Kabbalah: a brief introduction

Have you ever had the feeling that there was this really big thing going on and everyone else is in on it but you?

We’d like to laugh this off as paranoia and conspiracy theories. But
what if there really WAS something really big going on. Something which
has been going on for at least over 4000 years, and you had the
sneaking suspicion that you were seriously out of the loop, as you
struggle just to get through the end of the semester with your sanity
somewhat intact? Many of the most prominent minds in Western culture
all have consciously participated in this mysterious conspiracy, from
the founders of the Judeo-Christian traditions to our own nation’s
Founding Fathers, to Yates, to many quantum physicists of this century.
Even philosophers such as Leibniz, William Blake and Derrida were in on
it! What is this esoteric underground conspiracy which has fascinated
and influenced so many individuals in history?

Hidden away within Jewish tradition is a system of epistemological
and ontological teachings which came, in the Middle Ages, to be know as
Kabbalah. There are many different spellings of Kabbalah (e.g. Kabalah,
Qabala), as all are transliterations of Hebrew/Aramaic. The term itself
means “to receive” or “that which is received.”

The Kabbalah is a meansby which the universe, human experience and divinity can be related to one another through the use of a kind of “symbolic shorthand” for
states of being and consciousness. This symbolic shorthand is used
along with a “Glyph,” or the diagram of the Tree of Life, the Otz
Chiim. The Tree of Life glyph maps out the relative states of possible
being and the relationships between those states.

Although Kabbalah was originally a Jewish system of mysticism, its
appeal has spread into both Christian and scientific thinking. It has
been applied to everything from ethics to poetry and literature to
quantum mechanics by innovators in those and many other fields. Many of
the most profound thinkers of the West found value in studying the Tree
of Life and embracing the view of creation proposed by it, and we have
reaped the benefits of their inspirations even millennia later. Just
perhaps, this system of symbolic thinking might have some inspirational
powers left for the third millennium. After all, Judaism was always a
prophetic religion. Maybe they really were clued in on a big cosmic

Even if the theological basis of the Kabbalah is not valid, the
system of symbolic relations has yielded some of the most influential
concepts in Western culture. For that very reason alone, it is worthy
of our interest. But its greatest value lays in its continuing
potential for the future development of humanity, apart from any
theistic paradigm.


There are two rival accounts of the origins of the Kabbalah: 1.)
the Traditional, and 2.) the Post-Shabbati Heresy-view
of the Enlightenment Era. In the traditional view, Kabbalah was traced
back to the biblical Melchizedeck, having been brought to humanity by
the archangel Metatron. It is this ancient wisdom that the Greek
philosopher, Pythagoras, was claimed to have known. The Kabbalah was
reportedly transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai as an Oral Torah which
unlocked many mysteries of the written Torah. This oral tradition was
passed down for thousands of years, always grounded firmly by the Tree
of Life. Although times may change, the meaning of the symbols and
their relative positions remain constant over time.

Kabbalah was supposed to be the means by which the prophets of the Old Testament
sought the knowledge of God. Many over the years have maintained that
it is these very techniques of prophecy utilized by the scriptural
prophets. But prophecy aside, the multi-layered association of symbol
achieved through Kabbalah is a rewarding exercise on many creative
levels, without having to resort to conversion to Judaism to achieve
it. The Christian alchemists of the Middle Ages utilized the glyph in
their multi-leveled experiments to change the “lead” of lower ego
consciousness into the “gold” of enlightenment.

The only conceptual restraints in this system are an implicit
monotheism and the individual’s own efforts and imagination. The tenets
of this system were finally committed to paper in the middle ages, when
the power of Catholic Rome waned, as did the European pogroms. Both
Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry find their roots in Kabbalah. And since
all of America’s Founding Fathers were Freemasons (and hence,
Kabbalists), America also has deep roots in Kabbalistic symbolism. If
you doubt it, look at any printed U.S. currency.

