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Into the Marginal Zone: How I became a Jungian analyst
How I became a Jungian Analyst
INTO THE MARGINAL ZONE

Henry Abramovitch


Part One: Becoming a Jungian Analyst
One Day in September
My pathway to becoming a Jungian analyst began one day in September. I walked into the master bedroom and found my mother, her exquisitely beautiful blue eyes staring up at the corner of the ceiling. Strange, I thought. Then I realized she was not breathing. Using my water safety training, I tried to give her the kiss of life, but her entire passageway was clogged. Using an alternative form of artificial respiration, I held her flaccid hands together with mine and pressed down hard on her diaphragm. From out of her mouth came a fountain of vomit. My brother was with me and said, “She’s gone.” “No!” I screamed back. But she was. Dead. In one moment, I became a hero crushed down by failure to save my mother and by my inability to make sense of her senseless, sudden death. I was barely 21.

Madagascar
Still bearing the weight of an enormous mother complex, I looked for ways to come to terms with her loss. As an anthropologist-psychologist, I searched for a society that knew how to make peace with the dead. I stumbled across Madagascar, the island continent off the east coast of Africa. How I got there is a story in itself, but once I found my place on a small island, I became immersed in spirit possession healing and rituals surrounding death.

In this culture, burial at the time of death is a relatively simple affair, but years later, the entire extended family and clan gather in the cemetery for the fahamadiana or “second burial.” The white bones of the deceased are dug up from the earth and laid out on a woven reed mat. The head of the lineage goes down on one knee and speaks to the soul of the dead relative, saying, “See, we have not forgotten you; look how many people are here; look how much ancestral beer we have made ready in your honor.” After he makes his peace with the spirit of the deceased, he turns to call on all the great ancestors, the razabe, to receive this “fresh soul” in the midst of the family as a junior ancestor. Then everyone—young men and old men, young women and old women—start drinking and dancing ecstatically in the cemetery. Some may even dance with the bones, rewrapped in the white cloth and the reed mat. The bones are placed in a wooden or cement sarcophagus that resembles their huts, so that the cemetery looks like a miniature village for the dead. Infertile woman prize the reed mat upon which the bones had lain for its fertility powers, so much so that contact with the dead is seen as a source of living vitality. I had always associated graveyards with separation and sadness. Yet this ritual of becoming an ancestor remains the most joyous event I ever witnessed. I am still struck, many years later, by how the most important event in their life cycle occurs years after they are dead, when they become ancestors.

A Resurrection Experience
The Malagasy are wonderfully friendly and open people but have a dark xenophobic shadow. In general, the people were friendly and open. Naively, I did not realize that I was entering deeply into cultural secrets that certain people did not want me to know. One day, following a terrible bout of diarrhea, I became confused and found myself drinking salt water, wandering aimlessly, unable to concentrate, and thinking that I was going to die. Passing out, I had an unusual vision: I had indeed died and was buried, and the process of bodily disintegration had begun. My dead body was being pulled apart by worms, moles, and insects. Suddenly, a voice called out, “Stop!” The process was halted and then reversed. My decomposed body was reconstituted, revived, and resurrected, rather like in a shamanistic initiation. I had other intense psychotic-like visions and eventually found my way to a clinic and then to a hospital. I was told that I might have been poisoned. Because I was a foreigner, the culprit had given me enough poison to get rid of me but not to kill me. Whatever actually happened, I was deeply traumatized and recovered very slowly. My persona had been stripped away. I could not travel by myself, and my sister had to come and take me home. I had left Madagascar, but my soul had not yet caught up.
When I finally managed to return to my university and told the story of my experiences and visions to one of my professors, he said, “You would be a good candidate for Jungian analysis.” One of my doctoral supervisors, Daniel Levinson, had discovered Jung via his own mid-life crisis and had done pioneering work on adult development, summarized in The Seasons of a Man’s Life (1986). He suggested that I see a Jungian colleague who was part of his research team, Ray Walker, who had trained at the C. G. Jung Institute of New York. We started working on my dreams, and I felt I had arrived back “home” at last.
When I finished my doctoral studies, I decided I needed to take a moratorium. What followed was an important year that included a trip to my ancestral roots in Romania and hitchhiking round Eastern Europe with my sister. I remember the moment at which I actually decided to become a Jungian analyst. I was in Rome, staying with my friends in The Living Theatre, an international political theatre group. I found Jung’s (1989) Memories, Dreams, Reflections, opened it at random, and read that ancestors represented the realm of the collective unconscious (p. 216). It was a Eureka moment for me: “Yes, that’s it!”

The Dream
I traveled by slow boat to Israel, where the intensity of human relations and the austere Biblical beauty of Jerusalem grabbed me. I found a new analyst, William Alex, recently arrived from San Francisco and one of the first graduates of the Zurich Institute. I had strong, positive transference to him as a warm, loving father figure who helped me descend into the underworld. Later, I applied to train in the Israel Association of Analytical Psychology, founded by Erich Neumann in the 1950s. Suddenly I had second thoughts. I wondered whether I really wanted to spend so much time, energy, and money in this enterprise. Then I had a dream:
I am wondering through a medieval European city, through narrow alleyways and along high walls. Then I walk up some steps and come to a heavy wooden door. I go up to the door and knock. The door opens. Jung himself opens the door and invites me in. We are standing in the hallway that it also a little museum, with beautiful artifacts revealed behind sliding glass doors. Jung slides open one of the panels and gives me a beautiful artifact.
When I awoke, I knew I had to do the training.


Part Two: Into the Marginal Zone

What’s Wrong with Your Eye?
I completed my training and enjoyed my work as an analyst for almost twenty years until something happened for which neither my analysis nor my training had prepared me. I discovered that my left eyelid was drooping. I felt no pain, no discomfort, and only became aware of it when a neighbor noticed a flaw in my persona and said, “What’s wrong with you eye?”
I went to numerous doctors—ophthalmologists, neurologists, and internists—and underwent many tests, none of which uncovered the cause. At the same time, I began losing weight, eating less, and lacking my usual bounce. Sleeping became painful due to what I later discovered was a hugely swollen spleen and liver. One day I became breathless. I could not even walk up a single flight of stairs. Still, I felt it would pass; it was nothing to be worried about. I even traveled abroad to give a workshop. When I returned, suddenly my white blood cell count jumped to “panic levels.”
The next day or rather night—thanks to my wife’s persistence—I meet with a hematologist. I sit with her in a deserted cancer institute. We talk, and she explains what a lymph node does—I barely knew, but soon my muse understood:

Neutrophils are the butterflies, coming and going like a summer day,
Landing on the trees of acute infection.
Lymphocytes are the reserves and reconnaissance that fight
Chronic conditions and recall previous invaders.
Slow and steady they try to win the race
They are tortoises of the immune system.


Then she said, “Lets look at the blood slides together.” She took me to her lab, drew blood, and when the slides were ready, she took a deep breath, took a look, and said, “Oh, they are cute.” She had suspected a fatal, highly aggressive blood disease but had found instead a slow-growing, “indolent” lymphoma.
There are at least 45 different subtypes of lymphoma, each with its own treatment and prognosis. Whereas a diagnosis is usually achieved via a lymph biopsy, this procedure was not possible in my case. For a whole month, I had almost daily tests to discover what had been brewing in my body. On the day of the bone marrow biopsy, I called my medical colleague to ask him to fill in for my teaching. He said: "Fuck! Where did you pick that up!" The CT scan revealed suspicious sightings in the soft tissue, near the spine, behind the kidneys, in the abdomen. Finally, my breathing got extremely difficult—the lymphoma was blocking the drainage of the pleura, the sack around my right lung, compressing and compromising my oxygen supply. Since the doctors did not know what I had, they treated me for the worst with the strongest possible dose of four types of chemotherapy and a new monoclonal antibody treatment, called Mabthera in Israel. The whole package is code-named CHOP + R.

The chemo is in an indiscriminate artillery barrage
The Mabtera is a targeted assassination.

Since my lymph is abnormal
life has become abnormal
I have crossed over
into the village of the sick.

She is not happy with my chest X-ray
There are still 2 liters of fluid inside
The fluid is thick, viscous, “loculated”
Each day I receive a medical vocabulary lesson.
Loculated means
that the fluid is located in separated compartments
like the Titanic.


The Wounded Analyst

Today, there are no tests. I am not a patient today; instead I take care of my own patients. I make a mental not to construct an up-to-date patient list just in case—in the event of—my death—and suddenly I am sobbing for the first time since I heard, alone in the bathroom. I go to my office and make that list, preparing copies to give to colleagues in case sessions need to be canceled when I have chemo, or worse. The rest of the day, I sit and listen to other people. One lady, a senior mental health professional, recalls the brutal abuses of her father and then of the men in her life. She sobs, “I am damaged, so damaged.” Later I want to transfer her to another analyst, but she cries again, saying, “Don’t you understand, I cannot go to another analyst. I just cannot.” Another patient, a young man, is about to be married. Every moment of joy brings the anguish of a missing father, murdered in a terrorist attack. He says he will never be happy again, not even on his wedding day. I am suddenly terrified that this will also be my children's fate.

Towards evening, my breathing becomes even worse
pain stalks each sitting position
I do not know what to do with myself.
For the first time, I feel
really miserable.
I cannot face another unslept night.

I have my first scary dream:
I am driving in a car with my wife in a city street.
We are going down a gentle incline
And I want to slow the car down
But I cannot move my foot from pedal to brake
Momentarily immobilized
I cry out for help…

Today my first MD introduces me to the lymphoma specialist
who will be treating me.

I tell her my story.
How the lymphoma infiltrated the muscles that control eye movement.
How fluid accumulated in the lungs and showed small B-cells
CT: masses round my spine, reticular bodies, kidneys, neck, pelvis
But that most are clots
So that even the biopsy
they took out of my back may not be good enough for histo-diagnosis.
Hematalogists love histology
and love to see both the individual cell
but also how the cells aggregate, the cellular architecture.
I say it sounds very Jungian,
You want to see the individual and the collective.
They say “Exactly.”

I ask why the bone marrow did not give more information
and again the immunological system sounds like adolescent psychology.
In the bone marrow, lymphocytes behave because they are under close supervision;
once they are on their own, they run wild;
so bone marrow does not show how wayward they will become, unsupervised.
My spleen is now twice its regular size; my lungs accumulating more fluid.
They discuss again the eye and rule out the operation but say
we may need to rebiopsy.
I hear for the first time talk about taking out my spleen

Finally, they track down my subtype.
Its name so well reflects my liminal state:
Marginal zone.
I am in the margins, all right.

But the real shock comes
When I ask about staging.
Naively I had thought,
since there were no obvious lymph nodes
I might be in Stage I
or Stage II.
She hesitates and I know it is bad.
“Tell me straight—dugri”
I have been strong staring death down
But I am not prepared for
“Stage IV” and worse,
there is an infected lymph node hidden and inaccessible down below.


Living with Chemo

How will chemo hit me? Will I be able to go on working?

Ever since my first CHOP chemo
There have been sores in my mouth
Along the ridges, between the gums
An entire palate hid its shame behind the tongue
Eating anything with edges makes me edgy.

I think of the difference between curing and healing.
A thief breaks into your house, leaves a terrible mess
and steals your mother’s bracelet.
Later, the thief is caught and the bracelet returned
you are cured of the “theft”
But not healed of the violation of your home.
I am becoming cured
but will my body home be healed, restored, purified, strengthened.


When I was undergoing treatment, every moment felt precious. There was no time to waste. I felt over and over again the key question of individuation: What am I here to do? What is my destiny? At the time, I was editing a special edition of the Jungian journal Harvest on Erich Neumann, who died age 55, exactly my age. I felt that I had been paying too much attention to the needs of others and not enough to my own destiny, so that I too would die without doing what I was supposed to do. Neumann’s tragedy accompanied me everywhere.

The Analyst Changes—Persona Vanishes

Physical changes are the most striking aspect of illness, hiding and revealing

the persona.


“To be well is a hobby;
to be sick is a full time job.”

One of the central experiences of illness is loss.
In English, the word for illness is dis-ease
The loss of ease—
the ease not to know
when your next treatment or blood test is coming.
The loss of ease that each sensation, pain, sweaty night,
each ache, does not signal another medical earthquake.
The loss of a future spreading out before you like a set table.
Above all, for every cancer person,
there is the loss of “my body as I knew it.”

For me, the bodily change was not
weight loss, a half closed eye, a massively swollen spleen that stole sleep, or
even panicking white blood cells
but one day after chemo, touching my chin
to see my beard fall like fresh snow.
Since I was 19, I have had a beard.
No one in Israel had seen my naked face;
not my wife, my children, my students, or my patients.
People did not recognize me; I did not recognize myself.
I would look in the mirror and say “Who stole my face?”
I would walk up to old friends and start speaking, only to be told,
”Excuse me, sir, who are you?”
“Who am I, indeed?” I was another Henry: Henry the Sick.

Around that time, the
hematology department sent an invitation for a workshop with the collage artist Hanoch Piven
and my innermost soul felt “aha.”
Here is a chance
to do something about my beard.
I came with a bearded friend.
He brought
pine needles from his garden
and I brought dried foodstuffs (rice, beans, lentils, nuts, chickpeas, mushrooms) and kitchen utensils (wooden knives and metal choppers).
Kitchens are places of transformations, of the Great Mother,
where the raw becomes cooked
something that can be eaten and digested.
Each of us recreated my missing beard.
Doing these collages helped me mourn my beard and all it represented:
my masculine identity, my link to Jewishness and my bearded ancestors, and
the “me” who was no more.
Cancer takes away so much;
but it also gives:
opportunities to see the world,
not how we want it to be, but as it is.


“You Have to Decide”

A Jungian colleague, she of the unexpectedly fractured pelvis,
Comes to my oxygenated home.
She shares the wisdom of being a sick analyst.
“Dealing with patients”
she says: “You have to decide
Who you can work with and who you want to put off
You have to do it your way.
To take care of yourself first.”
Which is hard
since as analysts, we are so focused on looking after the others.
“Telling patients about your illness
means that you have to feel comfortable with them asking,
‘How you are?’
“Some patients surprised me.
My being weak, allowed them to grow strong.”
Just as the wounded healer paradigm might predict.

