Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic

By Moshe Idel | Go to book overview

Appendix A :
Psychologization of
Theosophy in Kabbalah and
Hasidism

One of the main scholarly explanations for the shift from Lurianic Kabbalah to Hasidism is the psychological interpretation of Lurianic theosophy offered by the Hasidic masters. 1 Indeed, there are numerous examples of such a psychological orientation in the writings of most of the eighteenth-century Hasidic figures. 2 However, though this is an indisputable fact, a deeper understanding of this phenomenon would take consideration more than one factor. In other words, in addition to the inner drive of the Hasidic masters to interpret their sources in a particular manner, we must also take into account extant Kabbalistic trends, which may have contributed to the Hasidic emphasis on the reflection of the divine attributes within man, thus reducing to a certain extent the novelty of Hasidism.

First, it is a fact, pointed out recently, that at least in one case, that of qatenut and gadelut, a psychological interpretation is inherent in the Lurianic sources. 3 Second, psychological interpretations of theosophical-hypostatic entities are found since the thirteenth century in two different Kabbalistic schools, a fact that requires a substantial qualification of the sharp distinction between the psychological understanding of the theosophical system of Hasidism and that of the early Kabbalah. In other words, just as magic and ecstasy, which were already in existence in Kabbalistic thought, were given a much more prominent role in Hasidism, so also the psychological understanding of Kabbalah was already present in certain earlier sources without coming to the fore. In the absence of an appropriate recognition of these facts, it will be difficult to understand one major aspect of Hasidic hermeneutics.

The psychological understanding of the whole range of Jewish canonic texts as allegories of the inner life of the mystic and his spiritual achievements is much more common than the experiential reading described above. 4 This fact was indeed prominent in the eyes of the opponents of Hasidism among the Kabbalists, who protested against this transformation of divine attributes into human ones. 5 Although this accusation might be considered an indication that the Hasidic move constitutes an innovation, this argument is part of an assault that does not pay attention to historical truth; it is similar to what occurred

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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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