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Category:The Kabbalah and the Jewish Grimoire Tradition

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The mystical Tree of Life is a central concept of study among many kabbalists; each portion of it is said to symbolize one of the various conditions of human life
The mystical Tree of Life is a central concept of study among many kabbalists; each portion of it is said to symbolize one of the various conditions of human life

Kabbalah is a term that, academically, only applies to a form of Jewish occult gnosis that originated in medieval Spain and Provence during the 12th-century, and which has been passed down among scholars. Colloquially, the term has become a catch-all for every form of Jewish occult magic. This is not the case, however, as a large body of Jewish magic comes under the category of non-religious Jewish and Yiddish Folk Magic and does not derive rom the Kabbalah.

The seminal masterpiece of the Kabbalistic grimoire tradition is a multi-volume tome called “The Zohar," a Hebrew title which translates to “The Book of Radiance." Other books associated with the Kabbalah include "Sepher Yetzirah" ("Book of Formation"), "Pardes Rimonim" (The Garden of Pomegranates"), and "Sefer Raziel HaMalakh" ("The Book of Raziel the Angel").

Since the 1990s, it has been observed and documented that Kabbalah spelled with a “K” generally refers to the Jewish Kabbalah, both ancient and modern; Cabala spelled with a “C” is often used to refer to the adoption of Jewish wisdom, philosophy, and numerology by Christian theologians and magicians; and Qabalah spelled with a “Q” frequently refers to Jewish mysticism (but not folk magic) that has been accepted by Thelemites.

The Zohar (The Book of Radiance) is an important source for kabbalistic study
The Zohar (The Book of Radiance) is an important source for kabbalistic study
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A page from The Book of Raziel
A page from The Book of Raziel
An American edition of "The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses," published by L.W. DeLaurence, Chicago, 1905
An American edition of "The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses," published by L.W. DeLaurence, Chicago, 1905
The chart for the Ahlamah (אַחְלָמָהאַ) or Amethyst stone in the hoshen or breastplate of Aaron, one of twelve charts used for divination in a hand-painted 19th century Iranian manuscript version of the oraculum Sefer ha-Goralot (Book of Lots) written by the "seventy sages" and codified by Rabbi Chaim Vital
The chart for the Ahlamah (אַחְלָמָהאַ) or Amethyst stone in the hoshen or breastplate of Aaron, one of twelve charts used for divination in a hand-painted 19th century Iranian manuscript version of the oraculum Sefer ha-Goralot (Book of Lots) written by the "seventy sages" and codified by Rabbi Chaim Vital
The Midrash consists of a series of rabbinical commentaries on Biblical scripture as well as treatises on folklore, prophecy, and folk magic
The Midrash consists of a series of rabbinical commentaries on Biblical scripture as well as treatises on folklore, prophecy, and folk magic

There are three aspects to Kabbalah: investigative, experiential, and practical. Not every kabbalistic book or teaching deals exclusively with one of these aspects, and, conversely, not every author or scholar of the Kabbalah has an equal interest in all three of these branches of thought and practice.

Contents

The Investigative Kabbalah

The investigative dimension of the Kabbalah seeks to reveal the hidden reality of the universe, developing within the student an understanding of the universe’s origins, its structure and method of function.

This aspect of Kabbalah is concerned with acquiring secret and hidden knowledge regarding the nature of the universe, as opposed to mystical experience. It is generally considered to be philosophical as well as mystical.

The Experiential Kabbalah

The experiential aspect of the Kabbalah entails a quest for the mystical experience of knowing and feeling. It encompasses philosophical metaphysical techniques of esotericism by which the practitioner acquires secret knowledge, as well as a school of mysticism in which the adherent experiences “devekut” or closeness to God.

The best known component of this form of Kabbalistic thought is the Tree of Life, a diagram consisting of ten disks, called "Sephiroth" ("emanations" or "enumerations" of the attributes of God) and the thirty-two intersecting paths which connect them. These ten attributes are how the “Infinite” or “Ein Sof," the precursor to God prior to His self-manifestation, is revealed to humankind. This school of Kabbalah makes extensive use of numerology and astrology. The Tree of Life layout has been linked by 20th century cartomancers to the designs of pip cards in several decks of fortune-telling tarot cards.

The Practical Kabbalah

The practical side of the Kabbalah is the application of mystical forces to effect change in both the celestial world and the physical world around us, through the use of rituals for gaining and controlling power. Within Jewish culture, speaking of "the practical Kabbalah" is tantamount to speaking of magic and witchcraft within the Jewish Tradition.

Among other things, the practical Kaabbalah involves a number of ancient medical prescriptions, as well as the invocation of divine names and the recitation of prayers from the Psalms for gaining mundane advantage in matters of love, fertility, money, business, luck, blessing, cleansing, healing, personal power, wisdom, protection from evil, avoidance of accidents, safe travel, removal of curses, keeping off the law, winning court cases, exerting mental influence on others, cursing, getting revenge, and breaking up relationships. Additionally, the practical kabbalah includes mention of the means to create, summon, and control angels and demons in order to further God’s intention to uphold the good, to heal, and to subdue evil. The true master of the Kabbalah fulfills the human potential to be a co-creator with God.

Jewish Grimoires

  • The Midrash is a collection of commentaries on the Bible composed by prominent Jewish rabbis between 400 and 1200 CE. (Read More ...)
  • Sefer Gematriaot: Fourteenth century medieval grimoire of magical formula, biblical verses, spells and gems and their magical uses. (Read More ...)
  • Sefer Hasidim (Book of the Pious): 13th century book by Judah ben Samuel of Regensburg, which discusses the magical and medicinal uses of herbs and amulets. It also includes extensive lore on spirits, vampires and witches. (Read More ...)
  • Sefer ha-Razim (The Book of Mysteries): Written some time during the late third century or early fourth century CE, this text found in the Cairo Geniza, is filled with astrological knowledge regarding the structure of the heavens, listing the names of the angels and numerous magical spells and formula. (Read More ...)
  • Sefer Raziel (Book of Raziel): Supposedly given to Adam by the angel Raziel, this is a book of astrological knowledge, angelic lore, gematria, protective spells, instructions on making amulets and the names of G-d. Although parts of the book can be traced back to Late Antiquity, the oldest book is from the 13th century. (Read More ...)
  • Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation): Pseudoepigraphical work attributed to Abraham but likely written between the 3rd and 6th century. Thirty two paths to higher knowledge and to becoming a lesser co-creator with G-d are elucidated in this text that records a formula for the animation of a golem. (Read More ...)
  • The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, allegedly written by Moses, is an 18th century German grimoire draws heavily on Sefer Raziel and contains knowledge of necromancy, control over the weather and the instructions and formulae to perform the magic and miracles of the Old Testament. (Read More ...)
  • Zohar (The Book of Radiance): While written in Aramaic (the colloquial language of Israel during the Second Temple period 539 BCE – 70 CE), the Zohar first appeared in Spain during the 13th century. (Read More ...)

See Also

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