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"Kabbalah Revealed" Episode 1: A Basic Overview


An introduction to “what Kabbalah is” and “what Kabbalah isn’t” through overviewing some of Kabbalah's basic concepts, and the difference between authentic Kabbalah and how Kabbalah is popularly viewed.


Kabbalah Revealed #1: A Basic Overview


Lecture presented for the American television channel, Shalom TV, in association with Kabbalah TV

Anthony Kosinec

July 13, 2006


  • Bold and indented: Original text of Baal HaSulam
  • Regular: Commentaries of Tony Kosinec
  • lowercase italics: emphasized words
  • Capitalized Italics: transliteration from Hebrew

Hello and welcome to Kabbalah Revealed. I’m Tony Kosinec. I’m one of the students of Rav Michael Laitman, who is the direct disciple of Rav Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag, who is the son and direct disciple of Rav Yehuda Ashlag—Baal HaSulam, better known as “The Master of the Ladder,” who was acknowledged as the pre-eminent Kabbalist of the twentieth century.

I give you those credentials because there is such a thing as a teaching lineage within Kabbalah, and what we are going to speak about is authentic Kabbalah. We’re going to give you a perspective, not of scholars, but of practitioners—people who are Kabbalists. In this series, you’ll not only get an overview of authentic Kabbalah, but also the keys—the basic concepts, the ways of approaching this wisdom so that it can open to you—because it is a way of study, a way of thinking, and a way of feeling which is very different from our normal sense of things, and it requires, as any skill does, a mastery of the basics. In our series of twenty or so lessons, we will cover all of the ones that are important for you to know.

Let’s start with an overview of Kabbalah, because there’s a great deal of confusion about it. There’s a lot of information about Kabbalah out there. There are, I think, maybe a thousand books a year published on the subject and almost none of them have anything to do at all with Kabbalah; they’re just some kind of a mish mash of people’s imaginations of what they think it could be, what it should be, their intuition, their imagination, and it’s not their fault. There’s a great longing to know what Kabbalah actually is because there is a sensation that it’s important, that it’s powerful, and that it has a grasp of something that is hidden in this world.

It’s called “the hidden science” for three reasons. One—It has been purposely hidden by the practitioners of Kabbalah themselves, by the Kabbalists. Kabbalah started four thousand years ago with Abraham, around the year 1947-1948 BCE (Before the Common Era). For that period of time—two thousand years—until the beginning of the common era, the destruction of the second temple, it was not hidden, it was widely taught. You know the stories of Abraham, sitting by the door of his tent and welcoming travelers to come in, and he would show his hospitality. Well, what he was actually doing was that he was feeding them and he was teaching them about the wisdom of Kabbalah. The type of souls that lived at that time in this world were a little bit more refined than the souls that live now and they understood it more naturally.

But something occurred at the beginning of the Common Era, at the destruction of the temple, that made it impossible for people of that generation and for the two thousand years that followed to really understand anything in Kabbalah. That’s the point at which religions appeared; that’s the point at which speculation about how this world works, what the universe is, what the Creator is and so on grew up in the imaginations of people according to a particular principle that leapt to the forefront within the human being and their development. This quality within people prevented them from understanding, so the Kabbalists hid it.

If you don’t have access to something, you still have the books. The problem is that it’s also called the hidden wisdom because the books themselves are written in a very special language unbeknownst to the people who are reading them. All the books of Kabbalah are written in a language called “language of branches” in which they use words from our world—objects, cup, book, table, family, travels, wars—all of these things that you see in the five books of Moses and all the other Kabbalistic books, but they’re not speaking of anything in this world. Not a single word of any Kabbalistic book is referring to anything in this world. It only refers to the forces above, which create and sustain the things that appear in this world.

The Kabbalists used a special language that would indicate what they were really speaking about, and only a student who had attained a certain wisdom would be able to understand and hear it that way. Now you have to understand that the world that we live in is not a world of causes—it’s a world of outcomes. There is nothing that we do in this world that has any effect whatsoever on the Upper World where our source comes from, where the things that we see in this world take their roots. No physical action has any effect on it and that’s why none of the things that we do in order to solve our problems here in this world have any effect whatsoever on their outcome. Only a connection to the roots, to the causal level of things, can have any effect whatsoever and this is what Kabbalah deals with.


