What Is Kabbalah?

 
 

What Is Kabbalah?

Kabbalah has been clouded in confusion, legend, myth, and misrepresentation because authentic Kabbalah has been hidden for thousands of years... until today

 

Although its origins are rooted in deep antiquity, from the time of ancient Babylon, the wisdom of Kabbalah has remained virtually hidden from humanity since it appeared more than four thousand years ago. To this very day, only a few know what Kabbalah really is.

For millennia, humanity was offered a wide variety of things under the name “Kabbalah”: spells, curses, and even miracles - all except for the method of Kabbalah itself. For over four thousand years, common understanding of Kabbalah has been cluttered with misconceptions and misinterpretations.

Therefore, first and foremost, the wisdom of Kabbalah needs to be made clear. Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) provides the following definition in his article "The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah":

This wisdom is no more and no less than a sequence of roots, which hang down by way of cause and effect, in fixed, determined rules, interweaving to a single, exalted goal described as, “the revelation of His Godliness to His creatures in this world.”

In simpler words, there is an upper, all-inclusive force, or “the Creator,” controlling everything in reality. All the world’s forces descend from this comprehensive force. Some of these forces are familiar to us, such as gravity or electricity, while there are forces of a higher order that act while remaining hidden to us.

Kabbalah holds the map or the knowledge of how these hidden forces are structured, and the laws by which they influence us. It teaches us (through books such as The Zohar and other means) how to develop a sense of these forces, and finally, discover their only purpose – to bring us to the revelation of the Creator, the all-inclusive law of nature, while living in this world.

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Kabbalah Tree of Life

Kabbalah Definition

The wisdom of Kabbalah has been shrouded in myths and misconceptions. Here is Kabbalah's definition.

 

The wisdom of Kabbalah has been connected to religion, mysticism, yoga, tarot cards, numerology, astrology, charms, amulets, magic and that a person must be at least 40 years of age in order to study.

The reason for the misconceptions is that Kabbalah is thousands of years old. The first person who discovered the wisdom of Kabbalah was Adam HaRishon, who lived over 5,000 years ago. The wisdom developed from Adam HaRishon's time until a significant transition in the wisdom took place around 2,000 years ago, which left only a few unique individuals to engage in it, i.e. in its authentic form.

Since then, Kabbalistic writings have passed through the hands and minds of millions of people. Likewise, many who have encountered Kabbalah have blended it with their own backgrounds, teachings and understandings, without attaining what authentic Kabbalah was intended for. This ongoing mixture over the generations has given rise to the numerous misconceptions (read more about the misconceptions in the "Kabbalah and Magic" section of this page, and in the "Myths about Kabbalah" section of the website).

So what is Kabbalah then? As written above, Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag's definition of the wisdom of Kabbalah is as follows:

This wisdom is no more and no less than a sequence of roots, which hang down by way of cause and effect, in fixed, determined rules, interweaving to a single, exalted goal described as, "the revelation of His Godliness to His creatures in this world."

In plain English, this definition can break down to the following:

Kabbalah is a method by which any person can attain a higher level of reality.

It is important to note that it is a method, an empirical method, not a belief. Also, any person can study it, regardless of race, gender or nationality. "Attainment" means a clear perception and sensation, not an idea, theory or philosophy.

The higher level of reality that one attains through correct Kabbalah study has been given many names. As you can see in Baal HaSulam's above definition, he uses the words "His Godliness" to define the higher level of reality. You will also find words in Kabbalistic texts such as the "Upper Force," "Upper Light," "the Creator," "Nature," "God," "the Lord" and "the King," all describing that higher level of reality.

What do these terms define?

They define a quality of bestowal and love, which is the source of everything that exists in reality. This quality is also defined as a desire to bestow, often cited as a "will to bestow."

Opposite the higher level of reality is us in our current level of reality. You could call it the "lower level of reality." As the quality of the higher level of reality is bestowal, opposite to it is the quality of reception, also called the "will to receive." That is the quality of what is called "the creation" in the wisdom of Kabbalah, or in Baal HaSulam's above definition, "the creatures."

This then brings about the question: If the wisdom of Kabbalah is a method where any person, while alive in this lifetime, can attain a higher level of reality, which means attaining access to a quality of bestowal, why would anybody want to do that?

The reasons why are as follows:

1) Transient Pleasure vs. Continuous Pleasure

In our current level of reality, every time we find pleasure, it dissipates. The pleasure neutralizes the desire. For example, if you're hungry and you really want to eat, and you're handed your favorite dish, then your first bite of that dish is pure bliss. The more you continue to eat, the lesser the pleasure you feel. At a certain point, you'll feel satiated: the desire to eat became quenched. Moreover, if you'd continue eating, the same action that was giving you pleasure a few moments ago, you'd start feeling sick.

Our problem in our current level of reality is that we don't know how to sustain and increase our enjoyment. As a will to receive pleasure, our inborn nature is such that pleasures fade away upon their reception, they don't increase.

