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MORTIMER OSTOW

ULTIMATE INTIMACY

The Psychodynamics of

Jewish Mysticism

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KARNAC BOOKS

ULTIMATE INTIMACY

ULTIMATE INTIMACY

T H E PSYCHODYNAMICS

OF J E W I S H MYSTICISM

Mortimer Ostow

w i t h contributions by

Jacob A. Arlow Martin Bergmann


Eleanor Galenson David J. Halperin
Mosheldel Peter B. Neubauer
Elliot R. Wolf son

London

KARNAC BOOKS
First p u b l i s h e d in 1995 b y
H. Karnac (Books) Ltd,
118 F i n c h l e y R o a d ,
London NW3 5HT

Copyright 1995 by Mortimer Ostow

T h e r i g h t s o f M o r t i m e r O s t o w a n d the c o n t r i b u t o r s to b e identified a s the


a u t h o r s of this w o r k h a v e b e e n a s s e r t e d in a c c o r d a n c e w i t h 7 7 a n d 7 8
o f the C o p y r i g h t D e s i g n a n d P a t e n t s A c t 1988.

All rights r e s e r v e d . N o p a r t of this p u b l i c a t i o n m a y b e r e p r o d u c e d , s t o r e d


i n a retrieval s y s t e m , or t r a n s m i t t e d in any form .or b y any m e a n s ,
electronic, m e c h a n i c a l , p h o t o c o p y i n g , r e c o r d i n g , or o t h e r w i s e , w i t h o u t
the p r i o r p e r m i s s i o n o f the p u b l i s h e r .

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data


Ostow, Mortimer
U l t i m a t e I n t i m a c y : P s y c h o d y n a m i c s of
Jewish Mysticism
I. T i t l e
296.712019

I S B N : 978 1 85575 105 7

Printed in Great Britain by BPC Wheatons Ltd, Exeter


This book is dedicated to

the memory of my friend, companion, and teacher,

Gerson D. Cohen,

who introduced me to Kabbalah,

and to my study companions,

Ismar Schorsch and Stanley Schachter

CONTENTS

CONTRIBUTORS Xi

PREFACE Xiii

EDITORIAL NOTE XVii

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

Dimensions of m y s t i c i s m 3

CHAPTER TWO

T h e apocalyptic complex 45

vli
Viii CONTENTS

M Y S T I C I S M A N D P R O P H E C Y

CHAPTER THREE

Introduction

Ezekiel and the Elders of Judah:

the workings of a prophetic trance

David J. Halperin

Comments Martin Bergmann

E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M ,

MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

CHAPTER FOUR

Introduction
Pour entered the garden:

normative religion versus illusion

Mortimer Ostow

Comments Eleanor Galenson

CHAPTER FIVE

Introduction
The psychodynamics of merkavah mysticism
Mortimer Ostow

METHODOLOGY

CHAPTER SIX

Methodological reflections on

psychoanalysis and Judaic studies:

a response to Mortimer Ostow

David J. Halperin

Comments Mortimer Ostow


CONTENTS iX

SEX AND GENDER

IN T H E KABBALAH

INTRODUCTION 209

CHAPTER SEVEN

Sexual metaphors and praxis in the Kabbalah

Mosheldel 217

Comments Jacob A. Arlow 245

CHAPTER EIGHT

Crossing gender boundaries

in kabbalistic ritual and myth

Elliot Wolfson 255

Comments Peter B. Neubauer 338

COMMENTS ON I D E L AND WOLFSON

Mortimer Ostow 349

EPILOGUE

CHAPTER NINE

Concluding comments:

union and reunion 355

GLOSSARY 363

REFERENCES 367

INDEX 393

CONTRIBUTORS

MORTIMER O S T O W , M.D., Med.Sc.D., Sandrow Visiting Professor


Emeritus of Pastoral Psychiatry, J e w i s h Theological Seminary of
America; President, Psychoanalytic Research and Development
F u n d ; Attending Psychiatrist, Montefiore Medical Center, New
York City.

JACOB A. A R L O W , M.D., Past President, American Psychoanalytic


Association; Former Editor-in-Chief, Psychoanalytic Quarterly;
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, New York University College of
Medicine.

MARTIN BERGMANN,Clinical Professor of Psychology, New York


University Post-Doctoral Program; Training a n d Supervising
Analyst, New York Freudian Society.

ELEANOR G A L E N S O N , M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Mt.


Sinai School of Medicine; member, New York Psychoanalytic
Society.

xi
Xii CONTRIBUTORS

ID A V I D J . H A L P E R I N , P h . D . , Professor of Religious Studies, Univer


sity of North Carolina; author of The Faces of the Chariot: Early
Jewish Responses to EzekieVs Vision, and The Merkabah in
Rabbinic Literature.

M O S H E I D E L , P h . D . , Max Cooper Professor of J e w i s h Thought,


Hebrew University of Jerusalem; author of Hasidism Between
Ecstasy and Magic, and Kabbalah: New Perspectives.

P E T E R B . N E U B A U E R , M . D . , Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, New


York University; Editor, Psychoanalytic Study of the Child

E L L I O T R. W O L F S O N , P h . D . , Professor of Hebrew & J u d a i c


Studies, New York University; author of Through a Speculum
That Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysti
cism, and the Book of the Pomegranate: Moses de Leon's Sefer
ha'Rimmon.
PREFACE

R
egularly in essays, books, a n d lectures on J e w i s h
mysticism, the author will observe that the material is
so strange a n d irrational that it invites psychological
analysis. F r o m his point of view, the psychoanalyst easily recog
nizes familiar dynamic formulations a n d myths a n d eagerly
explores mystical materials for the universals of h u m a n fantasy
a n d for the sources of irrational thoughts a n d behaviour; for
information on methods of inducing alterations of behaviour;
a n d for the universals that characterize the relationship between
the individual a n d his community.
It is the purpose of this book to introduce the psychoanalytic
study of the Kabbalah as a serious discipline. T h i s is not a text
on the subject, but rather a collection of essays with some
commentaries, each of which is intended to illustrate the applic
ability of psychodynamic concepts to J e w i s h mysticism a n d
thereby to serve a s a n introduction.
I should like to make clear to the reader that this endeavour
is not intended as a n attempt to reduce Kabbalah to a mental
deviation or to explain it away. These studies were undertaken

xiii
XiV PREFACE

because, since it evolved, Kabbalah has been a powerful force


in the life of the Jewish people. We should like to learn how
a n d why it has developed, how it has acquired its power, and
whether there is any prospect that it will become less or more
potent a n agent for alleviating or creating turbulence for the
J e w i s h people in the future, both of which it did in the past.
Obviously, mysticism is no less important in the history of
other peoples. B u t the subject is so large that to master it in the
case of even one culture is a striking achievement. We limit
ourselves here to Jewish mysticism and to only a few aspects of
it, in order to make some degree of control of the subject pos
sible.
We start with an introductory chapter, in which I review
briefly, for the reader who is new to mysticism, its dimensions,
a n d also suggest some psychodynamic formulations. The second
chapter deals with the subject of apocalypse because, in my
view, what I have called the "apocalyptic complex" lies at the
heart of mysticism. The third chapter, by David J . Halperin,
presents a n example of prophetic mysticism as exemplified in
the book of Ezekiel. The fourth chapter deals with esotericism,
and the fifth with hekhalot and merkavah mysticism. Thereafter,
Halperin contributes a chapter on methodology. There follow two
chapters, one by Moshe Idel and a second by Elliot Wolfson, on
sexuality in mediaeval Kabbalah. We have comments on chapter
three by Martin Bergmann, on chapter four by Eleanor
Galenson, on chapters four and five by Halperin, on chapter
seven by Jacob Arlow, and on chapter eight by Peter Neubauer.
In a series of introductions and some comments, I try to inte
grate these several components and set them all into a common
framework.
The chapters attributed in the Table of Contents to Pro
fessors Halperin and Wolfson do not properly indicate their
true contributions to this volume. They have generously and
promptly reviewed my own essays and introductions, helped me
to formulate some of my ideas, pointed out errors, and sug
gested relevant literature and observations. More importantly,
they encouraged me to carry out this enterprise. I a m greatly
indebted to them, as well as to my other colleagues who share
their wisdom and experience with us in this volume. Despite
their efforts, the reader will doubtless encounter errors, and
PREFACE XV

statements a n d opinions that are controversial. For these, of


course, I take full responsibility.
I should like to take this opportunity to thank my secretary,
Antoinette D . F l y n n , for her faithful transcription of this often
difficult text.
Finally I should like to thank Cesare Sacerdoti, publisher of
K a r n a c , who conceived of this book a n d encouraged me to put it
together.
EDITORIAL NOTE

A
note about transliteration a n d spelling: Some of the
Hebrew a n d Aramaic texts that our essays address are
quoted in the original but rendered here in translitera
tionthat is, English letters reproducing approximately the
sound of the original. In most cases, individual letters in English
correspond approximately in sound to letters in the Hebrew
alphabet. Problems arise in the case where two Hebrew letters
correspond to the same sound in English, a n d also in the case of
those Hebrew letters that correspond to no single English letter.
For that reason, transliteration codes are used in scholarly
publications. Many scholars use their own codes. I have not
attempted to impose a uniform code on the essays in this book,
preferring to let each author's essay conform to the code that he
has been using in all of his work.
T h e differences among the codes are seldom problematic. B y
and large, ambiguity arises with respect to two situations: The
ch sound, a s it appears in the German word ich, is indicated
in modern Hebrew by the letters chet and chaf. Most current,
scholarly transliteration codes render the first by h , a n d the
second by fch. (In this volume we are using either ft for chet or h

xvii
XVlii EDITORIAL NOTE

to represent both its corresponding letter, heh, and the chet)


Again, two Hebrew letters, aleph and ayin, are unvoiced. They
are indicated in scholarly transliteration by orthographic signs
that are not letters, resembling [a final quotation mark] for
1

aleph and * [an initial quotation markj for the ayin. The vav,
which is sounded as a v, is often transliterated as w to distin
guish it from the veth, which is also sounded v. T h e ts sound,
as in tsadik, is usually transliterated as s or z. Here we have
omitted the subscripts that distinguish these from the same
letter pronounced conventionally. Both kaf a n d kuf are pro
nounced and transliterated Jc; some authors use q for kuf.
The Hebrew alphabet consists only of consonants, and there
fore consonants identify the root meaning of the word, while
vowels, prefixes, and suffixes indicate its inflections. Although
consonants were necessarily always pronounced with vowels, a
consistent vowel orthography was not established before the
sixth century C E . The pronunciation of the vowels in modern
Israeli Sefardic Hebrew differs in some respects from their pro
nunciation in Ashkenazic Hebrew. When the vowel sounds are
reproduced in transliteration in scholarly texts, generally the
Sefardic usage is given. The rendering of these sounds into
English is generally by phonetically equivalent vowels. Scholarly
papers that deal with ancient texts often omit all vowel symbols
in transliteration, except for some consonants that also have
vowel significancealeph, heh, vav, and yod. Scholarly papers
that deal with Hebrew grammar transliterate the vowel sounds
punctiliously. Otherwise, the vowel sounds are usually rendered
into recognizable and reasonably unambiguous English vowel
letters.
It follows that transliteration is not necessarily consistent
from author to author, from Ashkenazic to Sefardic, or even
from one non-Hebrew language (e.g. German) to another (e.g.
English). Accordingly, the reader will notice inconsistencies in
usage in the transliteration of certain Hebrew names, depending
upon which author is quoted. For example, the adjective derived
from the name Sabbatai Sevi, is given as Sabbatian by Scholem
and Idel and Wolfson, but Sabbatean by Y . Liebes. The cele
brated second-century T a n n a (scholar of the Mishnaic period)
Akiva may also be referred to as Aqiba, Akiba, or Aqiva, depend
ing upon which transliteration code is used. Again, Scholem and
EDITORIAL NOTE Xix

Halperin speak of the merkabah, whereas Idel speaks of the


merkavah [b and v are both represented by the same Hebrew
letter, beth; it is pronounced b when it contains a dotdagesh
a n d v otherwise). Note the two spellings sefirah and sephirah.
It will be helpful to remember that the suffix - i m signifies the
masculine plural a n d -ot or -oth the feminine plural. Words
ending in - o h are usually feminine singular, e.g. sejxrah (singu
lar) a n d sefirot (plural).
At the end of the book I have provided a glossary of some of
the less familiar Hebrew a n d Aramaic terms that appear in the
text.
PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

Dimensions of mysticism

Definitions

T
he reader without specialized knowledge of mysticism
will expect this book to open with a helpful definition.
T h e student of mysticism, on the other h a n d , will know
that no definition of mysticism will do justice to the breadth a n d
diversity of the phenomena that the term comprises a n d wonder
what the term psychodynamics implies.
Philology does not help u s m u c h to delineate the profile of
mysticism. T h e root of the word is said to be associated with the
Greek word muein, which literally means "closing", with respect
to the lips a n d the eyes. The word was used in connection with
the rituals of initiation into Greek mystery religions, a n d the
word "mystery is s a i d to be derived from it. Mysticism shares
M

m a n y concepts with the religious mysteries of the ancients,


primarily the effort of the individual to achieve union with a
universal being (Kerenyi, 1955, p. 33).
While theoretically it is desirable to initiate the study
of behavioural phenomena with definitions for the purpose of
achieving clarity, in my experience it is usually best to leave

3
4 PROLOGUE

definitions to the end of the studyand one often concludes then


that definitions are impossible.
However, as an initial approximation, I think that Evelyn
Underhiirs definition is probably as useful a s any. "Mysticism",
she says (1964),

according to its historical and psychological definitions, is


the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a
person who has, to a greater or lesser degree, such a direct
experienceone whose religion and life are centered, not
merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which
he regards as first hand personal knowledge, [pp. 9f.]

Here is IdeFs definition (1988b):

I consider a phenomenon to be of a mystical nature when


there is achieved a contact with the Divine, differing from the
common religious experiences cultivated in a certain religion
both in its intensity and in its spiritual impact. Accordingly,
the interest in ecstatic and unitive experiences as they occur
in Kabbalistic literature are conspicuously mystical. I also,
however, consider certain types of experiences as mystical
even when they differ substantially from the previous type of
mysticism: I refer to theurgical performance of the com
mandments as this appears in certain texts, [p. xviii]

Psychodynamics is a discipline that strives to detect regu


larities in mental processes in the sense that sequences and
cause-and-effect relationships can be recognized. In order to do
so, it is useful to assume the existence of intervening forces and
counterforces that do not become conscious. Since the regulari
ties of mental life seem to prevail fairly universally, one can
attempt to "understand" behaviourespecially non-rational be
haviouramong individuals and communities that one knows
only from public information.
T h a t mysticism has prevailed widely and still does, both in
historical times and in geographical space, encourages u s to
infer that both its visible manifestations and the unconscious
mental processes that underlie the visible are represented fairly
uniformly in mankind. It will be even more interesting if, appre
hending what these unconscious determining mental processes
are, we can establish relations between mysticism and other
behaviours that share these processes. If we are successful in
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 5
discerning the mental dynamics, then we shall be able not only
to understand mysticism better, but also to detect congruent,
derivative, a n d correlated behaviours. Prediction in the area of
h u m a n behaviour i s not generally successful, even though we
c a n all recall instances in which our forecasts proved correct.
Informed anticipation probably characterizes better what we c a n
hope to achieve.

Dimensions of mysticism

What are the things that we would w i s h to know about mysti


c i s m or about the individual varieties of mysticism that we shall
encounter herethat is, what are its dimensions?
First we m u s t distinguish between individual mystical expe
riences a n d practices on the one h a n d a n d group mystical move
ments on the other. How are these related, what do they share,
a n d how do they differ? Second, what is the mystical experi
ence? It is this experience that is said to be the defining
characteristic of mysticism. The mystic declares that his experi
ence is not susceptible of being described in words in the
familiar categories of reason. It is s u i generis a n d not definable.
Essentially, the mystic feels that he is at one with a universal
entity: the religious mystic feels himself united in some way
[unio mystica in the Christian religion and d'vekuth (adhesion]
among J e w s ) with his God; the secular mystic, with the universe
or with nature. T h i s feeling of unity m a y occur in a clearly
demarcated mystical trance, or a s a n aspect of one's feeling a s
one goes about the business of one's daily life, or both. We would
wish to know on what occasions the discrete mystical experience
appears and what determines conversion to a continuing m y s
tical frame of mind. Obviously, the openness to mystical
conversion reflects a previous discontent a n d unhappiness.
However, the specific nature of this unhappiness is seldom
clear, nor does it appear to be the same for all individuals a n d on
all occasions.
Some people, both in contemporary life and i n accounts
recorded in history, make strenuous efforts to induce the experi
ence, while others describe being suddenly a n d surprisingly
6 PROLOGUE

overwhelmed b y it. T h e l i t e r a t u r e of m y s t i c i s m r e c o r d s tech


n i q u e s for t r a n c e i n d u c t i o n , s t r i k i n g l y s i m i l a r even i n d i s s i m i l a r
c u l t u r e s . M o s t of t h e s e i n v o k e p u r i f i c a t i o n r i t u a l s , s u c h a s b a t h
i n g a n d c h a n g i n g into c l e a n c l o t h e s ; a s c e t i c a b s t e n t i o n s , m a i n l y
from food, d r i n k , s e x u a l c o n t a c t , a n d s l e e p ; s o l i t u d e or i s o l a t i o n
from s t i m u l i , for e x a m p l e b y r e m a i n i n g i n s e c l u s i o n for d a y s a n d
w e e k s , often w i t h the e y e s c l o s e d (cf. the G r e e k muein, to w h i c h I
r e f e r r e d above, signifying " c l o s i n g of eyes a n d l i p s " ) ; m e d i t a t i o n
o n a fixed i m a g e or e n d l e s s l y r e p e a t e d r e c i t a t i o n of a m a n t r a ;
and a fixed, often s u b m i s s i v e posture, s u c h a s sitting with
the h e a d r e s t i n g o n the k n e e s (Idel, 1 9 8 8 b ; S c h o l e m , 1941, p.
49).
W e w o u l d w i s h to k n o w w h a t b e h a v i o u r a l c o n s e q u e n c e s flow
from the mystical experience, either c o n c u r r e n t l y or subse
q u e n t l y . A c t u a l l y , we s h o u l d n o t a s s u m e that behaviour that
follows the m y s t i c a l experience or the o n s e t of the mystical
c o n v e r s i o n i s n e c e s s a r i l y c a u s e d b y it. It is c o n c e i v a b l e t h a t the
s a m e frame of m i n d t h a t i n d u c e d one, i n d u c e d the other a s w e l l .
M o s t c o m m o n l y , the m y s t i c , if h i s overt b e h a v i o u r c h a n g e s at
a l l a n d often no c h a n g e i s v i s i b l e w i l l e x h i b i t a n e w or i n
c r e a s e d degree of self-control, s e l f - d e n i a l , s u b m i s s i v e n e s s , and
other f o r m s of c o n d u c t t h a t are generally c o n s i d e r e d m o r a l . I n
s o m e i n s t a n c e s , quite the c o n t r a r y is o b s e r v e d : a defiance of
conventional s t a n d a r d s a n d a n overthrow of a c c e p t e d values
a n d n o r m s . T h e S a b b a t i a n m e s s i a n i c m y s t i c a l m o v e m e n t of the
seventeenth c e n t u r y a n d the F r a n k i s t m y s t i c a l m o v e m e n t of
the e i g h t e e n t h c e n t u r y e x h i b i t e d t h i s J e w i s h l y p e r v e r s e h e r e s y .
I n either c a s e , the i n d i v i d u a l m y s t i c c a n b e c o m e the l e a d e r of a
m o v e m e n t , c o n v e n t i o n a l i n the former i n s t a n c e or d e v i a n t or
h e r e t i c a l i n the latter.
W e m u s t a l s o take into a c c o u n t the m e n t a l c o n t e n t a s s o c i
a t e d w i t h the m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e or m o o d . H e r e , too, we e n
c o u n t e r a good deal of v a r i a t i o n . I n m a n y i n s t a n c e s the m y s t i c
d e s c r i b e s a s u d d e n or g r a d u a l o n s e t of a novel c o n s c i o u s n e s s of
a n e x h i l a r a t i n g c o n c e r n w i t h , or a p p r o a c h to, the p e r v a s i v e ob
j e c t of d e s i r e , u s u a l l y s o m e f o n n or a s p e c t of a deity. I n other,
m o r e d r a m a t i c a c c o u n t s , w e r e a d of a s u d d e n v i s u a l or a u d i t o r y
e x p e r i e n c e t h a t c a r r i e s w i t h it a p r o f o u n d c o n v i c t i o n of r e a l i t y
t y p i c a l l y a h a l l u c i n a t o r y v i s i o n of, or e n c o u n t e r w i t h , a s u p e r
n a t u r a l figure. T h i s e n c o u n t e r t h e n b e c o m e s a n o r g a n i z i n g p e r
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 7

sonal myth that provides a presumably realistic explanation for


the dramatic changes that have occurred.
One does not encounter reports of spiritual experiences very
often in the psychoanalytic literature, perhaps because psycho
analysts do not listen for them. Yet I found that when I started to
listen, the material was there.

PATIENT A

A is a n intelligent, active, moderately successful b u s i n e s s


woman in her mid-thirties, who reported to me that shortly
after arriving in Aspen, Colorado, she experienced three
"epiphanies". The first was the image of a small circle inside
a larger concentric circle, suggesting a bull's eye. T h e image
w a s accompanied by the words, "going steady, inside a n d
out". T h e next day, while riding in a car, almost recumbent
because she was not feeling well, she saw a tall aspen tree
shaped like a n " S " and she heard the words, "we're not
perfect". A few minutes later she saw two s u c h trees inter
twined and heard the words, "forever together". A few days
after these experiences, she dreamed of flying, crashing,
going to see a doctor, a n d not being prepared for an examina
tion. In the session in which she reported these epiphanies
a n d dreams, she talked about Einstein's discoveries, a n d did
he have manic-depressive disease, she wondered. O n other
similar occasions she reported overly ambitious a n d imprac
tical ideas for new business ventures.

T h i s was a manic-depressive woman who h a d had a number


of attacks of manic thinking and behaviour in the past. S h e was
at this point fairly well controlled by medication a n d psycho
therapy, but she normally functioned at a hypomanic level.
(Hypomania is a normal condition, short of mania, w h i c h is
pathological. Like mania, it is characterized by euphoria, by a
plethora of psychic energy, by creativity, ambition, self-confi
dence, vigour, a n d activity. Because of their u n u s u a l energy a n d
creativity, hypomanics c a n operate in the world successfully,
whereas manics become too disorganized, self-defeating, or psy
chotic to accomplish anything. Some individuals may function
on a hypomanic level indefinitely and lead fairly gratifying lives
8 PROLOGUE

of accomplishment. Others have a tendency to regress to mania


or depression and may require fairly constant adjustment of
medication.) Patient A proved to be an unstable hypomanic, but
like many hypomanics, missed her euphoria when medication
suppressed it. The level of hypomanic activity that she enjoyed
left her vulnerable to manic flights.
What I was seeing in this session was the report of a n incip
ient relapse into maniaincipient but controlled. The patient
reported u n u s u a l experiences but remained able to function and
h a d not become psychotic. What was the occasion for this re
lapse? In the first place, she had become aroused by what
promised to be a potential romance. Many of her manic attacks
in the past had been similarly initiated by romantic opportun
ities. I suspect that this episode might have been precipitated
also by the hypoxia of mountain sickness, physiological effects
of which appeared at the same time.
In this, as in previous attacks, she felt suddenly reinvig
orated, inspired, a n d enthusiastic. She was open to revelations,
"epiphanies". She became obsessed with certain overarching
principles governing the universe, harmonies, vibrations, the
possibility of clairvoyance and prediction. In this episode she
;was interested in Einstein's contribution to understanding the
nature of the cosmos, and whether he shared her illness.
B u t look at the content of these materials. It deals with two
issues. The first is union: "going steady inside and out" and
"forever together". During this episode, she telephoned her
mother one or more times each day. The second is disease and
deficiency: "we're not perfect" and the dream about going to see
ja physician. In her dream, she was not prepared for a n exam
ination. The examination dream is a well-known phenomenon
in psychoanalysis. In my experience, many of these examination
dreams anticipate a medical examination with some anxiety
because of fear that an illness will be uncovered. The dreams of
Hying and crashing represent symbolically her awareness that
she was "high" and might " c r a s h " into depression, as she had in
the past.
The iconography, concentric circles and trees, reminds one
of similar diagrams of the Sejirdth, the hypothetical supreme
Oodhead of the Kabbalah (Scholem, 1974, p. 109; 1991, pp.
|42ff.).
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 9

W e s h o u l d also note that this " s p i r i t u a l " thinking, with m y s


tical overtones, is associated with regression to a n i r r a t i o n a l
a p p r o a c h to r e a l i t y , t h e p a t i e n t c o n c e r n i n g h e r s e l f s e r i o u s l y w i t h
numerology (also a k a b b a l i s t i c m o d a l i t y ) , p r o p h e c y , astrology,
a n d t h e l i k e . T h i s s t a t e of m i n d w a s i n d u c e d b y a m a n i c r e g r e s
s i o n to a m i l d p s y c h o t i c s t a t e .

PATIENT B

B is a n u n m a r r i e d w o m a n , also i n her mid-thirties, whose


t i m e i s o c c u p i e d w i t h p h i l a n t h r o p y a n d t r y i n g to f i n d a h u s
b a n d . T h e o n l y c o n c e r n w i t h the p r e t e r n a t u r a l t h a t s h e e x
h i b i t s i s a r e a d i n e s s to t a k e s e r i o u s l y t h e c u r r e n t l y p o p u l a r
modalities for c i r c u m v e n t i n g r e a l i t y s u c h a s t h o s e I men
tioned above, a n d i n c l u d i n g astrology, c l a i r v o y a n c e , metem
p s y c h o s i s , f o r t u n e telling. T h i s i s a v e r y p l e a s a n t , agreeable,
a n d affable person with a moderate depressive tendency,
w h i c h is easily controlled with medication. S h e is not espe
cially volatile.

O n one o c c a s i o n s h e w e n t o u t of t o w n to a l a r g e c h a r i t y
e v e n t . S h e left h o m e a few d a y s e a r l y , together w i t h a w o m a n
f r i e n d a n d t h e l a t t e r ' s two c h i l d r e n , a g e s 10 a n d 1 2 . T h e y a l l
s t a y e d i n a n i s o l a t e d c a b i n . T h e m o o n w a s f u l l , a n d B t r i e d to
create a "religious ritual". S h e w a s of P r o t e s t a n t b a c k g r o u n d
b u t n o t a c t i v e l y r e l i g i o u s or c h u r c h - g o i n g . S h e p u r c h a s e d 15
crosses, some holy water, a n d a "glow-in-the-dark nativity
s c e n e " . A t o n e p o i n t t h a t n i g h t s h e left the c o t t a g e w i t h t h e
two children, and they lay on the ground looking up at
the s t a r s a n d " m e d i t a t i n g " . I do n o t h a v e the c o n t e n t of h e r
meditation.

T h e n e x t m o r n i n g t h e y a l l left a n d p r o c e e d e d to t h e c h a r i t y
e v e n t for w h i c h t h e y h a d c o m e . T h e r e s h e b e c a m e i n v o l v e d i n
w h a t p r o m i s e d to b e c o m e a r o m a n t i c l i a i s o n w i t h a m a r r i e d
man. I suggested that in both of t h e s e a c t i v i t i e s s h e was
t r y i n g to u n d o h e r l o n e l i n e s s , to b e c o m e c l o s e to s o m e o n e
e l s e . T h e m a j o r t r a u m a of h e r c h i l d h o o d h a d b e e n t h e m y s t e
r i o u s a n d s t i l l u n e x p l a i n e d d i s a p p e a r a n c e of h e r f a t h e r w h e n
s h e w a s a b o u t 8. W a s s h e , I w o n d e r e d , c r a v i n g r e u n i o n w i t h
her father? S h e replied that she h a d recently seen a photo
10 P R O L O G U E

graph of herself sitting on her father's lap, laughing very


hard. Actually, she thinks about her father many times every
day. Whenever she visits a new "psychic", the first question
she a s k s was what had happened to her father.

It seems to me likely that her "religious" meditation on the


ground under the stars, after she had acquired these religious
items, can be interpreted as an attempt to communicate in a
preternatural way with a non-material, supernal being, who
represented her missing father. The feeling of union with a
cosmic presence was not clearly enunciated here.

PATIENT C

C is an unmarried, successful Jewish businessman in his


middle thirties, a man with many interests, skills, and
friends. He is active not only in business but also in philan
thropy and in athletics. For the most part his interests are
limited to the here-and-now, the practical, the mundane. He
almost prides himself on taking no interest in religion, nor
any credence in the non-rational or magical. Yet, when he
passes the neighbourhood of the cemetery where his father is
buried, he will drive in and spend some time at the grave. He
had loved his father but didn't grieve visibly to any promi
nent degree when his father died.

Recently, he h a d visited the ruins at Machu Picchu. "It was


very moving", he said upon his return, "really cheering. I like
being around ruins. What they were able to accomplish 500
years ago! I find architecture the most moving of the art
forms. I have an increased desire to travel to ruins. The older
things are, the more fascinated I am by them. Perhaps I have
an affinity for isolation." He listed some archaeological ruins
that he had visited, including ruins in Israel.

The night following that session, he dreamed of being among


buildings that reminded him of these ruins at Machu Picchu.
There was some action that was irrelevant to the subject of
our concern. The dream concluded with his meeting with
two older men whom he liked and respected, both contem
poraries of his father, both seriously concerned with Israel.
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 11

Before going to bed that night he had been thinking about


the recent bombing of the headquarters of J e w i s h organiza
tions in Buenos Aires and the almost simultaneous fighting
between J e w s and Arabs in the G a z a Strip. "There seems to
be no place in the world where J e w s are safe", he concluded.

I find a clear correlation between C's propensity for solitary


rumination among r u i n s of a past civilization that symbolize his
personal past, and at his father's grave in the cemetery. His
yearning for his father became evident in the dream. He associ
ates himself with historic Israel. He alternates between active
party-going a n d dating on the one hand, and solitary rumination
on the other. It is here that his spirituality appears, his yearning
for union, nominally with his father as he knew h i m a s an adult,
but actually with a larger entity from the past, for historic Israel
a n d the parents of his early infancy, whom historic Israel repre
sents. I see here a mystical element that C himself would
probably not consciously recognize. Subsequently, a n u n c o n
scious mystical tendency appeared in his analysis, reported
below in the essay on merkavah mysticism.
While mysticism profoundly affects individual mystics, the
group mystical movement exerts important a n d enduring influ
ences upon the entire community. What is it that precipitates
the mystical movement? Sometimes the movement appears in
the wake of a specific event. For example, the Sabbatian move
ment is generally attributed to the distress that followed the
exile from Spain a n d the pogroms of 1648. On the other h a n d ,
not all severe persecutions have been followed by the appear
ance of mystical communities. (On this controversy, see
Scholem, 1973, p. 128.) As in the case of individuals, a commu
nity that is content is not likely to be susceptible to mystical
influences. B u t the nature of the discontent that favours s u c h
susceptibility is not obvious, and probably not uniform.
Group mysticism is necessarily a more complex matter
than individual mysticism. In addition to all the parameters
that characterize the latter, we must take into account others
that pertain to issues of group psychology, the relation of the
individual to the group, the determination of group behaviour,
a n d the influence of the leader. It is my impression that mystical
groups usually exhibit the characteristics of fundamentalist
12 PROLOGUE

groups. They tend, for example, to respond to a forceful, charis


matic leader. They subscribe to a uniform set of beliefs. They
vigorously suppress dissidence. A s they gain following a n d
power, they tend to become politically active and aggressive.
The individual who is a member of a mystical group not only
experiences his own mystical impressions, but also participates
in group mysticismprobably a related but different phenom
enon. In addition, he sees himself now as a committed member
of a group, which to a greater or lesser extent determines his
thoughts and feelings.
The group and all of its members subscribe to a mystical
doctrine, a n attitude towards the universe, towards society, to
wards other individuals. This doctrine often includes a group
memory of a special encounter, usually a mystic or legendary
memory of a preternatural experience of a hypothetical progen
itor or a current leader of the group. Sometimes it is not a n
account of a n event, but, rather, a n idiosyncratic way of reinter
preting a group scripture, as was true of the S p a n i s h Kabbalists.
The group itself has to be understood in its relation to its
surrounding community. The former often comprises a seg
ment of the latter, which is different in one way or another
for example, elite versus populist, learned versus unlettered,
religiously observant versus less observant. Generally, the mys
tical movement purports to encourage even greater observance
of orthodox doctrine and practice. Whatever deviations are intro
duced may, in certain circumstances, amount to a dissidence
from or rebellion against the dominant culture. In fact, though,
the leaders sometimes justify these deviations by claiming that
they are restoring the original archaic religious forms that h a d
been discarded. The evolution of the mystical group may there
fore represent a sociologically significant rather than simply a
religious event,
Esotericism is an aspect of the mystical group that is fairly
specific to group mysticism, though not necessarily characteris
tic of all mystical groups. In many groups the common myth or
doctrine is considered secret, not to be shared with others. As
we shall see, in merkavcdi and hekhaloth mysticism, esotericism
is a major issue. The great mystery religions enjoined vows of
secrecy upon new membersvows that were so seriously ob
served that till this day we have only superficial ideas of the
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 13

rituals. While the Christians speak of the mysteries of early


Christianity, in fact their mysticism is largely exoteric.
What is the relation between mysticism a n d religion? Most
mystical reports are issued under the auspices of religion. The
mystic yearns for union with his God, whatever the god of his
religion. A n d yet if the chief goal of the mystical experience is
some form of union with a universal entity, one might imagine
that purely secular individuals could report similar feelings.
F r e u d (1930a) reports that in a letter, Romain Rolland described

a feeling which he would like to call a sensation of "eternity",


a feeling of something limitless, unboundedas it were,
"oceanic". This feeling, he adds, is a purely subjective fact,
not an article of faith; it brings with it no assurance of
personal immortality, but it is a source of religious energy
which is seized upon by the various churches and religious
systems, directed by them into particular channels, and
doubtless also exhausted by them. One may, he thinks,
rightly call oneself religious on the ground of this oceanic
feeling alone, even if one rejects every belief and every illu
sion.

Religion seems to be the natural medium for the evolution of


the mystical experience. It posits a supernatural world, a divin
ity that pervades the universe and invites love.
How, then, does mysticism differ from normative, conven
tional religion? Perhaps the difference is quantitative rather
than qualitative: mysticism is an especially intense form of reli
gion. Many mystical movements, originally deviations from
orthodoxy, are subsequently accepted into the conventional
c h u r c h . Perhaps, as Romain Rolland says, mysticism provides
the "religious energy seized upon by the various churches a n d
religious systems". Mystics regard their approach to their reli
gion the only valid one, while the normative institutions often
fear it a s deviant and sometimes heretical, which it sometimes
is. T h e normative orthodox J e w i s h establishment struggled
bitterly against the early Hasidim, going so far as to incite the
R u s s i a n government to take legal steps against them. The norm
ative orthodox J e w will observe mitzvot and prescribed prayer
a n d conduct himself in accord with the standards of orthodox
J u d a i s m . If he is scholarly, he will delight in conventional study
14 PROLOGUE

of S c r i p t u r e a n d T a l m u d . If h e i s l e s s s c h o l a r l y , h e w i l l b e
c o n t e n t to a t t e n d s e r v i c e s a n d fulfil t h e c o m m a n d m e n t s of r a b
b i n i c J u d a i s m . T h e J e w i s h m y s t i c , o n t h e other h a n d , t h o u g h h e
w i l l u s u a l l y observe the s a m e mitzvot a n d observe the s a m e
s t a n d a r d s of c o n d u c t , i s c o n c e r n e d w i t h s o m e t h i n g a d d i t i o n a l :
the a c h i e v e m e n t t h e r e b y of a s e n s e of j o y o u s c l o s e n e s s to G o d
a n d e n t h u s i a s m [literally, " b e i n g p o s s e s s e d b y a god"]. A n o r m a
tive J e w w i s h e s to serve G o d a n d p a r t i c i p a t e i n t h e r e l i g i o u s life
of h i s c o m m u n i t y . T h e m y s t i c w i s h i s to experience G o d , w h e t h e r
a l o n e or w i t h i n the b o s o m of h i s m y s t i c a l c o m m u n i t y .

Psychodynamic propositions

O b v i o u s l y , I a m c o n d e n s i n g i n t h e s e few p a g e s a h i g h l y c o m p l e x
p h e n o m e n o n a b o u t w h i c h u n t o l d n u m b e r s of b o o k s h a v e b e e n
w r i t t e n . A d e q u a t e l y to d e s c r i b e m y s t i c i s m , its c o r e , a n d i t s m a n y
v a r i a n t s w o u l d r e q u i r e a w o r k of large n u m b e r s of v o l u m e s .
W h a t I offer h e r e i s a n o r i e n t i n g i n t r o d u c t i o n to t h e o b s e r v a t i o n s
t h a t w e m a k e i n t h e s u b s e q u e n t e s s a y s a s w e a t t e m p t to s t u d y
t h e s e p h e n o m e n a from a p s y c h o d y n a m i c p o i n t of v i e w . I l l u s t r a
t i o n s of m a n y of the s t a t e m e n t s m a d e i n t h i s e s s a y a p p e a r i n t h e
later ones.
H o w i s it p o s s i b l e to f o r m u l a t e , w i t h a n y degree of c o n f i
d e n c e , p s y c h o d y n a m i c theories a b o u t t h e b e h a v i o u r of people
w h o m w e h a v e n o t s e e n , or of g r o u p s t h a t w e h a v e n o t d i r e c t l y
o b s e r v e d ? T h o s e of u s w h o h a v e h a d e x p e r i e n c e w i t h p s y c h o
analysis, whether a s patients or a s p s y c h o a n a l y s t s (all p s y
c h o a n a l y s t s w e r e once p a t i e n t s ) , k n o w h o w m u c h e v i d e n c e i s
r e q u i r e d to e s t a b l i s h h y p o t h e s e s w i t h a n y degree of c o n f i d e n c e .
Y e t F r e u d d i d a t t e m p t to c r e a t e a d i s c i p l i n e of " a p p l i e d p s y c h o
analysis", which employs hypotheses a n d theories that are
d e r i v e d from c l i n i c a l e x p e r i e n c e w i t h i n d i v i d u a l s a n d a r e t h e n
a p p l i e d to e v i d e n c e a v a i l a b l e i n h i s t o r y a n d l i t e r a t u r e , i n o r d e r
to suggest some interesting a n d enlightening formulations
a b o u t i n d i v i d u a l s or g r o u p s o u t s i d e o u r i m m e d i a t e v i e w . I refer,
for example, to Totem and Taboo (1912), Civilization and Its
Discontents ( 1 9 3 0 a ) , a n d Moses and Monotheism (1939a). T h e s e
have not always gained credence, b u t they have contrived
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 15

thought-provoking, novel, and edifying approaches to familiar


ideas.
Using data a n d hypotheses derived from clinical experience
does not mean that I a m a s s u m i n g that the mystical phenomena
that we are discussing are pathological, or that mystics are
mentally ill. T h e usefulness of pathologyand this applies to
physiology a s well a s psychologyis that by its distortion of
normal relations it demonstrates what normal function i s . For
example, study of the effects of brain injury or brain tumour
upon behaviour a n d mental function helps u s to understand the
nature of that behaviour and function in the normal state a n d
the role that specific regions of the brain play in controlling
them. Let me stress that the manifestations of m y s t i c i s m
except in the case of mentally ill individualsmay be u n u s u a l or
anomalous, but not necessarily abnormal in the clinical sense.
What circumstances predispose a n individual to mystical
experience? I have treated a fair number of religious J e w s , some
orthodox, some conservative, and some reform, a n d encoun
tered no mention of spirituality, m u c h less of mysticism. The
more observant are concerned with fulfilling mitzvot, satisfying
religious obligations, and often spending time studying T a l m u d .
They almost never spoke of the experience that accompanied
these actions. If I raised the question of spiritual concerns, they
would a s s u r e me that the performance of mitzvot w a s accompa
nied by appropriate religious feeling, devotion, submission to
God, sense of obligation, but I do not recall that any of them
mentioned that issue on their own. However, the issue of spiritu
ality did occasionally come up, but indirectly a n d negatively
that is, by reports of its absence. These people would sometimes
report that when they became depressed, they lost their
kavvanah, their sense of personal, devotional involvement in
prayer. I heard a similar report from a Christian clergyman
whom I treated over a period of time for recurrent depression. He
acknowledged feeling well when he did feel well. At times, how
ever, he would complain about the absence of spiritual feeling.
T h a t would return as he began to relapse into depression a n d a s
he struggled against it. The distress that accompanied the strug
gle seemed to satisfy his feeling of guilt, so that he made no
complaint in that state of mind. B u t when he became definitively
depressed, all sense of spirit left. He spoke of feeling "screwed
16 P R O L O G U E

into the ground'*. F r o m t h i s c a s e , a n d c a s e s A a n d B , t h o u g h w e


do not h a v e e n o u g h d a t a to prove a p r o p o s i t i o n , w e do have
enough to a s k a q u e s t i o n n a m e l y , is a heightened sense of
spirituality associated w i t h a struggle against depression? I
t h i n k I h a v e e n o u g h c l i n i c a l e v i d e n c e to infer t h a t f r a n k m e l a n
c h o l i c d e p r e s s i o n p r e c l u d e s t h e s p i r i t u a l feeling.
It i s p r o b a b l y not e x t r a v a g a n t to a s s u m e t h a t the m y s t i c i s
d i s c o n t e n t w i t h the w o r l d a s h e e x p e r i e n c e s it a n d i s l o o k i n g for
a n o p p o r t u n i t y to r e p l a c e t h i s e x p e r i e n c e w i t h a n o t h e r . If the
spiritual sense that we have been d i s c u s s i n g regularly disposes
to the m y s t i c a l a d v e n t u r e , t h e n one k i n d of p r e c i p i t a t i n g d i s c o n
t e n t m a y be the o n s e t of a d e p r e s s i v e p r o c e s s . P a r e n t h e t i c a l l y ,
w e s h o u l d t h i n k of d e p r e s s i o n a s the o u t c o m e of a d e p r e s s i v e
p r o c e s s , w h i c h b e c o m e s a s t a t i c c o n d i t i o n only w h e n a n d if t h a t
p r o c e s s p r o c e e d s to its e n d , d e s p i t e a struggle a g a i n s t it t h a t
m a y n o t be a p p r e c i a t e d a s s u c h .
We h a v e v e r y little r e v e a l i n g a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l m a t e r i a l or
even non-idealized biographical material concerning mystics be
fore r e l a t i v e l y m o d e m t i m e s . E l i e W i e s e l ( 1 9 7 8 ) h a s p u b l i s h e d
a small volume containing some biographical data of four
H a s i d i c Zadikun, e a c h of w h o m e x h i b i t e d s o m e e v i d e n c e of w h a t
w e w o u l d n o w c a l l m e l a n c h o l i a . He c o n t e n d s (p. 122) t h a t m e l
ancholy occurred commonly among these Hasidic Rebbeim,
i n c l u d i n g the Baal Shem Tov h i m s e l f . T h e v i g n e t t e s t h a t W i e s e l
gives s c a r c e l y qualify a s c l i n i c a l l y reliable b i o g r a p h i e s , y e t t h e y
d e m o n s t r a t e t h a t the l e a d e r s e x h i b i t e d s o m e degree of affective
lability, p r o n o u n c e d s h i f t s of m o o d s . I s a a c L u r i a , the l e a d e r of
t h e L u r i a n i c m y s t i c a l m o v e m e n t of S a f e d , i s q u o t e d a s h a v i n g
said,

M e l a n c h o l i a is, by itself, a n exceedingly u n p l e a s a n t quality


of personality, particularly i n the case of a n i n d i v i d u a l whose
intention is to acquire esoteric knowledge a n d experience the
Holy Spirit. There is nothing that impedes m y s t i c a l i n s p i r a
tioneven for someone who is otherwise worthy of i t a s
m u c h a s the quality of s a d n e s s . [Fine, 1984, p. 65]

In her classic work, T h e Mystics of the Church Evelyn


U n d e r h i l l (1964) presents brief biographical notes c o n c e r n i n g
m a n y of the r e c o g n i z e d m y s t i c s of C h r i s t i a n i t y . I n the c a s e of a
s u r p r i s i n g n u m b e r of t h e m , s h e s p e a k s of their u n u s u a l b e h a v
DIMENSIONS O F MYSTICISM 17

iour a s "pathological" or "abnormal", a n d she gives evidence of


their emotional volatility and, not infrequently, clear-cut epi
sodes of depression.
None of this proves that all of the celebrated mystics exhib
ited this affective volatility, nor that it w a s needed for permitting
the mystical experience. It is perhaps more relevant that some of
the ecstatic a n d mystical trances described by the mystics
themselves sound to the psychoanalyst like hysterical episodes
or states of mind that we encounter at the onset of a psychotic
process. It is these that Underhill designates a s pathological.
In any case, we are dealing in both WiesePs a n d Underbill's
cases with mystical leaders, many of whom were involved in
mystical ecstasies a n d trances. Are these episodes always the
result of mood shifts? And does the same volatility occur a s often
among the followers of mystical movements?

The psychodynamics of the mystical experience

What c a n we say about the mystical experience itself? Its


essence, a s we observed, is the sense of union with a universal
being or presence, the unio mystica of the Christian mystic a n d
the d'vekuth of the J e w i s h mystic. We recognize that state of
1

mindwe encounter it in psychosis, especially at its onset


a n d we say that it signifies a loss of ego boundaries. It occurs
frequently in the delirium caused by hallucinogenic drugs, a n d
that is why these are used in some religions to elicit mystical
experience. It occurs in some cases of epileptic seizures originat
ing in dysfunction of the temporal lobe. The loss of ego
boundaries is commonly accompanied by impairment of the
ability to distinguish between reality and illusion or h a l l u c i n a
tion, by the loss of the capacity to test reality, by impairment of

1
In his magisterial text on J e w i s h mysticism, G e r s h o m Scholem
(1941) affirmed this distinction. It would be blasphemous, he said, for a
J e w to claim or even aspire to true union with God. However, his student,
Moshe Idel, a contributor to this volume, demonstrates that the idea of
union does occur in the Kabbalah (1988b, p. 60).
18 PROLOGUE

the sense of reality, by inappropriate sensations of familiarity or


strangeness, naturalness or unnaturalness, by illusions of size,
of visual brightness, of auditory loudness or timbre, a n d by
synaesthesias. (Synaesthesia is the illusory apperception in two
modalities of a stimulus delivered in one. For example, a n aud
ible tone may be experienced as a combination of both visual and
auditory impressions.) These are all parameters of perception
that seem to be disturbed together in psychosis and delirium.
Regulation of these parameters is probably accomplished in the
anterior portions of the temporal lobe (Ostow, 1969).
I see two important differences between the sensory altera
tions of the mystical experience and the analogous alterations of
delirium a n d psychosis. First, in the latter two instances, the
patient is not aware that his perception is altered. He enters into
the illusion. The mystic, on the other hand, describes these
sensations as real, but he recognizes them as ego-alien, as
strange, unnatural. Second, in delirium and psychosis, the pa
tient has no voluntary control over these sensory changes; they
come and go independently of his volition. In the mystical state,
on occasion, the subject will declare that he is overwhelmed by
his experience and that he cannot control it. Most often, how
ever, not only does the subject retain control, but he actively
induces the experience a n d the sensations that accompany
it.
On the one hand, because we know that these illusions can
be induced or suppressed by chemical substances, we might
assume that they are the result of an organicthat is, chemical
or physiologicalprocess. On the other, we know that they c a n
be self-induced, as can the cognate feeling of depersonalization,
the loss of "self-feeling", so that we experience ourselves as
outside objects. We assume that in earliest mental function
associated with an archaic kind of consciousness, the very
young infant scarcely distinguishes between himself and his
caretaker, between himself and his mother's breast. If that a s
sumption is correct, then the sensation of union represents a
regression to archaic mental function, facultative for the mystic,
obligatory for the psychotic. The mystic would seem to be trying
to reinstate his earliest sensations of unity with his mother, the
state of mind that existed before the process of differentiation
that we call separation-individuation, described by Margaret
DIMENSIONS O FMYSTICISM 19

M a h l e r (1967), i n fact, to u n d o t h a t d i f f e r e n t i a t i o n . T h e p s y c h o
a n a l y s t s w h o c o m m e n t o n t h e m y s t i c a l m a t e r i a l s t h a t follow i n
the s u b s e q u e n t e s s a y s c o m p a r e the m y s t i c a l mythology w i t h the
w i s h e s a n d f a n t a s i e s of s m a l l c h i l d r e n . A l l t h r e e of t h e c l i n i c a l
c a s e s I c i t e d a b o v e y e a r n e d for r e u n i o n w i t h t h e p a r e n t of e a r l y
c h i l d h o o d . T h e i m a g e of t h e a r c h a i c m o t h e r is probably not
g e n d e r - s p e c i f i c t h a t i s , t h e a r c h a i c i m a g e of m o t h e r c a n be
p r o j e c t e d o u t a s e i t h e r a m a l e or a f e m a l e s u p e r n a t u r a l f i g u r e .
T h e r e f o r e , t h a t t h e object of u n i o n i n J u d a i s m a n d C h r i s t i a n i t y
is u s u a l l y b u t not always male is n o t incompatible with the
n o t i o n t h a t it i s t h e a r c h a i c m o t h e r t h a t i s s o u g h t .
W h i l e a n a l y s t s s p e a k of l o s s of ego b o u n d a r i e s i n t h e m e n t a l
state that a c c o m p a n i e s the m y s t i c a l experience a n d the i n c e p
t i o n of p s y c h o s i s , I t h i n k it w o u l d be m o r e h e l p f u l to e m p h a s i z e
t h e c a u s e of t h e l o s s , n a m e l y , t h e i n a b i l i t y to p r e v e n t t h e m a k
i n g of false c o n n e c t i o n s . Modern neuropsychological research
t e a c h e s u s that m a n y i f n o t a l l m e n t a l p r o c e s s e s involve a n
i n t e g r a t i o n of p a r t i c u l a t e c o m p o n e n t s . W e p e r c e i v e a n d t h i n k i n
m o d u l e s . W e l e a r n , for e x a m p l e , i n t h e c a s e of v i s i o n , t h a t s o m e
neurons i n the occipital cortex respond to c o l o u r , o t h e r s to
b o u n d a r i e s , o t h e r s to g r i d s o r r e c u r r e n c e s , a n d s o o n . T h e v i s u a l
e x p e r i e n c e i s c r e a t e d b y t h e i n t e g r a t i o n of t h e s e i n d i v i d u a l p e r
cepts. I cite t h i s i n t e g r a t i o n a s a n e x a m p l e of the a u t o m a t i c
t e n d e n c y to m a k e c o n n e c t i o n s .
S c h i l d e r (1942) t r i e d to d i s c e r n t h e n a t u r e of a r c h a i c p e r c e p
tion. He described perceptions a s they occur in delirium,
intoxication, s c h i z o p h r e n i a , a n d other i l l n e s s e s . Apparently, i n
these illnesses a m e c h a n i s m that integrates the i n d i v i d u a l ele
m e n t a r y c o m p o n e n t s of p e r c e p t i o n i s i n a c t i v a t e d . V o n U e x k u l l
(1921), o n e of t h e d i s t i n g u i s h e d f o u n d e r s of ethology, i n f e r r e d
from h i s observations that a m o n g the lower a n i m a l s perceived
s i z e , i n t e n s i t y , a n d d i s t a n c e a r e f u n c t i o n s of t h e a n i m a l ' s i n t e r
e s t i n t h e object. I n s t i n c t u a l i n t e r e s t s u p e r s e d e s t h e i n f l u e n c e of
r e a l i t y . A s T i n b e r g e n (1951) p u t s i t , " T h e a n i m a l ' s p e r c e p t u a l
world is constantly changing a n d depends on the p a r t i c u l a r
i n s t i n c t i v e a c t i v i t y t h a t i s b r o u g h t into p l a y " (p. 37).
A r c h a i c perception, then, is particulate a n d fragmentary. W e
a r e c o m p e l l e d to infer the o p e r a t i o n of a m e c h a n i s m t h a t s y n t h e
sizes a n d integrates these individual perceptual elements s o a s
to c o n s t r u c t a c o h e r e n t , m e a n i n g f u l , a n d r e a s o n a b l y a c c u r a t e
20 PROLOGUE

i m a g e of t h e i m m e d i a t e e n v i r o n m e n t . H e r m a n N u n b e r g ( 1 9 5 5 )
s p o k e of the synthetic Junction of the ego: " T h e s y n t h e t i c f u n c
t i o n of t h e ego t h u s m a n i f e s t s itself i n a n a s s i m i l a t i o n of i n t e r n a l
a n d e x t e r n a l e l e m e n t s , i n r e c o n c i l i n g conflicting i d e a s , u n i t i n g
c o n t r a s t s , a n d i n a c t i v a t i n g m e n t a l c r e a t i v i t y " (p. 151). T h e ego's
f u n c t i o n t e n d s to e s t a b l i s h a c a u s e - a n d - e f f e c t r e l a t i o n s h i p : " t h e
n e e d for c a u s a l i t y " , N u n b e r g c a l l s it.
B u t t h i s i n t e g r a t i o n i s not sufficient for h u m a n a p p e r c e p t i o n .
We require still a third apperceptive m e c h a n i s m n a m e l y , a
m e c h a n i s m t h a t r e g u l a t e s the s y n t h e t i c f u n c t i o n a n d the n e e d
for c a u s a l i t y . I n p s y c h o s i s t h e t e n d e n c y to integrate a n d to u n i f y
becomes hyperactive a n d m a k e s connections that are not realis
tic. T h e p a r a n o i d patient interprets r a n d o m events a s elements
of a c o n s p i r a c y to h a r m h i m . T h e d e l i r i o u s p a t i e n t m a y f i n d it
i m p o s s i b l e to s e p a r a t e out the s e v e r a l p e r c e p t u a l m o d a l i t i e s , s o
t h a t h e therefore p e r c e i v e s c o l o u r together w i t h a s o u n d , s o u n d
with colour, touch with odour, a n d so on. H u m a n perception i n
this disordered state t h e n b e c o m e s s i m i l a r to t h a t of lower
a n i m a l s a c o l l e c t i o n of i m p r e s s i o n s , the p a r a m e t e r s a n d i m m e
d i a c y of w h i c h a r e d e t e n n i n e d b y i n s t i n c t u a l n e e d r a t h e r t h a n
b y objective r e a l i t y . W e h a v e a good d e a l of e v i d e n c e to s u p p o r t
the assumption that c e r t a i n s t r u c t u r e s w i t h i n the anterior
p o r t i o n of the t e m p o r a l lobe perform the f u n c t i o n of r e g u l a t i n g
the p a r a m e t e r s of a p p e r c e p t i o n so a s to y i e l d a r e a l i s t i c i m a g e of
the e n v i r o n m e n t (Ostow, 1955).
I h a v e u n d e r t a k e n t h i s e x c u r s i o n b e c a u s e it p e r t a i n s d i r e c t l y
to o u r topic. A t the o n s e t of a p s y c h o t i c episode, the second
r e g u l a t o r y device i s d i s a b l e d , s o t h a t a p p e r c e p t i o n i s freed f r o m
t h e c o n s t r a i n t s of r e a l i t y a n d b e c o m e s s u b j e c t to i n s t i n c t u a l
n e e d , a s w e a s s u m e it is n o r m a l l y i n lower a n i m a l s a n d i n the
h u m a n infant. I n p a r a n o i a , cause-and-effect assumptions r u n
w i l d ; the p a t i e n t s e e s t h e m e v e r y w h e r e a s proofs of h i s d e l u
s i o n s . T h e r e a r e n o c o i n c i d e n c e s : e v e r y t h i n g refers to h i m . (We
s p e a k of i d e a s of reference.) I n the fully developed psychotic
s t a t e , t h e p a t i e n t does not realize t h a t h i s a p p e r c e p t i o n has
b e c o m e d i s t o r t e d . He c r e d i t s h i s i m p r e s s i o n s fully a n d w i l l tol
erate n o c o r r e c t i o n . A t the o n s e t of the p s y c h o t i c s t a t e , h o w e v e r ,
he m a y retain a certain amount of objectivity. P a t i e n t A told
me that everything seemed connected. T h e comet colliding with
J u p i t e r created vibrations that she could perceive here on e a r t h .
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 21

T h e entire universe was unified by vibrations. Everything was


ultimately knowable. Another patient (quoted in Ostow, 1969)
told me:

" I a m so confused, I feel I don't know what's real a n d what


isn't."

" I feel a s if I'm walking about in a dream."

"It's what I imagine L S D to be like."

"Everything is sort of heightenedall my perceptions."

"I'm scared."

" T h i s thing yesterday with the job Ishe h a d j u s t started a new


a n d somewhat more demanding job on the previous day], it
was the strangest experience. It seemed to me a s if the whole
thing were set up for meto show me certain things, to try
me out. I felt that one customer represented me. It seemed
like s u c h a disorderly placelike my mind."

" I saw all kinds of erotic images. S a k s meant sex, a n d a


steeple in a picture seemed like a penis."

"Everything got tied up together. Everything fitted in soit


didn't seem real"

Now these impressions of all-encompassing unity, of u n u s u a l


size, intensity, brilliance, noise or silence, stillness or movement,
real or unreal, familiar or unfamiliar, synaesthesia, often appear
individually or together during the mystical experience. The
experience of spirituality a n d of transcendence, of the "oceanic
feeling", it seems to me, expresses, whether in larval or fully
developed form, the sense of a loosening of ties with the immedi
ate material world and of becoming united with the universe a n d
all of its contentsboth in time and in space. (The word "olam"
refers to both the spatial a n d temporal universe. The Kaddish, to
my mind one of the most spiritual of our liturgies, contains the
word "olam" five timestwice in its spatial sense a n d three in its
temporal sense.)
F r o m these considerations, we come to the conclusion that
the mystical experience is built upon two simultaneous regres
sions: one is the yearning regressively to reunite with the image
22 PROLOGUE

of the parent of early childhood; and the other is the regression


of ego function to an unrestrained tendency to synthesize and
integrate, so that the individual loses his sense of individuality
and seems to merge into the universe. The ego regression per
mits the illusion of the reunion. (Peter Neubauer, in his
discussion of Wolfson's paper below, raises the question of the
possibility of a progressive rather than regressive spirituality by
means of sublimation. If he is correct, we shall have to develop
criteria to distinguish between the regressive and the progres
sive spiritual experience.)
Acquisition of the ability to make distinctions, to discern
individual entities from within a melange of colours and shapes
and shades, is a developmental step. The myth of creation, as
represented by the very beginning of Genesis, may be inter
preted as a metaphor of individual psychic development. It tells
u s that the world came into being for each of u s as we acquired
the ability to discern distinctive qualities a n d entities from the
primordial tohu vavohu: light from darkness, day from night,
terrestrial waters from celestial waters, and the intervening
heaven, sea, and land, the varieties of vegetation, the celestial
bodies one from the other, and the seasons that they govern, the
varieties of animal life, lower and higher, and, finally, mankind.
Appreciation of reality permits us, in the cognitive mode, to
comprehend, to make inferences and predictions. In the affec
tive a n d instinctual mode, it confronts u s with the apparent
implications of reality for gratification or disappointment, pleas
ure or frustration. In the presence of unremitting pain and
distress, we are naturally tempted to alter our mode of mental
function in the direction of undoing the developmental step that
permits u s to appreciate reality, and regressing to the earlier
mode in which we see no boundaries between ourselves and the
universe around u s . Even though we do not surrender the ability
to make cognitive distinctions in normal, facultative mystical
states, we revert to the feeling of pre-individual unity. We c a n
speculate that that regression results in the recapitulation of the
infant's earliest awareness of the feeling of union with mother.
Psychic individuation is achieved only by virtue of maturation.
We speak below of chaos. Tohu vavohu in Genesis 1 refers to
primordial chaos, the utter absence of order and differentiation.
T h i s is the paradigm of apocalyptic destruction, a n d these same
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 23

words are u s e d in this sense in the apocalyptic scenarios of


Isa. 34:11 a n d J e r . 4 : 2 3 - 2 7 (against E d o m in the former i n
stance a n d against J e r u s a l e m in the latter).
The ego regression that we encounter in its most pronounced
form in the trance statebut also to a certain extent associated
with the mystical frame of mind of whatever degreeworks
another change that favours mysticism. Psychoanalysts who
treat schizophrenic patients observe that they lose contact with
real people in the real world and attend primarily to words a n d
picturestransferring the stamp of reality to these. Images a n d
symbols replace reality. T h i s phenomenon must be considered a
consequence of the ego regression associated with psychosis. A s
they become real objects, words, symbols, numbers, a n d images
lose their symbolic,valence.
Scholem (1941, pp. 8ff.) suggests that mysticism c a n be
considered the third and final stage of the evolution of religion. In
its first phase, m a n sees the universe inhabited by a series of
gods who represent various animal a n d h u m a n a n d natural
characteristics, a n d who are easily accessible to m a n . Man does
not distinguish between myth a n d reality. T h e second phase of
religious evolution is marked by the acknowledgement of a tran
scendent God, utterly different from and scarcely accessible by
m a n . He is worshipped not by imitation or by symbols of natural
events s u c h a s fertilization, or by h u m a n sacrifice, but by behav
iour that is deemed virtuous because it strengthens society. At a
certain point, however, m a n becomes impatient with the remote
ness, the abstract, invisible, a n d impalpable character of s u c h a
god, a n d alters basic religious ideas so as to attribute material
a n d immediately perceptible qualities to the deity. God's qualities
now become material rather than abstract. God's understanding,
strength, wisdom, beauty, kingship, a n d so on become hypos
tasesthat is, entities rather than abstractions.
T h e term "Shekhinah" is a case in point. It does not appear in
the T a n a k h . It is derived from the root "shkhn", which means
"reside". At many points in the Scriptures God is spoken of a s
residing among the children of Israel, or in His Holy Tabernacle
or Temple or city or E r e z Yisrael. The word "Shekhinali" appears
in the T a l m u d a n d other rabbinic texts, where it serves a s a
metaphor or symbol or allusion to God or His presence. How
ever, in the kabbalistic texts the term becomes a hypostasized
24 PROLOGUE

entity, which is considered a feminine aspect of God or some


times the feminine element in the world of the divine sefirot with
varying degrees of independence. The mystic, here as elsewhere,
prefers to interpret symbols as though they were the referents.
From a verb indicating that God will reside somewhere, the
mystic constructs a noun that implies a fully or partially sepa
rate divine entity.
I infer that this change is effected by the ego regression that I
have been describing. Letters and numbers are no longer s y m
bols but essences that possess potency to influence the deity
and, through him, nature and the world. The attributing of
potency to letters, numbers, and words, and the elaboration of
techniques to use them for reaching and influencing God, create
the possibility of a theurgic theology. By approaching God
closely and influencing Him, one can begin to think of doing
magic, including hurrying the advent of the Messiah. Many
ipsychotics, too, believe that they can magically influence others
a n d the world about them.
In general, the mystic lives in a world where words and
thoughts and feelings have real consequences. Everything h a s a
meaning. There are no meaningless movements or events. We
are all elements of a unitary universe in which everything is
connected to and influences everything else. Nothing is fortui
tous or without consequence. We are never isolated or alone. We
are embedded in a cosmic matrix& word that is derived from
mater, the mother, and the root of the word material The ego
degression helps us to alleviate our loneliness and feeling of
isolation in a cold a n d inhospitable universe.
J u s t as we prefer continuity and regularity in our image of
the universe about us, so we also prefer continuity and regular
ity in our view of our history. The quest for continuity reinforces
pur attachment to parents and children, which is primarily
determined by our natural object love, based upon biological
and psychological forces. But the sense of loyalty to ancestors
and more remote descendants, though it can be seen as a n
extension of love for parents and children, can also be inter
preted as extrapolating or continuing from the past and into
the future aspects of ourselves. Within the current community,
\ve see ourselves as threads in a fabric. We are elements in our
community, but the mental image of the community is an ex
D I M E N S I O N S OF M Y S T I C I S M 25

tension of the mental image of ourselves. A n d the historic com


munity provides continuity, both backwards a n d forwards, of
our social selves.
A s we observe below, apocalypse implies violent discontinu
i t y a reversion to chaos, which inevitably demands repair,
undoing, rebirth. It is a regressive step of desperation taken
when acknowledgement of reality becomes too painful to tolerate
a n d w h e n no reasonable response seems feasible. T h e striving
for hypercontinuity, the rejection of individuality, individualism,
a n d distinctiveness favours the mystical quest for union a n d the
fundamentalist quest for social uniformity.
T h e trance a n d ecstatic states are the most dramatic forms of
the mystical experience, although not all mystics describe them.
T h e trance is a state of limited consciousness, of mental disso
ciation. The individual c a n respond appropriately to stimuli but
seems unaware of anything other than the object of his concern
at the moment. Perhaps it resembles the hypnotic state, but that
depends upon the influence of an inducer, the hypnotist. The
trance also resembles a state of hysteria in which aspects of
behaviour a n d thought seem to be determined automatically
a n d outside the individual's control. Nevertheless, when history,
recent a n d past, free associations of the analytic hour, a n d
concurrent dreams are available, the behaviour c a n often be
understood a s a n appropriate response to a current situation. I
a m not really satisfied that this is an adequate explanation of the
trance state, but I a m afraid that we do not know too m u c h more
about it. In Kabbalah: New Perspectives, Idel (1988b) gives a n
extensive discussion of "mystical technique".
E c s t a s y h a s been associated with mystical experiences ever
since these have been recorded. It refers in general to a state of
excessive excitement occurring a s a result of the abandonment
of self-control, in the course of which the subject becomes obliv
ious to normal concerns, insensitive to pain, a n d intent upon
pleasure. It was said to have been induced in primitive a n d
archaic religions a n d is described in the monotheistic religions
of the Western world as well. The word "ecstasy", Greek in
origin, was applied to the cultivated excitement of the Greek
mystery religions (Angus, 1975, pp. lOlff.). In the trance state,
the subject leaves the world of reality a n d focuses his m i n d on
the extraordinarily gratifying sensation of union with his god. I n
26 PROLOGUE

the ecstatic state, the subject creates intense excitement by


discarding ordinary restraints of self-control and dignity, and by
subjecting himself to high-intensity stimulation, s u c h as stimu
lating music and dancing. Ecstatic states are induced in the
name of the deity and under the influence of the restriction
of consciousness, as in the case of the trance, as the illusion of
union is facilitated. The trance state is usually induced in soli
tude, ecstasy in a group setting.
The kabbalists employed still a third method of inducing
a mystical statenamely, study and fantasy. The kabbalistic
literature that we possess consists largely of extensive and
intensive attempts to ferret out the secrets of the universe and
the godhead by speculation and by reinterpretation of classical
scripture. Kabbalists do not necessarily induce trances or ecsta
sies, although some do sofor example, Abulafia (Idel, 1988d).
However, the kabbalists do create a feeling of personal contact
with God. The process of study itself and the process of fantasy
that accompanies it reorient the scholar, so that he sees his
every activity as a direct interaction with God. Wolfson (1993a)
argues that the theosophical ruminations contained in the Zohar
are not merely speculative devices for expressing the knowable
aspect of God, but a practical means for achieving a state of
ecstasy, an experience of immediacy with God. Perhaps the
exclusion or minimization or derogation of the ordinary stimuli
of daily life permit the kabbalist to shrink his apperceptive world
a n d to limit the sense of reality to the Divine Object of study.
Speaking of the pietistic community of the Rhineland led by
Rabbi J u d a h the Pietist, Ivan Marcus observes that they lived
" i n , but not of the other J e w s " (Marcus, 1989). T h i s expression
felicitously expresses the fact that the mystic can participate in
community life in terms of formal behaviour while his heart is
with his mystical group and focused on his experience of com
municating with his God.
Inasmuch as the mystic seems to be attempting to re
establish an earlier state of bliss with a parent surrogate, we are
not surprised to find him intensifying his religious observance.
He submits more intently to the will of God as that is transmit
ted to him. He observes all orthodox practices, not only out of
genuine religious feeling, but also because he does not wish to
be characterized as deviant. Trance states occur infrequently
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 27

a n d ecstasies rarely, but the mystical attitude may prevail con


tinuously over long periods of time. The J e w i s h Pietists of the
Rhineland and the Egyptian followers of A b r a h a m Maimuni,
both of the thirteenth century, exaggerated their religious ob
servances to the point that they were criticized a n d abused by
their fellow J e w s (Fenton, 1989; Marcus, 1989). The S p a n i s h
Kabbalists, on the other h a n d , showed little if any difference in
external behaviour. What was special to them w a s how they
thought a n d felt about what they did. Every piece of behaviour,
no matter how mundane or prosaic, was experienced by them a s
a n expression of devotion. Possibly this type of reinterpretation
c a n be understood as still another though less dramatic altera
tion of the parameters of apperception that we mentioned
abovenamely, the ability to attach a sense of intimacy or wor
ship to objects a n d activities that would ordinarily not carry
these impressions at all, or would carry them to a lesser degree.
F a r less common, but more consequential, has been the type
of mystical union exemplified by the Sabbatian and F r a n k i s t
heresies. Here the mystical union with God takes the form of
identification, if not usurping, rather than submission. Psycho
analysts who treat children often encounter fears that the child
will be destroyed or consumed by the parentas, for example,
in the Red Riding Hood story (where the wolf represents the
"grandmother" whom in the story he supplants). B u t they also
encounter fantasies in which the child sees himself a s supplant
ing or consuming the parent, the enfant terrible. T h e mysticism
that involves identification with God leads to overt antinomian
rebellion against the religious community, usually with devas
tating results. Whereas the submissive attitude a n d posture
suggest a n antidepression manoeuvre, the usurping attitude in
posture suggests an overcorrection from depression into its op
positenamely hypomanic or manic behaviour. Sabbatai Sevi
was known to have oscillated between depression and m a n i a . I n
the former state he was ineffectual; in the latter he became a n
antinomian, mystical messiah (Ostow, 1980; Scholem, 1973).
Most mystical accounts use the term "rebirth" to describe the
feelings of pleasure a n d gratification that the mystical experi
ence provides. We find that term or at least the concept in every
true mystical system and in every mystical community a n d
religion. William J a m e s (1902) spoke of the "twice born". " B o r n
28 PROLOGUE

a g a i n C h r i s t i a n " i s the e q u i v a l e n t t e r m u s e d c u r r e n t l y . T h e w o r d
i s u s e d to s u g g e s t the feeling of r e n e w a l , of t h e h a p p y o p p o r t u
n i t y to s t a r t over. It i m p l i e s the freedom from g u i l t a n d s h a m e ,
from fear a n d a n x i e t y ; t h i s feeling of freedom i s a s s u m e d to e x i s t
in the n e w b o r n . I n k a b b a l i s t i c m y s t i c i s m , w h i c h e m p h a s i z e s not
i n n e r s u b j e c t i v i t y b u t a c c o u n t s of the n a t u r e of G o d , w e f i n d
r e p e a t e d r e f e r e n c e s to b i r t h , r e b i r t h , p r e g n a n c y , g r o w t h , and
m a t u r a t i o n . E v i d e n t l y , t h i s c o n c e p t i s e s s e n t i a l to m y s t i c i s m .
T h e c o n v e r s e t e r m , "death", i s e n c o u n t e r e d l e s s f r e q u e n t l y i n
m y s t i c a l w r i t i n g , b u t f r e q u e n t l y e n o u g h to be r e c o g n i z e d a s a
r e g u l a r c o m p o n e n t of the m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e . W h e r e it i s n o t
s p e c i f i e d , i n m y o p i n i o n it i s i m p l i e d . T h e m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e i s ,
i n m y v i e w , a p r o c e s s of d y i n g to t h e r e a l w o r l d , w h i c h i s the
c a u s e of p a i n a n d t h r e a t , a n d b e i n g r e b o r n to a life of b l i s s i n
u n i o n w i t h G o d (Idel, 1 9 8 8 b , p p . 65f.). T h e d e a t h - r e b i r t h s e
quence is a special one, significant in psychology, both n o r m a l
a n d p a t h o l o g i c a l , a s w e l l a s i n m a n y a s p e c t s of r e l i g i o n . We
d i s c u s s it m o r e fully i n t h e following c h a p t e r .
J e w i s h m y s t i c a l l i t e r a t u r e c o n t a i n s few s u b j e c t i v e a c c o u n t s
of t h e m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e ; the C h r i s t i a n literature contains
m a n y . E v e n w h e r e d e s c r i p t i o n of t r a n c e s i n t h e J e w i s h m a t e r i a l
a r e g i v e n , t h e y a r e often given i n the t h i r d p e r s o n t h a t i s ,
d e s c r i p t i o n s of a n o t h e r p e r s o n ' s t r a n c e s t a t e . A m o n g t h e C h r i s
t i a n d e s c r i p t i o n s of the t r a n c e s t a t e , p e r h a p s the m o s t d r a m a t i c
tell of t h e c o n v e r s i o n of the s u b j e c t from a n e g a t i v e a t t i t u d e to
religion to a positive one, or of c o n v e r s i o n to a different r e l i g i o n .
P e r h a p s the b e s t - k n o w n of t h e s e m y s t i c a l c o n v e r s i o n s i s d e
s c r i b e d b y S t . P a u l (Acts 9 : 3 - 9 ; 1 2 : 3 - 1 6 ; 2 6 : 4 - 1 8 ) n a m e l y , the
a c c o u n t of h i s v i s u a l e x p e r i e n c e a n d c o n v e r s i o n to t h e religion of
J e s u s t h a t o c c u r r e d o n the r o a d to D a m a s c u s . A u g u s t i n e ( C o n
f e s s i o n s 8:12) d e s c r i b e s h i s c o n v e r s i o n from a life of profligacy
to a life of s a i n t l i n e s s . I n a c o n t r i t e m o o d a n d s u b m i s s i v e a t t i
t u d e , h e o b e y s a c h i l d ' s voice i n s t r u c t i n g h i m to r e a d . T a k i n g u p
the B o o k of the A p o s t l e s , h e r e a d a n a d m o n i t i o n to give u p h i s
life of s e n s u a l gratification a n d to live a C h r i s t i a n life. A m o n g
m o d e r n a u t h o r s , W i l l i a m J a m e s (1902) d e s c r i b e s s i m i l a r m y s t i
c a l c o n v e r s i o n s to the r e l i g i o u s life (see e s p e c i a l l y h i s L e c t u r e 9).
I n a l l c a s e s , the c o n v e r s i o n i s followed b y a n a l t e r a t i o n i n
t h e i n d i v i d u a l ' s f r a m e of m i n d a n d i n h i s b e h a v i o u r . H e now
b e c o m e s i m m e r s e d i n religion, a n d i n s o m e i n s t a n c e s , a s for
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 29

example Paul a n d Augustine, he undertakes to preach to convert


others, a s though his personal experience endowed h i m with the
privilege or obligation to bring others into the fold. In fact if we
focus on acceptance of a "prophetic" mission, we c a n include the
vocations of Isaiah (6), J e r e m i a h (1:4-10, 17-19), a n d Ezekiel (2,
3). (For a description of the psychodynamics of these vocation
experiences, see Arlow, 1951.)
T h e accounts of the conversion experience impress the
reader a s unique and dramatic. However, examination reveals
that they overlap with other experiences. The vocation of the
prophets that I j u s t mentioned is described a s a mystical con
version experience. (The introduction to Halperin's chapter three
discusses the relation between prophecy a n d mysticism at
greater length.) Mystical experiences may occur to someone
already religious, and they may move him, but they may result
in no enduring change in behaviour or religious orientation.
It would be useful, I believe, to examine the several p a r a m
eters of the conversion phenomenon individuallythe abrupt
ness, the mystical experience itself, the change in attitude a n d
the prophetic mission. What is unique about the mystical con
version experience is the convergence of these elements.
With respect to the element of abruptness, we are a c c u s
tomed to seeing alterations in frame of mind a n d attitude among
family a n d friends, if not in ourselves, a s we grow older, u s u a l l y
the result of maturation, of experience, of affiliation, that i s , a s a
result of inner alterations a n d externally imposed influences.
F r o m day to day these changes are usually imperceptible; it is
only over a n extended period of time that we become aware of
them. T h e psychiatrist, on the other hand, often sees striking
changes occurring abruptly. The schizophrenic or manic-depres
sive in remission may relapse within a matter of days, hours, or
even minutes. T h e relapse may occur as a result of some invisible
inner psychological dynamic, a s the result of a n inner hormonal
or metabolic change, a s a result of some externally imposed
trauma, or a s the result of a n unfortunate prescription of thera
peutic medication. I do not claim that abruptness itself is pathog
nomonic of illness, but merely that in individuals ready for some
major mental reorientation, the presentation of a n adequate
stimulus may suffice to induce it abruptly.
30 PROLOGUE

We h a v e a l r e a d y e x a m i n e d the n a t u r e of the m y s t i c a l e x
perience. While i n the c a s e of m o s t J e w i s h m y s t i c s w e find
continuing mystical attitudes, we do a l s o encounter sharply
d e m a r c a t e d i n c i d e n t s . T h e trance state is u s u a l l y reported w i t h
a definite b e g i n n i n g a n d e n d .
W i t h r e s p e c t to the c h a n g e i n a t t i t u d e , I believe t h a t one c a n
d i s c e r n two e l e m e n t s a n a n t e c e d e n t feeling of d i s t r e s s , w h i c h
i s often a c o m p o n e n t of a d e p r e s s i v e s y n d r o m e , a n d a d i s t i n c t
e u p h o r i a a n d v i g o u r a s a n e l e m e n t of the m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e
itself, w h i c h e n d u r e s for s o m e time thereafter, a r e b i r t h . W e
h a v e m o r e to s a y a b o u t the s u b j e c t of r e b i r t h i n t h e n e x t e s s a y .
T h e rebirth experience sometimes leaves the s u b j e c t w i t h a
s e n s e of a u t h o r i t y t h a t h e a c q u i r e s a s a r e s u l t of s u b m i s s i o n to
t h e h i g h e r a u t h o r i t y , s o t h a t he m a y b e c o m e a p r o p h e t of a n e w
m o v e m e n t or m e r e l y a l e a d e r or t e a c h e r .
It i s t h e c o m b i n a t i o n of t h e s e e l e m e n t s , e s p e c i a l l y w h e n t h e y
converge i n a trance state, that creates the p h e n o m e n o n t h a t we
call conversion.
W h y t h e s t y l e of r e p o r t i n g p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e f l o u r i s h e d i n
t h e C h r i s t i a n b u t n o t the J e w i s h w o r l d i s n o t s e l f - e v i d e n t . T h e
C h r i s t i a n s e m p h a s i z e d t h e a c q u i s i t i o n of a u t h o r i t y a s a r e s u l t of
the event s o that m a n y of the m y s t i c s w e n t o n to organize
m y s t i c a l m o v e m e n t s (see U n d e r h i l l , 1 9 6 4 ) . T h e J e w s , on the
o t h e r h a n d , s e e m e d to f o c u s o n the a n x i e t y t h a t a n t i c i p a t e d t h e
e x p e r i e n c e or a c c o m p a n i e d it, r e p o r t e d a s s u c h , a n d a l s o i m
p l i e d i n the r e l u c t a n c e of the p r o p h e t s to a c c e p t the v o c a t i o n .
Merkavah mystical literature especially e m p h a s i z e s dangers. We
e n c o u n t e r t h i s i s s u e a g a i n i n c h a p t e r four, " F o u r E n t e r e d t h e
Garden**.
M y t h o l o g y p l a y s a role i n m a n y b u t n o t a l l m y s t i c a l s y s t e m s .
W h e n the m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e i s c o n s i d e r e d a n i n t e r n a l c h a n g e ,
w e h e a r little a b o u t t h e o l o g y a s i s the c a s e i n m o s t C h r i s t i a n
mystical reports. T h e subject reports experiencing contact with
J e s u s or w i t h G o d , the F a t h e r , b u t h e v e n t u r e s little o r i g i n a l
a b o u t either. I n merkavcUi mysticism a n d mediaeval Kabbalah,
the a d e p t h i m s e l f i s l e s s c o n c e r n e d w i t h h i s o w n experiences
t h a n w i t h the e x p e r i e n c e of the merkavafi hero with w h o m he
identifies i n the former c a s e , or the n a t u r e of t h e G o d h e a d t h a t
f a s c i n a t e s h i m i n t h e latter, or b o t h . I n b o t h of t h e s e m y s t i c a l
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 31

systems, and in Gnosticism, which is related to the first, a


b o u n t e o u s m y t h o l o g y is created. W e detect here a n i n t e n s e curi
osity, w h i c h , i n the absence of true knowledge, results in the
elaboration of complex myths. In the case of Gnosticism and
merkavah m y s t i c i s m , these m y t h s deal w i t h the nature of God,
with His appearance and dimensions, with the celestial hosts,
angels, their appearance and dimensions, and with how a
human m i g h t gain access to God and the dangers that he en
counters i n the effort to do so. In the mediaeval Kabbalah of
Spain a n d later of L u r i a i n Safed, these m y t h s deal w i t h God's
q u a l i t i e s : Seftrotthat is, H i s w i s d o m , glory, power, love, j u s t i c e ,
a n d so o n r a t h e r t h a n o n H i s physical appearance.
If we pursue the hypothesis about the mystical experience
that we mentioned abovenamely, that the mystic yearns to
reestablish in an illusory way his earliest experiences with his
m o t h e r or either p a r e n t (the c u r r e n t l y correct expression is care
giver)then these myths reconstruct early images of the
parents. It does n o t seem to be too far afield to imagine t h a t the
infant's curiosity addresses itself to the parents* accessibility,
physical appearance, and behaviour. Nunberg (1961) suggests
that "infantile sexual c u r i o s i t y is c o n c e r n e d mainly with these
three questions: where do children come from; w h a t is the differ
ence between a b o y a n d a girl; w h a t are m o t h e r a n d father d o i n g
together?" "Usually", he continues, "answers to these questions
are provided b y the children themselves i n the typical fantasies."
In mystical mythology we find answers to these questions as
though they were asked about God. We develop the theme of
curiosity i n the introduction to chapter four, "Four Entered the
Garden".

Group mysticism

Turning now to the psychodynamics of group mysticism we


encounter a higher order of complexity. On what occasions do
groups become open to mystical reorientation?apparently,
when the g r o u p as a w h o l e is s u b j e c t to s o m e k i n d of stress. I t
has not been easy to specify a kind of stress that is always
32 P R O L O G U E

followed by mystical enthusiasm, a n d certainly n o t to establish


a c o r r e l a t i o n between the n a t u r e of the stress a n d the n a t u r e
of the m y s t i c a l response. G i v e n a n y m y s t i c a l m o v e m e n t , i t is
seldom difficult to p o i n t to a n antecedent set of distressing
c i r c u m s t a n c e s : w a r , f a m i n e , p e r s e c u t i o n , o p p r e s s i o n , social de
m o r a l i z a t i o n . Certainly J e w i s h h i s t o r y e v e n i f we do n o t s u b
scribe to w h a t B a r o n calls the "lachrymose t h e o r y " c a n always
provide a reason for a n x i e t y a n d sorrow.
T h e r e is one source of distress t h a t h a s generally n o t b e e n
recognized i n psychoanalytic l i t e r a t u r e to m y k n o w l e d g e , but
t h a t I t h i n k s h o u l d be c o n s i d e r e d , a n d t h a t is c h a o s , a s t a t e o f
disorder. Disorder means u n p r e d i c t a b i l i t y , a n d i t elicits anxiety
b a s e d u p o n t h e i n a b i l i t y t o feel c o m f o r t a b l e a b o u t t h e f u t u r e . I
refer n o t o n l y to the danger of possible m i l i t a r y a s s a u l t f r o m the
o u t s i d e or even h o s t i l i t y f r o m w i t h i n the c o m m u n i t y , b u t also to
the h a z a r d s of s t a r v a t i o n , disease, failure, h u m i l i a t i o n , a n d t h e
loss of those we love. F o r a n y degree o f c o m f o r t , we m u s t be able
to expect w i t h a reasonable degree of p r o b a b i l i t y t h a t t h e r e w i l l
a l w a y s be food a n d shelter for one's f a m i l y , a c o m f o r t a b l e a n d
stable h o m e ; t h a t w i t h reasonable p r e c a u t i o n s one w i l l p r o b a b l y
r e m a i n free o f d i s e a s e ; t h a t o n e w i l l r e t a i n a r e c o g n i z e d p l a c e i n
society; a n d t h a t those we love w i l l be w i t h u s for t h e foreseeable
f u t u r e . A n y of the social t r a u m a s t h a t I m e n t i o n e d c a n create the
a n x i e t y o f c h a o s a n d t h a t m a y be t h e c o m m o n e l e m e n t .
I n t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s t o d a y w e see a p r o g r e s s i v e a t t e n u a t i o n
of t h e c o n v e n t i o n s , r u l e s , a n d r e s t r a i n t s t h a t , even i f i l l i b e r a l
and u n j u s t , a t least give t h e i m p r e s s i o n o f o r d e r , p r e d i c t a b i l i t y ,
a n d s t a b i l i t y . T h e p e n d u l u m s w i n g s u p a n d b a c k b e t w e e n exces
sive social r e p r e s s i o n a n d c o n t r o l o n the one h a n d , a n d , o n the
other, excessive r e p u d i a t i o n of t h a t order a n d s t r u c t u r e . T h i s
r e p u d i a t i o n exposes m a n y i n d i v i d u a l s to a degree o f chaos a n d
u n p r e d i c t a b i l i t y t h a t t h e y c a n n o t easily tolerate. N o t o n l y does
this corrective m e c h a n i s m explain the conservative backlash
t h a t we are n o w seeingfor example, a m i l i t a n t C h r i s t i a n r i g h t
a n d f u n d a m e n t a l i s m i n all religious g r o u p s i t also explains the
efflorescence of mystical i m p u l s e a n d p u r s u i t , the r e t u r n to a
religion of the m o s t fundamentalist k i n d , the p o p u l a r i t y of n o n
rational interests a n d beliefs. These express the need for a
r e t u r n to the comfort a n d assurance, the regularity a n d predict
ability of the well-cared-for infant.
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 33

T h e recently popular scholarly a n d erudite religious studies


include the study of mysticism. T h i s interest c a n be at least
partially attributed to a less-than-scholarly concern with the
non-rational. I would guess that even the objective academic
interest in these subjects is for many people not entirely u n r e
lated to a n unconscious quest for mystical reassurance.
Mystical movements, like other movements, are facilitated by
active leadership. Leaders do not create the tendencies for mys
tical yearnings, but they do encourage a n d entrain it. They take
advantage of a readiness that circumstance creates, a n d they
mobilize a n d focus it.
I do not know that we can say very m u c h about the qualities
that make for effective mystical leadership. Certainly c h a r i s m a
c a n play a n important role, but what is c h a r i s m a for one culture
may not be c h a r i s m a for another. The probability of being a c
cepted a s a charismatic leader is increased if the individual
demonstrates some u n u s u a l qualitya striking appearance,
u n u s u a l verbal facility, remarkable capabilities s u c h a s a n im
pressive memory. Capacity for logical thought and reasoning are
not especially helpful. The leader who enunciates irrationalities
or presents as facts what are clearly known not to be factual is
often admired a n d respected because he validates the irrational
hopes a n d desires a n d beliefs of potential followers. T h e more
outrageous the leader, the greater his credibility. B u t these
comments could be made about leadership in general, a n d cer
tainly about leadership of fundamentalist movements. Many
leaders are sincere; others seem to be dishonest a n d intention
ally mislead.
T h e more recent the J e w i s h mystical movement, the more
we know about it a n d about its leaders. The c h a r i s m a of the
Hasidic rebbeim is literally legendary. The Sabbatian a n d
F r a n k i s t movements go by the names of their presumptive re
spective leaders. I s a y "presumptive" because Sabbatai Sevi was
the nominal leader of the movement that is given his name; the
actual leader was a charismatic young m a n , Nathan of G a z a .
(For a discussion of the relation between Sevi's personality a n d
his leadership, see Ostow, 1980.) The Ari, Isaac ben Solomon
L u r i a , was the charismatic leader of the movement to which he
gave his name. F r e n c h a n d S p a n i s h Kabbalists of the thirteenth
century a n d thereabouts followed certain leading personalities,
34 P R O L O G U E

teachers who established schools of Kabbalah. But unique, com


pelling, charismatic leaders are not salient. The mystical
community of the Hasidei Ashkenaz (the German pietists of the
twelfth- and thirteenth-century Rhineland) was led successively
by three individuals: Samuel ben Qalonimos, his son Judah (he
hasid), and Judah's disciple Eleazar ben Judah of Worms
(Marcus, 1981, 1989). Of the three, Judah taught and promoted
a deviant (though not heretical) praxis, emphasizing the per
formance of the traditional and prescribed mitzvot, but to an
extreme degree. He attracted followers, but most of the commu
nity found his teachings unreasonable and repudiated him. His
father before him and Eleazar afterwards promoted a less ex
treme form of observance, and so did not suffer the rejection that
he did. But the movement was soon eclipsed by Kabbalism.
Abraham Maimuni, the son of Maimonides and his successor
as head of the Jewish community, taught a form of mysticism
patterned after and strongly derivative from the local, contempo
raneous Muslim mysticism of the Sufis. He, too, encountered a
good deal of local opposition, but he modified his position so that
his teaching persisted for some time (Fenton, 1989).
We do not have much knowledge of the leadership of pre
kabbalistic mysticism. Most of the material that we have is
pseudo-epigraphic. Moreover, although we have some of the
early literature, we do not have enough history to ascertain the
dimensions of the various movements.
I think we learn that when the community is ready for prom
ises and encouragement, the leader who can offer them will be
followed, especially when he shows disdain for reality. However,
a populace that is not so needy and desperate will judge more
critically and reject would-be leaders who are not in tune with
them.
The Hasidim are our contemporary Jewish mystics, and by
observing them we may obtain some idea of the experience of
being a member of a mystical group. What we find is something
very similar to fundamentalism: uniformity in behaviour, be
liefs, costume, worship service; subordination to a leader to
whom remarkable qualities are attributed; focus on a specific
scripture or rather a specific interpretation of the scripture;
cultivation of a detennined optimism; zealous separatism; deep
DIMENSIONS O F MYSTICISM 35

f e l l o w s h i p ; r e s t r i c t i o n of s e x u a l i t y ; r e j e c t i o n of s c i e n c e b u t n o t of
t e c h n o l o g y ; a v i e w of t h e m s e l v e s a s t h e r i g h t e o u s a n d e v e r y b o d y
o u t s i d e t h e g r o u p a s w i c k e d ; a n d c o n v i c t i o n of a u n i q u e r e l a t i o n
with God.
T h e m e n t a l r e g r e s s i o n r e q u i r e d for t h e m y s t i c a l f r a m e of
m i n d is encouraged by group membership. G r o u p sanction re
places reality testing a n d lends the conviction of r e a l i t y to
n o n - r e a l i s t i c j u d g e m e n t s . T h i s effect p r e v a i l s i n o r d i n a r y c o n t a c t
a m o n g m e m b e r s of t h e g r o u p , s t r e n g t h e n e d b y w o r s h i p s e r v i c e ,
study, preaching, and teaching. B u t certain group activities
p o s s e s s e v e n g r e a t e r p o w e r to c r e a t e m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e a n d to
a u g m e n t g r o u p c o h e s i v e n e s s . I refer h e r e to t h e p h e n o m e n a of
group e n t h u s i a s m , group hysteria, group ecstasy, which we
a s s u m e o c c u r r e d i n the G r e e k m y s t e r y religions a n d t h a t w e see
n o w i n A m e r i c a n C h r i s t i a n r e v i v a l m e e t i n g s . T h e following c o m
ments of the A r i ( I s a a c L u r i a of s i x t e e n t h - c e n t u r y S a f e d , the
a r c h i t e c t of L u r i a n i c K a b b a l a h ) reflect t h e i d e a l of fellowship
(Fine, 1984):

Before a n i n d i v i d u a l begins to p r a y i n the synagogue . . . he


m u s t take u p o n h i m s e l f the p r e c e p t . . . a n d t h o u s h a l t love
M

they neighbor a s thyself . . [Lev. 19:18]. A n d he s h o u l d


c o n c e n t r a t e u p o n loving every m e m b e r of the h o u s e of I s r a e l
a s he loves himself, o n a c c o u n t of w h i c h h i s p r a y e r w i l l
a s c e n d , b o u n d u p w i t h a l l the p r a y e r s of I s r a e l . B y t h i s
m e a n s h i s s o u l will be able to rise above a n d effect Tiqqun.
A n d e s p e c i a l l y w h e n it c o m e s to the love for one's a s s o c i
a t e s w h o s t u d y T o r a h with one a n o t h e r , e a c h a n d every
p e r s o n m u s t b i n d h i m s e l f to the others a s if he were one l i m b
w i t h i n the body of this fellowship. T h i s is p a r t i c u l a r l y i m p o r
t a n t w h e n a n i n d i v i d u a l p o s s e s s e s the knowledge a n d the
m y s t i c a l i n s i g h t w i t h w h i c h to u n d e r s t a n d a n d a p p r e h e n d
h i s friend's s o u l . A n d s h o u l d there be one a m o n g t h e m
i n d i s t r e s s , a l l m u s t take it u p o n themselves to s h a r e h i s
trouble, w h e t h e r it h a s to do w i t h s o m e i l l n e s s or w i t h h i s
c h i l d r e n , G o d forbid. A n d they m u s t a l l p r a y o n h i s behalf.
L i k e w i s e , i n all one's p r a y e r s a n d petitions one s h o u l d be
m i n d f u l of h i s fellows. M y teacher, of b l e s s e d m e m o r y , took
great c a r e to c a u t i o n me a b o u t the love w h i c h we o u g h t to
b e a r toward o u r a s s o c i a t e s , the m e m b e r s of o u r b r o t h e r
hood, [p. 66J
36 PROLOGUE

Psychoanalysts have offered some evidence that for the i n


dividual member, the group symbolizes the mother of infancy
(Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1985; Scheidlinger, 1964, 1974). We
speculated above that the mystic is trying to reinstate his early
sense of unity with his mother. If that is true, then membership
in a group reinforces the impression that he h a s achieved that
reunion. The actual current unity of the group provides the
feeling of infantile union and intimacy.
Esotericism, the need to preserve its secrets within the
group, characterizes a number of mystical communities. As
the mystic tries to escape from the distress of the real world in
which he lives, with its disorder, unpredictability, lack of prom
ise, he finds himself regressing to archaic yearningsreaching
back towards the infantile sense of union with mother, as we
suggested above. Once initiated, this movement progresses with
its own momentum. It is not a cognitively framed intention but,
rather, an automatic process. Since it recreates a pre-verbal
experience, its goal cannot be expressed in language except by
allusion a n d metaphor, hence the "ineffability" of mystical ex
perience. The sensations and the images associated with this
regression are those of pre-verbal experiences with parents,
including images of the parents' bodies, their physical c h a r a c
teristics and activities, and their ability to create and remove
pleasure.
S u c h images have, of course, been abandoned in conven
tional religion with the evolution of monotheism. Paganism pro
jected infantile images into the heavenly pantheon. The pagan
gods represented individual qualities that children perceived in
their parents and siblings and their own archaic fantasies and
inclinations associated with infanticidal, incestuous, and mur
derous wishes. Worship of these gods included similar civilly
disruptive acts of sexual license and human sacrifice. The J e w
ish religion abolished the concept of a god with h u m a n frailties
and replaced it with a projection of the superego, a God, austere
and majestic, unthreatened by rivalry, who demanded fear
lyir'ah] as well as love [ahavah]. The mystic who starts within
the monotheistic religion finds himself recreating these archaic
images and tries to reconcile these with the monotheistic ab
stractions. For the J e w i s h mystic, God is divided into hypo
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 37

stasesthe E n Sof, the Seftrot, the Shekhinah, benign angels,


malignant angels, the sitra ahrah. God h a s a n anatomy; He h a s
sex organs (see Cohen, 1982). The Shekhinah engages in sexual
intercourse (see Idel, chapter seven, this volume). These notions
are little if at all short of blasphemous in normative J e w i s h
religion, a n d the mystic is engaged in a constant struggle to
contain these images within orthodox theologya struggle that
sometimes fails, a s in the case of the Sabbatean a n d F r a n k i s t
heresies.
F r o m the point of view of the individual, Hagigah (B.T.:
Babylonian Talmud) 1 l b prescribes that the teaching of s p e c u
lation about cosmogony, about Ezekiel's chariot vision, w h i c h
ends with the visualization of God, a n d about sexual immorality
m u s t be stringently regulated a n d limited. Clearly it is feared
that the dissemination of views on these subjects may subvert
behavioural norms a n d group morale a n d morality. We return to
this issue in chapter four, " F o u r Entered the G a r d e n " .
Esotericism makes a contribution to group cohesiveness.
T h e secrets of the group, its beliefs, myths, a n d rituals, facilitate
m u t u a l loyalty among its members. They delineate the bound
aries between inside a n d outside a n d discourage centrifugal
adventure. The issue of secrecy, the need to restrict discussion
of Kabbalistic theosophy, played a n important role in the F r e n c h
a n d S p a n i s h Kabbalistic circles of the thirteenth century (Idel,
1989a). Idel's researches on this matter have left me with the
impression that the imperative for secrecy that Nahmanides a n d
his followers demanded of Isaac the Blind a n d his followers in
Gerona w a s based upon the fear that a competitive elite mystical
community might be established. Of course, Nahmanides was
adhering to halakliali, which clearly prohibits the dissemination
of s u c h esoteric doctrine. Other J e w i s h mystical circles did not
hesitate to teach their own doctrines of Kabbalah to others in
the hope of winning converts. J u d a h the Pietist a n d A b r a h a m
Maimuni, a s well as Nathan of G a z a , attempted to spread their
doctrines within their communities. I a m not aware that esoteri
c i s m played a n important role in Christian mysticism. The
conflict between esotericism a n d exotericism in contemporary
Habad (Lubavitch Hasidism) is outlined by R a c h e l Elior (1993).
38 PROLOGUE

Sociological considerations

M y s t i c a l g r o u p s do n o t e x i s t i n vacuo. T h e y p r e c i p i t a t e o u t of a
c o m m u n i t y m a t r i x a n d t h e y m u s t relate to t h a t m a t r i x . W e do
n o t k n o w a n y t h i n g of the c o m p l e x intergroup d y n a m i c s that
p r e v a i l e d s o m e 2 0 0 0 y e a r s ago, w h e n the e a r l i e s t f o r m u l a t i o n s
of merkavah a n d hekhaloth mysticism began to a p p e a r . The
l i t e r a t u r e s p e a k s of t h o s e w h o " d e s c e n d e d to the merkavah" but
does not inform u s how organized s u c h a circle might have been.
A s we noted above, specific circles studied a n d created their own
K a b b a l a h , a n d s o we m a y s u r m i s e s o m e r i v a l r y . S a b b a t i a n i s m
created vigorous d i s s e n s i o n w i t h i n the J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y at
large. The r i s e of H a s i d i s m i n the eighteenth century was
s t r o n g l y c o m b a t e d b y o p p o n e n t s [Mitnagdim] who even invoked
the p a r t i c i p a t i o n of the R u s s i a n government. Today in the
United States and i n I s r a e l w e w i t n e s s conflict a n d mutual
d i s d a i n n o t only b e t w e e n the H a s i d i m a n d M i t n a g d i m , b u t a l s o
a m o n g the v a r i o u s H a s i d i c sects.
Like other fundamentalist groups, the H a s i d i m s e e them
selves at odds with other J e w s . W h e n they acquire power of
n u m b e r s or f i n a n c e , t h e y b e c o m e m o r e a g g r e s s i v e a n d t r y to
i m p o s e t h e i r s t a n d a r d s of r e l i g i o u s o b s e r v a n c e u p o n o t h e r s , a s
do t h e o t h e r H a r e d i m t h a t i s , r i g h t - w i n g orthodox. T o a c e r t a i n
e x t e n t w e m a y infer t h a t the m y s t i q u e of the g r o u p f a v o u r s a
s e p a r a t i s m that is a s aggressive a s c i r c u m s t a n c e s permit. B u t
w e c a n n o t ignore a n o t h e r p o s s i b i l i t y n a m e l y , t h a t the m y s t i c a l
group isolates itself along a l r e a d y existing fault lines i n the
community.
M y s t i c s a r e s e e k e r s . T h e i r q u e s t a r i s e s o u t of discontent.
T h e r e a l i t y i n w h i c h t h e y live a n d the c o m m u n i t y t h a t s p o n s o r s
t h a t r e a l i t y l e a v e s s o m e people w i t h o u t a feeling of c o n f i d e n c e
or comfort. T h e y c r e a t e a n e w u n i v e r s e for t h e m s e l v e s and,
by segregating themselves from the s u r r o u n d i n g community,
create their own social environment.
M o s t J e w i s h m y s t i c s h a v e n o t b e e n r e a d y to d e c l a r e open
opposition to the o r t h o d o x y w i t h i n w h i c h t h e y live. Y e t t h e i r
beliefs a n d feelings deviate from the h i s t o r i c a l n o r m s . T o w h a t
ever e x t e n t p o s s i b l e , t h e y try to r e i n t e r p r e t c l a s s i c texts s o a s
to provide for t h e i r i n n o v a t i o n s , w h i c h they n o w p r e s e n t as
more a u t h e n t i c t h a n prevailing doctrine a n d praxis. A b r a h a m
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 39

M a i m u n i affirmed that h i s m y s t i c a l practice revived older forms


t h a t h a d b e e n n e g l e c t e d . A n d y e t t h e r e a r e d i f f e r e n c e s , s o m e of
w h i c h , a s w e noted above, are plainly incompatible w i t h c l a s s i c
forms. These differences reinforce the differences in social
a g e n d a between themselves a n d the others.
Other mystics declare themselves at odds with current
o r t h o d o x y . F o r e x a m p l e , the S a b b a t e a n s a n d F r a n k i s t s c l a i m e d
to h a v e s u p e r s e d e d it, a n d t h e y r e i n t e r p r e t e d c l a s s i c t e x t s i n a
w a y t h a t w e r e i n t e n d e d to j u s t i f y t h e i r h e r e s i e s .
Mystics g e n e r a l l y a t t r i b u t e g r e a t e r a u t h o r i t y to t h e i r own
personal or group experiences than to normative theology
a n d practice. I would be i n c l i n e d to l o o k for a n underlying
a n t i n o m i a n tendency in all mystics a n d mystical movements.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

By way of f u r t h e r i n t r o d u c t i o n to o u r s t u d y of t h e psycho
d y n a m i c s of J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m , let m e p r o v i d e s o m e o r i e n t i n g
data.
F i r s t , w h a t is " K a b b a l a h " ? T h e word is derived from the verb
kabel which means "receive". K a b b a l a h , then, literally m e a n s
"tradition". T h e Kabbalists contend that their mystical, theo
sophical, and theurgic systems were transmitted directly to
M o s e s b y G o d o n the o c c a s i o n of the d i v i n e r e v e l a t i o n of E x o d .
19 a n d 2 0 . R a b b i n i c J u d a i s m a s s e r t s that its O r a l L a w w a s
transmitted then alongside the T o r a h or W r i t t e n L a w , a n d the
K a b b a l i s t s c l a i m that their esoteric doctrine a c c o m p a n i e d both.
T h e t e r m " K a b b a l a h " is applied a m b i g u o u s l y to the totality of
J e w i s h e s o t e r i c , m y s t i c a l lore, a n d a l s o to t h e s y s t e m s of t h e o
sophy and theurgy that were devised and disseminated in
mediaeval Provence a n d Catalonia a n d thence further abroad,
a n d t h e n to t h e K a b b a l i s t s of S a f e d i n the s i x t e e n t h c e n t u r y , a n d
subsequently incorporated with modifications into t h e d o c t r i n e
of H a s i d i s m . W e h a v e u s e d the t e r m i n the l a t t e r s e n s e i n t h i s
book.
F o r those readers who are not familiar with the history a n d
v a r i e t i e s o f J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m , let m e p r o v i d e a l i s t of the m a j o r
m o v e m e n t s , together w i t h s o m e b i b l i o g r a p h y . F o r a g e n e r a l i n
40 PROLOGUE

troduction to the field, one w i l l do n o b e t t e r than Gershom


S c h o l e m / s m a g i s t e r i a l 1941 Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism.
S c h o l e m , the m a j o r t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y s c h o l a r of J e w i s h m y s t i
c i s m w h o w a s largely responsible for p r o m o t i n g its s t u d y by
c a n o n s of s c i e n t i f i c s c h o l a r s h i p , wrote a n u m b e r of a r t i c l e s o n
t h e s u b j e c t for the Encyclopedia Judaiccu T h e s e were assembled
and published in 1974 as a separate book, entitled simply
Kabbalah. It i s m o r e c o n c i s e t h a n the o r i g i n a l w o r k , t h o u g h it
s e e m s to cover the s a m e g r o u n d a n d c o n t a i n s a m o r e modern
bibliography.
Although Scholem argues that there is no mysticism in
the T a n a k h , I w o u l d find it difficult to d i s m i s s s o m e of the p r o
phetic passages a s n o n - m y s t i c a l . T h e first c h a p t e r of E z e k i e l
f o r m s the b a s i s for merkavah m y s t i c i s m . T h e v o c a t i o n s of I s a i a h ,
J e r e m i a h , a n d E z e k i e l s e e m to m e to qualify a s m y s t i c a l e x p e r i
e n c e s , a s n o t e d above. H a l p e r i n ' s c h a p t e r i n t h i s v o l u m e t a k e s
u p a m y s t i c a l i s s u e i n E z e k i e l , a n d the s u b j e c t i s f u r t h e r d e v e l
oped in h i s 1993 book, Seeking Ezekiel: Text and Psychology,
from w h i c h o u r e s s a y , s o m e w h a t r e v i s e d , is t a k e n .
T h e earliest esoteric material in J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m appears
a s h i n t s of " t h r o n e m y s t i c i s m " in early apocalyptic texts, a l l
apocryphal. Throne mysticism is based upon images of ap
p r o a c h i n g G o d a n d v i s u a l i z i n g H i m w h i l e H e is s i t t i n g o n H i s
throne. Starting probably d u r i n g the first c e n t u r y C E . , com
m e n t s a p p e a r i n the T a l m u d s (Babylonian a n d Jerusalem) and
M i d r a s h i m (extra- a n d p o s t - T a l m u d i c commentaries), referring
to e s o t e r i c i s m a n d the i s s u e of s e c r e c y . C h a p t e r four, " F o u r W h o
E n t e r e d t h e G a r d e n " , gives a n e x a m p l e of s u c h m a t e r i a l .
Beginning i n the second and third centuries, Midrashim
a p p e a r t h a t d e s c r i b e m y s t i c a l a s c e n t (or, p a r a d o x i c a l l y , d e s c e n t )
to the merkavah, the throne c h a r i o t of the first c h a p t e r of
E z e k i e l , n o w a m y s t i c a l s e a t of G o d . R e l a t e d to t h i s g e n r e i s the
genre of hekhaloth (or " p a l a t i a l c h a m b e r s " ) mysticism. Again
a d e p t s a t t e m p t to a s c e n d the v a r i o u s h e a v e n s to be a b l e to v i e w
G o d s e a t e d o n H i s t h r o n e a m o n g m y r i a d s of a n g e l s w h o are
s i n g i n g h y m n s of e x t r a v a g a n t p r a i s e . T h e s e h y m n s a r e p r o b a b l y
the p r e c u r s o r s of the Kedushah, a n a n t i p h o n i c h y m n of p r a i s e
i n s e r t e d i n t o the amidah, the c e n t r a l l i t u r g i c a l p i e c e of e v e r y
s y n a g o g u e s e r v i c e . E l e m e n t s of t h e s e h y m n s a p p e a r a l s o e a r l y
i n the Shaharit, the m o r n i n g p r a y e r , after the Barekhu, the c a l l
DIMENSIONS OF MYSTICISM 41

to w o r s h i p . T h e s e m a t e r i a l s a r e d i s c u s s e d i n t h r e e s m a l l v o l
umes:

1. Apocalyptic and Merkavah Mysticism, by Ithamar Gruenwald


(1980);
2. T h e Merkabah in Rabbinic Literature, by David J . Halperin
(1980);
3. Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism and Talmudic Tradi
tion, b y G e r s h o m S c h o l e m ( 1 9 6 0 ) .

