Jewish renewal in pre-nazi Berlin: Abraham Heschel interprets William James.In 1930 an earnest group of Jewish thinkers, under the shadow of Adolf
Hitler's rising ascent to power, gathered weekly in Berlin to renew Jewish tradition. Its leader was Professor David Koigen (1879-1933), a social philosopher trained in Europe's leading universities, who had studied with Wilhlem Dilthey among other influential scholars. A prominent young member of this intellectual community (called a Philosophische Arbeitsgemeinschaft) was Abraham Heschel (1907-1972), who became a renowned religious thinker, consummate writer, and moral activist after his immigration to the United States This article may be too long.
Please discuss this issue on the talk page and help summarize or split the content into subarticles of an article series. in 1940. Heschel's encounter with The Varieties of Religious Experience in Koigen's seminar significantly influenced his theory of religious insight.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, Abraham Joshua Heschel Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (January 11, 1907, Warsaw, then Russian Empire – December 23, 1972) was considered by many to be one of the most significant Jewish theologians of the 20th century. was raised in a devout Hasidic community, absorbing a fervent form of Jewish Orthodoxy Noun 1. Jewish Orthodoxy - Jews who strictly observe the Mosaic law as interpreted in the Talmud
Hebraism, Jewish religion, Judaism - Jews collectively who practice a religion based on the Torah and the Talmud stressing a personal relationship with God through prayer, acts of kindness, and study. After a complete religious education and traditional mode of living, in 1927 Heschel left for Berlin to study at two institutions of higher learning higher learning
Education or academic accomplishment at the college or university level. : the Friedrich Wilhelms Universitat (the University of Berlin), where he prepared a doctorate in philosophy; and the Hochschule fur die Wissenschaft des Judentums Wissenschaft des Judentums ("the science of Judaism" in German), refers to a nineteenth-century movement premised on the critical investigation of Jewish literature and culture, including rabbinic literature, using scientific methods to analyze the origins of Jewish traditions. , the Liberal Jewish academy, where he studied philosophy of religion and historical-critical approaches to the Hebrew Bible. Without abandoning his faith, the doctoral candidate sought categories with which to communicate "piety" (attachment to God) to those without his sensitivity to holiness and mastery of classical Jewish sources.
Heschel had many reasons to admire David Koigen as a role model. Koigen was a Russian Jew raised in the Habad Hasidic tradition with a consummate European secular education Secular education is a term that refers to the system of public education in countries with a secular government or separation between religion and state.
While it is considered an important part of a democratic and free society, some may oppose secular education on the . He welcomed Heschel into his cosmopolitan, Jewishly-committed community, whose orientation was primarily philosophical. In addition, the "Koigen Circle" fostered a warm familial atmosphere, with Mrs. Koigen participating fully, and their young son, Georg, often in attendance. By the time Heschel entered Koigen's sphere, the latter had developed a philosophy relevant to the century's major upheavals, the First World War and the Russian Revolutions. For Koigen, thinking was inseparable from action. The choice of a theory of knowledge had political and moral consequences. There Heschel tested ideas he was developing at the university and the Hochschule as he refined his spiritual and academic commitments.
The archeological strata of Heschel's American writings become visible in Koigen's seminar. At the University of Berlin, he was preparing a doctoral study of the Hebrew prophets, a phenomenology phenomenology, modern school of philosophy founded by Edmund Husserl. Its influence extended throughout Europe and was particularly important to the early development of existentialism. of prophetic revelation, influenced by the methods of Edmund Husserl Noun 1. Edmund Husserl - German philosopher who developed phenomenology (1859-1938)
Husserl and by Max Scheler's focus on the cognitive function cognitive function Neurology Any mental process that involves symbolic operations–eg, perception, memory, creation of imagery, and thinking; CFs encompasses awareness and capacity for judgment of emotions, especially in his book, The Nature and the Forms of Sympathy. (1) Heschel became a skilled interpreter of the structure and dynamics of the inner life
Koigen had formulated a Jewish anthropology, a neo-Hasidic definition of being human-one which Heschel would apply to the Hebrew prophets and Jewish mysticism. Its foundation was the holiness of every person as an image of God. This was not a parochial vision. Koigen held that secular forms of Jewish creativity could be elevated by Hasidic ways of experiencing, invigorating in·vig·or·ate
tr.v. in·vig·or·at·ed, in·vig·or·at·ing, in·vig·or·ates
To impart vigor, strength, or vitality to; animate: "A few whiffs of the raw, strong scent of phlox invigorated her" Jewish life more than the rationalistic, skeptical Enlightenment. Music, painting, literature, all propagated the Jewish soul.