Shabbat protected me
From the pain
Discomfort and tyranny of the body
I feel my spleen shrink
Laugh with friends unseen for ages
And
Write as if there is no tomorrow
But as we see the Sabbath queen off
I feel feverish
I wake in the wolfish hour
To feel my spleen expanded, painful
Abandoned to the blackness of another week.

I am told
To wait
To practice the prime patient virtue: patience
From the Sankskrit, pati, to wait, to suffer
I am getting expert at both.

We come early for the procedure
Done by three unfamiliar medicos
And I think how easily we place our bodies
In the hands of strangers

Strange hands enter my body
Will they contaminate my soul?

I hope that by Shabbat I will once again be under the wings of the Shechinah.


Two Hematology Psalms

My two hematologists were healers of Biblical proportions and to honor them,

I wrote two poems:

In the beginning,
God created the lymph and lymphoma
And there was chaos,
and darkness over the face of the fluid.
Until the medication, blessed be, hovered over the interface.
God said: Let there be light! And there was light!
God saw the light through the microscope
and saw that the cells were good.
God separated the cells, the dark from the light.
He called the light, lymph and the darkness, lymphoma.
And from out of the coma, there was hope.
-------------------------------------------------------

The hematologist is my shepherd
I shall not want.
She makes me lie down on green examining table
and renews my life
She guides me thru the right protocol
as befits my subtype.
Though I walk in the valley of the spleen
I shall not fear
she lays me down by the fluid
and comforts my nodules.
She guides me through the paths of bureaucracy
and shows me the power of imagery.
My blood brims over
and my chest is anointed with gel
Only monoclonal antibodies and chemotherapy shall pursue
all the days of my life.
my body shall dwell in the house of healing
all the years of my life.
----------------------------------------------------------------


Illness in the Analyst

In the end, the treatment was successful and I left the village of the sick.
I am now five years lymphoma-free. Clearly, I am one of the really lucky ones.
How has this experience changed me? When I was going through treatments and confronting mortality, I yearned for a spiritual breakthrough that would refocus my life. But it never came. I did decide to explore my inferior sensation function by learning to play saxophone and doing yoga and ceramic sculpture. But there was no great revelation. Rather, I gradually returned to doing what I had done previously but with more zest. Following his slow recovery from his heart attack, Jung (1989) wrote:
. . . something else, too, came to me from my illness. I might formulate it as an affirmation of things as they are: an unconditional “yes” to that which is, without subjective protests—acceptance of the conditions of existence as I see them and understand them, acceptance of my own nature, as I happen to be. (p. 328).
In a less dramatic fashion, as I left the village of the sick, I believe that I too accepted my own nature. Jungian psychology, with its emphasis on spirit and Self, often neglects the body, and my illness has taught me to be more attentive and kind and appreciative of it. Nadezhda Mandelstamm, wife of the great Russian poet Osip, in her memorable memoir Hope Against Hope (1999), describes how her husband was exiled and persecuted unto death by Stalinists. Despite all that, she described him as “endlessly zhizneradostny”— literally, “life glad.” I believe my illness has shown me how to be zhizneradostny.
My illness had yet another impact. I became concerned with how illness and dying/death impact on the lives of analysts and their patients (Dewald, 1982; Kaplan & Rothberg,1986; Schwartz & Silver, 1990). In my training the issue of the ill or disabled analyst never arose, and I felt like I was making it up as I went along. I began investigating the topic and found little Jungian material, except a moving piece by Pamela Power about how the death of her analyst had impacted her life and her own illness (Power, 2005). I started interviewing analysts who were sick and those who had recovered, as well as patients of deceased analysts, while writing giving seminars,and workshops on the topic (Abramovitch, 2011). I now understand that it is crucial to confront our own illness and mortality before we get sick, otherwise the impact on the patients about whom we so care will be terrible. Ideally, patients of seriously ill or dying analysts ought to be transferred ahead of time (Kaplan & Rothberg, 1986). Yet, I know from personal experience with dying colleagues and their analysands how difficult it was for them to let go of their patients, who provided them with so much vitality and meaning. Analysands often complained bitterly that they had stayed in analysis only for the sake of their analyst, long after it ceased to be for their own needs. They also said how hard it was to start with someone else. The unexpected and unworked- through death of an analyst can have a profound and disturbing effect not only on analysands and candidates but on the entire analytical community (Lasky, 1990; Fajardo, 2001). I hope when my times comes to join my mother in the realm of the ancestors, I will have the courage to follow my own good advice.
I want to end with a poem by Osip Mandelstamm that brings together the themes of death, resurrection, and joy in living:

Mounds of human heads are wandering into the distance.
I dwindle among them. Nobody sees me. But in books
Much loved, and in children’s games I shall rise
From the dead to say the sun is shining.


Bibliography
Abramovitch, H. (2011). Illness in the analyst. In P. Bennett (Ed.), Facing multiplicity:
Psyche nature culture. Proceedings of the XVIIIth Congress of IAAP. Einsiedeln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag. In press.

Dewald, P. (1982). Serious illness in the analyst: Transference, countertransference and reality responses. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 30(2), 347–363.

Kaplan, A. H., & Rothberg, D. (1986). The dying psychotherapist. American Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 561–572.

Fajardo, R. (2001). Life-threatening illness in the analyst. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 49(2), 569–586.

Jung, C. G. (1989). Dreams, Memories, Reflections (Ed. A. Jaffe). New York: Vintage.

Lasky, R. (1990). Catastrophic illness in the analyst and the analyst’ emotional reaction to it. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 71, 455–473.

Levinson, D. (1986). The seasons of a man’s life. New York: Ballantine Books.

Mandelstamm, N. (1999). Hope Against hope. New York: Modern Library.

Power, P. J. (2005). Death of the analyst. Journal of Jungian Theory and Practice, 7(2), 35–46.

Schwartz, H. J., & Silver, A.-L. S. (Eds.). (1990). Illness in the analyst: Implications for treatment relationship. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.

Analysis in the Shadow of Terror

Analysis in the Shadow of Terror: Clinical Aspects
Henry Abramovitch, Jerusalem


At Jerusalem’s gate, a black sun has risen
- Osip Mandelstam


This paper, sadly, will have resonance for you in Moscow who have undergone so many acts of terrorism in the airport, subway, trains, hotels, rock festival, theatre, apartments and shopping centers as we have in Israel. I will say nothing about psychodynamics of terrorists or politics but only how such violence effects how we work as analysts.
To do analysis, we need safe container and magical enclosure of the temenos (Abramovitch 1997; 2002) that says: ”Here, we are safe; Here, we can explore, even the most violent fantasy” - so long as it remains fantasy. Once the boundaries between fantasy and reality are gone, analysis becomes impossible. Violence and analysis do not mix. Yet in Jerusalem, Moscow and almost everywhere, we are forced to do analysis in the shadow of terror.

My Death
My first reaction to the recurring violence and suicide bombings is a relentless confrontation with “my death”. Everyday I wake with a lingering sense that this day will be my last. This death anxiety is no paranoid fantasy but very much based on synchronous events and many near misses: A horrid devastation occurred in a popular café, meters away from where I regularly attend demonstrations against the Occupation of West Bank and Gaza. A second bomber entered another popular café near my office. He asked only for a glass of water, which aroused the waiter’s suspicion, and in the ensuing struggle, the bomb failed to detonate. Another bomb, which with a certain poetic justice killed only its perpetrator, young Palestinian woman seeking revenge for the death of a family member was targeted at a bus which runs right past my house. One of the most distressing occurred, when I was showing an analysand out of my office, a voice distorted by a loudspeaker called out to us, “Please remain indoors!” Stepping back we watched together as the bomb squad robot examined and disarmed a suspicious object lying across the street. At that moment, we were no longer analyst and analysand, but victims of a participation mystique of helplessness that seemed to break down the boundaries between us.
Most spiritual traditions place a great value on the ongoing confrontation with mortality. Imagining the reality of my death keeps my priorities exquisitely clear. The Hebrew phrase “Repent on the day before your death” indicates that since we never know the time of our death, “returning” as repentance (tsuva) is called in Hebrew, should be ever-present and ongoing. Confronting violent demise may be good for the soul but it does take a toll. I feel like I am living on borrowed time, waiting until the next bomb. This chronic death anxiety may even give daily life an “as-if” quality of a provisional life, something that normally typifies puer aeternis. I dream of escaping to a world like the one Abraham envisioned in which the innocent never die and I know I am trapped in an naïve escape fantasy. ‘My death’ seemed to be getting closer all the time, pursuing me, waiting for me, taunting me that I would never arrive to stand before you today!

But standing before you in lovely Moscow – where terror has such distinguished and recent history, I am possessed by another more terrifying and perverse fantasy. In this fantasy, I am speaking to you just as I am doing now, when door of the hall opens. A member of the conference staff enters. She looks around and sees me at the microphone. Making eye contact, she indicates that she has an urgent note for me that cannot wait. She walks up to the podium and hands me a note.
The note screams out at me that my dear wife and lovely children, my entire family have been destroyed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. I break down before you…
If the next time the door opens, you feel a twinge of anxiety, then I will have succeeded in infecting you and your psyche with the pervasive anxiety which living under the shadow of terror entails. In Israel, during Intifada al-Aqsa alone, 16% of all Israelis were directly exposed to a terrorist attack and 37% had family member or friend directly victimized by terror (Bleich, Gelkopf & Solomon 2003) Since terror is indiscriminate, it equally effected Israeli Arabs, who actually reported higher levels of PTSD and Depression, with woman especially at 5.5. times at risk (Somer et. A. 2007). I shall return to this point later.
Terror attacks not only the body but also the psyche, attacking our primordial sense of security, that the very ground of our life can be so brutally and unexpected fragmented. At the height of the daily explosions, I would jump at any loud noise; I would become uncharacteristically fearful whenever an analysand was late, especially if I knew they were coming by public transportation. I would dread the phone call telling me that one of my patients was blown apart or dismembered. Temenos is a place where people are free to create & learn spontaneously, like children, without criticism or judgment. Jung, in Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy (CW 12) discussed the temenos via a patient’s dream series. Dreamer was a young man with an excellent scientific education who produced over 400 dreams over a period of ten months. The first, initial dream was: The dreamer is at a social gathering. On leaving, he puts on a stranger’s hat instead of his own. The dream clearly indicates a disturbance of identity and persona. The next dreams involve blocking view of fellow passengers on a train; sitting on a lonely island. The 4th dream immediately preceding the dream in question was: The dreamer is surrounded by a throng of vague female forms. A voice within him says, “First I must get away from Father.” This dream reveals an archetypal tension between the feminine and the Father, perhaps with a need to first separate from Father before being able to deal with an overwhelming feminine presence.
The fifth dream that dealt with persona was as follows:
A snake describes a circle round the dreamer, who stands rooted to the ground like a tree. Here is Jung’s comment: “The spellbinding circle is an ancient magical device used by everyone who has a special or secret purpose in mind. He thereby protects himself from the "perils of the soul" that threaten him from without and attack anyone who is isolated by a secret. The same procedure has also been used since olden times to set apart a place as holy and inviolable; in founding a city, for instance, they first drew the sulcus primigenius or original furrow. The fact that the dreamer stands rooted to the center is a compensation of his almost insuperable desire to run away from the unconscious. He experienced an agreeable feeling of relief after this vision - and rightly, since he has succeeded in establishing a protected temenos, a taboo area where he will be able to meet the unconscious. His isolation, so uncanny before, is now endowed with meaning and purpose and this robbed of its terrors.” (Portable Jung pp. 333-4)
Historically, the temenos was the inner sanctuary of the temples of the ancient Greeks, a place of shelter and eternal truth, walled off from the temptations and shifting winds of the temporal world: the most sacred part of the temple, where the presence of the gods can be experienced. Temenos is one of the most important ways in which Jungians conceptualize therapeutic containment. Like the holy of holies it is a place both sacred and inviolate. The etymology of the Hebrew word for holy and sanctification, ‘kadosh’ meaning ‘set apart’ conveys the sense that something holy is set apart from everyday life; so, too, Jung, felt therapeutic temenos was set apart for a higher purpose. Just as the Temple is a place of meeting between believer and the Divine, so too, analytic temenos was a place where analysand might encounter the Self. The numinosity and danger of the encounter require maximum containment and enclosure. The temenos of the Hebrew temple was empty all year except for one day. Only on the Day of Atonement did the high priest enter to ask for forgiveness for sins. As analysts, we know there are occasions when the sacred containment is violated and even lost. Scottish-born, Rome based, Jungian analyst, Angela Connolly, when she was a new in Moscow, described some of the difficulties she encountered in trying to maintain the temenos of her therapeutic space. (Connolly 2006). Guards at her gate would refuse to allow analysands to enter, or demand identification; her maid would disturb her during sessions. Worse, the terror which Moscow experienced at that time, carried a terrifying threat, that Angela would be forced to leave and to abandon not only the tremenos but all those who had entered it.
As some of you may know I have been interested in temenos and written article about phenomenon of “Temenos Lost” which has recently been translated into Russian. It describe what may happen to the temenos when you move, or in some way change your clinical space so that the temenos is lost; a second article, “Temenos Regained” (The reference is to Milton’s famous pair of poems “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained”.) deals with what happens to temenos when analyst is absent and describes a highly unusual circumstances in which I gave the keys to my office to an analysand, who functioned like a priestess guarding the temenos, during my absence.

