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QBL, Kabbalah and History

To: alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.occult
From: (hara)
Subject: QBL, Kabbalah and History (was English Qaballa and ....)
Date: 2 Jan 1999 02:56:50 -0800

49990102 IIIom 

shalom alechem, my kin.

Neil Fernandez:
#> ...Jung also saw 
#> himself as a strong opponent of what he called 'smutty-minded Jewish 
#> psychology' associated with Freud. No wonder what Freud thought of his 
#> anti-Semitic scumbag former student. 

catherine yronwode :
# Jung, with his famous vision of God shitting on a Christian church,
# called Frued's psychology "smutty-minded"? That's a classic case of
# the-pot-calling-the-kettle-black ! 

to be fair, many have criticized Freud for sex-obsession, and in
particular penis-fixation.

#> I am not an 'expert' on this, but I have heard it said that
#> many Crowleyites and practitioners of 'western kabbalism' are unaware 
#> of the history of Jewish kabbalah as a '(magical/spiritual) tradition 
#> in its own right' - they see it rather as a set of techniques, 
#> knowledge of which found its way, in some form or other, into the 
#> beliefs and practices of non-Jewish Renaissance hermeticists etc...or 
#> as a 'language'.

jake stratton-kent sure calls it this (a 'language'), probably
after Crowley, and this is definitely a part of the Thelemic 
culture (I'm unsure of his 'Crowleyitism', though jake talks 
about the Evul Book alot :>).  I've been told many times by
Thelemites that Jewish culture is where the magical 'action' is
at, basing their studies on kabbalah and recommending familiarity
with Hebrew language to get the best sources.  I don't know how
common this attitude is, but I've spoken with quite a few 
Thelemites over the course of years, via electronic means and in
person.  even hard-core Golden Dawn people seemed to be aware of
the Jewish origins of kabbalah, though they may have had ideas
about egyptogenesis for all I know.  we'd get into a description
about tarot and the 'best' means of studying magick and I'd
quickly be dissuaded by their dogmatism and lack of attention.

if you have differing experiences or have some sort of
sociological study in mind I'd love to hear about it.

then again, Crowley did write that qabalah is, among other 
things "a language fitted to describe certain classes of 
phenomena, and to express certain classes of ideas which escape 
regular phraseology." (in "What is Qabalah?", appendix A in 
his "777").  on the face of this statement is it false?  

# ...the Crowley-Mathers group of 19th-20th century European
# hermeticists emphasized their descent from the late Medieval and early
# Renaissance hermeticists, and thus obviated any indebtedness to Judaism
# as the origin of the kaballah. 

do frequent references to Hebrew, the Zohar, and a reliance
on Knorr von Rosenroth's _Kabbala Denudata_ constitute an 
"obviation of indebtedness to Judaism"?

# As one person pointed out in usenet, the reasons for this may 
# have been inncocent as well as race-based -- Crowley et al 
# may simply not have had access to Hebrew materials and may
# have relied on the "Christian" kaballah of the Renaissance as 
# a primary source. 

to what would you have had them turn instead given their
possibly limited ability to read languages other than English?
here's Scholem on sources as regards Christian kabbalah from 
the 17th century onward:

	In the 17th century Christian Kabbalah received two
	great impetuses one being the theosophical writings
	of Jacob Boehme, and the other Christian Knorr von
	Rosenroth's vast kabbalistic compendium *Kabbala
	Denudata* (1677-84), which for the first time made
	available to interested Christian readers, most of
	whom were undoubtedly mystically inclined themselves,
	not only important sections of the Zohar but
	sizable excerpts from Lurianic Kabbalah as well.
	In this work and in the writings of the Jesuit
	scholar Athanasius Kircher the parallel is drawn for
	the first time between the kabbalistic doctrine of
	*Adam Kadmon* and the concept of Jesus as primordial
	man in Christian theology [cf. Body of Christ -- hara].
	This analogy is pressed particularly in the essay
	entitled *Adumbratio Kabbalae Christinae* which
	appears at the end of the *Kabbala Denudata* (Fr.
	trans., Paris, 1899). Its anonymous author was in
	fact the well-known Dutch theosophist, Franciscus
	Mercurius van Helmont who served as the link
	between the Kabbalah and the Cambridge Platonists
	led by Henry More and Ralph Cudworth, who made use
	of kabbalistic motifs for their own original
	speculative purposes, More especially.  ....

