part 1. THE ROOM commentary, based on likutei moharan 52, 51 of nachman of breslav, plato, schopenhauer, symbolism, expression.
LIKUTEI MOHARAN 52 IN RELATION TO THE GESTALT MONOLOGUE: “THE ROOM”
1. DEDUCTIVE THINKING IS MERELY THE FIRST STEP TO SEEKING REALITY.
Here is the opening sentence of essay 52 of "Likutei Moharan", the "CollectedEssays" of Nachman of Breslav.
And here is the official Breslav Research Institute translation: "there are heretics who say that the world is a necessary reality". The ﬁrst point I want to make isthat what Nachman in this statement is labeling "necessary reality", or moreliterally, "obligated ﬁnding", is what Gestalt therapists call "conﬂuence", fromthe Latin roots "con" (with) and "ﬂuere" (to ﬂow). For Gestalt therapists"conﬂuence" means a near total lack of here and now awareness, as is seen inautism, psychosis and certain master manipulators such as an Adolf Hitler.Instead of being grounded in reality, the person is identifying with, ﬂowingalong with ﬁxed deductive systems, a matrix of habits which he justiﬁes bysimple cause and effect logic. Since "the system" appears to make sense,therefore the system is "necessary reality". For example, "I am right, thereforeyou must be wrong," or "I am good, therefore you must be evil" is a way ofthinking that "makes sense" and seems to be necessarily the case for a mindthat relies primarily upon the syllogisms of deductive thinking to solveproblems.
THE SHOW BEGINS WITH WHAT LOOKS LIKE AN ORDINARY REAL LIFE ROOM,WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS.
But from the point of view of a more encompassing "dialectical" thinking, thisdeductive sort of logic is merely the ﬁrst stage of authentic thinking which aimsat truth. This deductive stage is merely the "thesis", a comforting illusion ordream of oneness, identity, based on our everyday habits, our manipulativegames which have frozen into a dead shell around our true self. True,Maimonides does say that the Word ﬁrst comes to us on the side of rationalthinking. That is to say, ﬁrst we need to use all our deductive "wits" to deal withthe situation - until we get stuck. And of course soon we will get stuck if werely primarily upon deductive logic, which is a way of thinking which movesfrom general abstract assumptions to particulars which stem from those
ישם םם םם םא אב בת ת
general assumptions. For example, if my general assumption is that "today is anice day", what do I make of the fact that it just rained on my picnic? How can anice day also be not a nice day? Likewise, in Gestalt dreamwork we begin withour defective, incomplete notion of what we think is "awareness" and weproceed until our self-interruptions, the holes in our contact boundary, lead usto impasses. We begin with by simply telling the dream as we dreamed it, in thehere and now. But this is only 1/60 of the Word. The dreamwork process aimsat correcting this illusion and providing the rest of the existential message.Shifting to a kabbalistic and alchemical point of view, we can say we descenddeductively on the left side of the tree of life from alchemical water toalchemical earth, as our initial simple abstract idea trickles into its manyapparently logical but nevertheless conﬂicting consequences. This is deductive,cause and effect logic. Then, in the new state of alchemical earth all reality is afragmented clog of apparently totally unreconcilable points of view. We arestuck at an impasse. Heretics, according to Nachman, fail to complete the cycleof dialectical logic by neglecting the right side of the tree of life, the side whichrelies upon inductive thinking. The inductive process begins as alchemical airdiscovers spaces within the clumps of alchemical earth. Then, within thesevoids there descend from on high sparks of alchemical ﬁre which burn up theimpasses of alchemical earth and encompass the burnt crusts in a redeeminginferno which wafts them back up to the One Without A Second, at which pointthe dialectical cycle begins anew. Cycle after cycle, this is an endless spiral ofdescents for the sake of ever higher ascents.
DOING THE GESTALT IDENTIFICATIONS OPENS UP THE HOLES IN ALCHEMICAL EARTH, AND THEN THE NEW FIERY IDEAS BEGIN TO ILLUMINATE THE IMAGES,SUCH AS “A LIFE ON FIRE” DESPITE FACT THAT THE PRESENT SITUATION IS RATHER DEPRESSING.
