Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Kabbalah and Jewish Law

I do believe that traditional Kabbalah can be known, studied, and appreciated, and therefore be of immense benefit to people who are not Jewish. If I emphasize the dangers of dabbling, it is because the subject of the original inquiry pertained specifically to those who followed the spurious and fragmentary "Qabalah" of the occult schools. I understand Kabbalah to be an integral and comprehensive esoteric tradition, much like Sufism and Hesychasm, and not an esoteric science akin to alchemy which may be regularly transposed onto any traditional framework. Alchemy has been incorporated into it at some periods of its manifestation and it does contain other sciences such as the science of numerical symbolism or “gematria” and even ceremonial magic which has been greatly distorted and scandalized over the centuries such that its modern counterpart bears little if any relation to the theurgical art.

Now, although I believe that the study can be beneficial, practicing it is another matter altogether and in doing so one must abide by the conditions which the tradition itself establishes, the most important of which is following the traditional framework, that is, the exoteric dimension of the Jewish religion of which Kabbalah is the esoteric dimension. Much has been made of the necessity of the Sufi initiate not only to identify with Islam, but also to follow the sharia law which is the foundation of the spiritual path. A similar necessity is present within the Kabbalist tradition and the Kabbalah, Judaism, and Jewish law all stand in a similar organic relationship. Hesychasm is a little different owing to the absence of formalized religious laws in Orthodox Christianity, but in this case it is the sacraments, themselves traditional initiatory rites, which serve as the equivalent foundation for the spiritual life and as an eso-exoteric framework if it is possible to express the idea in such a fashion.

Generally speaking, it is not necessary for a person of one faith to follow the esoteric tradition of another when that of their own is living and accessible. Thus it is not necessary for a Sufi to practice Kabbalah or Hesychasm, nor for a Hesychast or Kabbalist to practice Sufism. In the absence of a living link to the esoteric tradition of one’s faith or also during historical periods of the decline of the same, as in the case of western Christianity during the Renaissance, and we might add at our present time in history, it is sometimes possible to receive instruction from a living representative of a "foreign" esoteric tradition who is qualified to establish the necessary transposition of doctrine and practice onto a different traditional framework. It is important to realize that this transposition never occurs in vacuo, or in the absence of a traditional religious framework, nor is it simply dictated by the whim of any given individual who happens to have an interest in some aspect of a particular esoterism. Rather it is effected by a authentic and orthodox spiritual master who has traversed the spiritual path in question and possesses an intimate knowledge of the doctrines, practices, and conditions necessary to effect such a transposition.

It is as a result of such transpositions that Christian Kabbalah arose in the west during the Italian Renaissance. The proximity of Hindus and Muslims within India and the limitations of the caste system have caused many Hindus to learn from Sufi Masters some of which, such as Sai Baba, have achieved popular cult status as Hindu Avatars. India is also home to that magnificent synthesis, the Sikh brotherhood, which arose from the providential encounter and intermingling of these two traditions. China is also an important arena of such transpositions occurring between the esoteric dimensions of Islam, Buddhism, and Taoism. Assimilation or ’transposition’, especially in the absence of a living link to the corresponding esoteric tradition of a given religion, is a legitimate reality, but only under certain conditions and within the possibilities afforded to a particular religion. It is not a matter that is susceptible to accomplishment through an eclectic syncretism, especially when it is driven by curiosity or based upon a false perspective of the nature of esoterism as is prevalent among the occult schools.

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