judgment into question,
but should hold fast to the hope that God will lead to completion everything that
cannot complete itself; otherwise, no creature could be saved. This hope applies
to all beings, not only human beings. God does not destroy anything that he has
created; this is also true of people who have become criminals primarily be-
cause of unfortunate social handicaps, not through their own fault (question
from the audience). God saves everything that he can save and persuade. Some-
thing that cannot be repaired will disappear on its own, but will not be destroyed
by God. We should not think about religions so much in tenns of their end
states. The salvation of such finite goods as human life, freedom, etc. is the goal
of salvation and of the Savior at the end of history, not the perfection of the
world. (SCHENK)
Buddhism recognizes only a natural mission. If one believes in a particular
religion and considers it to be good, one can communicate to others in natural
ways. Each religion develops with natural restrictions and conditions, and has
advantages and disadvantages. If one religion encounters another, they can find
new perspectives and be enriched. That does not require a concept of mission.
The true mission is openness to other religions. (ARIFUKU)
The idea of mission does not play any role in Judaism. Religions that are
closely connected to a national community incline much less to universalism
and missionary zeal than religions, such as Buddhism and Christianity, that
arose from protest movements. The latter strive for expansion, which also in-

cludes territorial gain, as is the case with Islam. One virtue of old, national reli-
gions is that they do not tend so much to missionary expansion. (IDEL)
In India we have the Ramakrishna Mission, which is responsible for wide-
ranging social improvements (building hospitals, schools, etc.). In doing so, it is
modeled on the Christian mission of Mother Theresa. The idea of converting
persons of other faiths is foreign to Hinduism. (RAMAN)
Islam does not compel anyone to the faith. The task of mission in the sense
of the Qur'an is to communicate the teaching of its religion to others in good
(i.e. reasonable) ways, not violent ways. In this respect, Islam has no
missionaries, only teachers. (SHAMA)
Holy Scripture expresses itself with complete clarity on the question of mis-
sion, even if without explanations of the methods. As Christians, we should pro-
claim the Gospel to everyone. We have the duty to make our faith known, not
violently, but - as in Islam - through communication. (HORUZHY)
On one hand, part of the Christian self-understanding is the obligation of
mission. On the other hand, one must admit the mistakes of former missionary
attempts and learn from them. The contemporary Christian understanding of
mission includes four principles: 1. The universality (catholicity) of the Church,
which is important for overcoming a Euro-centric position; 2. mission as incul-
turation: one learns from other religions; 3. the admission that the Gospel can
develop in different ways in different places; 4. the possibility of the well-
founded renunciation of mission (for instance, the renunciation of missions to
Jews). (SCHENK)
Mission belongs to the dialogue of the religions. One must first search for
one's own truth and understand it, in order to be able to communicate with rep-
resentatives of other religions and to learn from them and their relationships to
God. Understood in this way, mission belongs in our day to every tradition.
Without the spiritual exchange of cultures, every tradition would exist, like a
monad, only for itself. (comment from the audience)



1. Is there a religiously relevant relationship between religion and nation in the

different religions?

Since Islam originated in Arabia, the identification of the nation with its religion
was strong from the beginning. Even today one can say that 90% of the Arabian
people belong to the Islamic religion, and there are particular regions in which
Islam unambiguously predominates. But Islam is also expanding in other na-
tions, so that, on the other hand, one can speak of a universalistic tendency of
this religion. In this respect it is similar to Christianity. Furthermore, the Qur'an
includes no statement that is tied to a specific nation. It advocates, instead, the
view that everything and everyone was created by God, regardless of color,
race, or gender. (ENGINEER)
Buddhism developed in India, China, and Japan in close connection with
these particular nations, but is independent of the nation in terms of its content
and ultimate goal. If one achieves self-enlightenment, one should help others
attain that goal as well. Thus, Buddhism has the tendency to develop into a
world religion, in contrast to Shinto, for example, which is closely connected
with Japanese culture. (ARIFUKU)
We must distinguish between the question of the significance of the nation
for the religion, on one hand, and that of the religion for the nation, on the other
hand. In most cases the nation is irrelevant for a religion, even if many nations
have a majority that belongs to a particular religion. Tibetan Buddhism, which
has a strong national-cultural coloring, is perhaps an exception here, despite its
universalistic claim. (SCHENK)
The separation between national and non-national religions is too simple. In
many religions, primarily the older ones, we find a close connection of the reli-
gion to the particular nation, to the region (of its origin), and to the king of this
nation; as in the cases of Egypt and Assyria. The king forms the center of the