2. DIALECTICAL THINKING COMBINES DEDUCTION AND INDUCTION.
The official Breslav translation of this next paragraph is: "the truth is that theworld and all it contains is a contingent reality. Only the Holy One mustnecessarily exist. However, all the worlds and all they contain need notnecessarily exist. God created them creatio ex nihilo. For God had the ability,the power and the alternative to create them or to not create them. Thereforethe world and all it contains are certainly a contingent reality."
ת תם םו וא אי יהמציאות. י יק קם םך ךד דא אב בהמציאות,ל לל לת תם םל לר רם םם םי יהמציאות. י יא אך ךם םש שמאין,ו וו וו וך ךה הם םו וא אלבראם, על-ן ןי יל לם םו וא אי יהמציאות.
This paragraph shows us how Nachman deals with the cul-de-sac resultingfrom the assumption that the world is an unchangable necessary reality. We seethat Nachman does a subtle ﬁgure/ground reversal, without telling us he isdoing it. He shifts from deductive logic to inductive logic, from a descent on theleft side of the tree of life to an ascent on the right side of the tree of life.Previously he was descending from the one idea, the dialectical "thesis", to itsmany conﬂicting ramiﬁcations. Now he is ascending from an inﬁnite number ofparticular awareness moments, each one emerging as a spark of alchemical ﬁrefrom the void of alchemical air. The inﬁnite moments of awareness in the here and now are the dialectical "antithesis" of the original single idea frozen into adeductive system. Gradually these gestalts, monads, living organisms thatconstitute the contact boundary congeal into their ultimate integration back inthe One, as the One in the many, as identity in difference, as God in the world.And this ﬁnal integration is the third stage of dialectical thinking, the"synthesis".
BEGINNING THE GESTALT INDUCTIVE WORK IS THIS SHIFT OF DIRECTION ON THE TREE OF LIFE, FROM DESCENT TO ASCENT BASED ON FAITH THAT THEPROCESS WILL LEAD SOMEWHERE.
The outcome is that what Nachman calls "the world" is no longer a comfortingillusion of abstract oneness enjoyed by what he labels "heretics", but rather theworld is an endless kaleidoscopic array of here and now contact experiences inthe environment, in our body and in our fantasies, enjoyed by any truly saneand truth seeking person. Autistic children and logically stillborn "heretics" ﬁndthis logical reversal to be very threatening, since their safe repetitive rituals andsyllogisms, concocted for an abstract deductive world, are not well adapted to aconcrete, organic, inductive world. It is like shifting from looking at a paintingor dream from the outside to living in the world of that painting or dream, withall its bewildering possibilities. In Gestalt dreamwork this transition from seeingthe dream as a painting out there to living it completely in the here and now,"saying it with your whole body", is accomplished only gradually over a periodof hours, weeks or months, as the protagonist peels away layer upon layer offrozen childhood habits to arrive - he hopes - at a certain level of maturity.This dreamwork process unveils the remaining 59/60 of the prophetic messagethat constitutes "the existential message of the dream" in secular jargon.
THE WOMAN IN THE SHOW IS AMBIVALENT ABOUT THE MAN’S AGENDA. SHE NEEDS HER BOX, BUT EVEN MORE SHE NEEDS TO BE A JACK IN THE BOX. THEJACK IN THE BOX IMAGE IS APPROPRIATE, SINCE NEITHER ONE LETS GO OF THEBOX COMPLETELY. IT IS ENOUGH TO BE BLOWING IN THE WIND.
Note that Nachman is anything but "objective" in his evaluation of the situation.He labels anyone who is not totally committed to his own phenomenologicalorientation a heretic, without even the slightest hint as to what is his underlyinglogical frame of reference. Therefore, in order to read Nachman from any pointof view other than that of sheep following a shepherd blindly, we must supplythe missing manual, the missing logical infrastructure, ourselves. Actually, thistask is not difficult to do. For once we decode Nachman's theological jargonword by word we ﬁnd right there in his text all the elements we need to peerinto his inductive, phenomenological, Gestalt therapy, poetically spiritualizedway of interpreting reality.
3. DECODING NACHMAN'S TEXT: KEY TERMS
As a matter of fact, Nachman's text itself demands that we decode his message,since anyone who does not decode his message (and this includes most of hisstarry eyed, intellectually muddled disciples) arrives at totally absurdconclusions. Here is one glaring example. Nachman says:
ה הר רו וו ות תישראל, ה הי ים םא את תב בהמציאות.
