• A comparison of the Seven Seals in Islamic esotericism and Jewish Kabbalah

    Lloyd Graham (see profile)
    Islamicate Studies
    Magic, Islam, Middles Ages, Mysticism--Judaism, Sufism, Jews--Social life and customs, Middle Ages, Religions
    Item Type:
    Kabbalah, talisman, amulet, esotericism, Medieval Islam, Jewish mysticism, Medieval Jewish culture, Comparative religion
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    In Islamic mysticism and theurgy, the Seven Seals represent in graphic form the Greatest Name of God; in Jewish Kabbalah, the Seals bear individual Divine Names which collectively form a “Great Name.” We review and compare the primary interpretations and secondary associations for each Seal in Islam and Judaism, from which it is clear that the two traditions have developed largely independent understandings of the individual symbols. Nevertheless, points of convergence – such as the interpretation of the fourth Seal as a ladder and an ascent to/of goodness – do exist. Conversely, the attributes of the third Islamic and seventh Jewish Seals have a surprising amount in common. Collectively, the Seals have been linked via word- and letter-counting to key affirmations of each religion: the Islamic ones to the Shahāda, the Jewish ones to Psalm 46:7,11. In contrast to the Islamic Seals, individual correspondences are rarely given for the Jewish Seals and are inconsistent across sources. Kabbalistic amulets are more likely to employ the Names of the Seals than their symbols, and when present the latter are often much degraded; in contrast, Islamic talismans make frequent use of the symbol series. In Islamic magic, the Seven Seals are associated with the seven Ṭahaṭīl Names, which exhibit possible similarities to the Names of the Seals in Kabbalah. Intriguing overlaps of the Jewish Seal Names with Egyptian mythology and Vedic Sanskrit are explored, but ultimately it is thought more likely that the seven Names derive from the Names of God’s fingers and eyes (five plus two, respectively) in the Shīʿūr Qōmah of the Hekhalot literature. Fittingly, exegesis of the Seals in both Judaism and Islam contains general themes of hands/fingers and sight/blindness
    Additional tags: Arabic magic; Islamic magic; Jewish magic; Greatest Name; ism al-azam; Seven Seals of Solomon; theurgy; mysticism; Bahai; Babism; Isaac of Acre; Hekhalot; Moscow-Günzburg; Divine Name; al-Buni; magic square; apotropaic; semiotics
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    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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