P. Koslowski (ed.), Progress, Apocalypse, and Completion of History and Life after Death of the Human Person
in the World Religions, 126-130.
© 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

religion, and it belongs to a particular region. A gradual development can be ob-

served from this originally close relationship between religion and nation,
which was characteristic of the early religious understanding, to expansion be-
yond national borders. The archaic view of religion, however, was much more
closely tied to a particular location and leader. Even Christianity has national
forms, if we think about Coptic or Nestorian Christianity, for example. We
make it too easy for ourselves when we speak abstractly of Christianity, Juda-
ism, etc. as a whole (IDEL)
We must ask ourselves what the future of our religious understanding will
look like in this new millennium, given the militaristic disagreements between
religions and confessions experienced in the recent past and still continuing to-
day. Hinduism has never been declared a state religion, because only as reli-
gions independent of nations can we permit other religions and live in peace
with one another. The example of Sri Lanka shows what happens when a reli-
gion is declared a state religion. (RAMAN)
The example of India's so-called "tribal belt," which extends from the north-
east across the regions of Assam and Bihar, which are rich in natural resources,
to the west of the country, show how closely particular Indian ethnic religions
are related to the places of their origins. In contemporary India the tribes settled
there are displaced increasingly from their homes by industry. In the process,
they are experiencing religious disorientation and disintegration. (D'SA)
In the Orthodox Christian countries, other aspects play an important role, as
far as the relationship between the nation and the religion is concerned. If a
country identifies itself too strongly with a religion that, according to its content
and claims, is a universal religion, such as Christianity, there is a tendency to-
ward privatization and monopolization, which distorts and destroys the univer-
sal character of this religion and, therefore, the religion itself. In the Orthodox
Church this tendency of so-called "phyletism" has been called a new heresy.
There was an example of such a nationalization of the Christian religion in the
1880s as the Bulgarian church, after liberation from Turkish rule, declared its
independence from Constantinople. We also find such tendencies, however, in
Western Christianity. (HORUZHY)

2. In what ways can a religion change?

A strength and weakness of the Christian religion is its emphasis on the idea of
singularity at all levels (the singularity of history, its events, revelation and the
Incarnation, etc.) and its related claim to absoluteness, which also exists in Is-
lam. Where do the other religions stand in this regard? (KOSLOWSKI)
The self-understanding of Christianity cannot be reduced to the singularity
of the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, even if this makes up an important

piece of this self-understanding. In other regions and nations, Christianity has

other fonns, in which more stress is placed on, for instance, the idea of creation.
We also find the idea of singularity in non-Christian religions, but not the
claim to absoluteness. According to the Qur'an, God deliberately created the
plurality of different religions in order to test our ability to live together in
peace. Our Islamic religion obligates us to respect other religions. There is,
however, an interpretation of Islam that maintains its absoluteness. (ENGINEER)
Since Hinduism pennits many revelations, it has no problem to accept the
Christian revelation as one among many. But it generally declines a claim to
absoluteness. If one accepts only one revelation in history, one falls into diffi-
culties with respect to other historical revelations, which likewise consider
themselves to be authentic. (ENGINEER)
An essential claim of the Christian faith is that Jesus is definitive and that we
can be saved only by faith in him and his name. The question is, however: How
are we to understand this definitiveness? Fonnerly it was believed that one
could be saved only as a member of the Christian Church. That would exclude
those who never had the opportunity to become acquainted with the Gospel.
One can, however, completely hold fast to the claim that the ultimate and sole
criterion of the salvation of human persons is their relationship to Jesus Christ
(abandoning this would mean the abolition of the Christian religion), without
thereby excluding those who have grown up in other cultures and religions. The
dialogue of the religions is about getting to know our differences, not about
conversion. (PANNENBERG)
Judaism is just as exclusive as Christianity and Islam, perhaps even moreso.
This becomes problematic the moment one declares the Bible to be absolute. In
doing so, one excludes important discoveries in other areas, in the sciences for
instance, which do not appear in the Bible, and gives the Bible a particular, na-
tional character. The fact that the Bible is the center of the Jewish faith, how-
ever, leads to the acceptance of many other, non-biblical fonns of knowledge
and discovery, which are then brought into relationship with it, so that modem
scientific theories flow into completely traditional commentaries on the Bible.
In Judaism revelation is understood comprehensively. (IDEL)
Not every interpretation of the Bible can be permitted. We already find evi-
dence of this in the Bible itself. The confrontation with other religions and cul-
tures always leads to examination of one's own religion, to acceptance and re-
jection. We should not interpret the Bible literally, but instead historically, us-
ing of our present knowledge, so that it will also remain relevant for us in the
future. (PANNENBERG)
We must develop a method of dialogue that allows us to retain the special
features of our own religion, without abandoning our central interest in the uni-
versalization of the religions. The historical view alone is not sufficient for this.

