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The Golem: Playing God Essay

2124 words - 8 pages

“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” These famous words by the painter Pablo Picasso prove true in the infamous Jewish myth, The Golem: How He Came into the World (The Golem), and Karl Capek’s play, Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R.). Throughout history, many persons have tried to play God, through acts like cloning in the 1990’s or simply calling themselves God, as was practice in ancient Egyptian societies. Rarely in time though has man actually succeeded at his game, until comes the notorious Prague golem and R.U.R.s robots. In the stories, two old men and their communities discover the consequences of creation when they bring clay and machines to life. Both tales detail the conception and destruction of artificial beings, the golem and the robot respectively. While the lives of the golems and the robots follow a similar path, the reasoning behind the creation, use and destruction of both are radically different.
To start, both the golem in The Golem and the robots in R.U.R. were shaped with material and supernatural elements. In The Golem, Rabbi Low literally molds a large amount of clay into a man. He further proceeds to call upon the spirit of Astaroth to help him bring the golem to life. After a series of rituals and the placing of the Shem Amulet inside the golem’s chest, Rabbi Low finally bestows life. Similarly, the robots also have physical and mystical components in their formation. So while a android was initially processed out of a factory, it would develop emotional and destructive traits as time went by. Dr. Gall had experimented with giving the machines feelings, but never could have guessed that the robots would be granted literal souls, something Dr. Gall or any scientist could never have constructed. Two such automatons, Primus and Helena, grow so in love by the end of play that Alquist literally calls them Adam and Eve, referring to the Biblical idea of God’s first creations. Thus, both the formation and the growth of the golem and the robots have worldly and paranormal parts.
Not only were the golem and the robots generated similarly, but the existence of both depends on simple words. After sculpting the golem, Rabbi Low must seal a powerful word inside the golem to bring it to life. Rabbi Low makes a trade with the demon Astaroth for the secret word “Aemet.” Rabbi Low seals this word inside the star-shaped Shem Amulet which he attaches to the golem’s chest. Whenever anyone removes this amulet, the golem returns to clay once again. Likewise, the continued construction of robots also depends on the formula old Rossum left behind. When Helena burns the scrolls left by old Rossum, everyone is left clueless at how to continue the production of the androids. Domin had designed a twenty-year life expectancy for robots, and without this recipe essentially, the machines have no way to continue their existence. Like the golem, without the secret words or the formula, the robots cannot survive.

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