Isaac Luria: Mystic (1534–1572)

“Known as ha-Ari (The [Holy] Lion) and ha-Ashkenazi (The German – his family moved to the Middle East from Europe). Luria was one of the most influential men in the history of Jewish mysticism; his teachings shaped the thinking of generations of Kabbalists, triggered at least one messianic movement, and serve as intellectual foundation for much of Chasidism.

He taught an equally original form of ecstatic Kabbalah, centered on therapeutic “readings” of the spiritual condition of a soul and then offering spiritual direction. He also worked with dead souls. He would sleep on graves in order to commune with the dead spirits of Jewish saints buried there. His method of Yichudim, including a form of incubation, linked necromantic divination with his efforts to mend the cosmic imbalances in the universe. He furthered this effort by performing tikkun on impure spirits, exorcizing them and thereby returning them to the proper path toward the afterlife.

Huge numbers of stories and legends about his personality and his occult powers have been recorded. Some believed he was a reincarnation of Shimon Bar Yohai. He could make himself invisible to the spiritually immature. On the other hand, those with the right spiritual capacity saw that a pillar of fire, extending up to heaven, was constantly hovering over his head. Luria had the power of a sixth sense – he could immediately determine the spiritual state of a person by studying the lines on their forehead. He also had power over angels and made them do his bidding. He healed the sick and granted extended life.”