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Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah, the Jewish Mystical Tradition by Dr. Joseph H. Berke, 1996 Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah are theories about the nature of existence. They are also meditations, really methods for restoring shattered lives. These are lives which have been separated from their source. The particular domain of Psychoanalysis is the head and the heart, that is, the totality of an individual's mind and emotions, 'the self.' In particular, I refer to a person confirmed in his subjectivity, as agent of his thoughts and feelings, and confirmed in his objectivity, the object of his own activity and focus of his consciousness. In contrast the domain of Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, is the the soul, a person's holy, timeless essence. I refer to an entity which is both elevated, that is, exists in spiritual realms, and is part of a whole, the primordial source, God. Needless to say, such a capsule definition is limited and limiting. It doesn't take into account many other facets of Psychoanalysis or Kabbalah. Thus, Psychoanalysis, as currently practised, is not just concerned with an individual man, woman or child. On the contrary, it strives to see this person in relation to his family and friends. And to complicate matters even more, it considers each person to be a dynamic nucleus of relationships. Essentially he is a centre of energies, a world in and of himself, containing and being contained by a myriad of other swirling worlds. Kabbalah also focuses upon worlds and worlds within worlds. So a further way of looking at both Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah, a further refinement, is that these two disciplines aim to explore the obvious and the esoteric, the conscious and unconscious aspects of existence. But they especially aim to reveal that which is mysterious and profoundly concealed. In order to contrast the two disciplines, it is important to consider Psychoanalysis from the standpoint of two pioneers, Sigmund Freud, the 'father' of psychoannalysis, and Melanie Klein, his foremost follower. Their personal origins, concerns and methods are intimately rooted in Jewish religious and mystical traditions. To demonstrate this, I shall concentrate on two fundamental features of their work respectively. Each of these has long been recognised as an outstanding innovation and important contribution to our understanding of human nature. For Freud this includes 'free associations,' his basic methodology, and his theory of unconscious processes, the view that reality has both a manifest and latent content. For Klein I shall discuss two of her basic concepts, the container and the contained, and reparation. Freud's methods are astonishingly similar to those developed by the early Kabbalists, notably the thirteenth century Spanish Kabbalist, Rabbi Abraham Abulafia. R. Abulafia strove to 'unseal the soul, to untie the knots which bind it.' Basically he developed a theory of repression and a means to deal with the effects of repression six centuries before Freud. Firstly, R. Abulafia emphasised 'mystical logic' of letters, the logic of 'God's real world' which for Freud became the logic of the unconscious especially as elaborated by linguistic processes. Secondly, he described a form of free association which he called, 'jumping and skipping.' A comparable method allowed Freud to peel back layer and layer of disturbance, to penetrate anxiously concealed thoughts and feelings and to initiate understanding, first in him, then in his patients. The transformation from sick to sane took place when the concealed became revealed, when the unconscious became conscious, and
He called conscious thoughts and actions the manifest content of our lives. if you will. causes the 'exile of the Shekinah'. as well as from the source of all things. Or to put it another way. Then the child cannot contain the primary impulses. also containing bits or seeds of the original light. the breaking of the vessel. who lived and taught in Safed in the 16th century. in particular. Concurrently the Death Impulse is the impetus to randomise things. but a dynamic interplay of experiences which he called the latent content. The whole point of existence is to free the light trapped in the shells. and Nistar. or what Psychoanalysts might term man's instinctual forces. light continued to pour in. the hidden Torah. entropy itself. which. or primary chaos. by establishing and re-establishing a close relationship with God. In the same vein Melanie Klein and her colleagues would argue that the child can become a functioning container of his own impulses (and thereby life forces). the unity between the child and his mother is broken. ("the Ari"). Freud was able to initiate a process of de-repression. the alienation of the feminine. The development of Psychoanalysis has meant that Kabbalistic forms of interpretation can be used to understand the profoundly human dilemma of being alive. Freud saw that it is an ongoing effort to keep things latent or unconscious. By penetrating the outer garments or overt meanings of the word. By this I refer to the almost universal fate of being imbued with life force and simultaneously suffering from a self divided and cut off or alienated from itself and from others. undo this exile and re-establish God's unity. . and which Klein recognised as the Life Impulse and the Death Impulse. while the outer manifestations of such struggle often emerge as symptoms. believe that the Torah is the word of God. the revealed Torah. I refer to the interplay between Nigleh. This is the principle stream of contemporary Jewish mysticism and is a development of the work of Rabbi Isaac Luria. which Freud called Eros and Thanatos. When a child is born. How does the child re-establish his container and containing function. The resultant disintegration of the Divine Light resulted in a multitude of shards or fragments of the vessel. The Kleinian contribution relates to the difficulty of containing or holding what the Kabbalists would call the primary radiance of God. and therefore. One is the conscious level. The other is the unconscious level. it is possible to gain a direct contact with God. of course. more containable? Kabbalists would say that we can undo the broken vessel and subsequent exile. This is not a static. Traditionally. This is known as shevirath ha-kelim. It contains but also conceals his direct radiance or illumination. Evil therefore can be seen as the manifestation of uncontainable disintegrative forces.his patients were able to 'know' themselves. So the vessel shattered. limit and shape existence. Essentially he discovered a process of de-mystification and de-alienation facilitated by the free association of thoughts and feelings. But together with Klein's views I want to consider the creation of the world. The study of Torah involves an almost identical process. What does this mean? Freud saw that people lived in two spheres simultaneously. How can the bad bits become less toxic. from the standpoint of Lurianic Kabbalah. Jews. by establishing and re-establishing close relationships with those who love and care for him. much of one's life may be devoted to this effort. receptive aspect of God's presence. The fragments with the embedded light are known as klippot or shells and are responsible for the existence of evil. and all their derivatives. The Ari pointed out that in the vacuum left by the original contraction of the universe. including students of Kabbalah. through encouraging his patients to free associate. the source of all existence. Indeed. Essentially we can consider the Life Impulse as the impetus to form and structure. negative entropy. But it could not be contained by the vessel that was created to contain.
