For Christians, Jews, and even many of non-Abrahamic religions, Qabalah (Kabbalah, my usual spelling, has given way for this article to the more modern “Qabalah”; also spelled Cabala, among other variations) has been a keystone of spiritual thought and discipline for several centuries. Numerous concepts and correspondences have been mapped onto the central glyph, the Tree of Life, in many different configurations, in that time. All of these ideas have made Qabalah a beautiful and comprehensive philosophical structure, a vast temple of every piece of knowledge and experience to be had through human channels. As with most philosophies and spiritual traditions, though, a very few points of view inevitably stole attention and became “authoritative”.
These particular approaches to Qabalah, generally entitled the Western and Jewish qabalahs, are very useful and have proven themselves out over the past couple of centuries for their respective adherents. Unfortunately, the limitation of awareness to these two overarching approaches have caused them to lose sight of one another, and of all of the other approaches which have existed and which continue to be generated and evolved in the shadows of esoteric practice. The result has been the overall stultification of qabalistic exploration and an increasing inertia in the two systems.
So-called Western Qabalah practically stopped growing with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s system. Even those outgrowths which do periodically occur are largely just minor modifications of the Golden Dawn’s correspondences and methods. Jewish Qabalah has remained relatively fluid, although the emphasis is entirely upon interpreting, and putting into action, Torah. As Western occultism has become less and less religious, and as Chassidic Judaism has become increasingly “fundamentalist”, the two approaches diverge more dramatically all the time. Western Qabalah largely lacks Spirit; some of its greatest adherents and practitioners have referred to it as little more than a “filing cabinet for ideas”, leaving no room for spontaneity, grace and love. Jewish Qabalah largely lacks generosity; most practitioners disallow anybody outside of their particular denomination or group to study the subject, and display open hostility toward anybody, Jewish or not, who dares to study or practice Qabalah in any of its forms (outside of a few popularizations of the essential ideas, intended only to give fellow Jews a taste of what they’re missing in their unrighteousness).
Of course, there are exceptions worthy of our investigations. Jewish writers like the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, and Rabbi David Cooper have provided us with books full of historical, theological, philosophical and even practical materials full of Spirit and verve, but also imbued with a generous heart and an acknowledgement that anybody serious about their spiritual life can make use of these ideas and techniques to grow closer to God. Hermetic writers like Franz Bardon (in his ill-understood and underacknowledged Key to the True Quabbalah) and Rawn Clark (whose writings are all generously available for free at A Bardon Companion) provide an open-source Qabalah, available equally to all, full of religious love for the God Who lies back of all Qabalistic thought. These same Hermetic authors are not afraid to search the Jewish sources of all Qabalistic thought, just as all Hermetics must be willing to explore the Greek, Egyptian and Christian sources of their own traditions.
I will publish a lot of my own specific findings in an upcoming book on Christian Hermeticism. As a rule, though, all that is required of any Qabalist is a willingness to search out the hidden answers (and secret questions) through the disciplined and passionate application of Qabalistic techniques, both Jewish and Western. Then, and only then, will the Tree of Life erupt in blossom before your eyes, offering up its pomegranates freely.