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Sandu FRUNZA, U.B.B.


Michael JONES (engleza), Temple University

Mihaela FRUNZA (romana), U.B.B.


Alina BRANDA, U.B.B.

Marcel BODEA, U.B.B.

Demeter ATTILA, U.B.B.

Nicu GAVRILUTA, U. Al. I Cuza, Iasi Stefan ILOAIE, U.B.B.

Vianu MURESAN, U. Avram Iancu Nicoleta POPA, U. A. Vlaicu, Arad Calin SAPLACAN, U.B.B.

Ana-Elena ILINCA, U.B.B.


Horatiu CRISAN, SCHULTZ (pdf) Dan MATEIU (html)



American University of Beirut Vasile BOARI, U.B.B.

Corin BRAGA, U.B.B.


Teodor DIMA, U. Al. I Cuza, Iasi Mircea FLONTA, U. Bucuresti Vasile FRATEANU, U.B.B.

Ladislau GYEMANT, U.B.B.

Moshe IDEL

anul I • nr. 1 • ian.-apr. 2002

Editata de S.C.I.R.I.


ISSN: 1583-0039

Ioan-Vasile LEB, U.B.B.

SALAT Levente, U.B.B.

Mircea MICLEA, U.B.B.


Toader NICOARA, U.B.B.


Traian ROTARIU, U.B.B.

Leonard SWIDLER Temple University Leon VOLOVICI

Hebrew University of Jerusalem


J S R I • N o. 1 / S p r i n g 2 0 0 2 PROF. AUREL CODOBAN PH.D.

Editorial: Between Religious Localism and Global Communication • 3



A Vision for the Third Millennium the Age of Global Dialogue: Dialogue or Death! • 6


«Unio Mystica» as a Criterion:

Some Observations on «Hegelian»

Phenomenologies of Mysticism • 19


Philosophy and Judaic Pattern in the Thinking of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas • 42



Premise ale interdisciplinaritatii • 53


Circumscriere terminologica si tematica a relatiei multiculturalism-feminism • 62


Incercari explicative asupra dialogului interreligios Iudaism-Islam • 73



Dimensiunile etica si estetica ale experientei erotice • 84



Ioan Petru Culianu, sau filosoful (religiilor) ca “magician” • 91


Model cultural si secularizare • 106


In Defence of Reason in Religion • 123


Telosul omului: contemplatie sau pragmatism? • 135










Between Religious Localism and Global Communication


t the beginning of the second half of the twentieth century, in the moment when the well known philosopher and historian of re- ligion of Romanian origin, Mircea Eliade, foretold a re- turn of the religious, his was a fairly lonely voice. Cer- tainly, representatives of different religions and

churches have consistently expressed a similar hope.

This hope, however, was more of a theological virtue than a theoretical foresight. One aspect of Eliade’s foresight could possibly be enforced by an even more general hope related to the one which was more often expressed by Malraux’s quotation concerning the return of a spirituality that should balance the moral material- ism and the mass consumption of Western society.

Eliade goes further: he expects the return of the reli- gious as a social and political ideology. A contemporary of the period of de colonization, he seems to have un- derstood that religions and local religious practices were to become the new national ideologies. The entrance upon the stage of history of new peoples and popula-

tions that until that time were excluded from it, has also returned the religious onto the stage of history. No less interesting is the return of the religious in that part of the European world in which had settled, with apparent permanence, the de-sacralization of “scientific athe- ism”: the countries of the Warsaw Pact, the countries of “authentic socialism”. There is an amusing story in history which tells us that Stalin may have asked the ones warning him about the political influence of the Vatican, “How many divisions has the Pope?” There is an equal irony of history in the conversion of the elec- tion of a Polish pope into one of the starting points for the social movements in Poland, which ultimately

ended in a government whose prime minister was never a communist, governing in the very capital which gave its name to the treaty of one of the two military blocs that divided the planet. The fall of the Berlin wall, and the political overthrow of the former communist gov- ernments, has shaped a reality out of the return of the religious, of churches and of religions. Throughout the



of the Institute for the Study of Religiosity


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world, local religious traditions have most frequently re- turned in the manner of “weak ideologies,” yet this does not prevented them from backing up rather strong conflicts even military ones. Most recently, the terrorist attack on the WTC has once again highlighted the ideo- logical role of fundamentalist religions, which seems to confirm Huntington’s scenarios, which although rather rudimentary, warn against a depthless multiculturalism.

The second expectation of M. Eliade has not mate- rialized. Certainly no one can make a total and com- plete prediction of the intricate motion of history, which inevitably surpasses any reasoning, even dialecti- cal reasoning. Indeed, Eliade expected a rebirth similar to the Italian Renaissance to begin in the second half of the 20th century. More precisely, he expected, along- side a hope nourished by the hippy movement and the spreading of Zen Buddhism, a fusion between the de- velopment of Western civilization (interested in the outer dimension of humanity) and the Asian civiliza- tions (which favors humanity’s inner dimension). The expectation remains far from being realized. Here one of Eliade’s closest disciples, Ioan Petru Culianu, seems to have been correct: what happened was not a return to the historical traditions, but rather an extension of those existing. Instead of a new return we are dealing with globalization.

Surely that which Eliade, as most people educated in the spirit of the classical European tradition, could not predict, was the decisive role played by the commu- nication sciences and the great importance of the

means of mass-communication. It was in the dialectical

spirit of the great German philosophy to anticipate and to await the negation of negation and the return of the reverse, or rather of the repressed. But, faithful to ratio- nalist individualism and to the prevalent theory of knowledge, that is, to history and to tradition, Eliade was unable to foresee the role of communication and of the masses. He leaves us to observe a return of the religious in the context of a gradually developing glo- balization, to research the paradoxical return of indi- vidual religious experience of archaic character within a framework which bears the vastness of the entire planet; the return of individual, rather exotic localism within the official frames which techno-science has de- veloped and brought to its heights. The true paradox is the confrontation between individual symbolisms, local semantics, and the stage of global communication, or in other words, the confrontation between the formal, boundless reason of communication and the

significances engendered by events minutely deter- mined in space and time. This is the paradox that the Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies em- bodies: a journal having its location in the virtual reality of communication and its site on the Internet, yet hav- ing as its academic interest the most concrete forms of spirituality religions and ideologies. In fact, the Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies represents the virtual projection on the Internet of the activities of this group of researchers and its coordinator, Dr. Sandu Frunza. The journal holds the same principles as the Seminar for the Interdisciplinary Research of Religions and Ideologies (S.C.I.R.I., from it’s Romanian name,


Seminar de cercetare interdisciplinara a religiilor si ideologiilor), namely: religious liberty and religious plu- ralism; the promotion of inter-religious and inter-con- fessional dialogue; free expression of personal opinions;

and ideological unaffiliation. The approach of the re- search, sustained by religious dialogue, is inter-religious, engaging the following domains: philosophy of religion and politics, humanities fields such as the study of reli- gions, the political sciences, sociology, and anthropol- ogy, and to a large extent theories of communication.