We can make ourselves understood only if we attempt to understand the world

view of the other religions. (D'SA)
One cannot expect Christians to give up the belief that Christ is the only sav-
ior of the world. We can only attempt to clarify this claim, which is, of course, a
process that will never come to an end. We are alike in not knowing what the
end of time will look like; but we share the messianic hope. (P ANNENBERG)

3. How can an unidentifiable God be conceived? (with reference to Hinduism)

Hinduism's attempt to integrate the various religions and religious movements

appears problematic insofar as no one is able to define the content of the Hindu
faith and conception of God more precisely. This gives the impression of inde-
cisiveness and indefiniteness in the Hindu faith. (KOSLOWSKI)
The fact is that we in India find a plurality of truths, religions, and religious
ideas. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism have recognized and reacted to this
fundamental problem of Indian philosophy and religion in such a way that they
all accept the plurality of religious truths. From a particular perspective, every
religion, every faith, is right. One has one's personal conviction, but permits
others to have theirs, since we cannot know whose is true. In other words, there
is no such thing as Hinduism simpliciter. (ANTARKAR)
I can, as someone who has grown up in and with Hinduism, also adopt an-
other religion. (RAMAN)
This attitude of Hinduism is not at all a singular phenomenon. It instead re-
sembles that of the Greeks and also the Jews. None of us knows exactly which
faith is correct. In the Talmud one finds the saying: "If you have to choose be-
tween God and the Torah, please choose the Torah." In other words, we cannot
recognize God, the truth, himself, but we can recognize the various interpreta-
tions of this truth, which help us to reach God. (I DEL)
The trend of the Christian consciousness is historical, that of the Hindu con-
sciousness ahistorical. As a consequence, there are different ways of approach-
ing the truth, different points of emphasis, and different values. What matters in
Hinduism is the act of faith, not the content of faith. That does not mean that the
faith must be void of content (reply to objection of PANNENBERG). But as soon
as I seek to define the content, there are differences with other religious ideas.
The question is: Can we fonnulate our faiths in such a way that we can achieve
mutual understanding? (D'Sa)

4. Are missionizing and conversion fundamentally to be rejected from the per-

spective of the non-Christian religions?

Conversion in itself is not the problem. But, conversion for the sake of political
or economic goals, or paying the poor to convert, which takes place in India, is
problematic. (ANTARKAR)
When Christian missionaries help the poor in India, it is only natural that
these people accept the Christian faith. This cannot be called exploitation of the
poor. Exploitation of the poor is also forbidden by Indian law. (ENGINEER)
The tradition of the Qur' an allows conversion to another religion. But the
interpretation of conservatives requires that the state punishes a Muslim who
converts. Thus, the Qur'an does not see conversion as idolatry. (SHAMA)

5. Can other religions be enriched by dialogue with the Christian religion, or

learn something for themselves in the process, as Christianity can gain from the
dialogue with other religions?

There is a saying: Accept the good from others and reject the bad. The Qur'an
puts it more clearly: Paradise is not a monopoly of Christians or Moslems or
Jews, etc. Anyone can be saved by good deeds and faith in God. (ENGINEER)
The Christian mission of Mother Theresa built schools in India. Since then
there are orders of Jain sisters who have followed her example and opened
schools and hospitals. We were able to learn here from Christians. (ANTARKAR)
One good result of this discourse is that we understand ourselves better. It is
not about winning converts to one's own religion, nor about influencing, but
instead about a presentation of one's own faith, in order to make it more under-
standable to others. (Engineer)

ERNST ALBRECHT, born 1930; B.A., Dr. rer. pol., Member of the Parliament of
Lower Saxony, Hanover, Germany, 1970-90; Minister-President of Lower Sax-
ony, 1976-90; Vice-Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany,
1979-90; Founder and President, Stiftung Niedersachsen - The Foundation of
Lower Saxony, 1985-2000; Personal Advisor to the President and the Prime
Minister of Kyrgyzstan, since 1995. Publications include: Der Staat: Idee und
Wirklichkeit (Stuttgart, 1976); Erinnerungen, Erkenntnisse, Entscheidungen
(Gottingen, 1999).

SHIVRAM S. ANTARKAR, Professor, Jain Academy Educational and Research

Center, Department of Philosophy, University of Mumbai, India. (For more
details, see A Discourse ofthe World Religions, Vol. 3.)

