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Aeon418's Avatar
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Originally Posted by jmd
I was actually commenting on Wang's recommendation that a person stick to ONE system and effectively imbue themselves with it.
Actually I do agree with you on this, up to a point. The trouble is how do you avoid 'agenda' while studying these subjects? While it's possible to jump into bed with Gershom Scholem and the purist school of Kabalah, they are driven by agenda just as much as any other form of Hermetic Qabalah.
Also you seem to suggesting that studying a particular system and absorbing it's mechanics stops you from looking outside that system. It doesn't.

On a different note..... can I join the cabal? I can't think of any other reason why blatantly partisan posts get ignored in favour of mine.
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Old 02-01-2007     Top   #41
Ross G Caldwell 
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Originally Posted by jmd
Correct, Aeon418 - I was actually commenting on Wang's recommendation that a person stick to ONE system and effectively imbue themselves with it.

The problem is if one chooses, I would suggest, a 'system' where the overlays are already made, for then a habit of mind establishes links between disparate 'systems' (such as the Tree of Life, Astrology, Tarot, Alphabets, etc).

If a 'system' already presents these as correlated, then I would advocate the opposite of that which Wang suggests: do NOT choose such a system, but rather study tarot on its own merits, Kabalah on its own foundation, Astrology by its own various methods, and alphabetic traditions on their own.

Then - or at least, once one a basic foundation for each of these is established - one can look at such overlayed systems as presented by the GD (or the different system presented by the OKRC [Kabalistic Order of the Rose Cross]) and more easily assess and discriminate what is being presented.
I think it's a matter of aims. Each method has a different aim.

Like learning a foreign language, if your aim is fluency, it is no good to talk about theory, linguistics, all of the roots of the language, the illogicality of certain idioms, barbarisms, etc.; you have to learn it as it is used, learn the rules - and the rules of thumb - without questioning more than is needed to understand overall usage. Afterward, if you're interested, you should deepen your understanding with those other studies.

But if your interest is historical or scientific, then you will like to start with all of the above. You may come to a better knowledge OF the language than most native speakers - but you will have a hard time communicating with just about anyone.

So like the Tarot; if you want to play a version of the game, or read the cards, you are better learning a system first and then branch out when you feel confident. If you want a global understanding of every aspect - then the theoretical aspects, all the different approaches historically, would be your interest. But you will have a hard time applying this to a specific divinatory or ludic instance, unless you are based in a system first.

A firm base, however limited in the global sense, is nothing to be brushed off. In a sense, once mastered, it contains in itself the kernel of the whole universe of possibilities that the meta-discourse attempts to map.

The two methods are not exclusive; indeed they should always complement one another, after a short start with one or the other. But it is more difficult to go from a large amount of theory to a small amount of practice, than it is to go from a large amount of practice to a small amount of theory.

This is assuming that no prejudice about the superiority of the underlying theory of the practical method chosen is implied, of course.

Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

"Die Irrthümer grosser Männer sind verehrungswürdig, weil sie fruchtbarer sind als die Wahrheiten der kleinen." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


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Last edited by Ross G Caldwell; 02-01-2007 at 23:40.
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Old 02-01-2007     Top   #42
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Originally Posted by Moonbow*
Hi Venicebard, I'm sure many of us would be interested to know if there is a link between the Tree of Life paths and the Tarot, and not just the trumps either.

It appears that Gematria is a subject for debate too as some people 'do' connect it to the Kabbalah.
Yes, so much so that a book came out entitled The Greek Cabala that was based on the assumption Gematria is Kabbalah. No, Gematria entered the 'mystical stream' through Hasidic influence (Eleazer of Worms, for example, was both a Hasid and, seemingly, a Kabbalist of the highest order), whereas Kabbalah originated in Provence-Languedoc and spread to Spain once things became 'hot' in Languedoc (Albigensian Crusade, original Inquisition, and all that), which of course turned out to be "out of the frying pan and into the fire." Much of actual Kabbalah was lost (though I have managed to salvage its core from its residue), and this led to a grasping-at-straws, the 'straws' here being Gematria.
Much of what I have read in this thread and on the net over the last few weeks leads me to think that the individual can apply whatever suits them personally to the Tree of Life.
Sure, one can do whatever one wishes. My concern is merely whether there indeed was originally any connexion between paths-on-the-Tree and tarot, as I know for a fact that Tarot of Marseilles was constructed on the basis of Kabbalah as understood by (Keltic Christian) Gnostics initiated into the insular Keltic (Brito-Irish) bardic tradition, the meeting of bardic and Judaic alphabet-traditions having taken place in the Languedoc at the time of the Troubadours.

