“When he marked out the foundations of the earth…then I was at work beside him.” Proverbs 8:30
The hermetic modalities of Astrology, Alchemy and Tarot, to this point in the series of reflections comprising the Astrologers’ Folio, have out-competed the Kabbalah for time and attention. Today, we take a first step in the direction of providing a seat at the table for the Kabbalah. So important are the contributions of the Kabbalah to the cogency and acquisition of spiritual discernment in the West, we proceed as if we are hosting a guest of great privilege.
Each discipline of Western hermetic study represents a repository of method, tradition and utility intended to accompany the sojourn of one’s incarnated experience. To what end? In modern parlance we might say, “to serve Self and community as agencies of moral and spiritual well-being and high purpose”.
Western hermetic sources reflect a symbolic internalization of Divine (unsummoned) Love; a Love, by tradition, that predates the formation of the world. [See opening quotation of Proverbs 8:30]. To the extent these traditions of reflection and spiritual practice anticipate the arc of aspirational human endeavoring, they help to curate, in a Western cultural context, a revealed process of self-improvement.
The “Secret of the Possible” is an exquisite way to frame the mystical dimension of the Kabbalah as a gift to the West. It’s early protagonists first appeared in the 12th century, what Western historians refer to as High Middle Ages (1100 to 1250 CE).
It is not possible to fully consider the legacy of Western Mystery Tradition teachings if we omit the Kabbalah. All the hermetic arts reward patience and practice. Considered this way, the Kabbalah may be first among them given its complexity and its premise–that the Divine may be experienced directly; a significant departure from the Abrahamic tradition whereby the Divine is “ein sof”–infinite and beyond form or direct apprehension.
In the West, Judaism is antecedent to Christianity and Islam. To wit, in the Christian calendar the current year is 2021 while it is 1442 in the Hijri (Islamic) calendar. In the Hebrew calendar, however, 2021 and 1442 is 5781. Yes, the Abrahamic record of Judaism is senior to Christianity and Islam by more than 3750+ and 4300+ years respectively.
One could argue any study of the Western Mystery Tradition might begin with Judaism—let alone its Kabbalistic contributions of the High Middle Ages.
A state of profound modesty is requisite to experiencing the Secret of the Possible as process. The power of correctly apprehending the pathways of the ten Sephirot emanations comprising the Kabbalistic Tree of Life is a high prize. The opening reference to Proverbs makes the point, “I was at work beside him“. To cooperate with the Divine makes possible not only “miracles of redemption”–but the miracles of creation itself.
“Early on, rabbis cautioning against the dangers of the Kabbalah in the hands of the zealot and immature, insisted one attain the age of 40 years before commencing studies.”
The concerns of the 12th century rabbi are shared by the Astrologers’ Folio. Enter: waking v non-waking awareness.
A signature of the AF narrative is its insistence upon viewing non-waking awareness as the venue for moral and spiritual development, preferred by the psyche, at the deepest level of one’s being. A sleeping baby is featured as the title image to invoke the realm of non-waking awareness, to make the point. The tenets and wisdom principles of the Kabbalah are powerfully enabled to occupy the landscape of one’s non-waking awareness—ready or not. In our travels, this is true of Kabbalah more so than Astrology, Alchemy or the Tarot.
The waking state of awareness is transactional–it is how we engage the state of nature. Some among us are savants. The non-waking state of awareness is how we engage the state of grace. Some among us are saints. Savants do not require tutorials, saints, equally. For the rest of us, guided mentorship is the best way to safely acquire the skills for advanced learning. The Kabbalah deserves this level of regard and caution. This sensitivity may explain why we have published 32 previous commentaries before today’s “Secret of the Possible” topic. We hope our self-restraint bids you safe passage along a Wisdom path that serves you well and truly.
Before closing, let us introduce you to some of the “rock stars” of the High Middle Ages whose teachings, in some instances, now for more than 800 years, have made Kabbalah a beautiful vein of self-discovery to mine. They include:
Isaac the Blind 1160-1235; Azrial of Gerona 1160-1238; Todros Abulafia 1247-1306; Mosheh de Leon 1240-1305; Yosef Gikatilla 1248-1305; R. David ben Yahudah Hehasid 13th-14th centuries. Isaac the Blind was from France; Spain all others named here. Europe, not the Middle East, defined the introduction of medieval Jewish Kabbalah.
In contemporary terms, Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) is the twentieth century scholar who famously made Kabbalah part of the academy. He was the first professor of Jewish Mysticism at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is not clear if Scholem was a practitioner. We can also recommend the writings of Daniel C. Matt (1950 – ). Daniel C. Matt is an accomplished American scholar (Brandeis, PhD) and practitioner of Kabbalah. Several of his YouTube long format presentations on Kabbalah are also worth considering.
If you are new to AF or the Kabbalah, we welcome you warmly, and
Bid you peace through practice,
Should you have time to consider a musical reflection to accompany this post, we refer you to: Uziya Tzadok Singing Keshalev Boicheh | Shema Yisrael performed on 28 June 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_TBMtzeK08
A Reference of symbols, charts and definitions important to Western Mystery Tradition studies is listed as Post No. 900. Enter “900” in the Search box to be directed to this location.
The Astrologers’ Folio, a digital venue for students of occult history and the Western Mystery Tradition.
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