D a v i d J . H a l p e r i n h a s also p u b l i s h e d a large c o m p e n d i u m of
T a l m u d i c a n d M i d r a s h i c c o m m e n t s o n E z e k i e r s v i s i o n of the
m y s t i c a l t h r o n e c h a r i o t , the merkavaha really impressive c o m
pilation and thematic organization of material from diverse
sources. He attempts to c o n f r o n t the s o u r c e s w i t h e a c h other
a n d to r e c o n c i l e t h e m , a n d to d r a w p s y c h o l o g i c a l as well a s
historic a n d textual conclusions (Halperin, 1988a).
K a b b a l a h proper s t a r t s d u r i n g the middle ages, r e a c h i n g its
full flowering i n t h i r t e e n t h - c e n t u r y Provence a n d C a t a l o n i a . It is
p r i m a r i l y a t h e o s o p h i c s t u d y a n d d o c t r i n e i n w h i c h the D e i t y i s
r e p r e s e n t e d b y a n u m b e r of different e n t i t i e s , p r i m a r i l y t h e En
Sof a D i v i n e E n t i t y w h o c a n n o t b e d e l i m i t e d or c i r c u m s c r i b e d .
T h e E n Sof, t h o u g h d e v o i d of q u a l i t i e s or a t t r i b u t e s , n e v e r t h e
l e s s , i n its influence u p o n the u n i v e r s e , b e c o m e s manifest b y t e n
of t h e s e . T h e s e a r e c a l l e d Sefirot a n d are designated somewhat
differently i n different schools of K a b b a l a h , i n c l u d i n g for ex
ample: God's crown, wisdom, understanding, grace, judgement,
b e a u t y , e t e r n i t y , glory, f o u n d a t i o n , a n d k i n g s h i p .
A brief, c r y p t i c b o o k , Sefer Yezirah, is attributed by modern
s c h o l a r s to a p e r i o d b e t w e e n the t h i r d a n d s i x t h c e n t u r i e s . It
r e f l e c t s s o m e a s p e c t s of merkavah a n d hekhaloth mysticism and
anticipates Kabbalah.
Probably the oldest k n o w n source of K a b b a l a h i s a terse,
c r y p t i c b o o k , Balxir. The word means " c l e a r " , b u t the b o o k i s
a n y t h i n g b u t c l e a r . It a p p e a r e d i n s o u t h e r n F r a n c e i n t h e twelfth
c e n t u r y . I t d e v e l o p e d the c o n c e p t of the Sefirot from its earliest
e x p r e s s i o n i n Sefer Yezirah towards the f o r m it took i n l a t e r
K a b b a l a h . T h e c e n t r a l text of the m e d i a e v a l K a b b a l a h a p p e a r e d
l a t e i n t h e t h i r t e e n t h c e n t u r y i n C a s t i l e . Sefer Ha-Zohar, the
Book of S p l e n d o r , is pseudo-epigraphically attributed to the
42 PROLOGUE

s e c o n d - c e n t u r y sage, S i m e o n B a r Y o h a i , b u t it w a s p r o b a b l y the
w o r k of R a b b i M o s e s de L e o n of C a s t i l e . T h e Zohar i s a v e r y l o n g
b o o k . A b o u t h a l f of it w a s t r a n s l a t e d into E n g l i s h b y H a r r y
S p e r l i n g a n d M a u r i c e S i m o n . A n a n t h o l o g y of texts, T h e Wisdom
of the Zohar, w a s published in 1989, a s a n E n g l i s h translation,
b y D a v i d G o l d s t e i n , of the H e b r e w t r a n s l a t i o n (the o r i g i n a l i s i n
A r a m a i c ) of F i s c h e l L a c h o w e r a n d I s a i a h T i s h b y , w i t h e x t e n s i v e
introductory a n d explanatory material by T i s h b y . F o r compre
h e n s i v e a n d reliable d i s c u s s i o n s of K a b b a l a h , s e e Scholem's
Origins of the Kabbalah ( 1 9 6 2 ) , a n d On the Mystical Shape of
the Godhead (1991). Idel h a s elaborated upon and extended
S c h o l e m ' s i n s i g h t s w i t h Kabbalah, New Perspectives (1988b).
In sixteenth-century Safed, Isaac L u r i a (1534-1572) k n o w n
a s t h e A r i [lionj t a u g h t a n e w a n d original v e r s i o n of K a b b a l a h ,
w h i c h elicited a w i d e s p r e a d r e s p o n s e . H i s K a b b a l a h i s difficult
a n d a r c a n e , yet m a n y were taken by his speculation that w h e n
G o d h a d c r e a t e d the w o r l d , He w i t h d r e w from a p a r t of the
c o s m o s , r e t r a c t i n g H i m s e l f [tsuntswn], so to s p e a k , so a s to m a k e
r o o m for t h e c r e a t e d w o r l d . A c o s m i c c a t a s t r o p h e c a u s e d the
b u r s t i n g of the v e s s e l s t h a t c o n t a i n e d the h o l y s p a r k s [shevirat
ha-kelim]. T h e w o r l d w a s t h e n to be r e s t o r e d b y a tikkwi olam
[ c o s m i c r e p a i r ) , w h i c h c o u l d be effected b y the r e l i g i o u s a c t s of
Israelthat is, study, worship, a n d mitzvot The Ari himself
w r o t e little, b u t h i s d o c t r i n e s h a v e b e e n r e c o r d e d b y h i s s t u d e n t ,
H a y i m Vital.
In 1665, a widespread J e w i s h messianic movement broke
o u t a l l over E u r o p e , N o r t h A f r i c a , a n d the M i d d l e E a s t . S a b b a t a i
Sevi, a T u r k i s h J e w , probably manic-depressive, as Scholem
( 1 9 7 3 ) cogently a r g u e s u n d e r the i n f l u e n c e of a n o t h e r , y o u n g e r
c h a r i s m a t i c leader, Nathan of G a z a h a d d e c l a r e d h i m s e l f a
m e s s i a h . T h e r e a s o n s for the r e a d i n e s s of the J e w s from v i r t u
a l l y a l l over the J e w i s h w o r l d to a c c e p t t h i s c l a i m a n d a c t o n it
b y p r e p a r i n g to s e p a r a t e t h e m s e l v e s from t h e i r h o m e s to go to
Palestine are not at all clear. S c h o l e m discounts with reasonable
arguments the i d e a t h a t it w a s the effect of the C h m i e l n i t z k i
pogroms of 1648. He attributes the readiness to accept
S a b b a t i a n i s m to the p r e v i o u s a c c e p t a n c e of L u r i a n i c K a b b a l a h ,
w i t h i t s r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n of exile, that i s , the d i s p e r s a l of the h o l y
s p a r k s . T h e L u r i a n i c K a b b a l a h , h e s a y s , s a t i s f i e d the s p i r i t u a l
n e e d s of the w o r l d - w i d e J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y . B u t S c h o l e m does
DIMENSIONS O FMYSTICISM 43

not explain w h y these spiritual needs became so m u c h more


peremptory at that point. Sevi invoked the message of L u r i a n i c
K a b b a l a h , which he used a n d abused a n d ultimately super
seded. A fascinating a n d compelling account of this whole
incident, together with its material and spiritual background, is
given in ScholenVs book Sabbatai Sevv The Mystical Messiah.
(1973).
T h e major J e w i s h mystical movement of our times i s , of
course, the Hasidic movement. It began i n mid-eighteenth-cen
tury E a s t e r n Poland, initiated by Israel B a a l S h e m , a n d spread
rapidly through E a s t e r n Europe despite the bitter a n d some
times violent opposition of the rrdtnagdim, a n d now flourishes i n
both Israel a n d the United States. T h e Hasidic doctrines are
based upon Kabbalah, modified for the times a n d c i r c u m
stances. Idel informs me that the Hasid internalizes the theo
sophy of the Kabbalists: what the Kabbalists posit a s events i n
the cosmos, the Hasid apprehends within his own soul.
We know of m a n y different Hasidic groups or dynasties
w h i c h are not always on good terms with each other. T h e litera
ture is voluminous. Here are some texts:

T h e Circle of the Baal Shem Tov, Studies in Hasidism, by


A b r a h a m J . Heschel (1985);
The Zaddik, The Doctrine of the Zaddik According to the Writ
ings of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Pobnoy, by S a m u e l H . D r e s n e r
(1960);
The World of a Hasidic Master, Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, by
S a m u e l H . Dresner (1986);
The Paradoxical Ascent to God: The Kabbalistic Theosophy of
Habad Hasidism, by Rachel Elior (1993);
Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic, by Moshe Idel (1994).

Much of Hasidic spirituality is presented in the form of


legends a n d parables. Several collections are well known:

T h e Hasidic Anthology, Tales and Teachings of the Hasidirru


by Lewis I. Newman (1934 & 1963);
Tales of the Hasidim (Volume 1, The Early Masters; Volume 2,
The Late Masters), by Martin Buber (1947 & 1975).
44 PROLOGUE

J o s e p h D a n h a s p u b l i s h e d a n a n t h o l o g y of e a r l y a n d c l a s s i c
H a s i d i c texts:

T h e Teachings of Hasidisnu edited, w i t h i n t r o d u c t i o n and


notes, b y J . D a n a n d R. J . Milch (1983).

A collection of p a p e r s on H a s i d i s m : Essential Papers on


Hasidisrru Origins to Present h a s been edited a n d p u b l i s h e d b y
G e r s h o n D. Hundert (1991).
Finally, a r i c h annotated bibliography on w o r k s a b o u t J e w i s h
m y s t i c i s m that exist in E n g l i s h h a s been p u b l i s h e d by S h e i l a A.
Spector.
After t h i s l e n g t h y y e t b a r e l y a d e q u a t e i n t r o d u c t i o n , w e s h a l l
t u r n o u r a t t e n t i o n to the s t u d y of a p o c a l y p s e a phenomenon
different from b u t r e l a t e d to m y s t i c i s m , a s w e s h a l l s e e .
CHAPTER TWO

The apocalyptic complex

I
n the previous, introductory essay we considered a
number of propositions regarding the psychodynamics of
mysticism: the essential mystical quest, no matter how
pursued, is psychologically the quest for reunion with the
a r c h a i c m o t h e r ; the t r a n c e is a n a l t e r e d state of c o n s c i o u s n e s s ,
w h i c h m a y be i n d u c e d i n a n y of a n u m b e r of w a y s a n d w h i c h
facilitates the illusion of t h a t u n i o n ; i n the m y s t i c a l group, the
i n d i v i d u a l achieves the illusion of being incorporated i n t o the
a r c h e t y p a l p a r e n t . I n this essay I s h o u l d like to d e m o n s t r a t e t h a t
m y s t i c i s m is one of a n u m b e r of i n d i v i d u a l a n d social phenom
ena t h a t m a y be c o n s i d e r e d derivatives of w h a t I propose to c a l l
the apocalyptic complex. Other derivatives of the apocalyptic
complex include apocalypse proper, messianism, millenarian
ism, f u n d a m e n t a l i s m , religious cultism, a n d u t o p i a n i s m . T h a t
these p h e n o m e n a are essentially different, one f r o m the other,

Much of the material of this essay is taken from my paper, "Archetypes


of Apocalypse in Dreams and Fantasies and in Religious Scripture", Israel
Journal of Psychiatry and Related Disciplines, 23 (1986) [21: 1 0 7 - 1 2 2 ;
American Imago, 43, 4: 3 0 7 - 3 3 4 , 1986; Conservative Judaism, 39, 4:
4 2 - 5 5 , S u m m e r 1987.

45
46 PROLOGUE

is generally appreciated. Nevertheless, they do overlap. The


Sabbatean movement was both mystical a n d messianic. In his
m a g n i f i c e n t Pursuit of the Millennium ( 1 9 7 0 ) , N o r m a n C o h n gives
e x a m p l e s of o v e r l a p of a p o c a l y p s e , m e s s i a n i s m , m i l l e n a r i a n i s m ,
r e l i g i o u s c u l t i s m , a n d political r e v o l u t i o n . S o m e of the c u r r e n t
H a s i d i c s e c t s m a y be c o n s i d e r e d n o t o n l y m y s t i c a l b u t m e s s i a n i c
a n d f u n d a m e n t a l i s t a s w e l l . I s h o u l d like to p r e s e n t h e r e the
b a s i c p s y c h o d y n a m i c p a t t e r n of the a p o c a l y p s e c o m p l e x s o t h a t
w e c a n u n d e r s t a n d n o t o n l y the origin of i t s v a r i o u s d e r i v a t i v e s
a n d h o w t h e y relate to e a c h other, b u t a l s o the s o u r c e of t h e i r
power.
M o s t r e a d e r s of t h i s b o o k will be f a m i l i a r w i t h the g e n r e of
a p o c a l y p s e . It i s a type of e x h o r t a t o r y w r i t i n g t h a t first a p p e a r e d
i n the J e w i s h w o r l d , p r o b a b l y d u r i n g or p o s s i b l y s h o r t l y before
the s e c o n d c e n t u r y B . C . E . , a n d c o n t i n u e d to a p p e a r r e c u r r e n t l y
for s e v e r a l c e n t u r i e s thereafter, p r i m a r i l y i n C h r i s t i a n i t y a n d
e v e n into m o d e r n times (see F r i e d l a e n d e r , H o l t o n , Marks, &
Skolnikoff, 1 9 8 5 ) . T h e w o r d i t s e l f i s d e r i v e d from the Greek
"apokalypsis", w h i c h m e a n s " u n v e i l i n g " or " u n c o v e r i n g " . Many
s c h o l a r s e m p h a s i z e the c o m p o n e n t of r e v e l a t i o n a s t h e e s s e n t i a l
e l e m e n t of a p o c a l y p s e . H o w e v e r , for o t h e r s , the c o n c e p t of the
e n d of the w o r l d i s c e n t r a l , a n d t h e y i n c l u d e a p o c a l y p s e in
the g e n r e of eschatology. T h e a s p e c t of a p o c a l y p s e t h a t I find
m o s t u s e f u l a s a b a s i s for r e l a t i n g it to p s y c h o d y n a m i c s i s i t s
p r e d i c t i o n of d o o m followed b y the r e a s s u r a n c e of s u r v i v a l a n d
r e b i r t h . T h e a l t e r n a t i o n of e x p e c t a t i o n s of d i s a s t e r a n d r e c o v e r y ,
w h i c h is found in most early apocalypses a n d w h i c h I consider
c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of the g e n r e , r e l a t e s a p o c a l y p s e to o t h e r r e l i g i o u s
w r i t i n g s , for e x a m p l e J e w i s h p r o p h e c y , b u t a l s o to s o m e p h e
n o m e n a of m e n t a l life i n h e a l t h a n d i l l n e s s .
L e t u s e x a m i n e the s e c o n d h a l f of the B o o k of D a n i e l t h a t
is, chapters 7-12, w h i c h c o n f o r m to the p a t t e r n of t h e e a r l i e s t
apocalypses that we have. T h e apocalyptic s c e n a r i o s i n D a n i e l
d e a l w i t h the d o w n f a l l of the P e r s i a n E m p i r e , w h i c h s u c c e e d e d
t h e B a b y l o n i a n , a n d the a l l e v i a t i o n of the lot of the J e w i s h
people. S c h o l a r s e s t i m a t e t h a t it w a s w r i t t e n d u r i n g the first h a l f
\ of the s e c o n d c e n t u r y B . C . E . a s a h e a r t e n i n g m e s s a g e for the
J e w s of the S e l e u c i d E m p i r e .
W e find four s e p a r a t e V i s i o n s " , a s e a c h r e v e l a t i o n i s d e s i g
n a t e d . T h e first ( c h a p t e r 7) i s c a l l e d a d r e a m . T h e s e v i s i o n s a r e
T H E APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 47

s y m b o l i c d e m o n s t r a t i o n s of w h a t t h e f u t u r e w i l l b r i n g , a n d t h e y
require interpretation by a supernatural creature, generally
identified a s a n angel. T h o u g h they anticipate the future from
t h e v i e w p o i n t of a n a u t h o r l i v i n g a t t h e t i m e of t h e exile i n
B a b y l o n i a , n e v e r t h e l e s s w i t h r e s p e c t to t h e p r o b a b l e t i m e of t h e
c o m p o s i t i o n of t h e b o o k , t h e y r e c o r d t h e p a s t , a n d s o p r e s e n t
history masquerading a s prophecy.
T h e visions were received in a trance state.

" O n l y I , D a n i e l , s a w this sight; the people w h o were w i t h m e


d i d n o t see it b u t a great d r e a d fell u p o n t h e m a n d they fled
to hide. I r e m a i n e d alone a n d I s a w t h i s great s i g h t a n d I
r e m a i n e d w i t h o u t strength a n d m y o w n vigor w a s t r a n s
formed into a n a d v e r s a r y s o that I could n o t r e t a i n m y
s t r e n g t h . I h e a r d the s o u n d of h i s w o r d s a n d w h e n I h e a r d
the s o u n d of h i s w o r d s I fell on m y face i n a torpor, a n d I
r e m a i n e d prone. A n d a h a n d t o u c h e d m e a n d helped m e to
my hands a n d knees." [Dan. 10:7-10]
" A n d h e c a m e to w h e r e I w a s s t a n d i n g a n d u p o n h i s a p
p r o a c h I b e c a m e terrified a n d fell o n m y face a n d h e s a i d ,
' U n d e r s t a n d m o r t a l that the v i s i o n relates to the e n d of time.*
T h e n a s h e s p o k e w i t h m e I fell into a torpor w i t h m y face to
the g r o u n d . H e t o u c h e d me a n d h e l p e d m e onto m y feet. H e
s a i d , T m a b o u t to i n f o n n y o u of the events t h a t will o c c u r
w h e n w r a t h h a s come to a n e n d , for t h i s period i s c o m i n g to
a n e n d . [ D a n . 8:17-191
m

T h e trance w a s presumably induced by conventional trance


inducing m e a s u r e s , s u c h a s we noted i n chapter one.

" I n those d a y s I , D a n i e l , b e h a v e d a s t h o u g h i n m o u r n i n g for


three w e e k s of d a y s . I ate n o refined b r e a d n o r d i d m e a t o r
w i n e c r o s s m y l i p s n o r d i d I a n o i n t m y s e l f u n t i l the c o m p l e
tion of three w e e k s of d a y s . " [ D a n . 10:2,3]

T h e fact t h a t the v i s i o n s were experienced alongside a river


r e m i n d s o n e of E z e k i e f s p o s i t i o n a t t h e t i m e of h i s merkavah
v i s i o n ( E z e k . 1:1). It i s n o t c l e a r w h e t h e r t h e r i v e r h a d a s i g n i f i
cance i n ancient times respecting supernatural communication
t h a t w e n o l o n g e r a p p r e c i a t e , o r w h e t h e r it w a s m e r e l y a s t y l i s t i c
c o n v e n t i o n for p r o p h e c y . ( T h i s u s e of r i v e r s y m b o l i s m s h o u l d b e
differentiated from J a c o b ' s e n c o u n t e r i n g a n angel u p o n c r o s s i n g
t h e J a b b o k . T h e r e , t h e a n g e l r e p r e s e n t s t h e h a z a r d of m a k i n g
48 PROLOGUE

a t r a n s i t i o n , r e t u r n i n g h o m e after a l e n g t h y s o j o u r n abroad.)
Supernatural individuals appear in Daniel's visions. Some a n
n o u n c e the v i s i o n ; other i n t e r p r e t it; a n d the a n g e l M i c h a e l w i l l ,
a t the e n d , r e s c u e the J e w i s h people.
T h e v i s i o n s i n c l u d e n o t o n l y a s y m b o l i c e n a c t m e n t of f u t u r e
e v e n t s , b u t a l s o a d e s c r i p t i o n of G o d a n d H i s a n g e l s i n the
celestial court.

" A s I w a s looking, thrones were set i n place a n d the A n c i e n t


of D a y s took H i s seat. H i s attire w a s white a s s n o w a n d the
h a i r of h i s h e a d like clean fleece. His throne w a s s u r r o u n d e d
b y flames with wheels ablaze. A river of fire s t r e a m e d forth
a n d flowed before h i m . T h o u s a n d s of t h o u s a n d s served h i m
a n d m y r i a d s stood before h i m , the court w a s in s e s s i o n a n d
the books were open." [Dan. 7:9,10]

One is reminded of Isaiah, chapter 6, and the details


s u g g e s t E z e k i e l , c h a p t e r 1. T h e d e s c r i p t i o n a l s o a n t i c i p a t e s the
d e s c r i p t i o n s of the c e l e s t i a l c o u r t i n the l i t e r a t u r e of hekhalot
mysticism.
A few o t h e r f e a t u r e s a r e n o t e m p h a s i z e d h e r e b u t b e c o m e
salient i n other apocalypses. T h e revelations, a s we j u s t noted,
a r e given i n a r c a n e s y m b o l s a n d w o r d s . T h e y r e q u i r e b o t h d e
c o d i n g a n d i n t e r p r e t a t i o n . F o r e x a m p l e , the p e r i o d of three a n d a
half y e a r s is presented variously a s " a period, periods, a n d half
a p e r i o d " ( D a n . 7 : 2 5 , 1 2 : 7 ) ; " h a l f a w e e k " (of y e a r s ) ( D a n . 9 : 2 7 ) ;
" 2 3 0 0 evenings a n d mornings", that is 1150 days (Dan. 8:14,
9:27, 1 2 : 7 ) . A n i m a l s , f a m i l i a r a n d s t r a n g e , p l a y the r o l e s of
people. A n g e l s a c t a s m e s s e n g e r s , interpreters, protectors. We
f i n d one a l l u s i o n to flight ( D a n . 7:21), a s t a p l e of m a n y sub
s e q u e n t a p o c a l y p s e s . A feature c o m m o n to m a n y o t h e r c l a s s i c a l
apocalypsesthat i s , v e h i c u l a r travel through the universe,
g e n e r a l l y for the p u r p o s e of l e a r n i n g a n d u n d e r s t a n d i n g i t s
n a t u r e d o e s n o t a p p e a r h e r e . A s the e n d of time a p p r o a c h e s ,
in m a n y apocalypses time and the p r o c e s s e s of n a t u r e are
arrested. T h e universe becomes unreal.
M u c h of m y s t i c a l l i t e r a t u r e c o n s i s t s of r e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of
s c r i p t u r a l texts.

"Between the first y e a r of his reign (Darius s o n of A h a s u e r u s ,


of Medea) I, D a n i e l , studied books in order to a s c e r t a i n the
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 49

n u m b e r of y e a r s , a c c o r d i n g to the word of the L o r d to J e r


e m i a h the Prophet, the n u m b e r of y e a r s t h a t the desolation
of J e r u s a l e m w o u l d have to e n d u r e , 7 0 y e a r s . [ D a n . 9:2]
n

" A n d w h i l e I w a s still engaged i n p r a y e r , the m a n G a b r i e l


w h o m I h a d s e e n originally i n a v i s i o n Jlew [v. s u p r a ] a n d
r e a c h e d m e a t a b o u t the time of the afternoon p r a y e r a n d he
u n d e r s t o o d a n d s p o k e to m e s a y i n g , ' D a n i e l , I h a v e c o m e to
g r a n t y o u the u n d e r s t a n d i n g . A t the beginning of y o u r e n
treaties, a w o r d w a s i s s u e d a n d I have come to tell it to y o u ,
because y o u are a precious person who understands words
a n d interprets v i s i o n s . S e v e n t y w e e k s h a v e b e e n decreed for
y o u r people i n y o u r holy city to c o m p e n s a t e for y o u r t r a n s
g r e s s i o n , to complete the m e a s u r e of the s i n s a n d to expiate
iniquity, to introduce eternal r i g h t e o u s n e s s , to confirm p r o
phetic v i s i o n a n d to a n o i n t the Holy of Holies. K n o w a n d
u n d e r s t a n d t h a t from the time the w o r d w a s i s s u e d to r e
store a n d r e b u i l d J e r u s a l e m u n t i l the a n o i n t i n g of the leader
w i l l require s e v e n w e e k s , a n d for 6 2 w e e k s it will be restored,
street a n d moat, though w i t h d i s t r e s s . A n d after 6 2 w e e k s
the M e s s i a h will be c u t d o w n , a n d d i s a p p e a r a n d the h o s t s
of a p r i n c e w h o h a s come will destroy the city a n d the s a n c
t u a r y , b u t i t s e n d will come b y flood, a n d d e s t r u c t i o n i s
d e c r e e d u n t i l the e n d of the w a r . D u r i n g one w e e k he w i l l
e s t a b l i s h a c o v e n a n t w i t h a m u l t i t u d e , a n d for h a l f a w e e k
sacrifice a n d offering will be t e r m i n a t e d , a n d on the c o r n e r
(of the altar) a p p a l l i n g a b o m i n a t i o n s (will appear) u n t i l t h e
d e c r e e d d e s t r u c t i o n will be p o u r e d o u t u p o n the violator.***
[Dan. 9:21-27]

T h e e l e m e n t o f s e c r e c y i s r e p r e s e n t e d h e r e briefly.

" A n d y o u D a n i e l , keep these things s e c r e t a n d s e a l u p the


s c r o l l u n t i l the e n d of time." [ D a n . 12:4]
" I h e a r d a n d I d i d not u n d e r s t a n d a n d I s a i d , 'My L o r d , w h a t
will be the outcome?* A n d he replied to me, 'Go, D a n i e l ,
b e c a u s e these things are s e c r e t a n d sealed u n t i l the e n d of
time. M a n y will be purified a n d c l e a n s e d a n d refined, a n d
the w i c k e d will behave w i c k e d l y b u t the w i c k e d will n o t
- u n d e r s t a n d , b u t the wise will u n d e r s t a n d . ' " [ D a n . 1 2 : 8 - 1 0 ]

I n c o m m o n p a r l a n c e , " a p o c a l y p s e " refers to c a t a s t r o p h i c d e


s t r u c t i o n , c o m p l e t e e r a d i c a t i o n . T h e m a j o r t h r u s t of t h e B o o k of
50 PROLOGUE

D a n i e l i s t h a t u l t i m a t e l y d i s a s t e r a n d defeat w i l l b e f a l l the m a j o r
empires that successively persecuted Israel.
W h a t i s n o t e m p h a s i z e d b y m a n y s t u d e n t s of a p o c a l y p s e i s
t h e i m p o r t a n c e of the u l t i m a t e r e s c u e a n d v i n d i c a t i o n of t h e
s u f f e r i n g p o p u l a t i o n to w h o m t h e v i s i o n i s d i r e c t e d . It i s t r u e
t h a t t h e m e s s a g e of s u r v i v a l a n d r e b i r t h i s often s h o r t e r a n d l e s s
s a l i e n t t h a n t h e m e s s a g e of d e s t r u c t i o n , b u t it i s t h e m a i n p o i n t ,
t h e s o u r c e of c o m f o r t t h a t j u s t i f i e s the e n t i r e e n d e a v o u r .

A n d a t t h a t time M i c h a e l the great prince w h o s t a n d s u p for


y o u r people, will a r i s e , a n d they will see a period of d i s t r e s s
the like of w h i c h h a d never o c c u r r e d from the time of the
formation of the people u n t i l that time, a n d at that time y o u r
people will be r e s c u e d , a l l who are found recorded i n the
book. A n d m a n y of those who sleep i n the d u s t of the e a r t h
will a w a k e n , some to life eternal a n d some to contempt a n d
eternal degradation. A n d the wise will radiate like the r a d i
a n c e of the h e a v e n s a n d those w h o lead the m u l t i t u d e s to
virtue will s h i n e like the s t a r s forever. [ D a n . 1 2 : 1 - 3 ]

Clinical "apocalypses"

H a v i n g r e v i e w e d the form of t h e c l a s s i c a l a p o c a l y p s e , w e c a n
c o m p a r e it w i t h w h a t I c a l l t h e " c l i n i c a l a p o c a l y p s e " . A t t h e o n s e t
of a p s y c h o t i c e p i s o d e , the p a t i e n t m a y believe t h a t t h e w o r l d
h a s c h a n g e d , that there h a s been a n a b r u p t discontinuity. I n
essence, t h i s i d e a signifies the d e a t h of t h e p a t i e n t ' s r e a l i t y ,
w h i c h i s e q u i v a l e n t to h i s self, w h i l e t h e n e w w o r l d r e p r e s e n t s
h i s r e b i r t h . H e r e i s a c l a s s i c d e s c r i p t i o n of a n a p o c a l y p t i c , p s y
c h o t i c d e l u s i o n a l s y s t e m , given b y F r e u d i n h i s d i s c u s s i o n of t h e
i l l n e s s of D a n i e l P a u l S c h r e b e r ( F r e u d , 1 9 1 1 c ) , a G e r m a n l a w y e r
a n d j u d g e i n the late n i n e t e e n t h c e n t u r y w h o b e c a m e p s y c h o t i c
and subsequently described his experiences in a published
memoir.

A t the c l i m a x of h i s illness, u n d e r the influence of v i s i o n s


w h i c h were " p a r t l y of a terrifying c h a r a c t e r , b u t partly, too,
of a n indescribable g r a n d e u r " , S c h r e b e r b e c a m e c o n v i n c e d
of the i m m i n e n c e of a great catastrophe, of the e n d of the
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 51

w o r l d . V o i c e s told h i m t h a t the w o r k of the p a s t 1 4 , 0 0 0 y e a r s


h a d n o w come to nothing, a n d t h a t the e a r t h ' s allotted s p a n
w a s only 2 1 2 y e a r s more; a n d d u r i n g the l a s t p a r t of h i s s t a y
in F l e c h s i g ' s clinic he believed that the period h a d a l r e a d y
e l a p s e d . He h i m s e l f w a s "the only r e a l m a n left alive" a n d the
few h u m a n s h a p e s that he still s a w t h e doctor, the a t t e n d
a n t s , the other p a t i e n t s h e explained a s being " m i r a c l e d
u p , c u r s o r i l y improvised m e n " . O c c a s i o n a l l y the converse
c u r r e n t of feeling a l s o m a d e itself a p p a r e n t : a newspaper
w a s p u t into h i s h a n d s in w h i c h there w a s a report of h i s
o w n d e a t h ; h e h i m s e l f existed i n a s e c o n d , inferior s h a p e ,
a n d i n t h i s s e c o n d s h a p e he one d a y quietly p a s s e d a w a y .
B u t the form of h i s d e l u s i o n i n w h i c h h i s ego w a s r e t a i n e d
a n d the w o r l d sacrificed proved itself b y far the more power
ful. H e h a d v a r i o u s theories of the c a u s e of the c a t a s t r o p h e .
A t one time he h a d i n m i n d a p r o c e s s of glaciation owing to
the w i t h d r a w a l of the s u n ; at a n o t h e r it w a s to be d e s t r u c t i o n
b y a n e a r t h q u a k e , in the o c c u r r e n c e of w h i c h he, i n h i s
c a p a c i t y of " s e e r of s p i r i t s " , w a s to a c t a leading part, j u s t a s
a n o t h e r s e e r w a s alleged to have done i n the L i s b o n e a r t h
q u a k e of 1 7 5 5 . O r a g a i n , F l e c h s i g [his p s y c h i a t r i s t ] w a s the
c u l p r i t , s i n c e through h i s magic a r t s he h a d s o w n fear a n d
terror a m o n g m e n , h a d w r e c k e d the foundations of religion,
a n d s p r e a d a b r o a d general n e r v o u s d i s o r d e r s a n d i m m o r a l
ity, so t h a t devastating pestilences had descended upon
m a n k i n d . I n a n y c a s e the e n d of the world w a s the c o n s e
q u e n c e of the conflict w h i c h h a d b r o k e n out between him
a n d F l e c h s i g , or, a c c o r d i n g to the aetiology adopted i n the
s e c o n d p h a s e of h i s d e l u s i o n , of the i n d i s s o l u b l e b o n d w h i c h
h a d b e e n formed between h i m a n d G o d ; it w a s , i n fact, the
inevitable r e s u l t of h i s i l l n e s s .

T h e text m a k e s clear that Schreber's delusional fantasies


d e a l t w i t h t h e c o n f l i c t b e t w e e n h i s w i s h to b e d e a d a n d h i s w i s h
to b e r e b o r n . T h e d e a t h of the w o r l d r e p l a c e d h i s o w n death.
D e s p i t e S c h r e b e r ' s a t t e m p t to d i s p l a c e h i s w i s h to b e d e a d o n t o
t h e w o r l d , d e r i v a t i v e s of the w i s h n e v e r t h e l e s s appear in his
d e l u s i o n a l i d e a s t h a t h e h a d , i n fact, d i e d . Y e t the n e w w o r l d
represents a n attempt at rebirth, though not a s u c c e s s f u l one.
In addition to the conflict between destructive and re
c o n s t r u c t i v e forces that we find here a n d i n profusion i n the
r e s t of the S c h r e b e r m e m o i r a n d c l i n i c a l r e c o r d , o t h e r f e a t u r e s
52 PROLOGUE

of a p o c a l y p s e are clearly represented: striking a n d terrifying


v i s i o n s a n d a u d i t o r y e x p e r i e n c e s ; the c o n c e p t of the seer; num
b e r s d e n o m i n a t i n g the p a s s a g e of time u n t i l " t h e e n d " ; a v i l l a i n ;
d i r e c t c o m m u n i c a t i o n a n d a n e m o t i o n a l b o n d b e t w e e n the i n d i
v i d u a l a n d h i s god; a v i s i o n of G o d i n H i s h e a v e n l y c o u r t ; a n d a
m e s s i a n i c m i s s i o n b y the p a t i e n t .
B u t w e do n o t h a v e to t u r n to the a b n o r m a l to f i n d c l i n i c a l
homologues to apocalypse. Dreams provide many such in
s t a n c e s i n s o m e i n d i v i d u a l s w h o a r e s c a r c e l y m e n t a l l y i l l , if ill a t
all.
T h e following d r e a m f o c u s e s on the n e e d for r e v e l a t i o n . It
w a s reported by a J e w i s h w o m a n , neither especially religious
n o r e s p e c i a l l y o b s e r v a n t , b u t w i t h a d e c e n t r e s p e c t for the t r a d i
tion a n d s o m e i n t e l l e c t u a l i n t e r e s t i n it. S h e i s n o t m e n t a l l y i l l
b u t i s i n p s y c h o a n a l y t i c t r e a t m e n t b e c a u s e of s o m e confusion
a b o u t h e r a i m s a n d g o a l s a n d b e c a u s e of a d i s t u r b i n g t e n d e n c y
towards mood swings, excessive in intensity a n d frequency.

"There was wilderness and rubble. We had walked for miles


to get there. I walked with a band of followers. I was with a
man with robes and a staff. The local people came to me. I
asked about a structure like an old observation tower. It was
cylindrical with a dome, high at the edge of the town. An old
priest, probably Cfvistian. He believed that he was watching
for the Messiah or Armageddon. Can I go up to ask him
questions? Yes, but they kill people. I went upstairs inside the
building. A man in robes met me. He had a dark beard. I had a
manuscript that indicated that some old man would come and
ask questions. I asked the questions, something about the
staff. I can't remember the answers. He was not angry. He
took me to a large windowan incredible viewyou could
see far off into the hills with the tower of stone. I was im
pressed that he had befriended me enough to show me this
view."

T h e d r e a m s t a r t s i n the "wilderness and rubble**namely in


the a f t e r m a t h of a p o c a l y p t i c d e s t r u c t i o n (note the r e f e r e n c e to
Armageddon). I n other w o r d s , the p a t i e n t i s d e p r e s s e d . S h e is
one of the "band of followers**that is, she will achieve rebirth,
r e c o v e r y from h e r d e p r e s s i o n , w i t h i n the c o n t e x t of a f r a t e r n a l
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 53

g r o u p . S h e d e s c r i b e s a m a n w i t h r o b e s a n d a staff, a n d a C h r i s
t i a n p r i e s t , b o t h i m a g e s of t h e a r c h e t y p i c a l s a g e of a p o c a l y p t i c
s c r i p t u r e s , a n d s h e a l s o r e f e r s to a m e s s i a h . W e find here a
n u m b e r of r e f e r e n c e s to c u r i o s i t y a n d r e v e l a t i o n : a n o b s e r v a t i o n
t o w e r , the a s k i n g of q u e s t i o n s , a m a n u s c r i p t , o b s c u r e a n s w e r s ,
and an incredible view through a large w i n d o w . The death
rebirth sequence a p p e a r s here less prominently t h a n the ele
m e n t of r e v e l a t i o n . B u t it i s r e p r e s e n t e d i n t h e i n i t i a l h i n t s of
d e p r e s s i o n a n d the h o p e for a m e s s i a h . T h i s d r e a m i l l u s t r a t e s
t h e f a c t t h a t t h e a c q u i s i t i o n of s e c r e t i n f o r m a t i o n a r c h e t y p i c a l l y
s e r v e s t h e i n t e r e s t of r e b i r t h .
B u t let u s l o o k a t t h e d r e a m a g a i n to a s c e r t a i n w h a t espe
c i a l l y f a s c i n a t e s t h e d r e a m e r . Note e s p e c i a l l y t h e m a n w i t h t h e
staff, t h e c y l i n d r i c a l s t o n e tower t o p p e d b y a d o m e , a n d ques
t i o n s a b o u t t h e staff. T h e d r e a m c o n c l u d e s : "I was impressed
that he had befriended me enough to show me this view/* It d o e s
n o t r e q u i r e m u c h i m a g i n a t i o n to i n f e r t h a t t h i s w o m a n i s c u r i
o u s a b o u t the leader's phallic equipment. S u c h a n interpretation
i s r e i n f o r c e d b y t h e f a c t t h a t h e r f a t h e r h a d e x p o s e d h i m s e l f to
h e r repeatedly w h e n she w a s a child, occasionally deliberately,
m o r e often i n a d v e r t e n t l y . S h e r e c a l l s t h e s e e x p e r i e n c e s v i v i d l y .
E v i d e n t l y , i n t h e c o n t e x t of h e r p r e s e n t d e p r e s s i o n , s h e r e c a l l s
early revelations that excited her, a n d s h e h o p e s for a new
r e v e l a t i o n t h a t w i l l prove e q u a l l y gratifying. It i s l i k e l y t h a t the
a c t u a l r e v e l a t i o n for w h i c h s h e h o p e s i s a t h e r a p e u t i c r e v e l a t i o n
to be p r o v i d e d b y h e r m a l e p s y c h o a n a l y s t . S h e g r e w u p a n d l i v e s
in an environment in w h i c h a m a n ' s virility is j u d g e d largely
b y h i s i n t e l l i g e n c e a n d a b i l i t y to solve p r o b l e m s . Her analysts
perceptiveness and i n g e n u i t y i n offering her insight into her
d i f f i c u l t i e s g r a t i f y i n g l y r e v e a l s h i s v i r i l i t y to h e r .
B u t l e t u s l o o k a t the d r e a m still a g a i n . " T h e y kill people who
ask questions/ 9
W h e n s h e a s k e d the old m a n q u e s t i o n s , h e w a s
n o t a n g r y . S h e w a s gratified t h a t h e h a d b e f r i e n d e d h e r enough
to s h o w h e r t h e i n c r e d i b l e v i e w . T h e s e f e a t u r e s of t h e dream
r e m i n d u s t h a t the s e a r c h for s e c r e t k n o w l e d g e i s d a n g e r o u s . We
l e a r n t h a t f r o m the I s r a e l i t e s * fear of G o d ' s r e v e l a t i o n a t M o u n t
S i n a i , a s well a s from m a n y other i n s t a n c e s i n w h i c h excessively
c l o s e a p p r o a c h to t h e G o d h e a d p r o v e s f a t a l , a s i n t h e Pardes of
H a g i g a h (see c h a p t e r three) a n d i n the Hekhaloth texts. C u r i o s
i t y t h a t i s too i n t r u s i v e , a n a p p r o a c h t h a t i s too b o l d , e n c o u n t e r s
54 PROLOGUE

a n x i e t y , a c o n s e q u e n c e of r e g u l a t i o n , t h a t w e a t t r i b u t e to c o n
s c i e n c e or s u p e r e g o . T h e a t t e m p t to e v a d e d e a t h a n d to s e e k
r e b i r t h b y the q u e s t for r e v e l a t i o n p a r a d o x i c a l l y i n v i t e s f u r t h e r
d a n g e r . H e r e I believe w e h a v e the p s y c h o d y n a m i c b a s i s of the
fear of c o n f r o n t a t i o n w i t h d i v i n e s e c r e t s , e x c e p t u n d e r c e r t a i n
protected c i r c u m s t a n c e s .
I n the following d r e a m , b a s e d u p o n the i m a g e s of t h e B o o k of
R e v e l a t i o n , t h e d i s c l o s u r e of the s e c r e t s a v e s the d r e a m e r . T h i s
material is k i n d l y provided by D r J a c o b A. Arlow.

T h e p a t i e n t h a s p u t h i s a p a r t m e n t u p for s a l e . H e i s h o p i n g
to get e n o u g h m o n e y to e n a b l e h i m to leave h i s l a w p r a c t i c e
a n d go to H o l l y w o o d to p u r s u e a c a r e e r i n film. H e i n t e n d s
e i t h e r to w r i t e a b o u t film, to w r i t e s c e n a r i o s , or p e r h a p s e v e n
to p r o d u c e . T h e p a t i e n t h a s n o e x p e r i e n c e or t r a i n i n g i n t h i s
field. T o h i m , h o w e v e r , going to H o l l y w o o d m e a n s throwing
off the s h a c k l e s of i n h i b i t i o n a n d e s p e c i a l l y t h e p r o s c r i p t i o n s
of the c h u r c h r e g a r d i n g s e x u a l i t y . I n p r e v i o u s m o n t h s , the
p a t i e n t h a s p r o d u c e d a g r e a t d e a l of p s y c h o a n a l y t i c m a t e r i a l
of a f r a n k l y i n c e s t u o u s n a t u r e , c o u p l e d w i t h t h o u g h t s of
c a s t r a t i o n a n d d a m n a t i o n for s e x u a l w i s h e s , together w i t h
fear of a u t h o r i t y figures. T h i s material, however, h a s come
o u t i n a n e x t r e m e l y i s o l a t e d form. T h e p a t i e n t r e p e a t s w h a t
h e h a s l e a r n e d a s if it w e r e a c a t e c h i s m . H i s i n s i g h t is
r e d u c e d to a f o r m u l a , w h i c h i s r e p u d i a t e d a s s u c h . T h e
p a t i e n t is m o s t i s o l a t e d i n h i s p r o d u c t i o n s . H e gives h a r d l y
a n y d e t a i l s of d a y - t o - d a y a c t i v i t i e s , c o n v e r s a t i o n s w i t h o t h e r
i n d i v i d u a l s , or fleeting f a n t a s i e s , u n l e s s a s p e c i f i c i n q u i r y is
m a d e about s u c h items.

O v e r the p a s t w e e k e n d , p r e c e d i n g the I n d e p e n d e n c e Day


[ J u l y 4] h o l i d a y , the p a t i e n t h a d a s a w e e k e n d g u e s t h i s o n l y
c l o s e f r i e n d . T h i s i s a m a n w h o m h e h a s k n o w n f r o m college
days. Both are Catholics a n d lawyers with serious sexual
p r o b l e m s . B o t h a r e d i s s a t i s f i e d w i t h the p r a c t i c e of l a w a n d
w o u l d l i k e to leave it. T h e f r i e n d , A d o l p h , h o w e v e r , h a s two
c h i l d r e n a n d a wife a n d feels t r a p p e d . D u r i n g t h e i r e a r l i e r
y e a r s , t h e two w o u l d s h a r e s e x u a l f a n t a s i e s a n d giggle a b o u t
" e x p l o i t s " t h e y h a d w i t h g i r l s . A l t h o u g h t h i s is t h e p a t i e n t ' s
c l o s e s t f r i e n d , h e s e e s h i m p e r h a p s o n c e or t w i c e a y e a r .
A d o l p h ' s wife i s e x t r e m e l y w i t h d r a w n , a s i s t h e i r older c h i l d .
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 55

It i s c l e a r f r o m the d e s c r i p t i o n t h a t t h e p a t i e n t a n d A d o l p h ,
w h o s h a r e d sexual fantasies a n d thoughts, b o t h suffer the
s a m e k i n d s of i n h i b i t i o n s . O v e r t h e w e e k e n d , t h e y w e n t for a
w a l k together a n d d i s c u s s e d their s e x u a l i n h i b i t i o n s a n d the
role of t h e C a t h o l i c C h u r c h i n f r i g h t e n i n g t h e m w i t h e t e r n a l
d a m n a t i o n for s e x u a l t r a n s g r e s s i o n .

After h i s f r i e n d A d o l p h , A d o l p h ' s wife S y l v i a , a n d t h e two


c h i l d r e n h a d left, the p a t i e n t s p e n t a q u i e t F o u r t h of J u l y
holiday reading a book that w a s essentially a n interview with
t h e I t a l i a n m o v i e d i r e c t o r , F e l l i n i . O n t h e n i g h t of 5-6 July,
t h e p a t i e n t h a d the following d r e a m :

"My wife and I were somewhere up in the mountains in some


small village. There were four people coming on horseback.
They were knights like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
They had stopped to tell us that there was going to be an
earthquake and some of the area would be flooded. We were
on a small island. They told us to move to a larger island,
which we did. While we were there, the earth began to quake,
fire began to flow and the small island where we had been
was inundated with water. We were clinging close to the
ground while the earth was shaking."

T h e p a t i e n t s t a t e d t h a t t h e d r e a m m u s t be t r a c e d to w h a t h e
w a s r e a d i n g i n the F e l l i n i i n t e r v i e w s . F e l l i n i s p o k e a b o u t the
p e r v a s i v e i n f l u e n c e of the C a t h o l i c C h u r c h i n I t a l i a n life. I t s
two-thousand-year-old influence pervades every aspect of
Italian thought. Most particularly, however, Fellini empha
s i z e d t h e r o l e of the A p o c a l y p s e . T h e u l t i m a t e v i s i o n of t h e
Apocalypse i s i n the b a c k g r o u n d of e v e r y I t a l i a n p e r s o n ' s
thinking, and, as such, it g i v e s v i b r a n c y to t h e lives of
t h e I t a l i a n s . E v e r y t h i n g i s l i v e d a g a i n s t t h e b a c k g r o u n d of t h e
u l t i m a t e g r e a t s t r u g g l e of t h e J u d g e m e n t D a y , w h e n people
w i l l e i t h e r b e d a m n e d to e t e r n a l p e r d i t i o n o r go to h e a v e n w i t h
t h e a n g e l s , etc. F e l l i n i felt, a n d t h e p a t i e n t a g r e e d , t h a t it w a s
the C h u r c h , not God, that introduced the i d e a of sexual
p l e a s u r e a s s i n , m a k i n g the a p o c a l y p t i c v i s i o n o n e fraught
w i t h fear a n d t r e p i d a t i o n .

L a t e r i n t h e s e s s i o n the p a t i e n t quoted a further element


from the Fellini interview. Fellini w a s questioned a b o u t the
t

56 PROLOGUE

p i c t u r e 8V2 a n d A n i t a E k b e r g . F e l l i n i s a i d h e h a d n o t k n o w n
A n i t a E k b e r g , b u t w h e n he s a w a p i c t u r e of h e r i n a n A m e r i
c a n film m a g a z i n e , i n w h i c h s h e w a s d r e s s e d i n a s k i m p y
l e o p a r d - s k i n , he e x c l a i m e d , " I h o p e to G o d I n e v e r r u n into
her. I c o u l d never r e s i s t the temptation." In d i s c u s s i n g this
a s p e c t of the m a t e r i a l , the p a t i e n t s a i d , ' T h e r e a g a i n i s a
woman a s t h e d e v i l , w o m a n a s the t e m p t r e s s a n d seduc
tress."

T o w h i c h I a d d e d t h a t A n i t a E k b e r g w a s n o t e d for h e r l a r g e ,
s e n s u o u s breasts. T h e patient agreed, a n d I then r e m i n d e d
h i m of t h e s e x p l a y w i t h h i s m o t h e r ' s " a p p l e s " .

T h e p a t i e n t h a d b e e n i n I t a l y ten y e a r s ago, he r e c a l l e d , after


t h e e a r t h q u a k e i n s o u t h e r n Italy. H e w a s a t the A m a l f i D r i v e
a n d s a w h o w the e a r t h h a d j u s t b e e n torn a p a r t b y the
q u a k i n g , h o w f r a g m e n t s of r o a d s w e r e s e p a r a t e d f r o m e a c h
o t h e r b y d o z e n s of y a r d s a s a r e s u l t of the e a r t h q u a k e . H e
h a d a l s o s e e n a m i l d e r u p t i o n of a v o l c a n o i n S i c i l y . T h e
flowing l a v a c o n n e c t e d w i t h v o l c a n i c e r u p t i o n s r e m i n d e d h i m
of v i s i o n s of fire a n d b r i m s t o n e i n a p o c a l y p t i c v i s i o n s i n t h e
B i b l e i n the A p o c a l y p s e of S t . J o h n .

T h e four k n i g h t s i n the d r e a m w e r e identified b y t h e p a t i e n t


w i t h t h e F o u r H o r s e m e n of the A p o c a l y p s e . H e c o u l d n o t ,
h o w e v e r , r e m e m b e r t h e i r n a m e s or e x a c t l y w h a t t h e y s t o o d
for, b u t he k n e w t h a t t h e y r e p r e s e n t e d p o r t e n t s of g r e a t
d a n g e r a n d u l t i m a t e d e s t r u c t i o n . I n the d r e a m , h o w e v e r , h e
w a s s t r u c k b y the fact t h a t the four h o r s e m e n w e r e a c t u a l l y
s a v i o u r s a n d h e l p e r s . W h i l e d i s c u s s i n g the four horsemen,
t h e p a t i e n t k e p t fondling h i s tie r e a s s u r i n g l y .

I c a l l e d the p a t i e n t ' s a t t e n t i o n to the fact t h a t the four h o r s e


m e n represented tremendous threatsconquest, war, fam
i n e , a n d d e a t h . It w a s w h e n I m e n t i o n e d D e a t h a n d t h e P a l e
R i d e r o n t h e w h i t e h o r s e t h a t the p a t i e n t r e c a l l e d t h e a s p e c t
of t h e F e l l i n i i n t e r v i e w t h a t d e a l t w i t h A n i t a E k b e r g .

T h i s m a t e r i a l w a s u s e d to d e m o n s t r a t e to the p a t i e n t h o w , i n
s p i t e of h i s a d v a n c e d t h i n k i n g , he still c l i n g s to t h e fear
i n s t i l l e d i n h i m b y t h a t p a r t of the C a t h o l i c t e a c h i n g a b o u t
s e x (incest) b e i n g a m o r t a l s i n , p u n i s h a b l e b y e t e r n a l d a m n a

1
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 57

t i o n . T h i s i n s p i t e of the fact t h a t e a r l i e r i n t h e s e s s i o n h e
s u p p o r t e d F e l l i n f s v i e w t h a t G o d r e a l l y t a k e s the total b a l
a n c e of m a n ' s d e e d s , good a n d evil, over t h e c o u r s e of t h e
seventy-or-so-year s p a n a n d weighs m a n in the balance, b u t
He would not c o n d e m n a n i n d i v i d u a l j u s t for o n e act of
m o r t a l s i n , t h a t it w a s t h e C h u r c h t h a t i n t r o d u c e d t h e i d e a of
e t e r n a l p e r d i t i o n . I n s p i t e of a l l t h i s , h o w e v e r , t h e p a t i e n t , o u t
of h i s o w n c a s t r a t i o n a n x i e t y a n d g u i l t , s t i l l h a s to g r a p p l e
w i t h t h e fear of d a m n a t i o n ( c a s t r a t i o n ) .

T h i s c a s e i l l u s t r a t e s the p r o s p e c t of d e s t r u c t i o n a s p u n i s h
m e n t for s i n . T h e p a t i e n t , h o w e v e r , i s n o t p u n i s h e d w i t h t h e
w i c k e d , b u t e s c a p e s w i t h the a i d of t h e F o u r H o r s e m e n , w h o , i n
t h e d r e a m , a b a n d o n t h e i r c l a s s i c r o l e of p o r t e n t s of d e a t h a n d
destruction a n d become helpers a n d rescuers. T h e reason that
t h e t h r e a t fails i s t h a t , i n v i e w of h i s l i f e - l o n g m a s o c h i s m and
d e p r e s s i v e c h a r a c t e r , a t D r Arlow's suggestion, the p a t i e n t h a d
begun a programme of a n t i d e p r e s s i o n d r u g t h e r a p y w i t h m e a
y e a r e a r l i e r . H i s r e s p o n s e to a l l m e d i c a t i o n h a d b e e n p o s i t i v e b u t
o n l y t e m p o r a r y . O n 2 2 J u n e , 2 0 m i l l i g r a m s of f l u o x e t i n e (Prozac)
h a d b e e n p r e s c r i b e d , i n a d d i t i o n to the 6 0 m i l l i g r a m s of m e t h y l
p h e n i d a t e ( R i t a l i n ) p e r d a y a n d the 0 . 5 m i l l i g r a m s of l o r a z e p a m
(Ativan) t h r e e t i m e s a d a y t h a t h e h a d b e e n taking. He had
r e s p o n d e d n i c e l y to the f l u o x e t i n e . T h e d r e a m , w h i c h o c c u r r e d
o n 6 J u l y , r e f l e c t s t h e r e m e d i a l effects of the l a t t e r i n t h e p a
t i e n t ' s s e e i n g h i m s e l f a s o n e of the s a v e d r a t h e r t h a n o n e of t h e
d o o m e d , a n d the H o r s e m e n a s f r i e n d s r a t h e r t h a n d e m o n s . T h i s
c a s e i l l u s t r a t e s t h e i n f l u e n c e of m o o d o n the o u t c o m e of t h e
m y t h i c d r a m a a s it i s p l a y e d o u t .
T h e n u m b e r four a p p e a r s c o m m o n l y i n a p o c a l y p t i c d r e a m s
a n d i n t h e t r u e a p o c a l y p s e ; it i s m y i m p r e s s i o n t h a t it s y m b o l
izes mother.
I propose the term "apocalyptic complex" for fantasies,
d r e a m s , i l l u s i o n s , beliefs, images t h a t centre a b o u t the d e a t h
r e b i r t h s e q u e n c e or i t s r e v e r s e , e v e n i n the a b s e n c e of t h e f u l l
apocalyptic syndrome. Many of these will contain, as com
ponents, revelation, travel, s y m b o l i s m , n u m b e r s , confrontation
w i t h a deity, a n d s o o n . T h e a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x t h e n i n c l u d e s
true apocalypse, along with other social p h e n o m e n a such as
messianism, millenarianism, a n d fundamentalism, a s we see
58 PROLOGUE

below. I n c l a s s i c religious literature, especially i n the prophetic


l i t e r a t u r e , p r e d i c t i o n s of d o o m a l t e r n a t e w i t h c o m f o r t i n g words
t h a t often a l l u d e s p e c i f i c a l l y to r e b i r t h . A t t h e e n d of c h a p t e r 10,
I s a i a h a n n o u n c e s , w i t h a n a r b o r e a l m e t a p h o r , t h e d e s t r u c t i o n of
A s s y r i a for i t s d e a d l y h a r a s s m e n t of I s r a e l . T h e forest w i l l b e c u t
d o w n . C o n t i n u i n g w i t h t h e m e t a p h o r , i n c h a p t e r 11 h e p r o m i s e s
t h a t I s r a e l w i l l be r e b o r n , t h a t " a s h o o t w i l l g r o w o u t of t h e
s t u m p of J e s s e " , t h e f a t h e r of K i n g D a v i d , a n d " a b r a n c h from i t s
s t o c k " . A m e s s i a n i c r e s c u e r will appear, w h o will destroy the
e n e m y a n d initiate a Utopian age.
A s a c l i n i c i a n , I e n c o u n t e r a l t e r n a t i o n s i n m o o d to a l i m i t e d
e x t e n t i n m a n y people w i t h o u t s e r i o u s m e n t a l i l l n e s s , b u t m u c h
m o r e f r e q u e n t l y a n d i m p o r t a n t l y a m o n g p a t i e n t s w i t h affective
disease, s u c h a s manic-depressive illness, recurrent depression,
depressive neurosis, borderline personality disorder, a n d atten
tion deficit disorder, whether in adults or children. Such
p a t i e n t s f r e q u e n t l y r e p o r t d r e a m s i n w h i c h t h e affective o r i e n t a
t i o n a l t e r n a t e s from destructiveness to c o n s t r u c t i v e n e s s a n d
b a c k , f r o m d e a t h to r e b i r t h a n d s o m e t i m e s t h e r e v e r s e .
I n d r e a m s t h a t a r e c o n c e r n e d w i t h t h e r e g u l a t i o n of affect,
the i n i t i a l e p i s o d e of t h e d r e a m u s u a l l y reflects t h e affective
s t a t e of t h e d r e a m e r . T h e d r e a m t h e n d i s p l a y s a t t e m p t s to o v e r
c o m e o r c o r r e c t t h i s affect d e v i a t i o n . U s u a l l y t h e l a s t e p i s o d e of
t h e d r e a m r e t u r n s to t h e affect of t h e i n i t i a l e p i s o d e . H e r e i s a
d r e a m of a w o m a n w i t h a p r o p e n s i t y for m o o d s w i n g s somewhat
more prominent than u s u a l .

The world was being flooded. The water was reddish and
grayish. It was turbulent with white crests. I saw rocks and
houses. People were drowning. We were on a high level
where there were white houses. I was on a boata nice boat
large with blond wood lacquer floors. There was a kitchen on
the boat I became concerned that it would capsize. We
landed at a house on some land. We brought things onto the
boat glasses, no, plastic cups for fear that they might break,
and food.

WhaVs the point of living if you're going to drown? I thought of


suicide and became calmer. No, I said, there is always hope.
If you die now, you eliminate hope.
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 59

I saw some people drowning, some with hands raised, some


protesting, some peacejully. n

T h e d r e a m s t a r t s o n a d e p r e s s i v e n o t e : a flood, p e o p l e d r o w n
ing. T h e d r e a m e r finds s e c u r i t y on a boat, b u t h e r depressive
t e n d e n c y t h r e a t e n s h e r w i t h the p o s s i b i l i t y of c a p s i z i n g . S h e h a s
t h e b o a t r e a c h l a n d , w h e r e s h e r e p l e n i s h e s the food s u p p l y . B u t
t h e n t h e d e p r e s s i v e m o o d r e a s s e r t s i t s e l f i n t h o u g h t s of s u i c i d e .
S h e comforts herself w i t h hope b u t sees others drowning. T h e
dream reproduces a n ancient myth, one v e r s i o n of w h i c h is
e x p r e s s e d i n the N o a h ' s - A r k s t o r y . T h e l a t t e r e n d s , n o t a s t h i s
d r e a m e n d s , b u t w i t h s i g n s of r e b i r t h , the d o v e ' s f i n d i n g food
a n d refuge, t h e a c t u a l l a n d i n g of the A r k , a n d G o d ' s promise
t h a t H e w i l l n e v e r a g a i n a t t e m p t to d e s t r o y t h e w o r l d , a n d H i s
i n s t r u c t i o n s to m a n to p r o d u c e p r o g e n y . H e d e s i g n a t e s t h e r a i n
b o w a s t h e e t e r n a l p r o m i s e of r e b i r t h .
T h e w o m a n w h o r e p o r t e d t h i s d r e a m i s the s a m e w o m a n who
r e p o r t e d t h e d r e a m a b o u t w a i t i n g for a r e v e l a t i o n a n d a m e s s i a h .
S o w h e n s h e i s m o r e h o p e f u l , s h e e x p r e s s e s the q u e s t for the
revelation component of a p o c a l y p s e , a n d w h e n s h e i s m o r e de
p r e s s e d , s h e d r e a m s of the d e a t h - r e b i r t h s e q u e n c e .

Apocalyptic archetypes

Clinical archetypes
T h e t e r m " a r c h e t y p e " h a s b e c o m e a n i n d i c a t i o n of J u n g i a n o r i
entation. I intend no s u c h implication here. W h a t I describe is a
s e r i e s of i m a g e s that appear widely, perhaps universally, in
religious mythology, i n creative w o r k s , in fantasy, i n the h a l l u
cinations a n d delusions of the psychotic, and in everyone's
d r e a m s . T h e i r a p p e a r a n c e r e v e a l s a r e a d i n e s s to r e l a t e to o t h e r
individuals a n d to the forces of n a t u r e in one of a limited
number of stereotyped w a y s . T h e i r origin c a n be debated. I
w o u l d g u e s s that they a r e formed w h e n infantile experience is
recorded a n d preserved b y a h a r d - w i r e d a p p a r a t u s w i t h i n the
b r a i n , w i t h t h e r e s u l t a n t f o r m a t i o n of r e l a t i v e l y p e r m a n e n t p a r a
60 PROLOGUE

d i g m s or t e m p l a t e s t h a t a r e t h e n u s e d to recognize d a n g e r s a n d
o p p o r t u n i t i e s for gratification.
In dreams that conform to the apocalyptic complex we
encounter the same archetypes that we find in classical
apocalypses. Let me start by examining clinical material that
I p u b l i s h e d i n m y b o o k , Drugs in Psychoanalysis and Psycho
therapy (Ostow, 1962). B y using published data, I make it
p o s s i b l e for t h e i n t e r e s t e d r e a d e r to l e a r n c o n s i d e r a b l y m o r e
a b o u t the p a t i e n t , d e s i g n a t e d there b y t h e i n i t i a l s X N Z , t h a n I
c a n present in this paper. I shall supplement this material with
d a t a o b t a i n e d from p a t i e n t s r e c e n t l y or c u r r e n t l y i n t r e a t m e n t .
XNZ, a 37-year-old, married schizophrenic woman, volun
t e e r e d two d r e a m s d u r i n g h e r s e c o n d v i s i t : O n e d r e a m w a s of

a painting of a city that seemed deada ghost city. "It was


painted in black and white and no human or animal figure
appeared. All at once the doors of the houses opened and
gaily dressed people came out, including my husband and
me.

I do n o t a t t e m p t to c o n s i d e r the p e r s o n a l , i n d i v i d u a l a s s o c i a
t i o n s to a n y of the m a t e r i a l t h a t I p r e s e n t , s i n c e it i s m y p u r p o s e
to c a l l a t t e n t i o n to u n i v e r s a l a r c h e t y p e s . H e r e w e h a v e the t y p i
c a l Weltuntergang [world d e s t r u c t i o n ] d r e a m . T h e d e a t h of t h e
w o r l d t h a t i s , the p a t i e n t ' s d e a t h p r o j e c t e d onto t h e t e r r e s t r i a l
c a n v a s i s d e n o t e d b y the d e s o l a t i o n of the c i t y , the a b s e n c e of
life a n d of c o l o u r . T h e d e s i r e d rebirth i s d e n o t e d b y the o p e n i n g
of the d o o r s a n d the a p p e a r a n c e of people a n d c o l o u r .
A schizophrenic y o u n g m a n (GO), whose s c h i z o p h r e n i a w a s
under good c o n t r o l , omitted his medication one night and
dreamed:

" J watched a movie that became real life. Grand Central


Station was about to explode and kill everyone inside. A
great ball of fire. It would pass from that building onto Park
Avenue. I ran for my life.

I watched it again. People were being led into a theatre inno


cently, without knowledge of what's to come. They would
die. I watched from the second level. Chaos. No one had the
authority to call the police. I ran out to Thirty-ninth Street.
T H E APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 61

Swimming for my life. As fast as possible. Tough enemies with


machine guns were firing indiscriminately.

You appeared in the station. I was assured that chaos


wouldn't break out again/ 1

O n t h e following n i g h t h e d r e a m e d :

"My father and I tried to save our lives because the world
was about to end. There was nowhere to go. Everybody
would die. But no one was concerned. We went to the boat
shop to escape to the sea."

T h e Weltuntergang patterns a r e obvious h e r e , too, t h o u g h


h e r e t h e p r o c e s s of d e s t r u c t i o n i s e x p o s e d , r a t h e r t h a n , a s i n t h e
previous c a s e , only the consequences. Accordingly, there i s n o t
s u f f i c i e n t r e s o l u t i o n o f t h e a n g u i s h to p e r m i t t h e e x p r e s s i o n o f
a c c o m p l i s h e d r e b i r t h , t h o u g h t h e h o p e for i t i s r e c o r d e d . N o t i c e
t h e c o m m e n t t h a t a lack of knowledge c o n t r i b u t e d to t h e h o l o
c a u s t . Revelation w o u l d have s a v e d the people.
T h e s e c o n d of t h e two i n i t i a l d r e a m s r e p o r t e d b y X N Z r e p r e
sented that:

T h e patient was drivmg very fast i n a n automobile with


her tmsband. She was afraid of a crash. Suddenly she was
resting on a peaceful green meadow.

W e recognize here again the death a n d rebirth images, the


l a t t e r a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e c o l o u r green, t h e s y m b o l for v e g e t a
tion. T h e death w a s n o t y e t a c c o m p l i s h e d , b u t experienced i n
the d r e a m violently a s a c r a s h . A n o t h e r patient, v e r y s h o r t l y
after h a v i n g r e c o v e r e d f r o m a s e r i o u s s c h i z o p h r e n i c b r e a k d o w n ,
recumbent during the session on m y green analytic couch,
f o u n d h e r s e l f t h i n k i n g of the T w e n t y - t h i r d p s a l m : " T h e L o r d i s
m y s h e p h e r d . I s h a l l n o t w a n t . H e c a u s e s m e to lie d o w n i n g r e e n
p a s t u r e s . H e r e s t o r e s m y s o u l . " Notice t h a t t h e g r e e n p a s t u r e s
i n t h e T w e n t y - t h i r d p s a l m c o r r e s p o n d s to t h e g r e e n m e a d o w i n
XNZ's d r e a m . B o t h represent n o t only revived vegetation, b u t
also a tranquil a n d hospitable mother. I n this thought of t h e
T w e n t y - t h i r d p s a l m , the a n a l y s t w a s s e e n a s a m e s s i a n i c deliv
62 PROLOGUE

e r e r : t h e m e s s i a h w h o rescues a n d restores. D u r i n g t h e p e r i o d of
h e r a c u t e i l l n e s s s h e h a d b e l i e v e d t h a t the w o r l d w a s being
d e s t r o y e d b y a c a t a c l y s m i c w a r b e t w e e n the U n i t e d S t a t e s a n d
the Soviet U n i o n .
I s h o u l d l i k e to d r a w a t t e n t i o n i n X N Z ' s s e c o n d d r e a m to t h e
i m a g e of the moving vehicle. It, too, o c c u r s c o m m o n l y i n a p o c a
l y p t i c d r e a m s a n d r e p r e s e n t s , I believe, the p a t i e n t s effort to
e s c a p e f r o m the s c e n e of d e s t r u c t i o n a n d t h e a n x i e t y c r e a t e d b y
t h e r a g e , to the E l y s i a n fields t h a t r e p r e s e n t the t e n d e r m o t h e r .
T h e v e h i c l e , a s a c o n t a i n e r , c a n be s e e n n o t o n l y a s a m e a n s of
t r a n s p o r t a t i o n , b u t a s a s y m b o l for m o t h e r ' s b o d y , to w h i c h t h e
i n d i v i d u a l w i s h e s to be t r a n s p o r t e d . I n the d r e a m , the r e s c u i n g
v e h i c l e i t s e l f e s c a p e s c o n t r o l , a n d n o t o n l y fails to r e s c u e t h e
patient, but actually threatens her with destruction. T h a t d r e a m
fragment is abruptly discontinued a n d replaced by the rebirth
fantasy. I n other d r e a m s a n d fantasies, contrived w h e n a patient
h a s a c h i e v e d better c o n t r o l , the v e h i c l e s u c c e s s f u l l y rescues
h i m . A m a n (XM) w h o a s a c h i l d feared t h a t p l a n e s w o u l d fall
f r o m the s k i e s a n d k i l l h i m , d r e a m e d r e p e a t e d l y of fear of p l a n e
c r a s h e s a n d fear of falling from a h i g h p l a c e . A w o m a n (GDU)
w h o s e c h i l d h a d wet himself at night, then c a m e into h e r bed,
dreamed:

U
I was in a taxi. The driver went the wrong way. I got out.
Some people got into the seat. One person hung onto the back
window. I hung onto the fender. I have to get inside. Why is
this guy riding on this part of the car? Its too dangerous. J,
too, was sitting in a strange place."

In a n o t h e r d r e a m :

T r n in a hot air balloon. It was too dangerous. I could die in


the flame. But it was the only way to get someplace. Suddenly
I was unable to breathe, a n d I woke u p . "

T h e s e a r e o n l y two of a l o n g s e r i e s of v e h i c u l a r d r e a m s
presented by t h i s p a t i e n t , i n m o s t of w h i c h e i t h e r s h e was
e x c l u d e d , or the ride w a s d a n g e r o u s . T h a t for h e r the v e h i c l e
r e p r e s e n t e d h e r m o t h e r ' s b o d y p r o j e c t e d onto a t e r r e s t r i a l o r
c o s m i c b a c k d r o p is d e m o n s t r a t e d b y the following d r e a m :
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 63

"On thejloor I saw a kind of spaceship, a toy. The centre was


a round dome with flat sides, like Saturn with its flat rings.
Two bars came off at an angle and it was suspended by them.
I picked it up. It was soft, not metal, like crocheting. It was too
soft. It was not what I expected. I could not understand why I
was intrigued by it. When I put it down, I couldn't understand
why I had been so fascinated by it."

Here the spaceship, the c o s m i c vehicle, clearly t a k e s the


shape of the u t e r u s , s u s p e n d e d b y the fallopian tubes. T h e
r e t u r n to m o t h e r i s f r u s t r a t e d , a n d t h e v e h i c l e i s d i s p a r a g e d a s
u n w o r t h y . T h e t w o b a r s a l s o s u g g e s t e d t h e a r m s of t h e p a r e n t
w h o c a r r i e s the baby, a s i n the next d r e a m .
T h a t t h e m o v e m e n t of t h e v e h i c l e s y m b o l i z e s b e i n g c a r r i e d b y
t h e p a r e n t i s s u g g e s t e d b y t h e following r e c o l l e c t i o n s of X N Z
(Ostow, 1962):

S h o r t l y after h e r f a t h e r d i e d , w h e n s h e w a s 1 1 , s h e w o u l d b e
g r i p p e d b y h y p n a g o g i c s e n s a t i o n s of b e i n g "lifted b y a p a i r o f
e n o r m o u s a r m s a n d being rocked". I n a n even earlier fan
tasy, s h e s a w herself "resting on a n enormous white surface,
l i k e a s o f a , v e r y safe b e c a u s e t h e s i d e s w e r e too d i s t a n t for
a n y o n e to a p p r o a c h " . S h e a s s o c i a t e d t h i s i m a g e w i t h G o d .
" N o t r o u b l e s c o u l d r e a c h m e , a n d t h e r e w a s p l e n t y of r o o m to
e x p l o r e . " [p. 2 3 6 ]

T h e y e a r n i n g to e n t e r t h e m o t h e r ' s b o d y a g a i n a n d b e p r o
tected b y h e r i s precipitated b y anxiety c a u s e d by the destructive
w i s h e s . I m e n t i o n e d a b o v e t h e d r e a m s of a s c h i z o p h r e n i c y o u n g
m a n , G O . T h e s e Weltuntergang dreams were immediately pre
c e d e d b y t h e following:

" I h a d a n i g h t m a r e . I found myself in bed with my mother. We


had no clothes on. She was insisting that I start sexual ad
vances. I touch her breasts. I don't know whether she had
anything on the lower part of her body."

The dream starts with the p a t i e n t s taking refuge with


his mother. However his peremptory incestuous w i s h reasserts
itself, a n d i s t e r m i n a t e d b y t h e t h r e a t o f a p o c a l y p t i c d e s t r u c t i o n .
64 PROLOGUE

R e t u r n i n g to X N Z , l a t e r i n h e r t r e a t m e n t s h e r e p o r t e d t h e
following d r e a m (p. 2 4 1 ) :

U
I was with mother at our home outdoors, in the evening.
Suddenly the northern lights were in the sky, soft and lovely.
I said, "How lovely!" Tlxey got more and more colourful and
violent They colowed the whole sky. Suddenly it was a great
bomb attack with missiles. The sky was flooded with falling
objects. I hurried her indoors. We were covered with ash and
incurably contaminated by it. It was radioactive fallout. We
got into the house, I tried to wash myself off."

I s h a l l ignore t h e o b v i o u s a n a l r e f e r e n t s , t h o u g h t h e y o c c u r
not u n c o m m o n l y i n other apocalyptic material. T h e r e a s o n is
t h a t a n a l i t y i s n e i t h e r n e c e s s a r y n o r c h a r a c t e r i s t i c for a p o c
a l y p s e . A p o c a l y p s e m a y i n c l u d e a n y one or s e v e r a l of t h e p s y
c h o s e x u a l developmental p h a s e s . H o w e v e r t h e colour a n d light
a n d shimmering luminescence occur characteristically in mysti
c a l fantasies, where they a r e a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the expectation or
e x p e r i e n c e of t h e g r a t i f i c a t i o n of the longed-for v i s u a l i z a t i o n a n d
u n i o n w i t h t h e D e i t y . T h e latter, t h o u g h often d e s i g n a t e d a s t h e
f a t h e r , i s f r e q u e n t l y d e s c r i b e d i n t e r m s m o r e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of
the m o t h e r . I n t h i s d r e a m , w e s e e a r e v e r s a l of t h e u s u a l s e
quence. A t the onset of t h e d r e a m , the patient h a s a l r e a d y
a c h i e v e d i d y l l i c r e u n i o n w i t h t h e m o t h e r , to t h e a c c o m p a n i m e n t
of t h e s e n s e of l u m i n e s c e n c e a n d scintillation. However, that
r e u n i o n is overtaken b y the destructive i m p u l s e s . Mother a n d
s h e a r e b o t h i n c u r a b l y c o n t a m i n a t e d . S h e i s n o t a b l e to rescue
mother.
Light is also a very common symbol for r e b i r t h , a s d a r k
portends danger a n d death. Fire combines rebirth with danger.
It s y m b o l i z e s w h a t i s infinitely a t t r a c t i v e b u t m a y n o t be l o o k e d
atfor example, t h e fiery a r e a of G o d ' s g e n i t a l s i n t h e c h a r i o t
v i s i o n of E z e k i e l , c h a p t e r 1, a n d t h e image of G o d c i t e d a b o v e
from D a n . 7 : 9 , 1 0 .
Notice t h e e m p h a s i s o n heavenly events. It is the n o r t h e r n
l i g h t s i n t h e s k y t h a t p l e a s e h e r . T h e n it i s a g r o u p of falling
objects that threaten a n d destroy her. I n apocalyptic fantasies
and dreams, the i m p u l s e s a r e often projected o u t onto t h e

i
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 65

c o s m o s , so that they are s e e n a s i m p o s e d by c o s m i c forces onto


h u m a n d e s t i n y . I n m y e x p e r i e n c e , w h e n o b j e c t s fall f r o m t h e s k y ,
they are u s u a l l y seen a s destructive; w h e n they rise h e a v e n w a r d ,
they are u s u a l l y protective a n d m e s s i a n i c . A s a n adolescent,
X N Z entertained fantasies that:

S h e w a s a n angel Jlying over the c i t y a t n i g h t .

H e r e s h e i d e n t i f i e d w i t h the m e s s i a n i c i m p u l s e s t h a t d e f e n d e d
her against her destructive w i s h e s a n d that she h a d projected
o u t onto c o s m i c f i g u r e s .
G D U reported a dream that resembled this northern-lights
d r e a m of X N Z :

"I got up at 1 a.m. It was very light because of an amusement


park nearby that had bluish lights. It was like dawn. I thought
I saw lightning, but it was yellowish, like firecrackers. They
arched high and came down in a star burst, like a chrysanth
emum. Up and down, one after the other. One came near me.
It bounced like a tennis ball. We watched a long time. It must
be the end of the day, and that's why they had fireworks."

I n a n o t h e r d r e a m of the s a m e n i g h t , the p a t i e n t f o u n d h e r s e l f
driving past her mother's house, thereby confirming that the
d r e a m d e a l t w i t h t h e c o m p l e x of feelings c e n t r i n g a b o u t c l o s e
n e s s to t h e m o t h e r , a s w a s the c a s e w i t h X N Z .
Objects arching across the sky occurred commonly in her
d r e a m s . W h e n the o b j e c t s w e r e r i s i n g , s h e felt c o m f o r t e d , and
w h e n they w e r e falling, they dreated anxiety.
T o i l l u s t r a t e the l a s t p o i n t , I p r e s e n t a n o t h e r d r e a m of h e r s :

U
I was at home, watching the outside of a building with a
man. There was a string of four children swinging out from
a window. My son was at the end of the string. The man said
it was dangerous. I reacted very calmly, "He's not falling." He
slipped and fell, face-down onto the ground. The man said,
"He was hurt" I rushed over, feeling guilty but powerless.
Amazingly he was not hurt It was so lucky. If there were
rocks around, he could have hurt his eyes or his head."
66 PROLOGUE

I n a n o t h e r d r e a m of t h a t n i g h t :

she was hanging streamers overhead in a large room that


would be used for dancing.

Note h e r e t h e f e a t u r e s of s o m e t h i n g h a n g i n g o v e r h e a d ; the
falling from a h e i g h t ; a n d t h r e a t of c a t a s t r o p h e . A s a c h i l d , s h e
h a d f e a r e d b e i n g a t t a c k e d b y b i r d s flying o v e r h e a d . T h e feeling
of p o w e r l e s s n e s s i n the d r e a m i s w h a t I b e l i e v e d s p a r k e d the
a p o c a l y p t i c t h i n k i n g in the first p l a c e .

After m o t h e r ' s d e a t h , X N Z r e p o r t e d , I h a d a d r e a m of two


s h o r t H e b r e w w o r d s ; I t h o u g h t it w a s a r e v e l a t i o n : I felt t h e
e a r t h w a s only a temporary place a n d that I w o u l d soon j o i n
m o t h e r i n H e a v e n , or w h e r e v e r G o d w a s .

XNZ remembered a few H e b r e w w o r d s from his minimal


Hebrew-school education in childhood and could j u s t about
r e c o g n i z e H e b r e w l e t t e r s . I n the d r e a m , t h e a n c i e n t , t r a d i t i o n a l
s c r i p t w a s s e e n b y h e r a s the revelation of a secret t h a t gave h e r
t h e m a g i c a l p o w e r to r e u n i t e w i t h m o t h e r i n h e r c e l e s t i a l h o m e .
T h e s e a r c h e t y p e s a r e f o u n d n o t o n l y i n p a t i e n t after p a t i e n t
a m o n g t h o s e t h a t h a v e the t a s k of d i s s i p a t i n g r a g e , b u t a l s o i n
c l e a r a n d u n m i s t a k a b l e form i n a p o c a l y p t i c d o c u m e n t s a v a i l a b l e
to u s . I c i t e d t h e c l i n i c a l r e f e r e n c e s h e r e to e s t a b l i s h t h a t c l a s s i
c a l a r c h e t y p e s a p p e a r s p o n t a n e o u s l y w i t h i n the i n d i v i d u a l a n d
invite t h e i n d i v i d u a l w h o i s p r e o c c u p i e d w i t h t h e m to a s s o c i a t e
himself with groups in whose mythology a n d religious s c r i p t u r e s
he recognizes them.

Classical archetypes
T h e v a r i o u s c l a s s i c a l a p o c a l y p s e s differ from e a c h o t h e r i n d e
t a i l , e a c h h a v i n g b e e n w r i t t e n to r e s p o n d to the a n g u i s h of a
s p e c i f i c p e r i o d a n d a specific p l a c e . T h e s t y l e s a s w e l l a s the
c o n t e n t s differ, the e m p h a s e s , symbolism, a n d messages. Dif
f e r e n c e s c a n be s e e n between the J e w i s h a n d t h e Christian
a p o c a l y p s e s , a n d of s o m e of t h e m it i s b e l i e v e d t h a t t h e y s t a r t e d
T H E APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 67

o u t a s J e w i s h p i e c e s a n d w e r e m o d i f i e d to a p p l y to t h e C h r i s t i a n
c o m m u n i t y . I n t h e B o o k of R e v e l a t i o n , w e c a n f i n d s o m e c l a s s i
cal apocalyptic archetypes.
A s the n a m e of t h e b o o k i n d i c a t e s , t h e text i s g i v e n a s a
revelation of a secret h i t h e r t o w i t h h e l d (see R e v . 1:1, 1:19, 4:1,
5 : 1 ) . B o t h the c o n t e n t of t h e s c r i p t u r e a n d t h e m e a n i n g of i t s
m a n y symbolic statements have been mysteries, a n d both are
h e r e d i s c l o s e d . T h e s e c r e t is t r a n s m i t t e d from its O m n i s c i e n t
S o u r c e b y a n a g e n t , w h o a p p e a r s s o m e t i m e s a s t h e author of the
document ( R e v . 1:1, 1:19), a t o t h e r t i m e s a s a m y s t e r i o u s wise
person or c r e a t u r e . I n R e v e l a t i o n we find the p h r a s e " O n e l i k e a
s o n of m a n " (Rev. 1:13), w h o r e v e a l s w h a t h a s b e e n h i d d e n .
A t a n u m b e r of p o i n t s (Rev. 1:13, 3:4, 19:8, 19:13) a white
robe i s s p e c i f i e d a s a g a r m e n t t h a t s i g n i f i e s p u r i t y . I n t h e B o o k
of D a n i e l ( 1 0 : 5 ) , t h e a n g e l w h o c o n v e y s t h e v i s i o n to D a n i e l i s
s p o k e n of a s "clothed in linen**.
T h e massive disruption that we associate with apocalyptic
l i t e r a t u r e a p p e a r s i n a n u m b e r of e x t e n s i v e a c c o u n t s t h r o u g h o u t
R e v e l a t i o n , m o s t of t h e m v i v i d a n d d r a m a t i c . T h e end of the
world a s w e k n o w it i s c l e a r l y d e s c r i b e d . T h e c l a s s i c a l a p o c a l y p
tic s t r u g g l e b e t w e e n the forces of G o o d a n d t h e forces of E v i l i s
given i n Rev. 1 2 : 7 - 9 a n d Rev. 2 0 : 7 - 1 0 .

A n d there w a s a w a r i n H e a v e n , M i c h a e l a n d h i s angels
fighting w i t h the dragon. A n d the dragon a n d h i s angels
fought, a n d he did not prevail, n e i t h e r w a s there found a
place a n y more for h i m i n H e a v e n . A n d the great d r a g o n , the
a n c i e n t s e r p e n t w h o is called D e v i l a n d S a t a n , w a s c a s t out,
h e w h o deceives the whole world w a s cast out onto the e a r t h ,
a n d h i s a n g e l s were c a s t o u t w i t h h i m . [Rev. 1 2 : 7 - 9 ]

Falling celestial objects recur many times throughout the


book. Sometimes the objects fall, s o m e t i m e s they are h u r l e d
d o w n . M o s t of t h e t i m e t h e fall i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h d e s t r u c t i o n , a s
it i s i n t h e c l i n i c a l m a t e r i a l c i t e d a b o v e . L e t m e q u o t e o n e ex
ample:

A n d the s e v e n angels who h a d the seven t r u m p e t s p r e p a r e d


to blow t h e m . A n d the first one blew h i s trumpet; a n d there
w a s hail a n d jire mingled w i t h blood, a n d it w a s hurled to the
earth A n d a third of the trees were burnt up a n d a l l the green
68 PROLOGUE

grass w a s b u r n t u p . A n d the s e c o n d angel blew h i s trumpet;


a n d s o m e t h i n g like a great m o u n t a i n burning with fire w a s
hurled into the s e a . A n d a third of the s h i p s were destroyed.
A n d the third angel blew h i s trumpet; a n d a great star,
burning like a torch Jell from the h e a v e n s a n d it fell u p o n a
third of the rivers a n d u p o n the s p r i n g s of water. A n d the
s t a r is called by the n a m e , " T h e W o n n w o o d \ A n d a third of
the w a t e r s b e c a m e wormwood, a n d m a n y m e n died from the
w a t e r s , b e c a u s e they were made bitter. [Rev. 8 : 6 - 1 1 ]

H o w e v e r , i n the opposite m o d e , the " n e w J e r u s a l e m " a l s o


d e s c e n d s from the h e a v e n s , b u t the d e s c e n t i s gentle r a t h e r t h a n
v i o l e n t (see b e l o w ) .
Flying creatures a p p e a r frequently i n Revelation; m o s t of
t h e m a r e angels, b u t t h e r e a r e a l s o eagles. T h e i r i n t e n t i o n m a y
b e e i t h e r h o s t i l e or friendly.
Moving vehicles, w h i c h a p p e a r e d s o often i n t h e c l i n i c a l m a
t e r i a l , a r e s e l d o m e n c o u n t e r e d i n t h i s a p o c a l y p s e . W e r e a d of
" t h e n e w J e r u s a l e m d e s c e n d i n g o u t of h e a v e n from G o d " (Rev.
2 1 : 2 ) , a n d " a w h i t e c l o u d a n d on the c l o u d one l i k e a s o n of m a n
w a s e n t h r o n e d " (Rev. 14:14), but movement is not expressly
a t t r i b u t e d to t h i s c l o u d . I n 3 E n o c h a "fiery c h a r i o t " i s s p e c i f i e d
a s t h e v e h i c l e for c o s m i c t r a v e l (Rev. 6:1). M a n y c h a r i o t s a r e s a i d
to b e p r o v i d e d for G o d i n 3 E n o c h , c h a p t e r 2 4 . "A huge four
f a c e d c h a r i o t of C h e r u b i m " i s d e s c r i b e d i n a n o t h e r G n o s t i c text,
t h e Hypostasis of the Archons. I n the J e w i s h Hekhaloth text,
Hekhaloth Rabbati, a c a r r i a g e of fire i s offered to the t r a v e l l e r to
p a s s from t h e s i x t h to the s e v e n t h H e k h a l (Rev. 2 3 : 1 ) .
T h o u g h the s p e c i f i c r e f e r e n c e s to v e h i c l e s a r e r e l a t i v e l y few
i n R e v e l a t i o n , t h e r e i s a good d e a l of m o v e m e n t t h r o u g h the
h e a v e n s , n o t b y v e h i c l e s , b u t w i t h the h e l p of e a g l e s , a n g e l s , a n d
o t h e r flying c r e a t u r e s . T h e a u t h o r i s c a r r i e d b y a n a n g e l (Rev.
17:3) to v i e w the v a r i o u s a p o c a l y p t i c e v e n t s a n d p o r t e n t s . I n
other apocalypsesfor example, in 1 Enochthe author is
t r a n s p o r t e d t h r o u g h the e n t i r e c o s m o s to v i e w i t s m y s t e r i e s a n d
p o r t e n t s , a n d the b o o k c o n t a i n s m a n y r e f e r e n c e s to the t r a n s
portation.
S i n c e a p o c a l y p t i c i s t s project from i n s i d e onto t h e c o s m o s ,
t h e y f o c u s p r i m a r i l y on t h e h e a v e n s . T h e y s e l d o m p r o j e c t t h e i r
i m p u l s e s a n d f e a r s onto the d e p t h s of the s e a s a n d t h e g r o u n d ,
though o c c a s i o n a l l y they do. T h e r e f o r e w e e n c o u n t e r c e l e s t i a l
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 69

events far more frequently than events originating below.


Chthonic, demonic monsters are sometimes described a s rising
f r o m t h e e a r t h or t h e s e a . I n R e v e l a t i o n , two m o n s t e r s a r e d e
s c r i b e d , o n e a r i s i n g o u t of t h e s e a (Rev. 13:1) a n d o n e o u t of t h e
e a r t h (Rev. 1 3 : 1 1 ) . I n p a t i e n t s ' d r e a m s I h a v e o n l y i n f r e q u e n t l y
e n c o u n t e r e d d a n g e r o u s m o n s t e r s a r i s i n g o u t of t h e d e p t h s . T h e
i n f a n t n u r s i n g a t t h e b r e a s t l o o k s u p w a r d to i t s m o t h e r ' s face,
a n d to a l l a d u l t s , s o l o n g a s t h e c h i l d i s s m a l l .
T h e r e b i r t h theme o c c u r s i n every a p o c a l y p s e a s the d e s i r e d
r e s o l u t i o n of t h e p r o b l e m c r e a t e d b y t h e i n i t i a t i n g h u m i l i a t i o n
a n d c o n s e q u e n t r a g e . I n R e v e l a t i o n , a r e s u r r e c t i o n of t h e d e a d i s
d e s c r i b e d i n 11:11 a n d in 20:4; a birth is described i n 12:1-5;
a n d t h e n e w h e a v e n , e a r t h , a n d n e w h o l y c i t y of J e r u s a l e m
replace their earthly predecessors, w h i c h were destroyed (Rev.
21:1-4).

A n d I s a w a new heaven a n d a new earth; for the first h e a v e n


a n d the first e a r t h h a d p a s s e d a w a y , a n d the s e a w a s no
more. A n d I s a w the holy city, the new Jerusalem, d e s c e n d
i n g out of h e a v e n from G o d , prepared a s a bride a d o r n e d for
h e r h u s b a n d . A n d I h e a r d a great voice from the throne,
s a y i n g , " B e h o l d , the dwelling of G o d is w i t h m a n k i n d . H e will
dwell w i t h t h e m , a n d they s h a l l be h i s people, a n d G o d
h i m s e l f w i l l be w i t h t h e m , a n d he will wipe a w a y every tear
from t h e i r eyes, a n d d e a t h s h a l l be no more, n e i t h e r m o u r n
i n g n o r c r y i n g n o r p a i n a n y m o r e . F o r the former things h a v e
passed away. . . . "

T h e r e m a i n d e r of c h a p t e r 2 1 a n d t h e f i r s t h a l f of 2 2 d e s c r i b e t h e
reconstructed Holy City.

