the vilna gaon dons beggar’s clothes and goes out of
town to do penance. on the way home there are some
strange happenings. original music & images added to a
justify the wild associative leaps that I make in this
video? For example, by substituting Netanyahu for the
Vilna Gaon, and Barak Obama for Moshiach? The answer is
that I am following the formula of Nachman of Breslav,
when he writes, “my Torah is completely behinot
(hebrew: “associations”). A string of intuitive
associations that generates a work salad, such as
Nachman’s “Likutei Moharan” (hebrew: “collected
essays”) is based on inductive rather than deductive
logic. Inductive logic was taught by Francis Bacon and
Georg Hamann within the Christian tradition, and no
doubt Nachman found similar sources within the Jewish
tradition he studied. What follows is my own essay
about how inductive thinking is the key to
understanding Nachman of Breslav. Since most of my
videos also are constructed inductively, it is an
important essay to read if you wish to make sense of
what I am trying to do in the videos you have here on
net. ……………………………………. ….

June 5, 2009
(4) LM 4
(a) imagery (“bilder”)
(b) analogy
(c) parataxis
(d) paradox
(e) multiple levels of language
(f) affective terminology
FW: The Breslaver Hassidic movement as it is set up and operates today is an
introverted sect, in contrast to the Chabad Hassidic movement which is set up and
operates today as an extroverted sect. Breslavers tend to keep to themselves, while
Chabadniks drive around town in Mitzvah Tanks seeking wayward Jews as potential
recruits. But opposite as the two sects are in that respect, one thing they have in
common is an aversion to “philosophy” in its traditional academic sense. Both sects
condemn “philosophy” as “chochmot chizoniot” (external wisdom) or “avodah
zorah” (strange work). even through ironically they both embody philosophy in the
most profound manner possible. Breslav is largely Jewish neo-Platonism, while
Chabad is largely Jewish rationalist Aristotelianism. However, since, of course, their
educational curriculums contain no Philosophy 101 course. they pay the price of
ignorance and intolerance as a result. The Chabad press, for example, once
published Nissan Mindel’s excellent “The Philosophy of Chabad”, but today that book
is almost impossible to find, and Chabad has no plans to republish it. The book is
being supressed most likely because in that book Mindel contends that Chabad is
ideologically within the tradition of Moses Maimonides’ “Guide For The Perplexed”,
which, as everybody except Chabadniks themselves know, is ideologically within the
tradition of Aristotle. Breslavers are even more anti-rational than Chabadniks, since
their theory base is primarily neo-Platonic mysticism. Merely mention the word Plato at
a Breslaver shul on the Sabbath, and you can be sure nobody will invite you to dinner!
Or go to a Breslaver mikvah after demonstrating your philosophical insights
concerning the writings of Nachman, and there is a good chance that after you emerge
from the holy waters you will not find the clothes you hung up!
FW: Another price that Hasidic sects pay for ignoring their intellectual roots is
mistranslating the writings of their own originators. The originators, fortunately, were
profound philosophers, but much of what they are philosophizing is wasted on their
disciples, who are preachers of the sect rather than teachers of the Word. Preachers of
a sect aim at building up the sect by glorifying their colleagues, in this case the
“tzaddikim” (Hebrew: pius ones) or “talmid chachams” (Hebrew: wise students,
students of wisdom) of the local congregation. Teachers, on the other hand, have a
primary loyalty to the subject matter they teach, i.e., to the truth. By translating the
phrase “talmid chacham” as “wise student” or “Torah scholar” rather than as “student of
wisdom”, the deeper reference of the word “chochmah” (wisdom) to the right pillar of
the tree of life, or inductive logic, goes into the trash can, and we end up with the
notion that anybody who sect leaders designate as “wise student” or “Torah scholar” is
thereby empowered to serve as a spiritual guide. But preachers are not necessarily
teachers, and so most talmid chacham’s today are serving the needs of the sect rather
than propagating the message of the sect founder. Thus, for example, Nachman’s
emphasis on the individual’s search for God by “hitbod’dut” (being alone with God) is
these days transformed into a typical cult emphasis on groupie gatherings, mob
hysteria, guru adoration, nonsense “bubbeh maysehs” (Yiddish: grandmother stories),
18th century sect uniforms and scribbling the name of Nachman of Breslav on public
buildings. Have you heard, for example, the bubbeh mayseh about how Nachman
himself is sitting up there somewhere near God’s footstool sending letters or emails to
the chosen few?! What ever happened to the basic belief of Judaism that God is One,
not two or three or whatever?
FW: But fools step in where angels fear to tread, as the saying goes, and so this essay
is all about the roots of the Breslaver Hasidism in the neo-Platonic tradition as this was
modified by Francis Bacon in the scientific renaissance of the 16th century. As if this
topic is not heretical enough, I will in this work find much of the support for my
contentions in the writings of a Christian theologian whose writings appeared in
Europe not far from the doorstep of Nachman, fifty years or so before Nachman wrote
his main work, his “Collected Essays” (Hebrew: Likutei Moharan). Now, I am not at all
claiming here that Nachman plagiarised Johann Georg Hamann, since it is extremely
unlikely that a person growing up in the communities that Nachman did had direct
contact with the work of Hamann. But the mere historical fact that the two authors
published books dealing with similar topics in a similar manner in the same historical
period certainly suggests that they both were tapping parallel Christian and Jewish
threads of the religious world that flourished in 18th and 19th century Eastern Europe.
One can muse that perhaps Nachman during his occasional trips to Lemburg for
medical treatment or to dialogue with members of the Haskalah movement thriving
there did come upon a Yiddish translation of something by Hamann or by one of the
followers of Hamann, but to date there is little basis for such fantasies.
FW: My goals in this essay are modest. I will make use of an excellent commentary
upon the work of Hamann by James O’Flaherty, his “Johann Georg Hamann”, Twayne
Publishers, and merely demonstrate how the same six key ideas which, he maintains,
underlie the work of Hamann can be used as a royal highway to quickly penetrate
what appears to be in the writings of Nachman of Breslav an impenetrable
hermeneutic jungle. As a prelude to my interweaving of Hamann and Nachman, I will
tap a bit of the philosophical tradition which underlies both authors, in particular the
work of Francis Bacon who lived in the 16th century. Why Francis Bacon? Because
even though Hamann and Nachman are often cited as the epitome of anti-rationalism,
yet at the heart of both authors is a sort of logic which is quite profoundly rational. We
will contrast inductive logic, what Bacon calls concrete, analogical logic based upon
juxtaposing ideas, with deductive logic, which is abstract, mathematical, systematic,
and based upon arranging ideas in syllogisms. Once we grasp this distinction
between the two types of logic, we will understand why in essays that embody
reasoning of the inductive sort, Hamann and Nachman can tell us – without fibbing – to
avoid like the plague “philosophy” or “reason” and rely upon faith. The two theologians
simply are splitting hairs between induction (which they like) and deduction (which
they do not like). They mystify us, however, by calling deduction “philosophy” and
induction “kabbalah” or “Judaism or “the Word of God”. But obviously any philosophy
or theology worth the name must incorporate both sorts of thinking. So let’s stop mixing
up apples and pears and recognize both of them as fruit! The Word of God is smart
enough to encompass both the left pillar of sefirot (deduction, differentiation, creation,
the downward path), and the right pillar of sefirot (induction, integration, redemption,
the upward path back to God). We are dealing, after all, with the dialectical tradition of
mainstream Judaism, within which Chabad appeals to folks that stress the left pillar,
while Breslav appeals to folks that stress the right pillar. For the Catholics analogous
slots are occupied by the Dominicans (rationalists) and the Franciscans (pietists),
respectively. O’Flaherty says it well:
O 87. A superficial analysis of Hamann’s prose may result in the conclusion that its all
too frequent obscurity is rooted in sheer irrationalism. This is, however, by no means
the case. Its obscurity derives for the most part from an excessive use of intuitive
reason rather than from true irrationalism – quite a different matter. Having seen to
what extent Hamann is committed to intuitive or analogical reasoning, while at the
same time rejecting the abstractions of the Enlightenment, we can more readily
understand why he alternates between praise and vilification in his references to
reason. Thus, when he makes such statements as “Faith has need of reason just as
much as reason needs faith”, “Without language we would have no reason, without
reason no religion,” As soon as one knows what reason is, all conflict with revelation
ceases, since Hamann is obviously referring to what he considers the legitimate use of
FW: Most of the essays that constitute Nachman’s Likutei Moharan anthology would
serve as examples of Nachman’s use of intuitive reason, of induction, and I have here
merely selected LM 4 arbitrarily from the list. Like the others, the overall structure of LM
4 consists of a Houdini magical demonstration of how just about anything can be seen
as an aspect of anything else, without losing the encompassing subordination of
particulars to emerging generalities. The longer the process of finding associations
and aspects (Hebrew: “behinot”) goes on, the more the series of particular items
coalesces into higher and higher levels of integration and encompassing general
ideas. But let’s now zoom in and be specific. On the side of the particulars Nachman
cites at the outset a Talmudic yarn calculated to boggle any deductively oriented mind
and delight the imagination of most 5 year olds. Here is the Talmudic fable.
LM 4:10 Rabbah bar bar Chanah recounted: One time we were traveling on a ship
and we saw this fish in whose nostrils was sitting a mudeater. The fish died and the
water tossed it about and cast it ashore. It destroyed sixty cities. Sixty cities then ate
from it. Sixty cities salted its flesh. And from one eyeball they filled three hundred kegs
with oil. When we returned after twelve months time, we saw them sawing planks from
its bones with which to rebuild those cities. (Bava Batra 73b)
FW: And on the other end of the chain of exegesis in LM 4 Nachman presents his final
inductively derived generalization.
