Harvard Divinity School

Mystical Union and Grief: The Ba'al Shem Tov and Krishnamurti Author(s): David Aberbach Reviewed work(s): Source: The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 86, No. 3 (Jul., 1993), pp. 309-321 Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Harvard Divinity School Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1510013 . Accessed: 07/11/2011 09:46
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Mystical The Ba'al

Union Shem

and Tov

Gnef: and Krishnamurti*

McGill University, Montreal

The idea of mystical union with God or a higherbeing is universalin 1 theological systems, althoughit may take many forms, metaphorical and moral as well as metaphysical. Hinduismthis concept is expressed In in the saying Tat twamasi ("Thisis thou");a humanbeing, by findinghis or her true immortal (atman),becomesunitedwith Brahman self and, in so doing, achieves nirvana. In Buddhism,similarly, humansmust strive to recognizethe unity of all within the eternalBuddha,the dharmakaya, the absolute truthor reality that transcendshumanperception.Jewish mysticism teaches devekut,commonlytranslated adhesion,cleaving, or union as with God. Christianmysticismrefers to Jesus'words "Abidein me and I in you" (John 15:4) as pertainingto divine union, which has its concrete expressionin baptismand the Eucharist. Even Islam, which insists on the absolutetranscendence God,has developed mysticaldoctrine tawhid of the of ("union"). In SurvivingTrauma:Loss, Literatureand Psychoanalysis,lI argued that a remarkable correspondence exists between the process leading to
*I am gratefulto my colleagues, ProfessorGershonHundert ProfessorJosephDan, and for kindly readingand respondingto this article in draftform. tDavidAberbach, Surviving Trauma: Loss, Literature and Psychoanalysis (London/New Haven:Yale UniversityPress, 1989). This workincludesa substantial bibliography grief on and mysticism.

HTR 86:3 (1993) 309-21



mystical union and the process of grief following a bereavement. Moreover,muchinsightinto the nature mysticalunionmay be obtained of through studies of grief. In a general sense, there is a self-evidentlink between grief and mysticisminsofaras the humanstruggleto deal with death underlies much religious activity. For this reason, it is somewhatsurprising how little work has been done on the parallels between mysticism and grief, althoughthe clinical study of grief is largely a post-WorldWar II phenomenon.While mysticism cannot be equated with grief like other formsof creativity,it transcends originsand entersa systemof religious its faith with meaningand value of its own-it can, in some cases at least, provide an effective outlet for the expressionof grief, a means by which the bereaved may struggle to work throughthe process of grief. Thus, withdrawal afterloss may becomethe withdrawal neededfor mysticalcontemplation.Yearningand searchingfor the lost person may evolve into yearningand searchingfor a spiritualbeing. The anger, confusion, and depressionwhich often emerge in grief may be expressedin the mystical "darknight of the soul.""Finding" lost personmay have its parallelin the mystical "finding" and illumination. The transformation undergoneby the bereavedin the process of mourningmay have its counterpart spiritual in rebirth.Finally, union with the lost person may become union with the divine being. Grief may thus incline the bereavedto mystical union or similarphenomena,since this tendencyis alreadyinherentin him or her as a resultof loss. In their yearningfor reunion, bereavedpersons commonly seek to identifythemselveswith, and at times even incorporate themselvesinto, the lost person.2This quest may translateitself into an expressionof mystical union or communionwith a divine being. For this reason, apparently, the languageoften used by widows to describea temporary sensationof union with their lost husbands,of resemblingor "containing" them, is not dissimilar to the language of mystics. One widow describedthe following experience:"At dawn, four days aftermy husband's death,somethingsuddenly moved in on me a presencealmostpushedme out of bed terribly overwhelming."3 From then on, this woman had a strong sense of her husband's presence,either near or inside her. Anotherwidow spoke of her happinessat having her late husbandwithin her: "It's not a sense of his presence.He is here inside me. That'swhy I'm happy all the time. It's as if two people were one."4

D. Rees, "The Hallucinations of Widowhood," British Medical Journal 4 ( 1971) 37-

41. 3Colin Murray Park-es, Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life (2d ed.; London: Tavistock, 1986) 120. 4Ibid., 12 1.



