«χώρα Revue d’Études Anciennes et Médievales:
Philosophie, Théologie, Sciences»,
1/2003, Editura Meridiane,
Bucureşti, 2003 

THE DISTINCTION bETWEEN PHYSICS AND METAPHYSICS IN MAIMONIDES'S' "GUIDE OF THE PERPLEXED" [1]

Madeea Axinciuc

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As long as man wanders, groping for both truth and wisdom, he is occupied with the practice of philosophy. He leaves this kind of wandering when he comes to find the way of metaphysics, “wise groping” already having a guide. The contradiction between the rational truths of the science and the hidden, mysterious truths of the Torah[2], in fact, the contradiction between philosophy and religion, is apparent, unreal, deriving from a superficial, inadequate understanding of the Scriptures unveiled only via metaphysics, the science which reconciles at the same time philosophy and religion by exceeding them in profoundness and truth[3].

Which is, in Maimonides’ vision, the very common point of philosophy and religion? What makes possible their final identification? Which is the guide that makes possible the existence of metaphysics as non-distinguished (and never opposite to) religion? The simple answer only indicated by Maimonides would be: the transcendence. Religion explicitly recognizes the transcendence of God as representing its the main Object (in fact, Subject). The identification religion – philosophy is therefore possible only in metaphysics, conceived as philosophy of transcendence.

For the perplexed one philosophy is everything else but not discourse of/upon the divine. Or, Maimonides’ aim is, on the one hand, to show, to indicate, via philosophy, the transcendence (hence the naissance of metaphysics), and, on the other hand, to show, to indicate the same transcendence within the Scriptures, via religion[4].

Metaphysics is the science of the initiated ones; it unveils the divine truths the philosophers are looking for, truths called by Maimonides, following the traditional line, the "secrets" (sodot), the "mysteries of the Torah” (sitrei Torah)[5]. Consequently, we must admit The Guide for the Perplexed[6] as a veritable metaphysical[7] treatise having for an object “the true knowledge of the Torah” (Introduction, p. 2), the awakening of the religious man from within the perplexed one who does not recognize other guide but his own reason[8].

As the language is conventional, any discourse aiming the pure transcendence is equivalent to or has the same value as the biblical text. If Aristotle and Ezekiel are saying the same thing, philosophy and religion are to be one.

The dialogue initiated by Maimonides between philosophy and religion is a highly fertile approach meant to illuminate and finally to unite both philosophy and religion beyond their material, discursive garment.

In order to understand why Maimonides is resorting so easily to Scriptures without explaining the point of his quotations, proclaiming their truth and defining them as a guide mark for any metaphysical knowledge, we should remember his belonging to a Judaic philosophical tradition. Or, the specific feature of this philosophy is to always put itself in the shade of Scriptures without losing, for all that, its importance or dignity; on the contrary, the mirrored play of philosophy as interpretation ends up in a katharsis meant to both institute and redefine philosophy. The eternal truths were engraved on the Tables of the Law. The antinomy of the perplexed answers for their anti-nomy (Gr. nomos - law, prescription), for their misunderstanding of the proper relation existing between philosophy and religion.

Following this line, metaphysics, the science of the Law, of the eternal, unchanging truths is to be distinguished from physics, the science of the created, changing nature:
“We also stated (Mishneh Torah, I.ii.12, and iiv.10) that the expression Ma’aseh Bereshit (“Account of the Creation”) signified “Natural Science”, and Ma’aseh Mercabah (“Description of the Chariot”) Metaphysics […] ” (Introduction, p. 2).
Ma’aseh Bereshit and Ma’aseh Mercabah are so strongly related that someone can not refer only to Ma’aseh Mercabah without taking into account the truths of the Natural Science (Ma’aseh Bereshit). Understanding the kind of relation which therefore exist between the eternal, unchanging truths of Ma’aseh Mercabah and the created, changing nature of Ma’aseh Bereshit is the (only) key to understand the former ones, the mysteries of metaphysics:
"Know that also in Natural Science there are topics which are not to be fully explained. […] because there is a close affinity between these subjects and metaphysics, and indeed they form part of its mysteries. Do not imagine that these most difficult problems can be thoroughly understood by any one of us" (Introduction, p. 3).
Consequently, metaphysics essentially signifies Ma’aseh Mercabah, but secondary, it is strongly related to (and could even include some parts of) Ma’aseh Bereshit.

