FREE ELECTRONIC LIBRARY - Dissertations, online materials

Pages:   || 2 |

«ton: Paradise Lost and the Question of Kabbalah Rosa Flotats ESTUDIS UNIVERSITARIS DE VIC T he proposal for analysing a poem taking Kabbalah as a ...»

-- [ Page 1 ] --

Milton: Paradise Lost

and the Question of Kabbalah

Rosa Flotats



he proposal for analysing a poem taking Kabbalah as a point of reference may be regarded as an

unfruitful and misleading approach due to the pejorative meaning it has for many people; howe-

ver, if the most important traits are brought clearly into view one comes to realise that Kabbalah

contributes decisively with the understanding and interpreting of a text. After all, Kabbalah is a mode of language and, especially, a mode of interpretation1. When faced with the imposing task of reading or interpreting a text we are confronted with the question of how much of this text we are able to identify and how much of our personality we need to give up in order to come to grips with its reality and fina- lity. It is hardly questionable that any final objective and the result obtained are always constrained by a combination of historical and/or traditional factors that will constitute the personality of that text. The reader who is also constrained by his own historical and traditional factors may feel forced to use what Harold Bloom names his own “belatedness”2, those conditions that influence him when interpreting the

text. According to Bloom in Kabbalah and Criticism:

A reader understanding a poem is indeed understanding his own reading of that poem....There are weak mis-readings and strong mis-readings, just as there are weak poems and strong poems, but there are no right readings, because reading a text is necessarily the reading of a whole system of texts, and meaning is always wandering around between texts (p.107).

It is this idea of “wandering between texts” and the importance of the reader’s meditation that leads us to the question of Kabbalah as part of a receiver’s belatedness.

Bloom states that Kabbalah must be understood as “tradition” and “reception”, the latter referring to the whole of Oral Law, and the former referring to “traditional wisdom”. It is a body of rhetoric or figu- rative language which offers a radical consideration of Man’s Being in relation to the world and to God.

Gershom Scholem in On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism points out that Kabbalism establishes a state of interdependence of all the worlds and all existential levels3. It is indeed a philosophy of rhetoric that offers an interpretation of the Bible, especially of the Torah, or Pentateuch, under the influence of Neoplatonism and Gnosticism together with the entire Jewish tradition of interpreting the Bible found in the Talmudic writings. It is a mysticism of profound religious feeling that manages to keep the Halakhah (“Sacred Law”) and the Aggadah (“legend”, “myth”) in union. Scholem defines it in terms of “traditional wisdom”: “a doc

–  –  –

Kabbalah too draws upon the mystic’s awareness of both the transcendence of God and His immanence within the true religious life, every facet of which is revelation of God, although God Himself is most clearly perceived through man’s introspection....The second element in Kabbalah is that of theosophy, which seeks to reveal the mysteries of the hidden life of God and the relationships between the divine life on the one hand and the life of man and creation on the other. Speculations of this type occupy a large and conspicuous area in kabbalistic teaching. Sometimes their connection with the mystical plane becomes rather tenuous and is superseded by an interpretative and homilectical vein which occasionally even results in a kind of kabbalistical pilpul.5 To study the universe the kabbalists based their work on the Bible. Therefore by means of myth and rhetoric Kabbalah seeks to explain the cause and process of the Creation6 with the underlying idea that Man participates in it and is constantly improving or impairing it. The mysteries of the divinity, seen seated on the Throne, can only be revealed to a few elect; hence the use of certain esotericism and modes of language which conceal them from the uninitiated and untrained. The theory of the ten Sefirot or attributes of God, represent aspects of the inaccessible One, the Supreme Ein-Sof and Ayin, the “Deus Absconditus”. Thus, the Sefirot form the active world of the Divinity, they are all contained in each other, and they are all the manifestation of God’s immanence in the world. They evince His dynamic unity and the process by means of which He manifests Himself as Creator.

The Sefiroth are presented as a reversed tree with Keter, or “Crown” and “Divine Light” at the top, out of which emanate all the other Sefirot. Hokhmah, or “wisdom”, forms the second Sefirah in the tree; Binah, or “understanding”, is the third following Hokhmah. These three form the Supernal Triad –the realm of the first manifestation of the Divinity. The other seven taken conjointly are considered the Sefiroth of creation, their names being, in order: (4) Hesed (“Mercy”); (5) Din (“Rigor/Judgement”) or Gevurah (“Power”); (6) Tiferet (“Beauty”) or Rabamim (Compassion); (7) Nezah (“Eternity”); (8) Hod (“Reverberation”, “majesty”);

(9) Yesod (“Foundation”); (10) Malkhut (“Kingdom”). Three lines or columns are exhibited: the active –at the right of Keter–, starting with Hokhmah followed by Hesed and Nezah; the passive –to the left of Keter–, starting with Binah and followed by Din and Hod. Finally, the central pillar, which descends from the Crown, Keter, to Tiferet, down to Yesod and then to Malkhut. This is also known as the pillar of “equilibrium”7.