	As early as the late 16th century a pronounced
	trend had emerged toward the permeation of Christian
	Kabbalah with alchemical symbolism, thus giving it
	an oddly original character in its final stages of
	development in the 17th and 18th centuries. This
	melange of elements typifies the works of Heinrich
	Khunrat, *Amphitheatrum Sapientiae Aeternae* (1609),
	Blaise de Vigenere, *Traite du Feu* (1617), Abraham
	von Frankenberg (1593-1652), Robert Fludd (1574-1673),
	and Thomas Vaughn (1622-1666), and reaches its apogee
	in Georg von Welling's *Opus Mago-Cabbalisticum*
	(1735) and the many books of F.C. Oetinger (1702-1782),
	whose influence is discernible in the works of such
	great figures of German idealist philosophy as Hegel
	and Schelling. In yet another form this mixture
	reappears in the theosophical systems of the
	Freemasons in the second half of the 18th century.
	A late phase of Christian Kabbalah is represented by
	Martines de Pasqually (1727-1774) in his *Traite de
	la reintegration de etres*, which greatly influenced
	theosophical currents in France. The author's
	disciple was the well-known mystic Louis Claude de
	St. Martin. Pasqually himself was suspected during
	his lifetime of being a secret Jew, and modern
	scholarship has in fact established that he was of
	Marrano ancestry. The sources of his intellectual
	indebtedness, however, have still to be clarified.
	The crowning and final achievement of Christian
	Kabbalah was Franz Josef Molitor's (1779-1861)
	comprehensive *Philosophic der Geschichte oder Ueber
	die Tradition*, which combined profound speculation
	in a Christian kabbalistic vein with highly
	suggestive research into the ideas of the Kabbalah
	itself. Molitor too still clung to a fundamentally
	christological view of the Kabbalah, whose
	historical evolution he completely failed to
	understand, yet at the same time he revealed an
	essential grasp of kabbalistic doctrine and an
	insight into the world of Kabbalah far superior
	to that of most Jewish scholars of his time.
	_Kabbalah_, Gershom Scholem, Dorset, 1974; pp. 200-1.

why does Scholem call Molitor Christian if he was really a
false convert?  how could someone who had such a poor
understanding of the historical evolution of kabbalah
(which Tim/american and you claim is essential to coming
to understand it) and have "an essential grasp of
kabbalistic doctrine and an insight into the world of
Kabbalah far superior to that of most Jewish scholars of
his time"?  doesn't this statement, doesn't the very
existence of Molitor (assessed by Scholem, whom you and
Tim both admit to be an essential source on the subject)
indicate that your claims about the necessary familiarity
with kabbalah's history and Judaism in order to understand
it are false?

