CAUSATION: RELIGION AND SOME

PSYCHOLOGY COME TOGETHER

Someone decides to give advice to another person - and does the best he can. Both he and the client agree that is appropriate advice. Simple, correct, and properly applied and it just doesn’t work. The person tries and tries, without success. We have all been there. Why doesn’t it work? What can be done about it. What causes something like this to happen?

Our understanding of ‘how’ things happen is many times very different about ‘why’ they happen. Modern science has been very careful not to enter into the issues of ‘why’ which they relate to philosophical or religious matters.

As talkers we must come to grips with both questions. The first question first. What is causation? And why is this idea important?

Causation has been a subject for discussion since the beginning of time. The Jews, Romans, Greeks, Chinese, and American Indians, to name just a few, all had both religious or secular explanations of causation. “Our” explanation took shape about three hundred and fifty years ago when Isaac Newton formulated the rule of Cause/effect in Science. Simply put he said, “certain events cause certain outcomes.” All ‘A's cause B's. Whenever we do ‘a’ it will cause ‘b’. Drop the glass and it will (always) move towards the earth. As science became more sophisticated and exacting it shifted from the concept of ‘cause’ to ‘correlation’. This later concept means that two phenomena appear together. When one appears you can be (relatively) sure that the other will appear. This change in words/concepts does away with the necessity of connecting explanations that intellectually link the two events.

Table One depicts how events/actions/explanations are traditionally linked. Column I is a list of observed events that we want to understand - what ‘caused’ them. The action/outcome is found in Column III. The connecting explanation is found in column II. It is important to note that the Time symbol under table one indicates that the event - action description can also be reversed, i.e. in row one we can start with the stimulus and ‘go backwards’ and assume there will be a physical response.

TABLE ONE: CAUSATION

COLUMN I COLUMN II COLUMN III

OUTCOME

EXPLANATION

EVENT

RESPONSE

NERVOUS SYSTEM

1. STIMULS

HEALTH

MEDICINE

2. ILLNESS

HEALTH

TREATMENT

3. PYCHOLOGICAL

PROBLEM

B

CORRELATION

4. A

 

TIME

 

The value of an explanation is measured by two very diverse standards: does it accurately predict the future and does it lead to greater control of actual behavior in the field. Science does this best when dealing with inanimate objects and a highly limited time span of observation. When talking about rocks or the like it is relatively easy to predict what a rock will be doing in a hour or a month from now. It is also easy to plan to do something to a rock - and know what will happen. It is also possible, and relatively easy to plan to do something to a person if you observe only a few short minutes or days. It makes things much easier. The problem is that long term with relationships in families or between husbands and wives we should not and can not measure in such short terms.

Our Sages divide the world into four levels of complexity. Inanimate objects; Plant life; animals; and people (not by chance called ‘capable of speech’). When we - as scientists or as parents - move up the four levels of complexity our ability to predict/control diminishes rapidly. More often then not we take the laws and vocabulary of inanimate objects and try to apply them to higher levels of life. This comparison is both scientifically weak and religiously repugnant.

The Torah generally relates to time in a totally different way then western science. There are two levels of time - ‘now’ (much like western science) and eternity. A religious person must work simultaneously on both levels of time. Many times the immediate understanding of an event has a different meaning within the context of eternity.

These mistakes of using the thinking and vocabulary of inanimate objects and the distortion of time when talking about people has very significant sources that need to be described in order to overcome them.

The first mistaken belief flows from our very strong individual desire to ‘know and control’ our lives. We want the feeling that doing a - leads to b. The simpler the better. Theory takes precedent over reality and experimentation.

The second mistaken belief flows from what we learned was standardization is the basis of success. We have been told, taught and indoctrinated into believing this. Our schools, universities, and society as a whole sells this idea. Generalizations in place of individual uniqueness.

The third source of our mistaken belief comes from science itself. Until quite recently they believed that ‘a leads to b’ - - in all areas. They used the same ‘logic’ of the natural sciences to describe human behavior

( those capable of speech). Over the last 20 years of so the paradigm rock - person equivalent has grown not only ragged around the edges but also empirically null and void.

The fourth source of our mistaken beliefs is based on the idea that events can not be divorced from the ongoing context of time\eternity. The meaning of any event can only be found within the context of time. To relate to any event without time is to do violence to the fabric of multileveled religious reality.

 

These four ideas\myths form a tyranny of beliefs that prevent the necessary flexibility needed to overcome individual problems.