KOGAKU ARIFUKU, born 1939, OnodalYamaguchi, Japan; Philosopher and

Zen Priest; Professor, Faculty of Integrated Human Studies, Kyoto University.
Publications include: Kant's Philosophy of Transcendental Subjectivity (Tokyo,
1990, Japanese); Dogen 's Idea of Nature in his Zen Theory (Tokyo, 1991, Jap-
anese); Editor, Man and Religion in the Present Age: Why Does the Human
Person Seek Religion? (Tokyo, 1996, Japanese); Philosophie of Action (Tokyo,
1997, Japanese); Deutsche Philosophie und Zen-Buddhismus: Komparative
Studien (Berlin, 1999); Japanese translation of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason
(Tokyo, 2001); Editor of the new Japanese edition of Kant's complete works.

FRANCIS X. D'SA, Professor, Department of Systematic Theology and Indian

Religions, Pontifical Athenaeum, Pune; Director, Institute for the Study of Re-
ligion, Pune, India. (For more details, see A Discourse of the World Religions,
Vol. 3.)

ASHGAR ALI ENGINEER, Chair, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism,
and Institute of Islamic Studies, Mumbai, India. (For more details, see A Dis-
course of the World Religions, Vol. 3.)

FRIEDRICH HERMANNI, Reader in Philosophy, Kirchliche Hochschule Bethel,

Bielefeld, Germany; Research Fellow, Hanover Institute of Philosophical


Research, 1993-2000. (For more details, see A Discourse of the World

Religions, Vol. 3.)

SERGEY S. HORUZHY, Professor of Mathematical Physics, Mathematical

Institute Steklov, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia. (For more
details, see A Discourse of the World Religions, Vol. 3.)

MOSHE IDEL, born 1947, in Romania. Ph.D., Hebrew University, 1976; Max
Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.
Publications include: The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia (Albany,
NY, 1987); Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah (Albany, NY, 1988); Kabbalah: New
Perspectives (New Haven, 1988); Language, Torah and Hermeneutics in
Abraham Abulafia (Albany, NY, 1988); Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical
Traditions on the Artificial AnthropOid (Albany, NY, 1990); Mystical Union in
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: An Ecumenical Dialogue (New York, 1996);
Co-Editor, Jewish Mystical Leaders and Leadership in the 13th Century
(Northvale, NJ, 1998); Messianic Mystics (New Haven, 1998).

PETER KOSLOWSKI, born 1952, Gottingen, Germany. Independent Author;

Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Political Economy, University of Witten!
Herdecke; Founding Director, Forschungsinstitut fUr Philosophie Hannover -
The Hanover Institute of Philosophical Research, 1987-2001. Publications in-
clude: GesellschaJt und Staat: Ein unvermeidlicher Dualismus (Stuttgart, 1982;
Russian edition); Die postmoderne Kultur (Munich, 1987, 1988; Chinese, Ital-
ian, Japanese, Russian editions); Series Editor, Studies in Economic Ethics and
Philosophy, 30 vols. (Heidelberg and New York, since 1992); Gnosis und The-
odizee (Vienna, 1993); Editor, Die spekulative Philosophie der Weltreligionen
(Vienna, 1997); Co-Editor, Die Wirklichkeit des Bosen (Munich, 1998); Prin-
ciples of Ethical Economy (Dordrecht, 2001; Chinese, French, German, Rus-
sian, Spanish editions); Philosophien der OjJenbarung: Antiker Gnostizismus,
Franz von Baader, Schelling (Paderbom, 2001).

WOLFHART PANNENBERG, born 1928, Stettin, Germany; Dr. Theol., Universi-

ty of Heidelberg, 1953. Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, University
of Munich; Member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities;
Fellow of the British Academy; several honorary doctorates. Publications in
English translation include: Jesus: God and Man (Philadelphia, 1968); Basic
Questions in Theology (Philadelphia, 1971); Theology and the Philosophy of
Science (Philadelphia, 1976); Anthropology in Theological Perspective (Phila-
delphia, 1985); Metaphysics and the Idea of God (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1990);
Introduction to Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1991); Systematic

Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1991-98); Towards a Theology of Na-

ture (Louisville, 1993).

N. S. S. RAMAN, born 1928; B.A.; M.A.; Ph.D. in Indian Philosophy, Univer-

sity of Rajasthan, 1956; Dr. phil. in Contemporary Philosophy, University of
Mainz, 1968. Post-Doctoral Fellow, Glasgow, Scotland; Visiting Professor,
University of Mainz, Germany; Visiting Scholar, East-West Center, Honolulu,
Hawaii; UGC National Professor, India; Professor Emeritus, former Head of the
Department of Philosophy and Religion, and former Dean of the Faculty of
Arts, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. Publications include: Das
Wesen der ChifJren bei Karl Jaspers (Mainz, 1968); Editor, Religious Language
and Other Papers (Varanasi, 1982); Methodological Studies in the History of
Religions with Special Reference to Hinduism and Buddhism (Shimla, 1998).

