(Ezekiel’s vision, Source), 1670 –
The study of traditional Jewish kabbala can be divided into two schools. The main school can be called Mahaseh Berashith – The Work of Creation. This can be also called the proper Kabbala, being based on philosophical interpretations of the biblical literature, especially those referring to the creation of the Universe by God (ex.: Genesis I). This is the school that gives us the Tree of Life and The Four Worlds, the practice of gematria etc.
The second school of Kabbala is called Mehaseh Merkava – The Work of the Chariot. It is, in fact, a direct reference to the ancient Jewish shamans known today as the “Merkavah Mystics”. These mystics focused heavily upon prophetical and apocalyptic literature – especially the first chapter of Ezekiel, where the prophet is revealed a vision of the Divine Throne. This Throne is described in the text as a Chariot (Merkavah) lead by four Cherubim Angels. Other Jewish legends describe the Chariot as lead by Seraphim (Angelic Serpents of Fire), upon which Yahweh leads into Heavenly battle. The Merkavah Mystics believed that man – as a manifestation of the image of God – had, by birth, the authority and right to work in after the manner of God. This meant that they believed in humanity’s right to create, to perform magic, and to travel to Heavens (like the prophets Enoch and Elijah) in their own Charios of Fire.
Mahaseh Merkava couldn’t be practiced without first being studied the Mahaseh Berashith. Although this not work the other way around. In the Middle Ages, those Rabbis who respected the Jewish Law, and studied the Work of Creation themselves, were against the Work of the Chariot. The Merkavah Mystics were a subculture of mages who were not assimilated by the “official” Jewish authorities.
Even in our days, the Jewish Rabbis have the feeling that the practice of Kabbalistic techniques outside the religious context and beyond the strict Jewish observation must not be allowed. Even in their own circles, only a small number of people study and practice the mysteries of Kabbala. Generally, organized religions of the world view any form of practice and study at large scale of the mysteries that they preach as a threat at the address of the institutions authority.