LM 4:11. This (the above Talmudic story) is the explanation of the opening verse: “I
am God your Lord Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of
FW: The entire essay LM 4 is a string of associations and analogies that begins with
the ship, the fish, the mudeater, the cities, the oil and the bones and gradually arrives
at a level of intuitive wisdom sufficiently profound to qualify as an important
contribution to our grasp of the meaning of God’s role in the Exodus saga. You will
see, of course, that during this intuitive, inductive process of “behinot” there are very
few abstract, deductive syllogisms of the sort “if A and B, therefore C”. The process is
mostly intuitive leaps of the sort, “this is an aspect of that, and that is an aspect of
something else”. My project, then, outrageous as it might appear to be at the outset, is
to apply an account of the methodology of Christian theologian Johann Georg
Hamann, in an effort to decode the compositional procedure which Nachman has
followed in this LM 4 essay. First I will set out some simple logical rules that Francis
Bacon gave us in the 16th century, and then I will present a grid of six linguistic
techniques which, according to O’Flaherty, 18th century Romanticism overlaid on
Bacon’s framework. In a word, 16th century Bacon plus 18th century Romanticism
together give us a key to decode much of the vast, profound, Scriptural and kabbalistic
tapestry which is the work of either Hamann or Nachman of Breslav. I am grateful to
O’Flaherty for making these connections clear to me and encourage you also to profit
from the work of an excellent teacher by reading his book. Just substitute Moses for
Jesus as you read and your Jewish ego will be immune to indoctrination!
Here then, to start off, is a brief chapter summarizing the contribution of Francis Bacon
concerning these matters. My text is simply a presentation of the succinct summary
given us by Vatican priest Frederick Copleston in his “History of Philosophy”, Volume
III. But Hamann and Nachman of Breslav are figures of the late18th century, and so in
their work a tradition of Romantic style exegesis and poetry overlays and masks the
underlying rigorous logical foundation provided by Bacon. Bacon’s theory of induction
is the philosophical seed of which Hamann and Nachman are glorious flowerings. For
what appears in their work to be the exact opposite of scientific rigor is indeed, as I
shall demonstrate here, a meticulously devised associative network of the most
profound logical interconnections. Let us begin, therefore, with the basic logical
principles of Francis Bacon, which are spelled out quite clearly by Copleston in his
presentation of the influence of the new Renaissance sciences on philosophy.
C 289. As a preliminary, one may remind oneself of the two elements of scientific
method, namely the observational and inductive side and the deductive and
mathematical side. The first aspect of scientific method, namely observation of the
empirical data as a basis for induction and for discovering causes, was stressed by
Francis Bacon.
C 300. [According to Bacon] the purpose of science is the extension of the dominion of
the human race over nature; but this can be achieved only by a real knowledge of
nature; we cannot obtain effects without an accurate knowledge of causes . . . The
syllogism (deduction) consists of propositions; and propositions consist of words; and
words express concepts. Thus, if the concepts are confused and if they are the result of
over hasty abstraction, nothing which is built upon them is secure. Our only hope lies
in true induction. . . finding the truth may proceed from sense and the perception of
particulars to immediately attainable axioms and thence gradually and patiently, to
more general axioms. . . this is the true way. The mind proceeds from a careful and
patient examination of particulars to the interpretation of nature. . . . Induction starts
with the operation of the senses; but it requires the co-operation of mind, though the
mind’s activity must be controlled by observation . . . Bacon rejects the syllogism on the
ground that induction must take its rise in the observation of things, of particular facts
or events, and must stick to them as closely as possible. The logicians wing their way
at once to the most general principles and deduce conclusions syllogistically . . . In
induction we proceed in the opposite direction to that in which we proceed in
C 302. But to attain a certain knowledge of nature is not so easy or simple as it may
sound at first hearing, for the human mind is influenced by preconceptions and
prejudices which bear upon our interpretation of experience and distort our judgments.
It is necessary, then, to draw attention to “the idols and false notions” which inevitably
influence the human mind and render science difficult of attainment unless one is
aware of them and warned against them. Hence Bacon’s famous doctrine of “the
idols”. There are four main types, the idols of the tribe, the idols of the cave or den, the
idols of the market place and the idols of the theater . . . (a) The “idols of the tribe” are
those errors, the tendency to which is inherent in human nature and which hinder
objective judgment. For example, man is prone to rest content with that aspect of
things which strikes the senses . . .”for what a man would like to be true, to that he
tends to give credence”. Further the human mind is prone to indulge in abstractions,
and it tends to conceive as constant what is really changing or in flux. (b) The “idols of
the den” are the errors peculiar to each individual, arising from his temperament,
education, reading and the special influences which have weighed with him as an
individual. These factors lead him to interpret phenomena according to the viewpoint
of his own den or cave. (See Plato’s metaphor of the cave.) (c) The “idols of the market
place” are errors due to the influence of language . . . Sometimes words are employed
when there are no corresponding things. (d) The “idols of the theater” are the
philosophical systems of the past, which are nothing better than stage plays
representing unreal worlds of man’s own creation.
C 305. The best demonstration is experience. But it is necessary to make a distinction.
Mere experience is not enough . . . True experience is planned, . . . proceeding by an
orderly and methodically inductive process. What, then, is true induction, positively
considered? Human power is directed to or consists in being able to generate a new
form in a given nature. (Read: a new gestalt in a new situation, here and now.) From
this it follows that human science is directed to the discovery of the forms of things.
Form does not refer to the final cause; the form or formal cause of a given nature is
such that “given the form, the nature infallibly follows”. It is the law which constitutes a
nature. . . . the primary task is to prepare a “sufficient and good natural and
“experimental history” based on the facts (Read: what Hegel labels an “objective
history” in contrast to our subjective illusions.) . . . These tables having been
constructed, the work of induction really begins (Read: what Nachman is referring to
when he says, “my Torah is entirely behinot”, i.e., a string of associations and
interpretations.) . . . which is not completed until a positive affirmation is arrived at. (For
example, the “existential message of the dream”, which emerges at the end of a three
hour gestalt dreamwork session, which is what Maimonides labels the unripe fruit of
prophecy now ripened into a Word of God.)
FW: But before we jump into the great ocean, the turbid waters of inductive
interpretations and Romantic theological poetry that is the work of Hamann and
Nachman, let us stop at the banks of the ocean and examine a rather clearcut version
of the same process, a contemporary example cut from the same cloth. I refer to the
Gestalt Therapy lore of Frederick Perls, which while it makes no pretense of being the
basis of a religious sect, probably has attracted more devotees worldwide than the
opus of either Hamann or Nachman of Breslav. Perls gives the seeker after truth a
rather simple task to explore. He tells me, his gestalt therapy client, to talk about what
pops into my awareness and to stay in the here and now. Focusing this process on a
dream raises the efficiency level, but just shooting the breeze also will yield useful
results. Now, if I accept Fritz’s invitation and set out on this verbal monologue, a
mysterious sequence of events is likely to unfold. As I listen to what comes out of my
mouth and respond to those sounds, a sort of instantaneous feedback system is
generated. In fact, it is genesis in the most profound biblical sense. For lo and behold, I
begin to create a world. I am operating, as says Maimonides in his “Guide For The
Perplexed”, “in the image of God”. For I am copying the manner in which God does His
creating. We need to distinguish the path of Fritz Perls from the path of Sigmund Freud
in these matters. For if the therapist has me lie down while I do my dreamwork
monologue, and if he hides behind me and limits much of his function to being a tape
recorder documenting my output, then the setting is Freudian. But if, on the other hand,
the therapist takes an active role, helping me to take responsibility for my actions and
deal actively with the impediments to truth which come up along the way, then we
have the Gestalt approach. From the theological point of view, the crucial element that
Perls and Freud share here is that language is the medium for a truth search, and that
man speaking is paralleling God creating His world.
FW: Entering even further into theological analogies to psychological processes, do
we not have here also the unfolding of the love affair of Adam and Eve, as I, the
subject, the kabbalistic First Adam, emanate language, the object, Eve from my own
being and then precede to constantly impregnate it/her with my ideas as my
dreamwork monologue goes on and on? Just label me, as Nachman does, the Talmid
Chacham, wise student learning as I go along, and label my verbal output “my world”,
and we have the makings of a kabbalistic mystical system, with chochmah (Hebrew:
wisdom) impregnating binah (Hebrew: building a world) with ideas. In the neo-Platonic
version of the kabbalistic tradition, all this is unfolds on the level of pure Platonic ideas,
known as “sefirot”. The Hebrew word “sefirah” means “number”, as in the use of
numbers by Pythagoras in Greek philosophy to relate theological truth. In terms of the
Romanticism of the 18th century I am, furthermore, during the course of my Gestalt
monologue generating “poetry”, in the sense of an emotionally grounded form of
linguistic action. Returning to Francis Bacon, let me repeat the previous quote and we
will explore what else we may learn from it.
C: Human science is directed to the discovery of the forms of things. Form does not
refer to the final cause; the form or formal cause of a given nature is such that “given
the form, the nature infallibly follows”. It is the law which constitutes a nature. . . . The
primary task is to prepare a “sufficient and good natural and “experimental history”
based on the facts. . . These tables having been constructed, the work of induction
really begins . . which is not completed until a positive affirmation is arrived at.
