Robert Wang is the well known author of the important book "The Qabalistic Tarot", as well as the artist of "The Golden Dawn Tarot" and "The Jungian Tarot." Dr. Wang holds an earned Ph.D. in art history. His descent from the ashkenazic jews of central europe supplies him with a profound sense of cultural sensitivity in matters pertaining to jadaica. The present book, "The Rape of Jewish Mysticism . . ." provides a clear and well written exposition of the history of the flow of qabalistic concepts into non-jewish contexts in Renaissance and post-Renaissance Europe. It is undoubtedly a welcome addition to the library of any student of the Qabala, as well as of cultural currents in Europe. The book is an objectively well researched and useful study of its subject matter.
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I haven't read this book. Consider this, though. Imagine if somebody would publish a book called “The Rape of Afrikan Mysticism”, sub-titled “How the Jews stole the wisdom of the Egyptians, called it Qabalah and then went awry when an obscure Jewish sect known as `Christians' pulled the same stunt on them”. There would be truth in the title, wouldn't there? Yet, I wonder how people would react… Negatively, perhaps?
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Many of the points that I could have made have already been expressed in the review by "xul". I would just like to reiterate that in its inception, Christianity was a Jewish movement, and it retained the Hebrew scriptures as part of its own heritage. There is therefore nothing illegitimate about Christians interpreting the Hebrew scriptures - including extra-Biblical material such as the Kabbalah - according to their own theology as it developed over time. And, contrary to the image that Wang sometimes presents, it was never the case that Biblical interpretation could ever be reduced to a simple Jewish vs. Christian dichotomy. There were multiple modes of Biblical interpretation among groups and factions who remained within the fold of Judaism.
As for the Kabbalah, it was itself highly controversial within Judaism, and until quite recently the bulk of Rabbinic thought was solidly against it. Again, if some Christian thinkers sought to interpret Kabbalah - marginalized even within Judaism - in Christian terms, why is that illegitimate? In our own day many Jews have converted to Buddhism and have become prominent authors and teachers on the subject. Have they therefore "raped" Buddhism because their own ancestors - and many Orthodox believers today - would regard this as a horrific apostasy? Would Wang dare tell these people that they have their own religion - Judaism - and they should therefore keep their hands off Buddhism? I think not.
None of what I am saying should be seen as a defense of forced conversion. Such thinking is almost entirely absent from contemporary Christianity. But writing books in defense of one's faith, or seeing support for one's faith in teachings of other religions, or in scientific findings, as a means of defending that faith, is hardly a process that should be characterized as "rape." If it were, anyone who ever put pen to paper in support of a thesis - including Wang - is guilty of some sort of intellectual rape. I don't buy it.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
An overlooked dimension of Western history?!24 Jun. 2003
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This book's rather provocative title belies the careful research that underlies it. And while thoroughly researched, the book tells an exciting history and is fascinating to read. Since Christianity is built on Judaism, I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that Christian occultism itself is built on the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition. But Wang has done more than simply show the links between these traditions. He has gone to the heart of the matter and documented how various Christian officials were motivated to study these traditions as a means of attempting to convert Jews to Christianity. Rape is the right word to describe how following this, the descendants of these original evangelists then argued that these Jewish traditions could not have been Jewish, but were instead Christian. Perhaps that is not news to Jews. It was to me and I am indebted to Dr. Wang for so thoroughly and meticulously exploring this history. He makes no assertions that are not backed by considerable documentation. To me, Wang's book stands with Thomas Cahill's Gifts of the Jews and in fact, stands above it because it is so well written and the points Wang makes are so clearly articulated. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the history of Western civilization, the history of religion, or the occult. But perhaps more importantly, Dr. Wang's book goes to the very heart of anti-Semitism. The outrage of stealing an important tradition from a people and then declaring that it could not be their tradition, redefines the notion of chutzpah. This is the kind of book that you don't just read. You buy copies for your friends.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Only useful for Uninitiated Novices28 Feb. 2012
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The author has a strange anti-Christian bias, as indicated in his title, and in occasional anti-Christian comments within his text, although most of his words are moderate, but for some strange reason the author does not seem to understand that Christianity developed out from Judaism, and that Christians throughout history have valued the Hebrew Bible, when the author irrationally condemns Christians for adopting Hebrew Kabbalah as a part of their own religious beliefs, and using Hebrew Kabbalah for Christian evangelization among Jews. The author strangely seems to think that Christians have no right to use the Hebrew language, or use Hebrew Kabbalah.
The author seems to think that Christian Kabbalah was illegitimately stolen from Judaism. However, the author completely ignores the fact that many Jewish scholars were opposed to Hebrew Jewish Kabbalah, because they recognized its similarity to Christianity, and feared Kabbalah's effect upon Judaism as a Christianization. Similarly, many Christians opposed Kabbalah as a Judaization of Christianity. I have read Gershom Scholem's book on the Origin of Kabbalah, and others. It is my own opinion that one of the secrets of the history of Kabbalah is that it was originally a development of early Jewish-Christianity, and that this early Jewish-Christian Kabbalah was then first adopted by some people in normative Judaism, and later adopted by some people in Christianity, without recognizing its Jewish-Christian origin.