Psychodynamics

F r o m these considerations I conclude that apocalypse, whether


c l a s s i c a l or the apocalyptic complex, is not j u s t a genre, a style
of r e l i g i o u s w r i t i n g . R a t h e r , I believe t h a t it i s t h e e x p r e s s i o n of a
m e n t a l m e c h a n i s m , p e r h a p s u n i v e r s a l , t h a t s e e k s to regulate
affect. W h e n a n i n d i v i d u a l i s d e p r e s s e d , t h e m e c h a n i s m s t r i v e s
to overcome the depression and replace it with euthymia
70 PROLOGUE

( a b s e n c e of m e n t a l p a i n ) or e u p h o r i a . W h e n a n i n d i v i d u a l is too
e u p h o r i c , too " h i g h " , t h i s c o r r e c t i v e m e c h a n i s m a c t s to r e s t o r e
the m o o d to a m e d i a n position. Depressive affect generates
images of d i s o r d e r , disease, death, or d e s t r u c t i o n . E u p h o r i a
g e n e r a t e s i m a g e s of s u r v i v a l a n d r e b i r t h . F o r m a n y people the
r e g u l a t i o n of affect is s o efficient t h a t one scarcely becomes
a w a r e of m o o d s w i n g s . F o r o t h e r i n d i v i d u a l s , h o w e v e r , mood
r e g u l a t i o n i s inefficient a n d a c o n s t a n t c h a l l e n g e , a n d it i s t h e y
w h o e x h i b i t the a p o c a l y p t i c complex.
T h e s e c o n s i d e r a t i o n s a r e of m o r e t h a n a c a d e m i c or t h e o r e t
ical import. As everyone knows by now, powerful chemical
substances i n the b r a i n r e g u l a t e affect. When a patient, in
t h e c o u r s e of h i s m o o d s w i n g s , b e c o m e s fixed i n a d e p r e s s i v e e x
cursion, a n antidepression d r u g c a n free h i m to r e t u r n to a
e u t h y m i c p o s i t i o n . S i m i l a r l y , w h e n the e x c u r s i o n t a k e s the p a
t i e n t to a m a n i c p o s i t i o n , o n e of the a n t i p s y c h o s i s t r a n q u i l l i z e r s
c a n overcome that. W h e n t h e pathology is excessive volatility
rather than a unipolar deviation, control is more difficult,
t h o u g h often p o s s i b l e b y a j u d i c i o u s l y t i t r a t e d c o m b i n a t i o n of
drugs of these two classes. The psychopharmacologist who
t a k e s t h e time a n d trouble to l e a r n a b o u t d r e a m i n t e r p r e t a t i o n
a n d to e x a m i n e h i s patients* f a n t a s i e s a n d d r e a m s i n a d d i t i o n to
their symptoms c a n find, i n the d r e a m m a n i f e s t a t i o n s of the
a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x , h e l p f u l c l u e s to s u p p l e m e n t a n d i n f o r m h i s
clinical judgement.
B e c a u s e the a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x is the e x p r e s s i o n of a b a s i c
u n c o n s c i o u s m e c h a n i s m , it a p p e a r s i n m a n y p r o d u c t s of m e n t a l
life, b e h a v i o u r , f a n t a s y , c r e a t i v e e n d e a v o u r s , a s w e l l a s d r e a m s .
I h a v e t r i e d to d e m o n s t r a t e w h a t I c o n s i d e r to be the i m p r e s s i v e
congruence between archetypes found in c l a s s i c a l apocalypses
a n d those found i n the d r e a m s of s o m e i n d i v i d u a l s w h o are
c o n c e r n e d w i t h affect c o n t r o l .
I n m o s t of o u r m e n t a l life, w e strive to m a i n t a i n c o n t i n u i t y .
W e w i s h to h a v e i d e a s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h e a c h other. W e w i s h to
m a i n t a i n c o n t i n u i t y i n o u r love a n d s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s a n d i n the
w a y w e live. W e see o u r p a r e n t s a n d o u r s e l v e s a n d o u r c h i l d r e n
a s a c o n t i n u o u s c h a i n . A p o c a l y p s e , o n the o t h e r h a n d , means
d i s c o n t i n u i t y , a b r u p t c h a n g e . I t i s a f a n t a s y of a n e n d , a f u n d a
m e n t a l r e o r i e n t a t i o n , a d e s t r u c t i o n of the old, a n d r e p l a c i n g it
w i t h the n e w . T h e d e a t h - r e b i r t h s e q u e n c e i s the m e c h a n i s m b y
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 71

w h i c h c o n t i n u i t y i s d i s r u p t e d . It i s p e r h a p s a b i o l o g i c a l d e v i c e
for r e s p o n d i n g to a d e s p e r a t e s i t u a t i o n .
W e s h o u l d n o t e one i m p o r t a n t difference b e t w e e n t h e c l a s s i
c a l a p o c a l y p s e s on the one h a n d , a n d the d r e a m s a n d d e l u s i o n s
that I have reported on the othernamely, that the former,
though they m a y have been created by individuals, have become
i m p o r t a n t to t h e r e l i g i o u s life of c o m m u n i t i e s . In other words
a p o c a l y p s e m a y s a t i s f y the n e e d s of a n i n d i v i d u a l or of a g r o u p ,
a n d often of b o t h s i m u l t a n e o u s l y .
H o w d o e s a g r o u p c o m e u n d e r t h e i n f l u e n c e of a p o c a l y p t i c
t h i n k i n g ? Not a l l m e m b e r s of t h e g r o u p a r e e q u a l l y c o n c e r n e d
w i t h affect r e g u l a t i o n . N e v e r t h e l e s s , e v e n t h o s e w h o s e m o o d i s
fairly stable, w h o c a n r e t a i n a c e r t a i n degree of equanimity
u n d e r s t r e s s , m a y f i n d t h e m s e l v e s e n t r a i n e d , c o m p e l l e d to a c
c e p t t h e a p o c a l y p t i c m o d e u n d e r the i n f l u e n c e of a m i n o r i t y t h a t
i s n o i s y , d e m a n d i n g , a n d a g g r e s s i v e . W e do n o t h a v e a c c o u n t s of
g r o u p r e s p o n s e s to a n c i e n t a p o c a l y p s e s , b u t w e do h a v e h i s t o r i
c a l a c c o u n t s of t h e r e c e p t i o n of the S a b b a t e a n m o v e m e n t a n d
H a s i d i s m . T o be s u r e , n e i t h e r of t h e s e i s e x c l u s i v e l y a p o c a l y p
t i c : t h e f o r m e r i s m e s s i a n i c , a n d the l a t t e r i s m y s t i c a l . B u t t h e y
b o t h d e m o n s t r a t e the g r o u p d y n a m i c s i n v o l v e d i n r e s p o n d i n g to
a n e w l y p r e s e n t e d m y s t i q u e t h a t a p p e a l s p o w e r f u l l y to o n l y a
p o r t i o n of t h e p o p u l a t i o n w h i l e the o t h e r s r e s i s t i t .

Variants of the apocalyptic complex

T a k i n g o u r c u e from clinical experience, we c a n a c t u a l l y d i s c e r n


t h r e e different t y p e s of c l i n i c a l a p o c a l y p s e c o m p l e x . First, the
d e p r e s s i v e s t a t e i s e s p e c i a l l y l i k e l y to give r i s e to a p o c a l y p t i c
t h i n k i n g . T h e p a t i e n t , w h e n h e d e s p a i r s of e s c a p i n g f r o m de
p r e s s i o n o n h i s o w n , b e c o m e s a n g r y a n d w i s h e s h a r m e i t h e r to
h i m s e l f or to o t h e r s a r o u n d h i m , w i t h the c o n s c i o u s or u n c o n
s c i o u s h o p e t h a t m a j o r a l l e v i a t i o n w i l l follow. S u i c i d e w i l l effect
r e u n i o n w i t h a d e a d p a r e n t , or s a v e o n e ' s f a m i l y f r o m bank
ruptcy by means of insurance. Serious suffering will elicit
r e s c u e . S c h r e b e r ' s Memoirs i s a n a p o c a l y p t i c p l e a for r e s c u e .
In a n a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x of t h i s f i r s t t y p e , dreams will
u s u a l l y s t a r t w i t h p o r t r a y a l s of d i s a s t e r , d e a t h , d i s o r d e r , or
72 PROLOGUE

d e s t r u c t i o n . T h e n the d r e a m w i l l c h a n g e or be r e p l a c e d b y a n
other i n w h i c h we see m o v e m e n t towards repair. However, the
d o m i n a n t d e p r e s s i v e affect t h e n r e a s s e r t s itself a s the d r e a m or
d r e a m s e q u e n c e t e r m i n a t e s . T h e d r e a m of the flood exemplifies
t h i s a p o c a l y p t i c type.
I a p p e n d h e r e a letter t h a t I r e c e i v e d r e c e n t l y from a p a t i e n t
w h o m I h a d n o t s e e n for 17 y e a r s . He i s a b r i l l i a n t b u t m a n i c
depressive b u s i n e s s m a n whose judgement w a s so warped by his
i l l n e s s t h a t h e w a s n o t a b l e to r e t a i n the f r u i t s of h i s intelligence
a n d e n t e r p r i s e . H e w a s u s u a l l y m o r e o p t i m i s t i c or m o r e p e s s i
m i s t i c t h a n the s i t u a t i o n w a r r a n t e d . S o m e t i m e s h i s i n v e s t m e n t s
w o r k e d o u t s u c c e s s f u l l y , b u t i n the l o n g r u n h e d i d n o t do w e l l .
A t the t i m e t h a t h e wrote t h i s letter, h e w a s m i l d l y to m o d e r
atelynot severelydepressed a n d w a s p l a n n i n g to r e t u r n to
consult with me.

Just to bring you up to date, November 1976 was one of my


last visits to you after the major breakdown of my life. It's
been downhill generally since then on every frontdepres
sion, finances, self-esteem, confidence. Today, after some
very bad years I do not diagnose myself with true clinical
depression. My condition is a deeply ingrained, growing pes
simism about the world, my family and myself in these anni
horribilesnow a major transition erainto the unknown. In
my view, everything has gone wrong for mefamily and fi
nances. I was at first surprised and shocked. Suicide when I
had a million dollar insurance policy was an option. I didn't
take itit lapsed. Suicide not good for a family anyway.

No activityno desires. I read, write for myself, mostly pro


testing that the world is blind. The Chaos Theory is very real
to me. The Age of Enlightenment from the Declaration of Inde
pendence on. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and
progress is a dying idea. The new one is unknown but sur
vival will be a different ball game. I refuse to renounce
Judaism or the existence of a Creator or a force beyond hu
man forces who probably does roll the dice and doesn't guar
antee anythingbut we who are about to die must salute
him. I wish there may be something after life, but if it's noth
ing, let it really be nothing (Hamlet's worries). I cannot guess

i
T H E APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 73

how my children and grandchildren will fare in the new


world.

I must and can adopt to the increasing slings and arrows of


outrageous fortune. Every now and then I need help. Playing
golf, which I don't, isn't enough.

I come to see an old friend, a wise manlooking for a wise


word that strikes a responsive chord. I respect your profes
sion but feel it is much too early to talk of it as being in
anything but its infancy. The young ones cannot cure the
melancholy of the hwnan condition.

P.S. I guess there is no wise word. Acceptance, for the saints.


Vm not one. Play games, golf bridge. Mostly for the young
ones. I can t. f
I want some joyimpossible now. Happiness
was never possible unless you go into "sublimation", religious
trance, devotion and belief in anything and any field. Impos
sible. It seems like death or Alzheuner's Disease is the only
solution.

One day, one hundred or one million years from now, there
will be either a Messianic Era or apocalypse. Right now we're
on the verge.

Note t h e s e n s e of f a i l u r e a n d futility a n d the c o n t e m p l a t i o n of


s u i c i d e . T h e u n i v e r s e i s c h a o t i c for h i m . H e e x p r e s s e s ambiva
l e n c e a b o u t t h o u g h t s of a n after-life. H e s e e k s a w i s e s e e r w h o
w i l l offer r e v e l a t i o n , a " w i s e w o r d " , a n d h e v o i c e s a f a i n t h o p e for
apocalyptic m e s s i a n i c rescue. He alternately accepts a n d rejects
t h e p o s s i b i l i t y of b e l i e f a n d r e l i g i o n . H o w e v e r , h e e n c l o s e d w i t h
h i s letter a c o p y of a s p e e c h g i v e n b y V a c l a v H a v e l o n I n d e p e n d
e n c e D a y , 1 9 9 4 , r e p r i n t e d i n t h e New York Times. I cite h e r e o n e
of H a v e l ' s c l o s i n g p a r a g r a p h s :

W h a t m a k e s the " a n t h r o p i c p r i n c i p l e " a n d the " G a i a h y p o t h


e s i s " so i n s p i r i n g ? O n e simple thing: B o t h r e m i n d u s of w h a t
w e h a v e long s u s p e c t e d , of w h a t we have long projected into
o u r forgotten m y t h s a n d w h a t p e r h a p s h a s a l w a y s l a i n dor
m a n t w i t h i n u s a s a r c h e t y p e s . T h a t is, the a w a r e n e s s of o u r
b e i n g a n c h o r e d i n the E a r t h a n d the u n i v e r s e , the a w a r e
n e s s t h a t we are not here alone nor for o u r s e l v e s alone b u t
74 PROLOGUE

t h a t we are a n integral part of higher, m y s t e r i o u s entities


a g a i n s t w h o m it is not advisable to b l a s p h e m e .

W e h a v e i n b o t h the letter a n d to a l e s s e r e x t e n t i n H a v e l ' s


s p e e c h affective d i s e a s e , d e p r e s s i o n , a p o c a l y p t i c t h i n k i n g , a n d
mysticism.
T h e s e c o n d type of c l i n i c a l a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x o c c u r s p r i
m a r i l y i n the c a s e of p s y c h o t i c i n d i v i d u a l s w h o a r e t r u l y m a n i c
or s c h i z o p h r e n i c . T h e p a t i e n t w h o i s too " h i g h " a n t i c i p a t e s b e i n g
b r o u g h t d o w n b y a p o w e r f u l s u p e r n a t u r a l force, or b y a c o n
s p i r a c y of e n e m i e s . T h e s e d e l u s i o n a l , u s u a l l y p a r a n o i d ideas
express the u n c o n s c i o u s influence of the c o n t r o l mechanism
t h a t i s a c t i v a t e d b y the " h i g h " s t a t e a n d a c t s to a r r e s t it.
Manic-depressive businessmen are apt to come to grief
w h e n t h e y s u c c e e d too w e l l . T h e a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x c o m e s i n t o
a c t i o n s i l e n t l y , p u n i s h i n g t h e m for t h e i r p r e s u m p t i o n , b y d i s t o r t
i n g t h e i r j u d g e m e n t a n d c a u s i n g s e r i o u s f a i l u r e of the b u s i n e s s
venture in which they have characteristically overextended
t h e m s e l v e s . T h e y s o o n c r a s h into d e p r e s s i o n . T h e Promethean
e n t e r p r i s e e x p r e s s e s the " r e b i r t h " or h o p e f u l , overly ambitious
p h a s e of the a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x , w h i l e the s u b s e q u e n t crash,
w h i c h s o m e t i m e s l e a d s to a c c o m p l i s h e d s u i c i d e , e x p r e s s e s the
d e s t r u c t i v e p h a s e . T h e r e i s n o r e v e l a t i o n e x c e p t the prophetic
w a r n i n g s of f a m i l y a n d f r i e n d s , w h i c h the s u b j e c t r e j e c t s .
T h e d r e a m of the y o u n g m a n (GO) i n i n c e s t u o u s embrace
with his mother illustrates this second type of apocalyptic
complex. Here the dream starts with representation of the
unacceptable desire. T h a t phase is interrupted by a punitive,
destructive interludethe subsequent explosion i n G r a n d C e n
t r a l S t a t i o n . B u t the d r e a m m a y n o t t e r m i n a t e before t h e i n i t i a l
P r o m e t h e a n drive r e a s s e r t s itself, or a t l e a s t u n t i l relief i s f o u n d .
T h i s patient dreamed that he w a s saved by his analyst. T h e
p r i m a r y r e b i r t h t e n d e n c y r e a s s e r t e d i t s e l f i n the r e s c u e .
More d r a m a t i c a n d tragic are those i n s t a n c e s i n w h i c h a
h i t h e r t o q u i e t a n d u n o b t r u s i v e i n d i v i d u a l s u d d e n l y goes b e r s e r k
a n d a t t a c k s o t h e r s , often s t r a n g e r s , violently. F u r y , psychotic
dissociation a n d altered c o n s c i o u s n e s s a s , for e x a m p l e , the
trance statemay be engendered b y the t h i r d type of apoc
alyptic complex, the r e s u l t of the struggle between powerful
d e p r e s s i v e a n d a n t i d e p r e s s i v e forces.
THE APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 75

A y o u n g m a n w a s b e i n g t r e a t e d for d i s a b l i n g m o o d s w i n g s .
He was a decent, cultured, responsible person who har
b o u r e d some racial antipathies, w h i c h he w a s sometimes
a b l e to a c k n o w l e d g e a s u n r e a s o n a b l e . O n o n e o c c a s i o n , d i s
appointed by the inadequate effect of a n antidepression
m e d i c a t i o n , I w i t h d r e w it g r a d u a l l y . W i t h i n a few d a y s , he
a b r u p t l y b e c a m e s e r i o u s l y agitated a n d h a d great difficulty
controlling murderous impulses directed towards other
races. Reinstating that drug a n d adding a n antipsychosis
tranquillizer promptly overcame this quasi-psychotic state
a n d reinstituted n o r m a l self-control.

T h e s e v a r i a n t s of i n d i v i d u a l a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x give u s a
c l u e to s i m i l a r v a r i a n t s i n t h e c a s e of t h e g r o u p . M o s t c l a s s i c a l
a p o c a l y p s e s e e m s to be a d d r e s s e d to t h e m i s e r y of a n o p p r e s s e d
population. It p r e d i c t s t h e d e s t r u c t i o n of t h e e n e m y a n d the
r e b i r t h of t h e v i c t i m s . T h a t i s t r u e of b o t h s c r i p t u r a l a p o c a l y p s e s
that we have quotedDaniel a n d Revelation. We see a h o m o
l o g u e of t h e a p o c a l y p t i c d r e a m s a n d f a n t a s i e s of t h e d e p r e s s e d
individual.
Most prophetic threats of doom are addressed to a
P r o m e t h e a n p o p u l a t i o n , defying r e s t r a i n t a n d t h e a c c e p t e d p r i n
c i p l e s of m o r a l i t y d i c t a t e d b y r e l i g i o n . T h e s e a r e u s u a l l y followed
b y m e s s a g e s of c o m f o r t . P r e v i o u s l y , I q u o t e d the b e g i n n i n g of
chapter 11 of I s a i a h , promising messianic rescue of Israel.
A s s y r i a will be destroyed, b u t o n l y after it c a r r i e s o u t God's
design:

A s s y r i a , the rod of m y anger, that hold the staff of m y fury i n


their h a n d . I s e n d t h e m a g a i n s t the w i c k e d people, I charge
h i m a g a i n s t the people of m y a n g e r to take booty a n d spoil,
to t u r n it into mire of the streets that is t r a m p l e d underfoot.
[Isa. 10:5,6)

T h e p r o p h e t t h e n c o n t i n u e s w i t h the observation t h a t A s s y r i a
d o e s n o t r e a l i z e t h a t it is m e r e l y a n a g e n t i n t h e h a n d s of G o d
but h a s overbearing ambitions.

Therefore so s a y s the L o r d , G o d of H o s t s , m y people w h o


dwell i n Z i o n do not fear A s s y r i a w h o b e a t y o u w i t h a staff
a n d r a i s e s h i s rod above y o u like the E g y p t i a n s . B e c a u s e
s h o r t l y m y a n g e r will s u b s i d e . [Isa. 1 0 : 2 4 , 2 5 ]
76 PROLOGUE

T h e L o r d G o d of Zion will lop off the c r o w n s of the trees w i t h


a n a x e ; the tall ones will be c u t down a n d the h i g h ones will
be laid low. A n d h e s h a l l c u t down the thickets of the forest
w i t h iron a n d h e will fell the L e b a n o n w i t h s u p e r i o r strength.
[Isa. 10:33,341

T h e n follows t h e m e s s i a n i c r e b i r t h of A s s y r i a ' s v i c t i m s , I s r a e l :

A n d a s t a l k s h a l l grow o u t of the s t o c k of J e s s e a n d a s h o o t
w i l l s p r o u t from h i s roots. A n d the s p i r i t of the L o r d will r e s t
u p o n h i m , a spirit of w i s d o m a n d u n d e r s t a n d i n g , a spirit of
c o u n s e l a n d strength, a spirit of knowledge a n d fear of the
L o r d . A n d h i s d i s c e r n m e n t will flow from h i s fear of the L o r d ;
h e will not j u d g e merely by w h a t he sees n o r decide o n the
b a s i s of w h a t he h e a r s . He will judge the poor w i t h righteous
n e s s a n d decide j u s t l y for the h u m b l e of the l a n d ; he will
beat rebellious t e m t o r i e s w i t h the rod of h i s m o u t h a n d w i t h
the spirit of h i s lips he will destroy the w i c k e d . J u s t i c e will be
the girdle for h i s loins a n d fidelity the girdle for h i s h i p s . A n d
the wolf s h a l l dwell w i t h the s h e e p a n d the leopard s h a l l lie
d o w n w i t h the k i d ; a n d the c a l f a n d the y o u n g lion a n d the
y o u n g of the cattle will mingle, a n d a s m a l l child s h a l l lead
them. A n d the cow a n d the bear s h a l l graze, a n d their y o u n g
will c o u c h together, a n d the lion will eat s t r a w like the ox.
A n d the y o u n g child will play o n the hole of the viper a n d the
infant will p a s s h i s h a n d over the d e n of the adder. No one
s h a l l do evil or destroy on the whole of m y holy m o u n t a i n for
the e a r t h will be filled with the knowledge of the L o r d a s the
w a t e r s cover the s e a . [ I s a . 1 1 : 1 - 9 ]

T h e w e l l - k n o w n v e r s e s d e s c r i b i n g the i n g a t h e r i n g of I s r a e l fol
low.
T h e most dangerous of t h e s o c i a l a p o c a l y p s e s are homo
l o g u e s of t h e t h i r d c l i n i c a l type: f u r y g e n e r a t e d b y t h e c o n f l i c t
between d e p r e s s i v e a n d a n t i d e p r e s s i v e forces. T h e y i n c i t e t h e
m i l l e n a r i a n adventure, s u c h a s those detailed b y N o r m a n C o h n
i n t h e Pursuit of the Millennium (1970), a n d s u c h a s the Nazi
H o l o c a u s t . W e s e e t h e v e n t i n g of fury u p o n o t h e r s i n o r d e r to
achieve i n n e r tranquillity, w h i c h never c o m e s so long a s the
instigating depressive threat continues. S u c h apocalypses fre
q u e n t l y e n d i n s u i c i d a l b e h a v i o u r , t h o u g h n o t n e c e s s a r i l y before
w i d e s p r e a d damage h a s been done. T h i s i s active apocalypse a s
T H E APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 77

d i s t i n g u i s h e d from expectant apocalypse. T h e apocalyptic group


effects t h e d e s t r u c t i o n , r a t h e r t h a n m e r e l y h o p i n g for it or f e a r
i n g it. M i l l e n a r i a n a p o c a l y p s e is exploited a s a divine j u s t i f i c a
t i o n for m u r d e r a n d o t h e r f o r m s of c r i m i n a l b e h a v i o u r v i s i t e d
u p o n o t h e r s w h o a r e d e s i g n a t e d a s t h e e n e m y of the L o r d .

Mysticism and the apocalyptic complex

I h a v e i n c l u d e d t h i s e s s a y o n a p o c a l y p s e i n o u r s t u d y of m y s t i
cism because the two overlap. Mysticism may be seen as a
m e m b e r of t h e g r o u p of p h e n o m e n a t h a t c o n f o r m to t h e g e n e r a l
p a t t e r n of t h e a p o c a l y p t i c complex.
I n t h e c a s e of m a n y a p o c a l y p s e s , t h e r e v e l a t i o n i s a m y s t i c a l
experience, u s u a l l y a trance experience, as we observed above
i n t h e c a s e of D a n i e l . T h e a u t h o r a n n o u n c e s t h a t h e h a s h a d a
k i n d of i m m e d i a t e e x p e r i e n c e of the deity, or of a s u p e r n a t u r a l
a g e n t t h e s a m e e x p e r i e n c e a s t h a t to w h i c h t h e m y s t i c a s p i r e s :
a v i e w , a v o i c e , a feeling of p r e s e n c e . F o r t h o s e w h o s u b s c r i b e to
the apocalypse, it b e c o m e s a n o r i e n t i n g a n d v e n e r a t e d scrip
tureabsolute and unchallengeable. The Jewish mystic also
o r i e n t s h i m s e l f a r o u n d a fixed s c r i p t u r e . It m a y b e t h e T o r a h a n d
T a l m u d t h a t h e r e i n t e r p r e t s to e x t r a c t i t s " h i d d e n s e c r e t s " . I t
m a y b e t h e Zohar or o t h e r K a b b a l i s t i c d o c u m e n t s that contain
these secrets. Apocalypse clearly demonstrates the d e a t h and
rebirth duality. T h a t duality is less visible in m y s t i c i s m , but i n
m y o p i n i o n it i s i n t r i n s i c a n d e s s e n t i a l to it. F o r the m y s t i c , the
r e b i r t h i s a c h i e v e d e i t h e r by the i n i t i a t i n g m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e ,
or b y e n t e r i n g t h e m y s t i c a l life, or b y b o t h t h a t i s , the m y s t i c a l
life i t s e l f p r o v i d e s i m p o r t a n t g r a t i f i c a t i o n . T h e m y s t i c a l e x p e r i
e n c e i s t h e f i r s t , a n d t h e m y s t i c a l life i s a s e c o n d r e b i r t h c o m
p o n e n t . I n a d d i t i o n to i n d i v i d u a l r e b i r t h , the tikkim of L u r i a n i c
K a b b a l a h p r o m i s e s l i t e r a l l y to r e s t o r e the s t a t e of p e r f e c t i o n of
t h e u n i v e r s e , w h i c h h a d b e e n d e s t r o y e d b y t h e b u r s t i n g of t h e
vessels.
T h e antecedent death p h a s e is less visible in m y s t i c i s m . I n
a p o c a l y p s e w e f i n d two e l e m e n t s r e p r e s e n t i n g d e a t h : t h e m i s e r
a b l e s t a t e of t h e w o r l d t h a t c a u s e s t h e p a i n a n d t h e w i s h for i t s
78 PROLOGUE

d e s t r u c t i o n . A n d t h e r e a r e two r e b i r t h s : the g r a t i f i c a t i o n of g a i n
i n g t h e h o p e for a n d the a n t i c i p a t e d r e c o n s t r u c t i o n of t h e r e a l
w o r l d . T h e s a m e i s t r u e of m y s t i c i s m . J u s t a s w e c a n d i s c e r n two
t y p e s of r e b i r t h e x p e r i e n c e , w e c a n a l s o d i s c e r n two t y p e s of
d e a t h e x p e r i e n c e : the f i r s t i s the d i s m a l s t a t e of the w o r l d i n
w h i c h the m y s t i c lives a n d from w h i c h h e w i s h e s to e x t r i c a t e
h i m s e l f ; a n d the s e c o n d i s h i s t u r n i n g h i s b a c k o n the n o r m a t i v e
e x p e r i e n c e of the r e a l w o r l d , or on a m a j o r p o r t i o n of it, or
d e r o g a t i n g it m e n t a l l y w h i l e i n v e s t i n g h i s e n t h u s i a s m a n d v i t a l
i n t e r e s t s i n a s a c r a l i z e d e x p e r i e n c e of it. I n the d u a l i t i e s of b o t h
a p o c a l y p s e a n d m y s t i c i s m , e a c h c o m p o n e n t h a s two elements,
the c h a o s of t h e w o r l d a s p e r c e i v e d a n d the w i s h to t u r n a w a y
f r o m it i n the c a s e of the former, a n d the p s y c h i c r e o r i e n t a t i o n
a n d the action taken s u b s e q u e n t l y to r e c o n s t r u c t t h e broken
w o r l d i n the c a s e of the latter. A s I n o t e d a b o v e , I d e l ( 1 9 8 8 , p p .
65f.) q u o t e s m y s t i c s to the effect t h a t u n i o n w i t h the Godhead
n e c e s s a r i l y i n v o l v e s a n n i h i l a t i o n of the self.
T h e s e l a s t c o m m e n t s a b o u t the d e a t h - r e b i r t h d u a l i t y t u r n
o u r a t t e n t i o n from the formal s i m i l a r i t y b e t w e e n a p o c a l y p s e a n d
m y s t i c i s m to the p s y c h i c s i m i l a r i t i e s . I n e a c h c a s e , the w o r l d of
sorrow a n d pain, frustration a n d disappointment, is also the
w o r l d of r e a l i t y , w h i c h the m a t u r e i n d i v i d u a l i s forced to c o n
front. H o w e v e r , w e e a c h h a v e a t h r e s h o l d b e y o n d w h i c h w e give
u p a n d r e g r e s s to the p s y c h i c s t a t e of e a r l y c h i l d h o o d , w h e n w e
l o o k e d to o u r p a r e n t s for c o m f o r t a n d p r o t e c t i o n . I n a p o c a l y p s e ,
a d i v i n e or s e m i - d i v i n e r e d e e m e r i s p r o m i s e d . T h e r e c e i v e r of
the r e v e l a t i o n m a y be p e r m i t t e d to a s c e n d i n a v e h i c l e to the
Most High. In dreams s u c h ascents are interpretable a s voyages
b a c k to m o t h e r or father. I n a p o c a l y p t i c c o m m u n i t i e s , a c h a r i s
m a t i c l e a d e r t a k e s over. T h e m y s t i c , too, s e e k s r e t u r n to m o t h e r
or father, b u t b y the m e d i u m of i m m e d i a t e b u t s y m b o l i c e x p e r i
ence, the. experience of reunion and identification. In the
m y s t i c a l g r o u p , the c h a r i s m a t i c l e a d e r s e r v e s a s a n i n t e r m e d i a r y
between the i n d i v i d u a l a n d the d e i t y p s y c h o l o g i c a l l y , even if
not designated a s s u c h by religious d o c t r i n e a n d a l m o s t liter
a l l y a s a p a r e n t figure. T h e H a s i d i c r e b b e i s a c a s e i n p o i n t .
This discussion obviously brings us to another member
of the a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x , messianism. In most apocalypses,
s a l v a t i o n i s b r o u g h t a b o u t a t the h a n d s of a s u p e r n a t u r a l r e s
T H E APOCALYPTIC COMPLEX 79

cuer, a saviour. Most messianic pretenders describe their ex


periences of vocation, their being called to their mission, a s
a mystical experience. They are informed of their mission by a
supernatural figure who appears to them in a trance, or by way
of other mystical communication. Sabbatai Sevi declared h i m
self the m e s s i a h when he interpreted a message voiced by his
companion a n d "manager", Nathan of G a z a . Sabbatai reported
that Nathan h a d fainted and "A voice went forth from his mouth,
saying [Hos. 6:2], 'After two days he will revive u s , a n d the third
day he will raise u s up a n d we shall live in his sight*and this
was a l l " (Scholem, 1973). In classical apocalypses we encounter
supernatural figures, some of whom communicate the apoca
lypse, some of whom interpret it, a n d others promise to save. A s
we observed above, similar functionaries are found in apocalyp
tic dreams.
F u n d a m e n t a l i s m c a n also be understood a s a member of the
apocalyptic complex. Many fundamentalists believe i n apoca
lypse. They credit a n inerrant scripture. The essential element of
fundamentalism is the integration of the individual into the
group, obliterating his own identity in order to enjoy the sense of
union with the others. Like the mystic a n d the apocalyptic, the
fundamentalist derogates the world of external reality a n d re
places it with the separatist reality of his community a n d the
scripture, interpretation of scripture, a n d religion of that com
munity. A community, a s we mentioned above, represents the
mother. T h e process of rejecting the outside world a n d finding
renewal within the group again demonstrates the death-rebirth
succession.
T h e belligerent millenarian who is usually both apocalyptic
a n d fundamentalist attempts to r u s h the end of daysthe
eschatonby his attacks on unbelievers. His apocalyptic
death-rebirth scenario is obvious. The union with the religious
parent surrogate, in his mind, depends upon eliminating the
symbolic sibling. The psychology of the U t o p i a n can be under
stood in the same way, though he is less dangerous a n d less
belligerent.
A s s u m i n g the correctness of these hypotheses, we m u s t
wonder how it is determined which variant of the apocalyptic
complex will be selected by the population at risk. Presumably
80 PROLOGUE

the choice is determined by environmental factorspolitical,


p s y c h o l o g i c a l , e c o n o m i c a s w e l l a s b y m o r a l e a n d the n a t u r e of
the leadership.
F r o m the a r g u m e n t s t h a t w e h a v e c o n s i d e r e d h e r e , I believe
t h a t m y s t i c i s m c a n be u n d e r s t o o d a s one v a r i a n t of the a p o c a
lyptic complex. It r e s p o n d s to a h a r s h a n d i n t r a n s i g e n t r e a l i t y ,
b u t the p s y c h o d y n a m i c pattern a n d characteristic archetypes
a r e p r o b a b l y d e t e r m i n e d u l t i m a t e l y b y biologically b a s e d b e h a v
ioural tendencies.
M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

CHAPTER THREE

INTRODUCTION

P r o p h e c y i s a n i n s t i t u t i o n of r e l i g i o u s l e a d e r s h i p t h a t a p p e a r e d
i n a n c i e n t I s r a e l d u r i n g a n d after the c o n q u e s t of C a n a a n a n d
c o n t i n u e d u n t i l t h e f i r s t p a r t of the P e r s i a n p e r i o d . T h e e a r l y
popular prophets, s u c h as Samuel, Elijah, a n d E l i s h a , contrib
u t e d to t h e c o n s o l i d a t i o n of the c o m m o n w e a l t h . T h e i r a c t i o n s a r e
r e c o r d e d e v e n m o r e fully t h a n t h e i r w o r d s . T h e l a t e r o r c l a s s i c a l
prophets are k n o w n primarily by their words, though we have
s o m e b i o g r a p h i c a l d a t a too. T h e b e s t k n o w n a r e I s a i a h , Jer
e m i a h , a n d E z e k i e l . It i s w i t h E z e k i e l t h a t H a l p e r i n ' s e s s a y i s
concerned.
A l t h o u g h a p o c a l y p t i c a p p e a r e d p e r h a p s t h r e e c e n t u r i e s after
t h e p r e s u m e d t e r m i n a t i o n of t h e age of p r o p h e c y a n d i s c o n
s i d e r e d b y s c h o l a r s to b e a v e r y different p h e n o m e n o n , I believe
t h a t p r o p h e c y c a n e a s i l y be s u b s u m e d w i t h i n t h e c a t e g o r y of
the apocalyptic complex. Our sources are meagre, but there
s e e m s to b e s o m e e v i d e n c e for a g r a d u a l e v o l u t i o n f r o m p r o p h
e c y to c l a s s i c a l a p o c a l y p t i c , a s c o m m o n s e n s e w o u l d suggest,
r a t h e r t h a n a n a b r u p t c e s s a t i o n of the o n e a n d , after a n i n t e r v a l ,
t h e i n c e p t i o n of t h e o t h e r ( H a n s o n , 1979).

83
84 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

B u t w h e t h e r or not t h a t p r o p o s i t i o n c a n b e demonstrated,
we c a n find i n c l a s s i c a l prophecy unmistakable components
of the a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x . T h e p r o p h e t s i n t h e i r o r a t o r y w a r n of
catastrophe, sometimes as punishment for s i n f u l behaviour,
s o m e t i m e s a s the c o n s e q u e n c e of u n w i s e p o l i t i c a l or m i l i t a r y
a d v e n t u r e . B u t a l t e r n a t i v e l y t h e y a s s u r e I s r a e l of s u r v i v a l a n d
r e b i r t h : " C o m f o r t y e , comfort y e , M y people, s a y s y o u r G o d " ( I s a .
4 0 : 1 ) . A n d E z e k i e f s p r o p h e c y of the r e b i r t h of the d r i e d b o n e s
i s m o r e d r a m a t i c , if l e s s w e l l k n o w n ( E z e k . 3 7 ) . A s a c o n t r i b u t i o n
to the r e a s s u r a n c e of I s r a e l , the p r o p h e t s o c c a s i o n a l l y foretell
the d o w n f a l l of the o p p r e s s i n g e n e m y e m p i r e .
Every prophecy i s p r e s e n t e d a s a r e v e l a t i o n given to the
p r o p h e t b y the L o r d . T h e r e v e l a t i o n d e a l s w i t h the c u r r e n t s t a t u s
of t h i n g s , w i t h p r e v a i l i n g i m m o r a l i t y a n d p r e s u m p t u o u s n e s s , or,
on t h e other h a n d , w i t h d e s p a i r r e s u l t i n g from o p p r e s s i o n ; b u t it
tells u s a l s o t h a t the former w i l l be p u n i s h e d a n d t h a t I s r a e l w i l l
be d e l i v e r e d from the latter.
A p r o p h e t m a y be c a l l e d to p r o p h e c y b y a s p e c i f i c event
often a t r a n c e e x p e r i e n c e s u c h a s t h o s e d e s c r i b e d i n I s a i a h ,
c h a p t e r 6, a n d E z e k i e l , c h a p t e r 2, or s p e a k of the " e n d of d a y s "
of I s a i a h , c h a p t e r 2. T h e p r o p h e t m a y d e s c r i b e a j o u r n e y a c c o m
plished by supernatural meansfor example, Ezekiel, chapter
8 a n d a v e h i c l e t h a t t r a v e l s t h r o u g h the h e a v e n s , a s i n E z e k i e l ,
c h a p t e r 1.
My point is that c l a s s i c a l prophecy a n d c l a s s i c a l apocalypse
c a n e a s i l y be d i s t i n g u i s h e d one from the other, b u t t h e y b o t h
c o n t a i n e l e m e n t s t h a t c l a s s i f y t h e m a s m e m b e r s of w h a t I h a v e
c a l l e d the a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x a n d from t h a t c o n c l u s i o n I infer
that they s h a r e a c o m m o n psychodynamic structure.
If w e look a t the t r a n c e e x p e r i e n c e s a s r e p o r t e d i n the b i b l i c a l
text, w e s h a l l h a v e little r e a s o n to q u e s t i o n t h e i r m y s t i c a l n a t u r e .
Repeatedly, E z e k i e l d e s c r i b e s the v i s i o n s t h a t h e r e c e i v e s . He
falls to the g r o u n d o v e r w h e l m e d . A s p i r i t e n t e r s h i m . T h e h a n d of
the L o r d c o m e s u p o n h i m . He is t r a n s p o r t e d i n s p i r i t from
one p l a c e to a n o t h e r . W h e n the w o r d of the L o r d c o m e s to h i m , h e
b e g i n s to p r o p h e s y ; the a c t u a l v o c a t i o n to p r o p h e c y i s g i v e n i n
c h a p t e r s 2 a n d 3.
A s i m i l a r d e s c r i p t i o n of v o c a t i o n to p r o p h e c y is given in
I s a i a h , c h a p t e r 6 n a m e l y , a v i s i o n of the D i v i n e P r e s e n c e , p r o
foundly moving visual a n d auditory experiences, hearing the
EZEKIEL AND THE ELDERS OF JUDAH 85

v o i c e of t h e L o r d , a n d finally the d i r e c t a s s i g n m e n t to p r o p h e s y .
The similar commissioning of J e r e m i a h i s g i v e n i n c h a p t e r 1.
E a c h a c c o u n t describes a n oral experience. Ezekiel is instructed
to e a t God's words i n the form of a m a t e r i a l s c r o l l . Isaiah
i s t o u c h e d o n t h e l i p s w i t h a live c o a l b y a s e r a p h . J e r e m i a h i s
touched on the m o u t h directly by G o d . God's w o r d i s p l a c e d
l i t e r a l l y i n t h e m o u t h of the p r o p h e t . I n e a c h c a s e , t h e prophet
r e s i s t s the a s s i g n m e n t . A s p l e n d i d p s y c h o a n a l y t i c s t u d y of t h i s
vocation experience is given b y J a c o b A r l o w (1951). A r l o w d r a w s
a t t e n t i o n to t h e t r a n s m i s s i o n of a u t h o r i t y b y t h e o r a l r o u t e , t h e
p r o p h e t ' s a m b i v a l e n c e , a n d the role of the d e a t h - r e b i r t h m e c h
anism.

T h e c o n s e c r a t i o n of the prophet is a t e m p o r a r y s c h i z o p h r e
noid a b a n d o n m e n t of reality a n d w i t h d r a w a l of object libido.
A s c h i z o p h r e n i c tries i n v a i n to r e - e s t a b l i s h these ties b y
involving h i s fellow m a n in the distorted relations of h i s
d e l u s i o n s . T h e prophet, however, through h i s m i s s i o n , s u c
ceeds i n r e - e s t a b l i s h i n g the emotional b o n d w i t h the world of
reality b e c a u s e his message truly corresponds to a deep
emotional reality w a i t i n g to be stirred i n the s o u l of h i s
c o n t e m p o r a r i e s . T h e apocalyptic d r e a m of I s a i a h of a n e r a of
u n i v e r s a l peace, w h e n " n a t i o n s h a l l not lift u p s w o r d a g a i n s t
n a t i o n " , is a true representation of the a s p i r a t i o n s of h u m a n
ity

W i t h o u t s a y i n g so explicitly, A r l o w clearly p l a c e s p r o p h e c y in
t h e d o m a i n of the a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x . He also compares the
" h e i g h t e n e d n a r c i s s i s m " of the p r o p h e t to a h y p o m a n i c s t a t e .
T h e r e a d e r w i l l r e c a l l , too, t h a t i n c h a p t e r o n e I n o t e d t h e fact
t h a t w h e r e a s i n the c a s e of m o s t m y s t i c s t h e o u t c o m e of t h e
m y s t i c a l trance state is a s u b m i s s i v e , subordinate, self-effacing
posture, i n the case of o t h e r s the m y s t i c e m e r g e s f r o m the
trance state a s a teacher a n d leader. T h e s e are the m y s t i c a l
leaders w h o s e roles i n history h a v e been recorded, w h e r e a s the
former group are seldom r e m e m b e r e d as individuals. Dynam
i c a l l y , w e m a y s a y t h a t the l e a d e r s e m e r g e d f r o m the trance
s t a t e , t h e s t a t e of u n i o n w i t h t h e i m a g e of the a r c h a i c p a r e n t ,
i d e n t i f i e d w i t h the D i v i n i t y a n d w i t h the p a r e n t w h o m H e r e p
resents. The i n d i v i d u a l , self-effacing mystic sees himself as
c l i n g i n g to a d i v i n e p a r e n t b y o b e d i e n c e a n d u n u s u a l l y i n t e n s e
r e l i g i o u s d e v o t i o n . T h e p r o p h e t s e e s h i m s e l f r e b o r n b y v i r t u e of
86 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

h i s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h G o d ; the r e b i r t h of the i n d i v i d u a l m y s t i c i s
achieved by his compliant righteousness.
E v e n t h o u g h the m y s t i c a l t r a n c e s t a t e r e s u l t s i n the p r o p h
et's i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h G o d , his prophecy expresses his own
v i e w s for w h i c h h e c l a i m s divine s a n c t i o n , a n d the affect i s h i s
too.
I n c h a p t e r two I s u g g e s t e d t h a t the t r a n c e i s f a v o u r e d by
a s t a t e of affect d i s e q u i l i b r i u m s p e c i f i c a l l y , the s t a t e i n w h i c h
depressive a n d antidepressive tendencies struggle a g a i n s t e a c h
o t h e r . I n m y e x p e r i e n c e , t h a t s t a t e a l s o t e n d s to g e n e r a t e a n g e r .
T h e r e f o r e , t r a n c e a n d a n g e r often o c c u r together i n p r o p h e t i c
l i t e r a t u r e . T h e a n g e r b e c o m e s explicit i n the e x p e r i e n c e of the
prophetic vocation.

A n d I s a i d , how long oh L o r d ? A n d he s a i d , u n t i l cities


r e m a i n without i n h a b i t a n t s a n d h o u s e s without people a n d
the g r o u n d will r e m a i n desolate. A n d the Lord s h a l l remove
the population a n d m u c h of the l a n d will be a b a n d o n e d . [Isa.
6:11,12]

B u t t h a t t h r e a t i s i m m e d i a t e l y followed b y the p r o m i s e of r e
birth:

B u t a tenth will r e m a i n a n d repent a n d will be c o n s u m e d like


the terebinth a n d the oak w h o s e t r u n k s u r v i v e s despite the
loss of leaves, a n d that t r u n k is the holy seed. [Isa. 6:13]

F o r the i n d i v i d u a l m y s t i c , the conflict is r e s o l v e d i n the


e u p h o r i a of the unio mystlca, w h i l e the d e s t r u c t i v e c o m p o n e n t i s
c o n f i n e d to the e x p e r i e n c e of r e j e c t i n g the m a t e r i a l a n d mun
dane.
W e s h a l l see t h a t i n merkavah a n d hekhaloth m y s t i c i s m , the
conflict i t s e l f i s e x p r e s s e d d i r e c t l y i n t h e f a n t a s y . T h e questing
m y s t i c i s p u n i s h e d for h i s p r e s u m p t i o n b y the a n g e l s u n l e s s h e
can assure them of h i s religious w o r t h i n e s s a n d self-effacing
intent.
D a v i d J . Halperin h a s recently published a book, Seeking
Ezekieb Text and Psychology (1993), i n w h i c h he s t u d i e s the
B o o k of E z e k i e l s y s t e m a t i c a l l y from a p s y c h o a n a l y t i c p o i n t of
v i e w . H i s c a r e f u l l y crafted s t u d y m o v e s s t e p b y s t e p to w h a t
s e e m s to be a n e c e s s a r y a n d p e r s u a s i v e a r g u m e n t . He con
cludes principally that Ezekiel is dominated by " a dread and
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 87

l o a t h i n g of f e m a l e s e x u a l i t y " . " W h a t e v e r o n e m a y s a y a b o u t the


b i b l i c a l G o d i n g e n e r a l (or G o d i n g e n e r a l ) , the G o d o f E z e k i e l
w a s a c r e a t i o n of E z e k i e r s o w n b r a i n . T h i s p r o p o s i t i o n follows
inevitably from the w o r k we have done here." Halperin also
demonstrates c l e a r l y the r a g e g e n e r a t e d in Ezekiel's mystical
prophetic experience.
W e h a v e before u s a b r i e f s e g m e n t of t h a t b o o k , somewhat
r e v i s e d for o u r p u r p o s e s h e r e . T h i s s e g m e n t demonstrates the
p o w e r of p s y c h o a n a l y t i c e x e g e s i s for e x p l i c a t i n g t h e m a n y p r o b
l e m s of text a n d c o n t e n t w i t h w h i c h t h e b o o k a b o u n d s . It a l s o
demonstrates c l e a r l y the destructive aspect of the prophet's
mystical trance, h i s m y s t i c a l identification w i t h G o d , and a
s p e c i f i c k i n d of m y s t i c a l r e v e l a t i o n n a m e l y , p e n e t r a t i n g s e c r e t
sinful fantasies a n d longings, w h i c h m a y well have been pro
j e c t i o n s o n t o o t h e r s of h i s o w n s e c r e t d e s i r e s . P r o f e s s o r M a r t i n
Bergmann provides a commentary from t h e p o i n t of v i e w of
t h e p r a c t i s i n g p s y c h o a n a l y s t . He d i s c u s s e s t h e psychodynamics
of t h e p r o p h e t ' s r e l a t i o n to h i s G o d a n d e m p h a s i z e s the sado
masochistic components.
Ezekiel and the Elders of Judah:
The workings of a prophetic trance

David J. Halperin

INTRODUCTION

I
n the spring of 597 B C , Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
subdued the rebellious kingdom of J u d a h a n d captured its
capital, J e r u s a l e m . He deported to Babylonia the more s u b
stantial persons of the kingdom. He left behind "the poorest of

The bulk of this paper originally appeared in David J . Halperin,


Seeking Ezekiel: Text and Psychology (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania
State University Press, 1993), pp. 58-73. Copyright 1993 by The Pennsyl
vania State University. Reproduced by permission of the publisher. I have
lightly revised the material, and provided i t with an introduction and a
conclusion, for its present publication.
I am indebted to the following persons: Pamela E. Kinlaw, who served
as my research assistant, helped me interpret Prov. 18:11-12. Daniel
Merkur provided me with references on dreams in sequence; and, in a
lecture of 17 March 1988, he pointed out the shamanistic seances de
scribed by Rasmussen and their interpretation. I owe to James H. Sanford
the reference to the seance described by Bogoras. Mortimer Ostow called
my attention to the potential importance of Jaazaniah's name i n shaping
Ezekiel's attitude towards the man; while Robert Segal stressed the impor
tance of distinguishing between Ezekiel's hatred of Jaazaniah having been
88
E Z E K I E L AND T H E ELDERS OF J U D A H 89

the people of the land", under a new king whom he had selected
(2 Kings 24:1^17). 1

Judah again rebelled. In 587 or 586, the Babylonians again


captured Jerusalem, this time destroying the temple of the
Judean God Yahweh along with the rest of the city; and, once
again, Jews went into Babylonian exile.
Of the "prophets" of the timeself-proclaimed spokesmen for
Yahweh, whose oracles eventually made their way into the canon
of the Hebrew BibleJeremiah was among those Jews who
stayed in Jerusalem until its final fall. His contemporary,
Ezekiel, was among those exiled in the deportation of 597. Our
concern here is with Ezekiel, and with the Biblical book that
bears his name.
This document represents itself, with considerable plausibil
ity, as Ezekiel's own account of the visions and messages he
received from Yahweh over a period of at least 22 years, begin
ning in 593 BC Its central concern is the city and temple Ezekiel
2

left behind. The first half of the book (chapters 1-24) pounds
across the idea that the city, drenched in blood and sin, is
doomed, for its temple is corrupted beyond hope of reform. True
to the prediction, both city and temple are destroyed (Ezek.
33:21-22). In the book's second half, Ezekiel promises their
restoration (chapters 33-48) and turns his fury on such foreign
powers as Tyre and Egypt (chapters 25-32).
All this is backed up by prophetic rhetoric, which is often
gruesome and occasionally obscene (e.g. chapters 16 and 23) yet
throughout powerfully effective. It is backed up also by bizarre
visions (e.g. chapters 1, 8-11) and pantomimes (e.g. Ezek.
12:1-20). Ezekiel must perform strange operations on his own

unconscious or simply suppressed. My wife, Rose S h a l o m , M . D . , directed


me towards the discussions of sudden cardiac death in the medical litera
ture and helped me interpret them. [D.J.H.I
1
All Biblical quotations in this chapter are my own translations from
the Hebrew.
2
T h e commentaries of G. A. Cooke (1936), Walther Zimmerli (1969),
and Moshe Greenberg (1983; to c h . 1-20 only) are the great Ezekiel
commentaries of our century and m u s t be consulted by all students of the
text. William H. Brownlee's commentary on Ezek. 1-19 (1986) is a useful
bibliographical resource. H. H. Rowley (1953-54) gives an excellent s u m
mary of approaches to the Book of Ezekiel i n the first half of this century.
90 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

b o d y ( E z e k . 5 : 1 - 4 ) . H e m u s t lie p a r a l y s e d ( E z e k . 4 : 1 - 8 ) . H e i s
obligated, u n t i l h e p r o t e s t s , to b a k e h i s b r e a d w i t h h u m a n e x
c r e m e n t ( E z e k . 4 : 9 - 1 5 ) . H i s tongue is b o u n d , a n d h i s d u m b n e s s
l e a v e s h i m o n l y w h e n the temple is a t l a s t d e s t r o y e d ( E z e k .
3:22-27, 24:25-27, 33:21-22).
It i s n o w o n d e r t h a t E z e k i e l h a s s o m e t i m e s b e e n t h o u g h t a
s i c k m a n (Lang, 1981, pp. 57-76). Moderns have occasionally
t r i e d to d i a g n o s e his illness. A u g u s t K l o s t e r m a n n (1877) a c
counted for Ezekiel's peculiarities in terms of what the
nineteenth century called "catalepsy". E d w i n C . Broome (1946)
a t t e m p t e d a p s y c h o a n a l y t i c a p p r o a c h to t h e s e p e c u l i a r i t i e s ; t h e
o u t c o m e w a s a d i a g n o s i s of p a r a n o i d s c h i z o p h r e n i a (cf. J a s p e r s ,
1947). Biblical scholars have normally either dismissed
Broomeoften i n the m o s t d i s p a r a g i n g t e r m s o r i g n o r e d h i m
altogether ( C a s s e m , 1973; D a v i s , 1989, p. 6 6 ; G a r f l n k e l , 1987,
1989; Howie, 1950, pp. 69-79). Psychoanalysts have occasion
a l l y a d o p t e d s o m e of B r o o m e ' s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of p a s s a g e s f r o m
E z e k i e l , w h i l e a p p a r e n t l y r e m a i n i n g u n a w a r e t h a t it w a s h e w h o
h a d f i r s t p r o p o s e d t h e m (Arlow, 1 9 5 1 ; cf. M e r k u r , 1 9 8 8 ) .
F o r a l l its flaws (notably, its u s e l e s s effort at diagnosis),
B r o o m e ' s p s y c h o a n a l y t i c a p p r o a c h s e e m s to m e fundamentally
s o u n d . I have argued at some length that E z e k i e l ' s book does,
i n d e e d , provide u s w i t h reliable c l u e s to the p s y c h e of i t s a u t h o r :
a m a r v e l l o u s l y gifted y e t p r o f o u n d l y d i s t u r b e d m a n , h a u n t e d b y
a p a t h o l o g i c a l d r e a d a n d l o a t h i n g of female s e x u a l i t y , a n d b y a
profound ambivalence towards a dominant male figure whose
f e a t u r e s h e n o r m a l l y d i s p l a c e d onto h i s G o d ( H a l p e r i n , 1 9 9 3 ) .
O n e of the c o r n e r s t o n e s of t h i s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i s t h e " t e m p l e
v i s i o n " of E z e k . 8 - 1 1 . S c h o l a r s h a v e long r e c o g n i z e d t h a t t h i s
text i s r i d d l e d w i t h p r o b l e m s from b e g i n n i n g to e n d a n d h a v e
offered a w i d e v a r i e t y of s o l u t i o n s to t h e s e p r o b l e m s . T h e m o s t
effective s o l u t i o n , i n m y o p i n i o n , i s to see t h i s v i s i o n a s an
a u t h e n t i c d e s c r i p t i o n , n o t of a n y t h i n g t h a t a c t u a l l y w e n t o n i n
t h e J e r u s a l e m temple, b u t of the p s y c h i c l a n d s c a p e of i t s a u t h o r .
T h i s l a n d s c a p e c a n be m o s t effectively m a p p e d i n p s y c h o a n a l y t i c
terms.
I n the p a g e s t h a t follow, w h i c h a r e d r a w n from m y longer
study, I offer m y t h e o r y of the r e a l i t y t h a t u n d e r l i e s E z e k i e l
8-11. A t t h i s s t a g e of the a r g u m e n t , I h a v e n o t y e t e n t e r e d i n t o
t h e a n a l y s i s of E z e k i e l ' s s y m b o l i s m a n d w h a t t h i s h a s to tell u s
EZEKIEL AND THE ELDERS OF J U D A H 91

a b o u t the p s y c h o l o g y of i t s c r e a t o r . M y a i m i s , r a t h e r , to c l a r i f y
t h e n a t u r e a n d s o m e of t h e d e t e r m i n a n t s of E z e k i e f s v i s i o n a r y
e x p e r i e n c e a n d h o w t h i s e x p e r i e n c e i n t e r a c t e d w i t h the p h y s i c a l
a n d s o c i a l r e a l i t i e s i n t h e m i d s t of w h i c h E z e k i e l f o u n d h i m s e l f .
A t t h e s a m e t i m e , m y r e c o n s t r u c t i o n of t h e r e a l i t y b e h i n d t h e
text m u s t c o n t r i b u t e to t h e e l u c i d a t i o n of t h e text itself. T o t h e
e x t e n t to w h i c h I s u c c e e d i n t h i s g o a l t o w h i c h m y r e c o n s t r u c
t i o n m a k e s s e n s e of t e x t u a l p r o b l e m s t h a t h a v e baffled e a r l i e r
e x p o s i t o r s t o t h a t e x t e n t w e m a y t r u s t t h a t i t s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of
E z e k i e l a n d h i s s u r r o u n d i n g s a p p r o x i m a t e s the h i s t o r i c a l t r u t h .

The chambers of imagination

E z e k i e l 8:1 d a t e s the v i s i o n d e s c r i b e d i n the following c h a p t e r s to


" t h e s i x t h y e a r , t h e s i x t h m o n t h , t h e fifth d a y of t h e m o n t h " t h a t
i s , s o m e time i n S e p t e m b e r , 592 BC ( G r e e n b e r g , 1983, p. 8).
E z e k i e l s i t s i n h i s h o u s e , t h e " e l d e r s of J u d a h " i n a t t e n d a n c e . A
l u m i n o u s h u m a n f o r m a p p e a r s to h i m a n d h o l d s h i m t r a n s f i x e d .
A " s p i r i t " , m e a n w h i l e , "lifted m e u p b e t w e e n e a r t h a n d h e a v e n
a n d b r o u g h t m e to J e r u s a l e m i n v i s i o n s of G o d " ( E z e k . 8 : 1 - 3 ) .
S o m e t i m e l a t e r , t h e s p i r i t a g a i n lifts E z e k i e l u p a n d brings
h i m b a c k to B a b y l o n i a , " i n the v i s i o n , i n the s p i r i t of G o d ; a n d
t h e v i s i o n I h a d s e e n lifted off m e . A n d I s p o k e to the e x i l e s a l l t h e
w o r d s of Y a h w e h t h a t h e h a d s h o w n m e " ( E z e k . 1 1 : 2 4 - 2 5 ) .
I n - b e t w e e n , t h e p r o p h e t h a s s e e n t h e t e m p l e of J e r u s a l e m
d e s e c r a t e d b y a s t r i n g of " a b o m i n a t i o n s " , e a c h worse t h a n the
one before. A n " i m a g e of j e a l o u s y , t h a t i n c i t e s j e a l o u s y " , s t a n d s
a t t h e n o r t h e r n i n n e r gate of the t e m p l e c o u r t . S e v e n t y e l d e r s of
I s r a e l b u r n i n c e n s e to i m a g e s of u n s p e a k a b l e c r e a t u r e s i n s i d e a
m y s t e r i o u s c h a m b e r . W o m e n s i t w e e p i n g for " T a m m u z " . A g r o u p
of m e n s t a n d o u t s i d e t h e t e m p l e a n d p r o s t r a t e t h e m s e l v e s to
w a r d s the r i s i n g s u n (Ezek. 8 : 3 - 1 8 ) .
Vengeance follows. A band of h u m a n - l i k e beings passes
t h r o u g h J e r u s a l e m a n d s l a u g h t e r s the entire p o p u l a t i o n , except
for t h o s e " w h o s i g h a n d c r y over a l l the a b o m i n a t i o n s t h a t a r e
d o n e i n t h e i r midst**, a n d w h o h a v e b e e n s e t a p a r t b y a m a r k o n
t h e i r f o r e h e a d s ( c h a p t e r 9). O n e of t h e s e b e i n g s , t h e o n e w h o h a s
m a d e t h e m a r k , i s s e n t to b u r n t h e c i t y w i t h c o a l s of fire ( E z e k .
92 MYSTICISM AND PROPHECY

1 0 : 2 - 7 ) . T h e glory of Y a h w e h , u n t i l n o w r e s i d e n t i n the t e m p l e ,
l e a v e s t h e b r o n z e c h e r u b i m o n w h i c h it h a s b e e n e n c a m p e d a n d
m o u n t s a chariot carried by animate c h e r u b i m (Ezek. 10:3-4,
18).
T h e c h a r i o t p a u s e s i n i t s d e p a r t u r e a t the e a s t gate of t h e
t e m p l e ( E z e k . 1 0 : 1 9 ) , w h e r e it a n d E z e k i e l e n c o u n t e r a band
of s i n f u l J e w i s h l e a d e r s . E z e k i e l p r o p h e s i e s a g a i n s t t h e m , w i t h
t h e r e s u l t t h a t one of t h e m , P e l a t i a h b e n B e n a i a h , d r o p s d e a d
(Ezek. 11:1-13). There follows an oracle, i t s r e l a t i o n to its
c o n t e x t u n c e r t a i n , w h i c h a p p e a r s to defend the r e l i g i o u s s t a t u s
of E z e k i e l ' s fellow-exiles against the arrogant claims of the
J e r u s a l e m i t e s ( E z e k . 1 1 : 1 4 - 2 1 ) . T h e c h a r i o t , Y a h w e h * s glory o n
it, l e a v e s J e r u s a l e m a n d s e t t l e s o n " t h e m o u n t a i n to the e a s t of
t h e c i t y " ( E z e k . 1 1 : 2 2 - 2 3 ) . A n d E z e k i e l i s r e t u r n e d to B a b y l o n i a .
T h e scholars who have d i s c u s s e d this vision have normally
f o c u s e d o n t h e " a b o m i n a t i o n s " of c h a p t e r 8. P r e c i s e l y w h a t r e l i
g i o u s p r a c t i c e s i s E z e k i e l d e s c r i b i n g ? (See, e.g., A l b r i g h t , 1942,
p p . 1 6 5 - 1 6 8 : G a s t e r , 1 9 4 1 . ) T o w h a t e x t e n t d o e s h i s a c c o u n t of
t h e m a c c u r a t e l y represent c u l t i c activity c a r r i e d out i n the J e r u
s a l e m t e m p l e d u r i n g the l a s t d a y s of the k i n g d o m of J u d a h ? If
Ezekiel's a c c o u n t is substantially accurate, a s most have s u p
p o s e d , h o w a r e w e to s q u a r e it w i t h the c l a i m of t h e S e c o n d B o o k
of K i n g s t h a t K i n g J o s i a h ( 6 4 0 - 6 0 9 BC) h a d e a r l i e r p u r g e d the
t e m p l e w o r s h i p of n o n - Y a h w i s t e l e m e n t s ; a n d w i t h the same
w r i t e r ' s failure to a c c u s e J o s i a h ' s s u c c e s s o r s of h a v i n g u n d o n e
h i s reforms (2 K i n g s 2 3 - 2 5 ) ? B u t if E z e k i e l ' s v i s i o n i s " p u r e
f a n t a s y " a s Y e h e z k e l K a u f m a n n h a s powerfully a r g u e d (1960,
p p . 4 2 8 - 4 3 2 ) h o w a r e w e to a c c o u n t for h i s i n t e n s e c o n v i c t i o n
of i t s r e a l i t y ? H o w c a n w e e x p l a i n h i s h e a r e r s * e v i d e n t w i l l i n g
n e s s to believe h i m on t h i s p o i n t ?
I n t h e c o u r s e of e l u c i d a t i n g t h i s i s s u e , the commentators
h a v e n a t u r a l l y h a d to g r a p p l e w i t h the q u e s t i o n of the n a t u r e of
E z e k i e l ' s e x p e r i e n c e a n d of h i s role i n the e v e n t s h e d e s c r i b e s .
Most obviously, if he w a s p h y s i c a l l y i n B a b y l o n i a , h o w d i d h e
k n o w w h a t w a s going on i n the J e r u s a l e m t e m p l e ? H o w c o u l d
he have brought about Pelatiah's death in J e r u s a l e m ? Some
h a v e gone s o far a s to s u p p o s e t h a t E z e k i e l w a s c l a i r v o y a n t ; or,
a l t e r n a t i v e l y , t h a t the B a b y l o n i a n s e t t i n g of h i s b o o k i s a fiction,
a n d t h a t E z e k i e l a c t u a l l y lived a n d p r e a c h e d i n P a l e s t i n e (see
Lang, 1981, pp. 7-12, 75-76).
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 93

T h i s latter a l t e r n a t i v e w h i c h requires a t least s o m e editorial


t a m p e r i n g w i t h t h e t e x t b r i n g s u s to a l i t e r a r y q u e s t i o n p o s e d
b y c h a p t e r s 8 - 1 1 , a s i n d e e d b y t h e e n t i r e b o o k of E z e k i e L T o
w h a t e x t e n t i s t h e a c c o u n t of t h e t e m p l e v i s i o n a c t u a l l y E z e k i e l ' s
w o r k ? H o w m u c h of it w a s c r e a t e d b y l a t e r w r i t e r s ? T h e v e r y
conservative s t a n d Greenberg (1983) h a s taken on this question
c o n t r a s t s s h a r p l y w i t h Z i m m e r l f s ( 1 9 6 9 ) w i l l i n g n e s s to i d e n t i f y
m a n y l a y e r s of e d i t o r i a l w o r k i n t h e v i s i o n a n d to identify a n
original core that is considerably shorter t h a n the c o r r e s p o n d i n g
text t h a t n o w a p p e a r s i n o u r B i b l e s .
O u r p r e s e n t c o n s t r a i n t s w i l l n o t a l l o w u s to e n t e r i n t o t h e
d e t a i l s of t h i s l a s t i s s u e . Y e t o u r a n a l y s i s of t h e v i s i o n a r y e x p e r i
e n c e h e r e d e s c r i b e d w i l l s u g g e s t t h a t t h e text a s w e h a v e it i s
e s s e n t i a l l y t r u s t w o r t h y . T h e difficulties s c h o l a r s h a v e p e r c e i v e d
i n i t a r e r e a l , b u t t h e y do n o t r e q u i r e t h a t w e p e e l a w a y v a r i o u s
i n a u t h e n t i c l a y e r s from a n a u t h e n t i c core. R a t h e r , they demand
a f r e s h l o o k a t w h a t E z e k i e l m e a n t to s a y , a n d a t t h e s i t u a t i o n
reflected i n h i s w o r d s .
Two postulates will guide u s towards understanding the
vision.
F i r s t , t h e " e l d e r s of J u d a h " , m e n t i o n e d a t t h e b e g i n n i n g of
the v i s i o n ( a n d , b y implication, a t its end) are n o t merely p a r t
of t h e v i s i o n ' s f r a m e w o r k . T h e y a r e i t s a u d i e n c e . T h e y a r e t h e
o b j e c t s of i t s a c c u s a t i o n s a s well. It is they w h o appear as
the twenty-five s u n - w o r s h i p p e r s of E z e k . 8 : 1 6 (called "elders"
i n E z e k . 9 : 6 , a c c o r d i n g to t h e r e a d i n g of t h e M a s o r e t i c Hebrew
Text), a n d a s the twenty-five " p r i n c e s of t h e p e o p l e " i n E z e k .
1 1 : 1 . T h e y a p p e a r a l s o a s t h e s e v e n t y e l d e r s of E z e k . 8 : 1 1 ; o n l y
3

h e r e t h e i r n u m b e r h a s b e e n d e t e r m i n e d , n o t b y t h e r e a l i t y of t h e
h i s t o r i c a l s i t u a t i o n , b u t b y t h e P e n t a t e u c h a l t r a d i t i o n of t h e
" s e v e n t y m e n of t h e e l d e r s of I s r a e l " ( N u m . 1 1 : 1 6 - 1 7 , 2 4 ^ 3 0 ) .
T h e y crop u p a g a i n a n d a g a i n i n the v i s i o n , b e c a u s e they are

The Masoretic text has "twenty-five" in both 8:16 and 11:1. The
3

Greek version of the Septuagint reads "twenty" in 8:16, but supports the
Masoretic Text in 11:1. I suggest that these numbers reflect the actual
number of elders who sat before Ezekiel, which was between twenty and
twenty-five. The variationsbetween the Septuagint's 8:16 and 11:1, be
tween 8:16 according to the Masoretic Text and 8:16 according to the
Septuagintrepresent variant approximations to this actual number.
94 MYSTICISM AND PROPHECY

p a r t of its e n v i r o n m e n t . T h e y a r e , i n d e e d , its m a i n exciting


factor. T h a t i s w h y , w i t h i n the v i s i o n , t h e y a r e i n d e s t r u c t i b l e .
S e c o n d , the c h a r g e s m a d e against t h e m are not only fantasy
( a s K a u f m a n n , 1 9 6 0 , h a s a r g u e d ) , b u t a r e e x p l i c i t l y s t a t e d to be
f a n t a s y . O n l y , E z e k i e l will not a c k n o w l e d g e the f a n t a s y a s h i s
o w n . H e therefore p r o j e c t s it onto the e l d e r s , d e c l a r i n g t h a t h e i s
exposing their h i d d e n w i s h e s . T h e g r o u n d s for E z e k i e l ' s e r r o n
eous conviction are to be elucidatedas I do in m y book
(Halperin, 1993)along psychoanalytic lines.
T h e s i t u a t i o n d e s c r i b e d i n E z e k . 8 : 1 " I w a s i n m y h o u s e , the
e l d e r s of J u d a h s i t t i n g before m e " r e c u r s twice i n the B o o k of
E z e k i e l . " M e n of the e l d e r s of I s r a e l c a m e to m e a n d s a t before
m e " ( E z e k . 1 4 : 1 ) . " I n the s e v e n t h y e a r , i n t h e fifth m o n t h , o n the
t e n t h of t h e m o n t h , m e n of the e l d e r s of I s r a e l c a m e to i n q u i r e of
Y a h w e h , a n d t h e y s a t before m e " ( E z e k . 2 0 : 1 ) .
C o m m e n t a t o r s have pointed out that this situation is stereo
t y p i c . L i k e s o m u c h i n E z e k i e l , it i s r e m i n i s c e n t of t h e p r o p h e t
stories i n 1 a n d 2 Kings. Specifically, 2 Kings 6:32 represents
E l i s h a a s " s i t t i n g i n h i s h o u s e , the e l d e r s s i t t i n g w i t h h i m " ; a n d
the language of t h i s p a s s a g e is very suggestive of E z e k i e l ' s
(Carley, 1975, p p . 4 2 - 4 5 ) . It d o e s n o t follow, h o w e v e r , t h a t w e
a r e d e a l i n g w i t h a p u r e l y literary stereotype. T h e s i t u a t i o n m a y
h a v e b e c o m e a s t a p l e of p r o p h e t - n a r r a t i v e s p r e c i s e l y b e c a u s e it
t e n d e d to r e c u r i n r e a l life. W e h a v e n o r e a s o n to d e n y t h a t o n
certain occasions J e w i s h elders did sit in E z e k i e l ' s h o u s e while
t h e y c o n s u l t e d h i m , or t h a t the B o o k of E z e k i e l d e s c r i b e s t h r e e
s u c h actual occasions.
Now, o n the s e c o n d a n d t h i r d of t h e s e o c c a s i o n s , Ezekiel
interacts with h i s visitors in a violently hostile m a n n e r .
In E z e k . 14:3, Y a h w e h advises his prophet that

these m e n have lifted u p their idols upon their heart, a n d


p u t the s t u m b l i n g block of their iniquity before their faces
[he'elu gillulehem 'al lihham umikhshol 'awonam natenu
nokhah penehem]. A m I indeed to let them inquire of m e ?

E z e k i e l m u s t d e c l a r e to t h e m t h a t a n y o n e

w h o lifts h i s idols upon h i s h e a r t a n d p u t s the s t u m b l i n g


block of h i s iniquity before h i s face, a n d t h e n comes to the
prophet, I Y a h w e h have responded to h i m c o n c e r n i n g it [?J,
a c c o r d i n g to the multitude of h i s idols. . . . I will set m y face
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 95

a g a i n s t t h a t p e r s o n , I will m a k e h i m a sign a n d a s u b j e c t o f
proverbs, a n d I will c u t h i m off from m y people. [ E z e k . 1 4 : 4 ,
8] 4

The Israelites must therefore repent of their idols


[gilliilekhem], t u r n t h e i r f a c e s a w a y f r o m a l l of t h e i r a b o m i n a
tions [to'abotekhem ( E z e k . 14:6)]. W e c a n h a r d l y doubt that
E z e k i e l indeed delivered this m e s s a g e w i t h appropriate violence.
N o t i c e t h a t E z e k i e l d o e s n o t a c c u s e t h e e l d e r s of a c t u a l l y
h a v i n g w o r s h i p p e d i d o l s , p e r f o r m e d i n i q u i t o u s a c t s , or c o m m i t
ted "abominations". R a t h e r , they have imagined doing these
t h i n g s . T h e y " h a v e lifted t h e i r i d o l s u p o n t h e i r h e a r t s " t h a t i s ,
admitted them to t h e i r t h o u g h t s . (The idiom is m o s t clearly
paralleled i n I s a . 65:17, J e r . 51:50, a n d E z e k . 38:10. See also
n o t e 7, b e l o w . ) W h e n E z e k i e l tells t h e m to t u r n t h e i r f a c e s a w a y
from their abominations, h e i s , a s G r e e n b e r g s a y s ( 1 9 8 3 , p.
248), u s i n g " a m e t a p h o r for d i s r e g a r d i n g w h a t i s o n l y i n t h e
m i n d " . Y e t t h e s e i m a g i n a r y a b o m i n a t i o n s , w h o s e n a t u r e i s left
entirely vague, merit the m o s t ferocious retribution.
E z e k i e l , w h a t e v e r h e m a y have believed, c a n h a r d l y h a v e h a d
d i r e c t a c c e s s to w h a t t h e e l d e r s w e r e t h i n k i n g . W e m a y s u p p o s e ,
if w e w i s h , t h a t h e c o n s t r u c t e d h i s n o t i o n s of t h e i r f a n t a s i e d
" a b o m i n a t i o n s " b y s o m e p r o c e s s of inferencehowever c o n f u s e d
a n d d i s t o r t e d f r o m w h a t h e h a d o b s e r v e d of t h e i r s p e e c h a n d
behaviour. B u t there is another possibility, w h i c h better a c c o r d s
with a psychoanalytic approach to t h e " a b o m i n a t i o n s " and
w h i c h therefore d r a w s s t r e n g t h f r o m t h e a b i l i t y of t h i s a p p r o a c h
to e l u c i d a t e t h e d e t a i l s of E z e k i e l , c h a p t e r 8 ( H a l p e r i n , 1 9 9 3 ) . I t
i s t h a t t h e elders* i m a g i n e d " a b o m i n a t i o n s " w e r e E z e k i e f s o w n
f a n t a s i e s , w h i c h h e p r o j e c t e d onto t h e m .
Yet the elders, being h u m a n , m u s t occasionally have h a d
thoughts of w h i c h t h e i r c o n s c i e n c e s d i s a p p r o v e d . I t i s h a r d l y
f a n t a s t i c to s u p p o s e t h a t t h e y m a y h a v e felt E z e k i e f s v a g u e
a c c u s a t i o n s to a p p l y to t h e m , a n d t h a t t h e y left h i s p r e s e n c e
feeling g u i l t y a n d c h a s t e n e d .

4
Verses 7-8 largely repeat and expand verses 4-5, and both passages
are cast in the style of the Pentateuchal source known as the * Holiness
Code" (Lev. 17:20, for example). The repetitiousness and the use of lan
guage akin to that of the Holiness Code are both characteristic of Ezekiel
(Carley, 1975, pp. 62-65). The meaning of bah in verse 4 is unclear, and
the text uncertain.
96 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

E z e k i e l ' s r e s p o n s e to t h e i n q u i r i n g e l d e r s i n c h a p t e r 2 0 i s n o
l e s s h o s t i l e . A s i n c h a p t e r 14, Y a h w e h i s i n d i g n a n t t h a t s u c h
m e n h a v e c o m e to i n q u i r e of h i m ( E z e k . 2 0 : 3 , 31). He blames
t h e m for t h e i r a n c e s t o r s * " a b o m i n a t i o n s " (to'abot i n v e r s e 4; t h i s
i s t h e w o r d u s e d t h r o u g h o u t c h a p t e r 8). H e d e m a n d s to k n o w
w h e t h e r t h e y a r e defiled i n the w a y s of t h e i r a n c e s t o r s , w h e t h e r
they go whoring after their ancestors' despicable things
[shiqqusehern], w h e t h e r t h e y c o n t i n u e to offer c h i l d s a c r i f i c e "to
this day" (verses 3 0 - 3 1 ) . 5
"The thoughts that have crossed y o u r
m i n d s t h a t w h i c h y o u s a y , ' L e t u s be like the n a t i o n s , l i k e t h e
6

f a m i l i e s of the l a n d s , s e r v i n g w o o d a n d s t o n e w i l l c e r t a i n l y
n e v e r c o m e to p a s s " (verse 3 2 ) .
H e r e a g a i n , E z e k i e l c l a i m s to k n o w w h a t h i s v i s i t o r s a r e
t h i n k i n g . T h e s e alleged thoughts are enough to p r o v o k e his
a c c u s a t i o n t h a t the e l d e r s r e p l i c a t e the s i n s of t h e i r f o r b e a r s
w h o s e h e a r t s a n d e y e s w e n t after a b o m i n a t i o n s ( v e r s e s 16, 24;
cf. N u m . 1 5 : 3 9 ) , w h o c o u l d n o t b r i n g t h e m s e l v e s to c a s t a w a y
t h e s i n s t h e y l o o k e d after a n d h a n k e r e d for [shiqquse 'enehem
( v e r s e s 7 - 8 ) ] . It a g a i n a p p e a r s , t h o u g h n o t a s c l e a r l y a s i n c h a p
ter 14, t h a t E z e k i e F s f u r y i s d i r e c t e d a g a i n s t w h a t the e l d e r s
have imagined, not w h a t they have done.
I n b l a m i n g h i s a u d i e n c e for t h e s i n s of t h e I s r a e l i t e a n c e s
tors, E z e k i e l c o n d e m n s h i m s e l f together w i t h t h e m . W e may
r e a d t h i s a s a n a d m i s s i o n t h a t t h e i r s i n s a r e h i s . T h a t i s to s a y ,
the imaginings he c o n d e m n s in the elders are really h i s o w n .
C a n w e e x t e n d t h e s e o b s e r v a t i o n s , b y a n a l o g y , to c h a p t e r s
8-11?
I n t h e s e c h a p t e r s , too, p e o p l e ' s t h o u g h t s c o m e u n d e r a t t a c k .
T h i s is clearest in Ezek. 1 1 : 1 - 1 3 , w h e r e the " p r i n c e s " E z e k i e l

5
I r e a d v e r s e s 3 0 - 3 1 a s a s e r i e s of four q u e s t i o n s , t h e first b e g i n n i n g
w i t h t h e i n t e r r o g a t i v e he ( K a u t z s c h , 1 9 1 0 , p. 2 9 6 ) , e a c h of t h e o t h e r s w i t h
waw. T h i s s u p p o s i t i o n s o f t e n s , t h o u g h it c e r t a i n l y d o e s n o t e l i m i n a t e , t h e
s e e m i n g l y i m p l a u s i b l e c h a r g e that the B a b y l o n i a n exiles were p r a c t i s i n g
c h i l d s a c r i f i c e ( G r e e n b e r g , 1 9 8 3 , p. 3 8 7 : H e i d e r , 1 9 8 5 , p p . 3 7 3 - 3 7 4 ) .
E z e k i e l i n s i n u a t e s i t w i t h a q u e s t i o n (of t h e a r e - y o u - s t i l l - b e a t i n g - y o u r
wife v a r i e t y ) , b u t d o e s n o t a s s e r t it o u t r i g h t . I h a v e a r g u e d ( H a l p e r i n ,
1 9 9 3 , p p . 1 6 7 - 1 7 2 ) t h a t E z e k i e l k n e w perfectly w e l l t h a t t h e e l d e r s w e r e
n o t s a c r i f i c i n g c h i l d r e n , y e t h e w a s d r i v e n b y h i s p s y c h o p a t h o l o g y to
i m a g i n e t h a t t h e y must b e d o i n g s o . H i s i n s i n u a t i n g q u e s t i o n r e p r e s e n t s a
c o m p r o m i s e b e t w e e n h i s f a n t a s y a n d h i s a w a r e n e s s of r e a l i t y .
6
Ha'olah 'al ruhakhem\ c o r r e s p o n d i n g to he'elu. . . 'al libbamin 14:3.
E Z E K I E L A N D T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 97

denounces are said to be "the men who think iniquity


[hahoshebim 'awen], a n d w h o give bad counsel concerning
this city" (Ezek. 1 1 : 2 ) . " B a d c o u n s e l " , it i s true, w o u l d
7
suggest
t h a t t h e " p r i n c e s " n o t o n l y " t h o u g h t i n i q u i t y " , b u t w e n t o n to
t r a n s l a t e their thought into p e r s u a s i v e s p e e c h . B u t E z e k . 11:5
i n d i c a t e s t h a t t h e y a r e b l a m e d for t h e i r t h o u g h t s a s w e l l a s for
their speech. " T h u s you have said, house of I s r a e l " , Ezekiel
d e c l a r e s to t h e m i n Y a h w e h ' s n a m e , " a n d I k n o w t h e t h o u g h t s
that have crossed your minds [uma'alot ruhakhem ani
yeda'tiha]" T h i s b o a s t , of h a v i n g u n m a s k e d t h e v i l l a i n s ' s e c r e t
m u s i n g s , w o u l d h a v e little p o i n t i f t h e s e h a d a l r e a d y b e e n p u b
licly expressed.
W e note that the language of t h i s p a s s a g e e c h o e s t h a t of
c h a p t e r s 1 4 a n d 2 0 . Ma'alot ruhakhem c o r r e s p o n d s to ha'olah
'al ruhakhem (Ezek. 20:32). T h e fragmentary d e n u n c i a t i o n of
E z e k . 1 1 : 2 1 , w h i c h d o e s n o t fit v e r y w e l l w i t h i t s p r e s e n t c o n t e x t
a n d s e e m s to b e c o n n e c t e d w i t h E z e k . 1 1 : 1 - 1 3 , i s r e m i n i s c e n t of
Ezek. 20:16. 8

B u t I t h i n k 8 : 1 2 c o n t a i n s a m o r e s i g n i f i c a n t , if l e s s o b v i o u s ,
r e f e r e n c e to evil t h o u g h t s . T h e H e b r e w text r e a d s : hara*ita ben
adorn asher ziqne bet yisra'el 'osun bahoshekh ish behadre
maskito. T h e R e v i s e d S t a n d a r d V e r s i o n reflects t h e n e a r l y u n i
v e r s a l u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h i s p a s s a g e : " S o n of m a n , h a v e y o u
s e e n w h a t t h e e l d e r s o f t h e h o u s e of I s r a e l a r e d o i n g i n t h e d a r k ,
e v e r y m a n i n h i s r o o m of p i c t u r e s ? " 9

B u t , s o u n d e r s t o o d , t h e text i s difficult. K a u f m a n n ( 1 9 6 0 , p.
4 3 0 ) h a s p o i n t e d o u t t h a t it a p p e a r s to c o n t r a d i c t t h e p r e c e d i n g

Ba'ir hazzot; more commonly translated, "in this city" (e.g. Revised
7

Standard Version |RSV|). I translate it as I do in accord with my belief


(defended below, and in Halperin, 1993, pp. 73-79) that Ezekiel is ad
dressing his fellow exiles.
Cf. 11:21,
8
we'el leb shiqqusehem weto'ahotehem libbam hole
20:16, ahare gillulehem libbam holekh.
In a footnote, the RSV translators scrupulously record that the He
9

brew has plural "rooms", as if each elder has not one but several "rooms of
pictures". The Septuagint, which significantly differs from the Masoretic
Text throughout 8:7-12, supports it here, omitting only the word
bahoshekh ["in the dark"], for there is no reason to suppose that en to
koitoni to krypto auton is anything but a guess at the meaning of behadre
maskito.
98 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

verses, w h i c h have the elders gathered together in a single


c h a m b e r . T o m a i n t a i n the conventional u n d e r s t a n d i n g , w e m u s t
s u p p o s e t h a t " t h e v i s i o n of the s e v e n t y e l d e r s a l l together s e e m s
to h a v e b e e n r e p l a c e d b y a n o t h e r of e a c h i n h i s p r i v a t e r o o m s "
( G r e e n b e r g , 1 9 8 3 , p. 1 7 0 ) , or t h a t " t h e s i n f u l form of devotion
w h i c h t h e p r o p h e t s a w p r a c t i s e d i n a n a s s e m b l y of the s e v e n t y
e l d e r s took p l a c e a l s o i n i n d i v i d u a l h o u s e s " ( Z i m m e r l i , 1 9 6 9 , p.
242). Cooke, supposing t h a t the locale m u s t b e the temple,
w o n d e r s w h e t h e r it i s " l i k e l y t h a t e a c h of the s e v e n t y e l d e r s h a d
a c h a m b e r to h i m s e l f " ( 1 9 3 6 , p. 9 5 ) . Z i m m e r l i h i m s e l f , following
C a r l H e i n r i c h Cornill a n d Georg Fohrer, considers deleting the
whole passage a s a gloss. Clearly, there is a real problem here.
T h e c r u x of t h e p r o b l e m , a n d t h e p a t h to i t s s o l u t i o n , lie i n
the word maskit
Outside our passage, the w o r d o c c u r s five times i n the
Hebrew Bible. 1 0
T w o of t h e s e o c c u r r e n c e s , L e v . 2 6 : 1 a n d N u m .
33:52, p l a i n l y refer to s o m e sort of i d o l a t r o u s engravings.
P r o v . 2 5 : 1 1 , u s i n g maskiyyot for a s i l v e r f r a m e i n w h i c h " g o l d e n
a p p l e s " c a n be s e t , c o n f i r m s t h a t the w o r d c a n m e a n a s k i l f u l l y
c r a f t e d object.
B u t the o t h e r two o c c u r r e n c e s s u g g e s t a n o t h e r option. I n
Psalm 7 3 : 7 , it i s n o t e a s y to u n d e r s t a n d maskiyyot lebab
l i t e r a l l y , "maskiyyot of the h e a r t " a s a n y t h i n g o t h e r t h a n " s i n f u l
i m a g i n i n g s " e n t e r t a i n e d b y the w i c k e d , w h i c h a r e followed (in

Other derivatives of the root sky are not very helpful, since they are
1 0

even more ambiguous than maskit Job 38:36 uses sekhwi in parallelism
with tuhot: "Who has placed wisdom in the tuhot? Who has given under
standing to the sekhwi?" If tuhot here refers to human organs of thought
or feeling (as appears from Psalm 51:8, its only other occurrence in the
Bible), it is reasonable to suppose that sekhwi here is "mind" or "imagina
tion\ The context in Job, however, points to some sort of meteorological
phenomenon. The Revised Standard Version translates accordingly. In
Isa. 2:16, sekhiyyot hahemdah appear in a list of lofty things that are to be
brought low on the day of Yahweh: cedars, mountains, towers, walls, and,
in immediate parallelism, "ships of Tarshish". This implies they are some
sort of structure. On the other hand, they are followed (verse 17) by
gabhut ha'adam and rum anashim, which are best taken as referring to
human pride. If sekhiyyot halvemdah are placed in the latter company, we
might reasonably take them to be "splendid imaginings**with a pejora
tive connotation, as we will see in connection with maskit.
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 99

verses 8-9) by arrogant a n d threatening speech. 1 1


(By contrast,
the p s a l m i s t identifies h i m s e l f i n verse 1 with the " p u r e i n
h e a r t " , a n d c l a i m s i n v e r s e 13 t h a t h e h a s p u r i f i e d h i s h e a r t . ) I n
P r o v . 1 8 : 1 1 , " t h e w e a l t h of a r i c h m a n i s h i s s t r o n g c i t y , a n d l i k e
a lofty w a l l bemaskito". T h e meaning of t h e l a s t w o r d i s n o t
absolutely c l e a r from the context, b u t the c o m m o n t r a n s l a t i o n
"in h i s imagination" s u i t s it v e r y w e l l . T h i s i s r e i n f o r c e d b y
t h e p r e c e d i n g v e r s e , w h i c h d e c l a r e s Y a h w e h ' s n a m e to b e t h e
"strong tower" i n w h i c h the righteous c a n find protection. T h e
r i c h m a n ' s w e a l t h , b y contrast, is a fortress only i n h i s f a n t a s y . 1 2

I n b o t h o f t h e s e p a s s a g e s , maskit h a s a negative connotation.


If w e t r a n s l a t e E z e k . 8 : 1 2 i n a c c o r d w i t h t h i s s e c o n d m e a n i n g
of maskit, w e get:

H a v e y o u s e e n , s o n of m a n , that w h i c h the elders of t h e

h o u s e of I s r a e l do i n the d a r k , each in the chambers of h i s

[wicked] imagination? [or, more freely, " e a c h i n h i s o w n per

verted f a n t a s i e s " ] . F o r they s a y , " Y a h w e h c a n n o t s e e u s ,

Y a h w e h h a s f o r s a k e n the l a n d . "

I n o t h e r w o r d s , e a c h of t h e e l d e r s b y w h i c h w e w i l l u n d e r
s t a n d , e a c h of t h e t w e n t y - o d d e l d e r s g a t h e r e d before E z e k i e l i s
s u p p o s e d to e n t e r t a i n s e c r e t f a n t a s i e s i n w h i c h h e g a t h e r s w i t h
h i s f e l l o w s , i n a n a u g u s t college of s e v e n t y , w o r s h i p p i n g m o n
s t r o s i t i e s i n a n eerie c a v e .
T h e p a r e n t h e s i s i n t h e p r e c e d i n g s e n t e n c e , of c o u r s e , h a s got
a h e a d of t h e a r g u m e n t . W e h a v e s e e n t h a t , i n c h a p t e r s 1 4 a n d
20, Ezekiel accuses t h e e l d e r s w h o c o m e to c o n s u l t h i m of
e n t e r t a i n i n g t h o u g h t s of i l l - d e f i n e d a b o m i n a t i o n s . I n c h a p t e r s 8
a n d 1 1 , h e a c c u s e s certain people who figure in his vision, again,
of e n t e r t a i n i n g w i c k e d t h o u g h t s . I h a v e a s s e r t e d , b u t h a v e n o t
d e m o n s t r a t e d , m y b e l i e f t h a t t h e v i l l a i n s of E z e k . 8 : 1 1 a n d 11:1
a r e v i s i o n a r y r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s of t h e " e l d e r s o f J u d a h " w h o s i t

In verse 11, these sinners "say, TIow can God know? Is there knowl
1 1

edge with the Most High?*" \ekhah yada* el weyesh de*ah be'elyon].
parallel with Ezek. 8:12"they say, 'Yahweh cannot see u s , Y a h w e h h a s
forsaken the l a n d ' " i s very striking.
Pamela E . Kinlaw points out to me that Prov. 18:12 confirms this
1 2

interpretation, declaring that the arrogance of **a man's heart" [leb ish]
precedes catastrophe.
100 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

before E z e k i e l i n 8 : 1 , a n d t h a t it i s t h e s e e l d e r s w h o supposedly
i n d u l g e the " p e r v e r t e d f a n t a s i e s " of E z e k . 8 : 1 2 . My next task
m u s t be to d e m o n s t r a t e , first, t h a t t h i s u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e
v i s i o n i s p l a u s i b l e ; a n d , s e c o n d , t h a t it i s t r u e .

Vision and audience

W h a t exactly h a p p e n s to E z e k i e l w h e n " t h e h a n d of the L o r d


Y a h w e h " falls u p o n h i m ( E z e k . 8:1)?

"I saw, a n d behold, a n a p p e a r a n c e like that of a m a n , fiery


from the a p p e a r a n c e of h i s loins downward; a n d , from the
appearance of h i s loins u p w a r d , like the color of
hashmelah. 13
He s e n t forth the likeness of a h a n d , a n d
grasped me by the h a i r of m y h e a d . T h e spirit lifted me u p
between earth a n d heaven, a n d brought me to J e r u s a l e m i n
v i s i o n s of God* [Ezek. 8 : 2 - 3 ) .
1

M o s t m o d e r n s , n o d o u b t i n f l u e n c e d b y the a p o c r y p h a l " S t o r y
of B e l a n d t h e D r a g o n " ( w h i c h itself p r e s u m a b l y reflects exegesis
of t h i s p a s s a g e ) , have supposed t h a t E z e k i e l w a s c a r r i e d to
J e r u s a l e m b y the h a i r of h i s h e a d . B u t the text d o e s n o t s a y t h a t
( G r e e n b e r g , 1 9 8 3 , p p . 167, 1 9 5 ; S o l e h , 1 9 8 1 , p. 2 8 2 ; V o g t , 1981,
p . 4 0 ) . R a t h e r , the h u m a n - l i k e figure h o l d s E z e k i e l t r a n s f i x e d .
T h u s t r a n s f i x e d , h e feels the ntah the H e b r e w w o r d c a n m e a n
e i t h e r " s p i r i t " or " w i n d " l i f t i n g a n d c a r r y i n g h i m to J e r u s a l e m
{cf. Carley, 1975, pp. 13-37). We are t h u s a s s u r e d that, in
c o n t r a s t to E z e k . 3 : 1 4 - 1 5 ( w h i c h i n m a n y respects parallels
o u r p a s s a g e ) , E z e k i e l ' s b o d y d o e s n o t follow the exalted w a n d e r
i n g s of h i s s p i r i t . 1 4
It r e m a i n s i n p l a c e a n d , p e r h a p s , r e m a i n s
a c t i v e i n B a b y l o n i a e v e n a s E z e k i e l ' s s p i r i t is a c t i v e i n its i m a g i
nary Jerusalem.

Following the Masoretic Text, but (1) reading, with the Septuagint,
13

ish for esh as the fifth word of the verse; and (2) deleting, again with the
Septuagint, the words kemar'eh zohar as a gloss on the cryptic, ke'en
hahashinelaK (I do not attempt to translate this last word. The Revised
Standard Version guesses: "gleaming bronze".)
Ezek. 3:14-15: "The spirit/wind |mah] lifted me up and seized me,
14

and I went [wa'elekh] bitter in the heat of my spirit [bahamat ruhi],


E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 101

What sort of activity might we expect of E z e k i e l ' s b o d y ?


E t h n o g r a p h i c d a t a o n t r a n c e a n d r e l a t e d s t a t e s a l l o w for m o r e
t h a n one option (Walsh, 1 9 9 3 ) . A s e e r m a y go i n t o a complete
t r a n c e a n d r e m a i n u n a b l e to d e s c r i b e h i s e x p e r i e n c e s u n t i l after
the t r a n c e h a s p a s s e d . T h i s i s , admittedly, w h a t E z e k . 11:25
w o u l d l e a d u s to e x p e c t . B u t t h i s v e r s e w o u l d n o t e x c l u d e a n
o t h e r s c e n a r i o , f a m i l i a r f r o m r e p o r t s of s h a m a n i s t i c s e a n c e s ,
w h e r e the s h a m a n c o n t i n u e s to i n t e r a c t w i t h a n d , often, to
rebukehis audience, even while h i s spirit w a n d e r s through
other worlds.
In one s u c h s e a n c e , w h i c h K n u d R a s m u s s e n observed a m o n g
the Iglulik, the shaman produces "sounds like those of
t r i c k l i n g w a t e r , t h e r u s h i n g of w i n d , a s t o r m y s e a , t h e s n u f f l i n g
of w a l r u s , t h e g r o w l i n g of b e a r " . After t h e s e a n c e i s over, the
s h a m a n ' s wife e x p l a i n s t h a t t h e s e w e r e t h e s o u n d s of t h e r o u t e
w h i c h t h e s h a m a n , i n t h e f o r m of t h e G r e a t B e a r , h a s been
e x p l o r i n g for h i s a u d i e n c e ' s benefit. I n a n o t h e r e p i s o d e , again
r e p o r t e d b y R a s m u s s e n (from the C o p p e r I n u i t ) , t h e shaman
v i s i b l y w r e s t l e s w i t h the " S e a W o m a n " i n t h e p r e s e n c e of h i s
audience, while she speaks through his mouth and charges
the a u d i e n c e w i t h taboo violations. A t the s a m e time, the s h a m a n
apparently visualizes himself as being in the Sea Woman's
w a t e r y h o m e , for h e i s a b l e to r e p o r t t h a t h e r l a m p i s o n c e m o r e
t u r n e d the right w a y u p (quoted in M e r k u r , 1 9 8 5 , p p . 9 5 - 1 0 1 ) .
T h e S e a W o m a n ' s a c c u s a t i o n s of t a b o o v i o l a t i o n s immedi
ately b r i n g u s into E z e k i e l ' s m e n t a l world. S o does Waldemar
Bogoras's r e p o r t of a s e a n c e a m o n g the C h u k c h e e , w h e r e a
f e m a l e s p i r i t , s p e a k i n g t h r o u g h the m o u t h of a m a l e shaman,
r e p r o a c h e s o n e of t h e a u d i e n c e for m i s t r e a t i n g b e a r s . " A f t e r w a r d
s h e told a n o t h e r listener that s h e s a w that i n the l a s t a u t u m n
h e h a d k i l l e d a w i l d r e i n d e e r b u c k " ( B o g o r a s , 1 9 6 5 , p. 4 5 9 ) . T h e
s h a m a n t h u s " s e e s " , in h i s t r a n c e , the s i n s c o m m i t t e d b y m e m
b e r s of h i s a u d i e n c e . S t i l l i n t r a n c e , h e r e b u k e s t h e m . T h i s i s
v e r y l i k e t h e w a y I i m a g i n e the i n t e r a c t i o n b e t w e e n E z e k i e l a n d
t h e " e l d e r s of J u d a h " .