Confronting Evil
The bombings also force all of us to confront evil, both the evil done to us, and the evil that necessarily arises in occupying another people. Jungian psychology has much to say about evil, both personal and archetypal, and I feel we in Israel are having an intensive daily workshop.
My colleague Avi Baumann draws distinction between archetypal and personal evil. Archetypal evil is an unconquerable, supra-human force that function in a way similar to the monsters of Greek mythology, or the Devil in Christianity. Personal evil such as cruelty can and should be resisted. The ever-present danger is to be drawn into the clutches of archetypal evil under the control of the victim-victimizer archetype. In this pattern, an endless cycle of violence is created in which victims of violence victimize others out of a consuming sense of their own victimhood. The dehumanizing acts of one side draw out an inhuman response by the other. As Jung wrote: “When evil breaks out at any point in the order of things, our whole circle of psychic protection is disrupted. Action inevitably call up reaction and in the matter of destructiveness, this turns out to be just as bad as the cause and possibly even worse, because the evil must be exterminated root and branch.” (CW 10, para. 411.) It is important that most Israeli analysts have a direct connection with Holocaust, either as child survivors, Kindertransport, children of survivors, Auschwitz survivor or indirectly living a society permeated by holocaust imagery. So that we have all lived and worked in the shadow of that archetypal evil.

When a suicide bomber explodes, their body is literally mixed up with those of her victims. This horrendous loss of boundaries between the bodies of victims and victimizers has, I believe, a psychic equivalent, in which the perspectives of victim and perpetrator, or even, observer and victim become fused. This psychic merging can be seen in dreams in which the dreamer is drawn against their will into the vortex of the violence, as both perpetrator and victim. A student of my analysand, an educational specialist, was blown apart in the horrendous attack at the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University. Soon after, my analysand had two dreams. In the first, she dreamed that the walls of her house was suddenly destroyed and all that was left was a hidden pile of old photographs. In normal times, such a dream might be understood to reflect personal issues connected with the breakdown of her marriage, or inner feeling of being exposed. But following the funeral of her murdered student, the dream clearly had a collective significance, indicating the abrupt loss of security, which a home is supposed to provide. As analysts, parents and teachers we often feel complicit in the deaths of our analysands, children and disciples, shamed we somehow did not protect them from their fate. This negative participation-mystique in the terror itself was reflected in her second dream:

“In my dream, I had bombed an educational institution in the Old City of Jerusalem, at which I had studied. In the next scene, I was helping children escape from the building that was in danger of collapse, until someone came to stabilize it.”

Before discussing the dream let me amplify the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Old City of Jerusalem, with its massive, stonewalls, and magnificent, decorated gates is a physical mandala at the Center, holding together the 4 quarters: Christian, Armenian, Jewish, Muslim. The name, Jerusalem, itself means “peace” and known as the place where heaven and earth meet. It includes the holiest places for Judaism, Christianity and Islam: the remnant of the 2nd Temple known as “The Wailing Wall”, the Church of Holy Sepulcher containing the tomb of Christ, built and maintained by Russian Orthodox Church and the El Aqsa or as it is called in Qu’ran, the “Farthest Mosque” and Dome of the Rock whence Mohammed went on his night journey to heaven; all are within short walking distance of each other. It is place of pilgrimage even if many like Jung’s strange visitors at the beginning of the Septem Sermones said, "We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought'. (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 190-1). Jerusalem is over generations has been a natural symbol for the Self; at its best holding together the opposites, pointing to something Higher. At its worst, gripped by violence committed in the name of a jealous God. I must confess that I have my own love affair with this beautiful and terrible city.
Returning to the dream. The dreamer, although not based in the Old City, would have spent considerable time there. In this dream, my analysand is both attacker and rescuer, seemingly caught in a Sysphisian endeavor. Again in normal times, one might see a cycle of destructive rage and the compensatory, reparative rescue fantasy, with the analyst saving the psychic structure from collapse under the weight of her own destructiveness. But in the shadow of the bombing, the dream also reflected her sense of being complicit in the events, that somehow, irrationally, she occupies both sides of the victim-victimizer archetype. A similar sense of psychic confusion is reflected in the dream of another analysand:

“”There is terrible fighting between Israelis and Palestinians and I do not know which side I am on. In a large field, a plane strafes the center again and again and again… The Queen’s guards prepare to storm a school.”

Not knowing which side one is own points to psychic confusion, even a refusal to choose sides and so implicitly, the urgent need for a third perspective. The ambiguous image of the Queen’s guard about to attack a school highlights this ambiguity: are they aggressors or rescuers, or both? With terrible negative synchronicity, when I gave an earlier version of this talk, in an atmosphere reminiscent of the dream, the siege of the school in Beslan, North Ossetia resulted in the death of hundreds; two bus were bombed in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, killing over a dozen people. Another bomb exploded here in Moscow. The image of the ‘a plane strafes the center again and again and again’ which in a personal sense might be understood as the paternal sky aggression turned inwards, now seems as the archetypal damage done to the Self by the repeating cycle of violence and counter-violence. Under the control of the victim-victimizer archetype, there is an actua and imminent danger of being possessed by the shadow. This danger was poignantly illustrated in the dream of another Jewish patient:

“In this dream, a friend asks me to pick him up and take him by car to an undisclosed destination. Suddenly, we are in the middle of an Arab village. My friend reveals to me that he is a suicide bomber who will blow us up along with the villagers in an act of revenge. I awake in horror.”

This dream points out clearly how a weak ego can be taken over and commandeered by the shadow into committing immoral acts. In a different sense, it can be seen as a “big
dream” in that it predicted the coming of a secret Jewish underground which sought to kill innocent Palestinians in retaliatory vengeance. I want to just mention an ethical dilemma experienced by one of my colleagues. There was a secret Jewish terror group who carried tit-for-tat revenge killings of innocent Palestinians following the death of any Jewish Israeli . An analysand unexpectedly revealed that she was part of one of these secret revenge groups and confessed proudly that they had executed an Arab taxi driver the previous week. The method was to order a taxi, lure the driver out into the Judean wilderness and murder him in cold blood at preordained spot where a getaway car was waiting. My colleague felt that since the murdered had already occurred, he was under no obligation to report the matter to the authorities who would undoubtedly arrest the analysand and terminate therapy. My colleague tried to work with therapeutically and deal with the shadow issues involved. However, a few weeks later, a Jewish Israel teenager was stabbed to death. The analysand proudly announced that revenge was planned for the coming week. This time my colleague agonized, but in the end, felt that saving a life outweighed the value of the therapy. The authorities were informed and the analysand and her group arrested.

During times of terror, there is an ever-recurrent threat of “re-collectivization, in which an individual is swallowed up in collective identity. Jung introduced this term in the context of the dissolution of the persona writing, “For the development of personality, then, strict differentiation from the collective psyche is absolutely necessary, since partial or blurred differentiation leads to an immediate melting away of the individual in the collective…through his identification with the collective psyche, he will inevitably try to force the demands of his unconscious upon others for identity with the collective psyche always brings with it a feeling of universal validity “godlikeness” – which completely ignores all differences in the personal psyche of his fellows…the suffocation of the single individual, as a consequence of which the element of differentiation is obliterated from the community.” (CW 7, para. 240). Re-collectivization occurs when a person due to the stress of the individuation process is re-absorbed back into the collective identity of his group. It can provide a wonderful and profound sense of belonging and togetherness that the abdication of individual ego may bring about. But the process ‘can be a numbing, soul destroying experience – a robot-like fate imposed by a society in which individual capacities are numbed, destroyed or turned away from the task of creation’ (Friedlander p. 138).
I felt the pull of re-collectivization most strongly with Palestinian clients. Michael Gorkin discussed issues in doing psychotherapy across enemy lines as between Jewish and Arab Israelis. He found Arab patients often wanted advice, while Jewish therapist displayed excessive and ambivalent curiosity about the patient's culture, or alternatively making an "island" of the treatment situation, ignoring issues of guilt or aggression. As an anthropologist as well as an analyst and clinical psychologist, I was comfortable working with people from other cultures. I thought I understood issues of cultural competence and transculturally psychotherapy. But during the intifada, things became intense, crazy, unpredictable and the boundaries of identity and non-self swept away. The process of individuation undermined by the collective undertow of each terror incident.


Jamilla
I want to give brief account of one of my Palestinian patients, with whom I mostly strongly experience the mutual impact of re-collectivization. I will call her Jamilla, which means “beautiful”. She was a young, attractive, professional in her late twenties, married with a child. She elected to come to a Jewish Israeli analyst since she felt she could not trust the confidentiality of Arab therapists, some who she knew personally. As a result the decision to enter analysis was situated on contrast between what was unsafe and what was safe; and how familiar was unsafe, while the stranger was safe…
The whole analysis, from the outset, lay in the shadow of terror since Jamilla’s father had spent her entire childhood and early adolescence in an Israeli prison as a suspected member of a terrorist organization. He himself had not personally engaged in any actual acts of violence but as an ardent opponent of Israeli policy, he was a member of a banned organization. Her earliest memories were of visiting her father in prison. Jamilla, his first and then only child, would visit her father periodically in prison and grew to dread these visits, both because she become fearful of him, the stranger called “father”, but also because she was treated as an idealized self-object for the father. He would tell her things like “I am surviving only because of you!” Only she, his innocent anima child gave him the strength to persevere during his long incarceration. Her unseen inner distress was expressed in a recurring dream: “There is a baby in my parents’ arms at the edge of the sea. My parents do not notice as it slips from their arms and fall to the sea bottom, where it seems in suspended animation. The parents notice that the baby is missing but say that it is not a problem and when they see the baby desperately swimming on the surface of the water, they say, “See, we told you there was no problem!” “ The dream gives a moving depiction of Jamilla’s psyche. Her baby self loses it maternal protection and falls into the unconscious leading to a splitting of her consciousness. Part of her was “drowned”, a dissociated “ baby” autonomous complex in suspended animation and part of her was swimming desperately, over coping, just to stay on top of the water. Her parents never saw the desperate intensity of her situation and she lived in a world without any confirmation of her inner life and whole self, with a sharp split between a compliant persona and a hidden self.
At home, she grew up alone with her mother in a symbiotic style “great round” (to use Neumann’s term for the maternal uroborus) and without the intrusive influence of father or paternal uroborus but needed to be seen as always coping, never making trouble. Growing up without a male presence made her culturally as well as psychologically anomalous, since she was accustomed to being an independent woman, free to make her own decisions, without the relentless concern with the family honor.
Immediately following each suicide bombing, I felt the intense force of recollectivization when Jamilla saw me as the “enemy”; in the countertransference, I struggled against a similar tendency in which perceived Jamilla, not as a human being struggle to individuate, but as one of “them”. The analysis began to take off only when Jamilla felt safe enough to blurt out “I hate all the Jews”. Think of how you might feel if an analysand would say not the expected, “I hate you.” But “I hate all the Russians.” Or “I hate all Moscovites.” Later, there was another dramatic incident. Jews place a “mezzuza” on the lintel at the entrance to their home, (following the biblical commandment in Deuteronomy 6:9; 11:20). Typically, it is a small rectangular container, containing key passages from the Bible written on parchment that is ritually hammered into the lintel. It is a visible sign of a Jewish home. Observant Jews touch the “mezzuza” and then kiss their fingers as they enter and leave, as my observant Jewish analysands do at my office. On one occasion, on her way out, Jamilla reached over and “kissed” the mezzuza with great seriousness. Then, in the next moment, she turned and spat on the ground in disgust. This mimetic device of imitating a “Jew” was, I believe, a symbolic act, showing the psychic pressure on every ethnic minority to become like the dominant majority. Yet, her seeming act of religious devotion was revealed as a “trickster-like” act, which revealed her disgust toward to her own tendency to imitate the Jews, their use of their religious practices and their dominant/oppressive position in her homeland. Because I understood how this act was her way of working out her identity conflict, I could accept it without evoking a collective, negative response.
Imagine, for yourselves, how you would feel should an analysand violate some aspect of your home culture or collective identity. A few weeks ago, I did have an experience with another Palestinian analysand. It was on Israeli Memorial Day, a day taken very seriously as almost everyone knows someone who died. The power of the collective is strongly felt. The collective marker is a siren which sounds for two minutes and everyone stands silent in remembrance; people driving on the highway, stop and stand by their cars. There are memorial gatherings all over the country. I realized that our session would occur during the memorial siren and I wondered what I should do. I am ashamed to confess that I tried to reschedule the session to avoid facing the dilemma but we were unable to find an alternative time and it did not seem right to cancel. So what should I do?
In the end, I said we would have the siren in the middle of the session and that I would stand while he should do what he felt most comfortable doing. When the siren came, I stood and he sat. After I asked how he had felt but he said he preferred to continue discuss personal issues for which he had come.

