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Kabalist and Kabalah from Theosophical Glossary
From Q B L H, KABALA, an unwritten or oral tradition. The kabalist is a student of “secret science”, one who interprets the hidden meaning of the Scriptures with the help of the symbolical Kabala, and explains the real one by these means. The Tanaim were the first kabalists among the Jews; they appeared at Jerusalem about the beginning of the third century before the Christian era. The books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Henoch, and the Revelation of St. John, are purely kabalistical. This secret doctrine is identical with that of Chaldeans, and includes at the same time much of the Persian wisdom, or “magic”. History catches glimpses of famous kabalists ever since the eleventh century. The Mediæval ages, and even our own times, have had an enormous number of the most learned and intellectual men who were students of the Kabala (or Qabbalah, as some spell it). The most famous among the former were Paracelsus, Henry Khunrath, Jacob Böhmen, Robert Fludd, the two Van Helmonts, the Abbot John Trithemius, Cornelius Agrippa, Cardinal Nicolao Cusani, Jerome Carden, Pope Sixtus IV., and such Christian scholars as Raymond Lully, Giovanni Pico de la Mirandola, Guillaume Postel, the great John Reuchlin, Dr. Henry More, Eugenius Philalethes (Thomas Vaughan), the erudite Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, Christian Knorr (Baron) von Rosenroth; then Sir Isaac Newton., Leibniz, Lord Bacon, Spinosa, etc., etc., the list being almost inexhaustible. As remarked by Mr. Isaac Myer, in his Qabbalah, the ideas of the Kabalists have largely influenced European literature. “Upon the practical Qabbalah, the Abbé ,de Villars (nephew of de Montfaucon) in 1670, published his celebrated satirical novel, ‘The Count de Gabalis’, upon which Pope based his ‘Rape of the Lock’. Qabbalism ran through the Mediæval poems, the ‘Romance of the Rose’, and permeates the writings of Dante.” No two of them, however, agreed upon the origin of the Kabala, the Zohar, Sepher Yetzirah, etc. Some show it as coming from the Biblical Patriarchs, Abraham, and even Seth; others from Egypt, others again from Chaldea. The system is certainly very old; but like all the rest of systems, whether religious or philosophical, the Kabala is derived directly from the primeval Secret Doctrine of the East; through the Vedas, the Upanishads, Orpheus and Thales, Pythagoras and the Egyptians. Whatever its source, its substratum is at any rate identical with that of all the other systems from the Book of the Dead down to the later Gnostics. The best exponents of the Kabala in the Theosophical Society were among the earliest, Dr. S. Pancoast, of Philadelphia, and Mr. G. Felt; and among the latest, Dr. W. Wynn Westcott, Mr. S. L. Mac Gregor Mathers (both of the Rosicrucian College) and a few others. (See “Qabbalah”)
The hidden wisdom of the Hebrew Rabbis of the middle ages derived from the older secret doctrines concerning divine things and cosmogony, which were combined into a theology after the time of the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. All the works that fall under the esoteric category are termed Kabalistic.
Theosophy in the Qabbalah, by Grace F. Knoche
Review of Qabbalah, by H.P. Blavatsky
The Kabbalah; or, The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews, by Adolphe Franck
The Kabala and the Kabalists
The Kabala and the Kabalists
Theosophy, August, 1937
The Theosophists of the Middle Ages drew their occult knowledge from two streams of thought which, long before, had sprung from a common source. One of these streams was the Hermetic philosophy, the other was the Kabala. In our modern dictionaries the Kabala is defined as “the mystic Theosophy of the Hebrews.” The prominent Kabalistic writer, Dr. Christian D. Ginsburg, speaks of it as a system of religious philosophy, or Theosophy, which not only exercised a powerful influence upon the Jews for hundreds of years, but also captivated the minds of some of the greatest thinkers of Christendom.
What is known today as the Kabala is a highly complex system having four distinct divisions. The first, or practical Kabala, deals principally with ceremonial magic. The second division, or the literal Kabala, is subdivided into three sections: (1) the Gematria, which discusses the numerical value of Hebrew words; (2) the Notaricon, which treats of the formation of words; and (3) the Temura, which deals with the relationship between words. The third division is the unwritten, or secret Kabala, which is always transmitted orally. The fourth is the dogmatic Kabala, which consists of four sections: (1) the Sepher Jetzirah, or Book of Formation; (2) the Sepher Sephiroth, which unfolds the Doctrine of Emanations; (3) the Asch Metzareph, which treats of the science of Alchemy; and (4) the Zohar, or Book of Splendor. The Zohar itself has five sections: (1) the Sepher Dzeniouta, or Book of the Concealed Mysteries; (2) the Idra Rabba, or Greater Holy Assembly; (3) the Idra Suta, or Lesser Holy Assembly; (4) the Beth-Elohim, or House of the Gods; and (5) the Book of the Revolutions of Souls.
The traditional origin of the Kabala closely resembles the opening sentences of the fourth discourse of The Bhagavad-Gita. According to the account, the Kabala is divine Wisdom which was first taught by God to a company of angels. Adam caught glimpses of these truths and passed his vision on to Noah. Noah communicated it unto Abraham, who in turn taught it to the Egyptians. Moses gained his knowledge in Egypt and passed it on to his seventy elders. From them the Kabala was transmitted orally until the year A.D. 80, when some of the teachings were committed to writing. At this point tradition stops and actual history begins. And from that history we can complete Krishna’s sentence and say: “In the course of time the mighty art was lost.”
The actual origin of the Kabala is somewhat different. At the beginning of our Fifth Race, about one million years ago, the knowledge which had been accumulated by thousands of generations of initiated Adepts was recorded in written form. The language used was Senzar, the secret sacerdotal tongue which preceded Sanscrit and was known to the Initiates from time immemorial. Among the scriptures drawn from this primeval source were the Chaldean Book of Numbers, the Sepher Dzeniouta and the Sepher Jetzirah. These books form the basis of the written Kabala. The unwritten, secret, or orally transmitted Kabala belonged to the Chaldees or Magi, those great Aryan Adepts who came to Babylonia thousands of years before the Jews settled in that country, and who, according to a statement made by one of the Theosophical Mahatmas, “were at the apex of their occult fame before what you term the Bronze Age.” Abraham gained his knowledge of the Kabala from the Chaldees while he was living in the city of Ur. Moses acquired his in Egypt when he was a priest of the Sun, living in the city of Heliopolis.
The first person to be initiated by Moses was his elder brother Aaron, whose name heads the list of initiated Nabaiim, or Prophets. From that time on, Schools of the Prophets began to appear in the countries inhabited by the Jews. In these schools every branch of science was taught, the study of Alchemy forming an important part of the curriculum. They were also Schools of the Mysteries, where the probationers were subjected to the same rigorous form of discipline as the Eastern Chela. Those who had passed through their final initiation were known as the Innocents, the Infants, or the “Little Ones.”
The first Jews to call themselves Kabalists were the Tanaiim, who lived in Jerusalem about the beginning of the third century B.C. Two centuries later three important Jewish Kabalists appeared. The first was Jehoshuah ben Pandira, now known as Jesus the Christ. The second was the great Chaldean teacher Hillel. The third was Philo Judaeus, in whose writings we find a clear statement of the three fundamental propositions of Theosophy. He defined God as an “Idea free of all mixture, devoid of all combination, which pervades everything and fills the entire Universe.” Within that unlimited and unnameable Principle, he said, “is an eternal and immutable Law which is the strong and lasting support of the Universe.” In regard to man, Philo wrote that “Man is the noblest of all creatures by reason of the higher element, the Soul, which is pure in its essence, the faithful image and copy of the Eternal Idea.” (De. Decal. xxv.)
During the siege of Jerusalem in the year 80 A.D., an Adept-Rabbi, Simon ben Jochai by name, escaped from the city and hid himself in a cave, where he remained for twelve years. After his death two of his disciples, Rabbi Eliezar and Rabbi Abba, collected some of the manuscripts he had left and compiled them into a book. This was the original Zohar.
For the next thousand years the Kabala was studied in secrecy and silence. But in the eleventh century Rabbi Ibn Gebirol (also known as Avicebron) produced two important Kabalistic works: the Fons Vitae, and the Kether Malchuth, the latter being a superb poem indicating the impersonality of the First Great Principle:
Thou art ONE, and Thy Unity is never diminished, never extended, and cannot be changed. Thou art ONE, and no thought of mine can fix for Thee a limit, or define Thee. Thou ART, but not as one existent, for the understanding and vision of mortals cannot attain to Thy existence, nor determine for Thee the where, the why and the how.
