Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
And The Kabbalah Translated into Latin
JUST PUBLISHED !
5. The Gate of Heaven. Flavius Mithridates’ Latin Translation, the Hebrew Text, and an English Version Edited with Introduction and Notes By Susanne Jurgan and Saverio Campanini with a Text on Pico By Giulio Busi (The Kabbalistic Library of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, 5)
2012, 574, 191* pp., $ 80,00. Buy it from amazon.com
Shaar ha-shamayim, the Gate of Heaven, is an essay about the symbolism of the sefirot, which was probably written in Italy around the end of the 14th century by an author unknown to us. The text is mainly an assembling of ideas drawn from different kabbalistic sources; nonetheless it has its own value, because it explains in relatively simple language the basic relationships and concepts necessary to understand the sefirot. In this way a reader inexperienced in the kabbalah receives initial information about the structure of the sefirot world and the manner in which emanation functions; in addition he has at hand a sys-tematic definition of the most common symbols of the sefirot.mThis trilingual volume offers for the first time the critical edition of the Hebrew text of the work together with the Latin version made in 1486 by the convert Flavius Mithridates for the Humanist Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and an English translation.
4. Yosef Giqatilla, Book on Punctuation
2010, 546 pp., $ 80,00. Buy it from amazon.com
The Book of Punctuation was written by Yosef Giqatilla (1248 – c. 1325) in his early philosophical-kabbalistic period. The exact date of origin of this short treatise, however, cannot be established with certainty. The text focuses first of all on Hebrew vowels, which are fundamental elements in Giqatilla’s theory of creation. The author integrates the vowels in a complex system, assigning a specific task to each of them with respect to the cosmos and to creation, according to their respective grammatical functions. The book, which is inspired both by medieval cosmology and by the philosophy of Maimonides, reveals a unique concept of linguistic mysticism.
3. Menahem Recanati, Commentary on the Daily Prayers
2008, 860 pp., 2 vols., $ 90,00. Buy it from amazon.com
The Commentary on the Daily Prayers was the last effort undertaken by Recanati at the end of his life. In this book he pursued the interest that had also characterized his previous work, that is to use kabbalah as a hermeneutic device demonstrating how the measure of halakic norms coincides with the measure of the creation itself. This identification was aimed at restoring Judaism to its wholeness after the blows inflicted upon it by rationalistic philosophy. In Recanati’s hands, the liturgy and its texts become a mosaic whose single tesserae (their words and verses), rendered opaque by everyday recital, are given new radiance by being envisaged as mises en abîme of the mysteries connected to the sefirot and the celestial world.
Recanati’s work deeply influenced Pico’s understanding of the kabbalah, particularly as regards the structure of the upper merkavah, its functioning, and its influence upon the creation – a model into which Pico tried to fit Christian theology, Neoplatonic theurgy, and other traditions as well.
2. The Book of Bahir
2005, 564 pp., $ 80,00. Buy it from amazon.com
This booklet full of parables has served for centuries as a concise mystical encyclopedia of kabbalistic lore and has attained the status of an important source of religious inspiration. The Bahir is a collection of apologues, often sibylline, which stage oriental kings together with even-tempered princesses, stupid soldiers and smart administrators, passionate lovers and adorned brides. Short theoretical passages link the tales, and explain the invisible worlds by means of a celestial topography or with unusual metaphors, like the one of a huge tree able to touch the limits of the divine thought. Also the order of the sefirot are described with rich allegories, as, for instance, the succession of the letters of the alphabet, the relationships among the members of a family or even as forms of sexual attraction. Notwithstanding the presence of a few more ancient elements, it looks as if that one or more kabbalists edited the Bahir, as we know it, between the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century.
The Book of Bahir was explicitly mentioned by Count della Mirandola in his Conclusiones published in 1486 and represents a crucial source for understanding Pico’s thinking. In fact, there is a surprising similarity of themes and images between the symbolical world of the Bahir and the harmonizing philosophy of Pico.
1. The Great Parchment
2004, 272 pp., $ 60,00. Buy it from amazon.com
This is a text of a few extremely dense and symbolic pages. Some marginal annotations prove that Pico read it, perhaps with the assistance of Mithridates. The work was probably written at the beginning of the 14th century by an author whose name remains unknown to us. Most likely, he was an Italian kabbalist. The title Great Parchment refers to the physical appearance of the text. In fact, it was originally written on a large parchment scroll, together with drawings depicting the various stages of the emanation. In other words the written text was conceived as a commentary on the graphic representation of the sefirot, in a structure where theoretical analysis and visual depiction were intended as a unit. Notwithstanding the hermetic style, the Great Parchment is a forgotten masterpiece of kabbalistic literature. All together the work contains seventeen short tales, which offer a gallery of biblical characters conceived as actors in a sefirotic theater, like a scene where the sefirot wear the clothes and share the feelings of the protagonists of the Scriptures.