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The great professor

Posted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 12:05 am
by peter danielsen
I have a feeling that the great professor saying there is no G-D (I dont really know the name) in heaven and no Hell below
is the same ghost of culture with numbers on its wrist saluting some new conclusion that all of us have missed


Re: The great professor

Posted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 1:31 am
by oblivion
peter, i´ve lost almost all my friends, but i still believe in the signals from the haevens

Re: The great professor

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 4:02 am
by Steve Wilcox
I took the great Professor to be Roshi because of a poem about Roshi that said (and I may have to paraphrase) "there's no one left in heaven and there's no one going to hell". Just a thought.

Re: The great professor

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:13 am
by John Etherington
I too took "the great professor" to be Roshi, since the "no God" concept is rightly or wrongly often associated with Buddhism. I then looked up "There is no God in Heaven, there is no Hell below" on Google, and stumbled on a post quoting the satanic bible which apparently says "There is no heaven of glory bright, and no hell where sinners roast". Coincidentally, in the comments section directly below the quote someone points out that there is no rape or murder in the satanic bible!

Re: The great professor

Posted: Tue Aug 26, 2014 7:26 pm
by Tchocolatl
I am not familiar with those beliefs, but I think there is no such words because they call them rituals. 8) In my religion they call satan the Liar. Or the Seducer. Or the Temptator. Or the Serpent. You see the portrait. Interesting facet, this one. Certainly it is tempting for a sinner to believe lies that are pleasing for the mind. It is difficult to be honest with ourselves all the time. It is so easy to sin, there is so many occasion of errors.

Coincidentally, I stumbled over this article yesterday : ... ng-part-1/


Multifaceted lyrics I do believe, so everything here fits, to me, as long as it means something significant for the person who hear them.

It could also be a metaphor for Science. Science vs. Religion, and the not yet resolved debate about the scientific proof of the existence of G-d.

Example : ... 110517.htm

Re: The great professor

Posted: Fri Jan 09, 2015 12:04 am
by AlexandraLaughing
I thought the Great Professor was either John Lennon or Richard Dawkins. Seems too sardonic a line to mean Roshi?

Re: The great professor

Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2015 10:30 pm
by holydove
AlexandraLaughing wrote:... Seems too sardonic a line to mean Roshi?
I don't think it's too sardonic to mean Roshi. It's only sardonic if one projects a sardonic tone into it, but even with a sardonic tone, I think it could still be a reference to Roshi. As has been mentioned, Zen Buddhism does not address any kind of deity in its teachings. So, ". . .the great professor/ of all there is to know", could imply that Roshi (or whoever it is) possesses thorough knowledge of a certain kind, or a certain level of great knowledge. I think the following lines, "But I've had the invitation/ that a sinner can't refuse", could be a reference to Isaiah 55, which is entitled "Invitation to the Thirsty", & is essentially an invitation to open one's heart to God; it begins, "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters. . ." & at one point says, "Let the wicked forsake their ways/ & the unrighteous their thoughts/ Let them turn to the Lord, & he will have mercy on them. . .". So, the lines, "But I've had the invitation. . .", etc., in this interpretation, would imply that the narrator (who I think is, in fact, Leonard), though respectful of the knowledge imparted by the great professor, has experienced something different, or beyond, that knowledge, i.e. the "invitation" - which would suggest that though the professor says "there is no God. .."etc., Leonard's experience suggest a different kind of knowledge, which speaks another kind of truth, i.e., that something does exist which he would call "God". It reminds me of the lines, "I know that I'm forgiven/ but I don't know how I know", from That Don't Make It Junk - this is a kind of knowledge that defies any kind of logical explanation - it's something that has to be experienced at a deeper level of the heart. And Leonard has said that his connection with Zen & Roshi never meant that Judaism was not still his religion; so it would make sense that Leonard's experience of truth would, ultimately, be somewhat different from the teachings of Roshi/Zen.

If there is any truth to this interpretation, that would make this a very interesting (to say the least) "conclusion" to a song which, throughout all the preceding verses, references war, rape, murder, torture & killing. To respond to Peter's initial post, if there is any connection here to the "ghost of culture" & the "new conclusion" which he salutes, in The Street, it seems to me that the "new conclusion", might be more in line with the "invitation" than with the teachings of the great professor. . .but who knows, maybe not. . .

Re: The great professor

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:38 pm
by Jean Fournell
Once upon a time by the way, what is the meaning of "upon a time"? , a samuraï had taken to wondering about heaven and hell. And since he can't make head or tail of it, he walks to a zen-teacher and asks him if they really exist.

The zen-teacher, sitting in front of his temple, looks up at this samuraï standing there in front of him and says:

"Ha, what a strange feature! There's someone walks up here, and stands before me, and looks like disguised as a samuraï, and asks me whether heaven and hell exist. Now what can that be, if not a fake, some lawless bandit, an honourless ronin."

The samuraï, hand on the hilt of his sword, is barely able to contain his anger.

