Kafka: Foran Loven -  hypertekstualiseret af Elias Ole Tetens Lund

Kafka og Bibelen 2 - Merkavah Mystikken og Foran Loven

Forfatter: Ilan Bloch; oversat af Elias Ole Tetens Lund

En introduktion

Religiøs mystik er et forsøg på at opnå direkte erfaring med og endda forening med Gud. Dette opnås - ikke gennem et intellektuelt studium af Bibelens tekster - men gennem mystikkes processer, der ikke er rationelle. Således må mystikeren søge at opnå enhed med Gud gennem  en proces med grublen og beskuelse. Mystikeren må også  forsøge at fortolke ordene i de hellige tekster ikke ved deres overfladiske værdier, men ud fra forestillingen om, at de rummer skjulte betydninger. Det er mystikeres mål at afdække tekstens sande mening, som bliver betragtet som en symbolsk snarere end en bogstavelig åbenbaring ag Guds hensigt.

Merkavah mystikken

Den første fase i udviklingen af den jødiske mystik ( fra det første til det tiende århundrede ) kendes som Merkavah-mystikken. De fleste værker, der er forebundet med denne tradition blev skrevet i det femte og sjette århundrede. Men allerede fra det andet tempels tid findes der esoteriske skrifter, der er beseret på  Ma'aseh Bereshit  (skabelsesberetningen) og Ezekiels Bog. Det er i Ezekiel at billeddannelsen med Himmeltronen som en Stridsvogn første gang er omtalt. Denne Stridsvogn blev trukket af fire chayot - levende dyr med fire hoveder.Det er grundlaget for  den jødiske mystiske tradition som varede ved indtil begyndelsen af den tyske chassidut bevægelse i det tolvte århundrede.

oversættelse fortsætter

 It is this imagery which serves as the central motif of contemplation for the mystic. For followers of the Ma'aseh Merkavah tradition, the animals in Ezekiel's vision were viewed as angels. Although this mystical tradition is basically not followed today, much of Jewish liturgy has its origins in this period. The kedushah of the Amidah prayer, which is based on Isaiah Chapter 6, Verse 3, is the best example of this. This mystical tradition stresses the transcendent attributes of God, rather than his immanence.  As is common with many mystical movements, there were periods of backlash from the 'Orthodox' establishment: "He who multiplies the praise of God to excess shall be torn from the world." 

Pirkei Heichalot

Pirkei Heichalot  (The Chapters of the Chambers, or Halls) serves as an excellent example of a Merkavah text. In the seventeenth chapter of the text the reader discovers that Havayah (God) "dwells in the seventh palace, in the innermost room thereof" on his throne, or chariot.   At the entrance to each of the seven palaces stand eight guards - four to the left of the gate and four to the right. For the soul to pass the guards without danger, it must possess magical 'seals', which consist of secret names. These act as both a weapon and a defense against demons and evil angels. The mystic also intones special hymns, which enables him to reach a state of ecstasy, as he passes through the gates from one palace to the next. One does not find a description of these guards, only their names are mentioned. As each of their names ends with the suffix el  (God), the merkavah mystics conceived them as angels of God. The guards who stand at the final gate are described vividly: "they stand angry and war-like, strong, harsh, fearful, terrifying, taller than mountains and sharper than peaks..."   As the text continues, one finds imagery of fierce and armed soldiers. Clearly, the guards are there to block the way of the mystic who wishes to enter. Indeed, "the guards of the sixth palace make a practice of killing those who "go and do not go down on the Merkabah without permission. They hover over them, strike them, and burn them." 

The imagery presented in the text is quite frightening. The central metaphor which permeates the text is that of the omnipotence of God and the dangers and difficulties of trying to reach Him. It appears strange, to say the least, that such an all-powerful God requires the protection of fifty-six guards, the final eight of whom are described in the most frightening terms. There are a number of possible explanations for the appearance of the guards in the text. The first is that the guards are not, in fact, protecting God Himself, but rather, that they are protecting the Jewish mystic who attempts to reach God, who resides in the innermost chamber of the seventh palace. For it is clear that the mystic stands in great danger, as can be ascertained from a study of the story 'Arba'a Nichnesu LePardes', which is found in the Talmudic tractate of Hagigah. It recounts the story of four rabbis who try to enter 'Paradise,' three of whom end up by losing their lives. A second possible explanation of this parable is that man lives in an inherently hostile and dangerous world, one which is filled with barriers and obstacles, as symbolized by the guards, which stand in the way of God and the human soul. The text teaches us that our role is to persevere and surmount these obstacles in order to reach God. It acts as a test, challenging the will and commitment of the mystic to ultimately reach God. Alternatively, the existence of the guards, especially the fierce ones which appear in the final verse of the chapter, is a statement about the existence of evil in the world.  To reach God, man must vanquish the evil in the world as represented by the guards. The fact that the guards become fiercer and crueler the closer that man gets to God (as he approaches the seventh palace) emphasizes the difficulty and dangers of the quest. The closer that the human soul gets to God the more difficult the quest to ultimately reach God actually becomes.

