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Old 09-06-11   #1
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Default Kabbalah for newbies

RoseRed made a great suggestion in another thread about a possible 'newbie thread' for those who're interested in kabbalah, but have no idea where to start or what it all means. It can be a pretty daunting subject to get into, so I'll start out with some basics and work from there. (I would advise to keep the Hebrew letters within this thread as a 'reference card' for any Hebrew words encountered here. Copying the words directly into this thread mess up the format of my post gigantically, because of the fact that Hebrew is written right to left.)

Qabalah, kabbalah, que-what?
The first thing everyone encounters is the fact that there is no general consensus on how to transliterate the Hebrew word containing the letters Qoph, Beth, Lamed and He. Some prefer to use the q of Qoph, making the word Qabalah, whereas others (including myself) prefer to use the word kabbalah because of its wider recognition and use.

There are some people, however, who apply the word Qabalah to the Western Mystery Tradition and the word kabbalah to Jewish mysticism. There are some other transliterations and possible traditions, but all have the same Hebrew source: the word 'reception'. (To receive, from mouth to ear, etc.)

What am I 'receiving'?
Kabbalah concerns itself with the basic principle of 'giving'. In all of creation, there is only a single force: the force of giving. And because that force is giving, it creates 'something' to receive what it gives. The giving force is called Creator, and what it creates is called 'creation'. This creation goes through a process of learning and development before finally discovering the splendour and beauty of its Creator. This revelation of the Creator to creation is the essence of kabbalah. The purpose of kabbalah is to reveal, or discover, the creator.

So, where does God fit in?
The question of Divine nature is something that's bugged us since we began to believe in God. Kabbalists currently envision two parts of God: the ultimate unknowable God, and the God who has revealed Himself through creation and interaction. They speak of the first part as Ein Soph, which is translated as "the infinite/endless/that which has no limits". This first part of God is unknowable. The second part is called Ohr/Aur ("light"). This is the part that kabbalah tries to get to know.

How can we know God?
The second part of God can be seen in many ways. Sephirot (Divine attributes) and Partzufim (Divine faces); the Four Worlds of Creation called Azilut, Beriyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah; Ezekiel's Biblical vision of the Merkabah (Divine angelic 'chariot'). For the sake of the length of the thread, we'll only dive into Sephirot and the Four Worlds.

Four worlds of creation? How does that work?
The four worlds of creation are called Olamot/Olamos. The singular version is called Olam, which has sometimes been translated as 'concealment'. Their names come from the Biblical verse Isaiah 43:7:
Every one that is called by My name (Azilut: emanation/close), and for My glory I have created (Beriyah: creation), I have formed (Yetzirah: formation), even I have made (Asiyah: action).
On the level of Azilut, the light of Ein Soph radiates and is still united with its source. Azilut is the place where the Sephirot emerge. Everything is still in the Divine and nothing senses its own existence yet.
Beriyah, the second world, is described as the realm of the Divine Throne. The highest ranking of angels are within Beriyah. This level also contains the 'creation out of nothing' that still lacks shape and form.
Yetzirah is the level on which the created beings first assume their shape and form. It is also called the Lower Garden of Eden, where most angels reside, and the created beings sense their distance from the understanding of God they had whilst residing in Beriyah.
The final world, Asiyah, is the world above our physical one. Here, creation is complete. Our physical world is often referred to as Asiyah Gashmi, or physical Asiyah.

Okay, but what do I do with those Sephirot?
This is, perhaps, the most well-known part of kabbalah. The Sephirot are connected to the Tree of Life and are said to be the revelations of the Creator's Will. They are not ten different gods, but ten different ways in which God reveals His Will to creation.

The Sephirot are commonly seen as the 'guidebook' of creation. They are the step-by-step process that illuminates the Divine plan. As such, the Hebrew origins of their names refer to their meaning. (The theology behind kabbalah says that all of creation is formed from the metaphorical speech of God, as reflected in the Biblical book Genesis.)

How are the Sephirot connected to the Tree of Life?

See those circles on the "tree"? Those are the Sephirot. They're connected to one another through the lines that run between them. There are ten Sephirot on the Tree, but there are eleven in this picture.

Ten? Eleven? Make up your mind!
The 'eleventh' Sephirah is called Da'at (or Daath, if you feel like adding a bit of Star Wars Death Metal). People sometimes call Da'at the Siamese twin of the first Sephirah, which is known as Kether. Da'at, the poor thing, is not always depicted on the Tree of Life. Many people believe that Da'at is the place where all Sephirah can come together, unite and throw a gigantic party.

