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Chapter Fourteen Mystical Encounters: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Mystics in 13th–14th Century Spain

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Chapter Summary

Spain was the gateway through which the wisdom of the Far East, but also of the long lost Greek culture, came to Europe. The status enjoyed by Jews and Christians as peoples of the Book under Islamic rule, though often precarious, provided a high degree of legal, administrative, fiscal and cultural autonomy. Emerging from a combination of the earlier Merkabah mysticism and the Creation-type of mysticism prompted by Sefer Yetsirah, with its innovative use of letters and numbers, it is thought that the true classical Kabbalah was born in 1180 France, with the publication of Sefer haBahir, the Book of Light. The evolution of the Kabbalah in Spain naturally influenced Christian thinkers and eventually led to the emergence of a so called Christian Cabala. Spanish mystics like Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross were influenced by Jewish mysticism without however being part of the Christian Cabalah.

Keywords:Christian; Islam; Jewish mysticism; Jews; Kabbalah; Merkabah mysticism; Spain

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