Kabbalah ~ Qabbalah
Tree of Life
The word 'Qabala' finds its root in the Hebrew word 'Qibel'
meaning 'to receive by oral tradition'.
This receiving refers to an oral tradition of esoteric or secret knowledge concerning 'essentially' the mysteries of Nature, and more overtly, the hidden teachings concerning the Hebrew Torah. The Torah is, of course, the first five books of what Christians call the Old Testament, and the oldest surviving of the Judaic liturgical texts.
The Kabala is an ancient Hebrew mystical system of thought. It is a symbolic representation of the path the Divine followed in the creation of the universe, including man. It is, by definition, humanity's process of returning to divinity along the same path.
Kabbala, also spelled KABALA, KABBALAH, CABALA, CABBALA, OR CABBALAH, is an esoteric Jewish mysticism as it appeared in the 12th and following centuries. Kabbala has always been essentially an oral tradition in that initiation into its doctrines and practices is conducted by a personal guide to avoid the dangers inherent in mystical experiences.
Esoteric Kabbala is also "tradition" inasmuch as it lays claim to secret knowledge of the unwritten Torah (divine revelation) that was communicated by God to Moses and Adam. Though observance of the Law of Moses remained the basic tenet of Judaism, Kabbala provided a means of approaching God directly.
It thus gave Judaism a religious dimension whose mystical approaches to God were viewed by some as dangerously pantheistic and heretical.
The earliest roots of Kabbala are traced to Merkava mysticism. It began to flourish in Palestine in the 1st century AD and had as its main concern ecstatic and mystical contemplation of the divine throne, or "chariot" (merkava), seen in a vision by Ezekiel, the prophet (Ezekiel 1).
The earliest known Jewish text on magic and cosmology, Sefer Yetzira ("Book of Creation"), appeared sometime between the 3rd and the 6th century. It explained creation as a process involving the 10 divine numbers (sefirot; see sefira) of God the Creator and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Taken together, they were said to constitute the "32 paths of secret wisdom."
A major text of early Kabbala was the 12th-century Sefer ha-bahir ("Book of Brightness"), whose influence on the development of Jewish esoteric mysticism and on Judaism in general was profound and lasting.
The Bahir not only interpreted the sefirot as instrumental in creating and sustaining the universe but also introduced into Judaism such notions as the transmigration of souls (gilgul) and strengthened the foundations of Kabbala by providing it with an extensive mystical symbolism.
In the following century, the Sefer ha-temuna ("Book of the Image") appeared in Spain and advanced the notion of cosmic cycles, each of which provides an interpretation of the Torah according to a divine attribute.
Judaism, consequently, was presented not as a religion of immutable truths but as one for which each cycle, or eon, was said to have a different Torah.
Spain also produced the famous Sefer ha-zohar ("Book of Splendour"), a book that in some circles was invested with a sanctity rivaling that of the Torah itself. It dealt with the mystery of creation and the functions of the sefirot, and it offered mystical speculations about evil, salvation, and the soul.
Following their expulsion from Spain in 1492, the Jews were more than ever taken up with messianic hopes and eschatology, and Kabbala found wide favour.
By the mid-16th century the unchallenged centre of Kabbala was Safed, Galilee, where one of the greatest of all Kabbalists, Isaac ben Solomon Luria, spent the last years of his life. According to Gershom Gerhard Scholem, a modern Jewish scholar of Kabbala, Luria's influence was surpassed only by that of the Sefer ha-zohar.
Lurianic Kabbala developed several basic doctrines: the "withdrawal" (tzimtzum) of the divine light, thereby creating primordial space; the sinking of luminous particles into matter (qellipot: "shells"); and a "cosmic restoration" (tiqqun) that is achieved by the Jew through an intense mystical life and unceasing struggle against evil. Lurianic Kabbalism was used to justify Shabbetaianism, a Jewish messianic movement of the 17th century. Lurianic Kabbala also profoundly influenced the doctrines of modern Hasidism, a social and religious movement that began in the 18th century and still flourishes today in small but significant Jewish communities.
The Sefer Zohar or "Book of Splendour" is supposed to be the most authoritative Kabbalistic work, but this massive series of books is so obscure and symbolic as to be practically incom-prehensible.
Although traditionally said to date back to the first century C.E., in its present form the Zohar is most likely of 13th Century Spanish vintage, compiled by the Kabbalistic writer Moses de Leon (c.1240-1305) from a combination of his own ideas and contemporary Kabbalistic elements [Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, chapter 5].
Moses de Leon was a brilliant homilectical rather than a systematic thinker. He was concerned not with formulating a coherent metaphysical system, but with the elaboration and interpretation of verses of scripture from the Torah, often in the form of obscure mystical allegorizations.
It was this rich mass of imagery and allegory that the Zohar contains that served as the inspiration for all subsequent generations of Kabbalists.
The Kabala is presented, symbolically in the form of The Tree of Life.
The Tree contains ten centers called sephiroth, individually sephira, which are connected by 22 paths.
KETER ....CROWN, GOD, INFINITE LIGHT & WISDOM, TOTAL & SUPREME CONSCIOUSNESS
CHOHMAN...MALE YANG ENERGIES, PURE ENERGY, SPIRITUAL FORCE, COSMIC FATHER
BINAH...YIN ENERGY, COMPASSION, PURE LOVE & UNDERSTANDING, THE COSMIC MOTHER
CHESED...THE RULER, MAJESTY, POWER & AUTHORITY, CONSOLIDATOR OF THINGS
GEBURAH...THE WARRIOR, SPSERER OF MARS, STRENGTH, JUSTICE, PHYSICAL POWER
TIPERETH...THE SUN, HARMONY, BEAUTY, PERFECTION, UNITY, CREATION
NEDZACH...THE LOVER, VENUS, ART, CREATIVITY INSPIRATION & EROTICSPIRITUALITY
HOD...THE INTELLECT, MERCURY, COMMUNICATION
YESOD...THE MOON, VISION & DEEP MEMORY, THE CYCLES IN & AROUND US, ILLUSION
MALKUTH...PHYSICAL REALITY, DEATH, PAIN, HEALING
DAATH...THE ABYSS, RANDOM CHAOS OF THOUGHT & CONCEPTION
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