About this course
For hundreds of years, Kabbalah has been perceived as a body of secret theoretical and practical knowledge concerning creation, the divine world, and human interaction with it. This course will introduce you to the major ideas and practices of the Kabbalah from an academic point of view.
The course will examine basic Kabbalistic themes such as the theory of the Sefirot, ecstatic and prophetic Kabbalistic techniques, reincarnation, demonology, and practical Kabbalah. It will introduce major Kabbalistic works and movements, including the Sefer ha-Zohar, Lurianic Kabbalah, Hasidism, and the contemporary revival of popular Kabbalah.
In recent decades, interest in Kabbalah has been increasing and many non-academic Kabbalah centers have been founded throughout the world. Most of the information available online for the layman is non-academic, and at times it can be misleading and confusing.
The aim of this course is to introduce students with no background in Kabbalah or Jewish thought to the major ideas and practices of the Kabbalah in their historical and cultural settings. The ideas are presented in an accessible manner without jeopardizing the course's academic rigor.
The course approaches Kabbalah from a historical and sociological perspective. Kabbalistic theories and practices will be studied through reading and analyzing primary sources (the Kabbalistic texts themselves) as well as applying the most up-to-date secondary literature (academic research)
The course presents a variety of different perspectives on the themes it covers. Through the assignments and discussions that accompany the video lectures, students will be encouraged to express their opinions and individual perspectives, and to contribute to fruitful intellectual discussions.
What you'll learn
- The main concepts, doctrines, and practices of Kabbalah
- The historical development of Kabbalah from medieval to modern times, including its major schools, central texts, and main figures
- The historical significance of Kabbalah, and the cultural roles it has played from the late medieval to the modern periods
Lesson 1. Introduction: Kabbalah and its Academic study
The lesson will introduce you to Kabbalah and to its academic study. We will discuss the term “Kabbalah,” and the varieties of forms and schools of Kabbalah throughout history.
Lesson 2. Sefirot: The Kabbalistic Theory of the Divine Structure
We will learn about one of the most central concepts of Kabbalah – the sefirot: a structure of ten divine powers. We will also explore the concept of God as En-Sof (the Infinite) and its relationship with the sefirot.
Lesson 3. The Inner Life of God: The Dynamics within the Sefirot
We will explore the interrelation of the different sefirot and the effect of their inner dynamics on the lower realms. We will also learn about Kabbalistic theories of the formation of evil and Kabbalistic demonology.
Lesson 4. Human Influence on the Divine
We will learn about the theories and practices of the kabbalists that relate to their belief in the ability of human beings to influence and repair the divine. We will introduce the theory of the rectification of the Divine - tikkun.
Lesson 5. Connecting with the Divine: Prophecy, Attachment, and Union
This lesson will be dedicated to encounters with the Divine in Kabbalah in different forms, such as ascents, visions, and automatic speech, the idea of “unio mystica”, and the techniques Kabbalists used to connect and unite with the Divine.
Lesson 6. Kabbalistic Perceptions of the Human Body and Soul
We will explore Kabbalistic perceptions of the human body and the structure of the soul, and the structural resemblance between the human body and the structure of the sefirot. We will discuss different notions of reincarnation as well the idea of possession (dybuk) and exorcism, which is still practiced by Kabbalists today.
Lesson 7. Early Kabbalah and the Zohar
This lesson will be dedicated to the early Kabbalah and the authorship of the Zohar. We will also learn about the Kabbalistic schools of Spain and the ecstatic Kabbalah of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia.
Lesson 8. Lurianic Kabbalah
We will learn about the Kabbalist center in early-modern Safed and the school of Isaac Luria. We will also discuss the Christian Kabbala.
Lesson 9. Kabbalah and Modernity
We will explore Kabbalah and modernity in its main schools of Hasidism, Lithuanian Kabbalah, and the school of Shalom Sharaabi as well as the contemporary revival of Kabbalah.
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