Our reality as a whole is structured in such a way that there is a world that exists above, so to speak, and a world that exists below. The language of branches points to what exists in the world below. It speaks about this object, let’s say “a family”; you’ll read about it in the Torah. The Torah appears to be the story about the Jewish people. Well, a family will move to a location called “a land,” but the Kabbalists are not speaking about this at all. They are speaking about the abstract forces Above, that actually create these things and make them occur. Only a wise student can understand what’s really going on here. [Referring to the drawing] This is the branch level, and this is the root level. Unless a person learns how to read and understand the key to this language called “language of branches,” they will continue to see things as they exist in this world.

As a result of those two aspects of hiddenness of Kabbalah and because of a lack of contact with the teaching lineage and the real methodology, people have still needed to know, but they’ve had to fantasize, they’ve had to make concoctions of things, and they’ve gone according to what they could understand without the correct teaching and without the proper inner properties that would allow them to understand it.

A lot of myths have grown up, and we will deal with these in a little more detail when we talk about some of the other basic concepts of Kabbalah. Just a couple of the major ones are that Kabbalah is Jewish mysticism. Well, it is neither a religion nor is it mysticism. Kabbalah predates religion. Religion is a phenomenon of disconnection from the Upper Force, of speculation, and a misunderstanding of Kabbalah, even though it has a formal similarity with it because the Kabbalists created Halacha, they created the books that we study and consider to be holy books. Our traditions and so on come from them, but their purpose, the meaning of them, what the books are actually written for and what they speak about; we are not very well in touch with these things. The relationship with Judaism is like Kabbalah and amnesia.

As far as mysticism goes, Kabbalah is a science, it is not mysticism. It’s a way of making a direct connection with things that seem to us magical and unfathomable only because we, in our current state of awareness, don’t understand how they work. It’s the same as if you brought a lighter to some tribe that lived on a desert island that had never seen any technology at all; you would be the god of fire, some mystical creature that can produce fire out of your hand. It’s simply a matter of what is hidden and what is revealed.

That it’s magic? Well, magic implies the use of hidden upper forces in order to manipulate people to get what you want and to cause certain outcomes for your benefit or against other people and so on. But it is impossible to make any contact with the Upper Forces at all unless a person changes their moral inner nature. The attainment within Kabbalah is a matter of inner transformation and it is impossible to be in contact with the forces without that. This simply has nothing to do with anything except somebody’s vivid imagination.

Only a few people are allowed to study Kabbalah and there are conditions, the conditions being that you have to be Jewish. This is not so, because the Kabbalists all along taught people who were not Jewish by birth. Some of the greatest Kabbalists, in fact, were gentiles—people of other nations such as Ancholos, Rabbi Akiva, and the list goes on. All Kabbalists took students who were worthy students, not based on some kind of physical attribute, but on an inner attribute that is called “Yechud,” and we’ll explain that later.

That you had to have mastered preliminary wisdom—Gmarrah, Mishna and so on—before you can study Kabbalah well. If you don’t understand what’s written in Torah or Gmarrah, then you’re not going to understand Kabbalah either. It’s not that you need these preliminary wisdoms, it’s that if you cannot find spirituality in these preliminary wisdoms, you must move to books that talk directly about spirituality in a way that they can’t be mistaken for things of this world, like the language in which the Torah is written, or the language of stories, Haggadah, and so on.

Amulets and protection, and the use of letter and number manipulations in order to create stuff and to protect people from evil…Well, this is the complete and total opposite of what Kabbalah deals with. In fact, it’s completely forbidden. It’s considered as idolatry that one should use the Upper Forces for some selfish, personal reason here. Besides that, there is nothing to be protected from. So holy water, amulets, red strings and so on are psychological things and they have absolutely nothing to do with Kabbalah.

Finally, there’s the mixture of Kabbalah with eastern religions. Since we didn’t know anything, we made an association with Buddhism or with aspects of Hinduism that deal openly with spirituality, and that’s only because spirituality from the books of the Kabbalists were not open.

However, that’s changed. As of 1995, all books of the Kabbalah were open. The only requirement for Kabbalah, to be accepted as a student, and that you should feel safe and comfortable in looking at Kabbalah and seeking the thing that you need—the only requirement for Kabbalah is that you have a need for it. That your answers as to why things happen and to the meaning of your life and your role in it—if these things cannot be answered anywhere else, that’s the requirement. And all the great Kabbalists have said so.

From the time of the Ari on, he said the only requirement was this desire. Rav Kook, who was himself a great Kabbalist and even the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, when he was asked who can study Kabbalah, he said everyone. So, it’s not so.

