Back to Lurianic Kabbalah


Hegel, who was extremely disdainful of Judaism in his early theological writings, presents a mature philosophy, which can be understood as an attempt to rationally explicate the basic metaphors of the Lurianic Kabbalah. However, the extent of the impact of the Kabbalah on Hegel is difficult to determine. Hegel discusses the Kabbalah briefly in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy and Religion, and uses the Hebrew term Adam Kadmon to refer to the "archetype of humanity." At at one point refers to the hypostasis of divine wisdom as "Chokma". He also makes passing reference to the doctrine of the Sefirot, where in a discussion of the Gnostic doctrine of God, he states that nothing of the deityıs essence can be imparted "except through the medium of the sephiroth". However, while Hegel is clearly familiar with Gnosticism, there is little else to suggest direct knowledge of the Kabbalah. Instead, Kabbalistic ideas seem to have reached him indirectly. For example, Hegelıs predecessor and early maestro, Friedrich Schelling was himself of a mystical bent and was influenced by the Christian Kabbalah, the Swabian pietists, and such thinkers as Jacob Boehme, each of whom had transmitted Kabbalistic insights into the Christian intellectual world.

For Hegel, the origin, substance, purpose and direction of the universe is the realization of an infinite knowledge, consciousness, or mind. Like the Kabbalistıs, Hegel held that the worldıs beginning, substance and end is to be found in an infinite, all inclusive, Absolute being. This Absolute, which is analogous to the Kabbalistıs Ein-sof, is conceived of by Hegel as the Absolute Reason or Idea, a notion that is itself present in many Kabbalistic works, including the Zohar, where Ein-Sof is at times described as the "supernal thought."

Like Ein-sof, Hegelıs Absolute is compelled to contract or alienate itself in the concrete particulars of a created world. This "self-alienation of the Absolute Spirit" is a direct parallel to the Kabbalistıs Tzimtzum, the concealment and contraction of Ein-Sof. According to Hegel, this negation or alienation is a logically necessary event, for the Idea, any idea, must necessarily fulfill itself by becoming particular and concrete. The concepts of "horse" or "kindness", for example, are empty and abstract without actual horses and real acts of kindness. Thus, as for the Kabbalistıs Ein-sof, Hegelıs Absolute only becomes itself by negating itself, and alienating itself in a world. This world, however, both according to Luria and Hegel, is in other respects an illusion, for while it appears to have an existence independent of the "All", it is in reality simply an aspect, indeed a concealed aspect, of the Absolute itself.

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. Like the Kabbalistıs Primordial Man (Adam Kadmon), Hegelıs World Spirit creates, and, is, in effect, composed of the sum total of ideas and values which define mankind. Indeed, for Hegel, mankindıs progress in history, philosophy, religion, ethics and the arts, marks the development of the Absolute in history, much as the Kabbalistıs Sefirot, their shattering and restoration mark the development of Ein-sof in the world. Hegel, like the Kabbalists, holds, in effect, that Godıs sojourn into a finite, alien realm, and his manifestation in the spirit of humankind is a logically necessary aspect of Godıs very being and perfection.

Hegelıs dialectic provides a philosophical parallel to the Lurianic Breaking of the Vessels. According to Hegel, manıs 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 reorganized into ever widening schemas which transcend and yet incorporate the original broken ideas. Thus, for example, in the realm of logic, "being" and "nothingness" dialectically break down in favor of "becoming", and in the realm of politics "abstract rights" and "morality" break down in favor of a "social ethic". Further, in the "broken" state, which Hegel refers to as the "Understanding", the oppositions of this world (e.g. between good and evil, truth and error, being and non-being, etc.) are rent apart and their mutual interdependence goes completely unrecognized. Luriaıs dynamic of Sefirot (original idea), Shevirah (shattering of that idea) and Tikkun (restoration of the original idea on a higher level) can be readily understood as a symbolic representation of the very dialectical reasoning which is later given conceptual form in Hegel.

For Hegel, the dialectic proceeds through all forms of thought, life and historical expression, expanding itself into greater and deeper possibilities and antinomies, even into realms which are regarded as negative and evil. 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 and, having traversed nature and history, perfect itself in the union of Logic, Nature and Spirit. In "Speculative Reason" the oppositions which had been broken apart by the Understanding are rejoined and are seen to be mutually dependent conceptions. This, of course, is Hegelıs equivalent to the Kabbalistıs Tikkun. The Absolute which, of necessity, was exiled and alienated has now been redeemed and fulfilled.

Hegel provides a radically cognitive or rational interpretation to our "basic metaphor". Absent from his philosophy, for example, is any serious consideration of the erotic, which is so prominent in the Lurianic myths. This is, in part, because Hegel conceived philosophy as providing a rational explanation for the cosmos, as answering the question of "Why does the world exist?" Hegelıs answer to this question (and his entire system is but the development of this answer) is that the world exists as an arena for the fullest possible realization of Reason, Mind, or Spirit. For Hegel, Reason, is the one self-sufficient, independent principle that can be posited as the foundation of the world. In short, it is the one principle that can serve as its own explanation. (If we ask for the reason for "reason" we can only answer reason itself.) Reason is both the beginning and end of the worldıs development. Philosophy is both a rational explanation of the development of the "World-Spirit", and (because philosophy is the supreme rational expression) the ultimate manifestation of the World-Spirit itself.

Hegelıs point of view corresponds to one moment in the Kabbalistıs interpretation of Ein-sof. As Scholem has pointed out, the entire history of the Kabbalah involves a struggle between views of the Absolute which see Ein-sof and the world-creative process in intellectual versus volitional terms. Indeed, two schemes for the ordering of the ten Sefirot developed, one which understood the highest Sefirah, highest manifestation of Ein-sof as Chochmah (Wisdom/Thought), and a second which understood it as Keter (Crown) which is embodied in Will or Desire(Ratzon) and Tinug (Delight). Though Hegel indeed has much to say about desire, the basic thrust of his philosophy is so rational, that from a Kabbalistic point of view, it can be said to express the "basic metaphor" under the aspect of Chochmah.

Hegel discusses the Kabbalah along with Gnosticism in his Lectures on The History of Philosophy, the relevant excerpts are available on line at Hegel on Kabbalah and Gnosticism. There is an enormous literature by and about Hegel on the internet. The best entry point is: Hegel Links . Those interested in a brief glossary of Hegel's philosophical terminology and ideas can find one at Hegel Glossary

"Hegel and the Kabbalah" is the subject of Chapter 6 of Kabbalistic Metaphors, pp. 185-240, and Hegel is discussed at various points in Symbols of the Kabbalah. The Lurianic Kabbalah is treated in detail in Sanford Drob's Symbols of the Kabbalah and Kabbalistic Metaphors .

If you entered this site via a search engine, and there are no "flash contents" on the left hand side of your screen, the site will function better if you click here and go directly to and follow the instructions at the bottom of your screen to either enter the site or load Flash 4, if you do not already have it.

All material on New Kabbalah website (c) Sanford L. Drob, 2001.

The Lurianic Kabbalah


Back to Lurianic Kabbalah

Home | Lurianic Kabbalah | Books | Articles | Interviews | Dialog | New Projects
Jung and the Kabbalah | Jewish Review | Author Bio | Links | Tikkun/Tzedakah