mysticalunion,except with that describing Such languageis comparable that the mystic speaksnot of a lost personbut of a divine being. In normal gnef, however,the mystic'sbelief in the reality of this union or communThe thanthatof the bereaved. mourner and ion is far stronger morepersistent of is likely to be awareof the irrationality such reactionsto loss. Clinical when they are transient,as a normalcoping studies treatsuch phenomena, mechanism;these studies maintain,however, that when such phenomena are persistent,they can become a pathologicalmeans by which the bereaved denies the loss and strives to recover the lost person.5 The foregoing sketches ideas that I have developedmore fully in Surviving Trauma. In this article,I proposeto expandthe idea of a correspondence betweenmysticalunion and the quest for a lost personwith specific of referenceto two mystics whose emphasisupon the importance mystical the union may be linked with their childhoodexperiencesof bereavement: Ba'al Shem Tov (1700?-1760), also known by his acronymas the Besht, (1895-1986), founder of the Hasidic movement,and Jiddu Krishnamurti mystic. In the last section of this twentieth-century perhapsthe best-known article, I shall examine various illustrationsof mystical union in creative by literature EdgarAllan Poe, Emily Bronte,John Clare,D. H. Lawrence, mostly in bereavement, ForrestReid, and MartinBuber;in this literature, childhood,may be a causativefactor in the need for mystical union. g TheBa'alShemTov Scholem, The doyenof the academicstudyof Jewishmysticism,Gershom place in kabbalistic discoveredthatthe conceptof devekut had an important The mysticismlong before the rise of the Hasidicmovement.6 Besht, howto ever, attachedfar greaterimportance devekut than did his mysticalpredecessors, making it central to Hasidic theology and, as Scholem put it, Althoughreliable information "the ultimategoal of religious perfection."7

5John Bowlby, Attachment and Loss, vol. 3: Loss: Sadness and Depression (London: Hogarth and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1980) 289. 6Gershom G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (3d ed.; London: Thames & Hudson, 1955) . 7Ibid., 123. See also the chapter on devekut in Gershom G. Scholem's The Messianic Idea in Judaism (New York: Schocken, 1971); reprinted as "Devekut, or Communion with God," in Gershon David Hundert, ed., Essential Papers on Hasidism: Origins to Present (New York: New York University Press, 1991) 275-98. A survey of the varieties of devekut in Jewish mysticism is given by Moshe Idel in Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven/ London: Yale University Press, 1988) 35-58. For an illustrated discussion of devekut as practised by the Besht, see Ada Rapoport-Albert, "God and the Zaddik," in Hundert, Essential Papers on Hasidism, 299-329. On the character of Hasidic prayer, see Louis Jacobs, Hasidic Prayer (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972). For a general introduction to



on the theology of the Besht and the degree to which it was amplifiedor alteredby his followers is scarce, there is little doubtthat the increasein the importance devekutamongeighteenth-century of easternEuropean Jews derives largely from hls influence.To the Besht, devekutwas not just the highest attainment religious life, as the kabbalistshad taught. It was of faith. It was also the first rung of mystical ascent, which everyone, in theory, could climb. The Besht taughtthat throughthe mitzvot the daily acts of kindness and love throughcommunionwith the inner light of prayerand study, and throughcommunion with the spiritthat animatesthe holy letters of the Hebrew alphabet,humanscan make contact with the divine worlds and attaindevekut. The Besht'sonly contemporary first-person accountof his mysticalpractices appearsin a letter datingfrom 1751 and addressed his brother-into law in the land of Israel. In this letter, he described his method of concentration the lettersof the Hebrewalphabetas his meansof attainon ing devekut."Whenever you offer your prayersand wheneveryou study," he exhorted,"havethe intentionof unifying a divine name in every word and with every utteranceof your lips. For there are worlds, souls and divinity in every letter."8 the Besht, the ultimateaim of devekutwas To messianicredemption. told his brother-in-law his vision and experiHe of ence of an "ascent" the palaceof the messiah.There,the sages and holy to men "took great delight on high when, throughtheir Torah, I perform unificationshere below."9The Besht wonderedhow long humankind must wait before the messiah comes. This is the messiah'sreply:
You will know of it in this way; it will be when your teachingbecomes famousand revealedto the world, and when that which I have taught you and you have comprehended will spread abroadso that others,too, will be capableof performing unifications havingsoul and ascentsas you do. Then will all the kelippot [impurities] consumed be and it will be a time of grace and salvation.l°

