Posted by Fredsvenn on June 2, 2015
Kabbalah (literally “receiving/tradition”) is an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought that originated in Judaism. A traditional Kabbalist in Judaism is called a Mekubbal.
Kabbalah’s definition varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it, from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later Christian, New Age, and Occultist syncretic adaptations. Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal, and mysterious Ein Sof (infinity) and the mortal and finite universe (God’s creation).
While it is heavily used by some denominations, it is not a religious denomination in itself. It forms the foundations of mystical religious interpretation. Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It also presents methods to aid understanding of the concepts and thereby attain spiritual realisation.
Kabbalah originally developed entirely within the realm of Jewish thought, and kabbalists often use classical Jewish sources to explain and demonstrate its esoteric teachings. These teachings are held by followers in Judaism to define the inner meaning of both the Hebrew Bible and traditional Rabbinic literature and their formerly concealed transmitted dimension, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish religious observances.
Traditional practitioners believe its earliest origins pre-date world religions, forming the primordial blueprint for Creation’s philosophies, religions, sciences, arts, and political systems. Originally, Kabbalistic knowledge was believed to be an integral part of the Oral Torah, given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai around the 13th century BCE, though there is a view that Kabbalah began with Adam.
According to the traditional understanding, Kabbalah dates from Eden. It came down from a remote past as a revelation to elect Tzadikim (righteous people), and, for the most part, was preserved only by a privileged few. Talmudic Judaism records its view of the proper protocol for teaching this wisdom, as well as many of its concepts, in the Talmud, Tractate Hagigah, Ch.2.
According to adherents of Kabbalah, its origin begins with secrets that God revealed to Adam. When read by later generations of Kabbalists, the Torah’s description of the creation in the Book of Genesis reveals mysteries about God himself, the true nature of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life, as well as the interaction of these supernatural entities with the Serpent which leads to disaster when they eat the forbidden fruit, as recorded in Genesis 3.
The Bible provides ample additional material for mythic and mystical speculation. The prophet Ezekiel’s visions in particular attracted much mystical speculation, as did Isaiah’s Temple vision—Isaiah, Ch.6. Jacob’s vision of the ladder to heaven provided another example of esoteric experience. Moses’ encounters with the Burning bush and God on Mount Sinai are evidence of mystical events in the Torah that form the origin of Jewish mystical beliefs.
The 72 letter name of God which is used in Jewish mysticism for meditation purposes is derived from the Hebrew verbal utterance Moses spoke in the presence of an angel, while the Sea of Reeds parted, allowing the Hebrews to escape their approaching attackers. The miracle of the Exodus, which led to Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and the Jewish Orthodox view of the acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai, preceded the creation of the first Jewish nation approximately three hundred years before King Saul.
Contemporary scholarship suggests that various schools of Jewish esotericism arose at different periods of Jewish history, each reflecting not only prior forms of mysticism, but also the intellectual and cultural milieu of that historical period. Answers to questions of transmission, lineage, influence, and innovation vary greatly and cannot be easily summarised.
Historically, Kabbalah emerged, after earlier forms of Jewish mysticism, in 12th- to 13th-century Southern France and Spain, becoming reinterpreted in the Jewish mystical renaissance of 16th-century Ottoman Palestine. It was popularised in the form of Hasidic Judaism from the 18th century onwards.
Twentieth-century interest in Kabbalah has inspired cross-denominational Jewish renewal and contributed to wider non-Jewish contemporary spirituality, as well as engaging its flourishing emergence and historical re-emphasis through newly established academic investigation.