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Kabbalah, Tradition, Connections

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.consciousness.mysticism,talk.religion.misc
From: hara 
Subject: Kabbalah, Tradition, Connections (was Crowley ...)
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2001 03:54:15 GMT

50011216 VI! om

shalom alechem, my kin.

>>> we may respect a persons beliefs with out sharing them. though i would prefer
>>> an english phrase to replace the judaic QBL.
>> an English phrase will not replace an entire Jewish social milieu, nor
>> will it substitute for it, nor would an English (or even a Chinese) group.

"John B" :
> Are you claiming that there is a single 'jewish' social milieu? 

I think I may have misused the term 'milieu'. I meant that an identifiable
set of Jewish mystics are what comprise and construct Kabbalah (it is as
much a social thing as it is a papers and ideas thing), though as it may
be established within (one or more) oral transmission lineages this does
not mean that we will necessarily know who all the participants might be.

I'd also qualify this as a predominantly Jewish phenomenon, focussed
most specifically on Jewish religious scripture, principles, divinities,
etc., etc.  this is what I get out of sources like Scholem, who prepends
qualifiers to anything that seems to represent a contrasting social group
or current (e.g. "Christian Cabala" or "Christian Kabbalah" or whatever
he calls it). that is, where he is concerned the Kabbalah is primarily a
Jewish thing which may be said to have competition in other religions.

however, this admittance on his part of a "Christian Kabbalah" strikes me
as his primary weak point, and this is what you may be getting at. where
will it end? if he admits of a Christian Kabbalah, why not of something
else? I don't happen to remember what qualifications he places upon them,
but it seems to me that *that* is the place to attack him as an authority
(because it seems to be an inconsistency he'll have difficulty shoring up)

> And that this social center carries the right to a particular set of 
> doctrines or practices? 

hey, I don't even believe in the existence of 'rights' where countries
and exalted principles like 'Democracy' are concerned, though I think
that fancy fictions or intellectual ideas we support can be beneficial.

> If I understand this correctly, You are not suggesting that there's a 
> single "true" Kabbalah from which the New Agey type deviate (despite 
> constant references in these long arguments to tarot cards, etc...
> as doctrinal innovation) rather you are suggesting that there are a single
> set of "true" Kabbalists (jews) who may practice a variety of forms of
> mysticism or magic but gain their authority from a shared social center?

mostly what I intended, yes. I'm suggesting that a connection to it must
start with a social linkage, as with most mystical 'systems', and more
importantly, that it isn't just some set of ideas that, having copied to
one's desktop, one may use it to 'create their own Kabbalah' (because it
includes social interaction, whether liberal or conservative in its
character). I don't know of any central social authority or physical
location, and am sorry if I gave this impression. looking at what is
described of modern Jewish mysticism, it seems multi-faceted, and this
includes a SOCIAL factor which many who want to mimic it overlook (whether
this is to be found amongst Lubovich or Orthodox rabbis or elsewhere).

> I would like more information about this "entire Jewish social milieu" and
> how it encompasses the earliest forms of Jewish mysticism and proceeds
> through time to the Zohar, and through medieval development of Kaballah and
> into our times. I would be very interested in hearing your description of
> this.

so would I! I don't think I know the subject well enough to offer you a
reliably-defended response, but I think texts like Scholem's "Kabbalah"
go quite a distance toward identifying the prime movers in the social
groupings we are discussing.

> If, however, you find, upon reflection, that the social milieu of Jews, as
> with anyone else, may change over time, 

well Question 1.3 in Colin Low's Kabbalah FAQ has the following to say about
what I was getting at (oral social tradition as primary identifier):

#	When Moses received the written
#	law from God, tradition has it that he also received the
#	oral law, which was not written down, but passed from
#	generation to generation. At times the oral law has been
#	referred to as "Kabbalah" - the oral tradition.
#	The Torah was (and is) believed to be divine, and in the
#	same way as the Torah was accompanied by an oral tradition,
#	so there grew up a secret oral tradition which claimed to
#	possess an initiated understanding of the Torah, its hidden
#	meanings, and the divine power concealed within it. This is
#	a principle root of the Kabbalistic tradition, a belief in
#	the divinity of the Torah, and a belief that by studying
#	this text one can unlock the secrets of the creation.