Committed, like S.C.I.R.I., to promoting highlevel re- search and addressing the university environment, young researchers, and graduate students, the Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies wishes to connect itself with the international research going on in this field and to build a favorable environment for communication, an academic community founded on a frank exchange of ideas. With the richness of their ac- tivities which have already taken place, I am sure of their success!

Translated by Ana-Elena Ilinca


J S R I • N o. 1 / S p r i n g 2 0 0 2

1. A Radically New Age


hose thinkers who early in the twentieth cen tury with great historical/sociological analysis predicted the impending demise of Western Civilization were clearly mistaken. After World War I, in 1922, Oswald Spengler wrote his widely acclaimed book, The Decline of the West1. After the beginning of World War II Pitirim A. Sorokin published in 1941 his likewise popular book, The Crisis of Our Age2. Given the massive, world-wide scale of the unprecedented de- struction and horror of the world’s first global war, 1914-18, and the even vastly greater of the second glo- bal conflict, 1939-45, the pessimistic predictions of these scholars and the great following they found are understandable.

In fact, however, those vast world conflagrations were manifestations of the dark side of the unique breakthrough in the history of humankind in the mod- ern development of Christendom-become-Western LEONARD SWIDLER

A Vision for the Third Millennium the Age of Global Dialogue Dialogue or Death !

In his article «A Vision for the Third Millennium, ‘The Age of Global Dialogue’: Dialogue or Death», Swidler attempts to show that humankind is in a crucial transition from a stage where monologue is the chief characteristic of rela- tions, to one where dialogue is the chief characteristic.

Because of technological advances, dialogue is both more possible than ever before and also more necessary than ever before. The change from monologue to dialogue is a change from a way of interacting modeled on confronta- tion to one modeled on listening. The change is being caused by a number of important parallel shifts, such as an increased awareness of the tenacity of knowledge and the shrinking of the world to a «global community». But while Swidler characterizes the change from monologue to dialogue as «the most fundamental, most radical and utterly transformative of the key elements of the newly emerging paradigm,» he warns that this change is not a guaranteed event. With the great technological advances that make dialogue more possible than ever come new opportunities for technological abuses. Therefore, he warns, we are faced with two choices: dialogue or death.





Civilization, now becoming Global Civilization. Never before had there been world wars; likewise, never be- fore had there been world political organizations (League of Nations, United Nations).

The prophets of doom were correct in their under- standing that humanity is entering into a radically new age. Early in the twentieth century the nay-sayers usu- ally spoke of the doom of only Western Civilization, but after the advent of nuclear power and the Cold War, the new generation warned of global disaster. This emerging awareness of possible global disaster is a an- other clear, albeit negative, sign that something pro- foundly radically new was entering onto the stage of human history.

In the 1990s professor Samuel Huntington of Harvard University named a central contemporary real- ity when he argued that with the fading of the Cold War, in its place was the rising of a Clash of Civiliza- tions;3 fundamentalisms of all sorts, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, nationalist, ethnic, tribal, were tearing at the fabric of the New World Order even as it was being woven. At least we thought we understood the other side in the Cold War, whether we admired, respected, tolerated or despised it. But in the nineties we entered into a state of cacophonous confusion and conse- quently were floundering, or even foundering: e.g., Rwanda, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Middle East-and then the most shocking blow of all:

September 11. But these outbreaks of violence are only the most visible flashpoints of the contemporary mal- aise. The problems run much deeper. They are cultural,

ethical, religious, spiritual. A world with clashing, or po- tentially clashing, cultures, religious, ethnic groups-civi- lizations-is the world of the End of the Second, Begin- ning of the Third Millennium.

However, that is not all it is. In the midst of our current, and essential, War on Terrorism, the very an- tithesis of the Clash of Civilizations is likewise a reality, and an increasing one. Humanity is also in the midst of a deep evolutionary shift towards a higher, communal, and dialogical way of life. This evolution of religions and cultures points towards a process essential to heal- ing the deep problems that inhere in all aspects of our human cultures and even threaten our very survival, namely: the awakening of humankind to the power of dialogue.4

There have been a number of scholarly analyses other than that of Huntington pointing to the emer- gence of a radically new age in human history. I will deal with two of them. The first is the concept of the Paradigm-Shift, particularly as expounded by Hans Küng5. The second is the notion of the Second Axial Period, as articulated by Ewert Cousins6. Then, includ- ing these two, but setting them in a still larger context, I shall lay out my own analysis, which I see as the move- ment of humankind out of a multi-millennia long Age of Monologue into the newly inbreaking Age of Dia- logue, indeed, an inbreaking Age of Global Dialogue.


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2. Dialogue: the Way Forward

The future, I submit, offers two alternatives: Death or Dialogue (if you will, the Samuel Huntington or the Leonard Swidler view). This statement is not over-dra- matization. In the past, all of us talked only with our- selves, that is, with those who thought as we did-or should! Until the edge of the present era, we humans lived in the Age of Monologue. That age is now pass- ing. We are now poised at the entrance to the Age of Dialogue. We travel all over the globe, and the globe comes to us. Our streets, businesses, and homes are filled with overseas products. Through our Asian-made television sets we invite into our living rooms myriads of people of strange nations, cultures, and religions.

Most terrifying of all, World Terrorism has struck us in our own front yard.

We can no longer ignore The Other, but we can close our minds and spirits to them, look at them with fear and misunderstanding, resent them, and perhaps even hate them. This way of encounter leads to hostility and eventually war and death. Today nuclear, ecologi- cal, or terroristic devastation lies just a little ways fur- ther down the path of Monologue. It is only by strug- gling out of the self-centered monologic mindset into dialogue with The Other that we can avoid such cata- clysmic disasters. In brief: We must move from the Age of Monologue to the Age of Dialogue.

What we understand to be the Aexplanation of the ultimate meaning of life, and how to live accordingly, is what we call our religion. Since our religion is so com-

prehensive, so all-inclusive, it is the most fundamental area in which The Other is likely to be different from us-and hence possibly seen as the most threatening.

Again, this is not over-dramatization. The current cata- logue of conflicts which have religion as a constituent element is staggering, including such obvious neuralgic flashpoints as Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Israel, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Pakistan, India, Tibet, Afghanistan, the Sudan, Armenia/Azerbaijan, Nigeria-and now Is- lamist Terror.

