Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sefer Ha Yetzirah by Aryeh Kaplan

The Sefer Yetzirah, writes Aryeh Kaplan, is considered to be the oldest of all Kabbalistic texts. Eliot Wolfson corroborates this claim, calling the Sefer Yetzirah "one of the most ancient books of Jewish esotericism," and cites sources dating the Sefer Yetzirah back to the third century C.E. The text itself is quoted as early as the sixth century C.E. references to the work appear in the first century, and traditions regarding its use attest to its existence in Biblical times. The book is attributed to the Patriarch Abraham. Unfortunately, the origins of the Sefer Yetzirah are no longer available to historians, if in fact they were ever known the author, or authors, of this text(s) is a mystery.

Some modern scholars find it useful to divide Jewish mystical texts into the subcategories of "meditative" and "magical," theosophic and theurgic. The Sefer Yetzirah fits into both of these categories there are passages which deal extensively with meditational techniques, as well as detailed instructions for tapping into divine power. In some ways, the Sefer Yetzirah obviates the distinction between meditative and magical mysticism, since the meditations described in the text also enable magical acts, and the magical (or practical) passages are also meditative.

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