Because the Jewish Kabbalah has been the source of inspiration to so many alchemists, metaphysicians, occultists and mystics, it deserves special attention, and the remainder of the lesson will largely be devoted to it. It has three main divisions: A. The Practical Kabbalah. B. The Literal Kabbalah. C. The Dogmatic Kabbalah.
A. THE PRACTICAL Kabbalah treats of ceremonial magic, and includes the making of magic circles, wands, swords and pentacles, and the use of inscriptions and symbols for performing wonders. It deals with necromancy, sorcery, exorcisms, sigils, enchantments and communications with angels and devils.
Accessible books treating of this subject are: The Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses, The Greater Keys of Solomon the King, and The Lesser Keys of Solomon. Needless to say, as set forth in detail in chapter 3 of Course 18, Imponderable Forces, these books and all such practices are highly dangerous, and innocence is no protection to those who dabble in such matters.
B. THE LITERAL Kabbalah is so written that the letters and numbers and words must be transposed to perceive the meaning. It is a work really written in code, and must be systematically decoded to have any value. And the code in which it is written, and which must be used to decipher it, takes three different forms as follows:
GEMATRIA.—In this system, words of the same numerical value are used as symbols of each other, and phrases of the same numerical value are employed to explain each other. And as each Hebrew letter is a number, this number is also obtained and used, by adding the numerical value of the letters of a word or phrase.
TEMURA.—This is a code in which, according to prescribed rules, certain letters are substituted for other letters. In addition to this permutation, the form of the letters occasionally used, and the variations in spelling, all have a hidden meaning, and for important matters anagrams are employed.
NOTARIQUON.—In the practice of this, abbreviations are extensively used. Every letter, for instance, may be taken as the abbreviation of a word, and a single word expanded into a sentence. Or the first letters, or the medials, of every word in a sentence may be used to construct one word that conveys the mystical import it is desired to impart.
But even after, though determining just what code has been used, having translated the literal Kabbalah into ordinary language, it still presents the matter in the form of universal symbols, which, while quite pregnant with meaning to those who understand this universal language, is merely a collection of babbling allegories to one ignorant of the tarot and astrology.
C. DOGMATIC Kabbalah This division of the Jewish secret doctrine has four chief headings, each embracing more or less numerous commentaries which were written at different times by different writers: 1. Sephir Yetzirah. 2. Sephir Sephiroth. 3. Asch Metzareph. 4. The Zohar. Yet none of what is now called the Jewish Kabbalah was placed in writing before the beginning of the Christian Era.
We are seriously informed by commentators that it was first taught by God to his select angels who formed a school in Paradise. Then, after the fall, the doctrine was communicated to man that by its means he might regain his lost estate. From Adam it passed to Noah, then to Abraham, on to the Egyptians, from whom it reached Moses.
Moses was further instructed regarding it by an angel, during his forty years in the wilderness. Then Moses injected its doctrines covertly into the first four books of the Pentateuch, and initiated Aaron and the Seventy Elders into its secrets. From them, according to this tradition, it was handed down through an unbroken line of priesthood succession which included David and Solomon, to the time of the destruction of the second temple; when, for the first time, it was committed to writing.
This account, due allowance being granted to its symbolism, conforms rather closely to the traditions regarding the line of descent of the secret doctrine as recorded by initiates of other than the Jewish race.
It is held by this tradition that once the earth had a very different climate, warm and mild, and that the people of the Golden Age, like those in Jewish Paradise, were free from strife, and needed to take no thought as to what they should eat or what they should wear. So pure were they that they had constant communion with the angels.
But gradually changing climatic conditions, in which life became increasingly severe, coarsened the bodies and the minds of the people of the earth. And finally, so terrible was the struggle for survival with the advent of the Age of Iron, when a glacial sheet covered most of the northern hemisphere, that man was forced to eat the flesh of animals to avoid starvation. And thus descending to the plane of a carnivorous creature, the increasing activity of his animal soul cut off his ability to communicate with still higher entities. He no longer could get his information direct from the angels, because he had become too selfish and coarse to be able to tune in on their vibratory rates, and he must, perforce, get whatever he wished of the secret doctrine from those of his race who had preserved the tradition from an earlier time.
This kabalistic knowledge was a teaching concerning the origin of the universe, man’s proper relation to God and all other entities, why man entered material conditions, and how he might through partaking of the Tree of Good and Evil ultimately regain his spiritual estate and also partake of the Tree of Life, and so attain Self-Conscious-Immortality.
From the children of the Golden Age, the tradition relates, this information was handed down by word of mouth, as allegorical stories, to more material times. And thus it came to be an essential part of the wisdom for which the ancient lands of Atlantis and Mu are renowned.
Before the last cataclysm, in the Bible referred to as the flood of Noah, when the last of these two older continents sank, the Priests of Stellar Wisdom, perceiving through astrological cycles the approach of such a disaster, had encouraged the establishment of colonies in what later were to become the seven ancient centers of civilization—Egypt, India, Crete, Peru, Mexico, China and Chaldea. And to these colonies then established, that the ancient spiritual wisdom might not perish from the earth, they sent those to reside who were familiar with it.
Just when the colonists from Atlantis or Mu reached their various outposts is not clearly defined. But in Egypt, Moses, educated by the priesthood, came directly in contact with their teachings, and in his wilderness wanderings received further communications from higher intelligences; all of which became a part of the doctrine held by the Jewish priests, and handed down to later times in the form of abstruse allegories.
It seems certain that none of what now is known as the Jewish Kabbalah was written until after the commencement of the Christian era. The first to place any of this traditional knowledge in writing is reputed to have been Ben-Ha-Kanah, about 70 A.D. Rabbi Ismael be Elisha wrote about 121 A.D. And Simon be Jochai, another Talmudist, the supposed writer of the Zohar, appeared about 150 A.D.
However as a matter of historical research, it is found that the Kabbalah first put in an external appearance in the seventh century, apparently through Neo-Platonist and Neo-Pythagorean channels. The main body of the Zohar seems to have been unknown, except in the secret schools, until the thirteenth century of our era.
The early writings on the Kabbalah include a work called Palaces, describing God’s throne and His angelic household, a work of The Dimensions of Deity, and the Alphabet of Rabbi Akiba. In this letter each Hebrew letter is taken to represent a primordial spiritual idea.