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Guest Book, E-mails and Letters to the Author.
Email inquiries with my response are subject to editing. I will not post
your comments if you do not want me to, so if you are not willing to have
your inquiry or comments posted please let me know.
For background to this dialog the reader may wish to look
at some of the articles posted under: Jung and the Kabbalah. Listed there are
previous publications and work in progress pertaining to the author's
research on Carl Gustav Jung and Jewish Mysticism.
12-1-04 (1) Jung, Kabbalah, and the Nazis. (2) Psychology and the Alter Rebbe: Dialogs
with Nachshon Zohari
Dear Dr. Drob,
I just finished reading your article Jung and the Kaballah. I enjoyed
it very much and I believe you are right on the money in your interpretation
of the influence of Kaballah on Dr. Jung. I am a psychotherapist and
Chassidic Jew living and working in Denver, CO
and have been combining Jungian and Kaballistic concepts with my clients for
years with very positive results. I have recognized their compatibility
for a long time. I am interested in knowing if you've ever learned the Tanya by the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur
Zalman of Liadi. I believe his exposition of the benoni, the intermediate man, and the struggles he encounters (and
IY'H overcomes) are extremely pertinent and helpful in applying Kaballistic
concepts in a psychotherapeutic setting. If you had time it would be
interesting to have a dialogue with you on this matter, but if you don't, I
would still like to extend a yasher
ko'ach to you and encourage you to continue your good work.
Nachshon Zohari, LCSW
Response of Sanford
Thanks so much writing! Coincidentally I was working on
finishing my book on Jung and the Kabbalah and listening to a shir on Chassidus on the "Tanya
line" here in Brooklyn at around the same time
you wrote me.
I am somewhat familiar with Tanya
as I used to attend a shul in Park Slope, Brooklyn
where the Rabbi (Shimmon Hecht) was from Chabad.
I have a great deal of interest in Chabad
thought, and I wrote about some of the issues your raise regarding the benoni etc. in an article I
wrote a number of years ago on Freud and Chasidus that I published in the Jewish Review and in my book Kabbalistic Metaphors, (Jason Aronson
in 2000). I am particularly interested in the Chabad perspective on the coincidence of opposites, and indeed
the shir I was listening to this
morning was on this idea as it is expressed in Pirke Avot (where we
are told of both the superiority of ha-olam
haba (this world) and ha-olam
ha-zeh (the world to come) I am certainly curious to hearing your
thoughts on these matters as they relate to psychotherapy, etc.
One of the problems I have had in completing my book on Jung is how to deal
with his purported early anti-semitism and the optimism he had that Hitler
and the Nazis would somehow catalyze the creative soul of the German people.
I wonder if you had any thoughts on this.
From: Nachshon Zohari 12-2-04
Thanks so much for writing back. I believe the most important thing to
take away from the Alter Rebbe's exposition of the benoni [the “intermediate man” SD] is to accept that I am a benoni (not a tzaddik) and therefore struggle defines who I am as a human
being. Chassidus teaches that we should not be depressed by this
thought, but rather, elevated and joyful. Instead of berating myself
over my "sinful" nature I can see myself engaged in a cosmic
struggle. As I am sure you know, Yisroel means "struggles with
G-d." Chassidus teaches that if we truly want to win over the
yetzer hara we must approach the battle with joy. So many of my clients
are ridden with guilt, regret, and despair but when I provide a Chassidc
(Kaballistic) context for their lives I can see their eyes get wide with
wonder and a new sense of hope. I believe Nietzsche's statement,
"If I have a why nothing can stop me," is so true. Kaballah
provides the "why," which is enough to keep most people going (and
joyful) in their struggle.
In terms of Jung's attitude toward the Nazis I don't think there is any need
to be apologetic for him. Jung's life (as he would be the first to
admit) was constantly evolving, and through his journey, he probably went
down more than a few ill-advised paths. I believe it is difficult to
judge someone who lived through that time without being there oneself.
As the famous Milgram shock studies showed, even nice "normal" folk
will savagely kill people under the right set of conditions. The Nazis
certainly took up all sorts of achetypical symbols in their quest to rouse
the German people back to a place of pride after the loss of World War I and
then the Great Depression. If you've ever seen footage of the Nuremberg
rallies you could see why someone like Jung would get excited about what was
happening. In my mind, the most important thing to know about a person
is how does he react when he discovers that he is dead wrong about
something. Jung's changed attitude after the war, and the visions that
resulted from his illness, shows me that he learned from his mistake. This
then propelled him to a much higher place (which is the whole point of being
Dear Nachshon: Yashur
koach! I love your concise formulations and while I believe the Jung
problem is a bit more complicated than you say I am essentially in agreement
with your formulation.
Re: Jung and the Kabbalah From Charles Coon 12/27/03
I just want to say once
more how fortunate I feel to have discovered your New Kabbalah website.
I am relatively new to Kabbalah and find your depth and clarity to be
wonderful… In reading your article on Jung and the Kabbalah I recalled
Harold Bloom's writing in his recent Genius. He says (p. 11)
"Fierce originality is one crucial component of literary genius, but
this originality itself is always canonical, in that it recognizes and comes
to terms with precursors." His statement seems applicable to Carl
Jung, with reference to Jung's effort to be original in the face of
his debt to the Kabbalah. In other of Bloom's works he seems to be
saying that originality is extremely difficult in light of a strong
literary precursor. I guess that's it for now. Again, Dr. Drob,
many thanks for your website.
Thanks for your interest and comments. Jung had a complex relationship with a
number of literary and philosophical precursors, including Nietzsche, Plato,
Kant, the Gernan Romantics, Hegel, as well as those he openly recognized such
as the alchemists. What I have tried to do in a series of papers, most of
which are not posted on my website, is to demarginalize the Kabbalah as an
influence on Jung, and to show why Jung would have been particularly anxious
about such an influence prior to World War II. After the war, he was much
more open to Jewish mysticism, writing about his Kabbalistic visions and
stating in an interview on his 80th birthday that the Hasidic rabbi, the
Maggid of Mesiritch actually anticipated his entire work. This is
interesting to me because the Maggid and other Hasidim psychologized the
Kabbalah in much the same way as Jung psychologized alchemy (and
insofar as alchemy itself was greatly influenced by the Kabbalah--see the
work of Raphael Patai--Jung thereby also psychologized the Kabbalah). I do
not, however believe either that psychology is the only or necessarily the
best way of comprehending the Kabbalah, or that the Kabbalah is the only or
necessarily best way to understand the development of Jung. The influences
are convoluted and complex--and when we look at Jung, we can begin to see how
any one thinker is indebted to the entire fabric of western (and in
Jung's case parts of Eastern) thought, and that a thinker's originality
consists in how that fabric is folded, twisted and turned. Although my more
orthodox or fanatical friends don't like it went I say this, the Kabbalah too
is a fabric of influences, some Jewish, Greek, Gnostic and beyond. My own
interpreation of the Kabbalah is that humankind completes creation and God
Himself (Tikkun ha-Olam) in part through the great dialog that
is the history of ideas, and that by participating in that history we can
grasp something of the divine.
From: Charles Coon 12/31/03 Dear
One more quick comment on
the Jung issue. I suppose that all of the "influences" one is
exposed should be considered, in a real sense, as "raw materials"
which we use in our creative endeavors.
The Lurianic Kabbalah is treated in detail in Sanford Drob's Symbols
of the Kabbalah and Kabbalistic Metaphors .
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