The imagery and aims of devekutand even the concentration the on letters of the tetragrammaton familiar from kabalistic literature;the are emphasison devekut,however, appearsto be original to the Besht. Why did he attachsuch importance devekut? to Whatdid devekutmean to him? These questionshave never been fully answered.
Hasidic theology and sources pertaining to the Besht's life and work, see Joseph Dan, ed., The Teachings of Hasidism (New York: Behrman, 1983). 8Louis Jacobs, Jewish Mystical Testimonies (New York: Schocken, 1977) 151. The entire text of the letter is reprinted here. 9Ibid., 150. 10Ibid., 150-5 1.



facts aboutthe Besht are scanty and I must emphasizethat indisputable that any analysis of the possible meaningof devekutto him is speculative. Even the allegation in Hasidic literaturethat he was orphanedin early althoughto my knowledgeno one childhoodhas never been documented, has ever disputedit. There seems to be no reason to questionthe tale. what devekutmeant to the Besht, it is clearly To begin to understand necessary,however, to set aside the image of him as the founderof the the Hasidicmovement.Judgingfrom recentlydiscovereddocuments, Besht was not the leader of a significantmovementin his lifetime, nor, for that matter,does it seem that he aimed to start such a movement.ll Scholars have arguedthat many social, religious, and political forces underliethe Polishrise of the Hasidic movement:the turmoil of eighteenth-century upon eastern heresy and Frankism Jewish life, the impactof the Sabbatean the Jews, the decline of Jewish communalorganization, increasEuropean ing gap betweenrich and poor and betweeneducatedand ignorant,and the of reactionsagainstthe dry scholarship talmudicstudy, as well as against These forces pertainmore, perhaps,to rationalismand the Enlightenment. the developmentof Hasidismamong the Besht's disciples, althoughthese things affected the Besht personallyto some extent, directlyor indirectly. His emphasisupon devekutmay be seen as a reactionagainstthe extreme social, cultural,and political pressuresof the age throughintense focus upon the spiritual.Like the ideas of othergreatreligiousleaders,however, by the concept of devekutwas probablynot propounded the Besht purely in orderto meet the spiritualneeds of his age. It is more likely that as generallyl2 therewas an intersection leadership in the case of charismatic between external social realities and the inner world of the Besht; thus devekut,satisfying a private spiritualneed, could also have had a wider Jewish world. applicationin the easternEuropean
The as 1lSee EmanuelEtkes,"Hasidism a Movement: FirstStage,"in Bezalel Safran,ed., UniversityPress, 1988) 1MA: Harvard Hasidism: Continuity or Innovation? (Cambridge, and Jay 26; and Murray Rosman,"Miedzyboz RabbiIsraelBaal ShemTov,"Zion 52 (1987) Essential Papers in in reprinted English[trans.Eli Lederhendler] Hundert, 177-89 (Hebrew; of on Hasidism, 209-25). For a discussion and bibliography the social and political forces Hasidism,see SimonDubnow,"TheMaggidof Miedzyrzecz,His Associates,and underlying the Centerin Volhynia (1760-1772)," in Hundert,Essential Papers on Hasidism, 58-85; in Benzion Dinur, "The Origins of Hasidismand Its Social and Messianic Foundations," Essential Papers on Hasidism, 86-208; and ShmuelEttinger,"TheHasidicMoveHundert, ment Reality and Ideals," in Hundert,Essential Papers on Hasidism, 22643; Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism; and Joseph Weiss, Studies in East European Jewish Mysticism (ed. David Goldstein;Oxford:OxfordUniversityPress, 1985). 12Ina forthcomingstudy of charismabased on chapterseven of Surviving Trauma, I develop the idea of charismaas a reflectionof an intersectionbetweenexternalsocial and political reality and personalinner fantasy.



