Monday, February 4, 2008

Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN and the Kabbalah

I'm attracted to the dialectical and heretical implications of the Lurianic kabbalist concept of tsimtsum. The idea that the proto-creative act is one of deific withdrawal suggests a universe that can be defined as 'the place where God is not.' (This is, I immediately remind myself, an overly dualistic caricature of tsimtsum, an act which, according to Scholem's reading of the mystics, leaves a residue of God in space, a divine Derridean trace.) Strategically ignoring the later stages of the Lurianic creation myth, in which the fallen world is infused with sparks of divinity, I want to linger on this first act, this originary withdrawal in which God creates the void. Dialecticizing, there is 'God' and 'not-God'; both imply and depend upon the other, but the space of creation is 'not-God.' This also seems to be the setting of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. The novel describes a world from which god has withdrawn, leaving only traces and ruins. (Doesn't the novel begin with falling stars, a meteor shower, sparks of light falling out of heaven? "God how the stars did fall," indeed--a kabbalistic image on the first page, which seems intended to be misread as Miltonic.) McCarthy's world is a place in which God exists, but not for us, not here. This is McCarthy's true theology, however Christian he may think he is.

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