# ...the [Christian] Kaballah was the invention of Jews who 
# "converted" to Christianty. 

was it?  Scholem says that

	Historically, Christian Kabbalah sprang from two
	sources. The first was the christological speculations
	of a number of Jewish converts who are known to us
	from the end of the 13th century until the period
	of the Spanish expulsion (G. Scholem, in *Essays
	Presented to Leo Baeck* (1954), 158-93), such as
	Abner of Burgos (Yizhak Baer, *Tariz* 27 (1958),
	152-63), and Paul de Heredia, who pseudepigraphically
	composed several texts of Christian Kabbalah
	entitled *Iggeret ha-Sodot* and *Galei Rezaya* in
	the name of Judah ha-Nasi and other *tannaim*.
	Another such tract put out by Jewish converts in
	Spain toward the end of the 15th century, and
	written in imitation of styles of the *aggadah* and
	the Zohar, circulated in Italy. Such compositions
	had little effect on serious Christian spiritualists,
	nor was their clearly tendentious missionary purpose
	calculated to win readers. Another matter entirely,
	however, was the Christian speculation about the
	Kabbalah that first developed around the Platonic
	Academy endowed by the Medicis in Florence and was
	pursued in close connection with the new horizons
	opened up by the Renaissance in general. These
	Florentine circles believed that they had discovered
	in the Kabbalah an original divine revelation to
	mankind that had been lost and would now be restored,
	and with the aid of which it was possible not only to
	understand the teachings of Pythagoras, Plato, and the
	Orphics, all of whom they greatly admired, but also
	the secrets of the Catholic faith. The founder of this
	Chrsitian school of Kabbalah was the renowned
	Florentine prodigy Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
	(1463-94), who had a considerable portion of
	kabbalistic literature translated for him into Latin
	by the very learned convert Samuel ben Nissim
	Abulafaraj, later Raymond Moncada, also known as
	Flavius Mithridates. Pico began his kabbalistic
	studies in 1486, and when he displayed his 900 famous
	these for public debate in Rome he included among them
	47 propositions taken directly from kabbalistic
	sources, the majority from Recanati's commentary on
	the Torah, and 72 more propositions that represented
	his own conclusions from his kabbalistic research.

	...The sudden discovery of an esoteric Jewish
	tradition that had hitherto been completely unknown
	caused a sensation in the Christian intellectual
	world, and Pico's subsequent writings on the Kabbalah
	helped to further increase the interest of Christian
	Platonists in the newly uncovered sources,
	particularly in Italy, Germany, and France. Under
	Pico's influence the great Christian Hebraist
	Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) also took up the study
	of Kabbalah and published two Latin books on the
	subject, the first ever to be written by a non-Jew,
	*De Verbo Mirifico* ("On the Miracle-working Name,"
	1494) and *De Arte Cabalistica* ("On the Science of
	the Kabbalah," 1517). The years between these two
	dates also witnessed the appearance of a number of
	works by the learned convert Paul Ricius, the private
	physician of Emperor Maximilian, who took Pico's
	and Reuchlin's conclusions and added to them through
	an original synthesis of kabbalistic and Christian

	Pico's and Reuchlin's writings, which placed Kabbalah
	in the context of some of the leading intellectual
	developments of the time, attracted wide attention.
	They led on the one hand to considerable interest in
	the doctrine of Divine Names [of God] and in practical
	Kabbalah, and on the other hand to further speculative
	attempts to achieve a synthesis between kabbalistic
	motifs and Christian theology. The place of honor
	accorded to practical Kabbalah in Cornelius Agrippa of
	Nettesheim's great compendium *De Occulta Philosophia*
	(1531), which was a widely read summary of all the
	occult sciences of the day, was largely responsible
	for the mistaken association of the Kabbalah in the
	Christian world with numerology and witchcraft.
	Several Christian kabbalists of the 16th century
	made a considerable effort to master the sources of
	the Kabbalah more deeply, both in Hebrew and Latin
	translations prepared for them, thus widening the
	basis for their attempts to discover common ground
	between the Kabbalah and Christianity.
	Ibid., pp. 197-9.

Scholem seems to be describing a little bit more complex
origination of what he plainly calls "Christian Kabbalah".
doesn't his treatment of the subject (legitimizing what he
calls 'Christian Kabbalah' by providing it a description
and a name) constitute a clear rebuke of Tim's/american's
claim that all qabalah is Jewish?  am I missing something?

# ...what's the big deal about a few old-time Jews "converting" 
# to Christianity and bringing the kaballah along with them? 

doesn't what I quoted above indicate that at least Scholem
considers there to have been a number of Christians writing 
on the subject, some of whom were never Jewish?  was Pico
della Mirandola a Jewish convert?  it was unclear to me.

