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2. Mystical Qabalah - Background

B. What is the Mystical Qabalah of the Children of Abraham?

The Mystical Qabalah of the children of Abraham reflects an ancient mystical transmission that preceded and supersedes any of the individual religious vessels through which it has been filtered and colored. Outside the rigid myopia of compartmentalized religious dogma, the Hebrew, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and perhaps even the Tantric traditions, can be seen as branches of a single tree . These branches all share a common trunk and roots: the universal mystical spirituality of the absolute unity of the Divine, and the primacy of love, surrender, and discrimination as the means for spiritual awakening from dualistic sleep. Each of the branches is built around variations of the same totality archetype anchored in the same negatively existent substratum. Yet, the religious teachings of the different branches have somehow evolved so that the variations have become mutually exclusive. While the Mystical Qabalah stands as the very foundation of the Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic religious dispensations, few contemporary rabbis, priests, or imams study its ideas or engage in its practices within the context of their respective faiths.

The ideas and practices of the Mystical Qabalah find their counterparts (albeit differently clothed) in virtually every other mystical tradition, all of which present their own unique version of the same universal teachings. Like every other mystical tradition, the Mystical Qabalah presents a worldview that is ultimately rooted in a negatively existent Mysterious Unknown about which Nothing can be said, a "One without a second."Paingala Upanishad 1:2 And, like every other mystical tradition, the Mystical Qabalah contains three seemingly contradictory operative perspectives that correspond to three levels of awareness. Vedantic philosophyThe term ‘Vedanta’ means "end of the Vedas." calls these three levels of awareness dualistic (dvaita), qualified non-dualistic (vasishtadvaita), and unqualified non-dualistic (advaita).

Within the context of the Mystical Qabalah, the dualistic level of awareness sees the Lord YHVH and His/Her Creation (i.e. matter and spirit) as separate. It is also called the "Fall of Adam." This is the vantage of the normal waking state of most humans. An aspirant with this perspective would generally have a predominant mood toward their Chosen Ideal, regarding themselves as a servant to their Divine Master, or as a child to their Divine Father or Mother, etc. The qualified non-dual level in the Qabalah regards the Creation as a Great Unity in the Name YHVH rooted in the negatively existent substratum. From this perspective, the Mysterious Unknown (called Ayn lit. "Nothing" in the Qabalah), which is Itself eternally devoid of attributes, exists in divine sport as always possessed of all attributes. In this respect, Sufism distinguishes between the Divine Essence (fana) and the Divine Attributes (fala), and Mystical Christianity between the Father and the Son. In Hindu mystical scriptures, this is called Swagatabheda-literally "a difference within Itself." This "difference" is said to spontaneously arise as a sort of whim of the Divine to know Itself.

In the Mystical Qabalah, the "difference within Itself" is alluded to by a doctrine that distinguishes the Mysterious Unknown (Ayn) as having two aspects described as "Faces." One is called "Vast Face," denoting a station of infinite consciousness devoid of differentiation and manifest activity. The other is called "Small Face," denoting a station of finite consciousness encompassing all differentiated, manifest activity. Small Face is also the immense I-ness of the Divine Personality endowed with all possible attributes. When this I-ness is turned outward to the Creation in the Lower Worlds, it is stationed in the consciousness that "I am All." When this I-ness is turned inward and centered in the Upper Worlds, it has the exclusive awareness that "I am Nothing (Ayn)." In this sense, Vast Face can be thought of as a Cosmic Mind in which an infinite number of Small Face waves of ideas can arise from and return to Nowhere like a dream, and in which all Name and Form emanate, manifest, and dissolve.

