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Charles Mopskik – Qabbalah Is A Mistagogy Not A Mysticism

Charles Mopsik

picture by Marc Attali.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, is an excerpt from the foreword of Charles Mopsik’s trailblazing ‘Les grands Textes de la Cabale’, Verdier, 1993. With this short text we inaugurate a series of posts devoted to the memory of this great French Jewish Scholar who died way to early, leaving behind a wealth of studies that keeps bringing challenging and emulating views on Judaism and especially qabbalah. ‘Charles Mopsik (2 September 1956 – 13 June 2003) was one of the important figures in the revival of Jewish studies in France at the end of the 1970s, a revival characterized by its philosophical consequences.’ (Wikipedia). Very few of his works have been translated into other languages than their original French, so we are eager to engage into bringing to the English speaking world at least a portion of  them, to honor and perpetuate his memory.


‘…We must now explains ourselves upon an important terminological option that goes against a well anchored habit: We have favored the word ‘mystagogy’ and its derivatives against the word ‘mysticism’ to qualify, with a term of Greek origin, qabbalah as a intrinsic phenomenon part of the general history of ideas and religions. As Pierre Hadot rightfully notices, “the word ‘mysticism’ is a ill-defined term, often through and through mis-used. This vagueness probably comes from the fact that this word was used as a technical term for a wide range of meanings.” The most commonly used meaning is the one psychologist and historians of spirituality allocate to it: it there defines “the psychological states, analog to the Plotinian unitive experience’‘ that is characterized by ”the detachment of all corporeal activity’‘ and that implies purely spiritual exercises. But this word, as Pierre Hadot indicates, ”is used by the Neo-Platonists in a very different meaning”, ”it designate what is connected to the Mysteries, hence to the religious and theurgical rites, and by extension, to what is hidden, secret, mysterious.” The fact that these two-almost contradictory-meanings are attached to the same one word leads Pierre Hadot to consider that “the wisest solution would be to banish this word, origin of so many confusions and obscurities.” It is this very solution that we have chosen, at least when it comes to the common qualification of qabbalah. If we have favored the word ‘mystagogy’, it is because it is frequently used by the  fifth century Neo-Platonist, Proclus, to designate secret traditions, divine mysteries transmitted through riddles. The etymology of this word evokes at the same time the idea of secret and the idea of teaching or initiation. For Jean Trouillard, “the suggested idea is that of a wisdom that is not only speculative, but transformative.” Even though we go against a habit largely consecrated by modern usage, the concern for precision seems to us to  overtake any other consideration.  We, of course, do not mean to either deny the existence of attitudes or mystical experiences at the time of medieval or post-medieval qabbalah, nor the mystical character of the discourses that elaborate upon it, but that are only one of the important aspects and should not authorize the generalization of usage of this term up to the point to make of the expression ‘Jewish mysticism’ some sort of equivalent for  the Hebrew ‘qabbalah’.


French original




More about Charles Mopsik: 🌿🌿 🌿
Charles Mopskik – Qabbalah Is A Mistagogy Not A Mysticism

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