Three letters on Judaism to Douglas Rushkoff
02 Apr 2001
thank you for your nice answer.
Finding your comment exactly meeting the crucial point, let me just tell you,
what is my answer to the question 'where the lever is'.
In my point of view, Judaism has established a great mission in its start
(about 2500 years ago), which still is not fulfilled. The mission is not
difficult to describe. It is the peaceful coexistence of mankind on earth. As
well the method is not mysterious: taking man's spirit, which is result of his
capacity of speaking and writing, as the predominant human fate, which has to
be managed in a right and adequate way (by this comes the moral touch of
Judaism). I think, christianity and modern times already have established a lot
in order to manage this fate (think at the historically seen young obligation
to attend school). But the most important aspect still is missing - creating
this fate as a comprehensive personal, individual way of living, outside of all
collective traditions (as well the jewish one) - collective traditions, which
never are to generalize. I think, the messianism is a clear signal, that human
beings only as individuals can do justice to that judaistic mission (This is an
idea of the jewish philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas).
Since 22 years (half of my life) I am following the idea to create this
individual form of human existence. I came to it by vocation like "the virgin
to the child" and found out that I could not go another way. (It was no easy
birth!) Meanwhile this messianic approach in me has been cleared and matured. I
have got a high personal independence of it in order to bring out only its
general meaning. It is part of my philosophy.
Thinking, this way is necessary for many practical, moral and theoretical
reasons, I am looking now for the lever, as you called it. And I can't see
another lever, than the Judaism - not in his traditional or religious forms,
but a Judaism, who is able to deconstruct himself.
It is exactly the human bridge between jewish people, who can bring out the
great strength of a resumed Judaism, and me, a single german, which - the
bridge - could provide the epoch-making power to definitly bring modern society
to its own basis - to the individual, to the general concept of the human being
as political reality. (Jewish people, who I still don't know, who have to be
individuals, too, of course and who are inside of the society, today, while I
The belief that this historical-political concept will be possible and
effective in our days is a belief, okay. But to win the future is always a
subject of believing. And the time of "believing" the future as whatever sort
of techno-generated utopia (which derives like all science always from the
greek part of our heritage) should finally come to an end.
The man, who gave me most of my right to speak like in this letter, is the
jewish rabby and philosopher Jacob Taubes. He died 1985 and I never met him. He
produced a very creative and forward-looking religion-philosophical thinking.
It was by his coming to germany,where he never lived before (he was born in
Switzerland), and by his activities here that he already has made some
important steps towards a jewish/german fusion after the holocaust.
I think that in Judaism is a general treasure - if you want, just the inversion
of all anti-semite nonsense - not world-conspiracy, but the only existing way
to establish a real world-community. And in opposition to all intellectual
(greek) concepts Judaism has the necessary depth by the explicit inclusion of
the hard sides of life (starting with the labors of womens during the birth of
their and our children).
I come from german history and its depth, from where I need longtime to find
back to the surface. I come from an avant-garde position in philosophy and I am
still alone. Nobody really can imagine, how STRING should work. Hard stuff to
stand in our overrealistic era.
I like american authors with jewish descendence - actually I mean three,
Michael Walzer (who gave me the concept of a particularistic universalism),
Jared Diamond, whose life and writing is indiscribable great - and you. In the
case of you it was your evolution since "Media Virus", which I found in your
"Edge"-interview of October 99.
What I find in all of you, is the mixture between "old european" depth of
thought and fresh american pragmatism. I think, your inner evolution to
"Coercion" couldn't have happened in an utilitaristic anglo-saxon person.
You are my generation and looking for contact to you (which internet makes much
easier) is not without the aspects about Judaism as lever, I have written
I would not have convinced my nearer surrounding to let me go my
"incomprehensible" way without an inner determination. But you are right, it is
all nothing without a lever.
Nevertheless, even great things starts with small steps.
Sorry for the length of my letter and all the best
12 Apr 2001
please let me take up your time only once again (You don't need to give me a direct
1. My grandmother (1901-1994) induced in me, who was sensitive and loyal enough,
when I a was small child, the vision of (german) greatness, glory and power, which
Hitler had induced in her and which was hardly broken 1945.
