Book Review: Kabbalah; Key to Your Inner Power
Kabbalah; Key to Your Inner Power was a book I picked up a few years ago simply because it intrigued me after reading a few pages here and there. The book is well written and far from condescending. Unlike many books within the metaphysical genre, this one was not written with a very pretentious tone, which I really enjoyed.
The Kabbalah is an extremely large field, and so any and all books about it are usually worth the read, simply for knowledge’s sake, however when reading this I did discover a lot of bad with the good.
Yes, The Kabbalah is a huge topic to discuss, as you can have entire books just discussing quite “basic” and seemingly elementary subjects, however, this book did not do a very good job with linking everything together. When you first start reading it, it keeps your attention very well, however later on down the line you realize that the book does not have a very easy going flow. It seems to somewhat stop without warning, and start up again, like a literature manual transmission, constantly shifting gears and not in a good way either.
The book delivered some very good messages though, and it did offer some good practical methods to get straight into the whole swing of things, and making the Kabbalah a part of your life. I wouldn’t recommend the book to be a monumental stepping stone as far as knowledge is concerned, however if you know absolutely nothing about the Kabbalah and are looking for essentially a crash course on some basic concepts, it is a good read.
If anyone is looking for some general information about the kabbalah here is a small bit of information to get you started:
The Kabbalah: Brief Introduction
The word Kabbalah, or otherwise referred to as Qabbalah is a Hebrew word meaning “tradition” and is derivative from the root word qibel meaning “that which is received” or “to receive.” The practice is also often times refereed to as the soul of the Torah. The mystical practice of the Kabbalah teaches the inner and deepest most insights, delving into the essence of God and the process of his interaction with the world and creation. Kabbalah teaches a structured plan for the universe and our lives. Virtually all of the Western Esoteric Tradition can trace its roots back to Kabbalah. Though, Kabbalahs exact origins are currently uncertain, it is believed that Adam received the teachings of the Kabbalah from Angles that previously received the information from God.
This event is said to take place after Adam was exiled from The Garden of Eden.
Probably the most famous written teachings of the Kabbalah are found within the Zohar, which was released unto the Jewish world in the Thirteenth Century by Moses De Leon. The Zohar is a series of documents varying in subjects that was written using a seemingly esoteric commentary platform on the Pentateuch, referencing theosophical descriptions of processes within God. The “Zohar” has been widely read and was highly influential within mainstream Judaism as well as Hermetic Kabbalah.
Though the precise time and origin of the book is unknown, the “Sefer Yetzirah” (Book of Creation) to some, is believed to be centered on the origin of Kabbalah and is said to have been in use around the Tenth Century and perhaps composed around as early as the Third. In the book, it explains that God created our world by means of thirty two “secret paths of knowledge” which are said to be the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and the ten “Sephirots.”
The earliest written documents said to be of Kabbalistic origin in nature are said to originate from the First Century C.E. It is however rumored that even earlier forms of kabalistic teachings were spread by means of oral tradition that could have been essentially a precursor to the phenomenon of Biblical prophecy. This, along with the substantial amounts of literature pertaining to Jewish mysticism dating back to anywhere from 100 to 1000AD.
More substantial theosophical developments occurred pertaining to the description of processes within God, around the early middle ages. A deeply esoteric view of creation being a process in which God manifested a series of emanations (sephiroth) shortly rose thereafter. The exact timeline of the Kabbalahs long history is technically hazy, but we can assume that the teachings therein may date to pre-biblical times.
Though, looking past actually time lines or series’ of events that sparked the teachings of Kabbalah, Rav Phillip Berg, the author of “The Essential Zhoar” believes that Kabbalah is in fact not derivative from any specific religion or date. He says that the teachings of Kabbalah “the spiritual heritage of all humankind.” That it predates all nations, and religions and that it belongs to no fixed time, place, or society. I suppose the true dates, time lines, or origins of Kabbalah are unknown, though, it is safe to assume that the teachings of the Kabbalah give us tools that we can use to aid us in our spiritual journey and attaining union with the supreme.
Important Historical Kabalistic Figures
The current understanding and teachings of Kabalistic practice we are informed of today are possible because of many largely influential individuals over the history of the development of the Kabbalah. In this section, I will simply go over briefly many of these individuals in the order their teachings originated.
Simeon Ben Yohai was a second century Rabbi. It is widely believed that Ben Yohai wrote the first version of Kabbalahs core teachings, the Zohar. To escape persecutionfrom the Romans, Ben Yohai sought refuge in a cave with his son Eliezar. During this time in the cave, he and his son practiced and studied the Torah. Elijah, the infamous prophet was said to have visited them daily, imparting holy wisdom unto the men.
It’s said that through these teachings, Ben Yohai’s wisdom grew, and he was inspired by God to write the Zohar. These beliefs are widely enhanced when looking at the content of the Zohar, as many of the stories consist of personal stories of Ben Yohai and his followers, whom walked the deserts, wandering, and sharing passages from the Torah to those who they came in contact with.
