The Path – April 1886

KABBALAH — Seth Pancoast

The Kabbalah was formerly a tradition, as the word implies, and is generally supposed to have originated with the Jewish Rabbins. The word is of Hebrew origin, but the esoteric science it represents did not originate with the Jews; they merely recorded what had previously been traditional.

The Kabbalah is a system of philosophy and theosophy that was obtained at a very remote period of time by the wise men of the east, through the unfoldment of the intuitive perceptions.

Self consciousness forms the basis of mind, and knowledge is acquired through the reception of activities from without, which are recorded in consciousness; there are two sources through which knowledge is received — one subjective, the other objective. The former gives us a knowledge of the causal side of the cosmos, and the latter, the objective or material side, which is the world of effects, on account of being evolved from the former.

"The outward doth from the inward roll,
And the inward dwells in the inmost soul."

If this be true, the great first cause — God — has evolved out of Himself the esoteric or subjective world, in which He is to be found manifested. Out of the subjective, by change of energy and substance through law, He evolved the objective world. Therefore, the antecedents of the objective are to be found in the unseen or invisible portion of the universe. In a work we are preparing for the press, which has been a study for over thirty years, we will show what spirit is, that it is self-generating and self-sustaining, and from it, through volition, the cosmos was evolved.

Do not understand by the above remark that spirit becomes matter through evolution, and that the universe is a huge Divine Personality. We have too high a conception and reverence for Deity, to suppose for an instant that He became a material being through the evolution of the universe. He is not in any manner personally associated with either the esoteric or exoteric cosmos. Spirit is distinct from matter, but not from energy; energy is the source of matter. It is therefore through energy and law that God is associated with the universe. The law is His Providence, and His will the executive. A miracle is an impossibility, for it requires a suspension of the law upon which the universe is reared. To suspend this law for one moment would disarrange the harmony of the entire universe. Therefore, the suspension of this unique law, which controls energy in the production of substance and matter, would immediately suspend evolution, and the entire universe and all that is associated with it would at once become disintegrated.

The Providential law, being one of harmony, applies to everything outside of the spirit of God, and therefore cannot be violated with impunity. The beauties of nature result from its harmony, and when it is violated, discord ensues. We see this in nationalities, society, individuals, and in fact in all departments of nature. If the violation goes beyond certain limits, revolution is the result, and if it is not corrected, destruction naturally follows. The greater the violation the more difficult it is to overcome the discordancy. Dissipation is sure to be rewarded with sickness, and if carried too far, with death. Luxury and licentiousness, if persisted in, will destroy society as well as nationalities. History affords us ample proof of this. This law, no matter how slightly violated, brings its comparative punishment, and when obeyed, its corresponding reward.

After these preliminary remarks, we turn to our subject, the Kabbalah, and show how it has been preserved and transmitted or handed down from one generation to another. The study of external nature alone affords us no evidence of a future life, — on the contrary, it tends to disprove it, which accounts for the agnostic belief which has become so prevalent of late years. In the investigation of external phenomena, we recognize matter, energy, and life; the latter we are told is the result of protoplasmic cell action, — the same of mind. The continuity observed through all the departments of nature implies that there is a law controlling energy in the production of forms. If energy had nothing to guide it, its movements would be erratic, and nature would become a conglomerate discordant mass. Now the existence of a law implies a law giver, for it is not self-creating or self-sustaining, therefore we logically conclude that there is something back of material nature that is not recognized by the external senses. What proof have we of the existence of an external world, except through consciousness? An unborn child, if it possessed reasoning facilities, would deny the existence of its own mother. A person born blind can have no conception of the beauties of nature, and if the sense of touch be suspended with that of sight, we could form no conception of solidity; if born deaf, of the harmony and discord of sound or of music. We therefore perceive that we can have no conception of the existence of an external world except through neural activities recorded in consciousness, and without the unfoldment of the inner consciousness, we can form no opinion of a future life. In fact, logically speaking, we have the same grounds for denying its existence as we would have of the external world, providing objective consciousness was closed.

This accounts for the doubt, uncertainty, and fear respecting the future, which is intensified by the present system of religious teachings. The spiritual world is as much a reality as this, in fact more so, for it undergoes no change, as this one does.

The study of Theosophy has demonstrated to the writer that there is another source of knowledge which can only be acquired through the cultivation of a plane of consciousness which is not reached by objective neural activities, but can be by unfoldment of inner consciousness.