Finally, my favorite is that if you study Kabbalah you’ll go mad. It’s my favorite because it’s like everything else, it’s just the way that things appear. There are kinds of inner changes that a person goes through as a result of attainment in Kabbalah, of the understanding and connection with realty, the pleasure that they get, the source of the pleasure that they get is very different from a normal way of thinking. It’s opposite because it is the kind of thought that exists in the spiritual world. So to somebody who has an opposite goal from spirituality, a person may appear insane, but not really.

The third reason that Kabbalah is called “the hidden science” is because it deals with what is hidden from our five senses. It answers a question that can’t be answered any other way. It answers, basically, “What is the meaning of life?” This is a deep and severe question, because a person who has this question and cannot find the answer in what their traditions tell them, in what their science tells them, in what art and literature tells them, in what psychology tells the—a person who simply cannot be satisfied with anything but the answer to this question, “What is the meaning of my life?” is a person who is ready to sense beyond the five senses.

[begins drawing]

The books of Kabbalah tell us that we live in the whole of reality. There is a totality of reality and that’s where we actually exist, except that we have no sense of it. We have a completely restricted sense of what we are and where we are, so much so that we don’t know what will happen in the next moment of our lives. We do not know why things happen, when they happen, where we came from, where we are, and where we’re going.

[continues drawing]

There exists a complete and total reality and this reality is divided and reduced into a system called “worlds.” By means of five worlds, the complete reality, an unending Light, becomes reduced to a brightness by which we can perceive. [Referring to the drawing] This first world is called “the world of Adam Kadmon,” the next world is Atzilut, the next is Beria, then the world of Yetzira, and then Assiya. You can think of these as levels of consciousness, closeness or distance as it descends from this complete reality, from connection and awareness to it, until finally we reach a disconnecting point called “the Machsom” or “the barrier” [ed. Machsom is Hebrew for “barrier”].

These are spiritual worlds. Below this barrier is our world. Here, we have absolutely no sensation of the spiritual worlds, of the place that we actually live and where we came from. Here we have limited sensations that are called “corporal” or “physical.” This complete Light and whole of reality, by which, if we knew this were connected with it, we would be able to direct our destiny, we would stop making mistakes, we would understand the forces that guide us, and we would become connected with them to such a degree that we would be able to live life in its fullest and for the benefit of all life.

[continues drawing]

Yet, just as Kabbalah itself has been hidden from us, so has this force—this complete reality—been purposely hidden from us, reduced through these levels, by a system of 125 steps into this world. What Kabbalah is meant for is to allow a person to trace their steps from the descent into this world back through the 125 steps, all the way to our root in the spiritual world, our source and connection with the totality of reality.

In order for us to be able to achieve that, this benevolent force which we call “the Creator” has purposely created a system for us. In other words, this map of creation is not the end of creation—it’s the halfway point; it’s a process by which we descended from our roots in the spiritual world to the state that we’re in now in order to fulfil the plan of creation itself, in order to rejoin this totality of reality.

All of the books of Kabbalah, including our Torah, Mishna and Gmarrah, speak only about the states that are found at these levels, both of the reduction as our soul fell from this complete connection, and of the states that we find on the ascent back up. The method of Kabbalah is the means by which a person can begin to sense and enter the spiritual world.

Now, in order to do that, a person needs to be taught what they are made of, what it is that prevents them from the entry into this world, and how they can gain a sense of the spiritual again. This takes a very special material, very directly created for the purpose of allowing a person to enter the spiritual world.

The books of Kabbalah are written in the language of branches and they are very difficult for us to understand. It’s no wonder that we have great difficulty in being able to use them on the surface level to learn anything about how we can enter this higher reality. But the great gift of Kabbalah is that in our generation, since 1995 when the wisdom was opened to the world as a whole and to those who really need it, special books have been prepared for us. These books were written, commentaries written by Baal HaSulam and by Rabash, his son and his disciple, that for the first time were not written for Kabbalists already in the spiritual world. They were written for people who wish to enter the spiritual world. They are written in a special language that allows a person to get a foothold on the first rung of the ladder.

It’s from these books, in the lessons to come, that we are going to take our sources. We are going to look at what the quality is that keeps us out of the spiritual world, what it is that allows us to enter the spiritual world, and the method revealed in the science of Kabbalah through the works of Baal HaSulam.

The wisdom of Kabbalah teaches a practical method of attaining the Upper world and the source of our existence. By realizing our true purpose in life, man attains perfection, tranquility, unbounded enjoyment, and the ability to transcend the limits of time and space while still living in this world. —Rav Michael Laitman, PhD.

Join us next week as we begin this exciting journey.


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