Yahweh's hand being mighty upon me. And I came to the exiles at Tel
Abib, who dwelt by the river Chebar." Ezekiel correctly fails to distinguish
the "spirit" that carried him from his own. By shifting the source of activity
from the "spirit** to himself (with his use of wa'elekHl, he shows himself
aware that his travel took place by normal locomotion.
102 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

If e t h n o g r a p h i c e v i d e n c e s u g g e s t s t h a t a s e e r m a y i n t e r a c t
with h i s surroundings while h i s spirit wanders i n visions, ex
perimental evidence suggests that the s u r r o u n d i n g s a r e likely
to i n f l u e n c e t h e c o n t e n t of t h e v i s i o n s . L e s l i e H . F a r b e r a n d
C h a r l e s F i s h e r (1943) found t h a t the s p o n t a n e o u s d r e a m s of
a hypnotized subject "are influenced by h i s own u n c o n s c i o u s
n e e d s a n d t h e i n t e r a c t i o n of t h e s e w i t h t h e h y p n o t i s t a n d a n y
o t h e r p e r s o n s i n c l u d e d i n the h y p n o t i c s i t u a t i o n " . W i t h a w o m a n
p r e s e n t , for e x a m p l e , h e m a y d r e a m " o f c l i m b i n g a s t a i r c a s e ; of a
s e w e r p i p e r u n n i n g t h r o u g h a t u n n e l ; of d r i v i n g a c a r a r o u n d t h e
left s i d e of a m o u n t a i n into a t u n n e l " . T h e e x p e r i m e n t s of R o b e r t
Rubinstein, J a y Katz, a n d R i c h a r d Newman point i n the s a m e
direction. " T h e experimental situation itself. . . emerges a s a
m a j o r d e t e r m i n a n t " of t h e c o n t e n t s of d r e a m s e x p e r i e n c e d u n d e r
h y p n o s i s or (at t h e h y p n o t i s t ' s suggestion) t h e following night
(Rubinstein, Katz, & Newman, 1957). T h e s e d r e a m s express,
a l b e i t i n c o n c e a l e d form (of w h i c h m o r e below), " i n t e n s e feelings
a b o u t t h e h y p n o t i s t a n d the h y p n o t i c s i t u a t i o n " ( N e w m a n , K a t z ,
& R u b i n s t e i n , 1960).
If w e t r a n s l a t e t h e s e f i n d i n g s into t h e b i b l i c a l s e t t i n g , w e
h a v e a fairly c l e a r p i c t u r e of w h a t m i g h t h a v e b e e n e x p e c t e d to
h a p p e n w h e n t h e h a n d of t h e L o r d Y a h w e h fell o n E z e k i e l i n
the p r e s e n c e of the e l d e r s of J u d a h . H e w e n t into a t r a n c e . H e
experienced hallucinations that expressed both h i s prior u n c o n
scious concerns a n d his "intense feelings", conscious and
u n c o n s c i o u s , t o w a r d s t h e e l d e r s w h o s a t before h i m . O n t h e
a u t h o r i t y of t h e s e h a l l u c i n a t i o n s , h e c o n v e y e d h i s feelings t o
w a r d s t h e e l d e r s b o t h d u r i n g t h e t r a n c e a n d a f t e r w a r d s . It i s n o
s u r p r i s e t h a t t h e s e e l d e r s s h o u l d be s t i m u l i a n d s u b j e c t s of h i s
v i s i o n s , a s well a s their a u d i e n c e .
C e r t a i n f e a t u r e s of E z e k i e l 8 - 1 1 b e c o m e m o r e intelligible i f
w e s u p p o s e t h a t t h i s w a s i n d e e d the c a s e .
T o b e g i n w i t h , there i s the c u r i o u s s u r v i v a l of a second
p e r s o n a d d r e s s i n the M a s o r e t i c T e x t of E z e k . 8 : 1 6 . T h i s p a s s a g e
d e s c r i b e s t h e c l i m a x of t h e " a b o m i n a t i o n s " . Twenty-five m e n
(twenty, a c c o r d i n g to t h e S e p t u a g i n t ) stand, their b a c k s to
t h e t e m p l e , t h e i r f a c e s to t h e e a s t : weheirunah mishtahawitem
qedbnah lashshamesh ["and they were , e a s t w a r d to
w a r d the s u n " ] . T h e second Hebrew word i n this phrase is
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 103

unintelligible as it s t a n d s . Nearly all translators, from the


S e p t u a g i n t o n , t r e a t it a s i f it w e r e the p a r t i c i p l e mishtahawirru
" p r o s t r a t i n g t h e m s e l v e s " . Y e t t h e H e b r e w text, i m p o s s i b l y , tacks
a s e c o n d - p e r s o n p l u r a l suffix [-tern] o n t o t h e p a r t i c i p l e .
A d m i t t e d l y , s o m e m a n u s c r i p t s of the M a s o r e t i c T e x t do r e a d
rnishtahawim (Cooke, 1 9 3 6 ) . B u t t h e m o r e difficult r e a d i n g i s
c e r t a i n l y a n c i e n t , for it i s a t t e s t e d u n e q u i v o c a l l y i n a m i d r a s h
t h a t t h e Pcdestinian Talmud a t t r i b u t e s it to R a b b i H i y y a b a r
Abba. 1 5
T h e t e x t of t h e m i d r a s h i s c o r r u p t b u t c a n e a s i l y be
restored (Jastrow, 1950, s.v. sht). It e x p l a i n s t h e p e c u l i a r f o r m
as a hybrid, combining mishtahawim ["they w e r e prostrating
t h e m s e l v e s " ] w i t h mashhitim ["they w e r e l a y i n g w a s t e " ] . T h e m e n
were simultaneously "prostrating themselves to t h e s u n and
l a y i n g w a s t e to t h e temple". 1 6

T h e mediaeval grammarian a n d Bible commentator David


K i m h i (ca. 1 1 6 0 - 1 2 3 5 ) also s a w the w o r d a s a h y b r i d a n d c a l l e d
a t t e n t i o n to o t h e r e x a m p l e s of t h e s a m e p h e n o m e n o n : 1 Sam.
2 5 : 3 4 [wtb ty]\ 4
J e r . 2 2 : 2 3 [ysbty . . . mqnnty]; and, most obvi
o u s l y r e l e v a n t , E z e k . 9:8 [wn's'r]. 17
(Miqra'ot Gedolot Chomsky,
1933, pp. 85-87, 9 8 - 9 9 : Talmage, 1975, pp. 95-96.) But he
proposed a different e x p l a n a t i o n for it. F o l l o w i n g I b n E z r a , he
suggested t h a t it c o m b i n e d the p a r t i c i p l e mishtahawim ["they
were prostrating themselves"] with the second-person plural
p e r f e c t hishtahawitem ["you p r o s t r a t e d y o u r s e l v e s " ] . E z e k i e l , h e
explained,

Sukkah 5:5 (55c). There were two scholars named Hiyya bar Abba:
1 5

one lived at the beginning and one at the end of the third century A . D .
16
The current text reads mishtahawim a second time, in place of
mashhitim. This makes no sense and does nothing to explain the peculiar
ity of mishtahawitem. Rashi and Kimhi (in Miqra'ot Gedolot, ad loc.) cite
the correct text. Their reading is supported by the Targum and by the
derivative midrash in SongRabbah 1:6, in which the citation of Lev. 22:25
f*their corruption [moshhatam] is in them") will make sense only if the
midrash presupposes the interpretation mishtahawitem = mishtahawim +
mashhitim.
Most modern scholarsincluding the commentators who dismiss
1 7

mishtahawitem as a scribal erroracknowledge that urn's V in Ezek. 9:8


is a hybrid. They explain it, plausibly, as combining the variants
wa'eshsha'er and wenish'ar anu both of which mean "and I was left
f

[alone]".
104 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

found those m e n [in h i s vision] prostrating themselves to the


s u n ; a n d he s a i d to the m e n who h a d come [to c o n s u l t h i m ] :
"Have y o u [also] prostrated yourselves?" [Miqra'ot Gedolot,
K i m h i 1847, p. 380; C h o m s k y , 1952, pp. 171, 2 1 3 - 2 1 4 ;
Talmage, 1975, pp. 9 5 - 9 6 ]

F o l l o w i n g K i m h i ' s e x p l a n a t i o n of the form, W i l l i a m B r o w n l e e


(1986) h a s suggested that someone h a d written wehishtaha
witem in the margin of Ezekiel, as an allusion to Deut.
11:16 a n d J o s h . 2 3 : 1 6 . T h i s w a s t h e n c o n f l a t e d w i t h the texts
mishtahawim. 18

Most modern s c h o l a r s h a v e p r e f e r r e d s i m p l y to e m e n d to
mishtahawirru w i t h the e a r l y t r a n s l a t i o n s a n d s e v e r a l M a s o r e t i c
m a n u s c r i p t s . B u t it i s difficult to i m a g i n e how, as a simple
b l u n d e r , mishtahawitem c o u l d h a v e s u r v i v e d . More l i k e l y , the
e a r l i e s t s c r i b e s k n e w w h a t the s t r a n g e suffix m e a n t . B y the time
i t s m e a n i n g h a d b e e n forgotten, it w a s too deeply rooted i n the
t e x t u a l t r a d i t i o n to d i s a p p e a r e n t i r e l y .
K i m h i , I believe, w a s o n the r i g h t t r a c k . T h e w o r d i s i n d e e d a
h y b r i d , p r e s e r v i n g a t r a c e of a s e c o n d - p e r s o n v a r i a n t t h a t goes
b a c k to the s p e e c h of E z e k i e l h i m s e l f . B u t " y o u w e r e p r o s t r a t i n g
y o u r s e l v e s " i s better t a k e n a s a n a c c u s a t i o n t h a n a s a q u e s t i o n .
It i s a " s l i p " , i n w h i c h E z e k i e l r e v e a l s t h a t the m e n he sees
p r o s t r a t i n g t h e m s e l v e s to the s u n a r e n o n e o t h e r t h a n h i s a u d i
e n c e , t h e " e l d e r s of J u d a h " w h o h a v e c o m e to c o n s u l t h i m .
I s u g g e s t t h a t a t one time two v e r s i o n s of E z e k i e P s v i s i o n of
the p o l l u t e d temple w e r e e x t a n t . O n e , m o r e faithfully r e p r o d u c
i n g the a c t u a l o c c u r r e n c e s of the s e a n c e , p r e s e r v e d the s l i p s a n d
a p p a r e n t i n c o n s i s t e n c i e s i n the w o r d s of the e c s t a t i c p r o p h e t ;
the o t h e r edited t h e m a w a y . It is n o t u n t h i n k a b l e t h a t E z e k i e l
h i m s e l f m a y h a v e b e e n t h i s editor. T h e v e r s i o n s w i l l t h e n r e p r e
s e n t , n o t different w r i t e r s , b u t the s a m e m a n i n g r e a t e r or l e s s e r
c o n t r o l over the l a n g u a g e of h i s originally u n c o n s c i o u s produc
tions.
T h e S e p t u a g i n t t r a n s l a t o r s will h a v e h a d the m o r e elegant
a n d l e s s o r i g i n a l of the two v e r s i o n s before t h e m . T h e s c r i b e s
w h o s e text u l t i m a t e l y gave r i s e to the M a s o r e t i c T e x t h a d b o t h ,
a n d c o n f l a t e d t h e m . T h i s v a r i a t i o n i s t h u s a k i n to o t h e r d i v e r

My teacher, the late Isaac Rabinowitz, explained the form as a


18

combination of mishtahawlm with hishtahawayatam ("their prostration**;


cf. 2 Kings 5:18).
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 105

gences between the Masoretic T e x t a n d the S e p t u a g i n t i n E z e k i e l


8, w h i c h , I h a v e a r g u e d ( H a l p e r i n , 1 9 9 3 ) , c a n b e e x p l a i n e d by
the a s s u m p t i o n t h a t the f o r m e r reflects t h e p r o p h e t s uncon
s c i o u s m o r e d i r e c t l y t h a n d o e s the l a t t e r .

Pelatiah and Jaazaniah

T h i s r e c o n s t r u c t i o n of t h e l i n k b e t w e e n the contents and the


a u d i e n c e of E z e k i e F s v i s i o n y i e l d s t h e k e y to a p a r t i c u l a r l y p u z
z l i n g f e a t u r e of t h a t v i s i o n . I n E z e k . 1 1 : 1 - 1 3 , E z e k i e l p r o p h e s i e s
a g a i n s t a g r o u p of t w e n t y - f i v e " p r i n c e s of the p e o p l e " w h o s t a n d
a t t h e e a s t gate of t h e t e m p l e ; a m o n g t h e m a r e two otherwise
u n k n o w n individuals n a m e d J a a z a n i a h ben Azzur a n d Pelatiah
ben B e n a i a h . Apparently as a consequence, "when I prophesied,
P e l a t i a h b e n B e n a i a h d i e d . A n d I fell o n m y face, a n d I c r i e d i n a
l o u d v o i c e : *Oh, L o r d Y a h w e h ! A r e y o u m a k i n g a n u t t e r e n d of
t h e r e m n a n t of I s r a e l ? * " (verse 13).
The event as reported is difficult to square with the
B a b y l o n i a n s e t t i n g of E z e k i e f s b o o k . T h i s difficulty h a s d r i v e n
s o m e s c h o l a r s e i t h e r to c r e d i t E z e k i e l w i t h c l a i r v o y a n c e o r to
c l a i m t h a t P a l e s t i n e w a s the t r u e p l a c e of h i s a c t i v i t y (see a b o v e ) .
Y e h e z k e l K a u f m a n n ( 1 9 6 0 , p. 4 3 1 ) h a s solved the p r o b l e m by
s i m p l y d e n y i n g t h a t the e v e n t h a p p e n e d o u t s i d e E z e k i e f s i m a g i
nation:

The commentators have gratuitously verified Pelatiah's


d e a t h , though it is not c l e a r w h y this detail of the v i s i o n of
8-11 s h o u l d be regarded a s more r e a l t h a n the s l a y i n g of a l l
the i n h a b i t a n t s of the city a n d its b u r n i n g b y celestial b e i n g s .

B u t t h i s i s u n s a t i s f y i n g . I n c h a p t e r 9, n o t o n e b u t a l l of t h e
s i n n e r s of J e r u s a l e m a r e s l a i n ; j u s t a s , i n c h a p t e r 3 7 , n o t one
b u t a l l of the d r i e d - u p s k e l e t o n s to w h o m E z e k i e l p r e a c h e s a r e
r e v i v e d . S u r e l y , i n c h a p t e r 11, w e w o u l d e x p e c t n o t o n e b u t a l l of
the wicked "princes" to p e r i s h a t E z e k i e f s w o r d . W h y does
Pelatiah alone d i e u n l e s s something more than E z e k i e f s fan
t a s y i s r e s p o n s i b l e for t h i s d e t a i l ?
A h y p o t h e s i s offered b y L o u i s F i n k e l s t e i n ( 1 9 4 0 ) w i l l , w i t h
appropriate alteration, s u i t the d a t a . T h e t r a n c e state d e s c r i b e d
106 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

in chapters 8-11, Finkelstein t h i n k s , revived in E z e k i e l m e m


o r i e s of a c h i l d h o o d v i s i t to the temple w i t h h i s father. It w a s t h e n
t h a t E z e k i e l s a w the i d o l a t r o u s r i t e s t h a t J o s i a h ' s successor
J e h o i a k i m ( 6 0 9 - 5 9 8 BC), u n d e r B a b y l o n i a n p r e s s u r e , h a d intro
d u c e d into the temple.

D e c a d e s later, a s a prophet in B a b y l o n i a , h e r e c o n s t r u c t e d
the s c e n e , a s vividly a s though he were p a s s i n g through it
once a g a i n . He could identify the very places of these nefar
ious c r i m e s , he could see the faces of the t r a n s g r e s s i n g
priests, h e h e a r d once again the voice of G o d calling for their
destruction.

P e l a t i a h w a s a m o n g the idolaters E z e k i e l h a d s e e n a s a c h i l d .
He w a s also among the " e l d e r s of J u d a h " w h o n o w c a m e to
consult h i m . " I n h i s vision Ezekiel s a w Pelatiah once more c o m
m i t t i n g idol w o r s h i p i n the T e m p l e . A n d a s h e w a s telling w h a t
he saw, P e l a t i a h fell d o w n dead" (Finkelstein, 1940, 1.319,
2.688).
A g a i n s t F i n k e l s t e i n , I w o u l d s p e a k of E z e k i e P s f a n t a s y of
P e l a t i a l V s i n i q u i t i e s i n J e r u s a l e m , not his memory of them.
( T h e r e i s n o r e a s o n w h a t e v e r to believe t h a t J e h o i a k i m i n t r o
duced i d o l a t r y into the temple; Halperin, 1993, pp. 47-56.)
Childhood memories, i n d e e d , a r e a t the root of the v i s i o n of
c h a p t e r s 8 - 1 1 , b u t only in very distorted f o r m . 1 9
A p a r t from t h i s ,
however, I find F i n k e l s t e i n ' s reconstruction p e r s u a s i v e . E z e k i e l
gave P e l a t i a h b e n B e n a i a h , w i t h the r e s t of the e l d e r s , a role
i n h i s h a l l u c i n a t i o n s of u n s p e a k a b l e d e e d s p e r p e t r a t e d i n t h e
temple. E z e k i e l ' s h o s t i l i t y t o w a r d s the e l d e r s a s a g r o u p i s , I
h a v e a r g u e d ( H a l p e r i n , 1 9 9 3 ) , a d i s p l a c e m e n t of h i s r a g e a g a i n s t
the m a l e figure w h o d o m i n a t e d h i s c h i l d h o o d . P e l a t i a h a n d h i s
c o l l e a g u e J a a z a n i a h got a n e x t r a s h a r e of h i s h o s t i l i t y , for r e a
s o n s t h a t a r e u n c e r t a i n b u t a r e p e r h a p s p a r t l y l i n k e d to the
f o r t u i t o u s c i r c u m s t a n c e of t h e i r n a m e s . 2 0
E z e k i e F s rage s t i r r e d

19
"If his mother had been insulted before his eyes", says Finkelstein of
little Ezekiel's experience in the temple, "Ezekiel could not have been more
outraged." Finkelstern's choice of image is wonderfully perceptive.
Pelatiah \pelatyahu\ ="Yahweh has delivered"; Jaazaniah [ya'azan
2 0

yah{u)] = "Yahweh gives ear". Both names will have had powerful res
onances for Ezekiel. Ya'azanyahu recalls Ezekicl's infantile trauma of
having cried unheard, his consequent sense of himself as mute (3:24-27;
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 107

u p p o w e r f u l a n d d e a d l y e m o t i o n s w i t h i n P e l a t i a h , a s a r e s u l t of
w h i c h h e collapsed a n d died.
How could this have happened? Bible readers will recall the
story of h o w A n a n i a s a n d S a p p h i r a similarly dropped d e a d i n
t h e face o f P e t e r ' s r e b u k e s (Acts 5 : 1 - 1 1 ) . B u t a tale of t h i s s o r t
o b v i o u s l y c a n n o t b e u s e d to c o n f i r m o r to e x p l a i n t h e d e a t h of
Pelatiah. Fortunately, more up-to-date evidence is available.
In the late 1 9 6 0 s , George L . E n g e l collected 170 contem
p o r a r y r e p o r t s o f people c o l l a p s i n g a n d d y i n g w h e n f a c e d w i t h
e m o t i o n a l s t r e s s . T h e c a u s e of d e a t h w a s o c c a s i o n a l l y k n o w n ,
a n d often a s s u m e d , to b e h e a r t f a i l u r e . M o s t of t h e s e reports
c a m e from n e w s p a p e r s , b u t i n 16 c a s e s E n g e l w a s able h i m s e l f
to c o n f i r m t h e i r d e t a i l s ( E n g e l , 1 9 7 1 ) . M o r e r e c e n t l y , B e r n a r d
L o w n a n d h i s c o l l e a g u e s h a v e d e v o t e d a s e r i e s of i n v e s t i g a t i o n s
into the p h e n o m e n o n of " s u d d e n c a r d i a c d e a t h " , a n d confirmed
on both c l i n i c a l a n d experimental g r o u n d s that it c a n b e trig
g e r e d b y a n e m o t i o n a l s t r e s s (De S i l v a & L o w n , 1 9 7 8 ; L o w n ,
1982, 1 9 8 7 , 1 9 8 8 ; L o w n et a l . , 1 9 7 6 ; R e i c h , D e S i l v a , e t a l . ,
1981; Verrier, Hagestad, & L o w n , 1987).
O u r c o n c e r n here is n o t w i t h L o w n ' s formidable efforts to
e l u c i d a t e t h e p h y s i o l o g i c a l w o r k i n g s of t h e p h e n o m e n o n , b u t
w i t h h i s a n d o t h e r s ' a c c o u n t s of the p s y c h o l o g i c a l s t r e s s e s t h a t
might trigger i t . E n g e l f o u n d t h a t , for m e n , t h e s i n g l e most
d e a d l y c a t e g o r y of s t r e s s i s " p e r s o n a l d a n g e r o r t h r e a t of i n j u r y ,
real or symbolic" ( 2 7 % ) ; w h i l e " l o s s of s t a t u s o r s e l f - e s t e e m "
a c c o u n t e d for 6 % of h i s total c a s e s a n d for 9 % of t h e m a l e s .
(Ezekiel t h r e a t e n e d P e l a t i a h w i t h both.) L o w n a n d h i s colleagues
established that interpersonal conflicts, public humiliation
( R e i c h , D e S i l v a et a l . , 1 9 8 1 ) , a n d r a g e ( V e r r i e r e t a l . , 1 9 8 7 ) c a n
all induce dangerous irregularities i n the heart's r h y t h m . L o w n

2 4 : 2 5 - 2 7 . 3 3 : 2 1 - 2 2 ) , a n d h i s c o n v i c t i o n t h a t G o d w i l l s h u t h i s e a r s to h i s
p e o p l e ' s c r i e s ( 8 : 1 8 ) . Pelatyahu i s f r o m t h e s a m e root a s p a / i f , " f u g i t i v e " ,
w h i c h a p p e a r s i n 2 4 : 2 5 - 2 7 a s a figure t o w a r d s w h i c h E z e k i e l l o o k e d for
deliverance from his m u t e n e s s , a n d w h i c h apparently served a s a n u n
c o n s c i o u s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of h i s o w n i n f a n t s e l f ( H a l p e r i n , 1993, p p . 1 7 2
176, 1 9 4 - 1 9 9 , 2 0 7 - 2 1 6 , 231). W e m i g h t s p e c u l a t e t h a t J a a z a n i a h a n d
P e l a t i a h , u n l u c k y e n o u g h to b e a r n a m e s t h a t e x p r e s s e d E z e k i e l ' s u n c o n
s c i o u s l o n g i n g s , t h e r e f o r e b e c a m e t a r g e t s of h i s r a g e a t t h e f r u s t r a t i o n o f
t h e s e l o n g i n g s . B u t w e c a n n o t j u d g e t h e e x t e n t to w h i c h t h i s m o t i v e m a y
h a v e b e e n reinforced by others, p r e s u m a b l y rooted i n h i s t o r i c a l factors of
w h i c h we know nothing.
108 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

makes the i m p o r t a n t p o i n t t h a t the s t r e s s t h a t triggers such


i r r e g u l a r i t i e s n e e d n o t i n i t s e l f be l i f e - t h r e a t e n i n g . E v o k i n g a
p a i n f u l topic, or b r i n g i n g a p a i n f u l m e m o r y to c o n s c i o u s n e s s for
the first t i m e , m a y w o r k a d e a d l y effect on the h e a r t ( L o w n ,
1987, 1988).
L o w n et a l . ( 1 9 7 6 ) r e p o r t a p a r t i c u l a r l y d r a m a t i c c a s e of a
healthy 39-year-old m a n who suddenly collapsed in his home
w i t h a h e a r t a t t a c k . J u s t before the a t t a c k , h e a n d h i s two t e e n
age d a u g h t e r s h a d b e e n e n g a g i n g i n " m u c h s e x u a l l y p r o v o c a t i v e
r o u g h - h o u s i n g , w h i c h w a s i n t e r r u p t e d b y the r i n g of the doorbell
a n n o u n c i n g the a r r i v a l of a n e i g h b o r . It w a s w h e n one d a u g h t e r
a n s w e r e d t h e b e l l t h a t h e s l u m p e d to the floor. H i s l a s t w o r d s
w e r e , T m s o r r y / " T h i s m a n w h o , a c c o r d i n g to the a u t h o r s , h a d
habitually repressed his aggression a n d s e x u a l i t y m u s t surely
h a v e i n t e r p r e t e d the doorbell to m e a n t h a t s o m e o n e w a s c o m i n g
to c o n d e m n h i m for the u n s p e a k a b l e i m p u l s e s h e h a d a l l o w e d to
emerge. He collapsed a n d nearly died.
I n a s i m i l a r w a y , w e m a y well i m a g i n e t h a t E z e k i e l ' s s e x u a l l y
c h a r g e d v i s i o n of the temple " a b o m i n a t i o n s " (details i n H a l p e r i n ,
1993) e v o k e d i n P e l a t i a h l o n g - r e p r e s s e d y e a r n i n g s a n d t e r r o r s of
h i s o w n . H e t h e n h e a r d h i m s e l f c o n d e m n e d w i t h a l l of E z e k i e l ' s
s a v a g e r u t h l e s s n e s s , i n the n a m e of the m o s t terrifying J u d g e h e
c o u l d i m a g i n e . S m a l l w o n d e r h i s h e a r t failed h i m .
P e l a t i a h ' s d e a t h will, t h e n , be the one point, b e t w e e n the
beginning of c h a p t e r 8 and the end of c h a p t e r 11, where
E z e k i e l ' s v i s i o n t o u c h e s r e a l i t y . T h i s r e a l i t y , h o w e v e r , i s not t h a t
of J e r u s a l e m , b u t of E z e k i e l ' s B a b y l o n i a n s e a n c e w h i c h E z e k .
1 1 : 1 3 , like the -tern suffix i n 8:16, a l l o w s u s briefly to g l i m p s e .
Ezekiel's mention of J a a z a n i a h ben Azzur (11:1) raises
another problem, w h i c h m y r e c o n s t r u c t i o n of the s e a n c e will
h e l p u s r e s o l v e . W h a t is t h i s m a n ' s r e l a t i o n to J a a z a n i a h b e n
S h a p h a n , w h o m E z e k i e l s e e s a m o n g the " e l d e r s of the h o u s e of
I s r a e l " b u r n i n g i n c e n s e to the h o r r i d i m a g e s i n the chamber
( E z e k . 8 : 1 1 ) ? T h e two h a v e different f a t h e r s a n d therefore obvi
o u s l y c a n n o t be the s a m e . It i s t r u e t h a t J a a z a n i a h w a s h a r d l y a
r a r e n a m e i n J u d a h a t the time of the d e s t r u c t i o n . 2 1
Y e t it s e e m s

The Book of Jeremiah mentions two Jaazaniahs: the son of the


21

Rechabite Jeremiah (35:3: this is, of course, not the prophet); and the son
of the Maacathite (40:8, cf. 2 Kings 25:23), who is probably the same
person as the son of Hoshaiah (42:1). (Jer. 43:2, strangely, gives "Azariah"
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 109

a n o d d c o i n c i d e n c e t h a t , of t h e t h r e e v i l l a i n s s i n g l e d o u t i n t h i s
one v i s i o n a r y c o m p l e x , two h a v e t h e s a m e n a m e .
Walther Zimmerli (1969), following Arnold B. Ehrlich,
J o h a n n e s H e r r m a n n , a n d A l f r e d B e r t h o l e t , w a n t s to d e l e t e the
a w k w a r d p h r a s e weya'azanyahu ben shafan 'omed betokham
[ " J a a z a n i a h b e n S h a p h a n s t a n d i n g in their m i d s t " ( E z e k . 8:11)]
a s a gloss. T h i s is not very helpful, since, a s Brownlee (1986)
p o i n t s o u t , it i s h a r d to s e e w h a t p u r p o s e s u c h a g l o s s w o u l d
have served. G. A. Cooke's proposal (1936) that the two
J a a z a n i a h s a r e t h e s a m e after a l l , A z z u r h a v i n g r e a l l y b e e n t h e
m a n ' s grandfather, is also improbable; w h y s h o u l d E z e k i e l have
introduced this gratuitous confusion? Clearly enough, Cooke
w a s t r o u b l e d b y t h e c o i n c i d e n c e a n d felt p r e s s e d to f i n d s o m e
c o n n e c t i o n b e t w e e n the two n a m e s .
L e t u s i m a g i n e t h a t E z e k i e l ' s v i s i o n followed p a t t e r n s a k i n to
t h o s e of d r e a m s . Let u s further imagine that at least some
F r e u d i a n beliefs a b o u t t h e u n d e r s t a n d i n g of d r e a m s a r e a c c u
r a t e . W e w i l l t h e n s u p p o s e t h a t a figure " s e e n " i n a d r e a m o r a
v i s i o n m a y b e a " s c r e e n " for t h e p e r s o n a c t u a l l y i n t e n d e d , w h o s e
importance the dreamer's consciousness i s n o t r e a d y to ac
k n o w l e d g e . T h e i n s i g n i f i c a n t " s c r e e n " figure a n d t h e s i g n i f i c a n t
figure l u r k i n g b e h i n d it m a y b e l i n k e d b y s o m e s u p e r f i c i a l o r
f o r t u i t o u s r e s e m b l a n c e , s u c h a s i d e n t i t y or s i m i l a r i t y of n a m e .
A w o m a n of F r e u d ' s a c q u a i n t a n c e , for e x a m p l e , t h o u g h t s h e
remembered h a v i n g d r e a m t of m e e t i n g h e r old f a m i l y doctor.
F r e u d w a s a b l e to s h o w t h a t t h i s r e c o l l e c t i o n w a s a s c r e e n for
h e r a c t u a l d r e a m o f m e e t i n g h e r former lover, w h o s h a r e d the
doctor's n a m e (1941c). Similarly, N e w m a n , Katz, a n d R u b i n s t e i n
(1960) found that hypnotized subjects d r e a m e d about "relatively
n e u t r a l p r o c e d u r e s c a r r i e d o u t b y the h y p n o t i s t " . B u t t h e s e w e r e
s c r e e n s for " i n t e n s e feelings a b o u t t h e h y p n o t i s t a n d t h e h y p
n o t i c s i t u a t i o n " , w h i c h the s u b j e c t s h a d c a r r i e d over f r o m t h e i r
past experiences.
F r e u d also proposed ( 1 9 0 0 a , p p . 3 3 3 - 3 3 5 ) t h a t a s e r i e s of
d r e a m s o n a g i v e n n i g h t w i l l often e x p r e s s t h e s a m e u n d e r l y i n g
thoughts, a n d that these thoughts will emerge w i t h i n c r e a s i n g

as the name of Hoshaiah's son; and the Septuagint has "Azarias" in both
42:1 and 43:2.) Lachish Ostracon 1 knows yet another Jaazaniah, the son
of Tobshillem (Bade, 1933: Fowler, 1988: Ward, 1962). On the signifi
cance of the name, see the preceding note.
110 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

clarity a s the series progresses. T h e s c r e e n s , i n other words, will


g r a d u a l l y fall a w a y ; a n d t h a t w h i c h t h e y d i s g u i s e w i l l b e g i n to
d e c l a r e i t s e l f explicitly. L a b o r a t o r y e x p e r i m e n t s o n d r e a m se
q u e n c e s w h i c h became possible after t h e discovery, in the
1 9 5 0 s , t h a t s l e e p e r s s h o w r a p i d eye m o v e m e n t s ( R E M s ) w h e n
they d r e a m s u g g e s t that F r e u d u n d e r e s t i m a t e d the complexity
of t h e i r t h e m a t i c d e v e l o p m e n t , b u t t h a t w h a t h e h a d to say
a b o u t the e m e r g e n c e of l a t e n t t h o u g h t s from t h e i r d i s g u i s e w a s
essentially correct (Dement & Wolpert, 1958; Fisher, 1965, p.
2 1 5 ; O f f e n k r a n t z & R e c h t s c h a f f e n , 1 9 6 3 ; T r o s m a n et a l . , 1 9 6 0 ) .
T w o e x a m p l e s will m a k e the p o i n t c l e a r . W i l l i a m D e m e n t a n d
E d w a r d W o l p e r t ( 1 9 5 8 ) d e s c r i b e a s e r i e s of d r e a m s t h a t c o n s i s t
ently express the dreamer's rage. At first, its object is a
p r o f e s s o r ; b u t , a s the s e r i e s u n f o l d s , the p r o f e s s o r i s r e p l a c e d b y
a m a l e a c q u a i n t a n c e , t h e n a b y female n u r s e , a n d f i n a l l y b y the
d r e a m e r ' s m o t h e r . T h e t r u e object of t h e d r e a m e r ' s a n g e r , o r i g i
nally concealed, is t h u s at last made clear. William Offenkrantz
a n d A l l a n R e c h t s c h a f f e n ( 1 9 6 3 ) tell of a s u b j e c t w h o goes to
s l e e p feeling a n g r y a n d competitive t o w a r d s the experimenter.
H e t h e n d r e a m s of h a v i n g o u t w i t t e d a n u n i d e n t i f i e d " r i v a l " , w i t h
t h e r e s u l t t h a t t h e rival c o m m i t s suicide. I n a later d r e a m ,
h o w e v e r , the object of t h i s m u r d e r o u s rage a p p e a r s : the e x p e r i
m e n t e r h i m s e l f , c a s t i n the role of t h e d r e a m e r ' s l o w l y r e s e a r c h
a s s i s t a n t . A t first, i n o t h e r w o r d s , the d r e a m e r p r u d e n t l y d i s
g u i s e s h i s " r i v a l ' s " identity. (The e x p e r i m e n t e r i s , after a l l , a
p o w e r f u l figure w h o m i g h t t a k e r e p r i s a l s . ) O n l y l a t e r d o e s h e
become bold enough openly to s u b j u g a t e a n d humiliate his
enemy in his dreams.
A p p l y i n g t h e s e o b s e r v a t i o n s to E z e k . 8 - 1 1 , w e a r e l e d to t h e
c o n j e c t u r e t h a t E z e k i e l w e n t into h i s t r a n c e w i t h c o n s i d e r a b l e
r e p r e s s e d h a t r e d a g a i n s t o n e m e m b e r of h i s a u d i e n c e , J a a z a n i a h
b e n A z z u r . W h e t h e r this hatred w a s entirely u n c o n s c i o u s t h e r e
i s r e a s o n to believe t h a t E z e k i e l c a r r i e d it w i t h h i m from h i s
c h i l d h o o d , a n d d i s p l a c e d it onto J a a z a n i a h a n d the o t h e r e l d e r s
(see a b o v e ; a n d H a l p e r i n , 1 9 9 3 ) o r w h e t h e r h e i n i t i a l l y forced
2 2

"At other times the experimenter would appear as a character i n


2 2

one of the dreams. The subject appeared to utilize the experimental s i t u a


tion as a screen for the projection of transference reactions which were
characteristic of his personality" (Trosman, Rechtschaffen, Offenkrantz, &
Wolpert, 1960).
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 111

it o u t of h i s a w a r e n e s s for f e a r of offending a p o w e r f u l commu


nity leader, we c a n n o t know. In either c a s e , E z e k i e l will have
u s e d " J a a z a n i a h b e n S h a p h a n " i n a n e a r l y e p i s o d e of t h e v i s i o n
a s a s c r e e n for t h e o t h e r , d e t e s t e d , J a a z a n i a h . O n l y l a t e r , i n
E z e k . 1 1 : 1 , w a s h e r e a d y to e x p r e s s h i s h o s t i l i t y o p e n l y .
T h i s d o e s n o t , of c o u r s e , m e a n t h a t J a a z a n i a h b e n S h a p h a n
did not exist. O n the contrary, this hypothesis is best served if
w e s u p p o s e h e w a s a p r o m i n e n t m a n , w e l l k n o w n to E z e k i e l a n d
h i s h e a r e r s . T h e r e i s n o r e a s o n to d o u b t the w i d e s p r e a d v i e w
that h i s father w a s S h a p h a n b e n A z a l i a h , the scribe w h o con
v e y e d t h e n e w l y f o u n d b o o k of the T o r a h to K i n g J o s i a h (2 K i n g s
22:3-20); and that his brothers included the distinguished
s c r i b e G e m a r i a h ( J e r . 3 6 : 9 - 1 2 ) , the a m b a s s a d o r E l a s a h (Ezek.
2 9 : 3 ) , a n d J e r e m i a h ' s p o w e r f u l p a t r o n , A h i k a m ( E z e k . 2 6 : 2 4 , cf.
2 Kings 22:12). 2 3
B u t we n e e d not w o n d e r at " h o w far t h i s s o n
h a d d e p a r t e d f r o m t h e c o n d u c t of S h a p h a n ' s f a m i l y , w h i c h r e
m a i n e d f a i t h f u l to J o s i a h ' s r e f o r m a n d to J e r e m i a h " ( Z i m m e r l i ,
1969). J a a z a n i a h ben S h a p h a n m a y have lived a n d died the
s t a u n c h e s t Y a h w i s t i n J e r u s a l e m . He owes h i s villain's role i n
E z e k . 8 c h i e f l y to t h e a c c i d e n t t h a t h e h a d t h e s a m e n a m e as
Ezekiel's bete noire J a a z a n i a h b e n A z z u r . H e therefore could
s e r v e a s a v e h i c l e for E z e k i e f s r e p r e s s e d h o s t i l i t y .
T w o other factors, however, m a y have influenced J a a z a n i a h
b e n S h a p h a n ' s a p p e a r a n c e i n E z e k i e l c h a p t e r 8. W e l e a r n f r o m
J e r . 2 9 : 3 t h a t E l a s a h b e n S h a p h a n w a s o n e of t h e two m e n w h o
c a r r i e d J e r e m i a h ' s letter to the e x i l e s , I h a v e s h o w n ( H a l p e r i n ,
1993) t h a t t h i s letter u n d e r l i e s t h e p o l e m i c of E z e k . 1 1 : 1 - 3 . I t s
b e a r e r , a n d h e n c e S h a p h a n ' s entire family, m a y t h u s have b e e n
a t t h e forefront of E z e k i e l ' s a w a r e n e s s a t t h e t i m e of h i s v i s i o n .
The second factor r e l a t e s to E z e k i e l ' s u n c o n s c i o u s . I have
a l r e a d y c o m m e n t e d (above, n o t e 2 1 ) o n the m e a n i n g t h a t the
name "Jaazaniah" may h a v e h a d for h i m . "Shaphan", too, is
l i k e l y to h a v e b e e n s i g n i f i c a n t . T h e H e b r e w w o r d d e s i g n a t e s a
small mammal, d e c l a r e d u n c l e a n in Lev. 11:5 a n d D e u t . 14:7,
w h i c h f i n d s refuge ( P s . 1 0 4 : 1 8 ) a n d a h o m e (Prov. 3 0 : 2 6 ) i n
r o c k y cliffs. F r o m t h e s e r e f e r e n c e s , m o d e r n s c h o l a r s h a v e little
difficulty i d e n t i f y i n g it a s the S y r i a n h y r a x ( B o d e n h e i m e r , 1962;
McCullough, 1962).

2 3
W h o w a s t h e f a t h e r of the f u t u r e g o v e r n o r G e d a l i a h (2 K i n g s 2 5 : 2 2 ,
Jer. 40:5).
112 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

A s m a l l c r e a t u r e , k n o w n for i n s i n u a t i n g i t s e l f i n t o c r e v i c e s ,
the h y r a x w o u l d b e a n i d e a l s y m b o l i c r e p r e s e n t a t i o n for the
p e n i s . (A s y m b o l i z a t i o n of t h i s s o r t m a y v e r y w e l l u n d e r l i e s o m e
m o d e r n p e o p l e ' s fear of m i c e ; F e l d m a n , 1 9 4 9 . ) I h a v e argued
(Halperin, 1993) that the dreadful c h a m b e r i n the polluted
temple, where the "elders of t h e house of I s r a e l " burn in
c e n s e to i m a g e s of l o a t h s o m e c r e a t u r e s , i s E z e k i e l ' s r e p r e s e n t a
tion of the female genitals (Broome, 1946); and that his
c h a r a c t e r i z a t i o n of it a s " a b o m i n a b l e " reflects h i s a b h o r r e n c e of
female s e x u a l i t y . It i s n o t a s t o n i s h i n g t h a t a s o n of "Shaphan", a
r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of the m a l e g e n i t a l s , s h o u l d a p p e a r s t a n d i n g
within this chamber.

Conclusion

T h e effect of t h i s a r g u m e n t h a s b e e n to affirm the a u t h e n t i c i t y


of t h e temple v i s i o n of E z e k . 8 - 1 1 . It i s i n d e e d the w o r k of the
p r o p h e t E z e k i e l , it i n d e e d d e s c r i b e s a v i s i o n a r y e x p e r i e n c e of its
a u t h o r , it w a s i n d e e d s p o k e n a n d later w r i t t e n d o w n in the
c o n t e x t of the B a b y l o n i a n exile. A t the s a m e time, w e h a v e f o u n d
o u r s e l v e s m o v e d to d e n y t h a t the v i s i o n h a s a n y b u t t h e m o s t
t e n u o u s l i n k s w i t h its o s t e n s i b l e s e t t i n g , the c o n t e m p o r a r y r e a l
ity of t h e J e r u s a l e m t e m p l e .
I t s r e a l s e t t i n g , a s E z e k i e l h i m s e l f o b l i q u e l y tells u s , i s " t h e
chambers of i m a g i n a t i o n " n a m e l y , his own. It i s a dream
s h a r e d i n the v e r y c o u r s e of d r e a m i n g : c o m m u n i c a t e d a t first to
m e n w h o m Ezekiel hated and resembled more than he could
a d m i t ; t h e n t r a n s m i t t e d , t h r o u g h the c a n o n of H e b r e w S c r i p
t u r e , to a l o n g s u c c e s s i o n of u n c o m p r e h e n d i n g g e n e r a t i o n s .
If, a s F r e u d h a s t a u g h t u s ( 1 9 0 0 a , p. 6 0 8 ) , d r e a m s a r e the
"royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious", E z e k i e l ' s temple
v i s i o n c a n s e r v e a s o u r r o y a l r o a d into the p s y c h e of t h i s e x t r a
ordinary m a n . It m a y p e r h a p s a l s o c a r r y u s f u r t h e r , i n t o a
d e e p e r u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the collective p s y c h e s of t h o s e r e l i g i o u s
c u l t u r e s t h a t w e r e e v e n t u a l l y to c a n o n i z e h i m .
Comments

Martin S. Bergmann

R E F L E C T I O N S O F A P S Y C H O A N A L Y S T ON

DAVID H A L P E R I N ' S " E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H :

T H E WORKING OF A PROPHETIC TRANCE"

A psychoanalyst accustomed to l i s t e n i n g to a n d , i f n e e d be,


i n t e r p r e t i n g d r e a m s of h i s a n a l y s a n d s w i l l to b e g i n w i t h h a v e a
different feeling a b o u t the p r i m i t i v e i m a g e r y of E z e k i e l than
b i b l i c a l s c h o l a r s a r e l i k e l y to h a v e . T a k e , for e x a m p l e , t h e c o m
mand to " b a k e his bread with h u m a n excrement". It r e c a l l s
c o p r o p h a g i a , t h e c h i l d h o o d i m p u l s e t h a t l a t e r s u c c u m b s to r e
p r e s s i o n , to e a t o n e ' s o w n f a e c e s .
If w e k e e p i n m i n d t h e d i s t i n c t i o n t h a t F r e u d m a d e b e t w e e n
p r i m a r y p r o c e s s e s t h a t follow l a w s g o v e r n i n g the unconscious
a n d s e c o n d a r y p r o c e s s e s t h a t obey l o g i c a l l a w s , t h e n the r e q u e s t
t h a t t h e p r o p h e t eat f a e c e s w i l l a p p e a r l e s s s t r a n g e , s i n c e G o d
communicates with His prophet by primary processes. A sec
o n d a r y - p r o c e s s i n t e q ^ r e t a t i o n w o u l d b e t h a t the d e i t y w a n t e d to
h u m b l e t h e p r o p h e t b e c a u s e it g r a n t e d h i m the s p e c i a l p o w e r to
b e i t s s p o k e s m a n . S u c h a p o w e r c o u l d e a s i l y l e a d to a n a r c i s s i s

113
114 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

tic o v e r - e v a l u a t i o n . T h e e a t i n g of the f a e c e s t h e n r e p r e s e n t s a n
a t t e m p t to c o u n t e r a c t the n a r c i s s i s t i c e x u l t a t i o n .
A p s y c h o a n a l y s t w i l l a l s o be l e s s i n c l i n e d to j u d g e E z e k i e l a s
a s i c k m a n t h a n o t h e r p s y c h o l o g i s t s or s c h o l a r s w o u l d b e . F o r
w h a t , to a p s y c h o a n a l y s t , differentiates E z e k i e l from a c l a s s i c a l
schizophrenic like D a n i e l S c h r e b e r i n F r e u d ' s f a m o u s study
( 1 9 1 1 c ) i s the fact t h a t the p r o p h e t m a i n t a i n s c o n t a c t w i t h r e a l
e l d e r s a s w e l l a s c o n t a c t w i t h t h e i d e a s a n d i d e a l s of J u d a i s m
c u r r e n t i n h i s time.
It i s s t r i k i n g h o w little p s y c h o a n a l y t i c w o r k h a s b e e n d o n e
o n t h e p h e n o m e n o n of p r o p h e c y i n J e w i s h h i s t o r y . W e h a v e , to
be s u r e , J a c o b Arlow's by now c l a s s i c paper ' T h e Consecration
of t h e P r o p h e t " , b u t t h a t p a p e r h a d a p p e a r e d i n 1 9 5 1 . There
E z e k i e l i s o n l y one of the p r o p h e t s d i s c u s s e d . W h a t i m p r e s s e d
A r l o w p a r t i c u l a r l y w a s the p o w e r f u l w i s h e s for o r a l i n c o r p o r a
tion e x p r e s s e d p a r t i c u l a r l y i n the c o m m a n d to e a t a scroll.
E q u a l l y i m p r e s s i v e to A r l o w i s the s t r e n g t h of the prophet's
penis awe. Arlow writes:

B u t finally it is upon the a p p e a r a n c e of h i s loins even d o w n


w a r d that the eyes of the prophet focus. W h e n t h i s scopto
philic crescendo r e a c h e s its phallic climax, the prophet is
completely overwhelmed, falls upon h i s face a n d begins to
h e a r the voice of G o d s p e a k i n g , [p. 65]
E z e k i e f s concentration o n G o d ' s loins is e x p r e s s e d b y the
prophet i n t e n n s r e m i n i s c e n t of fellatioimpregnation fan
tasy. T h e fiery p h a l l u s of the vision h a s been transformed at
this point into a roll w h i c h tastes like honey, [p. 661

It w a s G r e e n a c r e ( 1 9 5 6 ) w h o m a d e t h e differentiation be
t w e e n p e n i s a w e a n d p e n i s envy. S h e a p p l i e d the d i s t i n c t i o n to
women. T h o s e women who primarily compete with m e n prob
a b l y h a v e p e n i s e n v y , w h i l e t h o s e w h o feel totally i n a d e q u a t e
t o w a r d s m e n a r e l i k e l y to suffer from p e n i s a w e . E z e k i e l r e t a i n e d
a n d t r a n s f e r r e d to h i s god the p e n i s a w e h e m u s t h a v e e x p e r i
e n c e d a s a c h i l d t o w a r d s h i s father.
A r l o w a l s o n o t e d the p o w e r of the w o r l d - d e s t r u c t i o n f a n t a s y
e x p r e s s e d b y E z e k i e l . S i n c e the 1911 s t u d y of S c h r e b e r , p s y c h o
analysts have interpreted this fantasy as a projection of a
p r o c e s s t h a t the p a t i e n t , u s u a l l y s c h i z o p h r e n i c , i s u n d e r g o i n g .
T h e world is experienced as coming to a n e n d b e c a u s e the
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 115

p a t i e n t h a s w i t h d r a w n h i s libido f r o m t h e w o r l d , a n d b y l i b i d o
F r e u d m e a n t love, c o n c e r n , a s w e l l a s i n t e r e s t . I n A r l o w ' s i n t e r
pretation, Ezekiel is overwhelmed b y the i m a g o of t h e father.
He i s therefore under the sway of the n e g a t i v e Oedipus. In
Halperin's psychoanalytic interpretation, there is a greater e m
p h a s i s o n t h e d a n g e r s of i n c e s t u o u s w i s h e s . H e s a y s :

I h a v e a r g u e d (1993) t h a t the dreadful c h a m b e r i n the pol


l u t e d temple, w h e r e the " e l d e r s of the H o u s e of I s r a e l " b u r n
i n c e n s e to images of l o a t h s o m e c r e a t u r e s , is E z e k i e f s r e p r e
s e n t a t i o n of the female genital, [p. 1121

Halperin also interprets the death of S h a f a n , one of the


e l d e r s , w h o s e n a m e i s u s u a l l y t a k e n to m e a n s i m p l y r a b b i t , b u t ,
a s H a l p e r i n s h o w s , it p r o b a b l y r e p r e s e n t s the S y r i a n h y r a x . T h e
a n i m a l i n s i n u a t e s i t s e l f into c r e v i c e s , a n d H a l p e r i n s u g g e s t s
t h a t it therefore s t a n d s for the p e n i s . H a l p e r i n ' s p s y c h o a n a l y t i c
interpretation implies that Ezekiel w a s functioning on a higher
psychosexual level a n d w a s s u f f e r i n g from c a s t r a t i o n anxiety
rather t h a n from penis awe.
Of particular interest in the essay under discussion is
H a l p e r i n ' s e m p h a s i s o n E z e k i e l ' s c l a i m to k n o w n o t o n l y w h a t
the elders are doing b u t also w h a t they are imagining: "They
h a v e lifted t h e i r i d o l s u p o n t h e i r h e a r t s . " H a l p e r i n comments:

these i m a g i n a r y a b o m i n a t i o n s , w h o s e n a t u r e i s left entirely


v a g u e , m e r i t the m o s t ferocious retribution, [p. 95]

Here, too, t h e s i t u a t i o n i s l i k e l y to b e m o r e f a m i l i a r to a
psychoanalyst than to a b i b l i c a l s c h o l a r , for psychoanalysts
o p e r a t e w i t h t h e a s s u m p t i o n t h a t the s u p e r e g o of t h e a n a l y s a n d
h a s direct contact with w h a t is still u n c o n s c i o u s a n d i n the i d . I n
a l l c a s e s of m e l a n c h o l i a a n d i n m a n y o t h e r m e n t a l i l l n e s s e s , t h e
s u p e r e g o p u n i s h e s the ego n o t for d e e d s c o m m i t t e d b u t b e c a u s e
t h e s u p e r e g o h a s d i r e c t a c c e s s to t h e u n c o n s c i o u s w i s h e s . It i s
t h e r e f o r e l e s s s u r p r i s i n g to u s t h a t E z e k i e l a s s u m e s t h a t h e h a s
d i r e c t c o n t a c t w i t h the w i s h e s of t h e elders a n d that he is
justified in punishing them for t h e s e w i s h e s . E z e k i e l merely
reproduces interpersonally what traditionally goes on intra
p s y c h i c a l l y . R e l i g i o n s , w e k n o w , t e n d to b l u r t h e difference be
t w e e n d e e d s a n d w i s h e s , t h u s m a g n i f y i n g t h e g u i l t feelings of
t h e i r b e l i e v e r s , w h i l e the p s y c h o a n a l y s t i n h i s d a i l y w o r k c o n
116 M Y S T I C I S M AND P R O P H E C Y

t i n u o u s l y r e m i n d s h i s a n a l y s a n d s of t h e difference b e t w e e n a c t s
and wishes.
If, i n d e e d , E z e k i e l w a s the first p r o p h e t to d e m a n d p u n i s h
m e n t not o n l y for a b o m i n a t i o n s a c t u a l l y c o m m i t t e d b u t for t h e
w i s h e s to c o m m i t t h e m , t h e n h e o c c u p i e s a pivotal p o s i t i o n i n
the h i s t o r y of religion, for guilt over w i s h e s r a t h e r t h a n deeds
testifies to the fact t h a t a g g r e s s i o n h a s b e e n i n t e r n a l i z e d a n d a
strict superego h a s been established. S u c h a severe superego
m a y n o t be i n the i n t e r e s t of the p e r s o n a n d m a y b e c o m e a
s o u r c e of d e p r e s s i o n , b u t it is a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the i n t e r n a l i z a t i o n
of a g g r e s s i o n a n d t h e e s t a b l i s h m e n t of m o n o t h e i s m . Monothe
i s m d o e s n o t tolerate e x p r e s s i o n of a n y a g g r e s s i o n t o w a r d s G o d .
E z e k i e l ' s p h r a s e " E v e r y m a n i n h i s r o o m of p i c t u r e s " s t r i k e s m e
a s p a r t i c u l a r l y a p t . If w e a s s u m e t h a t i n the u n c o n s c i o u s , a s i n
d r e a m s , w h a t is real is w h a t is pictured a n d not w h a t is thought,
the private picture room is a n excellent metaphorical description
for w h e r e o u r f a n t a s i e s c o m e from.
B o t h A r l o w a n d H a l p e r i n h a v e p r e s e n t e d to u s the p s y c h o
l o g i c a l i n n e r w o r l d of E z e k i e l w i t h little reference to the h i s t o r i c a l
d i m e n s i o n . It s e e m s to m e , however, t h a t the effort to s e p a r a t e
p s y c h o l o g y from h i s t o r y l e a v e s u s w i t h a n i n c o m p l e t e p i c t u r e .
The phenomenon of p r o p h e c y h a s to b e u n d e r s t o o d w i t h i n the
r e a l m of J e w i s h h i s t o r y . I n m y b o o k , In the Shadow of Moloch
( B e r g m a n n , 1 9 9 2 ) , I s u g g e s t e d t h a t the b a c k s l i d i n g a n d a b o m i
n a t i o n s t h a t the I s r a e l i t e s w e r e a c c u s e d of b y t h e i r p r o p h e t s
w e r e n o t h i n g else t h a n the r e l i g i o u s n o r m s of y e s t e r d a y . It is
b e l i e v e d b y m a n y s c h o l a r s today t h a t Y H W H w a s for a long time
a w a r - l i k e t r i b a l god w h o s e followers s u c c e e d e d i n c o n q u e r i n g
p a r t s of C a n a a n . U n d e r o r d i n a r y h i s t o r i c a l c o n d i t i o n s , t h i s t r i b a l
god s h o u l d h a v e b e e n f o r s a k e n after the w a r s w i t h A s s y r i a a n d
B a b y l o n h a d b e e n lost. B u t a t t h i s p o i n t a n e v o l u t i o n a r y m i r a c l e
h a p p e n e d a m i r a c l e t h a t gave J e w i s h h i s t o r y its u n i q u e n e s s .
W i t h the a i d of p r o p h e t s w h o p r e s e n t e d t h e m s e l v e s a s s p e a k i n g
for t h e i r god, a n e n t i r e l y n e w i d e a w a s b o r n . T h e t r i b a l god
b e c a m e a u n i v e r s a l god; h e w a s n e v e r defeated i n b a t t l e , h e o n l y
a l l o w e d h i s people to be defeated because they h a d sinned
against h i m . T o bring about this change, all aggression towards
t h e i m a g e of the deity h a d to be w i t h d r a w n . H e h a d to g a i n i n
p o w e r a n d b e c o m e o v e r w h e l m i n g . E z e k i e l , therefore, expresses
the a w e before a god t h a t h a s b e c o m e i n t e r n a l i z e d .
E Z E K I E L AND T H E E L D E R S O F J U D A H 1 17

A c c o r d i n g to S c h o l e m ( 1 9 4 1 , p. 7), t h e h i s t o r y of r e l i g i o n c a n
b e d i v i d e d i n t o s u b - p a r t s . T h e first i s the m y t h o l o g i c a l s t a g e , i n
w h i c h m e n a n d G o d mingle freely. A s religion develops, God
recedes into greater a n d greater d i s t a n c e . J e w i s h p r o p h e c y op
e r a t e s i n a p o s t - m y t h o l o g i c a l s t a g e of r e l i g i o n , b u t it s u c c e e d s i n
bringing b a c k a direct communication with God, although this
c o m m u n i c a t i o n i s r e s t r i c t e d to m o r a l d e m a n d s t h a t t h i s deity
m a k e s . T h e t e s t i m o n y of E z e k i e l t e a c h e s u s t h a t t h i s p r o c e s s of
i n t e r n a l i z a t i o n r e q u i r e d , a t l e a s t from s o m e p r o p h e t s , a sado
m a s o c h i s t i c r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n the deity a n d t h e p r o p h e t . T h e
s a d o - m a s o c h i s t i c relationship is, however, a transitional p h a s e ,
l e a d i n g to a n u l t i m a t e i n t e r n a l i z a t i o n of t h e i m a g e of t h e g o d a s
requiring continuously moral behaviour.
E S O T E R I C MYSTICISM,
MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT
CHAPTER FOUR

INTRODUCTION

Disclosure and revelation, and the converse, curiosity and


s t u d y , a r e f e a t u r e s n o t o n l y of t h e a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x , b u t of
normative J u d a i s m a s well. T h e observant J e w recites twice a
day:

A n d these m a t t e r s that I c o m m a n d y o u today s h o u l d be


placed upon y o u r heart, rehearse them with y o u r children,
a n d s p e a k of t h e m while sitting i n y o u r h o u s e , w h e n w a l k i n g
o n the r o a d , w h e n y o u lie d o w n a n d w h e n y o u a r i s e . A n d
b i n d t h e m a s a sign u p o n y o u r h a n d , a n d they s h a l l become
a s y m b o l between y o u r eyes, a n d write t h e m o n the door
p o s t s of y o u r h o u s e a n d on y o u r gates. [Deut. 6 : 6 - 9 ]

O n t h e o t h e r h a n d , c e r t a i n t h i n g s a r e n o t to be l o o k e d a t . I n
L e v i t i c u s , c h a p t e r 18, w e r e a d of the v a r i o u s i n c e s t u o u s and
near-incestuous sexual couplings that are forbidden. In each
c a s e , t h e i d i o m u s e d i s : " D o n o t u n c o v e r t h e n a k e d n e s s of. . .
L o o k i n g a t the p u d e n d a i s a p r e l u d e to a n d m e t a p h o r for t h e
sexual act.

121
122 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

R e g u l a r s t u d y of T o r a h (in i t s e x p a n d e d s e n s e , T a n a c h , T a l
mud, a n d commentaries) i s e s s e n t i a l to r e l i g i o u s life a n d is
t r e a t e d a s a form of w o r s h i p .
N o n e of t h i s i s r e m a r k a b l e . I n every religion t h e r e a r e s o m e
t h i n g s t h a t the i n d i v i d u a l i s e x p e c t e d to k n o w a n d o t h e r t h i n g s
t h a t h e i s e x p e c t e d to ignore or to a v o i d . N e v e r t h e l e s s , ancient
i d e a s of p r i v a c y a n d p r o p r i e t y differed from o u r o w n m o r e t h a n
w e g e n e r a l l y a c k n o w l e d g e . W e l e a r n , for e x a m p l e , i n B e r a k o t h
(B.T. 24a) that a woman may recite a b l e s s i n g w h i l e s i t t i n g
n a k e d , b e c a u s e w h e n a w o m a n sits on the g r o u n d neither the
g e n i t a l s n o r the b u t t o c k s a r e e x p o s e d . A m a n , therefore, does
n o t h a v e t h a t privilege. B e r a k o t h ( B . T . 6 2 a ) tells two stories
a b o u t i n a p p r o p r i a t e c u r i o s i t y . T h e first s t o r y is g i v e n i n two
v e r s i o n s . A y o u n g e r s c h o l a r follows a n older o n e i n t o a p r i v y to
o b s e r v e a n d to " l e a r n " p r o p e r c o n d u c t t h e r e . O n e of the v e r s i o n s
identifies t h e e n q u i r e r a s R a b b i A k i b a a n d the o t h e r a s Ben
A z z a i , b o t h of w h o m figure i n t h i s e s s a y o n i n a p p r o p r i a t e c u r i o s
ity. T h e s e c o n d s t o r y tells u s t h a t R a b b i K a h a n a o n c e h i d u n d e r
R a b ' s b e d to observe h i s c o n d u c t d u r i n g i n t e r c o u r s e . " I t i s a
matter of T o r a h a n d I m u s t l e a r n . " Y e t he k n e w e n o u g h to
c o m m e n t t h a t R a b s e e m e d i n e x p e r i e n c e d . R a b b e c a m e a w a r e of
K a h a n a a n d d i s m i s s e d h i m w i t h the c o m m e n t t h a t h i s c o n d u c t
w a s r u d e (that i s , i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h derekh 'erez). S h o r t l y after
the c o m m e n t a b o u t the n a k e d w o m a n , the text tells u s that
g a z i n g a t a w o m a n ' s leg, or h e r h a i r , or e v e n a h a n d b r e a d t h of
e x p o s e d f l e s h , or even l i s t e n i n g to h e r voice i s s e x u a l l y a r o u s i n g
a n d i s therefore i n c o m p a t i b l e w i t h a p r a y e r f u l a t t i t u d e . T h e s e
anecdotes c a u t i o n u s t h a t o u r o w n s t a n d a r d s of w h a t i s a n d
what is not decorous are culture-bound. F o r the editors of
B e r a k o t h , a n a k e d w o m a n who is seated is not indecorous from
a r e l i g i o u s p o i n t of v i e w : a n i n t r u d e r into a p r i v y or i n t o a
b e d r o o m i s m e r e l y r u d e , n o t i n v i o l a t i o n of r e l i g i o u s s t a n d a r d s of
p u r i t y or p r i v a c y : w o m a n ' s h a i r or voice i s a n unacceptable
sexual distraction.
T h e m y t h i c c o n t i n u e s a s a n active u n d e r c u r r e n t i n a l l r e l i
gion a n d r e c u r r e n t l y s u r f a c e s . I n S c r i p t u r e , the conflict b e t w e e n
c u r i o s i t y a n d the p r o h i b i t i o n a g a i n s t it a p p e a r s a s e a r l y a s the
s t o r y of A d a m a n d E v e i n t h e g a r d e n . W h e n G o d p r o h i b i t s A d a m
from e a t i n g from the tree of k n o w l e d g e , p r e s u m a b l y H e w a s n o t
t h i n k i n g of p r o h i b i t i n g A d a m from l e a r n i n g the m u l t i p l i c a t i o n
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 123

t a b l e s (at l e a s t n o t l i t e r a l l y ) . T h e p r o h i b i t e d k n o w l e d g e r e l a t e d to
m a t t e r s of i n s t i n c t u a l i n t e r e s t , of i d e n t i t y a n d d e s t i n y . T h e c o n
sequence of e a t i n g the f o r b i d d e n fruit is that A d a m and Eve
b e c a m e a w a r e of t h e d i s t i n c t i o n b e t w e e n g o o d a n d evil a n d a l s o
of t h e n e e d to c o v e r t h e i r g e n i t a l s . T h e y b e c a m e m o r t a l a n d w e r e
exiled from their infantile or p e r h a p s prenatal paradise into
t h e w o r l d of r e a l i t y , of p a i n a n d h a r d w o r k , of t h o r n s a n d t h i s t l e s ,
a n d of t h e g r a v e . B u t s i n c e t h e y a r e to d i e , t h e c h a i n of r e p r o d u c
t i o n i s i n i t i a t e d s o t h a t life m a y c o n t i n u e , a n d s o A d a m "knew"
h i s wife, E v e . T h e m y t h tells u s t h a t a p a r a d i s i a c e x i s t e n c e i s
incompatible with a sense of r e a l i t y , w i t h self-consciousness,
a n d w i t h v a l u e s . C u r i o s i t y i s v i t a l for the h u m a n b u t n e v e r t h e
l e s s i t s p r i c e i s the forgoing of i m m o r t a l i t y .
W e e n c o u n t e r t h e s a m e p r o b l e m of p r o h i b i t e d c u r i o s i t y a g a i n
i n E x o d u s . I n c h a p t e r 19, i n p r e p a r a t i o n for t h e t h e o p h a n y on
Mt. S i n a i , the people are w a r n e d a g a i n s t gazing a t G o d lest they
perish (Exod. 19:21-24).
I n c h a p t e r 3 3 w e l e a r n t h a t M o s e s r e q u e s t e d t h a t G o d let h i m
know H i m a n d H i s w a y s ( u s i n g the s a m e w o r d for k n o w i n g t h a t
i s u s e d i n t h e G a r d e n of E d e n m y t h , yada). A few v e r s e s f u r t h e r
d o w n , M o s e s a s k s more directly, " L e t me see y o u r presence."
G o d p e r m i t s M o s e s s o m e degree of p r o x i m i t y a n d p e r m i t s h i m to
s e e h i s b a c k , b u t n o t h i s face b e c a u s e " n o m a n m a y s e e m e a n d
live" ( E x o d . 3 3 : 1 3 - 2 3 ) . T h e Divine F a t h e r m a y not be s e e n , a n d
e s p e c i a l l y n o t h i s " f a c e " . O n e m a y b e forgiven for s u s p e c t i n g t h a t
it i s t h e g e n i t a l t h a t i s off l i m i t s .
T h e f i r s t c h a p t e r of E z e k i e l m a y b e r e g a r d e d a s the t r a n s i t i o n
f r o m m y t h to m y s t i c i s m :

I n the thirtieth y e a r , on the fourth d a y of the fifth m o n t h ,


w h e n I w a s i n the m i d s t of the exile o n the r i v e r C h e b a r , the
h e a v e n s w e r e o p e n e d a n d I s a w v i s i o n s of G o d . O n the fifth of
the m o n t h t h a t w a s the fifth y e a r of the exile of K i n g
J e h o i a c h i n t h e w o r d of the L o r d c a m e to E z e k i e l the s o n of
B u z i , the priest, i n the l a n d of the C h a l d e a n s , o n the river
C h e b a r . A n d the h a n d of the L o r d c a m e u p o n h i m there.
A n d I looked a n d here w a s a s t o r m y w i n d c o m i n g o u t of
the n o r t h , a great c l o u d a n d a flaming fire, a n d a r a d i a n c e
s u r r o u n d e d it, a n d from w i t h i n , the a p p e a r a n c e of h a s h m a l
( a m b e r ? ] t h a t i s , from w i t h i n the fire. A n d from w i t h i n it the
image of four c r e a t u r e s , a n d this w a s their a p p e a r a n c e : t h e y
124 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

e a c h resembled a m a n i n a p p e a r a n c e . A n d e a c h h a d four
faces, a n d e a c h one also h a d four wings. A n d a s for their
legs, the leg w a s straight, a n d the foot resembled the foot of a
calf, a n d they gleamed like the a p p e a r a n c e of polished b r a s s .
A n d there were h u m a n h a n d s u n d e r their w i n g s , o n e a c h of
their four s i d e s , a n d their faces a n d their wings were the
s a m e for e a c h . T h e i r wings were j o i n e d one to another; they
(the creatures) did not t u r n a s they traveled, e a c h could
proceed straight a h e a d . A n d a s for the a p p e a r a n c e of their
faces, e a c h h a d a h u m a n face, a n d on the right side, e a c h of
the four h a d the face of a lion, a n d on the left side, e a c h of
the four h a d the face of a n ox, a n d e a c h of the four h a d the
face of a n eagle. T h a t , w i t h respect to the faces, a n d their
wings were separated above; two of the wings of e a c h were
j o i n e d e a c h to its fellow a n d two covered their bodies. A n d
e a c h i n d i v i d u a l could proceed a h e a d ; wherever the s p i r i t
went, they went; they did not t u r n a s they moved. A n d w i t h
respect to the image of the c r e a t u r e s , their a p p e a r a n c e r e
s e m b l e d b u r n i n g embers of fire a n d the a p p e a r a n c e of
flames moved a m o n g the creatures, a n d the fire emitted a
r a d i a n c e , a n d from the fire, lightning [or s p a r k s ? ] emerged.
A n d the c r e a t u r e s darted up a n d b a c k so that they a p p e a r e d
like lightning. A n d a s I looked at the c r e a t u r e s , there w a s a
w h e e l on the ground alongside the four faces of e a c h c r e a
ture. T h e a p p e a r a n c e of the wheels a n d their s t r u c t u r e
resembled t a r s h i s h [beryl or chrysolite), a n d e a c h of the four
h a d the s a m e a p p e a r a n c e , a n d their a p p e a r a n c e a n d s t r u c
ture suggested a wheel w i t h i n a wheel. O n e a c h of their four
sides, w h e n the c r e a t u r e s went, the w h e e l s went, a n d they
did not t u r n w h e n they moved. A n d a s for their r i m s , they
were tall a n d frightening, a n d the r i m s of the four were
covered w i t h eyes all a r o u n d . A n d w h e n the c r e a t u r e s
traveled, the wheels traveled alongside them, a n d w h e n the
c r e a t u r e s were lifted above the e a r t h , the wheels were lifted.
Wherever the spirit w a s inclined to go, they went; there the
spirit traveled; a n d the wheels were lifted alongside them, for
the spirit of e a c h of the c r e a t u r e s w a s i n the w h e e l s . W h e n
the one went, so did the other a n d w h e n the one stopped the
other did too, a n d w h e n they were lifted above the ground,
the wheels were lifted next to them, for the spirit of the
creature w a s i n the wheels.
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 125

A n d the image of a n e x p a n s e , r e s e m b l i n g the a p p e a r a n c e


of the a w e s o m e c r y s t a l , w a s s t r e t c h e d above the h e a d s of the
c r e a t u r e s . A n d u n d e r the e x p a n s e their w i n g s were extended
e a c h to its neighbor for e a c h c r e a t u r e , a n d e a c h of the c r e a
t u r e s h a d two covering w i n g s , t h a t i s , covering their bodies.
A n d I h e a r d the s o u n d of their w i n g s , like the s o u n d of
r u s h i n g w a t e r s , like the s o u n d of S h a d d a i , a s they moved,
the s o u n d of a t u m u l t , like the s o u n d of a n a r m y ; w h e n t h e y
h a l t e d , t h e y dropped their w i n g s . A n d there w a s a s o u n d
above the e x p a n s e above their h e a d s ; w h e n t h e y h a l t e d , t h e y
dropped t h e i r w i n g s . A n d above the e x p a n s e above t h e i r
h e a d s , there w a s the image of a throne r e s e m b l i n g s a p p h i r e
i n a p p e a r a n c e , a n d above, u p o n the image of the throne, a n
image t h a t r e s e m b l e d a h u m a n form. A n d I s a w the g l e a m of
h a s h m a l , like the a p p e a r a n c e of fire w i t h i n a s u r r o u n d i n g
frame, t h a t extended from w h a t a p p e a r e d to be its l o i n s
u p w a r d , a n d from w h a t a p p e a r e d to be its loins d o w n w a r d , I
s a w the a p p e a r a n c e of fire s u r r o u n d e d by r a d i a n c e . L i k e the
a p p e a r a n c e of the r a i n b o w that one sees i n the c l o u d s o n a
r a i n y day, t h a t w a s the a p p e a r a n c e of the s u r r o u n d i n g r a d i
a n c e ; that w a s the image of the a p p e a r a n c e of the glory of the
L o r d ; I s a w it a n d I fell on m y face a n d t h e n I h e a r d a voice
s p e a k i n g . [ E z e k . 1]

I c o n s i d e r t h i s a t r a n s i t i o n a l s t a t e m e n t b e c a u s e it p r o v i d e s a
m y t h i c v i e w of G o d w h i c h w a s p u r p o r t e d to h a v e b e e n r e c e i v e d
i n w h a t s e e m s to b e a m y s t i c a l t r a n c e . I b a s e t h a t v i e w o n t h e
l a s t v e r s e of t h e s e c t i o n a n d t h e first two v e r s e s of t h e s u c c e e d
ing chapter:

A n d He s a i d to me, "Mortal, s t a n d o n y o u r feet a n d I s h a l l


s p e a k to y o u . " A n d w h e n He spoke to m e a s p i r i t entered m e
a n d stood m e on m y feet a n d I h e a r d w h a t w a s b e i n g s p o k e n
to me.

T h e m y t h i s t h e s p e c i f i c d e s c r i p t i o n of t h e D e i t y . Note t h a t
t h e e m p h a s i s i s d i s p l a c e d h e r e from t h e i m a g e of G o d to the
s q u a r e animate vehicle in w h i c h He arrives. T h e reader will
remember that vehicles appear commonly in apocalyptic fanta
s i e s a n d t h a t t h e n u m b e r four o c c u r s w i t h s u r p r i s i n g f r e q u e n c y .
T h i s s t r u c t u r e i s n o t h e r e c a l l e d a c h a r i o t , merkavali, b u t it h a s
b e c o m e k n o w n b y that n a m e i n the m y s t i c a l literature t h a t took
126 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

t h i s m a t e r i a l a s i t s b a s i c text. (The e a r l i e s t s u r v i v i n g u s e of
merkavah to refer to E z e k i e l ' s v i s i o n i s f o u n d i n S i r a c h 4 9 : 8 . ) N o t
o n l y i s t h e s t r u c t u r e of t h e v e h i c l e d e s c r i b e d , b u t a l s o t h e
anatomy of t h e c h a r i o t c r e a t u r e s . T h e y m o d e s t l y c o v e r t h e i r
b o d i e s w i t h one p a i r of t h e i r four w i n g s .
H o w e v e r two v e r s e s from t h e e n d , t h e D e i t y h i m s e l f i s v i s u a l
i z e d , b u t t h e o n l y d e t a i l given r e l a t e s to t h e " l o i n s " , r a d i a n t a n d
a f l a m e . T h e r a d i a n c e a n d the flame d r a w a t t e n t i o n to G o d ' s
p h a l l u s b u t a t t h e s a m e time o b s c u r e i t . A s w e s h a l l s e e i n t h e
fifth e s s a y , merkavah a n d hekhaloth m y s t i c i s m i s o r i e n t e d to t h e
q u e s t to v i s u a l i z e G o d i n H i s merkavah or i n H i s c e l e s t i a l p a l a c e .
T h e q u e s t i n c u r s d a n g e r s . T h e s e a n d t h e m e t h o d s for c o m b a t i n g
t h e m a r e d e t a i l e d i n the m y s t i c a l l i t e r a t u r e .
B o t h t h e q u e s t a n d d a n g e r c r e a t e a conflict, or r a t h e r r e
create it. T h i s essay on the " F o u r w h o entered the garden" is
b a s e d u p o n a n a n e c d o t e t h a t a p p e a r s i n T r a c t a t e H a g i g a h of t h e
T a l m u d . S e c t i o n two of t h a t t r a c t a t e r e a d s a s follows:

O n e m a y not expound the s u b j e c t of forbidden s e x u a l r e l a


tions a m o n g (as m a n y as) three people (i.e. only one or two);
n o r the a c c o u n t of creation a m o n g (as m a n y as) two; n o r the
s u b j e c t of the merkavah with even one, u n l e s s he is wise a n d
sophisticated i n these matters. Everyone w h o s p e c u l a t e s o n
the following four s u b j e c t s would be better off if h e h a d not
been b o r n : W h a t i s above, w h a t is below, w h a t c a m e before,
a n d w h a t will come afterward. Anyone w h o does not s h o w
respect for h i s M a k e r would have been better off if he h a d not
been b o r n .

T h i s p a s s a g e i m p l i e s t h a t a t t h e time, there w a s c o n s i d e r a b l e
speculation about these matters, that is, mystical quest, a n d
t h a t t h e a u t h o r i t i e s w h o r e p r e s e n t e d n o r m a t i v e religion w e r e
t r y i n g to c o m b a t i t . T h e s u b j e c t s l i s t e d w e r e t h e p r i n c i p a l o b j e c t s
of m y s t i c a l i n t e r e s t : forbidden s e x u a l relations, esoteric cos
m o g o n y , a n d t h e i m a g e of G o d . I t i s p r e c i s e l y t h e s e s u b j e c t s t h a t
w e r e t h e object of m y s t i c a l i n v e s t i g a t i o n i n a l l of the s u b s e q u e n t
f o r m s of J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m . T h e p r o b l e m s t h a t c o n c e r n e d t h e
rabbinical authorities were that d i s c u s s i n g even s e x u a l prohi
b i t i o n s i s a r o u s i n g , t h a t s p e c u l a t i o n a b o u t t h e origin of t h e
u n i v e r s e t h r e a t e n s o n e ' s c o n f i d e n c e i n t h e literal a c c o u n t of t h e
c r e a t i o n g i v e n i n G e n e s i s , a n d t h a t s t u d y of t h e merkavah leads
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 127

to u n s e e m l y preoccupation with God's anatomy. But why do


t h e s e s u b j e c t s b e c o m e s o i m p o r t a n t for t h e m y s t i c ?
T h e m y s t i c a l q u e s t i s b a s i c a l l y for i n t i m a c y w i t h G o d , s e e i n g
H i m , k n o w i n g H i m , u n d e r s t a n d i n g H i s position i n the u n i v e r s e .
S p e a k i n g of the s a c r e d n e s s of the S o n g of S o n g s , a n e x p l i c i t l y
erotic poem, Gerson D. Cohen (1991) proposed t h a t : " I f love
c o u l d n o t b e i g n o r e d , it c o u l d b e c h a n n e l l e d , r e f o r m u l a t e d and
c o n t r o l l e d , a n d t h i s i s p r e c i s e l y w h a t t h e r a b b i n i c a l l e g o r y of t h e
S o n g of S o n g s attempted to a c h i e v e . " I w o u l d go f u r t h e r and
propose t h a t s e x u a l i t y i s u s e d a s a v e h i c l e for t h e mystical
p u r s u i t of a p p r o a c h to a n d u n i o n w i t h G o d , a n d s o a r e s p e c u l a
tions about cosmogony a n d God's substance a n d appearance.
E v e n t h e i m a g e of t h e a u s t e r e , r e m o t e , i m m a t e r i a l Godhead
seems to h a v e g i v e n w a y to a loving, a c c e s s i b l e , v i s i b l e and
t a n g i b l e p a r e n t for the merkavah a n d hekhaloth mystics, and as
a n ultimately unknowable, inconceivable E n Sof or I n f i n i t e for
t h e K a b b a l i s t s b u t a n Infinite t h a t a c t s u p o n the r e a l w o r l d a n d
i t s p e o p l e t h r o u g h a v a r i e t y of v e r y f a m i l i a r a n d recognizable
potencies. A s I proposed i n the introductory essay, the m y s t i c a l
a t t i t u d e c a n b e i n t e r p r e t e d a s a r e g r e s s i o n to t h e s t a t e ,of m i n d of
early childhood; the v e r y y o u n g child can find comfort and
a s s u r a n c e only in physical intimacy with a parent. Nunberg, in
a n e s s a y o n c u r i o s i t y ( 1 9 6 1 ) , r e l a t e d i n f a n t i l e s e x u a l c u r i o s i t y to
three questions: Where do c h i l d r e n come from; what is the
difference b e t w e e n a boy a n d a girl; a n d w h a t are father and
mother doing together? T h e s e three questions parallel the three
c o n c e r n s of H a g i g a h . W h e r e do c h i l d r e n c o m e f r o m becomes
elaborated i n t o t h e d e s i r e to u n d e r s t a n d originsand in the
c a s e of t h e m y s t i c , c o s m o g o n y . T h e difference b e t w e e n t h e boy
a n d girl i s r e f l e c t e d , u n d e r t h e i n f l u e n c e of p h a l l i c p r i m a c y , i n
curiosity about God's physical appearance, focusing indirectly
but ultimately a n d sometimes more directly on H i s s e x u a l or
gans. What the parents are doing together is subsequently
elaborated into c u r i o s i t y a b o u t s e x u a l b e h a v i o u r .
Whether t h e s e c o n c e r n s a r e p r o v i d e d for b y u n i v e r s a l b i o
logical constitution or a r e a c q u i r e d d u r i n g the e x p e r i e n c e s of
early childhood, we cannot know. We do k n o w t h a t t h e y f i r s t
become manifest in early childhood a n d are subsequently re
pressed or s u b l i m a t e d . Under the influence of the mystical
128 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

q u e s t , t h e y b e c o m e r e a c t i v a t e d a n d find e x p r e s s i o n i n the v a r i
o u s w a y s t h a t we h a v e m e n t i o n e d .
D r E l e a n o r G a l e n s o n a d d s to the d i s c u s s i o n a d e s c r i p t i o n of
the e v o l u t i o n of c u r i o s i t y i n v e r y y o u n g c h i l d r e n , i n o r d e r to
complement our hypothetical constructions with h a r d observa
tional data.
F o u r entered the garden:
normative religion v e r s u s i l l u s i o n

Mortimer Ostow

F o u r entered the g a r d e n , n a m e l y , B e n A z z a i , a n d B e n
1

Z o m a , A h e r a n d R a b b i A k i v a . R a b b i A k i v a s a i d to t h e m :
W h e n y o u arrive a t the (place of the) s t o n e s of p u r e
m a r b l e , don*t s a y , Water, Water! B e c a u s e it is s a i d : He
w h o s p e a k s falsehood will not s t a n d before m y e y e s (Ps.
101:7). B e n A z z a i looked a n d died. S c r i p t u r e s a y s a b o u t
h i m : B l e s s e d i n the eyes of the L o r d is the d e a t h of h i s
righteous (Ps. 1 1 6 : 1 - 5 ) . B e n Z o m a looked a n d w a s
afflicted. S c r i p t u r e s a y s a b o u t h i m : I f y o u h a v e found
honey, e a t (only) y o u r fill, b e c a u s e if y o u b e c o m e
surfeited, y o u will vomit (Prov. 2 5 : 1 6 ) . A h e r c u t the
shoots. R a b b i A k i v a departed i n peace.

M. Ostow, " F o u r Entered the Garden: Normative Religion v e r s u s I l l u


sion." I n : H. P, B l u m , Y . Kramer, Arlene R i c h a r d s , & Arnold R i c h a r d s
(Eds.), Fantasy, Myth and Reality: Essays in Honor of Jacob A. Arlow (pp.
2 8 7 - 3 0 1 ) . New York: International Universities Press, 1988.
1
T h e word that I have translated as garden, Pardes, presents some
problems. It h a s been used in two sensesnamely, a garden or orchard,
a n d also paradise, with which it shares its Greek origin. Scholem (1960)
argues that that term is used literally in the first sense in the story
b u t that the garden is a metaphor for paradise. Halperin (1988), on the

129
T
his terse and intriguing story appears in chapter 2
(p. 14b) of a s e c t i o n of the Babylonian Talmud called
H a g i g a h . T h e s e c t i o n d e a l s p r i m a r i l y w i t h the c e l e b r a t i o n
of h o l i d a y s i n T e m p l e w o r s h i p .
T h e s a m e story, w i t h m i n o r m o d i f i c a t i o n s , i s g i v e n i n a t l e a s t
three other p l a c e s i n the T a l m u d i c l i t e r a t u r e t h e Palestinian
(as d i s t i n g u i s h e d from the Babylonian) Talmud, Hagigah 77b;
T o s e f t a H a g i g a h 2 : 3 - 4 ; a n d Midrash Rabbah to S h i r H a s h i r i m
( S o n g of S o n g s ) 1:4. A c o m p a r i s o n a n d c o n t r a s t of t h e s e v e r s i o n s
w o u l d t a k e u s too far afield w h i l e c o n t r i b u t i n g n o t h i n g of i n t e r e s t
to m y p r i n c i p a l t h e s i s .
T h e four s c h o l a r s m e n t i o n e d i n the story, a l l w e l l - k n o w n
c o n t r i b u t o r s to r a b b i n i c debate, flourished d u r i n g the f i r s t few
d e c a d e s of the s e c o n d c e n t u r y . T h e m e a n i n g of the s t o r y h a s
o c c u p i e d m a n y c o m p e t e n t s c h o l a r s , a n d no c o n s e n s u s h a s b e e n
r e a c h e d . R o w l a n d ( 1 9 8 2 ) i n t e r p r e t s the s t o r y a s " a m e t a p h o r i c a l

other hand, contends that Pardes was used to signify paradise in Jewish
apocryphal literature, but in rabbinic usage it referred only to a pleasure
garden or park and was used in rabbinic literature to represent meta
phorically "the world, the holy land, the people of Israel and the precepts
of the Torah". In this story, he argues, it serves as a metaphor for the
"chambers of the merkabah".
The word Apikoros signifies the arch-heretic in rabbinic literature. In
the Encyclopedia Judaica, Louis I, Rabinowitz notes that even though the
word derives from the name of the Greek philosopher Epicurus, the rabbis
ignored that derivation and saw it as derived from the Aramaic word
hejker, meaning "abandoned". So there seems to have been some objec
tion to acknowledging the association of the word with Epicurus. The term
"Epicurean gardens" was used in the classical world to denote groups of
disciples of Epicurus in rabbinic times, though we do not know whether
that was true in rabbinic circles. It occurred to me therefore to wonder
whether the Pardes used in our story could have alluded to the Epicurean
garden, and, indeed, Henry Albert Fischel, a student of Epicureanism,
offers the same suggestion in his book on Rabbinic Literature and
Greco-Roman philosophy (1973) and in his article on Epicureanism in the
Encyclopedia Judaica, buttressed by the citation of several connecting
allusions.
Whatever the origin of the term Pardes, there is no doubt that in the
context of the story it refers to inappropriate merkavah mystical curiosity,
as Halperin argues.

130
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 131

d e s c r i p t i o n of t h e c o n s e q u e n c e s r e s u l t i n g from the o c c u p a t i o n of
f o u r t e a c h e r s of t h e e a r l y s e c o n d c e n t u r y i n t h e s t u d y of t h e
S c r i p t u r e s " , u p o n w h i c h l a y e r s of o t h e r m e a n i n g s have been
subsequently imposed (p. 3 3 9 ) . Mediaeval J e w i s h commenta
t o r s , H a i G a o n a n d R a s h i , for e x a m p l e , u n d e r s t o o d the story
to refer to a v i s i o n of m y s t i c a l a s c e n t to h e a v e n l y s t r u c t u r e s
w h e r e t h e merkavah o r c h a r i o t ( d e s c r i b e d i n E z e k i e l , c h a p t e r 1)
c o u l d be s e e n , a n d w h e r e one c o u l d v i s u a l i z e the s e v e n h e a v e n l y
p a l a c e s o r hekhalot G e r s h o m S c h o l e m (1954), the great m o d e r n
s c h o l a r of J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m , s e e s t h e s t o r y a s a w a r n i n g of
t h e d a n g e r s of e c s t a t i c a s c e n t to t h e hekhalot G r u e n w a l d (1980)
c o n s i d e r s t h e s t o r y o n e of s e v e r a l m y s t i c a l s p e c u l a t i o n s r e g a r d
i n g e c s t a t i c e x p e r i e n c e s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e i l l u s i o n of t r a n s l a
t i o n to h e a v e n . H a l p e r i n ( 1 9 8 0 ) t r e a t s the s t o r y a s o n e of s e v e n
u n i t s t h a t together m a k e u p w h a t he t e r m s the " m y s t i c a l collec
t i o n " . T h e latter c o n v e y s the m e s s a g e that " i n v o l v e m e n t with
e s o t e r i c m a t t e r s , i s d a n g e r o u s a n d n o r m a l l y to be a v o i d e d " (p.
104). T h e collection does not d i s t i n g u i s h a m o n g the v a r i o u s
f o r m s of m y s t i c i s m . T h e f u l l e s t r e c e n t d i s c u s s i o n i s g i v e n by
Y e h u d a h Liebes (1990). H o w a r d E i l b e r g - S c h w a r t z (1994) sug
g e s t s t h a t t h e a t t r a c t i v e d i s p l a y i n the g a r d e n w a s G o d ' s p h a l l u s ,
a n d t h e d i r e c o n s e q u e n c e s of g a z i n g a t it a r e c a u s e d b y h o m o
sexual anxiety.
E v e n t h o u g h r e l i a b l e h i s t o r i c a l d a t a a r e s p a r s e , i f w e w i s h to
d r a w o u r o w n c o n c l u s i o n s a b o u t the s t o r y ' s m e a n i n g , w e s h a l l
h a v e to t a k e a c l o s e r look a t t h e few r e l i a b l e d e t a i l s t h a t w e h a v e .
W h o were the protagonists? B e n Azzai's n a m e is not a s s o c i a t e d
w i t h a n y p a r t i c u l a r exploit or p o i n t of v i e w . S o m e of t h e b a s i c
d a t a of h i s life a r e o b s c u r e d b y p a r a d o x a n d u n c e r t a i n t y . F i r s t ,
a l t h o u g h h e t a u g h t t h a t f a i l u r e to o b s e r v e t h e c o m m a n d m e n t to
procreate is a s grave a violation a s s h e d d i n g blood, he h i m s e l f
d i d n o t m a r r y , offering a s a n e x p l a n a t i o n the fact t h a t h e l o v e d
t h e T o r a h too m u c h . S e c o n d , a l t h o u g h t h e s t o r y tells u s t h a t h i s
d e a t h w a s c a u s e d b y h i s e n t r y into t h e g a r d e n , t h e r e i s a n o t h e r
t r a d i t i o n t h a t h o l d s h e w a s s l a i n i n the H a d r i a n i c p e r s e c u t i o n s
(Lamentations Rabbah 2:2,4). T h i r d , although he w a s revered
b o t h for h i s s c h o l a r s h i p a n d for h i s piety, h e w a s n e v e r or
d a i n e d , s o t h a t h i s n a m e i s n e v e r p r e c e d e d b y t h e title R a b b i . I n
a d d i t i o n , w e k n o w t h a t m y s t i c a l p o w e r s w e r e a t t r i b u t e d to h i m
{Song of Songs Rabbah 1:10), a n d h e a r g u e d t h a t G o d showed
132 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

t h e r i g h t e o u s t h e i r f u t u r e glory before d e a t h , a b e l i e f t y p i c a l of
the m y s t i c a l t r a d i t i o n {Bereshith Rabbah 62:2).
B e n A z z a f s f a i l u r e to m a r r y i n a n age w h e n m a r r i a g e a n d
procreation were religious desiderata suggests a disturbance
in h i s sexuality, a disturbance that found some compensation in
his mystical endeavours. Among his mystical interests, some
s t a n d o u t e s p e c i a l l y n a m e l y , h i s i n t e r e s t i n the p h y s i c a l a p
p e a r a n c e of G o d a n d m a n . H e a r g u e d t h a t n o t e v e n the i m m o r t a l
a n g e l s w e r e p e r m i t t e d to s e e t h e d i v i n e glory, a n d t h a t b e c a u s e it
i m p l i e d the c o m m o n origin of m a n k i n d , G e n . 5:1 w a s one of t h e
g r e a t e s t v e r s e s of S c r i p t u r e : " T h i s i s t h e r e c o r d of A d a m ' s l i n e .
W h e n G o d c r e a t e d m a n , H e m a d e h i m i n the l i k e n e s s of G o d ;
m a l e a n d female h e c r e a t e d t h e m " (Sifra 7:4). A p p a r e n t l y , be
c a u s e B e n A z z a i d i e d a t a n e a r l y age, h i s u n e x p e c t e d d e a t h w a s
a t t r i b u t e d to h i s i n v o l v e m e n t i n m y s t i c a l p r a c t i c e a n d t h o u g h t .
I n the c a s e of B e n Z o m a , w e e n c o u n t e r a different p r o b l e m .
T h e s t o r y a s g i v e n s a y s o n l y t h a t a s a r e s u l t of h i s l o o k i n g into
t h e g a r d e n , h e w a s "afflicted" [nifga]. T h e affliction i s g e n e r a l l y
u n d e r s t o o d a s a e u p h e m i s m for m e n t a l i l l n e s s (see R a s h i , c o m
m e n t a r y to B . T . H a g i g a h 14b). S c h o l e m ( 1 9 6 0 ) c a l l s a t t e n t i o n to
a v a r i a n t of t h e s t o r y g i v e n i n Lesser Hekhaloth (a c o l l e c t i o n of
midrashim of the hekhalot genre), t h a t v o i c e s t h i s t r a d i t i o n .

B e n A z z a i beheld the s i x t h palace a n d s a w the ethereal


splendor of the marble plates with w h i c h the palace w a s
tessellated a n d h i s body could not bear it. He opened h i s
m o u t h a n d a s k e d them [apparently the angels s t a n d i n g
there]: " W h a t k i n d of waters are these?** W h e r e u p o n he died.
O f h i m it is s a i d : " P r e c i o u s i n the sight of the Lord i s the
death of h i s saints.** B e n Z o m a beheld the splendor of the
marble plates a n d he took them for water a n d h i s body c o u l d
b e a r it not to a s k them, b u t his m i n d could not b e a r it, a n d
he went out of h i s m i n d . . . . R a b b i A k i v a a s c e n d e d i n peace
a n d descended i n peace, [p. 151.

Like B e n Azzai, B e n Z o m a never achieved ordination, though


his scholarship w a s proverbial. Of his published comments,
s o m e imply a n a r c i s s i s t i c orientation, though they explicitly
p r o f e s s r e v e r e n c e for G o d . U p o n s e e i n g a c r o w d o n the T e m p l e
mount, h e o b s e r v e d t h a t he w a s f o r t u n a t e t h a t there w e r e s o
m a n y people l a b o u r i n g to provide h i m w i t h food a n d c l o t h i n g . H e
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 133

t a u g h t t h a t m a n s h o u l d a p p r e c i a t e h o w m u c h G o d d o e s for h i m
a n d t h a t t h e w o r l d w a s c r e a t e d o n l y to b e of s e r v i c e to h i m w h o
fears G o d a n d respects His c o m m a n d m e n t s . O n e of h i s b e s t
k n o w n a p h o r i s m s emphasizes paradox.

W h o i s a w i s e m a n ? He t h a t l e a r n s from a l l m e n . . . . W h o i s
a m i g h t y m a n ? He that s u b d u e s h i s evil i m p u l s e . . . . W h o
i s a r i c h m a n ? He t h a t is content w i t h h i s portion. . . . W h o i s
a n h o n o r a b l e m a n ? H e t h a t h o n o r s m a n k i n d . . . . [Pirke
A v o t h 4:1].

T h e s t o r y of t h e f o u r w h o e n t e r e d t h e g a r d e n i s followed in
H a g i g a h b y t h e following:

O u r R a b b i s taught: O n c e R a b b i J o s h u a B e n H a n a n i a w a s
s t a n d i n g o n a step o n the T e m p l e m o u n t , a n d B e n Z o m a s a w
h i m a n d did not s t a n d u p before h i m . S o [Rabbi J o s h u a ] s a i d
to h i m : W h e n c e a n d w h i t h e r , B e n Z o m a ? He replied: I w a s
gazing between the u p p e r a n d lower w a t e r s , a n d there is
only a b a r e three fingers' [breadth] between t h e m , for it i s
s a i d : A n d the s p i r i t of G o d hovered over the face of the
w a t e r s l i k e a dove w h i c h hovers over h e r y o u n g without
t o u c h i n g [theml. T h e r e u p o n R a b b i J o s h u a s a i d to h i s d i s c i
ples: B e n Z o m a is still outside [15a].

