- Paperback: 273 pages
- Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (1 Nov. 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0803266464
- ISBN-13: 978-0803266469
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 23.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,246,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Giordano Bruno and the Kabbalah: Prophets, Magicians, and Rabbis Paperback – 1 Nov 2004
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"Sheds light on Bruno's own self-understanding as a mystical prophet to a new age." Choice "This book is fascinating in its grasp and interpretation of a difficult and multi-faceted philosophy that includes elements of the Platonic and Kabbalistic thought that Bruno encompassed in his eclectic and highly individualistic writings." The Philosopher "A fascinating Renaissance figure brought to life by de Leon-Jones ... [in] a refreshing and informative exploration of Bruno's mystical speculations." Religious Studies Review "De Leon-Jones has enriched our understanding of the ways Jews and Christians interacted and the effects these interactions had in shaping the philosophical, religious, and scientific ideas of both communities." Shofar
Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), a defrocked Dominican monk, was convicted of heresy by the Roman Catholic Inquisition and burned at the stake in Rome. He had spent fifteen years wandering throughout Europe on the run from Counter-Reformation intelligence and eight years in prison under interrogation. The author of more than sixty works on mathematics, science, ethics, philosophy, metaphysics, the art of memory and esoteric mysticism, Bruno had a profound impact on Western thought.Until now his involvement with Jewish mysticism has never been fully explored. Karen Silvia de Leon-Jones presents an engaging and illuminating discussion of his mystical understanding and use of Jewish and Christian Kabbalah, theology, and philosophy, including the famous "Hermetica", and especially his exploration and use of magic to reveal the mysteries of the universe and the divine. Karen de Leon-Jones is a research fellow in religious studies at the Centre d'Etudes des Religions du Livre, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-Ecole Pratique des Etudes Scientifiques (Paris) and at the Institut Karma Ling (Arvillard).See all Product description
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- If you are fascinated by the Egyptian roots of today's branches of Western esotericism and Jewish mysticism...
- If you are encouraged by Renaissance pluralism that celebrates the open-ended multiplicity of discourses...
- If your intellect is not satisfied by dogma or any single school of thought or body of tradition...
- If you believe that discourses such as theology, philosophy, magic and science interrelate and impact each other and in, some ways are even indistinguishable,...
- If you suspect that there is more to the physical world than meets the eye...
- If you have read something about Hermeneutics (no that's not the same as Hermetics...) and believe that world(s) are neither objective or subjective but are revealed - almost magically, almost divinely, almost rationally - somewhere in between object and subject...
- If you love classical myths and biblical allegory...
- If you define "discourse" as "verbal exchange and conversation" and "the process or power of reasoning"...
- If you are intrigued by the notions and symbolic potency of "unio mystico" and "metempsychosis" on an individual spirit and cosmic spirit level...
- Then this book will stir, stimulate, change and inspire you.
Ultimately, this study does not prove Bruno to be a Kabbalist or a Christian; or an Alchemist or an Occultist. Rather, it shows Bruno's earnest, critical synthesis of a variety of discourses to try to reveal something new, which, after all, is perhaps to say something, simply, quite ancient.
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Scorn is heaped on the pedant by Giordano Bruno. The pedant represents the opposite of the magus. With his emphasis on philology or his willingness to analyze primary texts (like Copernicus), the pedants of the world challenged Bruno, whom Yates calls "the lunatic the lover and the poet." Indeed, the Oxford doctors who so opposed Bruno find piercing arrows of invective hurled at them. While they ponder the true epicycles, Bruno hears the song of the Universe.
Of course, the Isaac Casaubon controversy, in which Casaubon used early philological methods to disprove the authenticity of the Hermetica as received Egyptian wisdom, brought this situation to a head. At least Bruno had the authoritative Hermetica on his side. When Casaubon proved that the Hermetica was a Gnostic text, and not a text that antedated Moses (who cribbed, in the old account, liberally from Hermes Trismegistus!), the later Magi, like Robert Fludd, had to persist in their art in the face of vastly superior critical scholarship.