In the Qabalah, the Lord YHVH is the immense I-ness that knows Itself as Pure Being in the unmanifest supernal realm, and pervades everything from Elohim down to the lowest creature in the lower worlds of manifestation. This supreme, unifying I-ness is worshipped in Christianity as Christos, in Islam as Allah, and in the Tantras as the Divine Mother Kali. It is worshipped in Hinduism as Ishvara, in Tibetan Buddhism as Vajradhara or Avalokiteshvara, in Taoism as the Divine Mother Kwan Yin, and in the Polynesian Kahuna tradition as the Goddess Pele. The term Kahuna means "one who transmits (ka) the hidden tradition (huna)." An individual with this level of awareness directly perceives his/her innate identity, and that of all beings, as the One Indwelling Spirit (Neshamah, Atman, Purusha, Ishvara). The perspective of unqualified non-dualism The nature of the three doctrines of dvaita, vasishtadvaita, and advaita are explicated clearly by Swami Saradananda in Sri Ramakrishna The Great Master, translated by Swami Jagadananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Madras, p. 386-389. in the Qabalah is that the Ayn alone exists and all separate existence is illusory, that a manifest Creation on all its levels has no basis in Reality, and that all the shells of embodied existence are empty.

It cannot be underscored strongly enough that these three distinctions exist only within the finite human intellect. They are not mutually exclusive doctrines, but represent a gradation in consciousness. All aspirants will be attracted to one of these perspectives according to their natural spiritual constitution and stage of development. One who embraces the awareness of a simple devotee i.e. who worships the Name and Form of his/her Chosen Ideal as separate from themselves, would not be attracted to and may even strongly reject a non-dual perspective that denies such separation or any real existence to Name and Form. Conversely, one who has the innate sense that the Root Reality has two aspects, one without attributes and the other an intelligent, unified source of all attributes, would not find any sensibility in either a purely dualistic or a purely non-dual perspective. In practice, we find that the vast majority of aspirants in these latter days resonate with the first two categories. Few souls have the concentration, discrimination, discipline, and force of will to pursue a purely non-dual path.

Among Qabalists, as with aspirants in all other mystical traditions, we find that the apparently disparate distinctions described above give rise to philosophical arguments and irresolvable debates. All of these viewpoints are valid within the context of their own yogic practices, and we should not judge or condemn anyone for adhering to any one of them over the others. Any one of these perspectives taken to their ultimate end will arrive at the same experience of Pure Being that transcends all such distinctions. The Mystical Qabalah summarily involves the ascension of the Central Column of the Tree of Life to progressively unite with the consciousness of Small and Vast Face, and to pierce the profound spiritual mysteries alluded to in the Torah and other primary sources. Many religious students of the Qabalah confuse the intentions of the Mystical Qabalah with the necessity to cultivate a high degree of levitical purity and righteousness required to ascend the Column of the Right on the Tree of Life, which is called the "Way of the Angels of Elohim." Such levitical purity is not required to the ascend of the Central Column of the Tree, and the rigid rabbinical restrictions regarding the study of the Qabalah only within the context of orthodox halachic observance are not necessarily relevant to the purely yogic intentions of the Mystical Qabalah.

Among the primary written works of the Mystical Qabalah of the children of Abraham, few remain that are entirely faithful to their original versions. Many of them are replete with corruptions, and have taken on additions and commentary often undifferentiated from the original texts. Despite extensive evidence brought forth by linguistic experts to the contrary, most orthodox and fundamentalist adherents in each of the respective branches of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam regard their respective scriptures as completely intact and unviolated reproductions of the originals. Many English translations of the scriptures are flawed by dogmatic distinctions and/or by a low level of understanding. Many of the commentaries on the primary texts, and much of the secondary material available, are built upon expositions of earlier writers who possessed little direct mystical experience of what they wrote.

In rejecting the orthodox prohibitions regarding the study and practice of the Mystical Qabalah, it would be reasonable and balanced to point out that there is some inherent danger in the overzealous pursuit of qabalistic disciplines. Many of the problems arise when aspirants are misled by unqualified teachers, have pre-existing mental imbalances, or when aspirants engage in activities related to the side columns of the Tree of Life. Problems can also manifest when individuals underestimate the power of the root mantra and do too much too soon. On the other hand, relatively few problems have been seen in individuals who have the guidance of a qualified mentor and engage in a slow and steady progression through the purely yogic disciplines associated with the Mystical Qabalah.

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