Hence, if humankind is to move from the Age of Monologue into the Age of Dialogue, the religions must enter into this movement full force. They have in fact begun to make serious progress along this path, though the journey stretches far ahead, indeed.

3. Dialogue:

A Whole New Way of Thinking

Dialogue, especially dialogue in the religious area, is not simply a series of conversations. It is a whole new way of thinking, a way of seeing and reflecting on the world and its meaning. When we speak of Adialogue, we do not mean just another conversation. We mean an expe- rience of encountering people of different fundamental convictions in such a way that each one's assumptions come to light, and that all can move ahead in reciprocal learning. Dialogue means strengthening and affirming our fundamental beliefs and practices, but transforming them as well.


4. Dialogue: Its Meaning

Dialogue is conversation between two or more persons with differing views, the primary purpose of which is for each participant to learn from the other so that s/he can change and grow. Of course, in addition both part- ners also share their understanding with their partners, but we enter into dialogue primarily so we can learn, change, and grow, not so that we can force change on the other.

In the past, when we encountered those who dif- fered from us in the religious sphere, we did so usually either to defeat them as opponents, or to learn about them so as to deal with them more effectively. In other words, we usually faced those who differed with us in a confrontation- sometimes more openly polemically, sometimes more subtly so, but usually with the ultimate goal of overcoming the other because we were con- vinced that we alone had the truth.

But that is not what dialogue is. Dialogue is not de- bate. In dialogue each partner must listen to the other as openly and sympathetically as possible in an attempt to understand the other's position as precisely and, as it were, as much from within, as possible. Such an atti- tude automatically assumes that at any point we might find the partner's position so persuasive that, if we were to act with integrity, we ourselves would have to

change. Until recently in religious traditions, the idea of seeking religious wisdom, insight, or truth through dia- logue occurred to very few people. Today the situation is dramatically reversed.

5. Dialogue: Reasons for Its Rise

There are the many external factors that have appeared in the past century and a half which have contributed to the creation of what we today call the global village. All these externals have made it increasingly impossible to live in isolation. But underlying, and even preceding, the external forces opening the way to dialogue is a shift in consciousness that has been taking place for the past two centuries. We call this shift in consciousness a Paradigm-Shift in how we perceive the world.

6. A Major Paradigm-Shift

Thomas Kuhn revolutionized our understanding of the development of scientific thinking with his notion of paradigm shifts. He painstakingly showed that funda- mental paradigms are the large thought frames within which we place and interpret all observed data and that scientific advancement inevitably brings about eventual paradigm shifts-from geocentrism to heliocentrism, for example, or from Newtonian to Einsteinian physics- which are always vigorously resisted at first, as was the thought of Galileo, but finally prevail.7 This insight, however, is valid not only for the development of thought in the natural sciences, but is also applicable to all disciplines of thought, including religious thought.

A major paradigm shift in systematic religious re- flection, i.e., in theology, then, means a major change in the very idea of what it is to do theology.8 Let me give


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an example from the Christian tradition: The major Christian theological revolution that occurred at the first ecumenical council (Nicaea, A.D. 325) did not so much resolve the battle over whether the Son and Fa- ther were of the same substance, homoousion, important as that was, but rather that, by defining “homoousion”, it tacitly admitted that here were issues in theology which could not be solved simply on the basis of re- course to the language of the Scriptures.9 In the next several centuries a flood of new answers poured forth to questions being posed in categories of thought un- used by Jesus and his first, Jewish, followers-namely, in Greek abstract philosophical categories of thought.

As the paradigm within which the data of what Jesus thought, taught, and wrought and how his Jewish followers responded, was perceived and understood shifted from the Semitic, concrete biblical thought world to a Hellenistic, largely abstract philosophical one, the questions asked, and the terms in which they were asked, shifted accordingly, and of course so did the answers. As always, when a new major paradigm shift occurs, old answers are no longer helpful, for they respond to questions no longer posed, in thought cat- egories no longer used, within a conceptual framework which no longer prevails. It is not that the old answers are now declared wrong; it is simply that they no longer apply. Aristotle's answers in physics and chemistry in terms of the four elements of air, fire, water and earth, for example, simply do not speak to the questions posed by modern chemists and physicists.

Tenth-century Christian theologians answering that

Mary remained a virgin while giving birth to Jesus (i.e., her hymen was not broken) were answering a question that no modern critical-thinking Christian theologian would pose, for it presupposed a thought-world which placed a high value on unbroken hymens. That thought world is gone. Hence, the old answer is im-pertinent.

7. The Modern Major Paradigm-shift

Since the eighteenth century Enlightenment,

Christendom-then become Western Civilization-has been undergoing a major paradigm shift, especially in how we understand our process of understanding-in other words, our epistemology. This new epistemologi- cal paradigm is increasingly determining how we per- ceive, think about, and subsequently decide and act on things.

Whereas our Western notion of truth was largely absolute, static, and monologic or exclusive up into the nineteenth century, it has since become deabsolutized, dynamic and dialogic-in a word, it has become rela- tional.10 This new view of truth came about in at least six different, but closely related, ways. In brief they are:

1. Historicism: Truth is deabsolutized by the percep- tion that reality is always described in terms of the circumstances of the time in which it is expressed.

2. Intentionality: Seeking the truth with the intention of acting accordingly deabsolutizes the statement.


3. Sociology of knowledge: Truth is deabsolutized in terms of geography, culture, and social standing.

4. Limits of language: Truth as the meaning of something and especially as talk about the transcen- dent is deabsolutized by the nature of human lan- guage.

5. Hermeneutics: All truth, all knowledge, is seen as interpreted truth, knowledge, and hence is

deabsolutized by the observer who is always also interpreter.

6. Dialogue: The knower engages reality in a dialogue in a language the knower provides, thereby

deabsolutizing all statements about reality.

Let me, for the sake of brevity, reflect on just two of these six ways our understanding of truth has been deabsolutized.

0. Absolutism: Before the nineteenth century in Europe truth, that is, a statement about reality, was con- ceived in an absolute, static, exclusivistic either-or man- ner. If something was true at one time, it was always true. For example, if it was true for the Pauline writer to say in the first century that women should keep silence in the church, then it was always true that women should keep silence in the church; or if it was true for Pope Boniface VIII to state in 1302, we declare, state, and define that it is absolutely necessary for the salva- tion of all human beings that they submit to the Roman Pontiff,11 then it was always true that they need do so.

Truth was thus understood to be absolute, static.

This is an absolutist view of truth.

1. Historicism: In the nineteenth century many scholars came to perceive all statements about some- thing as partially the products of their historical circum- stances. These scholars argued that only if the truth statements were placed in their original historical situa- tion could they be properly understood. The under- standing of the text could be found only in context.