In the twelfth century the Theosophical Doctrine of Emanations was introduced by Rabbi Isaac the Blind and his pupil Rabbi Azariel ben Menachem, and in the thirteenth century a second Zohar appeared, this one compiled by the Spanish Rabbi Moses de Leon. After the appearance of this Zohar, the Kabalistic teachings were taken up by the Christians, the first Christian to call himself a Kabalist being Raymond Lully. Since that time virtually everyone connected with the work of the Theosophical Movement seems to have been a student of Hebrew philosophy. As men like Sir Isaac Newton, Spinoza and Leibnitz drew attention to the Kabala, the number of its students steadily increased, and when H.P.B. came on the scene there were hundreds of kabalistic students scattered about in Europe and America, many of whom became members of the Theosophical Society.
The present-day Kabala contains many Theosophical teachings. The Sepher Dzeniouta opens with the words: “The Book of the Concealed Mysteries is the Book of the Equilibrium of Balance.” This refers to the Point in the Circle, which “hangeth in that region which is negatively existent.” That region is described as Ain-Soph, the “Boundless” or “Limitless.” Within Ain-Soph the Primordial Point, Sephira, appears. Sephira, by dividing itself into two parts, emits Chochmah, the male potency, and Binah, the female potency.
The first three Sephiroth are purely intellectual in metaphysics. They express the absolute identity of existence and thought, and form what the modern Kabalists call the intelligible world. — (Franck: Die Kabbala.)
From this primordial Trinity seven emanations issue, each emanation differing in its degree of perfection in proportion to its distance from the Supreme Power. According to the Kabala, matter is merely the most remote effect of this emanative energy.
The story of the successive attempts to form universes, which is fully discussed in The Secret Doctrine, appears also in the Zohar:
There were old worlds which perished as soon as they came into existence, were formless and were called sparks. The sparks are the primordial worlds which could not continue, because the Sacred Aged had not yet assumed its form of King and Queen (which occurred in the Third Race) and the Master (the reincarnating Ego) was not yet at work. — (Idra Suta.)
Many Kabalists have taught the Theosophical tenet that man was hermaphrodite in the early part of the Third Race. Some of them say that man was created with a male and a female body which were joined together at the shoulders. Others say that the separation of the sexes occurred during the “sleep of Adam.” The Kabalists also say that man is a seven-fold being, and in Myer’s Kabala a definite Hebrew name is given to each of the seven principles, corresponding perfectly with the Sanscrit names used in Theosophical literature. The doctrine of Reincarnation is also a Kabalistic teaching. In the second book of the Zohar the soul pleads for freedom from rebirth, saying that she does not wish to be returned to earth where she will again be subjected to all sorts of pollutions. But the soul is informed that she will be reborn even against her will.
In the third book of the Zohar the fate of the soul who has broken her connection with her Higher Self is graphically described: “All souls which have alienated themselves from the Holy One have thrown themselves into an abyss, and have anticipated the time when they are to descend once more upon the earth.” — (Idra Suta.)
The cycle of rebirths which every soul, under the law of Karma, must experience, is described in the Kabala under the term Gilgoolem. Philo Judaeus shows that the doctrine of Reincarnation was accepted by the Kabalistic Jews in the first century B.C.: “The air is full of souls; those who are nearest to earth descending to be tied to mortal bodies return to other bodies, desiring to live in them.” — (De Somniis.)
It is quite apparent that the written Kabala of the present day contains numerous Theosophical teachings. But an important question arises: Is the real Kabala contained in the books now known by that name?
The word Kabala comes from the root Q B L, which means “to receive.” This suggests that the true Kabala is no mere book or collection of books, but rather a system which has been passed down orally from one generation of Initiates to the next. According to the teachings of Theosophy, the Kabala is not merely one system, but consists of seven systems which may be applied in seven different ways, providing seven interpretations to any given esoteric subject. The real Kabala, therefore, is not available to the public. The book which contains the fullest record of these seven systems is the Oriental Kabala. There is only one copy of this book in existence, and that is in the hands of those Initiates who, at the present day, are the only genuine Kabalists, and out of whose possession it is not likely to come.
Students of Theosophy know that no Great Teacher has left his esoteric instructions in books which are available to the public. The Hebrew Initiates were bound by the same pledge of secrecy as all other Initiates. As Simon ben Jochai was an Adept-Rabbi, and therefore bound by the Sodalian Oath not to reveal the Mysteries to the world at large, it is quite apparent that even the original Zohar could not have divulged those Mysteries, whatever else it may have revealed. As for the second Zohar of Moses de Leon, it is known that he was helped in his compilation by a number of Syrian and Chaldean Christian Gnostics, and that it passed through many other Christian hands in the course of time. This second Zohar is only a little less exoteric than the Old Testament itself.
Is there really any printed book which contains the real Kabala? The Oriental Kabala, the only book which contains a complete record of the seven systems, is in the hands of Eastern Initiates, and therefore not available to the public. Nor is the Chaldean Book of Numbers, which forms the hidden basis of the written Kabala, now procurable. Only two or three copies of this book are extant, and they are in the hands of private individuals. A Chinese Kabala, called the Yih-King, is said to have been written in 2850 B.C. in the dialect of the Akkadians, those early Aryan immigrants who first civilized Babylonia and made it a center of Sanscrit learning. Who at the present time has access to this work? An important Vatican manuscript of the Kabala is said to have been possessed by the Count de St. Germain. Where is it today?
Many students are eager to learn the esoteric meaning of Hebrew philosophy. But although one may read all the books of the Kabala in the original, and then the numberless commentaries, in the end he can only find himself utterly confused by the many different translations of the texts, by the veils deliberately thrown over the archaic doctrines and by the ignorance of profane writers. Many clues to the Hebrew Mysteries will be found in the writings of the medieval Kabalists, but they can yield little accurate information unless the student possesses the key.
Where can this key be found?
H.P.B. once made an interesting statement which should give pause to all would-be students of the Kabala. She said that she was the only Kabalist in America. Perhaps the student will find what he is seeking if he turns to her voluminous writings for information. If he perseveres in his search, learning to read between the lines and within the words, he will find three keys to the Mysteries. As for the rest–
The last four keys of the seven that throw wide open the portals to the mysteries of Nature are in the hands of the highest Initiates, and cannot be divulged to the masses at large — not in this, our century, at least. — (The Secret Doctrine, II, 517.)
The Kabalah and the Kabalists, by H.P. Blavatsky
The Kabalah and the Kabalists 1
At the Close of the Nineteenth Century
H.P.B., Lucifer, May, 1892
Universal aspirations, especially when impeded and suppressed in their free manifestation, die out but to return with tenfold power. They are cyclic, like every other natural phenomenon, whether mental or cosmic, universal or national. Dam a river in one place, and the water will work its way into another, and break out through it like a torrent.
One of such universal aspirations, the strongest perhaps in man’s nature, is the longing to seek for the unknown; an ineradicable desire to penetrate below the surface of things, a thirst for the knowledge of that which is hidden from others. Nine children out of ten will break their toys to see what there is inside. It is an innate feeling and is Protean in form. It rises from the ridiculous (or perhaps rather from the reprehensible) to the sublime, for it is limited to indiscreet inquisitiveness, prying into neighbours’ secrets, in the uneducated, and it expands in the cultured into that love for knowledge which ends in leading them to the summits of science, and fills the Academies and the Royal Institutions with learned men.
But this pertains to the world of the objective. The man in whom the metaphysical element is stronger than the physical, is propelled by this natural aspiration towards the mystical, to that which the materialist is pleased to call a “superstitious belief in the supernatural.” The Church, while encouraging our aspirations after the holy–on strictly theological and orthodox lines, of course–condemns at the same time the human craving after the same, whenever the practical search after it departs from its own lines. The memory of the thousands of illiterate “witches,” and the hundreds of learned alchemists, philosophers and other heretics, tortured, burnt, and otherwise put to death during the Middle Ages, remains as an ever-present witness to that arbitrary and despotic interference.
In the present age both Church and Science, the blindly-believing and the all-denying, are arrayed against the Secret Sciences, though both Church and Science believed in and practised them–especially the Kabalah–at a not very distant period of history. One says now, “It is of the devil!” the other that “the devil is a creation of the Church, and a disgraceful superstition”; in short, that there is neither devil nor occult sciences. The first one forgets that it has publicly proclaimed, hardly 400 years ago, the Jewish Kabalah as the greatest witness to the truths of Christianity; 2 the second, that the most illustrious men of science were all alchemists, astrologers and magicians, witness Paracelsus, Van Helmont, Roger Bacon, etc. But consistency has never been a virtue of Modern Science. It has religiously believed in all which it now denies, and it has denied all that it now believes in, from the circulation of the blood up to steam and electric power.
