Guest Posting By Rabbi Dr. Carl C.G. Jung - Seven Wavelengths: A Chassidic Typology
Regular contributor Space Cadet has informed us that the late Swiss analytical psychologist has reincarnated and become a rabbinical scholar. Here are some of his thoughts on the Jewish psyche as expressed in the Orthodox world.
Upon their first encounter the Chassidic world, people often feel that they need an instruction manual to tell them which hats are worn by members of the various communities. Of course, the need for classification does not only apply to Chassidim and their haberdashery. The Jewish world has become increasingly diverse, and we all need a framework by which to understand what’s going on. There are many different ways of classifying Jewish groups and communities. First, there is the matter of religious belief. Jews may define themselves as Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, etc. (Some would add Unitarians and JuBus, as well!) In the Orthodox world, there are various ideologies, as well as regional and sociological differences between communities. We find different “brands” of Modern Orthodoxy, and different sub-groups and ways of divine service within the Yeshivah communities and Chassidic communities. There are also certain political divisions, especially in Eretz Yisrael. Some of these differences and their meanings are discussed by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of England, in his insightful “Arguments for the Sake of Heaven".
However, I would like to look at things from another angle: the differing “spiritual wavelengths” that people are on in the Orthodox world. I must admit that what follows is not “written in the luchos,” and the categories are arbitrary. Each category includes different types of people, who belong to multiple categories. However, despite its shortcomings, this chart may be useful to help us to see “the forest through the trees,” and thus understand the spiritual terrain a little better.
1) Basic Yiddishkeit
This category includes “baalebatim” and everyday people bridging all sectors of the frum world, from Modern Orthodox to Yeshivish and Chassidish (in Israel, from Mizrachi to Charedi), Askenazim and Sefardim. Conventional observance focuses on basic religious practices, establishing social bonds, and insuring Jewish continuity. The spiritual wavelength most observant Jews are on tends to be pragmatic and rationalistic, regarding emotionalism and mysticism with caution (if not suspicion). Most Modern Orthodox men attend the synagogue at least on Shabbos and Yom Tov, and as one moves from the left of the spectrum toward the middle, also during the week for Shacharis, Minchah, and Ma’ariv. A time-honored value is the giving of tzedakah and performing acts of kindness, both individually and collectively through Jewish or even secular institutions. Another important commitment is sending children to a Day School or yeshivah; and a cultivating a strong identification with the historical Jewish community, while also being part of the modern world. Many Jews in this category are deeply involved in their careers or professions. However, because learning Torah is so basic to Yiddishkeit, a significant percentage winds up in category #4, which stresses intensive study and use of the intellect.
2) Lifnim me-Shuras ha-Din – The Spiritual Upgrade
Many idealistic Jews are looking for something beyond the basics. Thus, various pietistic movements developed over the generations, such as Chassidism and the Lithuanian Mussar schools.
Today a sizable percentage of Orthodox Jews belong to Chassidic groups, or to close-knit, extended communities associated with various yeshivos. Such people usually search for a charismatic teacher and a congenial peer group in order to find greater depth in Yiddishkeit. They might identify with a school of thought initiated by a great historical personage like the Chafetz Chaim or the Chasam Sofer or the Baba Sali; or the founder of a particular Chassidic sect, such as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Klausenberger Rebbe, Belzer Rebbe, Stoliner Rebbe, or Skvirer Rebbe, etc. The values they typically stress are faith in their particular mentor and path, religious devotion, moral refinement (especially in the Mussar world), as well as various minhagim (customs) which tend to unify each community. In some cases the desire to get more out of Yiddishkeit may fuse with emotionalism of category #3, or the intellectualism of #4. However, most people on this “wavelength” benefit most from the instruction of the teacher and the energy of the group, rather than from any private contemplative practice such as hisbodedus (meditation and secluded personal prayer) or hisbonenus (self-examination and / or intensive contemplation of religious philosophy and internalization of its ideals). Those who do so quickly move into categories # 6 and # 7.
