8. Beyond the Bounds of Language 180
Chapter Eight Beyond the Bounds of Language Kabbalah and the Primordial Nature of Language he postmodern concern with "writing" and "text" as critical to philosophy and theology can in many ways be understood as a contemporary reprise of centuries old Jewish mystical ideas. The Kabbalists struggled with the question of whether God and world could or should be distinguished from the text of the Torah (in its widest sense) long before Derrida made his famous pronouncement “There is nothing outside the text.” 1 The notion that language serves as the world’s foundation is a significant theme in both the ecstatic and theosophical Kabbalah. 2 The Kabbalists, in effect, reversed the traditional view of the relationship between the signifier and the signified, a reversal that is apparent in their doctrines that the world is created and sustained through the 22 letters of the holy tongue, that the Torah is a blueprint or model for the universe, and that one understands the world by looking inside the Torah rather than via a direct apprehension of the world itself. For the Kabbalists, language is not a representation or copy of the cosmos; rather, the world of nature is derived from a linguistic original. Further, since this “linguistic original,” the Torah, is, as we have seen, highly malleable, the world is in a continuous state of transformation, incident to changes in the manner in which the words and letters of the Torah are T Beyond the Bounds of Language 181 ordered, interpreted and understood....
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