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Mysticism in Judaism and Kabbalah

Mysticism in Judaism and Kabbalah



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Published by bgeller4936

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Published by: bgeller4936 on Aug 01, 2009
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"But if you listen with your heart to one famous quotation, I am sure that all your doubts as to whether you should study the Kabbalah will vanish without a trace. Thisquestion is a bitter and a fair one, asked by all born on earth: What is the meaning of life?"
 --Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag, Introduction to Talmud Eser Sfirot
 All things of which this world consists, spirits as well as bodies, will return to their principal, the root from which they proceeded.
(The Book of Splendour)
 Men find their happiness in religion and the world, Deliver me from both; thus in my happiness,To be enamoured of Thee, is my desire vain; Drop then the veil, and let me look.
 --Sarmad, Jewish Mystic
Throughout the ages, there has been a branch of knowledge, which focuses on thedomain of the spirit. Spiritual existence is that which is never lost. The common coreof most religions is devotional mysticism, based on the Sound Current, Word, orHoly Name. It is rooted in meditation (inner journeys) whether it appears inJudaism, Sufism, Tantra, Taoism, etc. While science explores outer phenomena, thefield of mysticism explores the inner realms, which can be perceived only by oursoul. A study of the different major religions reveals that each has an esoteric core.The essence of each religion is the union of the soul with God.Mysticism is the study of how we can achieve this divine communion with the Lord.Martin Buber explained that the ecstasy is not a sudden absorption into theUniversal Soul, but a steady progress forward, progress which is constant and well-controlled. God pervades the entire creation. The soul of man is a spark of Divinityand our principle duty is to take the soul back to its source. This can be done by thepower of Shekhina, the equivalent of the Name or Word, which is described as theEmanation and Glory of God whose presence and power sustain every creature. TheMasters or Zaddiks preached the banishing of all worldly desires and merging themin a single desire to meet God.The purpose of this introductory essay is to familiarize us with some importantaspects of the mystical tradition of Judaism. The Jews over the ages have tended todiscourage the practice of magic or practical qabalah, choosing instead to keep theiremphasis on love. Both Talmudic and Kabbalistic schools emphasize the need of mentors or Masters, well-familiar with the experiential territory. Nevertheless, anextremely useful generic map of the in-scape of mysticism was developed in JewishKabbalah, called the Tree of Life. Mysticism considers the human life as the fruit of the Tree of Life, and encourages meditation to unite with God on the path of Return
while still living. It describes each of the domains of the inner planes on the soul's journey back to reunion with God in its true Home, Kether. Kabbalah is the studyof the system of our spiritual roots which emanate from Above. There is none elsebut the Creator.According to contemporary Kabbalists of B'nai Baruch, "
The Kabbalah teaches the cause effect connection of our spiritual sources. Both mankind as a whole and each and every individual has to attain his highest point of understand the goal and the program of the creation in all of its fullness. In each generation there were people who by constant self work reached a certain spiritual level. In other words, while walkingup the ladder, they managed to reach the top. In the spiritual world the main factor of  discovery and comprehension is not time but rather purity of spirit, thought and  desire." The part of Kabbalah that deals with the study of form without matter is totally based on experimental control and therefore can be verified and tested!
"The kabbalistic imperative is to transcend the bounds of the ego. "
 How can a beginner master this science when he cannot even properly understand his teacher?The answer is very simple It is only possible when we spiritually lift ourselves up above this world. This is possible only if we rid ourselves of all of the traces of material egoism and accept the spiritual values as the only ones. Only the longing and the passion for the spiritual in our world, is the key for the higher world. A person's main objective is to elevate the importance of the Creator in his own eyes, i.e. to acquire faithin His greatness and might, since this is his only possibility to escape from the prison of  personal egoism, and into the higher worlds. The method of breaking free from the slavery of egoism is found in the Kabbalah. The worst egotism is arrogance and  conceit. Only those who engage in the study of Kabbalah for self-improvement will  benefit."
 These kabbalists say we must reach spiritual levels in order not to be reincarnated.We must perfect the parts of the soul,
,physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.Historical researches conducted in ancient Egypt have revealed that "what wasknown as the worship of the Word" was quite extensively prevalent during thetimes of the Pharaohs some 3,000 years ago. Moses, who organized a successfulrevolt of Jewish slave sin that country and led them on to the establishment of anindependent state of their own, was brought up in the court of a Pharaoh, and seemsto have been quite conversant with the worship of the Word.
(Excerpts from
The Holy Name
, Miriam Caravella, 1989, RS Satsang Beas)
According to the Bible, the prophet Moses communed with God "mouth to mouth."This implies a personal experience of the Divine -- a mystic experience. At God'sbehest, Moses brought the Torah -- the divine "teaching" or "revelation" -- to thechildren of Israel. Thus the early Israelites also had a direct mystical experience of God. Many of the patriarchs and prophets whose lives and teachings are given inthe Bible are described as mystics who heard God's "voice" and "Word," who
relied on His "Name," and otherwise had direct communion with Him. According toJ. Abelson, an early twentieth-century scholar of Jewish mysticism, "Jewishmysticism is as old as the Old Testament...The Old Testament scintillates withsublime examples of men whose communion with God was a thing of intense realityto them."It is important to remember that the Hebrew Bible as we know it today is not anexact and accurate rendering of the words of the mystics and prophets.Contemporary scholars, tracing the styles of several scribes in its narratives, haveconcluded that the Hebrew Bible is probably the work of several authors of different periods, with differing purposes and levels of spiritual attainment.Throughout history, scribes and scholars of all religions have subtly altered theteachings of the mystics, albeit unintentionally. Because they were not of the samespiritual level as the mystics whose works they were attempting to record, andbecause they were often writing from memory, these scribes may have unwittinglymisinterpreted or obscured the mystics' teachings. In many places in the Bible,therefore, the mystical aspects or implications of the prophets' message may actuallyhave been lost.Mystics often couched their teachings in parables and symbols, so that the deepermeaning of their words would be hidden to all but their closest disciplines. In someinstances, for example, where the prophets appear to be speaking about political orsocial issues, they may have also been speaking on a mystical or esoteric level, withthe political or social situation used as an allegory or symbol.During the period of the prophets, the priestly classes were the primary authority inJudaism. The priests performed specific religious functions in the temple inJerusalem, and in daily Jewish life as well. With the destruction by the Romans of the second temple in the year 70 C.E., the role of the priestly classes began to changeand their power started started diminishing. The institution of the "rabbi" (literally,"teacher," or "master"), as the primary authority in Judaism, arose during the firstand second centuries C.E., becoming greatly strengthened during the period of Islamic rule, and continuing until today.The discovery of the scrolls at Qumran and other long-hidden early texts revealsthat, from the second century B.C.E. and possibly even earlier, there were severalascetic and possibly mystical sects coexisting with the mainstream of organizedpriestly Judaism. It is believed that John the Baptist, and probably even jesus of nazareth, came from one of these sects, the Essenes.The teachings of Philo Judaeus, the first-century Jewish mystic of Alexandria,Egypt, are of great interest from the mystical point of view. Philo wrote about Godas the Word or Logos. For many centuries, Philo had more influence on Christianitythan on Judaism, because until the 1700s his writings were hardly known to Jewishscholars and theologians. In the same spirit as Philo, the commentators Onkelos andJonathan ben Uzziel, in their Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible, renderedthe name of God Jehovah (wherever it appears) as the
or "utterance,"clearly a reference to the creative Word, or Sound, of God.

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