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Hegel, Marx and Kabbalah

Friday, 3 Aug 2018

Hegel and Marx on Dr John Dunn. Hegel’s philosophy can be understood as an attempt to rationally explicate the basic metaphors of the Lurianic Kabbalah.

Hegel held that the world's beginning, Substance and end is to be found in an infinite, all inclusive, Absolute being. This Absolute, which is analogous to the Kabbalist's Ein Sof, is conceived of by Hegel as the Absolute Reason or Idea

Like Ein Sof, Hegel’s Absolute is compelled to contract or alienate itself in the concrete particulars of a created world - a direct parallel to the Kabbalist's Tzimtzum.

For Hegel, as for the Kabbalists, the Absolute negates itself in order to enter into a finite, natural realm, but begins the return to itself through the formation, within nature, of the World Spirit, which is embodied in man.

Hegel's dialectic provides a philosophical parallel to the Lurianic Breaking of the Vessels. According to Hegel, man's original values, ideas, and institutions, are insufficient to contain the full breadth of the Absolute, and these structures, values and ideas break down or fall apart, and must be reorganised into ever widening schemas which transcend and yet incorporate the original broken ideas.

It is only through the process of "speculative reason", most perfectly manifest in the philosophy of Hegel itself, that the Absolute Idea, having alienated itself into a realm of Nature, can now, through the vehicle of mankind, return to itself.

This, of course, is Hegel's equivalent to the Kabbalist's Tikkun. The Absolute which, of necessity, was exiled and alienated has now been redeemed and fulfilled.

In Marx’s rehashing of the Lurianic schema, mankind as a whole suffers the alienation from which we all must return.

Man once led an undifferentiated existence under primitive localised communism, nevertheless, he retained control over the few things he produced.

In a parallel to the Kabbalist's Tzimtzum, this state was shattered - the breaking of the vessels.

When society became capable of producing a surplus, it also became possible for a class to emerge which was liberated from the need to directly produce and could live from its control over the labour of others. This process was necessary in order to develop and direct the productive forces, but it also meant that the majority of society, the producers, lost control of their labour. Thus, the alienation of labour arose with class society,

Nevertheless, under the conditions of alienation, the productive capacity of individuals increased to the point of potential for communist abundance.

It was thus a necessary condition, a pre-history of communism, in which the state of alienation would be lifted.

As Marx wrote in Capital, 'The veil is not removed from the countenance of the social life process, ie the process of material production, until it becomes production by freely associated men and stands under their conscious and planned control'.* Marx’s equivalent to the Kabbalist's Tikkun was therefore the return to a communistic existence, but on a globalised scale.

* K Marx, Capital, vol 1 (Penguin, 1976), p173.

© John Dunn.

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