"Ha, and I see that you've even got a sword! Now where might that one come from, because who on earth would entrust someone like you with such a weapon? That sword of yours must surely come from some battle-field, stolen in the dead of night, cowardly, from the dead body of some real samuraï, fallen in loyal combat!"

His sword raised high above his head, the samuraï launches his stroke to cut this blasphemer in halves.

"Here, the gates of hell are opening."

Frozen in mid-stroke, the samuraï, totally empty, with nothing left at all, slowly sheathes his sword.

"Here, the gates of heaven are opening."

Aristotle, some people say, was the last human to know everything that was common knowledge in their day.

Now for Aristotle, "movement of movement" couldn't exist, because he was unable to figure out how that would work. (Today we speak of speeding up and slowing down, or acceleration and deceleration.)
The Greek peasants back then, however, knew well enough that a laden ox-cart downhill had better have a functioning holding-device, lest it smash their beasts' legs.

Aristotle did not know everything that was common knowledge in his day.

The Buddha Siddharta Gautama warned on several occasions that conceptions of the type "I know something about things which nothing can be known about" (God or gods, life after death or reincarnation, heaven, hell...) are counterproductive if they lead to mental confusion rather than leading to clarity.
The wise thing to do is to either use them with circumspection, or else to leave them alone.

A fascinating thing for me to observe is the fact that Leonard Cohen seems to have come to terms with the difficulty of uniting monotheism and spirituality.

He certainly paid a high price for this, over a long period of time, and I'm glad that he found the way through to the other end, instead of backing out.

For me, this is too difficult. I prefer to go for atheist spirituality, and pay the price for that. But I admire with a deep brotherly feeling the courage he has mustered all along, and I hope he will show parts of his "conclusion" on his next album. My impression is that this next album will be about law. Not law that law-givers give, but law that the searching ones find if they are lucky.
I'm sure Leonard Cohen has found quite something, quite simple...

As for the invitation:

Then said Almitra, "Speak to us of Love."
And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
When love beckons to you follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.

Gibran Khalil Gibran, "The Prophet"

For this, one needn't be a sinner (nor a Believer) to be unwilling to refuse.

Re: The great professor

Posted: Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:52 pm
by holydove
Thank you for your contributions, Jean. That is a wonderful zen story (re: heaven & hell), & I absolutely agree with the message: heaven is not above & hell is not below; heaven & hell are within us & all around us, & created by none other than us; & this could also be interpreted as the implication in Leonard's lyrics, otherwise he could have just said, "there is no God", but he adds, ". . in heaven", & he could have just said, "there is no hell", but adds, ". . below"; so it's not necessarily that they don't exist, but it's the "location" that is in question here.

I also do not define "God" as a separate entity (as it often seems to be defined in monotheistic schools of thought), & I didn't mean to imply that Leonard necessarily defines "God" that way either; that's why I said, "something that he calls God does exist" (actually, it might be more accurate to say, "something that might be called God does exist"), & of course, I have no idea how Leonard defines "God". It's just that the word "BUT" in the line, "But I've had the invitation. . ." causes me to think perhaps he is referring to "something" that he has experienced or perceives, that differs somewhat from what the "great professor" has professed. For me, the force of Love is as acceptable a definition of "God" as any. . .Kabbalah (which is essentially another level of Judaic interpretation) teaches that the ultimate reality is "einsof", translated as "infinite eternal light". So, if one digs a little further into Judaic (or Christian, or any other) teachings, it might become a little less difficult to reconcile so-called "monotheism" with other schools of spiritual teachings; it's something I've also been grappling with for a while. . .

Thanks again for sharing your interesting stories, quotes, & thoughts.

Re: The great professor

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 5:37 pm
by holydove
I just want to add this thought: In experiencing a work of art, it is extremely helpful to suspend, or step outside, one's own beliefs or non-beliefs, as much as possible. Actually, that's a helpful thing to do at any time, or if possible, all the time. Beliefs & non-beliefs will only obscure & distort experience.

Re: The great professor

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 9:20 pm
by Jean Fournell
You're most welcome, Holydove. Your thoughts, not only in this thread, have been very helpful to me, too.

And I definitely agree with your last post: trying for as direct and unfiltered a perception as possible is certainly worth the while, even if it's not that easy...

The Zen-story is not mine, of course. But I've long forgotten who told it to me, and I have no visual memory of reading it anywhere. So I can't give due credit to its author(s). My apologies.

Concerning "the great professor of all there is to know" such a professor would have to be omniscient. And omniscience is a divine attribute, not a human one. So it's either God saying that "there is no God in heaven, and there is no hell below", or else some caricature of an arrogant nitwit.

(I've met too many people traumatised by religious indoctrination, compelled to amputate part of themselves in order to get free, and be it only as spiritual cripples, for me not to understand that anti-theism and anti-religiousness are often desperate means of survival. I am not shooting at their ambulance!)

In the second case, things are easy:

If I claim that there is no such thing as an alactabistra, and someone pops up and shows me one, I'm wrong. And if someone invents one, I'm wrong from that moment on.
Worse: I'm wrong already if there is one at the other end of the universe, only none of us knows about it.

