A dream of Walter Benjamin

I have started recording my dreams; as it says in the Zohar ‘A dream must be interpreted, or else it remains an unread letter’. I have done this before and it is surprizing how quickly the practice of writing down dreams improves the recall of what was dreamt. Of course there is a danger of overinterpreting every sleeping as well as every waking hour, something unintentionally signalled in the use of the term ‘dream work’ to describe this practice – our days are already dominated enough by work, let us not subject our rest to labour. And indeed one of the depressing results of recording dreams is acknowledging how much of our nocturnal brain capacity is wasted on processing petty work anxieties- dreams of job interviews and office politics, of photocopiers and emails.

No noticeably Kabbalist content in my dreams yet, except perhaps this recent one. In the dream I came across a stall in Luton Arndale Centre, selling only books by Walter Benjamin. They were luxury hardback editions, burgundy and purple covers embossed with gold lettering and a portrait of the author. What Benjamin would have made of the Arndale we can only wonder – he did after all devote years to his unfinished arcades project.  But for me he is a key figure, a marxist in the 1930s who didn’t lose his critical bearings in the age of Fascism and Stalinism and who maintained an interest in jewish mystical thought as well as altered states of consciousness, experimenting with drugs in Ibiza a full half century before acid house!

He was also a close personal friend of the great Kabbalist scholar Gershom Scholem. Indeed the latter dedicates his ‘Main currents in Jewish Mysticism’, first published in 1941, as follows: ‘To the memory of Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), the friend of lifetime whose genius united the insight of the Metaphysician, the interpretatitve power of the Critic and the erudition of the Scholar. Died at Port Bou (Spain) on his way to freedom’. The latter is a reference to Benjamin’s tragic death – he took his own life after being refused entry to Spain while fleeing the advance of the Nazis.


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