What about the other ten?
The Tree of Life starts out with Kether. Kether is called 'crown' and is placed in the category above-consciousness. (It's the first desire of the Ein Soph to bring the world into being, so it could be described as 'Divine potential'.)

Then follows the conscious intellect, described by the Sephirot Chokhmah and Binah. Chokhmah is said to portray 'wisdom' and can be seen as the first point of real existence. The word chokhmah can be translated as 'the potential of what is' and includes the really fast insights our mind sometimes comes up with.
Binah is described as 'davar mitoch davar', or understanding one idea from another idea. Whereas Chokhmah is intellect that doesn't come from rational processes, Binah is the rational process that comes from understanding and contemplation.

Finally, there are the Sephirot portraying the conscious emotions that are then divided up into primary and secondary emotions. The primary are kindness, severity and beauty. The secondary are eternity, glory and foundation. There is also a vessel to bring action, known as kingship.

Chesed, or kindness, is also translated as loving-kindness or love. It is a primal Jewish value that leads to many commandments and ethics. It is seen as the value that contributes to repairing the world. Chesed therefore manifests God's absolute and unlimited benevolence and kindness.
Gevurah/Geburah, or severity, is also known as restraint/strength/judgement/power/concealment. It is often understood as God's mode for punishing 'the wicked', but is also the judge of humanity. It is gevurah that allows mankind to overcome its enemies within themselves and within the world.
Tifaret, or beauty, is described under a number of names. Spirituality, balance, integration, miracles and compassion are just a number of them. Tifaret is said to integrate both Chesed and Gevurah within itself.

Netzach, then, is described as eternity. It is also known as victory and endurance. Netzach teaches us how to follow through on our passions and how to lead and motivate others.
Hod, being a bit of a companion to Netzach, is all about majesty and glory. Some people connect Hod with prayer, which is seen as a form of majestic submission. Hod is the Sephirah of the magician, where created forms like statues are used to grasp the wild and raw energy that is more often linked to Netzach.
Yesod, or foundation, comes after the twins of Netzach and Hod. It translates spiritual concepts into actions that unite us with God. Yesod could be described as the engine room of creation.

Malkuth, being the last but not least, is kingdom. It is the only Sephirah that does not directly come from God. Instead, it comes from the time when God's creation reflects God's glory within itself. Malkuth gives tangible form to the other nine and is therefore most closely related to our physical world. Seek first the Kingdom of God, said Jesus, and it is believed that Malkuth is precisely that. It is our gateway to God.

Are these the basics of kabbalah?
These are some of the basics that really help understand what kabbalah is all about. I have purposefully not included the long-winded history and debates about validity and what-goes-where within this thread. I have described everything as I learned it, thus making any mistakes in this thread mine entirely, and I have no doubt that many threads in this part of the forum will do a better job at the in-depth explanations of, say, the Sephirot. I hope this is.. hmm.. a good start.
She had studied the universe all her life, but had overlooked its clearest message:
for small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.
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Old 09-06-11   #2
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Default Re: Kabbalah for newbies

Thank you for explaining what all the circles are. I guess my next question is what are you supposed to do with the drawing?
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Old 09-19-12   #3
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Default Re: Kabbalah for newbies

As I understood it, Daa'th was a "false Sepiroth", (Sepiroth meaning "number") the 11th Sepiroth that used to lie between Binah,3 and Chesed,4, and lying in the the Abyss, somewhere between them. Considered "False" because there is no number between three and four. Or rather, there is a "no number" between three and four. A false number, that cannot be quantified with any mathematical permanence, and is therefore false. Pi.

Once, (It's said) Daa'th was a true Sepiroth, as true as any, and paths led to and from it. But this was before the fall, before God was separated from his creation. In the cataclysm, Daa'th was torn asunder, and destroyed by the magnitude of God's energy descending The Tree. After that, the lower spheres were cut off from the three Divine supernals of Kether, Chockmah and Binah.

Between the Divine Supernals and the lower Sepiroth, there was a dreadful absence where Daa'th used to be. That is where the Abyss now lies. In Daa'th now, there is said to be a great tower, from which no light is emitted. A black hole, representing knowledge without sense. Knowledge knowable only by it's absence. The Adept must pass through the Abyss to attain the higher grades of any Qabbalistic Orders. But in this void by all accounts, lives Choronzon, a sort of Cthonic Chaos Demon with a tree shredder function. who's constantly tearing the Universe into pieces. So you really have to know your shit before you get to those Adeptus grades.

But I know many Qabbalists don't work with Daa'th at all, and don't even depict it on their Map, so I guess it's an optional extra, like an expansion pack for a video game.
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