A superﬁcial translation would be that of the Breslav Research Institute: "forafter the souls of Israel were issued and brought down, now the world iscertainly in the aspect of necessary reality ". Then, Nachman's next sentence is:"For the world and all it contains were created only for Israel, as is known. AndIsrael rules the world!!!" This, of course, is rubbish, very dangerous rubbish. Ahundred years after Nachman and other naive Jewish rabbis penned suchrubbish, later generations of Jews encountered the response of those "heretics"to Nachman's arrogance. Certain "heretics" metamorphosed Nachman's textinto "The Protocols of The Elders of Zion". All the heretics needed to do was substitute "money" or "gold" for "awareness", as the glue which holds the Jewishpeople together and is the true Source of Jewish vitality and dominance. Andthen, ﬁfty years after the Protocols came the Holocaust, which might be seen asEurope's "ﬁnal solution" to the problem created by Jewish apocalypticchauvinists. So much for "Israel uber alles!" We may conclude, then, that eitherNachman of Breslav was totally meshuggeneh, or there must be some othermessage hidden in lesson 52 of Likutei Moharan (LM 52) besides that conveyedby the official Breslav Research Institute translation of the text.
THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOW IS FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF DEDUCTIVE LOGIC, WITH EACH NEW IDENTIFICATION LEADING TO A NEW HOLE IN THATMATRIX, UNTIL GRADUALLY THE RIVER BECOMES THE DOMINANT METAPHORAND THE WOMAN’S FINAL RESISTANCE BECOMES JUST A FADING IMAGE, A CLOD OF ALCHEMICAL EARTH BURNING UP IN THE FIERY LIGHT OF THE OVERALL SUPEROBJECTIVE.
Let us begin our translating project, or rather our decoding project, once again.This time we will try to ferret out what Nachman actually meant. Or even if hedid not mean it, we need here to sift out the wheat from the chaff, since if wedo so it turns out that indeed there is much wheat to be found in this Torah commentary. In the meantime we will leave the totalitarian nonsense for thosewho crave that nonsense. Code word number one here is "Israel", which forNachman codes for all those who ﬁnd a proper balance between deductive andinductive logic, with a slight emphasis on the side of inductive logic asMaimonides requires for wannabe prophets. Then the non-Israelites, i.e., therest of the world, are those unfortunates who rely primarily upon deductivelogic, such as the Egyptians at the time of the Exodus. It is black and white forNachman: induction or deduction, Israel or Egypt, good guys or bad guys,redeemed Jews or godforsaken goyim. He does not spell it out here, but inother essays Nachman makes much of ancient Egyptians as those who rely ondeductive logic. Here in LM 52 the Egyptians are generalized to all "heretics"who rely primarily upon deductive logic, not only the imaginary, much abusedEgyptians.
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOW THERE IS THE LIGHT INSIDE AND THE TOILET OUTSIDE. GRADUALLY THE SIMPLE DICHOTOMY GOODGUYS/BADGUYS GETSBLURED, AS THE NARRATOR GETS INTO WHAT AT FIRST SEEMS TO HIM TO BEHIS “SEEMY SIDE”. LATER THIS ERUPTION OF ORGASMIC ENERGY TURNS OUT TO BE WHAT IS NEEDED TO OVERCOME THE INTHEBOX/OUTSIDETHEBOX SPLIT ANDMOVE FROM UNFINISHED BUSINESS TO THE SUPEROBJECTIVE, FROM EVE/ADAM,BINAH/CHOCHMAH TO KETER, TO THE OHR MAQQIF, TO THE EXISTENTIALMESSAGE OF THE DREAM OR THE WORD OF GOD.
