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2. Mystical Qabalah - Background

A. From Tents to Temples to Rabbinical Sects

The universal mystical spirituality of the children of Abraham is a robust, precious, and little known heritage upon which the fabric of the Judaic, Christian, Islamic, and perhaps even the Tantric religions are woven. In this book, that heritage is called the Mystical Qabalah.This transliteration reflects the actual Hebrew spelling of the word. It is often seen transliterated as ‘Kabbalah’ or ‘Cabala,’ however the word begins with a Qof, and not a Kaf, and only has one Beyt, not two. Within the context of Rabbinical Judaism, this mystical tradition has come to be known as the Jewish Kabbalah, and in Islam, as Sufism (Arabic tasawwuf). The Christian Cabala emerged from the mystical side of Christianity, which developed as a parallel tradition to Pauline dogma as it diverged and became estranged from its Judaic roots. The Christian Cabala evolved as a way to harmonize Jewish kabbalistic doctrines with Christian theology. The precise usage of the word Qabalah to denote the ideas and practices of the esoteric teachings and the secrets of the Torah emerged from the circle of Yitza'aq the Blind (1200CE), and was used in the same context by Eleazar of Worms (beginning of the thirteenth century).Encyclopedia of Judaica, Keter Publishing, Jerusalem, 1971 CE.

The word Qabalah (lit. receiving, also "welcoming of God") alludes to a dynamic state of direct communication and mystical union of the individual soul with the Divine. In that sense, it is synonymous with the Sanskrit word Yoga (lit. union with or absorption in the Divine). The word "Qabalah" is often seen transliterated as "Kabbalah" or "Cabala." However, the word begins with a Qof, and not a Kaf, and only has one Beyt, not two. Hence, the Work of the Chariot uses the spelling "Qabalah" in referring to the universal mystical spirituality of the Mystical Qabalah. The spelling "Kabbalah" is generally used to designate the religious-based Jewish Kabbalah of the Pharisaic Rabbinical tradition. The spelling "Cabala" is generally used to designate the Christian Cabala that evolved to portray elements of Roman Catholic dogma as the fulfillment of the Jewish Kabbalah .

The rich spiritual potential of the Mystical Qabalah has long been obscurated and overshadowed by the preponderant visibility of the Magical or Practical Qabalah, whose disciples pursue power as a tool of their own will. The wonderful possibilities for deep spiritual awakening, intensified devotion, and selfless service to the Divine Will offered by the Mystical Qabalah have also been made difficult to access by the strict halachic barriers and obfuscating intellectual hurdles erected by Rabbinical Jewish Kabbalists.

The formal prohibition against the study and practice of the Qabalah was lifted in 1540 CE through the efforts of the medieval Jewish Kabbalist Abraham Azulai. The prohibition had been instituted largely in reaction to the disastrous consequences of the false Messiah Shimeon Bar Kochba, who led a revolt in 135 CE that resulted in a short-lived independent Jewish state.The Jews successfully revolted against the Romans in 135 CE, sixty-five years after the destruction of the Second Temple. Under the military leadership of Shimeon bar Kochba, they established an independent country that lasted approximately five years. They minted their own coins and established a nearly impregnable stronghold in the city of Betar. Rabbi Akiba, who proclaimed Bar Kochba to be the Messiah, was the spiritual leader of the revolt. But, when Bar Kochba wrongly accused and executed Rabbi Eleazar for betraying Betar, Rabbi Akiba and the rest of the rabbis withdrew their support for him. Bar Kochba then attempted to fight the Roman legions without the support of the rabbis, and was sorely defeated. Over a century after Azulai, a sense of fear and taboo regarding the Qabalah arose strongly once again among the rabbinate in reaction to the troubling popularity of the apostate Sabbatai Zevi. Zevi was ascribed messianic stature by his "prophet" Nathan of Gaza, and embraced as such by several million followers spread across the Middle East. The phenomenon of Zevi was further compounded by the widespread hermetic adulteration of Jewish qabalistic teachings by European occultists, and a growing tendency among Christian Cabalists to attempt to establish that the true hidden meaning of the Qabalah supports the efficacy of Christian dogma.

