In More Nebukhim, ‘Maimonides Guide for the perplexed’ in the third section of the book, chapter 51, Maimonides talks about the way of ‘knowing’ God, finding Him, connecting to Him. Maimonides considers that seeking this type of knowledge , is our existential mission. Before he explains how to know and connect to God, he presents the following parable:
The King resides in the inner chamber of his palace. The subjects of the King, some live in the city, the Kingdom where the palace is, and some live outside the city.
1. Those who live outside the city, outside the Kingdom, are intentionally disconnected with the King. They don’t even want to be considered subjects of any King, and have no interest in finding him or knowing more about him. They have other interests and this is why they have chosen to live outside the King’s city.
2. Of those who live inside the city, there are some who are no heading towards the King’s palace. Actually, they are confused and have lost sense of direction. So much so that they have their backs turned to the King’s palace and they are facing the opposite direction. Ironically, the more they search for the King, (and they do think that they are searching for the King), the further away they get from his palace.
3. A third group of people are those who know of the existence of a palace and although they have a basic idea of where the palace is, they have never seen it yet. Still, they are searching for the paths that lead to it.
4. Then, there are those who have found the palace and have a great desire to enter into the palace and meet the King. They have gone back and forth around the walls of the palace but they have not found the entrance door yet.
5. There are subjects who have entered the palace, but they have not found the inner chamber where the King sits at His throne. They wander in the palace’s hallways, looking for signs of the King’s chamber.
6. And finally, there are those who are inside the palace, and know where the inner chamber is. They have seen the light of the King’s chamber, filtering through the threshold of its door.
In this beautiful parable the King is obviously haShem. The first category of subjects refers to those who live outside the city. For Maimonides, these are the people who have no interest in knowing God: either because they consider themselves agnostics or atheists, or mainly because they are pursuing other objectives in life, generally speaking, material objectives or physical pleasures. In their minds, looking for a King/God will distract their efforts and will get them further away from material goods and pleasures.
(To be continued...).