Rev. Prof. Marcel Dubois of Blessed Memory was the Head of The Department of Philosophy, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
He dedicated his entire life to better the understanding among Jews, Christians and Moslems.
Our generation lives under the Internet regime. The so-called mass media have never been as prolific or disturbing. Everywhere, under any circumstances, right and left, people use these means to communicate and yet they have never got together so infrequently. These interchanges have never been technically so accessible, but the messages sent are generally vain and empty. The paradox, at a deeper and more serious level, is that men have never asked themselves so anxiously about the nature and the possibility of a dialogue, mutual comprehension and tolerance. These subjects are reconsidered again and again in a myriad of seminaries, colloquies, and all kind of encounters resulting in relentless debates that end up as dialogues of the deaf. This effervescence is incontestably the sign of a profound dissatisfaction, a deep nostalgia, a desperate sensation of lack of communication.
This lack is even more cruelly resented when the debate deals with the most essential: the destiny of man, the reason for his existence, his finality and his faith. The great merit of the intuition that has inspired the book by Dorit Kedar is her proposal towards a sublime convergence of signs of faith for those who have perceived the prevalence of the spiritual life. In spite of the multiplicity of their expression, she does not hesitate to confront at one go the diverse experiences of religious life.
First of all, she asks to consider the testimony of those who have gone farthest and highest in the search for the absolute in each of the great monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – according to the inner demands of their faith. Thus, she deliberately chooses the mystics of each religion as the exemplary witnesses of life devoted to the spirit: the Kabbalah, Saint Francis of Assisi, Sufism. There is a sentence by Father Teilhard de Chardin, which Dorit Kedar does not cite, but which would suffice to justify her purpose: “All that rises, converges”. It is this sublime convergence in verticality which Dorit Kedar wishes to express by the confrontation of images representing the essential of every spiritual tradition’s message.
This resorting to the image rather than to an abstract concept, or a rational justification, is certainly the most original and calling for reflection aspect that inspires this book. In this regard, it has to be emphasized that in order to comprehend such intention, one must consent to enter what I would call an Hermeneutic of the image, namely an introduction to the meaning of religious symbols representing the mystery of faith, each of faith’s steps.
In a book in which he invites to reflect upon the conditions of language whenever God is discussed, the French Christian philosopher Jean-Luc Marion compares the concept to the icon. To the rigidity and width of the abstract concept, he opposes the richness of expression of the icon, as Pascal confronts the spirit of geometry to the spirit of fineness. The former tries to define rationally, the latter perceives by intuition. The advantage of the image is to unite spiritual dynamism and transparence. More precisely, to spiritual dynamism which enables its transparence. The presence of Mystery beyond the image or icon can be grasped by the dynamism of meaning.
Such is the secret of the meaning of the events caused by God and their representing images, in the eyes of those who consider them in the light of faith. A phrase of the Book of Exodus would suffice to express this idea. The Bible tells how at the moment of the delivery of the Law to Moses, the children of Israel “saw voices” through the tumult of lightning and hurricane. These are the original words of the Hebrew text. Throughout the signs, they discerned the presence of God and perceived the divine message. In order to facilitate the comprehension of “hearing through a vision”, I would gladly use the expressions proposed by Emmanuel Levinas. “Seeing the voice” takes place in every direct encounter, by hearing the plea or the cry of the person beyond or through the unveiling of the face.
Dorit Kedar recalls and cites the most significant and basic texts reflecting the convergence of all religious. She also illustrates this essential convergence by suggestive images. Word and image as a whole form an invitation to love, as condition of communication and as the ultimate condition for peace.
This has nothing to do with swift concordance. Rather, it emphasizes the need of the duties engraved by the spiritual conditions of each person, especially if the person walks in the path of faith. In the name of this shared vocation, we should be able to tell ourselves, whenever contradicted: “Where does he want to end up, to which question he replies yes beyond the no?” Dorit Kedar reveals us the secret convergence of these yes in spite of all apparent contrarieties.
In this regard, her book is a convincing initiation to heart opening and an introduction to silence, as a necessary condition for all authentic encounters and all dialogue. While closing these pages, after having seen the signs by means of which she explains the mystery, Paul Claudel’s words, written in his Cent phrases pour Eventail may be applied: “Understand this word with the ear of the soul, for it does not resound any more”.
The images of her book remain present precisely because they hush up. They suggest the silence of faith.