Tikkun Olam & David Birnbaum’s Summa Metaphysica

February 6, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

Tikkun Olam is an ancient Jewish concept with contemporary applications. Roughly translated, it means “Repair the World.” In the Jewish faith, there is a mainstream belief that one should strive towards harmony, acts of kindness and the betterment of mankind; this is what Tikkun Olam represents. A central underpinning is that society succeeds or fails as a whole.

The concept gained particular traction in Jewish mystical tradition, particularly within Kabbalah (primarily in 16th century in Ottoman Palestine). Contemporay metaphysicist David Birnbaum of Manhattan – Yeshiva and Harvard educated, independent scholar and philosopher – draws heavily on this concept in his own philosophical and cosmological masterwork, Summa Metaphysica (1988, 2005, 2014). See Philosophy1000.com.

Per Birnbaum, the cosmos is on an inexorable quest for greater and greater perfection on multiple fronts. Birnbaum’s hypothesized cosmic Infinite Quest for Potential inexorably drives the cosmos towards an ever-higher spiritual potentiality. It is one of mankind’s tasks to aid & abet this sublime quest. This inexorable quest towards ultimate perfection/sublime directly parallels the Kabbalistic quest for Cosmic Repair. See FirstSummaReviews.com.

Birnbaum’s work regarding his theory of the Infinite Quest for Potential is arguably a modern-day interpretation of Tikkun Olam. More accurately, while there is much more to this Potentialism Theory, it most certainly incorporates concepts of Tikkun Olam. Quest for Potential is, after all, a proposed overarching dynamic and a unifying theory of science, spirituality and philosophy. See ModernKabbalah1000.com).

Tikkun Olam in Potentialism

The unfolding of the Quest for Potential as the overarching and all-pervading Cosmic Dynamic, may indeed encompass the effect of Tikkun Olam. Why? Birnbaum himself states the simple mantra:

We are all in this together.

We all rise or fall together.

Our societal goal is to reach our potential, cumulatively, as well.

We are all connected.

The advance of one, is the advance of all.

These words are of little surprise to those who study Potentialism. Potentialism is a cosmological theory based on the connectedness of both humanity and the universe as a whole. Many sciences are based on multiple disciplines and theories. Quantum physics, Newtonian physics, particle physics…. the list may seem endless, each governed with its own particulars laws. Likewise, in understanding the world, the physical sciences are far from the sole contenders for knowledge.

Science may dismiss pure philosophy, spirituality or religion. Yet, undeniably, there are intangible, yet no less true, phenomena contained within our universe. One may not be able to touch a concept such as morality or love, yet these concepts impact the physical world daily. And that is one of the hidden strengths of Potentialism – it can acknowledge and qualify what cannot be measured by classic physical science.

Moreover, Potentialism can make a place for and explain the Tikkun Olam concept and its importance in the world. See SummaKabbalah.com.

A common destiny

As noted, Birnbaum is the author of the (quite readable) 3-part treatise Summa Metaphysica. The series examines Infinite Quest for Potential through three separate lenses; it looks at Infinite Quest for Potential through the respective perspectives of religious man, spiritual man and secular man.

While science sees humanity and the world at large in a purely Darwinian contest for supremacy, Potentialism (like Tikkun Olam) shows us the interconnectedness of the universe and creation.  Birnbaum elucidates how the veil between the spiritual and the physical is largely illusory – a surface boundary that must be seen through to fully understanding the nature of the cosmos.

Central to Potentialism is the shared, common destiny of humanity and the universe itself. Humanity is ever striving forward towards greater degrees of complexity – as well in thought, form, spirituality and morality. The universe, according to Birnbaum, inexorably strives for ever-increasing levels of sophistication and perfection.   

Evolution is not so much a gladiatorial arena for DNA to battle within, but a common pursuit of the race as a whole. Like the rest of the universe, the human race must be viewed in its proper context, as a connected whole with a shared fate. See Evolution1000.com.

A secular proof

This connectedness is the heart of Tikkun Olam as well. To the Jewish faith, bringing the world more perfectly in line with God is a sacred endeavor. It honors God to strive to make the world as He has envisioned and commanded. To accomplish this, the faithful must live by God’s rules of charity and justice. It is not enough to live well and properly on one’s own. Instead, the faithful must strive to lift-up the entire tide – to raise all ships.

Potentialism stands as a secular proof of the soundness of Tikkun Olam. Where Tikkun Olam only justifies its “rightness” in terms of religion and spirituality, Potentialism actually explains the soundness of this theory in cosmological and metaphysical terms. In short, Potentialism provides a scientific basis that Tikkun Olam is a means of universal evolution which has been driving the cosmos towards ever greater complexification (shorthand: C+) since the beginning of the universe itself.

Potentialism sets as one of its loftiest and most audacious goals that of unifying the religious, secular and philosophic. The immersion, within its doctrine, of Tikkun Olam stands as just one example of how it has fulfilled that goal. See Lurianic1000.com.

Where once we could only say “be kind to your neighbor” because it was a religious observance or a philosophically superior position in regards to ethics – Potentialism actually provides the unifying secular reason for such deeds. We are good to our neighbor because it is part of the cosmic order and helps grow the universe around us as intended.  See Unifying1000.com. 

As Birnbaum promised a unification of these concepts, there is a simple answer to the question of “Why repair the world?” that can be answered to the religious, philosophical and secular in turn:

Religious: It is God’s will that we do so, and it is moral that we do so.

Philosophical: Morality is the highest expression of human intellect and abstract thought; caring for our world and the people in it is how we do so.  The spiritual underpinning of our universe – Infinite Quest for Potential – mandates an overarching morality in our daily lives.

Secular: It is the nature of the universe to evolve and advance; the mutually supportive aspect of the interactivity of humanity is an integral component of universal advance; morality and giving-ness are integral to high-level cosmic advance.

See also:  xGlobal1000.com