Using the distinction visible/invisible, we could say that physics is nothing else but the science of the visible uncovered as multiple.

Note: The distinction of visible/invisible is meant to bring Maimonides into the present, into the modern horizon of understanding and expectations. This "making actual", this bringing up to date implies, at he same time, a “translation”, if possible, into contemporary language and thus, an enrichment at the significance level. That is why we shall first endeavor to state as precisely as possible the meaning of these two terms frequently used in this study.

The visible is the thematization, the instanciation, the embodiment of the invisible. If the invisible is the essence, then the visible is the existence. As existentialization, the visible is, metaphorically, the ecstasy of the invisible. The latter can be identified with the transcendence: “Principle: not to consider the invisible as an other visible “possible”, or a “possible” visible for an other […]. The invisible is there without being an object, it is pure transcendence, without an ontic mask. And the “visibles” themselves, in the last analysis, they too are only centered on a nucleus of absence”[9]. From the level to the ontological one the visible presents itself as a limit, as the “body” of man and the “flesh” of the world: “What there is then are not things first identical with themselves, which would then offer themselves to the seer, nor is there a seer who is first empty and who, afterward, would open himself to them – but something to which we could not be closer than by palpating it with our look, things we could not dream of seeing “all naked” because the gaze itself envelops them, clothes them with its own flash […]. How does it happen that my look, enveloping them, does not hide them, and, finally, that veiling them, it unveils them?”[10].

Word of the unword (unspoken), seen of the unseen, matter of the immaterial, the visible is the multiple of the invisible.

Ma’aseh Bereshit is dealing, as the denomination already indicates, with the beginnings, that is, the creation, the coming into being of the visible, while Ma’aseh Mercabah stands for the human-divine endeavor to discover/to reconstruct the way up having for a target the invisible.

The distinction reveals its real significance by an attentive analysis. Both terms bereshit and mercabah have a special echo in Jewish tradition.

Bereshit is the first word and also the name of the first book of Moses. Ma’aseh Bereshit will designate everything related to the created world, all that appears directly as multiple in all its manifestations.

The second term, mercabah, means throne, chair, chariot[11]. Maimonides insists upon the fact that what Ezekiel and Isaiah saw in their visions[12] was only the throne of God and by no means God Himself; the two prophets have seen only the place where God stood, His trace:

“The prophet likewise says “that is the likeness of the glory of the Lord”[13]; but “the glory of the Lord” is different from “the Lord” Himself, as has been shown by us several times. All the figures in this vision refer to the glory of the Lord, to the chariot, and not to Him who rides upon the chariot; for God cannot be compared to anything. Note this” (III, 7).

Beyond the visible, seen under the sign of multiplicity, there is the invisible unity, sign of the overwhelming simplicity. The visible answers for the invisible. Therefore, the only science which points to the invisible, beyond the visible, beyond physics, is the metaphysics (Gr. meta ta physika, beyond the physics).

Between the visible and the invisible, between the one and the multiple, etaphysics is the science of the beyond.

Which is the way towards the one essence (being) having thousands of faces? The maimonidean way is deliberately and explicitly obscure like any other initiating path:
“If you desire to grasp all that is contained in this book so that nothing shall escape your notice, consider the chapters in connected order. In studying each chapter, do not content yourself with comprehending its principal subject, but attend to every term mentioned therein, although it may seem to have no connection with the principal subject. For what I have written in this work was not the suggestion of the moment; it is the result of deep study and great application. Care has been taken that nothing that appeared doubtful should be left unexplained” (Introduction, p.8).