FW: Let us interweave these words of Bacon with the Gestalt therapy monologue. The
monologue of here and now verbal expression is part of the flow of here and now
contact experiences. These experiences constitute what Bacon labels an objectively
real “experimental history based on the facts”, and what Hegel labels an “objective
history” of real experiences. Then, “these tables having been constructed the work of
induction really begins, which is not completed until a positive affirmation is arrived at”.
The positive affirmation that is the result of the work of induction is a new idea which is
the result of “Platonic collection”, i.e., gestalt formation or a figure emerging from a
ground here and now. In Gestalt dreamwork, this could be, for example, the “existential
message of the dream” that might occur to the protagonist after three hours of
exploring his objective history in the here and now dreamwork process. The
protagonist is working his way up from specific concrete contact moments, weak
gestalts (Perls), low level monads (Leibniz), some would say angels (Maimonides),
towards more and more encompassing strong gestalts, monadologies, some would
say archangels. Maimonides labels them “cherubim”, since the Hebrew root is “karov”
(near), and cherubim are closer to the oneness that is God than are ordinary angels.
The new idea emerging from the void of not knowing the answer is what Bacon labels
“the form of things”, the “law which constitutes its nature”. He is referring to the
distinction between matter and form, the form being the idea which is the gestalt or
pattern which man imposes upon the items of his sensory and motor experience.
Nachman says in LM 1:1, “The Jew must always focus on the inner intelligence/idea of
every thing, and bind himself to the wisdom and inner idea that is to be found in each
thing. This so that the idea which is in each thing may enlighten him, that he may draw
closer to God through that thing.” We already have here the logical seed upon which
Nachman built his LM 4, but as a transition into the text of Nachman let us see what his
contemporary Hamann has to say concerning similar matters. Hamann is a convenient
bridge here, linking Francis Bacon with Nachman of Breslav.
O: While it is correct to say that Hamann stands in the empirical tradition of Francis
Bacon, John Locke, and Hume, the important qualification must be added that for him
experience is always crystalized in language. There exists, of course, an inner
correlate of the objective facts of language, the invisible essence of our soul which is
conjoined with the outer correlate by an “incomprehensible bond”, which he describes,
invoking religious terminology, as a “sacrament”. But whatever the nature of the inner
correlate, it is the evidence of the objective facts of language to which Hamann
appeals, and from which he draws inferences as to the nature of mind and of reality. “I
concern myself with the letter and with what is visible and material” . . . In his view God
is above all a speaking God, indeed an Author: “God reveals Himself; the Creator of
the World is a Writer”. It is always God’s Word which evokes our rational powers in the
first place. Hamann employs a sexual metaphor in this connection, stating that our
reason must be “impregnated” by the “seed of the divine Word”.
FW: It is this mysterious freely associating monologue in the here and now, this mix of
thinking and speaking unimpeded by the distractions of everyday cause and effect
logic, which is the open sesame which for inductive “science” (from the Latin, “scire”, to
know) unleashes something analogous to The Word.
C: Such unity as man possesses is mysterious in its origins, and derives from a source
which lies outside of himself. Only through the individual positive response to the
Logos can man’s collective powers of faith, passion, and reason be brought into
harmony. Otherwise they fall all too easily into strife with one another. For Hamann
God is the One in whom all opposites coincide, and it is this principle of the
coincidentia oppositorum which, embodied in the Logos and manifested above all in
the “form of a servant” in which Christ appeared, which succeeds in reconciling the
opposites within the human psyche. . . . “Here on this earth there is no possibility of a
metamorphosis or transfiguration into the divine nature, but only the old message of
FW: Jews do not need the allusion to Jesus as “the form of a servant”. In LM 4, which
we are considering here, Nachman attributes to Moses the same function.
LM 4:9. This is: “No man knows [the burial place of Moses] – even Moses did not
know. For he was negated in Ein Sof (Hebrew: God as Endless). All this was at his
death. However, also during his lifetime Moses certainly stripped away all corporeality
and attached himself to the Light of Ein Sof. But then, this stripping was in an aspect of
“the living creatures ran [from being an ego] and returned [to being an ego](Ezekiel
1:14). This is because the Holy One desires our service, as is written (Yom Kippur
Liturgy), “You desire praise from mounds of dust, from lumps of clay.”
FW: Hamann, writing only a few years before Nachman, created his own theology by
portraying language as a powerful creative or destructive force in the world. We need
not now grope further back into the history of religion to find other predecessors of
Hamann and Nachman. It is sufficient to recognize that the two authors here under
scrutiny are drinking from the same fountain, with some minor variations. One of these
is the question whether we are to label the holistic embodiment of language the Jesus
function or the Moses function. We will ignore that battle, but now we are ready to
appreciate Nachman’s contribution in LM 4 to this linguistically inspired tradition of the
theology of The Word. As we read, we will keep in mind (a) that YHVH and the Talmid
Chakham (wise student, Torah Scholar) are standing in for the subject, the Divine
Author learning as he creates His world, and (b) that Elohim is standing in for the
object, the world being created, and (c) that the Kingdom of God, Malkhut d’Kedushah,
is standing in for the language of the dreamwork monologue on the material level. The
problem, for Nachman in particular and for Romanticism in general, is that language in
its pure, primordial form of “poetry” has been co-opted by the system of deductive logic
and lost its original roots in inductive logic. For Nachman, as for Hamann, it is only the
complete system encompassing deduction and induction in a higher synthesis which
will give us a “foretaste of the World to Come”, the messianic idea, and get us out of
Egyptland. This is a longing, paradoxically, on the one hand for the messianic future
and on the other hand for the pre-Industrial middle ages of shtetl life. Nachman is
talking primarily about a Gestalt or hitbod’dut (being alone with myself and talking to
God) monologue here, even though he provides a second level of meaning for those
not privy to philosophy and linguistics, and for those who need an excuse to follow
Torah Scholars and other gurus blindly. For as a matter of fact, (a) hitbod’dut and (b)
confessing in front of a Torah Scholar, and (c) doing a Gestalt Therapy monologue, all
mean the same thing, given the manner in which the concepts are used in Breslav
FW: Confessing in front of a Wise Student means doing my Gestalt Therapy
monologue in the manner of a feedback loop and carefully (as the “subject”) paying
attention myself to what comes out of my mouth (the “object”). Just substitute “God is
listening” for “I am listening” or “the wise student is listening” and this will be clear.
Basically, it is The Author, the Creator, the Gestalt client, who is listening to Him
creating, and this feedback loop by itself re-animates the dead forms, the selfinterrupting
non-creative speech habits and manipulations, which man in his Fallen
state tends to spew forth. In the down-to-earth jargon of Fritz Perls, instead of
verbalizing my usual elephantshit in defense of my ego games, I need to emanate
poetry, sacred truth from my true source. What clearly distinguishes Breslav pietism
from Chabad rationalism is the emphasis on being alone before God, me being
immersed in my monologue and relying on faith, rather than me being part of a vast
pyramid of scholars and relying on guidance from a Jewish pope on the top of the
pyramid. The Catholic parallel here is the Dominican sect versus the Franciscan sect,
or more generally the Catholics versus the Protestants.
(4) LM 4
FW: Here, then, is the beginning of Nachman’s LM 4, as it is published by the official
Breslaver translators. Let’s immerse ourselves in Nachman’s poetically inspired prose
for a few moments, to get a sense of the overwhelming assault to which our rational,
deductive faculties is subjected in such an experience.
PROLOGUE. I am God your Lord, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from
the house of slavery. (Exodus 20:2)
LM 4:1. When a person knows that everything that happens to him is for his benefit,
this perception is a foretaste of the World to Come. As said, “When He is
YHVH, I will praise His word; when He is Elohim, I will praise His word” (Psalms
56:11). And this perception is a foretaste of the World to Come, as our Sages taught:
“On that day God shall be one and His name one” (Zechariah 14:9). They asked: Is He
now not one? And our Sages answered: At present the blessing “Who is good and
beneficent” is recited over good, whereas “the truthful Judge” is recited over bad. But
in the Future it will be entirely “Who is good and beneficent”(Pesachim 50a). The holy
name YHVH and the holy name Elohim will be totally one.
LM 4:2. Now it is impossible for a person to grasp this perception except when he
uplifts Malkhut d’Kedushah (Kingdom of Holiness) from its exile among the nations.
For presently, malkhut and rule the nations. This is the reason
. They nurse from the
aspect of Malkhut, which is called Elohim, as is written (Psalms 74:122) “Elohim is my
King from long ago”. But when a person raises Malkhut from among the nations, it is
the fulfillment of the verse (Psalms 47:8) “For Elohim is King of all the earth.”
LM 4:3 Yet it is impossible to return the kingdom to the Holy One, except by means
of spoken confession in the presence of a Talmid Chakham (Torah scholar). Through
this one rectifies the aspect of Malkhut and raises it to its source. [Take d’varim (words)
with you and return to YHVH (God) (Hosea 14:3)] This is the meaning of “Take
D’VaRim with you . . .” – i.e., spoken confession. This is the aspect of Malkhut, as in,
“one DaBoR (spokesman) to a generation” (Sanhedrin 8a) – dabor connotes
and ruler. ” . . . and return to YHVH – so that they rectify and elevate the
aspect of d’varim/Malkhut/Elohim to [the level of] YHVH. As mentioned above, “When
He is YHVH I will praise His word; when He is Elohim, I will praise His word.” This is, to
know that everything that happens to him is all for his good, and to recite the blessing
“Who is good and beneficent” over everything.
