Kabbalistic Allegory in the Poetry of the Silver Age: The Image of the First Adam in Mixail Kuzmin and Nikolaj Gumilev

Marina Aptekman, Brown University

During the last years the occult motives in the Russian literature of the Silver Age has become a subject of a serious critical study. Such famous scholars as Maria Carlson or Nikolaj Bogomolov have tried to analyze the history of the occult movements of the time and to decode the occult codes in the poetry of the key-authors of this period. The occult motives play a very significant role in the literature of the Silver Age. As Bernice Glazer Rosenthal said in the preface to the book on magical and occult themes in Russian and Soviet literature:

The occult was a remarkably integral part of pre-revolutionary Russian culture. Occult doctrines appealed to artists, writers, and political activists. Avant-garde poets and painters were intrigued by the idea of a fourth dimension. Philosophers and lay theologists explored the occult in their quest for new religious truths.

However, if the influence of such theories as spiritualism or shamanism on Russian literature of the first two decades of the twentieth century has been widely discussed, the role of kabbalistic allegory in the poetry of the Silver Age has not yet been seriously studied. Western scholarship seems not to be very interested in this subject, or, probably, is not sufficiently self-confident to address it at length. The majority of Russian scholars, on the other hand, seem to be very interested in the research on this topic. Yet for the most part their work is speculative, politically oriented and often anti-Semitic.

In my work I am going to analyze one of the most popular kabbalistic allegories in Russian poetry of the period: the image of the First Adam (in Hebrew Adam Kadmon). In the paper I will concentrate on two poems, the poem "Mne stranno sochetan'e slov—ja sam" by Nikolaj Gumilev, and the poem "Pervyj Adam" by Mixail Kuzmin. I will discuss the use of kabbalistic imagery in these poems and will show the possible sources for this imagery. I will then attempt to prove the argument that Kuzmin and Gumilev indeed use the kabbalistic allegory in their poems by presenting the textual examples from both the original kabbalistic texts and the later interpretation of those texts in the works of Papus, E. Levi and Blavackaja.

I believe that decoding the kabbalistic allegorical codes in the poetry of Kuzmin and Gumilev would result in the better understanding of both the philosophical beliefs of those authors and their literary experiments.