Heschel joined Koigen's program to recover genuine religious insight in the secular world. However, he must have already formulated his position, since he was able to frame his interpretation of religious experience during the first four months of their zealous explorations. This was the routine: one person presented a paper; discussions ensued which Koigen then summarized and analyzed. Meetings normally lasted for two to three hours, starting either in late morning or in the evening. The night sessions might continue until about 12:45 am, when the last Stadtbahn train was ready to leave. For each session a reporter (Protokollfuhrer) took notes and typed a summary (the Protokoll). The group reviewed the minutes at the beginning of the next seminar to ensure continuity. (2)
A sampling of the meticulously preserved minutes opens a window to a remarkable collaboration for revitalizing Judaism in times of crisis. Among the consistent subjects of debate--and of crucial significance to Heschel--was the relationship between ethics (a purely human or rational endeavor) versus spiritual insight (implying divine revelation Noun 1. divine revelation - communication of knowledge to man by a divine or supernatural agency
making known, informing - a speech act that conveys information ). One of the first meetings took place on Sunday, 26 January 1930.
Heschel opened the next meeting (2 February) with a paper on the "moral structure of religion" according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. Kant. (3) His scrutiny of neo-Kantianism was sharpened by another participant who asked how it was possible to convey verbally the reality of God. The minutes contiue:
At the beginning of the discussion, Salomonski says that, strictly speaking, Kant (the starting point of Heschel's talk) as well considers religion to be a 'fiction," the filling of a void in the construct of reason. Koigen adds to this remark by saying that indeed students of Kant become atheists as a consequence of this doctrine.
Koigen seemed to agree with Salomonski and Heschel that "fictions" (that is, mental constructs) cannot substitute for divine reality, and he went on to discuss morality, reason, and Kant. Later in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , Heschel vehemently opposed "symbolism," by which he meant, generally, concepts and other substitutes for the ineffable God. (4)
These vital deliberations continued each week, technical analyses dealing with theory which held major implications for religious and ethical practice. The companions were facing the great divide of twentieth-century faith: Was Judaism a religion of reason or a human response to God's revelation at Sinai? What latitude of interpretation was permissible according to Jewish law?
Heschel navigated these treacherous straits with confidence. His key antagonist was not secularism sec·u·lar·ism
1. Religious skepticism or indifference.
2. The view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education. as such, but reductionism reductionism(rē·dukˑ·sh·niˑ·z , the tendency to explain what he considered to be authentic religious phenomena (such as prophetic inspiration) in exclusively human terms. Opposing the reigning Neo-Kantianism, rationalism or scientism sci·en·tism
1. The collection of attitudes and practices considered typical of scientists.
2. The belief that the investigative methods of the physical sciences are applicable or justifiable in all fields of inquiry. , Heschel preferred to draw upon Hasidic sources, that is, fervent attachment to God. Phenomenology, a description of the structure and form of consciousness, bridged the objective and subjective dimensions of human knowledge.
Heschel elaborated his phenomenological approach to Jewish self-understanding at the following meeting (Sunday, 2 March), steering the discussion toward the living God. Salomonski first spoke about "the cultural-historical structure of religion." Koigen referred to his book, The Moral God, and then discussed the interdependence of culture and religion. Heschel examined the Hebrew term hesed (loving kindness). Koigen discussed hesed from a philosophical viewpoint while Heschel brought into focus the understanding of God as a concerned Being. As the meeting was coming to a close, Heschel maintained a theological principle (derived from the Zohar) that became his lifetime signature: "An ethical action on our part causes a metaphysical result. Not only is God necessary for us, but we are necessary for God. God acts through us." (5) This Kabbalistic kab·ba·lis·tic or ca·ba·lis·tic or qa·ba·lis·tic
Of or relating to the Kabbalah.
kab intuition established the link between mysticism and moral action.
