Wednesday, August 08, 2007


"The Eucharist and the Jewish Mystical Tradition" is is a three-part article written by Athol Bloomer which appeared in consecutive issues of "The Hebrew Catholic", a publication of the Asociation of Hebrew Catholics.

I've been looking at Part 2 which is available in pdf format (page 24) at the Hebrew Catholic website, and also in regular formatting over there. In this part of the article, Bloomer says:

The famous compiler of the Zohar, Rabbi Moses de Leon, was centred with his Kabbalistic school in Avila. That the Jewish Kabbalah is truly ancient can be seen in that St. Paul and St. John the Beloved seem to be familiar with its images and symbolism. The Egyptian theology of the Ennead is a corrupted version of this same mystical tradition. Later misuse of Kabbalah can be seen in Lurianic Kabbalah and its offspring Freemasonry. These both distort the Kabbalah into an occultic direction. ...

When one seeks the mystical way or kabbalah to gain
more power rather than love as did many of the Lurianic
Kabbalists, one enters into evil –Sitra Ahra (the Other Side)
and encounters the Evil One (Satan) and his demons often
as ‘angels of light’. The followers of Rabbi Isaac Luria
(mid 16th century) took the authentic Jewish mystical tradition
of Kabbalah centred on Love (Hesed) and used or
misused it to gain power over spiritual entities not distinguishing
between invoking angels or demons. The Scriptures
forbid the occultic practice of summoning spirits thus
the Lurianic mystics generally follow occultic practices
which seek power rather than love. Freemasonry and
theosophy owe much to this perversion of Kabbalah. True
Kabbalah (such as found in Zoharic Kabbalah) warns that
to seek power (Gevurah) without Hesed is to enter in to
evil – the Other Side. The rigid code of legalistic observance
found in Shulhan Arukh, that seems to me to be
lacking in love, was compiled by a Lurianic Kabbalist
Rabbi Joseph Karo (1488-1575) of Safed. He was guided
and instructed by a spirit guide – a ‘maggid’ or celestial
teacher. Rabbi Morris Margolies in his book A Gathering
of Angels states:

“Lurianic Kabbalists were also given to summoning
angels and demons by using intricate combinations of
the names of God, literally numbering in the hundreds. They did not think of this as magic (though, in effect, it was), since God himself was the means by which they were seeking certain ends.”

Thus Lurianic Kabbalism has introduced occultism into Judaism and the Jewish tale of Joseph della Reina is a warning of this perversion of Kabbalah. The movement of the false messiah Sabbetai Zvi (1626-1676) also followed Lurianic Kabbalah and fell into sexual as well as spiritual perversion. ...

That is quite a charge!

There is evidence abundant that Bloomer distorts Catholicism. In reading his article it must also be considered that he may be distorting Judaism. I decided to try to unpack the charge.

First, who was Rabbi Isaac Luria. For that I looked at a biography in a Chabad website which says in part:

Rabbi Isaac Halevi Luria has become famous as the "Ari," the holy lion...

Rabbi Isaac Luria's personality inspired all the great men who had penetrated deeper than most mortals, into the world of Cabbala. The Ari died at the age of thirty-eight years, mourned by the entire Jewish people. Despite his short life, he left an indelible impression on religious Jewish life and religious reaching. He introduced many holy Minhagim (customs) which have become part and parcel of our customs and services. His songs and prayers have been widely adopted and partially incorporated into the Siddur. Entire communities guide themselves by the "Nusach HoAri" and much of his teachings has been used to form the basis of the great Chassidic movement. Due to his influence and inspiration Judaism was able to withstand the onslaughts of many creeds and ideas that were promoted during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He certainly counts among the holiest and most important leaders of the Jewish people.

Lurianic Kabbalah is described by Yakov Leib HaKohain of Donmeh West here. His description encompasses the Sabbateans and the Frankists. A link on the webpage for "Practical Kabbalah" will get us the following:

Although most of Luria's writings deal with the theoretical Kabbalah, there is an important practical element as well. This is known as Kavanah, or "mystical intention". Although these were discussed by earlier kabbalists, and allusions were found in the Zohar, it was only Luria who was able to mold them into a complete system of meditation, integrating them as well with his theoretical system.

The article says further that practical Kabbalah involves

the manipulation of the letters of the various names of God. Sometimes two or more names were united, something the names were intertwined and various vowel points added. Since the divine Names reflect spiritual forces, which have their counterparts in the human psyche, the effects of these Yichudim in elevating the consciousness can be dramatic [3]. Here there is an obvious and striking parallel with the Mantras of Indian Tantra and the corresponding but less well­known practices in Gnosticism (c.f. the various seemingly incomprehensible strings of vowels that occur in many of the Nag Hammadi texts).