It is unlikelythat this alleged correspondence innerand outerreality of will ever be fully understood a definite answergiven to the questionof or why the Besht emphasizeddevekutto such an extent. In light of grief studies,however,the Besht'sunprecedented emphasisupon devekut may be linked with his alleged experienceof childhoodloss. In the tales gathered from varioussourcesin Shivheiha-Besht,he is describedas a child of his parents'old age who was orphaned his youth. Like Alyosha in Fyodor in Dostoyevsky'sThe BrothersKaramazov, Besht received his calling in the early childhoodfrom a parenton the point of death:
He took his son in his armsand he said, "I see that you will light my [memorial]candle, and I will not enjoy the pleasureof raising you. My beloved son, rememberthis all your days: God is with you. Do not fear anything.''l3

The Besht's childhood tendency to wildness, solitude, and wanderingis linkedto his orphanhood: was his way to studyfor a few days and then "It to run away from school. They would searchfor him and find him sitting alone in the forest. They would attribute to his being an orphan.There this was no one to look after him and he was a footloose child.''14 Tracesof bereavement may be found in many of the Besht'steachings. In an often-recorded parable the Besht's,the symbolicfunctionof devekut of to the child bereavedof his fathermay be inferred:
A king had built a gloriouspalace full of corridors partitions, and but he himself lived in the innermostroom. When the palace was completed and his servantscame to pay him homage,they found that they could not approach king becauseof the devious maze. While they the stood and wondered,the king's son came and showed them that those were not partitions,but only magical illusions, and that the king, in truth,was easily accessible.ls

Althoughthis parableis susceptibleto many interpretations, message the that nothing separatesthe son from his father that the son's feelings of loss and alienationcan be overcome may have special attraction one to who has lost his fatherin early childhoodand who yearnsfor reunionwith his fatheror, failing that, with a fatherlikeGod. In anotherof the Besht'sparablesof a princeestrangedfrom his father, the prince, after a long exile, receives a letter from his father.Seeking to avoid ridiculeat the extremityof his joy, he gives a public partyin which
13DanBen-Amos and Jerome R. Mintz, trans. and eds., In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov: The Earliest Collection of Legends about the Founder of Hasidism [Shivh. ha-Besht] ei (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1970) 1 1. 4Ibid., 12. Quoted by Scholem, "Devekut, or Communion with God," 295-96.



give free rein to his delight at being once again in he can unobtrusively touch with his father.l6This parable,too, may have poignantmeaningto and one who has lost his fatherin childhoodand thus suffersestrangement can of a futile longing for the celebration reunion.A similarinterpretation to also be attachedto the following homily, attributed the Besht, in which the sense of separationbetween humansand God is illusory and easily overcome:
He who cleaves to one partof the unity cleaves to the whole. And the same applies to the oppositecondition:"I soughthim whom my soul loveth, I soughthim, but I foundhim not" [Cant3:1]. The meaningis that the Holy One Blessed be He disguises himself behind several garmentsand partitions,such as strayingthoughtsor the cessationof study and prayer.... But for the men of knowledge,who know that no place is empty of Him, these are not true disguises.l7


Esii Jiddu

may have been one The foregoingdiscussionsuggests that bereavement the of many factorspredisposing Besht to conceive of devekutnot simply as an aspect of religious life but as its very essence. In consideringthis Krishnamurti him with Krishnamurti. to possibility,it is interesting compare biographyto is unusualamongmystics in allowing a critical,documented by The biography, MaryLutyens,makes clear that his mystibe written.l8 cal leanings,his role as the messiahof the theosophists,and his later role religious teacher had much to do with childhoodbeas an independent the reavements,particularly loss of his mother when he was nine. His disciple and confidante,Lady Emily Lutyens (the mother of his biographer),recalled:"His motherhaving died when he was very young, he was always yearningto be back in her arms."l9 experiences was Froman early age, Krishnamurti inclinedto "spiritual" owing to unresolvedgrief. Like many others who have illusions or hallucinations of the lost person, he had visions of his dead mother, which signified his denial of her deathand his yearningto be reunited apparently world in general,such "viwith her. In Hindu society and the premodern sions" were more likely to be regardedas evidence of contactwith higher beings than as signs of grief. In addition,five of his eleven siblings died

Quoted by Rapoport-Albert, "God and the Zaddik," 303. 7Ibid., 302. l8Mary Lutyens, Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening (New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1975); idem, Krishnamurti: The Years of Fulfilment (London: Murray, 1983). Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening, 82. l9Lutyens,



in childhoodor as young adults.He was deeply affectedby some of these losses, and his sense of being "chosen"and "protected" the higher by beings may have derivedin part from his survival.In the year before his mother'sdeath, he lost his eldest sister and discoveredthat he, like his mother,could occasionally"see" the girl. For much of his adult life, Krishnamurti periodicallyafflicted with was immenseunexplained physical pain duringwhich he would behave like a small child in need of his or her motherand addressthe women around him as "Amma" "Mother." or MaryLutyenswas presenton a numberof these occasions in the 1920s and recalled that "he had behavedto me at times as if I were his motherand he a child of aboutfour."20 Furthermore, she wrote,
It seemedthat only whenhe becamea child againwas he able to relax and therebyobtainsome relief from the pain, which was with him all day now as a dull ache as well as intensely in the evenings. But he could not become a child withouta "mother" look afterthe body.21 to