The second explanation of the emergence of the Kabbalah claims that
it is a medieval forgery, a doctrine discredited and abandoned by the
triumph of Rationalism over the Shabbatai false messiah scandal in
Central Europe in the 1700s. It is this event which caused the split
from Orthodox Judaism in the Conservative Movement. You could say that
it is a dispute over Kabbalistic interpretations which “caused” the
Jewish Reformation of the 17th & 18th centuries. Kabbalism as a
whole became suspect and a target of derision. This view holds that
Kabbalah is a syncretic bastard-child of Jewish Gnosticism with
neo-platonic origins that involves weird rituals and mind-numbing lists
of associations so long and so vague as to be completely contradictory.
The system of associations makes use of Astrology and the occult, and
therefore, detractors claim, it is not founded in a rational system of

Although there is some merit to this position, it would seem that
the fact that a vast amount of historical human thought is already
founded on this system of symbolic association would outweigh the claim
of irrationality. Even if the theological grounding of the underlying
belief system is not shared, the greater level of understanding
accessed by being able to read the “secret code” woven into so much of
our cultural milieu is of inestimable benefit, both to individuals and
to society.

Kabbalah Culture

Kabbalah, so tradition tells us, is the blueprint to creation. But
not just creation, but also the key to understanding the natures of
both man and God. A pretty tall order for just one glyph…
<p>There are many references in the Pentateuch which have direct
correspondence to Kabbalistic symbolism. Tradition holds that this is
in direct accord with God’s will that humanity discover the Divine Plan
when individuals attain a certain level of preparedness. There is also
a tradition that Jesus of Nazareth was deeply steeped in Kabbalism, and
the application of the Kabbalistic system to the Gospels is especially
fruitful. An example of this would be the Lord’s Prayer. The whole last
clause is pure Kabbalah:

“Malkuth, the Kingdom, Hod, the Power, Netzach, the Glory, form the
basal triangle of the Tree of Life, with Yesod, the Foundation, or
Receptacle of Influences, as the central point. Whoever formulated that
prayer knew his Kabbalah.” (Fortune, The Mystical Kabbalah, p. 4).

Etz Chayim – The Tree of Life

The Kabbalah has been called an algebraic use of the
primary symbols of Western culture. The system is focussed on the use of a diagram
which is said to reflect the makeup of both humanity and divinity, as
well as all of creation. In the ontology of the Kabbalah, creation took
place beginning with a great contraction, and then an explosive
expansion which shattered the original unity of God into countless
shards of Divine Consciousness. These shards or “Divine Sparks” became
encased in a progression of shells until physical matter manifested.
Creation, then, took place in a series of “emanations,” from Kether,
the “Crown” to increasingly denser levels, condensing into Malkuth, the
lowest sphere of creation: the physical world.

According to the Kabbalah, Creation consists of four worlds which
interpenetrate simultaneously, but we occupy the lowest world: Assiah –
the World of Action and Matter. The three higher worlds, called
Atziluth, Briah, and Yetzirah, are all the level of angelic creation.
Prior to the Creation, God is purported to reside behind the “Three
Veils of Negative Existence.” Presumably, three veils of negative
existence is what it takes to be sufficiently far removed for us humans
to be fairly well cut off from what’s really happening.

The Tree of Life consists of ten spheres (called Sephiroth,
-Sephirah, sing.) each representing a different plane of existence, or
if you will, level of evolution. These spheres are arranged in a
certain order on three pillars. Connecting the spheres are twenty-two
“paths,” each of which represents a state of relationship and/or

Some Practical Applications

“As above, so below.” This saying is central to an understanding of
the Kabbalah. In this system, humanity is the microcosm to God’s
macrocosm. That is one of the supposed treasures of the Kabbalah: that
it grants insight not only into the nature of humanity, but also that
of divinity and all of creation. It is said that Einstein used
Kabbalistic ideas and principles in formulating his Theory of
Relativity. He is often quoted as saying that he desired to know the
thoughts of God. Seeking to understand God, the Kabbalist comes to
understand himself, and through seeking to understand himself, he comes
to understand God.

The Tree of Life is also valuable as the ultimate system of
syncretization of most of the grand theories of human history:
Astronomy/Astrology, the written word, multiple pagan systems,
developmental stages and states of consciousness… The possible
combinations of correspondences are endless. The pondering of these
associations of ideas has inspired the most profound and innovative
thinking in Western history.

