Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Material contained in Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis' account of Angels, blogged yesterday, and in the entry for "Hekalot" in the Jewish Encyclopedia promoted me to turn to the entry in this source for "Cabala".

This is a very long entry. It prints out at 59 pages--a small book. The very first thing that is worthy of note is the spelling of the term. "Cabala" is said by some to be the "Roman Catholic" spelling of the word, while "Kabbalah" is thought to be the Jewish spelling, and "Qabala" the Islamic spelling. The title of the entry in the Jewish Encyclopedia unhinges that concept.

It claims that "From the thirteenth century onward the Cabala branched out into an extensive literature, alongside of and in opposition to the Talmud." Is this, then, a separate branch of Judaism? The entry states further "The Cabala is divided into a theosophical or theoretical system, Kabbalah...and a theurgic or practical 'Cabala'..." "Theurgy" is the magical invocation of disembodied spirits that the occultists practice. You will find the practice of theurgy within the Ordo Templi Orientis, of Aleister Crowley fame.

The entry continues:

Cabala comprised originally the entire traditional lore, in contradistinction to the written law (Torah), and therefore included the prophetic and hagiographic books of the Bible, which were supposed to have been "received" by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than as writings from God's hand...Each "received" doctrine was claimed as tradition from the [early sayings of the Jewish] Fathers...The chief characteristic of the Cabala is that, unlike the Scriptures, it was entrusted only to the few elect ones; wherefore, according to IV Esdras xiv. 5, 6, Moses, on Mount Sinai, when receiving both the law and the knowledge of wondrous things, was told by the Lord: "These words shalt thou declare, and these shalt thou hide."

Esoteric knowledge, then, as opposed to knowledge from sacred books, is obtained through spirit contact of the same sort that is contained in Roman Catholic prophecy, such as the work of Anne Catherine Emmerich, from whom Mel Gibson took the story of Christ that he put into a movie. In reading Roman Catholic prophecy, it quickly becomes evident that accuracy is iffy, that other "spirits" convey it too often, and that discernment is vital. What has been the discernment process for the Kabbalah, or Cabala? How does one determine that the spirit conveying the message is "Holy", and how have the promoters of Kabbalah within the Jewish community made the determination? According to the article an early Jewish writer "Ben Sira warns against it in his saying..."Thou shalt have no business with secret things."

The source of the material is credited to the Essenes:

...the apocalyptic literature belonging to the second and first pre-Christian centuries contained the chief elements of the Cabala; and as, according to Josephus...such writings were in the possession of the Essenes, and were jealously guarded by them against disclosure...

How much is being contributed to our New Age movement by the discoveries in the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Another source of this material is the Book of Enoch. It is cited many times in the Encyclopedia entry. One of those occasions tells us:

Its angelology, demonology, and cosmology, give a fuller insight into the "Merkabah" and "Bereshit" lore of the ancients than the "Hekalot," which present but fragments, while the central figure of the Cabala, Metatron-Enoch, is seen in...a process of transformation. The cosmogony of the Slavonic Enoch, a product of the first pre-Christian century...showing an advanced stage compared with the older Enoch book, casts a flood of light upon the rabbinical cosmogony by its realistic description of the process of creation...Here are found the primal elements, "the stones of fire" out of which "the Throne of Glory" is made, and from which the angels emanate; "the glassy sea"...beneath which the seven heavens, formed of fire and water are stretched out, and the founding of the world upon the abyss...the preexistence of human souls and the formation of man by the Creative Wisdom out of seven substances...the ten classes of angels...[the] ten heavens instead of seven, and an advanced chiliastic calendar system.

To tease Roman Catholic cosmology out of that passage is beyond possibility. This is certainly not Genesis.

The article goes on to cite the Book of Jubilees, Pythagoras and the "magic power of the letters of the Tetragrammaton and other names of the Deity" as sources. The "Prayer of Manasses" is credited to the Chaldeans. "Magic" is introduced shortly after these citations, and that is where I will pick up this look at Jewish cosmology next time.

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