This sudden change of attitude in both powers cannot prevent events from taking their natural course. The last quarter of our century is witnessing an extraordinary outbreak of occult studies, and magic dashes once more its powerful waves against the rocks of Church and Science, which it is slowly but as surely undermining. Any one whose natural mysticism impels him to seek for sympathetic contact with other minds, is astonished to find how large a number of persons are not only interested in Mysticism generally, but are actually themselves Kabalists. The river dammed during the Middle Ages has flowed since noiselessly underground, and has now burst up as an irrepressible torrent. Hundreds today study the Kabalah, where scarcely one or two could have been found some fifty years ago, when fear of the Church was still a powerful factor in men’s lives. But the long-pent-up torrent has now diverged into two streams–Eastern Occultism and the Jewish Kabalah; the traditions of the Wisdom-Religion of the races that preceded the Adam of the “Fall”; and the system of the ancient Levites of Israel, who most ingeniously veiled a portion of that religion of the Pantheists under the mask of monotheism.
Unfortunately many are called but few chosen. The two systems threaten the world of the mystics with a speedy conflict, which, instead of increasing the spread of the One Universal Truth, will necessarily only weaken and impede its progress. Yet, the question is not, once more, which is the one truth. For both are founded upon the eternal verities of prehistoric knowledge, as both, in the present age and the state of mental transition through which humanity is now passing, can give out only a certain portion of these verities. It is simply a question: “Which of the two systems contains most unadulterated facts; and, most important of all–which of the two presents its teachings in the most Catholic (i.e., unsectarian) and impartial manner?” One the Eastern system–has veiled for ages its profound pantheistic unitarianism with the exuberance of an exoteric polytheism; the other–as said above with the screen of exoteric monotheism. Both are but masks to hide the sacred truth from the profane; for neither the Âryan nor the semitic philosophers have ever accepted either the anthropomorphism of the many Gods, or the personality of the one God, as a philosophical proposition. But it is impossible within the limits we have at our disposal, to attempt to enter upon a minute discussion of this question. We must be content with a simpler task. The rites and ceremonies of the Jewish law seem to be an abyss, which long generations of Christian Fathers, and especially of Protestant Reformers, have vainly sought to fill in with their far-fetched interpretations. Yet all the early Christians, Paul and the Gnostics, regarded and proclaimed the Jewish law as essentially distinct from the new Christian law. St. Paul called the former an allegory, and St. Stephen told the Jews an hour before being stoned that they had not even kept the law that they had received from the angels (the æons), and as to the Holy Ghost (the impersonal Logos or Christos, as taught at Initiation) they had resisted and rejected it as their fathers had done (Acts vii.). This was virtually telling them that their law was inferior to the later one. Notwithstanding that the Mosaic Books which we think we have in the Old Testament, cannot be more than two or three centuries older than Christianity, the Protestants have nevertheless mace of them their Sacred Canon, on a par with, if not higher than, the Gospels. But when the Pentateuch was written, or rather rewritten after Ezdras, i.e., after the Rabbis had settled upon a new departure, a number of additions were made which were taken bodily from Persian and Babylonian doctrines; and this at a period subsequent to the colonization of Judea under the authority of the kings of Persia. This reëditing was o£ course done in the same way as with all such Scriptures. They were originally written in a secret key, or cipher, known only to the Initiates. But instead of adapting the contents to the highest spiritual truths as taught in the third, the highest, degree of Initiation, and expressed in symbolic language–as may be seen even in the exoteric Purânas of India–the writers of the Pentateuch, revised and corrected, they who cared but for earthly and national glory, adapted only to astro-physiological symbols the supposed events of the Abrahams, Jacobs, and Solomons, and the fantastic history of their little race. Thus they produced, under the mask of monotheism, a religion of sexual and phallic worship, one that concealed an adoration of the Gods, or the lower aeons. No one would maintain that anything like the dualism and the angelolatry of Persia, brought by the Jews from the captivity, could ever be found in the real Law, or Books of Moses. For how, in such case, could the Sadducees, who reverenced the Law, reject angels, as well as the soul and its immortality? And yet angels, if not the soul’s immortal nature, are distinctly asserted to exist in the Old Testament, and are found in the Jewish modern scrolls. 3
This fact of the successive and widely differing redactions of that which we loosely term the Books of Moses, and of their triple adaptation to the first (lowest), second, and third, or highest, degree of Sodalian initiation, and that still more puzzling fact of the diametrically opposite beliefs of the Sadducees and the other Jewish sects, all accepting, nevertheless, the same Revelation–can be made comprehensible only in the light of our Esoteric explanation. It also shows the reason why, when Moses and the Prophets belonged to the Sodalities (the great Mysteries), the latter yet seem so often to fulminate against the abominations of the Sodales and their “Sod.” For had the Old Canon been translated literally, as-is claimed, instead of being adapted to a monotheism absent from it, and to the spirit of each sect, as the differences in the Septuagint and Vulgate prove, the following contradictory sentences would be added to the hundreds of other inconsistencies in “Holy Writ.” “Sod Ihoh [the mysteries of Johoh, or Jehovah] are for those who fear him,” says Psalm xxv. 14, mistranslated “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.” Again “Al [El] is terrible in the great Sod of the Kadeshim” is rendered as–“God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints” (Psalm lxxxix. 7). The title of Kadeshim (Kadosh sing.) means in reality something quite different from saints, though it is generally explained as “priests,” the “holy” and the “Initiated“; for the Kadeshim were simply the galli of the abominable mysteries (Sod) of the exoteric rites. They were, in short, the male Nautches of the temples, during whose initiations the arcanum, the Sod (from which “Sodom,” perchance) of physiological and sexual evolution, were divulged. These rites all belonged to the first degree of the Mysteries, so protected and beloved by David–the “friend of God.” They must have been very ancient with the Jews, and were ever abominated by the true Initiates; thus we find the dying Jacob’s prayer is that his soul should not come into the secret (Sod, in the original) of Simeon and Levi (the priestly caste) and into their assembly during which they “slew a man” (Genesis xlix. 5, 6). 4 And yet Moses is claimed by the Kabalists as chief of the Sodales! Reject the explanation of the Secret Doctrine and the whole Pentateuch becomes the abomination of abominations.
Therefore, do we find Jehovah, the anthropomorphic God, everywhere in the Bible, but of AIN SUPH not one word is said. And therefore, also, was the Jewish metrology quite different from the numeral methods of other people. Instead of serving as an adjunct to other prearranged methods, to penetrate therewith as with a key into the hidden or implied meaning contained within the literal sentences–as the initiated Brahmins do to this day, when reading their sacred books–the numeral system with the Jews is, as the author of Hebrew Metrology tells us, the Holy Writ itself: “That very thing, in esse, on which, and out of which, and by the continuous interweaving use of which, the very text of the Bible has been made to result, as its enunciation, from the beginning word of Genesis to the closing word of Deuteronomy.”
So true is this, indeed, that the authors of the New Testament who had to blend their system with both the Jewish and the Pagan, had to borrow their most metaphysical symbols not from the Pentateuch, or even the Kabalah, but from the Âryan astro-symbology. One instance will suffice. Whence the dual meaning of the First-born, the Lamb, the Unborn, and the Eternal–all relating to the Logos or Christos? We say from the Sanskrit Aja, a world the meanings of which are: (a) the Ram, or the Lamb, the first sign of the Zodiac, called in astronomy Mesha; (b) the Unborn a title of the first Logos, or Brahma, the self-existent cause of all, described and so referred to in the Upanishads.
The Hebrew Kabalistic Gematra Notaricon, and T’mura are very ingenious methods, giving the key to the secret meaning of Jewish symbology, one that applied the relations of their sacred imagery only to one side of Nature–namely, the physical side. Their myths and the names and the events attributed to their Biblical personages were made to correspond with astronomical revolutions and sexual evolution, and had nought to do with the spiritual states of man; hence no such correspondences are to be found in the reading of their sacred canon. The real Mosaic Jews of the Sodales, whose direct heirs on the line of initiation were the Sadducees, had no spirituality in them, nor did they feel any need for it apparently. The reader, whose ideas of Initiation and Adeptship are intimately blended with the mysteries of the after life and soul survival, will now see the reason for the great yet natural inconsistencies found on almost every page of the Bible. Thus, in the Book of Job, a Kabalistic treatise on Egypto-Arabic Initiation, the symbolism of which conceals the highest spiritual mysteries, one finds yet this significant and purely materialistic verse: “Man born of a woman is . . . like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not” (xiv. 1, 2). But Job speaks here of the personality, and he is right; for no Initiate would say that the personality long survived the death of the physical body; the spirit alone is immortal. But this sentence in Job, the oldest document in the Bible, makes only the more brutally materialistic that in Ecclesiastes, iii, 19, et seq., one of the latest records. The writer, who speaks in the name of Solomon, and says that “that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts, even . . . as the one dieth, so dieth the other . . . so that a man hath no preëminence above a beast,” is quite on a par with the modern Hæckels, and expresses only that which he thinks.
