Mysticism/Psych Course 10: Kabbalah and Kabbalah Research

The second week the class* is about “Kabbalah and Psychology”. Its first video is on ” Kabbalah and Psychology”, including

  • Kabbalah is the oldest European Mysticisms, no matter when it really started.
  • Two forms:
    • Jewish Kabbalah with all the sources; we will not talk about the pre-modern period much; began as a written literature in 12-13th century
    • Christian Kabbalah: established literature is from 16th century
  • Literature of Kabbalah is vast. It is a fallacy to associate it with a single book, even if it is the Zohar. Estimate of 25,000 books.
  • It may have eastern sources, but it developed in Southern Europe, so it is a European phenomena.
  • Three players in the game of Kabbalah
    • God, logical for a religious system
    • Soul
    • Torah, as a concept of canonical texts
  • Cover of Kabbalah: New PerspectivesEarlier book of Bahir with striking mythical language that talks about the soul and its history and reincarnation
  • Starts as esoteric and becomes exoteric, going out to the public
  • Early Kabbalah also talks a lot about the heart.
  • Founder of the research for modern Kabbalah is Gerhsom Scholem. He comes from the same kind of background as Freud. Freud had no strong Jewish background. So does Scholem, but he rediscovered Judaism. He pays attention to the theme of the soul. He was reserved towards psychoanalysis.
  • He started his activities in the 1920’s. By the 1980’s this (lack of attention to psychology) changes with Elliot Wolfson, Yehuda Liebes, Charles Mopsick, and Moshe Idel. Recommended: Idel’s Kabbalah: New Perspectives
    • We need to bring psychology more into the study of Kabbalah. It is not just metaphysics it is about people too.
    • Kabbalistic psychology: focus on mystical experience (Idel) and imagination (Wolfson)
  • Garb belongs to the third generation of Kabbalistic researcher: we are working out what Kabbalah scholarship is.
  • 3rd generation of researchers (2000 onward):
    • Kabbalistic psychology: focus on Kabbalistic ideas: What is the heart and the soul.
    • Difference between Garb and other scholars: focusing on the modern period. Classical focus is on medieval /pre-modern Kabbalah.

Nothing new in this lecture for me, but good to cover the basics for those who come with less knowledge to the class. 25,000 books, eh? Considering that I only have between 600+ in my database I have a way to go. Although that includes only books in English and also non-Jewish Kabbalah.

* This blog entry is part of my series on Professor Jonathan Garb’s“Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought” course I am taking at Coursera.

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