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Oskar Goldberg. Der Mythische Experimentalwissenschaftler. Ein Verdrängtes Kapitel Jüdischer Geschichte. Manfred Voigts Von Expressionismus Zum Mythos des Hebräertums. Schriften 1909 bis 1931. Erich Unger Manfred Voigts " data-type="pdf-document" id="pdf-document">
Review: [untitled] Author(s): John Pizer Source: MLN, Vol. 109 , No. 3 , German Issue

Review: [untitled] Author(s): John Pizer Source: MLN, Vol. 109, No. 3, German Issue (Apr., 1994), pp. 563-566 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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sich schlichtals (Text-)Kritik verstehen.Gehe es darum, die

rischeKonstitutionvon Weiblichkeit" (195) herauszuarbeiten, wie Garbe es

bei Rousseau versucht, dann sei das Dilemma feministischenSelbstver-

"wenn 'Weiblichkeit' also nur in- existiert, fur wen spricht dann der das ChristineGarbe aus diesemfemi-

standnisses eines der Zuschreibung:


Feminismus?" (195) Das Fazitjedoch,

nistischenDilemma zieht, hatte, vor allem methodisch, pointierter sein

k6nnen: Feminismus, vor allem im Hinblickauf Literaturkritik, diirfesich und das heiBe als "Dekonstruktionaller Modelle von 'Weiblich-


negativ keit'und 'Mannlichkeit'in weiblichenund mannlichenTexten" (196) ver- stehen, ohne neue Konstruktionenanzubieten. Kritik gegen Utopie, De- konstruktion gegen Konstruktionzu setzen, l6st, wie mir scheint, das Dilemma noch nicht, wenn dabei eher unbestimmt bleibt, daB dieses Di-

lemma nichtnur eines feministischer Kritik, sondernder Kritik iiberhaupt ist. Gerade in bezug auf Rousseau hatte man im Riickgriff auf de Man

zeigen k6nnen, daB dieses Dilemma der Zuschreibungen das des Gegen-

standesder Kritik ist, die sich

dem inter-

seitigerInterpretation in ihrem vermeintlichen Gegenstand,

pretierten Text, selbstals Kritikzum Gegenstand


diskursiver Zuschreibungen

aufgrund des

alternierendenProzesses gegen-

werden sollte.

The Johns HopkinsUniversity





Goldberg. Der mythischeExperimentalwissenschaftler. Ein

verdrdngtesKapiteljiidischer Geschichte.

Berlin: Agora, 1992. 375 pp.


Unger, Vom Expressionismus zum Mythos desHebriertums. Schriften 1909


Neumann, 1992. xviii + 151 pp.

bis1931. Ed. Manfred Voigts.


Those fewindividualsfamiliarwiththe name Oskar Goldberg are likely to


tuted by readers of Gershom Scholem, the eminenttwentieth century ex-

to one oftwo (sometimesintersecting)groups.

recognize Goldberg

as the

One group is consti-

pert on Jewishmysticism. The other group

scholars who

upon whom Mann

Faustus.Both Scholem and Mann

terms.Scholem saw this prolific scholar, advocates

and radical anti-Zionistas a brilliantbut insane pseudo-scientist. Mann,

who was

he introduced in his Joseph novels, portraysGoldberg (in the guise of

whose interpretation of

Breisacher) as a repulsive,

the Pentateuch makes him appear to be a Jewish fascist.Manfred Voigts'

study-the first book-lengthmonograph devoted to Goldberg-provides a

is made up of Thomas Mann contemporary historical figure

drewin creating Dr. Chaim Breisacherin his novel Dr.




of missionaryJudaism,

greatly indebted to Goldberg for the theological perspectives

eccentricBible scholar,



correctiveto these one-sided views.It also offersa welcome overviewof


thinkerwithout covering and com-

plete intoleranceof divergentviewpoints withinthe community of Jewish scholars.

up the darkside caricatured by Mann, namely, his megalomania

He shows

lifeand works(as wellas those ofhis smallcoterieof disciples).

