What is Hermetic Kabbalah?
Kabbalah is not a religion per se. Kabbalah is defined as the secret, mystical, magical, philosophical and religious teachings developed by Jewish scholars. Kabbalah provides a key to the interpretation of the Spiritual Teachings, the hidden meanings of the scriptures. The Kabbalah studied by the Mystery traditions has incorporated much deeper knowledge and is defined as the Hermetic Kabbalah.
In Hebrew, the word Kabbalah means tradition. It is derived from the root Qebal which means to receive. This hidden meaning refers to the oral tradition of Kabbalah—transmitted from mouth to ear, teacher to student. There are many different spellings of what we are going to call Kabbalah in this and throughout our teachings. When it is translated into English it is sometimes spelled Kabbalah, Cabala, or Kabbalah depending on the tradition of the writer. Many traditions that include the teaching of Kabbalah spell it differently depending on the aspect they are working with. For example, Kabbalah and Cabala are sometimes used to refer to the teachings of the Jewish faith. Kabbalah is sometimes used by various traditions to refer to the hermetic, magickal, alchemical side of these teachings.
The Kabbalah was said to have been taught by God to the Angels in Heaven. When Man was expelled from the Garden of Eden, Ratziel, the Archangel of Wisdom was commissioned to communicate the teachings to Adam (first man) so mankind might use them to regain the Garden of Eden (Heaven on Earth). If you think of the Origins of the Mystery Schools, you will notice this is another way to describe the way knowledge is transmitted from the Elders to the Initiates.
Historically, the ancient teachings were brought out of Egypt by the Hebrews when they emigrated from that land. The Hebrew records that are published today as the Christian Bible tell of several Hebrew Prophets trained in the traditions of the Egyptian Temples.
The knowledge of Kabbalah was enriched and renewed during the time the Hebrews were imprisoned in Babylon. During this time, the intellectual and spiritual elite of the Hebrew nation met and studied with the Chaldean Metaphysicians. As a result of this connection to the Babylonian mysteries, the Jews adopted the Chaldean system of Gematria (numerology) and the use of the Chaldean square “Flame Alphabet.” This is a system for written communication that is much more than it appears. The Flame Alphabet, or Fire Letters as they are called, is a system of meditation keys, with a built in code to reveal magickal correspondences.
Later, we can trace the Kabbalah to the School of the Prophets founded by the Prophet Samuel at Mt. Carmel. It was taught and practiced there. Over time the school developed into the Essene center of Initiation that continued to operate until the time of Jesus. There is a belief in many of the mystery schools that Jesus received his training at this temple.
After the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem, a Qabalistic technique known as “Merkabah” or “Chariot Mysticism” spread. This is the technique for using ritual to ascend the tree Sephirah (Sphere) by Sephirah. In Western history, major Qabalistic schools have existed in Alexandria, Egypt, Fez, Morocco, and the South of Spain.
Medieval Spain’s culture was a melting pot between three great Western cultures—the Christian, the Moorish, and the Jewish. The Kabbalah was expanded and enriched by the interchange of knowledge until the Jews were driven from Spain in 1492. This aspect of the Kabbalah spread all over Europe as the Jews carried it out of the Spanish Culture and settled in various places. Francis Yates, in The Occult Philosophy of the Elizabethan Age, gives a historical review of how this wisdom carried by the scattered Jewish scholars became one of the major factors that began the Renaissance of Europe.
Two great teaching centers developed from this migration. One was in Florence under the protection of Cosmo de Medici. This center produced the scholars Marsilio Ficino, Pico de Mirandola, and Giorgi. These three men are called the Fathers of the Italian Renaissance. These three individuals were responsible for developing what became known as the Christian Cabala.
The second center has been called the “Shangri-La of Kabbalah” and was located in a small town in Galilee called Safed. This town was almost completely dedicated to the study and practice of the mystical tradition of Kabbalah. It was said that on most evenings you could see the processions of young Kabbalists dancing through the streets, on their way to the “secret” meetings. This center produced the Adepts Moses Cordevero and Isaac Luria.
The combination of these influences came to be called the Hermetic Kabbalah. The term “Hermetic” is a reference to the teachings of the ancient Egyptian Master of Masters, Hermes Trismegistus. Hermes is credited with founding astrology and discovering alchemy.
The mighty current of energy behind the Hermetic Kabbalah became the mainstream of the Western Mystery Tradition. As historians are beginning to realize, it strongly influenced the course of Western History.