Thursday, January 6, 2011
Was Pico influenced by Abulafia's take on the Sefirot?
Wolfson on Abulafia: Mysticism, Theurgy, and the Sefirot
8 There seems to me sufficient reason to call into question the designation of theosophic kabbalah as theurgic in contradistinction to the prophetic kabbalah of Abulafia. While it is certainly true that Abulafia rejects the theurgical understanding of the theosophic kabbalists, and even when he appropriates their language (as in his discussion of the mystical intent of the sacrifices) he tends to emphasize the mystical over the theurgical valence, it is nevertheless the case that he does affirm a type of theurgy related to the unification of the divine attributes. As I have already noted, Abulafia categorically rejects the theosophic understanding of the sefirot as hypostatic potencies, but he does insist that the divine unity is expressed within and through the ten sefirot, which he identifies as the ten separate intellect. His frequent warning against the danger of separating the sefirot, an act that he calls (in a manner analogous to the theosophic kabbalists) by the rabbinic idiom for heresy, "cutting the shoots," must not be seen as mere rhetoric. On the contrary, according to Abulafia, the human intellect plays an active role in unifying God through the ten separate intellects as a consequence of the intellectual conjunction, which is presented as the paramount mystical rationale for the commandments.
[This may help us understand the kind of complicated reception of the sefirot as theosophical, mystical, contemplative, and possibly theurgic or ecstatic tools for Pico.]