Heschel focused the debate even more intently as he took center stage at the next four meetings with a critical analysis of William James's Varieties of Religious Experience, widely translated and available throughout Europe. (6) The first German translation by Georg Wobbermin, Die religose Erfahrung in ihrer Mannigfaltigkeit, appeared in Leipzig in 1907 and was reprinted in 1917. Heschel used James to James To Kun Sun (Traditional Chinese: 涂謹申, born 11 March, 1963) is member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong since 1991 except between 1997 and 1998. To is also a member of the Yau Tsim Mong District Council. clarify his own analysis of religious insight and, especially at that stage of the seminar's evolution, to deflect the group's emphasis from philosophy of culture to individual experience.
At the 16 March meeting Heschel cited James's case histories, which explored (and perhaps confused) authentic religious insight and pathological distortions. After a searching discussion of sin, forgiveness, psychology of religion, and Hasidism, Koigen summarized his sociological perspective The sociological perspective is a particular way of approaching a phenomena common in sociology. It involves maintaining objectivity, not by divesting oneself of values, but by critically evaluating and testing ideas, and accepting what may be surprising or even displeasing based :
Each culture--as does each human being--has different paths to God: each culture constructs its own world and thus its own language; thus, this is a problem of communication. What is reported here: emotions, psychic "stuff." We speak in the language of psychology; and yet psychology as a science is belittled because we ask: Is the psychological truth identical with the truth of the whole world? Is psyche illusion or reality?. It becomes reality if we succeed in anchoring it metaphysically.
The debate was momentous, for these thinkers were attempting to define the truth of religion. Nothing was more compelling. Yet Heschel, despite his recognition of Koigen's genuine grasp of Hasidic piety, began actively to oppose his teacher's contention that the individual is inseparable from his or her culture. Heschel focused upon the person who relates to God.
Heschel found a method allowing him to reach people outside the community of faith; he would excite the spiritual hunger of the majority by interpreting the subtle modalities Modalities
The factors and circumstances that cause a patient's symptoms to improve or worsen, including weather, time of day, effects of food, and similar factors. of emotion. In this he was influenced by analyses of religious affect by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Rudolf Otto Rudolf Otto (September 25 1869–6 March 1937) was an eminent German Lutheran theologian and scholar of comparative religion. Life
Born in Peine near Hanover, Otto attended the Gymnasium Andreanum in Hildesheim and studied at the universities of Erlangen and , Max Scheler Max Scheler (August 22, 1874, Munich - May 19, 1928, Frankfurt am Main) was a German philosopher known for his work in phenomenology, ethics, and philosophical anthropology. , and James, but also by his own experience as an observant traditional Jew completing a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Berlin.
Exceptionally, the group met two days later (18 March), interrupting Heschel's examination of William James Noun 1. William James - United States pragmatic philosopher and psychologist (1842-1910)
James . After a discussion of the Baal Shem Tov Baal Shem Tov Originally Israel ben Eliezer. 1700?-1760.
Polish-born Jewish religious leader and mystic who founded Hasidism. , the founder of the Hasidic movement in the 18th century, as a "Jewish Prometheus" who can challenge God, Heschel (helped by Koigen's wife) refined his taxonomy of emotions leading to religious insight: "Following Heschel's statement, Mrs. Koigen explicates his terms Angst [anxiety], Furcht [reverence], and Scheu [fear, timidity, shyness, awe--or embarrassment]--of which only the last applies to the position of the Jews in relation to God. In particular, yirat shamayim [fear of God, another Hebrew synonym of "piety"] expresses Scheu but not Angst." (7)
Heschel was applying his aesthetic, emotional, and analytic finesse to establish criteria for evaluating religious knowledge. Cognitive emotions provided a fulcrum fulcrum: see lever. allowing him to displace both rational philosophy and psychology. Heschel combined poetry and cognition. As a young man in Warsaw, Vilna, and Berlin, he had published Yiddish poetry evoking intuitions of awe, wonder, and spiritual embarrassment. (8) Now as a doctoral candidate in Germany, he used William James to challenge David Koigen's philosophy of culture. The following weeks, on 23 March, Heschel analyzed chapters of Varieties, "The Melancholy Soul," and on 31 March, "The Religious Conversion."
