Kabbalah Booklist UK (Amazon.co.uk)

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Source Documents in Translation

Sepher Yetzirah, R. Aryeh Kaplan

The modern scholarly view is that Kabbalah was created by medieval Jewish mystics in Europe studying and interpreting much older mystical texts. The Sepher Yetzirah is probably the most studied and influential of all the early, non-canonical mystical texts, and a huge number of commentaries have been written on it. This translation and commentary by R. Aryeh Kaplan is not a scholarly edition (for this the reader is referred to Don Karr's Notes on Editions of Sepher Yetzirah in English) but it is intrinsically interesting in its own right because Kaplan is one of the more insightful modern Kabbalists in print.

The Bahir, R. Aryeh Kaplan

The Bahir is seen by many as the foundation text of medieval Kabbalah. There had been Jewish mysticism long before the Bahir,  but it was the Bahir that set the tone for a new kind of mysticism that emerged in medieval Europe, what we now know as Kabbalah. This translation and commentary by R. Aryeh Kaplan is not a scholarly edition (for this the reader is referred to Don Karr's Notes on the Study of Early Kabbalah in English) but it is intrinsically interesting in its own right because Kaplan is one of the more insightful modern Kabbalists in print.

For a scholarly commentary, it would be useful to read the relevant sections in Jewish Mysticism: the Middle Ages by Jospeh Dan (see below).

Meditation and Kabbalah, R. Aryeh Kaplan

One of the most irritating things about trying to study Kabbalah is the lack of source material in translation. This volume is a gem. It contains selections from documents from every period of Kabbalah, detailing practical mystical techniques. Do not expect to rush off and put them into practice - this is not a book for novices.

The Wisdom of the Zohar, Isaiah Tishby, David Goldstein (translator)

One cannot normally walk into a bookshop and ask for "The Zohar". If they have it, you will need a porter's trolley to take it with you. The Zohar is not a single document; it is a compendium of about 2 dozen texts, and in translation it comprises many printed volumes. The Wisdom of the Zohar is an anthology of texts from the Zohar grouped according to topic by a leading scholar, and includes an extensive commentary. It is a large brick of a document in its own right (I have it in three volumes). Even if one aspires to a full edition of the Zohar, this is an essential study guide.

Before purchasing this (expensive) edition, I would strongly recommend reading Don Karr's Notes on the Zohar in English, which provides a description of English translations of various parts of the Zohar

The Kabbalah Unveiled, S.L. MacGregor Mathers

A translation of three of the more important and inscrutable mystical texts from the Zohar - the Sifre deTzeniuta, Idra Rabba, and Idra Zutta. This translation is ponderous, derived from the Latin translation of Knorr von Rosenroth, and the source text isn't a model of clarity either, so unless you have the secret decoder ring, you can expect to fall asleep after 15 minutes of pondering the thirteen parts of the beard of Arik Anpin. 

The main advantage of this translation is that it is available and inexpensive. The content of the original documents is genuinely interesting.

The Gates of Light, R. Joseph Gikatilla, Avi Weinstein (translator)

The Gates of Light by R. Joseph of Castille (b.1248) is one of the classics of early Kabbalah, written by a student of Abraham Abulafia, and a famous Kabbalist in his own right. It describes ten gates or spheres, each characterised by a holy name of God. The commentary for each sphere is heavily interspersed with quotations from the Bible, Torah and midrash. Unfortunately there is no commentary or footnotes to what is otherwise an extremely useful translation.

The Palm Tree of Devorah, R. Moshe Cordovero

To Be Completed

Moses Cordovero's Introduction to Kabbalah: An Annotated Translation of his Or Ne'erav,
Moses ben Jacob Cordovero, Ira Robinson (translator)

To Be Completed

Sepher Rezial Hemelach, Steve Savedow (translator)

There is a modern tendency to try to distance Kabbalah from Western Esoteric presentations (see below), where Kabbalah tends to be mixed-in with a variety of occult beliefs and practices, including ritual and magic (theurgic and otherwise). This distancing is much more of a modern bias than an historic reality, as there is ample evidence that many important Kabbalists had an intimate familiarity with what we would now label "the occult" - it was simply part of indigenous folk culture (see Jewish Magic and Superstition, Joshua Trachtenberg). The Sepher Reziel is a compendium of what would now be regarded as "occult" lore relating to angels and names of power. 

