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Why 1840?

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Why 1840?

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:

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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?  

One mystical text portended a religious revolution in 1840. Some interpreted this as a reflection on the need for redemption from the ills of modern innovation. Others focused on the more positive message of newfound opportunities for religious enlightenment in an age when human creativity was being redefined.

Today, we are once again faced with the choices and challenges society confronted in 1840 on an even greater level. While many of the benefits brought by these changes are self-evident, these rapidly accelerating changes are causing new societal and individual challenges. Alienation is a buzzword of our era. We are alienated from ourselves, from each other, from our world. The levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns are rising at an alarming rate, especially among Millennials and Generation Z. Traditional familial and communal emotional support networks are being replaced by impersonal online communities. And the exponential rate of technological development makes the future feel unpredictable. 

As a society, how will we construct meaning in today’s age of limitless information? Some will see religion as an anachronistic artifact from a simpler and more naïve time. 18Forty hopes to confront some of those challenges and present a new vision for the value of religion in the modern age. We hope to look at the many domains of alienation – theological, sociological, psychological – and approach the pressing questions of today in a way that provides meaning and comfort. We call ourselves 18Forty to remember that humanity has undergone rapid change before, and emerged for the better. If we ask the right questions, maybe we can too.

FOR MORE ON THIS TOPIC, CONSIDER READING:

THE SECRET DOCTRINE OF THE GAON OF VILNA

CITY OF LUZ, 2013
JOEL DAVID BAKST

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.

+ Buy on Amazon

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.

+ Buy on Amazon

Hasidism on the Margins

University of Wisconsin Press, 2005
Shaul Magid

In this fascinating work of scholarship, Dr. Shaul Magid explores the world of Izbitzh-Radzyn. Magid is a leading expert of this era in entering Hassidic texts from the inside, and exploring their implications and meaning from the outside as well. For those that know Magid’s life story this comes as no surprise. For those that don’t, check out his autobiographical reflections here. Hasidism on the Margins opens a window into the world of the 19th century, and lends perspective into what the world of 1840 was in Jewish thought, mysticism, and practice.

+ Buy on Amazon

In this fascinating work of scholarship, Dr. Shaul Magid explores the world of Izbitzh-Radzyn. Magid is a leading expert of this era in entering Hassidic texts from the inside, and exploring their implications and meaning from the outside as well. For those that know Magid’s life story this comes as no surprise. For those that don’t, check out his autobiographical reflections here. Hasidism on the Margins opens a window into the world of the 19th century, and lends perspective into what the world of 1840 was in Jewish thought, mysticism, and practice.

+ Buy on Amazon

Towards the Mystical Experience of Modernity: The Making of Rav Kook, 1865 - 1904

Academic Studies Press, 2021
Yehuda Mirsky

One of the great minds of the world of 1840 is Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook. Rabbi Kook’s evolution from a traditional young rabbi to a dynamic spiritual revolutionary shaped the course of Jewish philosophy and the nature of the religious community in Israel. In this new work, Yehuda Mirsky explores the nature of his evolution with a focus on his pre-Jaffa years. Mirsky is an expert on Rav Kook, and writes with a singularly poetic voice rare in academic-style writing. The post-1840 world is a world of spiritual revolutions, and Rav Kook was on the front lines of this revolution. Mirsky’s earlier Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution is very necessary reading for any hoping to approach Rav Kook as a person and thinker.

+ Learn More

One of the great minds of the world of 1840 is Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook. Rabbi Kook’s evolution from a traditional young rabbi to a dynamic spiritual revolutionary shaped the course of Jewish philosophy and the nature of the religious community in Israel. In this new work, Yehuda Mirsky explores the nature of his evolution with a focus on his pre-Jaffa years. Mirsky is an expert on Rav Kook, and writes with a singularly poetic voice rare in academic-style writing. The post-1840 world is a world of spiritual revolutions, and Rav Kook was on the front lines of this revolution. Mirsky’s earlier Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution is very necessary reading for any hoping to approach Rav Kook as a person and thinker.

+ Learn More

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