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QBL, Kabbalah and History

To: alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.occult
From: (hara)
Subject: Re: QBL, Kabbalah and History
Date: 25 Jan 1999 13:06:58 -0800

49990125 IIIom 

shalom alechem, my kin.

#> Allan Bennett..., says the following,

who is Allan Bennett with respect to the subject matter?  
why should we pay any attention to his opinion?

#> "Qabalah is the marshalling forth by number."

that's rather downsizing, decontextualizing and inaccurate, tho,
continuing the co-option of a term developed as indicative of a
specific Jewish cultural construction.

#> To read what this might mean i suggest going to the earliest known 
#> roots of mathematics and checking up on Pythagoras.

for Hermeticism and gematria I think this is a valuable
suggestion.  it does seem as if the 'Hermetic qabalah" is
either a gloss on the so-called Christian cabala or is
really more of a kind of reflection on Christian gematria.
why give it more prestige or credit than it is due?

my favorite Jewess, catherine yronwode :
# "Qabalah is the marshalling forth by number," he said. What could 
# he have meant? My guess is that because gematria -- which *does* 
# deal with number-symbolism as a path to understanding God 

and only *one* part of it at that.

# -- is a *part* of kabbalah, and because no translations of 
# kabbalistic works cited above were available to non-Hebrew 
# readers at the time Bennet studied (or *thought* he studied) 
# the kabbalah, he and members of his circle were prone to 
# making egregious errors of this sort when describing the
# subject. 

ah but are you sure that it wasn't an intentional attempt to
wrest the Christian cabalist slight on Judaism away from the
hands of these authors and 'discover' the supposed mysteries
that were said to have been 'revealed to those with eyes to
see'?  that is, are you sure that this wasn't an EXTENSION of
anti-establishmentarianism, enhancing the anti-Judaism fomented
by Christians and trumping it with some anti-exclusivism and
anti-religion en eclectica catholica?

# Ignorance, not an attempt to mislead, was doubtless the cause, 

I wonder if you are really being TOO kind here.  I know that I
have at times seriously questioned the criticism you have laid
upon the doorstep of these Hermetics, but I was doing so in the
interest of fairness.

I don't know much about Bennett (JSK says something of him and
his available resources in another post), but surely he and
these other Hermetics KNEW that they were co-opting the Jewish
mystical name in favor of their Christian and syncretic 
constructions.  they followed in the tradition of never talking
about Jews (only 'Hebrew', as if it was the dead language of a
dead people, like 'Latin is a dead language' today; as if its
separation from 'living languages' made it a 'power language',
something even modern Hermetics who acknowledge Kabbalah as the
source of their numerolinguistical divinatory schema seem to

# the kabbalah is a diverse and complex Jewish system of mysticism and
# includes within it many, many methods used to understand the workings
# and nature of God....

I agree and would only say that the Hermetics appear to be
attempting to create an alternative within another (at best
univeral) cultural context, using differing religious ideas
and differing linguistic base.  I agree that it has been
falsely named, but think that many today are unaware that
it has been so.

# You don't have to be a Jew to learn about the kabbalah; 
# you don't even need to learn Hebrew. You just need to study 
# the subject from authentic, scholarly Jewish sources, rather 
# than by latching on to obsolete Edwardian English "hermetic" 
# pseudo-Egyptian, pseudo-Christian, pseudo-Gnostic 
# mis-translations and mis-interpretations which can at
# best supply you with a third-hand mis-introduction to a 
# paltry portion of the wide-ranging Hebrew texts. 

:> brilliant.  this was also Tim the occultist's point, and I
of course agree.  however, I don't really think that those who
ask about "the qabalah" really want to learn about Jewish
mysticism and magic and all that is included in it.  instead,
I think that most who come to the Hermetic forums to ask about
"qabalah" want to know about gematria, especially about the
creation of an associative symbol-construct which has been said
to achieve the grandoise things promoted by Rosicrucians,
Goldawnians and Crowleyites for decades and centuries.  they
want to believe that gematria is all there is to this big
honking nugget that they presume lies at the center of their
ancestor's Christian mysteries ("those sad Jews who didn't
understand their own mysticism, we'll have to show them what
it means...").

# Here is a parallel: The bulk of the Thelemites who are now 
# online do NOT hold the opinion that Crowley's poorly conceived 
# musings on the Chinese I Ching -- based on the very bad 
# translation by Legge (all he had available) -- were an 
# ACTUAL account of the I Ching and its place in Chinese 
# religious philosophy. 