Another code word in the above passage which requires careful attention is"neh-ets-lu". The official Breslav translation is: "issued", but literally the wordmeans "risen and drawn near", based on the word "etsel", meaning "near" fromthe root A-TS-L. Now, what is it that rises and draws near when we get in touchwith reality? Answer: "reality" itself, i.e., what is tangible to our senses andother forms of awareness when we operate in an inductive manner, i.e., fromthe concrete particulars to the encompassing integration of the particulars inhigher and higher orders of experience. The ultimate integration of awarenessexperiences goes by many labels, such as the glory of God, or Aristotle's "ﬁnalcause", or Plato's "anamnesis" (remembering primordial ideas). And so we ﬁndourselves in the framework of Gestalt therapy, since it is "ﬁgures" which rise upfrom the (back)ground and draw near to us when we take time for awarenessexperiences. Gestalt therapists label these rising ﬁgures "gestalts", which also alludes to their organic living reality, wholeness or pattern. Each moment ofawareness is posited as a living organism, a strong gestalt, which gobbles upand encompasses lower levels of similar living realities, weaker gesalts. Leibnizlabels the gestalts "monads", since each one is in a sense a single world ofexperience, whether referring to our everyday world, or inﬁnitely large "worlds",or inﬁnitely small "worlds". For Nachman and for Leibniz it is worlds withinworlds within worlds, as endlessly as God is the "endless" (Hebrew: "eyn sof").
AS THE SHOW GOES ON, MORE AND MORE GESTALTS, MONADS OPEN UP THENATURALISTIC MATRIX OF SIMPLY A “ROOM”, UNTIL BY THE END OF THE SHOWTHIS “ROOM” HAS ASCENDED VIA THE SPIRALING DIALECTIC TO THE LEVEL OF “HA-MAKOM” OR THE MERKAVAH, BY ENTERING TOTALLY INTO THEPOSSIBILITIES OF THE SITUATION, THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE ACTION.
4. THE PHILOSOPHICAL CONTEXT: ARISTOTLE, PLATO, LEIBNIZ, GESTALT
Here again is the text which speciﬁes necessary and contingent existence. Let'sdissect it within the framework we have just established.
We'll begin once again with the official Breslav translation of the paragraph,which is: "the truth is that the world and all it contains is a contingent reality.Only the Holy One must necessarily exist. However, all the worlds and all theycontain need not necessarily exist. God created them creatio ex nihilo. For Godhad the ability, the power and the alternative to create them or to not createthem. Therefore the world and all it contains are certainly a contingent reality."
The Hebrew word for "existence" here is "m'tsi-ute", which means literally "whatis found", from the root M-TS-A, "to ﬁnd". Again we are guided in the directionof inductive thinking based on awareness. Awareness is what we ﬁnd/contactwhen to stop doing things deliberately and open ourselves to encountering theobjects of our experience in a middle way, active passivity manner. We beginwith moments of awareness and gradually we discover that these moments arepart of a river of experience that is ﬂowing towards a certain ﬁnal integration ofall types of awareness: environmental, bodily and fantasy. This subconscious orsuperconscious river does not ﬂow when we are striving deliberately towards agoal deﬁnable within a deductive system or matrix, but it does ﬂow when wesimply are getting in touch with all the realities of the moment, the situation,the circumstances. Heightened awareness leads to a mobilizing of the total
ת תם םו וא אי יהמציאות. י יק קם םך ךד דא אב בהמציאות,ל לל לת תם םל לר רם םם םי יהמציאות. י יא אך ךם םש שמאין,ו וו וו וך ךה הם םו וא אלבראם, על-ן ןי יל לם םו וא אי יהמציאות.
organism, so that once an optimal state of readiness is attained authenticaction emerges spontaneously. "Say it with your whole body" is the Gestalttherapy maxim here. Taoists say, if you want to hit the target aim for the Taoand not for the target, which is their way to putting the emphasis on inductiverather than deductive thinking. And in Judaism total involvement in all therealities of the situation is another name for God, "the Place" (Hebrew: ha-Makom). We recall the deﬁnition of "local motion" which Maimonides took fromAristotle: motion in one place and in a circle, which is the basis of the spiralingdialectic of the logos, the Word, the tree of life, the Merkavah upon which God"rides on the Aravot".
