Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Mystical Life of Franz Kafka

Oxford University Press will be releasing a new study of the influential writer, Franz Kafka (1883-1924), later this year. The book, The Mystical Life of Franz Kafka: Theosophy, Cabala, and the Modern Spiritual Revival by June O. Leavitt, will be out in October 2011. As the publisher’s announcement has it:

Kafka lived during the modern Spiritual Revival, a powerful movement which resisted materialism, rejected the adulation of science and Darwin, and idealized clairvoyant modes of consciousness. Kafka's contemporaries - such theosophical ideologues as Madame H.P. Blavatsky, Annie Besant, and Dr. Rudolph Steiner - encouraged the counterculture to seek the true, spiritual essence of reality by inducing out-of-body experiences and producing visions of higher disembodied beings through meditative techniques. Leaders of the Spiritual Revival also called for the adoption of certain lifestyles, such as vegetarianism, in order to help transform consciousness and return humanity to its divine nature.

Interweaving the occult discourse on clairvoyance, the divine nature of animal life, vegetarianism, the spiritual sources of dreams, and the eternal nature of the soul with Kafka's dream-chronicles, animal narratives, diaries, letters, and stories, Leavitt takes the reader on a journey through the texts of a great psychic writer and the fascinating epoch of the Spiritual Revival.

This comes at a time when Kafka’s papers are the source of a legal battle between the state of Israel and a German literary archive. In a lecture at the British Museum on February 7, 2011, Judith Bulter examined the case in her “Who Owns Kafka?” Kafka left his published and unpublished works to his friend Max Brod, “with the explicit instructions that the work should be destroyed on Kafka’s death. Brod refused to honour the request, although he did not publish everything that was bequeathed to him.” After Brod’s death in 1968 the manuscripts passed to his secretary. In 1988 she sold the manuscript of The Trial for $2 million. Her heirs are now planning to sell off the material by weight.

Butler cited a passage from Kafka’s parable “The Coming of the Messiah” which, in light of June O. Leavitt’s forthcoming book, The Mystical Life of Franz Kafka: Theosophy, Cabala, and the Modern Spiritual Revival, is worth repeating here: “The Messiah will come only when he is no longer necessary. He will come only on the day after his arrival; he will come, not on the last day, but on the very last.

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