Heschel's participation reached a climax during intense discussions from May through June 1930. Rejecting psychological explanations of religious insight, questioning Koigen's metaphysics of collective life, and surpassing the sympathetic psychology of William James, he asserted his perspective even more forcefully.
It was a midnight event of no return. The evening of 3 June 1930, Heschel questioned the seminar's very purpose. (9) The minutes (written by Fritz Salomonski, to whom Heschel later dedicated a Yiddish poem), review the seminar's work to date and record a decisive clash of theory versus action. Despite his admiration for Koigen--for his vast knowledge, his passion for Judaism, his sublimated sub·li·mate
v. sub·li·mat·ed, sub·li·mat·ing, sub·li·mates
1. Chemistry To cause (a solid or gas) to change state without becoming a liquid.
a. Hasidism, and his personal warmth and generosity--Heschel was committed to another path, another teaching. We cite this record of Heschel's bold initiative:
Heschel suggests that we address the question of how the Circle could move on from the state of theoretical observations to more practical realizations. Every member of the group should work on his suggestions and submit them in writing.--In the subsequent discussion the meaning of this question is addressed. First Prof. Koigen generally welcomes the question. However, he thinks it conveys a certain discontent. Salomonski attempts to describe the results of the work that has been done so far. He says: Prof. Koigen has found a way to make us understand the value of cultural work in a new way by anchoring it metaphysically.--This he did in order to assure that we would be protected in our private, spiritual activity from the doubts that might afflict us in our materialistically-oriented environment. This in itself constitutes an eminently practical effect of a basically pedagogical nature. Salomonski meets Heschel's demand for [practical] realization with the experience of effect: In each of us, the understanding that results from our reflections will grow roots, it will have its effects in our practical-professional lives, depending on our personal abilities. At this point, however, Salomonski cannot imagine what the joint practical action Heschel suggests should look like.
The group assumed that their discussions, as theoretical as they were, nevertheless had the virtue of protecting them from unwarranted doubts. If Koigen acknowledged the benefit to individuals, why would Heschel object to continuing their focus on a metaphysics of culture?
Weinberg asks Mr. Heschel to express himself more clearly. Weinberg distinguishes two kinds of practical communal work: one of a more external nature, like the collecting of tsedakah [charitable contributions]; the other in the sense of a communal way of living, which would, to say it clearly, result in a new Shulhan Arukh [the standard code of Jewish law]. Rosenthal thinks that the recognition of hitherto obscured cultural facts is itself of practical significance.--Pless sees the only possibility of practical realization in the passing on of our reflections to others outside the Circle. It is noted that Heschel does not contradict this.
The real debate with Heschel then began, for Koigen's disciples rallied about their leader without challenging Heschel directly. Yet, teacher and student did disagree profoundly on the solution to their era's moral, political, and religious alienation. Would sociology or individual spiritual discipline provide an answer?
Prof. Koigen now speaks. First he summarizes the work that has been done so far. Then he outlines a general comprehensive program. It is not accidental that the Jewish problem is at the center of our reflections. Fatum [Fate] and the nature-God have collapsed, and the Spirit-God, as Judaism has recognized it, will begin its cultural hegemony. Koigen deliberately opposes Spengler, just as he opposes Greek classicism and Buddhism versus Judaism and Christianity. From the spirit of Judaism a cultural Vatican has to emerge that will be capable of taking positions on all questions of life and give answers that have axiomatic value. In this sense, the group's work should eventually broaden and gradually address all kinds of problems of life, be they of a religious, social, or political nature. Contrary to this, Heschel demands that instead of a spreading toward the general and the far future there should be a progressive concentration on the individual, on the concrete human being. Koigen sees in this a kind of Prometheanism. ]Since] the concrete person exists only in the social group, separation would lead to self-destruction. Thus genuine religious emotion in particular seeks the context of the universal; Prometheus, who wanted only to remain separate, stands against God (the Greeks call this Hubris). To conclude, Prof. Koigen says: a communal world-view is possible, but the experience has to remain private. Whenever somebody through his private experience becomes uncertain, he can--from case to case--submit his doubts for general discussion.