Thus, all statements about the meaning of things were now seen to be deabsolutized in terms of time.

This is a historical view of truth. Clearly at its heart is a notion of relationality: Any statement about the truth of the meaning of something has to be understood in relationship to its historical context.

3. The sociology of knowledge: Just as statements about the meaning of things were seen by some think- ers to be historically deabsolutized in time, so too, start- ing in the twentieth century with scholars like Karl Mannheim, such statements began to be seen as deabsolutized by such things as the culture, class and gender of the thinker-speaker, regardless of time. All reality was said to be perceived from the perspective of the perceiver's own world view. Any statement about the meaning of something was seen to be perspectival, standpoint-bound, standortgebunden, as Karl Mannheim put it, and thus deabsolutized.

This is a perspectival view of truth and is likewise rela- tional: All statements are fundamentally related to the standpoint of the speaker.


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In sum, our understanding of truth and reality has been undergoing a radical shift. This new paradigm which is being born understands all statements about reality, especially about the meaning of things, to be historical, intentional, perspectival, partial, interpretive and dialogic. What is common to all these qualities is the notion of relationality, that is, that all expressions or understandings of reality are in some fundamental way related to the speaker or knower.

With the new and irreversible understanding of the meaning of truth resulting from all these epistemologi- cal advances, the modern critical thinker has undergone a radical Copernican turn. Recall that just as the vigor- ously resisted shift in astronomy from geocentrism to heliocentrism revolutionized that science, the paradigm shift in the understanding of truth statements has revo- lutionized all the humanities, including theology. The macro-paradigm with which critical thinkers operate to- day is, as noted, characterized by historical, social, lin- guistic, hermeneutical, praxis and dialogic-relational-con- sciousness. This paradigm shift is far advanced among thinkers and doers; but as in the case of Copernicus, and even more dramatically of Galileo, there of course are still many resisters in positions of great institutional power.

[Our perception, and hence description, of reality is like our view of an object in the center of a circle of viewers. My view and description of the object, or real- ity, may well be true, but it will not include what some- one on the other side of the circle perceives and de- scribes, which also may well be true. So, neither of our

perceptions and descriptions of reality can be total, complete- absolute in that sense-or objective in the sense of not in any way being dependent on a subject or viewer. At the same time, however, it is also obvious that there is an objective, doubtless true aspect to each perception and description, even though each is rela- tional to the perceiver-subject.]

But if we can no longer hold to an absolutist view of the truth of the meaning of things, we must take cer- tain steps. First, besides striving to be as accurate and fair as possible in gathering and assessing information and submitting it to the critiques of our peers and other thinkers and scholars, we need also to dredge out, state clearly, and analyze our own pre-suppositions-a con- stant, ongoing task. Even in this of course we will be operating from a particular standpoint.

Therefore, we need, second, to engage in dialogue with those who have differing cultural, social philo- sophical, religious viewpoints so as to strive toward an ever fuller perception of truth. If we do not engage in such dialogue we will not only be trapped within the perspective of our own standpoint, but we will now also be aware of our lack. We will no longer, with integ- rity, be able to remain deliberately turned in on our- selves. Our search for the truth makes it a necessity for us as human beings to engage in dialogue.


8. The Axial Period

It was the German philosopher Karl Jaspers who over fifty years ago pointed to a paradigm-shift of unprec- edented magnitude in his book The Origin and Goal of History.12 He referred to the period from 800-200 B.C.E. as the Axial Period because it gave birth to ev- erything which, since then, man has been able to be. It is here in this period that we meet with the most deepcut dividing line in history. Man, as we know him today, came into being. For short, we may style this the Axial Period.13 Although the leaders who effected this change were philosophers and religious teachers, the change was so radical that it affected all aspects of cul- ture, for it transformed consciousness itself. It was within the horizons of this form of consciousness that the great civilizations of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe de- veloped. Although within these horizons many devel- opments occurred through the subsequent centuries, the horizons themselves did not change. It was this form of consciousness which spread to other regions through migration and explorations, thus becoming the dominant, though not exclusive, form of consciousness in the world. To this day, whether we have been born and raised in the culture of China, India, Europe, or the Americas, we bear the structure of consciousness that was shaped in this Axial Period.

Prior to the Axial Period the dominant form of consciousness was cosmic, collective, tribal, mythic, and ritualistic. This was the characteristic form of con- sciousness of primal peoples. It is true that between the

time of these traditional cultures and the Axial Period there emerged great empires in Egypt, China, and Mesopotamia, but they did not yet produce the full consciousness of the Axial Period.

The consciousness of the tribal cultures was inti- mately related to the cosmos and the fertility cycles of nature. As they felt themselves part of nature, so they experienced themselves as part of the tribe. It was the web of interrelationships within the tribe that sustained them psychologically, energizing all aspects of their lives. To be separated from the tribe threatened them with death, both physical and psychological. However, their relation to the collectivity often did not extend be- yond their own tribe, for they often looked upon other tribes as hostile.

The Axial Period ushered in a radically new form of consciousness. Whereas primal consciousness was tribal, Axial consciousness was individual. Know thyself became the watch-word of Greece; the Upanishads identified the atman, the transcendent center of the self.

The Buddha charted the way of individual enlighten- ment; Confucius pointed out the path to becoming a Sage; the Jewish prophets awakened individual moral responsibility. This sense of individual identity, as dis- tinct from the tribe and nature, is the most characteris- tic mark of Axial consciousness. From this flow other characteristics: consciousness which is self-reflective, analytic, and which can be applied to nature in the form of scientific theories, to society in the form of social critique, to knowledge in the form of philosophy, to re- ligion in the form of mapping an individual spiritual


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journey. This self-reflective, analytic, critical conscious- ness stood in sharp contrast to primal mythic and ritu- alistic consciousness. When the self-reflective logos emerged in the Axial Period, it tended to oppose the traditional mythos. Of course, mythic and ritualistic forms of consciousness survive in the post-Axial Period even to this day, but they are often submerged, surfac- ing chiefly in dreams, literature, and art.

9. The Second Axial Period

Following the lead of Ewert Cousins, if we shift our gaze from the first millennium B.C.E. to the eve of the twenty-first century, we can discern another transfor- mation of consciousness, which is so profound and far- reaching that Cousins calls it the Second Axial Period.14 Like the first, it is happening simultaneously around the earth, and also like the first, it will doubtless shape the horizon of consciousness for future centuries. Not sur- prisingly, too, it will have great significance for world religions, which were constituted in the First Axial Pe- riod. This new form of consciousness is different from that of the First Axial Period. Then it was individual consciousness, now it is global consciousness.