THE NARRATOR, FRANKLYN, TELLS US HOW HAS GIVEN UP ON HIS DELIBERATE,DEDUCTIVE ATTEMPT TO FIND PERFORMERS TO WORK WITH THAT WILL PAY HIM TO HELP PAY THE RENT, INSTEAD HE HAS DECIDED TO DO THE WORKHIMSELF SIMPLY FOR ITS OWN SAKE, “L’SHEM SHAMAYIM” (HEBREW: “FOR THESAKE OF HEAVEN”). AND YET BY DOING SO HE DISCOVERS OTHER MORECOMPELLING NEEDS WHICH HE BEGINS TO DEAL WITH VIA THE GESTALT PROCESS (HITBODEDUT). ESPECIALLY HE GETS IN TOUCH WITH HIS ADVANCINGAGE AND THE FACT THAT “IT IS GETTING HARDER TO FIND CANARIES”.
Going back to the paragraph from Nachman above, what necessarily is found(exists) if we continue our ﬁnding is the ultimate integration of all awarenessesand motivations of the situation into action which is totally appropriate for thecircumstances. Entering totally into this now time and this now place leadsinexorably to holistic experience "necessary", "obligated", in this time andplace. The drive towards this strongest gestalt is what Nachman refers to as"obligated ﬁnding", which the Breslav Research Institute translates vaguely as"necessary existence". Only the strongest gestalt possible in a speciﬁc time andplace is an "obligated ﬁnding" in that sense. If we look at the big picture of theentire world, then, of course, for Nachman God is that largest gestalt, ha-Makom. Many philosophical systems have their own version of this process. ForAristotle it is the "ﬁnal cause" which, like a magnet, pulls us towards authenticaction in concrete circumstances. Nachman uses this Aristotelian point of view.He also uses the Platonic point of view. In the Prologue to Likutei Moharan hehas Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai tell us that "the Torah will not be forgotten". Thisis a code for Platonic "anamnesis", "not forgetting" the primordial ideas ofdialectical thinking: Abraham (awareness, the thesis), Isaac (difference,conﬂicts, the antithesis), and Jacob (identity in difference, authentic action,enlightenment, the synthesis). For Nachman the Covenant (Hebrew: "brit") whichmust not be forgotten is on the most basic level a commitment to dialecticlogic. Thus Nachman uses the term "Israel" to represent those who availthemselves of the complete dialectic by combining deduction and induction. Itis this Covenant which binds Israel to God, as the stages of dialectical thinking are bound to the Aristotelian ﬁnal cause at the end of a long tunnel or to thePlatonic idea at the origin of the seductive illusion we assume uncritically weknow as "reality".
But what about the phrase the Research Institute translates as "contingentexistence"? First of all, the literal meaning is "scattered ﬁnding", from the rootP-Sh-R, meaning "to divide". See the Talmudic dictionary for this antique senseof the word. Division is what we ﬁnd in our here and now awareness experienceof inductive thinking. The myriad ﬁgures that rise here and now from theground of possibilities are scattered willy-nilly without any apparent system atﬁrst. This "scattered ﬁnding" ("Contingent existence") does not appear at ﬁrst tobe a "necessary, obligated ﬁnding", unless, that is, we commit ourselves totallyto following the river of awareness back to its Source (Plato) or on to the greatocean (Aristotle). Then, once each moment of awareness has been discovered,it is a part of the higher levels of Gestalt integration as we ascend the right sideof the tree of life. This is the paradox which Nachman is alluding to in LM 52.
(1) The ﬁnal cause, God, is necessarily found if we go with thephenomenological river of experience. (2) But any moment of initial awarenessis merely a chance occurrence, a "scattered ﬁnding". (3) Nevertheless,paradoxically, once that moment of awareness has emerged from the ground ofpossibilities it now is locked into the endless process of more and moreencompassing gestalts leading to the particular ﬁnal cause, strongest gestalt,divinity, archangel, name of God, which is acting as a magnet in the ﬁeld ofgestalts or monads or (to use Nachman's metaphor) "souls". For in Nachman'sjargon "souls" are gestalts, monads, living centers of consciousness in a spherein which any point, any soul, is potentially the center. If it is your soul at thismoment of the messianic now which is the most inﬂamed in the search for God or truth, then you at this messianic moment are the center of the Jewishuniverse, the lamed-vavnik, that the Jewish people needs at this moment as aredeemer. Of course, Nachman has his sights on this job, when he sees himselfas the brook in the Prologue to Likutei Moharan. For him the brook implies theproper middle way relation between the river of inductive ideas and itsdeductive banks, the river of chochmah and its binah banks, the river of divinelight and its shekhinah banks, the river of chet and its nun banks (see LM 1).
