Mysticism/Psych Course 12: Third Wave of Kabbalah: History

The book on Kindle

The third video of the second week the class* is about the history of the “Third Wave of Kabbalah” including the Sabbatai Zevi, Luzzatto and the Hasidic movement.

  • 3nd wave: 18th century. Modernity starts: American revolution, the French revolution, the industrial revolution, feminist revolution, newspapers, coffee houses…
  • Luria, a central figure of modern Kabbalah
  • Five Kabbalistic movements in the 18th century
    • 1. The radical, heretical Sabbatean movement in the 17th century he was a mystical messiah, he broke with the traditional normative Jewish codes , maybe going against the law sometimes in sexual areas and other areas.  He goes through psychic suffering; he goes to a diagnostician, Nathan of Gaza, who says you’re the messiah; with the suffering of a messiah inside your own soul.
    • 2. Stir, scholarly form of Kabbalah, developed in a big urban intellectual sense of Vilna, Lithuania; e.g. by Elijah Kramer, aka the Gaon, the genius of Vilna; not the focus of this class
    • 3. Rabbi Shalom Sharabi, aka the Rashash, in Jerusalem in the 18th century.
    • Cover of Mesillat Yesharim: The Path of the Upright4. Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto, Italian Kabbalist of northern Italy in 18th century.
      • Lenient towards the Sabbaten messianic model
      • At a very early age, at the age actually of 22 he also comes to sense that he’s the Messiah;  he is afterwards rejected by the mainstream of the Jewish world; later he is rehabilitated by the Jewish world and the Vilna Gaon (“he would go by foot to study all the way from Vilna”)
      • His Path of the Just is a masterpiece of psychology
      • Developed  a circle, who study medicine in the University of Padua in Northern Italy; he really immerses himself in Kabbalaha, develops this mystical, messianic psychology
      • Look at Mesilat Yesharim, because it’s really a classic.
    • 5. The Hasidic movement, the most researched, the most popular known movement, popularized by, Martin Buber. The Hassidic movement really wants to turn Kabbalah into a social movement; it takes over 50% of big parts of the Eastern European world in a matter of 20 years in Eastern Central Europe.
    • The Vilna Gaon, Kremer, he excommunicates the Hasidim. However, it doesn’t work.
    • The rebbes, the mystics, and mystical psychologists, have charisma, the power/ability to diagnose,.

Hmm, I never considered the Vilna Gaon much of a Kabbalist. Maybe I was tainted by the countless volumes I read by Martin Buber. At this point the errors in  transcript/subtitles of the videos become funny: Martin Buber becomes “Martin Bubba”, the rebbes become “The Webbers”, Isaiah Tishby becomes “Shaol Tushbi”. I wish the TA or the professor had time to read and correct the transcripts. Otheriwse I enjoyed the summary of a period I am more familiar with.

* 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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