The Tapestry of Esoterica: Kabbalah
By Jonathan McGregor Bethel & David Colin Healy
During ancient times, in the area of the world where modern, western civilization originated, the Jewish people were given a great secret, the esoteric system of the Holy Kabbalah. It is said that the Kabbalah was handed down to Adam from God through the angels. The Holy Kabbalah is the mystical system whereby a soul immersed in the illusions of the material world may reach back to the Godhead and attain a merging with the divine. This sacred wisdom was handed down generation after generation by the Mekubals, the Kabbalistic sages of that time, and it was only taught to a married man with children once he reached the age of 40. In this way, the Mekubals knew that a man's more youthful demeanor wouldn't interfere with the process of Kabbalistic initiation. The Kabbalah is a code and veiled system of initiation that contains the teachings for ascertaining the mysteries of life.
Central to the Kabbalah is the all inclusive diagram of the Tree of Life. This diagram consists of 10 Sephira, 11 in some depictions, and these Sephira are orbs representing attributes of the Godhead connected together by 22 paths, each of which is associated with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The Tree of Life is a diagrammatical representation of creation, the occult anatomy of man, his psychological makeup, the macrocosm, and many other aspects to our universe. Therefore, it is a meta-symbol depicting various paradigms of existence. On one level, it is a map of the structure of the complete being of man, and it is the complex roadmap that the soul navigates; for as the soul evolves along its path of initiation, it ascends the Tree of Life rising through the various Sephira, utilizing the 22 paths to gain entry. In fact, the Kabbalah refers to the soul existing in four bodies, descending and taking on more substantial form as it moves away from the source of light. These four aspects to the soul are also associated with the four planes of existence, which will be described shortly.
The four soul bodies are thus: the Nephesh, which is the lowest aspect of the soul and deals with instincts and subconscious desires, the Ruach, which is the rational mind and contains the majority of the Ego, the Neshamah, which is a higher and more rarefied aspect to our soul's being, and the Yechida, which is the highest aspect of the soul as it approaches the light body of Adam Kadmon. In esoteric circles the process the soul takes in moving from Sephiroth to Sephiroth is called path-working, and it is this avenue of knowledge that is used to obtain a spiritual body of light. Ancient alchemists worked with the Kabbalah to help purify their souls, evolving from the lead of the gross, material body to the spiritual gold of the enlightened body of light.
Incased within the mystery codes of the Kabbalah is the knowledge and technique for becoming the light body of Adam Kadmon. This being of light, or archetypal man, is the divine design of the creator and is the intended form and culmination point that all of man is to become. Additionally, it is this being's essence that is behind the body of the primordial Adam. A symbol for the Adam Kadmon is the vertical Tetragrammaton, a four letter name of God, because in that shape the divine Hebrew letters, Yod, He, Vau, He, create the pictogram of a stick man. The four letters of Tetragrammaton are attributable to the previously mentioned four Kabbalistic aspects to the soul, the four worlds of creation (Spiritual, Mental, Formative, and the plane of Action), the four archangels (Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, and Uriel), the four elements (Air, Earth, Fire, and Water), and the four cardinal directions.
The speculative nature of the Kabbalah stands in stark opposition to the dogmatic, literalist's interpretation of the Torah and other scriptures, for all religious systems manifest a dogmatic orthodoxy in conjunction with a true system of mystical initiation. This is exemplified by the outer ring of control and inner ring of wisdom of each religious tradition. The outer ring of orthodoxy is for the masses, as they are not yet privileged to look beyond the veil. The masses are only trusted with the codes of conduct and morals to live in strict adherents to the dogma they are being indoctrinated into. To become free one would have to be privy to the underlying knowledge of the inner ring of teachings, and this is where true initiation into the mysteries takes place. The Kabbalah is but one mystical notion in the inner ring of Sacred Wisdom, one thread in the overall "Tapestry of Esoterica."