Kabbalah (Qabbalah, cabbalism, similar variations) is a Hebrew word meaning “that which is received.” Although some of its roots are biblical, the Kabbalah emerged in 13th century France and Spain as a form of Jewish mysticism, albeit one strongly influenced by various non-Jewish esoteric beliefs current at the time. As a form of mysticism, Kabbalah teachings are especially concerned with “higher” knowledge, which Judaism equates with the ecstatic experience of God; understanding the means by which He expresses Himself in heaven and on earth; and the prospect of prayer and good deeds to promote harmonious relationships between the earth and the divine.
The Kabbalah soon attracted Christian followers, notably the Medieval and Renaissance magi; and more recently modern and New Age seekers of spiritual enlightenment. Medieval kabbalists associated its principal themes with planets or signs. One more recent conduit for the Kabbalah was the London-based Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a late 19th/early 20th century secret society dedicated to retrieving and practicing esoteric lore. It blended the Kabbalah with astrology and tarot cards in a way that popularized it for modern astrologers.
The basic model of the Kabbalah is a highly stylized “tree of life” containing ten themes or emanations (termed sephirot) of the divine. They vary somewhat between versions. From the top of the tree on down, these are the Keter Elyon or crown of God; Hokhmah (pronounced gutteraly, Chokhmah), wisdom or the primordial concept of God; Binah, intelligence or understanding of God; Hesed (Chesed) as God’s love and mercy. These are followed by Gevurah (Din), the power and judgmental nature of God; Tipheret (Rachamim) as beauty or compassion; Netzah is His endurance; Hod, majesty or splendor; and Zaddik as righteousness orYesod, God’s active forces. The base of the tree, Malkhut, the kingdom, is equated to an idealized image of the people of Israel. In some Christian traditions Malkhut is Jesus as the messiah.
The correspondence of planets or signs with the sephirot of the tree of life varies today depending upon the author, notably in terms of how they use the modern planets. Malkhut is generally the earth, with the moon just above it. One might equate love or beauty with Venus, severity with Mars or Saturn, and so on. Modern astrologers who use the Kabbalah may also equate the months of the Hebrew calendar with sun-signs, although the dates must be adjusted slightly.
The Kabbalah is largely restricted to esoteric astrology as a tool for spiritual self-awareness.
- Wikipedia: Jewish views on astrology (Kabbalistic astrology)
- Wikipedia: Sefer Yetzirah
- An Introduction to Kabbalistic Astrology (Jonathon Clark, 2002; Kabbalah Society)
- Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, eds., 2007, "Astrology" and "Kabbalah", Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed., 2:616-20, 11: 586-692, Macmillan Reference USA
- Robert A. Gilbert, 1997, Revelations of the Golden Dawn, Quantum
- Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi, 1991, Introduction to the Cabala: Tree of Life, rev. ed. Samuel Weiser, Inc.
Notes and References
- Based upon the books of Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi