Alchemy and Kabbalah By Gershom Scholem

A classic text on alchemy by the leading scholar of Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem, is presented here for the first time in English translation. Scholem looks critically at the century-old connections between alchemy, the Jewish Kabbalah; its Christianized varieties, such as the gold- and rosicrucian mysticisms, and the myth-based psychology of C. G. Jung, and uncovers forgotten alchemical roots of embedded in the Kabbalah. Alchemy and Kabbalah

CHARACTERS Alchemy and Kabbalah


This is basically a research paper, a bit dense, not that easy to read, but it points to other books for more research on Magic, alchemy, and the Kabbalah and I did learn that most of what we’ve heard about the Kabbalah is bullshit :) And now I know who Nicolas Flamel really is!!! Paperback Eh.

Historical, basically. The kernel of the text is how to translate the language of alchemy to the qabala, and vice versa. Intended for practitioners of both. Suited to neither. Yadda yadda. Paperback This book does a great job explaining why Kabbalah and Alchemy have almost nothing in common. Paperback This extraordinarily erudite monograph convincingly proves that what early Christian esotericists called Kabbalah had little to do with actual Jewish practices and theory. One interesting piece of evidence marshaled by Scholem is the lower rank accorded to gold in Jewish thinking. Gold was associated with strict judgment under Jewish Kabbalah, subordinated or opposed to silver as symbolic of grace. Alchemical systems that emphasize gold as the highest object of the work are thus obviously under an outside influence. Scholem uses this fact, close textual analyses, and a variety of other scholarly tools to show that early Kabbalistic references in alchemical writers are little more than set dressing intended to plump up the magico-mystical bona fides of their systems. Actual cross-pollination between the traditions appears to arise surprisingly late.

This stuff is interesting, but I'll admit it wasn't quite the book I expected. This is deep-in-the-scholarly-weeds-type stuff, tracing a history through textual references and codex-hunting in fabulously obscure libraries. It doesn't include much substantive discussion of what Kabbalah is, how it differs from alchemy, or how alchemy was received by Jewish thinkers.

While I realize the lines of influence likely go the other way, this reminded me of certain stories by Borges that verge on the humorous in the obsessive dive into scholarly arcana. While I love that style of storytelling, it's frankly a bit heavy on the technical for my needs in actually learning about these topics. I probably need to look for a better entry point to Scholem's thinking than this, which is more suitable for a specialist. But I cheerfully admit to my philistinism in deriving great mirth from some of his anecdotes about triumphantly locating fleeting citations in rare volumes in closed library stacks. Paperback