The Serpent Kills or the Serpent Gives Life

The Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia’s Response to Christianity


Abraham Abulafia (1240 – c. 1291) founded an enormously influential branch of Jewish mysticism, referred to as the prophetic or ecstatic kabbalah. This book, from several perspectives, explores the impact of Christianity upon Abulafia. His copious writings evince an intense fascination with Christian themes, yet Abulafia’s frequent diatribes against Jesus and Christianity reveal him to be deeply conflicted in his relationship to his southern European religious neighbors. This book undertakes a careful study of Abulafia’s writings, suggesting that the recognition of an inner dynamic of attraction and revulsion toward the forbidden other provides a crucial key to understanding Abulafia’s mystical hermeneutic and his meditative practice. It also demonstrates that Abulafia's uneasy relationship to Christianity shaped the very core of his mystical doctrine.

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Robert J. Sagerman, Ph.D. (2008) in Jewish Mysticism, New York University, is an independent scholar. He has published two extensive studies concerning kabbalistic influence on the conceptualization of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling program. He is also an internationally active artist.
Introduction: Abraham Abulafia; a Brief Biographical Sketch
Chapter 1 Abulafia and Alterity; the Other in the Self
Chapter 2 Refutation and Absorption; Abulafia’s Response to the Christian Context
Chapter 3 Abulafia’s Demons; the Psychological Dimension of Abulafia’s Relationship to Christianity
Chapter 4 Abulafia and Jesus; Metatron and Sandalfon
Chapter 5 Warp and Woof; Circumcision, Crucifixion and Divine Embodiment
All those interested in Jewish mysticism, medieval studies, Jewish-Christian relations, anthropology, psychology and feminist studies.
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