In a world enamored with mysticism, it is always of interest to read an alternative view point. R’ Eliezer Berkovitz in “God, Man and History” elucidates his world view of Judaism, clarifying and extrapolating upon his understanding of the “Encounter” between man and God. The following is an extract from Pg 40 of that book where R’Berkovitz offers his critique of the mystical approach to religion, for in his opinion, it is this approach that is in reality antithetical to the world view of religious man.
Judaism is essentially non-mystical because, according to it, God addresses himself to man, and he awaits man’s response to the address. God speaks and man listens; and God commands and man obeys. Man searches, and God allows himself to be found; man entreats, and God answers. In the mystical union, however, there are no words and no law, no search and no recognition, because there is no separateness. Judaism does not admit the idea that man may rise “beyond good and evil,” as it were, by drowning himself in the Godhead.
There is a natural affinity between mysticism and pantheism. All mysticism tends toward pantheism. Once the mystical union is completed, there is nothing left but the Absolute, in which all is contained. The appropriate worldview of the mystic is pantheism. It is his justification for devaluing individual existence, as well as for attempting to redeem it through return into the All. On the other hand, mysticism is only available “religion” for the pantheist. His worship of the Absolute demands the denial of his own separateness from it. Thus, we are led to the Spinozistic amor dei; since nothing exists apart from the infinite, man’s love for God “is the very love of God with which God loves himself.” One is inclined to agree with those who see in this the monstrous example of absolute self-love. The truth, of course, is that where there is no separateness, there is no love either. Where there is no encounter, there can be no care or concern. The mystic endeavors to overcome all separateness; the pantheist denies it from the very beginning. Judaism, on the other hand, through its concept of the encounter, affirms the reality as well as the worth of the individual existence. Judaism is not only non-mystical, it also essentially anti-pantheistic.