There are many texts claiming to be the Sepher Reziel. Most of these are clearly not of Jewish origin. This translation is based on a compilation of five manuscripts published in Amsterdam in 1701. I have no personal doubt that this material is both Jewish and of considerable antiquity. It feels like the medieval descendent of the Enoch and Hekaloth traditions. The original (1701) editor claims some of the content comes from Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (died c. 1223), one of the most important writers in a family of mystics known as the Ashkenazi Chassidim (German Pietists). The Kalonymous family are known to have had access to many ancient manuscripts, and contacts with mystics in the Middle East, so the claim is plausible.

This translation was clearly a labour of love, and I cannot comment on the quality of the translation, but it is good to have something in print.

NB: There is a considerable on-line content on Raziel. For a contemporary Jewish site, see http://www.yarzheit.com/raziel/theseferraziel.html - it has pages scanned from both the 1701 Amsterdam edition and the 1881 Vilna Press edition.

Opening the Tanya, R. Adin Steinsaltz (translation and commentary)

The Tanya was written by R. Schneur Zalman (b. 1745), a pupil of R. Dov Baer of Mezeritch, who was a pupil of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of modern Chassidism. The Tanya is not only an important source document for the student of history, it is the work of the founder of the Chabad school of Chassidism, one of the most visible lineages in the modern Chassidic movement. The commentary by Steinsaltz is useful as this is still very much a living tradition.

The student of Kabbalah will find much of interest - the Tanya is oriented around a distillation of ideas derived from Lurianic Kabbalah, and presented in a form accessible to the average person. 

The Kabbalah of Creation by Eliahu Klien (translator and commentary)

The celebrated Kabbalist R. Isaac Luria wrote little, and published nothing, and his teachings emerged through notes and manuscripts created by various disciples, which in turn passed through many hands before eventual publication. Most of this material has never been translated into English.

The choice of manuscript for this translation is odd: it is the Shaar haKlalim (Gate of Principles), which the translator takes to be an abbreviated version of Moshe Jonah's Kanfei Yonah (Wings of a Dove), and offers it on the basis that it could be a very early Lurianic text. Given the abundance of untranslated Lurianic material, it is unclear why the translator did not chose a manuscript with a clearer provenance, or for that matter, abridge some material from Vital's Etz Chaiim. The source material is intense, poetic and obscure, and although the commentary is useful, I have the feeling that anyone who finds this text comprehensible will almost certainly be reading Etz Chaiim in Hebrew (as it is easily obtainable).

The Jewish Mystics, Louis Jacobs

A selection of extracts of original material from every period of Jewish mysticism from Ezekiel to the last century. Much of this material is unavailable elsewhere, and there are gems such as R. Joseph Caro's record of visitations from the soul of the Mishnah, and Chaiim Vital's personal record of dreams, visions and events predicting his spiritual greatness.

In the Shadow of the Ladder: Introductions to Kabbalah, Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag, Mark Cohen(translator), Yedidah Cohen (translator)

R. Yehudah Lev Ashlag (1886 - 1955) was born in Poland and ordained as a rabbi, but moved to Israel at the age of 36 to study and teach. This volume contains translations from his Introduction to the Zohar, and Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sephiroth. The principal focus of each extract is a person's relationship with God. The style is similar to that of a midrash, and provides a great deal of insight into how Lurianic Kabbalah was interpreted and applied within the Chassidic community of that period. The reader should be prepared for the intense piety of the author.

 

Scholarly Studies & Biography

Jewish Mysticism: Late Antiquity, Joseph Dan

To Be Completed

Jewish Mysticism: the Middle Ages, Joseph Dan

This volume deals with the emergence of a new kind of mysticism in medieval Europe as a result of the intersection of an older generation of mystical texts (mostly originating from the Middle East) with the consciousness of medieval European Jews. The Bahir is revisited and reassessed. The majority of the essays focus on a group of the Ashkenazi Chassidim who acted as a conduit for this older material, and this focus provides a very welcome insight into a tradition long undervalued in favour of the more obvious innovations of Provencal and Spanish Kabbalah.

