Four aspects of Kabbala

(Diagram of the Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton arranged in a Tetractys shape, showing that by the rules of Gematria the sum is 72. – Source)

 

Note: The following article has been taken and translated by F.v.F. from the book “Kabbala: Teorie si Practica” by Raul Petrisor with the author’s permission.

 

Four aspects of Kabbala

 

The kabbalistic system is split into four big domains, no matter what branches and schools are working with it:

  1. The theoretical or dogmatic kabbala;
  2. The literal kabbala;
  3. The meditative or unwritten kabbala;
  4. The practical or magical kabbala;

Theoretical or dogmatic Kabbala 

         The theoretical part represents the esoteric philosophy of kabbala.

“The theoretical part deals with the mystical forms, with the teachings about the angels and sephiroth or about the divine emanations. With great success, it deals with problems posed by the many schools of philosophy, and it provides a conceptual framework into which all theological ideas can be fitted.”[1]

         The theoretical part of kabbala is that which deals with the aspects and theories referring to the creation and development of the universe and of all things. It does this through three categories (after Ginsburg, cited by W.Westcott).

         “The great doctrines of theoretical kabbala, as Ginsburg says, are mainly created to solve the problem of:

  1. the nature of the Supreme Being (of divinity)
  2. the creation of the Universe and of our world.
  3. the creation of angels and man.
  4. the destiny of the world and of man.
  5. the import of the revealed law[2].

Theoretical kabbala is certainly the most important aspect of Jewish kabbala, particularly of the orthodox-jewish branches. Of this category are part the main books of Kabbala, like Zohar, Sefer Yetzirah, Bahir and also the first five books of the Old Testament.

Literal Kabbala

 

The literal Kabbala concerns itself with the manipulation of letters and numbers in order to find secret wisdom in the scriptures. According to kabbala and Christianity, God created the world by the help of the word, reason for which it is considered that every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is a channel of manifestation of an aspect of divinity and of the creating force, each letter possessing and maintaining sacred meanings and creative potencies.

Because of the association between numbers and letters, it will result a tight connection between words and numerical value associated to these words. The finding of words that have the same numerical value will offer a complex succession of meanings and interpretations hidden in the holy texts.

There are three methods generally applied in literal kabbala:

  1. Gematria
  2. Notariqon
  3. Temurah

Gematria

         Represents the kabbalistic numerology, and the origin of the word is found in the Greek  geomatria and in the Aramaic gematria.[3]

         It is a system through which it is attributed a value to words and phrases, which considers that these words or phrases that have an identical numeric value reveal a relation between the two words or phrases and concepts or ideas that these words imply.

         The method however can be applied to persons as well, names, divine and angelic names, events, locations, aphorisms etc., generally being used for the interpretation of holy texts. Though it is used from time to time by kabbalists in languages such as Spanish, Greek and Arab, the method is applied mostly in Hebrew or Aramaic.[4]

         This method has been spread beginning with the XVII century because of the translation work of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola.

         Some consider that there are two forms of gematria: the first being the rabbinic and the other, which is the most spread nowadays, is the one used in kabbalistic practice.

         Gematria has four basic forms:

  • Absolute value
  • Ordinal value
  • Reduced value
  • Integral reduced value

Notariqon

 

         It is written also as notaricon or notarikon and comes from the Latin notarius, with the signification of stenographer.

         One of the methods used is the selection of the first or last letter in the words that compose a phrase and creating a new word that takes over the signification and meaning of the entire phrase.

         This technique was taken by the modern society and used at large scale.[5]

  • Words that use only the first letter:
  1. laser: Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
  2. CD-ROM: (C-D) Compact Disc read-only memory
  3. ABS: (from the German word Antiblockiersystem): Anti-lock braking system
  4. ATM: Automated Teller Machine
  5. PIN: Personal Identification Number
  6. HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus

 

  • Words that don’t contain only the first letter:
  1. Amphetamine: Alpha-methyl-phenethylamine
  2. Interpol: International Criminal Police Organization
  3. Radar: Radio Detection and Ranging

 

Temurah

 

         In Hebrew it means changing, permutation. It is a method that consists in substituting a letter from a word with another, after a predetermined method. In this way it is obtained another word with a totally different signification.

         Applied to other languages other than Hebrew, this technique will produce series of letters with no logical meaning.

There are three simple forms of Temurah:

  • Atbash: the replacement of the first letter from the alphabet with the last, of the fifth with the last but one letter of the alphabet and so on.

a=z, b=y, c=x etc

  • Avgad: the replacement of the letter with the next in the alphabet.

a=b, b=c, c=d

  • Albam: the replacement of the first letter in the alphabet with a twelfth letter, the second with the thirteenth and so on.

a=l, b=m, c=n etc.

Meditative or unwritten Kabbala

 

         Meditative kabbala concentrates on different techniques for attaining spiritual liberation. These techniques include meditation, contemplation, manipulation of letters and numbers, of diagrams (yantras) and words of power and divine names.[6]

         The syntagm unwritten kabbala comes from the fact that this knowledge, these methods and techniques were transmitted from ancient times through word of mouth. For a very long period of time, they were considered too powerful to be published on a large scale.

         But even today there are aspects of kabbala which are not written and are transmitted only from teacher to student, after there has been created a connection between them, and the student is ready to receive them.

Practical or magical Kabbala

 

         It deals with those aspects and ways through which it can be applied with results in both the spiritual world and the physical world, with the help or through ceremonial magic, of rituals, invocations, evocations, through manipulation of elemental forces and of talismans.

         Kabbalistic magic is oftentimes called theurgic magic, because all the rituals and ceremonies are made under and with the authority of divinity. For example, we could take Shemhamphorasch, which represents the 72 names of God that come from the Old Testament (Exodus 14:19-21).

         Kabbalistic magic is based on colors, symbols, but also divine names, names of archangels, of angels etc., which are associated with the sephiroth of the tree of life, in which or through which the magician wants to operate and produce change or transformation.

         The mage that is always in search of illumination can ascend to the levels of higher consciousness and can get to fuse with or experience divinity with the help of the arrow or of the dragon (kundalini snake), traversing the sephirotic tree in ascendance, from Malkuth to Kether.

         However, the mage that is in search of the forces, of the ways and of the possibilities necessary to manifest divinity in the physical realm will follow the path of the lightning bolt, through which the divine powers are descending from Kether to Malkuth. Obviously that, in order that these to really happen, it is necessary that the spiritual work will maintain a balance in the structure of the tree of life and that the mage will work with all the sephiroth or at least with the opposing ones.[7]

         Oftentimes, the magical success is given by the capacity to offer our own will to the divinity. Biblical examples are numerous on this matter. At the same time, it is often necessary, if not indicated, to use purification techniques of different existential levels, fasting, prayer etc.

 

 

 

[1] Meditation and Kabbalah, Aryeh Kaplan, U.S.A., Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1985, p.1.

[2] An Introduction to the Study of the Kabbalah, Westcott, W.W., London, J.M. Watkins, 1910, p. 31.

[3] A comprehensive etymological dictionary of the English language: Dealing with the origin of words and their sense development thus illustrating the history and civilization of culture, Ernest Klein, Dr., Elsevier, Oxford, 7th ed. 2000.

[4] Data integrity patterns of the Torah: A tale of prime, perfect and transcendental numbers, Kevin Acres, Research Systems, Melbourne, 2004.

[5] The words obtained through this method in modern society are called acronyms.

[6] Meditation and Kabbalah, Aryeh Kaplan, U.S.A., Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1985.

[7] Binah-Chockhmah, Gheburah-Chesed, Hod-Netzah.

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