Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid

By Moshe Idel

Series: SUNY series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion
Paperback : 9780791401613, 357 pages, May 1990
Hardcover : 9780791401606, 357 pages, June 1990

Table of contents




Part One Ancient Traditions
1. Ancient Parallels

2. Sefer Yezirah

3. Talmud and Midrash

Part Two Medieval Elaborations

4. Tempering Magic: Geonic and Rationalistic Attitudes

5. Ashkenazi Hasidic Views on the Golem

6. The Northern France Discussions

7. The Golem in Ecstatic Kabbalah

8. R. Joseph ben Shalom Ashkenazi

9. Psychological Implications of the Golem

10. Theosophical Interpretations of the Golem

Part Three Renaissance Period

11. Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Discussions in the West

12. R. Moses ben Jacob Cordovero's View

Part Four Early-Modern and Modern Reverberations

13. R. Eliyahu, the Master of the Name, of Helm

14. Golem in the Halakhah

15. Golem and Sex

16. Vicissitudes of the Golem Techniques

17. Golem and Hasidic Mysticism

18. Modern Reverberations

19. Golem: Imaginaire, Anomian, and Silent

20. Summary

Part Five Appendixes

A. Golem and Zelem

B. Golem: Some Semantic Remarks

C. Was There a Macranthropos Named 'Emet?

Subject Index

Author Index


Idel's thesis is that the role of the golem concept in Judaism was to confer an exceptional status to the Jewish elite by bestowing it with the capability of supernatural powers deriving from a profound knowledge of the Hebrew language and its magical and mystical values.

This book is the first comprehensive treatment of the whole range of material dealing with creation of the golem beginning with late antiquity and ending with the modern time. The author explores the relationship between these discussions and their historical and intellectual frameworks. Since there was in the medieval period a variety of traditions concerning the golem, it is plausible to assume that the techniques for creating this creature developed much earlier. This presentation focuses on the precise techniques for creating an artificial human, an issue previously neglected in the literature.

A complete survey of the conceptions of the golem in North European and Spanish literature in medieval time allows not only a better understanding of this phenomenon, but also of the history of Jewish magic and mysticism in the Middle Ages. The Jewish and Christian treatments of the golem in the renaissance are explored as part of the renaissance concern for human nature.

Moshe Idel was Centennial Scholar in Residence at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Currently, he is Professor of Kabbalah in the Department of Jewish Thought at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He is the author of The Mystical Experience in Abraham Abulafia; Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah; and Language, Torah, and Hermeneutics in Abraham Abulafia; all published by SUNY Press.