RICHARD SCHENK OP, born 1951, Burbank, California; Dr. Theol., University
of Munich, 1986; Director, Hanover Institute of Philosophical Research, Han-
over, Germany, 1991-2000; Professor of Philosophy and Theology, Dominican
School of Philosophy and Theology, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley,
California. Publications include: Die Gnade vollendeter Endlichkeit: Zur trans-
zendentaltheologischen Auslegung der thomanischen Anthropologie (Freiburg,
1989); Editor, Zur Theorie des Opfers: Ein interdiszipliniires Gespriich (Stutt-
gart-Bad Cannstadt, 1995); Editor, Kontinuitiit der Person: Zum Versprechen
und Vertrauen (Stuttgart, 1998); Co-Editor, Die Reunionsgespriiche im Nieder-
sachsen des 17. Jahrhunderts: Rojas y Spinola - Molan - Leibniz (Gottingen,
1999); Co-Editor, Apokalypse (Rehburg-Loccum, 2000).

MUHAMMAD SHAMA, Professor and Head of the Department ofIslamic Studies

in the Faculty of Theology, al-Azhar University, Cairo. Academic Advisor to
the Minister for Religious Affairs. Publications include: Die Stellung der Frau
im sunnitischen Islam, unter besonderer Beriicksichtigung Agyptens.

MAHMOUD ZAKZOUK, born 1933 in Egypt; Dr. Phil., University of Munich;

Professor of Philosophy, Al Azhar University, Cairo, since 1968; Dean of the
Faculty of Islamic Theology, 1987-95; Vice President of Al Azhar University,
1995; Minister of Religious Endowments (AI Awqaf) and President of the
Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Egypt, since 1996; President, Egyptian
Philosophical Society; Member of the Islamic Research Academy, Cairo;
Member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Salzburg. Egyptian
State Prize for Social Science, 1997. Many publications about philosophy,
ethics, Oriental studies, and Islamic studies. Participant in many European
conferences, primarily about religious and cultural dialogue.

Italicized page numbers refer to names in footnotes.

Abel 56 Besht 60
Abraham 84, 87, 92 Biale, D. 70
Abraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi 47, Bismarck, O. v. 104f
70,72,109 Bloch,J. 40, 69, 71
Abravanel,1. 74, 109 Bloom, H. 70
Abulafia, A. 45f, 51, 53-55, 57, 60, Bokser, B. 43
63,65-67, 69f, 74,107, 131 Breid, F. 120
Adam 68,83,90 Broad, C.D.17
Aescoly, A.Z. 49, 53 Bruck, M. v.116
Albrecht, E. 75, 77, 102, 131 Buber, M. 71, 108
Althaus, P. 2f, 122
Altmann, A. 64 Cardoso, A. M. 60
Al Qurtubi 89 Carlebach, E. 61
Amon von No 63 Cassianus, 1. 122
Antarkar, S. S. 129f Charlesworth,1. H. 43
Arifuku, K. 22-39, 75-77, 79, 102, Chattopadhyaya, D. P. 13
114f, 123f, 126, 131 Chipman, J. 67, 72
Aristotle 7, 23f, 85, 105 Coedes, G. 8
AIjuna 15 Cohen, M.C. 44, 62
Armilus 55 Collins, J. J. 401
Ashkenazi, 1. 61 Cordovero, M. 73
Athenagoras 86 Crito 25
At-Tabari 89 Cross, F.M. 40
Augustine 88, 121 Cyrus 81
Aurobindo, S. 11
Daibai 32f
Baader, F. v. 132 Dalai Lama 18, 116
Badarayana 10, 14 Dan,1. 44, 51,64, 73
Barnes, R.B. 74 Daniel 42f, 67, 82
Barr,1. 80 Dato, M. 74
Basham, A.L. 13 David 49,58,81
Bat Zion Eraqi Klorman 45 David, ben 44, 55, 63, 108
Bhattacharya, K. C. 11 David ha-Re 'ubeni 109
Beck, L.W. 38 De Nicolas, A.T. 17
Bergson, H. 4 della Reina, J. 64


Descartes, R. 26f, 30 Ignatius of Antioch 83

Deussen, P. 11 Irenaeus of Lyon 83
Dharmasastra 19 Isaac ben Jacob ha-Cohen 50-52
Dinaburg, B.-Z. 71 Isaac ben Shmuel von Acre 67
Dogen 22, 27-32, 34-36, 39, 76f, Isaiah 62, 81 f
114-116, 131 Ishai 49
D'Sa 127, 129 Ishmael52f