If R a s h f s i n t u i t i o n i s c o r r e c t t h a t i s , t h a t B e n Z o m a ' s afflic
tion is m e n t a l i l l n e s s t h e n R a b b i J o s h u a ' s c o m m e n t may be
interpreted a s confirmation, that is, " o u t s i d e " m e a n s " o u t of it",
or i n s a n e .
B u t a n i m p o r t a n t q u e s t i o n for u s i s , d i d h e b e c o m e psy
chotic, as the story would have it, b e c a u s e of h i s m y s t i c a l
a c t i v i t i e s , o r d i d h i s t e n d e n c y to s e e k d i s e n g a g e m e n t from the
w o r l d of r e a l i t y i n d u c e h i m to a t t e m p t the m y s t i c a l escape?
[Fischel (1973) proposes t h a t t h e l a t t e r tale i s b a s e d u p o n a
G r e c o - R o m a n literary genre that ridicules the Sage a s absent
minded, impractical, and other-worldly. Ben Zoma's insanity
and sudden d e a t h , d e s c r i b e d i n o t h e r v e r s i o n s of t h e story,
s u g g e s t s , h e a d d s , t h a t the o r i g i n a l tale w a s r e v i s e d to c o n s t i t u t e
a w a r n i n g a g a i n s t m y s t i c a l s p e c u l a t i o n , or a g a i n s t E p i c u r e a n
ism.]
A h e r , t h e n a m e given to E l i s h a b e n A v u y a w h e n h e became
a n a p o s t a t e , m e a n s s o m e t h i n g different, s o m e t h i n g o t h e r , a n d i s
134 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

i n t e n d e d to b e pejorative. T h e m e a n i n g of the s t a t e m e n t that


" A h e r c u t t h e s h o o t s " i s n o longer evident, a n d it i s v a r i o u s l y
interpreted. T h e best s c h o l a r s h i p today u n d e r s t a n d s it a s a
m e t a p h o r for h i s h a v i n g d e n i e d the b a s i c p r i n c i p l e s of h i s r e l i
gion.
E l i s h a b e n A v u y a w a s well k n o w n a s a l e a r n e d s c h o l a r , a n d
h i s a p o s t a s y w a s bitterly r e s e n t e d b y h i s former c o l l e a g u e s . T h e
n a t u r e of the a p o s t a s y is n o longer c l e a r , a n d m a n y suggestions
h a v e b e e n m a d e , i n c l u d i n g h i s p o s s i b l e defection to the G r e e k
religion, to G n o s t i c i s m , to s o m e o t h e r M i d d l e E a s t e r n r e l i g i o n , or
to a t h e i s m . L o u i s G i n z b e r g (in T h e Jewish Encyclopedia) sug
g e s t s t h a t h e left the P h a r i s e e s to b e c o m e a S a d d u c e e . The
H a g i g a h text itself tells u s t h a t h e s a n g G r e e k s o n g s a n d s e c r e t l y
r e a d h e r e t i c a l b o o k s . It a l s o s u g g e s t s t h a t he b e c a m e a d u a l i s t ,
a s the G n o s t i c s w e r e . D u r i n g h i s m y s t i c a l a s c e n t , the text r e
p o r t s , h e i n t e r p r e t e d w h a t h e e n c o u n t e r e d to m e a n t h a t t h e r e
m i g h t be two d o m a i n s , a d u a l i s t g n o s t i c c o n c e p t i o n . It tells u s
a l s o t h a t h e b e c a m e bitter a n d r e s e n t f u l . Y e t h e h a d f r i e n d s a n d
supporters, one of w h o m was his distinguished pupil, Rabbi
M e i r . T h e y s o u g h t to mitigate the g e n e r a l h a r s h n e s s towards
h i m a n d to f i n d v i r t u e i n h i s i m p r e s s i v e s c h o l a r s h i p .
T h e q u e s t i o n for u s i s , d i d h e b e c o m e a n a p o s t a t e b e c a u s e h e
e n g a g e d i n e c s t a t i c m y s t i c i s m , a s the s t o r y s u g g e s t s , or w a s
m y s t i c i s m a t t r a c t i v e to h i m b e c a u s e h e h a d r e j e c t e d P h a r i s a i c
r e l i g i o n ? C e r t a i n l y n o t h i n g i n the m a t e r i a l t h a t h a s c o m e d o w n
to u s e x c l u d e s the latter p o s s i b i l i t y .
R a b b i A k i v a is g e n e r a l l y c o n s i d e r e d " p r o b a b l y the f o r e m o s t
s c h o l a r of h i s age, p a t r i o t a n d m a r t y r , w h o e x e r c i s e d a d e c i s i v e
i n f l u e n c e i n the d e v e l o p m e n t of the h a l a k h a h " (Encyclopedia
Judaica). It i s s u r p r i s i n g to f i n d h i m l i s t e d a m o n g the four w h o
e n t e r e d the g a r d e n , a s m y s t i c i s m p l a y s n o p r o m i n e n t role i n h i s
r e c o r d e d a c t i v i t i e s or r e m a r k s . T h e H a g i g a h text tells u s that
d u r i n g h i s a s c e n t the a n g e l s tried to p u s h h i m a w a y , b u t God
i n t e r c e d e d , s a y i n g t h a t A k i v a w a s w o r t h y of e n j o y i n g H i s glory.
T h e text of the s t o r y tells u s t h a t A k i v a d e p a r t e d i n p e a c e , a n d
the s u b s e q u e n t d i s c u s s i o n , that he a s c e n d e d i n peace a n d de
s c e n d e d i n p e a c e , t h u s c o n f i r m s the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n t h a t the s t o r y
a l l u d e s to the m y s t i c a l a s c e n t to h e a v e n l y r e a l m s . H o w e v e r , the
text m i s l e a d s us if it i m p l i e s t h a t n o a d v e r s e consequences
followed f r o m h i s flirtation w i t h m y s t i c i s m . F o r it m a y w e l l h a v e
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 135

l e d to h i s r e a d i n e s s to s u p p o r t S i m o n b e n K o z e v a , c a l l e d B a r
K o k h b a ["son of t h e s t a r " ] , a s the M e s s i a h w h o w o u l d l i b e r a t e
I s r a e l f r o m i t s o p p r e s s o r s . It w a s B a r K o k h b a ' s revolt i n C E . 132
t h a t l e d to t h e c a t a s t r o p h i c s l a u g h t e r of J e w s b y R o m a n t r o o p s i n
t h e f i n a l defeat of 135. Akiva's colleagues d i d n o t follow h i s
l e a d e r s h i p i n this v e n t u r e . " G r a s s will grow on the c h e e k s a n d
the M e s s i a h will still not h a v e c o m e " t h i s c o m m e n t is attributed
to R a b b i J o h a n a n b e n T o r t h a {Lamentations Rabbah 2 : 2 , 4 ) . It i s
i n t e r e s t i n g t h a t n o n e of the r e f e r e n c e s to A k i v a i n t h e l i t e r a t u r e of
t h a t t i m e t a k e s h i m to t a s k for h i s m i s g u i d e d m e s s i a n i s m .
W h a t do w e l e a r n f r o m t h e s t o r y of t h e four w h o e n t e r e d t h e
g a r d e n ? It s e e m s e v i d e n t t h a t the n a r r a t o r or r e d a c t o r i s t e l l i n g
u s t h a t e n g a g i n g i n g n o s t i c , m y s t i c a l e x e r c i s e s p o s e s d a n g e r for
t h e i n d i v i d u a l : l o s i n g o n e ' s faith i n one c a s e ; l o s i n g o n e ' s m i n d i n
a second; a n d l o s i n g one's life i n a t h i r d . P r e s u m a b l y i t w a s
observed that among the a d e p t s of g n o s t i c p r a c t i c e a r e l a t i v e l y
large number of d i s t u r b e d or d e v i a n t individuals w a s to be
f o u n d , a n d it w a s i n f e r r e d t h a t the d e v i a n c e followed f r o m the
m y s t i c a l p r a c t i c e . W e c a n q u e s t i o n t h i s i n f e r e n c e , of c o u r s e , a n d
it i s n o t u n l i k e l y t h a t i n v o l v e m e n t in mystical practice simply
g a v e e x p r e s s i o n to a n a l r e a d y p r e s e n t t e n d e n c y to d e v i a t e . B e n
Z o m a ' s n e g l e c t of a n o r m a l g e s t u r e of r e s p e c t r i s i n g w h e n a d
dressed by one's teacherand his rumination about the
a p p r o x i m a t i o n of the u p p e r a n d l o w e r w a t e r s w e r e i n t e r p r e t e d
b y s o m e a s t h e c o n s e q u e n c e of i m m e r s i o n i n c o s m o g o n i c specu
lation. B u t Rabbi J o s h u a w a s probably correct w h e n he said
that B e n Z o m a w a s "still outside"that is, psychotic. Involve
m e n t i n m y s t i c i s m i n the c a s e of E l i s h a b e n A v u y a w a s o n l y o n e
of a n u m b e r of e x c u r s i o n s into h e t e r o d o x y , irreligion, a n d alien
c u l t u r e s a n d a c t i v i t i e s . O n the b a s i s of t h e s i m i l e s a t t r i b u t e d to
h i m i n c h a p t e r 2 4 of A v o t h d'R. N a t a n , L o u i s G i n z b e r g (in The
Jewish Encyclopedia) i n f e r s t h a t i n a d d i t i o n to G r e e k c u l t u r e
a n d foreign l i t e r a t u r e , h e s h o w e d c o n s i d e r a b l e f a m i l i a r i t y w i t h
wine, horses, a n d architecture.
T h e f a n t a s y of flight t h r o u g h the h e a v e n s to a p l a c e of c o m f o r t
a n d protection o c c u r s not only in gnostic theosophy, but also
in the recovery component of a p o c a l y p t i c f a n t a s i e s a n d i n t h e
dreams of p a t i e n t s in treatment. S u c h fantasies and dreams
o c c u r especially frequently a m o n g psychotic patients, borderline
patients, a n d depressed patients. T h e classical literary apoc
136 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

a l y p s e s frequently include a c c o u n t s of c e l e s t i a l j o u r n e y s , but


t h e y a r e i n t e n d e d to a m p l i f y the r e v e l a t i o n r a t h e r t h a n to r e p a i r
the a p o c a l y p t i c d a m a g e .
C l i n i c a l e v i d e n c e h a s l e d m e to believe (Ostow, 1986) t h a t the
g n o s t i c j o u r n e y r e p r e s e n t s a t r a n s l a t i o n to comfort i n p h y s i c a l
i n t i m a c y w i t h the m o t h e r , or w i t h b o t h p a r e n t s t h a t i s , a r e t u r n
to t h e i n s i d e of t h e m o t h e r ' s b o d y , to a s e a t o n h e r l a p , to c o m f o r t
i n p a r e n t a l a r m s , or b e t w e e n the p a r e n t s i n b e d . I d e l ( 1 9 8 8 b )
d e m o n s t r a t e s t h a t i n m y s t i c a l l i t e r a t u r e w e e p i n g , the u s u a l c a l l
for m o t h e r ' s a t t e n t i o n a n d love, facilitates a m y s t i c a l e x p e r i
encesometimes, i n fact, the v i s u a l i z a t i o n of the Shekhinah.
B e i n g lifted into p a r e n t a l a r m s f i n d s e x p r e s s i o n i n the e x p e r i
e n c e of a s c e n t . M e r k u r ( 1 9 8 9 ) c i t e s f u r t h e r i n s t a n c e s of w e e p i n g ,
e s p e c i a l l y a s a c o m p o n e n t of m o u r n i n g , a n d p r o p o s e s t h a t the
d e l i b e r a t e i n v o c a t i o n of a d e p r e s s i v e affect i n v o k e s a l s o a c o r r e c
tive e x p e r i e n c e of e l a t i o n . T h e v e h i c l e i t s e l f m a y signify the
proverbial c l a u s t r u m , a s d o e s the c h a m b e r that the mystic
s e e k s . I n o u r s t o r y it i s the g a r d e n t h a t signifies the hekhal or
c h a m b e r , the goal of the a d e p t i n the hekhalot l i t e r a t u r e , a n d it
symbolizes the c h a m b e r s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the m o t h e r ' s body.
H e r e a r e two d r e a m s r e p o r t e d from the s a m e n i g h t b y a w o m a n
who was troubled by her destructive fantasies and chronic,
t h o u g h fairly w e l l - c o n t r o l l e d a n g e r .

7 was in the woods. A man at the edge was drawing pictwes.


I was buying toys for a child. I was there more than a day.
The woods became wet swampy, rainy, warm, and dark. It
looked so beautiful in the ram, like a jungle. The trees twisted.
There were vines and high bushes. One tree started to reach
out like an umbrella, down to the bushes which clung to the
tree. It was very beautiful There were many greens. It was so
rich. The water rose halfway up the trunk of the tree. After
seven days I left tlxe garden. I felt very inspired by its beauty.
I was very sad for the lonely man standing outside the gar
den. He was a lonely bum. I had to go back to my children.

Mother showed me her vagina. She wanted me to make love


to her. I said, "No. Its not right" She said, "Come on." I was
repelled by it It was disgusting. The pudenda, the wetness. It
was a long rectangle, not sharp at the end, grayish, darkish,
and hairy."
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 137

A m o n g h e r a s s o c i a t i o n s to the s e c o n d d r e a m , s h e t o l d me
that a s a child she w a s u n h a p p y about sleeping with her mother,
a n d t h a t h e r m o t h e r h a d i n d e e d often e x p o s e d h e r p u b e s to t h e
c h i l d . H e r e the s e c o n d d r e a m i n t e r p r e t s the f i r s t : T h e garden
w i t h i t s w e t foliage r e p r e s e n t s m o t h e r ' s g e n i t a l s , to w h i c h s h e
u n c o n s c i o u s l y a s p i r e d to r e t u r n . T h e s e v e n d a y s m a y indicate
t h e p e r i o d r e q u i r e d for t h e c r e a t i o n of the w o r l d t h a t i s , t h e
p e r i o d of i n t r a u t e r i n e d e v e l o p m e n t . T h e m a n a t t h e edge r e p r e
s e n t e d h e r father, w h o h a d a l w a y s resented h e r i n t r u s i o n into
the p a r e n t a l bed.
I w o u l d infer, t h e n , t h a t t h e g n o s t i c t h o u g h t a n d p r a c t i c e t h a t
p r e v a i l e d i n P a l e s t i n e d u r i n g t h e two c e n t u r i e s before a n d t h e
f i r s t s e v e r a l c e n t u r i e s of the C o m m o n E r a a t t r a c t e d i n d i v i d u a l s
w h o f o u n d t h e m s e l v e s u n c o m f o r t a b l e i n t h e w o r l d of r e a l i t y , a n d
w h o h a r b o u r e d a n u n c o n s c i o u s d e s i r e to l e a v e i t for a n i l l u s o r y
h a v e n . A m o n g t h e m I w o u l d e x p e c t to f i n d p s y c h o t i c s , depres
sives, a n d borderlines, a s well a s those w h o s e external reality
w a s too p a i n f u l to b e a r . T h e v a r i o u s c u l t s a n d r e l i g i o n s that
flourished throughout the Middle E a s t at that time attracted
s u c h i n d i v i d u a l s a n d t e m p t e d t h e m to t u r n t h e i r b a c k s o n t h e
r e a l i t y a n d o n t h e k n o w n d o c t r i n e s of t h e i r o w n t r a d i t i o n i n o r d e r
to f i n d c o m f o r t i n t h e proffered i l l u s i o n s . It i s h a r d l y s u r p r i s i n g ,
t h e n , t h a t w h e n t h e s e i n d i v i d u a l s gave e v i d e n c e of c l i n i c a l d e
cline, the b l a m e w a s placed on the m y s t i c a l practice, on the
p r i n c i p l e of post hoc propter hoc.
T h e r e a d e r w i l l h a v e o b s e r v e d t h a t n o t o n l y w a s the a s c e n t to
t h e g a r d e n t h o u g h t to p o s e a t h r e a t to the m y s t i c , b u t danger
l u r k e d , too, i n the f a n t a s y of the j o u r n e y . T h e s t o r y of the f o u r
w h o w e n t into t h e g a r d e n i n c l u d e s the w a r n i n g of A k i v a , a n d t h e
r e l a t e d s t o r y a d d u c e d b y S c h o l e m f r o m the hekhaloth literature
describes the danger involved in mistaking the shimmering
luminescence of t h e m a r b l e stones for w a t e r . W h y was that
dangerous? P e r h a p s f a i l u r e to r e c o g n i z e t h e h e a v e n l y l u m i n e s
c e n c e for w h a t it i s , i n t e r p r e t i n g i n s t e a d the v i s u a l e x p e r i e n c e a s
t h a t of g l i t t e r i n g w a t e r s , m e a n s t h a t t h e c e l e s t i a l t r a v e l l e r h a s
not entered completely into the i l l u s i o n , h a s n o t left behind
n o r m a l r e a l i t y t e s t i n g a n d the c a t e g o r i e s of logic, a s t h e g n o s t i c
j o u r n e y r e q u i r e s . B u t there is yet another d a n g e r n a m e l y , the
o p p o s i t i o n of the h e a v e n l y h o s t . I h a v e m e n t i o n e d t h a t H a g i g a h
h a s it t h a t w h e n A k i v a a s c e n d e d to the d i v i n e hekhal the angels
138 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

a t t e m p t e d to eject h i m , a n d t h a t h e w a s s a v e d o n l y b y d i v i n e
i n t e r v e n t i o n . H o s t i l e c e l e s t i a l forces, endangering the human
traveller, are reported in the gnostic religions, a n d in their J e w
i s h c o u n t e r p a r t s a s w e l l . B u t if the p u r p o s e of c u l t i v a t i n g the
i l l u s i o n i s to a c h i e v e p e a c e of m i n d , w h y a r e t h e s e i n t r u s i v e
e l e m e n t s p e r m i t t e d to s p o i l i t ? O n e c o u l d e a s i l y c o n s t r u c t a n
i l l u s i o n i n w h i c h the t r a v e l l e r a c h i e v e s h i s goal u n h i n d e r e d .
F o r t h e s o l u t i o n to t h i s p r o b l e m , w e c a n t u r n a g a i n to c l i n i c a l
e x p e r i e n c e . W h e n the d e p r e s s e d p a t i e n t d r e a m s of finding s o m e
r e l i e f from d a n g e r , the a c h i e v e m e n t of t h a t r e l i e f w i l l a l w a y s
be p r e c l u d e d by some interfering i n f l u e n c e a n i n t r u d e r , a n u n
f a v o u r a b l e c h a n g e of e n v i r o n m e n t , a n i n s u p e r a b l e o b s t a c l e . I t i s
o n l y w h e n t h e p a t i e n t i s a b o u t to r e c o v e r from d e p r e s s i o n , or
i s r e c o v e r i n g , t h a t h e s u c c e e d s i n finding comfort. T h e c e l e s t i a l
antagonists e n c o u n t e r e d i n g n o s t i c f a n t a s i e s p l a y t h e p a r t of
these interfering agents in s u c h dreams. T h e y symbolize the
i n t r a p s y c h i c , self-defeating e l e m e n t s t h a t will n o t be o v e r c o m e
u n l e s s t h e i n d i v i d u a l i s r e a d y to a c c e p t s a l v a t i o n . I n g n o s t i c
t h e o s o p h y , s a l v a t i o n i s to b e a c h i e v e d b y g n o s i s , s p e c i a l e s o t e r i c
k n o w l e d g e . It i s a self-fulfilling s y s t e m . If the t r a v e l l e r s u c c e e d s
i n r e a c h i n g h i s goal, h e d o e s s o b e c a u s e h i s g n o s i s w a s ad
equate; if h e d o e s n o t , it w a s i n a d e q u a t e . In psychoanalytic
p r a c t i c e , " s a l v a t i o n " is to be a c h i e v e d b y a s p e c i a l knowledge
c a l l e d " i n s i g h t " . T h e a n a l y s t p l a y s the role of t h e a p o c a l y p t i c s e e r
w h o p r o v i d e s t h e r e v e l a t i o n . I n t h e first of t h e two d r e a m s p r e
s e n t e d above, "the m a n a t the edge" of the w o o d s " d r a w i n g
p i c t u r e s " , r e p r e s e n t s n o t o n l y t h e father, b u t a l s o the p s y c h o
a n a l y s t w h o , taking notes, w a s not appreciated a s h a v i n g helped
i n the p a t i e n t ' s r e u n i o n w i t h h e r m o t h e r a n d is h i m s e l f ineligible
for a d m i s s i o n to the g a r d e n . I n fact, t h e n , two k i n d s of d a n g e r
a r e s a i d to t h r e a t e n the g n o s t i c m y s t i c . F i r s t , d u r i n g the a s c e n t
he m a y be not only deterred but a c t u a l l y destroyed by the
heavenly host. S e c o n d , a s h u m a n observers attest, individuals
a t t e m p t i n g the a s c e n t a r e i n d a n g e r of s u c c u m b i n g to a p e r s o n a l
catastrophe.
B u t t h e r e i s y e t a t h i r d d a n g e r , one m e n t i o n e d n e i t h e r i n
g n o s t i c t h e o s o p h y n o r i n the r a b b i n i c r e s p o n s e to it. T h i s d a n g e r
i s exemplified in the c a s e of R a b b i A k i v a , the h e r o of t h e s t o r y
a n d of h i s age. A k i v a is n o t k n o w n to h a v e b e e n a m y s t i c . I a m n o t
a w a r e of a r e p o r t a n y w h e r e i n the l i t e r a t u r e of h i s i n v o l v e m e n t i n
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 139

s u c h a c t i v i t y . H o w e v e r , late i n life, p e r h a p s i n h i s e i g h t i e s or
nineties, he recognized S i m o n b e n Kozeva a s the M e s s i a h and
thereby lent h i s sanction to a c a t a s t r o p h i c r e b e l l i o n against
Rome (B.T. S a n h e d r i n 97b; Lamentations Rabbah 2:4). Mes
s i a n i s m m u s t b e r e c o g n i z e d a s a c o m p o n e n t of t h e a p o c a l y p t i c
vision. It w o u l d s e e m that Akiva's m e s s i a n i s m w a s not c a u s e d by
h i s m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e , b u t , r a t h e r , t h a t b o t h followed f r o m a
r e a d i n e s s to r e s o r t to i l l u s i o n w h e n c i r c u m s t a n c e s j u s t i f i e d i t .
A t h i r d d a n g e r , t h e n , i s d a n g e r n o t to t h e i n d i v i d u a l , b u t to
the community. When individual suffering is brought on by
e x t e r n a l c i r c u m s t a n c e s s o t h a t a large p a r t of t h e community
suffers, even those whose individual disposition does not favour
a p o c a l y p t i c t h i n k i n g a r e a t t r a c t e d b y it w h e n t h e y encounter
it c i r c u l a t i n g i n s o c i e t y , e s p e c i a l l y w h e n it i s s p o n s o r e d by a
charismatic leader. Since most militant apocalyptic thought
arises ultimately from self-destructive impulses, millenarian
m o v e m e n t s a l m o s t a l w a y s e n d i n the d e f e a t of t h e community,
w h e t h e r i n t h e c a s e of B a r K o k h b a , N a z i s m , o r J o n e s t o w n . T h e
most serious danger that a r i s e s from indulgence in any of
t h e f o r m s of a p o c a l y p t i c e n g a g e m e n t , w h e t h e r g n o s t i c , mystic,
m i l l e n a r i a n , m e s s i a n i c , or U t o p i a n , i s the p o s s i b i l i t y t h a t an
entire c o m m u n i t y will be s e d u c e d a n d destroyed b y it. It w a s i n
the aftermath of the B a r K o k h b a r e v o l t a n d i t s c a t a s t r o p h i c
d e f e a t t h a t s o m e r a b b i s d e n o u n c e d a c t i v e m i l i t a r y r e s i s t a n c e to
the d o m i n a n t e m p i r e s , a n d c o u n s e l l e d p a s s i v e accommodation.

R a b b i J o s e s o n of R a b b i H a n i n a . . . s a i d : " W h a t w a s the
p u r p o s e of those three a d j u r a t i o n s ? O n e , t h a t I s r a e l s h a l l not
go u p [altogether a s if s u r r o u n d e d ] by a w a l l ; the s e c o n d ,
t h a t w h e r e b y the Holy O n e , b l e s s e d be He, a d j u r e d I s r a e l
t h a t they s h a l l not rebel a g a i n s t the n a t i o n s of the w o r l d ; a n d
the t h i r d is that w h e r e b y the Holy O n e , b l e s s e d be He, a d
j u r e d the idolaters that they s h a l l not o p p r e s s I s r a e l too
m u c h . " [ B . T . K e t h u b o t h 11 l a ] .
R a b b i J o s e b e n H a n i n a s a i d : " T h e s e are two a d j u r a t i o n s , one
a d d r e s s e d to I s r a e l a n d one to the other n a t i o n s . G o d a d
j u r e d I s r a e l not to rebel a g a i n s t the yoke of the g o v e r n m e n t s ,
a n d h e a d j u r e d the governments not to m a k e their y o k e too
h e a v y o n I s r a e l , for b y m a k i n g t h i s yoke too h e a v y o n I s r a e l
they w o u l d c a u s e the e n d to come before it w a s d u e . . . .**
140 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

R a b b i Helbo s a i d : " F o u r a d j u r a t i o n s a r e mentioned here.


G o d a d j u r e d I s r a e l that they s h o u l d not rebel a g a i n s t the
governments, that they s h o u l d not seek to h a s t e n the e n d ,
that they s h o u l d not reveal their mysteries to the other n a
tions, a n d they s h o u l d not attempt to go u p from the
D i a s p o r a b y force* [Songs of Songs Rabbah 2 : 7 , 1 ] .

T h e r e follows a d i s c u s s i o n of four g e n e r a t i o n s t h a t " t r i e d to


h a s t e n t h e e n d " , t h a t i s , force the c o m i n g o f the M e s s i a h , a n d
one of the four i s l i s t e d a s t h a t of B e n K o z e v a .

W h a t did they do? T h e y a s s e m b l e d a n d went forth to battle,


a n d m a n y of them were s l a i n . W h y w a s t h i s ? B e c a u s e they
did not believe in the Lord a n d did not t r u s t i n H i s salvation,
b u t anticipated the e n d a n d transgressed the a d j u r a t i o n
[Song of Songs Rabbah 2:7,1 ].

It w a s t h e s t r a t e g y of t h e r e e d r a t h e r t h a n of t h e c e d a r t h a t
t h e s e s c h o l a r s p r o m o t e d , the s t r a t e g y t h a t c h a r a c t e r i z e d J e w i s h
r e s i s t a n c e to o p p r e s s i o n for s e v e n t e e n h u n d r e d y e a r s a n d t h a t
s e r v e d r e a s o n a b l y w e l l u n t i l the N a z i a p o c a l y p s e .
T h e apocalypse pattern attracts a n d seduces. B y promising
s a l v a t i o n following d e s t r u c t i o n , it offers h o p e i n p l a c e of d e s p a i r .
H o w m u c h of t h e p a t t e r n i s c o n s t i t u t i o n a l l y given a n d h o w m u c h
l e a r n e d i s n o t evident. O n e c a n e a s i l y i m a g i n e a n i n h e r e n t t e n
d e n c y to r e j e c t , d e t a c h , a n d k i l l , t h a t of i t s e l f w o u l d generate
both anxiety a n d a n automatic recovery response that gives
e x p r e s s i o n to a c o n s c i o u s hope a n d e x p e c t a t i o n of r e b i r t h . T h e
s e q u e n c e of d e a t h a n d r e b i r t h i s d i s p l a y e d fairly c o n s i s t e n t l y i n
r e s p o n s e to m a j o r s h i f t s i n p s y c h i c e n e r g i e s . A s h a r p i n c r e a s e
i n p s y c h i c e n e r g y g e n e r a t e s the c l a s s i c Weltuntergang f a n t a s y of
i n c i p i e n t s c h i z o p h r e n i a , w h i c h i s t h e n followed by delusional
r e b i r t h . A d e c r e a s e i n p s y c h i c energy g e n e r a t e s f a n t a s i e s a n d
dreams of d e s t r u c t i o n , b u t here rebirth usually fails. T h e
stereotypy of a p o c a l y p t i c fantasiesthe r e g u l a r i n c l u s i o n of
journeys, vehicles, seers, saviours, a n d antagonistsmay be
t a k e n a s e v i d e n c e for a c o n s t i t u t i o n a l b a s i s for the p a t t e r n , b u t
it m a y a l s o b e a r g u e d t h a t t h i s s t e r e o t y p y s i m p l y reflects t h e
c o n s t a n t s of e a r l y i n f a n t e x p e r i e n c e . I n a n y c a s e , the p r o m i s e of
r e d e m p t i o n after suffering i n v i t e s c o m m i t m e n t to t h e i l l u s i o n .
T h e t e n a c i t y of the a p o c a l y p t i c v i s i o n i s r e m a r k a b l e . I t s d e
rivativesmysticism, millenarianism, utopianism, gnosticism,
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 141

m e s s i a n i s m s u r v i v e u n d e r g r o u n d for l o n g p e r i o d s of t i m e , l i k e
a n infection that h a s been s u p p r e s s e d b u t not eradicated, only
to s p r i n g to life a n d f l o u r i s h a g a i n w h e n circumstances are
p r o p i t i o u s . T h e r e c e n t e r u p t i o n of n e o - N a z i a p o c a l y p t i c groups
i n f a r m r e g i o n s of the U n i t e d S t a t e s w e l l e x e m p l i f i e s this ten
dency.
G i v e n t h e u b i q u i t y a n d t e n a c i t y of t h e s e i l l u s i o n s a n d the
u s u a l l y d i s a s t r o u s c o n s e q u e n c e s of s u b s c r i b i n g to t h e m , a t l e a s t
o n e d e t e r r e n t to i n v o l v e m e n t i n t h e a p o c a l y p t i c p r o g r a m m e , or
to a c t i n g u p o n it, m u s t be a t w o r k if c i v i l i z a t i o n h a s n o t been
d e s t r o y e d . O n the i n d i v i d u a l l e v e l , t h e o n l y o n e I c a n s e e i s t h e
f u n c t i o n of r e a l i t y t e s t i n g , a n d t h e s e n s e of r e a l i t y it c o n f e r s o r
w i t h h o l d s . T h a t function, however, is easily overridden in m o s t
of u s a t t h e level of i n f e r e n c e , b u t i n p s y c h o t i c s e v e n a t t h e l e v e l
of p e r c e p t i o n . T h e a p o c a l y p t i c s e q u e n c e b e g i n s w i t h t h e a b r o g a
t i o n of r e a l i t y t e s t i n g a n d a r e j e c t i o n of the r e a l w o r l d , a r e j e c t i o n
t h a t p e r m i t s the r e s t of the s e q u e n c e to u n f o l d .
Reality testing c a n be p r e e m p t e d by the group. W h a t the
group believes is r e a l i n politics, in c u l t u r e , a n d especially i n
r e l i g i o n . S i n c e g r o u p s r e a d i l y c o m e to grief w h e n t h e y e n g a g e i n
a p o c a l y p t i c b e h a v i o u r , it b e c o m e s n e c e s s a r y for t h e m , for t h e i r
o w n s u r v i v a l , to d i s c o u r a g e it. T h e p r o b l e m i s t h a t t h e a p o c a l y p
tic c l a i m s t h a t h i s r e v e l a t i o n s u p e r s e d e s c u r r e n t g r o u p b e l i e f s ;
he b e c o m e s a law unto himself. T h a t is w h y organized religion
fears mystics a n d c o n d e m n s them as antinomian. The usual
r e s p o n s e of o r g a n i z e d r e l i g i o n to m y s t i c a l m o v e m e n t s i s to c o
opt t h e m , c r e a t i n g o r g a n i z a t i o n a l f o r m s w h e r e b y t h e deviation
c a n be c o n t r o l l e d . B u t if o r g a n i z e d r e l i g i o n w i l l n o t c o - o p t m y s t i
c i s m , for w h a t e v e r r e a s o n (e.g. fear of b e i n g c o n t a m i n a t e d or
d i l u t e d ) , it c a n n e v e r t h e l e s s o p p o s e it o p e n l y .
T h a t i s w h a t w e s e e i n the s t o r y of t h e four w h o e n t e r e d t h e
g a r d e n , a n d i n fact i n the w h o l e of c h a p t e r 2 of H a g i g a h . T h e
s t o r y i s p l a c e d t h e r e to w a r n the c o m m u n i t y t h a t m y s t i c a l e x e r
c i s e s a n d the i n d u c t i o n of t r a n c e s o r s t a t e s of e c s t a s y , though
often p r e s e n t e d as forms of r e l i g i o u s experience, are disap
p r o v e d of a s d a n g e r o u s . Note t h a t t h e y a r e n o t d e n o u n c e d as
a n t i n o m i a n , t h o u g h the s t o r y of E l i s h a b e n A v u y a i m p l i e s t h a t
t h e y i n v i t e a n t i n o m i a n i s m . T h e r e a s o n for the w a r n i n g i s t h a t a
n u m b e r of f a i r l y d i s t i n g u i s h e d r a b b i s a n d s c h o l a r s h a d b e c o m e
involved in mystical practices a n d h a d very carefully dissociated
142 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

themselves from pagan and Christian gnostics by adhering


c l o s e l y to r a b b i n i c l a w a n d v a l u e s . B y e x c l u d i n g a n y t h i n g e x p l i c
itly a n t i n o m i a n i n t h e i r t e a c h i n g s , the r a b b i n i c p r a c t i t i o n e r s of
throne, c h a r i o t , a n d hekhalot m y s t i c i s m were able to appeal
to a b r o a d e r s e g m e n t of the c o m m u n i t y . The injunctions to
a v o i d m i l i t a n c y t h a t w e r e i s s u e d after the f a i l u r e of the Bar
K o k h b a revolt were i n t e n d e d to deter a n y f u r t h e r messianic
adventures.
M e s s i a n i s m p o s e d a s e r i o u s p r o b l e m for the r a b b i s of t h a t
e r a . T h e M e s s i a h w a s a n t i c i p a t e d a n d eagerly a w a i t e d b y a l m o s t
a l l . B u t s i n c e h e h a d not c o m e , there h a d to be a n e x p l a n a t i o n . A
d i s c u s s i o n of the p r o b l e m i s to be f o u n d i n Babylonian Talmud
S a n h e d r i n 9 7 b . T h e r e R a b b i S a m u e l b a r N a h m a n i , i n the n a m e
of R a b b i J o n a t h a n , c u r s e s t h o s e w h o " c a l c u l a t e the end"that
i s , t h o s e w h o w o u l d a n t i c i p a t e the M e s s i a h ' s a d v e n t a t a s p e c i f i c
t i m e . H i s r e a s o n i s t h a t if the M e s s i a h d o e s n o t c o m e w h e n
a n t i c i p a t e d , people w i l l lose faith.
T o be s u r e , the r a b b i s d i s a p p r o v e d of b o t h esoteric, m y s t i c a l
s p e c u l a t i o n a n d active m e s s i a n i s m , b u t to m y k n o w l e d g e they
d i d n o t relate the two. T h i s d i s j u n c t i o n b e c o m e s e s p e c i a l l y c l e a r
i n the c a s e of A k i b a . I n the Pardes s t o r y h e i s s a i d to have
remained uncorrupted by his mystical experiencebut no m e n
tion i s m a d e of h i s c a t a s t r o p h i c m e s s i a n i s m . I s t h i s a n o m i s s i o n ,
or a r e t h e y r e f u s i n g to m a k e the c o n n e c t i o n ?
Maimonides, the great s c h o l a r a n d p h y s i c i a n of m e d i a e v a l
J e w r y , d i s c u s s e d the a d v e n t of the M e s s i a h a s a n e v e n t to be
e x p e c t e d , b u t h e s a w the m e s s i a n i c w o r l d a s one free of m y s t i c a l
e l e m e n t s . " D o n o t a s s u m e t h a t i n the d a y s of the M e s s i a h a n y of
the l a w s of n a t u r e w i l l be a b r o g a t e d , or a n y i n n o v a t i o n i n t r o
d u c e d into c r e a t i o n " , h e wrote; ' T h e w o r l d w i l l follow i t s u s u a l
course. . . . D o not a s s u m e t h a t the K i n g M e s s i a h w i l l h a v e to
p e r f o r m s i g n s a n d w o n d e r s [i.e. m i r a c l e s ) , c r e a t e a n y t h i n g n e w ,
revive the d e a d , or do s i m i l a r t h i n g s . It i s n o t s o . " M a i m o n i d e s i s
here promoting a tempered m e s s i a n i s m , one divorced a s m u c h
a s p o s s i b l e f r o m its a p o c a l y p t i c m a t r i x . S u c h a v i e w , tending
to preserve the optimism of m e s s i a n i s m while discouraging
m e s s i a n i c a c t i v i s m , m a y p r e v a i l for l i m i t e d p e r i o d s of t i m e , b u t
the v e r y c o n c e p t of m e s s i a n i s m w o u l d s e e m to invite a c t i v i s m .
R e g a r d i n g the role of R a b b i A k i v a , M a i m o n i d e s takes the
position that he
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 143

. . . w a s a d i s t i n g u i s h e d s c h o l a r a m o n g the s c h o l a r s of the
M i s h n a h , y e t he w a s a l s o a r m o r b e a r e r of the K i n g B e n
K o z i b a . He d e c l a r e d t h a t B e n K o z i b a w a s the K i n g M e s s i a h ;
h e a n d a l l the w i s e m e n of h i s generation believed t h a t he
w a s the m e s s i a n i c k i n g u n t i l h e w a s s l a i n for h i s s i n s . W h e n
h e w a s s l a i n it b e c a m e k n o w n t h a t he w a s not. Y e t the
s c h o l a r s h a d not a s k e d h i m for a s i g n or i n d i c a t i o n . T h e
g e n e r a l principle is t h i s : t h i s T o r a h w i t h its s t a t u t e s and
o r d i n a n c e s i s v a l i d forever a n d for a l l eternity; it is not to be
a d d e d to or t a k e n a w a y from.

Here Maimonides is clearly opposing m e s s i a n i s m while try


i n g to s h o w r e s p e c t for the m e s s i a n i c a l l u s i o n s of t h e B i b l e a n d
the m e s s i a n i c a s p i r a t i o n s prevalent a m o n g the people ( M i s h n e h
T o r a h , B o o k of J u d g e s , C h a p . 11, p a r a . 3 ) .
I w o u l d l i k e to a d v a n c e t h e h y p o t h e s i s t h a t o n e of t h e m a j o r
f u n c t i o n s of o r g a n i z e d r e l i g i o n i s to d i s c o u r a g e i n d i v i d u a l m y s t i
c a l s p e c u l a t i o n a n d , m o r e i m p o r t a n t , to c o n t a i n a p o c a l y p t i c a n d
millenarian campaigns a t the c o l l e c t i v e l e v e l . F r e u d s p o k e of
r e l i g i o n a s a n i l l u s i o n , b u t h e failed to a p p r e h e n d t h a t o r g a n i z e d
r e l i g i o n , b y offering a n i l l u s i o n s p o n s o r e d a n d c o n t r o l l e d b y t h e
c o l l e c t i v i t y , t r i e s to d i s c o u r a g e i r r e s p o n s i b l e a n d self-defeating
m y s t i c i s m , e v e n t h o u g h the l a t t e r m i g h t c l o a k i t s e l f i n t h e t e r m i
n o l o g i c a l t r a p p i n g s of t r a d i t i o n a l r e l i g i o n . T h e d e v a s t a t i n g m i l
l e n a r i a n m o v e m e n t s i n h i s t o r y i n c l u d i n g , for e x a m p l e , t h e N a z i
apocalypsehave a l w a y s rejected the discipline a n d r e s t r a i n t s
of o r g a n i z e d r e l i g i o n , o n t h e i r o w n a u t h o r i t y o v e r r i d i n g these
r e s t r a i n t s . D e s p i t e the t r a d i t i o n a l a n t i s e m i t i s m of m o s t of t h e
organized E u r o p e a n c h u r c h e s from the t i m e of t h e Crusades
r i g h t t h r o u g h the H o l o c a u s t , t h e y a t t e m p t e d m u c h m o r e often
t h a n m i g h t h a v e b e e n e x p e c t e d to c o n t a i n t h e f u r y of a p o c a l y p t i c
m o b s w h o w e r e a t t a c k i n g J e w s (see, for e x a m p l e , Cohn, 1970,
pp. 70, 2 8 3 ) . A n d this, I s u b m i t , is the l e s s o n t h a t we are t a u g h t
b y t h e s t o r y of the four w h o e n t e r e d the g a r d e n .
Comments

Eleanor Galenson

D E V E L O P M E N T A N D C U R I O S I T Y IN C H I L D H O O D

I n the c o u r s e of h u m a n d e v e l o p m e n t , c h i l d r e n l e a m to a c k n o w l
edge c e r t a i n r e a l i t i e s a n d to d i s t i n g u i s h t h e s e from fantasy,
w h i l e a t the s a m e time t h e y a r e p e r m i t t e d to ignore or e v e n d e n y
c e r t a i n o t h e r r e a l i t i e s i n the i n t e r e s t of m a i n t a i n i n g a n a d e q u a t e
degree of p s y c h o l o g i c a l e q u i l i b r i u m . D e s p i t e the infinite n u m b e r
of i n d i v i d u a l v a r i a t i o n s i n the p s y c h o l o g i c a l p r o c e s s e s through
w h i c h these t a s k s are a c c o m p l i s h e d , infant r e s e a r c h e r s have
b e e n a b l e to identify c o n s i s t e n c i e s a n d c o m m o n a l i t i e s whereby
the s e n s e of o n e s e l f a s a n i n d i v i d u a l w i t h w h o l e n e s s a n d c o n t i
n u i t y over time is r e q u i r e d , a l o n g w i t h the r e c i p r o c a l l y a c q u i r e d
s e n s e of t h e other, u s u a l l y t h e p r i m a r y c a r e t a k e r .
W e k n o w t h a t r e c o g n i t i o n of the p s y c h o l o g i c a l s e n s e of s e l f
a s d i s t a n t from the o t h e r i s a c h i e v e d i n m o s t i n f a n t s d u r i n g
t h e s e c o n d h a l f of the first y e a r of life ( M a h l e r , P i n e , & B e r g m a n ,
1975). While this recognition r e s u l t s i n a d i s e q u i l i b r i u m that
i n v o l v e s every a s p e c t of the developing p e r s o n a l i t y , it i s p a r t i c u
l a r l y i n r e g a r d to loving a n d h a t i n g feelings t h a t p s y c h o l o g i c a l

144
FOUR ENTERED T H E GARDEN 145

i n s t a b i l i t y i s e v i d e n t . T h i s i n s t a b i l i t y i s r e f l e c t e d i n a v a r i e t y of
b e h a v i o u r a l s e q u e n c e s . T h e infant n o w both loves a n d h a t e s the
o t h e r , j u s t a s h e loves a n d h a t e s h i m s e l f a n u n s t a b l e psycho
l o g i c a l s t a t e t h a t a p p e a r s to b e s e r v e d effectively i n a r e m a r k a b l e
n e w developmental s t e p . T w o different c h a n n e l s a r e n o w uti
lized, activated b y a n d ultimately providing discharge p a t h w a y s
for t h e s e two o p p o s i n g p s y c h o l o g i c a l v i e w s of t h e o t h e r a n d of
t h e self. T h e i n f a n t ' s a t t a c h m e n t to the o t h e r a n d h i s s e n s e of h i s
own "oneness" are preserved temporarily. Ultimately, the s o l u
t i o n l i e s , o f c o u r s e , i n a s y n t h e s i s of t h e l o v i n g a n d t h e h a t i n g
self, of t h e h a t e d o t h e r w i t h the l o v e d o t h e r .
T h e t e m p o r a r y , n o r m a l s p l i t t i n g or p r i m a r y a m b i v a l e n c e of
t h e s e c o n d y e a r i s t h u s d y n a m i c a l l y r e l a t e d to t h e emergence
of a n a l a n d e a r l y g e n i t a l z o n e a r o u s a l . T h e a n a l z o n e s e r v e s a s a
c h a n n e l for t h e d i s c h a r g e of a g g r e s s i o n b y v i r t u e of i t s s t r u c t u r a l
c a p a c i t i e s for r e t e n t i o n a n d e x p u l s i o n . T h e g e n i t a l z o n e h a s b e e n
g r a d u a l l y p r e p a r e d d u r i n g the f i r s t y e a r a s t h e s i t e of p l e a s u r a b l e
s e n s a t i o n s , along w i t h the c l o s e n e s s a n d w a r m t h experienced
p a s s i v e l y i n t h e r e s t of the b o d y d u r i n g v a r i o u s m a t e r n a l n u r t u r
ing interchanges. A s i m i l a r type of p l e a s u r e i s n o w actively
p r o d u c e d b y t h e c h i l d h i m s e l f a t the g e n i t a l z o n e , a g a i n b y v i r t u e
of i t s s t r u c t u r a l p r o p e r t i e s n a m e l y , the c a p a c i t y for venous
engorgement in response to p s y c h o l o g i c a l s t i m u l a t i o n a n d an
e x t r a o r d i n a r y d e g r e e of tactile s e n s i t i v i t y . A s w i t h a l l o t h e r s e n s
ate zones that influence psychological development, the a n a l a n d
g e n i t a l z o n e s g r a d u a l l y b e g i n to s e r v e a s b o d i l y n u c l e i to w h i c h
p s y c h o l o g i c a l r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of feelings are attached, the pre
d o m i n a n t l y l o v i n g o n e s to t h e g e n i t a l a r e a a n d the p r e d o m i n a n t l y
h a t i n g o n e s to t h e a n a l a r e a .
T h e psychological c a p a c i t y to d i s t i n g u i s h s e l f f r o m others
develops only very gradually a n d is facilitated by the s i m u l t a
n e o u s u n f o l d i n g of a v a r i e t y of b i o l o g i c a l a n d p s y c h o l o g i c a l f u n c
t i o n s d u r i n g t h e f i r s t y e a r . A m o n g t h e v a r i o u s a t t r i b u t e s of t h e
i n f a n t i s t h e t e n d e n c y to s e a r c h for a r e p e t i t i o n of s o m a t i c and
p s y c h o l o g i c a l e x p e r i e n c e s t h a t h a v e afforded a n a p p r o p r i a t e type
a n d degree of s t i m u l a t i o n . O r a l e x p e r i e n c e i s p a r t i c u l a r l y i l l u s
t r a t i v e of t h i s a t t r i b u t e . H a v i n g s u c k e d o n finger or m i l k , the
i n f a n t s e e k s to r e p e a t the e x p e r i e n c e i n a v a r i e t y of w a y s . I n d e e d ,
h e / s h e e x p a n d s the u s e of h i s m o u t h to e x p l o r e e v e n t u a l l y the
b o d y a n d a n y o t h e r a n i m a t e or i n a n i m a t e o b j e c t w i t h i n h i s o r h e r
146 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

r e a c h . O n e m i g h t c o n s i d e r t h i s s e a r c h for repetition a s a b e d r o c k
a s p e c t of c u r i o s i t y , s i n c e it h e l p s to a m a s s a v a r i e t y of e x p e r i
e n c e s t h a t e v e n t u a l l y i n f o r m the i n f a n t of the m a n y s i m i l a r i t i e s
a n d differences i n t h e o b j e c t s h e h a s e n c o u n t e r e d . O r d i n a r i l y ,
the experiences are sorted out and identified a s belonging
to different g r o u p s , s o m e p r o d u c i n g s u b s e q u e n t s e n s a t i o n s i n
o n e ' s b o d y w h i l e o t h e r s do not. E v e n t u a l l y the i l l u s i o n t h a t
o t h e r s h a v e t h e s a m e r e a c t i o n t h a t w e h a v e to a n e x p e r i e n c e h a s
to give w a y to t h e r e a l i t y of a s e p a r a t e o t h e r , a l t h o u g h w e n e v e r
a b a n d o n t h e t e n d e n c y to r e t u r n to t h i s i l l u s i o n d u r i n g t i m e s
of s t r e s s , i n o u r f a n t a s i e s , a n d a l s o i n e v e r y d a y life w h e n w e
a s s u m e t h a t o t h e r s t h i n k a n d feel a s w e do w i t h o u t h a v i n g the
e v i d e n c e to s u p p o r t t h i s v i e w .
B y the e n d of t h e first y e a r , t h e n , a c r i t i c a l level of c o m p l e x
p s y c h o l o g i c a l c a p a c i t i e s a l l o w s , or p e r h a p s forces, the infant
m o r e or l e s s to a c k n o w l e d g e the e x i s t e n c e of a n o t h e r w h o i s n o t
h i m s e l f , a n d to a c k n o w l e d g e h i s n o w often c o n f l i c t i n g affects
t o w a r d s b o t h of t h e m . B e h a v i o u r a l e v i d e n c e of the e m e r g e n c e of
two m a j o r p a t h w a y s for d i s c h a r g e of c o n f l i c t i n g affects h a s n o t
b e e n difficult to o b t a i n .
S o m e t i m e b e t w e e n the 1 2 t h a n d 1 4 t h m o n t h s , b o t h b o y s a n d
girls begin to be aware of their anal functioning (Galen
son & Roiphe, 1971, 1974, 1976, 1980; Roiphe & Galenson,
1 9 8 1 ) . E g o reflections of t h i s n e w level of o r g a n i z a t i o n i n c l u d e
b e h a v i o u r a l e v i d e n c e of c u r i o s i t y a b o u t t h e i r o w n a n a l z o n e
a n d its products, followed by a n a l curiosity regarding other
people, a n i m a l s , d o l l s , etc. M a n y p l a y s e q u e n c e s i n i n f a n t s of
t h i s age r e p l i c a t e a n a l s t r u c t u r a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , a n d t h e a n a l
d r i v e - c o n n e c t e d affects of d i r e c t e d a g g r e s s i o n a n d a m b i v a l e n c e
emerge.
P r e - o e d i p a l genitality b e g i n s to a p p e a r , a l o n g w i t h u r i n a r y
a w a r e n e s s , s o m e time b e t w e e n 14 a n d 16 m o n t h s . A t t e n t i o n to
t h e u r i n a r y s t r e a m , a t t e m p t s to c o n t r o l it, c u r i o s i t y a b o u t t h i s
a r e a a n d function in other c h i l d r e n a n d in a d u l t s , a n d g a m e s
t h a t derive from a n d reflect the u r i n a r y i n t e r e s t a r e r e a d i l y
o b s e r v a b l e i n i n f a n t s of b o t h s e x e s a t t h i s t i m e . E a r l y g e n i t a l i t y
i s reflected i n i n c r e a s e d i n t e n t i o n a l genital self-manipulation
a n d curiosity expressed verbally a n d behaviourally about the
g e n i t a l a n a t o m y of o t h e r c h i l d r e n a n d a d u l t s , of d o l l s , a n d of
a n i m a l s (both a n i m a t e a n d i n a n i m a t e ) .
FOUR ENTERED THE GARDEN 147

Although parental responses to this burgeoning curiosity


differ, of c o u r s e , a l m o s t a l l t h e i n f a n t s o b s e r v e d i n t h e study
c i t e d a b o v e w e r e a l l o w e d to w i t n e s s t h e m o t h e r ' s toileting, a n d
m o s t of t h e m w e r e a l s o a d m i t t e d to t h e b a t h r o o m b y t h e f a t h e r s
a s w e l l d u r i n g t h e f i r s t two or t h r e e m o n t h s of t h e i n f a n t s ' n e w l y
emergent curiosity. Many of t h e f a t h e r s s o o n banished their
female c h i l d r e n from observing their toileting.
A s t h e i n f a n t s b e g i n to a c k n o w l e d g e t h e g e n i t a l a n d u r i n a r y
differences between the s e x e s , the s u b s e q u e n t developmental
d i r e c t i o n of t h e b o y s a n d g i r l s b e g i n to d i v e r g e . B o y s b e g i n to
a v o i d e x p o s u r e to t h e m o t h e r ' s toileting a n d t e n d to a c c o m p a n y
t h e f a t h e r i n s t e a d . T h e y d i r e c t t h e i r a t t e n t i o n to b o d y p r o t u b e r
a n c e s (breasts, nipples, umbilicus), are concerned about body
injury, a n d again become a n x i o u s about separation from the
mother. T h e increase in their general motor activity at this time
m a y b e a n o t h e r a v e n u e for e x p r e s s i o n of t h e i r h e i g h t e n e d p r e
oedipal castration anxiety.
I n f a n t g i r l s r e a c t to t h e i r a p p r e c i a t i o n of t h e g e n i t o - u r i n a r y
differences they have observed w i t h heightened hostile a m b i v a
l e n c e t o w a r d s t h e m o t h e r , a l a r g e v a r i e t y of e x p l o r a t o r y p l a y w i t h
d o l l s a n d toy a n i m a l s , a n e w type of e r o t i c flirtation w i t h the
father, v a r i o u s body damage c o n c e r n s , d e p r e s s e d mood states,
a n d o t h e r e v i d e n c e of t h e i r u n d e r l y i n g c a s t r a t i o n r e a c t i o n .
T h e r e a c t i o n of p a r e n t s to t h e i n f a n t ' s g e n i t a l i n t e r e s t s a n d
b e h a v i o u r s a p p e a r s to v a r y a g r e a t d e a l . H o w e v e r , m o s t p a r e n t s
t e n d to "forget" w h a t t h e y h a v e w i t n e s s e d u n t i l r e m i n d e d of it b y
s e e i n g it d u p l i c a t e d b y a n o t h e r y o u n g c h i l d . R e p r e s s i o n of t h e
m e m o r y of t h i s e a r l y s e x u a l i t y s e e m s to b e e q u a l l y p r o f o u n d i n
b o t h the p a r e n t s a n d their c h i l d r e n .
I t i s of g r e a t i n t e r e s t a n d i m p o r t a n c e t h a t t h e s o - c a l l e d d i s
o r d e r s of g e n d e r i d e n t i t y a r e far m o r e c o m m o n i n b o y s t h a n i n
g i r l s , a n d t h a t t h e y b e g i n to e m e r g e t o w a r d s t h e e n d of the
s e c o n d y e a r . It i s l i k e l y t h a t t h i s d i s o r d e r h a s i t s o r i g i n s i n
t r a u m a t i c e x p e r i e n c e s d u r i n g t h e f i r s t y e a r of life, i f t h e s e e x p e
riences have interfered with the developing mother-child
r e l a t i o n s h i p . I n r e g a r d to t h e p r e p o n d e r a n c e of t h e g e n d e r d i s
order in boys, it i s t h o u g h t t h a t t h e b o y ' s r e c o g n i t i o n of the
g e n i t a l a n a t o m i c a l difference requires that he disengage from
t h e m o t h e r if h e i s to r e t a i n h i s p h a l l i c i d e n t i t y . H o w e v e r , i f t h e
relationship w i t h the mother is a n u n s t a b l e one, s u c h a boy
148 E S O T E R I C MYSTICISM, MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

n e e d s to r e m a i n c l o s e l y a t t a c h e d to h e r i n a n a t t e m p t to a v o i d
excessive anxiety brought on b y separation.
The early genital p h a s e m a y be viewed a s a " p s y c h i c organ
i z e r " i n t h e a v e r a g e c h i l d i n t h a t the p s y c h o l o g i c a l s y s t e m i s r e
s t r u c t u r e d o n a h i g h e r level of c o m p l e x i t y . T h r o u g h s e l f - i n d u c e d
genital s t i m u l a t i o n , the i n f a n t c a n n o w actively achieve the
p l e a s u r e p r e v i o u s l y d e r i v e d from the m o t h e r ' s m i n i s t r a t i o n s a
shift i n the p a s s i v e - a c t i v e b a l a n c e t h a t a i d s i n c o n s o l i d a t i n g
differentiation of s e l f from object. W h i l e m a s t u r b a t i o n a n d i t s
a c c o m p a n y i n g f a n t a s y s t a t e provide a feeling of c l o s e n e s s to t h e
m o t h e r , t h e y s i m u l t a n e o u s l y e n h a n c e differentiation from h e r ,
s p e c i f i c a l l y a r o u n d the n e w s u p r e m a c y of g e n i t a l i t y . M a s t u r b a
tion a n d i t s f a n t a s i e s a l s o provide s o m e t h i n g e q u i v a l e n t to t r i a l
a c t i o n , offering s p e c i f i c s a t i s f a c t i o n a t the g e n i t a l level a n d f a c i l i
t a t i n g r e p r e s s i o n of r e g r e s s i v e p r e - p h a l l i c f a n t a s i e s of m e r g i n g
w i t h the n o n - s e x u a l m o t h e r of e a r l y i n f a n c y .

The pathway to the oedipal phase

M a h l e r , P i n e , a n d B e r g m a n (1975) h a v e e m p h a s i z e d t h a t the
p e r i o d of the r a p p r o c h e m e n t c r i s i s , a t t h e c l o s e of t h e second
y e a r , i s m o r e t r o u b l e d for the girl t h a n for the boy. C h i l d r e n ' s
r e c o g n i t i o n of the s e x u a l difference p r o b a b l y a c c o u n t s i n p a r t for
t h i s difference i n r e s p o n s e . I n girls, the h e i g h t e n i n g of the a g
g r e s s i v e a s p e c t of a m b i v a l e n c e to the m o t h e r t h a t r e s u l t s f r o m
r e c o g n i t i o n of the genital a n a t o m i c a l difference l e a d s to a l o o s e n
i n g of the tie to the m o t h e r a n d a n i n c r e a s i n g l y erotic t u r n to the
f a t h e r . T h i s p r o v i d e s a d e v e l o p m e n t a l p r e c o n d i t i o n for t h e f u t u r e
p o s i t i v e - o e d i p a l c o n s t e l l a t i o n . T h o s e girls w h o develop severe
c a s t r a t i o n r e a c t i o n s a t t h i s time h a v e e x p e r i e n c e d difficulties
w i t h the m o t h e r d u r i n g t h e i r first y e a r . T h e h o s t i l e a m b i v a l e n c e
to the m o t h e r b e c o m e s v e r y i n t e n s e , the m a t e r n a l a t t a c h m e n t i s
h e i g h t e n e d , a n d the t u r n to the father does not o c c u r .
O v e r t l y , the boy i s far l e s s d i s t u r b e d b y the d i s c o v e r y of the
g e n i t a l difference. I n fact, h o w e v e r , h e d e f e n d s h i m s e l f a g a i n s t
castration anxiety by more profound denial a n d d i s p l a c e m e n t
b o t h of w h i c h m a y affect d e v e l o p m e n t i n other a r e a s a s w e l l . T h e
f a t h e r ' s a v a i l a b i l i t y a t t h i s time p l a y s a c r u c i a l role i n s u p p o r t i n g
FOUR ENTERED THE GARDEN 149

the boy's g r a d u a l d i s t a n c i n g from h i s m o t h e r a n d the i n c r e a s


i n g l y s t a b l e s e n s e of h i s p h a l l i c i d e n t i t y .
W h i l e soft s t u f f e d a n i m a l s a r e u s e d for v a r i o u s k i n d s of self
comforting d u r i n g t h e first a n d s e c o n d y e a r s , i n t e r e s t i n d o l l s
h a s e m e r g e d b y t h e e n d of t h e s e c o n d y e a r i n m o s t g i r l s a n d
i n c r e a s e s i n i n t e n s i t y a n d complexity from t h a t time u n t i l the
6 t h o r 7 t h y e a r . E a r l y s e m i - s y m b o l i c doll p l a y s e e m s to r e p l i c a t e
t h e little g i r l ' s e x p e r i e n c e w i t h h e r o w n m o t h e r r e p e a t i n g w i t h
h e r d o l l t h e s a m e c a r e - t a k i n g t h a t s h e h e r s e l f h a s r e c e i v e d . It i s
difficult to d i s t i n g u i s h t h i s e a r l y i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h t h e m o t h e r ' s
n u r t u r i n g a c t i v i t i e s f r o m the m o r e a d v a n c e d doll p l a y i n w h i c h
t h e doll r e p r e s e n t s the little g i r l ' s w i s h e d - f o r b a b y of h e r o w n .
M o s t 3- to 3 V ^ - y e a r - o l d g i r l s h a v e b e g u n to p r e t e n d t h a t t h e y
h a v e a b a b y i n s i d e their a b d o m e n s , p a r t i c u l a r l y if they h a v e h a d
t h e o p p o r t u n i t y to o b s e r v e a p r e g n a n t w o m a n . A n d t h i s i s fol
l o w e d b y c u r i o s i t y a s to h o w t h e f a t h e r ' s " s e e d " g e t s i n t o the
m o t h e r ' s s t o m a c h a n d h o w the body t h e n emerges.
W h i l e doll p l a y i s d e s u l t o r y a t b e s t i n b o y s , t h e y , too, are
k e e n l y a w a r e of p r e g n a n t w o m e n b e g i n n i n g a t a b o u t 3 to 3AX

y e a r s of a g e , a n d t h e y develop c u r i o s i t y a b o u t b i r t h a n d i m p r e g
n a t i o n w i t h i n t h e n e x t s i x to eight m o n t h s , a l t h o u g h t h e y m a y
indicate their curiosity b y action rather t h a n words.
D u r i n g the t h i r d a n d f o u r t h y e a r s , b o t h s e x e s c o n t i n u e to
a c q u i r e a s e n s e of s e x u a l i d e n t i t y . E x h i b i t i o n i s m a n d scopto
philia are p r o n o u n c e d components in both sexes, w i t h a g r a d u a l
d i v e r g e n c e b e t w e e n g i r l s a n d b o y s b e c o m i n g e v i d e n t i n r e g a r d to
drive-derivative fantasies, s e x u a l identification, a n d object r e l a
tions. S e x u a l w i s h e s a n d fantasies are still in a one-to-one r e
l a t i o n s h i p . F o r t h e boy, c a s t r a t i o n a n x i e t y of t h i s e a r l i e r p e r i o d
differs f r o m o e d i p a l c a s t r a t i o n a n x i e t y , w h i l e t h e p e n i s b e c o m e s
a h i g h l y v a l u e d b o d y p a r t a n d the m a i n s o u r c e of n a r c i s s i s t i c
g r a t i f i c a t i o n . T h e b o y m a y fear its l o s s a t t h e h a n d s of e n v i o u s
f e m a l e s or a s p u n i s h m e n t b y h i s f a t h e r , a n d h e m a y e v e n f e a r
t h a t d a m a g e m a y c o m e to h i m t h r o u g h m a s t u r b a t i o n , b u t he
d o e s n o t a n t i c i p a t e i t s l o s s a s p u n i s h m e n t for h i s w i s h to b a n i s h
or c a s t r a t e h i s f a t h e r . I n t h e g i r l , the w i s h for a p e n i s m a y b u i l d
on e a r l i e r w i s h e s s h e h a s h a d for o t h e r o b j e c t s she did not
p o s s e s s ; t h e s e y e a r n i n g s a r e i n t e n s i f i e d b y the d i s c o v e r y of t h e
g e n i t a l difference. P e n i s e n v y w i t h l o w e r i n g of h e r self-esteem
150 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

m a y interfere w i t h the d e v e l o p m e n t of h e r f e m i n i n e i d e n t i f i c a
tion.

Oedipal-phase development

T h e c h i l d ' s d y a d i c r e l a t i o n s h i p s l o w l y m e r g e s into the oedipal


t r i a d i c r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the p a r e n t s b y the e n d of t h e fourth
y e a r , u s h e r i n g i n a s e v e r e l y c o n i l i c t u a l s i t u a t i o n for c h i l d r e n of
b o t h s e x e s . If identification w i t h the p a r e n t of the s a m e s e x h a s
b e e n p r o c e e d i n g w e l l , t h i s identification n o w s e r v e s a s a s t a b i l i z
i n g force, facilitating the temporary s u r r e n d e r of incestuous
w i s h e s a n d the m o d u l a t i o n of hostile a g g r e s s i v e w i s h e s t o w a r d s
the p a r e n t of the s a m e s e x . Sublimation of the s e x u a l and
aggressive drive d e r i v a t i v e s c a n n o w proceed, with curiosity
directed towards other areas. A significant l a n d m a r k during
l a t e n c y is the g r a d u a l e m e r g e n c e of a s c i e n t i f i c a p p r o a c h to
l e a r n i n g a n d t h i n k i n g . T h e w h y a n d wherefore of t h i n g s b e c o m e
v e r y i m p o r t a n t ; c o n c e p t s of the w o r l d a n d people b e g i n to e x
pand, and the d e v e l o p m e n t of r e a s o n i n g steadily advances.
C u r i o s i t y a b o u t s e x u a l i t y gives w a y , u n d e r r e a s o n a b l y adequate
p s y c h o l o g i c a l c o n d i t i o n s , to c u r i o s i t y a b o u t the w i d e r a s p e c t s of
the w o r l d , a s u b l i m a t i o n of a portion of s e x u a l a s w e l l a s a g g r e s
s i v e w i s h e s t h a t c o n t i n u e s into a d u l t life u n l e s s i n h i b i t i o n s a r i s e
because of p s y c h o l o g i c a l conflicts t h a t were i n s u f f i c i e n t l y r e
s o l v e d d u r i n g the p r e - o e d i p a l a n d oedipal p e r i o d s .
CHAPTER FIVE

INTRODUCTION

C h a p t e r f o u r d e a l t w i t h r e v i v e d c h i l d h o o d w i s h e s to a p p r o a c h , to
b e h o l d , a n d u l t i m a t e l y to b e e m b r a c e d b y a n d to u n i t e w i t h a
p a r e n t figure. T h e w i s h a n d the anxiety that the w i s h engenders
a r e e x p r e s s e d i n t h e a c c o u n t of t h e d a n g e r o u s f a s c i n a t i o n of t h e
mystical garden, the pardes.
B u t the chariot, the throne, a n d the garden a r e obviously
claustrum symbolssymbols of mother's body, the literal
Garden of E d e n , which attracts us all when we regress.
Claustrophilia a n d claustrophobia become the organizing p r i n
ciples that evoke s u c h fantasies.
T h i s c h a p t e r d e s c r i b e s v a r i a n t s of s u c h f a n t a s i e s , v a r i a t i o n s
of a b a s i c p a t t e r n i n w h i c h t h e i n d i v i d u a l e n c o u n t e r s o r h o p e s to
e n c o u n t e r father or father's p e n i s i n s i d e m o t h e r ' s body. W h e n
o n e i s s e n s i t i z e d to t h e s e p a t t e r n s , o n e c a n find t h e m s u r p r i s
ingly frequently i n the fantasies and dreams that patients
r e p o r t . T h e merkavah a n d hekhaloth images form a direct link
between apocalyptic a n d m y s t i c a l ideas a n d drives o n the one
h a n d , a n d m a t e r i a l of clinical significance, n a m e l y , symptoms,
fantasies, a n d d r e a m s on the other.

151
The psychodynamics
of merkavah mysticism
Mortimer Ostow

M
erkavah m y s t i c i s m prevailed a s the dominant form
of J e w i s h mysticism for about a thousand years,
s t a r t i n g a few c e n t u r i e s before the C o m m o n E r a a n d
e n d u r i n g to c l o s e to the e n d of the first m i l l e n n i u m , w h e n it
overlapped with and was succeeded by K a b b a l a h , w h i c h , i n
t u r n , w a s g r a d u a l l y r e p l a c e d b y H a s i d i s m s t a r t i n g i n the e i g h
t e e n t h c e n t u r y . (A f a s c i n a t i n g , p r o b a b l y c o m p l e t e a n d s e a r c h i n g
a n a l y s i s of merkavah m a t e r i a l s i s given b y H a l p e r i n i n The Faces
of the Chariot 1988a.)
Merkavah mysticism takes its name from the throne
c h a r i o t d e s c r i b e d i n the first c h a p t e r of E z e k i e l . A k i n d of d i v i n e
throne i s a l s o r e f e r r e d to i n a n u m b e r of e a r l y apocalypses
a n d i n the B o o k of R e v e l a t i o n . (The w o r d "merkavah" means
" c h a r i o t * . ) T h e E z e k i e l m a t e r i a l i s given i n the i n t r o d u c t i o n to
c h a p t e r four. T h e four c r e a t u r e s w i t h t h e i r w h e e l s c o n s t i t u t e the
c h a r i o t , a n d the t h r o n e i s c a r r i e d o n a p l a t f o r m a b o v e them.
A s noted above, the t e r m "merkavah* does n o t a p p e a r there

I s h o u l d like to t h a n k D r J a c o b A . A r l o w for h i s g e n e r o u s a s s i s t a n c e i n
o r g a n i z i n g t h i s m a t e r i a l for p r e s e n t a t i o n .

152
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 153

or e l s e w h e r e i n t h e J e w i s h c a n o n w i t h r e s p e c t to t h e v i s i o n
of E z e k i e l . ( T h e e a r l i e s t s u r v i v i n g u s e of merkavah to r e f e r to
E z e k i e l ' s v i s i o n a p p e a r s i n S i r a c h 49:8.) P l e a s e n o t e t h e m a n y
r e f e r e n c e s to fire, g l e a m , c r y s t a l l i n e s u b s t a n c e , a m b e r a n d s a p
p h i r e , r a d i a n c e a n d the r a i n b o w ; the fact t h a t w h a t i s d e s c r i b e d
i s b o t h a v e h i c l e a n d a seat; a n d that there a r e four c r e a t u r e s ,
f o u r f a c e s to e a c h , f o u r c o m p l e x w h e e l s , a n d f o u r s e t s of w i n g s .
T h e image is awesome a n d frightening, a n d the p r o p h e t col
lapses.
T h e first five v e r s e s of c h a p t e r 6 of t h e B o o k of I s a i a h c o n
t a i n s a t h r o n e v i s i o n , w h i c h i n c l u d e s t h e f a m i l i a r doxology,
"Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh* {Holy, h o l y , h o l y ] , w h i c h w e find i n
t h e Kedushah of the liturgy a n d w h i c h i s r e p e a t e d over a n d over
i n t h e Hekhaloth texts, w h i c h w e d i s c u s s below.

I n the y e a r of the d e a t h of the k i n g U z z i a h , I s a w t h e L o r d


sitting o n a h i g h a n d lofty throne, a n d h i s s k i r t s filled the
chamber. A n d s e r a p h s were standing in attendance, s i x
w i n g s , s i x w i n g s to e a c h . W i t h two e a c h covers h i s face, w i t h
two h e covers h i s legs a n d w i t h two he flies. A n d e a c h c a l l s to
the other a n d s a y s "Holy, holy, holy. T h e L o r d of h o s t s . T h e
e a r t h is filled w i t h H i s glory." A n d the doorposts were m o v e d
a t the s o u n d of H i m w h o called a n d the b u i l d i n g w a s filled
w i t h s m o k e a n d I s a i d , "Woe i s m e b e c a u s e I a m u n d o n e . F o r
I a m a m a n of u n c l e a n lips a n d I reside a m o n g a people of
u n c l e a n l i p s . F o r m y eyes have s e e n the k i n g , the L o r d of
hosts." (Isa. 6:1-4]

A s i m i l a r vision is found i n Revelation:

After t h i s I looked, a n d , behold, a door w a s opened i n


h e a v e n : a n d the first voice w h i c h I h e a r d w a s a s i t w e r e of a
trumpet talking with me; w h i c h said, Come up hither, a n d I
will s h o w thee t h i n g s w h i c h m u s t be hereafter. A n d i m m e d i
ately I w a s i n the S p i r i t : a n d , behold, a throne w a s s e t i n
h e a v e n , a n d one s a t on the throne. A n d H e that s a t w a s to
look u p o n like a j a s p e r a n d a s a r d i n e stone: a n d there w a s a
r a i n b o w r o u n d a b o u t the throne, i n s i g h t like unto a n e m e r
a l d . A n d r o u n d a b o u t the throne were four a n d twenty s e a t s :
a n d u p o n the s e a t s I s a w four a n d twenty elders sitting,
clothed i n w h i t e r a i m e n t ; a n d they h a d o n their h e a d s
c r o w n s of gold. A n d o u t of the throne proceeded lightnings
a n d t h u n d e r i n g s a n d voices: a n d there w e r e s e v e n l a m p s of
154 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH A N D HEKHALOT

fire b u r n i n g before the throne, w h i c h are the seven Spirits of


G o d . A n d before the throne there w a s a s e a of glass like unto
c r y s t a l : a n d i n the midst of the throne, a n d r o u n d about the
throne, were four beasts full of eyes before a n d b e h i n d . A n d
the first beast w a s like a lion, a n d the s e c o n d b e a s t like a
calf, a n d the third beast h a d a face a s a m a n , a n d the fourth
b e a s t w a s like a flying eagle. A n d the four beasts h a d e a c h of
t h e m s i x wings about h i m ; a n d they were full of eyes w i t h i n :
a n d they rest not d a y a n d night, saying, Holy, holy, holy,
L o r d G o d Almighty, W h i c h w a s , a n d i s , a n d i s to come. A n d
w h e n those b e a s t s give glory a n d honor a n d t h a n k s to H i m
that s a t o n the throne, w h o liveth for ever a n d ever, the four
a n d twenty elders fall down before H i m that s a t on the
throne, a n d w o r s h i p H i m that liveth for ever a n d ever, a n d
c a s t their crowns before the throne, saying, T h o u a r t worthy,
O L o r d , to receive glory a n d honor a n d power: for T h o u h a s t
created a l l things, a n d for T h y pleasure they are a n d were
created. [Rev. 4]

If w e e x a m i n e a l l of t h e r e f e r e n c e s i n the J e w i s h B i b l e to
m e r k a u a h - t y p e m a t e r i a l , w e find t h e following c o m p o s i t e image:
G o d i s s i t t i n g o n a t h r o n e ; H e h a s the a p p e a r a n c e of a m a n
(Ezekiel) a n d p a r t i c u l a r l y t h a t of a n old, w h i t e - h a i r e d m a n ( D a n
iel); G o d i s s i t t i n g i n a p a l a c e (2 K i n g s , I s a i a h , a n d D a n i e l ) ; fire
o c c u p i e s a n i m p o r t a n t position i n the v i s i o n ( E z e k i e l , D a n i e l ,
a n d indirectly also Isaiah); G o d is accompanied by angels w h o
m i n i s t e r to H i m (2 K i n g s , I s a i a h , E z e k i e l , a n d D a n i e l ) ; the a n g e l s
r e c i t e h y m n s ( I s a i a h ) (see G r u e n w a l d , 1 9 8 0 , p. 3 1 ) .
W e m e e t t h e t e r m "merkavah" a p p l i e d to t h i s type of t h e o
p h a n y i n v a r i o u s T a l m u d i c a n d other r a b b i n i c s o u r c e s (Tosefta
Hagigah 2:1-7; Mishnah Hagigah 2:1; Babylonian Talmud
Hagigah llb-16a; Palestinian Tabnud Hagigah 77a-d). The
s o u r c e s s p e a k of M a ' a s e h Merkavahliterally, " t h e a c c o u n t of
the merkavah\ r e f e r r i n g either to the text itself, to the n a r r a t i v e ,
or to m y s t i c a l i d e a s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h it. T h e y a s s o c i a t e it w i t h
Ma'aseh B'reshiththat is, cosmogonyand a l s o w i t h the l a w s
d e l i n e a t i n g s e x u a l p r o h i b i t i o n s , n o n e of w h i c h m a y b e t a u g h t i n
p u b l i c , b u t only to v e r y l i m i t e d g r o u p s of s c h o l a r s , i n the c a s e of
merkavah m y s t i c i s m to (or by) only one p e r s o n , a n d t h e n o n l y i n
h i n t s . T h e y provide a n e c d o t a l c o m m e n t a r y a b o u t b o t h l a u d a b l e
a n d i m p r o p e r i n v o l v e m e n t i n this m y s t i c a l d o c t r i n e . O n t h e o t h e r
T H E PSYCHODAYNAMICS O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 155

h a n d , w e n o t e t h a t t h e B i b l i c a l a n d a p o c a l y p t i c v i s i o n s of G o d
were not only not restricted, b u t actively publicized. W h y the
d i f f e r e n c e ? I n t h e B i b l e a n d a p o c a l y p s e s , the r e v e l a t i o n s w e r e
e m p l o y e d i n o r d e r to l e n d a u t h o r i t y a n d force to t h e m o r a l a n d
r e l i g i o u s m e s s a g e t h a t t h e w r i t e r w i s h e d to t r a n s m i t . T h e r a b
b i n i c l i t e r a t u r e , o n t h e o t h e r h a n d , s e e m s to i m p l y t h a t a m y s t
i c a l p r a c t i c e i n t e n d e d to a c h i e v e v i s u a l i z a t i o n of t h e Godhead,
a c c o m p a n i e d b y n o m o r a l or s o c i a l l y r e s p o n s i b l e m e s s a g e , was
d a n g e r o u s b o t h to t h e i n d i v i d u a l a n d to t h e c o m m u n i t y . Indi
v i d u a l m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e c a n a l s o be u s e d to c i r c u m v e n t a n d to
s u p e r s e d e n o r m a t i v e r e l i g i o n . F r o m r a b b i n i c s o u r c e s , it b e c o m e s
e v i d e n t t h a t i n t e r e s t or e n g a g i n g i n m y s t i c a l p r a x i s w a s c o m m o n ,
t h a t s t u d y of it w a s c o n s i d e r e d d a n g e r o u s , a n d t h a t t h o u g h it
w a s i m p o r t a n t to t r a n s m i t , t h a t t r a n s m i s s i o n h a d to be r e g u l a t e d
stringently.
A t s o m e p o i n t the merkavah fantasy became associated with
a n d g r a d u a l l y gave w a y to a s i m i l a r o n e . It e m p h a s i z e d m e t h o d s
to a s c e n d t h r o u g h the v a r i o u s h e a v e n s to t h e hekhaloth, the
c h a m b e r s , t h e h a l l s or p a l a c e s w h e r e u l t i m a t e l y G o d c o u l d b e
s e e n sitting on H i s throne. S e e i n g a n d a p p r o a c h i n g G o d were the
declared a i m s . Achieving this confrontation with G o d w a s an
o r d e a l : o n e p r e p a r e d for it b y p r o l o n g e d f a s t i n g , r e s t r i c t i o n of
activity, assuming deferential postures or the use of ritual
b a t h s , or a c o m b i n a t i o n of t h e s e . G a t e k e e p e r s a t the v a r i o u s
hekhaloth m i g h t n o t o n l y p r e v e n t t h e e n t r y of t h e petitioner,
b u t w i t h o u t m u c h provocation might kill h i m . T h e texts t h e r e
fore w e r e a c o m b i n a t i o n of d e s c r i p t i o n s of t h e a p p e a r a n c e of
G o d , m e t h o d s to a c h i e v e the a s c e n t , a t e c h n i c a l m a n u a l , a n d
prayers, hymns, a n d incantations a n d other apotropaic ma
n o e u v r e s i n t e n d e d to a v o i d d a n g e r a n d to a s s u r e a s u c c e s s f u l
ascent. [Martha Himmelfarb (1993, pp. 108f.) a c c e p t s argu
m e n t s by H a l p e r i n (1984) a n d Schafer (1992, pp. 150ff.) that
f i n d t h e a s c e n t c o m p o n e n t of the hekhalot l i t e r a t u r e of l e s s t h a n
p r i m a r y significance. W h a t they m e a n is t h a t the texts were not
m e a n t to be p r a c t i c a l m a n u a l s of i n s t r u c t i o n o n h o w to a c h i e v e
m y s t i c a l a s c e n t , b u t r a t h e r texts for s t u d y a n d r i t u a l r e p e t i
tion.]
T h e s e m y s t i c a l t e x t s , w h i l e s p i r i t u a l , do s e e m to r e f l e c t a
c o n s i d e r a b l e a m b i v a l e n c e i n t h a t t h e y s p e a k of s e e i n g , l o o k i n g
at, or a p p r o a c h i n g G o d , all prohibited activities i n both B i b l i c a l
156 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

a n d T a l m u d i c J u d a i s m . T h e rebelliousness implied in the vari


o u s a s c e n t t e x t s i s d e a l t w i t h b y t h e d e s c r i p t i o n of d a n g e r s a n d
h a z a r d s that a w a i t the m y s t i c . Interestingly, the p o s t - s c r i p t u r a l
J e w i s h m y s t i c a l w r i t i n g s [midrashim] c o m e n o t from h e r e t i c s o r
r e b e l s , b u t f r o m w i t h i n t h e r a b b i n i c e s t a b l i s h m e n t itself. T h e s e
presumptuous fantasies seem to e x p r e s s i m p a t i e n c e w i t h t h e
d i s t a n c e between G o d a n d m a n i n c l a s s i c a l J u d a i s m a n d eager
n e s s for i m m e d i a t e d i v i n e comfort, d i v i n e k n o w l e d g e , a n d d i v i n e
p o w e r . H a l p e r i n ( 1 9 8 8 a , p p . 319ff., 4 4 4 ; 1988b) documents a
r e b e l l i o u s t h e m e i n s o m e of t h e s e texts a n d i n f e r s t h a t it reflects
the eternal generational conflict between y o u t h a n d age. S c h a f e r
( 1 9 9 2 , p. 1 6 5 ) p r e f e r s to s e e t h e hekhalot m a t e r i a l a s t h e effort to
establish a liturgical c o m m u n i o n of t h e yored merkavah, the
merkavah a d e p t , a s e m i s s a r y of I s r a e l , w i t h G o d .
T h e texts a l s o d e s c r i b e t h e a n g e l s s i n g i n g h y m n s , t h e v e r y
s a m e h y m n s t h a t t h e h u m a n t r a v e l l e r i s a d v i s e d to s i n g . T h e
h y m n s a r e given in extenso. T h e y c o n s i s t m o s t l y of repetitive
h y p e r b o l i c p r a i s e of G o d w i t h a l m o s t n o ideology, m o r a l i t y , o r
r e f e r e n c e to i n d i v i d u a l s p i r i t u a l c o n c e r n s . I s h a l l give h e r e a few
s a m p l e s of t h i s m a t e r i a l , b u t b r i e f s a m p l e s c a n n o t c o n v e y t h e
i m p r e s s i o n created by the prolixity, the repetitiousness, a n d the
i n t e r e s t i n g s t r u c t u r e t h a t i t s e l f c o n v e y s feelings of p r o g r e s s i o n
a n d a s c e n t (see J a n o w i t z , 1 9 8 9 ) . T h e Hekhaloth Rabbatu gener
a l l y t r a n s l a t e d a s The Greater Hekhaloth a major source, starts
w i t h a v e r s e t h a t i n t r o d u c e s t h e e x t e n s i v e text t h a t follows.
Rabbi Ishmael said:

W h a t a r e the i n c a n t a t i o n s t h a t s h o u l d be recited b y one w h o


w i s h e s to glimpse the m e r k a v a h , to d e s c e n d (i.e. to the
m e r k a v a h ) i n peace a n d to a s c e n d i n p e a c e ? It is desirable to
obligate h i m , to lead h i m a n d to bring h i m to the c h a m b e r s of
the palace of aravot (a n a m e of one of the heavens), to s t a n d
h i m to the right of H i s throne of glory twice, so that he m a y
s t a n d next to the L o r d , G o d of I s r a e l to see w h a t one does
before H i s throne of glory, a n d to k n o w everything that i s
destined to h a p p e n i n the world. [Jellinek, 1:11

H e r e i s a c l a s s i c h y m n from t h e s a m e s o u r c e . It a c c e n t s t h e
role of u n i s o n s i n g i n g a n d w o r s h i p , it c a l l s a t t e n t i o n to t h e role of
fire, w h i c h a p p e a r s i n m a n y merkava}\ t e x t s , a n d it i l l u s t r a t e s
the h y p e r b o l e t h a t c h a r a c t e r i z e s t h e m .
T H E PSYCHODAYNAMICS O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 157

F r o m t h e p r a i s e a n d song o f e a c h d a y ,

F r o m t h e j u b i l a t i o n a n d e x u l t a t i o n of e a c h h o u r ,

A n d from the u t t e r a n c e s t h a t proceed o u t o f the m o u t h o f

the h o l y o n e s ,
A n d from the m e l o d y w h i c h w e l l s o u t of the m o u t h o f the
servants,

M o u n t a i n s of fire a n d h i l l s of flame

Are piled u p a n d hidden a n d poured out each day.

IScholem, 1960, p. 2 1 ] 1

T h i s a n d a l l s u b s e q u e n t h y m n s a r e followed b y t h e T r i s h a g i o n :

Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh

that is,

Holy, Holy, Holy i s the L o r d of S a b a o t h . 2

T h e whole e a r t h i s filled w i t h H i s glory.

T h a t r e f r a i n , t a k e n f r o m I s a i a h , c h a p t e r 6, i s r e p e a t e d m a n y
t i m e s t h r o u g h o u t t h e Hekhaloth t e x t s . I n fact, a d e s c r i p t i o n of
t h e c e l e s t i a l K e d u s h a h (i.e. t h e l i t u r g i c a l s a n c t i f i c a t i o n ) follows.
N o t e a g a i n t h e h y p e r b o l e , t h e r e f e r e n c e to fire, t h e u n i s o n s i n g
i n g , a n d t h e f a c t t h a t G o d u n c o v e r s h i s face i n r e s p o n s e .

T h e H o l y L i v i n g C r e a t u r e s do s t r e n g t h e n a n d hallow a n d
purify t h e m s e l v e s , a n d e a c h one h a s b o u n d u p o n its h e a d a
t h o u s a n d t h o u s a n d s of t h o u s a n d s of c r o w n s of l u m i n a r i e s
of d i v e r s s o r t s , a n d they a r e clothed i n clothing of fire
a n d w r a p p e d i n a g a r m e n t of flame a n d cover their faces
w i t h lightning. A n d the Holy O n e , B l e s s e d be H e , u n c o v e r s
H i s face. A n d w h y do the Holy L i v i n g C r e a t u r e s a n d the
O p h a n i m of m a j e s t y a n d the C h e r u b i m of s p l e n d o r h a l l o w
a n d p u r i f y a n d clothe a n d w r a p a n d a d o r n t h e m s e l v e s y e t
m o r e ? B e c a u s e the M e r k a b a h i s above t h e m a n d t h e throne
of glory u p o n their h e a d s a n d the S h e k h i n a h over t h e m
a n d r i v e r s of fire p a s s between t h e m . A c c o r d i n g l y do t h e y
strengthen themselves a n d make themselves splendid a n d

^ h i s and other translations from Scholem, 1960, were done by Judah


Goldin.
2
Sabaoth is a Hebrew word, usually translated as "hosts" (see the
selection from Isa. 6, translated above). It may refer either to the heavenly
retinue or to stars. Its precise significance is obscure, since i t is used i n
different ways.
158 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

purify themselves i n fire seventy times a n d do a l l of t h e m


stand in cleanliness and holiness and sing songs and
h y m n s , p r a i s e a n d rejoicing a n d a p p l a u s e , w i t h one voice,
w i t h one utterance, w i t h one m i n d , a n d w i t h one melody.
[Scholem, 1960, p. 29)
Rabbi Ishmael said, this is what Rabbi Nehunya ben
H a k a n a h s a i d : " I n the seven h e k h a l o t h (palaces) T u t r a s i ' i
(probably a reference to the T e t r a g r a m m a t o n , the four-letter
n a m e of G o d , Y H V H ) the L o r d G o d of I s r a e l s i t s i n one
c h a m b e r w i t h i n another, a n d a t the entrance of e a c h palace,
eight g u a r d s s t a n d , four on e a c h side of the door." [Jellinek,
15:1]

T h e g u a r d s a r e fierce, a n d u n l e s s the m y s t i c a p p e a s e s them


b y h i s p i e t y o r b y e x h i b i t i n g a p p r o p r i a t e s e a l s , t h e y m a y drive
h i m f r o m h e a v e n or v i c i o u s l y a t t a c k h i m .
T h e fierce g a t e k e e p e r s a n d t h e i r e q u a l l y fierce h o r s e s that
t h r e a t e n the p r e s u m p t u o u s mystic are described in Hekhaloth
Rabbati a s follows:

. . . a n g r y a n d w a r - l i k e , strong, h a r s h , fearful, terrific, taller


t h a n m o u n t a i n s a n d s h a r p e r t h a n p e a k s . T h e i r bows are
s t r u n g a n d s t a n d before them; their s w o r d s are s h a r p e n e d
a n d i n their h a n d s . Lightnings flow a n d i s s u e forth from the
b a l l s of their eyes, a n d balls of fire from their n o s t r i l s , a n d
torches of fiery coals from their m o u t h s . T h e y a r e equipped
w i t h helmets a n d with coats of m a i l , a n d j a v e l i n s a n d s p e a r s
are h u n g u p o n their thews . . . the h o r s e s u p o n w h i c h they
ride s t a n d beside m a n g e r s of fire full of coals of j u n i p e r a n d
eat fiery coals from the m a n g e r s [taking] a m e a s u r e of forty
b u s h e l s of coals i n one mouthful. [Scholem, 1960, pp. 3 I f . ]

T h e r e a r e n o explicit s e x u a l i m a g e s i n the m a t e r i a l to my
knowledge, but in a literature so concerned with spying out
secrets, inevitably one runs into a number of images that
s t r o n g l y s u g g e s t s e x u a l c u r i o s i t y . If w e look b a c k to E z e k i e l 1,
w e f i n d ( 1 : 2 7 ) : " A n d I s a w the g l e a m of h a s h m a l , l i k e the a p p e a r
ance of fire w i t h i n a s u r r o u n d i n g f r a m e , that extended from
w h a t a p p e a r e d to be i t s l o i n s u p w a r d , a n d from w h a t a p p e a r e d
to b e its loins downward, I s a w the a p p e a r a n c e of fire sur
r o u n d e d b y r a d i a n c e . " It w o u l d be difficult to d e n y t h a t the
a l l u s i o n i s to the p h a l l u s . E i l b e r g - S c h w a r t z ( 1 9 9 4 , p p . 18Iff.)
T PH E S Y C H O D A Y N A M I OC S F MERKAVAH
M Y 159
S T I C I S M

draws the s a m e conclusion, a n d he attributes a homoerotic


c o m p o n e n t to E z e k i e r s v i s u a l i z i n g G o d ' s p h a l l u s .
F i r e is a powerful if a m b i g u o u s s y m b o l . L i g h t u s u a l l y p r o m
i s e s r e b i r t h f o r e x a m p l e , t h e l i g h t a t t h e e n d of t h e t u n n e l . I t
c a n b e t h r e a t e n i n g o r d e s t r u c t i v e , a s , for e x a m p l e , s u n s h i n e i n
t h e d e s e r t . F l a m e s c a n w a r m , or t h e y c a n h a r m . F i r e t h a t c o n
tains these potencies symbolizes power. It i s a t t r a c t i v e b u t
d a n g e r o u s ; for e x a m p l e , t h e fire a n d l i g h t n i n g of t h e t h e o p h a n y
o n t h e o c c a s i o n of t h e r e v e l a t i o n a t M t . S i n a i . T h e r e f o r e i t o c c u r s
c o m m o n l y i n the d r e a m s a n d fantasies that a c c o m p a n y the
members of t h e a p o c a l y p t i c c o m p l e x , w h i c h d e a l w i t h d e s t r u c
tion a n d rebirth i n close proximity. W e k n o w that the father's
p h a l l u s i s a s o u r c e of f a s c i n a t i o n for t h e c h i l d (see G a l e n s o n ,
c h a p t e r four) b u t a l s o of d a n g e r . I n E z e k i e l ' s merkavah images,
t h e fire h i d e s t h e p h a l l u s itself, b u t s y m b o l i z e s b o t h i t s a t t r a c
tiveness a n d its dangerousness.
Intense visual sensations, lights of v a r i o u s colours and
s h a p e s a r e d e s c r i b e d b y u s e r s of h a l l u c i n o g e n i c d r u g s . A p p a r
e n t l y t h e m y s t i c a l s t a t e of m i n d , w h e t h e r i n d u c e d b y p s y c h o l o g i
cal preparation or by hallucinogenic s u b s t a n c e s , favours intense
v i s u a l experience.
Arlow (1951), i n a n early a n d important essay on the m y s t
i c a l e x p e r i e n c e s t h a t a c c o m p a n y t h e c o n s e c r a t i o n of t h e B i b l i c a l
p r o p h e t s , e s t a b l i s h e s from the texts that not only a r e the p r o p h
e t s c o n f r o n t e d b y t h e a p p e a r a n c e of G o d , b u t t h e c o n f r o n t a t i o n
i s a c c o m p a n i e d b y o r a l i n c o r p o r a t i o n of H i s p h a l l u s , b y m e a n s of
which the prophet acquires H i s power of p r o p h e c y and His
a u t h o r i t y a s s p o k e s m a n for G o d . T h e m y s t i c w h o w o u l d a s c e n d
to t h e merkavah o r t h e hekhaloth a l s o h o p e s to s e e G o d p l a i n l y ,
presumably expecting that t h e v i s i o n w i l l n o t o n l y give h i m
comfort, b u t a l s o , b y a p r o c e s s of o r a l i n c o r p o r a t i o n , l e n d h i m
s o m e of t h e d i v i n e p o t e n c y a n d k n o w l e d g e .
D a v i d J . H a l p e r i n ( 1 9 8 7 ) a r g u e s t h a t t h e e y e s of t h e " h o l y
h a y y o t " (the c r e a t u r e s of E z e k . 1) s y m b o l i z e t h e f e m a l e g e n i t a l i n
t h e following v e r s e i n Hekhalot Rabbati:

E a c h one of the eyes of the holy hayyot i s s p l i t open, the

size of a large w i n n o w e r ' s (?) sieve, a n d their eyes look a s if

they race like lightnings. B e s i d e s them, there a r e the eyes of

the mighty c h e r u b i m a n d of the 'qfannim of the S h e k h i n a h ,

160 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

w h i c h look like torches a n d flaming coals. [The w o r d s i n


italics a p p e a r i n E z e k . 1 .J

H i s a r g u m e n t , involving c o m p a r i s o n w i t h o t h e r v e r s e s u s i n g
a s i m i l a r m e t a p h o r , s e e m s to m e p e r s u a s i v e . P r e s u m a b l y t h e
s a m e a r g u m e n t w o u l d a p p l y to the e y e s t h a t c o v e r e d t h e r i m s of
t h e w h e e l s of E z e k i e f s c h a r i o t . (In d r e a m s , eyes a n d w h a t t h e y
s e e c a n s y m b o l i z e e a c h other.)
A p r i m a l s c e n e i s s u g g e s t e d b y t h e following a n e c d o t e given
i n the merkavah u n i t of H a g i g a h ( B T , 14b).

Now w h e n these things were told to R a b b i J o s h u a , h e a n d


R a b b i J o s e the priest were going on a j o u r n e y . T h e y s a i d ,
Let u s also expound the "Work of the C h a r i o t " (Ma'aseh
Merkavah); so Rabbi J o s h u a began a n exposition. Now that
day w a s the s u m m e r solstice; (nevertheless) the h e a v e n s
became overcast with clouds a n d a k i n d of rainbow a p
peared i n the cloud, a n d the ministering angels a s s e m b l e d
a n d came to listen like people w h o a s s e m b l e a n d come to
w a t c h the entertainments of a bridegroom a n d bride.

[ H a l p e r i n s e e s a c o n f i r m a t i o n for the s u g g e s t i o n that B T


H a g i g a h d e s c r i b e s a p r i m a l s c e n e , i n t h e p r e s e n c e of the rain
b o w in the cloud. B T S a n h e d r i n 9 2 a s a y s , kol hammistakkel
be'ervah qashto nin'eret. w h i c h p r e s u m a b l y m e a n s something
l i k e , " W h o e v e r g a z e s a t g e n i t a l i a [female?], h i s b o w penis] is
i m p a i r e d " (see R a s h i , c o m m e n t a r y on B T S a n h e d r i n 9 2 a ; a n d
J a s t r o w , 1 9 5 0 , s . v . n ' r ) . T h e formation i s r e m a r k a b l y s i m i l a r to
t h a t of B T H a g i g a h 1 6 a , kol hairunistakkel bisheloshah devarim
'enav kehot baqqeshet uvannasV uvakkohanim, "Whoever gazes
a t three t h i n g s , h i s eyes grow d i m : the b o w , t h e p r i n c e , a n d t h e
priests". I n context, the " b o w " o b v i o u s l y m e a n s t h e r a i n b o w .
B u t , e s p e c i a l l y i n v i e w of the S a n h e d r i n p a s s a g e , it s e e m s r e a
s o n a b l e to p o s t u l a t e a l a t e n t a l l u s i o n to the p e n i s : l o o k i n g a t
(your f a t h e r ' s ? ) p e n i s i s p u n i s h e d w i t h b l i n d n e s s . ]
O n e of the m o r e u n u s u a l texts of the hekhaloth m a t e r i a l i s
c a l l e d "Shiur Qomah"literally, " t h e m e a s u r e of t h e b o d y " . I t i s a
t h e u r g i c text, t h e r e c i t a t i o n of w h i c h , it w a s h o p e d , w o u l d o b t a i n
for t h e m y s t i c gratification of m a n y of h i s d e s i r e s . W h e r e a s t h e
o t h e r hekhaloth texts idealize G o d for H i s m a n y v i r t u e s a s well
a s H i s g r a n d e u r , power, a n d k n o w l e d g e , t h i s a g g r a n d i z e s H i s
l i t e r a l s i z e , h e r e given i n c o s m i c t e r m s .
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 161

R. Aqiba said: I give testimony that Metatron said to


me, [Metatron, w h o is] the great p r i n c e of testimony, o u r
lord a n d m a s t e r , w h o exalts o u r blood a n d w h o s a v e s
u s a n d r e d e e m s u s from every evil thing. F r o m the place of
the s e a t of H i s glory a n d u p [is a d i s t a n c e of] 1 , 1 8 0 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0
parasangs. From His glorious seat and down [is a
distance of] 1,180,000,000 parasangs. His height is
2 , 3 0 0 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 p a r a s a n g s . F r o m the right a r m [across] u n t i l
the left a r m i s 7 7 0 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 p a r a s a n g s . A n d from the right
eyeball u n t i l the left eyeball [is a d i s t a n c e of] 3 0 0 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0
p a r a s a n g s . T h e s k u l l of H i s h e a d i s 3 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 0 , 0 0 3 a n d a
t h i r d p a r a s a n g s . T h e c r o w n o n H i s h e a d i s 6 0 0 , 0 0 0 , cor
r e s p o n d i n g to the 6 0 0 , 0 0 0 Israelite m i n i o n s . T h u s H e i s
called the great, mighty a n d a w e s o m e G o d kaliote [klyvtyh];
sazioyte Iszyvtyh]; haqtas [hqts]\ ba'avur [b'bvr]; masos
[msvs]. 3
B l e s s e d be He a n d b l e s s e d be the n a m e of the glory of
H i s k i n g d o m forever. [ C o h e n , 1982, pp. 440f.]

A p a r a s a n g i s a P e r s i a n m i l e , a b o u t t h r e e - q u a r t e r s of a m o d
e r n m i l e , b u t t h e a u t h o r h i m s e l f d e f i n e s it a s a t r u l y i n f i n i t e
m e a s u r e ( C o h e n , 1 9 8 2 , p. 4 6 8 ) .
W h a t i s e s p e c i a l l y b o l d i s a t t r i b u t i n g to G o d l i t e r a l h u m a n
organs. C o h e n ( 1 9 8 2 , p p . 4 6 4 , 4 7 1 ) r e a d s a l l u s i o n s to G o d ' s
p e n i s i n t h e text.
Let u s s u m m a r i z e the features that c h a r a c t e r i z e merkavah
t e x t s a n d hekhaloth v a r i a n t s . Primarily, the texts deal w i t h the
a t t e m p t to v i s u a l i z e a n d to a p p r o a c h a d i v i n e b e i n g , s p e c i f i c a l l y
t h e J e w i s h G o d i n a l l o f the i n s t a n c e s t h a t I h a v e mentioned.
T h e D e i t y i s i d e a l i z e d a n d a d o r e d , a n d t h e m y s t i c w h o a s p i r e s to
t h e merkavah w i l l often a b a s e h i m s e l f . T h e affect i m p l i e d i s a w e
a n d fear. T h e D e i t y i s u s u a l l y to b e f o u n d , i f n o t a t t h e top of a
m o u n t a i n , then on a throne, in a chariot, i n magnificent c h a m
b e r s w i t h i n magnificent p a l a c e s , on a n elevated place, one of the
p o s t u l a t e d h e a v e n s , i n these texts u s u a l l y the s e v e n t h .
T h e n u m b e r four o c c u r s w i t h s u r p r i s i n g r e g u l a r i t y i n t h e s e
t e x t s . T h e merkavah in Ezekiel, is a four-sided structure made
u p of f o u r c r e a t u r e s , e a c h of w h i c h h a s f o u r f a c e s a n d f o u r
w i n g s . I n t h e D a n i e l a n d R e v e l a t i o n a p o c a l y p s e s , different s e t s of

If these terms have meanings, we do not know them. Presumably they


3

are intended as names or qualities of God (MO.).