Therefore, no knowledge of Kabalistic methods can help one in finding that in the Old Testament which has never been there since the Book of the Law was re-written (rather than found) by Hilkiah. Nor can the reading of the Egyptian symbols be much helped by the mediæval Kabalistic systems. Indeed, it is but the blindness of a pious illusion that can lead anyone to discover any spiritual and metaphysical correspondences or meaning in the Jewish purely astro-physiological symbology. On the other hand, the ancient pagan religious systems, so-called, are all built upon abstracts spiritual speculations, their gross external forms being, perhaps, the most secure veil to hide their inner meaning.
It can be demonstrated, on the authority of the most learned Kabalists of our day that the Zohar, and almost all the Kabalistic works, have passed through Christian hands. Hence, that they cannot be considered any longer as universal, but have become simply sectarian. This is well shown by Picus de Mirandola’s thesis upon the proposition that “no Science yield greater proof of the divinity of Christ than magic and the Kabalah.” This is true of the divinity of the Logos, or of the Christos of the Gnostics; because that Christos remains the same WORD of the ever-unmanifested Deity, whether we call it Parabrahm or Ain-Suph–by whatever name he himself is called–Krishna, Buddha, or Ormazd. But this Christos is neither the Christ of the Churches, yet the Jesus of the Gospels; it is only an impesonal Principle. Nevertheless the Latin Church made capital of this thesis; the result of which was, that as in the last century, so it is now in Europe and America. Almost every Kabalist is now a believer in a personal God, in the very teeth of the original impersonal Ain Suph, and is, moreover, a more or less heterodox, but still a, Christian. This is due entirely to the ignorance of most people (a) that the Kabalah (the Zohar especially) we have, is not the original Book of Splendour, written down from the oral teachings of Simon Ben Jochai; and (b) that the latter, being indeed an exposition of the hidden sense of writings of Moses (so-called) was as equally good an exponent of the Esoteric meaning contained under the shell of the literal sense in the Scriptures of any Pagan religion. Nor do the modern Kabalists seem to be aware of the fact, that the Kabalah as it now stands, with its more than revised texts, its additions made to apply to the New as much as to the Old Testament, its numerical language recomposed so as to apply to both, and its crafty veiling, is no longer able now to furnish all the ancient and primitive meanings. In short that no Kabalistic work now extant among the Western nations can display any greater mysteries of nature, than those which Ezra and Co., and the later co-workers of Moses de Leon, desired to unfold; the Kabalah contains no more than the Syrian and Chaldean Christians and ex-Gnostics of the thirteenth century wanted those works to reveal. And what they do reveal hardly repays the trouble of passing one’s life in studying it. For if they may, and do, present a field of immense interest to the Mason and mathematician, they can teach scarcely anything to the student hungering after spiritual mysteries. The use of all the seven keys to unlock the mysteries of Being in this life, and the lives to come, as in those which have gone by, show that the Chaldean Book of Numbers, and the Upanishads undeniably conceal the most divine philosophy–as it is that of the Universal Wisdom Religion. But the Zohar, now so mutilated, can show nothing of the kind. Besides which, who of the Western philosophers or students has all those keys at his command? These are now entrusted only to the highest Initiates in Gupta Vidya, to great Adepts; and, surely it is no self-taught tyro, not even an isolated mystic, however great his genius and natural powers, who can hope to unravel in one life more than one or two of the lost keys. 5
The key to the Jewish metrology has been undeniably unravelled, and a very important key it is. But as we may infer from the words of the discoverer himself in the footnote just quoted–though that key (concealed in the “Sacred Metrology”) discloses the fact that “Holy Writ” contains “a rational science of sober and great worth,” yet it helps to unveil no higher spiritual truth than that which all astrologers have insisted upon in every age; i.e., the close relation between the sidereal and all the terrestrial bodies–human beings included. The history of our globe and its humanities is prototyped in the astronomical heavens from first to last, though the Royal Society of Physicists may not become aware of it for ages yet to come. By the showing of the said discoverer himself, “the burden of this secret doctrine, this Cabbalah, is of pure truth and right reason, for it is geometry with applied proper numbers, of astronomy and of a system of measures, viz., the Masonic inch, the twenty-four inch gauge (or the double foot), the yard, and the mile. These were claimed to be of divine revelation and impartation, by the possession and use of which, it could be said of Abram: ‘Blessed of the Most High God, Abram, measure of heaven and earth'”–the “creative law of measure.”
And is this all that the primitive Kabalah contained? No; for the author remarks elsewhere: “What the originally and intended right reading was [in the Pentateuch] who can tell?” Thus allowing the reader to infer that the meanings implied in the exoteric, or dead letter of the Hebrew texts, are by no means only those revealed by metrology. Therefore are we justified in saying that the Jewish Kabalah, with its numerical methods, is now only one of the keys to the ancient mysteries, and that the Eastern or Âryan systems alone can supply the rest, and unveil the whole truth of Creation. 6
What this numeral system is, we leave its discoverer to explain himself. According to him:
Like all other human productions of the kind, the Hebrew text of the Bible was in characters which could serve as sound signs for syllable utterance, or for this purpose what are called letters. Now in the first place, these original character signs were also pictures, each one of them; and these pictures of themselves stood for ideas which could be communicated, much like the original Chinese letters. Gustav Seyffarth shows that the Egyptian hieroglyphics numbered over 600 picture characters, which embraced the modified use, syllabically, of the original number of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The characters of the Hebrew text of the sacred scroll were divided into classes, in which the characters of each class were interchangeable; whereby one form might be exchanged for another to carry a modified signification, both by letter, and picture, and number. Seyffarth shows the modified form of the very ancient Hebrew alphabet in the old Coptic by this law of interchange of characters. 7 This law of permitted interchange of letters is to be found quite fully set forth in the Hebrew dictionaries. . . . Though recognized . . . it is very perplexing and hard to understand, because we have lost the specific use and power of such interchange. [Just so!] In the second place these characters stood for numbers–to be used for numbers as we use specific number signs–though also there is very much to prove that the old Hebrews were in possession of the so-called Arabic numerals, as we have them, from the straight line I to the zero character, together making 1 + 9 = 10. . . . In the third place, it is said, and it seems to be proved, that these characters stood for musical notes; so that, for instance, the arrangement of the letters in the first chapter of Genesis, can be rendered musically or by song. 8 Another law of the Hebrew characters was that only the consonantal signs were characterized–the vowels were not characterized, but were supplied. If one will try it he will find that a consonant of itself cannot be made vocal without the help of a vowel; 9 therefore . . . the consonants made the framework of a word, but to give it life or utterance into the air, so as to impart the thought of the mind, and the feelings of the heart, the vowels were supplied.
Now, even if we suppose, for argument’s sake, that the “framework,” i.e., the consonants of the Pentateuch are the same as in the days of Moses, what changes must have been effected with those scrolls–written in such a poor language as the Hebrew, with its less than two dozens of letters–when rewritten time after time, and its vowels and points supplied in ever-new combinations! No two minds are alike, and the feelings of the heart change. What could remain, we ask, of the original writings of Moses, if such ever existed, when they had been lost for nearly 800 years and then found when every remembrance of them must have disappeared from the minds of the most learned, and Hilkiah has them rewritten by Shaphan, the scribe? When lost again, they are rewritten again by Ezra; lost once more in 168 B.C. the volume or scrolls were again destroyed; and when finally they reappear, we find them dressed in their Massoretic disguise! We may know something of Ben Chajim, who published the Massorah of the scrolls in the fifteenth century; we can know nothing of Moses, this is certain, unless we become–Initiates of the Eastern School.
Ahrens, when speaking of the letters so arranged in the Hebrew sacred scrolls–that they were of themselves musical notes–had probably never studied Âryan Hindû music. In the Sanskrit language there is no need to so arrange letters in the sacred ollas that they should become musical. For the whole Sanskrit alphabet and the Vedas, from the first word to the last, are musical notations reduced to writing, and the two are inseparable. 10 As Homer distinguished between the “language of Gods” and the language of men, 11 so did the Hindus.
