Kabbalism is the science of understanding scripture.
That the Great Work may not fail,
And it's secrets be lost,
Switch on the modem, log on the Net,
Whatever the cost;
The Kabbalist is wired,
Where the grimoires are spread,
His eyes fixed on nothing,
A hand under his head.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves on silence. (author unknown)
The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next. (Helen Keller)
What is Kabbalah? What is Kabbalism? To begin, Kabbalism is not a religion. It would be better described as a discipline of mystical and scriptural theosophy. Kabbalism takes a scientific approach to understanding the Bible, and often uses scientific evidence to verify their millennia-old teachings. Historically, it has been a mystical adjunct to orthodox Judaism. But, it has in no way been mainstream to orthodox Judaism. Kabbalists comprise but a small fraction of orthodox Jews. A Kabbalist woman once told me they are often judged to be Jewish heretics, but because they are “kosher” and keep the orthodox laws, they are allowed to follow their theosophical path. She also told me it was not something for just the Jews. Ideally, it could be for everyone. Hopefully, this website will help bring Kabbala to Christians and non-orthodox Jews, alike.
Kabbalism is difficult to explain in but a few words, so please bear with me. It is based on a group of books, most of which document dialogues between Rabbis over the past 2,000 years concerning an oral tradition that began some 4000 years ago. The roots of these teachings pre-date the writing of the Bible by Moses (~1,500 BC) and the re-writing in Babylon (~675BC). Kabbalism is steeped in mystical belief, but it is not an organized, institutionalized system of belief containing ritual and sacraments. There seems to be two schools of thought on Kabbala. One school of thought believes that the teachings of Kabbalah are too subtle, mysterious and impossible to understand without experienced guidance. This school teaches that we cannot use the books of Kabbalah ourselves and correctly understand what is being taught. Obviously, this sounds much like the words of Christian priests and ministers who say the Bible itself is impossible to understand without their “proper” guidance. This orthodox theological position is what has troubled independent seekers of truth for centuries. Would God have given us the Bible and not wanted it to be understood by everyone? Of course not. The same can be said about Kabbalah. Thus, skeptical Christians may well reject this strict, institutionalized approach.
The second school of thought believes that Kabbalah and the Bible itself are intended by God to be understood by everyone, and a personal, direct inquiry is not only possible…it is encouraged. In other words, Kabbalah can be used by each of us, individually, to answer our spiritual questions and resolve our theological problems. In the process, we should look within, follow our intuitions, and seriously consider what we find in Kabbalah, whether by meditation, introspection, reflection, contemplation or personal prayer. Rabbi Cooper calls this the school of Ecstatic Kabbalism. Those who enter into and support the philosophical path of Ecstatic Kabbalism might also seek each other out and share ideas in a fashion similar to the scientific method. A consensus of agreement is almost always better than an individual's personal opinion.
Which school of thought is the best? Neither? Both? Hey, if the structured, institutionalized path to any form of spirituality works for you, then by all means follow it, and may God bless. All paths, seriously followed with conviction, lead to Faith. Follow the path that works best for you. In the search for spiritual fulfillment, one size does not fit all. But, if you are more comfortable with a serious personalized approach, then use your enquiring mind and put aside your Judeo-Christian conditioning which makes us experience guilt because we aren't thinking the way the official consensus wants us to think. God doesn't care one bit how we come to Faith.
Through Ecstatic Kabbalism we might discover success in our spiritual journey by way of a personal communion with the spirit, and through the spirit a sincere personal connection with the Divine. Finding and studying Kabbalism has brought this author to a place of contentment. I cannot believe I am the only skeptical Judeo-Christian that Kabbalism will work for. Rather, I am of the firm conviction this will provide benefit for everyone interested in a profound alternative path. I cannot hope this will work for others in precisely the same way it has worked for me. In fact, I would be shocked if the exact path I have followed would be the exact path for other similarly driven seekers. We are all too different for that to happen. But it will bear fruit for all spiritual seekers…of this I am certain. Ecstatic Kabbalism allows us to have our differences. It's OK. The key is respecting each other, and allowing the differences to flow into a better, more complete collective spiritual consciousness for all human beings. That's what the ancient Kabbalists were doing, and modern Kabbalists are doing in their written dialogues. Let bring the tradition to all people, not just a few daring orthodox Jews, and make it live for everyone.
Kabbalism also allows us to use knowledge we have learned from the world around us, and use it to support and verify our spiritual understanding of scripture. For example, scientific discovery is fair game in the expansion of our spiritual mentality. Traditional science shuns spirituality like the plague, and traditional theology does essentially the same thing with respect to scientific knowledge. The blending of science with theology is considered heresy by mainstream scientists and theologians alike. It's as if to say that we can't use what we learn about the world around us to corroborate our understanding of scripture. From the Kabbalist perspective, there should be no such barriers. A Kabbalist man once told me that the Big Bang theory is precisely what the prophets were trying to tell us in Genesis Chapter One! No scientific/theosophical barriers, period. Kabbalism teaches that the Bible is God's word, and the world around us is God's creation. They should fit together perfectly. If what we find to be the case in the world conflicts with how we read the Bible, then we are reading the Bible incorrectly. In fact, St Augustine, in his Confessions, says that if our understanding of the world contradicts our interpretation of scripture, then we are interpreting scripture improperly. Please keep in mind, Augustine was a third century Christian saint and was not a Kabbalist! Regardless, with Kabbalism, all shackles to understanding are removed. Kabbalism is truly the revealing science of God.