The apparent complexity of the system seems to become clearer when interpreting God’s attributes in their application to the lower world. Marjorie H. Nicolson in her article “Milton and the Conjectura Cabbalistica” stresses the influence Christian Kabbala received from Ramon Llull, Philo Judaeus, Neoplatonism, and neo-Pythagoreanism and how in its turn it influenced the literature of the Renaissance and made a special entrance into England in the second quarter of the 17th century (p.2Christian Kabbalah began to evolve in the 15th century onward through certain mystics who tried to harmonize Kabbalistic doctrines with Christianity. Their intention was to demonstrate that “the true hidden meaning of the teachings of Kabbalah points in a Christian direction”9. According to Scholem, Christian Kabbalah spread from two sources: from the theological speculations of a number of Jewish converts from the end of the 13th century; and from speculation developed around the Platonic Academy

in Florence during the time of the Medicis. Scholem gives an account of this in the following terms:

The Christian speculation about the Kabbalah that first developed around the Platonic Academy


endowed by the Medicis in Florence and was pursued in close connection with the new horizons opened up by the Renaissance in general. These Florentine circles believed that they had discovered in the Kabbalah an original divine revelation to mankind that had been lost and would now be restored, and with the aid of which it was possible not only to understand the teachings of Pythagoras, Plato, and the Orphics, all of whom they greatly admired, but also the secrets of the Catholic faith. The founder of this Christian school of Kabbalah was the renowned Florentine prodigy Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-94)... his theses first brought the Kabbalah to the attention of many Christians. (Enc.

Jud. p.643-644).

He also explains that such views were not approved by the kabbalists themselves. In the 17th century the writings of Jacob Boehme and of Knorr von Rosenroth gave an impulse to Christian kabbalism.

In England such influence is met in the writings of some of the Cambridge Platonists such as Ralph Cudworth and Henry More. That Man is endowed with Free Will, the acceptance of a feminine part in God, and the acceptance of evil as a necessary requirement for the creation to take place are ideas that acquire some relevance in a theory that establishes pairs of opposites: light and darkness, good and evil, spirit and matter, male and female10. The Sefer ha-Zohar, or “Book of Splendour”, written in Spain around the 12th and 13th centuries, is constantly setting and exhibiting clear contrasts at all the levels of reality11. Thus Heaven finds its opposition with Hell: its landscape, hierarchical structure, palaces and so on have their counterparts in the world of darkness. Heaven and Hell are in God’s mind. They received their being at the moment God thought about them; hence the belief in God’s foreknowledge.

Kabbalism also offers the possibility of the return by an act of purification in repentance and suffering. The idea that suffering has meaning and that it is the consequence of exile had already been highlighted by Philo and the neoplatonists; it is this which encourages the movement of the return to the One or Monad. The Platonic idea that Man is a mirror of the great cosmos, himself a microcosmos, is taken up by the kabbalists. Philo, who united Hellenism and Judaism seems to be one of the most important influences on the kabbalists12. His influence and that of the Biblical texts, Platonism, Pythagoreanism, Neoplatonism and Gnosticism play the significant role of turning the Kabbalah into a completely eclectic system and method of interpretation. Metaphor, allegory, oxymoron, and metonymy are some of the modes of speech that are given preference in Kabbalistic writings.

A certain esotericism is obviously implied due to the linguistic symbolism and myth it makes use of.

Besides, all of these can be explained in terms of allowing the kabbalist student to adopt the approach and understanding that suits best their own creative nature. Kabbalah is a system that highlights free will, considering it a characteristic of humanity; therefore this system must be open, it can in no way restrict the freedom of any interpreter, follower, student, or reader.

This paper deals with the relation between Kabbalah and Paradise Lost. When summarizing Kabbalah and extracting its main concepts, stripped of the extraordinary rhetoric that constitutes their flesh and dress, we realize that certain coincidences with Milton’s thought as found in PL13 are astonishing. It is no wonder that Denis Saurat considered Milton’s philosophical ideas truly kabbalistic14. He believed that Milton knew the Zohar and had read other similar documents. In Milton, Man and Thinker, Saurat presents his arguments in defence of the theory that Milton was widely influenced by the Zohar and other kabbalistic writings15, and highlights in particular these verses on God’s retraction from PL (vii.170-2): “I uncircumscribed Myself retire,/ And put not forth My goodness, which is free/ To act or 46 ROSA FLOTATS not...” (p.102). In opposition to that, and according to Sanford Budick, PL should be read as a typological poem16. The similitudes with Judaism are brought about thanks to Milton’s knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and of certain Midrashim. However, his eclectic and often syncretistic approaches to concrete beliefs allow and encourage an interpretation that goes beyond at of conventional typology.

