Friday, September 30, 2011

Modern Kabbalah Basics & the Tree of Life

The ancient school of thought that is known as Kabbalah has recently enjoyed some newfound popularity in the past few years; because of celebrities such as Madonna, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Lady Gaga wearing Kabbalah bracelets and speaking out about Kabbalah's positive aspects, this practice has become a subject of newfound public interest. Ancient Kabbalah has much in common with the modern version with which we're currently familiar, but the modern version has evolved into something somewhat different as well.

Kabbalah's history originates in early Jewish mysticism. It has grown and evolved into various different forms since its beginnings, including Christian Cabbalah, Islamic Kabbalah, Practical Kabbalah, as well as more secular versions that we often see today, such as Hermetic Qabbalah (spelled with a "Q" to differentiate it from the other versions, as opposed to those which are specifically associated with the Abrahamic religions). Many modern practitioners of Kabbalah are not affiliated with any specific spiritual doctrine, instead choosing to treat it as an independent school of mystic thought.

The origins of Kabbalah are said to have begun with Moses himself, as legends have told that he received Kabbalah teachings on Mount Sinai; the ten commandments were to be distributed freely and taught to everyone, yet the Kabbalistic teachings were reserved only for a chosen few, to be practiced with utter secrecy and shared with extreme discretion. Another legend involving the Kabbalistic origins says that these mystic teachings were with mankind from the very beginning of our existence, bestowed to Adam at the time of his banishment from the Garden of Eden.

Although there are many mystical and spiritual teachings within the Torah and other Judaic writings, the Kabbalah was considered to be the most important of these at the height of its prevalence. Kabbalistic tenets are viewed by many as highly spiritualized information that transcends the beliefs of most organized religions, and therefore is more spiritually flexible and can apply to people of various faiths. Because of this flexibility, Kabbalistic teachings have moved from being a strictly Judaic faith-based concept into a more secularized version of itself, to provide motivation, insight, and strength to people of all different spiritualities and cultures. The modern-day study of this ancient practice is associated with the "Perennial Philosophy," which is the concept that there are truths which overlap throughout all of the world's primary religions. The Kabbalah's tenets are utilized to help recognize and build upon the philosophies of various spiritual traditions, by eliminating all except the very basics of each teaching.

The mystical properties of Kabbalistic teachings are such that, instead of directing the practitioner to conduct of a strict set of rules and practices, it will instead guide each seeker on a path which is personal in nature, even while the practice is a communal and social one. The journey of Kabbalah is one of mystic philosophy, as opposed to one which is based on a strictly religious dogma.

The essence of the Kabbalah's teachings is condensed in a diagrammed classification system which is known as the Tree of Life. This image is comprised of ten spheres (called sephiroth), representing objective existence; these are connected by a total of twenty-two paths which represent the human condition. it has 10 spheres, or sephiroth, and 22 paths connecting them, which represent the human condition. The Tree of Life serves as an implement which can be used to study and compare religious thought as well; in fact, it was described as a "spiritual filing cabinet." by occultist Aleister Crowley.

 The Tree of Life can also be applied toward other practices, including rituals and meditation, as well as being used in the philosophical method which was its original intent. Each sephiroth and path can be associated with archangels, angels, spirits, and other symbols which represent the nature of these entities.

Additionally, much of the magical property of Kabbalistic practice can be explained through modern scientific thought. An ideal example of this would be the invocation, where a Kabbalistic practitioner will call upon a spiritual power within him- or herself. It can be thought of as a supernatural occurrence, however when one applies scientific knowledge to this practice, it can also be explained as a psychological phenomenon of one who is able to harness their own subconscious mental energies.

You don't need to be Jewish, or even religious at all, to appreciate the Kabbalah and to enjoy the ways that its mysteries can enhance your life.

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