The wisdom of Kabbalah teaches us how we can use our desire in a new direction, with what is called an "intention to bestow." By applying this new use of our desire, we can start feeling enjoyments in an opposite way to the way we currently feel them: where instead of enjoyments fading away upon their impact, they increase and become continuous.

2) Incomplete Perception vs. Complete Perception

We live in a world of consequences, not knowing why we're here, where we're from, where we're headed, what's the purpose of us being here, and how everything is connected. We perceive a small fragment of reality, limited within time, space and motion. No matter how much we learn throughout our lives and throughout our human history, we never reach a state where we feel we have complete perception. By attaining the higher level of reality, we add that part that we're missing in our current level of reality, and expanding our sense and understanding to form a complete picture.

3) Separation vs. Connection

We perceive ourselves as being separated from billions of other people, and many more animals, plants and objects. We construct our lives based on this separation, and encounter a life filled with struggles, pursuits and conflicts, often feeling like we just need to survive as best as we can until we ultimately perish. By attaining a higher level of reality, we attain connection to everything around us, seeing everything and everyone as pieces of a single puzzle, harmonious and integrated, like cells and organs in a healthily functioning body.

 
Meaning of Kabbalah

The Meaning of Kabbalah

The meaning of the word "Kabbalah" is "to receive."

 

In other words, Kabbalah is a wisdom of how to receive pleasure in its optimal form.

The way we receive pleasure optimally is by adding the intention to bestow above our reception of pleasure, which allows for the continuous sustenance of pleasure. The method of Kabbalah is in how to develop that intention to bestow above the will to receive.

Therefore, the suppression of desires has no place in Kabbalah. On the contrary, Kabbalah acknowledges the existence of each and every desire, and explains how we can best and most effectively use our desires to reach the perfection of the higher level of reality.

As we develop in our Kabbalah studies, we learn how to combine our inclinations and characteristics harmoniously, attaching them to the process we undergo. Many desires that appear negative to many people then spin into a positive direction. For example, take envy, lust, and honor. There is a Kabbalistic maxim that says, "Envy, lust, and honor bring a man out of the world" (Avot, 4:21).

The deeper meaning behind this maxim is that the world that envy, lust, and honor bring us out from is the world of the will to receive with no intention to bestow applied to it. The world they bring us to is the higher level of reality, i.e. where the intention to bestow rides the will to receive. This, however, can take place only if we channel these natural inclinations in a positive and beneficial direction, enabling us to attain the perception and sensation of the higher level of reality.

 
Is Kabbalah Magic?

Is Kabbalah Magic?

One of the popular misconceptions about Kabbalah is that it is magic.

 

However, there is no magic in Kabbalah.

The wisdom of Kabbalah is a method that develops our ability to monitor our destiny and be independent of magical forces and charms. In the writings of Kabbalist Isaac Luria, the Ari, he prohibited the use of charms because they offer only psychological support.

Although some people believe that certain objects hold magical forces, in truth, the magic lies in the psychological support that a person attributes to the objects. Although this psychological support could be helpful to a person in daily life, it has nothing to do with the attainment of the higher level of reality that Kabbalah speaks about.

Moreover, even if one can find some immediate solace in the psychological support of certain objects or actions, in the long term that person will not be in a better situation.

Through Kabbalah study, one enters into a connection with reality's causal force, and the connection to the source of reality overrides any influence of magicians or fortune tellers. They cease to be able to predict a Kabbalah student's life, because the Kabbalah student's connection to life's source shifts the person to a different, faster level of development, where the higher level of reality and nature work differently on such a person. Thus, in the long term, Kabbalah is the genuine solution for all kinds of problems a person encounters, since it allows the person to connect to the source of all problems and their remedies. As such, Kabbalists write about the wisdom of Kabbalah, that is a "potion of life."

 
Is Kabbalah Religion?

Is Kabbalah a Religion?

Another common misconception about Kabbalah is that is a religion or mysticism.

 

Put simply, Kabbalah is not religion nor mysticism.

There is nothing in the wisdom of Kabbalah about a belief in a higher power. On the contrary, the wisdom of Kabbalah is a science: a science of attaining how nature works and why.

Kabbalah teaches how any person can attain the revelation of the higher level of reality. It is written: "For they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them" (Jeremiah 31, 33). This means that every person will ultimately attain the complete perception and sensation of reality in its entirety, and not just the limited part we perceive with our five senses.

 
Kabbalah University

Why Is a Comprehensive Kabbalah University Appearing in Our Times?

Why Kabbalah is gaining so much popularity today, to a point where it's being studied worldwide.

 

 

Over the generations, humanity developed via four levels of desire:

Level

Purpose

Desires

Still

Preservation of form, species

Food, sex, family

Vegetative

Growth

Money

Animate

More freedom of movement

Honor, control, knowledge

Speaking

Attainment of the higher level of reality

Spirituality

 

Development of Desires

These desires exist within each individual, and also are expressed in humanity’s development.

