By Moshe Idel
In this wide-ranging dialogue of Kabbalah -- from the paranormal developments of medieval Judaism to fashionable Hasidism -- one of many world's optimal students considers diversified visions of the character of the sacred textual content and of the tips on how to interpret it.
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Extra info for Absorbing Perfections. Kabbalah and Interpretation
This brand of Kabbalah recognizes the magical powers of language, though it sees them as exercising an influence on an inferior level of existence as compared to the cathartic role language plays in purifying the soul and the intellect in order to prepare them for receiving the supernal efluvia. By and large, the talismanic model, as exemplified by linguistic magic, is a synthesis between the particularistic tendency characteristic of the theosophical-theurgical model, which deals basically with halakhic behavior, and the more universalistic tendency of the Hermetic sources.
In fact, the two main processes to be discussed below depend on the transition from a topocentric to a text-oriented religion. While the former attributes special powers to the sacred place, or to the building and rituals related to that place, the text-oriented religion locates them in a new center, the book. Different as the two religious mentalities are, they nevertheless share a concern with a concrete center, which can be seen, touched, and experienced firsthand. III. PROCESSES OF ARCANIZATION AND DEARCANIZATION The methodological presupposition that underlies many of the following observations is that the most significant Jewish literary corpora have never been composed in a literary, terminological, and conceptual vacuum.
Most of the works mentioned above are themselves attempts to explain, allude to, or extract secrets from the Bible, or at least to hint at their existence without revealing them, as in the case of Nahmanides. Thus, two forms of arcanization may be discerned. The primary one, which created new classics, is based on the belief that the Bible hides some secrets; however, since the medieval classics that proposed the arcane understanding of the canonical texts themselves resorted to allusive literary strategies, a second move becomes necessary, one which consists in a huge series of supercommentaries attempting to decode those secrets by elaborating on the hints included in the former writings.
Absorbing Perfections. Kabbalah and Interpretation by Moshe Idel