Skip to main content

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.

288 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Jewish Studies

Religion: Comparative Studies and History of Religion, Judaism


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.”

Daniel Abrams, Bar Ilan University

“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.”

Alan F. Segal, Barnard College, Columbia University

“Jonathan Garb draws on strong textual analysis to advance his thesis that Jewish mystical ideation is shot through with techniques and imagery that fit the definition of shamanic trance. Shamanic Trance in Modern Kabbalah represents a monumental step forward in the psychological analysis of mysticism, shamanism, and altered states.”

William Parsons, Rice University

“Garb’s exciting research is the happy outcome of the field passing into an even greater maturity and relevance for the study of religion. As such, Shamanic Trance in Modern Kabbalah is an impressive and powerful statement of the ‘state of the art’ as practiced by twenty-first century researchers, addressing the interests of specialists and generalists alike.”

Ronald Kiener | H-Net Reviews

“The author brings to the topic a mastery of the literature, an exceptional ability to parse texts closely, a sensitivity to the psychological aspects of the study of Kabbalah, and a deep familiarity with the literature in religious studies and psychology on varying levels of consciousness. The final product is an original and stimulating study that is extremely important for any serious student of Kabbalah or of the modern religious experience.”

Religious Studies Review

Table of Contents


ONE / Theory of Shamanism, Trance, and Modern Kabbalah

TWO / The Shamanic Process: Descent and Fiery Transformations

THREE / Empowerment through Trance

FOUR / Shamanic Hasidism

FIVE / Hasidic Trance

SIX / Trance and the Nomian


Appendix: Psychoanalysis and Hasidism




Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press