162 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

four b e a s t s or b e i n g s a r e d e s c r i b e d . T h e c h a m b e r a n d p a l a c e
s t r u c t u r e s m a y be p r e s u m e d to b e q u a d r a n g u l a r .
T h e D e i t y i s a t t e n d e d b y e n o r m o u s r e t i n u e s of a n g e l s , m a n y
of w h o m a r e r e f e r r e d to b y n a m e , b y f u n c t i o n , b y a p p e a r a n c e , b y
r a n k , or b y o r i g i n .
T h e i s s u e of d a n g e r l o o m s i m p o r t a n t l y . I n the a p o c a l y p t i c
t e x t s , t h e v i s i o n a r y i s i n v o l u n t a r i l y t r a n s p o r t e d to t h e l o c u s of h i s
meeting w i t h the Deity. I n the prophetic v i s i o n s , the prophet is
a w e d a n d terrified b u t i s t h e n r e a s s u r e d . T h e r a b b i n i c texts
e m p h a s i z e t h e d a n g e r t h a t a r i s e s from the s p r e a d of merkavah
mystical interest a n d practice, a n d strictly limit its d i s s e m i n
a t i o n . T h e pardes text (the g a r d e n text of t h e p r e v i o u s e s s a y )
e m p h a s i z e s d a n g e r . T h e hekhaloth texts a l l e m p h a s i z e t h e m o r
tal d a n g e r t h a t a w a i t s t h e m y s t i c w h o a t t e m p t s the a s c e n t (or
descentparadoxically both metaphors are used, apparently i n
d i s c r i m i n a t e l y ) to the merkavah, improperly prepared. P r e s u m
a b l y , the p r e p a r a t i o n i n v o l v e s t r a n c e - p r o m o t i n g m a n o e u v r e s for
the c u l t i v a t i o n of a p r o p e r l y self-effacing f r a m e of m i n d . M u c h of
t h e d a n g e r i s a t t r i b u t e d to t h e h o s t i l i t y of the h e a v e n l y h o s t , t h e
fierce g a t e k e e p e r s d e s c r i b e d above, a n d other e n v i o u s a n g e l s . T o
offset t h e d a n g e r of the a s c e n t , a p o t r o p a i c m a n o e u v r e s a r e r e c
o m m e n d e d ; t h e c h i e f of t h e s e i s t h e r e c i t a t i o n of f o r m u l a s , t h e
s i n g i n g of h y m n s , a n d the r e c i t a t i o n of i n c a n t a t i o n s e m b o d i e d i n
the text. T h e effect i n t e n d e d i s e x t r a v a g a n t self-effacement a n d
self-abasement. O t h e r f o r m s of m a g i c a r e d e s c r i b e d t h e p r e s
e n t a t i o n of s e a l s , the u s e of n a m e s for c o n j u r i n g , e s p e c i a l l y t h e
m a n y n a m e s given for G o d . A l t h o u g h t h e d a n g e r i s a t t r i b u t e d to
the h e a v e n l y h o s t s , j e a l o u s of t h e i r p r e r o g a t i v e s a n d p r i m a c y ,
one m u s t infer t h a t it i s t h e p r e s u m p t u o u s n e s s of t h e a s c e n t to
forbidden r e g i o n s a n d of e n g a g i n g i n a forbidden l o o k i n g t h a t
c r e a t e s t h e d a n g e r of p u n i s h m e n t .
T h e heavenly retinue is described in hyperbolic n u m b e r s a n d
p o w e r . T h e y a t t e n d the D e i t y i n every p o s s i b l e w a y . W h e n n o t
otherwise engaged, they s p e n d t h e i r time singing h y m n s of
p r a i s e , s o m e of w h i c h a r e i d e n t i c a l w i t h p o r t i o n s of s y n a g o g u e
liturgy already established, a n d others that were subsequently
i n c o r p o r a t e d into it. W h i l e the texts e m p h a s i z e the h a r m o n y of
t h i s m u s i c a n d t h e s y n c h r o n y of t h e i r a c t i o n s , there a r e a
n u m b e r of r e f e r e n c e s to r i v a l r y a m o n g t h e m a n d t o w a r d s t h e
h u m a n a s p i r a n t to the merkavah.
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 163

T h e i s s u e of s e c r e c y i s e m p h a s i z e d . T h e v i s i o n s i n t h e b i b l i c a l
passages a n d the apocalypses are announced publicly i n the
h o p e t h a t t h e y w i l l l e n d a u t h o r i t y a n d c o g e n c y to t h e m e s s a g e o f
the prophet or t h e promoter of the a p o c a l y p s e . (Nevertheless,
many apocalypses use a fictional secrecy to e n h a n c e their
allure.) T h e rabbinic authorities prohibited the public d i s c u s s i o n
of t h i s t y p e o f m y s t i c i s m e x c e p t u n d e r t h e m o s t p r o t e c t e d cir
cumstances, i m p l y i n g t h a t v i o l a t i o n of t h e p r o h i b i t i o n i n c u r s
g r e a t d a n g e r , p r e s u m a b l y for t h e i n d i v i d u a l a s w e l l a s for t h e
c o m m u n i t y where s u c h indiscretion occurs. F o r the merkavah
m y s t i c s , t h e t e x t s a r e m e a n t to i n s t r u c t t h e w o u l d - b e s e e k e r o f
the m y s t i c a l experience, b u t the danger i s a t t r i b u t e d to t h e
attempted a s c e n t if it is not properly prepared a n d performed,
using manoeuvres intended to i n d u c e the appropriately self
effacing attitudes.
T h e merkavah v i s i o n i s a t t a i n e d i n a state of altered c o n
sciousness, d e s c r i b e d or i m p l i e d b y the p r o p h e t s , apocalypti
cists, rabbis a n d mystics. T h e term "trance" would seem to
a p p l y to m o s t i n s t a n c e s . ( T h e p s y c h o l o g y of t h e t r a n c e s t a t e i s
d i s c u s s e d i n c h a p t e r one.) T h e s e t r a n c e s were i m p o s e d u p o n t h e
prophets a n d apocalypticists, occurred spontaneously during
t h e s t u d i e s of t h e r a b b i s , a n d w e r e i n d u c e d b y s e r i o u s effort
a m o n g t h e merkavah mystics.
W e a r e n o w i n a p o s i t i o n to s t u d y t h e p s y c h o d y n a m i c i m p l i
cations of t h e s e visions a n d fantasies. Halperin (1988a a n d
1 9 8 8 b ) s u g g e s t s t h a t t h e a s c e n s i o n of t h e merkavah a d e p t to
the divine r e a l m s c a n b e c o n s t r u e d a s a n oedipal i n v a s i o n . O n e
finds few if a n y o b v i o u s current clinical homologues of t h e
merkavah o r hekhaloth mystical dynamicsthat is, symptoms
or f a n t a s i e s . T h e y do o c c u r i n the h a l l u c i n a t i o n s a n d d e l u s i o n s
of s c h i z o p h r e n i c s , b u t u s u a l l y t h e m a t e r i a l t h e r e i s s o florid t h a t
t h e s p e c i f i c s of t h i s p a t t e r n a r e e a s i l y l o s t . 4

4
I n t h e b e s t - k n o w n i n s t a n c e of s c h i z o p h r e n i c p s y c h o s i s i n p s y c h o
analytic literature, the S c h r e b e r case, one easily recognizes the central
features of the h e k h a l o t h fantasy. Daniel P a u l S c h r e b e r , a n i n e t e e n t h
c e n t u r y G e r m a n j u r i s t , d e s c r i b e d h i s e x p e r i e n c e s i n a n u m b e r of e p i s o d e s
o f p s y c h o s i s , i n h i s Memoirs. Freud.(191 l c ) analysed these memoirs a n d
g a v e u s o u r f i r s t u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e d y n a m i c s of s c h i z o p h r e n i c p s y c h o
s i s . ( F o r a n extensive d i s c u s s i o n of S c h r e b e r , h i s b a c k g r o u n d , a n d h i s
illness, see Lothane, 1992.) I n Schreber's delusions a n d hallucinations
164 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

T h e d r e a m world, o n the other h a n d , i s n o t limited b y w h a t is


culturally acceptable, a n d h e r e w e s h a l l h a v e n o difficulty i n
r e c o g n i z i n g c l e a r r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s of t h e s a m e G e s t a l t t h a t w e
e n c o u n t e r i n merkavah mysticism.
I n T h e Interpretation of Dreams, F r e u d ( 1 9 0 0 a , p p . 209ff.)
r e p o r t s h i s o w n d r e a m s , i n c l u d i n g t h e following:

A crowd of people, a meeting of s t u d e n t s . A c o u n t ( T h u n or


Taaffe) w a s s p e a k i n g . . . . It w a s a s though I w a s i n the A u l a
(the great ceremonial h a l l of the University); the e n t r a n c e s
were cordoned off a n d we h a d to escape. I m a d e m y w a y
through a series of beautifully furnished rooms, evidently
m i n i s t e r i a l or public a p a r t m e n t s , with furniture upholstered
i n a colour between b r o w n a n d violet; at l a s t I c a m e to a
corridor, i n w h i c h a housekeeper w a s sitting, a n elderly
stout w o m a n . I avoided s p e a k i n g to her, b u t s h e evidently
thought I h a d a right to p a s s , for s h e a s k e d w h e t h e r s h e
s h o u l d a c c o m p a n y me w i t h the lamp. I indicated to h e r , b y
word o r gesture, that s h e w a s to stop o n the s t a i r c a s e ; a n d
I felt I w a s being very c u n n i n g i n t h u s avoiding inspection a t
the exit. I got downstairs a n d found a n a r r o w a n d steep
a s c e n d i n g p a t h , along w h i c h I went. . . .
I wondered whether to go to K r e m s or Z n a i m , b u t r e
flected that the C o u r t would be i n residence there, s o I
decided i n favour of G r a z , or some s u c h place. I w a s n o w
sitting i n the compartment, w h i c h w a s like a carriage o n the
S t a d t b a h n [the s u b u r b a n railway); a n d i n m y buttonhole I
h a d a peculiar plaited, long-shaped object, a n d beside i t
some violet-brown violets made of a stiff m a t e r i a l . T h i s
greatly s t r u c k people. [At this point the scene broke off.]
O n c e more I w a s i n front of the station, b u t this time i n
the c o m p a n y of a n elderly gentleman. I thought of a p l a n for
r e m a i n i n g unrecognized; a n d then s a w that this p l a n h a d
already been p u t into effect. It w a s a s though t h i n k i n g a n d
experiencing were one a n d the s a m e thing. He a p p e a r e d to

the divine figure is presented either as the God common to the writer and
his audience, or as his doctor, Flechsig. or the sun. We find a celestial host
of subordinated, supernatural creatures, the miracled birds, Schreber's
attempts to gaze at the sun, the symbol of the fiery divine figure. We find
also a concern with enclosures, the "fore-courts of Heaven**. (This material
is discussed in greater detail in chapter two.)
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 165

be b l i n d , a t a l l e v e n t s w i t h one eye, a n d I h a n d e d h i m a m a l e
g l a s s u r i n a l ( w h i c h w e h a d to b u y o r h a d b o u g h t i n town). S o
I w a s a s i c k - n u r s e a n d h a d to give h i m the u r i n a l b e c a u s e h e
w a s b l i n d . If the ticket-collector were to s e e u s like that, h e
w o u l d b e c e r t a i n to let u s get a w a y w i t h o u t noticing u s . H e r e
the m a n ' s attitude a n d h i s m i c t u r a t i n g p e n i s a p p e a r e d i n
p l a s t i c form. [This w a s the point a t w h i c h I awoke, feeling a
n e e d to m i c t u r a t e . !

We encounter here features f a m i l i a r to u s n o w f r o m o u r


merkavah discussion: a crowd surrounding the distinguished
c e n t r a l figure, the Count, a n d later the "elderly gentleman"
w h o s e p e n i s i s v i s u a l i z e d ; a s e r i e s of b e a u t i f u l l y f u r n i s h e d q u a d
r a n g u l a r r o o m s a n d a p a r t m e n t s t h a t h a d to b e t r a v e r s e d , p r e
s i d e d o v e r b y a w o m a n s e a t e d i n a c o r r i d o r ; a n e e d to e s c a p e v i a
exits, u s i n g p a s s e s ; a royal court; a q u a d r a n g u l a r vehicle, the
r a i l r o a d carriage. Here, however, the attitude is quite the oppo
s i t e of t h a t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of merkavali m y s t i c i s m . T h e d r e a m e r i s
leaving rather t h a n arriving. H e descends the stairs, although he
l a t e r a s c e n d s . F r e u d , t h e d r e a m e r , r e f u s e s to defer to t h e a u t h o r
ity a n d e x p r e s s e s c o n t e m p t b o t h explicitly a n d implicitly, pre
s u m i n g to e n t e r a p a r t m e n t s w h e r e h e w a s n o t w e l c o m e . T h e
associations l e a d to a d i s c u s s i o n of h i s i n c l i n a t i o n to r e b e l
a g a i n s t authority. W e recognize there not only h i s political liber
a l i s m , b u t also h i s professional courageous independence. Ulti
mately the d r e a m portrays Freud's ambivalence towards h i s
beloved father.
I n t h e following d r e a m w e s h a l l r e c o g n i z e s o m e o f t h e f e a
t u r e s t h a t a r e f o u n d i n t h e hekhaloth m a t e r i a l s . It w a s r e p o r t e d
b y a m a n w h o h a d b e e n d e p r e s s e d for y e a r s , b u t w a s n o w i n
p a r t i a l r e m i s s i o n w i t h t h e a s s i s t a n c e of m e d i c a t i o n . T h e s t o r y of
h i s life i s o n e of r e p e a t e d p e r v e r s e r e b e l l i o n , followed b y d o w n
fall.

" J was in Brooklyn on Eastern Parkway driving past the head


quarters of the Lubavitch Rebbe. I was sitting in a room with
HasidirrL They said, ' T h i s time it really happened.'Wo, it
couldn't/ What were they talking about? I walked out. They
were all talking. It turned out that the Rebbe had died and
these people believed that he was directly related to G o d . A
number of times he'd been sick but hadn't died. Now he had
166 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

died. If he had had divine protection he should not have died.


They paraded him around on a chair. He would ascend to
heaven in afire. They put me in a chair, which I thought was
strange. They were rocking me back and forth. I fell off the
chair. There was afire. I fell into it."

There is a room in a headquarters. T h e Lubavitch Rebbe


is presented as a c h a r i s m a t i c , religious figure. We find a
merkavah, t h e c h a i r i n w h i c h the R e b b e w o u l d be t r a n s l a t e d i n t o
h e a v e n . T h e p a t i e n t a s s o c i a t e s to the J e w i s h w e d d i n g c u s t o m of
e l e v a t i n g b r i d e a n d g r o o m o n c h a i r s c a r r i e d b y the m o r e v i g o r
o u s g u e s t s . O c c u p y i n g the c h a i r r e p r e s e n t s a n o e d i p a l v i o l a t i o n
of the f a t h e r ' s privilege. T h e d r e a m e r s p e c i f i e s a h o s t of m i n i s t e r
i n g s u b o r d i n a t e s , the H a s i d i m , w h o , like t h e h o s t i l e a n g e l s of t h e
hekhaloth, t h r o w t h e d r e a m e r d o w n to h i s fiery d e a t h . F i r e b o t h
a c c o m p a n i e s the a s c e n t to h e a v e n a n d a w a i t s the t r a v e l l e r w h o
i s e j e c t e d . C l e a r l y , the i n t e n t of the d r e a m i s P r o m e t h e a n , to
a s c e n d to d i v i n e h e i g h t s a n d to d i s p l a c e the f a t h e r god. F o r t h a t ,
the d r e a m e r i s p u n i s h e d .
H e r e i s the d r e a m of a w o m a n w h o c a m e for t r e a t m e n t of
h y s t e r i c a l b l i n d n e s s . I n h e r m i d - f o r t i e s , after h e r c h i l d r e n h a d
g r o w n , s h e h a d gone b a c k to w o r k i n the s a m e b u s i n e s s i n w h i c h
h e r f a t h e r h a d b e e n engaged. S h e h a d loved h i m v e r y m u c h a s a
child, but, a s she remembered, her mother h a d come between
t h e m a n d p r e v e n t e d a n y s i g n i f i c a n t e x c h a n g e of affection. He
h a d d i e d a n u m b e r of y e a r s ago.

U
I was in my father's bedroom. We were talking about busi
ness. He was familiar with the issues that concerned me. I
asked, 'How did you know?' I marvelled about how smart he
was. He worked hard and was familiar with the background
material There was someone else in the room, not my mother.
I was thrilled because I was able to talk to my father about
business. He was very young and strong, very vital. I enjoyed
listening to his usually loud voice, forceful, smiling. I was very
happy, perhaps 23 or 25. He told me what to do, but I wasn't
sure I could do it. I could work for him. I was a little frightened
that I wouldn't do a good job. Perhaps that was not such a
good idea."

i
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 167

He became impatient I was back in the bedroom. It was very


dim. I tried to see him, but I couldn't see him so clearly. He put
on his shoes. He was getUng dressed. I kept saying, 4
How did
you know that that's the right thing to do?*"

I n t h e d r e a m , t h e p a t i e n t r e a l i z e s h e r w i s h for r e u n i o n w i t h
h e r f a t h e r , n o w d e a d , to s e e h i m a n d to h e a r h i m , a n d s h e
a s p i r e s to i d e n t i f y w i t h h i m . S h e i d e a l i z e s h i m , w h i c h s h e t e n d s
to d o i n w a k i n g life. H e r m o t h e r w a s t h e r e ("not m y m o t h e r " ) , b u t
d o e s n o t i n t e r f e r e , t h o u g h h e r i n f l u e n c e i s felt. I n c h i l d h o o d , t h e
mother h a d kept father a n d daughter apart. T h e patient feared
t h a t s h e w o u l d n o t b e a b l e to p l e a s e h e r f a t h e r . H e r d e s i r e to s e e
was frustrated; t h e r e w a s n o t e n o u g h l i g h t . I n fact, s h e w a s v e r y
angry w i t h h e r male employer, whom s h e (probably correctly)
c o n s i d e r e d s t u p i d . W h e n s h e w a s a c h i l d , it w a s h e r b r o t h e r ' s
intelligence that w a s celebrated b y h e r mother. S h e w a s left
feeling s t u p i d , a s h e r employer m a d e h e r feel c u r r e n t l y . T h e
d r e a m e x p r e s s e s h e r t r a n s f e r e n c e d e s i r e to k n o w a n d s e e m o r e
of h e r f a t h e r a n d a n a l y s t , to identify w i t h t h e m , a n d to w i n t h e i r
a d m i r a t i o n a n d love for h e r . T h e hekhalot m y s t i c a l d y n a m i c h e r e
c o n s i s t s of a t t e m p t i n g to c o m b a t h e r e m p l o y e r ' s d e p r e s s i n g d i s
paragement of h e r b y r e m i n d i n g h e r s e l f of h e r love for h e r
psychoanalyst a n d the hope that he valued h e r , a n d h e r tremen
d o u s a d m i r a t i o n for h e r f a t h e r , a s w e l l a s h e r effort to s e e h i s
body, a s s h e h a d watched h i m dress every m o r n i n g i n the
bedroom when s h e w a s a c h i l d , a n d to w a t c h h i m s h a v e i n
t h e b a t h r o o m . S h e h o p e d for r e v e l a t i o n s f r o m h e r f a t h e r a n d h e r
a n a l y s t . L i k e t h e merkavah a n d hekhalot m y s t i c s , f r u s t r a t e d a n d
d i s t r e s s e d b y t h e r e a l i t y of d a i l y life, s h e r e c r e a t e d i n h e r d r e a m
h e r earliest gratifying, exciting, a n d i n s p i r i n g experiences, v i s u
alizing h e r impressive, beloved, a n d loving father i n a n intimate
a n d implicitly s e x u a l context.
T h i s i s t h e d r e a m o f a m a r r i e d w o m a n of 3 7 . S h e h a d b e e n
writing stories about h e r mother, focusing on their anger w i t h
one another.

7 was looking for an apartment. There was a Hispanic


woman with me, perhaps a housekeeper. There was a baby
or a child and also another woman. The apartment was too
small I required a larger apartment.
168 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

I was on a boat in very deep water. It was a clear blue day.


The sides of the boat were open. There were a large number of
sailboats in the water. People and porpoises were there, and
the porpoises could be seen jumping up."

J u s t before telling m e t h a t d r e a m , the p a t i e n t told m e of a d r e a m


t h a t s h e h a d h a d i n the p a s t :

"I saw the Taj MalxaL It was sitting on a small island alone in
the distance. It was illuminated only by its own power. There
was a woman banging on the door and screaming to get in.

There were a number of people in the water. It was very deep.


They held onto the edge as if the edge of a pool They couldn't
swim to the island. They were afraid to try because they
might not make it I talked to them about it and decided to
take a chance and swim Oiere myself. When I got close, I
could see the figure of the woman banging on the door."

T h e p o r p o i s e , s h e told m e , w a s a friendly a n i m a l w h o s e p r e s
e n c e p r o t e c t s o n e a g a i n s t t h e p r e s e n c e of s h a r k s i n t h e w a t e r ,
b e c a u s e p o r p o i s e s drive s h a r k s a w a y . T h e y a r e l i k e h u m a n s , a n d
their presence is reassuring.
O n e i s r e m i n d e d of a n e p i s o d e i n the A p o c a l y p s e of Z e p h a n i a
i n w h i c h t h e v i s i o n a r y i s t r a n s p o r t e d to p a r a d i s e i n a b o a t w i t h
t h o u s a n d s of a n g e l s . " I , myself, p u t o n a n a n g e l i c g a r m e n t . . . . I,
m y s e l f , p r a y e d together w i t h t h e m , I k n e w t h e i r l a n g u a g e , w h i c h
t h e y s p o k e w i t h m e " ( C h a r l e s w o r t h , 1 9 8 3 , p. 5 1 4 ) .
T h i s w o m a n ' s m o t h e r h a d d i e d i n 1 9 8 6 of c a n c e r , w h i c h s h e
h a d h a d for a b o u t s e v e n y e a r s . E a r l y i n the c o u r s e of h e r i l l n e s s ,
s h e h a d c o m e to N e w Y o r k a n d h a d lived w i t h t h e p a t i e n t for a
y e a r , h e l p i n g w i t h the c a r e of the p a t i e n t s d a u g h t e r .
T h e T a j M a h a l d r e a m followed shortly upon her mother's
death. T h e h e k h a l here is the T a j M a h a l (which is a mausoleum)
"illuminated only by its o w n power"; i n the more recent dream,
t h e h e k h a l i s t h e a p a r t m e n t . I n b o t h d r e a m s , t h e r e i s a q u e s t for
a d m i s s i o n , the w o m a n b a n g i n g o n the door of t h e T a j M a h a l a n d
s c r e a m i n g to get i n a n d the d r e a m e r s e e k i n g a larger a p a r t m e n t .
T h e r e w e r e a n u m b e r of people i n the w a t e r , i n d a n g e r . S h e
remembered t h a t w h e n h e r father took h e r a n d h e r y o u n g e r
s i s t e r s w i m m i n g , s h e w o u l d a s k h e r father, if t h e float w e r e to tip
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 169

over, w h o m w o u l d h e s a v e , h e r or h e r s i s t e r . H e s a i d t h a t h e
w o u l d r e s c u e the s i s t e r b e c a u s e s h e , the patient, c o u l d look
after h e r s e l f . A p a r t f r o m the p e o p l e , t h e r e w e r e t h e p o r p o i s e s i n
the water, friendly a n d protective. T h e r e i s a vehicle, the boat.
Here again we see a hekhal, but without a central male figure.
C l e a r l y it r e p r e s e n t s t h e m o t h e r . T h e d r e a m h a d o c c u r r e d o n t h e
n i g h t of a w e d d i n g a n n i v e r s a r y , c e l e b r a t e d w i t h a n e p i s o d e of
s e x u a l intercourse, w h i c h did not occur that frequently. Her
h u s b a n d w a s a w e a l t h y m a n ; it w a s b y v i r t u e of h i s f i n a n c i a l
a s s i s t a n c e t h a t s h e w a s a b l e to look after h e r m o t h e r i n t h e
l a t t e r ' s final d a y s . T h e m a n w a s m e r e l y a n e n a b l e r i n h e r q u e s t
to r e t u r n to h e r m o t h e r .
T h e p e r s o n d e s i g n a t e d i n c h a p t e r one a s C , t h e m a n who
described a spiritual experience at M a c h u P i c c h u , some weeks
t h e r e a f t e r r e p o r t e d t h e following d r e a m :

"I was in the old Madison Square Garden with my brother and
another man. One walked upstairs several flights up, and on
each level there were squash courts, as if the building were a
giant amusement park, I lost track of my brother. I met Sally.
Other people were milling about, engaged in what might have
been after-game conversation. Our heads were very close, on
either side of a large chair. I was kneeling on the chair, and
she was standing behind it. Our lips were moving together to
kiss. At the last moment she pulled away. We were both
embarrassed and apologized. She asked why I want to kiss
her. I said I wasn't sure, it was a feeling between us. She
agreed.

We were separated in the crowd. I walked down a long,


narrow staircase. I took a taxi to go to my street. But the
streets came off at irregular angles, as though they were
zigzagging through a brick building. I saw a place that resem
bled a Roman squarebut without trees, only grass. At the
far end there was an obeliskbut short and square. There
was a building that I associated with Mussolini

I went home, and my parents asked where I had been. My


friend said, You live at home with your parents? That must be
difficult:
170 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

I s h a l l ignore t h e a s s o c i a t i o n s a n d r e f e r e n c e s t h a t r e l a t e to
individual a n d personal matters a n d highlight the archetypes
r e l e v a n t to o u r d i s c u s s i o n .
In this man's subsequent dreams, vehicles a n d vehicular
travel were e m p h a s i z e d . I n one i n s t a n c e the d r e a m e r s a w h i m
s e l f lying on a hospital gurney. I n a s e c o n d , h e steadied a baby
who was seated on a flatbed railroad car that travelled to meet
his mother.
A l t h o u g h C h a d n e v e r h e a r d of J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m a n d w a s
b a r e l y a w a r e of a n y m y s t i c a l s y s t e m s , i n h i s d e s c r i p t i o n of a
b u i l d i n g w i t h s e v e r a l levels o n e a c h of w h i c h s q u a s h courts
c o u l d b e f o u n d h e r e p l i c a t e s i m a g e s of t h e c l a s s i c a l hekhalot of
w h i c h w e h a v e s p o k e n . ( S c h r e b e r a l s o s p e a k s of the fore-courts
of h e a v e n . ) T h e b u i l d i n g w a s l o c a t e d i n M a d i s o n S q u a r e Garden.
W e n o t e d i n c h a p t e r four t h a t the g a r d e n s e r v e s a s a s y m b o l
of m y s t i c a l w i s d o m a n d e n l i g h t e n m e n t , a n d a l s o a s a s y m b o l of
m o t h e r ' s g e n i t a l s or h e r womb)that p a r t of h e r b o d y t h a t e n
c l o s e s , feeds, a n d protects the infant. P u r s u i n g the symbolic
i m a g e r y , t h e people m i l l i n g a b o u t c a n e a s i l y b e i n t e r p r e t e d a s
e q u i v a l e n t to t h e h o s t s of a n g e l s i n h a b i t i n g t h e c o u r t s a n d w a i t
ing u p o n G o d . T h e dreamer finds himself i n a "large chair",
e q u i v a l e n t to t h e t h r o n e of hekhalot i m a g e r y . I s e e t h e t h r o n e a s
a s y m b o l for m o t h e r o r m o t h e r ' s l a p . H e r e the d r e a m e r i s a b o u t
to " k i s s " m o t h e r , b u t a t the l a s t m o m e n t t h e k i s s i s a v e r t e d . T h e y
b o t h a g r e e d t h a t " t h e r e w a s a feeling b e t w e e n u s " . T h e i n c e s t u
ous coupling is prevented. Kneeling, he said, must have
religious overtones.
T h e n e x t s e g m e n t of the d r e a m t r a n s l a t e s t h e d i v i n e c h a m b e r
i m a g e r y to m o r e transparent anatomic imagery. T h e dreamer
d e s c e n d s f r o m the hekhalot a n d f i n d s h i m s e l f i n a k i n d of l a b y
r i n t h o f t e n a s y m b o l for m o t h e r ' s b o d y . H e a r r i v e s b y t a x i a t a
s q u a r e . T h e r e a d e r w i l l r e c a l l t h a t i n c h a p t e r two I s u g g e s t e d
that moving vehicles a n d quadrangular s p a c e s generally repre
s e n t t h e m o t h e r ' s body. G r a s s i s a w e l l - k n o w n s y m b o l for p u b i c
hair. T h e short, square obelisk probably represents the clitoris,
the s t u n t e d p e n i s . T h e b u i l d i n g r e m i n d e d h i m of a c h u r c h . T h e
zigzag s t r e e t s r e m i n d e d h i m of the r u i n s of M a c h u P i c c h u t h a t
h a d m o v e d h i m s o p r o f o u n d l y a few w e e k s p r e v i o u s l y .
T h e f i n a l s e g m e n t i n t e r p r e t s the first t w o n a m e l y , " Y o u live
at home with your parents?"
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 171

This dream seems to d e m o n s t r a t e the equivalence of t h e


hekhalot f a n t a s y i m a g e w i t h t h e f a n t a s y of m o t h e r ' s bodyin
the s e n s e that they both serve a s c h a m b e r s in w h i c h the infant
l o o k s for c o m f o r t , food, p l e a s u r e , a n d p r o t e c t i o n b u t i n w h i c h h e
m a y e n c o u n t e r o p p o s i t i o n f r o m s i b l i n g s (the a n g e l s ) a n d f r o m
f a t h e r (the m a l e G o d ) w h o i s e n s c o n c e d t h e r e . I n t h e s e d r e a m s ,
the latter a p p e a r s only implicitly in the plural, p a r e n t s , a n d also
i m p l i c i t l y b y t h e p r e v e n t i o n of t h e i l l i c i t k i s s o n t h e d i v i n e t h r o n e .
W h a t d o e s t h e p a t t e r n of merkavah m y s t i c i s m look like w h e n
i t f u n c t i o n s a s t h e o r g a n i z i n g p r i n c i p l e of a n i n d i v i d u a l ' s life? A
w o m a n i n h e r m i d d l e fifties c a m e for h e l p a r o u n d t h e e x p e r i e n c e
of h a v i n g b e e n a b a n d o n e d b y h e r s e c o n d h u s b a n d , w h o m s h e
d e s c r i b e d a s " t h e m o s t vital, creative m a n " s h e h a d ever m e t .
S h e h a d grown u p i n a C a t h o l i c family, a n d a s a c h i l d s h e h a d
found gratification a n d h a p p i n e s s i n the c h u r c h a n escape
from home. S h e w a s a n x i o u s a t school, b u t " a w e d b y intelli
gence" a n d , i n fantasy, hoped that having been liberated from a
c a s t l e b y a k n i g h t , s h e w o u l d b e p e r m i t t e d to i n d u l g e i n a s e x u a l
life. W e s e e h e r e a w i s h to m a r r y a n i d e a l i z e d m a n , r e l i g i o u s
orientation i n childhood, a sense of a w e i n t h e p r e s e n c e of
intelligence, a n d a f a n t a s y of s e x u a l experience a s s o c i a t e d w i t h
b e i n g liberated b y a m a l e s a v i o u r from a female c l a u s t r u m . O n e
of h e r m o s t e x c i t i n g e x p e r i e n c e s , s h e r e c a l l s , w a s p e r s o n a l l y
m e e t i n g a m a n w h o h a d really loomed large i n w o r l d history. T h e
patient's sexual interest focused on m e n w h o were w h a t might
b e c a l l e d h e r o i c figures i n t h e c l a s s i c a l s e n s e .
O n one occasion s h e visited the Middle E a s t a n d climbed
M o u n t S i n a i a t n i g h t , a c c o m p a n i e d o n l y b y two B e d o u i n y o u t h s .
S h e w a s e x c i t e d a t t h e top b y " t h e m o s t b e a u t i f u l t h i n g I h a d e v e r
s e e n , t h e s u n r i s e over t h e d e s e r t " . A t t h e top of t h e m o u n t a i n
s h e h a d a s e n s e of " e x t r a o r d i n a r y a l i e n a t i o n f r o m e a r t h " . S h e
thought that the desert w a s so hostile, arid, a n d r o c k y that s h e
c o u l d u n d e r s t a n d w h y t h i s w a s t h e s c e n e of t h e r e v e l a t i o n of t h e
L a w to M o s e s . T h e r o a d l e a d i n g u p M o u n t S i n a i l o o k e d golden
a n d r e m i n d e d h e r of t h e y e l l o w b r i c k r o a d t h a t D o r o t h y followed
i n T h e Wizard of Oz. S h e p r a y e d a s s h e c l i m b e d , t h o u g h s h e
o r d i n a r i l y e s c h e w s r i t u a l . S h e felt " w o n d e r f u l " for d a y s after
w a r d . S h e t o l d m e of o t h e r h a z a r d o u s t r i p s s h e h a d t a k e n a n d
w a s s u r p r i s e d a t " h o w i n t e n s e l y o n e c a n feel t h e q u i e t b e t w e e n
e p i s o d e s o f d a n g e r " . S h e h a d h a d m o m e n t s of " s p i r i t u a l e x a l t a
172 ESOTERIC MYSTICISM, MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

tion". S h e w a s fascinated by men who h a d courageously faced


danger a n d survived. Alongside t h i s a p p r e c i a t i o n of p h y s i c a l
c o u r a g e , s h e w a s i m p r e s s e d b y w i s d o m a n d y e a r n e d for u l t i m a t e
u n d e r s t a n d i n g . W h e n , i n the c o u r s e of h e r t r e a t m e n t , s h e met
a n o t h e r m a n of h e r o i c s t a t u r e w h o w a s r e a d y to s t a r t a n affair
with her, she s a w that a s more than a coincidence. S h e implied
t h a t s h e b e l i e v e d t h a t it h a d b e e n s u p e r n a t u r a l l y d e t e r m i n e d .

" I d e e p l y believe i n i n t e l l i g e n c e s a t w o r k t h a t go b e y o n d w h a t
w e c a n a p p r e c i a t e . It h a s given m e the a b i l i t y to b e a r my
burdens."

T h i s w o m a n w a s able to a c h i e v e a m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e a t the
top of Mt. S i n a i a n d the s e n s e of a r e v e l a t i o n after, a n d p e r h a p s
by means of, e x p o s i n g h e r s e l f to d a n g e r . S h e d i d n o t s e e an
i m a g e of the D e i t y s i t t i n g o n h i s t h r o n e a t the top of the m o u n
t a i n , b u t I infer t h a t s h e felt a s t h o u g h the s u n r i s e t h a t so
impressed her symbolized that. In his discussion of the
S c h r e b e r c a s e , F r e u d ( 1 9 1 1 c ) i n t e r p r e t s the i m a g e of t h e s u n a s
a f a t h e r s y m b o l . T h e a w e t h a t a c c o m p a n i e d the mountain-top
v i e w , a n d the e u p h o r i a t h a t followed it s t r o n g l y s u g g e s t t h a t the
m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e c o n s i s t e d of a f a n t a s y of v i s u a l i z a t i o n of or
u n i o n w i t h G o d , the a l l - p o w e r f u l f a t h e r figure. S h e d e e p l y felt
the p r o f o u n d r e l a t i o n s h i p a m o n g d a n g e r , the i l l u s i o n of r e b i r t h
t h a t e s c a p e e n c o u r a g e s , a n d the r e v e l a t i o n t h a t p a s s e s for w i s
d o m . S h e obtained knowledge by contact w i t h h e r heroic m e n ,
m e n l a r g e r t h a n life. W h e n I a s k e d h e r w h a t i m a g e s of h e r o i c
stature h a d she encountered in childhood, she replied, "the
l a r g e i m a g e of C h r i s t o n the large c r o s s i n c h u r c h " . T h e n she
s a i d that she h a d never really been impressed by C h r i s t a n d all
of h i s s u f f e r i n g , b u t b y G o d the F a t h e r w h o i s n e v e r g r a p h i c a l l y
represented in c h u r c h .
T h i s w o m a n i s not a d e c l a r e d m y s t i c , b u t s h e s e e k s e x a l t i n g
e x p e r i e n c e s i n the form of r e v e l a t i o n s , b o t h v i s u a l a n d cognitive,
b y e x p o s i n g h e r s e l f to d a n g e r a n d a t t a c h i n g h e r s e l f to c o u r a
geous m e n w h o themselves brave danger a n d acquire w i s d o m .
Large religious images h a v e i m p r e s s e d h e r , a n d the s p i r i t u a l
h i g h p o i n t of h e r life w a s a t t a i n e d b y the c l i m b u p M o u n t S i n a i ,
to p a r t i c i p a t e i n the t h e o p h a n y t h a t M o s e s h a d a c h i e v e d . I n the
r e a l w o r l d , h e r c r i t e r i a for s e l e c t i n g a h u s b a n d b r o u g h t h e r m e n
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 173

w h o w e r e p a t h o l o g i c a l l y n a r c i s s i s t i c a n d u n a b l e to give h e r t h e
love t h a t s h e c r a v e d a n d t h a t c o u l d n o t b e r e p l a c e d b y a r e v e l a
t i o n . A n d h e r c o n t i n u i n g s e a r c h for i l l u s i o n left h e r r e a l life, n o t
u n s u c c e s s f u l , b u t to h e r , m e a n i n g l e s s a n d u n r e w a r d i n g . ( H e r
c o m m e n t s a b o u t C h r i s t on the c r o s s suggest the possibility that
t h a t i s a s t r i k i n g e x a m p l e of t h e D e i t y i n h i s t h r o n e c h a r i o t , b u t
i n this c a s e a particularly hostile throne chariot that torments
a n d kills its occupant.)
A note a b o u t heights: I n the a n c i e n t world, the holy p l a c e s
w e r e t h e h e i g h t s . G o d or the gods were u s u a l l y v i s u a l i z e d a s
r e s i d i n g o n t h e top of a h o l y m o u n t a i n , s u c h a s M t . O l y m p u s , M t .
Sinai. This location reproduces the child's experience of
t h e p a r e n t ' s face a n d a r m s a s a b o v e h i m , a n d h e l o n g s to b e lifted
u p b y their a r m s . W h e n the gods a r e n o t visualized on a n a c c e s
sible m o u n t a i n , they are visualized in heaven. T h e merkavah,
E z e k i e l ' s chariot, i s visualized i n the heavens. A t s o m e point the
g o d s a r e d o m e s t i c a t e d b y b e i n g b r o u g h t into a b u i l d i n g , a t e m
p l e , a h e k h a l . O f t e n t h e two c o n c e p t s a r e c o m b i n e d . T h e m y s t i c
ascends through the various heavensusually sevento the
c o u r t i n w h i c h t h e god i s to b e f o u n d . A s i m i l a r c o m b i n a t i o n
o c c u r s i n the l a s t d r e a m reported: the d r e a m e r a s c e n d s inside
a b u i l d i n g t o t h e c o u r t a t t h e top l e v e l . I n g e n e r a l , i n t h e
e a r l y merkavalx m a t e r i a l s , a s c e n t i s e m p h a s i z e d . I n t h e hekhalot
m a t e r i a l s , it i s t h e c h a m b e r , t h e i n t e r i o r , t h a t b e c o m e s s a l i e n t .
M y a i m i n p r e s e n t i n g t h e s e d r e a m s i s to s h o w t h a t d e s p i t e
wide differences i n material a n d social c i r c u m s t a n c e s , the b a s i c
s t r u c t u r e of t h e merkavali a n d hekhalot mystics is reproduced
w i t h a m a z i n g p r e c i s i o n i n t h e d r e a m s a n d f a n t a s i e s of m o d e r n s ,
w h e t h e r E u r o p e a n s or A m e r i c a n s . I n b o t h w e find: a central
authority, a p a r e n t a l figure, residing within a quadrangular
c h a m b e r , a r o o m o r a s p a c e c a l l e d a c o u r t or a g a r d e n ; t h e figure
i s often s e e n o n a c h a i r , t h r o n e , o r o t h e r s e a t ; t h e s u b j e c t s t r i v e s
to s e e h i m a n d a p p r o a c h h i m , n o t d a r i n g to h o p e to t o u c h h i m ;
o c c a s i o n a l l y t h e g e n i t a l i s e x p l i c i t l y t h e o b j e c t of i n t e r e s t ; t h e
subject encounters obstacleswhether inanimate barriers or
hostile c r e a t u r e s i n h i s quest; occasionally the latter a r e c o n
t r o l l e d b y b e n i g n f r i e n d l y c r e a t u r e s ; often c r o w d s a r e e n c o u n
tered, angels in the m y s t i c a l images a n d other h u m a n s i n the
d r e a m ; often v e h i c l e s c o n v e y t h e s u b j e c t to h i s g o a l . T h e s c h o l a r
of J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m w i l l s e a r c h for t h e d e t e r m i n a n t s of t h e
174 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

d e t a i l s of t h e s e i m a g e s i n the n a t u r a l e n v i r o n m e n t a n d i n t h e
a r t e f a c t s of the a u t h o r s of the i m a g e s . T h e p s y c h o a n a l y s t , a c
k n o w l e d g i n g the r e l e v a n c e of t h e s e r e a l i a , w i l l try to e x p l a i n w h y
t h e s e s p e c i f i c i t e m s w e r e s e l e c t e d b y r e f e r r i n g to the u n i v e r s a l
u n c o n s c i o u s f a n t a s i e s of m a n k i n d , w h i c h a r e b a s e d u p o n c h i l d
hood experience a n d fantasy.
T h e p a t t e r n i s s i m p l e . T h e i n d i v i d u a l a s p i r a n t c u l t i v a t e s the
i l l u s i o n t h a t h e will a p p r o a c h or u n i t e w i t h a p a t e r n a l figure w h o
is ensconced in a maternal c l a u s t r u m . T h e desired elevating
e x p e r i e n c e m a y be l i m i t e d to s e e i n g G o d , or it m a y p r o c e e d to
a p p r o a c h i n g H i m . I n merkavah m y s t i c a l t e x t s , w e do n o t en
c o u n t e r a n y a t t e m p t to u n i t e w i t h or s u p p l a n t H i m . T h e r e t r e a t
to mystical experience is usually precipitated by a stress,
c h r o n i c or a c u t e , a n d i t s e l f c o n s t i t u t e s a r e g r e s s i o n . T h e m y s t i c
r e j e c t s , r e t r e a t s from, or m e n t a l l y d e s t r o y s the r e a l w o r l d a n d
a c h i e v e s r e b i r t h b y r e g r e s s i n g to i l l u s i o n , the i l l u s i o n of r e v i s i t
ing a n early, probably historical state, namely, participating i n
powerful intimacy with parents, s u c h a s being i n bed w i t h them.
T h e b a s i c merkavaJi f a n t a s y m a y be r e p l a c e d b y a n y of a
n u m b e r of v a r i a n t s . F i r s t , the m o s t p r i m i t i v e v a r i a n t s u g g e s t e d
i s the i n f a n t ' s w i s h to r e t u r n to the safe, m a t e r n a l c l a u s t r u m . 5

T h a t c l a u s t r u m i s s y m b o l i z e d b y a c o n t a i n e r of w h a t e v e r form.
A s w e o b s e r v e d above, one q u a l i t y t h a t o c c u r s w i t h s u r p r i s
i n g f r e q u e n c y is r e c t a n g u l a r i t y , s o m e t i m e s s y m b o l i z e d by the
n u m b e r four. R e c t a n g u l a r i t y a n d the n u m b e r four a r e e n c o u n
tered in both the mystical texts and clinically encountered
d r e a m s . S i n c e four a l s o s y m b o l i z e s the four b a s i c d i r e c t i o n s of
s p a c e , it c a n s o m e t i m e s refer to the e n t i r e c o s m o s t h e c o n v e r s e
of t h e c l a u s t r u m . T h e rnerkcwcdr i n E z e k i e l i s a f o u r - s i d e d s t r u c
t u r e i n c o r p o r a t i n g four c r e a t u r e s , e a c h of w h i c h h a s four faces
a n d four w i n g s . I n the D a n i e l a n d R e v e l a t i o n a p o c a l y p s e s , differ
e n t s e t s of four b e a s t s or b e i n g s a r e d e s c r i b e d . T h e c h a m b e r a n d
p a l a c e s t r u c t u r e s m a y be p r e s u m e d to be q u a d r a n g u l a r . T h e
p r o p h e c i e s of b o t h I s a i a h a n d E z e k i e l a t o t h e r p o i n t s refer to the
four c o m p a s s points.

Lewin, in his classic paper, " T h e Body as Phallus" (1973), rings


5

changes on this symbolic equation. He demonstrates its pregenital roots


and an associated "post-phallic reorganization of the libidinal compo
nents". He also considers the possible combinations of respective owners
of the body and the phallus.
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 175

I believe that the n u m b e r four symbolizes the maternal


c l a u s t r u m . Rectangularity m a y symbolize either the c l a u s t r u m
i t s e l f o r t h e v e h i c l e t h a t t r a n s p o r t s t h e d r e a m e r to t h e c l a u s
t r u m . J u n g (1958) d i s c u s s e s t h e q u a t e r n i t y a t l e n g t h b u t a s a
C h r i s t i a n s y m b o l . H e s e e s i t a s a m o d i f i c a t i o n of t h e T r i n i t y b y
t h e a d d i t i o n of a f o u r t h e l e m e n t , w h i c h m i g h t b e t h e f e m a l e , t h e
devil, or the u n c o n s c i o u s . T h e quaternity, h e s a y s , " i s s u e s from"
t h e anima, a feminine figure w h o b e c o m e s t h e matrix of the
q u a t e r n i t y , o r M a t e r Dei
I n a s e c o n d v a r i a n t of t h e f u n d a m e n t a l p a t t e r n , a c c e s s to t h e
c l a u s t r u m i s impeded b y obstacles or b y dangerous creatures
who serve a s its guardians. Chasseguet-Smirgel, i n a n e s s a y
e n t i t l e d " T h e A r c h a i c M a t r i x of t h e O e d i p u s C o m p l e x " (1986),
proposes that:

T h e r e e x i s t s a p r i m a r y d e s i r e to discover a u n i v e r s e w i t h o u t
o b s t a c l e s , w i t h o u t r o u g h n e s s o r differences, entirely s m o o t h ,
identified w i t h the mother's belly s t r i p p e d of its contents, a n
interior to w h i c h o n e h a s free a c c e s s .

Following Melanie Klein, s h e interprets the obstacles u s u a l l y


e n c o u n t e r e d i n t h e r e t u r n trip to t h e m a t e r n a l c l a u s t r u m a s t h e
father's penis, other children, a n d the faeces i n the mother's
body. Although closed doors, snow, heights, a n d other b a r r i e r s
impede the traveller i n some clinical i n s t a n c e s , I find that i n
m o s t fantasies a n d d r e a m s it i s hostile c r e a t u r e s that b a r t h e
w a y , fierce a n d f r i g h t e n i n g e n e m i e s , numbers of c h i l d r e n , o r
unfriendly animals. Chasseguet-Smirgel proposes that the ob
stacles represent realitythe reality that dictates that, h a v i n g
left t h e m a t e r n a l p r o t e c t i v e e n v e l o p e , t h e c h i l d c a n n o t possibly
find its w a y b a c k . I n m a n y i n s t a n c e s , the individual i s n o t only
impeded, blocked, challenged, or threatened, b u t a c t u a l l y d e
s t r o y e d , a s , for e x a m p l e , i n t h e " F o u r E n t e r e d t h e G a r d e n " t e x t
a n d i n the s e c o n d dream. Accordingly, we m u s t emphasize not
m e r e l y t h e i m p o s s i b i l i t y of r e t u r n i n g , b u t a c t u a l l y t h a t t h e a t
t e m p t to r e t u r n i s h a z a r d o u s .
I i n f e r t h e e x i s t e n c e of a n a f f e c t - r e g u l a t i n g s y s t e m t h a t a u t o
m a t i c a l l y a c t s to o p p o s e a n i m p u l s e of e x c e s s i v e s t r e n g t h , i n fact,
to a c t i v a t e a n o p p o s i t e t e n d e n c y . T o o s t r o n g a d e s i r e to m o v e
t o w a r d s o n e g o a l , or too p r e s u m p t u o u s a m o v e , e i t h e r i n r e a l i t y
or f a n t a s y , a u t o m a t i c a l l y e l i c i t s a n e q u a l l y v i g o r o u s t e n d e n c y to
176 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

m o v e t o w a r d s its opposite. O n e s e e s i n m a n y d r e a m s a s e r i e s of
a u t o m a t i c , r e c i p r o c a l , o v e r c o m p e n s a t i n g c o r r e c t i o n s . I n the s e c
o n d d r e a m , w e find one s u c h o v e r c o m p e n s a t i n g c o r r e c t i o n : t h e
P r o m e t h e a n r e p l a c e m e n t of the father i n the t h r o n e - c h a r i o t r e
s u l t s i n the d r e a m e r ' s l i t e r a l d o w n f a l l .
T h a t the m a t e r n a l , u t e r i n e c l a u s t r u m i s i m a g i n e d to be the
s i t e w i t h i n w h i c h r i v a l s w e r e e n c o u n t e r e d i n the p a s t w a s e s t a b
l i s h e d by Arlow (1960, 1972). In accordance with this fantasy,
s o m e of h i s p a t i e n t s p r e s e n t e d c l i n i c a l l y w i t h c l a u s t r o p h o b i c or
claustrophilic symptoms.
B o t h texts a n d d r e a m s s p e a k of the c r e a t u r e s t h a t e i t h e r
facilitate or o p p o s e the m y s t i c a l q u e s t . T h e y m a y b e adults,
c h i l d r e n , a n i m a l s , or a n g e l s , s o m e t i m e s c h i m e r a s f r i e n d l y o r
u n f r i e n d l y s u c h a s the c h i m e r a s of E z e k i e l ' s c h a r i o t . T h e i m
a g e s m i g h t a r i s e from a f r a g m e n t a t i o n a n d d i s t o r t i o n of a c t u a l
p a r e n t a l or s i b l i n g i m a g e s , s u c h a s a r e e n c o u n t e r e d i n d e l i r i u m .
I n c h a p t e r two, I o b s e r v e d t h a t p e r c e p t i o n i s b a s i c a l l y m o d u l a r .
W h o l e p e r c e p t s c o n s i s t of a c o n s t r u c t i o n of e l e m e n t a r y c o m p o
n e n t s . H o w e v e r , i n pathology or other u n u s u a l c i r c u m s t a n c e s
the i n t e g r a t i o n m a y go a w r y so t h a t u n r e a s o n a b l e connections
a r e m a d e or u n r e a l i s t i c c o m p o s i t e s i m a g i n e d . T h e s e c r e a t u r e s
m a y a l s o r e p r e s e n t the e a r l i e s t form of s o c i e t y into w h i c h the
c h i l d m u s t e n t e r i n l a t e n c y a s h e p r e p a r e s to leave h i s p a r e n t s .
T h i s feature of the merkavah f a n t a s y p e r m i t s t h e e x p r e s s i o n of
e i t h e r m y s t i c a l identification or r i v a l r y w i t h s i b l i n g s .
T h e t h i r d m a j o r v a r i a n t t h a t w e m u s t c o n s i d e r i s the a s p i r a
t i o n to e n c o u n t e r the father w i t h i n the m a t e r n a l c l a u s t r u m . I n
the merkavah a n d hekhaloth texts, the m a t e r n a l c l a u s t r u m is
s y m b o l i z e d b y the t h r o n e on w h i c h h e s i t s , or the hekhal or
c h a m b e r i n w h i c h h e i s f o u n d . I n Hekhaloth Rabbati (3:2), the
t h r o n e b o w s to G o d a n d b e g s H i m to be s e a t e d o n it, r e a s s u r i n g
H i m t h a t H e does n o t r e s t too h e a v i l y u p o n it (her). A t a n o t h e r
p o i n t ( 2 4 : 1 ) , the t h r o n e j o i n s i n s i n g i n g h y m n s to G o d . G e r s h o m
S c h o l e m ( 1 9 6 2 ) q u o t e s a p a r a b l e from the book Bahir y a very
e a r l y K a b b a l i s t i c text:

He s a i d : the thing is like a k i n g who h a d a throne. Sometimes


he took it i n his a r m s , sometimes he p u t it on h i s head. T h e y
a s k e d h i m : w h y ? B e c a u s e it w a s beautiful a n d it s a d d e n e d
h i m to s i t u p o n it. T h e y a s k e d h i m : a n d where does he p u t it
o n h i s h e a d ? He s a i d : in the open letter menu a s it is written:
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 177

[Ps. 85:12] " T r u t h s p r i n g s u p from the e a r t h ; j u s t i c e looks


d o w n from h e a v e n . " T h e open mem is . . . a s y m b o l of t h e
feminine, [p. 60]

A c h i l d o f eight r e p o r t e d t h e following d r e a m :

*I saw a crocodile or alligator, and I was in a small sort of


cabin. The crocodile stuck his head between the bars, and
that looked funny. And the crocodile kept on moving from side
to side, and I kept onjumping from side to side too. And finally
he got me. And instead of biting a chunk out of me, a sort of
tooth stuck in me. And I tried to pull it out, and I did not
succeed Then we went to supper, a n d t h e n I w o k e u p . "

T h e c h i l d h a s t a k e n refuge i n t h e m a t e r n a l c l a u s t r u m , b u t
s h e is still n o t safe from the father's aggressive i n t r u s i o n (though
the outcome i s not altogether u n h a p p y ) .
Encountering father w i t h i n the m a t e r n a l c l a u s t r u m m a y
r e p r e s e n t e i t h e r of two o r g a n i z i n g f a n t a s i e s n a m e l y , b e i n g c o n
fronted w i t h a p r i m a l scene or w i s h i n g to b e l o v e d b y b o t h
w i t h o u t t h e s t r e s s of r i v a l r y , a s t h e c h i l d feels w h e n h e i s i n b e d
between both parents.
O n e m a y a p p r o a c h t h e r o y a l f a t h e r o u t of love a n d a y e a r n i n g
to b e t r a n s f o r m e d , i n v i g o r a t e d , r e b o r n b y t h e a p p r o a c h or c o n
tact w i t h h i m . O n the other h a n d , one m a y a p p r o a c h h i m i n a n
a r r o g a n t , d e f i a n t w a y , w i t h t h e P r o m e t h e a n i n t e n t i o n of l o o k i n g
a t w h a t o n e s h o u l d n o t look a t , or d e p o s i n g a n d s u p e r s e d i n g h i m
(cf. F r e u d ' s " C o u n t T h u n " d r e a m ) . I n t h e l a t t e r c a s e , t h e d a n g e r
of d e s t r u c t i o n l e n d s i t s e l f to i n t e r p r e t a t i o n a s p u n i s h m e n t . T h e
o e d i p a l f a n t a s y i n t h i s c o n t e x t m a y b e c o n s i d e r e d a v a r i a n t of
the P r o m e t h e a n . It i s to s i g n a l ( a n d effect) d e f e r e n c e i n the
a p p r o a c h t h a t t h e hekhaloth t e x t s p r e s c r i b e h y m n s a n d l i t u r g i e s
i d e a l i z i n g t h e deity a n d effacing t h e self.
W e m u s t t a k e n o t e of t h e fact t h a t i n a l m o s t a l l merkavah
a n d hekhaloth-type d r e a m s the d r e a m e r e n c o u n t e r s r e s i s t a n c e
to h i s q u e s t . H e fails to a r r i v e a t h i s d e s t i n a t i o n . O r h i s p a t h i s
obstructed. O r he encounters hazards s u c h a s unstable bridges,
r i v e r s difficult to c r o s s , i n s e c u r e h i g h p l a c e s . O r h o s t i l e forces
a t t a c k h i m or b a r t h e w a y . O r h e e n c o u n t e r s d a n g e r o u s a n i m a l s .
O r the c l a u s t r u m itself ejects h i m . A s a n a d u l t , the eight-year
o l d c h i l d r e p o r t e d a l s o t h e following d r e a m :
178 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

7 was in the desert It was strange. There was a whirlwind


around a hole in the desert an oasis, a sinkhole, or a pit in the
sand or quicksand. I looked at it. There were animals around
it, desert animals, strange and interesting. A woman had
painted a picture of it She said, 'IVs a real scene/ She was
an older woman. The animals weren't real. They looked rather
like animcdrlike jewellery.'*

I n t h e c h i l d h o o d d r e a m , the c r o c o d i l e t h r e a t e n e d h e r a n d b i t
her. I n this dream, the oasis w a s simultaneously a q u i c k s a n d
a n d w a s surrounded by "desert animals". S h e w a s threatened
w i t h b e i n g c o n s u m e d b y the m o t h e r , w h o m s h e rejoined. A s
I observed above, i n the hekhaloth texts themselves, the i n
dividual w h o ascends encounters murderous guards, gatekeep
ers, a n d angels w h o behave more like demons t h a n angels. I n
fact, t h e prototypic merkavah v i s i o n of E z e k i e l s t a r t s w i t h a
dangerous windstorm, a s does this dream.
I find it of s o m e i n t e r e s t t h a t e a c h of t h e d a n g e r s a p p e a r s
also in classic phobiasthat i s , fears of t r a v e l l i n g , of h i g h
p l a c e s , of b r i d g e s , of w a t e r , of a n i m a l s , of c l o s e d s p a c e s , of o p e n
s p a c e s . T h a t fact e n c o u r a g e s t h e s p e c u l a t i o n t h a t c l a s s i c p h o
b i a s r e p r e s e n t one a s p e c t of a p r e v a i l i n g u s e of a merkavah or
hekhaloth f a n t a s y a s a m e a n s of r e s o l v i n g a n x i e t y . T h e p a t i e n t s
w h o s e d r e a m s I have reported, a n d others w h o present s i m i l a r
d r e a m s , do n o t p r e s e n t p r i m a r i l y a s p h o b i c s . U s u a l l y t h e i r c o m
p l a i n t s i n d i c a t e s o m e d i s o r d e r of affect r e g u l a t i o n . B u t a l m o s t a l l
acknowledge some phobic concerns.
Why does danger i n h e r e i n these dreams a n d fantasies?
O n e m i g h t p r o p o s e a n oedipal e x p l a n a t i o n , or a n a p p e a l to t h e
Promethean paradigm, which would require p u n i s h m e n t for
p r e s u m p t i o n . It i s a l s o p o s s i b l e t h a t t h e a n x i e t y t h a t a p p e a r s i n
t h e s e e x p e r i e n c e s i s m e r e l y the s a m e a n x i e t y t h a t t h e d r e a m e r
i s t r y i n g to e s c a p e b y s e e k i n g o u t t h e safety a n d g r a t i f i c a t i o n of
the c l a u s t r u m , a n d t h a t n o w p u r s u e s h i m . It i s t h i s a n x i e t y t h a t
d e n i e s h i m t h e comfort a n d refuge t h a t h e s e e k s .
T h e s i n g i n g , a n d e s p e c i a l l y the u n i s o n s i n g i n g a t t r i b u t e d to
the a n g e l i c h o s t s , e m p h a s i z e s the m u t u a l b o n d i n g f u n c t i o n of
s i n g i n g for m o t h e r a n d i n f a n t .
T h e d e c l a r e d puqoose of the a p o c a l y p s e i s to r e v e a l a s e c r e t ,
to c o n v e y s o m e u n k n o w n b u t m a g i c a l l y p o r t e n t o u s a n d p o t e n t
T H E P S Y C H O D A Y N A M I C S O F MERKAVAH MYSTICISM 179

i n f o r m a t i o n . I n s o m e of t h e c l i n i c a l m a t e r i a l (for e x a m p l e , t h e
t h i r d dream) a n d the m y s t i c a l texts, meaningful revelations p l a y
a n i m p o r t a n t r o l e . T h e p u r p o s e of t h e a s c e n t i s to s e e G o d , t h e
ultimate mystery. To make one's w a y there one m u s t know
the proper h y m n s a n d i n c a n t a t i o n s . T h e c o n c l u d i n g s e c t i o n of
t h e Hekhaloth Rabbati, k n o w n a s the S a r - T o r a h section, starting
with chapter 27, guarantees t h e p r a c t i t i o n e r t h e c a p a c i t y to
m a s t e r s a c r e d learning. S e c r e c y , esotericism, is u s e d i n opposite
w a y s i n religious m a t e r i a l w e a r e c o n s i d e r i n g . It i s a g u a r a n t e e of
p o t e n c y a n d r e l e v a n c e i n t h e p r o p h e t i c a n d hekhaloth texts, b u t
it i s u s e d to r e s t r i c t t r a n s m i s s i o n a n d d i f f u s i o n i n t h e T a l m u d i c
texts. I n K a b b a l i s t i c circles, we e n c o u n t e r controversies b e t w e e n
those e n c o u r a g i n g p o p u l a r diffusion a n d those d e m a n d i n g eso
tericism.
If m y t h e s i s t h a t merkavah mysticism is based upon an
organizing fantasy that prevails broadly i n the population is
valid, then we m u s t seriously consider the likelihood that all
mystical systems are similarly based upon widely prevailing
o r g a n i z i n g f a n t a s i e s . T h a t i n f e r e n c e r e m a i n s to b e v a l i d a t e d .
W e m u s t also consider the r e s e m b l a n c e between the c i r c u m
s t a n c e s of p s y c h o a n a l y t i c t h e r a p y a n d t h e f a n t a s i e s of merkavah
m y s t i c i s m . I n the therapeutic c h a m b e r , there is a c h a r i s m a t i c
a u t h o r i t y figure, e n t h r o n e d w i t h i n a protective c l a u s t r u m . I r e
m e m b e r a n i n c i d e n t t h a t o c c u r r e d d u r i n g t h e s t u d e n t r i o t s of
1 9 6 8 . A p a t i e n t w h o w a s a f a c u l t y m e m b e r of a l o c a l u n i v e r s i t y
c a m e to m y office for h i s s e s s i o n after a p a r t i c u l a r l y difficult d a y ,
l a y d o w n o n t h e c o u c h , a n d s a i d , " I t ' s n i c e to get b a c k to t h e
i v o r y t o w e r " . Negative affects a r e g e n e r a t e d e i t h e r b y e x c e s s i v e
f r u s t r a t i o n of t h i s a t t a c h m e n t a s , for e x a m p l e , b y t h e t h e r a
pist's vacationor by excessive gratification, w h i c h leads to
c o r r e c t i v e f e a r s . U n c o v e r i n g s e c r e t s r e l a t i n g to t h e p a t i e n t ' s p a s t
or to h i s fate, a s w e l l a s to t h e p r i v a t e life o f t h e a n a l y s t , i s a
major quest of t h e p a t i e n t . Under such c i r c u m s t a n c e s , the
t h e r a p y or a n a l y s i s b e c o m e s protective a n d gratifying b y v i r t u e
of t h e e x p e r i e n c e itself, a b o v e a n d b e y o n d the validity of the
interpretations.
I n d i v i d u a l s for w h o m t h e merkavah fantasy plays a n organiz
i n g r o l e a r e i n c l i n e d to f o r m s t r o n g i d e a l i z i n g a t t a c h m e n t s a n d to
react against t h e m equally strongly. Sometimes one, sometimes
the other sentiment prevails, a n d sometimes they alternate.
180 E S O T E R I C M Y S T I C I S M , MERKAVAH AND HEKHALOT

Summary

Merkavah m y s t i c i s m refers to a m y s t i c a l s y s t e m t h a t p r e v a i l e d
i n t h e J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y for a b o u t a t h o u s a n d y e a r s , b a s i n g
i t s e l f u p o n t h e c h a r i o t a n d t h r o n e v i s i o n s of t h e p r o p h e t s a n d
f i n d i n g e x p r e s s i o n s u b s e q u e n t l y i n a p o c a l y p t i c texts, r a b b i n i c
d i s c u s s i o n s , a n d hekhaloth i n c a n t a t i o n s , p r a y e r s , a n d h y m n s .
T h e b a s i c f a n t a s y i s t h a t of a n a s p i r a n t h o p i n g to e n t e r i n t o a
c l a u s t r u m to a c h i e v e s i g h t of a n d p h y s i c a l c l o s e n e s s to a m a l e
deity s e a t e d w i t h i n i t . V e h i c l e s p l a y a p a r t i n t h e m o v e m e n t
t o w a r d s t h e d e s i r e d goal, a s w e l l a s i n t h e i m a g e of t h e c l a u s
t r u m itself.
Similar imagesarchetypes p e r h a p s a r e encountered i n the
i l l u s i o n s o f t h e d e l i r i o u s , i n t h e h a l l u c i n a t i o n s of t h e p s y c h o t i c ,
a n d i n t h e d r e a m s of t h e n o r m a l . W e infer t h a t a c o m m o n l y
encountered a r c h a i c a n d unconscious organizing psychodyn
a m i c f a n t a s y d e t e r m i n e s t h e b a s i c p a t t e r n s of t h e f o r m u l a t i o n s of
merkavah mysticism.
I n t h e u n d e r l y i n g w i s h f a n t a s y , t h e i n d i v i d u a l s e e k s to r e p e a t
c h i l d h o o d e x p e r i e n c e or f a n t a s i e s of p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n p a r e n t a l
intimacy.
I n d i v i d u a l s w h o favour t h i s f a n t a s y often d e s c r i b e phobic
aversions and tend to form idealizing attachments and
a m b i v a l e n t l y to r e b e l a g a i n s t t h e m .
T h e psychotherapeutic a n d analytic situation c a n be seen b y
s u c h p a t i e n t s a s a gratification of t h e a r c h e t y p a l w i s h of t h e
merkavah mystical aspiration.
Are all mystical systems based upon widely prevailing, u n
conscious organizing fantasies?
METHODOLOGY

CHAPTER SIX

Methodological reflections
on psychoanalysis
and Judaic studies:
a response to Mortimer Ostow
David J . Halperin

W
h i l e d o i n g r e s e a r c h a t the H e b r e w U n i v e r s i t y i n J e r u
s a l e m i n t h e s u m m e r of 1989, I h a d l u n c h one day
with a distinguished Bible scholar w h o m I h a d k n o w n
for s o m e fifteen y e a r s . H e a s k e d m e w h a t I w a s w o r k i n g o n . I told
h i m I w a s e n g a g e d i n a s t u d y of the p r o p h e t E z e k i e l f r o m a
p s y c h o a n a l y t i c p e r s p e c t i v e . I s k e t c h e d for h i m s o m e of t h e p e r
spectives on E z e k i e l that were emerging from this s t u d y ( w h i c h
was published s o m e four y e a r s later [Halperin, 1993]). A s I
s p o k e , I n o t i c e d h i s e y e s b e g i n to glaze over. W h e n I f i n i s h e d , h e
c h a n g e d the s u b j e c t . H e o b v i o u s l y f o u n d w h a t I s a i d u n c o n v i n c
i n g a n d p e r h a p s a l s o u n i n t e r e s t i n g ; y e t h e offered n o c r i t i c i s m
whatsoever.
I u n d e r s t o o d t h e m a n ' s r e s p o n s e . H e d i d n o t m e a n to d i s p a r
age w h a t I w a s doing, a n d c e r t a i n l y n o t to e x p r e s s personal
d i s r e s p e c t for m e . B u t I w a s advancing proposals for under
s t a n d i n g t h e B i b l e t h a t w e r e s o a l i e n to h i s u n i v e r s e of d i s c o u r s e
t h a t h e h a d n o w a y to r e s p o n d . M o d e m c r i t i c a l B i b l e s c h o l a r
s h i p , to w h i c h h e o w e d h i s a l l e g i a n c e , s i m p l y d o e s n o t allow
c e r t a i n q u e s t i o n s o n i t s a g e n d a ; a n d t h e r e i s n o w a y to r e s p o n d
w h e n s o m e o n e d e c i d e s to r a i s e t h e m , e x c e p t to s a y t h a t t h e y a r e

183
184 METHODOLOGY

t h e w r o n g q u e s t i o n s . T o quote t h e p r o n o u n c e m e n t of one m o d
ern Biblicist: ". . . w e m u s t p r e s c i n d from psychology at the
d i s t a n c e of m i l l e n n i a " (Heider, 1 9 8 5 , p. 4 0 7 ) .
T h e r e a c t i o n h a s a c e r t a i n l e g i t i m a c y . T h e c o m m o n p r o j e c t of
s c h o l a r s h i p , l i k e o u r i n d i v i d u a l p r o j e c t s , i s u n l i k e l y to p r o g r e s s
u n l e s s s c h o l a r s a r e p r e p a r e d to f o c u s t h e i r e n e r g i e s u p o n an
a g r e e d - u p o n s e t of i s s u e s a n d leave o t h e r s o u t s i d e t h e i r p u r
v i e w . Y e t it c a n a l s o be t r a g i c a l l y l i m i t i n g .
It i s r e a s o n a b l e to i n s i s t t h a t a text, a n c i e n t or m o d e r n , i s n o t
a t r a n s p a r e n t w i n d o w into t h e s o u l of a n o t h e r h u m a n b e i n g , b u t
a l i t e r a r y c r e a t i o n t h a t i s a p t to follow quite n o n - p s y c h o l o g i c a l
l a w s of i t s o w n . It i s r e a s o n a b l e , too, t h a t w e r e c a l l t h a t " t h e p a s t
i s a different c o u n t r y , t h e y do t h i n g s differently t h e r e " , a n d t h a t 1

a n a n c i e n t p r o p h e t or m y s t i c i s a p t to h a v e b e e n v e r y different
f r o m a t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y a n a l y s a n d . A n d y e t b o o k s do n o t c o m e
into b e i n g b y s p o n t a n e o u s g e n e r a t i o n . T h e y a r e w r i t t e n b y m e m
b e r s of the s p e c i e s Homo sapiens, w h o m a y be a s s u m e d a priori
to h a v e c e r t a i n f u n d a m e n t a l i d e n t i t i e s c o n s t i t u t i n g the now
u n f a s h i o n a b l e t e r m " h u m a n n a t u r e " w i t h o t h e r m e m b e r s of t h e
s p e c i e s . T o r e f u s e to a s k p s y c h o l o g i c a l , or e v e n p s y c h o a n a l y t i c ,
q u e s t i o n s of t h e s e texts i s to l i m i t o u r a b i l i t y to a n s w e r t h o s e
q u e s t i o n s t h a t the h i s t o r i a n s a n d t e x t u a l s c h o l a r s a r e w i l l i n g
to d e c l a r e legitimate. It a l s o h a s the g r a v e r effect of s i l e n c i n g
the a n c i e n t s : of r e f u s i n g the vital t e s t i m o n y t h e y c a n give o n the
g r e a t q u e s t i o n s of w h o w e h u m a n s a r e , w h y w e a c t a s w e do, a n d
h o w w e m a y w i s e l y d i r e c t o u r s h o r t a n d often p a i n f u l l i v e s .

* * *
It is a great pity, i n m y j u d g e m e n t , that most professional h i s
t o r i a n s a n d t e x t u a l s c h o l a r s i n the field of J u d a i c a a r e l i k e l y to
r e s p o n d to M o r t i m e r O s t o w ' s thoughtful a n d s t i m u l a t i n g p a p e r s
v e r y m u c h a s m y B i b l i c i s t friend d i d to m y i d e a s : w i t h a polite
a n d e m b a r r a s s e d s i l e n c e , a n d w i t h s o m e relief if the s u b j e c t c a n
be c h a n g e d . It w i l l be a great a c h i e v e m e n t if p s y c h o a n a l y t i c
t h i n k e r s a n d J u d a i c a s c h o l a r s , w o r k i n g together w i t h good w i l l
a n d w i l l i n g n e s s to h e a r o n e a n o t h e r , c a n bridge the g a p that
m u s t provoke s u c h a response.

l
T h i s i s m y r e c o l l e c t i o n of t h e o p e n i n g l i n e s of t h e 1971 film T h e Go-
Between.
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 185

Let u s consider how a more-or-less conventional Judaica


s c h o l a r w h o m w e s h a l l a s s u m e to b e a w o m a n m i g h t respond
to O s t o w * s c h a p t e r o n the F o u r w h o e n t e r e d t h e g a r d e n .
S h e will begin by noting that Ostow, although plainly aware
of a w i d e r a n g e of r a b b i n i c s o u r c e s c o n c e r n i n g t h e f o u r a n c i e n t
r a b b i s of w h o m h i s p a p e r t r e a t s , s e e m s to t a k e n o i n t e r e s t i n
w h a t t h e s e s o u r c e s a r e , w h e n t h e y w e r e w r i t t e n , or h o w they
r e l a t e to e a c h o t h e r a n d to the h i s t o r i c a l i n d i v i d u a l s t h e y p u r
p o r t to d e s c r i b e . T h i s a p p a r e n t l a c k of i n t e r e s t w i l l c e r t a i n l y
distress h e r s o keenly, p e r h a p s , that s h e will stop reading h i s
paper n e a r the beginning.
F o r q u e s t i o n s of t h i s s o r t a r e the v e r y e s s e n c e of h e r s c h o l a r
s h i p . S h e i s a c u t e l y a w a r e t h a t w e h a v e n o J e w i s h t e x t s of t h e
p e r i o d of t h e M i s h n a h a n d T a l m u d t h a t e v e n p u r p o r t to be
w r i t t e n b y a n y of t h e c r e a t i v e f i g u r e s of t h i s p e r i o d . W h a t we
have is a n o n y m o u s c o m p i l a t i o n s , u s u a l l y v e r y difficult to d a t e ,
w h i c h c o n t a i n a m y r i a d of i n d i v i d u a l u t t e r a n c e s n o r m a l l y attrib
uted to o n e r a b b i or a n o t h e r ; p l u s a n u m b e r of s t o r i e s ( n o r m a l l y
themselves anonymous) about these r a b b i s . No g e n e r a l l y ac
c e p t e d m e t h o d e x i s t s for d e t e r m i n i n g t h e t r u t h f u l n e s s of t h e s e
s t o r i e s ( w h i c h a r e often filled w i t h f a n c i f u l d e t a i l s ) , or t h e a c c u
r a c y of t h e a t t r i b u t i o n of s u c h - a n d - s u c h a n u t t e r a n c e to R a b b i X
( e s p e c i a l l y s i n c e a p a r a l l e l text m a y v e r y w e l l a t t r i b u t e t h e s a m e
u t t e r a n c e to R a b b i Y or R a b b i Z , or p e r h a p s v a r y t h e w o r d i n g of
t h e u t t e r a n c e i n s o m e c r u c i a l w a y ) . O u r o n l y a c c e s s to t h e p u b l i c
a n d p r i v a t e a g e n d a s of the r a b b i s t h e m s e l v e s i s v i a a n u n c e r t a i n
n u m b e r of a n o n y m o u s a u t h o r s a n d c o m p i l e r s , w h o unquestion
a b l y h a d p u b l i c a n d p r i v a t e a g e n d a s of t h e i r o w n .
L e t m e r e p e a t : t h e r e i s n o a c k n o w l e d g e d m e t h o d for m a k i n g
this transition. T h e approach that m a y s t r i k e the r e a d e r as
o b v i o u s w h y d o n ' t w e c o m p i l e a l l the u t t e r a n c e s a t t r i b u t e d i n
t h e r a b b i n i c l i t e r a t u r e to R a b b i X a n d let a p o r t r a i t e m e r g e t h a t
d i f f e r e n t i a t e s h i m f r o m the o t h e r r a b b i s ? h a s s o f a r produced
^results s o u n i m p r e s s i v e a s to c a l l into q u e s t i o n the l e g i t i m a c y of
t h e a p p r o a c h . A n o n - s p e c i a l i s t w r i t e r , therefore, c a n n o t appeal
to a n y c o n s e n s u s of s p e c i a l i s t s o n the b i o g r a p h y of t h i s or t h a t
r a b b i , s i n c e n o c o n s e n s u s on legitimate m e t h o d , far l e s s l e g i t i
mate results, h a s yet appeared.
W h a t , for e x a m p l e , do w e k n o w of E l i s h a b e n A v u y a , the
h e r e t i c a n d a p o s t a t e a m o n g t h e F o u r ? W e h a v e the baraita i t s e l f
186 METHODOLOGY

of t h e F o u r w h o e n t e r e d t h e g a r d e n , quoted w i t h variations
i n a n u m b e r of l a t e r s o u r c e s . (A "baraa is a n u t t e r a n c e or s t o r y
M

a t t r i b u t e d to t h e e a r l i e s t s t r a t u m of r a b b i n i c l i t e r a t u r e , c a l l e d
t h e Tannaitic, w h o s e last spokesmen lived early i n the third
c e n t u r y AD) TWO of t h e s e s o u r c e s , t h e Palestinian a n d Babylonian
Talmuds, a t t a c h to t h i s baraita a d o s s i e r of c o l o u r f u l s t o r i e s
a b o u t E l i s h a (PT H a g i g a h 2 : 1 , 7 7 b - c ; B T H a g i g a h 1 5 a - b ) , p l u s a
few s e e m i n g l y i s o l a t e d c o m m e n t s w h o s e o r i g i n a l c o n t e x t i s u n
clear.
S o m e of o u r m o s t i m p o r t a n t b i t s of d a t a , or p s e u d o - d a t a ,
derive from these remarks. What was Ahefs \- Elisha's]
case? a s k s t h e Babylonian Talmud a t o n e p o i n t . A n d it g o e s o n to
r e p l y : Greek song poured ceaselessly from his mouth. They [=
w h o ? ] said of Aher that whenever he stood up in the study house,
many heretical books fellfrom his lap. T h e q u e s t i o n i s c o u c h e d i n
t h e p h r a s e o l o g y w e a s s o c i a t e w i t h the e d i t o r i a l l a y e r s of t h e
Babylonian Tabnud, w h i c h w a s c o m p i l e d i n t h e s i x t h c e n t u r y AD
T h e first s e n t e n c e of t h e a n s w e r i s i n A r a m a i c , t h e s e c o n d i n
H e b r e w . No n a m e i s a t t a c h e d to e i t h e r p a r t of t h e a n s w e r , n o r i s
it c l e a r h o w t h e two p a r t s relate to one a n o t h e r . D i d o n e or b o t h
of t h e m exist, i n oral or w r i t t e n form, p r i o r to t h e f o r m a t i o n of t h e
context i n w h i c h they n o w appear? O r were they fabricated b y
s o m e editor of t h e T a l m u d , p e r h a p s four h u n d r e d y e a r s after
E l i s h a b e n A v u y a ' s d e a t h ? T h e r e s e e m s n o w a y to a n s w e r t h i s
question.
A few u t t e r a n c e s o u t s i d e t h e s e T a l m u d i c p a s s a g e s a r e a t t r i b
u t e d to E l i s h a . A p a s s a g e p r e s e r v e d i n t h e c e n t r a l T a n n a i t i c text,
t h e M i s h n a h , r e p r e s e n t s h i m a s c o m p a r i n g one w h o l e a r n s a s a
c h i l d to ink written on new paper, w h i l e one w h o l e a r n s a s a n o l d
m a n i s l i k e ink written on paper that has been blotted out (Avot
4:20; tr. G o l d i n , 1 9 5 5 ) . A text of u n c e r t a i n date, T h e Fathers
According to Rabbi Nathan, q u o t e s a s e r i e s of s a y i n g s i n w h i c h
E l i s h a praises the combination of s t u d y a n d good d e e d s b u t
d e p l o r e s t h e ill effects of s t u d y u n m i x e d w i t h good d e e d s . F o r
e x a m p l e : one in whom there are no good works, though he has
studied much Torah, to what may he be likened? To a horse that
has no bridle: when one mounts it, it throws hitn off headlong
( c h a p t e r 2 4 ; tr. G o l d i n , 1 9 5 5 ) . H o w a p p r o p r i a t e for a l e a r n e d
h e r e t i c ! w e t h i n k ; a n d a r e therefore d i s p o s e d to t r e a t t h e a t t r i b u
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 187

tion a s a u t h e n t i c . B u t w a i t a m o m e n t : p e r h a p s the s a m e thought


h a d o c c u r r e d to t h e c o m p i l e r of The Fathers According to Rabbi
Nathan, w h o therefore d e c i d e d to a t t a c h E l i s h a ' s n a m e to w h a t
h a d b e e n a s t r i n g of a n o n y m o u s p r o v e r b s ? T h e p r o b l e m of t h e
relation between t h e l i t e r a r y i m a g e of a n i n d i v i d u a l a n d t h e
utterances t h a t a r e a t t r i b u t e d to t h a t i n d i v i d u a l i s a v e r y difficult
o n e . It i s p o s s i b l e , of c o u r s e , t h a t t h e i r n e x u s l i e s i n t h e h i s t o r
i c a l r e a l i t y of t h a t i n d i v i d u a l ; b u t w e c a n n o t s i m p l y a s s u m e t h i s
to b e t r u e . T h e r e a r e o t h e r o p t i o n s .
L e t u s t u r n b a c k to t h e T a l m u d i c s t o r i e s a b o u t E l i s h a , o n
w h i c h o u r i m a g e of t h e m a n i s l a r g e l y b a s e d . A s I h a v e i n d i c a t e d ,
t h e r e a r e t w o c o l l e c t i o n s of t h e s e s t o r i e s : o n e i n t h e Pcdestinian
Talmud, o n e i n t h e Babylonian. T h e two c o l l e c t i o n s a r e p l a i n l y
r e l a t e d a n d s h a r e m a n y of t h e i r m a t e r i a l s w i t h , h o w e v e r , v e r y
significant differences. Certain regular features mark the
B a b y l o n i a n v e r s i o n over a g a i n s t the P a l e s t i n i a n . T h e B a b y l o n i a n
v e r s i o n , for e x a m p l e , consistently calls E l i s h a b y the strange
n a m e A h e r , " t h e o t h e r o n e " , w h o s e p r e c i s e m e a n i n g c o n t i n u e s to
baffle s c h o l a r s . ( T h e Babylonian Tabnud p r o v i d e s a f a n c i f u l tale
to e x p l a i n h o w h e c a m e b y t h a t n a m e . ) E l i s h a i s c a l l e d A h e r a l s o
i n m o s t v e r s i o n s of t h e baraita, i n c l u d i n g t h e o n e q u o t e d i n t h e
Palestinian Talmud. Y e t , w i t h t h e e x c e p t i o n of o n e p a s s a g e , t h e
P a l e s t i n i a n v e r s i o n a v o i d s t h i s n a m e , c h o o s i n g i n s t e a d to s p e a k
of " E l i s h a " o r " E l i s h a b e n A v u y a " .
There is a more significant distinction between the two
v e r s i o n s , f r o m t h e p e r s p e c t i v e of E l i s h a ' s r e l a t i o n a n d , i n d e e d ,
t h e r e l a t i o n of a l l of t h e F o u r t o merkavah mysticism. The
B a b y l o n i a n v e r s i o n proceeds from the a s s u m p t i o n t h a t E l i s h a
h a s t r a v e l l e d to h e a v e n , w h e r e h e b e h o l d s t h e a n g e l Metatron
a n d m i s t a k e s h i m for a s e c o n d deity. S u r e l y , w e m i g h t t h i n k ,
t h i s i s a k e y to u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h e h e r e s y of t h e h i s t o r i c a l E l i s h a :
i n t h e c o u r s e of a m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e , a p p a r e n t l y , h e b e c a m e a
(Gnostic?) dualist. B u t we m u s t reckon also with the Palestinian
m a t e r i a l s . T h i s v e r s i o n of t h e E l i s h a s t o r i e s , w h i c h m a y w e l l b e
t h e o l d e r , i s i n n o c e n t of a n y b e l i e f i n e i t h e r h i s d u a l i s m o r h i s
h e a v e n l y j o u r n e y (Halperin, 1980)! T h i s will p e r h a p s suggest
that dualism a n d heavenly ascensions are indeed important i n
u n d e r s t a n d i n g o n e b r a n c h of t h e E l i s h a t r a d i t i o n s b u t not in
understanding the historical Elisha Their historical context m a y
188 M E T H O D O L O G Y

not be the second-century Palestine where E l i s h a b e n A v u y a


lived, b u t the s i x t h - c e n t u r y B a b y l o n i a w h e r e the T a l m u d w a s
edited.
T h e effect of a l l t h i s i s p l a i n e n o u g h . T h e m o r e c l o s e l y w e
e x a m i n e t h e s t o r i e s of E l i s h a b e n A v u y a , t h e m o r e t h e figure of
E l i s h a h i m s e l f r e t r e a t s into o b s c u r i t y . W e c a n n o t d o u b t t h a t t h e
m a n e x i s t e d , or t h a t t h e r e w a s s o m e t h i n g u n c o n v e n t i o n a l a b o u t
h i s beliefs a n d s c a n d a l o u s a b o u t h i s b e h a v i o u r t h a t m a d e h i m
a n a p p r o p r i a t e figure a r o u n d w h i c h T a l m u d i c s t o r y t e l l e r s c o u l d
c o n s t r u c t t h e i r f a s c i n a t i n g image of a f a i t h l e s s " a n t i - r a b b i " . 2

B u t , a s h i s t o r i a n s a n d philologists, we find ourselves without


t h e tools w e n e e d to r e t r i e v e t h e m a n h i m s e l f f r o m t h e w e b of
fictions that later generations s p u n a b o u t h i m .
T h e J u d a i c a s c h o l a r we have imagined, w i t h her orientation
t o w a r d s h i s t o r y a n d philology, i s p a i n f u l l y a w a r e of a l l t h i s . S h e
k n o w s t h a t s i m i l a r p r o b l e m s s t a n d i n t h e w a y of h e r a p p r o a c h to
E l i s h a ' s t h r e e c o m p a n i o n s . T h e y a r e n o t quite t h e s a m e a s t h e
problems I have described in connection with E l i s h a t h e r e is
n o s h o r t a g e of T a l m u d i c d a t a r e l a t i n g to t h e f a m o u s A k i v a , for
e x a m p l e , b u t r a t h e r a h u g e m a s s of m a t e r i a l t h a t d o e s n o t w e l l
l e n d i t s e l f to b e i n g s h a p e d into a c o h e r e n t h u m a n p e r s o n a l i t y
b u t t h e y a r e n o t a great d e a l m o r e t r a c t a b l e . T h e r o a d s l e a d i n g
b a c k to t h e m y s t e r i o u s g a r d e n , a n d to t h e four r a b b i s w h o a r e
s a i d to h a v e e n t e r e d i t , w i l l s e e m to h e r b l o c k e d b y e v e r y k i n d of
o b s t a c l e . S h e d o e s n o t d e s p a i r of the p o s s i b i l i t y of r e m o v i n g
t h e s e o b s t a c l e s . B u t s h e w i l l expect to s e e t h e m r e m o v e d , b y t h e

Both the Palestinian and Babylonian versions of the Elisha stories, it


2

seems to me, have as their true protagonistnot Elisha himself, nor his
orthodox pupil Rabbi Meirbut, rather, the Elisha-Meir pair. The two
men, who are inseparable through these stories, are best understood as
representing two opposed aspects of the rabbinic personality: the conven
tionally pious (Meir) on the one side, the questioning and heretical (Elisha)
on the other. This reading of the storieswhich I intend to develop in
greater detail in a separate studydoes nothing to bring us closer to the
historical Elisha. On the contrary, it increases our distance, in that it
implies that our main sources of information about Elisha are the fictions
of anonymous but extremely gifted and creative storytellers with an over
riding agenda of their own. These fictions may give us profound insight
into the ambivalent presence of faith and faithlessness in the soul of
rabbinic Judaism and yet tell us little or nothing about the real Elisha ben
Avuya.
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 189

f a m i l i a r h i s t o r i c a l a n d p h i l o l o g i c a l tools of h e r c r a f t , before she


w i l l t r u s t a n y o n e w h o c l a i m s to tell h e r w h a t t h e g a r d e n w a s ,
h o w t h e F o u r r e s p o n d e d to it, a n d w h a t w e c a n l e a r n f r o m t h e i r
responses.
T h i s i s w h y s h e i s l i k e l y to r e s p o n d to O s t o w ' s p a p e r w i t h
s o m e p e r p l e x i t y a n d f r u s t r a t i o n . It w i l l n o t b e e a s y for h e r to
c r i t i c i z e it i n a n y d e t a i l , for i t s a g e n d a of q u e s t i o n s a n d m o d e s of
response a r e v a s t l y different f r o m h e r s . H e r o v e r a l l comment,
h o w e v e r , i s l i k e l y to b e t h a t O s t o w p u t s t h e c a r t before t h e h o r s e .
S h e m a y g r a n t t h a t i t i s p o s s i b l e to m a k e p s y c h o l o g i c a l state
m e n t s a b o u t p e o p l e of t h e r e m o t e p a s t , o n t h e b a s i s o f a n a l o g y
with modern clinical evidence. (Some Biblicists, a s I observed
n e a r t h e b e g i n n i n g of t h i s c h a p t e r , r e g a r d the c o n t r a r y p o s i t i o n
a s axiomatic.) B u t s u r e l y the historical a n d philological work
h a s to b e d o n e f i r s t ; s u r e l y p s y c h o l o g i c a l s t a t e m e n t s o n l y h a v e a
c h a n c e of b e i n g c o r r e c t if w e h a v e s o m e p r i o r m o d e of g a i n i n g
i n f o r m a t i o n a b o u t t h e p e o p l e of w h o m t h e y a r e m a d e . L e t O s t o w
first grapple w i t h the s o u r c e s , s h e will s a y . L e t h i m first e s t a b
lish solid biographical information about the F o u r . O n l y then
c a n h e p r o c e e d to t h e n e x t l e v e l a n d a d d the p r e f i x t h a t t u r n s
biography into psychobiography.

* * *
T h e r e , however, is the r u b .
If t h e r e i s a n y t h i n g t h a t h a s e m e r g e d clearly from over a
c e n t u r y of s c h o l a r l y f a s c i n a t i o n w i t h the s t o r y of t h e F o u r (see
Liebes, 1990, a n d Bregman's scholarly commentary in Schwartz
& B r e g m a n , 1 9 9 5 ) , it i s t h a t o u r s t a n d a r d h i s t o r i c a l a n d p h i l o
l o g i c a l m o d e s of i n v e s t i g a t i o n a r e m o r e o r l e s s h e l p l e s s before i t .
T h e o v e r w h e l m i n g n a t u r e of t h e m e t h o d o l o g i c a l difficulties, a s I
h a v e s k e t c h e d t h e m , do p e r h a p s s u g g e s t t h a t O s t o w h a s u n d e r
estimated his task. But they also suggest that the more
conventional methods of a p p r o a c h , w h i c h a r e h i s competitors,
m a y b e i n a d e q u a t e to t h a t t a s k ; a n d t h a t p e r h a p s h e h a s b e g u n
t h e w o r k of f i n d i n g a n e w a n d m o r e effective method.
Ostow may perhaps be unconscious of t h e h i s t o r i c a l a s
s u m p t i o n s h e i s obliged to m a k e i n h i s a n a l y s i s , a n d t h i s m a y
i n d e e d c o n s t i t u t e a flaw i n h i s w o r k . B u t I t h i n k t h a t p e r h a p s
our i m a g i n e d J u d a i c a specialist suffers from a corresponding
u n c o n s c i o u s n e s s r e l a t i n g to t h e p s y c h o l o g i c a l a s s u m p t i o n s she
190 METHODOLOGY

m a k e s i n h e r o w n a n a l y s e s . F o r p a c e the B i b l i c i s t I q u o t e d n e a r
the b e g i n n i n g of t h i s e s s a y h i s t o r i c a l a n d p h i l o l o g i c a l i n v e s t i
gations c a n n o t possibly " p r e s c i n d from psychology".
If w e a r e obliged, for e x a m p l e , to c h o o s e b e t w e e n s e v e r a l
c o m p e t i n g v e r s i o n s of a n i n c i d e n t , w e find ourselves a s k i n g
w h i c h v e r s i o n i s the m o s t p l a u s i b l e , i n t e r m s of w h a t w e k n o w
or, r a t h e r , w h a t w e a s s u m e a b o u t the w a y s h u m a n b e i n g s m a y
b e e x p e c t e d to b e h a v e . I n d e c i d i n g w h e t h e r to d i s c a r d s o m e
d e t a i l a s i n a u t h e n tic, w e a s k , Did anyone have a motive to invent
it? If w e c a n c o n c e i v e s u c h a m o t i v e , w e w i l l feel o u r s e l v e s a b l e to
e x p l a i n a n d t h u s to d i s m i s s the d e t a i l . If, o n t h e c o n t r a r y , w e c a n
i m a g i n e n o s u c h motive, w e w i l l be a p t to a c c e p t the d e t a i l ' s
veracity. H o w c a n we decide w h a t a n acceptable motive might
b e , u n l e s s w e h a v e s o m e m o d e l of h u m a n p s y c h o l o g y o n w h i c h
to b a s e o u r d e c i s i o n ? E v e n the t e x t - c r i t i c a l w o r k t h a t i s s o b a s i c
to r a b b i n i c s c h o l a r s h i p i n v o l v e s q u e s t i o n s of m o t i v e . (Is it e a s i e r
to i m a g i n e a s c r i b e r e p l a c i n g R e a d i n g A w i t h R e a d i n g B , or t h e
o t h e r w a y r o u n d ? ) I t therefore r e s t s u l t i m a t e l y o n p s y c h o l o g i c a l
presuppositions.
It follows that our J u d a i c a scholar needs a psychological
model of s o m e sort to g u i d e h e r a t n e a r l y every s t e p she
t a k e s , a l o n g every p a t h t h a t m i g h t l e a d b a c k to the h i s t o r i c a l
E l i s h a b e n A v u y a . For this purpose she will probably use a n
everyday common-sense psychology, a p s y c h o l o g y of o r d i n a r y
c o n s c i o u s n e s s . But it is precisely Ostow's point that this model is
inadequate for the purpose. T h i s is w h y he c a n n o t satisfy h e r
c h a l l e n g e t h a t h e first r e c o v e r r e l i a b l e b i o g r a p h i c a l d e t a i l s a b o u t
the F o u r w h o e n t e r e d the g a r d e n , a n d o n l y t h e n a p p l y to t h e m
h i s o w n p s y c h o l o g y t h e p s y c h o l o g y of the u n c o n s c i o u s . It i s a s
if s h e w e r e to s a y to h i m , "You must first solve the textual and
historical problems of the sources on the basis of the psychologi
cal model I am prepared to use; only then are you permitted to
approach them on the basis of the model you prefer to use . H e ,f

m u s t , i n o t h e r w o r d s , s u c c e e d i n s o l v i n g the r i d d l e i n a c c o r d w i t h
h e r r u l e s before h e c a n b e g i n to solve it i n a c c o r d w i t h h i s o w n .
P u t t h i s w a y , the d e m a n d c a n n o t b e m e t . O s t o w ' s n o t h a v i n g m e t
it c a n n o t be u s e d a s g r o u n d s to d i s c r e d i t h i s w o r k .
S e e n i n t h i s light, O s t o w i s j u s t i f i e d i n h a v i n g s i d e - s t e p p e d
for the t i m e b e i n g t h e historical, text-critical, a n d literary
c r i t i c a l p r o b l e m s i n v o l v e d i n the s t o r y of the F o u r . T h e s e p r o b
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 191

l e m s m u s t be tackled eventually, but at a later stage. Ostow's


contribution is more fundamental. He h a s applied h i s rich theo
r e t i c a l k n o w l e d g e a n d p r a c t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e of p s y c h o a n a l y s i s to
t h e c o n s t r u c t i o n of a f r e s h p e r s p e c t i v e on w h a t is plausible,
w h a t motives are reasonable a n d expectable, w h e n we are c o n
s i d e r i n g t h e l i v e s a n d c r e a t i o n s of the a n c i e n t r a b b i s .
T h i s perspective necessarily h a s a provisional, " a s if" quality
a b o u t it. We have not, after a l l , y e t e s t a b l i s h e d the relevant
h i s t o r i c a l d e t a i l s o n a n y firm b a s i s . B u t , g r a n t i n g t h i s , w e a r e
e q u i p p e d w i t h a n e w s e t of ( p r o v i s i o n a l ) c r i t e r i a t h a t w e c a n u s e
w h e n w e t u r n to the l i t e r a r y s o u r c e s f r o m w h i c h w e m u s t educe
these details. We c a n u s e these (provisional) criteria a s we r e a
s o n o u t t h e s o u r c e s * r e l a t i o n s h i p to o n e a n o t h e r , a n d to the
h u m a n beings w h o were their a u t h o r s a n d subjects.
O u r h y p o t h e t i c a l J u d a i c a s c h o l a r ' s i d e a of w h a t constitutes
proper m e t h o d is, thereby, i n a sense, t u r n e d on its h e a d . S h e
b e l i e v e s t h a t w e m u s t f i r s t e l i c i t r e l i a b l e f a c t s f r o m the extant
sources, on t h e b a s i s of s t a n d a r d h i s t o r i c a l a n d philological
c r i t e r i a , before w e c a n c o n s i d e r t h e m i n t h e l i g h t of p s y c h o a n a
lytic a w a r e n e s s . We now find ourselves contemplating a pro
c e d u r e t h a t s e e m s to b e t h e r e v e r s e . F i r s t w e a p p l y (as O s t o w h a s
d o n e ) p s y c h o a n a l y t i c a w a r e n e s s to a p r o v i s i o n a l s e t of " f a c t s " ,
t h e r e l i a b i l i t y of w h i c h w e h a v e n o t y e t b e e n a b l e to s e c u r e . W e
t h e n u n d e r t a k e a f r e s h a p p r o a c h to the s o u r c e s , w e i g h i n g t h e i r
r e l a t i o n to o n e a n o t h e r a n d to h i s t o r i c a l r e a l i t y o n t h e basis
of c r i t e r i a t h a t h a v e e m e r g e d f r o m o u r p r o v i s i o n a l e x e r c i s e i n
psychohistory. Now, perhaps, the s o u r c e s will more readily yield
t h e i r s e c r e t s ; a n d the p a t h s t h a t l e a d f r o m t h e m to t h e r e a l i t i e s
that shaped them will open u p for u s . If t h i s h a p p e n s , the
quotation marks that currently enclose our "facts" will fade
a w a y . T h e r e s u l t w i l l be a n a p p r e c i a t i o n , b o t h h i s t o r i c a l a n d
p s y c h o a n a l y t i c , of t h e F o u r w h o e n t e r e d t h e g a r d e n ; a n d t h i s
a p p r e c i a t i o n w i l l h a v e a r e a s o n a b l e c h a n c e of r e p r e s e n t i n g t h e
historical a n d psychological truth.
B y t a k i n g t h i s a p p r o a c h , w e do n o t i n r e a l i t y d i s c a r d t h e
s t a n d a r d h i s t o r i c a l m e t h o d . N o r do w e d i s c o u n t the objections
t h a t m u s t b e m a d e to O s t o w ' s w o r k from t h e s t a n d p o i n t of t h a t
m e t h o d . W e s e e k , i n s t e a d , to i n c o r p o r a t e a n d t r a n s c e n d t h e m .
W e do n o t a i m for a l i n e a r , s t e p - b y - s t e p p r o g r e s s i o n , i n w h i c h w e
m o v e first f r o m text to h i s t o r y , t h e n from h i s t o r y to psychology.
192 METHODOLOGY

W e a r e p r e p a r e d , i n s t e a d , to o s c i l l a t e b e t w e e n p s y c h o l o g i c a l a n d
historical-philological perspectives, continually using each of
t h e s e m o d e s of r e a s o n i n g to c h e c k the o t h e r . W e b e g i n w i t h the
" f a c t s " of o u r i n q u i r y v e r y m u c h i n q u o t a t i o n m a r k s . B u t , a s w e
w o r k b a c k a n d forth f r o m " f a c t s " to t e x t u a l s o u r c e s to " f a c t s " ,
these quotation m a r k s gradually disappear.

* * *
I s h a l l follow u p t h e s e g e n e r a l r e m a r k s w i t h a s p e c i f i c e x a m p l e of
h o w a problem r a i s e d by the historical-philological investigation
of a n c i e n t J e w i s h texts, a n d normally d i s c u s s e d only by the
s t a n d a r d c a n o n s of t h i s i n v e s t i g a t i o n , m a y b e s o l v e d i f w e t a k e
O s t o w ' s i n s i g h t s a s the s t a r t i n g - p o i n t of o u r a p p r o a c h .
A v e r y e a r l y J e w i s h a p o c a l y p s e (late t h i r d or e a r l y s e c o n d
c e n t u r y B C ? ) , the " B o o k of W a t c h e r s " t h a t c o n s t i t u t e s c h a p t e r s
1-36 of t h e Ethiopic Book of Enoch, i n c l u d e s t h e following ac
c o u n t of a h e a v e n l y a s c e n t . T h e a n t e d i l u v i a n p a t r i a r c h E n o c h i s
the speaker.