The reason for my low rating for this book is that it is a very basic and minimal and shallow introduction to Kabbalah and its history within Christianity, as Christian Kabbalah. Very little of Kabbalah is explained, and the history of Christian Kabbalists is very brief. The author quotes briefly from other writers, such as Frances Yates and Gershom Scholem, but his discussion is insufficient to establish his contention that Christian Kabbalah was the foundation of Rosicrucianism and western occultism, and some of his assertions or conjectures or interpretations seem to me to be incorrect. I suggest that the interested reader should read the books of Frances Yates and Gershom Scholem, as a much better source than Robert Wang.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
An excellent book about the roots of today's occultism19 Aug. 2003
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This book gives an historical account of how the jewish Cabala was integrated into the Christian culture, first in an attempt to use it to convert jews to christianity, and then made it's way into western occultism. This book covers all the major persons - Pico della Mirandola, Reuchlin, Agrippa, Dee & Kelly, Kircher, etc. I enjoyed reading a book that, for the first time, gave me a complete and thorough picture of how the Cabala started it's way in Jewish hands in the 13th century through such movements as the rosicrucians to the Golden Dawn. I highly recommend this clear & concise book to anyone who's into western occultism.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing polemics19 Nov. 2006
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The title of Dr. Robert Wang's book, whilst perhaps getting attention and thus increasing its sales, indicates its polemic nature. Comparing style and some specific content of this book with Dr. Wang's "The Qabalistic Tarot" reveals significant differences in both approach and style, e.g. consideration given to 17th century German rosicrucianism and its offshoots.
Dr. Wang at times clearly indicates his non-initiatic viewpoint taken in this book, e.g.:
- References to "physical reality", without defining what he means by this, although he indicates that some qabalist magicians (wrongly) believed they could directly influence it;
- References to historic "hard facts", although Dr. Wang acknowledges that qabalist esoteric knowledge was very much orally transmitted; Dr. Wang apparently has not yet had the opportunity to sit in a court-room and listen to several mature, sober eye-witnesses' contradictory testimony of observed "hard facts", e.g. a road traffic accident they did not participate in;
- Assumption of historicism, namely that esoteric doctrine is a gradual development of the human mind; the initiatic viewpoint, on the contrary, is that authentic Tradition is "from time immemorial" and "of supra-human origin";
- Harsh criticism, reminiscent of Dr. Wagner in Goethes "Faust", of bygone scholars and qabalists, e.g. concerning the alledged personification of the Hermetic Tradition, forgetting such current figures as Uncle Sam and Santa Claus; the corresponding high praise of his fellow historians with a mind-set similar to the author's is frequent;
- Confusion of "transmigration" with "reincarnation", the latter non-traditional notion allowing one to project the transient "me" indefinitely, like a scratched CD repeating the same groove.
Typical examples of the biases in the book are:
- Failure to place historic Christian-Jewish relations in a general sociological perspective of majority-minority relations.
- Gratuitous inclusion of a non-documented quotation of Saint Louis IX;
- Mention of sexual conduct without reference to counter-examples, e.g. Solomon, nor to the general issue of cultural abnegation of the Dionesian pole;
- Nearly stereotypical good-evil patterns, e.g. "good" Jewish qabalists, "bad" Christian ones, bashing the Roman Catholic Church in general without considering its exoteric role and responsibility, e.g. to protect people from dabbling in magick;
- Almost complete avoidance of any mention of the Islamic Tradition, its interaction with the Israelite and Christian Traditions, and its role in manifesting esoteric doctrine very similar to the Qabalah, e.g. in the works of Ibn Arabi;
- General imputation of low motives to nearly everyone, e.g. to Muslims and Christians to keep the Jews on "their side", tilting doctrine to appeal to the worldly and ecclesiatic powers, pecuniary motives; Dr. Wang never mentions that there were, e.g. in Arab Spain, (and are) many people of good will sincerely interested in universal wisdom and inter-cultural learning, many inter-cultural marriages, alliances, etc.;
- Underlying failure to accept that some exoteric religions define themselves as missionary, e.g. Christianity and Islam, and that it is thus not illigitimate for them to try to peacefully convert adherents of other faiths, e.g. Judaism; Dr. Wang makes no case for forced conversions of Israelites by Christian qabalists to Christianity.
Some other issues are IMHO:
- Dr. Wang nowhere states Christian qabalists' arguments, e.g. gematric analyses of the name Ieshua, in detail, nor the counter-arguments of Israelite qabalists; the discussion thus remains polemic;
- Dr. Wang stopped his historic analysis in the early 19th century; nearly two centuries, perhaps 100 pages of additional text, are missing to include the "Modern Occult Movement";
Dr. Wang IMHO has not proved his case that "the Modern Occult Movement Grew out of Renaissance Attempts to Convert the Jews", although this may well have been one of the factors involved.
Nevertheless, Dr. Wang's book was worthwhile reading and contains useful information. However, one does well to keep Dr. Wang's viewpoint and biases in mind.