At one point, he had recurrent visions of his dead mother,as he had also experiencedin childhood.22 part of this "process,"as he called it, he As would have hallucinations union not only with his motherbut also with of the entire world;this may be regardedas the basis of his mystical-charismatic identity. In 1922 in Californiahe had a hallucination that can be understoodas foreshadowinghis later role as an internationalspiritual teacher,since it shows the depth of his need to identify himself with all animateand inanimatethings:
Therewas a man mendingthe road;that man was myself; the pickaxe he held was myself; the very stone which he was breakingup was a partof me; the tenderblade of grass was my very being, and the tree beside the man was myself. I almost could feel and think like the roadmender, I could feel the wind passing throughthe tree, and and the little ant on the blade of grassI could feel. The birds,the dust, and the very noise were a partof me. Justthen therewas a car passingby at some distance;I was the driver,the engine, andthe tyres;as the car went furtheraway from me, I was going away from myself. I was in everything,or rathereverythingwas in me, inanimate animate,the and mountain,the worm, and all breathingthings.23

Krishnamurti's desire to "belongto the world"may have resultedfrom his mother'sdeath, since this markedthe point after which he no longer
20Lutyens, Krishnamurti: The Years of Fulfilment, 69n. 2lLutyens, Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening, 184. 22Ibid., 165-6623Ibid., 158.



belonged to a secure family. The craving for reunionwith the mothereven "to be back in her arms,"as Emily Lutyensreported-could not be satisfied.The cravingevolved, however,into a need thatcould be satisfied: to be one with the public, with the whole world, and with the higherideal or beings, which he called his "Beloved"and describedas "theopen skies, the flower, every humanbeing" and which could be found "in every animal, in every blade of grass, in every person that is suffering,in every he In individual."24 one of his most Christ-likepronouncements, declared:
I belong to all people, to all who really love, to all who are suffering. And if you would walk, you must walk with me. If you would understand you must look throughmy mind. If you would feel, you must my look through heart.And becauseI reallylove, I wantyou to love.25

by of His renunciation the role of messiahin 1929 was accompanied a new and sense of union, self-annihilation, renewal.It is of great psychological interestthatthis spiritualturningpoint involvedthe convictionthat"henceforth there will be no separation":
If I say, and I will say, that I am one with the Beloved, it is because I feel and know it. I have found what I longed for, I have become united, so that henceforththere will be no separation,because my thoughts,my desires,my longings those of the individualself have been destroyed.... I have been united with my Beloved, and my Beloved and I will wandertogetherthe face of the earth.26

as In the case of Krishnamurti, of the Besht, the quest for union in whateversense this union is understood may have derived in part from childhoodloss and constituteda mystical expressionof delayed grief. A1for though loss is no prerequisite mysticism, and mysticism is far more than a symptom of bereavement,the potential healing qualities of such teachingsto the bereavedand the alienated,for whateverreason,are clear. g

in Union O^erLiterature Mystical

or of This interpretation mysticalunion as a possible outgrowth expresof by sion of grief may be corroborated illustrations similarmysticalphethese examplesof union not just with lost nomenain creativeliterature; personsbut also with objects and abstractions may be regardedas tranwith the lost scendentformsof delayedgrief. The functionof identification personis well expressedby MarcelProustin Remembrance of Things Past 2s0. 24Ibid., 233. 25Ibid.,



throughthe use of imageryof "grafting" is reminiscent the concept that of of union or cleaving in devekut.After his mistress, Albertine,died in a riding accident,Proustobservedthatjust as an artistlives on in his work, so also a lost personmay remainalive within the mourner, who graftsthe memory,as it were, onto his heart:
It is often said that somethingmay surviveof a personafterhis death, if that person was an artistand put a little of himself into his work. It is perhapsin the same way that a sort of cutting taken from one personand graftedon to the heartof anothercontinuesto carryon its existence even when the personfrom whom it had been detachedhas

