Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Moshe Idel on Kabbalistic Theurgy + Magic

Idel Man as Possible Entity 42 [nice Alemanno passage on philosopher vs. Kabbalist]
"Let us come to wisdom and union only by the way of intellectual speculation or by sudden intuition, but not by magical actions, buildings, vessels, prayers, vain things and many dreams, things which are unfounded in the eyes of the philosophers, the men of intellect and reason... all the things we said are the words of the ancients who knew the nature of the existing beings, the relations between them, the way in which they are linked with one another and how to prepare a receptacle for the reception of the influence of the superior bodies... just as it would be strange for someone who does not know the manner of cultivation and plowing and planting and grafting that produce things in such a manner, it will be strange in our eyes, if we did not see the light of those preparations of how the divine light and his goodness and mercy will be born in use by means of these preparations that the powers and sefirot will receive and emanate. And if you had studied or believed the preparations of the masters of the forms and secondary natures and the contrivances of nature, your spirit will not be confused by anything I told you because it is holy.

Idel Kabbalah and Hermeticism...Page 75
Pico did not intend to marry or conjoin the two (magic and kabbalah) but rather to subjugate both to Christianity... it is less the consonance between Cabala and Magia that counts, but their independent confirmations of Christianity I would caution against presenting Pico's main innovation as the yoking of Kabbalah and magic, but see this link as one of many others, which should not be privileged in the general economy of Pico's thought. 87 The Christian version of Kabbalah is, therefore, not so much a way of experiencing reality and explaining the meaning of human action (as, in my opinion, Jewish Kabbalah was), but much more a kind of gnosis -- a collection of concepts explaining the map of the divine world. Thus, according to the Christian Kabbalists, an accomplished Kabbalist may be considered as an arch-philosopher more important than Plato or Hermes; but in principle this knowledge does not provide a guide to mystical experience in the present. 88 The view of Pico as the instigator of another tradition, of the thinker who married mysticism and magic and created an alternative cultural trend, seems to me to be a misapprehension. Pico himself conceived his activity as consonant with Christianity... his writings contain sufficient statements to evoke a picture of Pico as rather critical toward Kabbalah, intolerant toward the Jews, and quite conservative toward magic. He brought about the marriage between Magic and Kabbalah not because he strongly believed that they constituted an alternative intellectual current to the Catholic faith, but precisely because he was certain that his intellectual enterprise did indeed strengthen the latter.

Moshe Idel "On the Theologization of Kabbalah in Modern Scholarship" in Religious Apologetics- Philosophical Argumentation: Philosophical Argumentation.‎ - Page 146 by Yossef Schwartz, Volkhard Krech 146 For a Christian Kabbalist, Jewish Kabbalah at its best reflects Christian theology. For Pico della Mirandola, the main criterion of judging a certain speculative corpus is not its correspondence with other lores, but solely with Christian theology. In his fifth Kabbalistic thesis he declares that: "Every Hebrew Cabalist, following the principles and sayings of the science of the Cabalah, is inevitably forced to concede, without addition, omission, or variation, precisely what the Catholic faith of Christians maintains concerning the Trinity and every divine Person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." (n.95) Thus, if to be accepted and studied, as indeed Pico did, Kabbalah must coincide with the tenets of Christianity. Then it could serve also as a missionary tool.

Moshe Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives

264 When used by Christian intellectuals, both the symbolic and the combinatory hermeneutics were employed in order to extract speculative religious or philosophical statements from the Scriptures rather to endorse a theurgic dromenon or an ecstatic experience

267 The theurgist had to concentrate both on the punctilious performances of the commandments and on their theurgic significance, and, according to some views, he had also to propel his energy, as structured by the acts he exercised, into the divine realm. In contrast to the ecstatic mystic, the theurgical Kabbalist fully activated both the spiritual and the corporeal components of his human existence, his activity thus becomes more comprehensive. Whereas the ecstatic kabbalist reduced man to his highest capacity alone, the theurgical one required the cooperation of all the variegated aspects of man in order to attain its goal.

262-263 A disentanglement of theosophy from theurgy recurred in the Christian version of Kabbalah…. One of the crucial differences between the original Kabbalistic texts and their perception by the Christian Kabbalists was the neutralization of the theurgical aspect, so central for the Jewish Kabbalah. It is easy to understand why such a neutralization was necessary before Kabbalah could be accepted into the Platonic-Pythagorean-Hermetic Renaissance synthesis. The working hypothesis of Marsilio Ficino, Pico della Mirandola, and Johannes Reuchlin was that the appraisal and proof of Christian truths could transpire through the variegated garbs of the ancient theologies and philosophies. Since these truths had also to be corroborated by Kabbalah, its uniquely Jewish component, halakhic theurgy, had to be annulled in its Christian version on the ground of the Christian abrogation of the commandments. Thus, R. Menahem Recanati, a prominent representative of the theurgical understanding of the commandments and simultaneously one of the pillars of the Christian Kabbalah, was quoted selectively by the Christian Kabbalists so as to serve as a mine of theosophical teachings and hermeneutics but not as a theurgical author. Kabbalah was thereby transformed into a gnosis, including esoteric theosophy, comparable to other similar ancient lores. I want to emphasize the importance of this metamorphosis of Kabbalah: some precious tones of this lore were lost in the Christian key.

161-166 theurgy as continuation of rabbinic notion... not different from

263 Jewish Kabbalah not only found its way into the Christian world as a "philosophy"; it was highly appreciated both as a style of speculation and as a repository of extremely important hermeneutics.

269 two types of Kabbalistic magic... First, under the influence of Hermetic elements, a conception of the halakhah as a powerful organon by which to attract the supernal powerss on man and the Temple was gradually elaborated by Jewish authors, culminating in the thought of Yohanan Alemanno. According to this conception, if natural magic is connected with natural sciences, such as agriculture and astonomy, supermagic depends on the knowledge of the supernatural science--Kabbalah. The perfect way to combine this higher gnosis with practice is by the Kabbalistic performance of the precise prescriptions of the halakhah. Man, therefore, does not disrupt the processes of natural causation, but transcends it by his consciousness and by the skillful employment of a higher order of causation that depends on the Sefirot. Halakhic man, conscious of the deeper meaning of his deeds, is a Kabbalistic archmagician. This magical interpretation of Jewish ritual was similar to its theurgical conception in its all-comprehensive nature, which envisioned every human act as potentially fraught with occult meanings. Whereas the theurgists were mainly interested in the divine harmony and power, however, Alemanno focused on the human ability to use them for the welfare of the terrestrial world.

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