It saddens me when modern scholarship, starting already in the nineteenth century, refers to the phenomena of Maggidim as something totally illusory, devoid of all truth, and belonging to the realm of psycho-pathology. Some even apologetically refer to it as a “regrettable weakness” on the part of the person claiming such a contact, while others, including the very religious, see the whole subject of the Maggid as a fabrication, believing it to be heresy and a disgrace.
Despite all this, it is worth noting that many famous Rabbis, Masters and scholars had a Maggid. In fact, Maggidism comprising mentor angels, spirit guides, voices, and so forth, certainly played a massive role in all mysticism, and, as one author puts it, existed in certain periods and amongst certain groups almost like an “epidemic.” So despite modern scholarship referring only to the worshipful “religious-spiritual” side of mysticism, there is no doubt that manifestations like Maggidim are a widespread and valued phenomenon.
The meaning of the word Maggid is “one who relates,” and it ordinarily refers to itinerant preachers. However, on another level, as already indicated, a Maggid is a mentor or ministering angel, spirit guide, or voice, which could in some cases appear in dream as a departed friend, teacher or master, an angel or spirit guide instructing the dreamer, who can question the Maggid. At other times it may appear while the receiver is completely conscious and awake, alone or in the company of other people. Often all present would hear the voice of the Maggid, though at times a contactee would be taken over by the Maggid as in possession, and then the “spirit messenger” would speak through his/her mouth, which is not unlike what sometimes occurs in modern Spiritualism when the medium becomes “controlled.”
Yet not always is the Maggid a spirit classifiable as Elijah, or some known friend, master or angel. The Maggid can be the personified spirit of sacred texts, that is the spirit of the Torah, Mishnah, Talmud, Zohar, Tosefta, or other holy text, seen as conscious living entities, such as in the case of the sixteenth century Rabbi Shlomo Molcho where, at night time, the Mishnah descended as a personified feminine spirit, to whisper revelations into the ear of “Her” servant.
The same holds true for the sixteenth century Rabbi Joseph Karo who had a Maggid appear to him every time he recited the Mishnah by heart, who then spoke, saying: “Peace upon thee, Rabbi Joseph Karo. I am the Mishnah which thou hast studied. I came forth to teach thee understanding.” Then the Maggid would instruct the contactee regarding remarkable mysteries of life and its manifestations, and the teachings related to these mysteries, such as Kabbalistic explanations. Yet, the Maggid never appeared in visual form to Rabbi Karo, but spoke through the Rabbi’s mouth, and, as one author puts it, this is “a genuine case of well-ordered, lucid, automatic-speech,” of course still under the guidance of a Maggid, a heavenly messenger.
A Maggid could bring great visual revelations, even though it may not necessarily itself be visual. Thus the Maggid of Rabbi Karo said: “I shall grant thee to behold Elijah, for the ancient of days will be clothed in white garments and will sit facing thee and will speak unto thee as a man speaketh unto his friend and thine eye shall behold thy teacher and.....He will speak with thee and thou shalt behold him.”
The subject of Maggidism is not only related to automatic speech, but to both clairvoyance and clairaudience. More and more I think you may realise how closely this relates to normal mediumistic states and trances. A Maggidic manifestation is not only related to a spirit messenger, angel, dream figure or automatic speech, occurring during sleep, while in a trance or fully conscious, but is also related to automatic writing. Connected to the latter is the Kabbalistic Chochmat ha-Tzeruf, “Science of Permutation,” but this topic is much too large to address in any great detail in this brief post. Briefly Tzeruf is a method of mentally permuting the letters in Hebrew words as a form of profound meditation, leading to expanded sensory perceptions and ecstatic states.