Little is known as to where the Kabalah actually originated. There do seem to be elements of ancient Chaldean, Egyptian and even pre-Aryan Indian mysticism as well as elements drawn from other, less well-known Semitic peoples hidden in its depths. More modern aspects of the Kabalah either were heavily influenced by Neo-platonic theories or, in fact, influenced the Neo-platonists.
The earliest known form of Hebrew mysticism (not counting earlier shamanistic forms which seem to exist in all primitive tribes and societies) was not even called Kabalah. The earliest form of Hebrew occultism was known as "Heh-cha-loht" (with the "ch" sounding like that in the Scottish word "loch") which means "ascent." It is also known as Merkabah Mysticism. The Merkabah was the name of the Throne of God in Hebrew, and it was the aim of the Merkabah Mystics to be able to see God upon His Throne.
Unfortunately, most of the writings of the "Merkabah Riders" have been lost, so that full knowledge of their techniques is impossible. From what little we have, we know that their sources seem to be based upon mystical contemplation of the early chapters of Genesis and the Vision of Ezekial. These methods are known respectively as Mah-ah-seh Beh-ray-sheet and Mah-ah-seh Mer-kah-bah. From the fragments of Merkabah Mysticism which still remain, it is assumed that the actual practices of these mystics involved "astral travel" through a series of seven "places" (planes?) by way of certain passwords, talismans and secret signs while in a state of self-induced trance (possibly via self-hypnosis, drugs or sex). The names of each of the guards at each of the seven palaces had to be known so that they could be appeased in some way which today is unknown. Here, for the first time in any popular course or book (to my knowledge) are the correct names which are known (from the fragments of the book Pirkei Heichaloht):
First Palace: Dehaviel, Kashriel, Gahoriel, Botiel, Tofhiel, Dehariel, Matkiel and Shuiel (though some say Sheviel).
Second Palace: Tagriel, Matpiel, Sarhiel, Arfiel, Sheharariel, Sat-riel, Regaiel and Saheviel.
Third Palace: Shevooriel, Retzutziel, Shulmooiel, Savliel, Zeha-zahiel, Hadriel and Bezariel. (Note: There are only seven guards listted in the fragments, not the usual eight, implying that one of the names has been lost.)
Fourth Palace: Pachdiel, Gevoortiel, Kazooiel, Shekhiniel, Shat-kiel, Araviel, Kafiel and Anaphiel.
Fifth Palace: Tachiel, Uziel, Gatiel, Getahiel, Safriel, Garafiel, Gariel, Dariel, Falatriel. (Note: there are nine guards listed here, which is one too many.)
Sixth Palace: Katzmiel, Gehaghiel, Roomiel, Arsavrasbiel, Ag-roomiel, Faratziel, Mechakiel and Tofariel.
For the Seventh Palace there were names for "ascending" and "descending," the meaning of which is unclear. My guess is that different names were used to get in and get out. Since other techniques (how to go into trance, how to astral travel, the appropriate passwords and needed talismans) are unknown, I am not going to give a listing of the names of the rest of the guardians as this might lead to some unwise experimentation. My purpose in listing the names of the guards (which in the tradition needed to be memorized) merely has been to show you the complexity of the system. Those who wish to go further into the topic have the name of one of the few sources in a preceding paragraph.
The final goal of the Merkabah Rider was to be able to gaze upon the Throne of God and upon God Himself! This was no easy task, as you can see from the small amount of material I have given above. Also, remember that even Moses was not allowed to view the face of God, for it was said that no mortal could gaze upon the face of God •nd survive.
There are obvious similarities to Egyptian lore as presented in the so-called Egyptian Book of the Dead, especially the idea of going through various places (hells in the Egyptian. The Egyptian hells ihould not be confused with the Christian idea of Hell) and passing tests in order to pass safely through these nether realms. Did the Hebrews copy from the Egyptians, or vice-versa? Or did both come from •n older source? Or perhaps both cultures (along with others such as Tibetan and Amerind) just happened to tap into the same mystical Current. Nobody knows.