Foran Loven

Der er ligheder mellem  Merkava-teksten og Kafkas fortælling Foran Loven.

In the Kafka text the reader finds a man who "prays for admittance to the Law."   The doorkeeper who stands at the entrance refuses him entry. He tells the man that even if he were to pass this gate, many more halls exist which are guarded by gatekeepers "each more powerful than the last."   The man is perturbed by the inaccessibility of the Law, but does not disobey the doorkeeper. He takes his place on a chair for many years, engages in discourse with the doorkeeper, yet his attempts to enter the gate are always rebuffed. Finally, before his death, he asks the gatekeeper why nobody else has requested to enter the gate. The gatekeeper replies: "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."  

En komparative betragtning

Skønt Loven ikke bliver defineret af Kafka har den oplagte paralleller til Bibelen, kilden til al jødisk lov.

Just as the goal of the Jewish mystic is to reach God, so does Kafka's character hold a need to achieve a knowledge of the Law. However, while Jewish belief suggests that the goal of attaining a greater understanding of God is achievable, Kafka seems to believe that the attempt is futile.  Thus, in the Merkava text, the obstacles standing between man and God are there to be overcome and are capable of being overcome. In contrast, Kafka's character, while having a need to know the Law, seems to be overcome by a complete sense of passivity in pursuing this goal. He obediently accepts the doorkeeper's refusal to admit him to the Law until he eventually dies. Kafka seems to be saying that while man apparently has an overwhelming need to find meaning in the world, his quest for meaning is doomed from the outset, and there is hardly any point in even beginning the quest. In this sense Jewish mysticism has an inherently more optimistic view of life and man's relationship with God than Kafka.

There are also interesting similarities in the use of literary devices and language in the Merkava text and Kafka.  The second sentence of Before the Law begins: "To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country..."   The term 'man from the country' in the original German in which the text was written is mann von lande, which means 'man from the land'. If one were to translate this German term into Hebrew, it would read as am haArets  (literally, 'man of the land'). In religious terminology, am haAretz  refers to 'everyman'. Kafka is therefore suggesting that his story does not merely concern the experience of a particular individual, but has universal significance, just as the Merkava text finds divine meaning in a simple story.

There is also a similarity in the imagery that is used in both texts. The 'doorkeeper' in the Kafka text is clearly a parallel to the guards in the Merkava mystical text. The imagery of the strong and powerful guards who stand at the gate of the seventh palace in the mystical text serves as a reminder of the fear evoked in the Kafka character when he looks closely at the doorkeeper with "his fur coat, with his big sharp nose and long, thin, black Tartar beard."   Both the Merkava text and Kafka seem to be saying that any attempt to approach the source of ultimate wisdom, whether it is God or 'the Law',  is bound to be a terrifying and fearful experience.

As noted, Kafka does not describe the content of The Law, which is guarded by the gatekeeper. It may represent a general religious belief in a metaphysical being or a belief in a traditional type of God. The Merkava text clearly refers to God in the traditional Jewish sense. This is the God of Israel and the Jewish people. The traditional Jewish belief holds that Revelation and Redemption has the same meaning for all Jews and that the Jews are a collectivity. In contrast to this, the message which one derives from reading Before the Law is that Kafka believes that man is alone in the world and must deal with religion in his own way, and according to his own conscience. The quest for meaning is an experience unique to each individual. As implied in the Kafka story, each person has his own gate to the Law and no person can gain access to the Law through somebody else's gate. Once again one can see the pessimism is the Kafka piece. Redemption appears to be unattainable. After waiting patiently and passively for the doorkeeper to open 'his gate' to the Law without result, the gatekeeper, when the Kafka character is about to die, shuts 'his gate'. This suggests that not only is knowledge of the Law, but also redemption itself, is unattainable. Man will continue to try, yet his efforts are doomed to fail.