Light in the Iron Cage (Heschel and Gnostic Religion)
In Man is Not Alone (1955) Abraham Joshua Heschel described the moment of revelation as one in which overwhelming light fills up “the iron cage” in which we live. An undergraduate student with whom I’m working this semester suggested that this was Manichean. I think that gnostic might be more precise. Writing in the immediate wake of the Holocaust, Heschel compared the world to a palace on fire. To whom does this burning world belong? To whom do I belong? For Heschel, the answer comes in a blinding flash of mystical knowledge in which the human creature understands itself to be the special object of God’s concern.
zachary braiterman writes about and teaches modern jewish thought and culture in the department of religion at syracuse university.