Kabbala

[relation of the cabalistic spheres] (Hebrews: gabbalah, reception)

Name applied, specifically, to a system of esoteric theosophy which was peculiar to Judaism in Europe after the 10th century. It attained prominence in Spain in the 13th century, was disseminated at the time of the expulsion of the Jews from that country, and became identified with Palestine. It has often erroneously been used as an argument to induce Jews to accept Christianity. Its doctrines are contained in the two books "Sefer Yezirah" and "Sefer Zohar." The doctrinal contents of the latter are: God, the the Supreme, Endless, and InfinIte Being, can be conceived of only in so far as He manifests Himself through, or in, the ten Sephiroth (Hebrew, literally enumerations), or potencies, which emanate from Him and which form with Him, strict unity. They are said to have formed the first world, from which proceeds the second world, that of creation, with its ten Sephiroth of more limited potency. From this proceeds the third world, of formation, with its ten immaterial Sephiroth. The fourth world, of matter, in turn proceeds from the third world. Man was created by the Sephiroth and his pre-existent soul returns to God through transmigration. When the Messias is eventually born at the end of days the world will return to the bosom of the Infinite Source, Hell will end and bliss begin. The hermeneutical methods, borrowed from the Gnostics, by which to perceive these doctrines supposed to be embodied in the Hebrew Scriptures are
  1. Temurah, the transposition of the letters which make up a word.
  2. Gematriah, number combinations translated to words.
  3. Notarikon, the reconstruction of a word by using the initials of the words in a sentence.
The theurgical element of the "Zohar" supplies formulas to the initiated by means of which they are able to communicate with the invisible powers. To the Kabbalist, redemption was possible by a mystic influence on God and the world of light through a rigid observance of the law, asceticism, etc. To the Christian, redemption is possible only through the merits of Christ. Kabbalism exerted a high moral influence upon its adherents and drew to the Christian Faith such men as Riccio, Conrad, Otto, Rittangel, Jacob Franck, etc.

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