An Introduction to Modern Kabbalah
by Kephri Ra
The practice of Kabbalah has been going through something of a renaissance in recent years, and with celebrities such as Madonna talking publicly about its benefits many people have become interested in the subject. At the same time as gaining in popularity modern Kabbalah has also evolved and morphed from its ancient origins so that what I call 'modern Kabbalah' is something quite different from the traditional subject. In this article I will try to give a general outline of, and introduction to, the study and practice of modern Kabbalah.
The origins of Kabbalah lie in early Jewish mysticism, but from those beginnings the study of Kabbalah has grown and branched out, first into a Christian and Islamic Kabbalah, and then further, so that today many people who study and practice this mystical and magickal discipline do so outside of any particular religious affiliations, treating it as an independent spiritual system in itself. The variant spellings of Qabalah and Cabala are often used to denote the non-denominational and Christian versions respectively.
Within Jewish legend there are two distinct stories of the origins of Kabbalah; the first states that it was received by Moses on mount Sinai, but whereas the commandments were for everybody the esoteric teachings of the Kabbalah were passed on to a select few as a secret inner teaching. The second states that these teachings have always been with man, having been given to Adam by an Archangel at the time of his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, out of pity for his plight and a desire to help.
Within Judaism the Torah and other 'exoteric' teachings were often considered to be the body of Jewish teaching, and the Kabbalah, at the height of its practice, was considered to be the soul. In many ways Kabbalistic teachings can be thought of as the distilled essence of spiritual teachings, without the cultural baggage and rigid dogmas that go along with religious teachings. It is because of this that the Kabbalah has been so successful at moving out of the confines of the Jewish faith to provide inspiration, guidance and empowerment to people of all different backgrounds and beliefs. The modern study of Kabbalah has become intimately entwined with the concept of the 'Perennial Philosophy'; the idea that there is a unifying thread of truth behind all of the world’s main religious and spiritual teachings. Kabbalistic principles and teats can be used to understand and draw upon the teachings of a wide range of very different spiritual traditions by stripping away everything but the perfect 'essence' or soul of the teaching.
The esoteric nature of Kabbalah means that rather than being composed of a set of rules, rituals and dogmas, and being essentially social and collective in nature, like exoteric religions, it guides its practitioners on a very personal journey and is composed in a large part of techniques; the path of Kabbalah is that of mysticism and magick, an of philosophy rather than dogma.
The entirety of Kabbalistic wisdom is contained within and expressed by a single diagrammatical representation and system of classification called the Tree of Life; it has 10 spheres, or sephiroth, and 22 paths connecting them. The 10 Spheres can be thought of as describing objective existence whereas the 22 paths describe the subjective experience of being human. This system of classification lends itself well to use as a tool for the objective study of comparative religion and spiritual studies; it also led the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley to describe the Tree of Life as a 'spiritual filling cabinet'.
In addition to being used philosophically as a system of classification the tree of life is also used in meditative and ritual practices. Associated with each sphere and path are the Archangels and choruses of Angels, and other symbolic representation of their nature.
Many of the so called magical practices of Kabbalah can be understood in a modern scientific sense. The perfect example of this is invocation, in which the practitioners invoke the power of some spiritual force within themselves. This is described as a supernatural occurrence, but can be explained entirely as a psychological process harnessing the power of the subconscious mind.
I would wholeheartedly recommend the practice of Kabbalah to anyone.
For more info and other resources take a look at the Morning Star Kabbalah Portal
or the free online reference resources at Web of Qabalah
. There is also a nice page on squidoo you may like to take a look at, which features Kabbalah Art
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