Goldberg to be a profound and original

indicatesthatthis "mythic blaming the Jews for the


Holocaust when he suggestedJewish assimilationisttendencies and em-

brace of

the way back

anti-Semitism.But Voigts showsthat Goldberg was strongly anti-nationalist,

respectful of and quite knowledgeable

we would term today "third-world cultures," and a fundamental opponent

ofNational Socialismand its

geopolitics in its positive form as transnationalin its scope, as "den

'transzendental-politischen Akt' des Wunders" (263).

Goldberg's egotism

could be extreme; Voigts

scientist"came perilously close to


to Maimonedes) were

tracesthislatter tendency all

the principal causes of international


myth and mysticism in what

tendencies. Goldberg himselfsaw



wasborn (1885) and educated in Berlin, and wasinfluencedin

the Expressionist movementwhichcon-

of this city's culturallifein the first years




his early Talmudic explorationsby

stitutedsuch an importantpart

of the twentieth century. His first major work,Die finf BiicherMosis ein

Zahlengebdude(1908), attempts a new, numerically-basedinterpretation of


scientific objectivity. He attempts

to prove thatthemathematical properties of theHebrew language point to

thePentateuch'sdivine inspiration, even (indeed especially) those

which seem to be

proof thatthe Pentateuchwas a purely human creation.His most original

and influentialwork (Thomas Mann apparently read it three times), Die WirklichkeitderHebrder (1925), attempts to refutethe assumptionthatJuda- ism simply turned away from polytheism and introduced monotheismto


by Abraham'sintroductionofa single God who formeda covenantwiththe

Pentateuch, reflectingalreadyGoldberg's lifelongattempt

in a

his mysticaltheologicalspeculations


and thereforeheld to be


thenotion thatUrhebraic idolatry was replaced

Jewishpeople. Instead, he believes


the entirePentateuchis informed by a

between "das System der Vielheit der Elohim," and


"Elohim IHWH," neither all-powerful nor omnipresent, who would over- come the cycle oflifeand death introduced by the system. In orderto do so, this pre-worldly God needs human assistancein the formof cultic ritual.

"Elohim IHWH" mustthereforebecome the national God of one people. Only thuscan thisGod reattainHis universal pre-worldly statusand elimi-



Goldberg cultic ritual and

Biblical practices

ticof Maimonedes and most subsequent Orthodox

biological circularity, indeed, biology itself.In mostof his subsequent

devoted himselfto

admonishing the Jews for abandoning

pursuing mundane activities.He argues for a returnto

and a

rejection of the "Enlightened"Judaism characteris-

Jewishtheologians. He



particularly abhorred modern Judaism's disinclinationtowards

ing, and sought

AmericafromFrance in 1941, Goldberg

supernatural occurrences,becoming

eties, and trying to promote his religious views.He returnedto Europe after

the war and died in Nice in 1952.


to inspire a "MissionerendesHebraertum."Afterhe fledto

led a many-faceted life, writing on

involvedwithvarious medical soci-

Voigts' book is lucid and convincing. He is to be commended for his

largely unexamined

painstaking archival research,

"NachlaB"materialsto discoverdocumentsrelevantto such a


occasional abruptness ofitstransitions. Though Voigts defendsthe tempo-

in Gold-

ral confusionof his

berg's biographic

findthedevout,Orthodox and not yetterribly unconventional young man,

suddenly and without explanation, in the mountainsof Tibet, engaging in meditation, reciting a mantra, and experiencingsupersensory,paranormal

events!But on balance, this study is


judicious sifting of


and comprehensive introduction.The only weaknessof the book is the

study on the ground


large gaps

records (11), it stillcomes as a complete shockwhenwe

well-organized and easy

to follow.