Most people's understanding of the Tree itself is limited to that of Yetzirah (the 3rd of 4 worlds, namely that of the doer or psyche, where the Great Work must be undertaken), even though descriptions of how it manifests in Atzilut and Beriyah (1st and 2nd worlds) are given in the Bahir and Sefer Yetzirah, respectively, and that of Asiyah (4th world) is preserved (with one minor error) in the Hermetic tradition linking planetary cycles to Sefirot. The paths themselves are strictly a thing of the 3rd or Yetzirah world, though, this being the one arranged in three triads with the offspring of the third triad divided between two Sefirot (9th and 10th).
I'm not even sure if it's the Hermetic Kabbalah that I'm interested in... I suspect not, and this is the only place that I have read that bardic numbering is involved too, (back to Google).
I don't think much about this numbering system has made to the internet (except in my posts here and elsewhere), but it is given in Graves's The White Goddess and is based on the symbolic (meaning real or actual, as opposed to illusory) link between each number and its corresponding tree-letter. For example, D, duir the oak or dalet the (oaken) door, is numbered 12 because its station is the outer horizon, linked to us by sight or fire (oak being lightning's or fire's tree), and 12 are the number of divisions of the stellar heavens, where fire mainly is, the oak hero then being given twelve 'merry men' in folklore to preserve the number-connexion in the popular mind.
So you are saying the Kabbalah is not based on Hebrew!!!
No, you misunderstand. The Hebrew alphabet -- and this is why rabbis have failed to preserve a real understanding of the letters and what they mean -- exists in a larger context, that is, it is one branch of an originally much more widespread tradition of letter-sounds. The branches of this tradition are the Hebrew (and before that the Phoenician, or rather proto-Canaanite, whence Phoenician derives), the Keltic, the runic, the earlier Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet (single-sound signs), the Meroitic offshoot of this, and the Libyan and Tifinag alphabets from farther west, Tifinag having been in use from at least the early Bronze Age amongst Scandinavian seafarers, alongside ogam consaine, consonants-only ogham, in which the fourth leg of the Magician's table (which contained the vowels) was not used in inscriptions.

Kabbalah itself -- or Qabbalah, as I like to call the original secret teaching of which Kabbalah is the surviving fragments -- consists of a deeper understanding of reality than that of modern science, and it is therefore not something exclusively Jewish, however much rabbis would like it to be (thereby vastly underrating its explanatory power). In fact, their failure to even think of looking beyond Judaism for clues is the reason they now possess only fragments of the original teaching, that and too much secrecy surrounding it in the first place, which caused it to be lost in the twin catastrophes of the move to Spain and the expulsion therefrom. But even in the 12th century, it was the meeting with insular Keltic bardic tradition that caused its resurgence, the two branches 'filling each other's holes' caused by centuries or millenniums of decay from the original trunk.

G.K. Spain, poet-fiddler and inadvertant thread-killer who now mostly just lurks and learns.
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Old 03-01-2007     Top   #43
Little Baron 
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I was browsing through a bookshop this evening, while waiting for my train. Pulled out 'Kabbalah for Dummies'.

Made me think of this thread [not that you are all dummies]. It is written without any word of the tarot etc. So I picked it up and started reading on the train home.

Anyone else tried this book's aproach. I found jt interesting but bitten up into managable chunks that didn't already expect me to know something already [even though I kind of do].

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Old 04-01-2007     Top   #44
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Hi, Moonbow,

I am new to this forum, but not new to Kabbalah. I have to say that I began as a student of the Kabbalah before pursuing the tarot, and while I don't consider myself a consummate expert by any stretch of the imagination, I have read enough to at least be dangerous (LOL)...

When I first began reading up on Kabbalah, I had no idea that so many different 'flavours' of it (if you will) existed. I soon learnt that the Christians have their own unique mode(s), the Hermetics have theirs, and the Jewish adherents have theirs. I must say, however, that through my limited perusal of the subject, I was never drawn to the sort of conclusion which dictated that Kabbalah was something which *preceded* Judaism, but which was borne out of it. The sages say that while the Torah answers the 'what?' and the Talmud answers the 'how?', the Kabbalah answers the 'why?'. And while I haven't delved into other mystical traditions outside of Jewish Kabbalah (once I realised which resources were considered 'kosher'), I have never encountered any books which attribute to Kabbalah any mystical language other than Hebrew (and occasionally Aramaic). Kircher and other European scholars discussed it using Latin, Greek or the vernacular tongue of their society to explain kabbalistic concepts, but always the Hebrew is there (and not Arabic, or Farsi, or Hindi).

