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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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10. Kabbalah, Forms of Consciousness and the Structure of Language 230


Chapter Ten Kabbalah, Forms of Consciousness and the Structure of Language aving explored the relationship between the Kabbalah and postmodern thought; having, as it were, passed Jewish mysticism through the sieve of Derrida and deconstruction, and, having “deconstructed” aspects of deconstruction itself, we must now inquire about the nature of the Kabbalah that emerges from this undertaking. Others who have brought contemporary thought into dialogue with Jewish mysticism have understood the Kabbalah as a welcome intrusion of the emotional and non-rational into an overly intellectual and constricted religious outlook (Scholem), as representing archetypal ideas and tendencies of the collective unconscious (Jung), and as a system of hermeneutical reading strategies that resist closure, specifiable meaning and totalization (Bloom, Karasick). While each of these perspectives is of considerable interest and value, the approach that I will take here is to understand the Kabbalist’s symbols as pointing and giving rise to forms of consciousness or modes of understanding that are latent in the psyche, and which are, in effect “born” out of these symbols as a result of a dialectic with contemporary thought. In this chapter I take up the task of comprehending the Kabbalah as a form of “rational mysticism,” and the Kabbalistic symbols as vehicles for altering not only our ideas about ourselves, the world, and the divine, but for transforming our very modes of consciousness, thought and reflection. This chapter looks both backward and forward; backward inasmuch as it takes a few steps towards revealing aspects of the “Torah of...

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