The theory that identificationwith the lost person may representan attemptto preventfurther losses by becomingone with the dead,28 together with the idea that absorptive mysticismmay in some cases have the same origin, finds supportin Proust's commentand in otherliteraryillustrations. Creativeliterature often describesa feeling of connectionor actual union with a lost personin the animateor inanimate worldthroughlanguagethat recalls mysticalunion. In EdgarAllan Poe's story "Ligeia,"for example,a man bereavedof his wife feels her presencewithinhimself as in a shrine, in which her memoryis constantlyreflected in his contemplation the of naturalworld:
Subsequently the periodwhen Ligeia'sbeautypassedinto my spirit, to there dwelling as in a shrine,I derived,from many existences in the materialworld, a sentimentsuch as I felt always arousedwithin me, by her large and luminousorbs. Yet not the more could I define that sentiment,or analyze,or even steadilyview it. I recognizedit, but let me repeat,sometimesin the surveyof a rapidlygrowingvine in the contemplation a moth, a butterfly,a streamof runningwater.I have of felt it in the ocean; in the falling of a meteor. I have felt it in the glances of unusuallyaged people. And there are one or two stars in heaven (one especially, a star of the sixth magnitude,double and changeable,to be found near the large star in Lyra) in a telescopic scrutinyof which I have been made awareof the feeling. I have been filled with it by certain sounds from stringed instruments, and not unfrequently passages from books.29 by

27Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (3 vols.; trans. C. K. Scott Moncrieff, et al.; New York: Random House, 1981) 3. 534. 28G. R. Krupp, "Identification as a Defence against Anxiety in Coping with Loss," International Journal of Psychoanalysis 46 (1965) 303-14. 29EdgarAllan Poe, "Ligeia" (1838), in David Galloway, ed., Selected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1975) 113.



Anothercase of yearningfor union with the lost personin languagenot dissimilarfrom that of the longingfor mysticalunion is Heathcliffs impasWutheringHeights: in over the deadCatherine EmilyBronte's sionedoutburst
Whatis not connectedwith her to me? and what does not recall her? I cannot look down to this floor, but her featuresare shapedon the flags! In every cloud, in every tree filling the air at night, and caught with her imby glimpses in every object by day I am surrounded

Experiencessuch as that expressedby Heathcliffare not, strictlyspeaking, when directedtowarda divine being, however,they could form "mystical"; the basis of a strivingfor mystical union. of Otherexamplesof this yearningfor the dead in termsreminiscent the quest for mysticalunion may be found in the poetryof John Clare.Clare, in born in Northamptonshire 1793, had a twin sister, Elizabeth,who died a month after birth. The son of a farm laborer,Clare workedon a farm school in the evenings.At sixteen,he fell from aboutage twelve, attending deeply in love with Mary Joyce, the daughterof a wealthy farmerwho forbadeher to meet her lover. Clarenever forgot his first love, apparently and in periodsof insanitylong afterMary'sdeathin 1838, he held conversations with her, underthe delusion that she still lived and was his wife Clare'schronicgrief and had bornehis children.In fact, she never married. for Marysuggestsa deeperlevel of unconsciousgrief for his lost sister,for at times he writes of Mary as if she were a part of him, his twin. This feeling of union is, again, reminiscentof a mystical experienceof union. he In the poem beginning"LovelyMary,when we parted," declared,"The past hath made us both as one"; in "ChildHarold,"he wrote, "Mary,thy name loved long still keeps me free / Till my lost life becomes a part of

The urge for union with the dead appearsalso in the writingsof D. H. deathin 1910. In the poem "TheEnd,"written Lawrenceafterhis mother's shortlyafterher death,he expressedthe desire for union:"If I could have put you in my heart/ If I could have wrappedyou in myself / How glad I should have been!"32 with the lost personappearto be espeSuch sensationsof incorporation cially frequentand intense among those who have been bereavedor se30Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (1847; reprinted New York/London: Norton, 1989) 245. 3lJohn Clare, Eric Robinson, and David Powell, eds., The Oxford Authors (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1984) 281, 289. 32D. H. Lawrence, "The End," in The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence (2 vols.; ed. Vivian de Sola Pinto and Warren Roberts; London: Heinemann, 1972) 1. 100.