In Kabbalah this is the soul. Our father. or evacuate. To her. Reparation is the means of repairing an inner world shattered under the pressure of destructive impulses and an outer world of damaged relationships. Usually he will try to project. exile may mean separation from Mother. This is the first concealment. unification. I shall refer to the work of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Only the terms of reference are different. So. which I have traced according to the formulations of Kabbalah and Psychoanalysis. But when he does still more wrong. Unification is the central issue for restoration or reparation. Many of his teachings emphasise the conflict between good and evil and the possibility of achieving. There are people who have done so much wrong that they fall to the level of the concealment within the concealment. the Chinese world for chaos. each replete with embedded chaos. A world full of bits and pieces of envious hatred is identical with broken bits of the primary vessels. then God becomes hidden from him to the point of the concealment within the concealment. Perhaps Klein's greatest contribution is the concept of reparation. the term encompasses a plethora of meanings. for Jews. The opposite of chaos is order. Although everyone agrees that it pertains to psychological realms. the great grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov. the primal source. Klein is concerned with the self. peoples and things. In Psychoanalysis this is the self. also means envy. God forbid. our King. the first step in overcoming concealment. somewhere. The self is a slippery entity. According to Klein. begin the repair. and this self in relation to others. Exile means separation from God. has to do with facing reality. such as Avinu Malkenu. reparation is never complete. whether of the head or heart or entire being. especially prayers of repentance. A strong container and containing function is a prerequisite for such order. even after a person has sunk to the lowest depths. How does a person overcome these concealments? Rabbi Nachman speaks of various means. Tikkun HaNefesh. really evil. So a failure of containment will lead to the explosion of envy. a part or parts of the mental apparatus (the . In so doing. I have shown how these two disciplines are closely related. In particular. And even more ominously. is a fundamental prerequisite for overcoming man's wandering in the wilderness. as with Freud and Klein. self-awareness." Because of this they come to believe that there is no longer any hope for them. luan. It is intimately related to the Kabbalistic concept of Tikkun. not just between man and man. the Shekinah. Reparation is a goal and the moving to this goal. That concerns my point of departure. Interestingly. the tikkun. the exile. the subject which requires healing or restoration. In the Jewish mystical tradition this last step. and for all mankind. But. the matter becomes permissible in his eyes. rather it is an active process of striving towards completeness. the yetzah harah. These steps also begin the process of re-pairing. This is because when a person does something wrong several times.It is worth asking what happens if the child is not blessed with a containing parent. he will do this deliberately and maliciously. As we can see. I would like to conclude by considering how they may differ. evil also means fragmentation. Shalom and Shalem. disintegration and ultimately death. Most narrowly. Klein sets out to describe how to overcome fragmentation and loss. Klein's formulations bear an exceptional resemblance to Kabbalistic and Hassidic thought. or the patient with a containing therapist. but between man and his maker. anywhere. Then it is hard indeed to find him. malicious projection is an operational definition of envy. Rabbi Nachman passed most of his short life in the Ukraine and Russia around the beginning of the nineteenth century. For Kabbalists. evil and exile. restoration of the soul. by acknowledging the transgression. These. of which the most basic is prayer. these include identity. which is closely connected with peace and wholeness. into the world. more and more of his bad feelings.
neshamah. that is. "How man can manage to cure his crumbling self?" Kohut confides that nowhere has he found a more accurate account of the yearning to restore a shattered self than in Eugene O'Neill's play. But perhaps Heinz Kohut has provided the most moving connection between self and soul. Berke 1996. The grace of God is glue". he does point out that the term is best left undefined. talents. chaotic mess. the central character. Perhaps it is true that self and soul denote different phenomena? Does this matter? Isn't it sufficient to demonstrate the close connection between Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah by noting similar methods and goals? Or. there is a separate degree of healing or tikkun. as we have just seen. Ruach. through the words of Brown: "Man is born broken. Interestingly. in his book. The converse lacks cohesion and remains a fragmented. the soul belongs to spiritual realms. HOPE Home Page Academy of JerusalemCyber LibraryComments FormE-mail . delineated a link between self and soul. inflexible definition to the self. ruach. a separate reparation and re-pairation. the subject as agent and the subject as object of his own activity. Heinz Kohut. For each of these levels. the psychoanalyst. Kohut concludes. Towards the end. Kabbalists themselves equate the self with the second level of soul. Copyright Joseph H. between Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah. contemplates his wrecked life and shattered self. Ultimately Kohut refuses to assign a specific. and by extension. and skills. Before reaching this conclusion he reviews various attempts to refine the term ranging from mental structure to psychological centre. The problem with this paradigm is that it refers to realms which most people don't recognise. While he may not believe that the self is ineffable.ego). In contrast. whom many consider to be the progenitor of self-psychology. he ponders the capacity of art and artists to depict the central dilemma of our age. the God-image. "The Restoration of the Self". All Rights Reserved. "The Great God Brown". Furthermore. chaya and yehidah. ideals. Brown. contends that the self is essentially not knowable. The Kabbalah describes five levels of soul: nefesh. Carl Jung. Subsequently he describes the constituents of the self: ambitions. In the epilogue. could it be that the differences between self and soul are more apparent than real? Certainly the Swiss analyst. He argued that the self is fundamentally a component of a transcendental entity which he called. A secure self is a cohesive whole. He lives by mending.
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