The guiding line we’ve tried to discover from the text’s texture begins from among the uprooted multiplicity and aims to reach the invisible unity from beyond the visible, the one stated back in its original symbolic condition.

The antinomy is “transfigured”[14]: the being is both one and multiple, invisible and visible.

The first level (step) which must be overcome (overstepped) is that of idolatry. The second one is that of negative attributes in the endeavour to reach the invisible unity from among the visible multiplicity, but also the level of allegory in the endeavour to regain the visible as symbol.

The Idolatry

“The Torah speaks according to the language of man” (Iebamoth 71a), Maimonides often likes to say[15]. How could we reach the truth of the being since it appears as the ultimate, absolute alterity? The first step suggested by Maimonides, as we have already seen, is the fight against idolatry[16], apparently nothing special, nothing new, if we think only of the prophets, for example. But, to remain at the first level of understanding, without foreseeing what is hiding beyond, it means to be completely blind. Maimonides tries to take off, to throw out the veil covering the eyes:
“[…] the multitude of people do not easily conceive existence unless in connection with a body, and that which is not a body nor connected with a body has for them no existence. Whatever we regard as a state of perfection, is likewise attributed to God, as expressing that He is perfect in every respect, and that no imperfection or deficiency whatever is found in Him. But there is not attributed to God anything which the multitude consider a defect or want; thus He is never represented as eating, drinking, sleeping, being ill, using violence, and the like” (I, 26).

In this new light, idolatry appears as a being for ever left to one’s own self, as narcissism, as refusal of alterity. Phenomenologically, this attitude is worse than sterile since it does not make room to a giving-rise-to-sense dislocation. Or, the initiation always supposes a break: dying in order to revive, losing oneself in order to find oneself. Following the example of Moses, “the taking off of one’s shoes”[17] (one’s self) must always precede the encounter with the absolute Other.

Thus we can understand why the fight against idolatry becomes, in Maimonides’ analysis, a fight against any anthropomorphism. Speaking of divinity, the ultimate and absolute alterity, in human words (and by this, staying with what is human) means idolatry (anthropolatry); giving human shape (be it the perfect one) to divinity is, Maimonides says, as if we flattered a king for his silver treasure while it is a golden one (these compliments would be nothing else but an offence)[18].

Hence the necessity to uncover the figurative, hidden meaning any time we face the biblical text. For common people, the text speaks “[according to] the language of man”, humanly, staying with the human (visible), but for the initiates, the visible, once the human-like thrown into the shade, stands for something else, for something different (for the invisible).

In order to exemplify, Maimonides will analyse a series of frequently encountered words from the Scriptures referring to divinity[19]. Here are some of them:

panim: literal meaning: face, figure

figurative meaning: presence, sight, attention
a’hor: literal meaning: back; after, behind
figurative meaning: to follow, to listen to, to obey, to imitate
leb: literal meaning: heart

figurative meaning: middle; depth; thought, feeling, opinion; will, intention; intelligence, the faculties of the body
rua’h: literal meaning: air, wind, soul
figurative meaning: spirit, inspiration, intention, will
canaph: literal meaning: wing, extremity
figurative meaning: veil; to veil, to hide
ain: literal meaning: source (of water), eye
figurative meaning: providence, purpose; to see; intelligible perception
As we can see, either with homonyms, or with metaphors, the figurative meaning has as a specific feature the “detachment” from the material, from the visible. The spiritual, the invisible in its unity is bodiless. That is why, the first level consists in rejecting the corporeality any time someone refers to divinity:
“The physical organs which are attributed to God in the writings of the Prophets are either organs of locomotion, indicating life; organs of sensation, indicating perception; organs of touch, indicating action; or organs of speech, indicating the divine inspiration of the Prophets” (I, 46).

We must reach the “embodied” (one), which is beyond, and by this, supports the body. Otherwise, the visible is uprooted. The surface losing its roots becomes superficial. It does not point any more to its depth, but it always returns to itself, becoming opaque. Idolatry appears as a sterile, vicious reflexivity, as loss of transparence, since the primordial function of the visible was to make the invisible appear, to let it be foreseen, foreshadowed.

