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German Philosophy and Kabbalah

Prof. Evgueni Tortchinov

It was very interesting for me to read a number of posts dedicated to the Hegelian philosophy and its comparison with the Kabbalistic and Jungian notions of God. I think that mentioned similarities really exist but their roots lie not in the Hegelian philosophy as such but in some genetic origins of German speculative philosophy of the 19th century. And we can find some very interesting similarities with Kabbalistic (Lurianic) world-view not only in Hegel's philosophy but in other contemporary systems as well, and teaching of later Schelling is even more explicit in this perspective.

Moreover, even Schopenhauer (who was rather anti-Semitic or in more exact way of speech, anti-Judaistic) sometimes demonstrates extremely interesting Kabbalistic parallels (some very important aspects of his doctrine of Universal Will have parallels within the Kabbalistic thought, especially, in its notions of Razon and Hafez; unfortunately, Schopenhauer had no any knowledge of Kabbalah at all, and his severely critical anti-Judaistic attacks were caused by his reaction to the Mendelssohnian interpretation of Judaism as rationalistic religion understood within the paradigm of French Enlightenment.

I think that the root of the said similarities lie in philosophy (or theosophy) of such figure as a mystical thinker of 16th-17th centuries Jacob Boehme (the so-called Philosophia Teutonica - German Philosophy).  Mystical vision of Boehme had striking and wonderful similarity with the theosophies of the Zohar and Arizal. It enjoyed a great success in Germany of 17th century stimulating interest in Kabbalah in the circles of intellectuals and theosophists. For example, it is well known that Knorr von Rosenroth the translator of Zoharic texts and the compiler of Kabbalah Denudata (Kabbalah Unveiled) was Boehme's follower. Some of the followers of Boehme were even ready to take giyur to become religious Jews to have an opportunity to study Zohar under the guidance of experienced traditional Master. And Boehme's thought exerted exclusively powerful influence on the rise and development of post-Kantian German speculative philosophy which tried to translate mythical images and symbolical terms of Boehme into the conceptual language of discursive philosophy. And here lies the principal difference between Lurianic and Hegelian approaches: the first one was existential and gnostical, the second one was pan-logical and speculative.

home pageProf. Evgueni Tortchinov

from the DONMEH forum
Sun, 18 Apr 1999

Note: Here is meant the modernistic and reformist interpretation of Judaism by a well known Jewish-German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, 1729-1786 (a grandfather of famous composer Felix Mendelssohn) whose understanding of Judaism influenced greatly the evaluations of this religion by such thinkers as Kant and Hegel.

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original content by Prof. Evgueni Tortchinov
page compiled by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 19 April 1999, last modified 3 August 2004