What has begun (and only begun) to replace these scientifically invalid rules

of causation/prediction/control and inappropriate ideas/myths of the standardization of people with two very basic religious tenets: people have freedom of choice - and use it - therefore they are unpredictable. The second tenet is that every individual is unique in both ability and style of doing/talking (and this too prevents meaningful generalizations).

A word in favor of standardization and generalizations. Torah is steeped in generalizations. Do good. Believe in God. Honor your parents. Etc. etc.. These are goals and directions to move in. Many times these standard goals and standard methods of implementation succeed. When something works - - continue doing it. The need for uniqueness starts in the personal implementation of these general goals that do not lead to the desired outcomes. Most problems - non goal achievement or personal pain and questioning - start when generalizations do not allow for the needed unique solutions. We believe the goal is never wrong, but rather program being used has not honored this persons unique potential to come to fruition.

Table Two represents the continued belief in an explanation that does not work in reality. The goal is not in question - but our rigid adherence to non-productive techniques.

TABLE TWO: WHEN STANDARD THINGS DON’T WORK

 

STANDARD

EVENT

EXPLANATION

OF CAUSATION

ACTION

GOAL/

I DO SOMETHING

 

PROBLEM

STANDARD

NO CHANGE

THEN TRY THE SOME THING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN......

THIS LEADS TO FRUSTRATION AND BLAMING - NOT CHANGE!

Frustration and blaming are the signs that something is not working in spite of correct goals and repeated efforts. These difficult emotions are signals that a change is necessary and should not be avoided but rather used as a spring board to do something different. The solution to this paradigm of ‘not working’ is not the abandonment of standard goals - Torah law. But rather we must implement unique solutions that draw upon these two basic religious tenets so often overlooked or subjugated to our mistaken beliefs: freedom of choice and exploitation unique skills of the individual. The solution to standard programs that don’t work - is DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Flexibility in techniques is the beginning of a solution that can lead to the implementation of sacred goals.

To summarize: A + B = C - the western formula for causation - holds true (usually) under four conditions: 1. When talking about people as inanimate objects - and not ‘capable of speech’; 2. When we are talking about short periods of time - single events without context. 3. When we can decide for the other person 4. When there is no need for individualization necessary.

When events are not going like we plan or don’t respond to our actions we are more then likely holding on to some of the conditions in the prior paragraph. What is left is to do something different based on the religious precepts: use freedom of choice and individualization.

WHY THINGS HAPPEN

In the beginning we stated there are two questions about causation that are of major significance: what is causation? and why do things happen? The first we suggested is well within the realm of science why the second tends to be the interest of philosophers or the religious. As parents we must be familiar with both areas.

Why do things happen. If we are western scientists the prior formula A + B = C is both the area of observation and the total explanation. For the religious the reality is quite different. The source of all things - from the smallest to the largest - is God. Nothing takes place without his will. The western formula is partially correct - to the extent that it correctly describes the overt laws “of nature” put into place during His creation. What is clearly lacking is the acknowledgment of the ultimate source. When this acknowledgment is used the new formula looks like this: A + B + B’eh = C. The third element is “With Gods Help”.

This has tremendous implications for causation. The first is that we must use Torah sources and advice in addition to the ‘laws of nature’. The second is that there can be no question of OUR control - control is totally dependent on God. The third is that no religious Jew can use the sterile western formula in acts of kindness (advice). Advice that is built on the understanding of ‘only’ the laws of nature - the science of people - will do violence to Torah. The acknowledgment of ‘no absolute control’ does not relieve anyone from the commandment to endeavor. Each person is commanded to try, and try again, but not to believe that success is totally contingent on his particular behavior. When this belief is in place a person will not experience anger or depression. His self worth will flow from his doing what is required and not ‘controlling’.

This additional element of B'eh has deep roots and richness for ‘why’ things happen. We all need help - and seek advice - when we are in pain. That pain is described by our Torah and Sages first and foremost as a signal to ‘change our ways’. The pain is not the problem but information to be used as a command to ‘do something different.’

Is there a “only Jewish” formula? B'eh and only B'eh? There was during very select periods in our history. Today there is only a select few who know and can use this pure Torah model. For the most part the majority of Jews are a hybrid of languages, cultures, and systems of knowledge. Few try the pure Jewish model of Torah. The vast majority use the modern Jewish formula that combines western knowledge that relates to specific information about techniques of problem resolution with Torah advise and goals.

In summary: the formula of A + B + B'eh = C requires a Jewish understanding of both how and why things happen. It forms the framework within which certain selected styles of talking that can be carefully used. Torah supplies explanations and goals supplementary modern knowledge supplies actions.

Please send us your comments to TorahPsychology@shemayisrael.co.il