Whether or not similar traditions exist in other cultures is not for me to answer, as I'm not qualified. I can, however, tell you that I came to favour the Lurianic 'sect' of kabbalah, and why.

During my initial exposure to Kabbalah, I found many different resources, few of which were actually Jewish (or Hebrew) in origin. Most of the non-Jewish Kabbalah resources I stumbled upon focused on the thaumaturgic (practical) side of Kabbalah, as a school of thought which attempted to answer questions regarding the practise of magic/the performing of miracles. A resource which I still own (for I rarely throw away books ) is The Kabbalistic Encyclopedia, written by David Godwin. I don't consider it a 'kosher' resource, for various reasons. The first of these concerns the nature of the resource itself, which is that of practical Kabbalah (magic/miracles). Many Jewish Kabbalah students, teachers, or written resources will readily denounce any book or class or student of Kabbalah which focuses on thaumaturgy as being of a non-kosher tradition. The focus of so-called 'kosher' (or Holy) Kabbalah seems to be on an intangible, spiritual level: meditation, ecstatic visions, a private spiritual relationship with the Divine, etc. As for so-called 'Christian [C]abalah', I haven't researched much into this, but I understand it as being 'borrowed' [confiscated] from early Jewish sources. Not having read up on this area, I feel ill-disposed to attempt answering questions regarding it, or discussing it with any level of authority. The 'kosher' tradition, of course, denounces it as well, since it was doubtless 'adapted' to accommodate the understanding of Jesus as the Messiah.

Within the 'kosher' tradition, it is said that the Rabbi Isaac Luria (a/k/a, the Ari Z'aL) was the greatest kabbalist ever to have lived. That was good enough for me. I began reading every scrap of information I could get my hands on which bore his name and information on his teachings. The most significant of these teachings involves 'tsimtsum' ('contraction'), which is Luria's prophetic account of how the Universe was originally created. It bears striking similarity to the Big Bang Theory which has been in vogue in scientific communities for decades now.

There is also a 'minor' difference in the Tree of Life diagramme which Luria provides us, versus the one developed by Kircher (or at least represented in his work). In the Kircher model, the Tree of Life has 10 sefiroth and 22 paths; there are 3 paths which connect Malkuth with the next 3 lowest sefiroth (Netzah, Hod, and Yesod). In the (earlier) Lurianic model, the Tree of Life likewise has 10 sefiroth and 22 paths, but there is only one path which connects Malkuth with the rest of the tree. This path interconnects Malkuth with Yesod, the next lowest sefirah. The two paths which are absent from Malkuth to Netsah and Hod in the Lurianic model are present elsewhere in the tree: one connects Hokhmah (sefirah 2) with Gevurah (sefirah 5), and the other connects Binah (sefirah 3) with Hesed (sefirah 4).

The Lurianic model of the Tree of Life (Etz haHayim) simply made more sense to me. The last sefirah (Malkuth) is joined to the tree by way of a single path, which represents a singular path between the physical world and the spiritual world. This allegory agrees with my understanding that there is a single avenue from the physical to the spiritual; how we traverse that path is what characterises it in our experience. Secondly, the 'Lightning Flash' which orders the sefiroth as they emanated (and incidentally, resembles a zigzag bolt of lightning) connects Binah (sefirah 3) with Hesed (sefirah 4), a path which is absent in the Kircher (European) model of the tree but which is present in the Lurianic model of the tree.

A final reason why I feel the Lurianic model of the Tree of Life makes more sense is how the 22 paths correlate with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alef-beth (alphabet). In Hebrew, letters belong to one of three groups: Mothers, Doubles, and Elementals. There are 3 'Mother' letters: Alef, Mem, and Shin; there are also 3 horizontal paths to the Lurianic model of the Tree of Life. These horizontal paths could be considered 'mothers' of a sort, because they determine the geometric structure of the tree and how large it is. Four horizontal paths would mean a predictably larger number of emanations, whereas only two horizontal paths would likewise mean a predictably smaller number of emanations. There are 7 'Double' letters: Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaf, Peh, Resh, and Taw. These are so called because in Hebrew, they are capable of representing two different sounds, a 'hard' and a 'soft' sound. There are also 7 vertical paths on the Lurianic model of the Tree of Life.