Such discussions never end. Heschel's solution to the world crisis was to augment personal piety; an all-encompassing cultural theory was Koigen's antidote to radical alienation and uncertainty. For Heschel, rational philosophy alone could not provide a foundation for Jewish renewal Jewish Renewal is a new religious movement in Judaism which endeavors to reinvigorate modern Judaism with mystical, Hasidic, musical and meditative practices. Overview ; the living God cannot enter our systems, as consensual as they might become under Koigen's benevolent guidance. Hindsight makes clear how Heschel's opposition to his teacher's sociological thinking prefigured his own philosophy of religion in which intuitive knowledge should bring us closer to God and transform our moral sensitivities. The work of William James, among others, provided a necessary bridge.
(1.) See Abraham Heschel, The Prophets (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of and Evanston: Harper and Row, 1962), esp. Heschel's preface and chap. 18, Religion of Sympathy. Cf. Lawrence Perlman, "'As a report about revelation, the Bible itself is a Midrash," Conservative Judaism Conservative Judaism
Form of Judaism that mediates between Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism. Founded in 19th-century Germany as the Historical School, it arose among German-Jewish theologians who advocated change but found Reform positions extreme. 55,1 (Fall 2002): 30-37. The most complete study remains that of John C. Merkle, The Genesis of faith. The Depth Theology of Abraham Joshua Heschel (New York: Macmillan, 1985).
(2.) David Koigen preserved the group's minutes which survived his death in 1933 and his widow and son's emigration emigration: see immigration; migration. to Palestine before the Second World War. The texts were typed by each reporter, with some written emendations. Each report begins with the date, the hour, and a list of the participants. The group remained relatively stable. The original documents are preserved at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem (Hebrew University Hebrew University of Jerusalem, at Mt. Scopus, Givat Ram, Ein Karem, and Rehovot, Israel; coeducational. First proposed in 1882, formally opened 1925. It is the world's largest Jewish university and is noted for its work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. , Givat Ram campus), box P196. My gratitude to Mrs. Mira Zakai, Koigen's granddaughter, for her generous donation of these papers and for her personal hospitality. I urge German-speaking graduate students to consider a doctoral dissertation on David Koigen and his group as modern religious witnesses to the 20th century's fundamental upheavals.
(3.) Minutes are cited here by date. See Kaplan and Dresner, A. J. Heschel, Prophetic Witness, for more detailed references.
(4.) See A.J. Heschel, Man's Quest for Verb 1. quest for - go in search of or hunt for; "pursue a hobby"
quest after, go after, pursue
look for, search, seek - try to locate or discover, or try to establish the existence of; "The police are searching for clues"; "They are searching for the God: Studies in Prayer and Symbolism (New York: Scribners' and Sons, 1954). See Edward K. Kaplan, Holiness in Words: Abraham Joshua Heschel's Poetics of Piety (Albany, London: SUNY SUNY - State University of New York Press, 1996), chap. 6, "Sacred Versus Symbolic Religion. Social Science or God's Will Noun 1. God's Will - the omnipotence of a divine being
omnipotence - the state of being omnipotent; having unlimited power ?", and Prophetic Witness, for Heschel's debate with Martin Buber Noun 1. Martin Buber - Israeli religious philosopher (born in Austria); as a Zionist he promoted understanding between Jews and Arabs; his writings affected Christian thinkers as well as Jews (1878-1965)
(5.) See Heschel, The Earth is the Lord's (New York: Henry Schumann, 1950), chaps. 10-11, "Kabbalah kabbalah or cabala (both: kăb`ələ) [Heb.,=reception], esoteric system of interpretation of the Scriptures based upon a tradition claimed to have been handed down orally from Abraham. , Hasidim"; this book is the best introduction to Heschel. See also Heschers original paper, "The Mystical Element in Judaism" (1949), reprinted in Susannah Heschel Susannah Heschel (born 15 May 1952) holds the Eli Black Chair in Jewish Studies and serves as associate professor in the Department of Religion at Dartmouth College. She received her Ph.D. , ed., A.J. Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity. Essays (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publishing company in New York City noted for its literary excellence. It was founded in 1945 by John Farrar and Roger Straus as Farrar, Straus & Co. , 1996), 164-84. For Heschel's first essays on social action, see The Insecurity of Freedom (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966).