The relationship visible-invisible is a “playful” one. We could describe it as a “hide and seek” game or, properly, as a “veil and unveil” one. Any time the visible is not recognized as a veil, the invisible is “replaced” by it and thus, buried for ever.

If the first step was the renunciation to corporeality as concerns the invisible, the immediate, following question will raise the problem of attributes: the eyes, the heart, the ear obviously belong to the visible, but what about eyesight, will, intelligence, hearing? Are we surpassing the visible or should we further consider ourselves guilty of idolatry?
The Divine Names
Beyond the visible multiplicity, God is the pure invisible. He has all the names since He has no name. The Judaic monotheism is a severe, hard one and by this, authentic, genuine. The oneness imposes itself as absolute: the absolute one can not be understood if related to the multiple, as there are two different registers: the one and the multiple are not contraries, as it might seem, for they can never be regarded under the same rapport. It is the essence of the multiple to be visible and the essence of the one to be invisible. As visible, God has one thousand names, as invisible, He is unnamed. Both one and multiple, God becomes mysterious. In a blagian[20] sense, He is the mystery itself: the phanic and the cryptic can be easily discovered in the maimonidean distinction existence-essence. As existence, God is visible, as essence, He is invisible. In ecstasy, the invisible gives rise to the visible. That’s why the divine names, many as they are, belong to the visible as revelation of existence in multiplicity, not at all as God’s essence. From among the visible where we find ourselves, the only thing we can thoroughly understand is that God exists:
“[…] we comprehend only the fact that He exists, not His essence” (I, 58).
But if we are sure of this existence, His essence remains inaccessible[21]. Through the visible we can reach only the visible, not the invisible. The latter appears to us in its visibility and never in its invisibility. Appearing means appearing as visible. Thus, we are condemned to visible:
“You must bear in mind, that by affirming anything of God, you are removed from Him in two respects; first, whatever you affirm, is only a perfection in relation to us; secondly, He does not possess anything superadded to this essence” (I, 59).

The Affirmative Attributes

We have tried, up to now, to find the real meaning of the maimonidean doctrine of the affirmative attributes. If the first step was the rejection of corporeality as referring to God, the second step is the renunciation to affirmative attributes, apparently invisible (that is to say, expressing the essence). In fact, they belong, as we have already seen, to the visible realm. Many are those who stopped before these attributes considering them as essential (expressing the essence) and thus losing their way, for the only real guide which “shows signs” is the invisible. The visible mistaken for (the) invisible apparently shows the end of the way. Therefore, the entire attention must strongly aim to the unseen (one), rejecting any other temptation:

“[…] you must understand that God has no essential attribute in any form or in any sense whatever, and the rejection of corporeality implies the rejection of essential attributes” (I, 50).

The Negative Attributes

To stop at the visible level means to cancel the invisible: the visible ends in visible. That’s why, taking into account our previous presentation, we must admit a gradation of the human knowledge: those using affirmative attributes for designating the divinity are inferior to those using the negative attributes, guided only by the signs of the invisible:

“It will now be clear to you, that every time you establish by proof the negation of a thing in reference to God, you become more perfect, while with every additional positive assertion you follow your imagination and recede from the true knowledge of God” (I, 59).
Maimonides distinguishes the negative attributes from the affirmative ones as the former deny something regarding God (specifically, they deny everything related to human “sight”, to the fact of remaining stock-still at the level of the anthropomorphic visible); but he also mentions what they have in common: they both determine, particularize. Omnis negatio est determinatio.
Consequently, the negations are also attributes, but in a negative sense:
“The negative attributes have this in common with the positive, that they necessarily circumscribe the object to some extent, although such circumscription consists only in the exclusion of what otherwise would not be excluded” (I, 58).
The necessity of negative attributes imposes itself as the unique modality of discovering the limit which separates the visible from the invisible and thus, as the unique modality of "waiting for" a further encounter with the other[22]. The condition of the intermediary is the supreme human condition.
Allegory and Symbol

The veil veils and unveils at the same time. We have two complementary attitudes: on the one hand, the endeavour to remove the veil by the mechanism of the negative attributes presented above, and on the other hand, the consideration of the visible as a trace, a shadow of the invisible, as a sign which permanently points to it. This second attitude makes the visible regain its privileged condition, that means it is recognized to be the existentialization of the invisible gone into ecstasy.