LM 4:4 Knowing all this is called complete awareness. For the essence of
awareness is the union of . This
is called daat. In other words, he does not differentiate between lovingkindness and
judgment, but blesses “Who is good and beneficent” over everything. This is called
“YHVH is one and His Name is one”. As our Sages taught: In the Future there will be
total oneness and it will be entirely “Who is good and Beneficent”. This is: YHVH is
echod (one) [and His Name is echod].” “His Name corresponds to Elohim/Malkhut, as
is written (2 Samuel 8:13) “David made a name for himself” – .
Echod has the same numerical value as ahavah (love). Therefore, whether it be YHVH
– which is compassion – or whether it be “His Name” – which corresponds to Elohim
judgment – all is for your benefit and a result of the love which the Holy One has for
you. As it is written, “For those whom God loves He rebukes (Proverbs 3:12); and “Of
all the families of th earth I knew only you [Israel}]. That is why I will punish you for all
your iniquities (Amos 3:2).
FW: Rather than a crystal clear Torah message graspable by deductive logic, the
above word salad strikes us as a murky bowl of borsht or shabbat cholent. Therefore,
we will turn now to Bacon and to Hamann to help us get our bearings in decoding
Nachman’s Torah offering. The allusion to goyishkeit suggested by the names “Bacon”
and “Ham” need not, I hope, deter us! I stated above that aside from the philosophy of
language, much of Hamann (and Nachman) is an update on the philosophy of Francis
Bacon, in the context of an 18th century aesthetics of Romanticism. In support of that
contention, here are six specific techniques of Romantic style poetic expression which,
according to O’Flaherty, lend themselves to the purposes of intuitive (inductive) rather
than abstract (deductive) reason. but to start off here is Hamann’s version of Francis
O 83. In order to comprehend Hamann’s understanding of reason it is necessary to
distinguish between two modes of cognition, namely, the intuitive and the abstract .
. . Abstract reason affects language in precisely the opposite ways from intuitive
reason . . . “Human living seems to consist of a series of symbolic actions by means of
which our soul is capable of revealing its invisible nature, and produces and
communicates beyond itself an intuitive knowledge of its effective existence”
FW: And now comes Hamann’s list of the six Romantic techniques for poetic
expression, which in the sequel we will illustrate using the text of Nachman’s LM 4. In
my essay our focus is to illustrate these six techniques. Therefore, we will not give as
much attention as perhaps we should to other important aspects of Nachman’s text.
Most of what Nachman has to say he says again and again, we surely will run into
these other themes in the sequel. Here, then, is a preliminary listing of Hamann’s six
techniques of language expression.
O 83. Since in Hamann’s view there is no thought apart from language, it seems quite
appropriate that we should look to language for the earmarks of reason. It will be seen
that there are six salient features which characterize the language of intuitive reason,
i.e., reason functioning within its appropriate limits. To be specific, we may say that
intuitive reason manifests itself in language by the following: (a) the abundance of
concrete images (Bilder); (b) the employment of analogical reasoning; (c) the frequent
recourse to paradoxes; (d) the presence of multiple levels of meaning; (e) paratactic
sentence structure; and (f) the presence of affective terminology. O83
FW: We will examine how Hamann explains these six poetic tools, and at the same
time we will illustrate how Nachman of Breslav brings over each technique into the
realm of Hasidic Torah commentary.
O 84. Hamann maintains that natural language is, to adopt Henri Bergson’s phrase,
“molded on reality”. Ordinary language or “the language of nature” is for him the
historically developed vernacular of a people, which has been “unimproved” by
grammarians or the creators of technical jargon. It is this kind of language which can
be raised to the level of poetic expression . . . Wrote Hamann, “The sphere of poetry
does not lie outside of the world as a fantastic possibility conceived by the brain of a
poet; it strives to be precisely the opposite, the unadorned expression of truth, and
must for just that reason reject the deceptive finery of the alleged reality of the man of
culture” . . . Hamann’s conviction is grounded in the essential nature of both God and
man. Hence, God, “the Poet at the beginning of days”, always speaks to man in poetic
language. “The Scriptures cannot speak with us as human beings otherwise than in
parables because all our knowledge is sensory, figurative; and because
understanding and reason transform the images of external things everywhere into
allegories and signs of more abstract, more intellectual, more lofty concepts.”
FW: Analogous to Hamann’s theory of poetic expression is that of today’s Gestalt
therapists, as laid out by Perls, Hefferline and Goodman in their text, “Gestalt Therapy”.
For Gestaltists poetic speech refers to contactful speech, supported by man in action,
rather than man stuck at an impasse and brooding abstractly about his life. The choice
is between a concrete reality and mere aboutism. If I see a fly buzzing over there and I
say, “I am aware of that fly buzzing over there”, that is “language molded to reality”,
even more so if I identify with that fly and say “I am a fly buzzing over here, hoping that
my buzzing will get you interested in my ideas.” By identifying with the fly, finding the
inner idea of that fly as Nachman puts it in LM 1:1, I am concretely at this moment in
touch with my existence. But if I am an entomologist and I say “flies are arthropods”,
that particular fly out there has disappeared from my life into abstract jargon.
Verbalizing has replaced poetry. The fly buzzing out there had the potential to be part
of my existence, say, my tragic death as one day it may buzz around my rotting corpse,
while the “arthropod” of an entomologist is cut off from my existential experience by
being locked into a grid of dead, abstract terminology concerning, for example,
information about how many legs it has. Likewise God, the “poet at the beginning of
days” is engaged in a living action of creating His world, while a geologist who lists the
layers of rocks making up a particular mountain range is cut off from the real
experience of creating that mountain range. How does Nachman of Breslav deal with
this requirement that expression be poetic? That is to say, how do Nachman’s Torah
commentaries serve as a symbolic overlay for human action? First of all, he is
assuming he, Nachman, the writer, and we, his readers, and also the protagonist he is
describing all are spiritual pilgrims, seeking to return to God. All three personnas
therefore share a common grounding in concrete here and now experience. Let us
see how all this works in the continuation of Nachman’s LM 4 text.
LM 4:5 And a person’s iniquities are on his bones, as is written (Ezekiel 32:27), “And
their iniquities will be etched upon their bones”. Each sin has its own combination of
letters. When a person commits a particular sin, a negative letter combination is etched
upon his bones. This brings the spoken aspect of the prohibition which he has
transgressed into the realm of impurity. In other words, he brings the aspect of Malkhut
among the nations, giving them the power to rule. For example: If he
transgressed the utterance of the prohibition “You shall have no [other gods besides
Me]” (Exodus 20:3), then he destroys the utterance’s positive letter combination and
forms a negative letter combination. This letter combination is etched upon his bones
“It is your iniquities that have turned away these things (Jeremiah
5:25). And it is written, “Evil is the deathblow of the wicked” (Psalms 34:22). By means
of spoken confession, however, the letters disappear from the bones into which they
have been etched and are transformed into the words of confession. For speech
emanates from one’s bone, as is written (Psalms 35:10), “All my bones will say”. He
tears down the negative structure and combinations, and from [the letters] builds
Makhut d’Kedushah. This is what the Sages said: During the time the Israelites
traveled in the desert, Yehudah’s bones rolled about [in his coffin] until Moshe said
(Deuteronomy 33:7) “Hear, O God, the voice of Yehudah” (Sotah 7b). Moshe
requested that the Holy One remember for Yehudah’s sake the confession he had
made. And this is just what happened. Thus it was specifically “his bones rolled about”,
as is written, “and their iniquities will be etched upon their bones.” But by means of the
confession they were rectified and each one went into its place. And Yehudah
corresponds to Malkhut – an allusion that the aspect of Malkhut is rectified through
spoken confession. This was accomplished with the aid of Moshe, who recalled the
confession. For it is necessary that the confession take place in the presence of a
Talmid Chakham. And every Torah scholar is an aspect of Moshe “Moshe, you said it well” (Shabbat 101b). By Moshe’s mentioning the
confession, it was considered as if [Yehudah] had now confessed . This caused the aspect of Malkhut to be rectified and the negative letter
combination, which had been etched upon [Yehudah’s ] bones to be torn down.
FW: There is a real life struggle going on here in Nachman’s text, involving bones,
Yehuda and Moshe, as though the story has been told around a campfire or dreamed
by a Gestalt client. Nachman is not merely “talking literature”, but is presenting an epic
human action being carried out by a protagonist, and by implication also by a reader
who is struggling with the iniquities etched in his own bones. Moses first identifies with
the needs of the bones of Yehudah. Then the confession, hitbod’dut, mini-Gestalt
session that Moses expresses in language brings those needs of Yehudah into the
midst of a committed authentic action by Moses. Moses as strong gestalt and
encompassing messianic monad here fulfills the logical function of induction, Platonic
collection, in relation to the bones and essences of the existence of Yehudah. The
parallel to Gestalt dreamwork is very clear here. According to Perls, we must identify
with each of the different images and aspects of the dream we are exploring, in order
to grasp the overall existential message of the dream. We move from ordinary
everyday objects, like trees and clouds and bones, more and more in the direction of
encompassing ideas, encompassing essences of our existence, as we move
inductively upwards towards the final encompassing existential idea and message of
our work on this particular dream. And yet in this dreamwork process everything must
remain concrete, articulated, eventually, in terms of the unfinished business of
important childhood relationships. The inductive ascent is not at the same time a flight
to abstractions. That is to say, the three personnas involved in the ongoing storytelling
process are active readers. They (we) maintain their (our) identification with the story
which is unfolding. Here is an analogous message from the work of Hamann, with the
messianic role shifted from Moses to Jesus.
