The Kabbalah (Cabala, Qabala) is an esoteric discipline based on Jewish mysticism, developed over the centuries by people of many faiths and beliefs. It is a system of philosophy, psychology and cosmology that seeks to define the nature of the universe and the purpose of existence. The Kabbalah is meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging, eternal and mysterious Ein Sof (no end) and the mortal and finite universe (his creation). The heart of the Kabbalah is the Tree of Life which describes creation, existence and the return to the divine.
Kabbalah can be translated as “received tradition”, and can be used to describe a variety of esoteric knowledge and practices. Its universal applicability gives the Kabbalah its continued power and presence today.
The two main Kabbalistic teachings can be found in the Sefer Yetsirah (Book of Creation/Formation) written in the first or second century, and the Sefer ha-Zohar (The Book of Splendor) from the 13th century. These manuscripts are thought to be analogies or code for how the universe functions in a spiritual way. Kabbalah is based on the belief that every word, letter, and number contained mysteries that could be interpreted only by those who knew the secret. It is thought that by decoding the manuscripts, we are taught that in order for us to gain fulfillment, we must go deeper.
A form of Western or Christian Kabbalah was also developed from German and Lurianic Kabbalism, which found its way to more modern mystery orders, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Medieval occultists drew connections between the Kabbalah, Christian theology, and alchemy.
Modern Kabbalistic study usually centers on the Tree of Life, or Otz Chiim, which represents thirty-two “paths” composed of the ten sefirot and the twenty-two paths through which they interrelate. These paths describe the descent of the divine into the world, and the methods by which divine union can be attained. It can be viewed as a map of the human psyche and of the workings of creation. The Tree allows a more holistic understanding of the world, using reason, spiritual perception and intuition.
The Tree of Life may be viewed in many different ways by grouping the sefirot together. The three pillars include severity (sefirot 3, 5 and 8), equilibrium (sefirot 1, 6, 9 and 10) and mercy (sefirot 2, 4 and 7). The three major triangles include the supernal triangle (sefirot 1, 2 and 3), the ethical triangle (sefirot 4, 5 and 6) and the astral triangle (sefirot 7, 8 and 9).
Links between the Kabbalah and many other philosophical, mythological and religious systems have been postulated, such as the links between the Kabbalah, astrology and the Tarot. The Kabbalah also complements the eastern chakra system and many forms of yogic practice. The three main nadis (energy channels) in eastern philosophy (ida, sushumna and pingala), and the yin, yang, and Tao of Taoist philosophy, can also be found in the Kabbalistic pillars of severity, equilibrium and mercy on the Tree of Life.
© A Year And A Day (2013)