In the post-Modern Orthodox world, when expositors like Rabbi Shagar can quote Heidegger and Rav Nachman in the same sentence, when Madonna reigns as the queen of a Kabalistic empire, and when philological approaches to Talmud have been exposed as the most soulless readings of all, perhaps we need to return to the inspired lunatic frenzy of a Giordano Bruno. In an age of religious sectarianism, when the gap between Lakewood and Yeshiva is farther than the gaps between Judaism and Christianity used to be in some places, it might pay to look at this great harmonizer.
While our sages tell us that "scribal jealousies increase wisdom," Bruno vehemently dissents from this position. Scribal jealousies for him, as we have seen, constitute an Oxford pedantry that could only hinder the coming celestial reform. Yet, based on the amazing work of Dame Frances Yates, Karen Silvia de Leon Jones chose to write a book based entirely on the scribal jealousies and the Oxford pedantry that the Renaissance magus so decried.
Yates contends numerous times in her book that, though Bruno dabbles in Kabbalah, following in the illustrious footsteps of Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, his is a strictly Hermetic program. Leon Jones disagrees vehemently. She claims that Bruno is a Kabbalist, and that his Kabbalistic dialogues reflect this.
This argument could now go one of two ways. In the first scenario, Leon Jones could show us not only how Bruno was a Kabbalist, but also how his general program of religious harmonizing worked. Thus, she could tell us how Bruno's "hermetic reform" would've united Catholic countries with Protestant ones. She could explain the place of the Jews, and Jewish wisdom, in this great harmonization. She could explain Bruno's complex messianic politics, and his hopes that various Kings or Queens might usher in an age of religious syncretism in Christianity based on the pre-Mosaic wisdom of Hermes. Leon Jones could even make all of this relevant by pointing to Bruno's Baroque context, with its inquisitions and its Reformation, and by talking about the religious fragmentation of the time and contrasting it with our own, increasingly splintered religious context.
Leon Jones could have done all of these things. Instead, she chose to point to very limited examples that lend no resonance and no context to the amazing figure of Bruno. The first proof Leon Jones gives of the fact that Bruno is a Kabbalist is the recurring motif of the ass in Bruno's celestial reform. This motif, she brilliantly shows, is a Jewish one. Balaam rode an ass and the ass is an important Jewish symbol. Thusly, she concludes that Kabbalah was the consistent hermeneutic thread in all of Bruno's works, and that he did not just steal his Kabalah from Pico and Agrippa.
I am not dismissing Leon Jones as bad scholarship. Indeed, I agree with her conclusions on the nature of Bruno's Kabbalah. The deficiencies in Yate's knowledge of Kabbalah only buttress the idea that there is much more Kabbalah in Bruno, for those who know how to look. Moreover, Yates relied heavily on the outdated ideas of Scholem, who thought of all of Kabbalah as Gnostic, something contemporary researchers like Idel have discredited. As much as I agree with Leon Jones on a purely scholarly level, any book or article can be made relevant, and this book fails the test of relevance. Indeed, beyond the scholarly banter, the book contains about one page of background on Bruno (where we are told that he has an Internet fan club and that there are people in France who want to put a statue of him up in Paris, in imitation of the monument to Bruno in Rome's Campo del Fiore) and very little about the general context of Christian hebraicism and religious harmonization that Bruno wishes to implement. This is noting, if not a betrayal of Bruno to the vile pedantry of the 21st Century academy. Instead of just lining up sefirot with astrological signs as she does, Leon Jones would've done well to work on parallel tracks with Yates, and to write a whole history of the Hermetic/Kabbalistic synthesis, as Yates writes her history of the Hermetic tradition. With such a picture, we might have at least an inkling of the path to our own celestial reform and our own new synthesis.