O 86. The abstract language of the philosophers fails, according to Hamann, to take
into account the fact that God’s infinite love for man is revealed precisely in His
willingness to condescend to man’s estate. God has humbled himself to the extent of
speaking in the everyday idiom of the people by means of “little contemptible events”
and “humanly foolish, indeed sinful actions . . . For Hamann does not subscribe to any
form of the double-truth theory; spiritual truth does not require two forms, one for the
philosopher, another for the masses. “To say that Moses wrote only for the common
people is either meaningless or a ridiculous view of the matter” . . . Philosophically
speaking, the “images” (German: Bilder) of natural language represent for Hamann
“objects”, which may be defined as uncritically perceived entities of ordinary
experience, principally visual in nature. Abstract or discursive reason has the power,
however, to eliminate such objects and to replace them with terms which actually
stand for relations . . . “Existence [ i.e., concrete existence in a world of real objects] is
realism, and must be believed; relations are idealism and rest upon connective and
discriminatory procedures” . . . Metaphysics misuses “all the word-songs and figures of
speech of our empirical knowledge” by transforming them into “nothing but
hieroglyphs and types of ideal relations” . . . Another fundamental aspect of imagery is,
of course, its strong appeal to the emotions, a quality which is lacking in the case of
abstract terminology.
FW: In Hamann’s reference here to concrete objects of experience disappearing into
abstract verbal relationships no longer in touch with their initial concrete reality, we
recognize the terminology of 14th century Nominalism as articulated in those days by
William of Ockham. See my essay on “Nominalism: the Here and Now, There and
Then”, for more about this.
O 87. The second characteristic of Hamann’s use of reason is his preference for
analogical, as opposed to purely logical, thinking. Whereas the rationalist establishes
a principle, whether deductively or inductively, and thereupon proceeds to draw
inferences from it, the intuitive thinker establishes a model on nonrational grounds, as,
for example, instinct or faith, and thereupon proceeds to draw parallels to the model.
This latter procedure accords, in Hamann’s view, with the proper use of reason,
despite the fact that reasoning from analogy does not yield the certainty one might
desire. Thus, he writes that “reason cannot grasp anything but analogies in order to
obtain a very ambiguous light” . . . Following the lead of Francis Bacon, Hamann
maintains that man, in his original state, thought analogically rather than logically. This
idea is clearly stated in the famous passage at the beginning of the Aesthetica In
Nuce: “Poetry is the mother tongue of the human race” . . . Hamann places analogical
thinking, as opposed to the later development of discursive thinking, within the
framework of his general anthropology with its emphasis on man’s retrograde
development away from his primordial state. It is more natural for man to think in
metaphors or parables, which involve analogical thinking, than to arrive at deductions
based on rational principles . . . “All mortal creatures are able to see the truth and
essence of things only in parables”. For Hamann to metaschematize means to
substitute one set of objective relationships for another, analogous set of subjective,
personal, or existential relationships, in order to throw some light on their meaning.
FW: Hamann here is saying what Nachman says when he says “My Torah is all
behinot (Hebrew: aspects, interpretations, associations, analogies)”. The notion of
“man’s retrograde development away from his primordial state” stems from the Platonic
theory of anamnesis, “not forgetting” that primordial state by groping in the void for
primordial ideas. Anamnesis entails immersing oneself in a chaotic sea of fragments
and using Platonic collection or kabbalistic tsimtsum in the cognitive void of “not
knowing” to discover/remember the primordial ideas by means of a series of
associations, behinot. The obvious illustration in Nachman’s LM 4 text is the endless
string of associations, behinot, which lead Nachman from concrete particulars towards
his final grand conclusions. “A” is an aspect of “B”, and “B” is an aspect of “C”, etc., etc.
In the section which follows, for example, the string of behinot leads on and on,
apparently endlessly, from (a) the lust of Nevatt to (b) fire to (c) purging via fire to (d)
the fire of sin to (e) sins themselves to (f) crossing over to bundles of fragments being
collected into a new idea (Platonic collection), and then on to (f) the wrath of God as
fire negating all the negations of the One Without A Second, which itself leads on by
means of tsimtsum to (g) nothingness, which is analogous to (h) humility as an aspect
of (i) wisdom, leading to (j) the elevation of language, which itself is analogous to (k)
the kingdom of God and refers by contrast to (l) the secular government, which needs
to be brought back to its source by means of (m) the intervention of Moses, who is
aspect of (n) Mashiach himself! All this in two pages. Note how Nachman gives Moses
the Mashiach function of pulling all the fragments together, in exactly the same manner
that Hamann gives that messianic function of Platonic collection to Jesus. For both
Hamann and Nachman what is lost in logical precision is more than compensated for
by the vast range of insightful sparks generated in the process of induction – provided,
of course, that the spiritual pilgrim and the audience are receptive to this sort of pietist,
Romantic, poetry. What makes this word salad “poetry” in the profound Gestalt and
Aristotelian sense of committed personal action is Nachman’s own biography, i.e., his
self-proclaimed role of Tsaddik of the generation and messianic savior of the world.
Whether we take him seriously or not, we at least know that Nachman is not just
writing a book. He also is living the role he has carved out for himself in his own
pained existence.
FW: As Hegel in his “Aesthetics” points out, one major characteristic of Romantic art
that distinguishes it from Classical art is that Romanticism allows emotional content to
flood and overwhelm the forms in which it is packaged, leaving an audience gasping
for breath. Hegel was less than appreciative of this form of expression, and he
regarded the Absolute or God to which it all finally associates as “the night in which all
cows are black”. That is to say, most people, like the rationalist Hegel, prefer to let
words mean what they do mean rather than have them all end up being symbols for
the same thing: the Void of all-knowing and all not-knowing. Here, then, is Nachman’s
version of Platonic collection or tsimtsum in the void, from (a) to (n), from the lust of
Nevatt to Mashiach himself! See if you can find your way through the maze, and at the
same time see how many insightful associations are stimulated in your mind as you
follow the creative mind of Nachman along his chosen trajectory.
LM 4:6 This is the aspect of returning Malkhut to its source. For the source of Malkhut
is fire, as our “Sages taught: ‘why did Nevatt err? because he saw fire escape from his
member (Sanhedrin 101b). And the Torah is called fire, because it is from there that
Malkhut originates. As it is written (Jeremiah 23:29) “Behold, My Word is like fire,” and
(Proverbs 8:15), “Through me kings rule.” And the essence of Torah is the Torah
scholar, as our Sages taught (Makkot 222b): How foolish are those who stand up
before a Torah scroll and yet do not stand before a rabbinical scholar! This is: “Every
davar (thing) that was used in fire must go through fire ” (Numbers
31:23). “Davar corresponds to Malkhut, which has been into the realm of
impurity the heat of the evil inclination, as in “the fire of Amram” (Kiddusin
81a). “. . . must go through the fire” – its rectification is by means of fire, i.e., spoken
confession before a Talmid Chakham. And this is the connotation of aveyrah
(transgression): the AVeyRah letter combination OVeR (crosses) within his bones,
from AyVeR to AyVeR (side to side). The word mitzvah, however, connotes joining
together. When a person performs bundles of commandments, he binds together the
shattered fragments of his bones, as is written (Psalms 34:21), “[God] safeguards all
his bones, [not one of them is broken].”
FW: Note: not one bone is broken; not one fragment of the symbolic collage is lost or
damaged in the process of Platonic collection. All the antitheses, one after the other,
are encompassed in the higher inductive synthesis. But there’s more to come . . .
LM 4:7. [“The King’s wrath is a messenger of death, but a wise man can pacify
it.” (Proverbs 16:14)] And this is the explanation of the verse: “The King’s wrath is a
messenger of death.” For the wrath of the Holy One is on account of Makhut , ” . . . but a wise man can pacify it” – i.e., the
aspect of Talmid Chakham/Moshe who will atone for [the sinner]. As it is written (Micah
7:18), “[The Lord] forgives the transgression for the remnant ” – for
the sake of the one who considers himself as remnants (Rosh HaShanah 17a). We
find, then, that when he comes before a Torah scholar and expresses all his letter
combinations in a Talmid Chakham’s presence . . . The Torah scholar is an aspect of
Moshe who considered himself as remnants, as is written (Numbers
12:3), “The man Moshe, however, was very humble.” This is the reason he is called a
wise man, as is written (Job 28:12), “Wisdom comes from Ayin (Nothingness).”
Through this the wise man has the power to appease, as is written, “but a wise man
can pacify it.” This is why when Moshe prayed that the sin of the Golden Calf [be
pardoned], he said (Exodus 32:32), “If You would, forgive their sin. But if not, please
blot me out [ from the book that You have written]!” It is impossible for a person not to
feel some pride when he hears himself being praised. All the more so, when a great
king praises and lauds the person; then it is certainly impossible that he would not be
moved to some feelings of self-importance. However, this necessitates the negation of
all one’s emotions and corporeality. Then, a person can hear himself being praised
and not come to any pride. This was the case with Moshe Rabbeinu, who saw it written
in the Torah: “God spoke to Moshe,” [and] “God said to Moshe.” Each day the Jewish
people read in the Torah [God’s] praise of Moshe. What’s more, he himself related his
praise to them. Yet Moshe had no feelings of haughtiness or pride from this, as is
written, “The man Moshe, however, was very humble.” And certainly, by means of his
humility Moshe had the power to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf, as is written, “. . .
but a wise man can pacify it.”