Returning to Jamilla, accepting her symbolic violence, allowed Jamilla to feel closer to me. Jamilla began to fantasize that I was not really Jewish but perhaps Christian. We might call this a cultural, religious or ethnic transference. I understood this as an attempt to contexualize our analysis outside the Arab-Israeli conflict, as a defense against re-collectivization. It was safe to “love” a Christian whereas it was treason to “love” a Jew! Gradually, she came to see me more as an individual, less as a Jew and this in turn, helped her to explore her own path within her own conformist culture. Her marital and sexual dissatisfaction, led her toward sexual exploration of relations outside her marriage and to have affairs. She had an orgasm for the first time. For any Arab woman, sexual freedom comes up against the cultural complex in which woman symbolizes family honor. Muslim patriarchy views female sexuality as extremely powerful but at the same time subversive to the social order (Mernissi 1975). Women are taught from childhood that their sexuality is an inalienable and permanent property of the hamula, or extended family, and a woman’s sexual identity is not her private concern but of concern to all. (Al-Krenawi 2000). The concept of individual and individuation so strongly emphasized in West and Jungian psychology does not easily apply. Instead in many Arab or highly collective societies have what has been called “ collective ego identity”. Women are expected to be “like everybody else”. When suffering they should act according to the principle of “mastoura” a kind of tight lipped, learned helplessness, as illustrated in the proverb, “ A mouth is for eating but not for talking.” (Abu-Baker 2005). Woman who violate the family honor codes are a dangerous threat to the whole system of ascribed identity and entitlement, based on to whom you are born. Russian use patronym; Arabs called themselves after their children, Her father might say Abu-Jamilla, “Father of Jamilla” except her father would never use a daughter’s name, only firstborn son’s name or the name he would have given his son, had he had sons; for example, Arafat in Palestine, was known as Abu Ammar, long before he was married.
Sexual liberties, if exposed, would endanger Jamilla’s life, since dishonor must be wiped out by purifying act violence by her closest male relative. In a sense women have most to fear from those they love most: their father, brother, husband or even sons. Honor killing only occur when affairs become public knowledge. There were times when I genuinely feared for her. Ultimately, Jamilla considered breaking another social taboo and asking for a divorce. Divorce is not forbidden in Islam, but is considered an extreme act undermining the existing system of family values and social order. Her husband, who she saw as sensitive if weak, did not oppose her. She told her father that she wanted a divorce, and received an initial supportive reaction. Driving on the way to speak with her father, her car was stoned by 20 rock-throwing Palestinian youngsters, who mistook her for a Jewish Israeli. One rock smashed through the windscreen and narrowly missed her and her young son. She arrived at her father’s house. Previously, he had been supportive. He now turned against her and said: “it would be better if you had died than if you had divorced.” At this point, she went into her room. Locked the door. Put on her favorite music, a romantic Lebanese singer of Arabic music, got into bed and made an unexpected, impulsive suicide attempt. It had the quality of uroboric suicide, desiring to merge with Great Mother. This close encounter with intrusive aggression, I believe, destabilized her and made her feel unsafe from their rage, as she felt unsafe from her father’s homicidal threat. One of the worst fates is to be violently mistaken by one’s own people as one of the archetypal “Other”. One can try to protect oneself from violence; it is much harder to protect oneself from being misperceived. It also had stark overtimes of internalized Laius complex, of a father killing his daughter.

She survived, returned to Jerusalem and continued her analysis, inventing in her own life what it might mean to be a Palestinian feminist, living within a patriarchal society but as a woman not under masculine control. Other Palestinian patients of mine, however, were forced to break off their analysis because they literally could not come, held back by curfews, check posts and perhaps the unresolved sense of betraying secrets to one of the enemy. I suspect the issues of doing analysis with “enemies”, whether current, historical, class or otherwise, is worthy of a conference of its own.

I think it is important to note positive responses to terror. I recall one patient who was present at a bombing at a Café, synchronistically sitting at the same table I myself had been sitting just hours before. She was hardly hurt physically, saying, “ only a few scratches, my purse was covered with blood”. She fled and her first reaction was what literary theorist call inability to narrate. She could not put together the pieces. “If I wasn’t really hurt physically, then nothing really happened. Shouldn’t I have seen more, heard more?” she would say. She went to great lengths to investigate what exactly happened, to construct a narrative but for many months she was unable. At the same time, she began to be afraid of going to cafes, going downtown – “how can you know anything is safe?” After another bomb, she entered my consulting room and asked half joking, half seriously, “Are there any terrorists here?”
Ultimately, like Abraham, she was able to construct a survivor mission, a reason why she was saved. She began telling her story as part of campaign to raise funds for children’s hospital that treats victims, Jews and Arabs. Similarly, the common task of treating actual victims of trauma has led to unprecedented atmosphere of cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian mental health professionals e.g. with Palestinian Counseling Center or Mobile Clinic for Mental Health. My Institute were able to organize the first joint workshop on Jungian psychology with Palestinian colleagues in the heart of the Old City. I am co-facilitator of an interfaith group with a Palestinian from the Mt. of Olives. And so on.
When I gave an earlier version of this talk, I made slip saying “death” instead of “thanatos”. A member of the audience commented and it made me think about the difference. Death implies grief, but also mourning and some possibility of rebirth.
Thanatos does not. It is death-like through and through. At times, I feel overwhelmed by the hopeless of thanatos, that there will never be an end to the suffering but doomed to pass on this terrible heritage to the next generations.

Nadezhda Mandelstam wrote on the Stalinist terror:

Anybody who breathes the air of terror is doomed, even if nominally he manages save his life. Everybody is a victim – not only those who die, but also the killers, to ideologists, accomplishes and sycophants who close their eyes and wash their hands – even if they are secretly consumed with remorse at night. Every section of the population has been through the terrible sickness caused by terror, and none so far recovered, or become normal again for normal civil life, It is an illness passed on to the next generation, so that the sons pay for the sins of the fathers and perhaps only the grandchildren begin to get over it – or at least with them it takes different forms.


Although she was discussing Soviet terror, I believe what Mandelstam says applies to us all.
I want close with one more tragic story that may stand for many other terrible stories on all sides of the divide. It concerns an Israel father who before the pullout from Gaza, wanted to pick up his son from his army base near the Israeli border. The son said that he could not leave his post until his replacement arrived. The father, being a good father, offered to go pick up his replacement to help speed things along. As the father drove, two young Palestinians opened fire on his car and wounded him. His son’s unit was alerted that an incident had occurred and jumped into their tanks to see what had happened.
At the same time, the father managed to call his wife and, while he lay bleeding, spoke to her about how he had gone to help their son and that he was shot and was bleeding. By the time, the troops arrived the father was dead. The son was switched to another unit and shortly afterwards all his tank mates were killed in a mine explosion. The two Palestinian youths were tracked down and killed in a shoot out. The son never speaks about what happened or how he feels, but his brother came to me for help. He says there are no words to express the sadness at the loss he feels. After each session, he would be completely exhausted and spend the rest of the day in bed. Since his father believed in peace and the killers are dead, “Who is there left to be angry at?” Memorial services both the anniversary of the day of the death, an important Jewish ritual and the National Memorial day are things that he dreads. “Why is memorial day different from the tragedy of everyday?” “What do people expect me to say at such times?” When his girlfriend whom he loved, asked him whether he was happy, he avoided answering. To me, he said “How I can I ever be happy again when my world is destroyed?” One day, he hopes to become a father and following certain Jewish tradition will name his son for his father. Then he thinks he may be somewhat happy but also extremely sad.


This mix of terror, happiness and sadness reminds me of a poem by Osip Mandelstam with which I would like to close:

Mounds of human heads are wandering into the distance.
I dwindle among them. Nobody sees me. But in books
Much loved, and in children’s games I shall rise
From the dead to say the sun is shining.


I believe that we are only beginning to understand the collective impact of terror, and understand the depth of its shadow.


Bibliography:


Abramovitch, Henry (1997). ‘Temenos Lost: Reflections on Moving’ Journal of Analytical Psychology 42:569-84.

Abramovitch, Henry (2002). ‘Temenos Regained: Reflections on the absence of the Analyst’ Journal of Analytical Psychology 47:583-97.

Mandelstam, Nadezha (1999). Hope Against Hope. New York: The Modern Library.
(Quoted in Angela Connolly, ‘Psychoanalytic Theory in Times of Terror’ Journal of Analytical Psychology 48:407-31.

Friedlander, Albert (1987). “Destiny & Fate” in Contemporary Jewish Thought.
(Eds. Arthur A. Cohen & Paul Mendes-Flohr) New York: Scribners Sons.

Gorkin, Michael (1986).Countertransference in cross-cultural psychotherapy: The example of Jewish therapist and Arab patient. Psychiatry 49(1): 69-79.

Gorkin, Michael; Masalha, Shafiq; Yatziv, Gabi (1985). Psychotherapy of Israeli-Arab patients: Some cultural considerations. Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology 8:215-230.

Gorkin, Michael (1996). Countertransference in Cross-cultural Psychotherapy: Reaching across boundaries of culture and class: Widening the scope of psychotherapy.

Pérez Foster(Eds.), RoseMarie Moskowitz, Michael , Javier, Rafael Art, Reaching across boundaries of culture and class: Widening the scope of psychotherapy, Lanham, MD, US: Jason Aronson. (pp. 159-176).

Analysis in the Shadow of Terror: Clinical Aspects
Henry Abramovitch, Jerusalem


At Jerusalem’s gate, a black sun has risen
- Osip Mandelstam


This paper, sadly, will have resonance for you in Moscow who have undergone so many acts of terrorism in the airport, subway, trains, hotels, rock festival, theatre, apartments and shopping centers as we have in Israel. I will say nothing about psychodynamics of terrorists or politics but only how such violence effects how we work as analysts.
To do analysis, we need safe container and magical enclosure of the temenos (Abramovitch 1997; 2002) that says: ”Here, we are safe; Here, we can explore, even the most violent fantasy” - so long as it remains fantasy. Once the boundaries between fantasy and reality are gone, analysis becomes impossible. Violence and analysis do not mix. Yet in Jerusalem, Moscow and almost everywhere, we are forced to do analysis in the shadow of terror.

My Death
My first reaction to the recurring violence and suicide bombings is a relentless confrontation with “my death”. Everyday I wake with a lingering sense that this day will be my last. This death anxiety is no paranoid fantasy but very much based on synchronous events and many near misses: A horrid devastation occurred in a popular café, meters away from where I regularly attend demonstrations against the Occupation of West Bank and Gaza. A second bomber entered another popular café near my office. He asked only for a glass of water, which aroused the waiter’s suspicion, and in the ensuing struggle, the bomb failed to detonate. Another bomb, which with a certain poetic justice killed only its perpetrator, young Palestinian woman seeking revenge for the death of a family member was targeted at a bus which runs right past my house. One of the most distressing occurred, when I was showing an analysand out of my office, a voice distorted by a loudspeaker called out to us, “Please remain indoors!” Stepping back we watched together as the bomb squad robot examined and disarmed a suspicious object lying across the street. At that moment, we were no longer analyst and analysand, but victims of a participation mystique of helplessness that seemed to break down the boundaries between us.
Most spiritual traditions place a great value on the ongoing confrontation with mortality. Imagining the reality of my death keeps my priorities exquisitely clear. The Hebrew phrase “Repent on the day before your death” indicates that since we never know the time of our death, “returning” as repentance (tsuva) is called in Hebrew, should be ever-present and ongoing. Confronting violent demise may be good for the soul but it does take a toll. I feel like I am living on borrowed time, waiting until the next bomb. This chronic death anxiety may even give daily life an “as-if” quality of a provisional life, something that normally typifies puer aeternis. I dream of escaping to a world like the one Abraham envisioned in which the innocent never die and I know I am trapped in an naïve escape fantasy. ‘My death’ seemed to be getting closer all the time, pursuing me, waiting for me, taunting me that I would never arrive to stand before you today!

But standing before you in lovely Moscow – where terror has such distinguished and recent history, I am possessed by another more terrifying and perverse fantasy. In this fantasy, I am speaking to you just as I am doing now, when door of the hall opens. A member of the conference staff enters. She looks around and sees me at the microphone. Making eye contact, she indicates that she has an urgent note for me that cannot wait. She walks up to the podium and hands me a note.
The note screams out at me that my dear wife and lovely children, my entire family have been destroyed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. I break down before you…
If the next time the door opens, you feel a twinge of anxiety, then I will have succeeded in infecting you and your psyche with the pervasive anxiety which living under the shadow of terror entails. In Israel, during Intifada al-Aqsa alone, 16% of all Israelis were directly exposed to a terrorist attack and 37% had family member or friend directly victimized by terror (Bleich, Gelkopf & Solomon 2003) Since terror is indiscriminate, it equally effected Israeli Arabs, who actually reported higher levels of PTSD and Depression, with woman especially at 5.5. times at risk (Somer et. A. 2007). I shall return to this point later.
Terror attacks not only the body but also the psyche, attacking our primordial sense of security, that the very ground of our life can be so brutally and unexpected fragmented. At the height of the daily explosions, I would jump at any loud noise; I would become uncharacteristically fearful whenever an analysand was late, especially if I knew they were coming by public transportation. I would dread the phone call telling me that one of my patients was blown apart or dismembered. Temenos is a place where people are free to create & learn spontaneously, like children, without criticism or judgment. Jung, in Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy (CW 12) discussed the temenos via a patient’s dream series. Dreamer was a young man with an excellent scientific education who produced over 400 dreams over a period of ten months. The first, initial dream was: The dreamer is at a social gathering. On leaving, he puts on a stranger’s hat instead of his own. The dream clearly indicates a disturbance of identity and persona. The next dreams involve blocking view of fellow passengers on a train; sitting on a lonely island. The 4th dream immediately preceding the dream in question was: The dreamer is surrounded by a throng of vague female forms. A voice within him says, “First I must get away from Father.” This dream reveals an archetypal tension between the feminine and the Father, perhaps with a need to first separate from Father before being able to deal with an overwhelming feminine presence.
The fifth dream that dealt with persona was as follows:
A snake describes a circle round the dreamer, who stands rooted to the ground like a tree. Here is Jung’s comment: “The spellbinding circle is an ancient magical device used by everyone who has a special or secret purpose in mind. He thereby protects himself from the "perils of the soul" that threaten him from without and attack anyone who is isolated by a secret. The same procedure has also been used since olden times to set apart a place as holy and inviolable; in founding a city, for instance, they first drew the sulcus primigenius or original furrow. The fact that the dreamer stands rooted to the center is a compensation of his almost insuperable desire to run away from the unconscious. He experienced an agreeable feeling of relief after this vision - and rightly, since he has succeeded in establishing a protected temenos, a taboo area where he will be able to meet the unconscious. His isolation, so uncanny before, is now endowed with meaning and purpose and this robbed of its terrors.” (Portable Jung pp. 333-4)
Historically, the temenos was the inner sanctuary of the temples of the ancient Greeks, a place of shelter and eternal truth, walled off from the temptations and shifting winds of the temporal world: the most sacred part of the temple, where the presence of the gods can be experienced. Temenos is one of the most important ways in which Jungians conceptualize therapeutic containment. Like the holy of holies it is a place both sacred and inviolate. The etymology of the Hebrew word for holy and sanctification, ‘kadosh’ meaning ‘set apart’ conveys the sense that something holy is set apart from everyday life; so, too, Jung, felt therapeutic temenos was set apart for a higher purpose. Just as the Temple is a place of meeting between believer and the Divine, so too, analytic temenos was a place where analysand might encounter the Self. The numinosity and danger of the encounter require maximum containment and enclosure. The temenos of the Hebrew temple was empty all year except for one day. Only on the Day of Atonement did the high priest enter to ask for forgiveness for sins. As analysts, we know there are occasions when the sacred containment is violated and even lost. Scottish-born, Rome based, Jungian analyst, Angela Connolly, when she was a new in Moscow, described some of the difficulties she encountered in trying to maintain the temenos of her therapeutic space. (Connolly 2006). Guards at her gate would refuse to allow analysands to enter, or demand identification; her maid would disturb her during sessions. Worse, the terror which Moscow experienced at that time, carried a terrifying threat, that Angela would be forced to leave and to abandon not only the tremenos but all those who had entered it.
As some of you may know I have been interested in temenos and written article about phenomenon of “Temenos Lost” which has recently been translated into Russian. It describe what may happen to the temenos when you move, or in some way change your clinical space so that the temenos is lost; a second article, “Temenos Regained” (The reference is to Milton’s famous pair of poems “Paradise Lost” and “Paradise Regained”.) deals with what happens to temenos when analyst is absent and describes a highly unusual circumstances in which I gave the keys to my office to an analysand, who functioned like a priestess guarding the temenos, during my absence.