However, it is still speculated, and by many, believed that the true author of the Zohar was Moses de Leon. This argument stems from the publication dates of the Zohar. It is said that if Ben Yohai wrote it, it then would have to have been hidden until the thirteenth century, when Moses de Leon would have found it. This was over a thousand years past the original date Ben Yohai supposedly wrote it. The true author, at this point, we can only conclude was a person, as far as we know. The rest is up for debate and speculation.
Our next person is Isaac the Blind. Isaac was an early Kabalist from the Provence in the South of France. He contributed greatly to the teachings of the Kabbalah, mainly in part by introducing a style of meditation that was directly associated with the Sefirot. Isaac was a devote scholar who spent the majority of his life on the study and practice of the Kabbalah. He believed that the mind of an individual who meditated on the sefiort would ascend through heaven and be united with God. Today’s Kabalists continue to use Isaacs approach on meditating on the Sefirot.
A widely popular figure, and one referenced well early on into this section, Moses De Leon (1250-1305) is an infamous Spanish mystic and author. He is famous for handing out, what would later be called the Zohar, as small books to people in 1280. Though, as previously stated, there was much speculation as to weather Rabbi Ben Yohai was the true author, as Moses stated, or whether Moses himself had written the material. The Zohar would later become the core fundamental teachings of the soon to be, widely influential practice of the Kabbalah. It was later found by scholars who questioned the author ship of the Zohar, that the Aramaic spoken by Yohai was different than that which was used in the writing of the Zohar. Though, the question still remains, who wrote the Zohar?
A largely influential book, The Pomegranate Orchard (Pardes Rimonim), which attempts to explain the common conception of the Sefirot, was written by Moses Cordovero (1522-1507). He was a leading Kabalistic figure amongst the community in Safed. His attempts at explaining these conceptions ended up being largely influential onto the entire Kabalistic community from both his and our era. His theories revolutionized the teachings of the Kabbalah in ways even he couldn’t have predicted. A three year student of his, Isaac Luria, incorporated Cordoveros ideas into his own, resulting in much of what we know today.
This leads us to our next figure, Isaac Luria (1542-1572). Isaac Luria contributed to the advancement of Kabalistic teachings majorly in part, based on his ideas of Gods first act of withdrawal (tsimtsum). His teachings lead to a separate belief spectrum of the Kabbalah, later creating the Lurianic system of Kabbalah. He believed that because of Gods ineffable vastness, when he withdrew himself from a single point to make room for a finite world, the “vessels” (sephirot) that were used to trickle down Gods light into creation, were too weak to hold the strength of the light, resulting in a cataclysmic event, breaking the vessels.
He believed that the fragments of these vessels trickled down into the finite world, and that is where they remain, until the Kabbalists could liberate them through Kabalistic study and practice. Unfortunately, the majority of what we know based on Lurias teachings comes to us from his disciples, for, he wrote down very little of his own teachings. Luria ended up dying due to an epidemic, but what we have of his teachings remains, and he has forever changed the way we perceive the practice and teachings of the Kabbalah.
The last person we’ll be briefly discussing is Rav Philip Berg, the head of the internation headquarters of Kabbalah. Berg rose to become one of the most influential leaders of contemporary Kabbalah, a large ascension from his former position as a salesman. He has written many of today’s famed Kabalistic books, including The Essential Zohar, Wheels of the Soul and the Power of One; he was also the supervisor for the English translation of the Zohar.
The Kabbalist Theory of Creation
There are two wide spread Kabbalistic views of creation, the standard version adopted from the Zohar, and the one presented by Rabbi Isaac Luria. The standard Kabbalist view of creation is actually not too far off from the standard scientific view point. Similarly to modern science, the Jewish mystics of the thirteenth century shared the common belief that in the beginning of time there was nothing more than “divine nothingness.” The mystics called this divine presence, or the God before our creation “Ein Sof.” Ein Sof is un-manifest, the always present and incomprehensible being of God.
In the Zohar, it describes the creation process in which Ein Sof manifested our world. It speaks of “the holy seed” which came to be through a series of emanations. The creation of this seed is described as an explosion of light in the Zohar. The Zohar states the following:
“As the will of King (Ein Sof) began to come forth, He engraved signs in the uppermost pure light. Within the most hidden recesses a flame of darkness issued from the mysterious Ein Sof, a mist within formlessness, ringed about, neither white nor black nor red nor green, of no color at all. Only when measured did it bring forth light-giving colors. From deep within the flame there flowed a spring, out of which the colors were drawn below, hidden in the mysterious concealment of Ein Sof.
It broke through and yet did not break through the ether surrounding it. It was not knowable at all until, by force of its breaking through, one hidden sublime point gave forth light. Beyond that point nothing is known. Therefore it is called “Beginning”-the first utterance of all…
The “Beginning” extended itself and made a palace for itself, for glory and praise. There it sowed the holy seed in order to beget offspring for the benefit of the world….