FW: The mashiach function that Moses or Jesus fulfils here is that of identifying with all
the fragments, one after another, and then, by means of consumate humility, negating
all of those fragments by negating himself. He then is the true servant, serving God as
the negation of all negations. Each fragment is an extreme antithesis of the others, and
the messiah manages to negate all of these negations of the One Without A Second.
Also here, once again, not one bone is broken; not one fragment is lost or damaged in
the process of Platonic collection. All the antitheses are encompassed in the higher
synthesis by means of the Platonic messiah/poet/artist that Nachman or Hamann is
embodying in his writing. What Plato labels a “poetic frenzy” of artistic interpretation,
based on passionate personal involvement in a process of committed action,
Nachman relates to the state of humility he sees Moses attaining in the biblical text.
Nachman concludes his series of behinot by stressing the humility of Moses as the
quality which qualifies him for the messiah function.
LM 4:7 This was Moshe’s argument: “But if not” – i.e., if You do not forgive their sin,
You are demonstrating that I do not posses the humility needed to atone for the sin of
the Golden Calf. This is why I requested, “please blot me out,” so as not to be tripped
up by pride. For I constantly see and hear the recounting of my name and praise in the
Torah. Who can stand up to this – hearing his praise recounted and not become
haughty – if not a very humble person? And if I am humble, You must pardon their sin,
as is written, “[The Lord] forgives the transgression for the remnant . . .” This is
(Deuteronomy 33:5) “There was a MeLeKh (king) in Yeshurun” – indicating that
MaLKhut had risen to its source, as it is written (Psalms 37:11), “But the humble will
inherit the earth.” “Earth” is dina d’malkhuta (the law of the government) as is written
(Job 20:27), “Earth rises up against him.”
FW: Moses with his messianic degree of humility has here re-elevated language
(Malkhut d’kedushah, the kingdom of God) back to its primordial holistic power. This is
anamnesis, “not forgetting” that the primordial idea of language as The Word has
emerged from the void of nonbeing. Looking back at the entire journey of inductive
logic through which Nachman just has led us, and with just a bit more analogical
thinking, the parallel to Gestalt dreamwork ought to be clear. (a) First, Nachman
expects you to find the inner idea of each thing by identifying with each image of the
series. In Gestalt dreamwork you do that by play acting each dream image and attempt
to say it with your whole body. In Nachman’s poetic style Torah exegesis you, as
Orthodox Jew, are expected to identify totally with each nuance since it all is God’s
word, right out of the Torah with chapter and verse included. How can it possibly not
be the truth? (b) The second part of the process, in Gestalt dreamwork, is to commit
your whole being to the project as a whole and negate your ego totally by the “rhythm
of contact and withdrawal”, which is the Gestalt version of tsimtsum. This death of ego
is the negation of negations that translates you inductively up beyond your own
existence, as you serve as a vessel for the existential message of that particular
dream. The dream itself was only 1/60th of prophecy, while the dreamwork provides
the other 59/60. The dreamwork is the Platonic collection or kabbalistic tsimtsum which
accesses the messianic idea which was implicit from the primordial beginning of the
dream itself when in the middle of the night you dreamed it. Again we have Platonic
anamnesis of primordial ideas by means of tsimtsum, as the Gestalt therapy
protagonist contracts his ego down to zero in order to embody the intuitive dialectical
logic of induction, in order to serve as the messiah capable of redeeming his own
fallen state.
FW: And what is the equivalent to this “rhythm of contact and withdrawal” in a Torah
lesson being given by Nachman or one of his disciples? The answer is, likewise, to
commit yourself totally to the quest for truth. In your daily life you are to embodying as
many Torah commandments as you can find the time and resources to accomplish,
and also you are to commit your will completely to following the guidance of your
Torah teachers, whether they make much sense to your rational mind or not! Along
with that you are to assimilate each and every word of the mind boggling Torah
lessons. You are not, God forbid, to try to understand it all using deductive logic, since
most of it is inductively written and admittedly too lofty for your rational understanding.
Rather, accept it all on faith as absolute truth. If you find yourself bewildered, get
advice from your Torah teachers (who, unfortunately, also are forbidden to understand
it), and then go talk to God out in the woods if there are any loose ends.
FW: Nachman taught that the messianic soul of Moses is re-embodied to some extent
in the tsaddik ha-dor, the righteous man of each generation. But, Nachman maintains,
only in certain key historical figures, especially Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai and
Nachman himself, is the embodiment totalized. Fritz Perls begs to differ, and
encourages each of his clients to do fulfill the mashiach function himself. Fritz was
Jewish, but not religious. Neither did he know Yiddish. But if someone had asked him
why he gave his clients that option, and if indeed he had spoken Yiddish, perhaps he
would have given the famous Yiddish retort, “Far vus nit?” (English: “Why not?”) Now,
my own suggestion is to meld the two approaches, that of Nachman and that of Fritz,
which brings the caricature of Nachman’s teachings which I just have presented back
to the source that Nachman intended in the beginning. That is to say, begin with
hitbod’dut, with the verbalized monologue. Do it rigorously, according to the system of
Fritz, so you do get the results you need. Then, from that foundation go about dealing
with the commandments and the Torah exegesis. This puts Tevye’s “Fiddler On The
Roof” horse back in front of Tevye’s cart, with the proper Kantian stress on conscience
as a liberation from the closed system of everyday habits, groupiness and chit-chat.
This also puts Nachman very close to the position of Fichte, and historically exactly
where he belongs as an heir to Kant’s theory of the moral autonomy of the practical
reason. See my essays on Fichte and Nachman for more of this. Doing hitbod’dut
intelligently clarifies most of Nachman’s enigmatic texts and helps balance the
conflicting demands of 613 different commandments. Having discovered your own
built in Moses function, you will not be flying blind and you will less vulnerable to
demagoguery. This inner gyroscope was lacking when Hitler’s Nazis adapted the
teachings of Fichte as the basis of national socialism. They made a travesty of the
teachings of Fichte. Hopefully you will not make a similar travesty of the teachings of
Nachman of Breslav.
FW: O’Flaherty makes a distinction between parataxic and hypotaxic sentence
structure, a distinction which is as relevant to the work of Nachman as it is to the work
of Hamann.
O: The roots of the terms are “para” (by the side) + “tassein” (to place). “Parataxis” is
the placing of clauses or phrases one after the other, without coordinating or
subordinating connectives. On the other hand, from “hypo” (under) we get “hypotaxis”,
which is arranging clauses with a conjunction that subordinates one to the other.
Paratactic sentences are characterized by brevity and the absence of long involved
dependent clauses; the word order tends to be natural or to follow elementary logic in
that the subject and predicate are expressed at or near the beginning of the sentence,
with the other elements following generally in the order of their importance. Aphorisms,
epigrams, etc., because of their laconic nature, are necessarily paratactic in structure.
Hypotactic sentences, on the other hand, are characterized by greater length,
involving, as they do, longer dependent clauses . . . Because of its frequent use of
dependent clauses, hypotaxis involves the subordination of certain elements within a
sentence, whereas parataxis involves their coordination. Both styles do occur in
Hamann’s writings . . . In his most characteristic and influential writings the aphoristic
mode dominates . . . It is precisely in these works that we find him employing intuitive,
as opposed to abstract, reason.
FW: The following sections from Nachman’s LM 4 illustrate nicely this contrast between
parataxic and hypotaxic use of language. Nachman begins with an introductory fable
in the style of parataxic language.
LM 4:8. This is the meaning of what the Sages said: It is comparable to someone
who was walking along a path in the utter darkness of night. He was afraid of the
thorns and the ditches, of wild beasts and bandits, not knowing which path he was on.
When he happened upon a lit torch he was saved from the thorns and the ditches but
he was still afraid of wild beasts and bandits, not knowing which path he was on.
When dawn broke, he was saved from wild beasts and bandits, yet still did not know
which path he was on. What is this crossroads? Rabbi Chisda said: It is a Talmid
Chakhkam and the day of death (Sotah 21a).
FW: Next we learn of the four alchemical elements, mineral, vegetable, animal and
human, which are variants of the usual water, earth, air, fire sequence. Here the
presentation also is in the parataxic style, though a bit more complex.
LM 4:8 It is known that all evil character traits and their derivatives stem from the four
yesodot (fundamental elements), the four humors. As is brought in Mishnat Chassidim:
Melancholy and its derivatives stem from the mineral life form; evil passions and their
derivatives stem from the vegetable life form; idle chatter and its derivatives stem from
the animal life form; pride and its derivatives stem from the human life form. Anyone
who would take the path of must break all of the vices in the presence of a Talmid Chakham – i.e., spoken confession. The Torah
scholar will then define and clarify a path in line with the roots of his soul.
FW: Also presented parataxically are three steps for attachment to a tzaddik, which
also are a code for three stages of human action in general. Since Nachman’s version
will get a bit murky, I’ll do the dissection as a preface, in my own inimitable Fallen,
deductive, hypotaxic manner. If this were a Gestalt session, Fritz no doubt would have
me examine my own need to insert prefaces and dissections into the flow of life.