I rate this book very highly both for its choice of content and enjoyable style.

Jewish Mysticism: the Modern Period, Joseph Dan

To Be Completed

Jewish Mysticism: General Characteristics and Comparative Studies, Joseph Dan

To Be Completed

The Heart and the Fountain: an anthology of Jewish mystical experiences, Joseph Dan (editor)

To Be Completed

The Ancient Jewish Mysticism, Joseph Dan

The Near-East was a hotbed of mystical traditions during the latter stages of the Roman Empire - more cults than one could shake a stick at. A common theme is that of mystical ascent through heavenly spheres or chambers, and one encounters this in Gnostic, Hermetic, Christian, Jewish and Muslim variants.

This volume documents a Jewish literature, variously known as the Hekhalot or Merkavah literature, that flourished between the 3rd and 7th centuries CE in Israel and Babylonia, and which describes the techniques, procedures, and dangers of these journeys in spirit. This literature resurfaced in medieval times in Europe, and its imagery was influential in creating a new kind of Jewish mysticism.

Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos, Lawrence Fine

Mystical traditions tend to acquire hagiographies more than biographies. Nothing is more heartening to the soul and tradition than embroidered and moralistic tales from which all traces of squalid humanity have been carefully excised. Kabbalah is singularly lacking in solid biographical material (certainly in English), and the only example that springs to mind is Scholem's massive biography of Shabbatai Tzevi. Perhaps Scholem felt he was on safe ground with Tzevi, the arch-apostate. 

Isaac Luria is a pivotal figure in Kabbalah, and a saint among Orthodox Jews, for whom Kabbalah is Lurianic Kabbalah. One senses that Fine was walking on a tightrope with this biography, and it is to his credit that a clear picture of Luria and his circle emerges. This picture is not always flattering, and anyone who has had much dealing with intensely charismatic people will recognise the dynamic. Given the obscurities of the material,  the layers of accretion and legend, the need for scholarly objectivity, and the delicacy required, this is an outstanding scholarly biography. It is also an accomplished piece of writing that is a pleasure to read.

Essential Papers on Kabbalah, Lawrence Fine (editor)

Fifteen papers by leading lights in Kabbalah studies:

  • The Zohar: Jewish Mysticism in Medieval Spain, Arthur Green
  • Ayin: The Concept of Nothingness in Jewish Mysticism, Daniel C. Matt
  • The Doctrine of Man in the Zohar, Isaiah Tishby
  • Samael, Lilith, and the Concept of Evil in Early Kabbalah, Joseph Dan
  • The meaning of the Torah in Jewish Mysticism, Gershom Scholem
  • Myth vs. Symbol in the Zohar and in Lurianic Kabbalah, Yehuda Liebes
  • The Doctrine of Transmigration in Galya Raza, Rachel Elior
  • Eternality of Punishment: A Theological Controversy within the Amsterdam Rabbinate in the Thirties of the Seventeenth Century, Alexander Altmann
  • The Zaddiq as Axis Mundi in later Judaism, Arthur Green
  • The Art of Metoposcopy: A Study in Isaac Luria's Charismatic Knowledge, Lawrence Fine
  • Prayer and Devotion in the Zohar, Isaiah Tishby
  • Kabbalistic Rituals of Sabbath Preparation, Eliot K. Ginsberg
  • Mystical Techniques, Moshe Idel
  • Circumcision, Vision of God, and Textual Interpretation: from Midrashic Trope to Mystical Symbol, Eliot R. Wolfson
  • Woman as High Priest: A Kabbalistic Prayer in Yiddish for Lighting Sabbath Candles, Chava Weissler
Kether- The Crown of God in Early Jewish Mysticism, Arthur Green

The central image of this book is transformation of the prayers of Israel into a crown, and the crowning of God as King. The development and impact of this mythic image is traced from ancient times through to the early phase of Kabbalah in Europe.

Although the subject of this book appears to be very narrow, Green has chosen his subject with care, and takes the reader on a thousand year journey through imagery central to later medieval mysticism.

A Guide to the Zohar, Arthur Green

This small(ish) book is a useful alternative/adjunct to the extensive commentaries on the Zohar in The Wisdom of the Zohar. Despite the current popular identification of Kabbalah with the doctrine of the Ten Sephiroth, there are few detailed scholarly treatments of the doctrine. The chapter devoted to the Sephiroth in this book is well worth having.