IN THE SHOW THERE IS AN INITIAL, PREMATURE ATTEMPT TO BRING THINGSTOGETHER INTO A RATIONAL COMPROMISE. BUT THE NARRATOR DISCOUNTS THAT COMPROMISE BETWEEN THE GRAY WALLS AND THE RED FLOOR AS BORING, SINCE IT HAS RESULTED FROM THE ANTAGONISTS NOT REALLYCOMMITTING THEMSELVES TO THE DEEPER STRUGGLE OF DEDUCTION VS INDUCTION, REASON VERSUS AWARENESS. NEXT, THE “AIR” CHARACTER ENTERSAS A NEW POINT OF VIEW ENTIRELY: THAT OF “SCATTERED FINDING” VERSUS THE “OBLIGATED FINDING” OF ANY SORT OF SYSTEM. HIS POINT OF VIEW IS THAT OF “CHAOS” VIS-A-VIS THE ROOM WHICH MERELY ENCOMPASSES THE WALL/FLOOR DIALECTIC IN A DEDUCTIVE PAIR OF OPPOSITES. THISALCHEMICAL AIR OR ETHER CREATES AN INFINITE NUMBER OF VOIDS IN THE ALREADY SOMEWHAT PERFORATED MATRIX SYMBOLIZED BY THE ROOM. AFTER ENCOUNTERING THE CHAOS OF THE AIR, THE NARRATOR REALIZES THATCOMPROMISE IS NOT THE OBJECT OF HIS QUEST. HIS NEW QUEST IS “A LIFE ONFIRE”, AND THIS ANNOUNCES THE EMERGENCE OF ALCHEMICAL FIRE FROM THEVOID OF ALCHEMICAL AIR. UP UNTIL NOW THINGS HAVE BEEN TOO EASY. WHAT IS CALLED FOR NOW IS CREATIVE AGGRESSION TO COMPLETE THE NEGATION OF THE NEGATIONS OF THE ONE WITHOUT A SECOND, TO CHEW UP ANDOBLITERATE COMPLETELY THE ALREADY STRESSED OUT DEDUCTIVE SYSTEM. THE ENERGY FOR THE CREATIVE AGGRESSION NEEDS TO COME FROM SOME SORT OF EXPLOSION INTO AUTHENTIC ACTION WHICH RESULTS FROM THE ASCENT OF SMALL GESTALTS TO THE LEVEL OF LARGE, ENCOMPASSINGGESTALTS, WHAT NACHMAN LABELS IN LM 1 “YAALAT CHEN”, THE ASCENT OFTHE SUBJECT/OBJECT RELATIONSHIP VIA INDUCTIVE THINKING. THE FOURMAJOR SORTS OF EXPLOSIONS FRITZ PERLS MENTIONS IN HIS “GESTALT THERAPY VERBATIM” ARE GRIEF, ANGER, JOY, AND ORGASM. IN THIS SHOW,“THE ROOM”, THE FINAL EXPLOSION COMBINES ALL FOUR SORTS: GRIEF AT THEPASSING OF YOUTH, ANGER AT REJECTION BY WOMEN CLOSED UP IN THEIRBOURGEOIS BOX, JOY AT OVERCOMING ALL THE REMAINING OBSTACLES ANDORGASM AS MALE AND FEMALE, CHOCHMAH AND BINAH, ADAM AND EVECOALESCE INTO ONENESS THOUGH WITHOUT SURRENDERING THEIR DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW COMPLETELY. THIS IS THE NECESSARY DIALECTICAL SYNTHESIS NEEDED TO COMPLETE THE DRAMATIC ACTION: IDENTITY IN DIFFERENCE, THEONE IN THE MANY, OR (FOR THE RELIGIOUSLY INCLINED) GOD IN THE WORLD.
