Sunday, June 04, 2006


Hassidism and the Enlightenment

I was thinking about the notion of "original sin" and how it informs today's "market oriented" conservatives who seem to trust impersonal markets more than the laws of mankind, whom they feel to be corrupted by some form of original sin. I was thinking about how this differs from the far more optimistic views of even those who practiced "the dismal science" of econs in the Enlightenment -- even if people like Smith, et al., thought of mankind as far less pure than many other Enlightenment era figures, they still thought that at least markets could channel the base qualities of humankind (rather than replace the decisions of base men) into something positive.

And this got me thinking: are there still stones unturned in analyzing the roots of the modern Hassidic movement in Judaism? People have already looked into the Jewish roots of this movement, the pietistic roots, the roots in dissident and mainstream Eastern European Christianity. I've already wondered about African roots (there is an African community in Lemberg -- or whatever it's called nowadays, L'viv, L'vov, L'vuv .... Lemberg's easier! or is my religio-cultural bias showing? -- was it there in the 18th century? if so ... hmmm ...). But maybe Hassidism is closer to the Enlightenment than either a Hassid or Maskil would admit? They both emphasized the channeling of the base qualities of mankind into worthy goals ...

Of course, much of what we today would consider "fundamentalist" "un-Enlightened" religion followed very much from the "Enlightenment" ... consider Jon Edwards and his motivation for how he preached, for example ... he was and considered himself to be very much a part of the Enlightened spirit of the times.

In this vein, maybe it should not be so surprising (and maybe my original thought here in distinguishing the attitudes of those who established market theory with those who worship it today was an over-reach) that "libertarians" who fancy themselves to be Enlightenment era liberals should find such common cause with the religious fundamentalists? Maybe the "big tent" of the Republican party is not merely an alliance of convenience in which "economic conservative" richers are trying to use social conservativism to get the rubes to vote for them ... but maybe the alliance really is one of conviction -- a conviction Dems underestimate at their own peril?

Sorry I am so disorganized in my thoughts -- I should be working ... but I thought I would get the blogging bug out of my system this mid-day ...

This post makes me wish there was more than one liftime to learn about all these interesting things. Fasinating things.

Hassidism is a mystical movement, as I understand. Those interest me, especially the part where we are always told that understanding goes only so far then it's a matter of experiencing it directly. I'm big on direct experience and go either way on theory. Though mostly against it outside of science.

What would you suggest as one book to read on the subject if the reader is a total beginner?
As usual wikipedia is a good place to start:

Also check out Martin Buber's tales of Chassidic masters.
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