As soon as (the seed) entered, the palace filled up with light. From that light are poured forth other lights, sparks flying through the gates and giving life to all.”
Rabbi Isaac Luria, a renowned and revolutionary Kabbalist took a different viewpoint on the process of creation. He, unlike many Kabbalists of the era, and today, believed that the process began with contraction, as opposed to expansion. Luria states that Ein Sof would have contracted its center most point, and pulled away around this point. He says that in order for Ein Sof to have created a finite realm of existence, there needed to be a place for that realm.
Luria states that this contraction in turn created a vacuum, and Ein Sof thus emitted a ray of light, which he says Ein Sofs contained in ten vessels (Sephirot), and due to the strength of Ein Sofs light, or the instability of the vessels, they in turn shattered, igniting the process of creation. This theory is one that seems to have stuck and been taken very seriously among Kabbalists, as, even to this day, he is considered by many to be for lack of better word, the “best” Kabbalist in history.
The Tree of Life
The tree of life is composed of the ten sephiroth interconnected by twenty-two “paths” and arranged in descending order, aligned on three columns. They represent the process in which creation manifests.
We’ll begin with an excerpt from “The Sacred Books of the Jews,” by Harry Gersh.
“The first nine sephirot were grouped in threes, each triad including a masculine element, a feminine element, and a combining element. The first three sephirot represented the world of thought; the second, the world of emotions and morals; the third, the world of nature. The tenth sephirah, Malkut, existed alone as the harmony of the other nine.”
“This triune was paralleled by the Kaballists’ version of the three-part soul – an idea expressed earlier by Plato, Aristotle, the Bible, and the Talmud. The soul called Neshamah represented the intellect and corresponded to the first three sephirot. The soul called Ruah represented the emotion and corresponded to the Hesed-Geburah-Tipheret triad. The soul called Nefesh represented man’s animal nature and corresponded to the lowest triad of sephirot.”
The first triad consists of Binah, Keter, and Hokhmah, in order from left to right.
This triad represents the realm of the intellect. It is associated with the symbolism of the “dynamic function of a thought process anterior to the world” and there for is an “archetypal model”, says Charles Ponce. This Triad almost literally is symbolic to that of Gods mind, through this Triad you enable God to think through you.
The Sephiroth are also divided into three pillars beginning as spiritual cosmic light and ending in matter through a process of creation. The three pillars are representations of vitality, ascending and descending through vertical streams, or three currents of energy.
The right pillar is considered to be the masculine stream, it is termed the Pillar of Mercy and is formed of Hokhmah, Hesed, and Netzeh.
The Middle Pillar is the Pillar of Spiritual Stability and consists of Kether, Tipheret, Yesod, and Mahlkut. This Pillars “currents” flow from Highest to Lowest, and the potency of the Left and Right Pillars, along with this center one, are all interconnected, making it able for the “streams of vitality” to flow consistently through the ten Sephiroth. The Left Pillar is known as the feminine potency, and called the Pillar of Judgement. This pillar is formed of Binah, Geburah, and Hod.
Upper and Lower Faces
The Tree of Life also consists of two “faces” or “halves.” The upper face is an extention between Keter, Hokhmah, Binah, and Tipheret (and Da’at lying in the middle). It is associated with the Supernal Sephirot and represents the “merciful Face.”
The lowver face is made up of Tipheret, Netzah, Hod, and Malhut with Yesod in the middle. Yesod represents the foundation of the Tree, which is an important fact, it shows the process in which things flow upward and down. This face of the Tree is a reflection of the upper face. The Upper Face imparts grace upon the Lower Face and holds more governing laws than the upper face, being that it is farthest from Ein Sof.
The sephirot are the ten attributing factors in which God uses to manifest both the physical and metaphysical worlds. The emanations of the Sephiroth are the building blocks of the Tree of Life. Their names are Kether, Hokhmah, Binah, Hesed, Chesed, Gevurah, Tipheret, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malkut. The sephiroth are alsu used in association with the manifested body of Adam Kadmon. The parts of his body and their associations with the Sephirot were as follows: 1. The Head (Kether) 2. The Right Shoulder (Hokhmah) 3. The Left Shoulder (Binah) 4. The Right Arm (Hesed) 5. The Left Arm (Chesed) 6. The Heart (Gevurah) 7. The Right Thigh (Tipheret) 8. The Left Thigh (Netzach) 9. The Generative Organs (Nod) 10. The Feet.(Malkut)
That’s a bit about the Kabbalah, it’s an amazing fied of study and practice. This particular book is good, and was able to hold my attention long enough for me to benefit from the information that was offered. I can’t say it’s the best source for someone intrested in the field, but it contains information, which is priceless. One of the best things about this book is that I was able to read it without feeling as if I had to decode some cryptic language just to get to the core of what they author was trying to say.