Showing itself, the invisible becomes visible. Or, the visibility as a fact of being visible, is always related to logos. The invisible becomes visible by means of logos. The visible is nothing else but the unveiled, word-made invisible.

We should remember Heraclitus’ words in reference to the Delphic Apollo: “The Lord who owns the oracle at Delphi neither speaks [legei] nor hides [kryptei] his meaning but indicates it by a sign” (fr. 93)[23]. “[…] legein is here the opposite term to kryptein, to hide and that is why we have to translate it to bring out from hiding that is to become manifest[24]. As unveiled, the invisible is word (logos). As hidden, it is something else. The difference in register is obvious at the level of the discourse where there is always a hidden, figurative meaning, other than the literal one[25].

The Scriptures are like “apples of gold in silver filigree with small apertures” (Introduction, p. 6), this is Maimonides’ interpretation to Solomon[26]:
“It shows that in every word which has a double sense, a literal one and a figurative one[27], the plain meaning must be as valuable as silver, and the hidden meaning still more precious; so that the figurative meaning bears the same relation to the literal one as gold to silver. It is further necessary that the plain sense of the phrase shall give to those who consider it some notion of that which the figure represents. Just as a golden apple overlaid with a network of silver, when seen at a distance, or looked at superficially, is mistaken for a silver apple, but when a keen-sighted person looks at the object well, he will find what is within, and see that the apple is gold” (Introduction, p. 6).

If the visible is out of silver, the invisible is out of gold. The silver filigree veils and unveils (for the initiated ones) the gold. The visible does not indicate itself, it indicates something else, the invisible. In order to break this chain of endless, narcissist reflections, man should regard the biblical text as an analogon of divinity: the words do not “speak” the divine, but the divine (in its ecstasy) “speaks” by these words. The dislocation at the level of language occurs at the same time with the change in the attitude towards the text: the literal meaning is not the only one. The allegory is the one to replace the simple literal interpretation which can never surpass the level of the visible: veiling by words, Torah unveils the unwords.

Thematization of the hidden one, the visible is the half, the recognition sign (symbolon) of the invisible. The symbolic is to be found between the visible and the invisible, there where the sense occurs.

Isomorphism and Anamorphosis

How can we find the invisible in the visible? The visible as visible, in its own common logic and order, is isomorphic. The reign of forms, of multiple faces, gives rise to idolatry. Uprooted, the visible seems to be self-sufficient. The discovery of the insufficiency of the visible, of its “not yet”, reestablishes the original relationship with the invisible.

From existence to essence, how do we look for the signs of the invisible in the middle of the visible? The world, in a symbolic order, presents itself as an analogon of the divinity evoking the divine without being the divine. The faces, the forms of the multiple are not the divine, still they remind of it.

If, in a merely visible order, the forms return to themselves (whence the idolatry, the isomorphism), the dislocation as revelation of the invisible reestablishes the symbolic condition of the forms: they are not the invisible, but they reflect it, even if in a deformed way. The visible, as a reflection of the invisible, refounds itself at another level: passing from the visual angle to the reflected one, the isomorphic visible is replaced by the anamorphotic one which does not deny the form, thus destroying it, but, by keeping the form in touch with the invisible, refounds it as an upset mirror, as a self-surpassing. The anamorphosis (an-a-morphe) does not mean lack of form, on the contrary, this double negation strongly reaffirms the form, paradoxically, beyond any form. The visible as anamorphosis reconstitutes the original image of the invisible.