# ...the wholesale "conversions" of Jews to Christianity performed 
# from the 1300s through the 1700s were acceded to under pain of 
# torture or death or, at best, under a legal edict of expulsion 
# of Jews from certain cities, states, or nations, whereby 
# "conversion" would ensure the ability to remain in one's home. 

how shall these false converts be winnowed out from those who
truly converted or were never Jewish?

# ...Some of those who "converted" evidently sought to preserve a
# measure of their mystical literature. By applying the techniques of the
# kaballah to Christian texts, they were able to produce convincing proofs
# of their own "conversions" while still passing on the knowledge of
# Jewish [mysticism] to future generations. 

which of the above do you think qualifies for this description?

# Modern non-Jewish occultists may need help reconciling the dualistic
# phenomenon of 14th through 18th century Gentiles "beg[ging
# for]...morsels of Cabbala" while their governments were forcing Jews 
# to "convert" to Chistianity (and thus produce a "Christian" 
# kaballah) under pain of death. 

I wonder if you are not overlooking Pico della Mirandola.  did he
and Reuchlin operate from this motivation?  Molitor too?

[interesting Host legend omitted]

# Knowledge of this crucial history of European spiritual dualism --
# centuries of virulent hatred of Jews on the one hand and a desire to
# possess the fruits of Jewish mysticism on the other -- is lacking 
# among many modern Thelemites of Anglo-Saxon descent. 

undoubtedly.  I'd say that the history of kabbalah is not very
widely understood generally.

# In stripping the kaballah of its "Jewish" history, in declaring that
# they were revealing a "new" kabbalah for their "New Aeon," 19th and 20th
# century hermeticists like Crowley may have been acting out of ignorance,
# from a racist agenda, or simply out of delusional self-aggrandizement.

Crowley relates the following in his "Gematria":

	...S. Liddell Macgregor Mathers, who misread the Text
	and stultified the Commentary by the Light of his own
	Ignorance of Hebrew and Philosophy, pretends in his
	Translation of v. Rosenroth.


	A great Deal may be learned from the Translation of
	the Zohar by S. Liddell Macgregor Mathers, and his
	Introduction thereto, though for those who have Latin
	and some acquaintance with Hebrew it is better to
	study the Kabbala Denudata of Knorr von Rosenroth,
	in Despite of the heavy Price; for the Translator
	has distorted the Text and its Comment to suit his
	belief in a supreme Personal God, and in that
	degraded Form of the Doctrine of Feminism which is
	so popular among the Emasculate.
	_777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister
	 Crowley_, ed. Israel Regardie, Weiser, 1973;
	 in the essay "Gematria", pp. 13 and 18.

if you had been in Crowley's place, would you have assessed
this text any differently?  do the references to books of 
the Zohar in the editorial note to his "Sepher Sephiroth"
(which I have quoted elsewhere and should be showing up 
in Usenet soon ::crossing fingers::) indicate that he was
"stripping the kaballah of its 'Jewish' history" and
declaring that he was "revealing a 'new' kabbalah for 
[his] 'New Aeon,'"?  I didn't see this kind of grandiose
text, but neither did I see him exclaiming the Jewish
history of kabbalah as a mystical culture or textual body.
again, perhaps I missed something.

# ...they dropped the ball on historical truth --

did Crowley's exhortations that all his students obtain a
solid classical education imply this?  could you quote some 
of the fabrications or outright falsities which you have 
actually found in his text on the subject of qabalah?

I will be happy to quote from him to substantiate my claims
about the man when I make them (or indicate that I cannot).

# and thus they have spawned a generation of students who now seem to
# sincerely believe that "their" kaballah is independent of any need to
# acknowledge or understand Judaism or Jewish culture. 

this may be true.  it may also be an overstatement.  it is why I
have asked for a 'rectification of names'.  Crowley appears to
be talking about QBL as I have defined it, and called it 'qabalah'.

