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Kabbalah: The Mystical Origin of Psychoanalysis

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”...the contributions of Freud are to be understood largely as a contemporary version of, and a contemporary contribution to, the history of Jewish mysticism. Freud consciously, or unconsciously, secularized Jewish mysticism; and psychoanalysis can intelligently be viewed as such a secularization”

(David Bakan, Sigmund Freud and and the Jewish Mystical Tradition).

While many will object to representing Freud as a mystic (and many others will not), mysticism and Kabbalah have been a source of inspiration for psychoanalysts. As I noted in my previous two articles (Rosh Ha-Shanah: The Journey for Redemption and Yom Kippur: Mystical Union), when seen in a psychoanalytic light, peculiar passages from kabbalistic texts render an exciting interpretation.

Indeed, Kabbalah and psychoanalysis share the quest for the laws of a hidden reality; both investigate and try to decipher a hidden truth that can be expressed only via symbols.

The Kabbalah believes in a transcendent, harmonious divine reality that connects with our visible world. It studies the inner laws and working of the Divine and its relationship to human existence.

Further, in Lurianic Kabbalah, the world was created as a result of the Absolute’s attempt to purge the Infinite of its evil potential. This therapeutic process resulted in a catastrophe, and parts of the infinite light fell into the realm of evil. From that point onward, humanity at large, and the Kabbalists in particular, have been engaged in a cosmic drama of restoration known as Tikkun –mending. The Lurianic system ascribes an essential role to the human soul in the process of Tikkun, and dedicates an entire work (Shaar Ha-gilgulim, the gate of re-incarnations) to the structure of the human soul and the idea of re-incarnation (gilgul). It divides the soul into five parts and conceives re-incarnation as the journey of these parts to unite with each other and finally with their divine origin.

Psychoanalysis is the quest for the hidden reality of the self and its restitution. It seeks knowledge and understanding of the laws and logic of the unconscious (Freud) or the psyche (Jung), in order to heal and achieve a sense of liberation from pathology.

While any relation between Freud’s theories and Kabbalah remains implicit and is a question of interpretation, it is clear that Jung was attracted to mysticism. In his later work he referred to Jewish mysticism and even claimed to have had Kabbalistic dreams and visions (his approach to Judaism remains nevertheless problematic). He also maintained that Jewish mysticism was a forerunner not only of his work, but of Freud’s as well.

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About michal Schwartz

  • bedy

    to Michal Schwartz
    i read your article about Kabalah and psychoanalysis.To understand the origins of the big theories is so fascinating!
    thank you