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Mystical Union and Grief: The Ba‘al Shem Tov and Krishnamurti*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2011

David Aberbach
McGill University, Montreal


The idea of mystical union with God or a higher being is universal in theological systems, although it may take many forms, metaphorical and moral as well as metaphysical. In Hinduism this concept is expressed in the saying Tat twam asi (“This is thou”); a human being, by finding his or her true immortal self (atman), becomes united with Brahman and, in so doing, achieves nirvana. In Buddhism, similarly, humans must strive to recognize the unity of all within the eternal Buddha, the dharmakaya, the absolute truth or reality that transcends human perception. Jewish mysticism teaches devekut, commonly translated as adhesion, cleaving, or union with God. Christian mysticism refers to Jesus' words “Abide in me and I in you” (John 15:4) as pertaining to divine union, which has its concrete expression in baptism and the Eucharist. Even Islam, which insists on the absolute transcendence of God, has developed the mystical doctrine of tawhid (“union”).

Research Article
Copyright © President and Fellows of Harvard College 1933

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9 Ibid., 150.

10 Ibid., 150–51.

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12 In a forthcoming study of charisma based on chapter seven of Surviving Trauma, I develop the idea of charisma as a reflection of an intersection between external social and political reality and personal inner fantasy.

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15 Quoted by Scholem, “Devekut, or Communion with God,” 295–96.

16 Quoted by Rapoport-Albert, “God and the Zaddik,” 303.

17 Ibid., 302.

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21 Lutyens, Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening, 184.

22 Ibid., 165–66.

23 Ibid., 158.

24 Ibid., 250.

25 Ibid., 233.

26 Ibid.

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33 For illustrations of semimystical union in the writings of John Donne, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Chaim Nachman Bialik, John Masefield, John-Paul Sartre, and others who experienced severe bereavement in childhood, see Aberbach, Surviving Trauma. For further illustrations in Bialik and Wordsworth, see Aberbach, David, “Loss and Separation in Bialik and Wordsworth,” Prooftexts 2 (1982) 197208Google Scholar.

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