verely deprived,especially in childhood.33 Again, the languagewith which this phenomenon describedfrequentlyrecalls mystical union. The autois biographical novelistForrestReid, for example,describedthe periodduring and after his father'sdeath when he was five; he wrote of times
when I could pass into nature,and feel the grass growing, and float with the clouds throughthe transparent when I could hearthe low air; breathingof the earth, when the colour and the smell of it were so close to me that I seemed to lose consciousnessof my separateexistence. Then, one single emotion animatedall things, one heart beat throughoutthe universe, and the mother and all her children were united.34

One final example, taken from the writingsof MartinBuber, is especially apt since Buber'sphilosophywas stronglyinfluencedby the Besht and the Hasidicmovement.This experienceof union, describedin Daniel, Buber'sbook of dialogues,may again be connectedwith childhoodloss:
On a gloomy morningI walked upon the highway, saw a piece of mica lying, picked it up and looked at it for a long time; the day was no longer gloomy, so much light was caught in the stone. And suddenly as I raised my eyes from it, I realizedthat while I had looked I had not been consciousof "object" "subject"; my lookingthe and in mica and I had been one; in my looking I had tasted unity.35

Accordingto Buber'sbiographer, MauriceFriedman, Buber'smother"disappeared withoutleaving a trace"when the child was three.36 saw her He only once afterwards, over twenty years later. This loss, writes Friedman, "was the decisive experienceof MartinBuber'slife, the one withoutwhich neitherhis early seeking for unity nor his later focus on dialogue and on the meeting with the 'eternalThou' is understandable."37 abandoned The child was raisedby his grandparents who, he recalled,neverdiscussedwith him the circumstances his loss or his feelings, and whomhe was frankly of afraidto ask abouthis mother's departure. an autobiographical In fragment,
33Forillustrations of semimystical union in the writings of John Donne, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Chaim Nachman Bialik, John Masefield, John-Paul Sartre, and others who experienced severe bereavement in childhood, see Aberbach, Surviving Trauma. For further illustrations in Bialik and Wordsworth, see David Aberbach, "Loss and Separation in Bialik and Wordsworth," Prooftexts 2 ( 1982) 197-208 . 34ForrestReid, Apostate (London: Faber, 1925) 208. 3sMartin Buber, Daniel: Dialogues of Realization (1913; trans. Maurice Friedman; New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1964) 140. 36Maurice Friedman, Martin Buber's Life and Works (3 vols.; New York: Dutton, 1981) 1. 4. 37Ibid., 15.



that Buberdescribedhis first apprehension his motherwould not returnas His the possible origin of his philosophyof meeting and dialogue.38 unto usual attraction the teachingsof the Besht may have been linked to his discoveringin the founderof Hasidisma kindredspirit who had found a stemming,as Buber'sdid, from spiritualsolution to emotionalquandaries childhoodloss. In conclusion,althoughthe concept of mystical union has many shades of meaning,religious and social as well as psychological,its potentialimportanceto the bereavedhas generally been ignored. A comparisonbeand tween the Besht, Krishnamurti, others who had parallel mystical or semimysticalexperiences,such as MartinBuber, leads to the conclusion thatmysticalunionmay at times be linkedto the yearningfor union which a bereavedperson often feels toward the dead. It may act as a way of compensation,a defense against depression,a form of restitutiontoward existence, the dead; or, by assertingthe alleged harmonywhich underpins of against anger and the horrifyingapprehension the it may act as a stay natureof existence. Mystical union may have served the random,chaotic (and, by implication,other mystics with compaBesht and Krishnamurti as a sublimatedexpressionof the cravingfor reunion rable backgrounds) with the lost person. This unresolvedgrief was harnessedto the wider and social aim of comforting healingtheirfollowersby reunitingthemwith their spiritualroots in an age of crisis. It may be that the highest form of leader and followers in mystical union involves a cleaving of charismatic a communityin which an intimatesense of family, which throughchildcan has hood loss or disruption been lost or neverexperienced, be achieved. can Throughthis union, solitudeand estrangement be overcome:this comof munionremainsone of the most potent attractions mysticalmovements to this day.

38MartinBuber, Meetings(ed. Maurice Friedman; La Salle, IL: Court, 1973) 18-19.

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