The Devanâgarî–the Sanskrit character–is the “Speech of the Gods” and Sanskrit the divine language. 12 As to the Hebrew let the modern Isaiahs cry “Woe is me!” and confess that which “the newly-discovered mode of language (Hebrew metrology) veiled under the words of the sacred Text” has now clearly shown. Read the Source of Measures, read all the other able treatises on the subject by the same author. And then the reader will find that with the utmost good-will and incessant efforts covering many years of study, that laborious scholar, having penetrated under the mask of the system, can find in it little more than pure anthropomorphism. In man, and on man, alone, rests the whole scheme of the Kabalah, and to man and his functions, on however enlarged a scale, everything in it is made to apply. Man, as the Archetypal Man or Adam, is made to contain the whole Kabalistic system. He is the great symbol and shadow, thrown by the manifested Kosmos, itself the reflection of the impersonal and ever incomprehensible principle; and this shadow furnishes by its construction–the personal grown out of the impersonal–a kind of objective and tangible symbol of everything visible and invisible in the Universe. “As the First Cause was utterly unknown and unnameable, such names as were adopted as most sacred (in Bible and Kabalah) and commonly made applicable to the Divine Being, were after all not so,” but were mere manifestations of the unknowable, such
In a cosmic or natural sense, as could become known to man. Hence these names were not so sacred as commonly held, inasmuch as with all created things they were themselves but names or enunciations of things known. As to metrology, instead of a valuable adjunct to the Biblical system . . . the entire text of the Holy Writ in the Mosaic books is not only replete with it as a system, but the system itself is that very thing, in esse,
from the first to the last word.
For instance, the narratives of the first day, of the six days, of the seventh day, of the making of Adam, male and female, of Adam in the Garden, of the formation of the woman out of the man, of . . . the genealogy of Ararat, of the ark, of Noah with his dove and raven, . . . of Abram’s travel from Ur . . . into Egypt before Pharaoh, of Abram’s life, of the three covenants, . . . of the construction of the tabernacle and the dwelling of Jehovah, of the famous 603,550 as the number of men capable of bearing arms, . . . the exodus out of Egypt, and the like–all are but so many modes of enunciation of this system of geometry, of applied number ratios, of measures and their various applications.
And the author of Hebrew Metrology ends by saying:
Whatever may have been the Jewish mode of complete interpretation of these books, the Christian Church has taken them for what they show on their first face–and that only. The Christian Church has never attributed to these books any property beyond this; and herein has existed its great error.
But the Western European Kabalists, and many of the American (though luckily not all), claim to correct this error of their Church. How far do they succeed and where is the evidence of their success? Read all the volumes published on the Kabalah in the course of this century; and if we except a few volumes issued recently in America, it will be found that not a single Kabalist has penetrated even skin deep below the surface of that “first face.” Their digests are pure speculation and hypotheses and– no more. One bases his glosses upon Ragon’s Masonic revelations; another takes Fabre d’Olivet for his prophet–this writer having never been a Kabalist, though he was a genius of wonderful, almost miraculous, erudition, and a polyglot linguist greater than whom there was since his day none, even among the philologists of the French Academy, which refused to take notice of his work. Others, again, believe that no greater Kabalist was born among the sons of men than the late Éliphas Lévi–a charming and witty writer, who, however, has more mystified than taught in his many volumes on Magic. Let not the reader conclude from these statements that real, learned Kabalists are not to be found in the Old and New Worlds. There are initiated Occultists, who are Kabalists, scattered hither and thither, most undeniably, especially in Germany and Poland. But these will not publish what they know, nor will they call themselves Kabalists. The “Sodalian oath” of the third degree holds good now as ever.
But there are those who are pledged to no secrecy. Those writers are the only ones on whose information the Kabalists ought to rely, however incomplete their statements from the standpoint of a full revelation, i.e., of the sevenfold Esoteric meaning. It is they who care least for those secrets after which alone the modern Hermetist and Kabalist is now hungering–such as the transmutation into gold, and the Elixir of Life, or the Philosopher’s Stone–for physical purposes. For all the chief secrets of the Occult teachings are concerned with the highest spiritual knowledge. They deal with mental states, not with physical processes and their transformations. In a word, the real, genuine Kabalah, the only original copy of which is contained in the Chaldean Book of Numbers, pertains to, and teaches about, the realm of spirit, not that of matter.
What, then, is the Kabalah, in reality, and does it afford a revelation of such higher spiritual mysteries? The writer answers most emphatically NO. What the Kabalistic keys and methods were, in the origin of the Pentateuch and other sacred scrolls and documents of the Jews now no longer extant, is one thing; what they are now is quite another. The Kabalah is a manifold language; moreover, one whose reading is determined by the dead-letter face text of the record to be deciphered. It teaches and helps one to read the Esoteric real meaning hidden under the mask of that dead letter; it cannot create a text or make one find in the document under study that which has never been in it from the beginning. The Kabalah–such as we have it now–is inseparable from the text of the Old Testament, as remodelled by Ezra and others. And as the Hebrew Scriptures, or their contents, have been repeatedly altered–notwithstanding the ancient boast that not one letter in the Sacred Scroll, not an iota, has ever been changed –so no Kabalistic methods can help us by reading in it anything besides what there is in it. He who does it is no Kabalist, but a dreamer.
Lastly, the profane reader should learn the difference between the Kabalah and the Kabalistic works, before he is made to face other arguments. For the Kabalah is no special volume, nor is it even a system. It consists of seven different systems applied to seven different interpretations of any given Esoteric work or subject. These systems were always transmitted orally by one generation of Initiates to another, under the pledge of the Sodalian oath, and they have never been recorded in writing by any one. Those who speak of translating the Kabalah into this or another tongue may as well talk of translating the wordless signal-chants of the Bedouin brigands into some particular language. Kabalah, as a word, is derived from the root Kbl (Kebel) “to hand over,” or “to receive” orally. It is erroneous to say, as Kenneth Mackenzie does in his Royal Masonic Cyclopædia, that “the doctrine of the Kabalah refers to the system handed down by oral transmission, and is nearly allied to tradition“; for in this sentence the first proposition only is true, while the second is not. It is not allied to “tradition” but to the seven veils or the seven truths, orally revealed at Initiation. Of these methods, pertaining to the universal pictorial languages–meaning by “pictorial” any cipher, number, symbol, or other glyph that can be represented, whether objectively or subjectively (mentally)–three only exist at present in the Jewish system. 13 Thus, if Kabalah as a word is Hebrew, the system itself is no more Jewish than is sunlight; it is universal.
On the other hand, the Jews can claim the Zohar, Sepher Yetzirah (Book of Creation), Sepher Dzeniuta, and a few others, as their own undeniable property and as Kabalistic works.
1. The spelling of the word is various; some write Cabbalah, others Kabbalah. The latest writers have introduced a new spelling as more consonant with the Hebrew manner of writing the word and make it Qabalah. This is more grammatical, perhaps, but as no Englishman will ever pronounce a foreign name or word but in an Englishified way, to write the term simply Kabalah seems less pretentious and answers as well.
2. This is demonstrated by what we know of the life of John Picus de Mirandola. Ginsburg and others have stated the following facts, namely, that after having studied the Kabalah Mirandola “found that there is more Christianity than Judaism in the Kabalah; he discovered in it proofs for the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Divinity of Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem, the fall of the Angels,” and so on. “In 1486, when only twenty-four years old, he published 900 theses which were placarded in Rome (not without the consent or knowledge surely of the Pope and his Government?), and which he undertook to defend in the presence of all European scholars, whom he invited to the Eternal City, promising to defray their travelling expenses. Among the theses was the following: ‘No science yields greater proof of the Divinity of Christ than magic and the Cabbalah’.” The reason why will be shown in the present article.
3. This is just what the Gnostics had always maintained quite independently of Christians. In their doctrines the Jewish God, the “Elohim,” was a hierarchy of low terrestrial angels–an Ildabaoth, spiteful and jealous.
4. To “slay a man” meant, in the symbolism of the Lesser Mysteries, the rite during which crimes against nature were committed, for which purpose the Kadeshim were set aside. Thus Cain “slays” his brother Abel, who, esoterically, is a female character and represents the first human woman in the Third Race after the separation of sexes. See also the Source of Measures, pp. 253, 283, etc.
5. The writer in the Masonic Review is thus, quite justified in saying as he does, that “the Kabalistic field is that in which astrologers, necromancers, black and white magicians, fortune-tellers, chiromancers, and all the like, revel and make claims to super-naturalism ad nauseam“; and he adds: “The Christian quarrying into its mass of mysticism, claims its support and authority for that most perplexing of all problems, the Holy Trinity, and the portrayed character of Christ. With equal assurance, but more effrontery, the knave, in the name of Cabbalah, will sell amulets and charms, tell fortunes, draw horoscopes, and just as readily give specific rules. . . . for raising the dead, and actually–the devil. . . . Discovery has yet to be made of what Cabbalah really consists, before any weight or authority can be given to the name. On that discovery will rest the question whether the name should be received as related to matters worthy of rational acknowledgement.” “The writer claims that such a discovery has been made, and that the same embraces rational science of sober and great worth.” “The Cabbalah,” from the Masonic Review for September, 1885, by Brother J. Ralston Skinner (McMillian Lodge, No. 141).
