So how could I have ever claimed to study the Kabbalah when I hadn’t read the most basic text? Well, I have been paging through this book several times, but indeed I always bought more recent works. Really reading Scholem’s book afterall, it is a feast of recognition. Obviously almost every later writer draws so heavily on Scholem (1897-1982), that most information was already familiar. Still this book is wider than just a book about the Kabbalah (“Jewish mysticism” is more than just Kabbalah) and has more information overall.
Because Scholem was the first scholar to study this subject (and finally put it on the map), he needed to give background information before getting to specific subjects. This is helpfull for people who are new to Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah, but other people will be paging through this book rapidly at some parts. Major Trends is a compilation of lectures. The first is about Jewish mysticism in general. The second about “Merkabah mysticism and Jewish gnosticism” (very nice piece). Then follows “Hasidism in Mediaeval Germany”, Abulafia, two lectures about the Zohar, Luria, Sabbatai Sevi and modern Hasidism.
Scholem doesn’t always have a very structured style of writing, which is a bit of a pitty. Often you will have to search for the information you want, because it isn’t nicely written after eachother. Also Scholem had some ‘unorthodox views’ that even many of his admireres didn’t follow. The most eyecatching (to me) is that mysticism is not the source of religion, but its outcome.
Anyway, Major Trends can be bought in very cheap paperback versions and belongs in every (personal) library which wants information about Jewish mysticism and/or Kabbalah.