The widespread anti-qabalistic sentiment promulgated by both the rabbinical and Pauline orthodox authority has been accompanied by a considerable amount of misinformation and fear mongering. Even those rabbis and Talmudic scholars who do not regard the Mystical Qabalah as evil and malicious echo the injunctions that it should only be studied by married Jewish men over the age of forty who have studied the Torah and Talmud for many years. In all fairness, it should be noted that there are a substantial number of Chasidim and other religious Jews who embrace and encourage the study and practice of the Jewish Kabbalah without distinction of age or gender. However, they represent a very small minority, and firmly regard the Qabalah as the exclusive property of Orthodox Judaism. The overall result is that the vast majority of contemporary Jews, most of whom are not orthodox, have little knowledge of their own immensely rich mystical tradition.

The lingering barriers and attitudes of exclusivity regarding the study of the Jewish Kabbalah serve to perpetuate a long standing sexist and elitist mindset that discourages individuals from pursuing direct mystical experience outside the context of orthodox religious observance as established by the Pharisees subsequent to the Diaspora.Diaspora is a term most often used to describe the widespread scattering of Jews outside of Palestine, subsequent to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. These attitudes also serve to solidify the position of orthodox rabbis as intermediaries and authorities in the dispensation of the Jewish religion. The authority of the Pharisees evolved from the growing prominence of the academies of Jewish learning that started to appear in the late fifth century BCE under the tolerant regime of the Persians, after hundreds of years of Assyrian and Babylonian repression. The word Pharisee comes from the word parush, meaning 'one separated' i.e. one who withdraws himself out of motives for piety. Among the Jews thus separated, there arose not only differences in social customs, but also in doctrinal views - and specifically, an oral tradition. This oral tradition not only outlined a rigorous routine of lifestyle and conduct, but also created special learning and knowledge that was the exclusive domain of the members of the sect. In this way, a community of such learned men developed. Their special knowledge drew an excess of reverential regard from the masses of people who were not privy to it, for which Master Yeshuvah (Jesus) and later Master Muhammad chastised them. The masses hence became the laity outside of this elite community of Pharisees.

The intense and complicated levitical focus of the rabbinical sect developed from the codes of behavior and traditions institutionalized by the priesthood (kohanim) of the centralized Temples in Jerusalem. The strict codes reflected the extraordinary level of levitical purity that had to be maintained to enact the high level rituals performed in the First Temple, which housed the Ark of the Covenant. Within that context, the priests needed to be like angels who attend the Throne of the Lord YHVH. The kohanic codes had a significant impact on the development of the Pharisaic rabbinate centuries later. They were redacted much later in the Talmud Yerushalmi and Talmud Babli, which contain voluminous commentary garnered from over four centuries of rabbinical dialectic.

The Talmud is composed of the Mishnah and the Gemara. The Mishnah is a collection of scriptural exegesis attributed to various heralded Palestinian rabbis, many of whom were associated with rabbinical academies from the fifth through second centuries BCE. The tractates of the Mishnah were edited and codified circa 220 CE, and form the core of the Talmud. The bulk of the Talmud, called the Gemara (lit. completion), is a collection of discussions among later Palestinian and Babylonian rabbis regarding passages and topics in the Mishnah. The Gemara of Jerusalem was formally compiled circa 430 CE, and the Gemara of Babylon circa 530 CE. The Talmud Yerushalmi is composed of three volumes and the Talmud Babli has sixty-four volumes, reflecting the relative complexity of the environments and cultural milieus in which they developed.

