December 30, 2009
© 2008-2011. A course in Kabbalah by Sephir.
What is Kabbalah?
At the outset of the course, I’d like to quote one of the greatest kabbalists ever :
I am certain that all doubts, whether one should study Kabbalah or not, will vanish from the horizon as soon as certain question arises in ones mind. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, “What is the meaning of my life?”
Jehuda Ashlag, Introduction to Talmud Eser ha Sfirot
It’s impossible to instantly understand what Kabbalah really is, since it doesn’t deal with neither our physical reality, nor its inseparable attributes : time, space, and movement. The understanding will gradually deepen as we proceed with the lessons, so what I’d like to suggest you do, is to keep reading, and avoid drawing the conclusions.
What Kabbalah is not
Kabbalah is a very old science, coming from the time of ancient Babylon. It has remained hidden from humanity since it appeared more than four thousand years ago, and to this very day, only a few know what Kabbalah really is. Paradoxically, because of its secrecy, Kabbalah has been arousing curiosity of philosophers, artists, mystics, occultists, and scientists up to now. Hence for thousands of years humanity was offered a wide variety of things under the label “Kabbalah”, such as mysticism, magic, divination, religion, and lately even red string and sacred water – all except for Kabbalah itself, which being secretly handed over from kabbalist to kabbalist, is still inaccessible for humanity in whole to this day.
The period of hiding does not quite apply to inaccessibility of the kabbalistic books themselves. Although the books were virtually available, they remained incomprehensible for those who tried to read them, since kabbalists used a special code to cipher their books. The code itself (called “the language of branches”) made the books seem as if they described certain fairy stories in very symbolic ways. Consequently, for over four thousand years, common understanding of Kabbalah has been cluttered with misconceptions and misinterpretations. This way in the Middle Ages, the secret teaching has been adopted to various disciplines, thus giving rise to many new esoteric paths, that really have nothing to do with Kabbalah itself.
For more information and discussion on the History of Kabbalah visit here
What is Kabbalah?
Since we already know what Kabbalah is not, let’s try to determine what is it really about. Kabbalah (in its genuine meaning) can be defined as both :
1. A science(1) accurately and mathematically describing the Creator(2).
2. A method allowing one to acquire an additional sense(3), and thus gradually reveal the Creator, while still living in this world(4).
I’m aware that such a definition might arise many questions in ones mind, so let’s gradually clear everything up.
(1) Is it indeed a science?
It’s a truly important question: Do we deal with it as a sort of philosophy, parapsychological teaching, or rather a pure science in the full sense of this word? In fact, Kabbalah has all the characteristics of a science: experimentation, testing, documentation, repeating experiments, reconstruction of phenomena, and hence, predictability. There is an important rule that kabbalists follow : “Anything that has not been attained cannot be named”. Alike other sciences, Kabbalah has its own terminology, graphic notation, charts, diagrams etc, so that kabbalists can understand each other, write down and compare their experiments. However, there is one significant difference between Kabbalah and ordinary sciences. Kabbalah allows one to empirically research its subject only through the gradual development of an additional sense (called the soul), whereas ordinary sciences are based on 5 senses only. Hence, as opposed to physics, you won’t be able to perform an experiment right away, because it takes a certain amount of time to develop the additional sense. However, once you develop it, Kabbalah turns into a pure science, just as physics.
(2) What is the Creator?
This is a very important word to be properly understood. “The Creator” (אלוהים – Elohim) is equal in gematria with the word “Nature” (טבע – Teva). As you might already know, gematria is a system of assigning numerical value to Hebrew letters, so that numbers indicate relationships between words. If two different words have the same numeric value, the words have the same spiritual root, and hence, identical meaning. Thus, the word “Creator” means nothing more and nothing less than “Nature”.
Initially, this word has been created to name the global force of Nature, that includes the entire spectrum of forces influencing our world, being both within and beyond sensory perception. Obviously, alike many other words coming from Kabbalah, the genuine meaning of the word “Creator” has been corrupted, so that nowadays it has nothing to do with its initial root.
It’s important to understand, that Kabbalah reveals the Creator only with regard to human beings, not the Creator itself. Kabbalists attain the Creator through an additional sense of perception. This sense is not included in the physical body, however, alike any other sense, it allows to reveal the reality only with regard to the observer, not the reality itself. The essence of the Creator, which cannot be revealed, is called ATZMUTO.
To sum it up, by the Creator kabbalists understand the global force, as that which entirely determines the way this world works. This force can be defined as :
* unchangeable – something like “Dear God, please, do this, do that etc” has never worked…Like gravitation, the global force is not going to change itself, it’s absolutely constant.
* imperceptible through 5 senses – this is the main problem. We do not perceive the full spectrum of forces that influences us, therefore we cannot properly interact with it. It’s similar to radiation – there is no sensory perception of the radiation itself, but we can observe (terrible) causes of its influence.
* purposeful – there is a certain goal that the upper force aims to. The Creator governs everything with the purpose of leading man to the marked target, which will be explained as we proceed with the lessons.
The main property of the Creator is altruistic quality, which is an exact opposition of human egoistic nature. Please, do not identify altruism with being “good”, and egoism with being “bad” whatsoever. It’s difficult to understand what altruism really is, as we have never seen its manifestation in our world. Whatever we do/think/want, is included in our inborn egoistic quality, which has been increasingly growing since 3000 B.C.E. up to now. More detailed description of egoism development is coming up.
This has been an Introduction to Authentic Kabbalah. Coming up next… in Part 2
What is an additional sense?, What kabbalists understand by “World”, The Purpose of Kabbalah, and much more
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