Anyway, concerning the tsaddik, (a) first, perceive him properly, (b) second, give him
charity and (c) third, accept his advice at the moment of crucial existential choices in
your life. To each of these simple instructions, Nachman adds subordinate and related
ideas. (a) For the first instruction, more generally establish contact with the situation,
(b) for the second instruction, undergo death of ego by giving it away charitably, and
(c) for the third instruction, choose a new idea in the void of not knowing. But these
corollaries are not appended to the initial three ideas deductively using hypotaxic
sentence structure, the way I just have taken pains to do it. That is to say, Nachman’s
stress is not on making sure we “understand” it all by laying out his ideas in a series of
primary and subordinate clauses. Rather, to the first three ideas he appends a series
of only tangentially related ideas, parataxically by simply laying them down, one after
the other. Then he leaves it up to us, the readers, to open our minds and hearts to
discover the higher level encompassing experiences. For Nachman wants us
inductively to “grasp” macrocosmic Platonic ideas, and not merely deductively to
“understand” microcosmic concepts. LM 4 is not just a textbook of clinical psychology,
it is also inductive science and Platonically inspired Romantic poetry. Hence,
Nachman injects into the basic flow of the hypotaxic framework quite a bit of parataxic
embellishment. Nachman begins with the three themes, in the manner in which a
Beethoven or Mozart might begin a symphony with three simple themes. Then, in the
manner of a fugue or stretto, more and more interlocking variations and distantly
related motifs pile up as a magical information overload. Schopenhauer, a 19th
century philosopher who shared this Romantic aesthetic, held that music is the highest
form of art, since it embodies ideas purely without needing to incorporate naturalistic
content. Nachman’s prose in his stretto sections approaches the level of musical art, as
kaleidoscopic ideas overload their reference to the deductive framework and leap up
inductively from our Fallen microcosmic world to the liberated macrocosm of pure
Platonic/Torah ideas. When Nachman does it, it works fine. Of course, when an Adolf
uses a media blitz inductively to peddle an overgrown Idea of the Third Reich we may
have second thoughts about “inductive science”.
LM 4:8 Now, there are three steps in attachment to the tzaddikim. Through these
three steps everything is rectified. The three steps are as follows: The first step entails
seeing the tzaddik, as in (Isaiah 30:20), “your eyes will see your teacher,” This step
negates the vices that stem from the two yedodot, mineral and vegetable – namely,
melancholy with its derivatives, and evil passions. For the tzaddik of the generation is
called “Mother” because he nurses the Jewish people with the light of his Torah. And
the Torah is called “milk”, as is written (Song of Songs 4:11). “Honey and milk under
your tongue.” We have empirical validation for this: Even when a child is sad and
lethargic, if he sees his mother, he very quickly stirs toward her – i.e., toward his
source. We also see clearly that when a child is absorbed in his own nonsense, even
through he has a great desire for this, if he sees his mother, he throws away all of his
desires and draws close to her. We find, then, that the vices stemming from the two
yesodot, mineral and vegetable, are negated by gazing at the countenance of the
tzaddik. This is: He was afraid of the thorns, the aspect of the vegetable life form; and
the ditches, the aspect of the mineral life for. When he happened upon a lit torch – this
is a Talmid Chakham, who with the light of the Torah. Through him he is
saved from the vices that stem from the two yesodot, mineral and vegetable; and then
he is saved form the thorns and the ditches.
LM 4:8 The second step is the charity one gives to a Talmid Chakham . Through this he is saved from the vices that stem from
the two yesodot, animal and human – the aspects of wild beasts and bandits, which are
idle chatter and pride and their derivatives. This is because idle chatter and
slanderous gossip engender poverty, as is written (Exodus 4:19), “All the men have
died” – this is poverty (Nedarim 64b). Also concerning pride it is taught: Poverty is a
sign of a haughty spirit (Kiddushin 49b). But by giving charity a person becomes
wealthy. As the Sages taught: “Though they were united and likewise many, even so
they are over and gone; I have afflicted you, but will afflict you no more” (Nahum 1:12) –
he is never again made to experience the markings of poverty (Gitten 7b). And this is:
When dawn broke, he was saved from wild beasts and bandits. The break of dawn is
an allusion to charity, as is written (Isaiah 58 7-8), “When you see the naked, and you
clothe him . . . Then your light shall burst forth like the dawn.” We find, then, that
through charity one is saved from the vices that stem from the two yesodot, animal and
human, corresponding to wild beasts and bandits.
LM 4:8 The third step is when one makes a spoken confession in a Torah scholar’s
presence. Through this the Talmid Chakham guides him on a proper path in line with
the root of his soul. This is: When he came to a crossroads. And Sages comment, It is a
Talmid Chakham and the day of death. This is the step of spoken confession before a
Talmid Chakham. The day of death is an allusion to confesson, as the Sages taught:
All those about to be put to death confess (Sanhedrin 43b). This is called PaRaShat
DeRaKhim (a crossroads), because the Torah scholar maPhRiSh lo DeReKh (defines
his path ) in line with the root of his soul. Then, he was saved from all of them.
Because, before he confessed, even through he was close to the Torah scholar and
had given him money, he still does not know which path he was on. For “A path may
seem right to a man, but its end leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). But when he comes
to “a crossroads,” which is a Talmid Chakham and the day of death – i.e., spoken
confession before a Talmid Chakham – then, he was saved from all of them.
FW: Later, as the style of the text approaches pure poetry, content joins form in telling
the tale, which in this case is the tale of a completed action. The actor/poet Moses/
messiah undergoes death of ego at the crossroads of his life, the moment of committed
choice during an action. At that moment, according to Aristotle, the knower, the known
and the knowing all are one. Ego is minimal in the midst of an action. The theological
context of an action for Nachman here is “the word of God”, and for him, like for
Hamann, that means language in the sense of The Word as the Kingdom of God,
Malkhut. Language and action here are parallel concepts, grounded in the dialectical
framework of deduction/induction, the descending and ascending sides of the tree of
life, the kabbalistic sefirot. Each counterclockwise cycle around the complete tree of
life is one “beat” of the dialectic, one cycle of the rhythm of contact and withdrawal, one
moment of running and returning, one moment of action. If the process works properly
we have induction, intuitive reason, positive letter combinations, poetry, If the process
does not work properly we are stuck in deduction, abstract aboutism, negative letter
combinations, verbalizing. After completing the action, the protagonist retains a sense
of what is was all about. In the context of a Gestalt Therapy session he can tell us what
was the existential message of the dreamwork, what he got from the session. He can
see the details of his present life situation (Elohim, the left pillar of the tree of life) in the
context of the Oneness of authentic action (YHVH, the right pillar of the tree of life), and
at that moment he has a sense that the One and the Many are One Without A Second.
A parallel in the aesthetics of Romanticism and the work of an actor in the Brechtian
theater is the notion of “the performer on top of his material” creating “live form”. When,
in this style of work, an actor prepares his material, he works deductively and
assembles a junk collage of forms into a complex poetic image which is his
“character”. Then, at the moment of presentation for an audience, he relies upon his
here and now reactions to images that flash in his imagination to give him
macrocosmic ideas with which to illuminate that microcosmic junk collage of forms.
The result, when it works properly, is “live form”, a meld of content (ideas discovered
inductively) and form (the junk collage which was derived deductively), which is,
theologically speaking, the macrocosm in the microcosm, the One in the Many.
LM 4:9 This applies each time a Torah scholar. The Talmid Chakham is an aspect of Moshe, who is
an aspect of Ayin, as is written, “Wisdom comes from Ayin.” And in this way you
become encompassed in Ein Sof (Infinite One). This is the concept of Zarka: it is
thrown back to the place from which it was taken (Tikkuney Zohar #21). This is return
Malkhut to Ein Sof, which is the will in all the wills. For Malkhut corresponds to the
letters of speech, with the will of God clothed in each and every letter. It was God’s will
that one letter have such and such a shape, and another letter have a different shape.
We find, then, that [God’s] wills – i.e., the forms of the letters – serve to reveal His
Malkhut, And all these wills, the forms, stem from the will of Ein Sof – which has no form
. And all the objects and material existence in the world originate from the
letters, i.e., from Malkhut. This is because material existence is a consequence of
Malkhut, of the Holy One’s desire that His Malkhut be revealed in the world. Through
this He created the world ex nihilo. All the wills – the forms and all material existence
corresponding to Malkhut – receive their vitality from the will of Ein Sof. As is taught
(Migillah 31a): “In every place that you find the greatness of the Holy One – i.e., His
Malkhut wills – “There you find His humility” – i.e., the will of Ein Sof. And this is an
aspect of stripping oneself of corporeality. For when a person wants to be
encompassed in the will of Ein Sof, he must negate his material being. This is what is
written in the Zohar (II 88b), that Moshe passed away on Shabbat, at the time of
Minchah. For that is when raava d’raaven (Will of Wills) is revealed. This is the will of
Ein Sof, from whom all wills receive their vitality. This was
because Moshe had totally negated his material being, as is written, “After all, nachnu
mah (what are we)?” (Exodus 16:7). “So Moshe, the servant of God, died there, in the
land of Moav, by the kiss of God. [God] buried him in the valley in the land of Moav,
opposite Beit Pe’or. No man knows his burial place to this day” (Deuteronomy 34: 5-7).
This is the meaning of “[God] buried him in the valley” – it alludes to as is
written (Isaiah 40:4), “Every valley shall be elevated.” “In the land of Moav” – this
alludes to Malkhut, for King David descended from Moav. Moshe ascended into Ein
Sof, into Will of Wills, raava d’raaven. This corresponds to the will of
Ein Sof, which is clothed in the wills/forms of the letters, the aspect of Malkhut. As
explained, “In every place that you find His greatness” – i.e., Malkhut, the aspect of
– “there you find ” – i.e., the will of Ein Sof.
