Tangle of Matter & Ghost: Leonard Cohen’s Post-Secular Songbook of Mysticism(s) Jewish & Beyond

Tangle of Matter & Ghost: Leonard Cohen’s Post-Secular Songbook of Mysticism(s) Jewish & Beyond

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Aubrey Glazer

Series: New Perspectives in Post-Rabbinic Judaism
ISBN: 9781618115492 (hardcover) / 9781618115812 (paper)
Pages: 336 pp.
Publication Date: February 2017

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Tangle of Matter & Ghost: Leonard Cohen’s Post-Secular Songbook of Mysticism(s) Jewish & Beyond analyzes the lyrical poetry of Leonard Cohen through a post-secular lens. The volume fuses sophisticated theory and popular culture with critical analysis that is lacking in most of the rock n’ roll biographies about Leonard Cohen. How does this mystical maestro’s songbook emerge to illuminate questions of meaning making in a post-secular context when correlated with thinkers like Charles Taylor, Edward S. Casey, Jurgen Habermas, Slavoj Žižek, Jeffrey Kripal and Harold Bloom along with others. Cohen’s mysticism is also analyzed in relationship to Kabbalah, Hasidism and Rinzai Buddhism. Tangle of Matter & Ghost presents a unique inter-disciplinary approach to Jewish philosophy and literary studies with wide appeal for diverse audiences and readership.

Aubrey L. Glazer, Ph.D. (University of Toronto) is rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom, San Francisco. His latest books dedicated to exploring Jewish philosophy in different contexts: Mystical Vertigo: Kabbalistic Hebrew Poetry Dancing Over the Divide (Academic Studies Press, 2013) and A New Physiognomy of Jewish Thinking: Critical Theory After Adorno as Applied to Jewish Thought (Continuum, 2011) recently translated into Hebrew (Resling Press, 2015).


In the first extended encounter with Leonard Cohen’s complex and demanding legacy since Cohen’s death Aubrey Glazer profoundly attunes us to the prophetic, mystical, and Jewish registers of Cohen’s voice and music that are normally an octave too high for our ears. This book reflects a rare combination of erudition and poetic sensitivity needed for the task to guide us along a musical scale ranging from Isaac on the altar to Jesus on the cross to Joan of Arc on the stake; from the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides to a Hasidic Rebbe against the backdrop of Quebecois culture to the Zen master Roshi; and from the Zohar to Yiddish humour. Cohen’s passing leaves another crack in the world and Glazer’s study allows the light to come streaming through.
— James A. Diamond, Joseph & Wolf Lebovic Chair of Jewish Studies, University of Waterloo
This bold, imaginative book enables us to appreciate Leonard Cohen as a Jewish mystical humanist, a post-secular troubadour who wrestles intimately with his own tradition. Cohen emerges as a prophet who realizes our brokenness and inspires healing.
— Daniel Matt, translator-editor of the Zohar-Pritzker edition
Weaving an intertextilic elixir of the sacred and the secular of both religious hermeneutics and contemporary cultural theory, Glazer’s formidable Tangle of Matter and Ghost is a pioneering study of how Cohen, as Canadian kabbalist buddhist, saint, mystic poet, a prophet with priestly lineage, helps us realize that the Shekhina is indeed dwelling inside and between every letter. Establishing an alchemic cirqumfrission, it compellingly cuts into all that is connected and cracked, rigorously detailing how and where the light gets in.
— Adeena Karasick, Professor of Global Literature, St. John’s University, New York, award-winning author of seven books of poetry, including most recently, Amuse Bouche: Tasty Treats for the Mouth (Talonbooks, 2009)

Preface: Shaul Magid

Chapter 1: Prelude: New Skin for Post-Secular Philosophy of Circum/fession
Chapter 2: On Exile As Redemption in (Canadian) Jewish Mysticism
Chapter 3: From Darkness, A Love of All This: Seeking Sacred in Post-Secular Song
Chapter 4: Tangle of Matter & Ghost: Objective Spirit & Non-Dual Reality
Chapter 5: A Question of Pure Consciousness in the Priestly Blessing of Love
Chapter 6: Amen to American Agnosticism
Chapter 7: Nothing as Whole as a Broken Middle Matzah
Chapter 8: Falling with Our Angels, So Human
Chapter 9: “An Appetite for Something Like Religion”: Unbinding the Binding of Isaac, Jesus Christ & Joan of Arc through Zen
Chapter 10: Standing Where There Used to Be a Street: 9/11 Post-Secularism & Sacred Song
Chapter 11: Never Mind this Neuzeit, Here’s Kaddish: Between the Nameless & the Name
Chapter 12: Coda: A Philosophy of Post-Secular Song in Light of Piyyut as a Cultural Lens

Postface: Elliot R. Wolfson