Edgerton, F. 14 Jacobson, Y. 74
Edom 46, 52 Jacob 65
Efron, 1.M. 61 Jaspers, K. 132
Engineer, A. A. 120, 123f Jayadeva 15
Esau 46 Jellinek, A. 55
Jeremiah 45
Faierstain, M.M. 47 Jesus Christ 41, 83, 95, 102, 113,
Fishbane, M. 67 116, 127-129, 132
Friedlander, 1. 44 Joachim of Fiore 48
Funkenstein, A. 65 Job 123
John 42,87, 110, 122
Gager, 1. G. 63 Johnson, C. 11
Gandhi, M. 14 Joseph, ben 44, 55, 108
Goodman, L. E. 65 Joshua 80
Graetz, H. 55 Jowett, B. 25
Greenberg, U. Z. 71 Joy, B. 5
Gruber, M. 1. 60 Jozan (Chinese: Ting-shan) 32
JUngel, E. 113
Hacker, 1. 59
Haldane, E. S. 26 Kant,1. 10, 14, 19,26,30,37-39,
Hanson, P. D. 40 82,115,131
Hartman, D. 65 Kassan (Chinese: Chia-shan) 32
Heidegger, M. 105 Kaufmann, D. 47
Hermanni, F. 75-79,101-103,121- Kautilyas 14
130 Kermode,F.41
Hobbes, Th. 1 Koch, K. 82
Horuzhy,S. 122,125,127 Koelman, G. M. 12
Hume, R. E. 9 Kortner, U.H.J. 107
Hyobukyo-no-miya 24 Kohl, H. 104
Koslowski, P. 1-7, 76f, 101, 121-
Ibn Kathir 89 123, 126f, 129, 131
Idel, M. 40-76, 78, 101, 106-108, Kraemer, Y. L. 65
112, 115, 123, 125, 127-129, 131 Krishna, D. 14

Lai, W. 116 Myers, D. N. 61

Lerner, R. 49
Lessing, G. E. 112f Nagarjuna 10
Levi, I. 42 Nakache, S. 51
Levin, H. 74 Nanyo-Echu (Chinese: Nanyang-
Liebes, Y. 51,62 Huichang) 29
Low, R. 118 Nathan 81
Loewe, R. 64 Nathan ben Se' adya Harar 45
Luzzatto, M.e. 60 Nathan von Gaza 55f, 60-62, 64
Nebuchadnezzar 81
Macchiavelli 14 Neher, A. 67
MacIntyre, A. 117 Nehuniah ben ha-Qanah 62
Maier, J. 109 Nietzsche, F. 112
Maimonides 59, 65 Niewohner, F. 112
Mani, V. 9 Nimrod 92
Manu 8 Nishida 37
Manyoshu 24 Noah 92
Markus 87
Mashar, A. 61 Origenes 86
Matthew 88, 110 Oron, M. 64
McBride, S.D. 40
McGinn, B. 40-42 Panchen Lama 18
McKeon, R. 23 Pannenberg, W. 80-88, 101f, 118,
Meister Eckhart 77, 116 128f, 132
Meshullam ben Shlomo Dapiera 49- Paracelsus 4
53 Pasternak 122
Metz, J. B. 11 OJ, 115 Patai, R. 44
Miller, P. D. Jr. 40 Paul 83, 85-88, 101, 115, 117
Mishra, V. 12 Pelagius 121 f
Mithing, Chr. 71 Peli, P. 51
Mizuno, Y. 28 Peretz, A. 61 f
Mohammed 84, 91, 97, 99, 102, 112 Peters, T. R. III
Molkho, S. 46f, 56, 58, 60, 64, 70 Phillips, G. E. 10
Montanus 84 Plato vii, 25, 30, 38,42, 85, 118-120
Moses 43,56,63,67,82,84 Plotinus 119
Moshe ben Yehudah 52 Porush, J. E. 46
Mother Theresa 130
Muller, F. M. 1 J Rabia al-Adawiya 99, 113
Muller, K. 1091 Radhakrishnan, S. 9, 11,14,20
Muhammad Mushin Khan 89 Raju, P.T. 19
Muhammad Taqi-du-Din AI-Hilali