6. Even as it stands now, the Kabalah, with its several methods, can only puzzle by bring several versions; it can never divulge the whole truth. The readings of even the first sentence of Genesis are several. To quote the author: “It is made to read ‘B’rashith barâ Elohim,’ etc., ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,’ wherein Elohim is a plural nominative to a verb in the third person singular. Nachminedes called attention to the fact that the text might suffer the reading, ‘B’rash ithbarâ Elohim,’ etc., ‘In the head (source or beginning) created itself (or developed) gods, the heavens and the earth,’ really a more grammatical rendering.” (Ibid.) And yet we are forced to believe the Jewish monotheism!
7. Before Seyffarth can hope to have his hypothesis accepted, however, he will have to prove that (a) the Israelites had an alphabet of their own when the ancient Egyptians or Copts had as yet none; and (b) that the Hebrew of the later scrolls is the Hebrew, or “mystery language” of Moses, which the Secret Doctrine denies.
8. Not the Hebrew helped by the Massoretic signs, at all events. See further on, however.
9. And therefore as the vowels were furnished ad libitum by the Massorets they could make of a word what they liked!
10. See Theosophist, November, 1879, article Hindû Music, p. 47.
11. Thes. xiv. 289, 290.
12. The Sanskrit letters are three times as numerous as the poor twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. They are all musical and are read, or rather chanted, according to a system given in very old Tantrika works (see Tantra Shâstras); and are called Devanâgarî, “the speech or language of the Gods.” And since each answers to a numeral, a d has therefore a far larger scope for expression and meaning, it must necessarily be far more perfect and far older than the Hebrew, which followed the system, but could apply it only in a very limited way. If either of the two languages were taught to humanity by the Gods, surely it is rather Sanskrit–the perfect of the most perfect languages on Earth–than Hebrew, the roughest and the poorest. For once we believe in a language of divine origin, we can hardly believe at the same time that angels or Gods or any divine messenger should have selected the inferior in preference to the superior.
13. Of these three not one can be made to apply to purely spiritual metaphysics. One divulges the relations of the sidereal bodies to the terrestrial, especially the human; the other relates to the evolution of the human races and the sexes; the third to Kosmo-theogony and is metrological.
This is a series comprising three articles adapted from a talk delivered by a student on the Kabbalah at a U.L.T. meeting. The footnotes added were drawn from the writings of H.P.B. to provide keys for those who wish to pursue this study further.
Part I : Its Underlying Ideas
The kabalist is a student of “secret science”, one who interprets the hidden meaning of the Scriptures with the help of the symbolical Kabala, and explains the real one by these means. —Theosophical Glossary
Perhaps a good way to approach the Kabbalah is to discuss it in three parts. First, let us go over some of the basic ideas underlying this remarkably profound and sacred philosophy. Secondly, let us illustrate the significance of remembering that living or natural forms such as a tree are employed in its symbolism. This is why words such as “art” are emphasized and used in relation to the Kabbalah. And, lastly a very brief description of how that which is known as the Tree of Life functions will be presented.
Let us begin with a quote from Robert Fludd, 1 the great hermetic philosopher of the early 17th century, who wrote, “to reflect, to know is to penetrate,” and then refer to Johann Reuchlin’s 2 book, Art of the Kabbalah, written in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, in which he attempts to explain that:
Kabbalah cannot be discovered by the senses, nor by the domineering of clever logical arguments, that its basis in fact lies in the third region of understanding, a place where cogent judgment, the burden of evidence and syllogistic exposition hold no sway — not even reason rules there. This knowledge is nobler; where the light of the mind falls upon the intellect and moves our free will to believe. What is perceived by the senses is science and is determined by reasoning, but what the mind influences we put higher than science: such things are more than rational discourse.
What Fludd and Reuchlin are attempting to express is a way of thinking and seeing that was of paramount importance to renaissance philosophy, art and culture. It was known as Hermetic, Kabbalistic, Theosophic. Without dwelling too much in a particular historical period, it is nevertheless important in order to understand Kabbalah to look to the period of its greatest influence. In this way we can attempt to understand a way of thinking, which unfortunately is all too unfamiliar with our own.
During the renaissance great emphasis was placed upon ancient wisdom. There began the translating of books written by Arab alchemists, astrologers and mathematicians, the writings of Pythagoras, Plato and the ancient Greek philosophers. Translations of the writings of Neoplatonists such as Plotinus, Phorphry and Iamblichus enjoyed remarkable influence. Along with these were texts believed to be the teachings of the ancient Egyptian magus Hermes Trismegistis. 3 Early gnostic writings reemerged and because of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 there was a major influx of Jewish scholars and Kabbalists into Italy and surrounding countries. To say the least, this was a remarkable melting pot of ideas. These different streams of thought and traditions all had at their heart the belief that one could, through study and meditation, achieve direct knowledge of the divine or what is known of as gnosis. This understanding is the basis of Kabbalah. That is, Kabbalah can be considered as the inner meaning or content behind all complete religions. It is the living unity or principle which remains hidden from the profane, or those who only accept what the world of their senses and faith in outer forms, laws and rituals leads them to believe. In another sense Kabbalah can be looked at as the blueprint of reality, the master-plan behind this world of matter and how that which is invisible to the eye is clearly seen in the heart of the divine. One may enter the heart of the divine only as direct experience. Direct experience is only possible through one’s Self. 4
Over the entrance to the Greek temple at Delphi was written “Man know thyself and thou shalt know the secrets of the universe.” Hermes Trismegistis the father and namesake of the Hermetic tradition said that one can only understand god by becoming god. Kabbalah means that which is received. It is the secret or hidden knowledge of revealed wisdom. Wisdom not as an act of reflection but of penetration, or better yet the ability to be penetrated — that is to become receptive. 5 What is meant by “to know God is to become God”? The basic premise is found in the macrocosm and microcosm. Man is a universe. Every atom, cell, organ, muscle or bone has a correlation to the Divine Consciousness which is within all matter.
Everything, every being, every plant and animal, planet or solar system is connected; is part of the web of consciousness which interpenetrates, sustains and knows itself as a great macrocosmic unity. Every person is a microcosm, a hologram or wholeness. Most of us recognize ourselves as the face which stares back at us in the mirror. We can verify our existence with a photo ID. Most of us recognize ourselves by the experiences that have shaped and formed our sense of self. And yet what is it that is this sense of self? Is this what the Greeks meant by know yourself? Know what you already know about yourself? These memories and codes that have been adopted as true or real. Most people readily admit their preferences, bias and opinions. Strip these away and what are you? This would be one of the first questions asked at Delphi or by a Kabbalist. Not what do you know about yourself, but what do you not know about yourself. We all know that we use a very small percentage of our brains. It could be argued we use even less of our true or whole self. Because the line of communication from within to without is silenced by the need to create a stable picture of ourselves and reality by defining what everything is and is not including what our lives do or do not mean.
When the words and understanding of Kabbalah, Theosophy or any truly profound sacred science are used as mortar and brick to support a pillar of bias and opinion, the living principle within withers. As Socrates, named the wisest man in Athens, proclaimed that he only knew that he knew nothing, he was saying he would always listen, observe and question. And, like the teaching of Christ: “Be ye like children.” What does this mean if it does not mean to be inquisitive, unprejudiced and able to stand before the remarkable qualities of life and feel the divine humility of awe or wonder. The beginning of knowledge is wonder.
This is why it seemed important to discuss the fact that living organic structures are used in Kabbalistic symbolism. First we must consider Hebrew, Greek and Sanscrit, the languages that were said to be revealed by God, not invented by men. Words were never meant to be thought of as solely the conveyors of information. To the ancients, words if properly understood were magic, a vessel for the dynamic living spirit. They were the outer skin riding upon a sea of universal force. They were alive.
Wisdom is a living, growing being not a thing. Fire, water, air and earth, animals, humankind, the planets and creation are all symbols used to understand Kabbalah. This is primary to approaching Kabbalah and Theosophy. They are both the teachings of perennial wisdom. Perennial refers to a natural cycle of growth and development, from the planting of a seed, to its cultivation and harvesting. Man can help things to grow but he cannot breathe life into those things, he must allow them to follow their own cycles of development. Where we have power to observe, caretake and tend, we are given the opportunity to tend the gardens of our soul.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 85, No. 4, February, 1997, Pages 110-115
1. H.P.B. refers to Robert Fludd as a natural mystic whose affinity for the celestial science brought about the attention of the Adepts. (See article “Chelas and Lay Chelas,” H.P.B. Articles Vol. I, p. 308.)