Moving into the actual Kabalistic period of Hebrew mysticism, we come across the first well-known Kabalistic book, the Sepher Yet-Iirah or "Book of Formation." This book seems to be a combination of , the earlier Merkabah Mysticism and the more modern Kabalah. The Sepher Yetzirah, along with another work, the Bahir, have been traced back to the earliest centuries of the Common Era. Within them are discussions of such things as emanations from Divinity bringing about the universe. This idea is known today as Neo-platonism. However, if We assume that the Kabalah was either brought to the Egyptians by the Hebrews, or that the Egyptians had the knowledge prior to the period of the enslavement of the Hebrews, then it might be that Neo-platonism was a development of the Kabalah. As stated before, it is Well documented that Pythagoras, who is still famous for the Pythagorean Theorum (the sum of the squares of two sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypoteneuse), studied mysticism and was initiated into the Egyptian mystery school. It is not unlikely that he learned some early form of Kabalah there and brought it back to his home in the Greek city-states. It is not impossible that Plato and his later followers adopted the idea of emanations as a result of studying in Pythagoras' mystery school, begun when Pythagoras returned to the Greek isles from the Middle East. Of course, this is speculation, but is based on probabilities.
That Kabalistic mysticism continued to develop during the centuries of the Common Era since the beginning of the Diaspora cannot be disputed. It is one of the reasons that Jews were hated and feared. Part of the Kabalah is related to magickal abilities, and many people fear magick. In the fourteenth century, Moses de Leon made the first printing of the Zohar, the classic Kabalistic text. Some modern scholars, and some contemporaries of de Leon, have called it a fraud. They say that it was not the original Zohar of legend written by Simeon ben Yochai, and that de Leon forged the entire work. Although I do not claim to be a great achaeological scholar, I find this contention hard to accept. Parts of the whole long work in various forms have been discovered in other works dating before the fourteenth century. However, it does seem likely that de Leon did edit and add some of his own mystical philosophy to the Zohar. Even so, let us assume for a moment that Moses de Leon did create the Zohar as it is printed today (the most complete translation fills five volumes). If so, it is a monumental work of mystical thought. Besides, whether it is ancient or relatively recent, it should be studied for what is in it, not for who wrote it.
To sum up, the Kabalah is not a single book or simple mystical idea. Rather, it is a whole system of mystical thought and action. It is the mystical underpinnings for Judaism, Christianity and (to a lesser extent) Islam. As the Middle Ages developed in Europe, many locations became Kabalistic centers, the most important ones being in Spain. But in 1492, the year Columbus sailed, the Jews were expelled from Spain. It is for this reason that some people believe that Columbus (actually Cristobal Colon was his name in Spanish, and Colon may have been a variation of Cohen) may have been Jewish! Be that as it may, many of the Jews returned to the Middle East, and a large, important Kabalistic center developed in the city of Safed.
Two things happened which took the Kabalah away from being part of the mainstream of Judaism. One was a book by the respected Rabbi Moses Maimonides called A Guide for the Perplexed. In this book,
"rational" (by Western scientific terms) solutions to theoretical and philosophical problems in Judaism were given. A virtual war of words developed between the followers of Maimonides' "rational" approach (there is still much mysticism and magick even in his "rationality") and those who believed in the Kabalah. This "war" went on for years, the most famous proponent of the Kabalah being the Rabbi Nahmanides. Meanwhile, many schools of the Kabalah had developed, each with slightly different ideas of Kabalistic theory and practice, such as the schools of Isaac Luria and Isaac the Blind. The final blow, along with the Guide for the Perplexed, came in the form of a man named Sabbatai Zvi (1626-1676).
Zvi (or Zebi or Zwi) had an intense, charismatic personality. He was also very learned in both standard and Kabalistic Jewish knowledge. He became more and more popular in the Middle East until he was proclaimed by his followers as the Messiah, the saviour of the Jews. He never denied that he was the Messiah. Word of his magickal powers, wisdom and Godliness spread via Jewish traders to Jewish communities throughout the Middle East, Asia and Europe. In the Middle East, where he spent most of his life, he developed many diehard zealots as followers. Finally, the Islamic Sultan could no longer ignore him. The resultant meeting between the two led to the dis-creditment of Zvi and his conversion to Islam, following which he was exiled to a prison in Albania where he died as a false Messiah.
Deceived Jewry tried to forget and put out of their lives every-thfcig >vhjch reminded them of Zvi. In fact, in Jewish books he was frequently merely called "that one." Since Zvi was associated with the Kabalah and magick, this too was discarded and the position of Maimonides was accepted. Except for small groups of secretive believers, Judaism deserted the Kabalah.
