The Sephirot And The Scriptures

Tree_of_lifeThose familiar with the Kabbalah will no doubt be familiar with the ten sephirot of the Tree of Life. But have you ever wondered where the rabbis who penned the Kabbalah got the names of the sephirot from?

Well, having searched the scriptures and later tradition I believe the two key verses that inspired them were Proverbs 3:19-20 and 1 Chronicles 29:11.

The names of the first few sephirot are mentioned together in a number of verses including Exodus 31:3 and Proverbs 2:6 but I believe the verse to really pay attention to is Proverbs 3:19-20, which says this:

By wisdom [chokmah] the Lord [YHWH] laid the earth’s foundations [yesod], by understanding [binah] he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge [da’at] the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.

We find reference to the seven other sephirot in 1 Chronicles 29:11, though not all of them are mentioned explicitly. The context is a prayer of David, often recited by Jewish in morning prayer, which reads,

Yours, Lord [YHWH], is the greatness and the power [geburah] and the glory [tipharah] and the majesty [netsach] and the splendor [hod], for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom [mamlakah/malkuth]; you are exalted as head over all.

It’s even more obvious in the original Hebrew.

The most obvious omission to all of this is what in later kabbalistic systems is the first siphirot, the crown [keter]. The only biblical references I’ve found for that word however are in Esther, which don’t seem as suggestive in that context. It makes me wonder, consequently, if that innovation is less directly tied to kabbalistic exegesis (or should I say eisegesis)?

Christ as the Fulfillment of the Kabbalistic Search

kabbalah-tree-of-life.pngI have been brushing up on Hebrew this summer and in the process I uncovered some interesting correspondences between the messianic prophecies of Isaiah 11:2 and the divine emanations of the Kabbalistic tree of life. In essence, the prophet foretold that the Spirit of Chokmah, Binah, Da’at and Gevurah would be found in the Messiah.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom (chokmah) and of understanding (binah),
the Spirit of counsel and of might (gevurah),
the Spirit of the knowledge (da’at) and fear of the Lord

Verify it for yourself by clicking through to the Strong’s Concordance numbers.

Nor do the correspondances end there. In the New Testament apostle Paul prays that, through the Messiah, these attributes may be unleashed in ourselves: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9)

Kabbalistic Speculation in Rennaisance Christianity

Christian Kabbalah de principioAn unusual diagram don’t you agree? It shows a Christian appropriation of the Kabbalistic ideas of Ein-Soph and the Sephiroth which I found buried in an article on Jung and Western Mysticism where the author, Dr. J. Glenn Friesen, suggests Jung owed more to Kabbalah and Alchemy than Gnosticism.

Was Jesus a Kabbalist?

Those of you interested in the Kabbalah may find it interesting to read A Forward to Kabbalah Study for Christians, an article on Kabbalah written from a Hebrew Christian perspective. While ultimately concluding that, no, Jesus was not a Kabbalist in the modern sense of the word, the writer nevertheless commends the study of Kabbalah for anyone wanting to understand contemporary Jewish Spirituality. For those wanting more see Kabbalah and Mysticism: A Brief Overview For Christians.

Christ and Qabalah

Just a random thought that came to me while studying the Qabalah. In the Apocalypse of John, there are three visionary scenes where Christ reveals, “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13). Which as many would know, is equivalent to saying, “I am the A and the Z.”

But hang on, aren’t we forgetting something here? In the Hebrew language (and remember, Christianity came out of Judaism) this would have been equivalent to saying, “I am the Alef and the Tav.” Which also happen to be the first and last paths on the Qabalistic Tree of Life. Which you can see well enough for yourself if you click on this Qabalistic diagram to the left.

This is to be expected, as Qabalah began as meditations on the letters and numbers of the Hebrew language. This language being considered sacred, the very word of God, by Hebrew mystics.

So it may be said that the Apocalypse of John reveals that the Tree of Life is Jesus, the way to God from beginning to end.

Celebrity Spirituality

The celebrity Kabbalah craze just keeps hitting them headlines. Here’s some of the latest news and goss.

We’ve all heard that Deborra-Lee Furness is back in Australia with hubby Wolverine … ahem, sorry … Hugh Jackman for movie launches and whatnot. Well it seems while away she’s developed an interest in Kabbalah amongst other things.

“She doesn’t wear a red string bracelet on her wrist, but Deborra-Lee Furness has admitted exploring the teachings of Kaballah, the religion spruiked by celebrities such as Madonna.

Furness, who has happily settled back into Sydney life with hubby Hugh Jackman, has revealed her time living in the US prompted a curiosity about Kabbalah and Scientology.

Just when we thought Furness and Jackman were down-to-earth Aussies like the rest of us!

“I am interested in Buddhism, I will look at Kabbalah. I will look at Scientology. I am a curious woman and I am not going to just say, I don’t believe in that,” said Furness, during a candid interview with AAP reporter Jonathon Moran.

“So when I was in New York I had some girlfriends that were involved [in Kabbalah] and I read about it and it has a lot of good stuff to say. But I am not in a cult.”

While Furness never became a fully fledged convert, she has regularly attended Kabbalah sessions.”

For the original article see here.

But then I come across this. It seems there are rumours that kabbalah’s most famous follower, Madonna is finding it’s time for another image shift.

The pop world’s most unusual partnership may be over. Madonna and Kabbalah, the once obscure sect she championed – and upon which she has lavished millions of dollars – appear to be on the verge of separation. Close friends say the singer has talked of loosening her red Kabbalah wristband and is wearying of the mystical Jewish belief system. She has decided to give it up, they say, having tired of the financial burden and the effect her strong beliefs have had on her relationship with husband Guy Ritchie.

Madonna is also said to be concerned that following Kabbalah separates her children from more conventional customs such as Christmas, which they do not currently celebrate.

Now a couple of questions arise for me at this point, not in terms of Madonna’s practice but in terms of our own, that is, other Emerging Church bloggers. What are the unpaid bills of the church here? How can we interact more effectively and sensitively with devotes of kabbalah, qabala, etc, that we come across in our journey? What is good new for them? Are we coming across them in our journey or are they another post-modern demographic who are slipping under the radar of the church? And for those of us who are contemplatives, how can our practice be better informed by both the insights and problematic aspects of kabbalah so that is more robustly contextual?

Meditations on Qabalah

Kaballah Some observations on the Qabalah.

What has come out of my meditations is the realisation that for concepts such as Chesed (Mercy) and Netzach (Victory) to be transformative, they must cut you to the bone.

So long as the sefiroth are used conventionally, they have no power to upend your world. Is that which is signified behind the sign ‘a nice idea’ about God or something so shocking, so profound, that you can’t look at the world the same way again?

The real magic behind the Qabalah is not that the symbolic correspondences can be used to manipulate reality, but that the mystery they point towards has the potential to rip you apart and transform you. What is this mystery? Tiphareth (beauty) is the hermeneutical key. Tiphareth is associated with Jesus, the paradoxical self-sacrificing one. Tiphareth unveils the mystery of Chesed, Netzach and the other sefiroth.

Qabalah & Ghosts

Ive been reading and researching Qabalah (Hermetic Kabbalah) over the last few days. Not the silly red string fad, the real stuff, the esoteric pathworking. It is not a subject I’ve previously given a lot of attention too but I’ve been prompted to learn more given its significance for many esoteric traditions and the people who ascribe to them.

I’d be interested to hear for any of you if you have experiences you’d like to share.

Also, I just keep coming across people who’ve had ghost, angel or other less definable form of Spirit encounter. One again the other night. Again, I really interest in hearing your stories if you have any.