Judaism forms one of the oldest esoteric traditions in the world. Throughout the ages it has been instrumental in under-pinning a wide-range of esoteric practices; from magic and alchemy through to many divination practices such as astrology, numerology and dream interpretation.
Today, Jewish mysticism, is considered to fall into three different eras of Jewish history. The best well-known is the Kabbalah, which emerged in 12th-century Europe but earlier forms emerged including Merkabah mysticism (100BCE–1000CE), and Chassidei Ashkenaz (early 13th century CE).
Re-Discovering an Ancient Tradition
For many millennia the sacred teachings of Judaism remained hidden and not available to the general public. However, and as the author of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism Geoffrey W. Dennis points out in the introduction to his book, things are changing.
He states that, “…many more traditional texts of Jewish mysticism and magic are being translated into English and many more almost-forgotten manuscripts of Jewish esoteric teachings have been recovered and identified,”
Dennis also explains how he sees his book not so much as a simple reference but as “…a book full of husks and sparks of things concealed and revealed, lost and then recovered”.
This encyclopedia of terms focuses exclusively on the esoteric aspects to Judaism and seeks to draw together what Dennis refers to as “…the seemingly eccentric. the offbeat, the peripheral, and the outlandish.”
These disparate elements to Jewish thinking he refers to as ‘husks’ or “…dark, strange and alien stuff..”
Resurgence of Interest
The worldwide growth of interest in Kabbalah, or Cabala, that has occurred during the past few decades is a remarkable testimony to the traditions core esoteric values, It is for this reason that so many truth-seekers of all persuasions are finding so much in the tradition that strengthens and expands their own esoteric philosophy.
What is most remarkable about this resurgence of interest in Kabbalah and its off-shoots though is the fact that, during the time of the second-world war, when Nazism prevailed as a force in Europe many of the teachers, students and disciples of Jewish mysticism were killed or exterminated by the dark forces of the Third Reich.
Since the late 1940s, the work of re-discovering and re-assembling mystical Judaism has grown exponentially—possibly as a result of the growing awareness of the need to keep these essential sacred teachings alive and accessible.
Even the history of this book resonates to this same vibration of growth and expansion for in the introduction to this, the Second Edition, Dennis describes how, following the publication of the first edition of his book, many readers contacted him via email, letters and his blog comments with new information – much of which was added to the initial 2007 publication to expand and update this 2016 version.
This second edition also includes many more illustrations.
Maybe in another seven years or so the encyclopedia will be updated even further and so reflect the continued discoveries that so many are making into the fascinating world of Jewish mysticism.
Our Review of ‘The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism’ by Geoffrey W. Dennis
If you are practicing magic, divination, occultism or any off-shoot of Judaism such as Gematria and you think that you do not need a copy of this book as reference by your side then think again.
Throughout its 490 pages The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism delights the reader with its myriad of threads of ideas and lines of research opportunities which under normal circumstances would require many years of in-depth study to unearth.
Delightfully illustrated and clearly set out this is a reference manual that not only reveals the technicalities of Jewish esoteric practice but also a history of its primary stages in development. In many cases the references highlight and elucidate on Hebrew Scripture and the Old Testament of the Bible. It also includes addition external references as well as internal ones so that once you pick out a specific term you can simply wander through the book following one trail of thought after another.
Where the book is not quite so easy to reference is when traditional Jewish spelling is used rather than the more common English language variance. It would be wrong to criticise the book for its adherence to core Jewish values but it does require some additional effort on the part of the enquiring Western mind.
My only other slight caveat is that the book somewhat glosses over the meaning and significance to each of the letters of the Jewish alphabet which I find to be rather odd as these are the building blocks of the Cabalistic and Gematria traditions.
Nevertheless, this is a essential book for any magician currently working the Tree of Life or who are using some of the older techniques for spirit invocation.
In summing up, this is a highly readable book in its own right. It intrigues, fascinates and stimulates the mind in a wild number of ways and is simply way out there as a unique commentary on the mysteries of Judaism.