Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic

By Moshe Idel | Go to book overview

5
Mystical and Magical Study in Hasidism

Mystical hermeneutics is ordinarily a strong form of exegesis; the fact that intense experiences may inform the approach of the mystic to the canonic texts can explain the audaciousness that characterizes the readings of the mystics. In the case of Hasidism, it seems that the two models discussed above, the mystical and the magical, have contributed, separately, to the emergence of similar trends among the eighteenth-century Jewish mystics. The mystical model has influenced the Hasidic assumption that the spiritual predisposition is crucial for disclosing the secrets of the text, or for encountering it experientially, while the magical model prefers to regard the canonic text, especially the Bible, as a talismatic entity. There are obvious differences—and frictions—between these two approaches. While mysticism emphasizes the emotional and intentional attitude and is less concerned with a precise performance of the text, the talistmatic approach is less interested in the inner attitude and more in the exact production of the linguistic talisman. We shall not attempt to harmonize these two tendencies, but rather strive to describe them succinctly.


1. PSYCHOLOGICAL-EXPERIENTIAL READINGS IN HASIDISM

It would be helpful to distinguish between two different, though partially and intermittently overlapping, readings of classical canonic texts and the theosophical-theurgical material that recurs in the writings of the Hasidic masters: the experiential and the psychological. The former assumes that religious texts, including the classical mystical ones, are to be read with a certain emotional arousal, which transforms the study into a mystical experience or a mythical event. The psychological approach argues that complex and sublime theosophical systems are also to be understood as reflected in the human personality, especially its spiritual aspect. The experiential reading or interpretation is less interested in penetrating the content of the interpreted texts and emphasizes the intensity of the approach, while the psychological approach is first and foremost a special form of hermeneutics, whose details may be easily described. Despite these distinctions, it seems that the transposition of the

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Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Hasidism - Between Ecstasy and Magic *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Models in Kabbalah and Hasidism *
  • 1 - The Weakening of the Lurianic Kabbalah in the Eighteenth Century *
  • 2 - Models in Jewish Mysticism 45
  • 3 - The Mystico-Magical Model 103
  • Part II - Drawing Down *
  • 4 - Mystical and Magical Prayer in Hasidism 148
  • 5 - Mystical and Magical Study in Hasidism 171
  • 6 - Zaddiq as "Vessel" and "Channel" in Hasidism 189
  • Concluding Remarks *
  • Appendix A - Psychologization of Theosophy in Kabbalah and Hasidism 227
  • Appendix B - Rabbi Yisrael of Ryzhin Who Cries 239
  • Appendix C - On Intentional Transmission of Power 245
  • Abbreviations 249
  • Notes 251
  • Bibliography 393
  • Appendix of Hebrew Quotes 403
  • Subject Index 425
  • Index of Works Cited 429
  • Author Index 435
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