# One reason for the lack of Crowleyite fanaticicm in this realm 
# was that even back in the 1960s, every hippie in the world who 
# had read the better, later translation of the I Ching by Wilhelm 
# and Baynes, flawed though it was, could see the daftness in 
# Crowley's abortive attempt to work with the material through 
# Legge's mis-interpretation.

the reason that this is a poor parallel is that Crowley considered 
the Changes classic to be a book, rather than a literary
and cultural tradition, and this is how it is seen even today
by the popular mind: as a single book which yields
fortune-telling results by flipping coins or tossing sticks or 
some such "superstitious nonsense" and consulting its contents
(compare this with considering it as a confluence of commentary
and analysis as part of Chinese religion of varying types).

no, the better parallel is YOGA, in which Crowley is presumed
by his cultists (without anything to back it up, from what I can 
tell, other than some questionable diary entries and some photos 
which portray the man in some postures) to have 'mastered' this
Indian mystical system.

Crowley isn't doing anything NEW here. he is merely following
on the heels of many Hermetic orientalists who preferred
to engage a kind of propagandistic competition in order to
further their religious cult's ascendance.  he integrates the
Patanjalic ideas he got from his latest translation of the
sutras (raja yoga) into his magical system as a PRECURSOR to
magical practice (rather than as the discipline itself -- I
have criticized this elsewhere and can refer you to posts I
made to the Crowleyite community which challenged them to
demonstrate some cultural connection he may have had).

on the face of it this is ludicrous. Indian masters have for
countless ages warned against seeing siddhis (powers, often
mystical or magical) as the goals or objectives, but instead
as TRAPS.  but Crowley is just redefining the terms for his
own benefit and promotes his own method of 'spiritual
development' (nee mysticism) under the name associated with
the acquisition and utilization of power (magic, spelled in
his revised standard so as to differentiate his mysticism
from that of others, whether Hermetic or something based in
its own social culture).

in this way Crowley should be seen as one of a long line of
orientalists and charlatans (reaching a kind of height of
ridiculous attention-grabbing and controversy in the figure
of Anton LaVey, though others surely attempted something
similar), and his mysticism should best be described as a
variant on Golden Dawn Hermeticism integrating his own
religious philosophy and mythology as well as a scientific
attitude (expressed most profoundly in _Book Four_).

his usage of the terminology of cultures not his own is a
reflection of his English upbringing and the imperialist
attitudes of many Europeans who encountered and represented
to the world the 'mysterious lands of the East'.  his type
of writing should be dismissed as anything reputable
concerning world mysticism and seen for its merits as a
Hermetic enterprise which espouses questionable disciplines
under the guise of world mystical traditions in order to
pass them off as authoritative.

at its worst this constitutes fraud of the worst sort, and
Crowleyites and other Hermetics ought to be faulted for not
admitting this and coming to terms with the imperialistic
ways of those in their tradition (e.g. Agrippa, Levi and
Mathers).  at its best it represents the hope of the
construction of a world-cultural mysticism  (or at least a
prototype) that serves to promote cultural diversity and
acceptance of a number of differing ideologies and religious
imperatives, unifying them into a syncretic and compassionate
utopian system for the benefit of all human beings.

this latter ideal is a part of many new religious faiths and
utopian societies, however badly they tend to succeed in this 
endeavor, often stumbling back into the religious culture which 
gave them birth (e.g. Baha'i and Islam, a variety of American
Christian utopians, among others I'm sure are very common).  

as part of the Renaissance World Order, I think that many of
the Hermetics had their hearts in the right place even while
they were religiously biggotted and humongously ignorant of
the consequences of their cultural appropriation.

# ...I will not, however, stand by while late 20th century 
# Thelemites keep on trotting out their mentors' tired, 
# erroneous, thread-bare pseudo-explanations of what the 
# kabbalah really is. It won't wash. Not in the light of 
# modern scholarship. 

in response to them I will, in attempting to analyze what
they mean by Hermetic "qabalah", describe their activities 
as 'Hermetic gematria attempting to pass itself off as kabbalah'
('Christian cabala' appears to be appropriation of the kabbalah
of Judaism for the purposes of conversion and aggrandizement;
'Hermetic qabalah' seems to be mostly gematria trying to pass
for Jewish wisdom; 'Neognostic qaballa' of the Crowleyites seems
to be an offshoot of 'Hermetic qaballa' which is struggling to
reproduce the Jewish original inside their own culture and try
to pass it off as that to which their forebears referred as the
source of all religious authority and mystery).

# To all such deluded people, i adjure you: If you REALLY want to 
# know about the kabbalah instead of confusing yourself with 
# Bennet & Co.'s silly errors, go out and buy a copy of Gershon 
# Scholem's "Kabbala" and it....

and if you want to learn what these quasi-QBLs contain, then you
have been given quite a number of names and sources to follow up
on in your research.  if those who don't like my current
assessments base don't like my current assessments based on the
latest batch of research and discussion I've engaged, then I
would love to hear a refutation based on something more than
claims about your authority and how what has been done in the
name of mystical advancement is necessary even while culturally

thanks Tim and cat for pointing out valuable resources from which
to obtain insights into the Jewish mystical culture.

-- (emailed replies may be posted); cc me replies;;

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