Not everything in Milton agrees with Kabbalism. His interest in politics and history surpasses that of the kabbalists themselves; very often the poem needs to be read in light of its social and historical background to be properly understood. In addition to that, R.J. Zwi Werblowsky in “Milton and the Conjectura Cabbalistica” offers an analysis of all the flawed arguments of D. Saurat and refutes them thoroughly17. Zwi Werblowskky states that Saurat relied on a very bad translation of the Zohar, and that most of the points used by Saurat are simply Christian and/or mystical commonplaces. He also points out Saurat’s misunderstanding of God’s Zimzum, or “retraction”. Still, there seem to be enough reasons to believe that drawing from kabbalism might have proved instrumental in the reinforcement and dramatization of some beliefs such as Milton’s anti-Trinitarianism and concept of evil. The idea, found in H.

Bloom18, which interprets the triads as the relation in the poem between a sign, its object, and the interpreting thought, together with his statement that the “Sefirotic tree is a working model for a theory of poetic influence” (p.53) well justify the use of some of these ideas in the overall structure of the poem, allowing it at the same time to remain open to different interpretations. A poem is also a creation and the poet is like the demiurge who gives essence and existence to something concrete.

There are a variety of ideas in PL that coincide with Kabbalism. However, Milton might have developed similar ideas and reached similar conclusions from his own reading, analysing, and thinking. One such issue that Kabbalah took from Jewish theology and which coincides with Christian theology as well is “Free Will”, which Milton bounds up with reason, a faculty of Man that allows him to reach a state of balance or “equilibrium”. The concept of freedom is perhaps the strongest in PL, it is constantly present and all the events that take place stem therefrom. This is all too clear in the following extract where God

speaking to the Son foresees that man will fall:

For Man will hearken to his (Satan’s) glozing lies, And easily transgress the sole command, Sole pledge of his obedience: so will fall He and his faithless progeny. Whose fault?

Whose but his own? Ingrate, he had of me All he could have; I made him just and right, Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.

Such I created all the Ethereal Powers And Spirits, both them who stood and them who failed;

Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.

...What praise could they receive, What pleasure I, from such obedience paid, When Will and Reason (Reason also is Choice), Useless and vain, of freedom both despoiled, Made passive both, had served Necessity, Not Me? They, therefore, as to right belonged (iii. 93-112)19 So were created,


Pages:   || 2 |

Similar works:

«Le 25 juin 2016 au soir à Nouakchott, au restaurant Le Délice, l’Association des Ecrivains Mauritaniens d’Expression Française (AEMEF) a organisé une cérémonie pour rendre hommage au romancier M’Barek Ould Beyrouk et célébrer le « Prix Ahmadou Kourouma » qu’il a obtenu. La manifestation a connu la présence d’écrivains, de journalistes, d’hommes de culture et de diplomates dont son Excellence, Monsieur Joël MEYER L’Ambassadeur de France. Plusieurs intervenants se sont...»

«ASSESSING OLDER DRIVER’S FITNESS TO DRIVE ALLOWING FOR A LOW MILEAGE BIAS: USING THE GRIMPS SCREENING TEST Koppel, S., Langford, J., Charlton, J., Fildes, B., Frith, W. & Newstead, S.ABSTRACT Data from 244 older drivers in New Zealand have been used to demonstrate that older drivers who travel low mileages are liable to have more crashes per distance driven than older drivers who travel higher mileages. The results showed that drivers travelling 50 km or less per week had a considerably...»

«Sensors 2013, 13, 3635-3651; doi:10.3390/s130303635 OPEN ACCESS sensors ISSN 1424-8220 www.mdpi.com/journal/sensors Article Fabrication and Characterisation of the Graphene Ring Micro Electrode (GRiME) with an Integrated, Concentric Ag/AgCl Reference Electrode James W. Dickinson, Michael Bromley, Fabrice P. L. Andrieux and Colin Boxall * Engineering Department, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YR, UK; E-Mails: j.dickinson2@lancaster.ac.uk (J.W.D.); m.bromley@lancaster.ac.uk (M.B.);...»

«'She Died Like Good Old Jacob': Deathbed Scenes and Inversions of Power in New England, ERIK R. SEEMAN XPECTING the young man's death at any moment, the RevE erend Ebenezer Parkman of Westborough, Massachusetts, and the dying man's family gathered around the bed of Isaiah Pratt in February 1742. The mourners wept as Pratt seemed to die, when Parkman noticed that 'by Degrees he came to,' and those present 'were astonished.' They were to be yet more astonished, for Pratt related to them a...»