A n d behold I s a w the c l o u d s : A n d they were calling m e i n a


v i s i o n ; a n d the fogs w e r e calling me; a n d the c o u r s e of the
s t a r s a n d the lightnings were r u s h i n g me a n d . . . the w i n d s
were c a u s i n g me to fly a n d r u s h i n g me h i g h u p into h e a v e n .
A n d I . . . a p p r o a c h e d a w a l l w h i c h w a s b u i l t of white m a r b l e
a n d s u r r o u n d e d b y tongues of fire; a n d it began to frighten
me. A n d I c a m e into the tongues of the fire a n d drew n e a r to
a great h o u s e w h i c h w a s b u i l t of white marble . . . the floor of
c r y s t a l , the ceiling like the p a t h of the s t a r s a n d lightnings
between w h i c h (stood) fiery c h e r u b i m a n d their h e a v e n of
water; a n d flaming fire s u r r o u n d e d the wall(s), a n d its gates
were b u r n i n g w i t h fire. A n d I entered into the h o u s e , w h i c h
w a s hot like fire a n d cold like ice, a n d there w a s n o t h i n g
inside it [an i m p o r t a n t textual v a r i a n t h a s here, "there w a s
no p l e a s u r e of life in i t " ] ; (so) fear covered me a n d trembling
seized me. . . . A n d behold there w a s a n opening before me
(and) a s e c o n d h o u s e w h i c h i s greater t h a n the former a n d
everything w a s built with tongues of fire. . . . A n d I observed
a n d s a w inside it a lofty t h r o n e i t s a p p e a r a n c e w a s like
c r y s t a l a n d its wheels like the s h i n i n g s u n . . . a n d from
b e n e a t h the throne were i s s u i n g s t r e a m s of flaming fire. It
w a s difficult to look a t it. A n d the G r e a t G l o r y w a s sitting
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 193

u p o n i t a s for h i s gown, w h i c h w a s s h i n i n g more brightly


t h a n the s u n , it w a s w h i t e r t h a n a n y s n o w . None of the
a n g e l s w a s able to come i n a n d see the face of the E x c e l l e n t
a n d G l o r i o u s O n e ; a n d no one of the flesh c a n see h i m t h e
flaming fire w a s r o u n d a b o u t h i m , a n d a great fire stood
before h i m . No one c o u l d come n e a r unto h i m from among
those that s u r r o u n d e d the tens of m i l l i o n s (that stood) before
h i m . He needed no c o u n c i l , b u t the m o s t holy ones w h o a r e
n e a r to h i m n e i t h e r go far a w a y a t night n o r move a w a y from
h i m . U n t i l t h e n I w a s prostrate o n m y face covered a n d
trembling. A n d the L o r d called me w i t h h i s o w n m o u t h a n d
s a i d to me, " C o m e n e a r to me, E n o c h , a n d to m y holy Word.**
A n d h e lifted me u p a n d b r o u g h t me n e a r to the gate, b u t
I (continued) to look d o w n with m y face. (1 E n o c h , c h a p t e r
14; translated by E . Isaac, in Charlesworth, 1983, pp.
20-21]

T h i s p a s s a g e is not a m o n g the texts t h a t O s t o w d i s c u s s e s i n


c h a p t e r five. B u t it s e e m s r e a s o n a b l e to s u p p o s e t h a t h e w o u l d
see, i n E n o c h ' s entry into a h o u s e a n d then into a s e c o n d h o u s e
w i t h i n , a c l e a r a l l u s i o n to a f a n t a s y of r e t u r n to t h e m a t e r n a l
c l a u s t r u m . T h a t the c l a u s t r u m is so monstrously u n p l e a s a n t
" h o t l i k e fire a n d c o l d l i k e i c e " , " n o p l e a s u r e of life i n i t " m a y b e
e x p l a i n e d b y O s t o w ' s p o s t u l a t e of " a n a f f e c t - r e g u l a t i n g system
that automatically acts to oppose an impulse of excessive
s t r e n g t h , i n fact, to a c t i v a t e a n o p p o s i t e t e n d e n c y . T o o s t r o n g a
d e s i r e to m o v e t o w a r d s one goal, or too p r e s u m p t u o u s a m o v e ,
e i t h e r i n r e a l i t y or f a n t a s y , a u t o m a t i c a l l y e l i c i t s a n e q u a l l y v i g o r
o u s t e n d e n c y to m o v e t o w a r d s i t s o p p o s i t e " (pp. 1 7 5 - 1 7 6 ) . E n o c h
i s i n d e e d a b l e to e n t e r t h e longed-for claustrum. But, when he
d o e s , h e f i n d s it a l m o s t u n e n d u r a b l e .
J u d a i c a scholars who discuss this passage (e.g. R o w l a n d ,
1982, pp. 219-222; Halperin, 1988, pp. 79-85; Himmelfarb,
1 9 9 3 , p p . 1 3 - 2 3 ) m u s t a c c o u n t for the s a m e f e a t u r e s t h a t c o n
f r o n t t h e p s y c h o a n a l y t i c i n v e s t i g a t o r . B u t the p a t h s t h e y t a k e to
find a n e x p l a n a t i o n , a n d t h e s o r t of e x p l a n a t i o n t h e y f i n d c o m
p e l l i n g , a r e r a d i c a l l y different. T h e y w i l l n o t look to p e r e n n i a l
f e a t u r e s of t h e h u m a n p s y c h e , b u t to the i m m e d i a t e s o c i a l a n d
p o l i t i c a l c o n t e x t of the a u t h o r of t h e " B o o k of W a t c h e r s " ; a n d to
the literary s o u r c e s m o s t obviously, the H e b r e w S c r i p t u r e s
t h a t h e p r e s u m a b l y h a d before h i m .
194 METHODOLOGY

T h e feature of E n o c h ' s h o u s e - w i t h i n - a - h o u s e t h a t w i l l m o s t
s t r i k e t h e m , for e x a m p l e , w i l l be its o b v i o u s r e s e m b l a n c e to t h e
J e r u s a l e m T e m p l e . (The latter w a s d i v i d e d into a n o u t e r H o l y
P l a c e a n d a H o l y of H o l i e s . ) C o r r e l a t i n g t h i s w i t h o t h e r p r i e s t l y
e l e m e n t s of E n o c h ' s h e a v e n , t h e y w i l l s u p p o s e that the writer
h a s c r e a t e d h i s i m a g e of h e a v e n b y p r o j e c t i n g the T e m p l e i n t o
t h e s k i e s . T h e y m a y i n t e r p r e t h i s d o i n g s o i n the light of D a v i d
S u t e r ' s s u g g e s t i o n ( 1 9 7 9 ) t h a t the fallen a n g e l s of t h e " B o o k of
W a t c h e r s " a r e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s of t h e c o n t e m p o r a r y J e r u s a l e m
p r i e s t h o o d , w h i c h the a u t h o r p e r c e i v e d a s d e b a s e d a n d c o r r u p t .
T o the h i s t o r i a n , a l l of t h i s will s o u n d far m o r e c o n c r e t e , far
m o r e r e l e v a n t to n o r m a l h i s t o r i c a l c o n c e r n s , t h a n a n y t a l k a b o u t
a maternal claustrum.
T h e f a n t a s t i c d e t a i l s of the h e a v e n l y s t r u c t u r e i t s i m p o s
s i b l e m i x t u r e of fire a n d i c e , for e x a m p l e a l s o d e m a n d e x p l a n a
t i o n . H e r e the J u d a i c a s c h o l a r ' s i n s t i n c t i s to t u r n to t h e H e b r e w
B i b l e a n d to look there for p a s s a g e s describing God a n d His
surroundings, which the E n o c h i a n writer m a y be assumed
to h a v e c r e a t i v e l y s y n t h e s i z e d . O n e o b v i o u s s o u r c e w i l l be t h e
merkavah v i s i o n of E z e k . 1, w h i c h O s t o w h a s d i s c u s s e d i n h i s
c h a p t e r . B u t t h e r e a r e o t h e r s . I h a v e a r g u e d , for e x a m p l e , that
the t h e m e of m i x e d fire a n d ice i s b a s e d ultimately on Ps.
104:1-4, w h i c h the w r i t e r h a s elaborated in accord with a
m i d r a s h i c process attested also in rabbinic literature (Halperin,
1988, p p . 8 2 - 8 4 ) . W e t a k e the a u t h o r ' s v e n e r a t i o n of the older
S c r i p t u r e s e n t i r e l y for g r a n t e d a n d s u p p o s e t h a t t h i s p o s t u l a t e
c a n b e u s e d to provide a c o n v i n c i n g e x p l a n a t i o n of t h e t h o u g h t
processes that resulted in his own creations.
Moreover, the v i s i o n of G o d i n D a n . 7 : 9 - 1 0 is s o strongly
r e m i n i s c e n t of the E n o c h i a n a c c o u n t t h a t w e c a n h a r d l y d o u b t
s o m e d i r e c t l i n k b e t w e e n the two.

A s I looked, thrones were placed a n d one that w a s a n c i e n t of


d a y s took h i s seat; h i s r a i m e n t w a s white a s snow, a n d the
h a i r of h i s h e a d like p u r e wool; h i s throne w a s fiery flames,
its w h e e l s were b u r n i n g fire. A s t r e a m of fire i s s u e d a n d
c a m e forth from before h i m ; a t h o u s a n d t h o u s a n d s served
h i m , a n d ten t h o u s a n d times ten t h o u s a n d stood before h i m ;
a c o u r t s a t i n j u d g m e n t , a n d books were opened. [RSVJ

O u r first t h o u g h t m i g h t be to s u p p o s e t h a t t h i s i s a n o t h e r
of the B i b l i c a l p a s s a g e s u p o n w h i c h the E n o c h i a n a u t h o r h a s
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 195

d r a w n . B u t h e r e p r o b l e m s b e g i n to a r i s e . H i s t o r i c a l a l l u s i o n s i n
D a n . 7 p e r m i t u s to d a t e it, w i t h s o m e c o n f i d e n c e , to t h e y e a r s
1 6 7 - 1 6 4 B C . F r a g m e n t s of the " B o o k of W a t c h e r s " f o u n d i n t h e
D e a d S e a c a v e s s e e m (from t h e s t y l e of h a n d w r i t i n g ) to d a t e f r o m
t h e m i d d l e or e a r l y y e a r s of the s e c o n d c e n t u r y B C ; a n d t h e d a t e
of t h e s e m a n u s c r i p t s i s n e c e s s a r i l y t h e l a t e s t p o s s i b l e d a t e for
t h e b o o k ' s a u t h o r s h i p . (It m i g h t , of c o u r s e , b e d e c a d e s or c e n t u
r i e s older.) W h e n w e a d d to t h i s t h a t t h e " B o o k of W a t c h e r s "
s e e m s to h a v e d e v e l o p e d i n s t a g e s into i t s p r e s e n t f o r m , a n d t h a t
t h e v i s i o n q u o t e d a b o v e d o e s n o t a p p e a r to b e l o n g to the l a s t of
t h e s e s t a g e s , it i s difficult to a v o i d the c o n c l u s i o n t h a t t h e v i s i o n
i n t h e " B o o k of W a t c h e r s " w a s , i n fact, w r i t t e n before D a n i e l ' s .
T h e apparent links between Dan. 7 and 1 E n o c h 14 require
s o m e other explanation.
Shall we simply reverse the dependent relationship and
suppose that D a n . 7 drew upon 1 E n o c h 14 ( R o w l a n d , 1982,
p p . 2 5 5 - 2 5 8 ) ? O r s h a l l w e look (as I prefer) to s h a r e d e x e g e t i c a l
traditions based on the older Scriptures? The influence of
E z e k i e l ' s merkavaK o n b o t h writers* d e s c r i p t i o n of t h e divine
throne, is clear. B o t h , I have suggested (Halperin, 1988, p. 83),
d r a w t h e d e t a i l of G o d ' s s n o w y w h i t e g a r m e n t from P s . 1 0 4 : 2 .
B u t w h a t of t h e m o s t s t r i k i n g p a r a l l e l , the s t r e a m or s t r e a m s of
fire t h a t i s s u e f r o m b e n e a t h G o d ' s fiery t h r o n e ? T h e r e i s n o c l e a r
B i b l i c a l s o u r c e for t h i s d e t a i l ; a n d to s a y t h a t E n o c h b o r r o w e d it
f r o m D a n i e l or v i c e v e r s a d o e s little to c l e a r u p t h e p r o b l e m of i t s
origin.
T h e fiery s t r e a m s , s a y s M a r t h a Himmelfarb,

. . . h a v e their origins i n the a n c i e n t traditions of the divine


c o u n c i l . T h e m o u n t a i n of E l a t w h i c h the c o u n c i l meets i n
U g a r i t i c literature h a s two rivers a t its b a s e . T h e r i v e r s of
C a n a a n i t e m y t h are not fiery, b u t Israelite (and C a n a a n i t e )
traditions of fiery t h e o p h a n i e s could e a s i l y suggest fiery riv
e r s . L i k e other features of the C a n a a n i t e traditions of the
abode of the gods, the rivers a t the b a s e of the c o s m i c
m o u n t a i n h a v e b e e n transferred i n biblical literature to the
temple m o u n t , a s i n the c o n c l u d i n g v i s i o n of the B o o k of
E z e k i e l ( 4 7 : 1 - 1 2 ) . [ 1 9 9 3 , p. 171

This explanation, whatever its merits, does practically


n o t h i n g to e x p l a i n the m o s t r e m a r k a b l e d e t a i l of t h e r i v e r s : t h a t
t h e y a r e fiery. I n m y own d i s c u s s i o n of t h e p r o b l e m , I (like
196 METHODOLOGY

H i m m e l f a r b ) c a l l e d a t t e n t i o n to E z e k . 4 7 : 1 - 1 2 ; a n d , l i k e h e r , I
glided over the i s s u e of the rivers* fiery c h a r a c t e r . " A s for the
r i v e r of f i r e " , I w r o t e , " i f it i s a c e l e s t i a l p r o j e c t i o n of the r i v e r t h a t
flows from the r e s t o r e d T e m p l e i n E z e k . 4 7 : 1 - 1 2 (as seems
l i k e l y ) , w e m u s t a s s u m e t h a t the s h a r e d t r a d i t i o n [ s h a r e d , t h a t
i s , b y D a n . 7 a n d 1 E n o c h 14J a l r e a d y h a d s o m e o r i e n t a t i o n
t o w a r d the T e m p l e " ( H a l p e r i n , 1 9 8 8 , p. 8 2 ) .
C h r i s t o p h e r R o w l a n d ( 1 9 8 2 ) h a s g r a p p l e d w i t h the p r o b l e m
m o r e d i r e c t l y t h a n e i t h e r H i m m e l f a r b or myself.

T h e origin of this [fiery river] imagery is not easily explained,


though a verse like E z e k . 1.13 ( . . . out of the fire went forth
M

lightning") could easily have provided the b a s i s for this de


velopment w i t h i n the t h r o n e - c h a r i o t vision itself. A l s o the
description of the theophany at S i n a i in E x o d . 19.16 pro
vided m a t e r i a l w h i c h could form the b a s i s of the belief i n the
fiery elements w h i c h proceeded from God's immediate p r e s
ence. Indeed, in Revelation 4.5 a n a l l u s i o n to E x o d u s 19.16
replaces the reference to the fiery s t r e a m , [p. 221]

A few p a g e s l a t e r , R o w l a n d t a k e s u p a g a i n the q u e s t i o n of h o w
t h e t h e m e m a n i f e s t s itself i n the B o o k of R e v e l a t i o n .

. . . there i s a clear indication that J o h n [the a u t h o r of Rev


elation] does k n o w of the fiery s t r e a m , a s we find i n
Revelation 22.1 a reference to " a river of living water a s clear
a s c r y s t a l " coming out of God's throne. Despite the pastoral
setting, a n d whatever the influence of p a s s a g e s like E z e k .
47.1 a n d Z e c h . 14.8, the river is to be connected w i t h the
fiery s t r e a m b e c a u s e of the close l i n k that exists between it
a n d the throne of G o d . W h a t h a s happened here is that the
threatening aspect, w h i c h the fiery s t r e a m presents to those
w h o enter the divine presence (Rev. 15.2ff.), h a s been r e
placed w i t h the life-giving water w h i c h flows through the n e w
J e r u s a l e m a n d renews the inheritors of the new age. T h e
b a r r i e r w h i c h h a d hitherto existed between G o d a n d m a n
h a s now been removed (Rev. 21.3), a n d so it is entirely
appropriate that a l l that might appear to separate m a n from
G o d s h o u l d be removed. [Rowland, 1982, p. 224]

I have quoted these scholars ( i n c l u d i n g myself) at some


l e n g t h , i n a s m u c h a s t h e y s e t forth the b e s t e x p l a n a t i o n s that
c o n v e n t i o n a l h i s t o r i c a l - p h i l o l o g i c a l m e t h o d s h a v e s o far been
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 197

able to give for t h e fiery r i v e r s of D a n i e l a n d E n o c h . These


e x p l a n a t i o n s a r e r e m a r k a b l y h e s i t a n t a n d u n p e r s u a s i v e . I t fol
lows that the m e t h o d s that produced them are significantly
limited. W e m u s t a s k again w h e t h e r Ostow's insights a b o u t the
maternal c l a u s t r u m in apocalyptic visions, w h e n combined with
t h e m o r e t r a d i t i o n a l m e t h o d s , m a y n o t get u s f a r t h e r .
It s e e m s c l e a r to m e ( R o w l a n d to t h e c o n t r a r y ) t h a t R e v e l a
t i o n ' s d e s c r i p t i o n of " t h e r i v e r of t h e w a t e r of life" flowing from
the throne of G o d (Rev. 2 2 : 1 - 2 ) i s b a s e d p r i m a r i l y o n E z e k .
4 7 : 1 - 1 2 , p e r h a p s w i t h s o m e i n f l u e n c e of m i d r a s h i c t r a d i t i o n s
c o n c e r n i n g t h e l a t t e r p a s s a g e (e.g. T o s e f t a S u k k a h 3 : 3 - 1 0 ) . T h e
d e t a i l of t h e t r e e s o n the r i v e r ' s b a n k s , w i t h t h e i r m o n t h l y y i e l d
of f r u i t a n d t h e i r h e a l i n g l e a v e s ( E z e k . 4 7 : 1 2 , R e v . 2 2 : 2 ) , s e e m s
to m e to g u a r a n t e e t h i s . R e v e l a t i o n ' s c l a i m , t h a t t h e r i v e r flows
" f r o m t h e t h r o n e of G o d a n d of the L a m b " , w i l l t h e n m a k e e x p l i c i t
w h a t is implicit in E z e k . 47:1, w h e r e the r i v e r flows f r o m the
i n s i d e of t h e T e m p l e .
T h i s o b s e r v a t i o n e n c o u r a g e s m e to s t a n d b y t h e v i e w I e a r l i e r
e x p r e s s e d , w h i c h I s h a r e w i t h H i m m e l f a r b . T h e life-giving river
of E z e k . 4 7 : 1 - 1 2 w a s t h e i n s p i r a t i o n for a l l t h r e e apocalyptic
w r i t e r s w e h a v e c o n s i d e r e d : the a u t h o r s of 1 E n o c h 14, D a n . 7,
a n d R e v . 2 2 . T h e a u t h o r of R e v e l a t i o n left t h e r i v e r m o r e o r l e s s
a s E z e k i e l h a d d e s c r i b e d it. T h e o t h e r two w r i t e r s o r a t r a d i t i o n
followed b y b o t h t r a n s f o r m e d it into fire. W h y ?
In my most recent study of E z e k i e l ( H a l p e r i n , 1993, pp.
211, 228), I proposed that the restored T e m p l e functioned for
E z e k i e l a s a n u n c o n s c i o u s r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of the good, c h a s t e ,
n u r t u r a n t m o t h e r for w h o m h e l o n g e d . T h i s i s w h y h e r e a s t e r n
gate i s forever s e a l e d , to be e n t e r e d o n l y b y Y a h w e h ( h e r p r o p e r
h u s b a n d ) a n d b y t h e " p r i n c e " (the f o e t u s , Ezekiel's self-repre
s e n t a t i o n ) , w h o i s to b e n o u r i s h e d w i t h i n it ( E z e k . 4 4 : 1 - 3 ) . T h i s
" g a t e " , t h e e n t r a n c e to the n u r t u r i n g a n d p r o t e c t i v e w o m b , a p
pears in Ezek. 47:1-12 as the s o u r c e of the nurturing and
h e a l i n g r i v e r . W e m a y t a k e it t h a t t h e r i v e r f u n c t i o n s for E z e k i e l
a s a p a r a l l e l r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of the good m o t h e r : v a s t a n d engulf
ing (Ezek. 47:5), yet nevertheless benevolent and life-giving
(Ezek. 47:9).
T h i s i s t h e l a t e n t c o n t e n t of E z e k i e l ' s f a n t a s y of t h e r i v e r of
life. A l l t h r e e a p o c a l y p t i c w r i t e r s w e r e c e r t a i n l y f a m i l i a r w i t h
the vision's manifest content. We m a y s u p p o s e that they were
198 METHODOLOGY

u n c o n s c i o u s l y a w a r e of i t s l a t e n t c o n t e n t a s w e l l (cf. H a l p e r i n ,
1995). T h e a u t h o r of R e v e l a t i o n w a s comfortable w i t h t h i s l a t e n t
c o n t e n t a n d therefore left t h e r i v e r a s E z e k i e l h a d d e s c r i b e d i t .
T h e E n o c h i a n w r i t e r a n d t h e a u t h o r of D a n i e l w e r e n o t c o m
fortable w i t h i t . T h e u n d e r l y i n g f a n t a s y , of r e i n c o r p o r a t i o n i n
the m o t h e r , w a s too p o w e r f u l a n d d a n g e r o u s . T h e a u t h o r s h a d
c o m e , p e r h a p s , to believe t h a t t e c h n i q u e s e x i s t e d b y w h i c h t h e y
m i g h t u n d e r t a k e a n e c s t a t i c j o u r n e y to h e a v e n . T h e i r y e a r n i n g
to r e t u r n to t h e m a t e r n a l w o m b w i t h i t s overtones of t h e i n c e s
t u o u s a n d t h e t a b o o e d t h u s c e a s e d to be a d e l i c i o u s l y r e m o t e
f a n t a s y a n d b e c a m e a tangible a n d f r i g h t e n i n g p o s s i b i l i t y . T h e y
consequently inhibited their o w n quest a n d repressed their o w n
s e c r e t d e s i r e s , b y t r a n s f o r m i n g a w e l c o m i n g f a n t a s y of infantile
delight into a forbidding i m a g e of terror. E z e k i e l ' s r i v e r thus
c h a n g e d f r o m w a t e r to fire, from p l e a s u r e to a g o n y . 3

T h e reader will observe that this process i s nearly the reverse


of t h e p r o c e s s p o s t u l a t e d b y R o w l a n d , i n e x p l a i n i n g h o w t h e
fiery r i v e r of D a n i e l a n d E n o c h w a s t r a n s f o r m e d into t h e w a t e r y
r i v e r of R e v e l a t i o n . H i s e x p l a n a t i o n , r e s t i n g a s it d i d o n c o n v e n
t i o n a l theological p o s t u l a t e s , w a s able to e x p l a i n t r a n s f o r m a t i o n
f r o m fire into w a t e r , b u t n o t the r e v e r s e . R o w l a n d w a s therefore
obliged to d i s r e g a r d w h a t s e e m s t h e m o s t r e a s o n a b l e recon
s t r u c t i o n of t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p a m o n g t h e s e v e r a l s o u r c e s . I f w e
a r e to p r e s e r v e t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p a n d s t i l l e x p l a i n t h e river(s) of
fire, w e m u s t s e e k a f r a m e w o r k t h a t will e n a b l e u s to e x p l a i n a
t r a n s f o r m a t i o n from w a t e r to fire. T h e p s y c h o a n a l y t i c p o s t u l a t e s
s e t forth b y O s t o w w i l l provide t h i s f r a m e w o r k .

* * *
Let u s recapitulate. T h e parallel apocalyptic visions i n D a n . 7
a n d 1 E n o c h 14 provide a t l e a s t o n e detail t h a t r e s i s t s e x p l a n a
tion b y the conventional explanatory modes (such a s historical

3
T h e Babylonian Talmud, H a g i g a h 1 3 b , e x p l a i n s t h a t D a n i e l ' s fiery
river o r i g i n a t e s " f r o m t h e s w e a t of t h e hayyot [the l i v i n g c r e a t u r e s o f
E z e k i e l 1, w h o c a r r y t h e d i v i n e t h r o n e ] , a n d . . . i s p o u r e d o u t . . . u p o n
the h e a d s of t h e s i n n e r s i n G e h e n n a . " Cf. Revelation's negative c o u n t e r
p a r t to t h e r i v e r o f life, t h e " l a k e t h a t b u r n s w i t h fire a n d b r i m s t o n e , w h i c h
I s t h e s e c o n d d e a t h " , a n d i n w h i c h s i n n e r s a r e t o r m e n t e d (Rev. 20:10, 15,
21:8).
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 199

c o n t e x t a n d l i t e r a r y i n f l u e n c e ) a v a i l a b l e to t h e h i s t o r i c a l l y a n d
p h i l o l o g i c a l l y t r a i n e d s c h o l a r of J u d a i c a . T h e m o s t adequate
s o l u t i o n to t h e p r o b l e m t h a t the transformation of a welcoming
and life-giving river into a forbidding and destructive river was
the outcome of an unconscious reaction against the latent content
of the original fantasycan be s t a t e d only i n psychoanalytic
t e r m s , o n t h e b a s i s of the p r e m i s e s O s t o w h a s s e t f o r t h i n t h i s
volume.
I n o r d e r to be t r u e to o u r o w n craft, t h e r e f o r e , w e J u d a i c a
s c h o l a r s m u s t b e p r e p a r e d to i n c o r p o r a t e t h e i n s i g h t s of t r a i n e d
p s y c h o a n a l y s t s like O s t o w into our work. We have no j u s t i f i c a
t i o n for t r e a t i n g t h e i r offerings as a distinct "psychoanalytic"
g e n r e of e x p l a n a t i o n w i t h w h i c h w e h a v e n o t h i n g to do, irrel
evant to u s b e c a u s e it r e s p o n d s to q u e s t i o n s that we have
d e c i d e d n o t to p u t o n o u r a g e n d a . O u r agenda itself requires
some revision.
Psychoanalytic experts, however, n e e d to u n d e r s t a n d that
t h e J u d a i c a s p e c i a l i s t w i l l often h a v e l e g i t i m a t e r e s e r v a t i o n s , of
the sort I have s k e t c h e d above, about their contributions. T h e y
m u s t t a k e c a r e n o t to c o l l u d e i n t h e i r o w n a l i e n a t i o n b y s e e m i n g
to d i s r e g a r d t h e h i s t o r i c a l p r o b l e m s t h a t t h e s p e c i a l i s t c o r r e c t l y
perceives a s essential.
It i s n e c e s s a r y , i n o t h e r w o r d s , t h a t I t a k e c a r e to l i s t e n to
t h e p e o p l e i n t h e o t h e r c a m p a n d do n o t a l l o w m y e y e s to g l a z e
o v e r w h e n I h e a r w h a t i s a l i e n to m y h a b i t u a l c o n c e r n s . B u t I
m u s t a l s o t a k e c a r e to s p e a k i n l a n g u a g e t h a t w i l l a d d r e s s t h e
h a b i t u a l c o n c e r n s of t h e o t h e r c a m p a n d t h a t w i l l m a k e m y w a y
of v i e w i n g t h e d a t a s e e m a s little a l i e n to t h e m a s p o s s i b l e .
Ostow's c h a p t e r s four a n d five may be seen as starting
points for a vital a n d productive collaboration between two
g r o u p s of c r e a t i v e t h i n k e r s w h o h a v e often h a d r a t h e r little to
s a y to o n e a n o t h e r .
It i s i n t h i s w a y t h a t the t r e m e n d o u s p o t e n t i a l of h i s w o r k
m a y c o m e to be r e a l i z e d .
Comments
Mortimer Ostow

ON HALPERIN'S
"METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS"

P r o f e s s o r H a l p e r i n h a s p r e s e n t e d the c a s e for psychoanalytic


i n p u t to the s t u d y of old a n d a n c i e n t d o c u m e n t s m o s t p e r s u a
sively. I appreciate h i s confidence in m y m e t h o d a s well a s h i s
m a n y l i s t e d a n d u n l i s t e d c o n t r i b u t i o n s to t h i s v o l u m e . I a p p r e c i
a t e , too, the i m p o r t a n c e of h i s c a u t i o n s a b o u t the n e e d to r e s p e c t
h i s t o r i c a l a n d philological data. T h e purpose of t h i s n o t e i s
to e l a b o r a t e h i s m o d e l of the b a s i s for c o l l a b o r a t i o n between
s t u d e n t s of t h e s e texts a n d p s y c h o a n a l y s t s .
"We a r e p r e p a r e d " , H a l p e r i n s a y s , "to o s c i l l a t e b e t w e e n psy
chological a n d historical-philological perspectives, continually
u s i n g e a c h of t h e s e m o d e s of r e a s o n i n g to c h e c k the o t h e r " . I n
m y o p i n i o n t h e s e two m e t h o d s of i n v e s t i g a t i o n do n o t merely
c h e c k or a d d to e a c h other. T h e y e a c h c o n t r i b u t e a d i m e n s i o n s o
a s to form together a t w o - d i m e n s i o n a l p i c t u r e . T h e h i s t o r i c a l
p h i l o l o g i c a l a p p r o a c h gives u s the s o u r c e s of the a n c i e n t i m a g e s
a n d f a n t a s i e s , the s o u r c e s i n the r e a l w o r l d of c u l t u r e , h i s t o r y ,

200
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 201

economics, geography, and so on. and sometimes even the


s o u r c e s i n the psychology of c o n s c i o u s m o t i v a t i o n . W h a t the
p s y c h o a n a l y t i c a p p r o a c h offers i s t h e m o t i v a t i o n a l e x p l a n a t i o n
for w h y t h e s e s p e c i f i c m a t e r i a l s w e r e s e l e c t e d f r o m t h e many,
m a n y d a t a a n d images i n the s u r r o u n d i n g l a n d s c a p e .
Professor Halperin mentions the terms "manifest content"
a n d " l a t e n t c o n t e n t " t e r m s p r o p o s e d b y F r e u d for d i s t i n g u i s h
ing t h e u n c o n s c i o u s m o t i v a t i n g i m p u l s e a n d f a n t a s i e s of the
d r e a m (latent content), from the overt d r e a m itself (manifest
c o n t e n t ) . I n d o i n g s o , H a l p e r i n s e e m s to be i m p l y i n g t h a t t h e
scholarly puzzles in w h i c h we all s h a r e a n interest are b e s t
approached as one would approach the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of a
d r e a m . I t h i n k this is a valuable suggestion.
L e t u s go b a c k to t h e d r e a m of C (p. 1 6 9 ) , t h e f o u r t h d r e a m
g i v e n i n t h e e s s a y o n merkavah m y s t i c i s m . A s I u n d e r s t a n d it,
t h e h i s t o r i c a l m e t h o d of e x p l i c a t i o n w o u l d elicit t h e following
observations. Madison Square G a r d e n w a s mentioned because
C h a d attended a number of s p o r t i n g e v e n t s there. Squash
courts were mentioned because i n the past he had played
s q u a s h . T h e t e r r a i n t h a t r e m i n d e d h i m of t h e r u i n s of M a c h u
P i c c h u w a s included because he h a d recently r e t u r n e d from a
v i s i t to t h a t s p o t . T h e large c h a i r r e m i n d e d h i m t h a t h e was
a c c e p t i n g s o m e furniture from h i s mother, w h o w a s m o v i n g into
s m a l l e r q u a r t e r s ( a n d I believe it r e f e r r e d to the a n a l y t i c c h a i r a s
well). He h a d , i n d e e d , visited a s q u a r e i n R o m e that the g r a s s y
a r e a of t h e d r e a m r e m i n d e d h i m of, a n d h e h a d s e e n t h e r e t h e
b u i l d i n g from w h i c h M u s s o l i n i h a d a d d r e s s e d the c r o w d s . He
b e l i e v e d t h e r e w a s a l s o a c h u r c h . K n e e l i n g s u g g e s t s to h i m a
religious act. T h e s e a r e the a u t h e n t i c historical data.
T h e m e m o r i e s a n d a s s o c i a t i o n s tell u s t h e s o u r c e of s o m e of
t h e e l e m e n t s t h a t a p p e a r i n the m a n i f e s t d r e a m , b u t t h e c o l l e c
t i o n of t h e s e f a c t s d o e s n o t c o n s t i t u t e a n " i n t e r p r e t a t i o n " or e v e n
a n " e x p l a n a t i o n " of t h e d r e a m . W h y w e r e t h e s e d e t a i l s s e l e c t e d
for r e p r o d u c t i o n i n t h e d r e a m f r o m a m o n g t h e c o u n t l e s s i m p r e s
sions that he h a d encountered i n recent w e e k s ?
Let us now t a k e n o t e of s o m e of t h e p s y c h o l o g i c a l data,
m o t i v a t i n g affects, a n d c o n f l i c t s . F i r s t , i n r e c e n t w e e k s , i t h a d
b e c o m e k n o w n t h a t h i s m o t h e r f a c e d t h e p r o s p e c t of s u r g e r y for
a s e r i o u s i l l n e s s , a n d s o h e b e c a m e m o r e affectionate w i t h h i s
m o t h e r a n d p r o t e c t i v e of h e r . S e c o n d , h e w a s e a g e r to f i n d a
202 METHODOLOGY

s u i t a b l e c a n d i d a t e for m a r r i a g e , a n d h e w a s d i s m a y e d to o b
s e r v e t h a t h e w a s u n a b l e to w o r k u p e n t h u s i a s m for a n y of t h e
y o u n g w o m e n w h o m h e m e t , s o m e of w h o m s e e m e d to b e q u i t e
eligible, objectively c o n s i d e r e d . H i s b r o t h e r s , w h o w e r e r e c e n t l y
m a r r i e d , were starting families. Recent b u s i n e s s s u c c e s s h a d
c r e a t e d t h e c o n f l i c t s t h a t s u c c e s s often d o e s . M o r e o v e r , s i n c e h i s
f a t h e r h a d d i e d a few y e a r s ago, h e h a d a s s u m e d the role of pater
familias.
Let u s acknowledge n o w that the d r e a m resembles i n form
t y p i c a l hekhalot i m a g e s . T h e d r e a m e r w i s h e s to e n t e r a n d t a k e
p o s s e s s i o n o f h i s m o t h e r despite t h e t h r e a t e n i n g o p p o s i t i o n of
h i s f a t h e r . B u t the father i s d e a d . H e d o e s n o t a p p e a r i n t h e
h e k h a l . S o i s M u s s o l i n i ; the powerful leader h a s been defeated,
deposed a n d i s gone. T h o s e w h o c o n s t r u c t e d the P e r u v i a n r u i n s
a r e gone too; o n l y the r u i n s of t h e i r edifices r e m a i n . T h e d r e a m e r
i s i n a p o s i t i o n to t r i u m p h , to t a k e p o s s e s s i o n of t h e w o m a n
w h o m he encounters a s he kneels on the " t h r o n e ' - c h a i r . B u t he
fails; h e w i t h d r a w s a t the l a s t m o m e n t , a s h e h a s b e e n w i t h
d r a w i n g from w o m e n i n w a k i n g life. T h i s d r e a m differs f r o m t h e
t y p i c a l hekhalot f a n t a s y i n t h a t t h e father h a s b e e n e l i m i n a t e d .
T h e s o n n o w s e e k s to t a k e p o s s e s s i o n of t h e f a t h e r ' s t h r o n e
t h a t i s , t h e m o t h e r b u t h e fails b e c a u s e h e i s i n h i b i t e d . ( F o r
e v i d e n c e t h a t the t h r o n e s y m b o l i z e s m o t h e r , s e e S c h o l e m ' s c o m
m e n t s a b o u t t h e Bahir i m a g e i n c h a p t e r five.)
W e n o w h a v e a n " i n t e r p r e t a t i o n " of the d r e a m . C w o u l d like to
p u r s u e h i s n a t u r a l d e s i r e s a t t h i s p o i n t i n h i s life a n d to t a k e
advantage of t h e prestige a n d m a t e r i a l c o m f o r t t h a t h e h a s
a c h i e v e d . B u t o e d i p a l conflict p r e v e n t s h i m from e n j o y i n g t h e
f r u i t s of h i s s u c c e s s . H i s m o t h e r ' s i l l n e s s c r e a t e s a d e s i r e to
m o v e c l o s e r to h e r e m o t i o n a l l y , w h e r e a s s i n c e c h i l d h o o d h e h a d
a l w a y s h e l d h e r a t a r m ' s l e n g t h . K n o w l e d g e of t h e m e a n i n g of
t h e hekhalot f a n t a s y a n d r e c o g n i t i o n of it p e r m i t u s to u n d e r
s t a n d w h y t h e s p e c i f i c i m a g e s from t h e r e c e n t p a s t w e r e i n c l u d e d
i n t h e d r e a m . A n d k n o w l e d g e of the p a t i e n t ' s life s i t u a t i o n h a s
p e r m i t t e d u s to u n d e r s t a n d w h a t p u r p o s e i s s e r v e d b y the i n v o
c a t i o n of t h e hekhalot complex.
L e t u s r e t u r n n o w to t h e p r o b l e m of t h e fiery r i v e r s of t h e
Ethiopic Book of Enoch T h e hypothetical adversarial s c h o l a r
w h o m H a l p e r i n h a s c r e a t e d w o u l d h a v e c o l l e c t e d t h e s o u r c e s of
t h e i m a g e s of t h e f a n t a s y c o r r e c t l y . B u t t h e s e a r e n o t s u f f i c i e n t
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 203

to " i n t e r p r e t " t h e f a n t a s y or e v e n to e x p l a i n c e r t a i n v a r i a n t s of
t h e o r i g i n a l i m a g e s t h a t a r e i n t r o d u c e d i n t o t h e text. H o w e v e r , i f
w e i n v o k e the c o n f l i c t t h a t u s u a l l y a c c o m p a n i e s t h e hekhalot
f a n t a s y , w e w i l l u n d e r s t a n d w h y t h e c o m p o n e n t s of t h e i m a g e
i n c l u d e e l e m e n t s t h a t a r e e s s e n t i a l l y a m b i v a l e n t , l i k e fiery w a t e r
a n d h o u s e s t h a t a r e s i m u l t a n e o u s l y too h o t a n d too c o l d . T h e
a c c o u n t r e m i n d s u s t h a t the d e c i s i o n to a p p r o a c h too c l o s e l y to
G o d a n d to l o o k a t H i m i n c u r s m o r t a l d a n g e r . O u r p s y c h o a n a
lytic a p p r o a c h e x p l a i n s that the expectation of d a n g e r a r i s e s
f r o m o u r o w n g u i l t a n d a n x i e t y e l i c i t e d b y t h e y e a r n i n g to v i o l a t e
a prohibition that somehow appeared early in childhood. T h e
explicit t e x t u a l i m a g e s constitute the m a n i f e s t content, b u t the
latent content c a n be a s c e r t a i n e d o n l y w h e n the underlying
d y n a m i c s are exposed. Proper u n d e r s t a n d i n g or " i n t e r p r e t a t i o n "
r e q u i r e s t h e c o o r d i n a t i o n of t h e two.
Halperin's selection has proved to b e felicitous. But the
optimal r e s u l t w o u l d be obtained, not from alternating the h i s
torical-philological w i t h the p s y c h o a n a l y t i c a p p r o a c h , b u t from
c o o r d i n a t i n g t h e m . T h e one e s t a b l i s h e s t h e b a s i s i n t h e real
w o r l d for t h e s e l e c t i o n of t h e i m a g e s p r e s e n t e d i n t h e text, a n d
t h e o t h e r a t t e m p t s to d i s c e r n , b y e x a m i n i n g w h a t c a n be a s c e r
t a i n e d of t h e p s y c h o d y n a m i c s , w h y t h e s e e l e m e n t s w e r e s e l e c t e d
a n d h o w t h e y r e l a t e to e a c h o t h e r a n d to t h e w r i t e r ' s p e r s o n a l
a g e n d a . T h e r e c o g n i t i o n of u n i v e r s a l a r c h e t y p i c a l c o m p l e x e s c a n
c o n t r i b u t e s t r o n g l y to the s o l u t i o n of t h e s e p r o b l e m s .
If o n l y a s c h o l a r i n t i m a t e l y f a m i l i a r w i t h t h e h i s t o r i c a l a n d
p h i l o l o g i c a l m a t e r i a l s i s q u a l i f i e d to a t t e m p t to s o l v e t h e p r o b
l e m s i n h e r e n t i n the a n c i e n t texts, a n d if only a n a n a l y s t w i t h
c l i n i c a l experience obtained from long a n d i n t e n s e p r a c t i c e is
q u a l i f i e d to offer p s y c h o d y n a m i c h y p o t h e s e s , then satisfactory
s t u d i e s c a n be a c h i e v e d only by cooperation r a t h e r t h a n by i n
d i v i d u a l s t u d y . If t h i s v o l u m e h e l p s to e n c o u r a g e s u c h c o o p e r a
tive e n d e a v o u r s , it w i l l h a v e a c h i e v e d o n e of i t s m a j o r p u r p o s e s .

* * #

Let me add a parenthetical comment addressed, n o t to the


a r g u m e n t , b u t to the i l l u s t r a t i v e text t h a t H a l p e r i n d r e w to o u r
a t t e n t i o n . I refer to t h e i m a g e of a s t r e a m i s s u i n g f r o m b e n e a t h a
t h r o n e . T h a t c e r t a i n l y c o r r e s p o n d s to n o r e a l h i s t o r i c a l t h r o n e o r
stream.
204 METHODOLOGY

H a l p e r i n q u o t e s H i m m e l f a r b , w h o r e l a t e s the fiery s t r e a m to
t h e M o u n t a i n of E l , m e n t i o n e d i n U g a r i t i c l i t e r a t u r e , a t the b a s e
of w h i c h two s t r e a m s r u n . T h e r e i s n o t h i n g r e m a r k a b l e a b o u t
s t r e a m s t h a t flow a t the b o t t o m of a m o u n t a i n . H a l p e r i n h i m s e l f
t h e n o b s e r v e s t h a t the s t r e a m i s s u i n g f r o m t h e T e m p l e mount,
a s d e s c r i b e d i n E z e k i e l 4 7 : 1 - 1 2 , c a n be s e e n a s d e r i v e d from the
streams found a t the b a s e of the U g a r i t i c c o s m i c mountain.
H e r e , too, s i n c e the T e m p l e s t a n d s on a n e l e v a t e d p l a t f o r m , it
w o u l d n o t be t h a t u n u s u a l to f i n d a s t r e a m i s s u i n g f r o m i t s b a s e .
I t s m i r a c u l o u s l y i n c r e a s i n g its v i g o u r w i t h d i s t a n c e , a n d its
m i r a c u l o u s fructifying p r o p e r t i e s c a n be a t t r i b u t e d to p r o p h e t i c
hyperbole. B u t in Daniel 7 a n d Revelation 22, we encounter
s t r e a m s i s s u i n g from b e n e a t h a t h r o n e . T h a t i s a n u n n a t u r a l
image.
L e t m e c a l l a t t e n t i o n to a few c l u e s to w h a t s e e m s to m e a
r e a s o n a b l e g u e s s a b o u t the s i g n i f i c a n c e of t h i s s t r a n g e fantasy.
(1) I h a v e n o t e d t h a t the m y s t i c a l f a n t a s i e s r e p r o d u c e fantasies
of c h i l d h o o d . T h e m y s t i c t e n d s to r e p r o d u c e , i n h i s imagery,
impressions of p h y s i c a l c l o s e n e s s to p a r e n t s . T h e s e often or
u s u a l l y deal with anatomical detailsfor example, God's p h a l
l u s . T h e Shiw QomaK w h i c h I m e n t i o n e d i n c h a p t e r five, d o e s
t h i s w i t h a b s u r d p r e c i s i o n . (2) D r . G a l e n s o n i n f o r m s u s t h a t i n
their earliest y e a r s , children exhibit intense interest i n their
p a r e n t s ' toilet f u n c t i o n s . (3) H a l p e r i n q u o t e s H a g i g a h 1 3 b to the
effect t h a t D a n i e l ' s r i v e r o r i g i n a t e s from t h e s w e a t of the c h i m e r
i c a l c r e a t u r e s of E z e k i e l 1, a n d t h a t the s w e a t i s p o u e d r
out
u p o n the s i n n e r s i n G e h e n n a . H a l p e r i n c o m p a r e s t h i s f a n t a s y to
R e v e l a t i o n ' s negative c o u n t e r p a r t of the r i v e r of life, n a m e l y the
" l a k e t h a t t e e m s w i t h fire a n d b r i m s t o n e , w h i c h is t h e second
d e a t h " , a n d i n w h i c h s i n n e r s a r e t o r m e n t e d (20: 10, 15; 2 1 : 8 ) .
(4) B o t h E z e k i e l 4 7 a n d R e v e l a t i o n 2 2 e m p h a s i z e the p u r i t y of
the water.
G i v e n t h e s e c l u e s , it i s difficult to a v o i d the c o n c l u s i o n t h a t
the u n c o n s c i o u s f a n t a s y t h a t gives r i s e to the i m a g e of the
s t r e a m i s s u i n g from u n d e r the t h r o n e m a y b e the i m a g e of G o d ' s
urinary streaman image approximated fairly c l o s e l y b y the
e x p l a n a t i o n given i n H a g i g a h 13b. D e p e n d i n g u p o n its c o n t e x t ,
the s t r e a m m a y c o m e to be s e e n a s p u r e a n d fructifying ( h u m a n
e x c r e t a " n i g h t s o i l " a r e u s e d to fertilize food c r o p s ) , or foul
a n d p o i s o n o u s . T h i s i d e a m a y s e e m l e s s o u t r a g e o u s if w e c o n
METHODOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS 205

s i d e r t h a t (1) h u m a n e x c r e t a " n i g h t s o i l " a r e c o m m o n l y u s e d


i n l e s s d e v e l o p e d c o u n t r i e s to fertilize food c r o p s ; (2) t h a t b r i m
stone shares with h u m a n faeces the penetrating sulphurous
odour; a n d that, a s noted above, Ezekiel reports that G o d i n
s t r u c t e d h i m to c o o k h i s food over h u m a n f a e c e s u s e d a s f u e l . If
t h a t i s c o r r e c t , t h e n i n a d d i t i o n to the o t h e r d e t e r m i n a n t s of t h e
fiery q u a l i t y a t t r i b u t e d to the s t r e a m , t h e e x p e r i e n c e of s u f f e r i n g
a n a c u t e u r i n a r y i n f e c t i o n or e v e n a c h r o n i c p r o s t a t i t i s , w h i c h I
a s s u m e w a s fairly c o m m o n i n a n c i e n t times, certainly c o m b i n e s
t h e i m p r e s s i o n of fire a n d w a t e r .
I n s h o r t , t h e i m a g e of the fiery s t r e a m i s s u i n g f r o m u n d e r t h e
t h r o n e l e a d s u s r i g h t to the m a t t e r of o u r c e n t r a l c o n c e r n
ultimate intimacy.
S E X AND G E N D E R

IN T H E K A B B A L A H

Introduction

K
abbalah proper, or mediaeval J e w i s h mysticism, is a set
of systems of theosophy a n d cosmology. Two terse
mystical books appeared in Western Europe, the first,
Sefer Yezirah, perhaps between the third a n d sixth centuries,
a n d the second, Sefer ha-Bahir, during the twelfth century. T h e
former constructed a cosmology based upon combinations of
numbers a n d letters that purported to reveal a harmony i n the
universe, all a product of God's calculations a n d construction.
T h e latter uses the approach of numerology a n d of letter mysti
cism, together with verses from the Bible, to construct a more
personal cosmos completely occupied by a n omnipresent God.
With these a s a foundation, the kabbalists elaborated more a n d
more complex systems. T h e definitive formulation appeared i n
a book called Sefer ha-Zohar, referred to briefly as the Zohar. It
appeared in Spain towards the end of the thirteenth century
a n d is attributed by Gershom Scholem to Moses b. S h e m Tov
de Leon. T h i s is a very large work comprising several sections,
not all of the same quality and therefore probably including
sections from other authors. The major part is constructed a s
a systematic sequential commentary on the Pentateuch. It, too,

209
210 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

e s t a b l i s h e s a c o s m o l o g y , a t h e o r y of the n a t u r e of the G o d h e a d ,
a n d a r e a s s u r a n c e t h a t d i v i n e love a n d j u s t i c e c o n t i n u e to gov
e r n m a n k i n d ' s d e s t i n y . T h e p r o p o s i t i o n s of the Zohar constitute
a k i n d of m y t h i c s y s t e m t h a t w a s s u b s e q u e n t l y e l a b o r a t e d b y
v a r i o u s k a b b a l i s t i c a u t h o r s a n d i n k a b b a l i s t i c circles. I n the
s i x t e e n t h c e n t u r y , S a f e d b e c a m e the c e n t r e of k a b b a l i s t i c s t u d y
a n d I s a a c L u r i a b e c a m e the d o m i n a t i n g figure. H e p r o p o s e d a
m o r e developed a n d o r i g i n a l m y t h i c s y s t e m t h a t s e e m i n g l y took
a c c o u n t of exile, of evil, a n d of the p o s s i b i l i t y of r e s t i t u t i o n .
I n K a b b a l a h , the G o d h e a d i s c o n c e i v e d a s far m o r e a b s t r a c t
t h a n it i s i n n o r m a t i v e J u d a i s m , u n a p p r o a c h a b l e a n d , i n fact,
i n c o n c e i v a b l e . I n H i s m o s t r e c o n d i t e form, H e i s c a l l e d En Sof, or
" I n f i n i t e " . It i s o n l y i n a s e r i e s of p r o g r e s s i v e l y " l o w e r " a n d m o r e
c o n c r e t e g r a d e s t h a t He c a n be k n o w n to m a n k i n d . T e n Sefirot
a r e a t t r i b u t e d to En Sof T h e r e i s n o one E n g l i s h w o r d that
p r o p e r l y t r a n s l a t e s the w o r d Sejirah. T h e word probably derives
f r o m t h e H e b r e w w o r d for n u m b e r . I n e s s e n c e , t h e t e n Sefirot are
p r o b a b l y u n k n o w a b l e b y m a n k i n d , b u t their m a n i f e s t a t i o n s i n
t h e u n i v e r s e c a n be r e c o g n i z e d . T h e y a r e c o n c e i v e d a s a r r a n g e d
in a structured pattern suggesting the f r a m e of the human
b e i n g , w i t h four m i d - l i n e s t r u c t u r e s a n d t h r e e l a t e r a l p a i r s . O f
t h e m i d - l i n e s t r u c t u r e s of the d i a g r a m , the l o w e s t i s c a l l e d
Malkkuth or k i n g s h i p , s o m e t i m e s k n o w n a s Shekhinah, or t h e
f e m i n i n e c o m p o n e n t of G o d . I n s o m e k a b b a l i s t i c a c c o u n t s it i s
c o n s i d e r e d a female c o m p o n e n t of t h e total s t r u c t u r e a n d one
t h a t i s n e c e s s a r y for i t s c o m p l e t e n e s s . T h e m i d - l i n e s t r u c t u r e
i m m e d i a t e l y a b o v e it, Yesod or f o u n d a t i o n , i s g e n e r a l l y a c k n o w l
e d g e d a s t h e p h a l l u s , t h e r e p r o d u c t i v e o r g a n , a n d the d i r e c t
s o u r c e for p r o c e s s e s of r e b i r t h . W e h a v e a l r e a d y m e n t i o n e d , i n
c h a p t e r one, Luria's concept of the c o s m i c catastrophe, the
b u r s t i n g of t h e v e s s e l s c o n t a i n i n g t h e h o l y s p a r k s , a n d his
emphasis o n the possibility of tikkun or r e s t o r a t i o n . T h i s is
a c c o m p l i s h e d b y t h e c o m b i n e d efforts of a l l J e w s i n t h e p e r f o r m
a n c e of good d e e d s [mitzvot], p r a y e r , a n d s t u d y t h a t i s , s t u d y of
c l a s s i c a l texts, p r e s u m a b l y a s i l l u m i n a t e d b y K a b b a l a h .
T h e r e i s t h u s a c o n g r u e n c e b e t w e e n the d i v i n e a n t h r o p o s a n d
t h e h u m a n . A s a r e s u l t , G o d b e c o m e s , a t l e a s t i n H i s operative
f u n c t i o n s , k n o w a b l e a n d f a m i l i a r to h u m a n s . S e c o n d l y , the c o n
g r u e n c e s e e m s to i m p l y t h e p o s s i b i l i t y of c o n n e c t e d n e s s , s o t h a t
h u m a n b e h a v i o u r c a n i n f l u e n c e the divine a n t h r o p o s . A s we
INTRODUCTION 211

shall see, this principle is the basis for speculations about the
divine sexuality.
What is mystical about these ideas? The mystic is trying to
escape from the feeling of living i n a n inhospitable universe. He
overcomes that feeling by entering into a reconstructed cosmos
in w h i c h the Godhead is a s s u m e d to possess characteristics
similar to those of h u m a n s a n d is therefore familiar, comprehen
sible, a n d subject to influence. The Kabbalah established the
possibility of intimate knowledge of, if not actual intimacy with,
the Divine. It is this pursuit of intimacy that distinguishes
Kabbalah from the antecedent non-mystical mythology of
T a l m u d a n d Midrash. Presumably, intimacy c a n be obtained
by the three modalities we j u s t mentionedgood deeds, prayer,
a n d study, a n d especially the study of kabbalistic cosmology.
Wolfson (1993a) observes that theosophic study c a n induce
mystical ecstasy. Intimacy is also achieved by viewing one's own
behaviour a s participation in the cosmic system. Everything one
thinks a n d does c a n be a link to a w a r m , vital, a n d hospitable
cosmos.
T h e idea that the h u m a n a n d the divine anthropos exert a
m u t u a l influence upon each other provides the opportunity for
the sense of power a n d the possibility of exerting a magical
influence on the universe. It is this idea that h a s led to the
notion that the Kabbalah confers magical powers.
No aspect of h u m a n life, mental or physical, is excluded from
Kabbalah. Idel a n d Wolfson have provided u s with two splendid
a n d comprehensive essays on sexuality in kabbalistic theory,
with the expectation that that subject would offer the most
immediate correlation with psychoanalytic theory.
Kabbalah is concerned with sexuality for two reasons. In the
first place, sexuality is the path that leads directly to procrea
tionthat i s , the possibility of birth a n d rebirth. Secondly,
sexuality, like mysticism, is powerfully directed towards union
a n d reunion. The mystic hopes to reunite with a non-material
surrogate for mother, while the sexually motivated individual
strives towards physical union with a partner. B u t I see also a
third motivationnamely, to foreclose the possibility that the
sexual drive, which is always individual, might divert one from
religious behaviour a n d complete commitment to the religious
group. Kabbalah does not simply attempt to prevent competition
212 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

b e t w e e n s e x u a l i t y a n d c o m m i t m e n t to w o r t h y b e h a v i o u r ; it a c t u
a l l y exploits s e x u a l i t y to c o n d u c e to commitment.
T o i l l u s t r a t e the u s e of s e x u a l i t y i n K a b b a l a h , let m e q u o t e a
p a r t i c u l a r l y t r a n s p a r e n t p a s s a g e t a k e n from the s e c t i o n of t h e
Zohar c a l l e d I d r a Zuta ( M a r g a l i o t h , 1 9 6 0 , 3:296a):

T h e n H i s p h y s i c a l thighs e x p a n d , enclosing between t h e m


the two k i d n e y s a n d two testicles within w h i c h a r e a c c u m u
lated a l l of the oil (secretions?) a n d greatness a n d bodily
strength, a n d from w h i c h the strength w h i c h is to be r e
leased is released, a n d ejaculated from the orifice of the
penis. T h e s e thighs are called Hosts, Victory a n d Majesty.
B e a u t y i s the L o r d . Victory a n d Majesty are the Hosts a n d
therefore He is called L o r d of Hosts. T h e male p h a l l u s , the
completion of the entire body is called F o u n d a t i o n , a n d this
is the grade that gratifies the female. A l l of the desire of the
male i s for the female. W i t h this foundation h e enters the
female, into the place called Zion, w h i c h is the concealed
genital of the female, a n d w h i c h is homologous to the w o m b
of the m o r t a l w o m a n . A n d therefore the L o r d of Hosts i s
called F o u n d a t i o n .

I w o u l d infer from the e x p l i c i t n e s s of t h i s a c c o u n t t h a t s e x u


ality is not u s e d here a s a metaphor for u n i o n b e t w e e n the
h u m a n a n d t h e d i v i n e , so m u c h a s a v e h i c l e ; the s e x u a l q u e s t
c a r r i e s w i t h it the q u e s t for u n i o n w i t h the G o d h e a d .
A c o m p a r a b l e p a s s a g e f r o m The Autobiographical Life of St
Teresa of Jesus (quoted i n U n d e r h i l l , 1 9 6 1 , p p . 292f):

T h o u g h I have visions of angels frequently, yet I see t h e m


only by a n intellectual vision. It w a s O u r L o r d s will that i n
this vision I s h o u l d see a n angel in this wise. He w a s not
large, b u t s m a l l i n stature, a n d most b e a u t i f u l h i s face
b u r n i n g , a s if he were one of the highest angels, w h o s e e m to
be all on fire. . . . I s a w in h i s h a n d a long s p e a r of gold, a n d
a t the iron's point there seemed to be a little fire. He a p
peared to me to be t h r u s t i n g it at times into m y heart a n d to
pierce m y very entrails; w h e n he drew it out, he seemed to
d r a w t h e m out also a n d to leave me all on fire with a great
love of G o d . T h e p a i n w a s so great that it m a d e m e m o a n ;
a n d yet so s u r p a s s i n g w a s the sweetness of this excessive
p a i n that I could not w i s h to be rid of it. T h e s o u l is satisfied
now with nothing less t h a n God.
INTRODUCTION 213

Note t h a t t h e f o r m e r a c c o u n t p u r p o r t s to b e a n a c c o u n t of
divine experience, the latter a p e r s o n a l experience. I n the first
a c c o u n t , the female i s a l m o s t i n c i d e n t a l ; i n the latter, the female
i s the p r i n c i p a l . Most i m p o r t a n t , however, is the fact t h a t the
former a c c o u n t is quite explicitly genital a n d s e x u a l , w h i l e i n
the latter a c c o u n t the genitality a n d sexuality are symbolic.
S t . T e r e s a d o e s n o t p e r m i t h e r s e l f to a c k n o w l e d g e that s h e is
enjoying a s e x u a l experience. T o the extent t h a t S t . T e r e s a ' s
r e p o r t i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of C h r i s t i a n m y s t i c i s m , a n d to t h e e x t e n t
t h a t t h i s a c c o u n t f r o m t h e I d r a Z u t a i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of k a b b a
listic m y s t i c i s m , we c a n u n d e r s t a n d that the former can be
a u t o b i o g r a p h i c a l a n d exoteric, w h e r e a s the latter i s didactic a n d
esoteric.
B o t h Idel's a n d Wolfson's c h a p t e r s are fairly t e c h n i c a l , b u t
t h e y w i l l give t h e r e a d e r a n i d e a of t h e n a t u r e of k a b b a l i s t i c
t h i n k i n g . Idel s u m m a r i z e s k a b b a l i s t i c thought a b o u t the r e l a
tion b e t w e e n divine a n d h u m a n sexuality. Wolfson d e s c r i b e s the
a s y m m e t r i c a l a t t i t u d e of K a b b a l a h t o w a r d s t h e two s e x e s . He
m a k e s a c l e a r distinction between biological s e x u a l i t y a n d c u l
turally assigned gender.
In a n interesting paper on circumcision, Nunberg (1949)
r e p o r t e d t h e c a s e of a p a t i e n t w h o w a s c i r c u m c i s e d a t t h e age of
5. H e t h o u g h t of t h e l o s s of the f o r e s k i n a s a l o s s of f e m i n i n i t y
a n d a s t r e n g t h e n i n g of h i s m a s c u l i n i t y . H e i m a g i n e d t h a t h i s 1
year-old sister h a d acquired his foreskin a n d that he could
r e t r i e v e it b y m a r r y i n g h e r . H e s t r o v e i n o t h e r w a y s to undo
separations a n d divisions, namely, to r e u n i t e w h a t w a s sepa
rated. Nunberg d o e s n o t r e p o r t a n y m y s t i c a l affect, but the
m y t h i c f a n t a s y r e m i n d s u s of k a b b a l i s t i c m a t e r i a l r e p o r t e d by
W o l f s o n n a m e l y , that biological s e x u a l i t y does not limit f a n t a s y
of g e n d e r i d e n t i t y , a n d t h a t s e x u a l u n i o n p r o m o t e s feelings of
i d e n t i t y a n d w h o l e n e s s . T h e c h i l d ' s f e a r of l o s s a n d h i s n e e d to
r e u n i t e w h a t h a d b e e n s e p a r a t e d l e d h i m to a n d r o g y n o u s fanta
s i e s a n d y e a r n i n g s for s e x u a l c o n t a c t . H e h a d b e e n c i r c u m c i s e d
because t h e g l a n s a n d the f o r e s k i n h a d b e e n c h r o n i c a l l y i r r i
tated. H i s penis required h i s mother's frequent attention for
c l e a n i n g . After the c i r c u m c i s i o n , he requested his mother to
r e n e w h e r a t t e n t i o n s , b u t s i n c e t h e r e w a s n o objective n e e d , s h e
r e f u s e d . It w a s t h e n t h a t h e d e v e l o p e d the f a n t a s y t h a t h i s s i s t e r
w a s a c t u a l l y a t w i n , a n d a s a r e s u l t of h i s c i r c u m c i s i o n , s h e h a d
214 S E X A N D G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

a c q u i r e d h i s foreskin. Therefore by s e x u a l contact w i t h h e r he


w o u l d n o t o n l y r e a c q u i r e the f o r e s k i n b u t a l s o r e s t o r e h i s origi
n a l a n d r o g y n o u s s t a t e . T h e m y t h of a n d r o g y n y i s c a l c u l a t e d to
a m e l i o r a t e the p a i n of s e p a r a t i o n a n d l o s s ( N u n b e r g , 1949).
T h a t b r i n g s u s to a s e e m i n g c o n t r a d i c t i o n b e t w e e n I d e l a n d
W o l f s o n . I d e l i n f o r m s u s t h a t the K a b b a l a h d o e s n o t a c c e p t the
m y t h s of a n d r o g y n y of G n o s t i c i s m , n o r of s o m e e a r l y C h r i s t i a n
v i e w s of t r a n s f o r m a t i o n of one s e x into the o t h e r . W o l f s o n c o n
tends t h a t i n K a b b a l a h the female a n d male may exchange
qualities, so that in some c i r c u m s t a n c e s the c o n c e p t of the
female a n d the c o n c e p t of the m a l e a r e c o m b i n e d , o r c o n t a i n e d
w i t h i n e a c h o t h e r . T h e K a b b a l a h l e a v e s n o a m b i g u i t y a b o u t the
p h y s i c a l differences between the s e x e s , both among humans
a n d w i t h i n the d i v i n e a n t h r o p o s . Wolfson s h o w s u s that the
K a b b a l a h a s s i g n s a g e n d e r v a l u e to e a c h i n d i v i d u a l i n r e l a t i o n to
certain functions.
W h a t these e s s a y s demonstrate i s t h a t , given the n e e d to
e s t a b l i s h a feeling of i n t i m a c y or u n i o n , one c a n e n r i c h the
prosaic experiences of daily life by an act of deliberate
r e o r i e n t a t i o n , e s p e c i a l l y i n the c o m p a n y of o t h e r s d e t e r m i n e d to
a c c o m p l i s h the s a m e t a s k . S e x u a l i t y l e n d s itself e s p e c i a l l y to
t h i s e n d e a v o u r b e c a u s e its s t r i v i n g i s t o w a r d s a c t u a l p h y s i c a l
u n i o n . T h e q u e s t for i n t i m a c y , p h y s i c a l a n d e m o t i o n a l , i s e a s i l y
r e c o n c i l e d w i t h a n d r e c r u i t e d into the s e r v i c e of the m y s t i c a l
q u e s t for u n i o n w i t h t h e G o d h e a d .
E a c h of t h e s e e s s a y s p r e s e n t s a s e r i e s of p r o p o s i t i o n s and
e x t e n s i v e d o c u m e n t a t i o n for e a c h p r o p o s i t i o n . M o s t r e a d e r s w i l l
f i n d the t e r m s a n d c o n c e p t s u n f a m i l i a r . F o r b o t h r e a s o n s , the
r e a d i n g m a y b e s l o w a n d difficult if one a t t e m p t s to follow the
a r g u m e n t s c l o s e l y . It m a y h e l p if the r e a d e r k e e p s i n m i n d the
p r i n c i p l e t h a t the i n t e n t of the m y s t i c a l e n t e r p r i s e i s a l w a y s to
a u g m e n t t h e a v a i l a b i l i t y of the D i v i n e to the h u m a n m y s t i c . I n
addition, it i s w e l l to r e m e m b e r that i n m o s t i n s t a n c e s the
a u t h o r i s t a l k i n g , not a b o u t l i t e r a l h u m a n b e i n g s a n d l i t e r a l
sexuality, but about the c o n c e p t s of people a n d t h e i r s e x u a l
activities. Idel correctly e m p h a s i z e s the m e t a p h o r i c q u a l i t y of
the i d e a s d e s c r i b e d . It w i l l be of i n t e r e s t to t a k e note of t h e m a n y
quoted comments that emphasize that everything is united a n d
combined, e v e r y t h i n g i s one. T h e r e a d e r w h o c o m e s to this
m a t e r i a l f r o m the d o m a i n of p s y c h o a n a l y s i s w i l l find a n u m b e r
INTRODUCTION 215

of i n s t a n c e s i n w h i c h t h e k a b b a l i s t s c o r r e c t l y a p p r e h e n d the
u n c o n s c i o u s s y m b o l i c e q u i v a l e n c e of a r c h e t y p e s f o r example,
t h a t s a c r e d s p a c e u s u a l l y signifies mother.
F i n a l l y , let m e e m p h a s i z e t h a t K a b b a l a h i s n o t a fixed s t r u c
t u r e , e i t h e r i n c o n t e n t or i n h i s t o r y . T o a s k w h a t K a b b a l a h s a y s
a b o u t a given s u b j e c t is like a s k i n g w h a t p s y c h o a n a l y s i s says
a b o u t a s u b j e c t . I n e a c h c a s e one m u s t specify w h o the a u t h o r i t y
is, w h e n he wrote a n d where, a n d at w h a t point i n h i s own
development the specific views were formulated.
J a c o b A r l o w c o m m e n t s o n I d e l ' s c h a p t e r . H e t r i e s to show
that the introduction of the feminine into the i m a g e of the
G o d h e a d a l l e v i a t e s s o m e of the s e x u a l t e n s i o n t h a t i s i n v o l v e d
i n the m a l e w o r s h i p e r ' s s u b m i t t i n g completely to a m a l e God.
N e u b a u e r , c o m m e n t i n g on Wolfson's chapter, e x a m i n e s h o w the
propositions of g e n d e r transcendence a p p l y to psychoanalytic
propositions of d e v e l o p m e n t a n d observes that not all myth
f a n t a s i e s a r e c o n s i s t e n t w i t h e a c h o t h e r w i t h r e s p e c t to p h a s e of
development. I think that s u c h consistency is not p u r s u e d by
m y s t i c s . T h e m o s t a r c h a i c f a n t a s i e s of r e u n i o n b y i n c o r p o r a t i o n
a n d identification appear side by side with phallic s e x u a l u n i o n
a n d group cohesiveness.
CHAPTER SEVEN

Sexual metaphors and praxis

i n the Kabbalah

Moshe Idel

T
wo major usages of sexual imagery, metaphors a n d
praxis, occur in the kabbalistic literature. For describing
these usages, it is reasonable to divide various types of
sexual discussions into two main parts, according to their
referents on the theological or theosophical plan. (1) W h e n the
relationship symbolized by the sexual imagery or praxis is be
tween h u m a n s a n d God, I refer to it a s "vertical symbolism".
(2) W h e n the relation the sexual imagery or praxis is pointing to is
a process taking place between entities found on the s a m e level,
it is referred to a s "horizontal symbolism". "Vertical symbolism"
c a n be found i n two main kabbalistic schools: the theosophical
kabbalah, whose m a i n chef d'oeuvre is the thirteenth-century
Zohar, a n d i n the ecstatic kabbalah, represented by the thir
teenth-century writings of R. A b r a h a m Abulafia a n d his follow
ers; the "horizontal symbolism" recurs almost exclusively i n the
theosophical kabbalah.

F r o m The Jewish Family: Metaphor and Memory (ed. David Kraemer).


Copyright 1989 by the J e w i s h Theological Seminary of America.
Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press, I n c .

217
218 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

Roughly speaking, the two main types of symbols occur


already in the classical rabbinic textsthe Talmud a n d the
midrash. However, the mediaeval kabbalists, who adopted the
already existing sexual motifs, elaborated on details of rabbinic
thoughts concerning sexual issues a n d sometimes integrated
philosophical ideas, which contributed mainly to the formations
occurring in the ecstatic kabbalah.
Let u s begin with the vertical symbolism. T h i s type of sym
bolism includes two differing kinds of symbols. The theosoph 1

ical kabbalah refers to the divine manifestations as female


partner, whereas the kabbalists or the ideal figures of the remote
antiquity (biblical or rabbinic heroes) are conceived of as playing
the role of the male in their relation to the Divine. The ecstatic
kabbalah, on the other hand, presents the mystic or his spiritual
faculties as the female, whereas the supernal powers (viz. the
active intellect or God Himself) are viewed as the male partner. I
would refer to the theosophical usage of vertical as well as
horizontal symbolism as "descending symbolism".
T h i s term, which was proposed and defined by E r i c h Kahler
(1960, p. 65), indicates a case when

symbolic representation detaches itself, descends to us,


from a prior and higher reality, a reality determining, and
therefore superior to, its symbolic meaning. That is to say,
genuinely mythical and cultic works are not intended as
symbolic representation, they are meant to describe real
happenings.

In our case, the "higher reality" is the processes taking place


in the infradivine world, namely, the domain of the sephirot ("the
potencies and modes of action of the living God"see Scholem,
1965, p. 100) which serve as archetypes for both the vertical and
horizontal processes.
On the other hand, the vertical symbolism of the ecstatic
kabbalah will be referred to as "ascending symbolism", this 2

M s h a l l l i m i t m y s e l f to s e l f - e v i d e n t sexual d i s c u s s i o n s i n k a b b a l a h ,
l e a v i n g a s i d e a w h o l e s e r i e s of erotic i m a g e r y . S o m e o f t h e m w e r e s t u d i e d
b y V a j d a (1957) or W i r s z u b s k i (1975, pp. 1 3 - 2 3 ) ; see also L a n g e r , 1 9 2 3 ,
a n d n n . 5 a n d 50 below.
2
T h i s term o c c u r s also i n Kahler's essayhowever, i n speculative
c o n t e x t s o t h e r t h a n t h o s e d i s c u s s e d h e r e ; a n d I prefer, therefore, to p r o
p o s e m y o w n definition for t h i s p h r a s e ; cf. K a h l e r , 1 9 6 0 , p p . 6 7 - 6 8 .
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND PRAXIS 219

phrase expressing the elevation of a corporeal, h u m a n sexual


act to the status of a metaphor for the relationship between the
h u m a n soul a n d supernal entities.
I shall start with a n analysis of the history of the vertical
ascending symbolism.

Vertical ascending symbolism

It is a commonplace that mystical literature is inclined to ex


press the relationship between the mystic soul a n d the divine by
means of erotic imagery (see, e.g., Waite, 1915, esp. pp. 126ff.).
All the classical bodies of mystical writings c a n easily provide
numerous examples, sometimes striking ones, wherein sexual
images are openly a n d often employed. Kabbalah h a s nothing
unique on this issue; it also extensively uses sexual images a n d
metaphors. However, there is something novel in this body of
literature that transcends the more common usage of erotic a n d
sexual motifs. T h e difference lies not so m u c h in the texts, but i n
their sociological contexts.
Unlike their Christian correspondents, the J e w i s h mystics
who adopted sexual imagery i n order to describe their experi
ence of the divine shared with other J e w s the conviction that
actual marriage a n d fulfilment of the command to multiply are
religious imperatives a n d , accordingly, the kabbalists could
hardly be regarded a s persons who employed sexual metaphors
a s a compensation for the frustration of "real" erotic experiences
(see L e u b a , 1925, pp. 116ff.). A b r a h a m Abulafia, Isaac of Acre,
or any other kabbalists who will be mentioned later were seem
ingly married or, at least, persons who viewed sexual relations
a s religiously licit. Therefore, the very recurrence of this type of
imagery in J e w i s h sources is evidence that the relatively com
mon explanations offered by some scholars to the genesis of
sexual imagery in the repressed libido c a n be no more than a
partial solution.
A short survey of the vertical ascending symbolism evinces
that it occurs in two major types of texts: the ancient classical
J e w i s h literature a n d mediaeval kabbalistic literature. In the
Bible a n d the talmudic-midrashic texts, the relationship be
220 S E XA N D G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

tween G o d a n d t h e J e w i s h people, s o m e t i m e s d e s i g n a t e d as
Knesset Israel is described a s the relation between husband
a n d wife. T h i s w a s a l s o t h e m a i n a v e n u e a d o p t e d i n t h e exegeti
c a l l i t e r a t u r e of t h e S o n g of S o n g s i n m e d i a e v a l texts, w h i c h
r e g a r d e d t h e p l a i n m e a n i n g of t h e b i b l i c a l text to be c o n c e r n e d
w i t h t h e people of I s r a e l a n d G o d . T h i s i s o b v i o u s l y a p a r t of t h e
n a t i o n a l m y t h , w h i c h c h a n g e s the entire n a t i o n into o n e e n t i t y
s t a n d i n g i n s e x u a l r e l a t i o n to the other e n t i t y t h e Divinity.
T h i s m y t h i c a l r e l a t i o n s h i p h a s little to do w i t h m y s t i c i s m ; it i s
i n t e r e s t e d p r i m a r i l y i n the w h o l e n a t i o n a s a u n i t , w h e r e a s t h e
p a r t i c u l a r J e w i s r a t h e r n e g l e c t e d a s a m e a n i n g f u l factor. T h e
i n d i v i d u a l , a c c o r d i n g to c l a s s i c a l J e w i s h texts, c a n t a k e p a r t i n
this b o n d with G o d b y h i s participation i n the significant great
u n i t y , Knesset Israel [the c o m m u n i t y of I s r a e l i . H i s a c t i v i t y ,
therefore, m u s t b e f o c u s e d o n b e c o m i n g a p a r t of t h i s l a r g e r
b o d y . T h e erotic a n d s e x u a l i m a g e r y o c c u r s , i n m y o p i n i o n ,
s o l e l y o n t h i s p l a n e : t h e r e l a t i o n of the m y t h i c a l Knesset Israel
w i t h G o d . T h i s b o n d m e d i a t e s b e t w e e n the i n d i v i d u a l J e w a n d
the D i v i n i t y w h e n e v e r t h i s r e l a t i o n i s e x p r e s s e d i n s e x u a l t e r m s .
It i s only l a t e r , i n the m e d i a e v a l p e r i o d , t h a t i n a d d i t i o n to t h i s
mythical bond, expressed i n marital tenninology, a mystical
relation between the individual a n d G o d made its appearance.
T h e h u m a n s o u l o r , s o m e t i m e s , the h u m a n i n t e l l e c t w a s c o n
c e i v e d of a s female i n i t s r e l a t i o n to a s u p e r n a l " m a l e " entity, b e
it t h e active i n t e l l e c t v i e w e d a s a c o s m i c f o r c e o r G o d H i m
self. 3
T h i s i s t h e p a t t e r n a d o p t e d s i n c e t h e late twelfth c e n t u r y
by J e w i s h philosophers, a n d from t h e m it i n f i l t r a t e d into t h e
ecstatic kabbalah.
T o i l l u s t r a t e t h i s , I h a v e c h o s e n e x a m p l e s t h a t p e r m i t u s to
perceive the n e u t r a l i z a t i o n of the m y t h i c a l a s p e c t of Knesset
Israel a s it a p p e a r s i n c l a s s i c a l r a b b i n i c texts or i n the t h e o

1 consciously delete any discussion of Philo's parallel views because


corpus
3

his literary did not apparently influence kabbalah. Phenomeno


logically, the structure of Philo's thought is close to that of Abulafia's,
both employing vertical ascending symbolism together with Greek philo
sophical terminology; again, in their writings, a neutralization of mythical
elements i s obvious. O n Greek sexual puritanism, see Dodds, 1951, pp.
154-155; see also, on Plotinus's usage of erotic imagery and its influence
on the Renaissance, Wind, 1967, pp. 6 1 - 6 8 .
S E X U A L METAPHORS AND PRAXIS 221

sophical kabbalah, 4
a n d i t s t r a n s f o r m a t i o n i n t o a n a l l e g o r y of a
h u m a n spiritual capacity.
I n h i s Gan NauU A b r a h a m A b u l a f l a w r i t e s :

T h e S o n g of S o n g s i s only a n allegory to Knesset Israel a n d

G o d , the latter being a perfect bridegroom to her, a n d s h e i s

for H i m a perfect bride. H e o n the divine planesheon

the h u m a n p l a n e . . . a n d the h u m a n love does not unite

w i t h the divine one except after long s t u d i e s a n d after c o m

p r e h e n s i o n of w i s d o m a n d reception of prophecy. [Ms. M B S

58 fol. 323] 5

T h e r e f o r e , the a t t a i n m e n t of " p r o p h e c y " n a m e l y , of e c s t a t i c


e x p e r i e n c e i s t a n t a m o u n t to t h e u n i o n of a b r i d e a n d h e r b r i d e
g r o o m . T h e n a t u r e of the b r i d e g r o o m i s o b v i o u s : G o d ; t h e b r i d e ,
h o w e v e r , n a m e d Knesset Israel i s h u m a n . O n t h e b a s i s of t h i s
p a s s a g e a l o n e it s e e m s e v i d e n t t h a t Knesset Israel is conceived
a s a n i n d i v i d u a l e n t i t y ; after a l l , t h e r e c e p t i o n of p r o p h e c y i s ,
c o m m o n l y , a n i n d i v i d u a l e x p e r i e n c e . F u r t h e r m o r e , A b u l a f i a let
u s know, in another work, that

the secret of Knesset Israel i s . . . Knesset LSar-El (that w h i c h

is gathered b y the P r i n c e removed ten [sephirotic] stages

from God), s i n c e the perfect m a n b r i n g s everything together,

he i s called the c o m m u n i t y of J a c o b . [Jmre S h e / e r , M s . B P N H

777, p. 57]

T h e t r a n s i t i o n f r o m t h e perfect n a t i o n a s t h e p a r t n e r of G o d to
the i n d i v i d u a l s o u l is evident in this c o m m e n t . T h e w i s e man
stands for t h e w h o l e "community of J a c o b " , for h e includes

See our treatment of R. Jehudah ben Yakar's passage later in this


4

chapter in our discussion of "Horizontal Descending Symbolism".


Scholem*s statement that "older Kabbalists never interpreted the
5

*Song of Songs* as a dialogue between God and the Soul, i.e. an allegorical
description of the path to unto mysticd* (Scholem, 1967, p. 226) must
therefore be corrected. Abulafla indeed proposed such an allegorical inter
pretation, the ultimate aim of which is the unio mystica; his perception is
closer to the philosophical interpretations than to the early kabbalistic
one. However, he differs also from the philosophers, for he strove for an
actual realization of the unio mystica, and thus allegorical interpretation
turns into what I propose to call a spiritual interpretation or hermeneutic.
On the philosophical perceptions of the Song of Songs, see Halkin, 1950,
pp. 389-424; Vajda, 1957.
222 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

Knesset i n h i s m i n d , the A c t i v e Intellect, w h i c h i s r e p r e s e n t e d


b y t h e w o r d Israel T h i s ecstatic experience is described by
A b u l a f l a , a g a i n u s i n g s t r o n g erotic t h e m e s , a s unio mystica:

T h i s i s the power of m a n : he c a n l i n k the lower part w i t h the


higher one a n d the lower (part) will a s c e n d to a n d unite w i t h
the s u p e r n a l (part) a n d the higher (part) will d e s c e n d a n d
will k i s s the entity a s c e n d i n g towards it, like a bridegroom
a c t u a l l y k i s s e s h i s bride, out of h i s great a n d real desire,
characteristic of the delight of both, coming from the power
of G o d (or H i s Name). [Or ha-Sekhel Ms. V B A E , 2 3 3 fol. 115]

A c c o r d i n g to A b u l a f i a , the f i n a l a i m of e c s t a s y i s the " p l e a s


ure of the bridegroom and bride"an expression recurring
several times i n h i s w r i t i n g s (see, e.g., A b u l a f i a ' s Hayye ha
NefesK Ms. M B S 408 fol. 6 5 ) . T h i s u n i o n of the h u m a n and
D i v i n e r e p r e s e n t s a c l e a r shift n o t only f r o m the m y t h i c a l to
m y s t i c a l , f r o m n a t i o n a l to i n d i v i d u a l , b u t a l s o f r o m t h e t r a d i
t i o n a l terminology to the p h i l o s o p h i c a l one. A c c o r d i n g to an
anonymous t r e a t i s e from the A b u l a f i a n s c h o o l , "the rational
f a c u l t y , n a m e d the r a t i o n a l s o u l , w h i c h r e c e i v e d the d i v i n e i n
flux, i s c a l l e d Knesset Israel w h o s e s e c r e t i s the A c t i v e I n t e l l e c t "
( O r ha-MenoraK M s . J N L 8 1 3 0 3 fol. 2 8 b ) . 6

T h e r e f o r e " I s r a e l " , or "Knesset Israel\ r e p r e s e n t s the h u m a n


intellect, w h i c h is related, in a secret w a y , to the supernal
Intellect. T h e n a t u r e of the s e c r e t s e e m s to be the gematria, 7

Israel b e i n g t a n t a m o u n t to Sekhel ha-Po*el [the a c t i v e i n t e l l e c t ] . 8

L e t u s s u m m a r i z e the shift from the c l a s s i c a l to the s p e c u l a


tive v i e w of Knesset Israel a s the s p o u s e of G o d : o n l y w h e n it w a s
i n t e r p r e t e d a s r e f e r r i n g to the i n d i v i d u a l w a s t h i s t e r m r e l a t e d to
t h e m y s t i c a l u n i o n b e t w e e n two m o n a d s . O n l y t h e n c o u l d the
k a b b a l i s t s e e h i m s e l f a s the " f e m a l e " into w h o m the d i v i n e s p a r k
i s s o w n a n d the s p i r i t u a l s o n b o r n . T h a t i s , a t r a n s m u t a t i o n of

6
Compare to the collectanea stemming from the Abulafla circle found
i n Ms. NYJTSA Mic. 1771 fol. 34, where, again, Knesset Israel is con
nected to the rational soul.
7
An equation of the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in each word
or phrase.
8
Both having the value of 541; on other philosophical allegorizations
of Israel see Saperstein, 1980, pp. 100, 248.
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND PRAXIS 223

the h u m a n s p i r i t t a k e s p l a c e a s a r e s u l t of c o n t a c t w i t h the
D i v i n e (see I d e l , 1 9 8 5 , p p . 1 9 0 - 2 0 3 ; cf. B a e r , 1 9 7 0 , pp. 55-64).
It i s i m p o r t a n t a l s o to r e m a r k t h a t the e p i t h a l a m i c symbolism 9

u s e d b y A b u l a f i a i s s o m e t i m e s t r a n s c e n d e d b y the o c c u r r e n c e of
unitive symbolism. 1 0
For example, the passage previously
q u o t e d f r o m O r ha-Sekhel a p p e a r s i m m e d i a t e l y after t h e follow
ing passage:

T h e N a m e [of G o d l is c o m p o s e d from two p a r t s 1 1


s i n c e there
are two p a r t s of love [divided between] two lovers, a n d the
[parts ofj love t u r n one (entity) w h e n love b e c a m e a c t u a t e d .
T h e divine i n t e l l e c t u a l love a n d the h u m a n i n t e l l e c t u a l love
are c o n j u n c t e d , b e i n g one. [Ms. V B A E 2 3 3 fol. 115]

B e f o r e l e a v i n g t h i s type of m e t a p h o r , it m u s t b e emphasized
t h a t a n a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e of a s e x u a l c o n t a c t i s n o t e s s e n t i a l for
t h e e c s t a t i c k a b b a l i s t . H e m a y h a v e e x p e r i e n c e d it or n o t i n t h e
p a s t o r s t i l l e n j o y it (or not) i n the p r e s e n t ; t h e v e r y a c t of s e x u a l
u n i o n p l a y s n o r i t u a l i s t i c r o l e i n the m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e . 1 2
By
its nature, ecstatic kabbalah is mostly interested in spiritual
p r o c e s s e s for w h i c h t h e c o r p o r e a l a c t i o n s w o u l d b e o n l y a h i n
drance.

C f . S c h o l e m ' s v i e w of m y s t i c a l " c o m m u n i o n " , w h i c h i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c


9

of J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m ( S c h o l e m , 1 9 7 2 , pp. 2 0 3 - 2 0 5 ) .
1 0
O n unio mystica i n A b u l a f i a ' s d o c t r i n e , s e e I d e l , 1 9 8 8 c , p p . 5 - 1 2 ,
w h e r e a d d i t i o n a l m a t e r i a l i s q u o t e d to s u b s t a n t i a t e t h e t h e s i s t h a t
A b u l a f i a a s s e r t e d t h a t total f u s i o n w i t h a h i g h e r e n t i t y s o m e t i m e s b e i n g
G o d i s possible.
" T h e v a l u e o f t h e l e t t e r s of t h e T e t r a g r a m m a t o n i s 2 6 , w h i c h i s f o r m e d
f r o m 1 3 + 1 3 ; n o w " 1 3 " i s t h e v a l u e of Ehad, t h a t i s , " o n e " , a n d AhavaK
t h a t i s , " l o v e " . B y t h e w a y o f g e m a t r i a , A b u l a f i a e v i n c e s t h a t it i s p o s s i b l e
to a t t a i n m y s t i c a l u n i o n ( O n e , O n e ) w i t h G o d ( T e t r a g r a m m a t o n ) b y m e a n s
of love [Ahavah].
1 2
Nevertheless, marriage or sexual relationship is never presented by
A b u l a f i a o r h i s d i s c i p l e s a s a n o b s t a c l e for a t t a i n i n g a m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e .
W e k n o w for s u r e t h a t A b u l a f i a h i m s e l f w a s m a r r i e d , a n d i n h i s l i s t o f
r e q u i r e m e n t s for a n i d e a l s t u d e n t (see Hayye ha-Olam h a - B a , M s . O B L
1 5 8 2 , fol, 3 3 v - 3 5 r ) n o r e f e r e n c e to s e x u a l i m p u r i t y c a n b e f o u n d . S e e a l s o
Idel, 1 9 8 8 c , p p . 1 4 3 - 1 4 4 , o n the n o n - a s c e t i c c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of A b u l a f i a ' s
mysticism.
224 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

Vertical descending symbolism

" I f a m a n a n d w o m a n a r e w o r t h w h i l e , the d i v i n e p r e s e n c e d w e l l s
b e t w e e n t h e m , i f n o t t h e y s h a l l be c o n s u m e d b y fire" (b. S o t a h
17a). 13
W h a t i s the s i g n i f i c a n c e of t h i s t a l m u d i c d i c t u m ? I s it
m e r e l y a w a r n i n g i n t e n d e d to s t r e n g t h e n the l a w s of p u r i t y ?
P e r h a p s . T h i s p o s s i b i l i t y n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g , I s h o u l d l i k e to p r o
p o s e a m o r e e l a b o r a t e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n , w h i c h r e g a r d s the a c t of
u n i o n b e t w e e n h u s b a n d a n d wife, w h e n p e r f o r m e d a c c o r d i n g to
the J e w i s h ritual, a s fraught with t h e u r g i c a l 1 4
m e a n i n g . O r , to
p u t it a different w a y , the perfect s e x u a l u n i o n 1 5
actually influ
e n c e s t h e D i v i n e P r e s e n c e , c a u s i n g it to d w e l l w i t h t h e w o r t h y
p a i r . W h e n the u n i o n i s p e r f o r m e d b y i m p u r e p e r s o n s , o n the
o t h e r h a n d , t h e r e s u l t i s fatal: fire w i l l d e v o u r t h e m .
The p a i r s of o p p o s i t e s , the f a v o u r a b l e p r e s e n c e of d i v i n i t y
v e r s u s t h e d e v o u r i n g fire, r e m i n d s u s of the p o s s i b i l i t y i n h e r e n t
i n a n o t h e r s i t u a t i o n : the e n t r a n c e into the i n n e r m o s t J e w i s h
s a n c t u a r y . M o s e s w a s a b l e to h e a r the d i v i n e voice from b e t w e e n
the c h e r u b i m i n the T a b e r n a c l e , w h e r e a s N a d a v a n d A b i h u w e r e
c o n s u m e d b y fire a s t h e y e n t e r e d the s a n c t u a r y (Lev. 1 0 : 1 ) . 16
Is
this p a r a l l e l i s m a sheer coincidence? Is there a n y significant

Cf. Pirke de-R. Eliezer, c h . 12, and R. T u v i a h ben Eliezer's L e k a h


1 3

Tov on G e n . , 2:23. M. Kasher, TorahShelemah, XXII, Appendix, p. 18, h a s


already pointed out the possible connection between this dictum a n d the
cherubim. See also Louis Ginzberg's apologetical view that this dictum
reflects "another pagan conception which, in refined form, passed into the
Cabala through the Talmud" (1970, p. 190).
Theurgy,
14
in this essay, stands for the conception that h u m a n
actions, mostly the commandments, are intended to change processes
taking place in the supernal divine system. For more on my view of this
concept, see Idel, 1988b, c h . 7-8.
The formulation of R. Akiva's dictum does not explicitly refer to
1 5

sexual union; however, this is the way the dictum was understood by the
classical commentators, for example, by Rashi. See also the rabbinic view
that God participates in the process of producing the infant together with
his father and mother (b. Niddah 3 1 a and parallels). The affinity between
these two rabbinic views was perceived and exploited by the anonymous
kabbalist who composed the famous Epistle on the Sexual Conjunction
attributed to Nachmanides; see the edition of C. Chavel in Kitve ha-
Ramban (Jerusalem, 1964, II, pp. 324-325).
Here, as in the Sotah quotation, the verb 'achal is used in order to
1 6

express the idea of consummation by fire.


S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND PRAXIS 225

affinity b e t w e e n the p u r e s e x u a l u n i o n a n d the s a n c t u a r y ? It


s e e m s to m e t h a t t h e a n s w e r i s y e s . T h e d i v i n e p r e s e n c e was
c o n c e i v e d a s d w e l l i n g b e t w e e n t h e two c h e r u b i m ( N u m . 7:89).
T h i s biblical v i e w w a s elaborated i n the T a l m u d : the c h e r u b i m
t u r n t o w a r d s e a c h o t h e r w h e n I s r a e l p e r f o r m s t h e rnitzvot, but
w h e n they s i n the c h e r u b i m t u r n their faces a w a y from each
o t h e r (see b . B a b a B a t r a 9 9 a ) . 1 7
T h e r e f o r e , b y the f u l f i l m e n t of
the divine will the c h e r u b i m c h a n g e their position, a s a p p a r e n t l y
described in another talmudic passage:

When Israel used to m a k e the pilgrimage, they (i.e. the


priests) w o u l d roll u p for t h e m the Parokhet [curtain] a n d
s h o w t h e m the C h e r u b i m w h i c h were intertwined w i t h one
a n o t h e r , a n d s a y to t h e m : " B e h o l d ! Y o u r love before G o d i s
like the love of m a l e a n d female." [b. Y o m a 5 4 a l 1 8

It s e e m s , t h e r e f o r e , t h a t the f u l f i l m e n t of t h e d i v i n e w i l l a n d
t h e love of G o d for I s r a e l find t h e i r e x p r e s s i o n i n t h e sexually
o r i e n t e d p o s i t i o n of the c h e r u b i m . B u t G o d ' s love for I s r a e l i s n o t
t a n t a m o u n t to t h e love of one c h e r u b for a n o t h e r ; the c h e r u b i m
do n o t s t a n d for G o d a n d I s r a e l . O n l y the n a t u r e of t h e love of
m a l e a n d f e m a l e i s a m e t a p h o r of t h e d i v i n e love.
T h e d w e l l i n g of t h e d i v i n e p r e s e n c e b e t w e e n the cherubim
a n d b e t w e e n t h e p u r e h u s b a n d a n d wife a r e b u t p a r t i c u l a r c a s e s
of a m o r e g e n e r a l i n t e n t i o n , e x p r e s s e d b y the m i d r a s h i c s t a t e
m e n t : " T h e n a t u r a l p l a c e of the S h e k h i n a h w a s b e l o w " (Genesis
Rabba 19, 7, p. 1 7 6 ; Midrash Rabba o n S o n g of S o n g s , 5, l ) . 1 9

1 7
Interestingly enough, the two positions of the cherubimseparate
or unitedstand, according to some mediaeval interpreters of the T a l
m u d , respectively, for the curse and blessing occurring in the talmudic
discussion of the cherubim in b. Y o m a 54b; see R. Shemuel Edeles,
Novellae, where he quotes R. Y o m T o v Ashvili's view. Has this presumably
later conception something to do with the perception of the cherubim a s
the two divine attributes, as found already in Philo?
1 8
See the interesting proposal of Menahem K a s h e r that this text may
be connected to the perception that regards the Song of Songs as the holy
of holies, and the secrets of the forbidden sexual unions i n M i s h n a h
Hagigah 2:1, as an esoteric topic; see "Zohaf (Maimon, 1958, pp. 5 5 - 5 6 ) .
T h i s argument merits a more elaborate analysis.
1 9
See also Bereshit Rabba, p. 177, where it is implied that the right
eous are persons who c a n cause the descent of the ShekhinaK who h a s
left our world because of the s i n s of the sinners; cf. also Hebrew Enoch,
C h . 5.
226 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

T h e b u i l d i n g of the T e m p l e or the p e r f o r m a n c e of the c o m m a n d


m e n t s a n d i n o u r c a s e t h o s e c o n n e c t e d to the s e x u a l a c t a r e
i n t e n d e d to r e s t o r e the p r i s t i n e s t a t e of t h e d i v i n e p r e s e n c e .
Interestingly enough, a most important talmudic d i s c u s s i o n
o n t h e i m p e r a t i v e to p r e p a r e a r e s i d e n c e for the Shekhinah is
again explicitly connected to p r o c r e a t i o n (Yevamot 63b-64a).
T h e r e B e n A z a i ' s r e f u s a l to m a r r y i n o r d e r to devote h i m s e l f to
the s t u d y of T o r a h i s s h a r p l y c o n d e m n e d b y s o m e e a r l y s a g e s ;
R. Eliezer even proclaims that whoever a b s t a i n s from p r o c r e a
tion w i l l b e p u n i s h e d b y d e a t h , o n the b a s i s of the e x a m p l e of
N a d a v a n d A v i h u , w h o d i e d , a c c o r d i n g to t h i s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n ,
because "they had no children" (Num. 3:4). 2 0
An alternative
e x p l a n a t i o n for the t r a n s g r e s s i o n of a b s t e n t i o n i s the fact t h a t
s u c h a n a b s t e n t i o n c a u s e s the r e t r a c t i o n of the Shekhinah from
I s r a e l , t h i s v i e w b e i n g s u s t a i n e d b y t h e v e r s e , "to be a G o d u n t o
t h e e a n d to t h y s e e d after t h e e " ( G e n . 1 7 : 7 ) . T h e a n o n y m o u s s a g e
continues: "[w]henever t h y s e e d i s after thee, the S h e k h i n a h
d w e l l s [below], [whenever] t h e r e i s no s e e d after thee, u p o n w h o m
w i l l the S h e k h i n a h d w e l l ? U p o n t r e e s a n d u p o n s t o n e s . " T h e r e
fore, p r o c r e a t i o n is i n d i s p e n s a b l e for a t t a i n m e n t of the i d e a l
s t a t e of t h e Shekhmah. Not only i s S h e p r e s e n t d u r i n g the v e r y
a c t of u n i o n b e t w e e n h u s b a n d a n d wife (cf. Bereshit Rabba, 8; 9,
p . 6 3 ; 2 2 , 2, p. 2 0 6 ) , b u t , o w i n g to the p r o d u c t i v e n a t u r e of t h i s
a c t , S h e c o n t i n u e s to d w e l l b e l o w .
T h e affinity b e t w e e n the p r e s e n c e of the Shekhinah o n the
c h e r u b i m i n the T e m p l e a n d H e r d w e l l i n g o n the p u r e human
pair is, in m y o p i n i o n , h i g h l y s i g n i f i c a n t . It s e e m s a s if the
r e l i g i o u s role of the c h e r u b i m w a s t r a n s f e r r e d to h u m a n p a i r s ;
w h e n the T e m p l e w a s d e s t r o y e d , i t s f u n c t i o n w a s p a r t i a l l y p r e
served by the human activity. T h i s transfer w a s seemingly
f a c i l i t a t e d b y the e x i s t e n c e of a v e r y a n c i e n t c o n c e p t i o n of the
H o l y of H o l i e s a s a b e d r o o m . A c c o r d i n g to a G n o s t i c treatise
preserved in Nag Hammadi:

T h e mysteries of truth a r e revealed, though i n type a n d


image; the b r i d a l c h a m b e r however, r e m a i n s h i d d e n . It is the
holy i n the holy. T h e veil a t first concealed h o w G o d control
led the creation, b u t w h e n the veil i s rent a n d the things

2 0
O n this i s s u e see S h i n a n , 1983, pp. 1 8 2 - 1 8 3 .
S E X U A L METAPHORS AND PRAXIS 227

i n s i d e a r e revealed, this h o u s e will be left desolate. [Gospel of


Philip, 1984. p. 1501 21

Or

T h e r e w e r e three b u i l d i n g s s p e c i a l l y for s a c r i f i c e i n J e r u s a
l e m . T h e one facing w e s t w a s c a l l e d the "Holy.* A n o t h e r
facing the s o u t h w a s called the " H o l y of the H o l y . " T h e t h i r d
facing e a s t w a s c a l l e d the "Holy of the Holiest" . . . the H o l y of
the H o l i e s i s the b r i d a l c h a m b e r . [Gospel of Philip, p. 1 4 2 ] 22

It s e e m s t h a t t h e s e G n o s t i c t e x t s reflect a n a l r e a d y e x i s t i n g
Jewish perception of the Temple. According to Midrash
Tanhuma, c o m m e n t i n g o n t h e r e f e r e n c e to t h e r o y a l b e d i n S o n g
of S o n g s 3 : 7 , the a n o n y m o u s commentator asserts that '"his
[Solomon's] b e d ' t h i s is the T e m p l e . A n d w h y i s the Temple
c o m p a r e d to t h e b e d ? J u s t a s t h i s b e d s e r v e s f r u i t f u l n e s s a n d
m u l t i p l i c a t i o n , s o too t h e T e m p l e , e v e r y t h i n g t h a t w a s i n it w a s
f r u i t f u l a n d m u l t i p l i e d " ( B u b e r ' s v e r s i o n , N u m . fol. 1 7 ) . 2 3

L e t u s f o c u s o n the a s s e r t i o n t h a t t h e v e i l " c o n c e a l e d how


G o d c o n t r o l l e d t h e c r e a t i o n " . I t s e e m s p l a u s i b l e to a s s u m e that
t h e G n o s t i c a u t h o r i n t e n d e d to h i n t a t a s e x u a l a c t t a k i n g p l a c e
i n t h e h o l y of t h e h o l i e s t , for t h e l a t t e r i s v i e w e d a s " a b r i d a l
c h a m b e r " . A t the s a m e time, i n this " b r i d a l c h a m b e r " the w a y
t h e w o r l d i s g o v e r n e d c a n be v i s u a l i z e d . T h e e n t i t i e s t h a t w e r e
s e e n i n t h e h o l y of h o l i e s t w e r e r e l a t e d o n t h e o n e h a n d to t h e
c h e r u b i m b e c a u s e of t h e s e x u a l o v e r t o n e s a n d o n t h e other
h a n d to t h e t w o a t t r i b u t e s of G o d , Middat ha-Raharnirn [mercy]

Some affinities between this treatise a n d J e w i s h concepts were


2 1

pointed out by Liebes (1982, pp. 2 3 0 - 2 3 2 ) a n d Idel (forthcoming). It i s


important to stress the fact that the relatively positive attitude towards
sexuality and marriage occurring in Gnostic texts, as i n this Gospel a n d
parts of Corpus Hermeticum, seem to be the result of J e w i s h influence.
See also p. 150: T h e holies of holies were revealed a n d the bridal
2 2

chamber invited u s i n " (see also Grant, 1961, pp. 129-140; Sevrin, 1974,
pp. 1 4 3 - 1 9 3 ; Sevrin, 1982, pp. 4 4 8 ^ 5 0 ) .
Cf. Patai, 1947, pp. 8 9 - 9 2 , a n d on the perception of the holy of
2 3

holies a s cletoris In the Zohar. see Liebes, 1982, p. 194, It seems plausible
that the midrashic connection between Apirion [litter for a wedding
procession] mentioned i n the Song of Songs III a n d the Temple a n d
Tabernacle may have something to do also to with sexuality a n d fertility;
see Song of Songs RabbahlU. 15-19 (Dunski, 1980, pp. 9 3 - 9 6 ) .
228 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E KABBALAH

a n d Middat ha-Din [stern judgement], w h i c h represent the m a n


n e r i n w h i c h G o d "controls the creation". T h i s thesis i s b a s e d on
the fact t h a t P h i l o of A l e x a n d r i a a l r e a d y identified t h e c h e r u b i m
w i t h the d i v i n e a t t r i b u t e s (see G o o d e n o u g h , 1935, pp. 2 5 - 2 6 ,
359-369; 1 9 5 4 , I V , p . 1 3 2 ) . I n a d d i t i o n , i d e n t i f i c a t i o n s of t h e
c h e r u b i m w i t h m a s c u l i n e a n d feminine powers were k n o w n i n
ancient times even beyond the boundaries of J u d a i s m (see
S t r o u m s a , 1 9 8 1 , p p . 4 6 - 4 7 ) . T h o u g h the i n f l u e n c e of P h i l o o n
t h e Gospel of Philip is possible, this thesis is by no m e a n s the
only probable s o l u t i o n for the e x p l a n a t i o n a s to h o w J e w i s h
v i e w s of t h e h o l y of h o l i e s r e a c h e d the G n o s t i c a u t h o r . I t i s
e q u a l l y p o s s i b l e t h a t J e w i s h t r a d i t i o n s , c o n t e m p o r a r y to P h i l o
but possibly independent of h i s w r i t i n g s , w e r e k n o w n b y t h e
anonymous author. 2 4
We m a y conclude that a sexual perception
of t h e h o l y of h o l i e s w a s i n e x i s t e n c e i n a n c i e n t J u d a i s m .
S h o r t l y after t h e d e s t r u c t i o n of the T e m p l e , w e l e a r n a b o u t a
s u b s t i t u t e for the T e m p l e a s the p l a c e w h e r e t h e Shekhinah may
d w e l l . A c c o r d i n g to a v i e w f o u n d i n t h e t a l m u d i c c o n t e x t dis
c u s s e d e a r l i e r (b. Y e v a m o t , 6 4 a . ) , the p r e s e n c e of the Shekhinah
r e q u i r e s t h e e x i s t e n c e of a t l e a s t t w e n t y - t w o t h o u s a n d c h i l d r e n
of I s r a e l , 2 5
a n d e a c h a n d every o n e h a s to c o n t r i b u t e to t h e
maintenance of t h i s figure. T h e people of I s r a e l a r e v i e w e d ,
e i t h e r a s i n d i v i d u a l s or a s a n a t i o n , a s Imago Templia theme
t h a t e x t e n d e d its i n f l u e n c e into b o t h C h r i s t i a n i t y a n d I s l a m .
A c c o r d i n g to t h i s c o n c e p t i o n , the p u r e u n i o n of m a l e a n d
female f u n c t i o n s a s a r e s t o r a t i v e a c t , e n a b l i n g the Shekhinah to
k e e p H e r n a t u r a l p l a c e a m i d the J e w i s h n a t i o n . A t l e a s t p a r
tially, p r o c r e a t i o n i s d o n e for the s a k e of t h e divinity, i t b e i n g a n
effort to r e e s t a b l i s h t h e h a r m o n y t h a t e x i s t e d d u r i n g t h e p e r i o d
the T e m p l e w a s f u n c t i o n i n g . It s e e m s , therefore, r e a s o n a b l e to
s u p p o s e t h a t t h e m e d i a e v a l k a b b a l i s t i c d i c t u m , " T h e d w e l l i n g of
the S h e k h i n a h b e l o w (or a m o n g I s r a e l ) i s for H e r (own) s a k e " 2 6

2 4
L i e b e s ( 1 9 8 2 , p. 2 3 1 ) , e v e n a s s e r t s t h a t t h e a n o n y m o u s Gnostic
a u t h o r w a s of J e w i s h e x t r a c t i o n .
2 5
T h i s figure r e c u r s i n m i d r a s h i c t e x t s : s e e G o l d b e r g , 1 9 6 9 , p p . 3 5 7
359, 508-509.
2 6
S e e N a c h m a n i d e s , Commentary on Exodus, 2 9 : 4 6 , a n d a l o n g s e r i e s
of o t h e r k a b b a l i s t s a f t e r w a r d s ; c o m p a r e a l s o to R . J o s e p h G i k a t i l l a ' s
e x p r e s s i o n " t h e n e e d of S h e k h i n a h " i n Sha!re OraK e d . J . b e n S h l o m o
( J e r u s a l e m , 1970), I, 6 7 .
SEXUAL METAPHORS AND PRAXIS 229

faithfully reflects a m o r e a n c i e n t perception, w h i c h w a s only


m o r e clearly a r t i c u l a t e d b y the k a b b a l i s t s .
Let u s elaborate u p o n a n o t h e r k a b b a l i s t i c v i e w of t h i s t h e m e .
According to t h e c l a s s i c a l r a b b i n i c s o u r c e s d i s c u s s e d earlier,
t h e p r e s e n c e of t h e Shekhinah d u r i n g the s e x u a l a c t i s c o n d i
t i o n e d b y the r i t u a l p u r i t y of t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s . No r e q u i s i t e of
kavvanah [proper intention] is m e n t i o n e d i n these contexts. B u t
t h e r e q u i r e m e n t of p u r e i n t e n t i o n , d e s c r i b e d b y the kabbalists
a s a i m i n g to r a i s e h u m a n t h o u g h t to i t s s u p e r n a l s o u r c e w h i l e
c a u s i n g t h e d e s c e n t of the Shekhinah afterward, w a s added in
o n e of t h e e a r l y a n d m o s t i n f l u e n t i a l k a b b a l i s t i c t e x t s , Iggeret ha-
Kodesh:

It i s w e l l k n o w n to the m a s t e r s of K a b b a l a h t h a t human
thought stems from the i n t e l l e c t u a l s o u l , w h i c h h a s de
s c e n d e d from above. A n d h u m a n thought h a s the ability to
s t r i p itself [from a l i e n i s s u e s ] a n d to a s c e n d to a n d a r r i v e a t
the place of its s o u r c e . 2 7
T h e n , it w i l l unite w i t h the s u p e r n a l
entity, 28
w h e n c e it c o m e s , a n d it [i.e. the thought] a n d it [i.e.
its source] b e c o m e one e n t i t y . 29
A n d w h e n the thought r e
t u r n s d o w n w a r d from above, something s i m i l a r to a line
a p p e a r s , a n d w i t h it the s u p e r n a l light d e s c e n d s , u n d e r the
i n f l u e n c e of the t h o u g h t that d r a w s it d o w n w a r d , a n d c o n
s e q u e n t l y it d r a w s the S h e k h i n a h d o w n w a r d . T h e n the b r i l
liant 3 0
light c o m e s a n d i n c r e a s e s u p o n the place w h e r e the
o w n e r of the thought s t a n d s . . . a n d s i n c e t h i s is the c a s e ,
o u r a n c i e n t s a g e s h a d to state t h a t w h e n the h u s b a n d c o p u
l a t e s w i t h h i s wife, a n d h i s thought u n i t e s w i t h the s u p e r n a l
entities, t h a t v e r y thought d r a w s the s u p e r n a l light d o w n
w a r d , a n d it (the light) dwells u p o n the drop [of s e m e n ] u p o n
w h i c h he d i r e c t s h i s intention a n d t h o u g h t . . . t h a t v e r y drop

2 7
T h i s v i e w w a s t a k e n over by the a n o n y m o u s a u t h o r of the Iggeret
f r o m G e r o n e s e K a b b a l a h (see S c h o l e m , 1 9 6 2 , p p . 3 2 0 - 3 2 1 ) . O u r a u t h o r
i s , s e e m i n g l y , o r i g i n a l i n a p p l y i n g t h e a l r e a d y e x i s t i n g v i e w of elevatio
mentis to t h e p r o c r e a t i v e s e x u a l p r o c e s s .
2 8
Literally, "secret""sod".
2 9
O n t h i s e x p r e s s i o n , s e e S c h o l e m , 1 9 6 2 , p. 3 2 2 , n . 1 9 2 .
3 0
T h e e x p r e s s i o n " t h e l i g h t o f t h e S h e k h i n a r T [or ha-Shekhinah],
w h i c h m i g h t i n f l u e n c e t h i s text, w a s i n e x i s t e n c e s e v e r a l c e n t u r i e s b e f o r e
t h e a u t h o r o f t h e Iggeret, s e e V a j d a , 1 9 7 5 , p p . 1 3 3 - 1 3 5 , to w h i c h w e m a y
a d d MidrashTadshe, c h . 11 ( E p s t e i n , 1 8 8 7 , p. 1 5 6 ) , a n d G o l d b e r g , 1 9 6 9 ,
pp. 3 1 8 - 3 1 9 .
230 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E KABBALAH

is p e r m a n e n t l y linked w i t h the brilliant l i g h t . . . s i n c e he


thought o n it [the drop] i s linked to the s u p e r n a l entities it
d r a w s the brilliant light downward. [Chavel, Kitve ha-
Ramban, I I , 373.]