The Kabalah was saved from being perhaps totally lost by those Christians whose goal was to study the inner teachings of Judaism in order to prove that Jesus was, in fact, the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, and thus turn all Jews into Christians. As you can see, there are still Jews in the world today, and the attempt failed. But it did cause the translations of many documents and books which had never before been translated out of the Hebrew or Aramaic. The possibility of real magickal secrets which were holy and not satanic in nature caught the fancy of many scholars and clerics, up to and including Eliphas Levi (born Alphonse Louis Constant). Levi's most famous work, translated poorly into English, is now in print under the title Transcendental
Magic. His books and teachings helped start what has been called the Trench Occult Revival" of the 19th century. At that time, many occult groups began to develop in France and spread to other countries, most notably Austria, Germany and England. Some of these groups used their occultism to support questionable ethics, leading to 1 "magickal wars" between occult groups in France, and the evil of Nazism in Germany.
Looking for a second back on the "lighter" side of occultism, we come in England to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn whose primary importance came in their taking the teachings of the Kabalah as a basis for their occultism and uniting with other forms of occultism such as the magickal systems of Egypt, of Enochian Magick, of the Magick of Abramelin, of mysticism from India as well as other sour- f ces. We will deal with all of these as need be in this course.
The Kabalah which we study in this course is a modern Kabalah. The Kabalah is a philosophical system of life as well as a magickal system and, as such, has changed over the centuries to meet the needs of the people of the current society. Besides differences in inter- | pretations of the Kabalah based on different sects' attitudes, there are two major divisions in the Kabalah today. j
First there is what I call the "Kosher Kabalah." This has come about as a result of the need for a Jewish spiritual rebirth. Right now, in America at least, the number of Jews is rapidly decreasing. Oh, there | may be more Jews numerically, but for many it is merely a group association and nothing more. I feel that this is at least in part due to the extreme lack of spirituality found in some of the major forms of J Judaism. This has resulted in a leaning away from standard Judaism, j and the fact that there is a disproportionately large percentage of Jews being attracted to various cults which disguise themselves as religions. But some Jews are looking toward their own spiritual roots and are rediscovering their Kabalistic heritage. The Kosher Kabalah, then, has aparticularly Jewish tone to it. It benefits all students of the mystical as we are obtaining more and more ancient Kabalistic works which are | finally being translated into Western tongues. But, because it is so oriented toward one point of view, it is not our main concern.
The "WASP Kabalah" follows in the traditions of the Golden J Dawn. This system of Kabalah universalizes the Kabalistic wisdom so J that it may be accepted by all, no matter your particular faith or lack thereof. This "syncretistic" system of the Kabalah is the one which we will be studying. Because the Kabalah has been safeguarded for thousands of years by the Jewish culture, it is obvious that it will have, in many instances, a Jewish flavor. That is why we will be using many words which are in Hebrew. However, since we will be studying the WASP Kabalah and not the Kosher Kabalah, since we are studying a universalized Kabalah, you do not have to be or become a Jew or Christian or Pagan or follow any particular religion or belief in order to study the philosophy and magickal techniques of the Kabalah and traditional ceremonial magick.
There are four main branches to the Kabalah, some aspects of each overlapping each other.
1. The Dogmatic Kabalah. This concerns the study of the literatures of the Kabalah such as the Torah, the Sepher Yetzirah, the Bahir, the Zohar, and many others. Although their study is fascinating, it is not the focus of this course. The names of various books and appropriate sections from them or ideas from them will be given when they are needed, but the Dogmatic Kabalah will not be a primary concern of these lessons.
2. The Practical Kabalah. This refers to the making of talismans and amulets via Kabalistic methods. It is the basis for Kabalistic magick when mixed with the following two branches of Kabalistic study. The methods of the Practical Kabalah are neither good nor bad, but can be used for what might be called "positive or negative" purposes. Therefore, it is necessary to first give you the work which will prepare you so that not only would you not have a desire to do magick for negative purposes, but so that you will understand the dire consequences that will result for YOU if you try to use magick for negative purposes. Thus, we will not be taking up the Practical Kabalah for a tew more lessons.