Neoplatonism and Jewish Thought, edited by Lenn E. Goodman

The thesis that Kabbalah was influenced by Neoplatonism has been made many times, over many centuries, and refuted many times, over many centuries. It is well known that Judaism was strongly influenced by Aristotlean philosophy via Maimonides, but what of the influence of Platonism?

This volume is a collection of 19 essays exploring how Platonism impacted Jewish thinking. Of particular interest from the perspective of Kabbalah are three essays:

  • Self-Contraction of the Godhead in Kabbalistic Theology by David Novak
  • Jewish Kabbalah and Platonism in the Middle Ages and Renaissance by Moshe Idel
  • Spinoza, Neoplatonic Kabbalist by Richard Popkin
Kabbalah: New Perspectives, Moshe Idel

The New Perspectives part of the title derives from Idel's observations on the state of Kabbalah scholarship. Kabbalah scholarship in the twentieth century had been so dominated by Scholem's analyses that it is easy to forget just how much remains undone in terms of bibliographies, classification, critical editions, publication and translation. Despite Scholem's groundbreaking work, the surface has only been scratched. In an incomplete state, so much depends on selection and bias.

This volume aims to counter the bias in favour of Kabbalah viewed as theosophical speculation, with evidence in support of Kabbalah as being grounded in an experiential mysticism. There are important chapters on "cleaving to God", mystical union, mystical techniques, and Kabbalistic theurgy.

Ascensions on High in Jewish Mysticism, Moshe Idel

To Be Completed

Absorbing Perfections, Moshe Idel

The destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans, and the Jewish diaspora throughout Europe, left the Jewish people without a geographic locus for their religion, so that sacred text and textual traditions became central to religious life. Absorbing Perfections is a study of the role of text in mystical Judaism.

This is a brick of a book, dense and recondite.

The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah, Leonora Leet

I like this book because it is brave. It takes courage to go out on a limb when a litter of leaves and broken branches (not to mention tumbled speculators) cover the ground for many hundreds of yards. Was there an Hebraic priestly science of language, number, geometry and sound whose remnants survive in Kabbalah? 

This is certainly a worthwhile question. We know that an esoteric school studying precisely these topics existed in the southern part of Italy in 500 BCE. Various people, ancient and modern, have connected Kabbalah with Pythagoras. The small amount of information we have about the life of Pythagoras suggests that he could have been in contact with such a tradition, if it existed. 

Unfortunately the evidence that Leet provides is so dense, obscure and tightly woven that most people (self included) will be unable to reach an independent conclusion. However, the journey is interesting, and Leet is thoughtful and informed. The second chapter, The Hebraic Secret Doctrine of the Son is well researched and excellent, and it is worth buying the book for this alone.

Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, Gershom Scholem

Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism is Scholem's magnum opus, and the standard against which all other scholarly works on Kabbalah are measured. It is the book that launched a thousand Ph.D theses.

On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead, Gershom Scholem

This is another collection of Scholem's insightful essays bundled into a small book. The essays are:

  • The Mystical Shape of the Godhead
  • Good & Evil in Kabbalah
  • The Righteous One
  • The Feminine Element in Divinity
  • The Transmigration of Souls
  • The Concept of the Astral Body
On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism, Gershom Scholem

The title gives little away. This is another collection of Scholem's insightful essays bundled into a small book. The essays are:

  • Religious Authority and Mysticism
  • The Meaning of the Torah in Jewish Mysticism
  • Kabbalah and Myth
  • Tradition and New Creation in the Ritual of the Kabbalists
  • The Idea of the Golem
Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem

Although principally focused on Kabbalah, Scholem's scholarship was enormously broad and eclectic, and he surprises the reader again and again with historical curiosities and  considered opinions, so that his works have the richness of a vast antique shop filled to the brim by an erudite collector. This volume is a collection of essays, lectures and other material organised under three principal headings: Kabbalah, Topics, and Personalities. It provides a thematic overview of Kabbalah, fascinating essays on a wide range of topics that interested Scholem, and a collection of biographies.

