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  • Timshel is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that means "thou mayest." It is a succinct exposition of the philosophical concept of Free Will. 'Timshel' memorably appears as the last quote in Steinbeck's East of Eden, and is, arguably, the principal theme of that novel. 'Thou mayest' suggests a divine (or from an as yet unknowable source) grant of potential. If we define an adjective "timshel" as a contextual extension to mean 'Thou mayest cause', it gives us the means to express, in local spacetime (i.e., in local 3-dimensional space and also temporarily), that aspect of potential for a reduction in entropy, which offers a possibility for an increase in useful, and conditionally creative, energy.

    May 23, 2008

  • Thou mayest? Thou doth jest, sirrah!

    May 24, 2008

  • Verily, I jest thou not; que será, será. If your comment, Sir yarb, concerns my use of the archaic "thou" and "mayest" in defining timshel, it is simply because I am quoting the passage in Steinbeck's East of Eden, where the biblical meaning of timshel is discussed. The passage is conveniently accessible online at the URL:

    May 24, 2008

  • Yes, I see. Of course if you're quoting from the King James it makes sense; in the original citation I was just wondering why you didn't say "you may".

    May 24, 2008

  • In any case it's quite a cute word.

    May 24, 2008

  • From the famous passage in East of Eden:

    “Do you remember when you read us the sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and we argued about them?�?


    “Well, the story bit deeply into me and I went into it word for word. The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have—and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James version says this—it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.�?


    “Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made.�?


    “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’�?


    “And I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed— because ‘Thou mayest.’�?

    A great book; a wonderful passage; and a word loaded with nuance and implication.

    May 25, 2008

  • Timshel means Dare? Born a sinner I must dare to contend with sin, else I shall run true to form. To me this is what separates a man from a beast. He sees that his greater part is the morphic spirit. Though born a beast he may choose to be as he wills to be, not as he was born to be. Not that it's easy, he must have courage. I shouldn't eat this whole bag of chips right now but I choose to serve the beast. So, should not the transliteration of timshel be 'thou darest' (to avoid sin)? Would a Victorian even say "darest"? Hassidics won't mind arguing the finer points of Hebrew til the sun burns out and the ocean dries up so let's hear it. When I read "East of Eden" all those years ago it made me wonder about this.

    July 23, 2019