Michael D. Swartz’s latest book appeared this fall: The Mechanics of Providence: The Workings of Ancient Jewish Magic and Mysticism (Tübingen: Mohr, 2018). It argues that magic and mysticism had a profound effect on the shaping of Judaism in late antiquity. In this study Swartz offers a wide-ranging examination of the purposes, worldviews, ritual dynamics, literary forms, and social settings of ancient Jewish magic and mysticism, and their function in religion and history.
Based on extensive research over the past few decades, Swartz’s volume proposes innovative methods for the study of these two phenomena. He focuses especially on the rituals of early Jewish magic and mysticism, their social contexts, and the textual dimension of this complex literature. He also offers introductions to these phenomena. He asserts that the authors of important texts related to magic and mysticism employed intricate technologies, literary and artistic forms, and physical practices to negotiate between the values and worldviews of their cultures and the texture of everyday life.