Shamanic Trance in Modern Kabbalah
Bringing to light a hidden chapter in the history of modern Judaism, Shamanic Trance in Modern Kabbalah explores the shamanic dimensions of Jewish mysticism. Jonathan Garb integrates methods and models from the social sciences, comparative religion, and Jewish studies to offer a fresh view of the early modern kabbalists and their social and psychological contexts.
Through close readings of numerous texts—some translated here for the first time—Garb draws a more complete picture of the kabbalists than previous depictions, revealing them to be as concerned with deeper states of consciousness as they were with study and ritual. Garb discovers that they developed physical and mental methods to induce trance states, visions of heavenly mountains, and transformations into animals or bodies of light. To gain a deeper understanding of the kabbalists’ shamanic practices, Garb compares their experiences with those of mystics from other traditions as well as with those recorded by psychologists such as Milton Erickson and Carl Jung. Finally, Garb examines the kabbalists’ relations with the wider Jewish community, uncovering the role of kabbalistic shamanism in the renewal of Jewish tradition as it contended with modernity.
“Shamanic Trance in Modern Kabbalah considers various forms of Jewish mystical experience, rituals, and techniques, alongside the kabbalists’ relations to the wider community of followers and other adepts, in the early modern period through the categories of shamanism and trance. Textually grounded, thorough, and clear, Jonathan Garb’s book will quickly emerge as a central resource for the study of Jewish mysticism and comparative religion. The volume is a major contribution to the study of Jewish mystical experience and offers a unique comparison of Jewish esotericism to other traditions.”
“In Shamanic Trance in Modern Kabbalah, for the first time in English we have an author directly addressing the issue of religious experience in Jewish mysticism with the methodological tools necessary for the task. Jonathan Garb is at the cutting edge of his field as he addresses various categories of religious experience, engages with a number of scholars who write almost exclusively in Hebrew, and brings to bear the work of the major contemporary theoretical thinkers on religion as well—all while surveying the entire history of Jewish mysticism.”