One of Goldberg's


scholarlydisciples was Erich Unger,

work constitutesa significant

surprising that Voigts

has also


element of this

devoted himselfto the

writtenbetween1909 and 1931. The titleof thiscollection (which includes


Hebrdertums, reflectsboth

berg and their attempt to articulatethe mythiccomponent of earlyJuda-

ism. Most of the earliest

published in Der Sturm, one

and they include both critical essays and dramaticsketches. Unger's

to Expressionistthought is reflectedin his interpretation of


self-negating tendencies

interpreted as His workthusstandsout as the

opposed byUnger (and other Expressionists) foritsabstract rigor and its



Unger's engagement with Goldberg's


It is thus not

taskof editing a collection of Unger's short works,

previouslyunpublished material), Vom Expressionismus zum Mythos des


impact of Expressionism on Unger and Gold-



in this collection were first

Germany's foremost Expressionistjournals,



as the violent


of the formsof

pure cognition and the

life-philosophy is

of the human will. Nietzsche's

an externalizationof unconscious


to Kantian

its own observations.Nietzsche's


sublation of the strictdistinctionbetween con-

The Expressionist inclinationto con-

linear temporality and

is evident in such brief fictional

collection, as "Vorwortzu einem Roman"


is contradicted by the resistanceof the

and which constitute

tendency to insistentlyquestion

represents for Unger the

scious and subconscious cognition.

flatethese tworealms (and thus to obliterateboth

conventional perceptions of spatiality)

efforts, included byVoigts in this

(1912). But Unger's emphasis on concrete reality in its phenomenal

tance to abstract systematicthought remained consistent.He expresses the

belief that all political ideology

materialand economic motiveswhich drive

society "der eigentliche und letzteGrund der chaotischenGemeinschaft" (71).



There is even a

theological,metaphysical basis for the universalchaos

where "philosophers of the spirit"



at the core of all

"Sch6pferische Indifferenz" (both Unger's posi-

Salomo Friedlfnderand his later

subject, and the evocation of completeness


possible" in its


whichabides in thatfoundationallocus

would impose their systems,namely,


tivereviewof the thusly-titled book by

defenseofthisworkin opposition toFriedlfnder'sown subsequent Kantian

tendencies are reprintedhere) can only be counteracted by the "playful"

mediation of a

through the "totality of the possible." Like Goldberg,Unger believed spirit


In the

Universalismusdes Hebraertums" (1929/30),

Die Wirklichkeit derHebrderagainst Scholem's veiledcriticismofthisworkas a

modern manifestationof

comprehensiveness and elucidation of structural totality withthe fragmen-

theology ofSabbatinism.


theological ap-

proach, Unger believes Goldberg

symptom ofancientHebrew universalism, theconcretemethod by whichto

achieve "die

gischen Wirklichkeit" (136, Unger's italics).Unger

his own

systematicposition and the real priorities of his essay "Die Theologie des Sabbatianismusim LichteAbraham Cardosos," towhich Unger's essay is an

ing behind the mask of unprejudiced objectivity while eliding

accuses Scholem ofhid-


onlyoppose phenomenal chaos byjuxtaposing

plenitude to fragmentaryreality.

longest essay of the book,

Unger defends Goldberg's

Sabbatinicmessianism bycontrastingGoldberg's

thought as expressed in the

While Cabbalism never transcendssuch a disconnected

shows how ancient Hebrew ritual is a

Ausdehnung m6glicherSteigerung auf das Ganzeder biolo-


tality is made to standin contrastto Scholem's

historical sensibility. The telosof forging a livingtotality fromtheantitheses

particular, (this lattersublationis seen to be the achievementof

in such pieces as "Mythos und Wirklichkeit" (1928)


between the universaland the

oppositional reply.Goldberg's

drivetowardsthe evocation of


alleged duplicity and

lack of


unity and multiplicity


is also evident

and "Der Krieg"

This collection of nineteen essays is preceded by a useful foreword, in

which Voigtsprovides a brief summary oftheevolutionof Unger's thoughts

and describeshis



as well as thatof

writerssuch as Rosenzweig and Buber, is also a

Goldberg monograph.


praise, as

theirundeserved neglect.

productive,althoughlargely conflictual, relationship with


Unger's important but ne-

oppositional thought,

Scholem und Walter Benjamin.

role in inspiring the trajectory of theiroften

otherwell-known early twentieth centuryGerman/Jewish

significanttopic in Voigts'

given the originality and



Given this influence, and



in theirown

insights of Goldberg

both editorand intellectual biographer, for helping to overcome

Louisiana State University