What Use Is Kabbalah?

Good question!

Kabbalah is a wonderful tool for Interpreting Religious Texts

Nowadays, many people who want to learn about Kabbalah are not religious and they may even have a resistance to the idea that Kabbalistic teaching is integral with the three major religions of the Western World.

However, even if you have no interest in the esoteric roots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Kabbalah is a wonderful tool for developing self-knowledge and spirituality.

The power of Kabbalah to heal the wounds that many people feel have been caused by religion should not be underestimated. Those who have deep issues with Torah, the Bible in general, Jesus, Christianity and the New Testament have found great peace through using Kabbalah to show them the inner meanings of what can seem to be impenetrable – and often harsh – teachings.

Kabbalah is also associated with numerology and many efforts have been made to work out hidden teachings and prophecies in the Bible based on the numerical values of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

But the Tradition can be used far more simply than that in identifying and translating the patterns and themes in the Bible so that they are entirely relevant – and helpful – to the present day.

How Many Kinds of Kabbalah Are There?

Lots. Here’s a brief guide.

In the modern world, Kabbalah is associated with:

  • Orthodox Judaism which focuses deeply on the spiritual symbolism and revelation within the sacred letters of the Hebrew alphabet and limits Kabbalistic learning to men aged over 40 who have studied Hebrew and are married. This ruling was brought in after “the false Messiah” Shabbetai Zvi who brought Kabbalah into disrepute in the 17th century.
  • The Kabbalah Center which teaches a sometimes controversial New Age version of the tradition and has its own brand including Kabbalah Water, red string and accessories. This is also known as “the Kabbalah of the Famous” because of its popularity with celebrities such as Madonna, Demi Moore and Rosanne Barr. Although it ostensibly follows the Lurianic system, the Kabbalah Centre also teaches the precept of self-responsibility and that our lives are created by our own thoughts and feelings.
  • Lurianic Kabbalah. Founded by the charismatic Rabbi, Isaac Luria, this is the most popular form of Kabbalah in the modern world. It came about after the 15th century Inquisition where thousands of Jews who had survived the horror of the autos de fé had been expelled from Spain and Portugal. They could not understand how such a terrible thing had happened to them and how a benign God could have permitted so much suffering for his chosen people.Luria’s inspiration was to reveal that when God created the Universe, a mistake was made which led to the Sefirot or vessels which were transmitting the Light of Creation shattering. The shards from these broken vessels (known as Klippot) became a form of external evil which attacked the good. This answered the perennial question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” This is very similar to the Christian concept of the Devil which had become stronger in the Middle Ages so Christian mystics found it easy to be in tune with the new, Lurianic, system.
  • Christian Kabbalah. This came into being after the invention of the printing press which made Kabbalistic documents available to all. It thrived during the later Renaissance through Christian scholars who perceived that mystical aspects of Judaism and Neo-Platonism were compatible with Christian thought. It has not become of mainstream interest to Christianity because it became mixed in with occultism in the 18th century.
  • Alchemical Kabbalah. Alchemy dates back to pre-Biblical times and has always been closely associated with Hermeticism (“as above so below”). Alchemists are renowned for the search for the Philosopher’s Stone and the secret of turning base metal to gold. Kabbalistic Alchemists regard both as metaphors for transforming the base elements of the psyche into the gold of spiritual enlightenment.
  • Golden Dawn Kabbalah or The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a complicated mix of initiation, ritual magic, Rosicrucianism, Egyptology, metaphysics, astrology and Tarot founded by S. L. “MacGregor” Mathers and William Wynn Westcott in the 19th It was made famous by the teachings of Dion Fortune and Israel Regardie and infamous by the frightening antics of Aleister Crowley.
  • Toledano Kabbalah which takes the teaching back to its pre-Lurianic origins and which, despite its ancient lineage, is the system most in line with modern-day understanding of Karma and the Law of Attraction. This school, led by Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, is primarily Jewish although it involves those of other faiths as well.

Also worth mentioning as they involve aspects of Kabbalah are:

  • Tarot which has a 22-card Major Arcana which is parallel to the 22 paths of the Tree of Life and four suits which equate to the four worlds of the second Kabbalistic diagram Jacob’s Ladder.
  • Freemasonry which shares many Kabbalistic principles and temple-building symbolism from the Old Testament. The temple and the ability of the high priest to pronounce the name of God correctly while in the Holy of Holies was a vital part of the Jewish High Holy days of worship in ancient times. The activities of the high priest within the Sanctuary are featured in the Royal Arch Degree.
  • Magic which uses many similar symbols. Magic has come to mean many things in the modern world but in Kabbalah is defined as using personal will to affect the workings of the universe as opposed to aligning ourselves to God’s will. An example would be casting a spell to make a particular person love you — which is a violation of the other’s free will and carries nasty karmic repercussions.