3) Derekh ha-Hispa’alus – Emotionalism and Ecstasy
These individuals often reject the rigidity of the religious mainstream, emphasizing spontaneity and inspiration above fitting into a mold, even one that is widely perceived as “tried and true”; and they keep discipline to a minimum because they believe it leads to repression. This approach often appeals to the young, who rebel from the conservatism and dryness of conventional observance (#1); while viewing more demanding modes of religious exploration as beyond reach. They look for an experiential means of spiritual expression, such as singing, music, and dance; and in some cases, even the use of intoxicants to produce a simulated religious experience. Some early Chassidim seem to have been on this wavelength, as many stories of mead-drinking ecstatics suggest. Even today, the Stoliner Chassidim emphasize spirited singing and loud davening as a regular practice (albeit within bounds). Other less mainstream groups are geared to emotionalism, as well (sometimes venturing a little “out of bounds”): “Carlebach Chassidim,” the “Na Nachs” of neo-Breslov, and various exponents of “New Age” Judaism. This category attracts many idealistic young women, too.
4) Derekh ha-Sekhel – Intellectualism
All Orthodox men are obligated to study the Gemara and Halakhah, both ordinary people and thinkers of different types. However, those on this wavelength tend to emphasize rationalism above all, and regard the emotionalism of category # 3 as suspect and lacking in depth -- “flash in the pan” religion. Simple devotions, the “externals” of kehillah life, and non-rational expressions of religiosity are generally played down, while intellectual and philosophical forms of expression are idealized. This approach appeals to an intellectual elite (or those who aspire to be), whether Litvishe lomdim of various schools; Chabad’s “maskilim (thinkers)” (not to be confused with the secular maskilim of the early modernist Enlightenment movement), who are devoted to the abstruse mystical philosophy of their great teachers; and Orthodox academics. (This is not to say that these thinkers do not engage in Avodah – surely they do; but that their avodah is an offshoot of their intellectualism.) Most of those in this sector are highly educated, whether through the yeshiva / kollel system or secular academia. Those who venture into the realm of mysticism, or who combine intellectualism with Mussar and the quest for self-transformation, will move on to category #6.
5) Derekh ha-Sod –Mysticism
Followers of esoteric teachings (“sodos ha-Torah”) are on this wavelength. Such individuals focus on hidden meanings and realities, and often observe various special rituals and minhagim based on the Kabbalah. They obey a deep intuition that nothing is what it seems, and emphatically reject the idea that “what you see is what you get.” Probably most Kabbalists, Sefardic and Ashkenazic alike, fall into this category; or into category #6, “Rationalist Contemplatives,” who in addition to exploring the arcane, engage in some kind of hisbonenus (contemplation). However, more advanced kabbalists, such as those who use the Abulafian techniques, or yichudim (unifications) and kavanos (mystical intentions) of the ARI zal, etc., would be classified in category # 7.
6) Misbodedim be-Derekh ha-Sechel: Intellectual Contemplatives
Those on this wavelength not only study Chassidic and / or kabbalistic texts, but also engage in some sort of formal contemplative practice, whether hisbodedus (meditation of various types, or secluded personal prayer and reflection); hisbonenus (in-depth contemplation); cheshbon ha-nefesh (self-examination); or a similar discipline. Examples would be some devotees of the Mussar movement, who regularly engage in cheshbon ha-nefesh; Chabad contemplatives who practice hisbonenus, especially as set out by the Mittler Rebbe (although some of them may belong to category # 7); and individuals past and present who have developed their own forms of contemplation. However, their main focus is on the use of intellect in achieving their spiritual goals.
7) Misbodedim be-Derekh Sod: Mystical Contemplatives
This represents the smallest group: mystical souls, whose lives are devoted to deveykus (attachment to God) and hasagas Elokus (divine perception). Individuals on this wavelength typically emphasize faith, devotion, ethical refinement, personal discipline, diligent Torah study, and simchah shel mitzvah (joy in performing the commandments). However, they strive to see beyond outer forms and conventions and penetrate to the divine element within all expressions of religious and even everyday life. A few examples would be the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov, Maggid of Mezeritch, Rabbi Pinchas of Koretz, and early Chassidic leaders; “classical” Breslov; devotees of the Piacetzner Rebbe’s derekh; and various schools of Kabbalah, both Sefardic and Lithuanian – all of which emphasize hisbodedus in one form or another. One of the key distinctions between Chassidic mystics and non-Chassidic mystics is that the Baal Shem Tov took a different approach toward the prevailing asceticism of his day, and toward the body, in general. He emphasized the ethic of “be-khol derakekha da’ehu / know G-d in all your ways”; the “three loves” – of God, the Torah, and Israel; and not to relate to the physical in a negative manner, but in Rabbi Eizik Homiler’s phrase, as a “lens through which to perceive Godliness.”