Confronting Evil
The bombings also force all of us to confront evil, both the evil done to us, and the evil that necessarily arises in occupying another people. Jungian psychology has much to say about evil, both personal and archetypal, and I feel we in Israel are having an intensive daily workshop.
My colleague Avi Baumann draws distinction between archetypal and personal evil. Archetypal evil is an unconquerable, supra-human force that function in a way similar to the monsters of Greek mythology, or the Devil in Christianity. Personal evil such as cruelty can and should be resisted. The ever-present danger is to be drawn into the clutches of archetypal evil under the control of the victim-victimizer archetype. In this pattern, an endless cycle of violence is created in which victims of violence victimize others out of a consuming sense of their own victimhood. The dehumanizing acts of one side draw out an inhuman response by the other. As Jung wrote: “When evil breaks out at any point in the order of things, our whole circle of psychic protection is disrupted. Action inevitably call up reaction and in the matter of destructiveness, this turns out to be just as bad as the cause and possibly even worse, because the evil must be exterminated root and branch.” (CW 10, para. 411.) It is important that most Israeli analysts have a direct connection with Holocaust, either as child survivors, Kindertransport, children of survivors, Auschwitz survivor or indirectly living a society permeated by holocaust imagery. So that we have all lived and worked in the shadow of that archetypal evil.

When a suicide bomber explodes, their body is literally mixed up with those of her victims. This horrendous loss of boundaries between the bodies of victims and victimizers has, I believe, a psychic equivalent, in which the perspectives of victim and perpetrator, or even, observer and victim become fused. This psychic merging can be seen in dreams in which the dreamer is drawn against their will into the vortex of the violence, as both perpetrator and victim. A student of my analysand, an educational specialist, was blown apart in the horrendous attack at the Mt. Scopus campus of the Hebrew University. Soon after, my analysand had two dreams. In the first, she dreamed that the walls of her house was suddenly destroyed and all that was left was a hidden pile of old photographs. In normal times, such a dream might be understood to reflect personal issues connected with the breakdown of her marriage, or inner feeling of being exposed. But following the funeral of her murdered student, the dream clearly had a collective significance, indicating the abrupt loss of security, which a home is supposed to provide. As analysts, parents and teachers we often feel complicit in the deaths of our analysands, children and disciples, shamed we somehow did not protect them from their fate. This negative participation-mystique in the terror itself was reflected in her second dream:

“In my dream, I had bombed an educational institution in the Old City of Jerusalem, at which I had studied. In the next scene, I was helping children escape from the building that was in danger of collapse, until someone came to stabilize it.”

Before discussing the dream let me amplify the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Old City of Jerusalem, with its massive, stonewalls, and magnificent, decorated gates is a physical mandala at the Center, holding together the 4 quarters: Christian, Armenian, Jewish, Muslim. The name, Jerusalem, itself means “peace” and known as the place where heaven and earth meet. It includes the holiest places for Judaism, Christianity and Islam: the remnant of the 2nd Temple known as “The Wailing Wall”, the Church of Holy Sepulcher containing the tomb of Christ, built and maintained by Russian Orthodox Church and the El Aqsa or as it is called in Qu’ran, the “Farthest Mosque” and Dome of the Rock whence Mohammed went on his night journey to heaven; all are within short walking distance of each other. It is place of pilgrimage even if many like Jung’s strange visitors at the beginning of the Septem Sermones said, "We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought'. (Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 190-1). Jerusalem is over generations has been a natural symbol for the Self; at its best holding together the opposites, pointing to something Higher. At its worst, gripped by violence committed in the name of a jealous God. I must confess that I have my own love affair with this beautiful and terrible city.
Returning to the dream. The dreamer, although not based in the Old City, would have spent considerable time there. In this dream, my analysand is both attacker and rescuer, seemingly caught in a Sysphisian endeavor. Again in normal times, one might see a cycle of destructive rage and the compensatory, reparative rescue fantasy, with the analyst saving the psychic structure from collapse under the weight of her own destructiveness. But in the shadow of the bombing, the dream also reflected her sense of being complicit in the events, that somehow, irrationally, she occupies both sides of the victim-victimizer archetype. A similar sense of psychic confusion is reflected in the dream of another analysand:

“”There is terrible fighting between Israelis and Palestinians and I do not know which side I am on. In a large field, a plane strafes the center again and again and again… The Queen’s guards prepare to storm a school.”

Not knowing which side one is own points to psychic confusion, even a refusal to choose sides and so implicitly, the urgent need for a third perspective. The ambiguous image of the Queen’s guard about to attack a school highlights this ambiguity: are they aggressors or rescuers, or both? With terrible negative synchronicity, when I gave an earlier version of this talk, in an atmosphere reminiscent of the dream, the siege of the school in Beslan, North Ossetia resulted in the death of hundreds; two bus were bombed in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, killing over a dozen people. Another bomb exploded here in Moscow. The image of the ‘a plane strafes the center again and again and again’ which in a personal sense might be understood as the paternal sky aggression turned inwards, now seems as the archetypal damage done to the Self by the repeating cycle of violence and counter-violence. Under the control of the victim-victimizer archetype, there is an actua and imminent danger of being possessed by the shadow. This danger was poignantly illustrated in the dream of another Jewish patient:

“In this dream, a friend asks me to pick him up and take him by car to an undisclosed destination. Suddenly, we are in the middle of an Arab village. My friend reveals to me that he is a suicide bomber who will blow us up along with the villagers in an act of revenge. I awake in horror.”

This dream points out clearly how a weak ego can be taken over and commandeered by the shadow into committing immoral acts. In a different sense, it can be seen as a “big
dream” in that it predicted the coming of a secret Jewish underground which sought to kill innocent Palestinians in retaliatory vengeance. I want to just mention an ethical dilemma experienced by one of my colleagues. There was a secret Jewish terror group who carried tit-for-tat revenge killings of innocent Palestinians following the death of any Jewish Israeli . An analysand unexpectedly revealed that she was part of one of these secret revenge groups and confessed proudly that they had executed an Arab taxi driver the previous week. The method was to order a taxi, lure the driver out into the Judean wilderness and murder him in cold blood at preordained spot where a getaway car was waiting. My colleague felt that since the murdered had already occurred, he was under no obligation to report the matter to the authorities who would undoubtedly arrest the analysand and terminate therapy. My colleague tried to work with therapeutically and deal with the shadow issues involved. However, a few weeks later, a Jewish Israel teenager was stabbed to death. The analysand proudly announced that revenge was planned for the coming week. This time my colleague agonized, but in the end, felt that saving a life outweighed the value of the therapy. The authorities were informed and the analysand and her group arrested.

During times of terror, there is an ever-recurrent threat of “re-collectivization, in which an individual is swallowed up in collective identity. Jung introduced this term in the context of the dissolution of the persona writing, “For the development of personality, then, strict differentiation from the collective psyche is absolutely necessary, since partial or blurred differentiation leads to an immediate melting away of the individual in the collective…through his identification with the collective psyche, he will inevitably try to force the demands of his unconscious upon others for identity with the collective psyche always brings with it a feeling of universal validity “godlikeness” – which completely ignores all differences in the personal psyche of his fellows…the suffocation of the single individual, as a consequence of which the element of differentiation is obliterated from the community.” (CW 7, para. 240). Re-collectivization occurs when a person due to the stress of the individuation process is re-absorbed back into the collective identity of his group. It can provide a wonderful and profound sense of belonging and togetherness that the abdication of individual ego may bring about. But the process ‘can be a numbing, soul destroying experience – a robot-like fate imposed by a society in which individual capacities are numbed, destroyed or turned away from the task of creation’ (Friedlander p. 138).
I felt the pull of re-collectivization most strongly with Palestinian clients. Michael Gorkin discussed issues in doing psychotherapy across enemy lines as between Jewish and Arab Israelis. He found Arab patients often wanted advice, while Jewish therapist displayed excessive and ambivalent curiosity about the patient's culture, or alternatively making an "island" of the treatment situation, ignoring issues of guilt or aggression. As an anthropologist as well as an analyst and clinical psychologist, I was comfortable working with people from other cultures. I thought I understood issues of cultural competence and transculturally psychotherapy. But during the intifada, things became intense, crazy, unpredictable and the boundaries of identity and non-self swept away. The process of individuation undermined by the collective undertow of each terror incident.


Jamilla
I want to give brief account of one of my Palestinian patients, with whom I mostly strongly experience the mutual impact of re-collectivization. I will call her Jamilla, which means “beautiful”. She was a young, attractive, professional in her late twenties, married with a child. She elected to come to a Jewish Israeli analyst since she felt she could not trust the confidentiality of Arab therapists, some who she knew personally. As a result the decision to enter analysis was situated on contrast between what was unsafe and what was safe; and how familiar was unsafe, while the stranger was safe…
The whole analysis, from the outset, lay in the shadow of terror since Jamilla’s father had spent her entire childhood and early adolescence in an Israeli prison as a suspected member of a terrorist organization. He himself had not personally engaged in any actual acts of violence but as an ardent opponent of Israeli policy, he was a member of a banned organization. Her earliest memories were of visiting her father in prison. Jamilla, his first and then only child, would visit her father periodically in prison and grew to dread these visits, both because she become fearful of him, the stranger called “father”, but also because she was treated as an idealized self-object for the father. He would tell her things like “I am surviving only because of you!” Only she, his innocent anima child gave him the strength to persevere during his long incarceration. Her unseen inner distress was expressed in a recurring dream: “There is a baby in my parents’ arms at the edge of the sea. My parents do not notice as it slips from their arms and fall to the sea bottom, where it seems in suspended animation. The parents notice that the baby is missing but say that it is not a problem and when they see the baby desperately swimming on the surface of the water, they say, “See, we told you there was no problem!” “ The dream gives a moving depiction of Jamilla’s psyche. Her baby self loses it maternal protection and falls into the unconscious leading to a splitting of her consciousness. Part of her was “drowned”, a dissociated “ baby” autonomous complex in suspended animation and part of her was swimming desperately, over coping, just to stay on top of the water. Her parents never saw the desperate intensity of her situation and she lived in a world without any confirmation of her inner life and whole self, with a sharp split between a compliant persona and a hidden self.
At home, she grew up alone with her mother in a symbiotic style “great round” (to use Neumann’s term for the maternal uroborus) and without the intrusive influence of father or paternal uroborus but needed to be seen as always coping, never making trouble. Growing up without a male presence made her culturally as well as psychologically anomalous, since she was accustomed to being an independent woman, free to make her own decisions, without the relentless concern with the family honor.
Immediately following each suicide bombing, I felt the intense force of recollectivization when Jamilla saw me as the “enemy”; in the countertransference, I struggled against a similar tendency in which perceived Jamilla, not as a human being struggle to individuate, but as one of “them”. The analysis began to take off only when Jamilla felt safe enough to blurt out “I hate all the Jews”. Think of how you might feel if an analysand would say not the expected, “I hate you.” But “I hate all the Russians.” Or “I hate all Moscovites.” Later, there was another dramatic incident. Jews place a “mezzuza” on the lintel at the entrance to their home, (following the biblical commandment in Deuteronomy 6:9; 11:20). Typically, it is a small rectangular container, containing key passages from the Bible written on parchment that is ritually hammered into the lintel. It is a visible sign of a Jewish home. Observant Jews touch the “mezzuza” and then kiss their fingers as they enter and leave, as my observant Jewish analysands do at my office. On one occasion, on her way out, Jamilla reached over and “kissed” the mezzuza with great seriousness. Then, in the next moment, she turned and spat on the ground in disgust. This mimetic device of imitating a “Jew” was, I believe, a symbolic act, showing the psychic pressure on every ethnic minority to become like the dominant majority. Yet, her seeming act of religious devotion was revealed as a “trickster-like” act, which revealed her disgust toward to her own tendency to imitate the Jews, their use of their religious practices and their dominant/oppressive position in her homeland. Because I understood how this act was her way of working out her identity conflict, I could accept it without evoking a collective, negative response.
Imagine, for yourselves, how you would feel should an analysand violate some aspect of your home culture or collective identity. A few weeks ago, I did have an experience with another Palestinian analysand. It was on Israeli Memorial Day, a day taken very seriously as almost everyone knows someone who died. The power of the collective is strongly felt. The collective marker is a siren which sounds for two minutes and everyone stands silent in remembrance; people driving on the highway, stop and stand by their cars. There are memorial gatherings all over the country. I realized that our session would occur during the memorial siren and I wondered what I should do. I am ashamed to confess that I tried to reschedule the session to avoid facing the dilemma but we were unable to find an alternative time and it did not seem right to cancel. So what should I do?
In the end, I said we would have the siren in the middle of the session and that I would stand while he should do what he felt most comfortable doing. When the siren came

Jewish Heritage of Ludwig Wittgenstein: Its Influence on his Life and Work
The Jewish Heritage of Ludwig Wittgenstein:
Its Influence on His Life and Work


Henry Abramovitch
Tel Aviv University

Raymond Prince
McGill University


Author’s Mailing Address:
Henry Abramovitch, PhD
Dept of Behavioral Science
Sackler School of Medicine
Tel Aviv University
Ramat Aviv, 69978 Israel
Tel: 972-3-6409858
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Abstract

This article discusses two aspects of Wittgenstein’s Jewish heritage. First, we try to show that Wittgenstein was acutely aware of his own Jewish heritage and especially concerned about its potential influence on his work. Second, we suggest that the form of his work, specifically, his method of inquiry and the peculiar literary character of his work, bear a striking resemblance to that of Hebrew Talmud. Like other assimilated Jews of Central Europe, Wittgenstein may have been directly or indirectly exposed to Hebraic culture and Talmudic logic. An understanding of Wittgenstein’s Jewish heritage provides an important and neglected perspective on his work.


