Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Idel on Ars Combinatoria and the Kabbalah that I love


There are many streams of Kabbalah. Many ways to divide up a vast body of knowledge. The spotlight of in-vogue research, writing and practice has focused on a few of those streams. For example theoretical Kabbalah based around the Zohar, path working based around the Ten Sefirot on the Tree of Life glyph, working with angels - all these are in the more popular streams.

Manipulating the Hebrew letters as detailed in Sefer Yetzirah and ecstatic Kabbalah of Abraham Abulafia - these are less popular (although the latter is growing in recent decades). It is this category that fascinates me, that drives me onwards to study and grow. Rather than try to elaborate on this stream of Kabbalah, you would do much better listening to an academic who is leading his field.

A couple of years ago I had the privilege of hearing Professor Moshe Idel give a lecture in Oxford. Unfortunately I was only able to attend one lecture and not the other 2 parts of the lecture. However, since they are available on-line I listened to them again last week.

The lectures were sponsored by the Berendel Foundation. Here are the links:

Lecture 1: Sefer Yetzirah and its Commentaries
‘Sefer Yetzirah and its Commentaries: A major source for ars combinatoria’
Introduced by Prof. Robert Evans
8 February, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
In collaboration with the MHRC and Oxford Centre for Jewish and Hebrew Studies

Lecture 2: Ars Combinatoria in Modern Times
‘Ars Combinatoria in Modern Times: Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, and Ioan P. Culianu’
Introduced by Dr. Joanna Weinberg
9 February, 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  
‘The Transition of Ars Combinatoria from Kabbalah to European Culture: Ramon Llull, Pseudo-Llull, and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’
Introduced by Prof. David Norbrook
10 February, Merton College
In collaboration with the Centre for Early Modern Studies

 Foucault's Pendulum 
Lecture 2 makes a lot more sense if you have read Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. If you have not read this book yet, drop everything and get this book! It contains some very important lessons and warnings. Lecture 3 did not make as much sense to me as Lectures 1 and 2 - as I'm not yet familiar with the works of Lull and Pico della Mirandola.