Abulafia, Abraham (1240-1291)

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Abraham Abulafia was a Jewish cabalist born in Saragossa, Spain. As a young man he went to Palestine and attempted to discover Sambation, a mystical river. Dissatisfied with the contentions of rationalists, he turned to Cabala in the hope of cultivating prophetic powers and attaining communion with God. He was severely ascetic, believing that contact with the Divine might be achieved through constant prayer.

As a result of these investigations, he advanced the study of Divination considerably, contributing to the refinement of the clerical spell as well. Abulafia is credited with creating an early form of the augury spell. He introduced the mysticism of the Hebrew letters and established the technique, known as Gematria, by which new meanings might be derived from the very letters of Scripture by giving letters a numerical value. This advanced numerology within the study of occultism.

Believing himself to be a prophet and a messiah, he lectured on Cabala in the various cities of Spain and Italy. He made an attempt to convert Pope Nicholas III to Judaism and was thrown into prison in 1281. Later, he was driven out of Sicily and settled on the island of Comino. He died in Barcelona. Among his notable works are Sefer ha-Ot ("Book of the Sign") and Imre Shefer ("Words of Beauty").