THE RIVER OF LIGHT: Sprituality, Judaism, and the Evolution of Consciousness by Lawrence Kushner

THE RIVER OF LIGHT: Sprituality, Judaism, and the Evolution of Consciousness

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Philosophy and mystical fantasy mingle in these freewheeling, often exhilarating speculative flights launched from the Bible. On one level Rabbi Kushner does an elaborate midrash on Gen. 18:1-7 (the story of the theophany to Abraham by the oaks of Mature), but this is no mere pious exercise. According to the Zohar, when Abraham ran to the herd to fetch a calf for his mysterious visitors, he wound up chasing the animal into the cave of Machpelah (his future burial site), where he saw Adam (the origins of humanity) and a shining light (for Kushner ""the primordial light of consciousness itself""). This light is divine because in it the ""Holy One of Being"" comes to self-awareness. To the casual reader this might suggest pantheism, since in the orthodox Judeo-Christian tradition God is the great power ""out there,"" thundering on Sinai, the voice that we perceive ""in here."" For the secular thinker, on the other hand, all religious experience is private and internal, until projected outwards in mythological constructs. Kushner tries to transcend this dichotomy by arguing that ""Consciousness may not reside inside our bodies, nor God outside them."" Kushner works out a seven-stage circular interchange between the self and God, beginning with the autistic Ani (I), developing through the encounter with God as the supreme Other, the Lord of Being (YHWH), the eternal Not-Yet, supreme unity, nothingness (Ayin, an anagram for the self), and back to the ""T"" again, but now radically transformed. If all this sounds complicated (and it's only part of Kushner's ""Torah""--in the Hasidic sense of an individual rabbi's teaching), it is. But while Kushner repeatedly and deliberately sails off ""the deep end,"" he writes in a lucid, genial style, and presumes only a basic familiarity with the Bible and Judaism. Anybody--Jewish, Christian, or otherwise--willing to lower his rationalistic guard for a few hours will find this book an intriguing experience.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Rossel Books (44 Dunbow Drive, Chappaqua, NY 10514); Harper & Row