2. This "induction" came to my consciousness with great power, when I was 22, as
messianic vocation. For I could not get rid of it, I had to find a form for this
experience, which could fit in my life and in my time.
It was not a long way to come to Judaism, which is the origin of the messianic
concept, as the anchor to understand what happened to me.
Coming out of a family, who still had an anti-semite reflex (at least they didn't
commit crimes), it was a very difficult task, to find access to the jewish root of
messianism. I always had known that changing anti-semitism into pro-semitism was no
solution. Thus I worked out an up-to-date-version of the messianic complex, which
should fulfil the jewish needs as well as my needs.
I have not done this as professional or intellectual, actually I am none of that. I
have done it as someone, who in other circumstances would be the owner of a shop, a
doctor or something else.
3. It may be seen as an extraordinary strange thing that a german person presents
the most advanced concept of (jewish) messianism in our time. But perhaps it is not
strange, but logical.
Couldn't it be that the people, which is the exception in world-history, the jewish
people - in order to finally get involved into this history - tried to establish a
very intensive fusion with one of the normal people of history, a people, which
didn't yet have expelled its murderous instincts?
Couldn't it be that the holocaust is just the worst and most tragic accident, which
could happen within this advance? (Sorry for this sentence, but the fact that my
people have done these crimes and some of them near to me still can't really admit
it, steals me a great part of my will of life til today.)
Couldn't it be that Hitler went til the worst end with his anti-semitism - an end,
one can imagine and not any more imagine -, because he knew in his heart that not
he should govern the world, but the jewish decalogue?
(All this can't be proved scientifically, but could be an inspiration for further
4. What Jacob Taubes, whom I mentioned in my last letter, had done, was to meet
(1978) after long, long hesitations Carl Schmitt, who was the leading Professor of
Law in Nazi-times and came out of a katholic/anti-semite milieu (and who wished the
meeting with Taubes since 1948).
Taubes accepted the wish inspite of the abyss between them, because they had great
subjects together - the inner relation between religion and politics (Politische
Theologie) as well as a certain sort of anti-liberalism, for Taubes saw himself at
first and foremost as jew in a strict judaistic sense and Schmitt was catholic,
which implies a certain anti-semitism, because jews don't accept Jesus as messias.
Their meeting was the step towards a new, post-Holocaust, jewish/german fusion, I
have talked about.
5. My project ad STRING.org is a new creation of that inner relation of religion and
politics. Religion in this context only can be deconstructed judaistic religion.
The internet gives me as only one of six billion people without any traditional
collective power the possibility of publishing around the world. Therefore internet
always seemed to me to be the medium, which exactly fits to "STRING - World
Politics for Individuals".
6. Is it true that messianism is the heart of Judaism and that messianism is the
most difficult concept at all, because it is the coincidence of incommensurable
parts, the abstract thought and the concrete historical human persons?
Is it true that the inner contradictoriness of the messianic concept puts mind into
Is it true that jewish messianism in a modern understanding is the only subject,
which goes to and beyond the frontier of mind (within every person) without
Is it true that well-understood messianism is the only solution for contemporary
world-society, because only in its form a reconciliation between the cold mind with
the warm human being is possible - a cold mind, which is on the basis of the
7. Perhaps you sometimes agree with me concerning the central position of
messianism in Judaism and in modernity. If that happens, please think at me.
In view of your great intellectual seriousness and, not at least, of your celebrity
it would be a great honor for me, if there sometimes will be an occasion for
cooperation between you and me.
Thank you for your patience with reading my difficult reflexions,
18 Apr 2001
I think, I am not a Jew, despite my relationship to Judaism.
All sorts of traditions, which exist today, are young compared with our settled or even language-using, hunting and wall-painting, shamanical
In ancient Judaism I found one of two (political!) ways of life, which set mental and spiritual freedom and autonomy in the first place in life. The other
way of life was produced by Sokrates. Judaism is concerning at first mankind and history, Sokrates is concerning more the single person. Both concepts
needs one another.
In the case of Judaism in ancient times it was a people, who presents this way of life and/or political position. And in ancient times, being a people (and
fighting against romans for freedom) was an individual position.