It seems Ecstatic Kabbalism is a school of thought that emerged rather recently, first arising in the early Renaissance but not gaining a firm foothold until the 20th century. Why couldn't Ecstatic Kabbalism have been the case down through history? The history of the human race, at least for the past 5000 years, has been marked by rampant illiteracy. Two thousand years ago, the number of people in the entire world who could read and write in their native language numbered perhaps a few thousand. It is estimated that there were possibly about 100 million people alive 2000 years ago, so no more than a few tenths of a percent of the human population could actually read. The few people who could read were in considerable demand. The vast majority of Jews had the Bible read to them. They couldn't read it themselves. So it makes sense that actually reading what the Bible contained was limited to a select few. Many of the stories in scripture didn't make sense to those hearing them being read, so they wanted to know what these mysterious-sounding passages meant. Some of the readers were Rabbinical and would try to explain, but for the most part people would seek out a Rabbi to get the “official” explanation. Keep in mind that all readers of the Bible at this time in history were Jews. What we call the early Christians were actually the first reformed Jewish movement. In fact, all Christians are technically reformed Jews. Regardless, it makes sense that in the early stages of Judeo-Christianity, the Bible could not be read by the masses, per se. They couldn't read.
Even a thousand years ago, when the total human population was still not much more than 100 million, no more than a few tens of thousands could actually read. Most, if not all of the readers outside Judaism were clerics contained within the Christian Church itself. The masses were still illiterate, so they took the meanings of scripture on authority. They had to. Anyone who openly doubted the authority of the Christian Church's teaching would be judged as a heretic, with terrible consequences. The Jewish Kabbalists of this age kept their ideas within their religion, but because they were orthodox Jews, other Jews didn't condemn them. For Christians, such wildly different ideas as those held by Kabbalists would mark them for severe judgment.
By the 20th century, the rate of literacy in western civilization was increasing rapidly. Still as of 100 years ago, the number of literate people in the world was but a few percent of the total population, and advanced education relatively rare. But the numbers were sufficient within the Jewish community for Ecstatic Kabbalism to gain a lasting foothold. Today however, nearly half the total population of our world can read and write in their native language. That's at least 3 billion literate souls in the world. And, people aren't incapable of correctly understanding what they read. Reading comprehension is very common, to say the least. The bottom line is, the human race is no longer one of rampant illiteracy and faulty comprehension. There is no reason why any literate person cannot read and understand most of the Bible. The number of people who can correctly read the Bible today is enormous.
It's the mysterious passages that give the traditional Biblical reader fits. The creation story, original sin, Noah, Jonah, Ezekiel. Strange stuff indeed. Kabbalah gives us the opportunity to look at many of these passages and begin to understand them outside the dogmatic strictures imposed by historical theology, and in some cases understand them in total. Will each Ecstatic Kabbalist come to the same conclusion as all others on all of the metaphoric biblical stories of Genesis? Probably not. But serious searchers of scriptural truth can communicate, share their thoughts, and open the door for a level of understanding unprecedented in human history, through the implementation of Ecstatic Kabbalism. It can be through a cooperative sharing of ideas on scripture between all concerned peoples that a collective consciousness of understanding can, and will occur. A some point in the future evolution of our species, all scriptural “mysteries” will be resolved. Kabbalah gives us the path to make it happen. All we need to do is walk that path together.
and who hath a heart to understand, let him listen and attend to the words and teachings
of the spirits of all spirits respecting the four quarters of parts of the world.' (Zohar)
1. Cooper, Rabbi David A.; God is a Verb : Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism; Berkley Publishing Group of Penguin Putnam Inc., New York. 1997
2. Erdstein, Baruch Emanuel; Kabbalah : A Brief Definition; Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center; Kabbalah Online. 2010 http://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380617/jewish/Kabbalah-A-Brief-Definition.htm
3. The Wisdom of Kabbalah : Introduction; Bnei Baruch Kabbalah Education and Research Institute; 2010. http://www.kabbalah.info/engkab/book_1/book1eng_intro.htm
4. What is Kabbalah?; The Kabbalah Centre. 2010 http://www.kabbalah.com/about/what-is-kabbalah
5. O’Donnell, James J.; The Confessions of Augustine : An Electronic Edition; (Online) Mahoney, Anne, of the Perseus Project; 1997 - (text) Oxford. 1992. http://www.stoa.org/hippo/