It is the development of this state of consciousness that brings us en rapport with the esoteric world. The question now arises, How are we to develop this much desired condition? It can only be accomplished through the harmony of the moral attributes of the spirit. Harmony is the only passport to Heaven, and the absence of harmony, which is discord, is the only passport to what Christianity terms Hell. Therefore, heaven and hell are only conditions of the spirit, which are beautifully illustrated in the 20th chapter of the Apocalypse, where it describes the angel descending from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a chain. With the key he unlocked hell, and with the chain he bound the devil for a thousand years. The angel is the representative of holiness and purity, which is only attained through the harmony of the spirit; the key is a symbol of light, and the chain that of truth; hell is supposed to be the abode of darkness, and the devil a spirit of falsehood and error. We will now ask the question, Is there anything to banish darkness but light? Anything to disperse falsehood and error but truth?

Christ was an Essene, and this secret order was a branch of the Kabbalah. St. John was his favorite disciple, whom he fully initiated into the mysteries. During this disciple's exile on the Isle of Patmos or Patmo, he wrote the Apocalypse, which is a profound Kabbalistic production, describing the unity, duality, ternary, and septenary of the Kabbalah. The ancient adepts found from experience that, in order to develop the interior or subjective consciousness, it was necessary allegorically speaking) to "wear the cloak of Apollonius;" that is, to withdraw from the outer world, practice to the fullest extent self-denial, and spend their wakeful moments in esoteric meditation. In order to isolate themseves from society, they established secret sanctuaries, in which they met for mutual communion and religious exercises.

As they advanced in spiritual knowledge they found that there were various grades of harmony in the subjective or spiritual world, and each individual on leaving this life gravitated, as it were, to the sphere with which he was in harmony. They divided their sanctuaries into seven degrees to correspond with the harmonies in esoteric nature, and to each degree there were three years of spiritual probation. As harmony results from the analogy of contraries, there were as many degrees of discord as there were of harmonies. The former they designated hell. The material cosmos, that is, what we call the external world, was, as it were, middle ground between the two, which they called Hades, into which the soul passed at death, and the spirit was made cognizant of its record while on earth. Physical death, they claimed, was merely a change from a physical to a spiritual condition; the soul or spiritual body being formed at the same time that the physical was, but in a very different manner. After death, the soul either ascended or descended, depending not upon gravity, but upon harmony.

It will thus be perceived that each degree in the sanctuary required a separate or distinct initiation for each one, which was intended to represent a higher state of moral and intellectual advancement. The last or seventh degree was the one of perfection which brought about illumination, when the subjective world was as much a reality to the inward or subjective consciousness as the outward world is to the objective. When this condition of moral and intellectual unfoldment was obtained, all interest in this life was gone and the spirit longed for separation from its physical casket. The neophyte seeking spiritual knowledge could only attain to the wisdom of the different degrees by advancing morally, so as to be in harmony with the degrees. The knowledge thus obtained was never recorded, but communicated verbally in symbolic language. By this means it was kept a profound secret, and handed down traditionally. The first record we have of the Kabbalah was made by Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Simeon Ben Jochai; the former compiled The Sepher Jetzirah, "Book of Creation," and the latter, The Sepherhaz Sohar, "Book of Light." The first is regarded by the Kabbalist as the key of the second. The Sohar has never been translated, and, as a late Bishop of the Church of England justly states, never will be by a Christian. This is owing to its symbolic character, which can only be interpreted by a Kabbalist. It is in three volumes, in unpointed Hebrew, and consists of a mixture of Armenic and Semetic languages. The Sepher Jetzirah maybe procured in three languages, the Hebrew, Latin, and German.

