Written by Amber Whitman-Currier
The word Kabbalah comes from the Hebrew word “to receive”. It is believed a student of this mystery tradition cannot reap the benefits of study and practice unless he “receives” direct instruction from an adept. This hidden teaching has been passed through generations by word of mouth since Adam and Eve. Kabbalah is allegedly a secret science transmitted to Adam and then Abraham by God through angelic means. Tradition tells that not a single word was ever penned until Simeon Ben Yochai in 70 A.D. He sat in a cave for thirteen years and compiled the Sephur Yetzirah, one of the oldest and most recognized Kabalistic texts.
Little is known of where and when the origins of Kabbalah first appeared. There seem to be pieces of ancient Chaldean, Egyptian, and pre-Aryan mysticism imbedded in it, and more modern aspects relate to neo-Platonism. Superficial cause and effect cannot totally explain the origins of Kabbalah; it delves into the same mystery-life-that any other mystery tradition would. You could even consider Kabbalah as a form of Zen, expressed in peculiar terms to Hebrew tradition. Through time, great minds in any culture tap into the same wellsprings; therefore similarities between different kinds of mysticism are not always as scholars would like to believe. They are not always the result of migration and trade between various geographical regions. The universe unfolds the same everywhere, the same observations, the same mystical traditions, and tap into the same reality everywhere.
There are at least four branches of Kabbalah: Dogmatic, Literal, Practical, and Unwritten. The Dogmatic branch concerns Jewish mystical literature, the Torah, the Talmud, the Sepher Yetzirah, the Bahir, the Zohar, and several others. The Literal is concerned with the mystical attributes of the Hebrew alphabet. Each letter is simultaneously a phonetic symbol, a number, and a pictograph. The bulk of it delves into numerical relationships between words. Two words whose letters add up to the same sum, are thought to have a special relationship? The similarities can cause flashes of insight. This discipline, although strange, requires a state of mind that can relate to divination. Superstitious or not, a truth uncovered is still a truth and can stand on its own. You can hardly argue with that fact.
Practical Kabbalah is concerned with ceremonial magic, and making talismans and amulets. It is closed to most beginners, as it requires years of training to achieve the proper state of being. The unwritten branch is the most important as it deals with the central symbol used for the whole system, the Tree of Life. The evolution of spiritual, psychological, and physical life are greatly assisted by its use. The tree is a symbol that represents the universe, showing how nature unfolds from nothingness. Divine energy must appear to bring forth creation, and pass through ten stages called Sephiroth. Each is a reference point where consciousness emerges and takes part in the physical world. The configuration and the dynamics of the ten spheres bring consciousness from formless chaos into sensory order.
This happens at every instant; if the energy stopped all we see would vanish into obscurity in an instant as well. Believe it or not, even your flesh and bones are suspended in sensory awareness by the energy inside of you traveling through the ten Sephiroth. The goals of the mystic and the magician are to give up his identification with the lower Sephirah, and to connect to Kether, the first Sephirah. He climbs even higher, achieving more and more ability to act from deeper and more liberated realms of being. In the Golden Dawn, the outer order student must pass through the four elemental grades, corresponding to the lower Sephiroth, 10 through 7. These represent the four elements and other forces. The student passes through, psychological, intellectual, and emotional realms of his being.
These are considered the “elements” of his earthly persona, which he observes and then learns to lose them as his identity. When his actual nature is found he is ready to transcend the four lower Sephiroth and attain Tiphareth, the sixth Sephirah. Such a goal is the center of all systems of the occult. Now they have passed into the inner order, and are capable of real magic and bring forth his desires from within by using the four Elements of his lower nature. In modern psychological terms, this would be called “self actualization”. The real self who is immortal and divine can now picture itself in the outer world. The ego has been transformed into receiving revelations from higher Worlds. There are many world mythologies, some with great diversity - stories in which mankind tries to explain his existence. Kabbalah is part of this mythology, having a system of metaphysics, cosmology, magic, and intuition. It is a popular belief system, one that even many stars and celebrities are adopting.
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