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A Research Of Mysticism In Judaism

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All throughout the history of mankind, individuals have reported and experienced things and phenomenon that cannot be logically or scientifically explained. Mostly, these experiences are associated with religion and divinity and eventually become a part of the religion itself. These sightings and experiences occur in a very strange setting and on different or altered levels of consciousness. This can be called mysticism or mystic experiences. These mystical experiences are such that sometimes God can be perceived through these experiences. Mystes is the root or origin of the term Mysticism, which means the beginning or initiation of a secret cult. However, it also refers to a communion with God or a divine connection rather or a joining with God. Usually these mystical experiences get termed as magical or paranormal. Every religion that exists today has certain aspects of Mysticism and mystics are the ones that either experience themselves as the divine or are aware of themselves as separate from the Divine.

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Mystics have originated from different religions including Judaism; however, each religion has different mystical beliefs, principles and followers. For instance, Islam practices Sufism as part of Mysticism where they establish communion with God through certain practices whereas in Judaism the different types of mysticism are Merkabah, Kabbalah, Hasidism etc. are followed to form a communion with God. This research paper pertains to Jewish mysticism which is primarily sourced from the Torah. The Torah is the Holy book of the Jews encompassing the overall Jewish teachings. The authenticity of any mysticism in Judaism is mentioned in the Torah itself. Jewish mysticism includes a lot of beliefs which have been modified or rejected or re-accepted over time; the primary ones include Kabbalah, Merkabah and Ashkenazi mysticism. Kabbalah and Merkabah are the most famous Jewish mysticisms, however there is also something which takes a more contemporary form which is Hasidic Mysticism. Ezekiel is considered as the prophet of Judaism and one of the most important mystics in Judaism. The Merkabah Mysticism heavily relies on the visions of Ezekiel.

Merkabah in the ideal sense refers to the spiritual energy of humans. Most of us have the power to adjust our consciousness to higher levels or higher realms of life, and Merkabah deals with knowing ones spiritual power to reach that level. In Judaism or Jewish Mysticism, Ein Sof is considered to be the founding creator or the being or power that has existed before any manifestation. The literal meaning of Ein Sof is ‘without end’. Ein Sof, originated as a concept by Azriel, one of the most important Kabbalist. Actually, Azriel’s teacher Isaac had a different conception of the Divine, whereas Azriel was the one who suggested the concept of Ein Sof and the will of the Divine was the first emanation which means a manifestation of God. The Kabbalah tradition refers to God as Ein Sof, and prefers to call this being ‘It’ rather than ‘He’, because these kabbalists did not want to assert a gender to God. They consider the Ein Sof to be unlike any other being. Kabbalah uncovers and seeks to understand the various levels and layers of life including the Creation, the soul and or the heavenly bodies. The Torah plays a crucial role here by validating what has been experienced. A mystical experience needs validation by a source for it to be believable. Only after it has been authenticated can it be included as part of mysticism. Considering Kabbalah, it is said to be divided into two. The Kabbalah ideology is based on a distinction between the hidden and the revealed aspects of God. Ideally the hidden aspects are the ones which cannot be revealed, but need to be understood as the Divines’ powers. The revealed aspects are the ones displayed in the Sefirot.

In Judaism or Jewish Mysticism, the Sefirot are 10 attributes or sources which are present in the Kabbalistic conception of God. These attributes as displayed in the Sefirot, are the attributes revealed to Mankind, these are the qualities of the Ein Sof that are known to the world. According to the belief, the Sefirot is where the Ein Sof reveals thyself. Just like humans have certain qualities and attributes, so does God. In order for humans to understand these qualities, the Sefirot is the source of introducing these attributes of God. Briefly the ten Sefirot represent aspects of God, describing the powers of the All Powerful. They are Keter (Crown), Hokhmah (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding), Hesed (Lovingkindness), Gevurah (Might) or Din (Judgment), Tiferet (Beauty), Hod (Splendor), Netzah (Victory), Yesod (Foundation), and Malkhut (Sovereignty) or Shekhinah (the Divine Presence). Each of these attributes are interdependent with each other and reveal aspects of God. The Kabbalah states that by understanding these aspects, one can understand The Creation itself. The Sefirot attempts to form a relationship between the Ein Sof and mankind, it describes how unknownable God can be known by man. It compares the relation with that of the soul and the body. The soul is unknowable but it functions through various organs and becomes the essence of the body.

Hasidic Mysticism is also referred to as Chassidism, a form of mysticism in Judaism that is popular among Western Europe. Israel Ben Eliezer is the founder and is idealized as the ‘Ba’al Shem Tov’. The Ba’al Shem Tov placed straightforward ideas about becoming connected or attached to God, by letting go of the self through ‘ecstatic worship’. Hasidism also emphasizes on the intention and focus on prayers, which is termed as Kavannah. Hasidic mysticism is more contemporary in the sense that it does not completely breakthrough from the Kabbalah. It shares certain primary beliefs but has some ideologies that might differ from the Kabbalah. It takes up mystical experiences and ideologies from the ancient era. People around the world, especially philosophers are interested in knowing these mystical experiences of the world. These philosophers want to know if there does exist something beyond this human realm and even though there can never be any concrete evidence of the same, but these mystical experiences do say a lot about the non-human and divine world. These experiences can tell with or without some certainty, whether a special world exists or not – in the words of one of the leading authorities on mysticism, “does the mystical experience reveal the existence of anything outside the mystic’s own mind and independent of his consciousness?” Since mysticism provides a way to learn and know whether an alternate world or a divine realm exists, it has become crucial in most religions of the world. Every day there is an attempt to decode some experience and find out some concrete evidence for the same.

10 October 2020

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