Welcome. This site attempts to
be the broadest, least partisan, and most informed source about
Kabbalah available on the WWW.
An Introduction to this Site
Kabbalah is an
exploration of the relationship between human beings and God. It is an
attempt to understand the divine context of existence. It
originated in Jewish communities in medieval Europe at about the time
of the Crusades. It draws on many ancient mystical traditions from the
Middle East dating to
the time of the Roman and Byzantine Empires.
A significant part of the content of Kabbalah is a vastly expanded
conception of God. Most people of Jewish or Christian origin will have
some familiarity with the Biblical God, the God of Jewish history. The
Bible describes the relationship between God, the patriarchs, and the
people of Israel in the form of narratives, such as the story of Moses.
God is an actor in the
world, participating in the history of the Jewish people.
takes the view that Biblical narrative is the manifestation of a larger
reality. The actions of God are the phenomena, the outward appearance
of an inner realm of the divine. The inner realm of the divine is
described and accessed via a complex interplay of symbols,
and new kinds of
narrative emerge, narratives
of symbols. Kabbalah contains many overlapping and
entangled symbolic narratives. The best known is the Tree of Life,
but there are others as important.
Just as we view the actions of a human being as the coherent
manifestations of a personality, so Kabbalah views
the actions of God as the integrated and coherent
of divine being. There is a sense in which the Tree of Life represents
psychodynamics of the divine.
does not stop with its symbols and often startling metaphors. It
attempts, using language and symbol, to go beyond language and symbol.
It repeatedly transcends itself. It provides us with a new vocabulary
of symbols, and then we discover how slippery and fluid and limited they are. Each new conception
of God, broader
and deeper than the one before, presents a cognitive challenge that is
resolved, not only by retreat and mystical contemplation, but by living
world. There are no Kabbalist monasteries. Most of the best-known
Kabbalists had families and businesses. In Kabbalah (and
the material world, where we have our families and businesses, is not an antithesis of
spirituality - it is a
manifestation of the divine. If there is a single idea that
pervades Kabbalah, it is an unnegotiable insistence on the fundamental
unity of all being.
The importance of Kabbalah is that it richens and deepens our
understanding of God, and so transforms the kind of relationship that is
is a religious philosophy that developed in Egypt during Greek
Roman occupation (c. 200 CE), and was rediscovered during the Italian
Renaissance. During the Renaissance it was thought that there was an original
ancient wisdom, a prisca
that had originated in the figure of the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth,
and had found its
way into Judaism, into Christianity, and into Hellenistic philosophy. It was
believed that Kabbalah preserved traditions going back to Moses and
the Egyptian priesthood. The Kabbalah was adopted for its symbolic
vocabulary and integrated into an Hermetic mystical tradition that
continues to the present day. Although the idea of a prisca theologia
is discredited, there is a considerable overlap and concordance between
core ideas in traditional Kabbalah, and Hermetic themes (see right).
In The Western Esoteric Traditions
Prof. Goodrick-Clarke characterises the
of late antiquity by the following themes:
- "As above,
so below". Nous [divine intellect] instructs us to reflect the universe
in our own mind and to grasp the divine essence in nature. This we are
equipped and able to do because the human being possesses a divine
- There is an
emphasis on will, both divine and human.
- The universe is a book to be "read". The
Creator God is known by the contemplation of his creation.
- The universe is full of the manifestation of
God, and with our divine intellect we can decifer the symbols it
contains which point towards God. We should therefore be interested in
everything that is in the world. The concrete and particular are
important, as incarnation and embodiment are the ways in which God
makes himself manifest to our experience.
- There is an absense of dualism, since the world
is recognised as being of divine origin. There is an acceptance of the
world, even though there may be some pessimism or discouragement about
the consequences of the Fall and the restraint of matter on spirit.
- The Hermetic project is one of transmutation of
lower, baser and more material into higher,finer and more spiritual.
- Humanity is called to a regenerative work of
reascension and reintegration with the divine.
- Our intellect can connect to intermediary
spiritual intelligences and use them as ladders of ascent. An
astrological cosmos of an ascending hierarchy of planetary spheres
exists and is part of the initiatory process and spiritual ascent. The
earth is part of this cosmos and is susceptible to improvement.
- Because humanity is connected both to the
divine and to the earthly realms, it is able to help the earth
to recover its former glorious state.
- Hermetic treatises present a guide of mentor
figure who helps to raise souls by reawakening them to their divine
nature, assisting in their spiritual transmutation, and leading them
toward their heavenly destiny. "
Kabbalah is vast. People have been writing about it for 900 years.
Prior to that (if we choose to begin with Pythagoras) we have another 1600 years of highly relevant esoteric
and philosophic tradition. This
site is an attempt to distill the core ideas, the key influences. A
good place to begin is the Tree of Life, a central organising
idea in Kabbalah. Also of great importance are the Partzufim,
a description of the Godhead in terms of divine archetypes; the Primordial
Man, a description of the divine in terms of the human body;
and the Four
Worlds, a layering of reality. Each of these viewpoints
interrelates with and complements each other, something that can be
of Kabbalah is important. When trying to understand an idea,
it is useful to understand something about the culture and people of
the times ... and their reverance for even older traditions.
Several of the foundation texts of Kabbalah originated in the Middle
East, and were preserved and reinterpreted hundreds of years later in
medieval Europe. Philosophy was important - as important to the
medieval world as science is today. Islam, Christianity and Judaism
confronted the challenge of Hellenistic philosophy ... and made space
for it. Aristotle and Plato penetrated deeply into all three major
religions of the Mediterranean world. Kabbalah shares many ideas with
later Platonism - so-called Neoplatonism.
Anyone with a real interest in Kabbalah will go on to look at some of
the original source texts. Some source texts are online, and this site
provides links to what is available. The real meat
is mostly still in printed books, and for this we are all grateful to
Don Karr for his research-grade
bibliographies. There is a reading list,
biased mainly towards scholarly texts - the reason for this bias is to
counterbalance some of the more fanciful popularisations of the tradition.
Lastly, Kabbalah is still very much a living tradition, and I would
like to thank various individuals who have contributed their
work to this site.
Colin Low 2011