Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic

By Moshe Idel | Go to book overview

3
The Mystico-Magical Model

1. TWO MODELS IN HASIDISM

Hasidic thought can be described as the interaction between various, and sometimes very different, mystical models. However, given the belatedness of this form of Jewish mysticism, we may observe the articulation of links between these models that were either a continuation of affinities discovered between them in earlier phases of Jewish mysticism or were the result of the dynamics of Hasidic thought itself. It would be helpful when looking at Hasidic thought and the experiences of the Hasidic masters to be guided by two main constitutive models, which are themselves the result of the coalescence of elements from different earlier models. I am not acquainted with any scholarly attempt to describe Hasidic thought in terms of the lines of thought and activities represented by these two models. Nor does it appear, from the Hasidic sources, that any such articulated distinction between these different models exists. 1 One of these models may be designated as the katabatic‐ redemptive model; the other, the anabatic mystico-magical one.

The katabatic model is represented by the concept of the descent of the addiq, which is better known by the Hebrew phrase, Yeridahorekh ʿAliyah, namely, the descent for the sake of ascent, the transgression for the sake of repentance, or the elevation of the sparks. Much attention has been paid to this model because of its essential affinities with the Zoharic and Lurianic Kabbalah 2 and, according to some scholars, with Sabbatean theology. 3 Indeed, there can be no doubt that this model was a very important one in Hasidic thought as well; however, I shall not be concerned here with the details of its constitutive elements or its phenomenological structure.

The model that will concern us here is the anabatic mystico-magical one—its major components, its inner logic, and its interpretation by the Hasidic masters. The general meaning of each of its two components and their influence have already been discussed in the preceding chapter. Here I am concerned only with the nexus established between them in Kabbalah and in several important Hasidic discussions. However, before embarking on a detailed

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