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Is the Kabbalah Magical?

To: alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Is the Kabbalah Magical? 
Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2001 09:32:53 GMT

Because there was a discussion in which Poke briefly disputed Re O'Stat,
Mephistopheles, siva, and me regarding whether the [rabbinic] [Jewish]
[Sephardic] [Ashkenazy] kabbalah is a MAGICAl tradition (he said no, we
said yes, later he agreed that we were right, i think), it occurs to me
that it is a good idea to lay the issue to bed with a post containing
some specific extracts from the Kabbalah FAQ by Colin Low et al that
deal with this precise question. 

The full Kabbalah FAQ is archived at

The opinions in the above FAQ are those of Colin Low and several
colleagues, and the FAQ itself arose out of discussions originally
posted in the alt.magick newsgroup during the early 1990s.

In the extracts that follow, the words MAGIC and MAGICAL have been
placed in all-caps, for ease of location. Also, because in the Jewish
tradition the word "practical" in the phrase "practical kabbalah" is
often a code-word for MAGICAL, the word PRACTICAL has also been placed
in all-caps. 


It [the kabbalah consists ... of meditative, devotional,
mystical and MAGICAL practices which were taught only to a
select few and for this reason Kabbalah is regarded as an
esoteric offshoot of Judaism. 


Many Kabbalists view the Torah as the word of God and Hebrew
as the language of creation. In this view the alphabet and
language are divine and have immense MAGICAL power. 


Some Kabbalists believed that they were the inheritors of
PRACTICAL techniques handed down from the time of the
Biblical prophets, and it is not impossible or improbable
that this was in fact the case.


There is ample evidence that many MAGICAL practices
currently associated with Hermetic Kabbalah were widely used
and well understood by some of the most famous rabbinic


The term "the Great Work" has many definitions, and is not a
term from traditional Kabbalah, but it has a modern usage
among some Kabbalists. The quotation above, from a disciple
of the Kabbalist R. Israel Baal Shem Tov, is a traditional
Kabbalistic view: that the creation is in a damaged and
imperfect state, and the Kabbalist, by virtue of his or her
state of consciousness, can bring about a real healing. A
name for this is "tikkun" (restoration). There are many
traditional forms of tikkun, most of them prescriptions for
essentially MAGICAL acts designed to bring about a healing
in the creation.


The sources for the angels used in Kabbalah and ceremonial
MAGIC are primarily Jewish.


Very little information has survived about the PRACTICAL
Kabbalah in the Jewish tradition, but there is abundant
evidence that it involved a wide range of practices and
included practices now regarded as MAGICAL - the fact that
so many Kabbalists denounced the use of Kabbalah for MAGICAL
purposes is evidence in itself (even if there were no other)
that the use of these techniques was widespread. It is
highly likely that many ritual MAGICAL techniques were
introduced into Europe by Kabbalists or their less
scrupulous camp followers.


An unfortunate side effect of the Golden Dawn is that while
Kabbalah was an important part of its "Knowledge Lectures",
surviving Golden Dawn rituals are a syncretist hodge-podge
of symbolism in which Kabbalah seems to play a minor or
nominal role, and this has led to Kabbalah being seen by
many modern occultists as more of a theoretical and
intellectual discipline, rather than a potent and
self-contained mystical and MAGICAL system in its own right.


To summarise, Kabbalah is a mystical and MAGICAL tradition
which originated nearly two thousand years ago and has been
practiced continuously during that time.


Again, the opinions above are those of Colin Low et al, and were
collected by Colin from posts to the alt.magick newsgroup during the
early 1990s. 
cat yronwode

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