It is tremendously difficult to prove that something doesn't exist. The fact that the artificial word "alactabistra" was invented by phoneticians, in order to check some pronunciation theories, does no more than give a hint that there might be no alactabistra in this world, but it is by no means a proof of its non-existence.

Therefore no professor of any intellectual honesty would easily claim that whatsoever doesn't exist. Just find one single item, and he's wrong. "I have found no evidence but I might be blind to it, or I possibly looked in the wrong place" is a perfectly acceptable alternative. Which accepts the blame if the theory goes haywire, instead of broadcasting propaganda.

And I can't think of anything but folly to cause any human professor to claim that they profess "all there is to know". That's simply not within our reach. (Aristotle himself did not claim any such thing some people say it about him, and that's not his fault.)

Still in this second case, "But I've had the invitation..." could mean that the narrator ran into some pseudo-scientific sect, but experienced a basic conviction that there is something fundamentally wrong with their preaching. Still easy only: who on earth would they be? Leonard Cohen has long grown out of that kind of shoes...

In the first case, things are more delicate:

God Himself would be claiming either that He exists not only in the confined space of heaven (but rather that He exists everywhere) in which case, however, the "But..." in "But I've had the invitation" wouldn't make sense (it should then be "And...") , or else that He doesn't exist at all, and now the "But..." would be logically correct.

It seems contradictory, of course, that God should profess His own non-existence.

But God is defined as a perfect being, and perfection wouldn't be perfect without 1) existence, and 2) non-existence, and 3) either existence or non-existence, and 4) both existence and non-existence, and 5) neither existence nor non-existence (the five of them simultaneously, and as minimum requirements, along with many more of that kind, like logical constraint, time, space... and all of this already in our largely blind eyes of human perception therefore with much more to come presumably "in the higher eye").

In this last hypothesis (God professing His own non-existence), the first six lines of the fourth stanza of "Almost Like The Blues" would mean: just drop your ratiocinating about Me, and rather come into Me.

Which I find coherent. ("And all I've said was just instead of coming back to you")
But not conclusive.

And this "great professor" construction seems to me like some echo of an earlier Leonard Koan: "One of us cannot be wrong".

PS: My least hopeless failures at monotheism imply a female-type God, some Nourishing Womb operating from both outside and inside us. But failures they are...

Re: The great professor

Posted: Tue Jan 13, 2015 11:24 pm
by holydove
Hi Jean,

I didn't see it as the "great professor" claiming to know "all there is to know"; I saw it as the narrator's perception that the "great professor" knows all there is to know. (That would make your perception & my perception of the potential meaning, quite different.) It's not uncommon for one to feel that a spiritual teacher, esp. one who is considered a great meditation master, knows "all there is to know".

And then there is the question: what does "to know" mean? There is more than one possible level of knowing, but if we're talking about knowledge as the word is commonly used, one definition can be: "to be aware of through observation, inquiry or information". This kind of knowing indicates duality, meaning there is the knower & that which is known. So, one can deduce that maybe the professor's teaching that "there is no God in heaven. . .', etc., is a conclusion that the narrator sees as having been gleaned through observation, inquiry, etc. That's one kind of "knowing".

But perhaps the "invitation" has to do with a sense of being drawn into an experience of unity with Truth/God/the Creator/the Universe (whatever it may be). That kind of experience would be different from the dualistic type of knowing. And you touched on that, Jean, when you mentioned the idea of being invited to "come into me". And the line, "it's almost like salvation", could be seen as an extention of that idea, as one aspect of "salvation" has to do with "union with God". Of course, he says it's "almost" like salvation, which would indicate that he's not claiming to be all the way there yet, but the "invitation" itself is a strong enough experience to cause him to feel that there is something beyond the "knowing" (great, thorough & complete as it may be, on whatever level) offered to him by the great professor (whoever that may be).

Re: The great professor

Posted: Wed Jan 14, 2015 9:20 pm
by Jean Fournell
Interesting point, Holydove, to distinguish between omniscience as claimed by the great professor himself versus projected onto him by the narrator!
This latter possibility hadn't occurred to me at all indeed, and it certainly makes a difference.

Based on the fact that Leonard Cohen was the tenzo (cook) in Mount Baldy, which traditionally means Number Two in the temple, for me the two of them were rather a Roshi-Priest and a Cohen-Priest, personal friends on top of that, working hand in hand as (nigh-on) equals.
That's why the "projection" possibility had totally escaped me.

And it might have quite some implications which I never figured out (infallibility of the Catholic pope and such matters), and which would have to make their way into my understanding first. For the time being, there's not much I can say to this whole aspect.

Be this as it may for now your distinction between outside knowledge and inside sharing is precisely as I see these things, too.

Re: The great professor

Posted: Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:51 pm
by doepus
The great Professor refers to Richard Dorkins who is so strident in telling us all that there is no God

Re: The great professor

Posted: Mon Jan 26, 2015 8:18 pm
by Jean Fournell
Never heard of. Can't be that great...

My impression still is that this refers to hubris in general, rather than to one particular manifestation.