In order to understand better the forces at work in the Second Axial Period, Cousins draws from the thought of the paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.15 In the light of his research in evolution, Teilhard charted the development of consciousness from its roots in the geosphere and biosphere on into

the future. In a process which he calls Aplanetization, he observed that a shift in the forces of evolution had occurred over the past hundred and fifty years. This shift is from divergence to convergence. When human beings first appeared on this planet, they clustered to- gether in family and tribal units, forming their own group identity and separating themselves from other tribes. In this way humans diverged, creating separate nations and a rich variety of cultures.

However, the spherical shape of the earth pre- vented unlimited divergence. With the increase in population and the rapid development of communica- tion, groups could no longer remain apart. After domi- nating the process for millennia, the forces of diver- gence have been superseded by those of convergence.

This shift to convergence is drawing the various cul- tures into a single planetized community. Although we have been conditioned by thousands of years of diver- gence, we now have no other course open to us but to cooperate creatively with the forces of convergence as these are drawing us toward global consciousness.16

According to Teilhard this new global conscious- ness will not level all differences among peoples; rather it will generate what he calls creative unions in which diversity is not erased but intensified. His understand- ing of creative unions is based on his general theory of evolution and the dynamic which he observes through- out the universe. From the geosphere to the biosphere to the realm of consciousness, a single process is at work, which he articulates as the law of complexity- consciousness. Just now, because of the shift from di-


vergence to convergence, the forces of planetization are bringing about an unprecedented complexification of consciousness through the convergence of cultures and religions, working toward a uni-versitas, a unity in diver- sity.

In the light of Teilhard's thought, then, we can bet- ter understand the meeting of religions at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The world religions are the product of the First Axial Period and the forces of di- vergence. Although in the first millennium B.C.E., there was a common transformation of consciousness, it occurred in diverse geographical regions within al- ready differentiated cultures. In each case the religion was shaped by this differentiation in its origin, and de- veloped along differentiated lines. This produced a re- markable richness of spiritual wisdom, of spiritual ener- gies and of religious-cultural forms to express, preserve, and transmit this heritage. However, now that the forces of divergence have shifted to convergence, the religions must meet each other, discovering what is most authentic in each other, thereby releasing creative energy toward a more complexified yet unifying form of religious consciousness.

Such a creative encounter has been called the dia- logic dialogue to distinguish it from the dialectic dia- logue in which one tries to refute the claims of the other.17 This dialogic dialogue has three phases:

1. The partners meet each other in an atmosphere of mutual understanding, ready to alter misconcep- tions about each other and eager to appreciate the

2. The partners are mutually enriched, by passing over into the consciousness of the other so that each can experience the other's values from within the other's perspective. It is important at this point to respect the autonomy of the other tradition: in Teilhard's terms, to achieve union in which differ- ences are valued as a basis of creativity.

3. If such a creative union is achieved, then the reli- gions will have moved into the complexified yet unifying form of consciousness that will be charac- teristic of the twenty-first century. This will be complexified/unifying global consciousness, not a mere universal, undifferentiated, abstract con- sciousness. It will be global through the global con- vergence of cultures and religions and complexified by the dynamics of dialogic dialogue.

This global consciousness, complexified through the meeting of cultures and religions, is only one char- acteristic of the Second Axial Period. The conscious- ness of this period is global in another sense, i.e., in re- discovering its roots in the earth. At the very moment when the various cultures and religions are meeting each other and creating a new global community, our life on the planet is being threatened. The very tools which we have used to bring about this convergence- industrialization and technology-are undercutting the biological support system that sustains our life. The fu- ture of consciousness, even life on the earth, is

shrouded in uncertainty.

Cousins is not suggesting a romantic attempt to live


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proceeds by way of recapitulation. Having developed self-reflective, analytic, critical consciousness in the First Axial Period, we must now, while retaining these values, reappropriate and integrate into that conscious- ness the collective and cosmic dimensions of the pre- Axial consciousness. We must recapture the unity of tribal consciousness by seeing humanity as a single tribe. And we must see this single tribe related organi- cally to the total cosmos.

10. The Age of Global Dialogue

Ewert Cousins has basically affirmed everything Hans Küng described as the newly emerging contemporary paradigm-shift, but he sees the present shift as much more profound than simply another in a series of major paradigm-shifts of human history. He sees the current transformation as a shift of the magnitude of the First Axial Period which will similarly reshape human con- sciousness. I too want to basically affirm what Küng sees as the emerging contemporary Major Paradigm- Shift, as well as with Cousins that this shift is so pro- found as to match in magnitude the transformation of human consciousness of the Axial Period, so that it should be referred to as a Second Axial Period.

More than that, however, beyond these two radical shifts, while including both of them, humankind is emerging out of the from-the-beginning-till-now mil- lennia-long Age of Monologue into the newly dawning Age of Dialogue.

The turn toward dialogue is, in my judgment, the most fundamental, most radical and utterly transformative of the key elements of the newly emerging paradigm which Küng outlined and Cousins perceptively discerned as one of the central constituents of the Second Axial Age. Something remarkable happens when we experi- ence the depth of personal and communal dialogical awakening. There is a profound shift in how we per- ceive our selves, our lives, our priorities, our relation- ships, our world, which in turn clarifies our global vi- sion as it at the same time releases passionate moral energy, intensified social responsibility, and a deepened spirituality.

However, this shift from monologue to dialogue constitutes such a radical reversal in human conscious- ness, is so utterly new in the history of humankind from the beginning, that it must be designated as literally revo- lutionary, that is, it turns everything absolutely around.

Standing in this new consciousness of global dialogue, everything is different. We must proclaim with

Shakespeare in the Tempest: What a brave new world that hath such creatures in it!

11. Conclusion

To sum up and reiterate: In the latter part of the twenti- eth century humankind is undergoing a Macro-Para- digm-Shift (Hans Küng). More than that, at this time humankind is moving into a transformative shift in consciousness of the magnitude of the Axial Period


(800-200 B.C.E.) so that we must speak of the emerg- ing of the Second Axial Period (Ewert Cousins). Even more profound, however, now at the beginning of the Third Millennium humankind is slipping out of the shadowy Age of Monologue, where it has been since its beginning, into the dawn of the Age of Dialogue

(Leonard Swidler). Into this new Age of Dialogue Küng's Macro-Paradigm-Shift and Cousins' Second Axial Period are sublated, that is, taken up and trans- formed. Moreover, humankind's consciousness is be- coming increasingly global. Hence, our dialogue part- ners necessarily must also be increasingly global. In this new Age of Dialogue, dialogue on a global basis is now not only a possibility, it is a necessity. As I noted in the title of a book of mine-humankind is faced ultimately with two choices: Dialogue or Death!18



1 Oswald Spengler, Der Untergang des Abendlandes (Munich:

Beck, 1922-23), 2 vols.

