The intellectual mysticism of Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin

Alan Brill, Fordham University


The intellectual mysticism of the Kabbalist Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin (1823-1900) is a knowledge of God by discursive, non-intuitive means. There is a continuity of cognition without a break from scientific thought of sense-data straight up to mystical union. The general characteristics of mysticism--love of God, experience of oneness with God, and transformation of the person--are found in intellectual mysticism; yet the experience, rather than being ineffable and passive, is discursive and active. R. Zadok's used Maimonides as the background to his intellectual mysticism. His thought was able to combine the intellectual aspects of the opponents of Hasidism (mitnagdim) with the Divine intoxicated aspects of Hasidut especially Habad. R. Zadok incorporated within his thought the determinism and antinomianism of his teacher the Hasidic master Rabbi Mordechai Joseph Leiner of Izbicha who was part of the radical Polish, Przysucha-Kotzk school of Hasidism. The mystical path according to R. Zadok starts with an integration of the emotions into the intellectual life. R. Zadok combines the path of the intellect with the need for the purification of the heart, as an indwelling and drive for the intellect. The emotions have to be channelled to God in the mystical path; this includes that all forms of psychic energy are to be used for the service of God including the subconscious, dreams, and man's sins. R. Zadok has an explicit equation of psychology and metaphysics, and holds that mysticism is identified with the intellectual study of texts. The idea that mysticism is discursive makes him (and 19th century Polish-Lithuanian Jewish thought) unique in the history of mysticism. The mystical knowledge of Torah (both Halakhah and Kabbalah) is a Divine manifestation, a revelation of God manifest though man's intellectual creativity. R. Zadok's manifestation mysticism provides for man's psychic growth a substantial role as the growth of the Divine. In light of R. Zadok, the conclusion that can be drawn about the study of medieval Kabbalah is that it may not be just a theoretical theosophy but an experiential theosophic union, in which the Divine influx consists of cognitive information.

Subject Area

Religious history|Theology

Recommended Citation

Brill, Alan, "The intellectual mysticism of Rabbi Zadok HaKohen of Lublin" (1994). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9509746.