Raman, N.S.S. 7-21, 75-77, 79, 102, Socrates 25, 30, 120
115, 118, 120, 124f, 127, 129, Solomon 81
132 Stein, S. 40, 64
Ramanuja 10, 16 Stoyanov, Y. 48
Ramanujan, A. K. 10 Strauss, L. 1
Ravitzky, A. 40, 65, 72 Swirsky, M. 72
Raz-Krakotzkin, A. 71
Reeves, M. 74 Tagore, R. 11, 21
Ross, G.R.T. 26 Tamar, D. 47
Rubaschow, Z. 71 Taytaczack, J. 59
Thomas Aquinas 86, 117
Sack, B. 73 Tilak, B. G. 14
Sahid al-Bukhari 89 Tishby, I. 64, 74
Said Amir Arjomand 45 Twersky, I. 65
Saldarini, A. 42 Tzevi, S. 60
Sammael von No 63
Sankara 10, 15f Urbach, E. E. 70
Sano-no-otogame-no-otome 24 Urban, C. 111
Saperstein, M. 44 Utsubo-Monogatari 24
Sarachek, J. 701
Schaefer, P. 44, 62 Vajda, G. 59
Schelling, F.W.J. 132 Valmikis 16
Schemuel, Y. E. 44f Vatsyayanas 14
Schenk, R. 104-122, 124-126, 128, Vital, H. 47, 72f
132 Vivekanda, S. 11, 118
Schlegel, A. W. 14 Vogele, W. 107, 109!
Schlegel, F. 6
Scholem, G. 41, 50f, 59, 62, 64, 68- Werblowsky, RJ.Z. 69
71, 107 Whitehead, A. N. 42
Schwartz, A. 51
Schwartz, D. 65 Ya' Aqov Sasportas 64
Schwartz, Z. 64 Yehudah ben Nissim ibn Maika 49-
Senika 27 51, 61
Shama, M. 101-103, 123, 125, 130, Yehuda he-Hasid 59
133 Yitzhaq ha-Kohen Kook 71
Shemuel, E. 54, 63 Yitzhaq Ya' aqov von Pzysca 71
Sheva, B. 73 Yoshida, S. 24, 29
Shirman, H. 50!
Shlomo ibn Adret 59, 63 Zakzouk, M. 89-101, 111-113, 133
Simon bar Yohai 44, 51 Zekhariyahu 55
Sioterdijk, P. 110 Zwi, Sabbatai 64, 67
Smith, J.A. 23

Peter Koslowski, Editor

The Concept of God, the Origin of the World, and the Image of the Human
in the World Religions
A Discourse of the World Religions 1

All religions make statements about God or the Absolute and about "the begin-
ning": about the beginning of the world and the beginning and nature of the
human person. Propositions about God, the human person, and the world, state-
ments about God's eternity or process of becoming, about the status and nature
of the human person as the "image of God," and about the beginning of the
world are woven into "religious speculations about the beginning." The theol-
ogy, anthropology, and cosmology of the world religions determine the image
of the human person and the image of the world in the world cultures shaped by
the different religions. They stand in a tense relationship with the anthropolo-
gies and cosmologies of modern science, which in turn challenge the religions
to deepen their image of the human person.
The first of the five volumes in the series A Discourse of the World Reli-
gions presents the image of the human person and the image of the deity in the
world religions, as well as their teachings about the beginning of the world.
With their contributions to this volume - and to the other four volumes in the
series - leading scholars of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam have produced a first-hand source of information, which enables the read-
er to understand better the five world religions and their central teachings.

R. BALASUBRAMANIAN: The Origin of the World, the Concept of God,
and the Image of the Human Person in Hinduism
SHIZUTERU UEDA: The Concept of God, the Image of the Human Person,
and the Origin of the World in Buddhism
YAIR LORBERBAUM: Imago Dei in Judaism: Early Rabbinic Literature,
Philosophy, and Kabbalah: The Teaching about God, the Human Person,
and the Beginning in Talmudic and Kabbalistic Judaism
MICHAEL WELKER: Creation, the Concept of God, and the Nature of the
Human Person in Christianity
MEHDI AMINRAZA VI: God, Creation, and the Image of the Human Person
in Islam
JOHANNES LAUBE: On the Conceptions of God, the World, and the Human
Person in Five World Religions: An Attempt at a Synthesis from a
Buddhist Perspective
ARMIN KREINER: An Attempt at a Synthesis from a Christian Perspective

Peter Koslowski, Editor

The Origin and the Overcoming of Evil and Suffering in the World
A Discourse of the World Religions 2

All religions face the challenge of explaining, in view of God's goodness, the
existence of evil and suffering in the world. They must develop theories of the
origin and the overcoming of evil and suffering. The explanations of evil and
suffering in the various religions, as well as their theories of the origin and the
overcoming of evil and suffering, differ from one another, but are also similar in
many respects. The human person is always considered to be the origin of evil,
and also to be the focus of aspirations to be able to overcome evil. The convic-
tion that evil and suffering are not original and can be overcome is shared by
and is essential to the world religions.
The explanations of the origin of evil are related to the explanations of the
continuation and propagation of evil in human persons, in nature, and in our
technology and culture that have been developed in the religions - in Christiani-
ty, for example, as the doctrine of original sin. Finally, the world religions are
concerned with how to cope with suffering and offer guidance for overcoming