T h e r e f o r e , t h e h u m a n m y s t i c a l i n t e n t i o n t h a t h a s to a c c o m
p a n y the s e x u a l u n i o n c a n c a u s e the s u p e r n a l l i g h t a n d the
Shekhinah a s well to descend on m a n during sexual inter
3 1

c o u r s e . T h e h u s b a n d h a s to elevate h i s t h o u g h t to i t s s o u r c e , to
a c h i e v e a unio mystica, w h i c h w i l l be followed b y t h e d e s c e n t of
s u p e r n a l s p i r i t u a l forces o n t h e semen virile. 32
Here ascensio
mentis, unio mystica, a n d reversio a r e p r e r e q u i s i t e s t a g e s of t h e
ideal conception. 33

It i s w o r t h w h i l e to c o m p a r e t h i s m y s t i c a l c o n c e p t i o n o f t h e
s e x u a l a c t to t h e t a n trie v i e w . I n b o t h c a s e s , the s e x u a l a c t m u s t
be performed i n a very mindful manner; a certain mystical
c o n s c i o u s n e s s i s attained alongside the corporeal act. However,
t h e u s a g e of i n t e r c o u r s e a s a v e h i c l e for s p i r i t u a l e x p e r i e n c e s i s
e v i d e n t l y different. T h e m y s t i c a l u n i o n of t h o u g h t w i t h its s o u r c e
i s , i n k a b b a l a h , i n s t r u m e n t a l to t h e m a i n g o a l c o n c e p t i o n ; t h e
spiritual attainment i s solely a preparatory phase i n the process
of p r o c r e a t i o n , w h i c h h a s to be p e r f o r m e d with the coopera
tion of t h e Shekhinah. I n t h e t a n trie s y s t e m s , the mystical
c o n s c i o u s n e s s , t h e bodhicitta, i s a n a i m i n itself, w h e r e a s t h e
perfect s t a t e i s o b t a i n e d b y t h e i m m o b i l i z a t i o n of t h e flow o f
semen virile (see E l i a d e , 1969, p p . 118-119; 1971, p p . 2 4 8 - 2 4 9 ,
2 6 6 - 6 8 ) . T h e s e x u a l a c t i s r e g a r d e d b y t h e k a b b a l i s t s a s a life

31
The presence of the Shekhinahis induced by the pure thought of the
husband according to some additional statements (Goldberg, 1969, p.
332), one of them asserting that whoever thinks of the exterior beauty of
his wife does not think according to the "supernal pure thought*, and
thereby causes the Sliekhinah to leave the pair.
1 assume that to the ancient rabbinic view, concerning the presence
32

of the Shekhinah during intercourse, the kabbalists supplied a certain


magical perception. According to several mediaeval sources, man is able
to prepare below an appropriate substratum, upon which he can draw a
supernal influx named Ruhaniat in Arabic or Ruhaniut in Hebrew. In our
text, the semen virile stands for the substratum that is prepared to collect
the supernal influx, named here "brilliant light" or Shekhinah.
Compare this view, which considers unio mystica as a means, to R.
3 3

Isaac of Acre's view, discussed later, where only after the corporeal rela
tions is severed, the "higher" spiritual status of union is achieved.
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND P R A X I S 231

g i v i n g a c t ; w i t h t h e t a n trie m a s t e r s , t h e e j a c u l a t i o n i s v i e w e d a s
" d e a t h " (see E l i a d e , 1 9 7 1 , p. 249). T h e k a b b a l i s t s p u t m y s t i c a l
u n i o n i n t h e s e r v i c e of p r o c r e a t i o n ; t a n t r a p u t f r u i t l e s s i n t e r
c o u r s e i n t o t h e s e r v i c e of m y s t i c a l c o n s c i o u s n e s s .
F o r the t h e o s o p h i c a l k a b b a l i s t s , i n t e r c o u r s e i s n o t a n a i m i n
itself. T h e f i n a l g o a l o r g o a l s a r e p r o c r e a t i o n a n d p r e p a r a t i o n of
a p p r o p r i a t e substratahuman beingsto serve a s residences
for t h e Shekhinah. E i t h e r the h u m a n c o u p l e o r i t s d e s c e n d a n t s
c o m e i n t o d i r e c t c o n t a c t w i t h the Shekhinah, w h i c h descends on
the m a n w h o performs the s e x u a l act i n purity. Therefore, a
contact is evidently established between the h u m a n and the
d i v i n e , d u r i n g w h i c h the f o r m e r r e t a i n s h i s m a s c u l i n e n a t u r e .
I n t h e t e x t s a n a l y s e d e a r l i e r , t h e Shekhinah descends during
p r o p e r i n t e r c o u r s e . H o w e v e r , S h e d o e s n o t p l a y t h e r o l e of t h e
f e m a l e , a n d n o m e n t i o n of s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s b e t w e e n t h e m a l e a n d
t h e Shekhinah c a n be d i s c e r n e d i n t h e s e d i s c u s s i o n s . It s e e m s
t h a t t h e Zohar c o n t r i b u t e d a n i m p o r t a n t c o n c e p t i n t h e domain
of s e x u a l m o t i f s ; 34
for t h e first time in a J e w i s h s o u r c e , 3 5
the
r i g h t e o u s p e r s o n i s p o r t r a y e d a s s t a n d i n g b e t w e e n two females
(see T i s h b y , 1 9 6 3 , I, 149): the h u m a n o n e t h a t i s , t h e s p o u s e
a n d t h e s u p e r n a l o n e t h e Shekhinah. T h e m a n i s a b l e to a t t a i n
this s t a t u s only w h e n m a r r y i n g a h u m a n w o m a n , b u t afterwards
h e i s c o m p e n s a t e d b y the p r e s e n c e of the Shekhinah whenever
h e s e p a r a t e s f r o m h i s e a r t h l y wife. T h i s s e x u a l d e s c r i p t i o n of
h u m a n c o n t a c t w i t h the Shekhinah is primarily attributed to
Moses, Tsh ha-Elohim n
[lit. " t h e m a n of G o d " ] , a p h r a s e i n t e r
p r e t e d b y t h e k a b b a l i s t s a s " t h e h u s b a n d of t h e S h e k h i n a h " (see
I d e l , 1 9 8 5 a , p. 5 6 , n o t e s 1 1 7 , 119, 120). H o w e v e r , e v e n other
religious m e n are sometimes described i n similar terms. A c c o r d
i n g to t h e Zohar, m a r r i a g e b e s t o w s t h e r i g h t e o u s n o t o n l y w i t h
t h e o p p o r t u n i t y to fulfil the r e q u i r e m e n t of p r o c r e a t i o n , b u t it
a l s o e n a b l e s h i m to a t t a i n the m y t h i c a l s t a t u s of t h e human
h u s b a n d of " t h e w o r l d of t h e W o m a n h o o d " [Alma de-nukba]. It is
w o r t h w h i l e to f o c u s o n t h i s v i e w t h e r i t u a l i s t i c m a r r i a g e i s a
p r e r e q u i s i t e for t h e acquirement of the role of t h e mythical
husband. The actual consummation of m a r r i a g e i s a sine qua

3 4
O n t h e i m p o r t a n c e of s e x u a l s y m b o l i s m i n t h e Zohar, s e e S c h o l e m ,
1967, p p . 2 2 5 - 2 2 9 ; T i s h b y , 1963, II, 6 0 7 - 6 2 6 ; W a i t e , 1990, p p . 3 7 7 - 4 0 5 .
3 5
A p a r a l l e l c o n c e p t o c c u r s a l s o i n S u f i c m a t e r i a l ; s e e I d e l , 1985a, p .
56, n . 117.
232 S E X A N D G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

non for i t . H o w e v e r , a f t e r w a r d s it m a y s o m e t i m e s b e c o m e a n
o b s t a c l e for the a t t a i n m e n t o f the s p i r i t u a l e x p e r i e n c e . Note, for
e x a m p l e , the o p i n i o n of R . I s a a c of A c r e :

Jacob, o u r ancestor, a s long a s he w a s [living] w i t h the


corporeal R a c h e l , outside the l a n d of I s r a e l , h i s s o u l could
not unite w i t h the s u p e r n a l R a c h e l , the latter's residence
being i n the Holy L a n d ; b u t a s soon a s he h a s r e a c h e d the
Holy L a n d , the lower R a c h e l died, a n d h i s s o u l united w i t h
the higher R a c h e l ' s . [Ozar Hayyinx M s . M - G 7 7 4 fol. 7 3 ; i n
Idel, 1 9 8 5 a , p. 5 6 . n . 117]

T h i s c o m b i n a t i o n of c o r p o r e a l m a r r i a g e a s a f i r s t s t e p , w i t h
the spiritual one a s the second step, s e e m i n g l y p o i n t s to a
synthesis of t h e t h e o s o p h i c a l i m p o r t a n c e of t h e m a r r i a g e with
the e m p h a s i s that the ecstatic k a b b a l a h p u t s on the spiritual
n a t u r e of the r e l a t i o n b e t w e e n m a n a n d God. 3 6

Horizontal descending symbolism

T h e sexual symbolism that describes the relationship between


the r i g h t e o u s a n d t h e Shekhinah a s s u m e s t h e f e m a l e n a t u r e of
t h e Shekhinah. T h e e v o l u t i o n of t h i s c o n c e p t i s a c o m p l e x i s s u e ,
which c a n n o t be d i s c u s s e d i n this chapter. 3 7
However, it is

3 6
C o m p a r e t h e e x p l a n a t i o n s offered b y R . M o s h e d e L e o n a n d t h e
Zoharon t h e d e a t h of R a c h e l before J a c o b ' s e n t r a n c e to t h e L a n d of I s r a e l .
A c c o r d i n g to t h e s e texts, the i n t e r d i c t i o n to m a r r y two s i s t e r s w h o a r e a l i v e
i s s t r e s s e d . T h e r e f o r e , the ritualistic c o n c e p t i o n i s c h o s e n r a t h e r t h a n t h e
s p i r i t u a l one. ( S e e T i s h b y , 1982, p. 45.) T h e transition from a corporeal
c o n c e p t o f r e l a t i o n to w o m e n to a s p i r i t u a l o n e i s a l s o e v i d e n t i n a n
i m p o r t a n t p a r a b l e a d d u c e d by R. I s a a c , o n t h e " d a u g h t e r of the K i n g " ; s e e
Idel, 1 9 8 5 a , pp. 5 3 - 5 4 ; see also n . 3 3 above.
3 7
T h e g e n e r a l l y a c c e p t e d v i e w of the ShekhinaK i n a n c i e n t s o u r c e s , a s
i d e n t i c a l w i t h t h e d i v i n i t y a n d therefore w i t h o u t a n y f e m i n i n e c h a r a c t e r i s
tic, w a s f o r m u l a t e d b y G . S c h o l e m a n d E . E . U r b a c h a n d e n d o r s e d b y
Goldberg i n h i s monograph. O n the other h a n d , Patai (1978) proposed a
r a d i c a l l y different c o n c e p t i o n o f the Shekhinah a s a s e p a r a t e f e m i n i n e
entity, w i t h o u t , however, providing solid evidence. It s e e m s t h a t t h o u g h
t h e f i r s t v i e w r e p r e s e n t s the c o m m o n v i e w of c l a s s i c a l r a b b i n i c a l s o u r c e s ,
t h e s e c o n d v i e w i s n o t totally a b s e n t .
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S A N D P R A X I S 233

i m p o r t a n t to s t r e s s t h a t , for t h e k a b b a l i s t s , t h e f e m i n i n e c h a r a c
t e r i s t i c of t h e d i v i n e m a n i f e s t a t i o n i s o n l y s e c o n d a r i l y a s s o c i a t e d
with h e r relation with righteous humans. Primarily, s h e is
v i e w e d a s t h e f e m i n i n e p a r t n e r of t h e s y s t e m of n i n e sephirot,
w h i c h a r e r e g a r d e d a s t h e " w o r l d of t h e male** o r of t h e i r r e p r e
sentatives, t h e s e p h i r o t Tiferet o r YesocL Righteous humans,
therefore, a r e imitating the parallel relationship between the
supernal righteous entities, Yesod a n d Shekhinah. T h e real,
a r c h e t y p i c a l p r o c e s s e s take place i n the divine w o r l d ; here below
w e o n l y reflect t h e m y s t e r i o u s d y n a m i c s of t h e i n f r a d i v i n e w o r l d .
Like righteous h u m a n s , who s t a n d between two femalesthe
h u m a n a n d t h e d i v i n e s o , too, t h e d i v i n e f e m a l e s t a n d s b e t w e e n
t w o m a l e s t h e h u m a n a n d t h e d i v i n e (cf. Zohar I, 153b; Liebes,
1982, pp. 122, 179 n. 314; 2 0 5 n . 407).
B e c a u s e the relationship between righteous h u m a n s a n d the
Shekhinah i s , w i t h the k a b b a l i s t s , b a s i c a l l y a m i m e s i s of a
supernal process, w e m a y conceive it a s being e x p r e s s e d by
a "descending symbolism": T h e most important process takes
place above, 3 8
a n d w e u s e t h i s s y m b o l i s m i n o r d e r to reflect a
parallel phenomenon below. T h u s , the vertical d e s c e n d i n g s y m
b o l i s m i s r o o t e d , a c c o r d i n g to t h e k a b b a l i s t s , i n t h e h o r i z o n t a l
descending symbolism. The harmonious relation between
Tifereth a n d Malkhutor, a s this relation w a s more c o m m o n l y
c a l l e d , "Yihud Kudsha Berikh Hit u-Shekhintei" [the u n i f i c a t i o n
of t h e H o l y O n e , b l e s s e d b e H e , a n d H i s D i v i n e P r e s e n c e ] i s
c r u c i a l for t h e w e l f a r e of t h e w o r l d . O n l y w h e n t h e u n i o n b e t w e e n
the two divine powers i s a c h i e v e d c a n the influx s t e m m i n g from
the Eyn Sof [the infinite one] be t r a n s m i t t e d to t h e l o w e r w o r l d .
This harmony, w h i c h w a s disturbed b y the primordial s i n ,
a s w e l l a s b y s i n s i n general, c a n be restored b y the k a b b a l i s t i c
p e r f o r m a n c e of t h e mitzvot, o n e of t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t of t h e s e

Compare Bertil Gartner (1961, p. 253): "[I]n the Gnostic systems the
3 8

man-woman relationship is motivated basically by the structure of


the heavenly world, the male and female powers which are striving after
unity." The kabbalists also accepted, at least de jure, this rationale for
their sexual behaviour; de facto, they visualized the higher worlds as ruled
by the human sexual relationship as it was moulded by the halakic
regulations. Or, to put it differendy, kabbalists viewed symbolism as a
"descending symbolism", whereas, at least from a modern perspective,
this symbolism is an ascending one. See also n. 50.
234 SEX AND GENDER I N THE KABBALAH

being pure sexual relations. The human pair performing


t h e s e x u a l u n i o n i s a b l e to i n d u c e a s t a t e of h a r m o n y above.
T h e s e x u a l a c t i s conceived a s fraught with theurgical powers.
W i t h m o s t of t h e k a b b a l i s t s , t h i s h u m a n a c t b o t h reflects t h e
higher structure a n d influences it. Therefore, marriage a n d sex
u a l u n i o n have a tremendous impact on the upper worlds. T h i s
p e r c e p t i o n i s o n e of t h e m o s t i m p o r t a n t c o n t r i b u t i o n s k a b b a l a h
h a s m a d e to t h e J e w i s h modus vivendk Marriage a n d s e x were
t r a n s f o r m e d i n t o a m y s t e r y t h a t reflects a m y s t e r i o u s m a r r i a g e
a b o v e , w h o s e s u c c e s s i s c r u c i a l for b o t h t h e d i v i n e c o s m o s a n d
t h e l o w e r u n i v e r s e . R e p r o d u c t i o n , a s t h e u l t i m a t e g o a l of t h e
m a r i t a l r e l a t i o n s , b e c a m e , i n t h e k a b b a l i s t i c Weltanschauung, a
s e c o n d a r y goal; a l t h o u g h s t i l l m o s t i m p o r t a n t for t h e h u m a n
p a i r m o s t l y for t h e h u s b a n d t h e theurgical significance b e
c a m e more a n d more central a s kabbalistic thought developed.
O n e o f t h e e a r l i e s t k a b b a l i s t s , R . J e h u d a h b e n Y a k a r (late
twelfth to e a r l y t h i r t e e n t h c e n t u r i e s ) , e x p r e s s e d t h e " d e s c e n d
i n g " p e r c e p t i o n o f the s e x u a l u n i o n i n a v e r y c o n c i s e m a n n e r :

and the c o m m a n d m e n t of u n i o n w h i c h c o n c e r n s u s is
c o n n e c t e d a l s o to w h a t G - d s a i d to S h a b b a t : 3 9
Knesset Israel
w i l l be y o u r s p o u s e a n d it [Shabbat] i s the R i g h t e o u s , t h e
foundation of the world (cf. Prov. 10:26), a n d therefrom a l l
the s p i r i t s a n d s o u l s c o m e . . . t h i s i s the r e a s o n people
4 0

are accustomed to celebrate the marriage on Shabbat.


[ J e r u s h a l m i , 1 9 7 9 , pt. I I , p. 4 2 ] 4 1

3 9
S e e Genesis RabbaXl. 8, p p . 9 5 - 9 6 , a d d u c e d b y R . J e h u d a h i m m e
diately afterward.
4 0
C o m p a r e to a p a r a l l e l v i e w o c c u r r i n g i n Sefer ha-Bahir ( M a r g a l i o t ,
1 9 7 8 a , p a r . 157): T h e Righteous i s alone i n h i s w o r l d . . . a n d h e i s t h e
foundation of all s o u l s . . . a n d Scripture [supports this i n s a y i n g ( E x .
3 1 : 1 7 ) ] : O n t h e s e v e n t h h e r e s t e d a n d w a s r e f r e s h e d [= vayinqfashx t h e
s a m e H e b r e w r o o t f o r m s t h e w o r d s o u l = nefesh]"
4 1
O n S h a b b a t a s a p r o p i t i o u s t i m e for s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s , s e e T . K e t u b o t
6 2 b , t h e Zohar ( s e v e r a l t i m e s ) , a n d t h e t e x t of R . M o s h e C o r d o v e r o , n . 7 2 .
It s e e m s t h a t t h e k a b b a l i s t h a s a q u a s i - a s t r o l o g i c a l p e r c e p t i o n of S h a b b a t ;
b e c a u s e I t w a s r e g a r d e d a s t h e d i v i n e p o t e n c y , n a m e l y , t h e sephirah
\yesod], w h i c h p r e s i d e s o v e r t h e p r o c e s s of fertility, i t w a s t h o u g h t t h a t
S h a b b a t i s p a r t i c u l a r l y p r o p e r for s e x u a l a c t i v i t y ( a n d s e e F r o m m , 1 9 5 1 ,
pp. 241-249).
SEXUAL METAPHORS A N D PRAXIS 235

Here, Knesset Israel is conceived of a s the bride of the


Shabbat, w h i c h seemingly symbolized the n i n t h sejvrah, Yesod
[= bridegroom]. Therefore, the h u m a n union, which generates
the body, reflects the higher union, in the realm of the sephirot,
wherefrom the souls emerge. We witness here, then, a n interest
ing example of the transformation of a n early m i d r a s h dealing
with two mythic entitiesKnesset Israel a n d Shabbatinto a
full-fledged theosophical myth. One important factor in this shift
is the overemphasis of the sexual polarity, w h i c h is apparently
secondary i n the midrash. Interestingly enough, one hundred
years ago M. J o e l pointed out the possibility that this m i d r a s h
might have been composed based on the background of the
Gnostic theory of syzygies [couples or pairs of entities, hierar
chically arranged] (Joel, 1880, I, 107, 160-161); the mediaeval
kabbalists exploited the mythical potentialities of this midrashic
passage in order to elaborate their own mythical theosophy. T h e
commandment of union is, according to R. J e h u d a h , a n imita
tion of the supernal union, not only on the sexual level, but also
a s a custom that views Shabbat a s propitious for s u c h a union.
I would like to dwell on the way s u c h a sexual reshaping took
place. According to the wording of the m i d r a s h , Shabbat is
implicitly viewed a s a feminine entity whereas Knesset Israel is
explicitly referred to as masculine: Ben Zug ["the (male) part
ner"]. However the roles change in the kabbalistic casting of this
issue. Is this a n arbitrary departure from the m i d r a s h , moti
vated by theosophic speculations? Indeed, a s we have noted,
S h a b b a t is viewed a s masculine even in another early kabbal
istic text, the Book of Bahir. However, it seems that we m u s t also
look for a more ancient conception, found, again, in the m i d r a s h .
According to another passage in Genesis Rabba (XVII, 4, p.
156), A d a m could not find a n appropriate mate among a n i
42

mals, a n d he exclaimed (like Shabbat), "each being h a s its


partner, while I have no one". Here, the male is described a s

4 2
S e e T i s h b y , 1 9 4 5 , p. 1 7 , a n d n . 1 5 . It i s h i g h l y p r o b a b l e t h a t t h e
i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of t h e c h e r u b i m w i t h t h e two d i v i n e a t t r i b u t e s i s a c o n t i n u a
tion o f a n a n c i e n t t r a d i t i o n , f o u n d a l r e a d y i n P h i l o a n d i n MidrashTadshe
(see G o o d e n o u g h , 1 9 3 5 , p p . 2 5 - 2 6 ; 1 9 5 4 , I V , p. 1 3 2 ; a n d P a t a i , 1 9 7 8 , p .
82). T h i s i s s u e will be elaborated in a separate study.
236 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

s e a r c h i n g for a female m a t e . T h e r e f o r e , I a s s u m e t h a t t h i s p a r a
d i g m m o u l d e d t h e k a b b a l i s t i c a p p e r c e p t i o n of t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p
b e t w e e n S h a b b a t a n d Knesset Israel
T h e d e s c r i p t i o n of t h e u n i o n of t h e s e p h i r o t Tiferet or Yesod
a n d Malkhut w e r e l a b e l l e d e a r l i e r a s s e x u a l h o r i z o n t a l d e s c e n d
i n g s y m b o l i s m . A c c o r d i n g to t h e definition offered b y K a h l e r of
" d e s c e n d i n g s y m b o l i s m " , a d d u c e d a t t h e b e g i n n i n g of t h i s c h a p
ter, t h i s t e r m d e n o t e s a p r o c e s s t h a t i s s y m b o l i z e d b y a s y s t e m
t h a t i s r o o t e d i n a h i g h e r level. A s f a r a s t h e l o w e r s e p h i r o t a r e
concerned, their relationship, expressed i n s e x u a l imagery, r e
flects a n even h i g h e r s e x u a l d i c h o t o m y d e s c r i b e d i n t h e e a r l i e s t
k a b b a l i s t i c t r e a t i s e s , w h e r e t h e s e p h i r o t Hesed and Gevurah
w e r e c o n c e i v e d of, r e s p e c t i v e l y , a s a p a i r of m a s c u l i n e a n d f e m i
nine powers. S u c h i s t h e c a s e i n R . A b r a h a m b e n D a v i d of
P o s q u i e r e s , w h o r e g a r d e d t h e two divine a t t r i b u t e s , seemingly
Hesed a n d Gevurah, a s du-parzujun [ p o s s e s s i n g d u a l c h a r a c t e r
istics!that is, apparently as masculine a n d feminine (see
S c h o l e m , 1 9 6 2 , p p . 2 3 2 - 2 3 3 ) . T h e r e f o r e , t h e lower s e p h i r o t r e
flect a h i g h e r s y z y g y . I n d e e d , a c l o s e s c r u t i n y of t h e e v o l u t i o n of
early kabbalistic symbolism e v i n c e s t h a t the p r o b a b l y earlier
sexual relationship of t h e two divine a t t r i b u t e s , Hesed and
Gevurah, i n f l u e n c e d t h e s a m e type of p e r c e p t i o n of t h e l o w e r
s e p h i r o t (see I d e l , forthcoming). A g a i n , t h i s s e x u a l u n d e r s t a n d
i n g of t h e r e l a t i o n b e t w e e n Hesed a n d Gevurah m a y reflect a
s t i l l h i g h e r s y z y g y of s e p h i r o t : Hokhmah a n d Binah, w h i c h were
regarded, respectively, a s "father" a n d "mother". A s the lower
s e p h i r o t h a v e to b e i n the s t a t u s of Yehud ( " u n i o n " ] , s o , too, do
the h i g h e r s e p h i r o t , i n order to a t t a i n t h e c o n d i t i o n of " h i g h e r
union". 4 3
According to i m p o r t a n t kabbalist sources, t h e two
higher sephirot are mediated by a peculiar sephirah, Da'at,
w h o s e s e x u a l overtones are almost explicit [da'at [knowledge]
being t h e b i b l i c a l t e r m for s e x u a l f a m i l i a r i t y ) , m o s t l y i n the
L u r i a n i c k a b b a l a h (see Iggeret ha-Kodesh, Kitve ha-Ramban, I I ,
p 3 2 4 ) . T h e r e f o r e , s e x u a l i m a g e r y p l a y e d a m o s t i m p o r t a n t role
i n t h e d e s c r i p t i o n of t h e n a t u r e of m o s t of t h e d i v i n e a t t r i b u t e s
a n d the r e l a t i o n s b e t w e e n t h e m . F u r t h e r m o r e , a c c o r d i n g to t h e
k a b b a l i s t s , t h e e x i s t e n c e of t h e s y z y g i e s i n t h e d i v i n e w o r l d i s a

4 3
O n t h e t w o l e v e l s o f Yehud, o r u n i f i c a t i o n , s e e T i s h b y , 1963, II, pp.
261 ff.
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S A N D P R A X I S 237

sine qua non for the a c h i e v e m e n t of the b a l a n c e t h a t e n s u r e s t h e


e x i s t e n c e of the d i v i n e s t r u c t u r e . T h u s , t h e masculine-feminine
relationship is presented by them as a n all-comprehensive dy
namic, w h i c h pervades the entire divine w o r l d . T h e human
s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s h i p i s , therefore, v i e w e d a s a " p a r t i c i p a t i o n m y s
tique" i n the divine hierogamy, both b y reflecting it a n d by
influencing the divine p r o c e s s e s .
M o r e o v e r , s o m e of the e m a n a t i o n a l p h a s e s i n t h e a u t o g e n e s i s
of t h e d i v i n e s y s t e m a r e d e s c r i b e d i n s t r i k i n g s e x u a l s y m b o l i s m .
T h e s e v e n l o w e r s e p h i r o t w e r e g e n e r a t e d o u t of t h e u n i o n be
t w e e n Hokhmah a n d Binah, the s e v e n sephirot being c o m m o n l y
considered the " s o n s " of t h e h i g h e r s e p h i r o t . A c c o r d i n g to a
s i x t e e n t h - c e n t u r y k a b b a l i s t , t h e w h o l e p r o c e s s of e m a n a t i o n c a n
b e d e s c r i b e d a s t h e s u c c e s s i v e i m p r e g n a t i o n s a n d b i r t h s of t h e
s e p h i r o t f r o m o n e a n o t h e r , b e g i n n i n g w i t h Causa Causarum and
e n d i n g w i t h t h e l a s t s e p h i r a h (see A b r a h a m b e n E l i e z e r h a - L e v i ' s
Masoret ha-Hokhmah, in Scholem, 1925-1926, pp. 129-130). 4 4

A c c o r d i n g to R . M o s h e C o r d o v e r o , a l e a d i n g k a b b a l i s t of S a f e d :

T h e i s s u e of s e x u a l u n i o n between the divine a t t r i b u t e s is


t r u l y symbolized b y o u r s e x u a l u n i o n , after the corporeal
p a r t of it h a s b e e n completely deleted; the c o n j u n c t i o n of two
a t t r i b u t e s a n d their desire of u n i o n c a n be c o m p a r e d to, a n d
e x p l a i n e d by, their c o m p r e h e n s i o n of the [supernal] s p i r i t u a l
s e a s o n w h i c h c o n s i s t s i n the influx of the light of Eyn Sof
onto the a t t r i b u t e s , a n d they [i.e. the attributes] love e a c h
other a n d d e s i r e e a c h other exactly like the desire of m a n for
h i s bride, after the corporeal p a r t of it is deleted. [See Shiur
Komah, p. 2 6 ]

H e r e the r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n the d i v i n e a t t r i b u t e s i s not


o n l y c o m p a r e d to the s t r u c t u r e of the h u m a n s e x u a l a c t , b u t a l s o
described as depending on a higher process taking place be
t w e e n t h e Eyn Sof a n d the s e p h i r o t . T h e u s a g e of t h e t e r m onah
[season] has overt s e x u a l o v e r t o n e s (see E x . 2 1 : 1 0 ) , a n d the
"light" symbolizes the s e m e n 4 5
t h a t the s e p h i r o t qua feminine
e n t i t y r e c e i v e f r o m a b o v e . I a s s u m e t h a t the s u p e r n a l s e a s o n i s

4 4
O n t h e c o n c e p t i o n of t h e s e x u a l life i n t h e w o r k o f a c o n t e m p o r a r y o f
C o r d o v e r o , s e e t h e i m p o r t a n t d i s c u s s i o n of W e r b l o w s k y ( 1 9 7 7 , p p .
133-139).
4 5
C o m p a r e t h e t a n t r i c v i e w r e f e r r e d to b y E l i a d e ( 1 9 6 9 , p p . 4 0 - 4 1 ) .
238 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

the eve of S h a b b a t , w h i c h w a s c o n s i d e r e d b y the k a b b a l i s t s a s


p a r t i c u l a r l y p r o p e r for s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s . 4 6

T h e a n o n y m o u s a u t h o r of Iggeret ha-Kodesh summarized the


kabbalistic descending s y m b o l i s m w h e n he wrote:

A l l the i s s u e s we d i s c u s s e d 4 7
a r e the s e c r e t of the s y s t e m of
the order of the world a n d its s t r u c t u r e , a n d the prototype of
m a l e a n d female [which are] the secret of the donor [of the
influx] a n d [its] r e c e i v e r , 48
a n d behold, the worthy u n i o n of
m a n a n d h i s wife, i s i n the l i k e n e s s of h e a v e n a n d e a r t h .
[Kitve ha-Raniban I I , 3 2 5 J 4 9

The mainstream of k a b b a l a h , the theosophical kabbalah,


articulated earlier J e w i s h perceptions of h u m a n a n d d i v i n e e x
istence, employing a multiplicity of s e x u a l factors. Elements
associated with the creation of humans in the Bible and
midrash, with the c h e r u b i m in midrashic texts a n d p e r h a p s
w i t h the divine attributes i n Philo a n d t a l m u d i c - m i d r a s h i c texts,
w e r e a l l s t r u c t u r e d into a c o m p r e h e n s i v e system that w a s ap
p a r e n t l y a l r e a d y evident i n the very first k a b b a l i s t i c sources. 5 0

4 6
S e e d i s c u s s i o n of R . J e h u d a h b e n Y a k a r ' s text a b o v e , a s w e l l a s m y
d i s c u s s i o n of C o r d o v e r o (Idel, 1 9 8 2 , p p . 5 4 - 5 5 ) .
4 7
Seemingly the divine powers that form the s u p e r n a l Merkavah,
n a m e l y t h e s e p h i r o t i c r e a l m ; s e e Kitve ha-Ramban II, p. 3 2 4 .
4 8
Mashpia u-mekabbeh, t h e s e t e r m s for m a s c u l i n e a n d f e m i n i n e f u n c
tioning entities a r e widespread i n R . J o s e p h Gikatilla's later w o r k s .
4 9
T h e s e w o r d s m a y s y m b o l i c a l l y refer to t h e s e p h l r o t Tipheret, a n d
MalkhuL C o m p a r e to the U p a n i s h a d i c p a r a l l e l r e f e r r e d to b y E l i a d e ( 1 9 7 1 ,
p. 2 5 4 ) . I t i s w o r t h r e m a r k i n g t h a t a l r e a d y i n t h e m i d r a s h , Numbers
Rabbahpar. 2 , t h e c h e r u b i m s t a n d for h e a v e n a n d e a r t h .
5 0
S e e , e . g . , t h e c o n c e p t i o n e x p r e s s e d i n t h e Alphabet qfR. Akiba ( i n
W e r t h e i m e r , 1 9 5 5 , I I , p . 3 5 7 ) : " A l l of t h e c r e a t u r e s t h a t w e w i l l i n t h e
f u t u r e c r e a t e a r e [to b e c r e a t e d ] o n e m a l e a n d o n e f e m a l e " , a n d s e e t h e
s o u r c e s a d d u c e d i n idem, n . 3 8 . T h i s view w a s adopted by R . E l e a z a r of
W o r m s a n d R . J a c o b b e n S h e s h e t (see B e n S h e s h e t ' s Meshiv Devarim
Nekhohim, V a j d a , 1 9 6 9 , p. 1 1 4 ) . T h e i s s u e of s e x u a l p o l a r i t y I n s u p e r n a l
w o r l d s I n t h e v i e w s o f t h e A s h k e n a z i H a s i d i s m o f t h e twelfth a n d t h i r
t e e n t h c e n t u r i e s i s a n i m p o r t a n t topic t h a t m u s t b e m e t i c u l o u s l y
Inspected, b e c a u s e it m a y constitute o n e of the m a i n bridges between
a n c i e n t J e w i s h v i e w s of s e x u a l i t y a n d e a r l y k a b b a l a h (see a l s o n . 5 1 a n d
Harris, 1959, pp. 13-44).
It s e e m s Indeed that kabbalistic material influenced Leone E b r e o ' s
thought, w h i c h w a s described a s "the radical polarization of the entire
u n i v e r s e i n t e r m s of m a l e a n d f e m a l e s y m b o l s " (see P e r r y , 1 9 8 0 , p . 1 5 ; s e e
also Idel, 1 9 8 5 b , pp. 8 9 - 9 3 ) .
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND PRAXIS 239

T h i s c o r r e l a t i o n b e t w e e n t h e v a r i o u s l e v e l s of r e a l i t y p e r m i t t e d
t h e k a b b a l i s t s to r e g a r d t h e s e x u a l u n i o n a s a n irrdtatto Dei from
o n e p e r s p e c t i v e a n d a s a t h e u r g i c a l a c t i n t e n d e d to i n d u c e a
h a r m o n i o u s state i n the s u p e r n a l entities from a n o t h e r .
Moreover, k a b b a l i s t s u s e d these principles, a s well a s a l r e a d y
e x i s t i n g m o t i f s , i n o r d e r to c o n s t r u c t a b i s e x u a l s y s t e m of t h e
p o w e r s of e v i l . S o , S a m m a e l a n d L i l i t h a r e t h e " a p e s of God"
w h o t r y to i m i t a t e t h e d i v i n e u n i o n i n t h e d e m o n i c counterpart
s t r u c t u r e (see W e r b l o w s k y , 1972, II, 3 1 8 - 3 2 5 ; D a n , 1980, pp.
17-25). 5 1

A comparison between the various J e w i s h views on the


sexual relationship a n d some ancient Christian a n d Gnostic
v i e w s i s p e r t i n e n t a t t h i s f i n a l s t a g e of o u r d i s c u s s i o n . 5 2
The
Philonic, the t a l m u d i c - m i d r a s h i c , a n d the k a b b a l i s t i c percep
t i o n s of s e x u a l i t y a r e a l l u n a m b i g u o u s l y p o s i t i v e . T h e existence
of two s e x e s i s a c c e p t e d a s a fact t h a t e n a b l e s h u m a n k i n d to
p e r p e t u a t e i t s e l f w i t h o u t a n y p e j o r a t i v e i n s i n u a t i o n of t h e n a t u r e
of t h e s e x u a l a c t . T h e r e t u r n to the p r i m a l a n d r o g y n e s t a t e of
h u m a n s , w h i c h w a s commonly described by G n o s t i c s , 5 3
or the
endeavour to t r a n s c e n d the f e m i n i n e plight by m y s t i c trans
formations of t h e female into a " m a l e " recurring in ancient
Christian thought 5 4
and Gnosticism (Baer, 1970, pp. 69-71),

5 1
T h e s t o r y of t h e d e v e l o p m e n t of t h e d e m o n i c b i s e x u a l s t r u c t u r e h a s
to b e r e c o n s i d e r e d , i n m y o p i n i o n , i n t h e d i r e c t i o n of a n e a r l i e r a p p e a r a n c e
of t h e s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s b e t w e e n t h e h e a d s of d e m o n s .
5 2
I c o n s c i o u s l y ignore the possibly more interesting c o m p a r i s o n b e
t w e e n t h e k a b b a l i s t i c a p p r o a c h to s e x u a l i t y a n d H i n d u v i e w s , for 1 a m
i n t e r e s t e d i n c o m p a r i n g c o n c e p t i o n s t h a t flourished i n t h e s a m e g e o
g r a p h i c a l region a n d c o u l d influence e a c h other. Moreover, G n o s t i c i s m
a n d k a b b a l a h s h a r e t h e v i s i o n of t h e p l e r o m a a s b e i n g c o m p o s e d from
s y ^ g i e s a n d having hierogamic relations between them. Against this
b a c k g r o u n d , the discrepancies between t h e m are even m o r e startling.
5 3
S e e , e.g., t h e Gospel of Thomas a n d t h e Gospel of Philip. T h e p e r t i
n e n t texts were a d d u c e d i n E l i a d e , 1969, pp. 1 0 5 - 1 0 7 ; B a e r , 1970, pp.
7 2 - 7 4 ; Robinson, 1970, pp. 1 1 1 - 1 1 7 ; Meeks, 1974, pp. 1 8 8 - 1 9 7 .
5 4
S e e Gal 3 : 2 8 ; M e e k s , 1 9 7 4 ; J u n g , 1 9 7 7 , p p . 3 7 3 - 3 7 4 . T h i s m o t i f i s
well k n o w n already i n Philo but, in my opinion, is u n k n o w n i n Hebrew
texts; see B a e r , 1970, pp. 4 5 - 5 5 . S e e , however, h i s s t a n d a r d J e w i s h
attitude towards m a r r i a g e (idem, pp. 75, 9 4 - 9 5 ) . Philo's v i e w s o n * m a s c u
linity" a n d "Virginity" a s a mystical ideal were highly influential on the
p a t r i s t i c l i t e r a t u r e a n d t h e r e b y o n C h r i s t i a n t h o u g h t i n g e n e r a l (see C l i n e
Horowitz, 1979, pp. 1 9 0 - 2 0 4 ) .
240 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

is alien to talmudic and theosophical kabbalistic Weltan


schauung. 55

T h e c h e r u b i m c a n be v i e w e d w h e n i n t e r t w i n e d , b u t t h e y c a n
a l s o s e p a r a t e from e a c h other. H u m a n b e i n g s c a n u n i t e i n t h e
sexual act without losing t h e i r specific sexual nature. The
s u p e r n a l d i v i n e m a n i f e s t a t i o n s a r e s u p p o s e d to a t t a i n t h e i r i d e a l
s t a t e w h e n t h e opposite divine p o w e r s a r e u n i t e d , a u n i o n t h a t i s
explicitly described in s e x u a l imagery. Nevertheless, nowhere is
t h i s u n i o n r e g a r d e d a s a n a n n i h i l a t i o n of two s e p h i r o t a n d the
e m e r g e n c e of one, a n d r o g y n o u s , a l t e r n a t i v e d i v i n e p o w e r . W h a t
i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c of the k a b b a l i s t i c v i e w i s the e m p h a s i s o n the
a t t a i n m e n t of a h a r m o n i o u s r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n o p p o s i n g p r i n
c i p l e s , w h o s e s e p a r a t e e x i s t e n c e i s i n d i s p e n s a b l e for the welfare
of the e n t i r e c o s m o s . O r , to p u t it i n other w o r d s , t h e o s o p h i c a l
k a b b a l a h w a s not i n t e r e s t e d i n a d r a s t i c r e s t r u c t u r i n g of e x i s t
e n c e b y e i t h e r the t r a n s f o r m a t i o n of the f e m i n i n e into m a s c u l i n e
or b y t h e i r final f u s i o n into a b i s e x u a l or a s e x u a l e n t i t y . R a t h e r ,
the k a b b a l i s t s w e r e s t r i v i n g for a n i m p r o v e m e n t of the p r o c e s s e s
going on between polar elements composing the terrestrial a n d
the divine u n i v e r s e s .
T h e k a b b a l i s t s t r a n s p o r t e d the h u m a n s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s h i p
n o t o n l y t h e s e x u a l p o l a r i t y i n t o the s u p e r n a l w o r l d ; the p r o

5 5
As Meeks (1974, p. 186) properly remarks: " I n J u d a i s m the myth (of
androgyne) serves only to solve an exegetical dilemma and to support
monogamy." However, the ecstatic kabbalah sometimes employs androgy
nous imagery, under the influence of Greek philosophy, mediated by
Maimonides' works. Nevertheless, no ascetic movement emerged from this
trend of thought; see n. 3 above. Another crucial difference between the
J e w i s h and Greek view of androgyny is the positive J e w i s h perception of
the separation between the male and female, whereas with Plato this
separation is viewed as a punishment. Cf., however, Boman (1960, pp.
96-97): "the form of the myth is quite different from that in Gen. 2, but the
meaning is exactly the same"! [my emphasis]. See also the Gnostic Apoc
alypse qfAdam(tr. G. Macrae, in Charlesworth, 1983,1, p. 712): "God, the
ruler of the aeons, and the powers, separated u s wrathfully. T h e n we
became two aeons, and the glory in our hearts deserted u s , me and your
mother E v e . " Compare also the accusation of a matrona that God created
woman "by thievery" (Gen., Rabba, XVII, 7, p. 158) versus the answer of
R. J o s e , who stresses God's benevolence. On the possible Gnostic back
ground of this passage, see Gershenzon-Eliezer Slomovic, 1985, pp. 2 0
22.
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND PRAXIS 241

c e s s e s t h e r e h a d to c o n f o r m to h u m a n s e x u a l b e h a v i o u r . The
G n o s t i c v i e w a t t e m p t e d to c o p y t h e h i g h e r r u l e of a n d r o g y n e i t y
or a s e x u a l i t y i n the lower w o r l d . 5 6
G n o s t i c a n d to a c e r t a i n
extent also C h r i s t i a n a t t i t u d e s towards sexuality represent a n
i m p o r t a n t a s p e c t of t h e i r m o r e c o m p r e h e n s i v e r e j e c t i o n of t h i s
w o r l d (see M e e k s , 1974, p. 207). The Gnostic a n d Christian
eschatologies present a spiritual e s c a p i s m that a i m s at the r e
s t o r i n g of the p a r a d i s i a c a n d r o g y n y or a s e x u a l s t a t u s of the
b e l i e v e r . A t l e a s t i n the G n o s t i c c a s e , t h e u n e a s i n e s s extends
b e y o n d t h i s w o r l d to i t s evil c r e a t o r , s e x u a l i t y b e i n g r e g a r d e d a s
a n i n s t r u m e n t i m p l a n t e d b y h i m i n t o h u m a n s i n o r d e r to p e r
petuate his evil w o r l d . Christian a s c e t i c i s m is b u t a milder
attitude towards the temporary p l i g h t of the w o r l d u n t i l the
s e c o n d a r r i v a l of the S a v i o u r . T h e s e x u a l i n s t i n c t w a s either
s u p p r e s s e d or p a r t i a l l y s u b l i m a t e d i n the f o r m of love of C h r i s t .
U n d e r the i m p a c t of the h a l a k h i c v i e w s , k a b b a l a h d e a l t w i t h
t h e r e g u l a t i o n of t h e l i b i d o r a t h e r t h a n w i t h i t s s u p p r e s s i o n or
sublimation. T h i s attitude towards sex a n d sexuality is generally
this-world-oriented; the m a i n effort w a s i n v e s t e d i n t h e i r a t
t e m p t to f i n d t h e g o l d e n m e a n b e t w e e n the s e x u a l a s c e t i c i s m
cultivated b y the C h r i s t i a n m y s t i c s a n d a n u n c o m m o n emphasis
o n t h e c e n t r a l i t y of the s e x u a l p r o c e s s e s , w h i c h c o u l d e x p l o d e
t h e r e g u l a r t e x t u r e of t h e f a m i l y l i f e . 57
The danger that haunted
J e w i s h mediaeval k a b b a l a h w a s not a n exaggerated spirituality
that disregarded "carnal" love, but an outburst of positively
perceived sexual relationships beyond the boundaries of
halakhah.

Or, as J u n g put it very adequately, " G n o s t i c i s m . . . endeavoured i n


5 6

all seriousness to subordinate the physiological to the metaphysical"


(1959, p. 177). Meeks (1974, p. 207) uses the phrase "metaphysical
rebellion" In his description of androgynous tendencies in C h r i s t i a n a n d
Gnostic circles. It seems that with kabbalah the situation w a s completely
different.
See the various midrashic discussions of God's ongoing pairing
5 7

couples since the end of the creation of the world, collected, translated,
a n d analysed by Agus (1980, pp. 18-30). Though Agus may indeed be
right in his emphasis of the anti-Gnostic character of the rabbinic percep
tion of God as a n arche-Shadkhen, some a n t i - C h r i s t i a n tendencies may
also have contributed to the emergence of this view. I hope to deal else
where with this problem. (See also Gershenzon-Slomovic, 1985, pp.
28-29.)
242 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

T h e b a l a n c e b e t w e e n a positive a n d n a t u r a l a t t i t u d e t o w a r d s
sexuality a n d its perception a s a reflection of t h e s u p e r n a l
h i e r o g a m y a l s o h a d its p r o b l e m s . W h e n t h e h a l a k h i c r e g u l a t i o n s
w e a k e n e d , one of the m a i n a n d i m m e d i a t e r e s u l t s w a s a r e m o v a l
of t h e s e x u a l i n h i b i t i o n s . S h a b b a t e a n i s m a n d F r a n k i s m , two
s e c t s c o n n e c t e d w i t h m y s t i c a l J u d a i s m , d e v i a t e d from k a b b a l a h
m a i n l y b y t h e i r t r a n s g r e s s i o n of i n c e s t i n t e r d i c t i o n s t r a n s g r e s
sions t h a t w e r e i n t e r p r e t e d a s t h e i m i t a t i o n of u n r e s t r a i n e d
r e l a t i o n s i n t h e divine w o r l d (see S c h o l e m , 1 9 7 2 , p p . 1 3 6 - 1 3 7 ) .
B o t h extreme S h a b b a t e a n s a n d F r a n k i s t s b a s e d their licentious
b e h a v i o u r on c l a s s i c a l kabbalistic texts. 58
L i k e the G n o s t i c s , 5 9

the Shabbateans viewed the perfect manin their case


S h a b b a t a i Z e v i a s b e i n g free from a l l m o r a l r e s t r i c t i o n s a n d a s
belonging to G a n E d e n , a p a r a d i s i a c s t a t e , a s o p p o s e d to t h e
l o w e r w o r l d , d e s c r i b e d a s " t h e h e a r t " of the d e m o n i c world. 6 0

Moreover t h e v e r y core of S h a b b a t a i Z e v f s activity w a s once


d e s c r i b e d a s the r e s t o r a t i o n of the glory of s e x u a l i t y , seemingly
of the u n r e s t r a i n e d s o r t :

T h e p a t r i a r c h s came into the world to restore the s e n s e s a n d


this they d i d to four of them. T h e n came S h a b b a t a i Zevi
a n d restored the fifth, the s e n s e of touch, w h i c h , according
to Aristotle [Nicomachean Ethics, III, 10, 1118b) a n d
Maimonides (see Guide of the Perplexed II, 3 6 , 4 0 : III, 8, 49),
is a source of s h a m e for u s , b u t w h i c h now h a s been r a i s e d
by h i m to a place of h o n o u r a n d glory. [Quoted i n J a c o b
E m d e n , Sefer hit'abekut (Lvov, 1877) 6 a , i n S c h o l e m , 1972,
p. 1171 61

We witness here a clear case where m e t a p h y s i c s i n this


c a s e , k a b b a l i s t i c t h e o s o p h y t u r n e d into a n i n d e p e n d e n t factor
t h a t s h a p e d t h e b e h a v i o u r of p e r s o n s . W h e n p u t into the s e r v i c e

They were designated a s Zoharisten because of their frequent lean


5 8

ing on this work.


On the phenomenological affinity between radical forms of
5 9

Shabbateanism and Gnosticism, see, e.g., Scholem, 1972, pp. 132-133.


See Natan ha-Azati's Treatise on the Menorah (printed in Scholem,
6 0

1934, p. 102): see also Scholem, 1973, pp. 810, 3 1 1 - 3 1 2 .


The presentation of Shabbatai Zevi as the redeemer of the sense of
6 1

touch is rather curious. Almost all the kabbalists refuted Maimonides's


view and agreed on a positive perception of the sexual act; see the stand of
Iggeret ha-Kodesh c h . 2 (Chavel, 1967, pp. 323-324).
S E X U A L METAPHORS AND PRAXIS 243

of t h e m e t a p h y s i c a l " i d e a " , w i t h o r d i n a r y s e x u a l m o d e s o b l i t e r
a t e d , o r g i a s t i c p r a c t i c e s t u r n e d i n t o a via mystica of the n e w
aeon. No w o n d e r the next important development of J e w i s h
m y s t i c i s m H a s i d i s m w a s m u c h more reticent i n u s i n g s e x u a l
symbolism.
Finally, a r e m a r k o n the metamorphosis of the a b o v e - m e n
tioned attitudes towards sexuality i n o u r o w n period m a y be
pertinent. T h e ancient J e w i s h attitude towards sexuality a s a
mystery, a s r e p r e s e n t e d b y m i d r a s h i m d e s c r i b i n g t h e h o l y of
holies, h a d a profound impact on J u d a i s m in general a n d on
k a b b a l a h i n particular. T h e s u p e r n a l hierogamy a n d its lower
r e f l e c t i o n i n t h e m a r i t a l r e l a t i o n s b e c a m e o n e of t h e b a s i c t e n e t s
of k a b b a l i s t i c l o r e ; a t l e a s t o n t h i s p o i n t , k a b b a l a h elaborated
on a n already existing J e w i s h topic. 6 2
T h i s u n e q u i v o c a l v i e w of
sexuality h a d a n important repercussion in modern psycho
a n a l y s i s t h r o u g h F r e u d ' s a p p r e c i a t i o n of the l i b i d o . 6 3

O n the other h a n d , the reticent a n d s o m e t i m e s ambiguous


attitude towards sexuality a n d marriage in Christianity a n d
G n o s t i c i s m f o u n d i t s e x p r e s s i o n i n t h e w o r k s of C a r l J u n g a n d
Mircea Eliade. 6 4
T h e s e s c h o l a r s were n o t only deeply interested
i n t h e G n o s t i c m y t h o l o g y , b u t t h e y e v e n s e e m to h a v e a d o p t e d
s e v e r a l G n o s t i c mythologownena, a s atemporal t r u t h s 6 5
or even

6 2
T h i s most important insight, shared by several authors, w a s ignored
by the founders of the scholarly study of kabbalah s u c h a s S c h o l e m a n d
Tishby; cf. Patai, 1978, pp. 119ff; M. K a s h e r (in n . 18); B a e r , 1 9 7 5 , p p .
101-104.
6 3
David B a k a n ' s assertion that J e w i s h mystical tradition h a d indeed
influenced Freud's views seems to be a sound approach, notwithstanding
the author's difficulties when he attempted to prove it by using historical
arguments. It is enough to recognize that, at least regarding sexuality, the
J e w i s h "non-mysticaT attitude was not so far from the kabbalistic one a n d
that the general positive approach to this issue w a s a common denomina
tor for most of the J e w s .
6 4
I refer primarily to their acceptance of the hermaphrodite or andro
gynic idea as a symbol for h u m a n perfection; see their works referred to i n
n n . 53, 54, a n d 56; Eliade, 1971; see especially Eliade's d i s c u s s i o n of
androgvnization (1969, pp. 111-114).
6 5
J u n g ' s perception of the androgyne a s archetype i s a fine example;
according to him, androgyny a s a "primordial idea h a s become a symbol of
the creative u n i o n of opposites, a 'uniting symbol* in the literal sense** (see
J u n g , 1959, p. 174).
244 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

a s s p i r i t u a l g u i d a n c e for o u r a g e . 6 6
I n d i v i d u a l perfection i s t h e
u l t i m a t e goal of t h e i r i d e a l i z a t i o n of a n d r o g y n e i t y , a s o p p o s e d to
t h e c r e a t i v e i n t e r e s t , be it p r o c r e a t i o n or r e s t o r a t i o n of d i v i n e
h a r m o n y , i n the t h e o s o p h i c a l k a b b a l a h . A n y f u r t h e r c o m m e n t
w o u l d be s u p e r f l u o u s .

See Eliade, 1969, p. 100, where he refers to androgyny as a symbol


6 6

for the "wholeness resulting from the fusion of the sexes", " a new type of
humanity in which the fusion of the sexes produces a new unpolarized
consciousness"; and also p. 114. Compare his sympathetic description of
orgiastic rituals (Eliade, 1963, pp. 356ff., especially p. 361). For Eliade as
a creative hermeneut who attempted to further a spiritual discipline, see
Branneman, Yarian, & Olson, 1982, pp. 57-71.
Comments

Jacob A. Arlow

B I S E X U A L I T Y IN J E W I S H M Y S T I C I S M

It t a k e s m o r e t h a n a degree of d a r i n g to a p p l y the t e c h n i q u e s of
psychoanalytic interpretation to Jewish mysticism and the
Kabbalah. Yet we are encouraged, even u r g e d on, by the s e n
t e n c e w i t h w h i c h G e r s h o m S c h o l e m c o n c l u d e s h i s b o o k , On the
Kabcdlah and Its Symbolism. H e s a y s , ". . . t h e h i s t o r i a n ' s t a s k
ends w h e r e the psychologist's begins" (Scholem, 1965, p. 204).
In this chapter Idel essentially confronts the issue of
a n d r o g y n y or b i s e x u a l i t y i n J e w i s h m y s t i c i s m , a l t h o u g h h e d o e s
n o t s t a t e t h e i s s u e i n t h e s e t e r m s u n t i l the l a s t p a g e . H e b e g i n s ,
instead, by stating, "It is a commonplace that mystical literature
i s i n c l i n e d to e x p r e s s t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n the m y s t i c s o u l
and the divine by m e a n s of erotic i m a g e r y . A l l the c l a s s i c a l
b o d i e s of m y s t i c a l w r i t i n g s c a n e a s i l y p r o v i d e n u m e r o u s exam
ples, sometimes striking ones, w h e r e i n s e x u a l images are openly
a n d often e m p l o y e d . K a b b a l a h h a s n o t h i n g u n i q u e o n t h i s i s s u e ;
it a l s o e x t e n s i v e l y u s e s s e x u a l i m a g e s a n d m e t a p h o r s . However,
there is something n o v e l i n t h i s b o d y of l i t e r a t u r e t h a t t r a n
s c e n d s t h e m o r e c o m m o n u s a g e of e r o t i c a n d s e x u a l m o t i f s . T h e

2 4 5
246 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

difference l i e s n o t s o m u c h i n the texts, b u t i n t h e i r sociological


context" (p. 2 1 9 ) . A c c o r d i n g to t h e a u t h o r , i n the ecstatic
k a b b a l a h t h e m y s t i c or h i s s p i r i t u a l f a c u l t i e s a r e p r e s e n t e d a s
female, w h e r e a s t h e divine p o w e r s (viz., t h e active intellect of
G o d Himself) a r e v i e w e d a s the m a l e p a r t n e r .
F r o m t h e p s y c h o l o g i c a l point of view, c e r t a i n p r o b l e m s b e
come apparent immediately. W h i l e it i s t r u e t h a t K a b b a l i s t i c
writings, i n c o m m o n with other mystical literatures, express the
relationship between the i n d i v i d u a l m y s t i c a n d t h e D i v i n e b y
m e a n s of erotic i m a g e r y , w h a t i s s t r i k i n g i s t h a t s u c h i m a g e r y
a n d m e t a p h o r s h o u l d b e u s e d i n Jewish mystical writings. I n
J e w i s h t r a d i t i o n , e x p l i c i t i m a g e r y of m a l e a n d female erotic i n
t e r a c t i o n d e p i c t i n g the r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n t h e m y s t i c a n d t h e
D i v i n e i s from m a n y p o i n t s of v i e w a s t a r t l i n g phenomenon.
S u c h c o n c e p t s w e r e foreign i n d e e d to the m o u l d e r s of J e w i s h
religious thought, c e r t a i n l y i n the r a b b i n i c t r a d i t i o n . A s Idel
clearly indicates,

I n the Bible a n d the t a l m u d i c - m i d r a s h i c texts, the relation


s h i p between G o d a n d the J e w i s h people, sometimes desig
nated a s Knesset Israel i s described a s the relation between
h u s b a n d a n d wife. T h i s w a s also the m a i n avenue adopted i n
the exegetical literature of the S o n g of S o n g s i n mediaeval
texts, w h i c h regarded the plain m e a n i n g of the B i b l i c a l text
to be concerned with the people of Israel a n d G o d . T h i s is
obviously a part of the national myth, w h i c h changes the
entire nation into one entity standing i n s e x u a l relation to the
other entitythe Divinity. T h i s mythical relationship h a s
little to do with m y s t i c i s m ; it i s interested primarily i n the
whole n a t i o n a s a unit, w h e r e a s the p a r t i c u l a r J e w i s r a t h e r
neglected a s a meaningful factor. T h e individual, according
to c l a s s i c a l J e w i s h texts, c a n take part i n this bond w i t h G o d
by h i s participation i n the significant great unity, Knesset
Israel [the community of Israel]. . . . T h i s bond mediates
between the individual J e w a n d the Divinity whenever this
relation i s expressed i n s e x u a l terms, [pp. 219-220]

W h i l e t h e love of G o d , the w i s h to be a t o n e w i t h H i m , to be
u n i t e d i n loving k i n d n e s s , a c c e p t a n c e , a n d forgiveness, i s r i c h l y
expressed i n the B i b l i c a l a n d r a b b i n i c l i t e r a t u r e , a n e x p l i c i t
d e m a r c a t i o n of t h e role of the i n d i v i d u a l ' s r e l a t i o n s h i p to t h e
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND PRAXIS 247

G o d h e a d i n sexual t e r m s , u s i n g precise erotic imagery, is u n


known.
In J e w i s h tradition, God is always described a n d referred to
as masculine. A female goddess equal i n power a n d i m p o r t a n c e
to t h e m a l e god, s h a r i n g d o m i n i o n over t h e fate o f m a n , does n o t
appear. H o w significant a role the female goddess Ishtar, re
ferred to i n several places i n the preachings of the prophets,
played a t a n y time i n the h i s t o r y of the H e b r e w people is difficult
t o d e t e r m i n e . N e i t h e r she n o r a n y s i m i l a r f i g u r e ever l o o m e d as
a competitor or a participant i n the authority of the divine
Y a h w e h . A female image connected w i t h the Godhead seems to
have disappeared quite early i n the course of J e w i s h theological
development.
It has been suggested t h a t the oft-repeated y e a r n i n g for the
l a n d of Israel, for the city of J e r u s a l e m , a n d for t h e H o l y T e m p l e
s e r v e d as s u b s t i t u t e expressions of love for t h e m o t h e r . Be t h a t
as i t may, J u d a i s m differed f r o m m o s t of the other religions
alongside w h i c h i t developed. No place was accorded the Great
Mother as a consort of the divine power. It can hardly be
d o u b t e d t h a t the absence of a m o t h e r goddess i n J e w i s h m o r a l
a n d religious tradition m u s t have played some role i n s h a p i n g
the character a n d personality of the Jews.
Personal i d e n t i t y is a n a m a l g a m o f b o t h m a l e a n d female
e l e m e n t s a n a t u r a l consequence of the n a t u r e of the f a m i l y a n d
the fact t h a t m o s t i n d i v i d u a l s are raised b y b o t h a m o t h e r a n d
a father. T h e c o n s o l i d a t i o n of the m a t u r e sexual i d e n t i t y is b y
n o m e a n s a s i m p l e process, a n d i t does n o t r e a c h i t s c u l m i n a
t i o n u n t i l sometime d u r i n g the period of adolescence. A m a t u r e
s e x u a l i d e n t i t y is u s u a l l y organized i n k e e p i n g w i t h t h e social
mores, consistent with the obvious anatomical nature of the
individual. Nevertheless, certain psychological features and
wishes a p p r o p r i a t e to t h e opposite sex r e m a i n , a n d , a l t h o u g h
s u b o r d i n a t e d to the manifest sexual identity, they are nonethe
less i n c o r p o r a t e d into the final personality s t r u c t u r e . C l i n i c a l
experience teaches u s t h a t the process of achieving a m a t u r e ,
relatively conflict-free sexual i d e n t i t y is beset b y m a n y difficul
ties. C o n f l i c t s over i d e n t i f i c a t i o n w i t h t h e o p p o s i t e sex m a y arise
i n d i f f e r e n t i n d i v i d u a l s to a greater or lesser degree, depending
u p o n t h e n a t u r e o f t h e i r e n d o w m e n t , t h e i r e a r l y life experience,
248 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

a n d , of c o u r s e , the s o c i a l m i l i e u i n w h i c h t h e y w e r e r a i s e d . T h e
s o c i a l m o r e s c o n t r o l a n d l i m i t the e m p l o y m e n t a n d g r a t i f i c a t i o n
of o p p o s i t e - s e x t e n d e n c i e s i n the i n d i v i d u a l identity. C o n f l i c t s of
t h i s s o r t a r e b y n o m e a n s u n u s u a l . T h e p r a c t i c e s of different
r e l i g i o n s frequently afford a n outlet for conflicts of t h i s k i n d ,
s u c h a s the c e l i b a t e C a t h o l i c p r i e s t a t t i r e d i n f e m i n i n e garb.
J u d a i s m , o n the other h a n d , offers fewer o r g a n i z e d o u t l e t s for
opposite-gender w i s h e s a n d aspirations.
B e c a u s e J u d a i s m developed largely a s a m a s c u l i n e enter
prise, righteousness, the p a t h to G o d ' s love, w a s concretely
e x p e r i e n c e d a s o b e d i e n c e to G o d ' s c o m m a n d m e n t s , unquestion
i n g s u b m i s s i o n to H i s w i l l , a n d f i n d i n g g r a c e i n H i s e y e s . O f the
613 commandments or r u l e s t h a t the J e w w a s c a l l e d u p o n to
h o n o u r , o n l y three a p p l i e d only to w o m e n t h e lighting of the
S a b b a t h c a n d l e s , the c h a l l a h a n d its s a c r i f i c i a l p o r t i o n , and,
specifically, the r u l e s of s e x u a l p u r i t y . T h e latter two could
c l e a r l y be c o n c e i v e d of a s i n the h u s b a n d s ' i n t e r e s t s . I n effect,
women were physically a n d spiritually dependent upon their
h u s b a n d s * r e l a t i o n s h i p to a m a l e G o d . I n the c a s e of the i n
d i v i d u a l m a n , h i s fortune i n life a r t i c u l a t e d G o d ' s love or d i s
a p p r o v a l . I n the c a s e of the n a t i o n , the v i c i s s i t u d e s of h i s t o r y
represented the divine j u d g e m e n t on the merits or s i n s of
the n a t i o n . A s i n the c a s e of the i n d i v i d u a l , the s u f f e r i n g a n d the
disasters of J e w i s h h i s t o r y constituted proof manifest that
the people h a d s i n n e d . Suffering, i n s t e a d of e x p i a t i n g guilt, o n l y
i n t e n s i f i e d it (Arlow, 1 9 8 7 ) . T h e r e l a t i o n s h i p of G o d to b o t h the
i n d i v i d u a l a n d to H i s c h o s e n people w a s one of m o r a l j u d g e m e n t ,
n o t o n e of erotic s e n s i b i l i t y . B y fulfilling H i s c o m m a n d m e n t s , one
a t t a i n e d H i s g r a c e . T h e r e w a s little r o o m , if a n y , for the s e n s u o u s
a n d the erotic i n t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p . S e n s u a l i t y a n d p h y s i c a l p l e a s
u r e w e r e to be a v o i d e d .
F o r example, a c c o r d i n g to r a b b i n i c l i t e r a t u r e , if y o u cease
y o u r s t u d i e s i n o r d e r to a d m i r e the b e a u t i e s of n a t u r e , it i s
a l m o s t a s if y o u h a d forfeited y o u r s o u l . T h e r e l a t i o n s h i p to the
D i v i n e perforce h a d to b e c o m e a m a s o c h i s t i c one, s t r u c t u r a l i z e d
w i t h i n a c o d e of c o m m a n d m e n t s to be obeyed. T h i s type of
masochism, however, w a s not perverse, nor manifestly sensu
ous. Physical flagellation a n d s u b m i t t i n g to a c t u a l p a i n w a s n o t
p a r t of the t r a d i t i o n . O n the other h a n d , for the i n d i v i d u a l , the
a l t e r n a t i v e of a s e n s u o u s , erotic r e l a t i o n s h i p to the G o d h e a d w a s
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND PRAXIS 249

e q u a l l y u n a c c e p t a b l e , s i n c e it w o u l d be c o n n e c t e d w i t h t h e f e a r
a n d d a n g e r of h o m o s e x u a l s u b m i s s i o n . S u c h a c o m b i n a t i o n of
f a c t o r s c l e a r l y w o u l d foster t h e d e v e l o p m e n t of m o r a l m a s o c h i s
tic c h a r a c t e r f o r m a t i o n .
In one of h i s p i t h y , a l l - e n c o m p a s s i n g o b s e r v a t i o n s , Freud
noted that moral m a s o c h i s m represents a regression from true
m o r a l i t y to n e g a t i v e O e d i p u s c o m p l e x (1924c). T h i s statement
deserves more elaboration t h a n is possible at this point. Briefly
p u t , m o r a l m a s o c h i s m a s a r u l e d e v e l o p s i n t h e following w a y . A t
a c e r t a i n stage i n h i s development, the m a l e c h i l d , u n d e r s p e c i a l
conditions, a d o p t s a loving, feminine, p a s s i v e , s u b m i s s i v e atti
tude towards the father. S i n c e s e x u a l s u b m i s s i o n , however, is
u n a c c e p t a b l e , this t r e n d is opposed a n d m a y be r e p l a c e d b y a
painful but nevertheless more acceptable compromise formation;
i n s t e a d of w i s h i n g to s u b m i t s e x u a l l y i n t h e m a n n e r of a w o m a n ,
t h e i n d i v i d u a l s u b s t i t u t e s t h e w i s h to be b e a t e n p h y s i c a l l y . A t
t h i s l e v e l o n e o u t c o m e c o u l d b e the d e v e l o p m e n t of a m a s o c h i s t i c
p e r v e r s i o n . However, i n a further defensive m a n o e u v r e , the w i s h
to b e b e a t e n p h y s i c a l l y i s r e p l a c e d b y a t e n d e n c y to be o p p r e s s e d
b y m o r a l s t r i c t u r e s . A t first these s t r i c t u r e s m a y be e x p e r i e n c e d
a s e m a n a t i n g f r o m t h e f a t h e r figure. I n t u r n , h o w e v e r , t h e y m a y
be replaced by the l a w s a n d c o m m a n d m e n t s imposed by God
a n d experienced a s a constant inner moral imperative.
T o be s u r e , moral m a s o c h i s m is a n important dynamic i n
a l m o s t every religionmore in s o m e t h a n in others, more p e r
h a p s in Protestantism than in Catholicism. I n J u d a i s m , however,
t h e a b s e n c e of s o m e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of t h e f e m a l e p r i n c i p l e i n
the G o d h e a d , I w o u l d suggest, facilitates the development of
moral masochism.
R e l i g i o n s t h a t h a v e a d i v i n e p r e s e n c e f e m a l e i n n a t u r e afford
a n o p p o r t u n i t y to i n v o k e t h e p r o t e c t i o n of a l o v i n g m o t h e r figure,
a n intercessor with a more punitive male Godhead. In such
r e l i g i o n s , t h e p r e s e n c e of a f e m a l e p r i n c i p l e a l s o m a k e s it p o s
s i b l e for t h e i n d i v i d u a l to o v e r c o m e g u i l t i n a s p i r i t of l o v i n g
r e u n i o n w i t h the f e m a l e g o d d e s s or h e r s u b s t i t u t e . Religious
experience t h u s c a n become more manifestly erotic i n n a t u r e
a n d a t t h e s a m e t i m e l e s s t h r e a t e n i n g to t h e i n d i v i d u a l m a l e . I n
C a t h o l i c i s m , for e x a m p l e , t h i s o n l y s e r v e s a s a s t o p g a p , because
the final j u d g e a n d arbiter is the u n q u e s t i o n e d m a l e image of
God. B u t through H i s son, who embodies m a n y qualities c h a r a c
250 S E X A N D G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

t e r i s t i c a l l y or h i s t o r i c a l l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the female nature


that is, tenderness, compassion, forgivenessthrough this
a m b i g u o u s s e x u a l identity, the fear of p a s s i v e s e x u a l s u b m i s
s i o n to a m a l e G o d i s m i t i g a t e d .
A c c o r d i n g l y , from the p s y c h o a n a l y t i c p o i n t of v i e w , the m a n i
fest s e x u a l i z e d r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n the i n d i v i d u a l m y s t i c a n d
G o d w o u l d r e p r e s e n t a n u n d o i n g of the defensive compromise
of m o r a l m a s o c h i s m , l e a d i n g it b a c k to its a n t e c e d e n t stage of
s e x u a l love a n d s u b m i s s i o n . (While w e h a v e m a n y accounts
of t h e s e x u a l s e n s a t i o n s e x p e r i e n c e d b y C h r i s t i a n m y s t i c s , p a r
t i c u l a r l y w o m e n , v i s - a - v i s the G o d h e a d , there a r e n o c o m p a r a b l e
d e t a i l e d e x p o s i t i o n s of s e x u a l e l e m e n t s i n the e c s t a s y of J e w i s h
m y s t i c i s m t h a t h a v e c o m e to m y attention.) A c c o r d i n g l y , I w o u l d
s u g g e s t t h a t t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n of the c o n c e p t of the Shekhinah as
a r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of the female a s p e c t of the d i v i n i t y a n d the m o r e
m a n i f e s t role of s e x u a l i t y i n o r d e r i n g the u n i v e r s e m u s t have
p r o v e d to be a n a p p e a l i n g e s c a p e from the r i g o u r s of m o r a l
m a s o c h i s m . Undoubtedly, t h i s m u s t h a v e p l a y e d s o m e role i n
t h e fact t h a t H a s i d i s m r e a d i l y r e s p o n d e d to a n d i n c o r p o r a t e d
m y s t i c i s m a n d K a b b a l a h a s p a r t of life a n d t h o u g h t . T o quote
S c h o l e m (1965),

T h i s discovery of a feminine element i n God, w h i c h the K a b


b a l i s t s tried to justify by gnostic exegesis, is of course one of
the m o s t significant steps they took, often regarded w i t h the
u t m o s t misgiving by strictly R a b b i n i c a l n o n - K a b b a l i s t i c
J e w s . Often distorted into inoffensiveness by e m b a r r a s s e d
K a b b a l i s t i c apologists, this m y s t i c a l conception of the fem
inine principle of the Shekhinah a s a providential guide of
creation achieved e n o r m o u s popularity a m o n g the m a s s e s
of the J e w i s h people, so showing that here the K a b b a l i s t s
h a d uncovered one of the primordial religious i m p u l s e s still
latent i n J u d a i s m , [p. 105]

The concept of the Shekhinah accordingly introduced or


r e - i n t r o d u c e d s e n s u a l i t y a n d s e x u a l i t y into J e w i s h theosophy.
Whenever or w h e r e v e r the Shekhinah abided, there w a s the
a w a r e n e s s of s o m e f e m i n i n e erotic p r i n c i p l e . H o w to v i e w the s i g
n i f i c a n c e of the role of the Shekhinah from the p o i n t of v i e w of
p s y c h o a n a l y t i c p s y c h o l o g y w o u l d be quite difficult. W e a r e f a c e d
w i t h the q u e s t i o n a s to w h a t extent the f e m i n i n e s e x u a l c o m p o
S E X U A L METAPHORS AND PRAXIS 251

nents in mystical a n d Kabbalistic thinking constituted a n aware


n e s s , b y w a y of t h e m e c h a n i s m of p r o j e c t i o n o f t h e r e p r e s s e d ,
feminine, s e x u a l components i n the mystic's psychology. Idel
c o m e s c l o s e to t h i s i s s u e b u t t h e n b a c k s a w a y . F o r e x a m p l e , h e
states, " T h e ecstatic k a b b a l a h , o n the other h a n d , presents the
mystic or h i s s p i r i t u a l faculties a s the female, whereas the
supernal powers (viz. t h e a c t i v e i n t e l l e c t of G o d H i m s e l f ) a r e
v i e w e d a s t h e m a l e p a r t n e r " (p. 2 1 8 ) . B u t , a s i f to c o u n t e r a n y
suggestion of feminine sexual tendencies i n the mystic, Idel
e m p h a s i z e s that " J e w i s h m y s t i c s . . . s h a r e d with other J e w s the
c o n v i c t i o n t h a t a c t u a l m a r r i a g e a n d f u l f i l m e n t of t h e c o m m a n d to
multiply a r e religious imperatives a n d , accordingly, the k a b b a
lists c o u l d h a r d l y be regarded a s p e r s o n s w h o employed sexual
metaphors a s a compensation for t h e f r u s t r a t i o n o f *reaP e r o t i c
e x p e r i e n c e s " (p. 2 1 9 ) . H e goes o n to c i t e s e v e r a l l e a d i n g K a b b a
lists w h o were m a r r i e d or w h o a t least viewed s e x u a l relations a s
permissible a n d desirable a s evidence that the "relatively c o m
mon explanations offered b y s o m e s c h o l a r s to t h e g e n e s i s o f
s e x u a l i m a g e r y i n t h e r e p r e s s e d libido c a n b e n o m o r e t h a n a
p a r t i a l s o l u t i o n " (p. 2 1 9 ) .
T h i s point w o u l d be well t a k e n if only typical heterosexual
i m p u l s e s were concerned, b u t we k n o w from experience that
there a r e other non-heterosexual desires that each individual
m a y p o s s e s s to a g r e a t e r o r l e s s e r degree a n d w h i c h h e m a y t r y
to m a s t e r i n a v a r i e t y of w a y s . S e x u a l i m a g e r y p e r m i t t i n g i d e n t i
fication w i t h the female i n religious m y s t i c a l experience could
r e p r e s e n t o n e w a y o u t of s u c h d i l e m m a s . I n s o m e w a y , I d e l i s
a w a r e of t h i s w h e n h e goes o n to s a y t h a t i n t h e m e d i a e v a l p e r i o d
a m y s t i c a l relationship between the individual a n d G o d m a d e its
a p p e a r a n c e , a n d the h u m a n soul w a s c o n c e i v e d a s f e m a l e i n
r e l a t i o n to t h e d i v i n e m a l e entity. A further e x a m p l e of t h i s
a w a r e n e s s o n t h e p a r t o f t h e a u t h o r o c c u r s w h e n h e s t a t e s , ". . .
t h e s h i f t f r o m t h e c l a s s i c a l to t h e s p e c u l a t i v e v i e w of Knesset
Israel a s t h e s p o u s e of G o d : o n l y w h e n it w a s i n t e r p r e t e d a s
r e f e r r i n g to t h e i n d i v i d u a l w a s t h i s t e r m r e l a t e d to t h e m y s t i c a l
u n i o n b e t w e e n two m o n a d s . O n l y then could the kabbalist see
h i m s e l f a s t h e 'female* into w h o m t h e d i v i n e s p a r k i s s o w n a n d
the spiritual s o n born. T h a t i s , a t r a n s m u t a t i o n of t h e h u m a n
s p i r i t t a k e s p l a c e a s a r e s u l t of c o n t a c t w i t h t h e D i v i n e " ( p p .
222-223).
252 S E X A N D G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

I n h i s efforts to b u t t r e s s h i s a r g u m e n t s o p p o s i n g the c o n
c e p t s of a n d r o g y n y o r , a s w e p s y c h o a n a l y s t s w o u l d prefer to
s a y , p s y c h i c b i s e x u a l i t y I d e l m a i n t a i n s t h a t the a c t u a l e x p e r i
e n c e of s e x u a l c o n t a c t i s n o t e s s e n t i a l for the e c s t a s y a n d t h a t
the a c t of s e x u a l u n i o n p l a y s no r i t u a l i s t i c role i n the m y s t i c a l
e x p e r i e n c e . " B y its n a t u r e , e c s t a t i c k a b b a l a h i s m o s t l y i n t e r
ested in spiritual processes for w h i c h the c o r p o r e a l actions
w o u l d b e o n l y a h i n d r a n c e " (p. 2 2 3 ) .
I n m u c h of the m a t e r i a l , one c a n d i s c e r n r e f e r e n c e s to a n
e q u a t i o n of the A r k a n d the H o l y of H o l i e s , o n one h a n d , a n d t h e
female g e n i t a l o n the other. T h e A r k of the C o v e n a n t , the H o l y of
H o l i e s , a n d t h e L a n d of I s r a e l " w a s a p l a c e w h e r e t h e female
p r i n c i p l e , the S h e k h i n a h , d w e l l s " . F o l l o w i n g the logic of t h i s
c o n c e p t , a p u r e u n i o n of m a l e a n d female s e r v e s a s a r e s t o r a t i v e
a c t , e n a b l i n g the Shekhinah to k e e p h e r n a t u r a l p l a c e amid
t h e J e w i s h u n i o n . I n t e r c o u r s e a n d p r o c r e a t i o n a r e d o n e for the
s a k e of the divinity, a n effort to r e e s t a b l i s h the h a r m o n y that
e x i s t e d w h e n the T e m p l e w a s f u n c t i o n i n g . A l o n g s i d e t h i s s e x u a l
i m a g e r y c o n c e r n i n g G o d a n d the people of I s r a e l i s the p a r a l l e l
r e p r e s e n t a t i o n of the m y s t i c a l q u a l i t i e s of s e x u a l intercourse
b e t w e e n a m a n a n d h i s wife. A c c o r d i n g to the K a b a l l a h , t h e p u r e
intentions required during sexual intercourse m a y eventuate
i n r a i s i n g h u m a n t h o u g h t to a s u p e r i o r s o u r c e , a n d t h u s c a u s
i n g the d e s c e n t of Shekhinah. A c c o r d i n g to the K a b b a l i s t s , the
Shekhinah d e s c e n d s u p o n the c o u p l e d u r i n g p r o p e r i n t e r c o u r s e .
H o w e v e r , Idel s t a t e s t h a t the Shekhinah does not p l a y the role of
the female, a n d n o m e n t i o n of s e x u a l r e l a t i o n s b e t w e e n the m a l e
a n d the Shekhinah c a n be d i s c e r n e d i n reference to t h i s i s s u e . I n
s p i t e of t h e s e d i s a v o w a l s , the i m a g e r y c r e a t e d i s t h a t of three
p r e s e n c e s t h e m a l e , the female, a n d the Shekhinahthe latter
definitely a female r e p r e s e n t a t i o n . It s h o u l d s t r i k e u s a s a t l e a s t
c h a l l e n g i n g t h a t a t h i r d p a r t y b e c o m e s a m e m b e r of t h i s v e r y
i n t i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p . I n the c o u r s e of p s y c h o a n a l y t i c t h e r a p y ,
t h i r d - p a r t y s i t u a t i o n s of t h i s s o r t m a k e t h e i r a p p e a r a n c e i n m a n y
f o r m s . Not i n f r e q u e n t l y d u r i n g the a c t of i n t e r c o u r s e a n i n d i
v i d u a l m a y t h i n k or f a n t a s i z e a b o u t s o m e o n e other t h a n the
p a r t n e r i n the s e x u a l a c t a t the time. F u r t h e r m o r e , t h e s i t u a t i o n
s u g g e s t s a type of d r e a m t h a t i s quite c o m m o n d u r i n g the c o u r s e
of p s y c h o a n a l y t i c e x p e r i e n c e . T h e s e a r e d r e a m s i n w h i c h the
p a t i e n t s e e s h i m s e l f or h e r s e l f i n the t r e a t m e n t s i t u a t i o n w i t h
S E X U A L M E T A P H O R S AND PRAXIS 253

the a n a l y s t p r e s e n t w h e n a third p a r t y w a l k s i n . A s a r u l e , the


intruding third party is a n unwelcome presence, because it
r e p r e s e n t s a r e p u d i a t e d a s p e c t of t h e p a t i e n t ' s w i s h f u l t h i n k
i n g , o n e t h a t t h r e a t e n s the e m e r g e n c e of a n x i e t y a n d / o r g u i l t .
A c c o r d i n g l y , t h e p r e s e n c e of t h e Shekhinah during sexual inter
course may be viewed as representing the i n t r u s i o n of the
m y s t i c ' s f e m i n i n e w i s h e s . I n the s a m e s p i r i t , a c t u a l s e x u a l e x p e
r i e n c e s i n w h i c h a c o u p l e a n d a t h i r d p a r t y p a r t i c i p a t e m o s t often
reveal, u p o n analysis, a n underlying homosexual w i s h . Viewed i n
t h i s m a n n e r , t h e p r e s e n c e of t h e Shekhinah could represent a
means of m a s t e r i n g the a n x i e t y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h homosexual
impulses through the p r o c e s s of i d e a l i z a t i o n of t h e feminine
u r g e s . O r , to p u t it a n o t h e r w a y , t h r o u g h i t s c o n n e c t i o n w i t h
divine p u r p o s e , feminine w i s h e s represented by the Shekhinah
a s p r o j e c t i o n s of t h e i n d i v i d u a l m y s t i c ' s h o m o s e x u a l u r g e s a r e
m a d e acceptable a n d welcome. Accordingly, one c o u l d generalize
f r o m t h i s p o i n t to s t a t e t h a t the i m p e t u s for e c s t a t i c m y s t i c a l
e x p e r i e n c e c o u l d r e p r e s e n t for m a n y i n d i v i d u a l s a " s u b l i m a t i o n "
of s e x u a l w i s h e s for a d i v i n e G o d - f a t h e r i m a g e . B y i m m e r s i n g
themselves in Kabbalah a n d mysticism, certain individuals m a y
h a v e f o u n d a n a d a p t i v e r e s o l u t i o n of t h e i r b i s e x u a l c o n f l i c t s .
O f t e n e n o u g h , a s w e k n o w f r o m h i s t o r y , s u c h efforts f a i l e d i n
t h e i r p u r p o s e , w i t h the r e s u l t t h a t m a n y l e a d i n g f i g u r e s i n the
J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y felt t h a t the s t u d y of K a b b a l a h a n d m y s t i c i s m
s h o u l d b e the p r o v i n c e of the e m o t i o n a l l y m a t u r e a n d t h e m e n
t a l l y s t r o n g . O n the o t h e r h a n d , the r e c o g n i t i o n of t h e v a l u e of
m y s t i c a l e x p e r i e n c e , of the role of e c s t a s y a n d s e n s u o u s n e s s i n
t h e life of t h e i n d i v i d u a l , m a y h a v e e a s e d to s o m e e x t e n t the
moral burden of o b s e r v i n g the c o m m a n d m e n t s and, in fact,
might have prepared the way, as has been suggested, for
H a s i d i s m , a m o v e m e n t that is both s p i r i t u a l a n d j o y o u s .
CHAPTER EIGHT

Crossing gender boundaries


i n kabbalistic r i t u a l and m y t h
Elliot Wolfson

D
espite the acknowledged fact that the trend of
mediaeval Jewish mysticism known as "theosophic
k a b b a l a h " i s d i s t i n g u i s h e d i n t h e r e l i g i o u s h i s t o r y of
J u d a i s m b y t h e e x p l i c i t a n d r e p e a t e d u s e of g e n d e r symbolism
to c h a r a c t e r i z e t h e n a t u r e of t h e d i v i n e , t h e s t a t e of r e s e a r c h i n
t h i s a r e a i s s t i l l s o m e w h a t r u d i m e n t a r y . I n d e e d , t h e m a j o r i t y of
previous studies on gender in the relevant kabbalistic literature
h a v e b e e n m a r r e d b y a c o n s p i c u o u s l a c k of s o p h i s t i c a t i o n . M o s t
scholars who h a v e w r i t t e n o n i s s u e s r e l e v a n t to t h i s subject
m a t t e r h a v e t a k e n for g r a n t e d t h a t the o c c u r r e n c e of gender
i m a g e s s h o u l d b e i n t e r p r e t e d w i t h i n a f r a m e w o r k of w h a t may
be called a naive biologismthat is, the p r e s u m p t i o n t h a t the
differences between m a l e a n d female a r e l i n k e d essentially a n d
e x c l u s i v e l y to b i o l o g i c a l functions. Needless to s a y , such an
o r i e n t a t i o n fails to r e c o g n i z e t h a t the l a t t e r i n a n d of t h e m s e l v e s
a r e i n d i c a t o r s of s e x u a l b u t n o t g e n d e r differentiation. While
there obviously is a correlation between biological sex a n d g e n
d e r i d e n t i t y , t h e two a r e n o t e q u i v a l e n t , a s r e c e n t s c h o l a r s i n t h e
fields of c u l t u r a l a n t h r o p o l o g y a n d feminist psychology have
e m p h a s i z e d . G e n d e r identity is engendered by c u l t u r a l a s s u m p

255
256 S E X AND G E N D E R IN T H E K A B B A L A H

tions concerning maleness a n d femaleness that interpret the


b o d y . I n t h a t r e s p e c t w e s h o u l d s p e a k of g e n d e r a s a s o c i o c u l
t u r a l c o n s t r u c t i o n t h a t i s a m a t t e r of s e m i o l o g y ( r e a d i n g c u l t u r a l
signs) r a t h e r t h a n physiology (marking bodily organs). T h e body
is a sign whose signification is determined b y the ideological
a s s u m p t i o n s of a g i v e n s o c i e t y . T h e r e i s n o b o d y w i t h o u t c u l
ture, a s there is no culture without body. 1

I n t h i s s t u d y I w i l l a t t e m p t to i l l u m i n a t e t h e r o l e of g e n d e r i n
k a b b a l i s t i c s y m b o l i s m b y e x p l o r i n g t h e p h e n o m e n o n of c r o s s i n g
g e n d e r b o u n d a r i e s t h a t i s , t h e t r a n s f o r m a t i o n of t h e f e m i n i n e
into the m a s c u l i n e a n d the m a s c u l i n e into the feminine. An
examination of t h e s e p h e n o m e n a will disclose that the theo
sophic myth that informed kabbalistic symbolism and ritual
r e f l e c t s t h e a n d r o c e n t r i c a n d p a t r i a r c h i c a l n o r m s of m e d i a e v a l
s o c i e t y i n g e n e r a l a n d t h a t of r a b b i n i c c u l t u r e m o r e p a r t i c u l a r l y .
E v e n t h o u g h t h e k a b b a l i s t s c o n s i s t e n t l y s p e a k of t h e u n i t y a n d
p e r f e c t i o n of G o d i n t e r m s of t h e u n i o n of m a s c u l i n e a n d f e m i
n i n e , t h e i d e a of u l t i m a t e w h o l e n e s s o r o n e n e s s i s p r e d i c a t e d o n
a reconstituted male androgyne. T h e kabbalistic representation
2

of a n d r o g y n y , t h e r e f o r e , i s t h a t o f t h e o n e m a l e force w h o r e p r e
s e n t s the ideal a n t h r o p o s that c o m p r i s e s b o t h m a s c u l i n e a n d
f e m i n i n e t r a i t s . A p p l y i n g t h e m y t h i c a c c o u n t of t h e c r e a t i o n of
m a n a n d w o m a n i n t h e s e c o n d c h a p t e r of G e n e s i s to t h e D i v i n e ,
t h e k a b b a l i s t s p o s i t t h a t the f e m a l e i s p a r t of t h e m a l e . Just
a s t h e Y a h w i s t v e r s i o n of c r e a t i o n d e p i c t s w o m a n , w h o comes

J
S e e B y n u m , 1986, p. 7; Epstein & Straub, 1991, p. 3.
2
See Wolfson, 1994f, pp. 166-204; see also Wolfson, 1995a, pp.
7 9 - 1 2 1 , and notes to this chapter. In those studies, a s well a s here, I do
not deny that some kabbalists describe the Infinite {EinSofl i n terms that
would suggest a transcendence of gender. I contend, however, that the
neuter Infinite reflects a n attempt to portray the kabbalistic myth i n
philosophically acceptable tenns. I do not consider the philosophical
transformation of the myth in political terms as a kind of intellectual
dishonesty of acquiescence. O n the contrary, theosophic kabbalists of the
Middle Ages were living in environments that incorporated, to one degree
or another, philosophical modes of religious discourse. T h e m a i n point,
however, is that alongside these more speculative formulations i s a deep
structured myth predicated on a gendered Infinite, as I have argued at
length i n the aforementioned studies. T h e personal character of the Ein-
Sof i n kabbalistic writings h a s been emphasized recently by a n u m b e r of
scholars; see references i n Wolfson, 1995a, p. 194 n . 201.
CROSSING GENDER BOUNDARIES 257

from m a n , as secondary a n d derivative, so i n the kabbalistic


theosophic appropriation of that myth the feminine aspect ofthe
Godhead is supplementary a n d ontically inferior to the mascu
line. 3
T h e privileging of the male will become evident i n both
forms of gender transformation discussed i n this chapter.

On being male

Ontic containment of the feminine in the masculine


The theoretical presumption underlying the possibility of the
female becoming male is t h e notion that femaleness is, i n fact,
only a n aspect of masculinity. T h e ontic inclusion of the fem
inine i n the masculine is a recurring a n d fundamental motif
in theosophic kabbalah from the incipient stage of its literary
manifestation. 4
Consider, for example, the following description
of t h e sefirotic pleroma:

Therefore [the sixth emanation] is called the median line,


and corresponding to i t below is the Foundation {Yesod)
w h i c h i s t h e p h a l l u s {berit) a n d t h e e n d o f t h e b o d y {sofha
guf). Endurance {Nesah} a n d M a j e s t y [Hod] c o r r e s p o n d t o
the t h i g h s , E n d u r a n c e is t h e r i g h t l e g a n d M a j e s t y t h e left

3
T o b e m o r e p r e c i s e , it m u s t b e noted t h a t the k a b b a l i s t s r e a d t h e
Priestly v e r s i o n of the c r e a t i o n of m a n a n d w o m a n (especially a s m e d i a t e d
t h r o u g h t h e r a b b i n i c c o n c e p t i o n of t h e a n d r o g y n e ) i n l i g h t of t h e Y a h w i s t i c
v e r s i o n . T h a t i s , there i s n o a p p r e c i a b l e difference i n orientation b e t w e e n
t h e two c r e a t i o n a c c o u n t s . O n t h e c o n t r a r y , t h e s e c o n d a r y s t a t u s a c c o r d e d
t h e w o m a n i n t h e Y a h w i s t i c v e r s i o n i s u s e d to i n t e r p r e t t h e o s t e n s i b