5. BARE BONES HITBODEDUT
With this philosophical context in place, we now can easily unravel the rest ofNachman's prescription for religious perfection based on what he calls"hitbodedut". As usual we will ﬁnd Nachman's unfolds his tale on two levels, thesimple level for simple folk and the more complex level for more sophisticatedseekers after truth. Here we need not go word by word through Nachman's text,since the implications of the basic philosophical structure already are muchmore obvious than is the buried structure which we just have ferreted out fromNachman's hassidically tinted prose. We see immediately, for example, that weneed not take Nachman literally when he tells us to do hitbodedut only at nightand alone. For the process works just as well, perhaps even better, in a well litroom when supervised by a Gestalt therapist with a group of perhaps 50 fellowpilgrims observing - provided, of course, that the observers respect the processand do not meddle by trying to be "helpful". Gestalt therapy originally waslabeled by its founder Fritz Perls "concentration therapy", with the assumption that the sort of concentration called for in the process is of the inductive sort.In general, participants in a Gestalt group session discover that the power ofawareness work is so formidable that most people can focus reasonably well ontheir own phenomenological river and ignore what other people who areobserving might be thinking deductively.
MERELY THE FACT THAT I WAS ABLE TO DO THIS PROCESS IN A WELL LIT ROOM SITTING AT MY KEYBOARD AND COMPUTER, AND ENVISIONING AN AUDIENCEOF BILLIONS ON THE INTERNET DEMONSTRATES THAT WHAT IS IMPORTANT HERE IS THE LOGICAL PROCESS OF INDUCTION, AWARENESS, AND NOT THETHEATRICAL EFFECTS THAT HASSIDIM CRAVE, ALONG WITH THEIR 18THCENTURY WARDROBE.
What comes to mind regarding the river of inductive thinking is the childhoodditti: "Row, row, row the boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily,merrily, life is but a dream!" That is to say, if we ﬂow with the river ofawareness, we have an opportunity to wake up from our silly dream ofdeductive thinking and get a lot closer to reality itself. Or as Nachman wouldput it, we can discover easily how we got stuck being heretics. Once we see howwe got stuck, then we also see how easy it is to get un-stuck. Nachman says,"pray, study, pray!" That is to say, shift the balance of your life so that most ofyour focus is on inductive experiences rather than deductive experiences. ForNachman, "praying" equates, once again, to a proper middle way balance ofdeductive and inductive thinking, while "studying" equates to an overemphasisupon deductive thinking. Nachman develops this notion of what prayer is in LM
2. See my essay on LM 2, "Simple As Child's Play" for details.
THE PROCESS I HAVE JUST DEMONSTRATED IS “PRAYER”, “HITBODEDUT”,PRECISELY IN LINE WITH THE GUIDELINES NACHMAN SPECIFIES, ON THE MOSTBASIC LEVEL.
6. HITBODEDUT AS POETIC LANGUAGE AND GESTALT MONOLOGUE
My own translation of this text of Nachman is: "Know that the main pointconcerning negation of one's ego, that a person negates his existence andbecomes nothing and is included in the oneness of The Name, may it beblessed, this is only by means of hitbodedut (that is to say: secluding oneselfand talking to God). Hitbodedut requires a special place and time, so that thehindrances will not confuse him."
ע ער רהביטול, ם םל לו וה האין, ל לת תם םיתברך, ן ןה הא אעל-י יהתבודדות. ת תך ךם םן ןמיוחד, א או וו והמונעים.
The hindrances in question here are precisely those spelled out in texts ofGestalt therapy under the heading "self-interruptions", and in the writings ofJohann Georg Hamann under the heading "prose versus poetry". In fact, thistext of Nachman is a restatement of the basic tradition of the Lurianic kabbalah moment of tsimtsum 2 (negation of the two sides of an impasse in the void bymeans of getting a new idea), with the crucial addition of a verbal monologue.Nachman's emphasis on the role of language in pietist religion places Nachmansquarely on the road travelled by his predecessor Johann Georg Hamann(1730-1788) in Konigsberg, East Prussia, in his resistance to the GermanEnlightenment movement. Some earlier philosophical roots of Hamann in thephilosophy of inductive thinking of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) aredemonstrated by James O'Flaherty in his analysis of the work of Hamann,entitled "Johann Georg Hamann". In short, what Nachman labels "hitbodedut",Hamann labels "poetry". Frederick Copleston elucidates Hamann's view ofpoetry as the mother language of mankind as follows: "The speech of primitivemen was sensation and passion, and they understood nothing but images. Itwas in music, song and poetry that they expressed themselves." ("A History ofPhilosophy", Volume 6, p. 136) Gestalt therapists make a similar distinctionbetween poetry and prose. A client who is babbling away without muchpersonal connection to his verbiage is "talking literature", while a client whosespeaking is directly related to his authentic actions is considered to be speakingpoetically.
