Through a Speculum that Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism

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Princeton University Press, 1997 - History - 452 pages
2 Reviews

A comprehensive treatment of visionary experience in some of the main texts of Jewish mysticism, this book reveals the overwhelmingly visual nature of religious experience in Jewish spirituality from antiquity through the late Middle Ages. Using phenomenological and critical historical tools, Wolfson examines Jewish mystical texts from late antiquity, pre-kabbalistic sources from the tenth to the twelfth centuries, and twelfth- and thirteenth-century kabbalistic literature. His work demonstrates that the sense of sight assumes an epistemic priority in these writings, reflecting and building upon those scriptural passages that affirm the visual nature of revelatory experience. Moreover, the author reveals an androcentric eroticism in the scopic mentality of Jewish mystics, which placed the externalized and representable form, the phallus, at the center of the visual encounter.

In the visionary experience, as Wolfson describes it, imagination serves a primary function, transmuting sensory data and rational concepts into symbols of those things beyond sense and reason. In this view, the experience of a vision is inseparable from the process of interpretation. Fundamentally challenging the conventional distinction between experience and exegesis, revelation and interpretation, Wolfson argues that for the mystics themselves, the study of texts occasioned a visual experience of the divine located in the imagination of the mystical interpreter. Thus he shows how Jewish mystics preserved the invisible transcendence of God without doing away with the visual dimension of belief.

  

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Review: Through a Speculum That Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism

User Review  - Seth - Goodreads

The first major step in Wolfson's project of rethinking what vision and imagination are. Read full review

Contents

Israel The One Who Sees God Visualization of God in Biblical Apocalyptic and Rabbinic Sources
13
Vision of God in Mystical Sources A Typological Analysis
52
Visionary Ascent and Enthronement in the Hekhalot Literature
74
Theories of the Glory and Visionary Experience in PreKabbalistic Sources
125
Haside Ashkenaz Veridical and Docetic Interpretations of the Chariot Vision
188
Visionary Gnosis and the Role of the Imagination In Theosophic Kabbalah
270
The Hermeneutics of Visionary Experience Revelation and Interpretation in the Zohar
326
CONCLUSION
393
Manuscripts Cited
399
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY ON PRIMARY SOURCES CITED
401
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY SECONDARY SOURCES CITED
409
INDEX
439
Copyright

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About the author (1997)

Elliot R. Wolfson is Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He is the author of "Venturing Beyond: Law and Morality in Kabbalistic Mysticism", "Luminal Darkness: Imaginal Gleanings From Zoharic Literature, " and other books.

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