Practical Kabbalah
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Scholarly and Historical Overviews

Ariel, David
The Mystic Quest
ISBN 0-87668-928-4
Ariel examines what mysticism is, the universe according to the Kabbalist view, and the Jewish mystic's striving to understand the nature of God and the universe, and to cleave to God. Good introductory explanation of the Sefirot and the Divine universe; also a nice chapter on the soul.
Epstien, Perle
Kabbalah: The Way of the Jewish Mystic
ISBN 0-87773-438-0
A more or less introductory volume which deals with the life of the mystic, his yearnings and passions, often through relating the lives of individual sages. Epstien also relates a number of meditative practices from original sources. Her slant is more on the human experience. Very readable.
Fine, Lawrence
Safed Spirituality: Rules of Mystical Piety & the Beginning of Wisdom
ISBN 0-8091-2612-5
Fine discusses the history of the city of Safed in the 15th century, and the Kabbalistic masters who lived there. He then presents translations of a number of treatises on mystical piety.
Gaster, Moses
Studies and Texts in Folklore, Magic, Mediaeval Romance, Hebrew Apocrypha and Samaritan Archaeology, Vols. 1-3
London, Maggs Bros., © 1925-28
These books are an academic tour-de-force, a large selection from the lifework of Moses Gaster, collected and reprinted from articles he published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A mixture of first-time translations and essays, Gaster covers Hebrew apocalypses and revelations, amulets, demons, practical Kabbalah, and other near-Eastern topics. Of particular note is his translation of The Sword of Moses (see Original Sources). Volume 3 is original texts only (Hebrew, Aramaic, etc.). I found Volume 1 to have the best selection of texts and topics.
Hoffman, Edward
The Hebrew Alphabet: A Mystical Journey
Chronicle Books, © 1998. ISBN 0-8118-1883-7
Similar in nature to the Kurshner's well-known book on the subject (see below), Hoffman discusses the inner significance of each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and concludes with a number of suggested meditations on them. Karen Silver provides fine illustrations of each letter.
Idel, Moshe
Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic
ISBN 0-7914-1734-4
If you can get through the very thick introduction, you get to Idel's discussions of mysticism and magic in the Hasidic sects. The academese-ridden, somewhat dry writing makes it a little hard to digest. He talks a lot about the role of the Tzaddik (righteous or "saintly" person). Almost half the book is endnotes!
Isaacs, Ronald H.
Ascending Jacob's Ladder: Jewish Views of Angels, Demons, and Evil Spirits
Jason Aronson, Inc., © 1998. ISBN 0-7657-5965-9.
Biblical, apocryphal, folk, and extra-connonical occurances of angels and demons are given in translation, along with commentary and interpretations.
Kushner, Rabbi Lawrence
Sefer Otiyot, The Book of Letters: A Mystical Aleph-bait
Jewish Lights Publishing, 2nd edition, © 1990
First printing, Harper and Row Publishers, Inc, © 1975. ISBN 1-879045-00-1
Rabbi Kushner explores the inner meanings of the Hebrew alphabet, not only in his text, but in his calligraphy, in which the entire book is set. Compare to Hoffman, above.
Matt, Daniel C
The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism
Castle Books, © 1997. ISBN 0-7858-0870-1 (hardcover; also in softcover)
A sort of primer for Jewish Mysticism, including brief history, explanations, and meditations. Topics include Ein Sof (the infinite God) and one's relationship with Him, the Sefirot, creation, mystical experience, and living a spiritual life in the material world. The text is not an academic essay, but somewhat poetic and gentle, meant to help teach and guide the reader in their personal growth.
Pagels, Elaine. The Origin of Satan
Vintage Books, © 1996. ISBN 0-679-40140-7
Although this book is mainly concerned with the evolution, use and portrayals of Satan in Christianity, chapter 2, "The Social History of Satan: From the Hebrew Bible to the Gospels", explains the origin and use of the adversarial force, or "the satan", in Hebrew writings, particularly apocrypha. The book is really quite an interesting and engaging study of how "evil" has been used in various ways in Western culture.
Scholem, Gershom
ISBN 0-8129-0352-8
A strong starter book covering history, theory, schools of thought, and practice. Great overview of a broad variety of topics, organized, and highly informative, though purely academic and in places a bit dry. Scholem was a top authority who wrote many books and articles; any of his writings should be fine. If you can't find this book, try the Encyclopedia Judaica; Kabbalah was formed largely from articles he wrote for many of its volumes.
Scholem, Gershom
On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism
various editions, Shocken Books
Five essays on particular subjects: "Religious Authority and Mysticism", "The Meaning of the Torah in Jewish Mysticism", "Kabbalah and Myth", "Tradition and New Creation in the Ritual of the Kabbalists", and "The Idea of the Golem".
Wolfson, Elliot R.
Along the Path: Studies in Kabbalistic Myth, Symbolism, and Hermeneutics
State university of New York Press, © 1995. ISBN 0-7914-2408-1
A book of three essays. This is a rather advanced, academese-laden text which, in two essays, assumes the reader possesses a certain level of knowledge on very particular topics. The first essay is about the throne of God within the context of Medieval Pietism, and the second concerns early Jewish-Christian crossover symbolism and the book The Bahir. The third essay, however, is quite interesting, and is much more readable and more easily understood. Called "Walking as a Sacred Duty", it concerns the physical and spiritual journeys of the mystic , and how he both draws down divinity and uplifts the mundane to holiness.

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