The Origins of the Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem

There was Jewish mysticism before Kabbalah, and a great deal of medieval Jewish mysticism harks back to earlier works, but something new and radical developed in Southern France and Spain during the time of the Crusades. It is these developments that are the subject of this book, particularly Scholem's painstaking investigation of the book Bahir.

Dense and scholarly, this is nevertheless essential reading for anyone trying to understand the themes that make Kabbalah what it is.

Jewish Magic and Superstition, Joshua Trachtenberg

Magic has always been part of the underworld of European culture, and at various times it has been combined with various flavours of philosophy and theosophy to become something quite profound. It reached a high point in late antiquity in the theurgic magic and ritual of Platonist philosophers such as Iamblichus and Proclus, and it reached another high point in the late Renaissance, where it was the midwife at the birth of Natural Philosophy and modern scientific thought. The penetration of Jewish magic and theurgy into general European culture began in early medieval times, and it is easy to forget (or ignore) the contemporary reputation of Jews as master magicians. Various important grimoires pretended to originate from Jewish sources, and use names and symbols in a way that demonstrates their perceived power.

There was a reality behind the folk tales, legends and pseudoepigraphic grimoires. Unlike the Christian worldview, where magic is principally demonic, the Jewish mystic sees a universe in which he is empowered to act, where his relationship with God and the creation includes responsible participation. Theurgy is one of the lynchpins of later Kabbalah, the idea that the mystic has an essential role in healing the creation, and restoring the world to its original conception.

This scholarly book describes the world of medieval Jewry, and the curious mixture of indigenous superstition and theurgic magic that was contemporary with the emergence of Kabbalah.

Through a Speculum that Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism, Elliot R. Wolfson

Much has been written about the doctrines of Kabbalah - the ten sephiroth, the four worlds, the five levels of soul, reincarnation etc. Much less has been written about the subjective experience of Kabbalah. In this book Wolfson documents visionary experiences from the medieval period, and defines the space in which encounters with the divine took place.

Popular

God is a Verb, R. David Cooper

This book is for Jews who have become alienated from Jewish spirituality, and it provides a welcoming homecoming in the form of an overview of Kabbalah and an introduction to spiritual practice. Warm, personal, and homiletic in style, it has depth without being overly technical or didactic.

Kabbalah, Joseph Dan

To Be Completed

Kabbalah, the Way of the Jewish Mystic, Perle Epstein

There are many books that describe what Kabbalah is (or was); there are very few books that describe the living world of belief and practice in an accessible and informed way. Perle Epstein was a student of R. Aryeh Kaplan for several years, and brings real understanding to the subject. For many years this book was in a class by itself, and although there are now many more books available, it is still one of the best.

The Hebrew Letters, R. Yitzchak Ginsberg

Language and text are the foundations of Kabbalah, and the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are like the atoms in the periodic table. The author of this book approaches the letters with a quiet respect and breadth of learning that is genuinely humbling. Each letter leads to a hundred gates of association, so that, without explicitly intending to, this book draws the reader into twenty-two intense meditations that run for 400 pages. Extraordinary.

Kabbalah, Kenneth Hanson

A popular history of Jewish mysticism from the time of the Qumran community, and the destruction of the Second Temple, up to the present day. It concentrates more on personalities than theosophy,  and provides many interesting and amusing anecdotes about a wide range of mystics, including many not normally included in more narrowly focused works. A strong point is the way the author grounds  Jewish mystical development within the cultural and social trends of the time.

Opening the Inner Gates: New Paths in Kabbalah and Psychology, Edward Hoffman (Editor)

Sixteen essays elaborating the relevance of Kabbalah in the development/growth/mental health community.