Running Head: Wittgenstein’s Jewish Heritage
Keywords: biography, philosophy, Judaism, talmudic interpretation


Introduction

Ludwig Wittgenstein remains an intriguing and enigmatic figure who is said to have revolutionized 20th century philosophy not once, but twice (Fogelin, 1987; Cavell, 1979). In his life, too, he was also a restless seeker of truth always ‘going the bloody hard way’ (Rhees, 1984). Ray Monk, writing in his highly regarded biography notes:
The figure of Ludwig Wittgenstein exerts a very special fascination that is not wholly explained by the enormous influence he has had on the development of philosophy this century. Even those unconcerned with analytical philosophy find him compelling. Poems have been written about him, paintings inspired by him, his work has been set to music… (Monk, 1990: xvii-xviii)
Wittgenstein has been made the central character in a number of successful novels most notably, Thomas Bernhard’s ‘masterpiece’ Corekktion (Steiner, 1991). Monk’s account tries to show ‘what many people who read Wittgenstein’s work instinctively feel – the unity of his philosophical concerns with his emotional and spiritual life.’ This essay is written in a similar spirit.
Most accounts of Wittgenstein’s life note his Jewish ancestry (van Peursen, 1970; Ayer 1985; Strathern 1996, Heaton & Groves 1997). Wittgenstein, baptized and raised as a Catholic, had three grandparents born as Jews who only subsequently converted to Christianity. Typically no further implication is drawn concerning this ancestry for the man or his work.1 “[T]he subject of the “jewishness” of alienated Jewish figures such as Wittgenstein remains hidden away.” (Schwarzschild, 1979: 161).
In this article, two aspects of Wittgenstein’s Jewish heritage will be discussed. First, we will try to show that Wittgenstein was acutely aware of his own Jewish heritage and especially concerned about its potential influence on his work. Second, we will suggest that the form of his work, specifically, his method of inquiry and the peculiar literary character of his work, bear a striking resemblance to that of Hebrew Talmud. We do not suggest that Wittgenstein was knowledgeable about Judaism, let alone the Talmud. Some biographers, nevertheless, have claimed that Wittgenstein’s family ‘remained - in some mysterious way - Jewish through and through.’ (Monk, 1990) and ‘thought of themselves as entirely Jewish (emphasis in original)…they identified with what they took to be a tradition of aesthetic idealism in Judaism although still much apart from its religious teachings and observations’ (Janik & Toulmin, 1973: 172-173). Perhaps, like other assimilated Jews of Central Europe, such as, Freud or Kafka, Wittgenstein was directly or indirectly exposed to Hebraic culture and Talmudic logic. In any case, we argue that an understanding of Wittgenstein’s Jewish heritage provides an important and neglected perspective on his work. Indeed, if our arguments are valid, it is reasonable to consider Wittgenstein, not merely a philosopher of Jewish ancestry, but indeed, as he called himself, a “Jewish Thinker” (Wittgentein, 1980: 18)


A Brief Overview of Wittgenstein’s Life

Ludwig Wittgenstein was an extraordinary person who lived a most unusual life (Fann, 1967; Janik & Toulmin, 1973; McGuiness, 1982; Rhees, 1984; McGuiness, 1988; Monk, 1990; Frongia & McGuiness, 1990; Nedo, 1993).
He was born in 1889, the youngest of eight children in the one of the wealthiest families in Vienna, ‘The Carnegies of Austria.’ His father, Karl Wittgenstein, had made his fortune building railroads and retired at the age of 52 to dedicate himself to culture. His home, Palais Wittgenstein, was a remarkable center for music and art. Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Bruno Walter, Pablo Cassals, just to mentioned the most famous musicians, were regular guests. Wittgenstein pere supported the work of Klimt, who painted Wittgenstein’s sister’s wedding portrait; another sister, underwent an analysis with Sigmund Freud, and subsequently helped the Freud family escape from the Nazis.
There was, however, an ominous ‘dark side’ to this elite family. Three of Ludwig’s brothers committed suicide. The two eldest did so against the background of their homosexuality and the third after the defeat of his troops in WWI. A fourth brother, Paul, the closest in age to Ludwig, also served in the Great War and lost his right arm. Undeterred, Paul continued his career as a concert pianist by commissioning Ravel and others to compose ‘music for the left hand.’ Ludwig, as a child, was considered dull and unmusical – only later in life did he take up the clarinet and display an extraordinary talent for whistling entire concertos. He was tutored at home until he was 14 and was the only child to follow in his father’s mechanically minded footsteps, for example, building a workable sewing machine at age 10 out of matchsticks. He was sent to Technical Realschule in Linz at the time when Hitler was a fellow student and seemed to have had a miserable time there.
He subsequently went on to study mechanical engineering in Berlin, aeronautics at Manchester, which led him into the mathematics of propeller design and thence into the philosophy of the foundation of mathematics. The great German philosopher of mathematics, Frege, sent him to study with Bertrand Russell, who became Wittgenstein’s mentor and father confessor. In his autobiography, Russell called Wittgenstein ‘perhaps the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived, passionate, profound, intense and dominating’ (Russell, 1969: 132) and goes on to write:
He used to come to see me every evening at midnight and pace up and down like a wild beast for three hours in an agitated silence. Once I said to him: “Are you thinking about logic or about your sins?” “Both,” he replied and continued his pacing (Russell, 1969: 132).
Russell says he was afraid to dismiss him for fear that ‘his young Austrian’ would commit suicide. Wittgenstein, unlike his brothers, was able to struggle successfully against suicide. In his Notebooks written during WWI, he writes:
If suicide is allowed, then everything is allowed. If anything is not allowed, then suicide is not allowed. This throws light on the nature of ethics, for suicide is, so to speak, the elementary sin (Wittgenstein, 1979: 91).
Here we can see how logic and sin do come together (Shields, 1993).
During WWI, Ludwig also served in various combat positions, as an artillery spotter, on a gunboat, but found time to write his first masterpiece (and the only work he published in his lifetime), Tractatus Logico Philosophicus which he completed in an Italian prisoner of war camp (Parak, 1978). He also discovered Tolstoy’s version of Gospels (Tolstoy, 1940), in a near empty bookshop and carrying it with him everywhere, was called ‘the one with the gospels’ (Leitner, 1973; McGuiness, 1988). Indeed, his rediscovery of spirituality in the midst of the war has striking parallels to the career of Franz Rosenzweig: ‘both served in the armies of the Central Powers; both came from at least upper-middle-class, completely de-judaized families; both discovered in the war that traditional academic philosophy could no longer cope with reality, and they pushed forward a new “philosophy of language”; both wrote their respective one and only complete book, the Tractatus and The Star of Redemption, in the trenches’ (Schwarzschild, 1979: 161-162).
In the aftermath of the war and break up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Wittgenstein worked briefly as a gardener in a monastery and then as a village schoolteacher in rural Austria. He also insisted on giving away his entire inheritance. He considered joining his friend Paul Engelmann about to emigrate to Palestine as revealed in a letter to him:
“That you want to go to Palestine is the one piece of news that makes your letter cheering and hopeful for me. This may be the right thing to do and may have a spiritual effect. I might want to join you. Would you take me with you?” (Englemann, 1967:55)
He abandoned teaching following an incident in which he had struck a student. Although he was cleared of formal charges at the time, the act came to haunt him. Back in Vienna, he designed and supervised the building of an elegant villa for his sister in Bauhaus style, which at one point served as Bulgarian Embassy (Leitner, 1973). He also had some contact with members of the Vienna Circle, especially Moritz Schlick (Waismann, 1979; Baker, 1984). In 1929, he returned to Cambridge where he was awarded a Ph.D. on the basis of the Tractatus. In the 30s, he taught philosophy at Cambridge but seriously considered studying medicine (and he did arrange for one of his students, Maurice Drury to do so) or emigrating to Soviet Russia (to which end, he studied Russian with Fania Pascal ) – both of whom wrote evocative memoirs (Drury, 1973; Pascal in Fann, 1967). During WWII, he served first as a hospital porter and then as a valued member of research lab investigating the physiology of shock. In the 30s, too, he began to reconsider his earlier work and evolved a new method of philosophy which culminated in the ‘album’ known as Philosophical Investigations.. He completed Part I, including a Preface dated January 1945. It was published only after his death, with the unfinished Part II. He did leave some 30,000 typescript pages (Nemo, 1993). These manuscripts have been gradually edited and published (Wittgenstein, 1956, 1967, 1969, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1992; Nemo, 1993), along with letters to Ogden (Wittgenstein, 1973), Russell, Keynes, Moore (Wittgenstein, 1974) and others, especially to his only Jewish friend Paul Engelmann (Engelmann, 1967).
Wittgenstein was a man of extremes. He could be the ‘most warm-hearted, generous, loyal friend anyone could wish to have’ (Drury in Fann, 1967: 67-68) and had many friends who ‘loved and admired him’ (Malcom, 1984). But he also had ‘a difficult temperament’ (Drury) and even ‘satanic pride…unaware of the harshness amounting to cruelty whenever he hit out’ (Pascal in Fann, 1967: 47). He could be horrible to woman and ‘fools.’ He had an enormous personal presence, combining charisma with divine judgment as his fellow philosopher Bouwsma recalls:
Wittgenstein is the nearest to be a prophet I have ever known. He is a man who is like a tower, who stands high and unattached, leaning on no one. He has his own feet. He fears no man. “Nothing can hurt me!” But others fear him, And why? Not at all because he can strike them or take their money or their good name. They fear his judgment…It is an awful thing to work under the gaze and questioning of such piercing eyes and such discernment knowing rubbish and gold! And the one who speaks the word: “This is rubbish!” (Bouwsma, 1986: xv)
Wittgenstein despised conventional academic philosophy. He would dissuade his best students from pursuing an academic career and in many respects, was like a fish out of water at Cambridge. He told Drury that Cambridge was dangerous because it lacked ‘oxygen’ although he himself could ‘manufacture his own oxygen’ (Drury in Fann, 1969). All throughout his adult life, he would go off and live for extended periods in almost total isolation on remote coasts of ‘lonely exquisite if harsh beauty’ (Janik & Toulmin, 1973). After WWII, he gave up his Professorship at Cambridge and would alternate living alone or with friends. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Mentioning to his physician, Dr. Bevan, that he had no home, the doctor invited him to come and die at his home in Cambridge. He died there in 1951 working actively until just before his death (Wittgenstein, 1969).


Wittgenstein’s Vienna

The intellectual and cultural history, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (Janik & Toulmin, 1973) marked a turning point in the understanding of the author of Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations. It showed how many of his ideas and concerns made sense when seen in their proper Viennese context. Many aspects of his life and thought which seemed distinctly odd at Cambridge made more sense in fin-de-siecle Vienna, that ‘research lab for world destruction’ (Karl Kraus). Wittgenstein’s Viennese sensibilities are revealed in his choice of mottos by writers barely known outside Austria: Kurnberg for Tractatus and Nestroy for Investigations. Toulmin, who was his student at Cambridge wrote: “We would have done better to see him as an integral and authentically Viennese genius…Many of the problems he chose to concentrate on had been under discussion among German speaking philosophers and psychologists. “(pp. 21-22). Consider, for example, this passage from the physicist Hertz which Wittgenstein seriously considered using as a motto: “When these painful contradictions are removed, the question as to the nature [of force] will not have been answered; but our minds no longer vexed [gequalte], will cease to ask illegitimate questions.” (Hertz, 1956[1894]; Bearn, 1997). This is surprisingly close to the ethos of Wittgenstein’s philosophy.
Wittgenstein’s Vienna was also the site of an extraordinary cultural flourishing in physics (Mach, Boltzman and Hertz), literature (Hofmanstal, Schnitzler, Musil), language (Buber, Mauthner). It was the ‘birthplace of both Zionism and Nazism, the place where Freud developed psychoanalysis, where Klimt, Schiele and Kokoshkca inaugurated the Jugenstil movement in art, where Schoenberg developed atonal music and Alfred Loos introduced the starkly functional, unadorned style that characterizes the buildings of the modern age. In almost every field of human thought and activity, the new was emerging from the old, the twentieth from the nineteenth century.’ (Monk, 1990: 9).