There are 12 'Elemental' letters in the Hebrew alef-beth: Heh, Waw, Zayin, Heth, Teth, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tsaddi, and Quf. These 12 letters belong to neither of the other two previous groups. There are also 12 diagonal paths on the Lurianic model of the Tree of Life.

When you look at these sets of 3, 7 and 12, it is only natural to group them with one another: the 3 'Mother' letters with the 3 horizontal paths, the 7 'Double' letters with the 7 vertical paths, and the 12 'Elemental' letters with the 12 diagonal paths of the tree. In my experience, the Golden Dawn approach to the kabbalah, and specifically the Tree of Life, doesn't share these associations, and the result isn't nearly as poetic or inspired. Just my opinion.

Now (please forgive my long-windedness) I came to accept the teachings of R' Luria and all that entailed prior to my pursuit of the tarot, so you can imagine my dismay when I discovered not a single tarot deck aligned with this (what seemed to me a very sensible) system. Well, that wouldn't do. Not at all. So I created a tarot deck design based on Lurianic teachings of Kabbalah. I'm hesitant to post the link here which I posted in the Tarot Deck Creation section, so check out my post there for the link, or check my profile for it, or PM me and I'll send it to you.

Oh, and Moonbow, if you haven't already done so, do yourself a huuuuge favour and purchase Kaplan's Sefer Yetsirah. It's available in paperback from for under US$20. Read it before you read anything else. I promise you won't regret it. It helped me out so-o-o-o much which I first explored the Kabbalah.

Now I'm (whew!) done. Shutting up now.

basilikon (creator of the Lurianic Tarot)

"Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas." - Unknown

Last edited by basilikon; 21-01-2007 at 00:38.
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Old 20-01-2007     Top   #45
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Thank you basilikon, excellent post.

Originally Posted by basilikon
When you look at these sets of 3, 7 and 12, it is only natural to group them with one another: the 3 'Mother' letters with the 3 horizontal paths, the 7 'Double' letters with the 7 vertical paths, and the 12 'Elemental' letters with the 12 diagonal paths of the tree. In my experience, the Golden Dawn approach to the kabbalah, and specifically the Tree of Life, doesn't share these associations, and the result isn't nearly as poetic or inspired. Just my opinion. you can imagine my dismay when I discovered not a single tarot deck aligned with this (what seemed to me a very sensible) system. Well, that wouldn't do. Not at all.
Both the Balbi Tarot and El Gran Tarot Esoterico share the kosher manner of assigning the letters to Ets Chaim. I prefer the Balbi myself.

I hope you stick around.
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Old 20-01-2007     Top   #46
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We woke up to sun here today, for the first time in two days. The sky is blue and dusted with clouds and there is a 'gentle' breeze. Then I log in and find basilikon's wonderful post, followed by Umbrae's.

The Sefer Yetsirah has been recommended many times here on Aeclectic and I've looked this book over on Amazon before, (its hugely expensive in the UK). Is it an easy book to read and understand?

Welcome to Aeclectic basilikon. I'll go and look at your site too.
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Old 20-01-2007     Top   #47
Little Baron 
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I have not had much time to continue reading my dummies book. But I may do later, on a long car journey.

From what I imagine, I am not reading any kind of particular method; just the history of Kaballah and it's teachings, with explanations of different avenues within. Is that kind of how you are studying it, Moonbow?

Has anyone read the Zohar as part of their studies? Or does anyone refer to the bible?

I am still quite ignorant of the over all picture.

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Old 20-01-2007     Top   #48
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Because R. Aryeh Kaplan sets out to explain and also to bring out various aspects of the text, it is by far 'easier' to follow him than attempting to do what he does by oneself.

Note should be made that the book (or least my imprint - not sure if later ones have been fixed) do contain some typographical errors (from memory, using Tav for Heth in one place, and Bet for another letter (probably Kaf) in another place.

As the whole text is very much about these letters, such errors have relatively more 'significance' than mere typographical misprint.
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Old 20-01-2007     Top   #49
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It seems this is a huge subject and I need to get over my college courses first so that I can read things other than anatomy! I hope to get a little more serious with this later in the year. As for the Bible, I do read it but not in connection with the Kabbalah yet.
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Old 20-01-2007     Top   #50
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