The ontology, arrangement, and appearance of paradise in Castilian Kabbalah in light of contemporary Islamic traditions from al-Andalus

Avishai Bar-Asher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study is a comparative analysis of the appearances of the lower and upper Paradise, their divisions, and the journeys to and within them, which appear in mystical Jewish and Islamic sources in medieval Iberia. Ibn al-‘Arabī’s vast output on the Gardens of divine reward and their divisions generated a number of instructive comparisons to the eschatological and theosophical writing about the same subject in early Spanish Kabbalah. Although there is no direct historical evidence that kabbalists knew of such Arabic works from the region Catalonia or Andalusia, there are commonalities in fundamental imagery and in ontological and exegetical assumptions that resulted from an internalization of similar patterns of thought. It is quite reasonable to assume that these literary corpora, both products of the thirteenth century, were shaped by common sources from earlier visionary literature. The prevalence of translations of religious writing about ascents on high, produced in Castile in the later thirteenth century, can help explain the sudden appearance of visionary literature on Paradise and its divisions in the writings of Jewish esotericists of the same region. These findings therefore enrich our knowledge of the literary, intellectual, and creative background against which these kabbalists were working when they chose to depict Paradise in the way that they did, at the time that they did.

Original languageEnglish
Article number553
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research is supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant number 727/19).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Al-Futūḥāt al-Makiyyah
  • Castilian kabbalah
  • Comparative mysticism
  • Eschatology
  • Hekhalot
  • Ibn al-‘Arabī
  • Moses de León
  • Paradise
  • The Garden of Eden
  • The book of Zohar

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Ibn al-Arabi -- 1165-1240 -- Criticism and interpretation
  • Mysticism -- Islam -- Spain -- Andalusia -- History
  • Cabala
  • Judaism -- Relations -- Islam -- History -- To 1500
  • Paradise -- Comparative studies
  • Mysticism -- Comparative studies
  • Mysticism -- Judaism -- History -- To 1500


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