Nachman's "heretics" are those of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenmentmovement) who prefer prose (deductive thinking and babbling) to poetry(inductive thinking and committed action) in Hamann's sense of the wordpoetry. See my own extensive commentary on LM 4, entitled "Bacon, Hamannand Nachman" for a detailed treatment. Nachman's emphasis on a monologuein solitude also places Nachman squarely in the tradition of Gestalt therapy,which is a bare bones version of the hitbodudut process: minus the theologicaljargon, minus the rustic solitude hard to ﬁnd these days, and minus all themelodrama concerning the mystical powers of darkness and King David's harpwhich, says Nachman, begins chiming by itself at the midnight of a hassid'sexistential despair. The hindrances/self-interruptions in the Gestalt formulationare: (1) conﬂuence, (2) introjection, (3) projection, (4) retroﬂection, (5) egotism.See "Gestalt Therapy" by Perls, Hefferline and Goodman or "Gestalt TherapyVerbatim" by Perls for details. Also, see my 90 minute video, "Hitbodedut", foran illustration of these Gestalt self-interruptions at work during the hitbodedutprocess. The deﬁning traits of "poetic language" in contrast to prose, accordingto O'Flaherty's analysis of Hamann are: (1) imagery, (2) analogy, (3) parataxis,
(4) paradox, (5) multiple levels of language, (6) affective terminology. SeeO'Flaherty for details. My aim in this clinical and philosophical dissection ofNachman's pietist process of hitbodudut has not been to disparage the process itself. What Nachman of Breslav calls "Hitbodedut" and Fritz Perls calls "Concentration Therapy" or "Gestalt Therapy" and Johann Georg Hamann calls"Poetry" is a dimension of human experience of crucial importance, a dimensionwhich indeed accomplishes very well the goals Nachman of Breslav or Fritz Perlsor Johann Georg Hamann claim it accomplishes. I merely am suggesting thatonce the hitbodedut process is carefully demystiﬁed, and the bones are pickedclean of obfuscating viscera and suspect chauvinistic motives, hitbodedut isrendered much more useful for many different types of people in manydifferent sets of circumstances, for example, training for spiritually inclinedperformers of a not so frum Jewish theater. A pharmaceutical wedding betweenNachman's medicine and Fritz Perls' medicine in a Hamann inspired poeticcrucible would preserve the best of all three systems, while reserving the pureNachman, pure Fritz and pure Hamann versions for speciﬁc populations most inneed of either a purely hassidic redemption, or a purely secular healing, or apurely spiritual poetry, respectively.
ALSO THIS PROCESS IS GESTALT THERAPY AND POETRY, AS I JUST HAVE SPELLEDOUT. IN FACT, THIS PROCESS FITS PRECISELY INTO THE MOST CLASSICALDEFINITIONS OF POETRY OF THE DRAMATIC ACTION SORT. THE MOMENT OF CRISIS AND DEATH OF EGO EQUIVALENT TO THE FOURTH ACT OF A GREEKTRAGEDY IS THAT IN WHICH THE PROTAGONIST, FRANKLYN, GIVES UP HISIDENTITY AS AN AGING FAILURE AND SURRENDERS TO THE HERE AND NOW SITUATION, HOWEVER WE MAY CARE TO DESCRIBE IT. WHETHER HE HASSUCCEEDING IN FINDING A MOMENT OF “LIFE ON FIRE” IS FOR THE AUDIENCE TO DECIDE. AS FOR THE PRESENT WRITER, I FEEL A CERTAIN CATHARSIS THAT IHAVE MANAGED TO GIVE POETIC FORM TO A MAJOR LIFE PASSAGE MOMENT. POET DYLAN THOMAS FOUND HIS OWN WAY TO EXPRESS A SIMILAR LIFE PASSAGE MOMENT IN HIS POEM, “DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOODNIGHT”.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on that sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.