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Kabbalah and Postmodernism

A Dialogue

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Sandford L. Drob

Kabbalah and Postmodernism: A Dialogue challenges certain long-held philosophical and theological beliefs, including the assumptions that the insights of mystical experience are unavailable to human reason and inexpressible in linguistic terms, that the God of traditional theology either does or does not exist, that «systematic theology» must provide a univocal account of God, man, and the world, that «truth» is «absolute» and not continually subject to radical revision, and that the truth of propositions in philosophy and theology excludes the truth of their opposites and contradictions. Readers of Kabbalah and Postmodernism will be exposed to a comprehensive mode of theological thought that incorporates the very doubts that would otherwise lead one to challenge the possibility of theology and religion, and which both preserves the riches of the Jewish tradition and extends beyond Judaism to a non-dogmatic universal philosophy and ethic.

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6. The Doctrine of Coincidentia Oppositorum in Jewish Mysticism 129

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Chapter Six The Doctrine of Coincidentia Oppositorum in Jewish Mysticism he doctrine of coincidentia oppositorum, the interpenetration, interdependence and unification of opposites has long been one of the defining characteristics of mystical (as opposed to philosophical) thought. Whereas mystics have often held that their experience can only be described in terms that violate the “principle of non-contradiction,” western philosophers have generally maintained that this fundamental logical principle is inviolable. 1 Nevertheless, certain philosophers, including Nicholas of Cusa, 2 Meister Eckhardt 3 and G.W.F. Hegel 4 have held that presumed polarities in thought do not exclude one another but are actually necessary conditions for the assertion of their opposites. In the 20 th century the physicist Neils Bohr commented that superficial truths are those whose opposites are false, but that “deep truths” are such that their opposites or apparent contradictories are true as well. 5 The psychologist Carl Jung concluded that the “Self” is a coincidentia oppositorum, and that each individual must strive to integrate opposing tendencies (anima and animus, persona and shadow) within his or her own psyche. 6 More recently, postmodern thinkers such as Derrida have made negative use of the coincidentia oppositorum idea as a means of overcoming the privileging of particular poles of the classic binary oppositions in western thought, and thereby deconstructing the foundational ideas of western metaphysics. 7 In this chapter I explore the use of coincidentia oppositorum in Jewish mysticism, and its singular significance for the theology of one prominent T Kabbalah and Postmodernism...

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