As such, Kabbalah has often been referred to as “the Yoga of the
West,” but rather than being entirely devotional, as in many forms of
Eastern Yoga, Kabbalah is a yoga of discovery and mastery of both the
spirit and matter. Deep reflection on the correspondences of the
symbols lead the mind along certain well-worn paths of conceptual
connections made by prior “initiates”. As such, the Tree of Life is a
bountiful source of inspiration in the revelation of the new
associations of old ideas. It can not only spark new discoveries and
understandings, but it can also reveal deeper content in historical
documents and movements.

Through exposure to these well-worn pathways of correspondences, it
is claimed that the practitioner grows in wisdom, understanding and
personal influence, as they have a) been delving into God’s Mind and b)
consciously working towards the redemption of humanity through working
on raising their own consciousness. One of the methods utilized in this
endeavor was Gematria. Gematria makes use of the double role which the
Hebrew alphabet plays in Scripture. According to Genesis, the first
thing created was the Word – which implies language. Kabbalah holds
that God created through the use of the Hebrew alphabet, which also
doubles as numbers. Each letter of the alphabet is ascribed to a
certain path on the Tree of Life, connecting two specific sephiroth.
Therefore, God spoke the universe into being and we can access the
process God used through referring to the Tree of Life. Through
retracing the steps God took and using the numeric values of the
letters of scriptural passages, deeper meanings can be gleaned from the
divinely-planted clues by anyone persistent and clever enough to learn

As such, the Kabbalah has been thought of as a means by which God
has given humanity a plan to achieve an ultimate purpose of re-uniting
all the scattered divine sparks. The use of symbols is mathematical in
its precision. In fact, Kabbalah has been called “the algebra of
consciousness.” Kabbalists claim that systematic exposure to these
ideas will result in an expansion of consciousness, if done
persistently and with intention.

Some Famous Kabbalists

Just for fun, here is a short (and by no means exhaustive) list some people who are either known to or are reported to have been influenced by Kabbalistic thought.

Biblical: Moses, Solomon, Jesus
Medieval:Abraham Abulafia, Moses Maimonides, Moses
Cordovero, Isaac Luria, Giovanni Pico of Mirandola.
Renaissance: Roger Fludd, Paracelsus (Theophrastus
Bombastus) of Hohenheim, Albertus Magnus, Raymond Lully, Francis Bacon,
John Dee, Edward Kelly
Enlightenment: Gottfried Leibniz, William Blake,
Emanuel Swedenborg, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Jefferson & all the rest of the Founding Fathers
Modern: Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Albert Einstein,
Franz Kafka, Jorge Luise Borges, Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida,


Tikkun is a Kabbalistic concept which is credited to Rabbi Isaac
Luria, known as “Ari Zaal” – the divine Rabbi Isaac. What it means is
the restoration of the world to its pre-Fallen state of unity – to
redeem all the Divine Sparks trapped in physical manifest through the
intentional exaltation of consciousness. Therefore, an ethic is also
embodied in the tradition, as it becomes incumbant upon the Kabbalist
to actively take part in the healing of the world once awareness of
this realization is achieved.

The idea of redeeming the world as the ultimate purpose of humanity
does echo much of Manichaeism, as well as other forms of pagan
mysticism, lending some credibility to the claim by opponents that
Kabblism is a Medieval compilation and mastication of neo-pagan mystery
religions. But even if it is a fabrication and not a divine reception,
as Kabbalists claim, it still holds the key to much of the inner psyche
of Western culture. And because of its deep entrenchment in the human
soul by human machination, if not divine, it is a worthwhile study to
look into the inner teachings of the west.


This stuff is deeply ingrained upon all of us, religious or not,
just due to the fact that our culture is saturated with these symbols
based on this system. By not availing ourselves of this epistemological
tool, we are depriving ourselves of a whole dimension of our cultural
heritage, not to mention our philosophical heritage. If you want to
understand yourself, the Western mind & culture… and oh, yeah… GOD…
you might want to check it out for yourself. After all, if you’re not
in on the Big Secret, you can never really be sure of anything, can
you? It could be that the Truth is even spookier than any Trilateralist
Conspiracy ever dreamed of being….

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Kabbalah: A Brief Introduction

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Ancient Wisdom Articles

A Glimpse at Some Ancient Greek Concepts

Seeking Wisdom: or, Looking for Socrates in All the Wrong Places

An Epicurean Manifesto

Theosophy: A Brief Introduction

Kabbalah: A Brief Introduction