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Sunday, January 6, 2013

"I think I'm dumb, or maybe I'm just happy"

"As for Shabbetai Zevi being manic-depressive (this diagnosis is the glue that holds together Scholem's thousand-page monograph), consider this: The whole cosmos is bipolar, ying-yang, masculine-feminine, positive-negative, anabolic-catabolic. Is the manic-depressive individual, the lunatic (from the waxing and waning of the "luna"), perhaps just more sensitive, more keyed to the rhythm of the cosmos? To listen to Scholem, Nathan of Gaza projected Shabbetai Zevi's silhouette on the cosmos, grafted Shabbetai Zevi's manic-depressive personality to cosmosgony. Maybe Nathan was saying the Messiah, the most sensitive being of all, 'the breath of our nostrils,' most reflects the natural order of things. What Scholem calls manic-depressive, is actually hypersensitivity. The he'arah (illumination) and hester panim (hiding of the face) of Shabbetai Zevi are the reflection of a chiaroscuro reality.

"Nathan posited that it is the interplay of the 'or sheyesh bo mahshavah (light with thought) and the 'or she-ein bo mahshava (light without thought), which is to say the interplay of constructive and destructive forces, that makes up the cosmic drama. Was Freud saying anything different when he spoke of the psyche - the individual and collective - being driven by two opposite forces of Eros and Thanatos, twin instincts of self-preservation and self-destruction?

"The late Rabbi Isaac Hutner...was apprised of the condition of a former student, a brilliant mathematician given to burning his mathematical papers. The young man was diagnosed as manic-depressive; the doctors were confident he could be cured with chemical lithium

"Rabbi Hutner shook his head sadly, 'The problem is not chemical; it is cosmic.' He went on to explain that according to the Midrash, at the time of the creation of man there were two groups of angels. One group said man should be created; the other group said man should not be created. Summed up the sage: 'A human being has within those two groups of angels. One says, 'He should create!' The other says, "He should not create!'

“Unfortunately, the wise man's prognosis came true. Lithium bicarbonate proved powerless against the voices of the naysaying angels."

-Reuven Alpert, Caught in the Crack: Encounters with the Jewish Muslims of Turkey; A Spiritual Travelog. Pp. 291-292

“A tradition associating genius with ‘madness’ had of course existed since classical or even pre-classical times...The degeneracy theorists, however, took this much further…which in effect identified genius with ‘madness,’ ‘insanity,” or ‘degeneracy.” [F.W.H.] Myers was on of the few who disputed this facile reductionism…What Myers denies in the existence of a relationship between genius and madness, but its interpretation by the degeneracy theorists…For him that correlation reflects the fact that genius and madness share, as an essential common feature, an unusual openness to the subliminal. The degeneracy theorists, however, had missed a crucial difference – namely, that genius masters its subliminal uprushes, whereas the insane are overwhelmed by theirs.”

Edward F. Kelly & Michael Grosso, in Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, pp. 470-471

A painting of a scene at night with 11 swirly stars and a bright yellow crescent moon. In the background there are hills, in the middle ground there is a moonlit town with a church that has an elongated steeple, and in the foreground there is the dark green silhouette of a cypress tree.


Mo said...

Does Scholem correlates mania=Jewish Messiah and depression=Islam, non-Messiah?

If so, I think this is a too simplistic understanding of bi-polar. Often mania can contain a high dose of syncretism, and it would not be surprising for Shabbetai Tzvi to be Jewish-Islamic Messiah in a manic state

Anonymous said...