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Wurmser, L. (2007). Thoughts of a Psychoanalyst about Jewish Mysticism. Ann. Psychoanal., 35:207-221.

(2007). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 35:207-221

Thoughts of a Psychoanalyst about Jewish Mysticism

Leon Wurmser, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysis and mysticism share some striking and fascinating traits: Both represent a systematic and indefatigable search for “the secret,” for the core of being that, though carefully veiled, is full of excitement and beauty. Both strive to get in touch with “the primal source of life” (Scholem, 1965, p. 28) and to give keys to our inner life and our inmost being in interpretations that open up their infinite meanings. There are veils hiding other veils, like the brain that is covered by several membranes or like the nut that has its shell and fine skins surrounding the core, in a metaphor from the Zohar (I:19b). Both mystical experience and psychoanalytic experience are “products of crises” (Scholem, 1965, p. 32), and they decisively keep tearing themselves away from the confusing entrapments in the external world in order to find resolution, even redemption, in the inner, deeply hidden, and multilayered connections of meanings.

The starting point for the mystic is the “mystical experience?: the sense of something that cannot be spelled out, something unutterable, unspeakable in the core of the self, the essence and most essential, yet “us unbenant, us unbekant” (Meister Eckhart: “it is unnamed, it is unknown,” in Ruh, 1989, p. 48) and approachable only with the help of paradoxes: “us licht, us clâr, us vinster gâr” (“it is bright, it is clear, it is completely dark?; p. 48).

Closest to this basic experience (Urerfahrung) appears to me the unutterable core of the dream experience. When, during awakening, we want to retrieve and re-present (i.e.,

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