  • The Tree of Life and the City of the Just: Kabbalistic Exercises for Inner Growth, Edward Hoffman
  • The Quest for the Lost Princess: Life-Transition and Change in Jewish Lore, Howard Schwartz
  • Birth, Creation Stories, and the Spiritual Journey: Teachings from the Navaho and the Kabbalah, LaVera C. Draisin
  • What's Wrong with Freudianism, A Kabbalistic Perspective, Gerald Epstein
  • Sense the Wonder: Children, Spirituality & Kabbalah, Steven M Rosman
  • Gazing into God's Mirror, Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi
  • Finding God's Blessing Pool: The Way of Wisdom, Steven M. Joseph
  • Six Keys of Kabbalistic Dreamwork, Edward Hoffman
  • Glimpsing the Moon, The Feminine Principle in Kabbalah, Laya Firestone Seghi
  • From the Depths of Silence, The Application of Sound in Kabbalistic Healing, Mark Malachi
  • Psychosynthesis & Kabbalah, New Convergence for Inner Work, Alyce R. Tresenfeld
  • Let it Heal: Storytelling and Healing in Kabbalah, Rami M. Shapira
  • Jewish Meditation: Healing Ourselves and Our Relationships, Sheldon Z. Kramer
  • Standing at Sinai, Time, Healing and Re-Visioning Western Medicine, Gerald Epstein
  • Teaching Kabbalah to Elders, Chaim Richter
  • The Tree of Life is Awakening: Spiritual Transformation in Messianic Times, Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi
Stalking Elijah, Rodger Kamenetz

To Be Completed

Western Occult Tradition

Three Books of Occult Philosophy, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa Von Nettesheim

First published in 1531, this is a vast compendium of classical, magical, hermetic, and kabbalistic lore. The breadth of erudition leaves one wondering whether the young Agrippa could have written something so encompassing, so that some have wondered whether Agrippa's mentor, the Abbot Trithemius, may have had a hand in it. The importance of this work cannot be underestimated; outside of the oppressive world of Christian theology and scholasticism there was another educated world of belief about the hidden ("occult") nature of reality. This is it.

The English of this translation is crabbed and archaic, but Tyson has done an excellent job of annotating the references, and overall, this is a must-have edition.

An online facsimile of this work can be found at Michegan State University.

The Mystical Qabalah, Dion Fortune

Dion Fortune was for a time a student in an offshoot of the Golden Dawn run by Moina Mathers, and subsequently went on to create her own magical order, The Inner Light. The Mystical Qabalah, published in 1935, is a curious work, very much a product of its time, and some of the attitudes now seem dated and quaint. Fortune's involvements with Theosophy and esoteric Christianity show through strongly, but at the same time she has a powerful intuition and deep understanding that is often missing in other writers.

The Egyptian Hermes - A Historical Approach to the Late Pagan Mind, Garth Fowden

This is one of the best scholarly surveys of the origins of the Hermetic literature.

A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism, Gareth Knight

Depending on how it is published, this substantial work on the sephiroth and the paths can be found as two volumes, or as a single volume. Although it is widely referenced, this work is best regarded as an extended series of personal meditations and reflections on the sephiroth and the paths. As a personal interpretation it is illustrative of the associative and syncretic trend in 20th. century, which merges Kabbalah with everything under the sun. Perhaps we should blame C. G. Jung and Joseph Campbell.  Much of the traditional flavour of Kabbalah is lost in the process ... but there are also gains so long as one appreciates the modern and far-ranging syncretism of these reflections. 

Circles of Power - Ritual Magic in the Western Tradition, John Michael Greer

This is a practical textbook guide to ritual magic using the Golden Dawn tradition as its principal source.

Greer is one of the more thoughtful and informed occult writers around at the current time, and he understands the subject. This is a Llewellyn publication, so it has been deliberately edited for accessibility, but on the plus side, Greer goes to great efforts to be clear and straighforward.

The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abra-Melin the Mage, S.L. Mathers (Translator)

Hugely influential, this text was translated by S.L. Mathers during his time in Paris, and comes from a manuscript written in French and held in the Biblioteque Nationale. The magical retreat and ritual described within has been carried out by many magicians in the 20th. C, most notably, Aleister Crowley. It purports to have been written by a Jew called Abraham who lived in the late 14th. and early 15th. centuries, and who traveled to the Middle East to find a true and authentic magical teaching that did not depend on tricks, delusion, or pacts with evil powers. The system described shows how to contact the Holy Guardian Angel assigned to each human being, and how to work wonders through the agency of this spirit.

The French text used by Mathers appears to have been based on a German original, and the German on a Hebrew original, although this is still subject to a scholarly debate - see Raphael Patai's analysis of the various texts in The Jewish Alchemists (Princeton University Press 1994). Patai concludes that there is no evidence that directly contradicts a Jewish origin, and some evidence that supports the idea.