FW: For the kabbalistic tradition, the metaphor of “running and returning” tells this
story, in the sense that we first run away from ego and later return to ego. The jargon of
Gestalt Therapy here overlaps that of Romanticism. Gestalt speaks of the rhythm of
contact and withdrawal. During action we move from contact, from awareness of the
contact boundary, to withdrawal, withdrawal from the contact boundary. Withdrawal
from the contact boundary, by means of tsimtsum, puts us in the void of not knowing,
the messianic now, and then we return to awareness of the contact boundary as the
action comes to an end. Nachman describes running and returning by invoking the
notion of “da’at” (Hebrew: knowing, knowledge). But “da’at” is a slippery term, used by
many authors in many ways. Here is reference is knowing in the sense of the Gestalt
process of establishing contact by means of awareness. Da’at here is awareness.
Awareness establishes a bubble contactful experience, a “world” that the protagonist
“knows”, in the sense that Adam knows Eve during an orgasm. When the contact
boundary becomes clouded by neurotic games, by self-interruptions of the life force,
and the Gestalt client finds himself deductively at an impasse of polarized cloudy
ideas, he needs to withdraw from that contact boundary into the realm of inductive,
intuitive experience by closing his eyes and going into his body awareness and
fantasies. This is the moment of withdrawal and tsimtsum, contraction of ego. And this
also is “running” from his ego and the microcosm in general into the void, where
hopefully new macrocosmic ideas await him. After his moment of gnostic
enlightenment, then he “returns” to his ego in its new form. But he brings with him a
vague trace or “reshimu” (Hebrew: remainder) of his other worldly experience. Overall,
then, he runs from deduction to induction, and then he returns from induction to
deduction bringing with him the results of the induction.
LM 4:9 This is “opposite Beit Pe’or”. As the Sages taught: Why was [the idol] called
Pe’or? Because it opens its mouth wide. For when one blemishes Malkhut, [Pe’or} then
has the power to open its mouth wide with negative letter combinations. But Moshe
rectified the aspect of Malkhut, and as a result Pe’or could not open its mouth wide
(Sotah 14a), This is “No man knows [his burial place]” – even Moshe did not know
(ibid.). For he was negated in Ein Sof. All this was at his death. However, also during
his lifetime [Moshe] certainly stripped away all corporeality and attached himself to the
Light of Ein Sof. But then, this stripping was in an aspect of “the living creatures ran
and returned”. (Ezekial 1:14). This is because the Holy One desires our service, as is
written (Yom Kippur Liturgy), “You desire praise from mounds of dust, from lumps of
clay.” Therefore, it is imperative not to remain [in this state of negation] until such a time
that the Holy One Himself comes and takes one’s soul.
LM 4:9 This is why we see that now and then a person becomes inspired while
praying and he recites several words with tremendous fervor. This is due to God’s
compassion for him; the Light of Ein Sof has been opened to him and shines for him.
When a person sees this radiance – and even though he might not see, his mazal sees
(Megillah 3a) – his soul is instantly ignited in great devotion, so that he attaches himself
to the Light of Ein Sof. And to the degree that Ein Sof is revealed – commensurate with
the number of words that have been opened and begun to radiate – he recites all these
words with great devotion, with a surrender of self, and with a negation of all his
senses. Then, during the time he is negated in Ein Sof, he is in a state of “and no man
knows” so that he himself is unaware of his own existence. But this must be in the
aspect of “running and returning” in order to preserve . We find
then that when he is in a state of “returning” he must also disclose to
his daat. For at the beginning, at the time of devotion, his daat was nullified, as in, “and
no man knows”. But when he is in a state of “returning”, returning to his material being,
then he returns to his daat. And when he returns to his daat, he knows the
oneness and beneficence of Ein Sof. Then there is no difference between YHVH and
Elohim, between the divine attribute of judgment and the divine attribute of
compassion. For a change of will is not applicable to Ein Sof, Heaven forbid. Changes
only occur in the changing of the forms. Nevertheless, by virtue of a person’s
attachment to Ein Sof – where there is no change of will, for there the will is uniform –
afterwards an imprint of this oneness remains within him. Then later, when he is in a
state of “returning”, this imprint illuminates , so that he knows that all is good
and all is one. This is what Moshe said to his generation: “It has been clearly
demonstrated to your daat that YHVH (God) is the Elohim (Lord)”. (Deuteronomy 4:
35). For Moshe corresponds to Thus it was fitting for his
generation, who were attached to him, to [have] daat – i.e., to illuminate the daat with
an awareness of Ein Sof/raava d/raaven, the aspect of “YHVH is the Elohim.”
O: An important aspect of Hamann’s conception of reason as it emerges from his use
of language is his acceptance of the paradox as a vehicle for the expression of
spiritual truth. His reason for such a positive view of the paradox is, in the last resort,
theological. Since God has condescended to reveal Himself in lowly, even
contemptible form – as the Scriptures everywhere attest – the paradox possesses the
highest possible legitimation. “One must view with astonishment how God
accomodates Himself to all small circumstances, and prefers to reveal His government
through the everyday event of human life rather than the singular and extraordinary
events.” The supreme paradox of Christianity is, to be sure, the incarnation in Christ,
the appearance of the Creator of heaven and earth in the form of a servant.
FW: To appreciate the relevance of paradox in this sense to the work of Nachman of
Breslav, let us backtrack a bit now and zero in on the last section of LM 4 which we just
cited under the heading of “parataxis”. These six techniques of Romantic poetic
language certainly overlap, and there is no reason why we may not find all six of them
at work in a single passage from Nachman’s “Likutei Moharan”. In this last section we
found an obvious parallel between the messianic function Christ serves for the
Christians and the same messianic function the soul Moses serves for the Jews. As is
the case for Christ in the work of Hamann, Moses for Jews is a supreme example of
paradox, the apparent contradiction that the pure idea of Moses/Mashiach – Moses as
symbolic code for the messianic idea – embodies on the one hand the most
encompassing notion of all-reality and on the other hand the idea of absolute
nothingness, total self-obliterating humility. This rudimentary example of dialectical
thinking, a thesis and an antithesis encompassed in a higher synthesis, is basic to
kabbalistic metaphysics. In this respect, then, the parallel between Hamann and
Nachman is clear. However, in what follows, as we decode the jargon to get to the
philosophical foundation, we find that this clear conceptual parallel is fogged over by
the work of the official Breslaver translators. We unearth one more example of what
happens when the sorcerer’s apprentice, ignorant of the dialectical powers of his
master, grabs his master’s broom and makes a big mess the laboratory! Once again
we will see the dangers of preaching dialectical religion rather than teaching
dialectical religion. I repeat, a preacher aims at propagating the sect, primarily by
glorifying his colleagues, while a teacher has other objectives, especially ferreting out
the truth of his subject matter. Watch, now, how the translators of LM 4 muddle the
dialectical message of Nachman in this passage, and shift the focus from the
individual’s search for God towards the direction of creating a herd of sheep following
other sheep following other sheep, just as lemmings might follow other lemmings right
off a cliff into the sea! Here once is LM 4:9.
LM 4:9 This applies each time a Torah scholar. The Talmid Chakham is an aspect of Moshe, who is
an aspect of Ayin, as is written, “Wisdom comes from Ayin.” And in this way you
become encompassed in Ein Sof (Infinite One).
FW: Nachman begins with the pshat, the superficial code. This is step one in creating
the paradox, the apparent contradiction that this Torah scholar you meet in the street is
at the same time an aspect of Moses and the Jewish version of the messiah.
LM 4:9 This is the concept of Zarka: it is thrown back to the place from which it was
taken (Tikkuney Zohar #21). This is returning Malkhut to Ein Sof, which is the will in all
the wills. For Malkhut corresponds to the letters of speech, with the will of God clothed
in each and every letter. It was God’s will that one letter have such and such a shape,
and another letter have a different shape. We find, then, that [God’s] wills – i.e., the
forms of the letters – serve to reveal His Malkhut,
FW: Another paradox, then, is that the all encompassing Kingdom God corresponds to
the tiny individual letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and each letter has its particular form
and message.
LM 4:9 And all these wills, the forms, stem from the will of Ein Sof – which has no
form . And all the objects and material existence in the world originate from the
letters, i.e., from Malkhut. This is because material existence is a consequence of
Malkhut, of the Holy One’s desire that His Malkhut be revealed in the world. Through
this He created the world ex nihilo. All the wills – the forms and all material existence
corresponding to Malkhut – receive their vitality from the will of Ein Sof. As is taught
(Migillah 31a): “In every place that you find the greatness of the Holy One – i.e., His
Malkhut wills – “There you find His humility” – i.e., the will of Ein Sof. And this is an
aspect of stripping oneself of corporeality. For when a person wants to be
encompassed in the will of Ein Sof, he must negate his material being.
FW: Here is the paradox cited by Hamann above, that the messiah (Christ or Moses)
embodies the apparent contradiction that what is the All is also Nothingness, abject
humility and the will of God.
LM 4:9 For a change of will is not applicable to Ein Sof, Heaven forbid. Changes
only occur in the changing of the forms. Nevertheless, by virtue of a person’s
attachment to Ein Sof – where there is no change of will, for there the will is uniform –
afterwards an imprint of this oneness remains within him. Then later, when he is in a
state of “returning”, this imprint illuminates

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