In this reissue of her 1978 classic, Perle Epstein (now Perle Besserman, author of Teachings of the Jewish Mystics and The Shambhala Guide to Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism) describes the Kabbalistic community of believers who four centuries ago in Safed "dressed in white, danced, with vine leaves in their hair, toward their blue-painted synagogues on the Sabbath day." Who were these early Jewish mystics and how did they see the spiritual journey of life?
Epstein begins with a description of the different ways in which Kabbalists sought to achieve a state of egolessness ("the annihilation of the desiring self") through rituals, devotions, and spiritual practices. All of these would lead to an ability to discern God's presence in everything. Through a refinement of the senses, individuals could also converse with ethereal beings and finally draw near to the highest state of human consciousness "cleaving with God."
The author examines three paths of Jewish mystics the path of spheres, the path of letters, and the path of ecstasy (Hasidism). With just the right mix of philosophical brio and illustrative material, Epstein presents colorful portraits of Kabbalistic sages including Simeon bar Yohai, Isaac Luria, Joseph Caro, Moses Cordovero, Abraham Abulafia, the Baal Shem Tov, and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Kabbalah: The Way of the Jewish Mystic is a watershed primer on a very complex spiritual path.