2. Nicknamed the “Father of Reformation”; the friend of Pico di Mirandola, the teacher and instructor of Erasmus, of Luther and Melancthon. He was a great Kabbalist and Occultist (Theosophical Glossary, p. 277).
3. The mythical personage after whom the Hermetic philosophy was named. In Egypt the God Thoth or Thot. A generic name of many ancient Greek writers on philosophy and Alchemy. Hermes Trismegistus is the name of Hermes or Thoth in his human aspect, as a god he is far more than this. … As a serpent, Hermes Thoth is the divine creative Wisdom (Theosophical Glossary, p. 140).
According to Plato, “Thoth-Hermes was the discoverer and inventor of numbers, geometry, astronomy and letters.” Proclus, the disciple of Plotinus, speaking of this mysterious deity, says: “He presides over every species of condition, leading us to an intelligible essence from this mortal abode, governing the different herds of souls” (Theosophical Glossary, p. 332).
4. In the article “Le Phare De L’inconnu,” H.P.B. writes of the soul’s capacity for this Direct Experience: “Every one of us possess the faculty, the interior sense, that is known by the name of intuition, but how rare are those who know how to develop it! It is, however, only by the aid of this faculty that men can ever see things in their true colours. It is an instinct of the soul, which grows in us in proportion to the employment we give it, and which helps us to perceive and understand the realities of things with far more certainty than can the simple use of our senses and exercise of our reason. What are called good sense and logic enable us to see only the appearances of things, that which is evident to every one. The instinct of which I speak, being a projection of our perceptive consciousness, a projection which acts from the subjective to the objective, and not vice versa, awakens in us spiritual senses and power to act; these senses assimilate to themselves the essence of the object or of the action under examination, and represent it to us as it really is, not as it appears to our physical senses and to our cold reason.” (H.P.B. Articles Vol. I, p. 428.)
5. This type of receptivity is not passive but refers to Bodhi or Sambodhi which is: “Receptive intelligence, in contradistinction to Buddhi, which is the potentiality of intelligence.” (Theosophical Glossary, p. 59.)
Part II : Art and the Artist
… physical man is the musical instrument, and the Ego, the performing artist. The potentiality of perfect melody of sound, is in the former — the instrument. … This harmony depends on the fidelity of transmission, by word or act, to the objective plane, of the unspoken divine thought in the very depths of man’s subjective or inner nature. —H. P. Blavatsky
H. P. Blavatsky wrote that spiritual development is the creation of a spaciousness of vision. Vision is what emancipates the form of Theosophy or Kabbalah and allows it to awaken as art. If we considered the writings of the ancient wisdom to be like a box of paints and brushes, then we could memorize every color and brush by name, size, and function. This, however, would not necessarily make us painters, for to paint or create is to apply. It is to become involved in the long arduous struggle of allowing an image or idea to gestate or develop and finally be born onto the canvas of our lives. Each of us is the painter of our own existence, not simply the keeper of the tools or concepts. There are many who can describe what painting is, but very few who actually understand the process on an intimate level. The beauty of using painting or art as an analogy, when speaking of Kabbalah or perennial wisdom, is that we move away from thinking in such terms as true or false, right or wrong. Instead, we become concerned with vision or insight, ability, humanity, etc. No one would say that Leonardo had it right, but poor old Van Gogh had it wrong. Creative expression allows us to see the universe revealed through the lens of the artist in most remarkable and vital ways. Through their art we can escape the domination of the world of words and outward forms — we can transcend them — we can see the universe anew through their eyes. This is the key to understanding the use of the word art when speaking of Kabbalah.
Art helps us to go beyond the domination of our beliefs and codes. It allows the very nature of the universe to emerge into creativity. When approaching these ideas let us remember to make the effort to think creatively. Creative thinkers, whether they be painter, writer, philosopher, secretary or fireman are receptive to ideas as living forces within themselves. 1 They might not know at all what it is that seeks them as much as they seek it. 2 But when we consider the meaning of Kabbalah, “to receive,” our work becomes the responsibility of creating the conditions for a seed to be planted and to grow. As the artist of our souls we may nurture and feed them with the dreams and frustrations provided by our life experiences. And, if fortunate and patient we will most assuredly learn from them. The universe is not a thing it is being —we are a being within being —a universe in potentiality. The gift of life is the opportunity to remember our divine origins — our true universal nature. That is the basis of Kabbalah and the heart of Theosophy.
In the most simple terms the Kabbalah is like a map, but a map is not the territory it describes. There is no similarity between Sacramento on a map and the actual city it locates. We must approach the map of the Kabbalah with the same understanding. The words, structures and outer forms are meant to be understood as tools for insight, jumping off points or triggers for the imagination. 3 And, as we are dealing with the organic or living qualities of the Kabbalah it is not until ideas live within us, take root and grow within us that we become founts of wisdom rather than wells of information. When ideas live and grow from within they become the guides and counselors of our lives. We begin to have an internal capacity to question, without having to arrive at a permanent conclusion. Here ideas can reveal environments or realms of consciousness and Being that are not static, rather they are imbued with creativity and insight. We evolve from believers into explorers. Kabbalah is a way of looking at the outer world. Through it, we may begin to see that our participation in it is not as an autonomous, separate entity but as a being who is intimately connected with everything whether we are conscious of this connection or not. When this happens the old boundaries of who and what we believe ourselves to be deepens and becomes more inclusive.
When pondering the depths of the ancient wisdom we are often overcome by a great sense of humility. A humility born from the realization that this wisdom cannot be grasped any more than can the ocean. Whenever we dip our hand into those ancient wells we are moved to a state of wonder, which allows us to drink from them, and perhaps describe what we see when holding a small portion of their life-giving waters. In these moments some fragment of the ancient perennial wisdom will take residence within our hearts.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 85, No. 5, March, 1997, Pages 146-149
1. In her article “Dialogues Between The Two Editors,” H.P.B. writes: “Why is it that one person sees poetry in a cabbage or a pig with her little ones, while another will perceive in the loftiest things only their lowest and most material aspect, will laugh at the ‘music of the spheres,’ and ridicule the most sublime conceptions and philosophies? This difference depends simply on the innate power of the mind to think on the higher or on the lower plane, with the astral (in the sense given to the world by St. Martin), or with the physical brain. Great intellectual powers are often no proof of, but are impediments to spiritual and right conceptions;…” (H.P.B. Articles Vol. II, p. 42.)
2. “…the strongest [aspiration] perhaps in man’s nature, is the longing to seek for the unknown; an ineradicable desire to penetrate below the surface of things, a thirst for knowledge of that which is hidden from others. … The man in whom the metaphysical element is stronger than the physical, is propelled by this natural aspiration towards the mystical,…” (“The Kabalah And The Kabalists,” H.P.B. Articles Vol. III, p. 235.)
3. “The seeds of Wisdom cannot sprout and grow in airless space. To live and reap experience, the mind needs breadth and depth and points to draw it towards the Diamond Soul.” (The Voice Of The Silence, p. 28.)
PART III : A Universal Symbol—The Tree Of Life
A symbol is ever, to him who has eyes for it, some dimmer or clearer revelation of the God-like. Through all there glimmers something of a divine idea … — Carlyle
The Kabbalistic Tree of Life is a picture or diagram of Creation cast in the image of a tree. As this is a visual rendering, an abstraction, let us continually remember the idea of analogy and correspondence. Hence, if the rendering be taken literally it will be meaningless. After all how does one explain the inexplicable?
Whenever we endeavor to understand the “inexplicable” we find our only vehicle is through the use of symbolism. 1 Symbols are the outermost face of archetypal forces, which emerge into our world as recognizable forms. A symbol, like a map, relates to the living ideas which animate them. They are not definitions or periods at the end of a sentence. We have a tendency, in our time and culture, to reduce symbols into signs. A sign serves as a code, a unit of information or data, which reduces ideas into a clearly recognizable something. We need only drive down the street to see the myriad of signs we confront daily. A symbol, on the other hand, is a starting point for the imagination.
When speaking of the imagination, it is important to distinguish it from fantasies which are the production of the brain and based upon what we already know. Imagination, however, is the bridge between our self-awareness and our connection to archetypal energies. Through these energies we have the capacity to support, maintain and create our sense of self, our sense of time, along with an understanding of the universe in which we interact.