In modern times, Jews, who saw themselves as a people, as the "judaistic" people, had and have a problem, because modern times is the age of
individuality. Sokratic tradition, which I see as my tradition, do not have this problem. In modern times, Judaism tends to be reduced to a normal
But in the wide range of Judaism, the concept of messianism, which is discussed extremly controverse since the beginning, nevertheless provides an
individual form, because the messiah is by definition one person. So my idea is the following:
As, according to Emmanuel Levinas, in Talmud (Sanhedrin) "Raw Nachman said: If he (the messiah, W.B.) is within the living persons, so it is me, ...",
we should realize that the messiah is not a person, who saves Israel or the world. Instead, being messiah or messianic is the personal (moral) quality,
which you called in your last letter: "Sending the God within everyone, rather than the warlord in the heavens" and which I have called in my text
"Renaissance of the ancient jewish innovation" : "We don't speak here about a religious God or about the God, who is managed by an elite of clerics. We speak
about the biblical, about the jewish God, which means spiritual, moral and material free persons living in a free world. Man's responsibility to God is just
the mirror for his real existing independence."
In order to achieve this quality, one have to find the courage of being messiah, not for the other people, but for oneself and according to one owns
capacities! That is one of my central messages and I consider it as judaistic-political. Socratic tradition gives individuality, judaistic tradition gives the
peaceful compatibility to once fellow human beings.
My object is the change of paradigm of human coexistence from collectivity to individuality. In order to get this, modern times already have established
a set of modern institutions (which owe most to roman pragmatism and greek inspirations). Those institutions are responsible for the collective
necessities of life (law, street-building, ...) on the instruction of the individual citizens.
But as well in modern times still elite-guided collectivity is predominant. That is not astonishing, because in mankind's evolution the group has always
been an essential condition of survival. But today, seeing modern weapons, group-identification (including acceptance of war and murdering the
neighbours- which is human tradition!) is no more the condition of survival, but the opposite.
In order to realize that change of paradigm, "I - as I have written on my index-site- have to climb to the top of this world-society - as the
representative of myself and of the individual institution, but not as the representative of a group (nation, church, organisation, ... )". That sounds
megalomaniacal, but "I am not at all eager to do this and I don't at all know how to do it, but I can't see any other way to realize the
political-philosophical project STRING, which in my eyes is indispensable!"
It tooks me a good part of the last 22 years to get the greatest possible certainty that not me but the epoch, I am living in, tends to be
You started in our correspondence with the hint that the individual as leverage point needs a lever. This is what I look for. But my problem is
that I have not yet found anybody, who want support my
advanced position - no existing institution, even no publisher. "How STRING should work? There is no precedent!" So I am still just a privat person and have to figure out, who could be my lever.
I am looking for a
"professionalization" of my work in order to make it work and I think, in our fast, integrated and curious times it should be possible to realize it!! You only can see the "miracles", you are
able to believe in, somebody said.
I do not identify "Judaism as in any way exclusively messianic", but today messianism could be the form to bring Judaism to the best of itself - to the
contribution of an or even the essential part of future human culture.
My position in this case I see as the one, who is applying for the job of "messiah" to the circle of persons, who find themself responsible for the
judaistic tradition in a modern respect. I myself do not see me as a messiah in a collective sense, only in the individual, moral sense of Levinas,
everybody should be.
But for the world still is in a collectivistic condition, I perhaps have to play a role on the frontier or the transition from this world to a world, which is
based on the paradigm of individuality.
If I do something like this - giving an example, opening a door, being first under equals - I do it as philosopher. That is my personal identification. All
messianism for me is just a means for a purpose or the basis of a great new cooperation. The purpose is to create the realm of real existing freedom
and independence, which allows everybody "the participation and contribution of many other kinds of spiritual philosophies and practices", as you
called it (This let me think at right and wrong use of drugs).
It is the greatness of Judaism to stand for the vision of a unified mankind in peace and freedom since 2500 years ago. Messianism in my eyes is the
rich, comprehensive and necessary completion, full of life and spirit, of the rational and abstract modern concepts of individual freedom and
self-determination in order to make of it a real policy. Everybody should realize it for him/herself and by this, indirectly, for the other people. But this
living-form is not without demands!
Enlighted messianism is the individual, current form of what I call "Renaissance of the ancient jewish innovation", but it does not at all steel Judaism's
immense traditional richness.
Okay, once more a letter, which is longer than I have planned.
Thank you and all the best