The Greek prefix ana- has also the meaning of going back in time, in illo tempore, and thus, beyond time. Without spelling themselves infinitely, the forms “spell” the divine since they let themselves be spelled by it. The world as allegory is anamorphosis. The visible, out of its isomorphic, idolatric logic, presents itself as an anamorphotic allegory. The deformation of the invisible in the mirror of the visible derives from the endeavour to imagine the unimaginable, to spell the unspelled. Through what it is not, through this “not yet”, the visible appears as analogonof the invisible. The admission of personal unfulfillment destroys idolatry.

The visible is the sole means by which one may grasp the invisible. Only the former can point, as far as the humans are concerned, to the unseen.

There is nothing else, in Maimonides’ opinion, but God and this universe (cf. I, 71). The universe, visible par excellence, presents itself as hierarchy (of the world). God, invisible par excellence, has “no other evidence for His Existence but this universe in its entirety and in its several parts. Consequently, the universe must be examined as it is; the propositions must be derived from those properties of the universe which are clearly perceived, and hence you must know its visible form and its nature” (I, 71).

The spiritual itinerary, covering step by step the hierarchy of the visible, becomes, using the bonaventurian formula, an itinerarium mentis in Deum. The hierarchy always points to that hieros arche, which is simultaneously source, guide and target for the world of the visible. Therefore, the guide (for the perplexed) is the very invisible light, only grasped, which provides the unity and the splendour of the visible realm. The transfiguration of the visible can occur only by passing beyond it, only by fixing one’s eyes upon the One who is the being and the light[28].

Finding one’s guide beyond the visible and following it is enough to fulfill a human life. The supreme, sublime condition of a man is that of continuously looking for God, but, especially, that of meeting and recognizing Him as a guide. That is why one must never cease looking for. There is a guide only where there is someone on the path. To stop walking means to loose the guide, and thus, to loose the splendor of the visible:

“God is near to all who call Him, if they call Him in truth, and turn to Him. He is found by every one who seeks Him, if he always goes towards Him, and never goes astray” (III, 54).