(6.) The Varieties of Religious Experience was first translated into German by Georg Wobbermin, Die religose Erfahrung in ihrer Mannigfaltigkeit: Materialien und Studien zu einer Psychologie und Pathologie des religiosen Lebens (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1907: 1914; reprinted in 1917).
(7.) Around this time an important paper on "reverence" by Julius Goldstein, "Ehrfurcht, eine Grundforderung des Judentums," Der Morgen Der Morgen (The Morning) was a daily newspaper published in the GDR. Der Morgen was the central organ of the Liberal Democratic Party of Germany. It was published from August 3, 1945 on, six times a week. vol. 5 (1929): 399-409, was widely read: cited by Alexander Altmann Alexander Altmann (April 16, 1906–June 6, 1987) was an Orthodox Jewish scholar and rabbi born in Kaschau, Austria-Hungary, today Košice, Slovakia. He emigrated to England in 1938 and later settled in the United States, working productively for a decade and a half as a , in "Metaphysik und Religion" (Metaphysics and Religion) in Jeschurun 17, 9-12 (1930): 321-47. Altmann's essay is translated in the important collection, A. Altmann, The Meaning of Jewish Existence. Theological Essays, ed. Alfred Ivry (Hanover NH: University Press of New England The University Press of New England (or UPNE), founded in 1970, is a university press that is supported by Brandeis University, Dartmouth College (where it is located), the University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University, Tufts University and the University of Vermont. for Brandeis University Brandeis University, at Waltham, Mass.; coeducational; chartered and opened 1948. Although Brandeis was founded by members of the American Jewish community, the university operates as an independent, nonsectarian institution. , 1991).
(8.) Heschel's first published book, in fact, is a collection of Yiddish poems, Der Shem Hameforash: Mentsh (Mankind: God's Ineffable Name) Warsaw, 1933. See Prophetic Witness for a preliminary study of the poetry.
(9.) Meeting of 3 June 1930 (9:30 PM-12:00 midnight). Present: Prof. Koigen, Frau Prof. Koigen, Heschel, Peysack, Pless, Rosenthal, Salomonski, Weinberg. Protokollfuhrer: Salomonski.
Edward K. Kaplan is Kaiserman Professor in the Humanities and chair of the Program in Religious Studies at Brandeis University, where he teaches courses on religious and ethical experience and French and comparative literature. His two books on Heschel are Holiness in Words: Abraham Joshua Heschel's Poetics of Piety (SUNY Press, 1996) and, co-authored with Samuel Dresner, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Prophetic Witness (Yale University Yale University, at New Haven, Conn.; coeducational. Chartered as a collegiate school for men in 1701 largely as a result of the efforts of James Pierpont, it opened at Killingworth (now Clinton) in 1702, moved (1707) to Saybrook (now Old Saybrook), and in 1716 was Press, 1998), an intellectual and cultural biography of Heschel in Europe. Edward Kaplan organized a conference on Thomas Merton Noun 1. Thomas Merton - United States religious and writer (1915-1968)
Merton and Judaism in Louisville, Kentucky
“Louisville” redirects here. For other uses, see Louisville (disambiguation). ; the book of that name edited by Beatrice Bruteau (Fons Vitae, 2003) includes all relevant writings on that topic and a special interview with Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi,, commonly called "Reb Zalman" (pr: rǎb) is considered one of the major founders of the Jewish Renewal movement. Early life .