Wednesday, March 07, 2007
CABALA IN THE JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA
In Germany and Poland
There is no cabalistic literature proper among the German Jews, aside from the school of Eleazar of Worms...there were no real cabalists in Germany until the eighteenth century, when Plish scholars invaded the country. In Poland the Cabala was first studied about the beginning of the sixteenth century, but not without opposition from the Talmudic authorities, as, for instance, Solomon b. Jehiel Luria, who, himself a devout disciple of the Cabala, wished to have its study confined to a small circle of the elect....
In the seventeenth century, however, the Cabala spread all over Poland, so that it was considered a matter of course that all rabbis must have a cabalistic training....Yet, with the exception of Horowitz's work "Shene Luhot ha-Berit" (The Two Tablets of the Covenant), there is hardly one among the many cabalistic works originating in Poland that rises in any way above mediocrity.
The real continuation of the Cabala is to be found in Hasidism, which in its different forms includes both the mystical and speculative sides....those circles in Russia and Poland which oppose Hasidism also avoid the Cabala, as the real domain of the Hasidim....The non-Hasidic circles of Russia in modern times, though they hold the Cabala in reverence, do not study it.
Critical Treatment of the Cabala
Many obscurities will probably become clear as soon as more is known about Gnosticism in its different forms, and Oriental theosophy.
The Cabala in the Christian World
The first Christian scholar who gave proof of his acquaintance with the Cabala was Raymond Lulli (born about 1225; died June 30, 1315), called "doctor illuminatus" on account of his great learning...
But it was Pico di Mirandola (1463-94) who introduced the Cabala into the Christian world.
The Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Raymond Lully indicates that Lull's work was rejected:
The Church authorities, however, recognized the dangerous consequences which follow from the breaking down of the distinction between natural and supernatural truth. Consequently, in spite of his praiseworthy zeal and his crown of martyrdom, Raymond has not been canonized. His rationalistic mysticism was formally condemned by Gregory XI in 1376 and the condemnation was renewed by Paul IV.
The Encyclopedia entry for Pico di Mirandola indicates his work was condemned:
Despite all efforts Pico was condemned, and he decided to travel, visiting France first, but he afterwards returned to Florence. He destroyed his poetical works, gave up profane science, and determined to devote his old age to a defense of Christianity against Jews, Mohammedans. and astrologers. A portion of this work was published after his death ("Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem", Bologna, 1495).
Reuchlin's whole philosophical system, the doctrine of God, cognition, etc., is entirely cabalistic, as he freely admits. Reuchlin's contemporary, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim (1487-1535), holds the same views, with this difference, that he pays especial attention to the practical side of the Cabala--namely, magic--which he endeavors to develop and explain thoroughly.
The Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Johannes Reuchlin indicates he remained faithful to the Church while studying Cabala:
The chief service of Reuchlin was his introduction into Germany of the study of Hebrew. His "De rudimentis hebraicis" (1506), containing both lexicon and grammar, was epoch-making. In 1512 he published as a manual for beginners an edition of the Hebrew text of the Penitential Psalms with a literal Latin translation. In his "De accentibus et orthographia linguae hebraicae" (1518), he treats in detail the word-accent, and more briefly the rhetorical accent and musical emphasis. Less important are his cabalistic writings ("De verbo mirifico", 1494; "De arte cabbalistica", 1517), in which he becomes lost in the abstruse problems of mysterious names and figures. Meanwhile his unfortunate quarrel with Johann Pfefferkorn and the Cologne Dominicans concerning the destruction of the Talmudic books had begun.