The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Anthroposophical Perceptions and Interpretations of Kabbalah: From Rudolf Steiner to Contemporary Israeli Anthroposophists

Rudolf Steiner, the head of the German section of the Theosophical Society, and later, the founder of the Anthroposophical Society discussed Kabbalah in lectures he delivered in 1904 and 1910. One of his followers, Albrecht Wilhelm Sellin, presented a lecture on the main Kabbalistic text, the Zohar, in the first general meeting of the Anthroposophical Society, which was held in Berlin in 1913. Ernst Müller, an Anthroposophist, scholar, and Zionist from Vienna, translated texts from the Zohar, published two books about the Zohar, articles about Sefer Yetzirah, and about mysticism in Scripture, and an introductory book on Jewish mysticism, History of Jewish Mysticism. Several other German-speaking Jewish Anthroposophists, who immigrated to Palestine, and formed Anthroposophical study groups in Israel, also found interest in Kabbalah. Israeli-born, Hebrew speaking Anthroposophists, were also interested in Kabbalah, and some of them, such as Isaiah Ben-Aharon, who was a prominent spiritual leader of the Israeli Anthroposophists in the 1980s, discussed Kabbalah in his lecture and writings. The lecture will examine Rudolf Steiner and Albrecht Wilhelm Sellin’s perceptions of Kabbalah, the perception and interpretation of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism of Ernst Müller, and the perception of Kabbalah amongst Anthroposophists in Israel. The lecture will discuss the Anthroposophical perceptions of Kabbalah in the context of modern formations of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. And examine the role Kabbalah played in the attempts of Jewish Anthroposophists to reconcile their Anthroposophical conviction and their Jewish identity.