|In its commentary
on Parashat Bere'shit, the Zohar goes
”וַיִּיצֶר - יְצִירָה אַחַת לְטוֹב וִיצִירָה אַחַת לְרָע. זֶה עֵץ הַדַּעַת טוֹב וָרָע. עֵץ זֶה אָדָם קָטָן, מִצַּד הַחַיִּים מִמֶּנּוּ וּמִצַּד הַמָּוֶת מִמֶּנּוּ.“
(“And he shall create: one creation for the good and one for evil. This is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The side of life derives from him and the side of death derives from him.”)
In Kabbalistic symbology, the tree of knowledge aka the tree of death, is the attribute of Malkuth — hence the quality of brokenness and finitude. In the tree of death there emerges the possibility of perishing, on top of divine becoming.
But the biblical verse on which the Zohar expands says: «the tree of knowledge is good and evil». The tree of knowledge emanates both life and death, good and evil, for it is a central pillar between stringency and grace.
This sense of a central pillar between the division among Being and Nihility, is expanded in Zoharic literature as containment of the demonic in the divine, or in other words - Coincidentia Oppositorum of life and death.This type of a unity of opposites that contains the dialectic of coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be, contains in a paradoxical sameness both ontic pulses of existence, is a radical theme that will reach to the surface of western thinking only with modernity. The Zoharic dialectic, which precedes and anticipates the Hegelian one, posits a dynamic wholeness of Din and Chesed, Left side and Right side, Day and Night, working in correspondence and creative strife to bring upon the emergence of human existence.
Stringency and Grace, born on the same plane of existence and yet different pulses, are components in such an ontic dialectic. The Zoharic dialectic brings us for the first time a decentralization of the hierarchical difference of life over death, good over evil. Thus the Zohar incorporates morbidity into vitality. Samael into HVYH.
In the dialectical vision of the Zohar the ground of existence is shaken by the fracture of Being. Abysms and scapes of fire quarreling around the pleroma
The Sitra DeMuta (“Side of Death”), is a demonic feminine spectre that posseses the Shekhinah (Malkhuth) and brings it down to a cosmic drama of death/fall and resurrection/ascent.
The ultimate result of this downgoing is the emergence back to divinity and the redemption of mankind in the form of the scarred flesh of Matronita. The Shekhinah rises off its ashes and returns
Thats a display of the dialectical drama of demise/twilight/dawn. The two sides are in a constant strife where each pulse has autonomous & substantial existence. The oscillation between the sides is chaotic & contingent, and yet at the core nothing changes, and everything changes
Clearly the type of negativity/nihility that is portrayed in the Zohar is not privative. The Zoharic concept of Evil/Nothingness/Destruction is rich with meaning, selfhood and affirmation. Good and Evil are two sides, each affirmed and real, that compliment one another
Each tree among Life and Death is a sacred tree, with important and substantial sense of existence. Each has its own world and its own essence. Not a unity in indeterminateness but, as Heidegger elaborates, a unison in self-transcendence.
And in that sense the Zohar sublates western thinking. In that sense the Zoharic dialectic is an Existential Dialectic, that bears the indescribably plural nature of existence.
The Zohar hints for us at the essence that is in unessence, and at the unessence that is in essence. When it tells us that Being is a paradox, that existence is fragmented and rapturous, that the divine is filled with creative destruction and destructive creation, boundless choreia of light and darkness.
We need to locate the significance and impact of the Zohar in the history of ideas as one of the first places where we can find an extensive elaboration of what has become the Post-Hegelian dialectic. The Zohar needs to be read not only as apiece of Jewish Mysticism, but also as a self-closing circle of exile & homecoming, sucha one that has rarely been seen in the history of writing. The immense importance of the Zohar is only beginning to uncover for the English speaking world, & there has to be much more to come