Get a FREE Books of the Moment  sampler!
Don’t miss these
40 books to read before you turn 40
See the List

Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism

Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism by Gershom Scholem
Paperback
May 02, 1995 | 496 Pages
See All Formats (1) +
  • Paperback $18.95

    May 02, 1995 | 496 Pages

  • Ebook $14.99

    Aug 17, 2011 | 496 Pages

Product Details

Praise

“A crucially vital work in the long history of Jewish esoteric spirituality. Aside from its intrinsic importance, the book’s influence has been enormous, and is likely to continue all but indefinitely. As much as the stories and parables of Kafka, Scholem’s work helped inaugurate Jewish gnosticism on our era.”
—Harold Bloom, Yale University

“Over fifty years ago, Major Trends struck the scholarly world like a bombshell, marking the beginning of a new era. The book’s unique combination of philological erudition, phenomenological penetration, and synthetic sweep not only wrought a revolution in Jewish studies but also established Jewish mysticism as a major phenomenon in the general history of religions.”
—R.J.Z. Weblowsky, Hebrew University

“As the Zohar is the canonical text of the Kabbalah, so, in a sense, is Scholem’s Major Trends the canonical modern work on the nature and history of Jewish mysticism. For a sophisticated understanding, not only of the dynamics of Jewish mysticism, but of the exquisite complexities of Jewish history and tradition, Major Trends is a major port of entry through which one must pass.”
—Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Columbia University

Table Of Contents

FOREWORD BY ROBERT ALTER, xi
 
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION, xxv
 
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION, xxix
 
TABLE OF TRANSLITERATION, xxxi
 
FIRST LECTURE: GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF JEWISM MYSTICISM. pp. 1-39.
Purpose of these lectures. What is Mysticism? The paradoxical nature of mystical experience. Mysticism as an historical phenomenon. Mythology, Religion and Mysticism. Mystical interpretation of religious values. Jewish Mysticism influenced by the positive contents of Judaism. The Kabbalistic theory of the hidden God and His attributes. The Sefiroth. The Torah. Kabbalism and language. Mysticism and the historical world. Cosmogony and eschatology. Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalism. Allegorization and symbolism. Philosophical and mystical interpretation of Halakhah and Aggadah. Kabbalism and prayer. Mythical elements in Kabbalistic thought. The resurrection of myth in the heart of Judaism. The absence of the feminine element in Jewish Mysticism.
 
SECOND LECTURE: MERKABAH MYSTICISM AND JEWISH GNOSTICISM. pp. 40-79
The first period of Jewish Mysticism. Anonymity of their writings. Esoterism of the Mishnah teachers. Throne-mysticism. Apocalyptic and mysticism. The literature of the Hekhaloth-books. The Yorde Merkabeh and their organization. Conditions of initiation. The ecstatic ascent of the soul and its technique. Magical elements. Dangers of the ascent. God as Holy King. The hymns of the Merkabah mystics. Shiur Komah. Enoch, Metatron and Yahoel. The cosmic curtain. Remains of Gnostic speculations on aeons. The “Book of Creation.” Theurgy. Moral re-interpretation of the Merkabah.
 
THIRD LECTURE: HASIDISM IN MEDIAEVAL GERMANY. pp. 80-118
The rise of Hasidism in Germany. Mystical tradition and German Jewry. The “Book of the Devout.” Jehudah the Hasid and his disciples. Eschatological character of Hasidism. The new ideal of the Hasid: Ascetics, ataraxy and altruism. Love of God. A Judaized version of monkish Cynicism. The magic power of the Hasid. The Golem legend. Mysteries of Prayer. Occultist practices. Hasidic conception of penitence. The conception of God in Hasidism. Immanence of God. Kavod, the Divine Glory. Traces of the Philonic doctrine of the Logos. The Cherub on the throne. Holiness and Greatness in God. The aim of prayer. The cosmic archetypes.
 
FOURTH LECTURE: ABRAHAM ABULAFIA AND THE DOCTRINE OF PROPHETIC KABBALISM. pp. 119-155
Emergence of Kabbalism. Types of Kabbalists. Kabbalistic reticence and censorship. Vision and ecstasy. The conception of Devekuth—the Jewish form of mystical union. Life and work of Abraham Abulafia. His theory of ecstatical knowledge. The “science of combination.” The music of pure thought. The mystical nature of prophecy. Prophetic Kabbalism. Mystical transfiguration as the essence of ecstacy. Mystical pragmatism. Practical Kabbalism and magic. Later developments of Abulafia’s doctrines. Translation of an autobiography written by a disciple of Abulalia.
 
