Kabbalah: what is it and what is it about?

Cabal, Qabbaláh or Kabbalah, literally means “to receive”, but also “tradition” and in fact indicates a series of esoteric and mystical teachings of Jewish origin, whose purpose is to investigate the secrets of the cosmos and of life. It is not a religion, despite being used by various Jewish currents, rather a mystical interpretation of divine teachings …

The symbol of Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, is nested here in sacred geometry, the ancient Flower of Life matrix.

The original Jewish cabala has been the subject of numerous reinterpretations over time, so much so that today it is re-proposed in a modern key as a form of contemporary mysticism. In the Western tradition, it combines magic, gnosis, orphism and other esoteric teachings. But regardless of the reinterpretations, the cabala refers in its doctrine to the Torah (the teaching of the Jewish religious tradition which according to rabbinic literature refers to the first five books of the Bible). The Zohar, or Book of Splendor, is instead its sacred text.

Having said that, let’s find out what his studying is for in everyday life …

From the kabbalistic point of view, nothing happens by chance: every sphere of our life is interconnected and connected with the cosmos. For this it is essential to understand the universal laws in order to decipher the symbolic meaning of the events that happen to us. Unfortunately all of us, taken as we are by the daily chores and the primary survival needs, forget over time the importance of existential questions, for example “what is my purpose?”, “Why am I here?”, “Where do I have to to go?” 
We get used to passively accepting the surrounding reality without realizing that in reality everything depends on us, on our will or on the unconscious, unexpressed desires, which we project outside in order not to face them, in order not to grow.

According to Kabbalah, this instability that makes us frustrated and negative can be transcended, that is, we can all access a higher level of inner awareness, the purpose of which is to improve our earthly and spiritual life. Everyone can do it, regardless of age, intelligence, social status …

According to this form of mysticism, the universe is governed by precise spiritual laws, which can be understood by anyone through the study of the Zohar, which dissects the symbolic meaning of the Bible. In fact, the kabbalists believe that the Bible holds very important teachings, not only of an ethical type, whose secret meaning can be deciphered through the kabbalistic codes and systems.

If the verses, the words, the letters of the biblical alphabet are interpreted correctly, they magically become compatible with the mentality of today. In fact, Kabbalah intends to reconcile religious knowledge with scientific knowledge, aware that man, in order to feel truly satisfied, cannot depend only on reason, but must also accept its mystical, illogical, spiritual part …

The synthesis of the kabbalistic teachings is summarized graphically in the so-called Tree of Life , a symbolic diagram consisting of ten entities, the Sefirot , arranged on 3 parallel vertical pillars. According to the kabbalists, the Tree of Life provides important information on the creation of worlds and symbolically represents the path of descent and ascent of souls and by following it it is possible to rejoin Unity .

Our inner awareness rises and falls along this tree, whose 3 pillars are Strength (left), Love (right) and Compassion (center). Going along the median way, also called “royal way”, it is possible to reach the union of opposites, that is the conciliation of the Taoist Yin and Yang, of the masculine and feminine inherent in each of us and in reality itself.

The Hebrew Kabbalah comprises a series of esoteric teachings which are intended to explain the relationship between a mysterious Ein Sof (infinity) and the mortal and finite universe (God’s creation). It constitutes the foundation of mystical religious interpretation. The Kabbalah tries to define the nature of the universe and of the human being, the nature and purpose of existence and various other ontological issues.

The different transliterations of the word today tend to denote alternative traditions: the Hebrew cabala should therefore not be confused with the cabal of the Western tradition, even if these are directly inspired by it.

Some traditional practitioners believe that the early origins of the cabal predate world religions and form the primordial framework of philosophies, religions, sciences, arts, and political systems . The Kabbalah, according to its “scholars,” was transmitted by God directly to Adam and Abraham. The first kabbalistic knowledge was then transmitted orally by patriarchs, prophets and sages (in Hebrew: חכם? Ḥaḵam sing., Ḥaḵamim and / or chakhamim plur.), Subsequently “intertwined” in Jewish culture and religious writings. 
According to this view, the first Kabbalah around the 10th century BC was an open knowledge practiced by over a million people in ancient Israel.

