The earliest medieval Jewish mystical writings, or kabbalah, date from the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. This is the first book to focus on the most prodigious group active at that time—the 'Circle of Contemplation'.
The 'Circle of Contemplation' generated a mystical theology that differs radically from mainstream kabbalistic theosophy. Two of this group's penetrating speculations on God and the origins of the universe are The Book of Contemplation and The Fountain of Wisdom. A meticulous and systematic study of these writings forms the core of this book.
Verman discovered that the 'Circle of Contemplation' produced a series of distinct treatises, each entitled The Book of Contemplation and attributed to the same fictitious author. These treatises, embodying one of the most intriguing puzzles of medieval literature, are included here.
The author concludes that these writings were a product of thirteenth-century Spain, not France, as claimed by Gershom Scholem. His conclusion engendered a critical evaluation of the premises of Scholem's historiography of early medieval Jewish mysticism.
Mark Verman is Jay Phillips Chair in Jewish Studies at St. John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota.