Was the year 1840 the end of religion or the beginning? In this special podcast, David discusses the significance of the year and how it remains relevant today. Follow along with the source sheet and listen below:
The year 1840 marked the climax of the first industrial revolution. This era saw new labor-saving inventions, scientific advances, academic theories, and the beginning of increased general education levels. These advancements brought massive societal benefits. At the same time, they created substantial societal dislocation and produced new challenges for people to find meaning in this world.
As the industrial revolution progressed, a profound question about religion emerged: Would the rise of industrial, technological, and academic progress render religion obsolete or would these disruptive societal changes make religion crucial to understanding this new reality and provide meaning to peoples’ lives?
For readers looking to have a good time, this work is for you. This book is centered around the mysterious document, Kol HaTor. Published by the Rivlin family of Jerusalem, this document is a messianic work based on the thought of the Vilna Gaon (how direct the Gaon’s influence was is the topic of extremely spicy scholarly debate). A creative trip through the messianic vision of the Kol HaTor, The Secret Doctrine brings readers into the world of the spiritual possibilities of the technology age. Our favorite pivotal year, 1840, plays a significant role in this book, as the pivotal year in which the advancements of the industrial revolution converged with the advancements in Kabbalistic study. Readers might want to pair this book with the somewhat more soberly written The Gaon of Vilna and his Messianic Vision by Arie Morgenstern, which provides a more grounded view of the same host of issues. Both books offer fascinating insights into the place of technological advancement in the religious universe, and are sure to get readers thinking.