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Extra resources for The New York Review of Books (March 6, 2014)
151) Though the general concept of the intellectus agens. or divine influx, was widely recognized in the Middle Ages, Abulafia's theory was actually a Judaized version of systematic Yoga as practised by Indian theosophers. An important part in his system was played by techniques of breathing (a point important to remember in examining Swedenborg's visions in the eighteenth century), and by Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. requirements of body posture, forms of recitation, etc,, which found their uigliGst deveicpments in Yogai Abulafia taught that the supreme stage of vision is the perception of one's spiritual mentor, usually visualized as a young or old man, whom the visionary not only sees but hears: "The body," Abulafia says, "requires the physician of the body, the soul the physician of the soul, to wit the students of the Torah, but the intellect (the highest power of the soul) requires a mover from outside who has received Kabbalah concerning the mysteries of the Torah and a mover from inside • • , who opens the closed doors before him," (Scholem, MT, p, 139) Abulafia differentiated between the human and divine teacher, and pointed out that one could manage, if necessary, without the former, but never without the spiritual teacher who confronts man at the secret gates of his soul.
Wynn Westcott, wrote much upon these Germanic traditions, as in An Introduction to the Kabbalah (London: John M. Watkins, 1910). Of even greater importance to the teachings of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Cabalistic societies was the influence of medieval Hasidic "letter-magic" on Abraham Abulafia, whose great thirteenth-century manuals of meditation-techniques have provided a rich reservoir of materials for voyants down to the present day. Though born in Spain, Abulafia travelled widely in the Near East, Greece, and Italy, diligently seeking "secret knowledge," and came into contact with many non-Jewish mystics.
The medieval recipes originally aimed at producing ecstatic states of con sciousness, through the old techniques of Merkabah letter-magic and rituals. The Golem came to life only while the ecstasy of his creator lasted. Spanish Cabalists insisted that the Golem was not corporeal but a "creation of thought," and others defined the process as a purely mystical operation, ridiculing the folly "of those who study the Book Yetsirah in order to make a calf, for those who do so are themselves calves" (Scholem, KS, p.