Tuesday, September 26, 2006

From Gershom Scholem's Kabbalah (Commonplace Book)

The most radical form that this view took was associated with the talmudic aggadah according to which prior to the creation of the world the whole of the Torah was written in black fire on white fire. As early as the beginning of the 13th century the daring notion was expressed that in reality the white fire composed the true text of the Torah, whereas the text that appeared in black fire was merely the mystical Oral Law. Hence it follows that the true Written Law has become entirely invisible to human perception and is presently concealed in the white parchment of the Torah scroll, the black letters of which are nothing more than a commentary on this vanished text. In the time of the Messiah the letters of this "white Torah" will be revealed.


Pat Moler said...

Yeah I guess that pretty much makes sense. I interpret it as meaning, we can can not fully explain the higher level of ethics and morals we live by, but we can explain the surface level of them. Something like that. I didn't put much thought into it. Plus, I don't go to Oxford like you.

Geoff Klock said...

I think what knocks me out about that passage is that, while non-believers understand that they could be wrong about everything (though they don't expect to be) believers claim to be able to count on revealed truth at all times. Here, however, revealed truth could just reverse itself, which is a wild idea.

jennifert72 said...

it also dovetails nicely with the concept that organised religion has been deceived, the texts are corrupted and only gnosis allows one to see the truth.

ping33 said...

Hmm, another nod to the whole "god as mystery"/"God as the unknowable darkness" idea that God, by 'His' very nature, is unknowable.

First it shows up in 52 and now here.

Björninn said...

Scholem talks about something similar on page 562 of the same book:

,,More daring is the concept of the first step in the manifestation of Ein-Sof as ayin or afisah ("nothing," "nothingness"). Essentialy, this nothingness is the barrier confronting the human intellectual faculty when it reaches the limits of its capacity. In other words, it is a subjective statement affirming that there is a realm which no created being can intellectually comprehend, and which, therefore, can only be defined as "nothingness." This idea is associated with its opposite concept, namely, that since in reality there is no differentiation in God's first step toward manifestation, this step cannot be defined in any qualitative manner and can thus only be described as "nothingness."

This concept of the "true text of the Torah" is a nice metaphor for the idea of reading between the lines, but then, according to what little I've read of Scholem's book, that's what kabbalah seems to be all about: Reading between the lines, and then explaining that reading through metaphor.

That's probably oversimplifying though, and I don't know nearly enough about this stuff to comment further, but I just recently read parts of the book and this quote came to mind. - If only to demonstrate Scholem's affinity for "daring" notions and concepts.

Geoff Klock said...

Bjorninn: the reading between the lines stuff is why Harold Bloom loves it so much; and Bloom, of course, is why I read this book in the first place.