Extraordinary things can happen when the ancient and modern worlds meet. Many seemingly outdated or outmoded models of thought can be reconfigured in a contemporary context. Amongst these is the famous Great Chain of Being which envisions our reality as having four rungs to it corresponding to the rock, planet, animal and human kingdoms. While we might think that such divisions no longer have any utility, the real challenge is to unpack their deeper symbolic significance before deciding how they might be used.
How is a rock different from a plant? At first glance, life seems to be the deciding factor. We normally learn that a rock is not alive and a plant is. Consequently they belong to two different orders of existence. Yet, this is not the entire story. Drilling down into the phenomena of a rock, we find it always remains equal to itself. In other words, if no outside force acts upon it, the rock will remains self-similar (we are not considering radioactive decay or long term internal processes that might occur within a rock which, to a human observer under ordinary conditions, appear to persist in its given state indefinitely). By contrast, the plant, while rooted in its place (unless transplanted by some outside force) is mostly known for continually growing in that place. To put it abstractly, the rock represents the purely static while the plant is relatively dynamic. More particularly, the rock is the static within the static and the plant is the dynamic within the static (it’s still somewhat static due to its rootedness).
What then is the advantage of the animal? Unlike the plant which can grow within its fixed position, the animal has mobility. Animals roam. They can be nomadic. This empowers them to grow within a multitude of environments. So, once again, relative to the rock and planet, the animal kingdom reflects even greater dynamic qualities. However, when compared to the human realm, the animal is still limited. In the hierarchical system of the Great Chain of Being, the human is often indicated by the term midaber which means a ‘speaker’ in Hebrew. The intention is not merely to celebrate our achievements in communication (which are considerable) and also do not sharply distinguish us from certain animals who have minimal speech capacity. Instead, what makes humanity as a ‘speaker’ more significant than animal communication lies in our ability to use language to reprogram reality.
We are constantly transforming our world through language which is a tool that comes in recognition of the linguistic character of reality. Our words do more than reveal a pre-existing world; they help to construct it as well. Hence, we don’t just have mobility within a predefined landscape, we can reshape that landscape. Moreover, the changes are not restricted to our external world but can be used to reprogram our own bodies and minds, natures and spirits. The animal never desires to transcend its own nature. It is content to follow its instincts, to conform to its original programming. On the flip side, that which is truly human constantly strives to outdo the self, to push beyond, to redefine what it means to be human.
Consequently, the animal is static with regards to its fixed nature or innate patterns of behavior (no matter how nomadic it is) which means that it is the relatively static within the dynamic. The purely dynamic or the level of the dynamic within the dynamic is reserved for the human who is made and remade through ‘speaking’–the infinite conversation between self and world that impacts both in the process. Perhaps, it would be better to say that the human kingdom is filled with those who know how to use the code. We speak the code–the programing language.
Now if we transpose this system of four kingdoms on top of our previous discussion about networks and more specifically about the networked layers of interpretation within the text of the Torah, we bring into view an entire new set of correspondences. The plain meaning of the text (which we likened to Domains on the web) produces meaning within a local context. On this level the text would appear rock-like in being reducible to such a finite immediate expression. Each section of text would also come across as self-contained and invariant. If we were speaking about paragraphs, sentences, phrases, words or even letters, their meaning would be location based. Our efforts, given these circumstances, would be to situate the ‘rock’ within the close-at-hand textual nest and in doing so keep it from rolling or breaking apart.
With each node of our Web-text being designated as a rock, it is interesting to note how our plant lives and grows out of the soil which qualifies as the sediment of rocks and minerals. So too, our text becomes relatively more dynamic even as it is rooted in its place (context specific or at least tethered to its original context) and the allusions begin to grow out of it. Every hint that colors outside the lines of the text would be another sprouting of the calcified original. The implication being that the plain meaning of the composition was a decomposition of the allusive. The non-explicit reading between the lines with all of its twists and curls manifests like the thicket of tendrils only to collapse back into a fossilized state within the plain reading. We return the plants to the ground when we stop watering the rocks with our active readings of the ‘beyond,’ ‘behind,’ and ‘between.’ But if we reapply ourselves, our garden is sure to return. ‘Plain’ becomes beautiful and nuanced with Links.
All of the vegetation of the illusive level of interpretation is still just the dynamic within the static–an outgrowth of the plain meaning. True detachment involves cutting the cord. Similar to an animal hunting for food, the abstracting of an idea from one textual context and allowing it freedom to roam until it migrates to another textual context and is able to run and feed and live there, is the net-effect of the homiletical Search process. To pick an object of comparison (with a fairly fixed nature and behavior) and allow it to move across the terrain of the book without obstructions, would be comparable to the animal traversing the verses (trans-versing). It growth is not limited to a specific context or feeding ground but rather dependent upon exploration of many different contexts. Despite this its self-similarity as a module of thought results in its only living up to the task of being the relatively static within the dynamic.
Coders know the real secret. The purely dynamic varies all of the terms. It can reprogram the terrain and the creature to travel upon it. The genesis of new meaning depends upon the human speaker whose speech-acts transcend nature (even the pre-defined textual nature). The future of the book rests upon our ability to get at the source code–the Programmability of the text. At the same time, the human sphere lives off the lower levels. We consume the animal who consumed the plant which grew out of (and consumed) the soil. Hence, the esoteric dimension of Kabbalah is dependent upon the homiletical animal and the allusive plants and the plain rocks.
Finally, if our networked knowledge is compared to the Internet, there is still one more dimension which we can bring out beyond Domains, Links, Search and Programmability. All of these four go into a project which is building a Website. In a certain respect we can distinguish the Domain from the Website itself in that the Domain is just clearing the ground upon which the Website will be built. What we have neglected to describe up until now is the ultimate intent of this undertaking. This would be considered to be the ‘crown’ (keter) of the entire affair. In the book of Ezra (6:3), we find a proclamation regarding the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem “…let the house be built, a place [atar] for the offering of sacrifices….” This place enables people to come close to one another within the house (Temple) which signifies global unity. In modern Hebrew it so happens that the aramaic word for ‘place’ (atar) has also come to mean a ‘Website.’
This particular word for a place or space or site carries an import allusion to the soul experiences associated with the crown (keter). The crown denotes the superconscious or unconscious root of the soul, it is the source of all of our drive and motivation for everything that we think, feel, say and do. Zooming into the superconscious, Kabbalah informs us that we can detect three ‘night’ lights that serve as beacons by which we are guided in the boat of our conscious states. Called faith (emunah), pleasure (ta’anug), and will (ratzon), these three parts of the crown inspire everything that flows from them. Thus, we might suggest that the faith, pleasure and will (what we believe, what we find meaningful or pleasurable, and what we want or desire) motivate our Website. They ‘crown’ the Domain once it is Linked, Searchable, and Programable. Remarkably, the three letters of the word for our Website or atar (Alef-Tav-Reish) form an acronym for faith (emunah which begins with an Alef), pleasure (ta’anug which begins with a Tav) and will (ratzon beings with a Reish).
If this is true with Websites on the Internet, then it is all the more essential to the interpretive strategies for reading the Torah. The entire process is meant to allow the superconscious lights of faith, pleasure and will to dwell within the text and enliven an inspired reading.