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Kabbalah and Postmodernism

A Dialogue


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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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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