A precis of a study in the writings of Martin Buber with special reference to his conception of religion and human relations

Rothauge, Arlin (1969) A precis of a study in the writings of Martin Buber with special reference to his conception of religion and human relations. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Hasidism, a mid-eighteenth century mysticism of Polish Jewry, represents for Buber the heart of both Judaism and his personal way of being religious. In his essays on the Hasidim Buber sumo up their faith and his neo-Hasidist theology best in the term "pansacramentalism." God is believed to be everywhere present in our immediate world, and hence by turning to Him in every moment we are able to live in an intimate, free, and reciprocal relationship with God. And all human existence is made sacred by this joining together of man and God in everyday life. Buber argues in Ich und Du that man encounters God only through that mode of our being referred to as "I-Thou." Our "Thou" might be a person, a part of nature, and what Buber calls Geistige Wesenheiten. Furthermore, any one of these "Thous" might become, so to speak, a sacrament though which we meet the eternal Thou. Surely many problems arise out of such an "'I-Thou" theology, but we concentrate our critical attention on one, namely Buber's tendency to reject formal religion in favour of his rather mystical, individualistic relation to the eternal Thou. Fox him the Jewish laws and rituals seem to fall in the godless category of "I-It." Therefore, he affirms the supposedly non-ecclesiastical religion of Moses and the free prophets instead of official Judaism. He sees in Biblical Judaism a historical dialogue between Israel and their God. The history of faith in the Bible, according to Buber, centres around the struggle to establish the kingship of God in the national life of Israel. The divine kingship would be expressed not by a priesthood and a religious establishment but by actualizing the love and justice of God in the daily life and national affairs of the elect people of God. Jewish life and Hebraic religion are only properly fulfilled when Israel simultaneously becomes a community of faith and a nation. The "I-Thou" philosophy and Buber's interpretation of Biblical Judaism are both closely linked to his Zionist and socialist line of thought, The socialist society that ho envisages is established by the spiritual power of the "I-Thou" relation between men and with God. As opposed to the militant revolution advocated by the Marxists, Buber argues for a gradual social evolution towards true community. By community Buber means social relations based on spontaneity, mutuality, and trust rather than capitalistic exploitation and political power. He believes that the local communities would eventually federate into larger ones by means of purely voluntary association. The problems of trade and defence would be turned over to a restricted administration rather than a powerful, permanent State. Now, Buber views the theo-political experiment of Moses as the germ of true religious socialism. By identifying Biblical history with modern socialist theory Buber comes to the conclusion that both the destiny of man and the mission of the Jewish people are served by the development of a socialist society in Israel. Throughout Buber's writings we find him very confident in spontaneous association but distrustful of objectivity, formality, and permanency. In other words, order and freedom are set over against one another, and he tends to choose the latter. For Buber this priority involves disapproval of both government and organised religion. However, it seems that we might formulate a more balanced view that still takes the value of Buber's thought into account. Firstly, It is pointed out that "I-It" can be seen as an integral part of the "I-Thou" relation. Secondly, It is suggested that Goistige Wesenheiten, the third category of "I-Thou" relations, might be extended to include a just State and formal religion, i .e. liturgies, doctrines, and moral precepts. This accommodation of organised religion, however, does not imply the approval of authoritarian, doctrinarian principles, legalistic morality, and the perpetuation of outmoded rituals and irrelevant symbols. It is my opinion that liberal-minded Protestants must join with Buber in upholding religious freedom and in advocating the unity of religion and daily life.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Theology, Judaic studies
Date of Award: 1969
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1969-72442
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 15:12
Last Modified: 24 May 2019 15:12
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72442

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