Freedom "Incised upon the Tablets"
Prof. dr. em. Ada Rapoport-Albert (University College London)
The lecture explores the nature and scope of such freedom from the constraints of the Law as was experienced by Jewish mystics in a variety of historical settings. It also considers the social and gender constraints under which they operated, which have largely shaped the literary record of the Jewish mystical tradition.
Ada Rapoport-Albert is Professor emerita of Jewish Studies and former Head of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London (UCL). She is a historian of Jewish spirituality and mysticism, with special interest in Hasidism, the Sabbatian movement, ascetic practice in various pietistic circles, and gender issues relating to the forementioned topics. Her publications include Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi 1666-1815 (2011) and, in Hebrew, Studies in Hasidism, Sabbatianism and Gender (2015).
Of Heresy and Piety: Islamic Law and Transgressive Mystics
Prof. Asghar Seyed-Gohrab (Leiden University)
Islam is usually treated in contemporary western debates as an inflexible religion, which does not know any self-reflection. In this lecture, I will devote my attention to the transgressive behavior of Islamic mystics, discussing why and how they criticized and even flouted holy laws to express their piety. Among the questions I will treat in this lecture are: why did mystics characterize their religiosity as bi-shar’ or la-shar’ (‘without Sharia’ or ‘no Sharia’), ignoring conventional Islamic norms and values? What is the definition of piety? Why did antinomian movements in Islamic history become so popular, acquiring a central position in Islamic intellectual philosophy? How does inner ethical awareness lead to the defiance of social, political and religious rules? These and similar questions will form the core of my discussion, which I will answer through several examples based on medieval and contemporary mystical texts.
Asghar Seyed-Gohrab is Associate Professor at Leiden University. His publications include Soefism: Een levende traditie (Amsterdam: Prometheus / Bert Bakker, 2015); The True Dream: Indictment of the Shiite Clerics of Isfahan (London: Routledge 2017, together with S. McGlinn); Literature of the Early Twentieth Century: From the Constitutional Period to Reza Shah (ed., London/New York: I.B. Tauris 2015); Layli and Majnun: Love, Madness and Mystic Longing in Nizami’s Epic Romance (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2003); Mirror of Dew: The Poetry of Ālam-Tāj Zhāle Qā'em-Maqāmi (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015); Metaphor and Imagery in Persian Poetry (ed., Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2012); The Great Omar Khayyam: A Global Reception (ed., Leiden: Leiden university Press, 2012); Courtly Riddles: Enigmatic Embellishments in Early Persian Poetry (Leiden: LUP, 2008, 2010). He is the founding general editor of the Iranian Studies Series at Leiden University Press, and the Modern Persian Poetry Series in Dutch.
Freedom of the Spirit: Meister Eckhart and his Legacy
Prof. Ben Morgan (Worcester College, University of Oxford)
The paper will focus on a manuscript variant of the “Buch of Truth" (“Buch der Wahrheit”), a discussion of spiritual freedom written by the 14th-century Dominican, and follower of Meister Eckhart, Heinrich Seuse. It will explore how this re-telling of the text transforms its relation to Eckhart’s and Seuse’s models of freedom, and also to that found in the radical Eckhartian text “Sister Catherine” which the re-worked Seuse text comes to resemble as dialogue between confessor and spiritual daughter. The issues that arise from this philological analysis will be discussed in the wider context of recent cognitive research into the sub-personal processes that feed into our decision making.
Ben Morgan is Associate Professor in German and Fellow of Worcester College (University of Oxford). He is Modern Languages Coordinator for Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation. Ben Morgan’s main research interests are in German intellectual history (medieval mysticism, Nietzsche, early psychoanalysis, Heidegger, the Frankfurt School); German film (Fritz Lang, Leni Riefenstahl, the ‘Heimat’ film) and comparative literature. He is the author of On becoming God: Late Medieval Mysticism and the Modern Western Self (New York: Fordham UP, 2013).
Types of Freedom in Jewish Mysticism
Prof. Moshe Idel (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Moshe Idel is a senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute and the Max Cooper Professor of Jewish Thought at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has served as visiting professor and researcher at universities and institutions worldwide, including Yale, Harvard, and Princeton universities in the U.S., and Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Prof. Idel’s book, Ben: Sonship and Jewish Mysticism, won the 2007 National Jewish Book Award.In 1999, Prof. Idel became an Israel Prize laureate for excellent achievement in the field of Jewish philosophy.