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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A Whiteheadian interpretation of the Zoharic creation story
by Gold, Michael, Ph.D., Florida Atlantic University, 2016, 253; 10172671
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation presents a Whiteheadian interpretation of the notions of mind, immanence and process as they are addressed in the Zohar. According to many scholars, this kabbalistic creation story as portrayed in the Zohar is a reaction to the earlier rabbinic concept of God qua creator, which emphasized divine transcendence over divine immanence. The medieval Jewish philosophers, particularly Maimonides influenced by Aristotle, placed particular emphasis on divine transcendence, seeing a radical separation between Creator and creation. With this in mind, these scholars claim that one of the goals of the Zohar’s creation story was to emphasize God’s immanence within creation.

Similar to the Zohar, the process metaphysics of Alfred North Whitehead and his followers was reacting to the substance metaphysics that had dominated Western philosophy as far back as ancient Greek thought. Whitehead adopts a very similar narrative to that of the Zohar. First there is mind containing all the eternal objects which serve as potential for the creation (God’s primordial nature). Mind becomes immanent in all actual occasions through prehension (God’s consequent nature). Finally God becomes “the lure” (to use Whitehead’s phrase) in the ongoing process of nature (God as superject). In this narrative, God is not the static being, the unmoved mover as discussed by Aristotle, but rather, is portrayed as a dynamic becoming, a God of process.

Due to these significant similarities between Whitehead’s process philosophy and the Zohar with regard to the immanence of God and the process of creation, it is worthwhile to attempt a process interpretation of the kabbalistic creation story. The first part of this dissertation is entitled Philosophical Foundations, focusing on the intellectual framework of this study of the Zohar. The second part is entitled Creating a Narrative, looking at the text of the Zohar through the lens of Whitehead’s metaphysics. Finally, the conclusion looks at the narrative and discusses whether the goals of the dissertation have been achieved.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Banchetti, Marina P.
School: Florida Atlantic University
School Location: United States -- Florida
Source: DAI-A 78/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Philosophy, Spirituality, Judaic studies
Keywords: Immanent, Mind, Whitehead, Zohar
Publication Number: 10172671
ISBN: 978-1-369-27423-3
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