Please don't misinterpret the last paragraph to imply that you will become a namby-pamby magician who is all sweetness and light If you follow the techniques as given in this course. No, by following the methods given here you can become a powerful magician, afraid of no other entity, physical or otherwise. But, rather than moving blindly with no understanding of the rules of the universe as explained by the Kabalah, by following these lessons and learning all the information, you can become a true wise man or woman, a wizard, a warrior of the light.
When we do get into the Practical Kabalah, into Grey Magick, then we will truly soar. Nor will we be limited to the kabalistic methods of magick. As an example, just in dealing with talismans we will be discussing Pagan, numerological, Rosicrucian and other systems of making these devices.
3. The Literal Kabalah. This concerns the relationships between the numbers and letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The ancient Hebrews did not have separate figures to represent numbers, so they used the letters of their alphabet. It was believed that if two words had the same numerical total, they had a significant relationship to each other, and in some cases could be considered synonyms. As an example, aheva=13 and echod= 13. Therefore, aheva is the same as echod. Echod is the Hebrew word meaning "one." Since in Judaism there is only one God, it also represents God. Aheva is Hebrew for "love." Therefore, according to this system, God is love. Further, the holiest name of God, the Tetragrammaton of YHVH totals 26. Since 13+13=26, we can say that love (aheva) plus oneness (echod) equals the nature of God (YHVH). This process is known as Gematria (geh-may-tree-yah). As we go on in the lessons, you will see the vital import that Gematria plays in ceremonial magick. It will be explained more fully in another lesson. (By the way, do you remember that I said I would explain the meaning of the number 13 earlier in this lesson?)
Notarikon (Noh-tayr-ih-kon) is another aspect of the Literal Kabalah. It is a system of finding acronyms, where the first letters of a series of words gives a new word or words. English examples of this system would be Mothers Against Drunk Driving becoming MADD or North Atlantic Treaty Organization becoming NATO. As you can see, they do not have to form familiar words, although they may do so. Ah-tah Gee-boor Lih-oh-lahm Ah-doh-nye is Hebrew for "Thou art great forever, my Lord." It is represented by the Notarikon (or acronym) AGLA, pronounced Ah-glah, as given in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. Amen in Hebrew is composed of three letters: aleph, mem, nun—AMN. They are a Notarikon for Al (pronounced "ehl" and meaning "God") Melech (meaning "king") Neh-eh-mahn (meaning "faithful"). Thus, Amen, the Notarikon for Al Melech Neh-eh-mahn, means "God is our faithful king." This is the secret meaning of the word Amen.
Temurah (teh-moo-rah) is a system of transposition of letters such as is used in cryptography. Its primary importance is in interpretation of the Torah (known as exegesis) and in making talismans. Here are some styles of this system:
Avgad: A very simple kind of Temurah wherein any letter is replaced by the letter which follows it in the alphabet. Thus, in English, "a" is written as "b," "b" is written as "c," etc.
Aik Bekar: In this system, the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet plus the five special "final" forms of five of the letters (they are only used at the end of words) are mixed according to a certain pattern. They are placed in nine boxes of three letters each. Thus is formed a figure three boxes high and three boxes across. In Aik Bekar you can have any letter in a box represent either of the other two letters in that box. In the first box which has the letters aleph, yud and koph (the "Aik" of Aik Bekar), the yud could represent either the koph or the aleph. So, too, could the koph represent the aleph or the yud, and the aleph could represent either the yud or the koph.
The letters in the second box make the word Bekar.
Achas B'tay-ah (the "ch" sounds like the Scottish word "Loch"): This is similar to Aik Bekar. In this system there are seven boxes of three letters each, with one letter left over. Here again, a letter in one box is interchangeable with any of the other letters in that box.
There are several other systems of Temurah including the simple expedient of transferring the first letter of the alphabet with the last, the second with the second to last, etc.
4. The Unwritten Kabalah. This fourth branch of the Kabalah refers to the correspondences on the sacred glyph known as the Tree of Life. It is the key to the entire Kabalistic system. In the next part of this lesson we will begin the study of the Tree of Life.
But before going on to the next part, take a few days off and go over this last history section. Also be sure to be doing your rituals and keeping your diaries. You might also start building your altar and sewing your robe (if you intend to do so) while you spend a few days studying what has been covered so far in this lesson.
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