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2. Mystical Qabalah - Background

E. Mystical Qabalah, Mystical Christianity, and the Christian Cabala

Mystical Christianity is an outgrowth of the same universal spirituality found in the Hebrew tradition as the Mystical Qabalah. Christianity began as a sect of Judaism that sprang from the messianic advent of Master Yeshuvah, who was born a Jew and lived in a Jewish culture. All of his apostles and early disciples were also Jews. Master Yeshuvah, as with every appearance of Messiah, brought a fresh transmission of universal mystical spirituality clothed in the context of the historical setting, cultural milieu, environment, language, characteristic worldview, and prevailing body of discourse among the people to whom it was being delivered. The mainstream of Jews at the time Master Yeshuvah appeared had been expecting a savior of the Jewish people who would deliver them from Roman oppression through an apocalyptic process. This contrasted with the Jewish mystical community, which had been anticipating a messianic advent with the spiritual mission of reuniting Israel with their Lord YHVH, and a returning to the true religion of the children of Abraham. Master Yeshuvah himself clearly asserted that he had not come as an innovator to replace the tradition with a new teaching, but as a reformer who had come to fulfill the Torah and the prophets, and to renew the ancient faith that had faded into decay.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law (i.e. Torah) or the prophets; I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:17-18)Peshitta, Matthew 5:17-18.

But what began as a small Jewish sect centered around a Jewish Messiah and understood in contemporary Jewish terms, not Greek or Roman, came to be transformed into a major religion composed almost exclusively of Gentiles. In the process of this transformation, the legacy of the Jewish heritage upon which Christianity was founded was largely modified and assimilated into the Greek language and Hellenistic worldview. As the new religion of Christianity emerged estranged from its Jewish roots, it developed in accordance with Roman political organization and social conventions. When Christians later "brought civilization" to the indigenous tribes of Western Europe, they adapted Christian theology to the languages and cultures of those tribes, and absorbed many of their conventions and observances as a means to facilitate and expedite their conversion. The resultant version of Western Christianity thereby evolved into a historical phenomenon significantly different than Near Eastern Christianity, and even farther removed from its Judaic roots.

Today, a growing body of scholars is questioning many aspects of Christianity that have been popularly held for a long time. A picture is emerging that shows that the history, theology, and practice of Christianity have been directly effected and shaped by dominant factions, resulting in the marginalization and suppression of the mystical element as being in opposition to accepted doctrine. As soon as Paul entered the picture, a dichotomy arose among the early Christian devotees between those coming from a traditional Jewish background and the growing group of Gentile Christians. In this regard, it is interesting to consider the letter written by Master Yeshuvah's brother James, the leader of the Jerusalem Church, as an indicator of the opposition that emerged to some of Paul's central teachings.Eisenman, Robert. James the Brother of Jesus, Penguin, New York 1997.

The diversity of perspectives of the early followers of Master Yeshuvah was later replaced by the monolithic homogeneity imposed by emperors to make Christianity a uniform religion throughout their empires. As the Pauline Gentile faction grew in numbers and power, and the Catholic Church of Rome assumed orthodox authority over Christianity, it absorbed and codified Mystical Christianity in much the same way that Rabbinical Judaism assimilated and obscurated the Mystical Qabalah. The essential Jewishness of early Christianity was virtually wiped out by the massive revisionism of the Pauline Gentiles. We will have to wait for further windfall discoveries of source documents to be able to establish a clear picture of what happened during the earliest stages of Christianity after the departure of Master Yeshuvah.
Like the Hebrew Qabalah, Mystical Christianity has remained alive through lineages of accomplished souls who ascended its paths and passed on its teachings and practices. A new generation of Christians is seeking to revisit the mystical origins of Christianity. This interest has been fueled by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the recovery of an almost intact copy of the long-lost Gospel of Thomas Gospel of Thomas, translated by Thomas Hickey, Esoterica, Iowa City, 1992. The Gospel of Thomas was discovered in the Coptic Gnostic Library found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Nag Hammadi, and a growing interest in the enigmatic Revelation of John spurred by the advent of a new millennium. Many Christians are also finding new meaning and inspiration in the testimonials left by Christian saints and mystics of their experiences on the Path. These documents, along with new interpretations of the teachings of Master Yeshuvah in the Peshitta, are reinforcing the understanding that the mystical element flourished in the early church, and that the entire history of Christianity is replete with mystics.

Many of the ideas and practices of the Mystical Qabalah are reflected in those of Mystical Christianity. The mysteries of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion have long been compared with the mystical significance of Pesach (Passover). The sacraments of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist have their roots in the sacramental use of bread and wine that goes back to the earliest Hebrews and beyond. Ablution with water, lighting of candles, prostration, rituals that celebrate the mystical significance of the rites of passage, and rituals associated with changes of season, planting and harvesting are other fundamental elements Christianity shares in common with its Hebrew, Judaic, and Islamic cousins.

Starting in the late fifteenth century CE, a movement arose among some Jewish converts to Christianity in Spain to ascribe a distinctly Christian context to the hidden meanings of qabalistic doctrines. This movement gained momentum from speculation among Florentine Platonists that the Qabalah contained a lost revelation that explains the secrets of the Catholic faith. This cross-pollination led to the emergence of a distinctly Christian Cabala founded by Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494). Pico's writings, and subsequently those of John Reuchlin (1455-1522), caused a sensation in Christian intellectual circles and ignited an interest in this previously unknown esoteric Jewish tradition that spread across Italy, Germany, and France. In the sixteenth century CE, the appearance of qabalistic texts in Latin translation enhanced attempts to draw further parallels between esoteric Jewish doctrines and Christianity. Guillaume Postel translated and published the Zohar and Sefer Yetzirah into Latin even before they were published in Hebrew. Latin texts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were influential in standardizing "Cabala" as the spelling commonly associated with the Christian perspectiveAmong influential works that contributed to the proliferation of the spelling ‘Cabala’ was Georg von Welling’s Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum, which appeared in 1735. to qabalistic doctrines.

In the seventeenth century CE, the center of Christian Cabala moved to England and Germany, where its status was boosted by the theosophical writings of Jacob Boehme and the landmark qabalistic compendium of Christian Knorr von Rosenroth.Knorr Von Rosenroth, Christian. Kabbala Denudata, 1684. This notable book contained Latin translations of key sections of the Zohar and sizable excerpts of Lurianic material. Von Rosenroth and Athanasius Kirchner extrapolated the qabalistic allusion of Adam Kadmon to be a reference to Jesus as the primordial man in Christian theology. In the final phase in the development of the Christian Cabala in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it became permeated with alchemical symbolism and conjoined with the emerging doctrines of theosophy. This in turn greatly influenced the development of Freemasonry.

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