Cover image for Our immoral soul : a manifesto of spiritual disobedience
Our immoral soul : a manifesto of spiritual disobedience
Bonder, Nilton.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Alma imoral. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Shambhala, [2001]

Physical Description:
viii, 118 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BM645.S6 B6613 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Rabbi Bonder turns a few conventional religious ideas on their heads as he examines the Bible and other Jewish teachings to identify the forces at play in individual, social, and spiritual transformation. Religious conformists believe that obeying the established moral order will lead to the salvation of our souls. On the contrary, says Bonder, the human spirit is nourished by what society labels immoral. Even the Bible legitimizes the notion that we have a God-given urge to rebel against the status quo in order to evolve, grow, and ascend. It is this "immoral" soul of ours that impels us to do battle with God-and out of this clash, Bonder predicts, a new humanity will emerge. In the course of discussion, the author examines a variety of intriguing issues touching on religion, science, and culture, including the teachings of evolutionary psychology; the relation of body and soul; infidelity in marriage; anti-Semitism and the Jew as traitor; transgression, sacrifice, and redemption in Judaism and Christianity; and the Messiah as archetypal transgressor.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Using the Bible, other Jewish teachings, and evolutionary psychology as his foundation, Rabbi Bonder formulates a radical new theological proposition: all human beings need to rebel--to dabble in the immoral--in order to eventually achieve spiritual maturation. This seemingly paradoxical notion forms the basis of this intriguing spiritual manifesto. According to Bonder, without temptation, sin, and betrayal, a person will remain a relatively static being with no opportunity for dynamic growth and evolution. Recognizing that we all have natural urges to defy the mores of society and the laws of God, he points out that these impulses actually provide us with the chance to redeem ourselves in the established Judeo-Christian cycle of sin, sacrifice, and renewal. Although traditionalists might take offense, Bonder does offer a thoughtful new twist on some tried-and-true religious themes. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Making use of diverse sources such as evolutionary psychology and Hasidic lore, Rabbi Bonder inverts the usual "body/soul" definitions. For Bonder, it is not the evil flesh that seduces the moral soul; rather, it is the soul, in its desire to evolve, that encourages the body to break accepted mores. Bonder argues that religious conformity does not lead to spiritual maturity, which is attained instead through a thoughtful rebellion against the status quo. So, for example, "Adam and Eve were apes until this act of disobedience [eating of the Tree of Knowledge] marked the advent of consciousness," and the biblical Abraham founded Judaism by abandoning his home in "civilized" Ur a betrayal in his countrymen's eyes. The results are intriguing, with Bonder posing moral dilemmas involving everything from the causes of anti-Semitism to infidelity in marriages. Some questions remain, however. Moral or not, the mind or soul, not the body, is usually seen as the human "decision-making" faculty, but Bonder's insistence on the mind/body tension does not identify who or what is doing the choosing. And if conventional morality is the sole purview of the body, how does one distinguish between "genuine" evolutionary impulses and willful licentiousness? Other points seem far-fetched, such as the prediction that "the Human Genome Project will map the soul" using uncertainty principles similar to those in quantum physics. Nevertheless, Bonder's method can provoke a worthwhile examination of commonly held religious values. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved