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TitleMartin Buber The Life Of Dialogue
TagsKabbalah Evil Hasidic Judaism Zohar Martin Buber
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Page 1

Martin Buber

The Life Of Dialogue

By

MAURICE S. FRIEDMAN

kansas city public library

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IIIIII III IIIIII1148 00090 7683

MARTIN BUBER

The Life of Dialogue

By

MAURICE S. FRIEDMAN

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS

CHICAGO ILLINOIS

Library of Congress Catalog Number: 55-5126

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, CHICAGO 37, ILLINOIS
The University of Toronto Press, Toronto 5, Canada Routledge and Kegan
Paul, Ltd., London. England

Copyright in the International Copyright Union, All rights reserved. Published
1955. Printed in Great Britain Second Impression 1956

FOR EUGENIA

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into direct relation with it, and the Thou responds to the meeting. Man can only
enter relation with the whole being; yet it is through the relation, through the
speaking of Thou, that concentration and fusion into the whole being takes
place. 'As I become /, I say Thou' This relation means suffering and action in
one, suffering because one must be chosen as well as choose and because in
order to act with the whole being one must suspend all partial actions. 1

1 / and Thou, op. eft., pp. 17, 11, 6, 8. 2 Ibid., pp. 12 9

* Ibid., p. 12 f. '

Ideas are not outside or above man's twofold attitude of I-Thou and I-It, nor can
they take the place of Thou. 'Ideas are no more enthroned above our heads
than resident in them.' They are between man and what is over against him.
The real boundary for the actual man cuts right across the world of ideas as
well.' Though many men retire into a world of ideas as a refuge and repose from
the experience .and use of the world of things, the mankind which they there
imagine is no less an It and 'has nothing in common with a living mankind
where Thou may truly be spoken.' The noblest fiction is a fetish, the loftiest
fictitious sentiment is depraved.' 2

Similarly, the act of relation is not emotion or feeling, which remains within the I.
Pure relation is love between the I and the Thou. Feelings accompany love, but
they do not constitute it. 'Feelings dwell in man; but man dwells in his love.' And
the Thou dwells in love as well as the I, for love 'does not cling to the / in such a
way as to have the Thou only for its "content," its object.' To the man who loves,
people are set free from their qualities as good or evil, wise or foolish and
confront him in their singleness as Thou. Hence love is not the enjoyment of a
wonderful emotion, not even the ecstasy of a Tristan and Isolde, but the
'responsibility of an / for a Thou. 9 3

Hate sees only a part of a being. If a man sees a whole being and still hates, he
is no longer in relation but in I-It; for to say Thou to a man means to affirm his
being. 'Yet the man who straightforwardly hates is nearer to relation than the
man without hate and love.* 4 Such a man really has in mind the person whom
he hates as distinct from the man whose hatred and love does not mean its
object but is void of real intention. 5 The world of the primitive man, even if it
was a hell of anguish and cruelty, was preferable to a world without relation
because it was real. 'Rather force exercised on being that is really lived than
shadowy solicitude for faceless numbers! From the former a way leads to God,
from the latter only one to nothingness. 5 1 Thus though a full I-Thou
relationship can only mean love, it is better to hate men than to treat them
entirely as objects to be known or made use of.

1 Ibid., p. 11. 2 Ibid., p. 13 f.

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This dualism between the life of the spirit and the life of the world was akeady
present in biblical Judaism, but it gained still greater ground in Christianity
because of the latter's. surrender of the concept of a 'holy people' for that of
personal holiness.
Those who believed in Christ possessed at every period a twofold being: as
individuals in the realm of the person and as participants in the public life of
their nations.'
Although 'in the history of Christian peoples there has been no lack of men of
the spirit afire and ready for martyrdom in the struggle for righteousness,' the
norm of realizing the religion in all aspects of social existence can no longer
occupy a central place. As a result it is made easy for the secular law to gain
ever more ground at the expense of the religious.
At the point at which the public sphere encroaches disastrously on the
personal, as it does in our time, 'the disparity between the sanctification of tie
individual and the accepted unholiness of his community' is transferred to an
inner contradiction in the redeemed soul. 3

The apocalyptic element in religion also tends to lead to a dualism between the
secular and the religious. The eschatological expectation of the imminent rule of
God leads to a desire to do away with law in the name of the divine freedom
which is or will be directly present in all creatures without need of law or
representation.
As soon as this expectation slackens, 'it follows historically that God's rule is
restricted to the "religious" sphere, everything that is left over is rendered unto
Caesar; and the rift which runs through the whole being of the human world
receives its sanction. 5 This dualism enters deeply into Paul's essentially
Gnostic view of the world. It is also found in Judaism, where the autochthonous
prophetic belief is opposed by an apocalyptic one built up out of elements from
Iranian dualism. The one 'promises a consummation of creation/ the other 'its
abrogation and supersession by another world completely different in nature.'

1 At the Turning, op. cit., 'Judaism and Civilization,' pp. 11-15.

2 Hasidism, 'Spinoza,' pp. 104, 99 f., 'Symbolical Existence in Judaism,' p. 132.
8 Eclipse of God, 'Religion and Ethics,' pp. 138-141; Two Types of Faith, op.
cit., p.173.

The prophetic allows 'the evil' to find the direction that leads toward God, and to
enter into the good; the apocalyptic sees good and evil severed forever at the
end of days, the good redeemed, the evil unredeemable for all eternity; the
prophetic believes that the earth shall be hallowed, the apocalyptic despairs of
an earth which it considers to be hopelessly doomed. . . - 1

The prophetic and Hasidic belief in the hallowing of the earth also stands in
contrast to the pagan world's glorification of the elemental forces and the
Christian world's conquest of them. Christianity, through its ascetic emphasis,
desanctified the element

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