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The Hebrew term for Kabbalah (kabala, cabala) is “reception” in the context of “received tradition” which historically refers to all of Judaism’s spoken law such as the sacred teachings of the ancient prophets from ancient biblical days.
The Key Principles of the Kabbalah:
The basic Kabbalistic principle is to consciously and mystically find unity with God through the same means and methods as outlined by Mekubal (a Kabbalah mystic). The idea is to reduce the chasm between the seeker, the divine, and the physical realm he dwells in. God’s revelations in our world is perceived by the mekubal as the phenomenon of the entire material reality.
The aspiring mystic attempts to uncover the divine spirit in all things and all forms and by doing so, to ascend spiritually, send back his soul to her spiritual origins and to be one with God. The Kabbalah discriminates between God’s invisible qualities which no one can understand and God’s disclosures, usually understood as the Ten Sephiroth (or “emanations”) which are the paths in which God organizes his energies and through which he manifested the universe. The Sephiroth consists of the configuration known as the Tree of Life.
There are different aspects of the Sephiroth, some even being contrary to each other. The three aspects of grace, judgment, and mercy, or right, left, and middle commonly constitutes the three branches of the Sephiroth. The mekubal tries to bring everything to the middle through the careful compromise of great, opposing powers or tensions in this process. Carefully combining the female qualities of judgement, and the masculine qualities of grace should deliver effects of goodness and positive energy to humanity.
Kabbalah’s Historic Advancement
Jewish mysticism is said to have originated since the earliest biblical times when God revealed to Adam an esoteric truth in the Garden of Eden. Many wondrous stories such as Jacob’s dream of the ladder to heaven, Moses’ burning bush, the separation of the red sea, the prophet Ezekiel’s visions and many more can be read in the Bible. Nevertheless, there is disagreement regarding whether the early esoteric Jewish teachings could be said to have begun with the Bible or the actual Kabbalah dating back to late 12th century and early 13th century in the south of France and in northern Spain.
In the year 1180, the first book of Kabbalah, (Bahir Book or the Book of Brightness) presented itself in the south of France. While containing concepts and exhortations from the Hekhalot and the Merkaba literature, it was considered to have been written by the Mishnah scholars. Comments from Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation) detailing the evolution of the creation guided by God, are used by the Bahir, The Sacred Names. Their use in magic is also mentioned.
The esoteric disciplines of the Ashkenaz Hasidim rose on its own, at the same time in history. Even if there are numerous variations between those disciplines and those of the Mekubalim, there are many comparisons both in the practice of early Jewish mysticism as worthy of noting, the creation of personal learning groups and the concept of keeping the teachings exclusive. Due to the expansion of teachers and the profusion of books, the Kabbalah quickly dispersed to other locations in Spain.
The assumed author of the Bahir book, Rabbi Yitzhak Saggi Nehor was one of the teachers. He moved to Gerona, starting a group of teachers that played a major role in creating and writing down the concepts of the Kabbalah. The Halacha and biblical interpretation books started to contain kabbalistic theories. Eventually, the esoteric teachings of the Kabbalah were commonly received.
The Compendium of Zohar
The first editions of the main text of the Kabbalah, considered to be inscribed by Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai, showed up In 1280 as the compendium of Zohar. Having given strength to the community’s need for salvation after the ordeal of the Alhambra Decree (banishing the Jews from Spain), the compendium of Zohar achieved a huge following. After having been published, the Zohar experienced even more popularity and respect in the 16th century. In the city of Safed, this response was perfected in the kabbalistic instructions, allowing the interpretations in the Zohar to inspire many of its new mystical ideas. Although it brought up many criticisms that continue to our days, replacing the Talmud and the Bible, the Zohar turned out to become the main authority for the cabalistic texts.
Safed: The Heart of Kabbalah
Instead of keeping this knowledge hidden, in 1530 the Safed was presented as being the main part of the Kabbalah and openly delivered to the community. Many everyday people along with the famous mekubalim including the RAMAK – Rabbi Moshe Cordevero created or were included in numerous gatherings and classes. Apart from studying the Kabbalah, the activities of these groups also included writing improvements and enhancements, and falling onto the graves of previous mystics and saints, thus acquiring spiritual awareness and experiencing visions of the divine. Having a very focused devotional understanding and a huge talent for clear exposition, one of the famous Kabbalah prophets was the the Ramak. He was honored as being the leading systematical theologian of the Kabbalah.
Even though their analyses of the Kabbalah varied somewhat, he was succeeded by his pupil, Rabbi Isaac Luria (also known as “He-Ari” or the lion). While the Ramak’s teachings were still widely successful and he himself deeply acclaimed, the Ari and his mystical exhortations briskly stole the forefront in disclosing the hidden secrets of the Kabbalah. Ari’s successful popularity could be understood by his deliberate focus on of the ideas of exclusion and salvation, providing a response to the community’s requirements after their banishment from Spain. After Ari’s teachings expanded throughout Jewish associations in Europe and northern Africa, more organizations including the Hasidut and the Shabtaut also rose into existence.
Kabbalah and Christianity
In the early days of the renaissance, near the conclusion of the 15th century, Christian theologists started to take on the Kabbalah manuscripts and several of the sacred texts were transcribed into Latin. The Christian theologists discovered a similarity among several aspects of the Kabbalah and some central Christian ideas and attempted to establish those ideas on the Kabbalah. In their missionary activity, they attempted to convert Jews to Christianity by saying that many of the Christian fundamentals can be proven by some of the concepts included in the teachings of the Kabbalah and the Zohar. The application of the Kabbalah and the Zohar in Christianity, and later on in the “heretic” Shabtaut, made numerous scholars disagree with the teaching and spreading of the esoteric teachings, even to the extent of publicly condemning it.
Modern Day Kabbalah
Along with the global, ever-increasing demand of spirituality and the spread of endless religious organization, the Kabbalah attracts novel enthusiasm throughout the world regardless if one is Jewish or non-Jewish. The teachings of the Kabbalah can now be found in all manner of different cultural, economic and social communities, and certain celebrities have also been influenced. The singer Madonna, being one of the most famous representations, added the Hebrew “Esther” to her own name. The singer is one of the huge number of the students of the Kabbalah Centre, now the largest organization for Kabbalah instruction including more than fifty chapters throughout the globe.
The use of the Kabbalah by this institution and others like it, have been rejected by most orthodox rabbis, having claimed it rather frivolous and too commercialized. Some even banned it. That the Kabbalah Centre teaches “new age” theories and not the actual sacred teachings has been a concern expressed by many of the Kabbalah researchers throughout the world. Even though certain “new age” ideas and diagrams were borrowed from the kabbalistic teachings, the original teachers of the Kabbalah, do not wish anyone to assume that there is a connection between the “new age” activities and the original kabbalistic concepts. Dr. Boaz Hoss from the Ben-Gurion University in Israel says, “If the Ari were to rise in the 21st century and see someone meditating, allegedly according to his ideas, he would have gotten a heart attack from the shock and died for the second time.”
Sacred geometry illustrates the unity of life in our world like no other field of study can. The sacred geometry symbol, Flower of Life, for instance, adorned churches, cathedrals, temples and pyramids for centuries with its amazing beauty, while bridging all manner of religions, cultures and times. There seems to be something deeply natural, spiritual and aesthetically pleasing about the Flower of Life, for example. From both a mystical and analytical direction of approach, the concepts of sacred geometry have always been quite fascinating. This subject is ancient, vast and versatile. Nearly all classic artwork and architecture is based on it. Sacred geometry can be either taught for scientific reasons or enjoyed for its mystical and spiritual enrichment.
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