Foreign conquests led the Jewish spiritual leaders of the time (the Sanhedrin) to hide the knowledge and make it secret, fearing it could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands. The leaders of the Sanhedrin were also concerned that the practice of the Kabbalah by Jews of the Jewish diaspora, without supervision and without the guidance of the masters, could lead them to wrong practices and prohibited methods. As a result, the Kabbalah within rabbinic Judaism became secret, forbidden and esoteric (Torat Ha`Sod תורת הסוד) for at least a millennium and a half …

According to the Finnish Assyriologist Simo Parpola, the concept of En Sof, or En Sof Or, derives from the Mesopotamian Aššur (transcendent God), just as the whole system of the Kabbalah derives from the sacred tree of the Mesopotamian religion.

Historical-academic studies of Jewish mysticism reserve the term “cabala” to designate the particular and distinctive doctrines that emerged verbatim and were fully expressed in the Middle Ages, diversified from previous Merkabah mystical concepts and methods. According to this descriptive classification, both versions of Kabbalistic theory, the Zoharic-medieval and the Lurianic of the early modern age, together constitute the theosophical tradition of the Kabbalah, while the meditative-ecstatic Kabbalah incorporates a related parallel medieval tradition. A third, related but more dodgy tradition deals with the magical arguments of practical Kabbalah. Scholar Moshe Idel, for example,
Such models can be easily distinguished by their primary intent with respect to God:

  • The theosophical tradition of theoretical Kabbalah (main focus of the Zohar and Luria) seeks to understand and describe the divine realm. As an alternative to rationalist Jewish philosophy, this speculation became the central component of the Kabbalah.
  • The ecstatic tradition of the meditative Kabbalah (exemplified by Abraham Abulafia and Isaac of Acre) seeks to achieve a mystical union with God. 
  • The magical-theurgic tradition of practical Kabbalah (often in unpublished manuscripts) seeks to alter both the divine realms and the material world. While some interpretations of prayer see it as its role to manipulate celestial forces, practical Kabbalah actually involves acts of white magic and the Kabbalists reserved it only for those who were of absolutely pure intent. Consequently it formed a separate minor tradition of the Kabbalah.

From the Renaissance onwards, Jewish kabbalistic texts entered non-Jewish culture, where they were studied and translated by Christian Judaists and Hermetic occultists. The syncretic traditions of the Christian and Hermetic Kabbalah developed independently of the Jewish Kabbalah, interpreting the Hebrew texts as universal ancient wisdom. Both have freely adapted Jewish concepts, separating them from their Jewish exegesis, in order to merge them with other theologies, religious traditions and magical associations.

Through these non-Jewish associations with magic, alchemy and divination, the Kabbalah has acquired some popular occult connotations prohibited within Judaism, where the Jewish theurgic practical Kabbalah is a minor tradition permitted only to a select elite. Today many publications on the Kabbalah belong to the non-Jewish New Age and occult traditions, thus not giving an accurate picture of the Jewish Kabbalah. Academic and traditional publications instead translate and study the Hebrew Kabbalah, presenting it to a wider audience of readers.

Finally, the cabala del lotto is a series of arithmetic operations through which we try to identify the numbers that will be drawn. Through this method, we therefore indicate an art that presumably guesses the future by means of numbers, signs and letters that appear in dreams. In fact, according to the Kabbalah, in the Bible the numbers, signs and letters are carriers of mysterious meanings. The link between cabala, numbers and dreams leads to an association with Morpheus, the god of dreams, son of Hypnos (sleep) and of Night. Its origins date back to 200 AD (the year in which Artemidoro di Daldi wrote a series of books that collected various interpretations of premonitory dreams, which came true despite not all of them being prophetic).

The connection between the Jewish cabala and numbers is very strong: it constitutes the root of an elaborate cosmology and cosmogony founded on a system of similar coincidences present between the various planes of being. The numbers are used to reveal all the hidden meanings of the surrounding reality, defined by the kabbalists as “apparent reality”.

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