FIFTH LECTURE: THE ZOHAR I. THE BOOK AND ITS AUTHOR. pp. 156-204
The problem of the Zohar. Literary character and composition of the Zohar. The whole of the Zoharic “literarture” consists of two major parts: the bulk of the Zohar and the Raya Mehenma. The bulk of the Zohar the work of one author. Evidence of unity. The language and style of the Zohar. Its stage-setting. Pseudo-realism. Principles of literary composition. Sources of the Zohar: the real and fictitious ones. Treatment of the sources. The author’s predilection for certain Kabbalistic doctrines and dislike for others. Absence of the doctrine of the Shemitahs, or units of cosmic development. Stages in the composition. The Midrash Ha-Neelam as the oldest constituent of the Zohar. The Midrash Ha-Neelam written between 1275 and 1281; the bulk of the Zohar between 1281 and 1286; the Raya Mehemna and Rikkunim about 1300. The question of the personality of the author. Moses ben Shemtob de Leon. The old testimonial on his authorship. Moses de Leon and Joseph Gikatila. Comparison of Moses de Leon’s Hebrew writings with the bulk of the Zohar. Identity of the author all these writings. Other Kabbalistic pseudepigrapha written by Moses de Leon. Veiled references to his authorship of the Zohar in Moses’ Hebrew writing the Zohar. Pseudoepigraphy a legitimate category or religious literature.
 
SIXTH LECTURE: THE ZOHAR II. THE THEOSOPHIC DOCTRINE OF THE ZOHAR. pp. 205-243
The difference between Merhabah Mysticism and Spanish Kabbalism. The hidden God or En-Sof. The Sefiroth, the Realm of Divinity. Mystical conception of the Torah. Symbolical realization of the Sefiroth. Some instances of Kabbalistic Symbolism. God as a mystical organism. Nothing and Being. The first three stages of the Sefiriotic development. Creation and its relation to God. Theogony and Cosmogony. Pantheistic leanings of the author of the Zohar. The original nature of Creation. Mythical imagery in Kabbalistic thought. The problem of sexual symbolism. The new idea of the Shekhinah as a feminine element in God as the mystical Community of Israel. Man and his Fall. Kabbalistic ethics. The nature of evil. The Zohar and Jacob Boehme. Psychology of the Zohar. Unity of theosophy, cosmology and psychology.
 
SEVENTH LECTURE: ISAAC LURIA AND HIS SCHOOL. pp. 244-286
The Exodus from Spain and its religious consequences. Kabbalism on its way to Messianism. Apocalyptic propaganda by Kabbalists. The character and function of the new Kabbalism. Its center if Safed, Palestine. Moses Cordovero and Isaac Luria. Their personalities. Spread of Lurianic Kabbalism. Israel Sarug. Characteristics of the Lurianic doctrine. Tsimtsum, Shevirah, and Tikkun. The twofold process of Creation. The withdrawal of God into Himself as the starting-point of Creation. Meaning of this doctrine.  The primordial catastrophe, or Breaking of the Vessels. The origin of Evil. Two aspects of the theory of the Tikkun, or restoration of harmony. The mystical birth of the personal God and the mystical action of man. The emergence of theosophic worlds, and their relation to God. Theism and Pantheism in Luria’s system. Mystical reinterpretation of Messianism. The doctrine of mystical prayer. Kawwanah. Man’s role in the Universe. Luria’s psychology and anthropology. The Exile of the Shekhinah. The uplifting of the holy sparks. Transmigration of the soul and its place in the Kabbalism of Safed. Influence of Lurianic Kabbalism. A great myth of Exile and Redemption.
 
EIGHTH LECTURE: SABBATIANISM AND MYSTICAL HERESY. pp. 287-324
The Sabbatian movement of 1665-1666. Sabbatai Zevi, the Kabbalistic Messiah, and Nathan of Gaza, his prophet. Sabbatai Zevi’s illness and its mystical interpretation by Nathan. Quasi-sacramental character of antinomian actions. Lurianism adapted to the personality of the new Messiah. Heretical turn of the movement after the apostasy of Sabbatai Zevi. Importance of Sabbatianism for Jewish history. A revolution of the Jewish consciousness. Connection between heretical Kabbalism and “Enlightenment.” The Sabbatian ideology. A religion of paradoxes. Historical and mystical aspects of Redemption. Their clash after Sabbatai Zevi’s apostasy. Sabbatianism. Doctrine of the necessary apostasy of the Messiah. The problem of antinomianism. Moderate and radical forms of Sabbatianism. Mystical nihilism and the doctrine of the Holiness of Sin. The new conception of God: the first cause, or the God of Reason, and the first effect, or the God of Revelation.
 
NINTH LECTURE: HASIDISM: THE LASTEST PHASE. pp. 325-350
Polish and Ukrainian Hasidism of the eighteenth century and its problem. Kabbalistic and Hasidic literature. The transformation of Kabbalism into a popular movement. The alternatives of Kabbalistic development after the collapse of Sabbatianism. Return to esoteric forms of worship: Rabbi Shalom Sharabit. Intensification of its popular aspects: Hasidism. Kabbalism purged of its Messianic elements. Sabbatianism and Hasidism. Rabbi Asam Baal Shem—a crypto-Sabbatian prophet. New type of leadership in Sabbatianism and Hasidism. Mystical revivalism. What is novel in Hasidism? The essential originality of Hasidism not connected with mystical theosophy but with mystical ethics. Zaddikism implied by the intrinsic nature of Hasidism. Personality takes the place of doctrine. The figure of the Zaddik, or Saint. The living Torah. The social function of the Saint as the center of the community of men. Mysticism and magic in Hasidism. The Hasidic story.
 
NOTES, 351-424
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY, 425-444
 
INDEX, 445-460

Looking for More Great Reads?
Download our Spring Fiction Sampler Now
Back to Top