Monday, September 12, 2011

Moshe Idel--Reuchlin's influence on Scholem's concept of Kabbalah

Old worlds, new mirrors: on Jewish mysticism and twentieth-century thought
By Moshe Idel
p.87 (via Google Books )

Reuchlin's vision of Pythagoreanism as stemming from ancient Kabbalah was not totally new, as we may learn from several medieval Jewish sources. However, his phrases like "a symbolic philosophy of the art of Kabbalah" and "symbolic theology" was, in my opinion, relevant to Scholem's own understanding of Kabbalah.

In itself, Reuchlin's view was a simplification of the much broader spectrum of kabbalistic phenomena, whose sources range from mythological to Neoplatonic to Aristotelian to magical elements, none having anything to do with Pythagoreanism. His reduction of the content of Kabbalah in its entirety to Pythagoreanism can be understood as part of a project to produce a special contribution, different from that of Marsilio Ficino and Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples. Reuchlin's vision of Kabbalah as a kind of philosophy possessing a symbolic mode resembles more modern visions of myth and Kabbalah as a type of "narrative philosophy" in which Renaissance understandings of Kabbalah, among both Jewish and Christian thinkers, reverberate. I believe that this is the major clue to Scholem's pansymbolism.
He once remarked that if he believed in metempsychosis, he would perhaps see Reuchlin's soul as having transmigrated into himself

Certainly, Reuchlin's influence is conspicuous in Scholem's and his followers' overemphasis on the paramount importance of symbolic language and thought as representative of and essential to the entire Kabbalah.

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