Today’s blog will be a little more personal than my other blogs. Today I wanted to give you some insight on my own journey and how I came to re-discover Hebraic Stoicism.
My journey began while I was in High School (I think it was my Sophmore year, around 1982 or 83). Our English literature class was studying the Shakespearean play Julius Caesar. Our teacher, Michael Shabay, took the opportunity to teach us about the three major philosophies that permeated Roman culture at this time: Stoicism, Epicurianism and Cynicism. Shabay assigned us to choose one of these three philosophies, and encouraged us to consider adopting one. Being a Star Trek fan, I was aware that the “Spock” character, with his predilection for logic and his control of his emotions, was based on the ancient Stoics, so I naturally chose Stoicism. (One of many influences the fictional Spock character had on my life from my youth, another was my interest in three dimensional chess).
A year or so later, I was exploring my father’s vast library (like my own today, it was a room completely lined with bookshelves). In my father’s library I discovered the works of Plato, Aristotle and others. One day I chanced upon a book titled “The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden.” In this book I found the “Fourth Book of Maccabees.” This book of 4the Maccabees was amazing, it combined Stoicism’s chocolate with Judaica’s peanut butter.
Over the next few years I discovered Stoicism in the writings of Philo of Alexandria, in Ben Zoma’s four paradoxes etc., and this material allowed me to reconstruct how these ancient Hebrews derived Stoicism from the Torah itself. I discovered that ancient Jewish writers like Aristobulus and Philo, saw Stoicsism (as well as many ideas of Plato and Aristotle) as having originated from the Torah and the ancient Hebrews, and having been co-opted by the ancient Greeks and Romans. I had re-discovered Hebraic Stoicism, which had been lost since the Jewish community of Alexandria was wiped out by the Romans in 116 C.E.,
That has been my journey. I am pleased that many of you have decided to join me in the restoration of this ancient Hebraic philosophy of reason.
I will close with a Poem I also learned in Mr. Shabay’s English class:
The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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