[1] We used the english version, The Guide for the Perplexed, translated from the original Arabic text by M. Friedlander, Dover Publications, New York, 1956. The biblical verses follow The Jerusalem Bible, Koren Publishers Jerusalem LTD., Jerusalem, 1997. I also want to mention that parts of the present study have already been published in Romanian (see “Moise Maimonide. Călăuza rătăciţilor ca itinerar al minţii în Dumnezeu” [”Moses Maimonides. The Guide of the Perplexed as itinerarium mentis in Deum”], Academia Română, Fundaţia Naţională pentru Ştiinţă şi Artă, Bucharest, 2002) and appear for the first time in English.
[2] "The object of this treatise is to enlighten a religious man who has been trained to believe in the truth of our holy Law, who conscientiously fulfils his moral and religious duties, and at the same time has been successful in his philosophical studies. Human reason has attracted him to abide within its sphere; and he finds it difficult to accept as correct the teaching based on the literal interpretation of the Law, and especially that which he himself or others derived from those homonymous, metaphorical, or hybrid expressions. Hence he is lost in perplexity and anxiety" (Introduction, p. 2).
[3] "The highest subject of study is metaphysics or theology, the knowledge of God" (Isaac Husik, A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy, New York, 1974, p. 243). It seems that metaphysics (or theology) is nothing else but philosophy having God as a privileged object.
[4] Significant enough, Aristotle, the Philosopher, is considered to be a prophet.
[5] "[…] he likewise interprets the "secrets" (sodot) or "mysteries of the Torah” (sitrei Torah) of ancient mysticism as being identical with philosophical ideas" (Sara Klein-Braslavy, King Solomon and Metaphysical Esotericism According to Maimonides, in Maimonidean Studies, Edited by Arthur Hyman, vol. I, Yeshiva University Press, New York, 1990, p. 58). Is Maimonides "working within the framework of Aristotelianism" (ibid., p. 57), is The Guide for the Perplexed  trying to identify and thus to reduce Judaism to Aristotelianism, or Maimonides is working within the framework of Judaism, using Aristotle as an instrument (undoubtedly a precious one) in order to express philosophically his interpretatio authentica?
[6]In Praefatio ad lectorem of his Latin translation (Rabbi Moses Maijemonidis Liber Doctor Perplexorum, Basileae, 1629), Johannes Buxtorfius refers to some biblical verses which, in his opinion, could give a proper explanation of the title: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahirot, between Migdol and the sea, over against Ba’al-zefon: before it shall you encamp by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel , They are entangled in that land (nevokhim hem, perplexi vel confusi sunt ipsi in terra), the wilderness has shut them in” (Exodus 14, 1-3). The commentary is eloquent: “Thus, so as in olden times Moses guided those who (in Pharaoh's judgement) were nevokhim, perplexed, showing them the way through the Red Sea, so, we could say, in this book [The Guide for the Perplexed] another Moses will guide on the path of truth those who are wandering about the large sea of the Word of God, the perplexed ones” (Quemadmodum ergo Moses olim eos, qui (iudicio Pharaonis) perplexi fuerunt, deduxit, per mare rubrum via ipsis monstravit: ita, vult dicere, se veluti alterum Mosen in hoc libro in veritatis viam directurum eos, qui circa mare illud magnum Verbi Dei oleambulant, perplexi sunt).
[7] In regard to the question whether the Guide is a philosophical treatise or not, see Leo Strauss, The Literary Character of the Guide for the Perplexed, in Maimonides. A Collection of Critical Essays, Edited by Joseph A. Buijs, University of Notre Dame Press, 1988, pp. 30-58, and Joseph A. Buijs, The Philosophical Character of Maimonides’ Guide – A Critique of Strauss’ Interpretation, in Maimonides. A Collection of Critical Essays, Edited by Joseph A. Buijs, University of Notre Dame Press, 1988, pp. 59-70.
[8] According to Moshe Idel, the "loss of secrets" is in fact the true cause of the spiritual perplexity: "Maimonides assumes that he can restore the broken line of transmission of the secrets of the Torah, and recreate thereby a pre-existing ideal situation" (Abulafia’s Secrets of the Guide: A Linguistic Turn, in Perspectives on Jewish Thought and Mysticism, Proceedings of the International Conference held by The Institute of Jewish Studies, University College London, 1994, p. 292).
[9] Cf. M. Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, Working Notes, translated by Alphonso Lingis, Northwestern University Press, 1968.
[10] Ibid., The Intertwining – The Chiasm, p.131.
[11] “[…] the earliest Jewish mysticism is throne-mysticism. Its essence is not absorbed contemplation of God’s true nature, but perception of His appearance on the throne, as described by Ezekiel, and cognition of the mysteries of the celestial throne-world” (Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Schocken Books,  New York, 1974, p. 44).
[12] Ezekiel 10, 1 and Isaiah 6, 1-2.
[13] Ezekiel 1, 28: “[…] This was the appearance (mar’eh) of the likeness (demuth) of the glory (khabod) of the Lord (I.H.W.H)”.