2 Pitirim A. Sorokin, The Crisis of Our Age (New York:

Dutton, 1941).

3 Samuel Huntington, Clash of Civilizations, Foreign Affairs, July, 1993, pp. 22-49. See also his, The Conflict of Civilizations, 1996.

4 Huntington himself points to this move toward global dia- logue, even if only in the form of a need: We need to develop a more profound understanding of the basic religious and philo- sophical assumptions underlying other civilizations.... It will re- quire an effort to identify elements of commonality between Western and other civilizations....to learn to coexist with the oth- ers (Foreign Affairs, p. 49).

5 See among others, Hans Küng, Theologie im Aufbruch (Munich: Piper Verlag, 1987), esp. pp. 153 ff.

6 See especially Ewert Cousins, Judaism-Christianity-Islam:

Facing Modernity Together, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 30:3-4 (Summer-Fall, 1993), pp. 417-425.

7 Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 2nd ed., 1970).

8 Quentin Quesnell, On Not Negotiating the Self in the Structure of Theological Revolutions, typescript at Jan. 3-11, 1984 conference in Honolulu on Paradigm Shifts in Buddhism and Christianity: Cultural Systems and the Self, p. 2.

9 Ibid., p. 3.

10 Already two millennia and more ago some Hindu and Buddhist thinkers held a nonabsolutistic epistemology, but that fact had no significant impact on the West; because of the cul- tural eclipse of those civilizations in the modern period and the dominance of the Western scientific worldview, these ancient nonabsolutistic epistemologies have until now played no signifi- cant role in the emerging global society-though in the context of dialogue, they should in the future.


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Since the middle of the nineteenth century Eastern thought has become increasingly better known in the West, and propor- tionately influential. This knowledge and influence appears to be increasing geometrically in recent decades. It is even beginning to move into the hardest of our so-called hard sciences, nuclear physics, as evidenced by the popular book of the theoretical physicist Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics (Boulder, CO:

Shambhala, 2nd ed., 1983).

11 Boniface VIII, Unam sanctam, in J. Neuener and J.

Depuis, eds., The Teaching of the Catholic Church (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1972), no. 875, p. 211.

12 Karl Jaspers, Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte (Zurich:

Artemis, 1949), pp. 19-43.

13 Ibid., p. 19; trans. Michael Bullock, The Origin and Goal of History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), p. 1. For the ongoing academic discussion of Jaspers' position on the Axial Period, see Wisdom, Revelation, and Doubt: Perspectives on the First Millennium B.C., Daedalus (Spring, 1975); and The Origins and Diver- sity of Axial Age Civilizations, ed. S.N. Eisenstadt (New York: State University of New York Press, 1989).

14I am in this section especially indebted to Ewert Cousins' essay Judaism-Christianity-Islam: Facing Modernity Together,

Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 30:3-4 (Summer-Fall, 1993), pp. 417- 425. For a more comprehensive treatment of Cousins' concept of the Second Axial Period, see his book Christ of the 21st Century (Rockport, MA: Element, 1992).

15 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Le Phénomène humain (Paris:

Editions du Seuil, 1955); see also L'Activation de l'énergie (Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1962) and L'Energie humaine (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1962). For a more detailed study of Teilhard's thought in relation to the second Axial Period, see Ewert Cousins' paper Teilhard de Chardin and the Religious Phenomenon, delivered in Paris at the International Symposium on the Occasion of the Centenary of the Birth of Teilhard de Chardin, organized by UNESCO, September 16-18, 1981, UNESCO Document Code:


16 Teilhard, Le Phénomène humain, pp. 268-269.

17 On the concept of dialogic dialogue, see Raimundo Panikkar, Myth, Faith and Hermeneutics (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), pp. 241-245; see also his The Intrareligious Dialogue (New York: Paulist Press, 1978).

18 Leonard Swidler et alii, Death or Dialogue. From the Age of Monologue to the Age of Global Dialogue (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990).


1. Introduction


uring the Renaissance period, Jewish mysti- cism was considered as one of the most im portant form of religious literature. The wide- spread assumption that Kabbalah was an ancient lore that adumbrated Christian tenets attracted the attention of some Christian intellectuals who attempted at dem- onstrating the contribution of this lore for the demon- stration of the antiquity of the Christian tenets. Eventu- ally these intellectuals have learned from the translated Kabbalistic texts not only about the existence of a Jew- ish mystical theology, but also about mystical raptures, death by kiss, a phrase that was even adopted almost verbatim into Italian under the form bensica.(1) The notions of prisca theologia and philosophia perennis


«Unio Mystica» as a Criterion:

Some Observations on «Hegelian» Phenomenologies of Mysticism*

During the Renaissance period, Jewish mysticism was considered as one of the most important form of religious literature. In the twentieth century however, two major developments can be singled out: the Hegelian one envi- sions the future as open to progress, for the emergence of an even more spiritual version of the religion as mani- fested in the past, the archaic one sees the forms of reli- gion as more genuine religious modalities. Problematically in these phenomenologies is the generic attitude to com- plex types of religious literature which are conceived as embodying one central type of spirituality. In our case, the centrality of the notion of devequt in Jewish mysti- cism is more important than the attempt to define it in a certain way, namely that it stands for union or commun- ion. Or the kind of interactions between devequt, theoso- phy and theurgy, will define better the essence of Kabba- listic mysticism than the analysis of devequt in abstracto.

The difference between the theological versus the techni- cal approach implies more than methods to deal with the role of an imponderable experience as part of the more general understanding of a certain form of mysticism.

When studying the religious writings we do not witness fixed systems, clear-cut theologies or frozen techniques, whose essence can be easily determined, but living struc- tures and proclivities for moving in a certain direction, or directions, rather than crystallized static entities.

* A short drafter of this paper has been read as a lecture at the Center for the Study of World Religion at Harvard University, in the Spring of 1992.


Prof. univ. dr. Universitatea Ebraica din Ierusalim.

Dintre lucrarile publicate amintim: Golem; Jewish magical and mystical traditions on the artificial- anthropoid (1990);

Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic (1994);

Kabbalah; New Perspective (1988); Language, Torah and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia (1989);

Maimonides et la mystique juive (1991); The mystical experience in Abraham Abulafia (1988); Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah (1988) Mystical Union and Mono- theistic Faith, An Ecumeni- cal Dialogue, eds.-M. Idel- B. McGinn (1989); Jewish Mystical Leaders and Leadership, eds. M. Idel - M. Ostow (1998); Messi- anic Mystics (1998); si


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were given a special emphasis with the emergence of the Christian Kabbalah. The search for the antique as a source of inspiration and authority was part and parcel of the Renaissance spirit. A distinction between the an- cients and the moderns will assume the superiority of the former over the latter.

