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From Zohar: The Book of Splendor by Gershom G. Scholem, Schoken Books, 1949, 1963

 

The book of Splendor (Zohar) is the basic work of Jewish mysticism, the profoundest achievement of the Kabbalah. Above all other works, it stood for centuries as the very expression of the innermost recesses of the Jewish soul. It played the great role of sacred text, supplementing, on a new level of consciousness, the Bible and the Talmud.

This volume is a selection, culled by the greatest living authority on Jewish mysticism, from the extensive writings which make up the vast Book of Splendor.

From 1963 paper back ed, Back Cover

 

The book of Zohar, the most important literary work of the Kabbalah, lies before us in some measure inaccessible and silent, as befits a work of secret wisdom.

… from about 1500 to 1800, (it was) a source of doctrine and revelation equal in authority to the Bible and Talmud, and of the same canonical rank—this is a prerogative that can be claimed by no other work of Jewish literature. This radiant power did not, to be sure emanate at the very beginning from “The Book of Radiance” or, as we usually render the title in English, “The Book of Splendor.” Maimonides’ “Guide for the Perplexed,” in almost every respect the antithesis of the Zohar, influenced its own time directly and openly; from the moment of its appearance it affected peoples minds, moving them to enthusiasm or consternation. Yet, after two centuries of a profound influence, it began to lose its effectiveness more and more, until finally, for centuries long, it vanished almost entirely.

Ibid, page 7 (Introduction)

The main part of the Zohar, which is arranged by Pentateuch portions, purports to be an ancient Midrash, and in many details it imitates the form of the ancient midrashic works of the first centuries C. E. On the whole, indeed, it breaks through this form and assumes the quite different one of the medieval sermon.

Ibid, page 12 (Introduction)

 

Comments: As implied above, works by Maimonides tend toward a rational approach, while the Zohar speaks from a more intuitive stance. There are perhaps, a hundred, or even hundreds of books lying about my home that view reality from this more feeling perspective. Among these I find Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment, a translation and introduction by Daniel Chanan Matt, Paulist Press, 1983. Persons named in the editorial board listed in the first two pages lead me to believe this is a reliable translation. Namely, Joseph Dan, Professor of Kaballah at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and Huston Smith, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Syracuse, N. Y.

The other 99+ volumes I cannot comment on at this time, because they belong to my wife, and I have not examined them sufficiently. There exists a vast collection of information about mysticism that has become available since around 1940. The majority of this is what I would call New Age Mysticism. This literature puts a heavy burden on the task of delineating what we should put in categories such as mysticism, religion, and science. Because of this, I have thus far avoided the study of Kaballah, instead focusing on the two early forms of Jewish Mysticism. Each of these is comprised of a collection of documents; one called Work of Creation (Ma’aseh Bereshit), and the other Work of the Chariot (Ma’aseh Merkabah).