Fig. A: Fig A Fig. B: Fig B

We now come to the most interesting part of our subject. The key to the Kabbalah is the "Word," consisting of four Hebrew letters, which may be arranged in a cross inclosed in a circle, Fig. A. The Christian Kabbalist inserted the Hebrew letter Sin, as a representative of Christ in the ineffable name, Fig. B. The four-lettered name was the one given to Moses on the Mount, with the understanding that it represented his (Jehovah) verbalization in the universe. The Word was held in profound reverence by all, Kabbalists as well as the Jews, and all ancient secret orders, and was never spoken audibly, in fact never mentioned, except in the last initiation, when it was whispered in the initiate's ear by the Grand Master of Ceremonies. The knowledge and power the Word confers upon the recipient of its meaning is given in a fragment of a clavicle of Solomon: "I, Solomon, King of Israel and Palmyra, have sought and obtained in part the Holy Chocmah, which is the wisdom of Adonai. I have become King of the spirit of heaven and of earth, master of the inhabitants of the air and the souls of the sea, because I procured the key of the occult gate of light. I have accomplished great things by the virtue of Schema Hamphorasch, and by the thirty-two paths of the Sepher Jetzirah. Number, weight, and measure determine the form of all things, substance is one, and God created it eternally. Happy is he who knows the letters and numbers; numbers are ideas, and ideas are forces, and forces Elohim. The synthesis of Elohim is Schema. Schema is one, and its pillars are two, its power is three, its form four. Its reflection gives eight, and eight multiplied by three gives the twenty-four thrones of wisdom. On each throne rests a crown of three jewels, each jewel bears a name, each name an absolute idea. There are seventy-two names on the twenty-four crowns of Schema. Thou shall write these names on thirty-six talismans, two on each talisman — one on each side. Thou shalt divide these talismans into four series of nine each, according to the number of the letters of the Schema. On the first series engrave the letter Jod, figure of the blooming rod of Aaron; on the second series the letter He, figure of the cup of Joseph; on the third series the letter Vau, the figure of the source of David, my Father; on the fourth series the letter He, the figure of the Jewish shekel. The thirty-six talismans will be a book that will contain all the secrets of nature, and by their divers combinations thou wilt make the Genii and Angels speak."

The Schema represents the four-lettered name; when mathematically constructed into seventy-two different forms, it is called Schema-hamphorasch, and represents seventy-two paths of wisdom, which constitute the keys of universal science.

The history of the Kabbalah is yet to be written, which can only be accomplished by one versed in its secrets. Historians have not done it justice; they have debased it by associating it with necromancy or the black art, which is to the Kabbalah what false religion is to pure Christianity. The kernal lies hidden in the rubbish of the past, where it has been preserved for future generations. When it is disrobed of its vile and obnoxious covering it will be found to have lost none of its beauty and brilliancy. The light of the Orient has been preserved by the wise men of the east, in symbols and allegorical language, and when the time arrives, which is not far distant, someone possessing the key, which is the Word, will unlock its mysteries and bring it forth in its divine purity, to enlighten the present and future generations.

The cycle of Tritheme, which commenced in 1878, will prepare some one to bring it forth from its oblivion, and through its teachings a new train of thought will be instituted and an impetus given to the moral and emotional development which will be the harbinger of a bright future. Science will take new strides, religion will throw aside her thread-bare garment and assume a new dress, which will accord with the teachings and example of Christ. When this occurs, the conflict between religion and science will cease and harmony be established. The two then will be like brother and sister, aiding each other in the development of the intellectual and moral attributes of the spirit. It is no fault of science that a difference between them has occurred; it has advanced, while religion has been carrying on a warfare about creeds and dogmas which has retarded her progress.

Christianity of to-day is as different from what it was in the first and second centuries of the Christian era, as modern masonry is different from what it was in ancient times. Religion has attempted to control humanity through fear, having created a devil to keep man in subjection, and force the belief that God, who is the quintessence of purity and holiness, is a vindictive and angry being, who takes delight in chastising those who through ignorance violate the Divine Law. While this religious conflict has been progressing, Christianity has gradually lost its hold on the public mind. At the same time humanity longs to know something of the future which science cannot give.

How is this emotional or moral want to be supplied? for humanity cannot progress intellectually beyond objective knowledge, without the development of the moral attributes. We venture the assertion that if the same advancement had been made in the development of the emotional attributes of the spirit as has been in the intellectual, there would have been no agnosticism, and science would be far in advance of what it is. Science has about reached the limit of objective knowledge, and cannot advance until it acquires a knowledge of this world's antecedents, which will enable it to correct numerous errors and give an impetus to further development. This cannot be done so long as they ignore the existence of a subjective consciousness.

The Kabbalah embodies both philosophy and theosophy. The former gives us a knowledge of the universe, and the latter teaches man how to know himself and his God. It will also elevate masonry and all secret organizations having their rise from it, by showing that ancient masonry was not merely a social and beneficial order like modern masonry, but an organization for the unfolding of the moral and intellectual attributes.

The Kabbalah has shown its fruits in philosophy through such minds as Thales, Solon, Plato, Pythagoras, Goethe, and many others. In religion through Zoroaster, Confucius, Christ, Old and New Testament, and the Early Christians, and later through the United Brethren, to which Jacob Behmen belonged, and other theosophic sects. If the views we have advanced be correct, that it is through the development of the inner consciousness that man attains to a knowledge of the subjective or causal world, and that the knowledge of the Kabbalah will enable us to unfold these faculties, how urgent we all should be to have its secrets revealed.

Theosophical University Press Online Edition