«Math Geosci (2012) 44:27–46 DOI 10.1007/s11004-011-9366-1 Co-simulating Total and Soluble Copper Grades in an Oxide Ore Deposit Xavier Emery Received: 18 April 2011 / Accepted: 10 September 2011 / Published online: 22 October 2011 © International Association for Mathematical Geosciences 2011 Abstract In oxide copper deposits, the acid soluble copper represents the fraction of total copper recoverable by heap leaching. Two difficulties often complicate the joint modeling and simulation of...»

«May 1, 2013 JACQUE (JODY) L. EMEL Graduate School of Geography Clark University Worcester, MA 01610-1477 Telephone: (508) 793-7317 Fax: (508) 793-8881 PROFESSIONAL POSITIONS 2010-2011 Associate Director, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University 2008-2010 Acting Director, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University 2002-2004 Chair, Women’s Studies Program, Clark University 1998-1999 Chair, Women’s Studies Program, Clark University 1996-1998 Co-Chair, Women’s Studies Program, Clark...»

«MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY AUTHORITY MEETING THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2014 2310 BROENING HWY, BALTIMORE, MD 21224 OPEN SESSION Wilson Parran, Acting Chair MEMBERS ATTENDING: P. Jack Basso Rev. Dr. William Calhoun (via telephone) Mary Beyer Halsey William K. Hellmann Arthur Hock A. Bradley Mims Michael Whitson STAFF ATTENDING: Eric Backes Percy Dangerfield Donna DiCerbo Trudy Edwards Patrick Fleming Bruce Gartner Jaclyn Hartman Meshelle Howard Doug Hutcheson Derek Jones Col. Mike Kundrat...»

«BUTLER COUNTY PERFORMANCE AUDIT DECEMBER 15, 2011 To the Residents and elected officials of Butler County: Based on the County Commissioner’s request, a performance audit of Butler County was initiated to assess the following functional areas: financial management and strategic planning, human resources, administrative offices and departments, public safety and criminal justice, appointed commissions, authorities, and departments, public works, and human services. These areas were selected...»

«Building Models of Regular Scenes from Structure-and-Motion Anton van den Hengel, Anthony Dick, Thorsten Thorm¨ hlen, Ben Ward a School of Computer Science, University of Adelaide, AUSTRALIA http://www.cs.adelaide.edu.au/~vision/ Philip H. S. Torr∗ Department of Computing, Oxford Brookes University, UK http://cms.brookes.ac.uk/staff/PhilipTorr/ Abstract This paper describes a method for generating a model-based reconstruction of a scene from image data. The method uses the camera models and...»

«Management Science Letters 3 (2013) 1125–1132 Contents lists available at GrowingScience Management Science Letters homepage: www.GrowingScience.com/msl Investigating the effect of growth and financial strength variables on the financial leverage: Evidence from the Tehran Stock Exchange   Iman Dadashia*, Elham Mansouriniab, Milad Emamgholipourb, Seyedeh Maryam Babanejad Bagheria and Ali Mohammadpour Arabic a Department of Accounting, Babol Branch, Islamic Azad University, Babol, Iran b Young...»

«‘Longing for Oneself’ This essay acknowledges that hybridism, in a ‘LONGING FOR troubling reminiscence of the 19th century debate ONESELF’: HYBRIDISM on race and the hybrids is a central issue of debate in the social sciences today. The AND MISCEGENATION IN Portuguese case is one of the most complex and intriguing: if Brazil has been systematically COLONIAL AND praised as the example of the humanistic and miscegenating characteristic of Portuguese POSTCOLONIAL expansion, it has also...»

«2012-2013 Program Manual & Terrapin Care 2010-2011 Contacts Laura Cattell Noll Conservation Technician lcattell@aqua.org 410.576.1508 Holly Fowler Project Manager hfowler@aqua.org 410.576.3851 National Aquarium Conservation Department Pier 3, 501 East Pratt Street Baltimore, MD 21202-3194 Fax: 410-986-2356 www.aqua.org Program Calendar Date Action 1 week prior to Set up tank and allow it to cycle terrapin arrival August Hatchling terrapins distributed to classrooms August Rinse filter, clean...»

<<  HOME   |    CONTACTS
2016 www.dissertation.xlibx.info - Dissertations, online materials

Materials of this site are available for review, all rights belong to their respective owners.
If you do not agree with the fact that your material is placed on this site, please, email us, we will within 1-2 business days delete him.