The Mathers translation is available online at http://www.esotericarchives.com/abramelin/abramelin.htm

Thrice Greatest Hermes - Studies in Hellenistic Theosophy and Gnosis, G.R.S. Mead

If you search on the WWW for obscure Hermetic or Gnostic source material, it won't take you long before you find translations and commentaries by Mead. Part of the reason is the fact that his work is out of copyright. The other reason was his tireless efforts to bring these works to the general public. Anyone with the perseverance to translate the Pistis Sophia deserves to be translated directly to Heaven.

Although Mead was outside the circle of professional scholars, his translations are considered to be good, and he adds thoughtful commentary to the source material. Thrice Greatest Hermes brings together a huge quantity of Hellenistic material. The volume is subtitled: Being a Translation of the extant Sermons and Fragments of the Trimegistic Literature with Prolegomena, Commentaries, and Notes. An advantage of this single volume is its scope - Manetho, Plutarch, Philo, Plato, the Hermetica, and innumerable fragments and quotations from classical authors.

The relevance of this material is simply that Hermeticism, along with Neoplatonism and Kabbalah, is one of principle factors in the development of an indigenous European mysticism.

A Garden of Pomegranates, Israel Regardie

To Be Completed

The Tree of Life, Israel Regardie

To Be Completed

On the Art of the Kabbalah, Johann Reuchlin, G. Lloyd Jones (Introduction), Sarah; Goodman Goodman (Translator), Martin Goodman (Translator)

Johann Reuchlin (1455 - 1522 CE) was inspired by Giovanni Pico to study Hebrew, and became the foremost Christian Hebraicist and champion of Hebrew studies in his lifetime, publishing a dictionary, grammar, and tuition material. His primary motivation was the study of the Old Testament, but he was unusual for his time in acknowledging and promoting the value of the huge quantity of post-Biblical Jewish commentary and in particular, the Kabbalah.

De Arte Cabalistica was his attempt to explain and justify Kabbalah to a (potentially hostile) Christian audience at a time when religious issues were beginning to tear Europe apart. It is in many ways a seminal text, and much more than an historical curiousity. It is arranged as a dialogue between scholars - a Jewish Kabbalist, a Pythagorean, and a Muslim - who choose to share and contrast their individual viewpoints in a courteous and respectful way. Although Reuchlin's presentation of points and issues is always guided by his rhetorical goals (e.g. Kabbalah supports Christian doctrine), this is a fascinating, thoughtful, educated and wide-ranging book that is as interesting today as it was then.

The Bison edition is worth having for the introduction by Moshe Idel.

 

Theurgy and the Soul - The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus, Gregory Shaw

Christianity had a competitor in the late Roman Empire - the philosophic "paganism" of Iamblichus. For a brief period during the reign of the Emperor Julian, Christianity was suppressed in favour of this mystical Platonism, but Julian's early death meant it had no lasting social impact. It did however continue to appeal to intellectuals, and it was simply too interesting and coherent for the Church to suppress. It has become, in a diffuse sense, the backbone of the Western Esoteric Tradition, the intellectual rationale and manifesto for what we might now term "theurgic High Magic".

There are so many overlaps in insight and approach with Kabbalah that the two approaches have become joined at the hip, and although some may protest at this kind of syncretism, it was probably inevitable that the various indigenous forms of mysticism in Europe would unite in this way (likewise "Christian Kabbalah").

Shaw's book is excellent: detailed, scholarly, and always a pleasure to read.

Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Frances A. Yates

This is not only a biography of Bruno (who burned at the stake for his beliefs), but one of the best overviews of the eruption of hermetic, platonic, kabbalistic and humanistic ideas into the turmoil of the Renaissance and the Reformation.

The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, Frances A. Yates

If a document was published today in a reputable publication claiming that nuclear fusion was ready for large-scale commercial deployment, it would throw governments and stock markets into confusion. Imagine the excitement in the early 17th century when documents were published claiming a secret fraternity had discovered the secrets to health and prolonged life ... at a time when alchemists all over Europe were convinced that such a thing was possible. It caused an uproar.

This is a scholarly overview of the publication, and reaction to, the Rosicrucian Manifestos.


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