In the twentieth century however, despite the tre- mendous achievements in exposing Kabbalah to wider audiences in Gershom Scholem’s magisterial writings, a rather opposite view as to the mystical nature of Juda- ism, and even of Kabbalah, may be seen as more domi- nant among some scholars of mysticism. What hap- pened between the rather admiratory, and exaggerated, attitude of some of the Christian intellectuals in the 15th and 16th century to Kabbalah as a superior form of mysticism, and the quite reserved attitude of some of the 20th century supposedly objective academicians?

Two major developments can be singled out in the last generation of generalist scholars of religion: one, to be referred as the Hegelian one,(2) would emphasize the superiority of the later religious manifestations as been more spiritual and therefore more developed. The other, represented especially by Mircea Eliade, and to a certain degree also by C. G. Jung and G. Scholem, would regard the more archaic forms of religion as more genuine religious modalities in comparison to later religious developments, which tend to evade the primordiality of myth, symbol and re-creative ritual as the basic forms of religion. To a certain extent, we can characterize this school as fond of a religiosity that was defined by Levi-Bruhl’s famous phrase “participation mystique”.(3)

The Hegelian option, to be represented here mainly by three scholars, Gershom Scholem, Robert C.

Zaehner and Edward Caird emphasizes the importance of historical progress as positive for the formation of the higher version of a certain religion. The Hegelians will envision the future as open to progress, for the emergence of an even more spiritual version of a stage of the religion as manifested in the past. To a great ex- tent, this is a teleological vector that informs the move, a vector that is theological, namely representing the axis of the theological, more spiritual evolution. The archaic orientation, however, would regard history not as the scene of the progress but, on the contrary, as the cata- lyst for the regress. It is a restorative mode that informs this attitude. While the Hegelian attitude is much more monotheistically and mystically oriented, the archaic one is rather suspicious toward theological claims, em- phasizing the centrality of the mythical experience.

While historical stasis would be the central characteris- tic of the archaic religion, historical dynamism would characterize the Hegelian view of religion. Moreover, the Hegelian attitude focuses its attention on the theo- logical developments, being concerned with the content of abstract systems, while the archaic approach deals much more with the experiences, symbols, rituals, myths, and less with theoretical believes. It should be mentioned that the two attitudes focus their views on the extremes of the wide spectrum of the religious facts. Nevertheless one should not expect that a Hegelian scholar should divorce himself totally from the archaic religiosity. Though someone like Zaehner has done it,(4) while an archaist like Eliade would com-


pletely disassociate himself from the Hegelian trend, others, like Scholem and Jung, may be described as at- tempting at combining, in different manners, the two extremes.

Seen from the perspective of the archaists, Judaism, as well as other monotheistic religions, suffers from its belatedness; It does not evince, according to some cri- teria, the fresh symbolism and mythologies that inform the archaic religions.(5) However, when seen from the perspectives of the Hegelians, Judaism, including its mystical forms, is conceived as being too an early, and underdeveloped religion, which falls short of the ideal of this conception, the mystical union with the divine.

Too early for the ‘progressive’ Hegelians and too late for the ‘conservative’ archaists, not mythical enough for some scholars and, at the same time not mystical

enough for others, these extreme attitudes to religion relegate Judaism to a limbo, or interim situation that implies a rejection of the possibility that this religion will serve as a classical paradigm for the essence of reli- gion. In the following discussion, I shall ignore the problematic related to the archaic attitude in order to focus my discussion solely upon the Hegelians, singling out one major question of this paradigm: the status of unio mystica, or the union without distinction, as symp- tomatic for the pattern that underscores this scheme.

The aim of this presentation is not to vindicate Judaism from the “blame” of being impoverished in so far as mystical union is concerned. The presentation of the Kabbalistic and Hasidic material that shows that there is not reason to deny the existence of extreme mystical

mysticism, has been done elsewhere.(6) Here I am ad- dressing only the question of the methodological pre- suppositions of some scholarly presentations of this topic, rather than that of the actual content of a certain religion.

2. G. G. Scholem

Let me address the Hegelian scheme of religious devel- opment as presented by Gershom Scholem; He as- sumes a three-stage evolution of religion in general: the mythical one, which implies the animistic presence of the divine in the world. A second one, which empha- sizes the gulf between man and the transcendental God, which involves the importance of the religious es- tablishment, and third, a phase where an attempt to bridge this gap the human and the divine in a mystical experience.(7) The Hegelian nature of this scheme has been recognized by scholars experts in Scholem’s thought.(8) It seems that especially the presentation of the third phase is Hegelian, as it attempts at offering a synthesis between the two previous ones, which are an- tithetic to each other. Mysticism, the core of the last phase, is a synthesis between the animistic mythology and the transcendental theology. In general, the very fact that mysticism is conceived as the last phase of reli- gious development is reminiscent of Hegel’s view of his own philosophy as the last philosophy.

Nowhere in Scholem’s works did he supply details concerning any specific religion which underwent such


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that fit his scheme and his proposal remained a very ab- stract one. I would like to discuss a possible implication of this scheme for Jewish religion, and especially for mystical union.

Though Scholem did not expand the three-phase scheme to his negation of mystical union in Judaism, it seems to me that the two claims are consistent to each other and that we can clarify his particular view of mys- tical union within the frame of his wider theory. Mysti- cism, and in our case Jewish mysticism, is understood to be an effort to close a gap created by the institution- alized religiosity. Therefore, and this fact should be em- phasized, it is a late phase, which has to cope with questions, sensibilities, concepts, inhibitions that were already widespread in the earlier phases of a certain reli- gion. So, for example, a transcendental theology could preclude the attempts at, or at least the expressions of, extreme states of unitive experiences of the divine, that transcends, by definition, the human condition. When describing the earliest extensive brand of Jewish mysti- cal literature, the Heikhalot one, Scholem emphasizes that «Ecstasy there was, and this fundamental experi- ence must have been a source of religious inspiration, but we find no trace of a mystical union between the soul and God. Throughout there remained an almost exaggerated consciousness of God’s otherness, nor does the identity and individuality of the mystic become blurred even at the height of ecstatic passion.»(9) I would like to emphasize, for reasons that will become obvious latter on, that Scholem’s quote does not define Jewish mysticism in general, but only one, and a very

definite, stage in its history, namely the ancient Jewish phase, the Heikhalot literature.(10)