# Thelemites persist in their disbelief of history to the point of asking
# for "proof" of the kaballah's Jewishness, they may be accused of
# outright racism by impatient Jews (among whom i number myself). 

ignorance is not racism, but I think I understand what you mean.

# Perhaps the cause of this conflict between "New Aeon" kabbalists and
# Jewish occultists is not Crowley's disbelief in the Jewishness of the
# kaballah (surely he knew of it!), but rather that an a-historic
# generation of contemporary Thelemites puts their complete trust in
# flawed or incomplete teachings which have falsely led tthem to think
# that "their" kaballah, as revealed by their lineage-founder, Mr.
# Crowley, is not Jewish in its root.

without further evaluation I can only speculate myself that what
Crowley was writing might best be called 'Thelemic Qabalah', and
that it cites quite specifically the sources upon which he has
drawn for inspiration.  whether what he includes in his text that
has qabalistic character is "Jewish in its root" or is derived
from other sources I cannot at present determine, though I do 
recognize obvious similarities to Lurianic kabbalah as I have
briefly studied its elements.

# ...there are more than a few Crowleyites running around 
# loose who don't know that the kaballah is Jewish. 

it does appear that Scholem doesn't know this either, else he
has written in a way that I have misunderstood.  if you want
to throw Scholem out now, that's fine, but please indicate to
me who would be a better source for QBL.  thanks.

# Perhaps some Thelemite reading this can be encouraged to explain to the
# rest of us why so many Thelemites are, as Neil says, "unaware of the
# history of Jewish kabbalah as a '(magical/spiritual) tradition in its
# own right'...[and] see it rather as a set of techniques...or as a
# 'language'."

I suspect that it is because of Crowley's presentation and that he
was not inclined to do the introduction for the student, instead
content to provide general preliminaries like 'start with a good
education' which would presumably have included world history and
the history of the main mystical systems of the world.

Crowley's presentation is, from what I can tell, universalist,
and as such I think it ought to be assessed on its own merits
rather than dismissed because it cannot be called Jewish.  still,
citing the Zohar is sufficient for my taste.  yours?

# Are the words "technique" and "language" part of the instruction-set
# accompanying Thelemite teaching of the kaballah? 

from Crowley's text as I have relayed it, it does seem so, yes.

#> Paradoxically, what appears to be an approach dressed in 'narrower'
#> clothes, namely the more Jewish approach, is in fact more 
#> 'universalist' and deeper. 

I don't understand this.  if Neil Fernandez could elaborate on it
I'd appreciate it.

#> OTOH, whilst the kabbalist path I am interested in is to a large 
#> extent Jewish, I suspect that there may be some Jewish kabbalists who
#> re-specificise or overly-specificise kabbalah. 

# Right. And, lest i be accused of this, i hasten to note that i have no
# interest in promoting a "Jewish-only" kaballah myself! 

that is reassuring.  I suspect that occultists who are motivated by 
or delusively supportive of bigotry of any kind constitute a very
small minority.

#> anything about Islamic kabbalah. Or Sufi kabbalah. I understand that 
#> many Sufis with a more universalist approach don't call themselves 
#> Sufis, they just call themselves 'people like us'. I don't know to 
#> what extent this is seen as conflicting with an approach based on 
#> membership of and instruction within 'Orders'.

# Islamic astrology and Islamic alchemy are famous, but i have never 
# heard of an Islamic kaballah. The idea is not beyond comprehension or
# ridiculous on the face of it, however. [hara] suggests that perhaps if
# such material actually exists, one place to search for clues would 
# be in Idries Shah's book "Oriental Magic." 

Scholem has many citations for 'Islam' in the text I've quoted here, 
and there are some very good references on Sufi influences on the
kabbalah (resulting at some point in what Scholem calls "Jewish
Sufi type" of kabbalah -- p. 35.).

peace be with you,

-- (emailed replies may be posted); cc me replies;;

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