Kabbalah and Neo-Confucianism: a comparative morphology of medieval movements
This study is a comparative analysis of the rise of Neo-Confucianism in China during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the emergence of the school of Kabbalah in France and Spain during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries CE. This comparison is grounded in the observation that the two schools, in spite of their obvious differences, were an outcome of separate reactions to the rising popularity of foreign paradigms. I draw a distinction between synthetic and analytic modes of operation (modalities), arguing they represent contrasting cultural paradigms characterized by divergent cognitive, social, linguistic, and cultural temperaments. I argue that both the classical Chinese and Jewish worldviews conformed to the basic characteristics of the synthetic modality, and that they entered a period of acute crisis as a result of the rising popularity of the analytic Buddhist and Greek philosophical traditions respectively. As I define it, the synthetic worldview is characterized by the affirmation of the body and this-worldly life, an emphasis on ritual and community, cultural particularism, and associative, non-analytical modes of thought. The contrasting analytic worldview stresses individualism, de-contextualization of data, other-worldliness, contemplative spirituality, and universalism. In the context of this project, I develop a methodological framework I call genetic-morphology. This methodology seeks to integrate a synchronic search for cross-cultural patterns with an emphasis on the diachronic evolution of traditions as they change and adapt to new environmental conditions. It also integrates data from diverse academic fields such as religious studies, anthropology, cross-cultural psychology, biology, and systems theory. As such this study offers a gestalt appreciation of cultural systems, their internal dynamic, the symbiotic relationship between their constituent parts, and the function of information in their operation. This dissertation concludes that Kabbalah and Neo-Confucianism can be understood as "defense theologies," or adaptive responses devised to protect their classical synthetic modes of operation from the cultural pressures of analytic paradigms. Kabbalah and Neo-Confucianism were unique in their ability to appropriate powerful features from analytic traditions and subordinate them to native synthetic sensibilities, thereby equipping the Jewish and Chinese traditions with revolutionary theologies that dismantled the challenges of foreign analytic paradigms.