JAE-RYONG SHIM: Evil and the Overcoming of Suffering in Buddhism
ADNAN ASLAN: The Fall and the Overcoming of Evil and Suffering in Islam
JULIO TERAN DUTARI: The Origin and Overcoming of Evil: Original Sin and
God's Suffering in Christianity
OLIVER LEAMAN: Job and Suffering in Talmudic and Kabbalistic Judaism
Rebirth, and the Overcoming of Evil
ADNAN ASLAN: The Propositions of the World Religions about the Origin and
Overcoming of Evil: An Attempt at a Synthesis from an Islamic Perspective
KLAUS BERGER: Summary and Critique from the Perspective of a Christian

Peter Koslowski, Editor

Nature and Technology in the World Religions
A Discourse of the World Religions 3

Technology and the control of nature have arisen from the endeavor to reduce
the neediness of human life. Since this reduction is also the goal of the reli-
gions, there is a necessary proximity between religion and technology. The re-
lationship of human persons to nature and the use of technology is an object of
religious doctrine and ethics in all of the world religions. The interpretations
and the nonns of the treatment of nature in the economy and technology, but
also the veneration of nature in nature-mysticism and its elevation in cult and
sacrament, are fonns of expression of the relationship to nature in the religions.
The development of the modem control of nature through technology appears to
be connected to the biblical commission to rule over nature. Buddhism and
Hinduism, however, also interpret technology and human control of nature.
The technological power in human hands raises the question of how the nor-
mativeness of the created order intended by the religions' concept of creation
relates to the human freedom to reshape creation. What answers to the religions
provide to the question of the humane fonn of technology and the limits to tech-
nological power and human control of nature?

PETER KOSLOWSKI: Nature and Technology in the Religions
MICHA BRUMLlK: Humankind's Relationship with Nature and Participation
in the Process of Creation through Technology in the View of Judaism
FRANCIS X. D'SA: The World as Creation and Creation as a Cosmotheandric
Reality in Christianity
ASGHAR ALI ENGINEER: Humankind's Relationship with Nature and
Participation in the Process of Creation by Technology from an Islamic
Point of View
SERGEY HORUZHY: The Process of the Deification of the Human Person and
Technology in Eastern-Orthodox Christianity
D. P. CHATTOPADHYAYA: Naturalism and Humanism in Creation and
Construction in Hinduism
SHIVRAM S. ANTARKAR: Veneration of Nature, Use of Nature, and Self-
Improvement of Humankind by Technology in the SramaI:ta Tradition
(Buddhism and Jainism)
D. P. CHATTOPADHYAYA: An Attempt to Synthesise from a Hindu Perspective
the Received View of Creation, the Relationship between Humans and
Nature, and the Role of Technology

Peter Koslowski, Editor

Philosophical Dialogue of the Religions instead of the Clash of Civilizations
in the Process of Globalization
A Discourse of the World Religions 5

Religions are the largest communities of the global society and claim, at least in
the cases of Islam and Christianity, to be universal interpretations of life and or-
ders of existence. With the globalization of the world economy and the unity of
the global society in the "Internet," they gain unprecedented access to the entire
human race through modem means of communication. At the same time, this
globalization brings religions into conflict with one another in their claims to
universal validity. How can the conflict of religions be defused? The specula-
tive, philosophical method of dealing with a religion is a way to present one's
own religious convictions in the medium of philosophy and rational discourse.
The philosophical approach to religion can serve as the basis of the con-
versation of the world religions, without dissolving their truth claims. It can
reduce dogmatic claims and contribute to overcoming fundamentalism.
Philosophy builds bridges between religions.

RICHARD SWINBURNE: Christianity and the Discourse of the World Religions:
The Contribution of Philosophical Theology
SHABBIR AKHTAR: Islam and the Discourse of the World Religions and World
Cultures: The Role of Speculative Philosophy
KARL-ERICH GROZINGER: Judaism: Intra-Religious Plurality as a Chance for
Discourse between Religions
NAVJYOTI SINGH: The Role of Good Manners as a Bridge between the World
Religions in the Sanatana Tradition (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism,
SHEN-CHON LAI: The Speculative Philosophy of the Triunity in Chinese Uni-
versism (Taoism) and Buddhism: Its Philosophical-Religious Significance
and its Contribution to the Taoist-Buddhist-Christian Dialogue
MICHAEL VON BROCK: The Contribution of Religious Studies to the Dialogue
of the World Religions
ENES KARle: Philosophical Dialogue of the Religions, instead of Clash of
Civilizations, in the Process of Globalization, from an Islamic Perspective
PETER KOSLOWSKI: The Philosophy of the World Religions as the Philosophy
of Revelations
Index of Persons and Subjects for Volumes 1-5 of the Series

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