Practical Kabbalah is described by Jay Michaelson, at his LearnKabbalah.com website. Michaelson's credentials include an M.A. in Religious Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, his Ph.D. candidacy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and teaching in synagogues, universities, and yeshivas. He writes:

...there both is and is not a separate corpus of practical Kabbalistic literature. On this site, for example, I have included topics such as reincarnation and the golem under the heading of "practical Kabbalah." But accessing one's previous incarnations was a central feature of Lurianic Kabbalah, which is usually seen as theosophical. And the methods used to create a golem are basically those of the Sefer Yetzirah, which is both theosophical and prophetic. So, as before, some of the same writers and even the same texts that propounded one "stream" of Kabbalah here describe another.

At the same time, just as with other streams, there are some texts which are almost exclusively 'practical' in nature. Sefer Raziel, for example, has little of Cordovero's philosophizing — but many magical formulae, angelic names, and spells to be used for protection. There is also a more keen awareness of practical Kabbalah on the part of theosophical books such as the Zohar, which explicitly demeans the use of Kabbalah for earthly gain or protection, and which — like many theosophical texts — considers practical Kabbalah to be a disgrace. ...

...practical Kabbalah is often older than its theosophical or prophetic counterparts. The use of angelic names in Sefer Raziel, for example, is likely closer to their original, magical significance than the way they are arrayed in, say, the Zohar, or even the much older Hechalot literature. Likewise, scholars believe that many of the permutations of language that mark the prophetic Kabbalah originated in magical formulae and the combinations of letters used in soothsaying and divination. If we believe practical Kabbalah to be more "primitive" than other forms of Kabbalah, then this is not surprising; of course, that which is less sophisticated comes before that which is more.

That would certainly appear to confirm what Bloomer claims.

One last attempt to confirm the claims...at truekabbalah.org. This website breaks Kabbalah into two categories--"Meditational Kabbalah" and "Practical Kabbalah". Under Practical Kabbalah the website claims:

# Practical Kabbalah involves the coercing of angels and demons to change nature.
# Practical Kabbalah overlaps with Meditative Kabbalah, many of these methods only work if done in a meditative state.
# For example one might have to meditate on many things such as his breath and pronunciation on every letter of a divine name. This is impossible when not in expanded state of conscience.
# The use of Practical Kabbalah was frowned upon by all leading Kabbalists....

# Demons are like the mafia, once one starts dealing with them they will not leave him until he is destroyed from this world.
# People should stay far away from Practical Kabbalah, whoever uses it will gain nothing but suffering.

Is this "Practical Kabbalah" being taught anywhere today? Apparently it is. Take a look at this Chabad of Calabasas webpage.

Then look at this Chabad Jewish Center of Salem website.

It appears to be a topic under discussion at Chabad.org, which is a division of the Chabad-Lubavitch Media Center, under the auspicies of the Lubavitch World Headquarters.

Chabad of Orange County is offering for sale on its website a book about Practical Kabbalah.

KabbalahUK.com has a webpage devoted to Practical Kabbalah.

There is another place where you can find Practical Kabbalah--in a Golden Dawn website. There you can read:

The Practical Kabbalah is concerned with ceremonial magic and the making of talismans and amulets. This branch is closed to most aspirants, as it requires years of training in the other branches in order to achieve the proper state of being from which to proceed.

You can find it in this Wiccan Way website as well:

From an historical and traditional perspective the practical techniques of Kabbalah include techniques of mysticism and (to a lesser extent) magic to be found the world over: complex concentration and visualisation exercises, meditation, breath control, prayer, ritual, physical posture, chanting and singing, abstinence, fasting, mortification and good works.

There are many more. Lastly here is a book on practical kabbalah this may be available in bookstores across the nation given the popularity of Harry Potter.

It can certainly be argued that there is a lofty spiritual interpretation of Kabbalah. It also goes without saying that Judaism is not monolithic, and so it must be assumed that all Jews do not practice the rituals in Practical Kabbalah. It might even be argued that Chabad is a small portion of Judaism. But those arguments still cannot deny what Athol Bloomer tells us in his essay on the Eucharist and the Kabbalah--that this attempt to take power away from God is one authentic interpretation of the Jewish Kabbalah.

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