Messianic Mystics / Edition 1

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In this stimulating book, one of the world's leading scholars of Jewish thought examines the long tradition of Jewish messianism and mystical experience. Moshe Idel calls upon his profound knowledge of ancient and medieval texts and of Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Eastern sources to uncover new perspectives on the nature and development of Jewish messianism. He shows that, contrary to Gershom Scholem's view that mysticism and messianism are incompatible religious tendencies, they are in fact closely related spiritual phenomena. Messianism regularly emerges from mystical experiences, Idel contends.

Exploring the interplay of Jewish messianism and mysticism from the twelfth through the eighteenth centuries, the book looks closely at pivotal figures and movements, including Abraham Abulafia, Sabbatai Sevi, and hasidism. Idel discerns three types of messianism-theosophical-theurgical, ecstatic, and talismanic-and through these demonstrates that Kabbalah, from the very beginning, was messianically oriented. He counters the common belief that messianism typically arises as a response to such calamities as the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and shows that messiahs often gain great popularity in times of political tranquility. Idel also finds that Jewish messianic and mystical experience bears a much greater resemblance to Christian messianism than has been recognized before.

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Editorial Reviews

John Dorfman
[An] arresting new study, Moshe Idel argues that messianism deserves a central place in Jewish intellectual history. More than that, he insists that there are close ties between messianism and the Kabbalah. -- Lingua Franca Book Review
Library Journal
This relatively compact book covers the spectrum of Jewish mystic tradition, from pre-Kabbalistic messianism to some of its modern reverberations. After Gershom Scholem's Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (Schocken, 1995. reprint), this is the next all-embracing critical compendium. The author does not repeat Scholem's work but rather gives his own approach to every period and teaching. The book is highly innovative, reworking the structure of Jewish mysticism in its relations to history and philosophy. Idel (Jewish thought, Hebrew Univ.; Kabbalah: New Perspectives, LJ 3/1/88) shows the steps in the development of mystic traditions, sometimes completely overturning Scholem's ideas. Though writing at a high academic level, Idel uses clear and popular language; he doesn't overload the book with technicalities in describing the essence and meaning of the teachings. Highly recommended for both general and specialized collections; suitable for beginners in Jewish studies as well as readers already familiar with Jewish mysticism.--Hayim Y. Sheynin, Gratz Coll. Lib., Melrose Park, PA
John Dorfman
[In this] arresting new study, Idel offers convincing proof that both would-be messiahs and theorists of messianism have generally been mystics as well.
Lingua Franca Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300082883
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 5/11/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Sources of Messianic Consciousness 1
Ch. 1 Pre-Kabbalistic Jewish Forms of Messianism 38
Ch. 2 Abraham Abulafia: Ecstatic Kabbalah and Spiritual Messianism 58
Ch. 3 Concepts of Messiah in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: Theosophical Forms of Kabbalah 101
Ch. 4 Messianism and Kabbalah, 1470-1540 126
Ch. 5 From Italy to Safed and Back, 1540-1640 154
Ch. 6 Sabbateanism and Mysticism 183
Ch. 7 Hasidism: Mystical Messianism and Mystical Redemption 212
Ch. 8 Concluding Remarks 248
App. 1 Ego, Ergo Sum Messiah: On Abraham Abulafia's Sefer ha-Yashar 295
App. 2 Tiqqun Hatzot: A Ritual between Myth, Messianism, and Mysticism 308
App. 3 Some Modern Reverberations of Jewish Messianism 321
Notes 327
References 429
Indexes 443
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