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Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism Paperback – May 2, 1995
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"Major Trends [is] 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
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'Major Trends...' is broken down into nine lectures. He covers everything from the beginings of Jewish mysticism up to modern times. He traces its origen from the Second Temple era, through the apocalyptic/pseudepigrapha period, and right into Jewish gnosticism with the Thrown (merkabah) mysticism. The 'Hekhaloth Books' (hekhaloth: the heavenly halls or palaces the visionary passes through on his way to the seventh heaven where there rises the thrown of divine glory) are well known for the their similarity to standerd gnostic works. The caves around Khirbet Qumran are another (Dead Sea Scrolls). He covers all aspects of this; the 'Song of Songs' and its mystical meaning (it was banned until a man reached 40 years old), the Shi'ur Komah (Measure of the Body of God), and all the magical elements that encompassed this, also theurgy, and so on.
All of this, of course, was several hundred years before the epoch 'Sefer Yezirah' was conceived of.Read more ›
The author's concept or purpose is to dispel many of the misleading, and speculative notions on the nature of Jewish mysticism. In the process, taking the mystical/magical portions for the most part out of the equation.
What I like best about Scholem's work is that he is not so concerned with what the meaning of each Kabbalistic notion but is primarily concerned with where it originated and what circumstances allowed for the development of an idea. This allows for an objective and unbiased consideration of the concept being studied.
What you won't get in this book that you will find in most others about this subject is the promotion thereof. No evangelical tendencies exist which make for a more throrough reading.
Scholem's affection for the Kabbalists stems from his belief that they kept alive a mythic, almost pantheistic, vision of God against the more rationalizing tendencies of mainstream Judaism. The mystics as he describes them, despite their arcane systems, were closer to popular beliefs and aspirations than the 'official' rabbinical tradition. In 1938, when Scholem gave these lectures, he hoped for a spiritual revival from within Jewish mysticism at a moment of crisis. I don't know if the New Age hipness of the Kabbalah was what he had in mind, but for all the measured, scholarly prose his heart is clearly with the weirdos.
I knew almost nothing about Jewish mysticism going into this book. I put it down with a new respect for one of the human mind's more intricate and neglected creations.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Modern ground breaker for bringing kabbala studies back to academia and the general public- as well as making it acessable to a wider audience. Read morePublished 6 months ago by thirdtwin
Scholem is the pre-eminent scholar in the field of Jewish mysticism. His Major Trends is not easy reading, but it's deeply engaging, and you can find new insights on re-reading.Published on July 23, 2014 by Hazzan Lane
As an inquisitive Jew, I have always been mystified by Jewish mysticism. People are always telling me, "oh it's so difficult" or "complex" or "you have to be... Read morePublished on June 6, 2014 by Mark Ellins
There are so many books about Kabbalah coming out these days like popcorn. Gershom Sholem rediscovered the Kabbalah and brought it from obscurity to world fame. Read morePublished on May 13, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Scholem's overview of the development of Jewish mysticism in general and Kabbalah in particular is magisterial. Read morePublished on February 18, 2014 by Alchemist
This book has some great and interesting background information, but it doesn't take a genius to identify the author's academic prejudice. Read morePublished on August 11, 2013 by Filler Joe