Mysticism/Psych Course 11: Second Wave of Kabbalah: History and Psychology

The second video of the second week the class* is about the “Second Wave of Kabbalah” including the social revolution of the circle, key figures, Safed, reincarnation…

  • 1st wave: pre-modern period. (not medieval, because people didn’t think of it as medieval times
  • 2nd wave: 16th century
  • Several centers: North Africa, Italy, Turkey/Greece (Ottoman empire), Germany, Palestine.
  • Jerusalem first and then Galilee. Safed high in the mountains
  • Safed: emergence of Kabbalah as a social movement from 16th century onward. Circles of 10-20 people. People were drawn to powerful mystical figures; clusters of people.
  • They revolutionized the Kabbalah
    • Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (1522-1570): systematic organizer of the Kabbalah,
    • Isaac Luria, the ARI (1532-1572), his circle gets going after Cordovero dies. He develops new system, based on revelations
  • They establish to main circles (there were others, like Joseph Karo’s)
  • ARI’s students had contract describing their duties.
  • Cover of Mystical Sociology: Toward Cosmic Social TheoryPsychology and the 2nd wave of Kabbalah
    • A circle as a format of social psychology: Diagnosis of people’s souls to tell if they’re suitable to be part of the group
    • Tikkun: a personal prescription the Kabbalist gives the individual as to how to emend (correct errors in) the soul.
  • It was by men; no single book by women (maybe pages). We as scientist cannot ignore this despite the modern concept of gender. It is part of the deal, we explore their world and not judge it; what the ideas are about.
  • There are homosocial relationships, but the ideal is heterosexual. Lesbianism is barely discussed.
  • Gender is important as Kabbalist talk about it, masculine and feminine aspects of the soul.
  • Group works closely together.
  • Common research fields (and origins):
    • Psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freud; early 20th century, Central Europe
    • Modern Kabbalah Research: Gershom Scholem; early 20th century, Central Europe
    • Social Psychology: Max Webere ; early 20th century, Central Europe
    • Recommended book: Philip Wexler’s Mystical Sociology
  • Additional revolutions of Safedian Kabbalah:
    • Reincarnation; identified reincarnated people. We shouldn’t be too focused on it.
    • Kabbalistic description of the human psyche/heart.
      • Hermeneutics: interpreting (Torah) text according to one’s own soul; 600,000 main soul of the Jewish people. That many interpretation of the Torah. This is kind Freudian
      • Cover of The Plural Psyche: Personality, Morality and the FatherPlural Psyche: The psyche is not one (ego,/superego/id; anima/animus, old man/young man, it splinters). The Kabbalist talk about the many part of the soul. Sparks. These are radical ideas. Five main/general configurations of the soul.
      • Book: The Plural Psyche: Personality, Morality and the Father by Andrew Samuels

Finally I learned some new (for me) concept. E.g. My understanding of Tikkun’s direction was outward. I thought it was about healing the world. But now it also seems to be healing one’s own ways/soul. This is similar to the greater and lesser jihad concept of Islam. I also love the analogy of the Kabbalistic approach to the soul and that of modern’s psychology. The fact that the former predate the latter amazes and muses me.

* 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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