ignoring the historical figure of Moses (because I think of stories about
him as legends), my impression is that the oral tradition primarily has
focussed on Jewish scripture and prophecy. mostly Jews are interested in
these things, much moreso than others unless they want to turn what they
are seeing in Jewish mysticism toward their own (in some cases quite
admirable) ends. Low continues, describing what he calls "the roots from
which the Kabbalistic tradition developed":

#	Another aspect of Jewish religion which influenced Kabbalah
#	was the Biblical phenomenon of prophecy. The prophet was an
#	individual chosen by God as a mouthpiece, and there was the
#	implication that God, far from being a transcendental
#	abstraction, was a being whom one could approach (albeit
#	with enormous difficulty, risk, fear and trembling). 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.
#	These two threads, one derived from the study of the Torah,
#	the other derived from practical attempts to approach God,
#	form the roots from which the Kabbalistic tradition
#	developed.

have I misread Colin Low here and Scholem in "Kabbalah" *and* "Major
Trends in Jewish Mysticism"? I'm just studying this stuff, so could
easily be mistaken, but this is my interpretation of what I've read
so far. please offer correction with some kind of references if you
think you've found some merit in my revising my assertions. thanks.

I do see that Jews *share* some thing with Christians (prophetic
traditions, for example) and so there may be reasons to allow more
leeway for this than, say, Buddhist Kabbalah or something).

> and that authority to practice Kaballah cannot rest on the same 
> social milieu among Hasidim in our day as it may have among the 
> Rabbis of Prague in the past or among those men who contemplated the 
> Knowledge of God in the ancient period of Rabbinic Judaism,

I'm not sure how authority in Kabbalah works, but it wouldn't surprise
me if it was comparable to other mystical social traditions (which have
their own lineages, separate lines of authority, etc.) like Sufism or
Zen Buddhism. that is, they form along social and historical lines.  

getting away from how one *bills* one's practice to others
(as "Kabbalah", for example, as compared to "our new stuff which was in
part inspired by Kabbalistic sources"), I don't particularly recognize
any social group determining how I *personally* practice my mysticism,
even if it might include things I found in a study of Kabbalah. it may
be that what is to be found in books "about" the subject are woefully
incomplete or inaccurate, though there's alot to occupy the interested
in texts by authors like Halevi, Kaplan, and Scholem. I'm still curious
how the former two authors treat the Hermetic Qabalists (which might
well shore up against criticism by defensive conservative Jews).

> one might wonder how if both the content and social milieu of Kabbala 
> has been known to change one can limit its manifestations now, and do 
> so on the somewhat arbitrary ground of religious identity.

unless the sharing involved, personal association, communication of
specific mystical methods, etc., is only transmitted from one to
another and this primarily resides in communities (Jewish) which are
likely to study the Torah and the expression of Jewish prophets.

> From an academic POV, each person who practices a particular faith, 
> whatever the respective elements, necessarily reinterprets that 
> tradition, essentially co-opting it. 

agreed, though if participation in a group practice (identifying as
Jewish, going to Synagogue, receiving Bar Mitzvah, whatever) is what 
constitutes the prerequisite for learning about and practicing its
mysticism (in this case Kabbalah), then the "co-opting" may not get
very far. maybe it would. look at Sabbatai Zevi. apparently this man
constitutes an exception (because Kabblah may be said to extend into
Islam with him -- I'm sure there are fascinating arguments about him).
> It is a bit of confessional bias that labels jewish reinterpretation 
> 'development' and external reinterpretation 'syncretic violation'.

how about "development of Kabbalah" and "external mimicry"? I wasn't
really talking about Creation of Kabbalah From Nothing or Those Bad
Evil Kabbalists What Don't Have Our Social Seal of Approval. my
point was that this name appears to have been self-applied to what
Jewish mystics were doing and what came out of what they have done.
if someone has no connection (let alone whatever authority may be
available to be had within) to the social tradition, especially as
it identifies itself with some kind of secret *oral* transmission,
then identifying oneself with said tradition is an error if not a
blatant attempt to co-opt without basis.

arguments contrary and corrections welcome.

peace be with you,


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