Mystifying Kabbalah

Academic Scholarship, National Theology, and New Age Spirituality

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Boaz Huss
Oxford Studies in Western Esotericism
  • Oxford: 
    Oxford University Press
    , September
     2020.
     198 pages.
     $99.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780190086961.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Description

Most scholars of Judaism take the term "Jewish mysticism" for granted, and do not engage in a critical discussion of the essentialist perceptions that underlie it. Mystifying Kabbalah studies the evolution of the concept of Jewish mysticism. It examines the major developments in the academic study of Jewish mysticism and its impact on modern Kabbalistic movements in the contexts of Jewish nationalism and New Age spirituality.

Boaz Huss argues that Jewish mysticism is a modern discursive construct and that the identification of Kabbalah and Hasidism as forms of mysticism, which appeared for the first time in the nineteenth century and has become prevalent since the early twentieth, shaped the way in which Kabbalah and Hasidism are perceived and studied today. The notion of Jewish mysticism was established when western scholars accepted the modern idea that mysticism is a universal religious phenomenon of a direct experience of a divine or transcendent reality and applied it to Kabbalah and Hasidism. "Jewish mysticism" gradually became the defining category in the modern academic research of these topics. This book clarifies the historical, cultural, and political contexts that led to the identification of Kabbalah and Hasidism as Jewish mysticism, exposing the underlying ideological and theological presuppositions and revealing the impact of this "mystification" on contemporary forms of Kabbalah and Hasidism.Most scholars of Judaism take the term "Jewish mysticism" for granted, and do not engage in a critical discussion of the essentialist perceptions that underlie it. Mystifying Kabbalah studies the evolution of the concept of Jewish mysticism. It examines the major developments in the academic study of Jewish mysticism and its impact on modern Kabbalistic movements in the contexts of Jewish nationalism and New Age spirituality.

Boaz Huss argues that Jewish mysticism is a modern discursive construct and that the identification of Kabbalah and Hasidism as forms of mysticism, which appeared for the first time in the nineteenth century and has become prevalent since the early twentieth, shaped the way in which Kabbalah and Hasidism are perceived and studied today. The notion of Jewish mysticism was established when western scholars accepted the modern idea that mysticism is a universal religious phenomenon of a direct experience of a divine or transcendent reality and applied it to Kabbalah and Hasidism. "Jewish mysticism" gradually became the defining category in the modern academic research of these topics. This book clarifies the historical, cultural, and political contexts that led to the identification of Kabbalah and Hasidism as Jewish mysticism, exposing the underlying ideological and theological presuppositions and revealing the impact of this "mystification" on contemporary forms of Kabbalah and Hasidism.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Boaz Huss is the Aron Bernstein Professor of Jewish History in the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is the vice president of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism. His research interests include the history of Kabbalah, Western esotericism, New Age culture and new religious movements in Israel.

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