The Pharisaic rabbinate emerged as the dominant sect in Judaism, occupying the seat of its orthodox authority. It peaked with the virtual political and economic control of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Sadducees and Pharisees in the Hasmonean period, after the liberation the liberation by the Maccabees. The many warnings and stern admonitions pronounced by a succession of Hebrew prophets went unheeded. When Master Yeshuvah came, he berated the widespread corruption and abuse of power among the Sadducees and Pharisees, and struck out against the moneychangers within the Temple (which had become the biggest bank in the Middle East). The dominance of the Pharisaic rabbinical sect solidified even further in the Diaspora after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Except for the Karaite and Sabbataian movements, this dominance has remained largely unchallenged to this day, though cracks in the wall are starting to appear.

Few Jews give much thought to the idea that the religion of their desert Hebrew forebears might have been radically different in practice than Rabbinical Judaism. The word "rabbi" is not to be found in the Hebrew Torah and only finds limited usage in the entire Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, and Writings), where it is used to denote tribal leaders and other authorities.Tanakh is an acronym composed of the first letters of each of the principal sections of the Jewish Scriptures: the Torah (Law), also known as the 'Five Books of Moses'; Naviyim (Prophets), which includes a number of historical books (Joshua, Judges, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings), three major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel), and twelve minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zefaniah, and Malachi); and the Kethuvim (Writings), which includes the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, I Chronicles, and II Chronicles). Master Yeshuvah told his disciples not to take the title "rabbi," and taught that the Lord YHVH is the only true Rabbi.Peshitta, Matthew 23:7,8. The anthropological and linguistic elements that shaped the nomadic Israelite tribes are topics of much conjecture and dialogue among Ancient Near Eastern scholars from a variety of disciplines. The first book of the Torah (called Torah B'reshith) says that Abraham came from "Ur of the Chaldees." What were the history, ethnic composition, and cultural and religious milieus from which Abraham came? How was his faith influenced by the cosmologies of the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Canaanites? Was the original Hebrew alphabet developed before Abraham's time as a way to alphabetically represent Sumerian cuneiform glyphs? Or, did it originate in the mystical manual on the Hebrew letters ascribed to him, called the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation)? As the vehicle for a fresh expression of the universal mystical spirituality promoted directly in the face of widespread idol worship, how did Abraham and the Israelite tribes practice their religion?

The life of the early Israelites would have had much in common with all nomadic tribes who dwelled in tents under the starry skies of the desert savannas of Canaan and the Sinai Peninsula. Such tribes were largely extended families who tended their flocks and engaged in the labors necessary to feed and clothe themselves. It is likely that the religious observances of the Hebrews would have involved quintessential spiritual practices dating from antiquity and found in all monotheistic religions. These practices include: ablution, prostration, invocation of Divine Names, devotional singing, prayer offerings, ritual use of sacraments and sacred regard for the elements, community-building rituals based on the mystical significance of rites of passage and seasons of nature, and the special treatment of guests. In the Torah, there are numerous accounts of holy figures ascending to and worshipping at power spots on special mountains. There are also several accounts of the ritual use of a stone lingam, over which was poured a libation of oil or perhaps milk. Numerous passages in the Torah also poignantly allude to the experiential transformation of individual consciousness in Divine Union, and the presence and importance of mystics and awakened souls throughout the history of the Hebrews and Jews.

The monotheism of Master Abraham did not simply mean that there was only one God, but rather that the Divine Source alone exists. Hence, the mystical focus of the early Hebrews would have centered upon the universality and pervasiveness of the Divine Source within all beings on all planes of existence. Group ritual would have underscored and celebrated this relationship. There were no synagogues and no rabbis: there were tents and there were revered elders (men and women). There was not yet an ever-more complicated code of behavior used as a fence to stave off the adulteration and dilution of their culture and traditions. The biggest impact on their routines of life would have come from dramatic changes in weather patterns, extraordinary natural disasters such as drought and earthquakes (the Sinai Peninsula is situated among massive tectonic faults), and violent dynastic changes in the city-states around which they wandered and dwelled. Perhaps conditions in Ur in Southern Iraq warranted that Abraham leave and migrate along the ancient silk route into Syria. The idea of "Jewish Renewal" i.e. the return to the roots of Judaism has recently come into vogue. But a real return to the roots of Judaism would be a return to the religion of the ancient desert Hebrews.

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