Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Listening to Professor Moshe Idel in person!


I met one of my heroes last night. His name is Professor Moshe Idel, currently the Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought at Hebrew University in Jerusalem

Yesterday afternoon in Oxford at the Faculty of History Professor Idel gave a lecture on:
Lecture 1:
"Sefer Yetzirah and its Commentaries: A major source for ars combinatoria"
Tuesday 8 February 2011, 5 pm, at the Faculty of History, University of Oxford. In collaboration with MHRC and the Oxford Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies.
as part of the Cantemir 3-part lecture. See the following PDF for information about the Cantemir lecture series that continues lecture tonight and tomorrow night.

Faculty of History, University of Oxford


I will upload my lecture notes either later this week or at the start of next week. The lectures will be uploaded as podcasts by the people from the Berendel Foundation in 1-2 weeks which I’m really looking forward to as I am unable to attend the 2nd and 3rd lectures:
Lecture 2:
"Ars Combinatoria in Modern Times: Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, and Ioan P. Culianu"
Wednesday 9 February 2011, 8pm, at the David Patterson Seminar at Yarnton Manor. In collaboration with the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.
Lecture 3:
"The Transition of Ars Combinatoria from Kabbalah to European Culture:
Ramon Llull, Pseudo-Llull, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola"
Thursday 10 February 2011, 5 pm, at Merton College.
In collaboration with the Centre for Early Modern Studies.

My introduction to the study of Kabbalah began by reading a couple of books by the late Professor Gershom Scholem. It took quite awhile to learn to read such academic literature, but having persevered for a year – a new understanding of Kabbalah dawned on me.

Some of the ideas displaced preconceptions that I’d had from my childhood, some of those pre-conceptions were not easy to let go off – but once I’d taken the plunge my mind became a blank sheet ready to receive new knowledge with as few filters as possible.

Then whilst browsing on Amazon I saw that others had recommended reading Professor Moshe Idel. This caught my interest and after another large spending spree on books by Professor Idel – I had managed to complete both reading of his book on Abraham Abulafia, Golems and part of “Kabbalah: New Perspectives”.

Prof. Moshe Idel
 Having established my academic knowledge based on Professor Scholem – I now found myself in the position of having some of that hard-earned knowledge overturned by Professor Idel. Again I had to learn to let go of some ideas and consider new ways of looking at concepts in Kabbalah. By now this process of re-looking at ideas in a new light has become what we can in business “institutionalized” and it’s a lot easier now than it was 5 years ago.

So when I heard via a friend on Facebook that Professor Idel would be speaking in Oxford yesterday afternoon – I was both excited and a little alarmed. After all – a good Project Manager would plan for such a visit, but I’d had about 7 hours notice.

A few quick emails to my wife, boss and contact at the Berendel institute confirmed that I could go; it was free and did not require registration. I arrived in Oxford at 4pm, confirmed where the venue was and went for a quick stroll around the city. Then at 4:45pm I returned to the lecture hall and together with around 50 or so other people waited eagerly for Professor Idel’s lecture.

He did not disappoint.

After the 45 minute lecture I asked the lady sitting next to me if she’d enjoyed the talk and she answered that she had – although she expressed some disappointment in not getting more information about the ecstatic experiences associated with letter combination from Sefer Yetzirah. I filled her in on some small bits of information that I could remember from Professor Idel’s book on Abraham Abulafia.

It was then that I realized that all those hours, days, weeks and months of reading up on academic literature of Kabbalah had finally paid off – as it gave me a deeper understanding of the lecture than I would have had if I’d only read half as much or not at all.