At the still level, just like all the matter of still objects in our corporeal reality preserve those objects’ forms, likewise in humans: our desires for food, sex and family preserve our continuation as a species. In the earliest days of humanity’s evolution, people lived and worked only in order to fulfill these desires. Think of cave-dwellers. They would spend their days going out hunting and gathering food, and preparing shelter for themselves and their families in order to survive.

At the vegetative level, like how plants can grow, and absorb and excrete nutrients for their growth, likewise with humans: our desires for money make us grow in our integration with society. The desires at the still level are individual desires; everybody has them. However, vegetative desires (money), already relate to an exchange with other members of society, and start developing our social relationships. Think of those cave-dwellers living and working to supply for themselves and their families. At some point, they start realizing that they need to fence themselves off from other people, define their property in comparison to others’ property, and they start a system of trade.

 

At the animate level, like how animals can move from place to place, likewise with humans: desires for honor, control, pride, fame and knowledge increase our movement among human society. As a sign of a bigger desire, people start feeling the need to point out their uniqueness in relation to other people. In terms of our evolutionary picture, think of the people who started trading with each other. At a certain point, some people start thinking, “I can control this system.” Then, systems of control such as governments start forming, Also, people start priding themselves in what they produce, and wish to be honored for their products, services and efforts as being better than what other people offer and do. Knowledge then enters as a means to better understand, control, express ourselves and further make sense of our lives. We develop ever more intricately through science, technology and culture.

After all the aforementioned development reaches a certain satiation point, the next desire appears: the speaking desire. Just like how in corporeal reality, the speaking level is depicted by the human being appearing in nature, with an expanded ability to calculate his or her actions with seeming free choice: likewise, in the human being, the speaking level of desire is expressed as the desire for spirituality. Unlike the other desires, the goal of the desire for spirituality cannot be pictured in our corporeal world. For example, at the level of food, I can picture what it looks, smells, feels and tastes like to eat a certain meal. Similarly, I can picture the goals and fulfillments in the forms of sex, family, money, honor, control and knowledge. With spirituality, however, I cannot picture the goal. Not with my corporeal senses. That is why we have so many different beliefs, teachings and methods that each provide different answers and approaches for the question: “What’s the goal of life?”

This question about the goal – “What is the meaning of life?” - is the question that most fundamentally characterizes the desire for spirituality. While we cannot picture the goal of this desire’s fulfillment in our corporeal reality, we end up feeling this desire as a certain lack of or attraction to “something higher,” something different to what our current desires and senses offer us. In other words, we feel that desire for spirituality as a certain kind of dissatisfaction with all the other pleasures we can feel in food, sex, family, money, honor, control and knowledge. We still get enjoyments through these worldly pleasures. Yet, there is always some extra “space” within us, an emptiness that never finds its lasting fulfillment. It is in that space, behind and beyond the corporeal desires, where the question, “What is the meaning of life?” awaits us.

The wisdom of Kabbalah was made specifically for answering this question: “What is the meaning of life?” Moreover, Kabbalists throughout the generations pointed to our generation as the time when humanity en masse would start asking this question.

As Baal HaSulam writes, in item 2 of the “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot”:

Indeed, if we set our hearts to answer but one very famous question, I am certain that all these questions and doubts will vanish from the horizon, and you will look unto their place to find them gone. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, “What is the meaning of my life?”

The main difference between the era we are living in compared to past eras is that we have reached a limit in the amount of fulfillment we can receive through food, sex, family, money, honor, control and knowledge. Due to a larger desire opening up that cannot be fulfilled by pleasures at those levels, humanity starts trying to extract more pleasures from those same corporeal desires. No matter how much variety and decoration we apply to the ways we receive our food, sex, family, honor, control and knowledge, the feeling of questioning the essence and meaning of our lives constantly lurks, gradually growing stronger.

This is the desire that we work with in the wisdom of Kabbalah. It is called the “point in the heart.” That is, “heart” is defined as the totality of our desires (food, sex, family, money, honor, control, knowledge), and the “point in the heart” is the desire for spirituality, i.e. the desire to discover the meaning of life.

That is why, today, such a comprehensive Kabbalah University is appearing in our times. It is because today, the desire for spirituality has started developing in humanity. An increasing amount of people are looking for answers in the form of proof – a clear perception and sensation that fulfills this newly emerging desire.

This is the purpose of the wisdom of Kabbalah: to fulfill this growing desire for spirituality characteristic to our era. By attaining the higher level of reality, a person experiences fulfillment in place of that empty feeling that s/he cannot fulfill in the corporeal desires.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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Bnei Baruch's Mission

Bnei Baruch is a non-profit organization for teaching and sharing the wisdom of Kabbalah. To maintain its independence and integrity, Bnei Baruch is not supported, funded, or otherwise tied to any government, religious or political entity. Its success in disseminating the Wisdom of Kabbalah to the world is directly related to the contribution of personal time and financial support by its students.