Thinkers during the Renaissance, such as Robert Fludd and Johann Reichlin, etc. understood the value of the intellect when translating subjective experiences into objective communication. They viewed the intellect as a navigator and decision maker, but recognized the imagination as the true key for unlocking wisdom — A wisdom which could only emerge as a living force without being reduced into a familiar code of laws. When reading H. P. Blavatsky’s translation of The Stanzas of Dzyan, 2 we can sense the vitality and power of this force. These Stanzas stimulate our imaginative faculties. They are poetry of a divine order, and are able to unlock knowledge from a deeper level in ourselves. These unaccustomed regions in our nature, when stirred, allow us to become aware of the Universal Design in an intimate way. In other words, knowledge becomes less of an abstraction and more of a reality. In order to appreciate what the Kabbalah means to convey, we must begin with a receptivity at this level. Thus we are enabled to move away from the logical or rational mind and into the very soul of our poetic nature. Kabbalah asks that we move beyond our own thinking and enter into a dialog between thought, reason and imagination — to listen, to remember, to reawaken — to let the wisdom that supports, maintains and informs our very cells and atoms to function in a way that is beyond everyday comprehension. We are the living product of an ancientness of Being and if we become open to listen, even momentarily, to this wisdom we may find that it is truly closer to us than the nose on our face.
Moving into the symbolism and language employed by the Kabbalah, we will begin with the unknowable, the unutterable and unspeakable. This is known as the Absolute, the No-Thing which is symbolized by the outermost radiation above the Tree. 3 The name given this radiation is Ain — God the Transcendent. Ain is beyond existence, Ain is Absolute No Thing. Ain is not above or below, neither still nor in motion. There is no where Ain is, for Ain is not. Out of Ain emanates En Sof or the endless absolute ALL. God the transcendent becomes God the immanent. 4
The last curve or radiation is Ain Sof Aur, the endless light of Will. The Kabbalists say that God willed to see God which caused the first contraction in the Absolute All or En Sof, making a place for the mirror of Existence. 5
In this way The Endless light of Will or Ain Sof Aur radiated like a beam of light into the Void of unmanifested existence. It was the dimensionless point created after the contraction of the Absolute All. (Or the Point in the Center of the Circle.)
This brought into focus three factors that made the Void:
1st was the Will of the Absolute
2nd Allowing it to occur
3rd Restriction to limit and contain it. 6
These are known as the Three Hidden Splendors and the first of several sets of Major Laws which govern existence. These generated expansion and contraction and are called the Prime Crown or I AM, allowing existence to be.
The Primal Crown or Sephira is the seed or one light from which all others emanate. Thus God willed the world into Being. The seed took root, grew downward into a trunk with branches and fruit Divine. 7
The structure of The Tree of Life, then, is based on the emanations flowing down from the Crown into what is known as the lightning flash. So it is through emanation, creation, formation and action that our world is produced. 8
Although the Kabbalistic Tree is portrayed as emanating up and down, in reality, it is meant to be thought of, or perhaps experienced, as moving from within to without. In other words, emanation comes from within as, from the nothingness at the heart of an atom outward into this world of seemingly stable objects, beings and forms.
The following, from Stanza I of the Book of Dzyan, illustrate a means through which this “divine formula” may be transmitted:
1. THE ETERNAL PARENT WRAPPED IN HER EVER INVISIBLE ROBES HAD SLUMBERED ONCE AGAIN FOR SEVEN ETERNITIES.
2. TIME WAS NOT, FOR IT LAY ASLEEP IN THE INFINITE BOSOM OF DURATION.
3. UNIVERSAL MIND WAS NOT, FOR THERE WERE NO AH-HI TO CONTAIN IT.
4. THE SEVEN WAYS TO BLISS WERE NOT. T>HE GREAT CAUSES OF MISERY WERE NOT, FOR THERE WAS NO ONE TO PRODUCE AND GET ENSNARED BY THEM.
5. DARKNESS ALONE FILLED THE BOUNDLESS ALL, FOR FATHER, MOTHER AND SON WERE ONCE MORE ONE, AND THE SON HAD NOT AWAKENED YET FOR THE NEW WHEEL, AND HIS PILGRIMAGE THEREON.
The ancient teachings are given as tools to help us reawaken to the knowledge of our divine and celestial origins. They attempt to relate ideas of spiritual evolution and brotherhood in the deepest sense. Through self effort, hard work, study and question we can at least, like Socrates, try to ask questions of a penetrating nature. Edison said that invention is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. If we diligently grapple with the universality and wisdom of the inner meaning presented by these teachings we will most often notice the perspiration but, when, in those fleeting moments, we experience inspiration — a universe within and without opens in a way undreamed of in our wildest flight of fancy. And, let us ever keep in mind these wise words from the great hermetic philosopher, Robert Fludd:
“TO BELIEVE IS TO REFLECT, TO KNOW IS TO PENETRATE.”
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 85, No. 6, April, 1997, Pages 173-178
1. “… the old teachings are scattered widely throughout the old scriptures of ancient civilizations. … The reason for this is, that all such events were recorded symbolically … even a parable is a spoken symbol … an allegorical representation, we say, of life-realities, events, and facts. … The religious and esoteric history of every nation was embedded in symbols; it was never expressed in so many words. All the thoughts and emotions, all the learning and knowledge, revealed and acquired, of the early races, found their pictorial expression in allegory and parable. (The Secret Doctrine Vol. I, p. 307.)
2. See The Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, pp. 27-34 and Vol. II, pp. 15-21. Commenting on these Stanzas in The Transactions of the Blavatsky Lodge, H.P.B. writes: “The beauty and wisdom of the Stanzas consist in this, that they may be interpreted on seven different planes, the last reflecting, by the universal law of correspondences and analogy, in its most differentiated … aspect, the process which takes place on the first or purely spiritual plane. … the first Stanzas treat of the awakening from Pralaya … while Vol. II. deals only with our Earth.” (Transactions, p. 87.)
3. “Radiation is, so to say, the unconscious and spontaneous shooting forth, the action of a something from which this act takes place; but emanation is something from which another thing issues in a constant efflux, and emanates consciously. … Radiation can come from the Absolute; Emanation cannot. … Radiation is sure, sooner or later, to be withdrawn again while Emanation runs into other emanations and is thoroughly separated and differentiated. … in fact, from one point of view, emanation is equivalent to Evolution;…” (Transactions, pp. 94-5.)
4. “Ain Soph [En Sof] The ‘Boundless’ or Limitless; Deity emanating and extending. … In the religious metaphysics of the old Hebrew philosophers, the ONE Principle was an abstraction … Deity is NO-THING; it is nameless, and therefore called Ain Soph; the word Ain meaning NOTHING. (See Franck’s Kabbala, p. 153 ff.)” (Theosophical Glossary, p. 12.)
5. “In metaphysics and occult philosophy, Will is that which governs the manifested universes in eternity. Will is the one and sole principle of abstract eternal MOTION, or its ensouling essence. … Will is septenary in its degrees of manifestation. … as an eternal principle is neither spirit nor substance but everlasting ideation.” (Glossary, p. 370.)
6. “Let us picture to ourselves this latent or potential consciousness as a kind of vacuum in a vessel. Break the vessel, and what becomes of the vacuum; where shall we look for it? It has disappeared; it is everywhere and nowhere. It is something, yet nothing: … This being so, destroy the vessel, and — to our perceptions at any rate — nothing exists. … [Hence] ‘Universal Mind was not,’ because there was no vehicle to contain it.” (Transactions, p. 20.)
7. “… Sephira, or the ‘Sacred Aged’, is the divine Intelligence (the same as Sophia or Metis), the first emanation from the ‘Endless’ or Ain-Suph.” (see Glossary, p. 295.) [also] Ain Soph Aur- “The Boundless Light which concentrates into the First and highest Sephira or Kether, the Crown.” (Ibid., p. 12.) H.P.B. relates this “concentration” to the second stage of manifestation: “The first stage is the appearance of the potential point in the circle — the unmanifested Logos. The second stage is the shooting forth of the Ray from the potential white point, producing the first point … The third stage … is the Third or manifested Logos — in other words, the subjective and objective Universe.” (Transactions, p. 84.)
8. With respect to this process, it is interesting to read the following, collated from The Glossary, on the Hindu Trimurti: “‘In the beginning, the great Vishnu, desirous of creating the whole world, became threefold: creator, preserver, destroyer. The Supreme Spirit emanated from the right side of his body, himself, as Brahmâ. In order to preserve the universe, he produced from the left side of his body Vishnu; and in order to destroy the world he produced from the middle of his body the eternal Shiva. Some worship Brahmâ, but Vishnu, one yet threefold, creates, preserves and destroys. The three ‘persons’ of the Trimûrti are the three qualificative attributes of the universe of differentiated Spirit-Matter, self-formative, self-preserving and self-destroying, for the purposes of regeneration and perfectibility.