In the case of the medieval Kabbalists, the institu- tionalized philosophy was conceived by Scholem as preventing such extreme expressions: «The necessity to compromise with medieval Jewish theology dictated this terminology, not the act itself, which may or may not include a state of mystical union.»(11) Therefore, Jewish medieval mysticism was portrayed as lacking the most extreme experiences, or at least locutions, that can be described as unio mystica. Let me adduce Scholem’s statement at the beginning of his study of Devequt:

«...union with God is denied to man even in that mysti- cal upsurge of the soul, according to Kabbalistic theol- ogy.»(12) In other words, the antithesis, namely the transcendental theology, by becoming part of the syn- thesis, impinges upon the nature of this synthesis, which will consist in a milder form of bridging the gap, not by a total union but by what Scholem has described as a mystical communion. The gap of the second phase still remains a fact that cannot be totally overcome by mysticism. He asserts that

    «It is only in extremely rare cases that ecstasy sig- nifies actual union with God in which the human indi- viduality abandons itself to the rapture of the complete submission in the divine stream. Even in his ecstatic frame of mind the Jewish mystic almost invariably re- tains a sense of the distance between the Creator and His creature(13) ... he does not regard it as constituting anything so extravagant as identity between the Creator and creature.»(14)


Therefore, the mitigated form of Jewish mysticism in general, in so far as the mystical union is con- cerned(15) is to be understood as the result of its for- mative historical conditions, preceded as it is by other forms of theologies, Rabbinic or philosophical, which impede a more radical mystical experience or, at least, its expressions. The gap between Creator and His crea- ture is invoked time and again in order to substantiate the claim of the absence of mystical union. According to the logic of Scholem’s scheme, the earlier form of re- ligion are devoid of mysticism, which is to be confined to one phase alone.(16) It should be noticed that both in his general scheme of religion, and in some of his treatments of mystical union, the theological factor is crucial, in explicit terms, for the form of the expression and experience.

In the case of Judaism, Scholem has assumed that the philosophically oriented theologies emphasize a transcendental attitude, that precludes the bridging of the gulf. Moreover, he emphasized that some

Kabbalistic theologies absorbed an extreme negative theology, of Neoplatonic origin, in the concept of ‘Ein Sof, the unknown Infinite, that is the source of the re- vealed deity, the ten sefirot.(17) Thus, even the

Kabbalistic form of Jewish mystical theology in the Middle Ages, is deemed to have retained a strong tran- scendental element. Furthermore, the mediating divine layer, the deus revelatus too, is conceived by Scholem to be, to a great extent, beyond the reach of the human comprehension.(18) Therefore, in order to contemplate even these lower manifestations, the Kabbalists were

described as having to resort to symbolic knowl- edge.(19) The emphasis upon the role of symbolism is so great in Scholem’s school, that we can describe it as a «science of symbols», to use a term originally coined in order to describe Eliade’s approach.(20) It should be mentioned that the crucial role of the mystical theology is invoked by Scholem also as the starting point of con- templation, which culminates in creating Kabbalistic myths.(21) However, it is possible to assume, in a way similar to the proposal that will be elaborated later on in this study, that myths may emerge out of the attempt to understand the ritual, rather than from consider- ations and contemplations of the theological super- structure.(22)

3. C. R. Zaehner

Let us inspect for a moment the views of R. C. Zaehner on unio mystica. His basic assumption as to the phe- nomenology of religion is that there are two basic reli- gious patterns: the Hindu one, explicating a vision of concord and harmony between man and God, which will culminate in a total fusion between the two in a mystical experience. India is «die Hauptschule der Mystik».(23) On the other hand, the Semites, who as- sume a basic discord between man and God, represent the prophetic religion par excellence, which is devoid of mystical elements as its crucial components.(24) This sharp distinction between the prophetic and the mysti- cal, which was apparently inherited from M. Weber and


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F. Heiler,(25) was applied by Zaehner to the ancient classical religions: the Hindu religion on one side, and the Biblical, Zoroastrian and Islamic ones on the other.(26) Christianity, however, is conceived by the Oxford scholar as the synthesis between the prophetic and the mystical religions, a synthesis that is able to overcome the striking divergences between them. He regards this religion as fulfilling in an ideal manner, the ideals of both the Semites and the Zoroastrian, of Hin- duism and Buddhism.(27)

How does Zaehner eliminate the mystical elements from the prophetic religions? After all, Sufism is a ma- jor mystical phenomena and Kabbalah was, after the printing of the major writings of Scholem, well known in the West, and to Zaehner himself. His answers to this problem were that the Quranic, conceived as the

«purer» form of Islam, is indeed representative of the Semitic prophetic genre,(28) while Sufism, the mystical version of this religion, was deeply informed by Hindu sources.(29) In so far the Jewish mysticism is con- cerned, Zaehner wrote as follows:(30)

    «If mysticism is the key to religion, then we may as well exclude the Jews entirely from our inquiry: for Jewish mysticism, as Professor Scholem has so admira- bly portrayed it, except when influenced by Neo-

Platonism and Sufism,(31) would not appear to be mys- ticism at all. Visionary experience is not mystical

experience: for mysticism means if it means anything, the realization of a union or a unity with or in some- thing that is enormously, if not infinitely, greater than the empirical self. With the Yahweh of the Old Testa-

ment, no such union is possible(32)...The Jews rejected the Incarnation and, with it, the promise that as co- heirs of the God-Man they too might be transformed into the divine-likeness; and it is therefore in the very nature of the case that Jewish «mysticism» should at most aspire to communion with God, never to union.»(33)

        What is so admirable in Scholem’s description, as understood, and to a certain degree also misunder- stood by Zaehner, is the strong negation of the exist- ence of unio mystica in Jewish mysticism. In any case, this «demystification» of Jewish mysticism has provided Zaehner with the opportunity to reassess his major phenomenology of world-religion, the Semitic assump- tion as to the discord between man and God, and the harmony, or concord between the two in Hindu reli- gion, or respectively the prophetical versus the mystical religions.(34) Actually it is Scholem’s statement, which seems to be the major starting point of Zaehner’s char- acterization of Kabbalah as non-mystical, of Judaism as a purely prophetic religion, and of the whole Semitic re- ligions as diverging from the Hindu ones. Indeed, a far reaching statement, based, as we shall see in a moment, on a conspicuous misunderstanding.

Scholem’s quotation adduced above about the Heikhalot literature is understood by Zaehner as if it re- fers to the entire corpus of Jewish mystical literature.

This is a blatant mistake, which adopts a view that in- deed was formulated by Scholem as pertinent to one early stage of Jewish mysticism alone as if it portrays its entire spectrum, all this in order to dismiss it from the