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The Judeo-Christian relationship with Kabbalah

The Judeo-Christian relationship with Kabbalah

Both Eliphas Levi and Dr. Paul Foster Case believed that imagination was the catalyst of any magical work done with the Kabbalah. In his seminal Transcendental Magic, Levi wrote, “The intelligence and will of man {sic} possess a faculty which belongs to the realms of magic: it is the imagination. The old Kabbalists call it the Diaphane or the Translucid…It is the soul’s eye, wherein forms are outlined and preserved. Thereby we behold the reflections of the invisible world.”

Major Arcana and Kabbalah

In Kabbalistic practice it is believed that the process of applying imagination to reason allows an angelic power to manifest on the material plane. Case emphasized that this power is needed so there is no temptation to play with the practice for whimsy or ego gratification. Work with the Tarot is not done for divinations, but for using archetypes for conscious visualization.

Kabbalists profess that the use of symbol allows for contact with the deeper aspects of spirituality. The symbol system in the Tarot,, contains all of the archetypes in existence (according to Jung) or all possible combinations of the key to the Kabbalah (according to Levi). Levi connected the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot with the 22 Hebrew letters, and stressed that the spiritual tradition has been an oral one for thousands of years. He called the Tarot the Wheel of the Rosicrucian and its pictorial system the Universal Language. Case saw it as the language of the subconscious.

Israel Regardie: Kabbalah for All

Israel Regardie was another important figure who disseminated the secrets of the Golden Dawn to the public at large. He was secretary to Aleistar Crowley for four years, but then chose to distance himself from the man. He still had a high degree of respect for his work, though. In his books The Tree of Life and A Garden of Pomegranates, he described many of the secret traditions and practices of the Golden Dawn. He was accused of being an oath-breaker (as Case was charged), but he felt that it was important for this information to not disappear. In My Rosicrucian Adventure, he wrote, “It is the heritage of every man and woman, their spiritual birthright.”

Regardie was Jewish and Case, Christian. They both firmly believed that passing on the knowledge of the occult was for “the honor and glory of God.” They, as well as many others involved in the first generation of the Golden Dawn, strongly ascribed to the importance of remaining connected to the Judeo-Christian tradition and in maintaining that the Kabbalah evokes the plurality within the Unity of God, never divorced from the Unity.

Angel Names and Kabbalah Practice

Angelic spheres are thought to have much to do with the practical work of the Kabbalah. Both the Sefer Raziel and Sefer Yetzirah are said to have been inspired by angels and emphasize that relationships are to be established with these angelic beings. In Jewish tradition, one relates to God and God’s messengers through “clinging” to Divine Presence through spiritual acts, such as prayer, fasting, meditation and Kabbalistic study.

Kabbalistic study is associated with entering an Earthly Paradise. Angel names are chanted in some Hermetic lodges. Some of the names used are synonyms with planetary deities. It is believed that the Godhead is revealed through all of creation. Jewish tradition maintains that angels appear throughout history to instruct in the Kabbalistic mysteries.

Spiritual Journey of Kabbalah

Kabbalah means “to receive.” Those who practice this type of spiritual journey believed that its purpose is to gain understanding in how higher celestial spheres operate in order for the angels to teach the student. Dr. Case referred to this meeting as contact with the Higher Guardian Angel, or the Inner Teacher. He felt that the ability to listen and discern is the real connection with the Source within, and that the goal of Kabbalah is to perfect consciousness. Once this occurs, he believed that there is no obstacle between the initiate and the “inner teacher,” also known as the “hierophant.”

The Tree of Life: Kabbalah

The Kabbalah is an esoteric interpretation of Bibical scriptures which can be studied via archetypal associations to receive insights into the various aspects of God and for personal spiritual growth.

The first known manuscripts date from 11th century France; from there the study was especially taken up in medieval Spain. Legend say that the Kabbalah’s roots may go as far back as Abraham, evolving through Merkabah, or Chariot mysticism, of Enoch and Ezequiel (recorded in the Sefer Raziel, a compilation of their visions).

Kabbalah Theme of Ascent

Neo-platonic and Gnostic ideas influenced the Kabbalah. It has also been interpreted as a system for Christian mysticism. According to Archetypes on the Tree, Teachings of the Paul Foster Case Tarot, by Sorel A.L., “the theme of ascent is what working with the Tree of Life is all about…we see the evolution of distinct levels or worlds in this visionary journey which have become finely articulated by various initiates and mystics as the tradition developed.”

The Sefer Yetzirah, which supposedly recorded Abraham’s mystical visions, was written as an attempt to resolve the dichotomy of “theosophical Hebraic streams with Neoplatonism.” A complex system was described in the book that related “the ten primordial numbers, or sephirot, the 22 sacred letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 32 paths of Wisdom (Chokmah or Sophia) by which God created the world.”

Contemplating the Tree of Life

Hebrew words and letters connate multiple associations and meanings, unlike younger languages like English in which meanings are more denotative. Students of the Kabbalah study these associations, as well as the spiritual meanings of numbers and the multiple Hebraic names for God, applying these to the Tree of Life.

Tradition and modern practice of the Kabbalah revolve around contemplation of the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life consists of ten spheres, or sephira, which represent different emanations of divine energy, from Kether, the most etheric at the top of the Tree, to Malkuth, also referred to as “earth” or “kingdom,” found at the bottom.

Each sephoroth also has multiple attributions associated with it, archetypes that carry the energy of each emanation. Thus, different mythological deities, legends, symbols, herbs, gems, etc. can be “correspondences” that help students understand the various aspects of God, as well as their own spiritual evolution.

Ain Soph, Negative Existence

According to Kabbalastic teaching, all of the Sephira eminate from Ain Soph, or negative existence, which lies beyond all attributes or ideas. In other words, Ain Soph is the transcendent and unknowable Godhead, the First Cause. By contemplating the Sephira, one can delve into a deeper understanding of the reality of God, but never to the deepest level of Ain Soph, because it surpasses the nature of thought altogether.