Wittgenstein’s Jewishness

Wittgenstein was very aware of his Jewish ancestry. The portraits of his Jewish great grandparents, Moses Meier and Brendel Simon ‘hung and still hangs in Palais Wittgenstein’ (McGuiness, 1988). It was Moses Meier who took the family name of his princely employer. Moses’ son, Hermann converted to Protestant Christianity and took the middle name ‘Christian’ as if to emphasize his new identity, and cut himself off from his old one. He even acquired a reputation as something of an anti-Semite and forbade his offspring to marry Jews, which he himself had done – his wife converting as a precondition to their marriage. “So complete was the family’s assimilation that one of Hermann’s daughters had to ask her brother Louis if the rumors she heard about their Jewish origins were true. ‘Pur sang, Milly’ he replied, ‘pur sang’ (quoted in Monk 1990:5).
The only one of Hermann Christian’s eleven children to marry into a “Jewish” family was Wittgenstein’s father Karl although even he is reported as saying “In matters of honour, one does not consult a Jew” (McGuiness, 1988). An ancestor of his maternal grandfather had been President of the Jewish Community of Prague (McGuiness, 1988: 21), but his maternal grandmother was Austrian Catholic so that Ludwig could not be considered “Jewish” by halakha (Jewish religious law). Ludwig’s mother shared the family passion for music but her youngest son found her ‘suffocating when loving’ (McGuiness, 1988).
One early recorded incident concerns Ludwig’s willingness to conceal his Jewish ancestry in order to join a gymnasium whose membership was restricted to those of Aryan origin. His older brother, Paul, however dissuaded him saying that they were sure to be found out in the end. Ludwig, as a young adolescent did appear willing to lie and one of his earliest recorded observations was: “ Why should one tell the truth if it is to one’s advantage to lie?” (Monk, 1990; McGuiness, 1988). Strikingly, his later philosophy is often concerned with lying and deceiving ( e.g. “Can one imagine people who cannot lie? What else would these people lack?…lying or pretending would have to appear to these people as perversity” (Wittgenstein, 1992:56)). Most people who knew Wittgenstein as an adult could not imagine him capable of telling a lie (Pascal). Bartley (1985), a controversial biographer, does claim that he ‘went to some lengths to conceal his Jewish connection’ and ‘pleaded with a cousin in England not under any circumstances to reveal his descent’ (Bartley, 1985: 198-200).
There is some support for this claim in that Wittgenstein’s obituary in The Times of London stated unequivocally that he was descended from the princely House of Sayn-Wittgenstein and another friend thought it ‘preposterous’ that Wittgenstein had any Jewish blood. In summer of 1937, after returning to Cambridge from a period of self-examination in Norway, he made a series of confessions to his closest friends. Fania Pascal, his Russian teacher, gives the most vivid account. Calling urgently saying it could not wait, Wittgenstein arrived keeping his macintosh buttoned on throughout, sitting up straight and forbiddingly and went on to confess:
“Most people who knew him including his friends, took him to be 3/4 Aryan, 1/4 Jewish. In fact, the proportions were reversed and he had done nothing to prevent this misapprehension…He did not ask for an emotional response. His manner forbade it…He continued as he spoke to be so remote as to make it impossible for me to react with sympathy” (Pascal in Fann, 1969).
He also confessed other “lies,” most significantly concerning the beating of a child which led to him leaving school teaching. He had even gone back to apologize to those children he had physically hurt!
Wittgenstein had a long dream about ‘a man who is regarded as a hero and has the looks and upbringing of an aristocrat, but is actually a Jew and a scoundrel. And what is worse that he felt too embarrassed, too “verzagt” (faint-hearted) to confess it. This feeling of cowardice haunted him for many years’ (Monk, 1990: 278-279).
When the Nazis took over Austria in 1938, he is reported to have said “My people in Vienna are in great danger” (Monk, 1990: 400) His two sisters who refused to leave Vienna were even jailed for 2-3 nights after buying forged Yugoslav passports; another had an American passport and his brother Paul, escaped to continue his concert career in America. At their trial ‘their standing and bearing helped clear them of all charges.’ Wittgenstein applied for and with the help of Lord Keynes received British citizenship. He then helped his two sisters to persuade the Nazis to accept a falsified genealogy in exchange for receiving large amounts of the Wittgenstein Family fortune. Ludwig and his sisters were then classed as mischlinge, of mixed blood and in Feb 1940 even this was modified and the sisters survived the war.
For Wittgenstein, however, the most important aspect of his Jewishness was not his ancestry but as a psychological and spiritual metaphor. In the anti-Semitic ethos of the era, many writers spoke about a Jewish psychology and the “Jewish Mind.” They tended ‘to identify those aspects of modern civilization…most disliked as Jewish’ (Monk, 1990: 20). Even C.G. Jung was capable of writing similar racist stereotypes: “The Jew who is something of a nomad has never yet created a cultural form of his own, and, as far as we can see never will, since all his instincts and talents require a more or less civilized nations to act as hosts for their development” (Jung, CW 10, para. 354). As we shall see, Wittgenstein took such remarks extremely seriously.
In this regard, the person who had ‘the greatest and most lasting impact’ on Wittgenstein was Otto Weininger (1906). He was a fellow Viennese, a converted Jew and homosexual who wrote at 22 a book, Sex and Character, which achieved a brief ‘succes du scandale’ when he killed himself shortly after its publication. For Weininger, being “Jewish” was a moral, psychological state ‘a tendency of spirit… a possibility in all human beings’ (Quoted by Drury in Rhees, p.412) It was also deeply connected with a despised feminine:
The Jew is ‘saturated with femininity’ – the most manly Jew is more feminine than the least manly Aryan. Like the women, the Jew has a strong instinct for pairing. He has a poor sense of individuality and a correspondingly strong instinct to preserve the race. The Jew has no sense of good and evil and no soul. He is non-philosophical and profoundly irreligious (The Jewish religion being ‘a mere historical tradition’)…Unlike Woman, Man…has a choice; he can and must, choose between the masculine and the feminine, between consciousness and unconsciousness, will and impulse, love and sexuality. It is every man’s ethical duty to choose the first of these pairs; and the extent to which he is able to do so this is the extent to which he approximates the very highest type of man: the genius.
Weininger goes on to elucidate the task of the “genius”:
The consciousness of the genius is the furthest removed from the herd stage: ‘it has the greatest and most limpid clearness and distinctiveness.’ The genius has the best developed memory, the greatest ability to form clear judgment, and therefore the most refined sense of the distinctions between true and false, right and wrong. Logic and ethics are fundamentally the same: ‘they are no more than duty to oneself.’ Genius is the highest morality and, therefore, it is everyone’s duty” (Monk, pp. 23-24).
There is much in Weininger’s vision, however racist it may seem to us today, that ‘chimes with attitudes we find Wittgenstein expressing time and again throughout his life: strict separation of love from sexual desire, worthlessness of everything except the products of genius, the incompatibility of honesty and sexuality.’ (Monk, 1990: 25) The centrality of Weininger’s concepts is expressed in the title of Monk’s biography, “The Duty of Genius.”
“For a time, at least, Wittgenstein tried to get clear about what was Jewish in himself and his work” (Drury in Rheese, p.198). Many of his concerns about what it meant to be Jewish are found in 11 passages, mostly written in1931, published posthumously in Culture and Value (Wittgenstein, 1980).
Based on these entries, Wittgenstein’s attitude toward Jews seems surprisingly positive although distinctly ambivalent. He agrees with Weininger, that there is a fundamental distinction between a “Jewish” and “non-Jewish” work and ‘that there is a danger, especially when the author of the Jewish work falls into the confusion himself, as he easily may’ (Wittgenstein 1980:19). Jews do not have the duty of genius, originality, creativity, or even a sense of tragedy. Historically, the Jews have been treated in European affairs ‘as a sort of disease, and anomaly, and no one wants to put a disease on the same level as normal life’ (Wittgenstein, 1980: 20-21). He understands that they are regarded as a tumor in the body politic, a metaphor the Nazis would soon use to such genocidal effect. Jews are, however, misunderstood victims of persecution to which they have developed an adaptive strategy of secretiveness and cunning. He felt that Modern Judaism was lifeless and abstract, replacing sacrifice with ‘prayers and some singing’ (Bouwsma, 1986: 33-34).
In Wittgenstein’s notes, Jews do have special talents. They are intellectual, even passionately so (‘the molten lava of spirit and intellect’). However, “Among Jews “genius” is found only in the holy man. Even the greatest of Jewish thinker is no more than talented (Myself for instance)” (Wittgenstein, 1980: 18). He wonders whether the work of ‘Breuer and Freud’ is ‘an example of Jewish reproductiveness.’ As a “Jewish Thinker,” he saw his work as reproductive (“I don’t believe I have ever invented a line of thinking. I have always taken one over from someone else.” (Wittgenstein, 1980: 18-19). Although not genuinely creative, it is ‘typical of the Jewish mind to understand the work of another better than the other understands it himself’ (Wittgenstein, 1980: 19). He even says enigmatically, “Rousseau’s character has something Jewish about it.” (Wittgenstein, 1980: 20). There are many positive qualities in Wittgenstein’s Jewishness, but in the one area that must have really mattered to him most, the duty of genius, his Jewish identity was a source of great unease.