[14] Cf. Lucian Blaga, Eonul dogmatic [The Dogmatic Age], in Trilogia cunoasterii [The Trilogy of Knowledge], Editura Minerva, Bucuresti, 1983. Analysing the Christian dogma – regarded as an original modus cognoscendi –, Blaga comes to the conclusion that it represents the surpassing of common antinomies which thus become “transfigured”.
[15] See I, 26; I, 33; I, 46.
[16] Identified with both ignorance and error “in reference to God” (I, 36); “[…] for ignorance and error concerning a great thing, i.e., a thing which has a high position in the universe, are of greater importance than those which refer to a thing which occupies a lower place; - by “error” I mean the belief that a thing is different from what it really is; by “ignorance”, the want of knowledge respecting things the knowledge of which can be obtained” (ibid.).
[17] Exodus 3, 5: “And he said, Do not come near: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place on which thou dost stand is holy ground”.
[18] “We will now conclude our exposition of the wise words of R. Haninah. He does not employany such simile as: “A king who possesses millions of gold denarii, and is praised as having hundreds”; for this would imply that God’s perfections, although more perfect than those ascribed to man are still of the same kind; but this is not the case, as has been proved. The excellence of the simile consists in the words: “who possesses golden denarii, and is praised as having silver denarii”; this implies that these attributes, though perfections as regards ourselves, are not such as regards God; in reference to Him they would all be defects” (I, 59). The difference in register is more than evident.
[19] “[…] I proceed to examine those expressions, to the true meaning of which, as apparent from the context, it is necessary to direct your attention. This book will then be a key admitting to places the gates of which would otherwise be closed” (Introduction,p. 11).
[20] Cf. Lucian Blaga, Trilogia cunoasterii [The Trilogy of Knowledge]. The mystery, as a principle, consists of both phanic (what is revealed) and cryptic (what is hidden).
[21] “All the names of God except the tetragrammaton designate his activities in the world. Jhvh alone is the real name of God, which belongs to him alone and is not derived from anything else. Its meaning is unknown. It denotes perhaps the idea of necessary existence” (I. Husik, op. cit., p. 265). I.H.W.H., shem ha-mephorash (the name spelled distinctly: yod, he, waw, he) is “the distinct and exclusive designation of the Divine Being” (I, 61) which indicates, without homonymy, the essence of God.
[22] After analysingMaimonides’ concept of belief, Charles H. Manekin concludes that his theory of divine attributes “far from being skeptical or agnostic, is intended to provide the believer with a way [the stress belongs to us] to obtain belief about God that is certain” (Belief, Certainty and Divine Attributes in the Guide of the Perplexed, in Maimonidean Studies, Edited by Arthur Hyman, vol. I, Yeshiva University Press, New York, 1990, p. 139).
[23] See W.K.C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. I, Cambridge University Press, 1967, p. 414.
[24] “[…] legein ist hier Gegenwort zu kryptein, verbergen, weshalb wir es ubersetzen mussen mit entbergen, d.h. offenbar machen” (Martin Heidegger, Vom Wesen und Begriff der Physis, in Gesamtausgabe, Band 9 Wegmarken, Frankfurt am Main, 1976, p. 279).
[25]Ma’aseh Mercabah must not be fully expounded even in the presence of a single student, unless he be wise and able to reason for himself, and even then you should merely acquaint him with the heads of the different sections of the subjects” (Babyl. Talm., Hagigah 11b). After reproducing these words (not only once) Maimonides affirms explicitly that his treatise also presents only “the heads” (rashei perakim) of the doctrine of the divine chariot. Ma’aseh Mercabah is strongly related to the “secrets” (sodot), the “mysteries of the Torah” (sitrei Torah); therefore, what we have here is esoteric knowledge meant for the initiated only, and not even for them in its entirety, as it refuses to avail itself to any kind of discourse. The disciple receives only some elements which will guide him, if he is clever enough, to the hidden science of the unveiling. That which is hidden must remain so. To unveil is to veil even further. The discourse becomes the instrument of arcanization, of hiding the most hidden. The “heads” can only be of some use for someone who knows how to walk further on alone.
[26] “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in vessels of silver” (Proverbs 25, 2).
[27] In Hebrew, mashal and nimshal. Mashal, as first level of significance, indicates the literal, common sense, the exterior as a sign, as an exemple, exemplum (this significance of mashal is preserved also in modern Hebrew) for the interior. Nimshal, as profound intention of the text, indicates the esoteric significance, as a result of the interpretation.
[28] “It has thus been shown that it must be man’s aim, after having acquired the knowledge of God, to deliver himself up to Him, and to have his heart constantly filled with longing after Him” (III, 51).

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