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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Qabalah

This article was written by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero on May 08, 2003
posted under Golden Dawn

"Qabalah" is a Hebrew word which means "tradition." It is derived from the root word "Qibel," meaning, "to receive." This refers to the ancient custom of handing down the esoteric knowledge by oral transmission. What the word Qabalah encompasses is an entire body of ancient Hebrew mystical principles that are the cornerstone and focus of the Western Esoteric Tradition. Virtually all Western spiritual systems can trace their roots to the Qabalistic Tree of Life. The exact origins of the Qabalah are unclear, but it certainly contains some vestiges of Egyptian, Greek, and Chaldean influence.

By its nature, mysticism is knowledge that cannot be communicated directly, but may be expressed only through symbolism and metaphor. Like other esoteric systems, Qabalah also draws upon the mystic's awareness of the transcendence of the Divine or the Eternal. Another element of Qabalah is that of theosophy, which seeks to reveal the hidden mysteries of the Divine as well as the relationship between the Divine Life on one hand, and the life of humans on the other. The goal of the Qabalist is to discover and invent keys to the understanding of arcane symbols that reflect the eternal mysteries.

Israel Regardie said that, "Qabalah is a trustworthy guide, leading to a comprehension of the universe and one's own self." It is all this and more. This "tradition" was never restricted to instruction in the mystical path—it also includes ideas on the origins of the universe, of angelic hierarchies and the practice of magic. Qabalah lays the foundation on which the art of Western magic rests.

The Qabalah, which Dion Fortune called "the Yoga of the West" reveals the nature of certain physical and psychological phenomena. Once these are understood, the student can use the principles of magic to exercise control over the conditions and circumstances of his or her life. Magic provides the practical application of the theories supplied by the Qabalah.

The Qabalah as it exists today is a vibrant, living, and dynamic philosophy that includes the origin of the entire cosmos, the eternal mind of God, and the spiritual development of humankind. It is a precise mystical system that describes universal laws and shows us how to utilize spiritual principles in every-day life. By firmly fixing the Qabalistic symbols such as the Tree of Life in one's mind, the student has access to a balanced group of archetypes that the inner self can more easily relate to, thus making true spiritual growth more readily attainable. As the Hermetic student begins to contemplate and experience the energies of the Sephiroth (the ten emanations of the Qabalistic Tree of Life) he or she will find that they develop into genuine forces that become animated within the psyche. These newly awakened forces will initiate a process of reorganization in the mind of the student, gathering up disjointed elements of the divine powers that lay dormant in the average person. They begin to structure themselves in accordance with the Sephiroth, permitting the student to tap into a previously unknown source of divine inspiration that is kept alive and prolific through meditation, and active ritual work. The Qabalah has often been called the "Ladder of Lights" because it not only depicts cosmic generation, which is the descent of the Divine into the physical, but also defines how the individual may employ it for spiritual ascent by purifying both body and mind through ceremony, contemplation, and prayer, until at length one achieves that pristine state of consciousness that is necessary to attain union with the Higher Self—the emissary to the Divine Self represented by the first Sephirah of Kether.

The Qabalah is the foundation of most of the magic employed by the Golden Dawn. The various grades, officers, and even the Golden Dawn temple itself are all based on the Sephirotic structuring of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. The meditative techniques hidden within the Qabalah are today being "rediscovered" by the New Age movement, but they were exalted in such Golden Dawn rituals as the "Middle Pillar Exercise."

Golden Dawn students learn a great deal of Qabalistic knowledge, including the attributes of the Tree of Life, gematria (Hebrew numerology), names of angels and archangels, and the making of sigils and talismans. They must also memorize the Hebrew alphabet along with all its correspondences, and be able to draw the Hebrew letters to form angelic and divine names.

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