Wittgenstein and the Talmud

Wittgenstein was a brilliant maker of metaphors and as he said of himself: “What I invent are new similes.” (Wittgenstein, 1980: 19). To cite just two of his most famous examples:
Any who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone [unsinning], when he has used them – as steps – to climb up beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw way the ladder after he has climbed up it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright. (Tractatus, 6.5)
“What is your aim in philosophy? – To shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle” (Investigations, I: 309).
In a similar vein, we want to suggest that the very peculiar literary structure of Wittgenstein’s writings and his method of inquiry may be clarified by analogy to Hebrew Talmud.
The Talmud, like the early and later works by Wittgenstein, is composed of two quite distinct works, the Mishna and the Gemara, which nevertheless form an organic whole. The Mishna, like Tractatus is a series of pithy, poetic and decisive statements that form the basic code of Jewish ritual and legal practice. The Mishna is the first collection of halakha (Jewish religious observance) which provided a comprehensive organization of all the problems of halakha, not unlike the Tractatus, which sought to solve all the problems of philosophy. The Mishna did record disagreements between scholars, typically without resolution. Like Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, the Mishna is studied both on its own and as a preparation to the study of the remainder of the Talmud.
Subsequent (and even previous) generations of scholars continued a tradition of debate and inquiry into the implications and apparent contradictions of the elliptical teachings of the Mishna, as well as other traditions (tosephtot, braitot) which were not included in the Mishna. These traditions and disputes which took place over hundreds of years were edited in a unique, logically dense text. The Gemara may be said to be a kind of extended commentary on the Mishna although it is much more than that. The Mishna and Gemara, together form the Talmud. They are published and studied together side by side, with the relevant section of the Gemara following the corresponding Mishna. Synchronistically, this is precisely the literary structure Wittgenstein described in the Preface to Investigations dated January 1945:
Four years ago I had occasion to re-read my first book (the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus) and to explain its ideas to someone. It suddenly seemed to me that I should publish those old thoughts and the new ones together: that the latter could be seen in the right light only by contrast with and against the background of my old way of thinking (PI, p. x).
It is true that the Gemara is not strictly speaking ‘second thoughts’ but a logical elaboration of the text of the Mishna. Nevertheless, it is true that the Gemara ‘could be seen in the right light only by way of contrast with and against the background’ of the Mishna. The next lines of the Preface discuss the ‘grave mistakes’ Wittgenstein recognized in Tractatus:
“For since the beginning to occupy myself with philosophy again, sixteen years ago, I have been forced to recognize grave mistakes in what I wrote in that first book. I was helped to realize these mistakes – to a degree which I am myself hardly able to estimate – by the criticism which my ideas encountered from Frank Ramsay, with whom I discussed them in innumerable conversations during the last two years of his life. Even more than this – always certain and forcible - criticism I am indebted to that which a teacher of this university, Mr. P. Sraffa, for many years unceasingly practised on my thoughts. I am indebted to this stimulus for the most consequential ideas of this book.”
The Gemara scholars would never use the term ‘grave mistakes’ to refer to the position taken in the Mishna – since all interpretations ‘for the sake of heaven’ are legitimate. In practice, however, they would challenge, dispute and criticize those very positions. In addition, in each generation most of the disputations were between a pair of brilliant scholars e.g. Shammai and Hillel. Continuing this analogy, we may say that Wittgenstein’s partner was initially Mr. P. Sraffa and subsequently, Frank Ramsay. Even Ramsay’s forcefulness parallels the ‘fiery debates that would emerge between worthy opponents.
The Talmud, although now available in written form, is always called the ‘Oral Law’ in contrast with the ‘Written Law’ of the Hebrew Bible. Originally, it was forbidden to write down the Oral Law, which would endanger and ultimately fossilize a living tradition, much as Socrates says in Phaedrus 274-5: “If men learn this (the alphabet) it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will…rely on that which is written, calling to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks.” Wittgenstein revived a tradition of dialogue, believing that ‘discussion face to face is the proper medium for philosophy’ (Drury, 1973: vii). He often spoke of ‘doing philosophy’ as a living ongoing act in contrast to mere written philosophy. Indeed Wittgenstein was only piqued into writing down Investigations when ‘I was obliged to learn that my results (which I had communicated in lectures, typescripts and discussions), variously misunderstood, more or less mangled or watered down, were in circulation. This stung my vanity and I had difficulty in quieting it.’ The many ‘lectures, typescripts and discussions’ published by former students form the great bulk of his work and include in the order of publication: The Blue and Brown Books (G. E. M. Anscombe & Rush Rheese, Eds.), Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics (G. H. von Wright, G. E. M. Anscombe, & Rush Rheese, Eds.), Zettel (G. E. M. Anscombe & G. H. von Wright) Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief: compiled from Notes taken by Yorick Smythies, Rush Rheese and James Taylor and so forth.
“The very great teachers do not write” (Acquinas, Summa, III, 42: 4) because they have students who write for them. This was as true of Wittgenstein as it is for the Talmudic scholars.Wittgenstein called Investigations, an ‘album’ where the ‘same or almost the same points were always being approached afresh from different directions and new sketches made’ and that it was edited and re-edited. Likewise the Talmud, the ‘summary of oral law that evolved after centuries of scholarly effort’ is meticulously edited ‘yet it is still based on a free association; on a harnessing together of diverse ideas reminiscent of the modern stream of consciousness’ (Steinsaltz, 1977: 4).
The analogy to the Talmud may now be stated clearly. Wittgenstein’s early Tractatus resembles the Mishna while his later work, Investigations parallels the Gemara while his numerous posthumous works, On Certainty, Zettel, Culture and Value, Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, etc. are “Tosephtot” and “Braitot.”
The Talmudic analogy helps illuminate the puzzling first sentence in the Preface to Tractatus:
“This book will perhaps only be understood by those who have themselves already thought the thoughts which are expressed in it – or similar thoughts. It is therefore not a textbook. The object would be attained if there were one person who read it with understanding and pleasure.”
Surely this is one of the most extraordinary openings to any book. On the one hand it reflects Wittgenstein own struggle with an isolated schizoid-solipsist way of life. But in another way, Wittgenstein is saying that the Tractatus cannot be read like a normal book, it must be in a sense re-created by the reader (Halbertal & Halbertal, 1998). Such a demand may seem odd to the modern reader but would be entirely intelligible to any Talmudic scholar or yeshiva student. Consider what Adin Steinsaltz, a leading authority and translator of the Talmud writes how the text of the Talmud must be recreated: “the student must participate intellectually and emotionally in the Talmudic debate, himself becoming, to a certain extent, a creator” (Steinsaltz, 1977:9) or more explicitly:
The Talmud is unique in that no student can master it fully without taking an active part in the creative process. He must be responsive to questions and answers, able to sense instinctively how a subject will develop and be ready at any time to move the discussion in a certain direction.
A true scholar is therefore always part of the Talmud, himself creating through his study and his own innovation. There was good cause for the demand made of every scholar that he not only study but also introduce new interpretations, since in creating something new he increases his understanding of the source and becomes capable of continuing it (Steinsaltz, 1977: 266).
A similar attitude is expressed toward end of the Preface to Investigations: “I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of thinking. But, if possible, to stimulate someone to thoughts of his own.”
Wittgenstein, strove after truth and clarity for its own sake and in this context one can understand his writing in the foreword to the Philosophical Remarks (Wittgenstein, 1975: 7): “I would like to say ‘This book is written to the glory of God.’ But nowadays that would be chicanery, that is, it would not be rightly understood.” The Talmudic tradition would understand how dedicated inquiry for its own sake can indeed be for ‘the glory of God.’ (Shields, 1993). Steinsaltz emphasizes this point by explaining the meaning of the term Talmud:
“The key is to be found in the name of the work: Talmud (that is, study, learning). The Talmud is the embodiment of the great mitzvat talmud Torah – the positive religious duty of studying torah, of acquiring learning and wisdom, study which is its own end and reward” (Steinsaltz, 1977: 4-5).
Studying and intellectual activity as a goal in itself is a lasting aspect of Jewish culture and forms the basis of the great success Jews have enjoyed as intellectuals. Compare Wittgenstein’s remark in Culture and Value, on Jews as uniquely drawn to ‘intellectualistic theatre’ (Wittgenstein, 1980: 5). Likewise, Wittgenstein would agree that: “A true scholar serves as a living example by his way of life and conduct’” (Steinsaltz, 1977: 5). Although living by example, is surely not unique to Judaism, it is one of its outstanding characteristics.
The analogy between Wittgenstein and the Talmud, however, goes deeper, to the issue of method. Here is Steinsaltz’s description of the Talmudic approach:
Every subject …is worthy of consideration and analysis and an attempt is always made to delve into the heart of the matter. In the course of study, the question of whether the analyses are of practical use is never raised. We often encounter in the Talmud protracted and vehement debates on various problems that try to examine the structure of the method and to elucidate the conclusions deriving from it. …The student is expected to pose questions to himself and to others and to voice doubts and reservations. From this point of view, the Talmud is perhaps the only sacred book in all of world culture that permits and even encourages the student to question it. (Steinsaltz, 1977: 5).
Compare this with Wittgenstein’s well known discussion on pain as a private experience:
In what sense are my sensations private ? – Well, only I can know whether I am really in pain; another person can only surmise it. – In one way this wrong, and in another nonsense. If we are using the word “to know” as it is normally used (and how else are to use it?), then other people very often know when I am in pain. – Yes, but all the same not with same certainty with which I know it myself! – It can’t be said of me at all (except perhaps as a joke) that I know I am in pain. What is it supposed to mean – except perhaps that I am in pain?
Other people cannot be said to learn of my sensations only from my behaviour, - for I cannot be said to say to learn of them. I have them. The truth is: it makes sense to say about other people that they doubt whether I am in pain; but not to say it about myself (PI 246).
Wittgenstein is not concerned with any practical application say, to identify malingering or factitious patients, but rather to understand the core difference between pain as a private and a public experience: ‘my pain’ as opposed to ‘how someone else can know whether I am in pain.’ (Cavell, 1976; Ayer, 1985; Fogelin, 1987). His method is one of constant questioning, reviewing examples and counter-examples to clarify the conceptual consistency of the formulation. The Investigations, like the Talmud is, therefore, a record of such verbal ‘give and take’ in written form, which allows the reader through intense study to recreate the original.
The Talmud and Wittgenstein may share a certain similarity in method and literary form, but are usually worlds apart when it comes to content. There are, however, a few cases when, synchronistically, the two texts do appear to express similar ideas. Two examples may suffice.
The most famous line in the Tractatus is, ‘that which cannot be said, must be passed over in silence’ (although ‘“silence” distorts the active mood of “schweigen”’ (Schwarzschild, 179: 163)). As Engelmann (1967) and many others have convincingly shown, what must be passed over in silence is not unimportant but often includes the most profound aspects of life, such as the mystical. Mishna Hagiga 2:1 also lists a series of topics which must be passed over in silence:
“One does not expound… mysteries of the Chariot (Ezekiel 1) before [even] one [person] unless he is wise and will understand on his own; …[never] what is above, what is below, what is in front and what is behind.”
The Hebrew text can sustain a number of different interpretations and may be intentionally vague, but it is clearly pointing to the fact that certain topics that are considered dangerously beyond public discourse. The Mishna even says, “One who looks on these things…it was better that he did not come into the world.” These topics deal with profound and mystical aspects of Existence but are not to be discussed.
A second more extended example comes from the Tractate Yoma, dealing with issues concerning The Day of Atonement (Steinsaltz, 1982). One Mishna (Yoma 73b) describes the prohibitions on the Day of Atonement:
[On] Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) [are] forbidden: eating, drinking, washing, anointing [with oil], wearing sandals and sexual relations. But the King, and the bride [may] wash their face; woman who just gave birth may wear sandals – the words of Rabbi Eliezer. But the wise [sages] forbid. [If] one eats [amount equivalent to] a large date, including the pit or drinks a mouthful – [the person is held to be] liable. All eating is added to [make up the size of] the date; all drinking added to [make up the size of the] mouthful. Eating and drinking do not add [to each other].FN
Only a close reading will allow the reader to follow the implications of the text. Compare Wittgenstein’s use of ‘copious punctuation marks’ to achieve a similar effect, ‘to slow down the speed of reading. Because I should like to be read slowly (As I myself read).” (Wittgenstein 1980: 68) This Mishna bears a striking similarity to Wittgenstein in that it is seeking to understand what is meant by the term ‘drinking’ or ‘eating’ on Yom Kippur. The text gives explicit criterion based on the ‘meaning as use’ so that, less than a dateful, is not considered ‘eating’; and less than a mouthful, is not considered ‘drinking.’ Incremental bites or sips, which do add up, cumulatively, to a dateful, or a mouthful, are considered ‘eating’ or ‘drinking.’ There are, therefore, two types of criteria for what is ‘eating’ or ‘drinking’: one discrete and the other incremental. However ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’ consist of independent sets and are not jointly cumulative. Clearly these sages would understand the fundamentals of set theory.
Later on, the Gemara returns to the opening line of the Mishna to examine another apparent contradiction. After asserting that there are five forbidden activities called ‘torments,’ it opposes this statement with the text of the Mishna:
Why do you say five torments [are] mentioned [In the Mishna] we read [about] six torments [1. eating, 2. drinking, 3. washing, 4. anointing, 5. wearing sandal and 6. using the bed]. [They answer:] “drinking” is included in “eating.” Resh Lakish has said: From where do we know that “drinking” is included in “eating”? As it is written [in the Bible]: “And you shall eat in the presence of your God…the tithes of your new grain and “tirosh” and oil.” (Deuteronomy 14:23). “Tirosh” is wine and it is [described as something to be] eaten [proving that “drinking” is included in “eating”].
[But he is challenged] Is it not possible to literally “eat” wine when it is mixed with other things …
The text then gives various examples of how one can ‘eat’ wine in various mixtures and whether wine implies an amount sufficient to get drunk. It then goes on:
Is “tirosh” wine? We learned [from a breita] if a person makes an oath to refrain from “tirosh,” they are forbidden [to consume] all sorts of sweet fruit but allowed wine. So ‘tirosh” is not wine?…Everyone agrees that “tirosh” in the Biblical language means ‘wine but in the period of the Mishna, “tirosh” meant ‘sweet tasting’ fruit including grapes and not wine and in matter of oaths we follow spoken language (Yoma 76a-b).
A full explication of this passage is well beyond the capabilities of the authors. But it may be enough to compare it with a corresponding passage in Investigations to show the parallelism. The passage from Investigations begins with the “mishna” from the Tractatus:
114. (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 4.5): “The general form of the proposition is: This is how things are.”…
Wittgenstein goes on to discuss the contrast between philosopher’s use of words and how they are used in everyday use:
116. When philosophers use a word – “knowledge,” “being,” “object,” “I,” “proposition,” “name” – and try to grasp the essence of the thing, one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used in this way in the language-game which is its original home? – What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use…
122. A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view of the use of words.
The two passages from Yoma and Investgations in one sense could not be more different but in certain ways, they share: questioning back and forth, exploration of layers language, contrasting specialized language with clarifying ‘everyday use.’ Wittgenstein’s conclusion in paragraph 122 applies equally to his work as to our Gemara Yoma 76a-b.


Conclusion

To summarize: We argue there are parallels in literary form and method between Wittgenstein’s texts and the Talmud. Both texts, although currently in written form force the reader to recreate the oral dialogue which forms the basis of the text. At the same time, both texts are not systematic logico-deductive accounts but associative “albums.” They cannot be simply read but must be studied and re-enacted. Both use a method in which formulations are challenged by specific examples designed to test the conceptual consistency of the formulation. Intellectual inquiry is grounded in examples rather abstractions.
There is an avoidance of simple or practical solutions in favor of intellectual pursuit of truth for its own sake. Both accept the ‘show/say distinction’ (Shields 1993) and the resulting desire to be as clear as possible about which one can speak. A wise disciple, however, may see the implications in the pointing beyond what can be said, especially the mystical, ‘the wonder that the world exists’ (Bearn, 1997) Both saw an unbreakable link between their teachings and their way of life. A scholar must not only teach, but also show his teaching through his personal integrity and upright ‘way of life.’ Both discouraged individuals from earning their living through intellectual activity whether academic philosophy or as a rabbi (i.e. a “judge” on religious affairs) which might taint the pursuit of truth for its own sake. Taken together, we can see that Wittgenstein has many of the attributes of a Talmudic thinker.3
There is a famous controversy in the Talmud, concerning Rabbi Akiva, the scholar who first began to organize the Mishna. Many scholars were gathered at Lod and they were asked:
Which is greater, good deeds or talmud torah (Torah learning)? Rabbi Tarphun answered and said: Good deeds are greater. Rabbi Akiva answered and said: talmud torah. All other scholars answered and said, Study is greater, since study leads to good deeds.” (Kiddushin, 40b).
We doubt that Ludwig Wittgenstein ever heard this well -known tale. But if he had, we imagine him, with his blue eyes sparkling, shaking his head in silent agreement.


Acknowledgements

Many of these ideas were developed by the first author (HA) while doing an undergraduate Honours Degree in Philosophy at Yale College (1967-71). He would like to dedicate this article to the memory of Fred Oscanyan, his first teacher of philosophy. He also would like to thank Iva Bader Abramovitch, Sam Abramovitch and especially his ‘study partner’ Shlomo Naeh, Chair, Dept. of Talmud, Hebrew University, for their help and inspiration.


Notes

1. Two recent articles in Klagge’s (2001) collection Wittgenstein: Biography & Philosophy do discuss his Jewishness but come to very different conclusions. One of his biographers, McGuinness, after reviewing five meanings of ‘the idea of Jewishness’ (the religion; descent from persons professing it; the culture of assimilated Jews who still form something of a community; the common genetic heritage of Jews (thought to exist); and (distinct from this) the supposition of such a heritage) minimizes any relevance of Wittgenstein’s ‘Jewish question’, saying simply: “In the end, then, Wittgenstein did not think of himself as Jewish, nor need we do so.” (McGuiness, 2001: 231).
Stern (2001) in his essay “Was Wittgenstein a Jew?” argues that Wittgenstein struggled with his Jewishnesss at various points in his life. He concludes: “The philosophical significance Jewishness for Wittgenstein is not primarily that he thought of his philosophy as Jewish, but that Jewishness was not a problem that he was able to write about philosophically.” (Stern, 2001: 269). He also says that one needs to distinguish the various uses of Jewishness. Clearly for the Nazis, Wittgenstein and his family were Jews.
2. I have used square brackets to interpolate what is latent in the text, in order to make intelligible. One of the reasons the Talmud is so difficult for a beginner is that the text lacks punctuation. One finds dense paragraphs with no periods, commas, colons or question marks. A rendition more literally faithful to the original text might read:
Yom Kippur forbidden eating drinking washing anointing wearing sandals and sexual relations and the King and the bride wash their faces and the woman who has given birth wears sandals – the words of Rabbi Eliezer and the wise forbid one who eats a large date including the pit and drinks a mouthful liable all eating joins the date and all drinking joins mouthful eating and drinking do not join
3. A fascinating account of the infamous encounter between Karl Popper and Wittgenstein at Cambridge in 1946, Wittgenstein’s Poker compares the Jewish heritage of these two assimilated Viennese exiles. Indirectly supporting our argument, the authors write: “The gleam in the eye [of Wittgenstein] that was evident to his friends and followers has been passed down to subsequent generations; they pore over his texts like Talmudic scholars divining wisdom from the Torah.” (Edmonds & Eidinow, 2001:292)


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