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Secrets without Mystery

Esotericism in Early Jewish Mysticism

In: Aries
Author:
Raʿanan Boustan UCLA boustan@history.ucla.edu

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This paper explores the rhetoric of secrecy in Hekhalot literature, a corpus of Jewish mystical and magical writings from late antiquity. I argue that the essential relationship between secrecy and mystery that characterizes the tradition of “western esotericism” does not obtain for Hekhalot literature. Instead, the discourse of esotericism in Hekhalot literature relates to restricted knowledge of proper ritual speech and action (“secrets”), rather than to paradoxical truths about the divine (“mysteries”).

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