Kabbalah Basic Question


I'm interested in learning about the Kabbalah, since I've heard of it here and there. The only thing I know about is that it's a really old concept/idea/system/school of thought.

So what I want to know is, what is Kabbalah in general, without going into the specifics and how does it apply in these modern times?

What are the different types of Kabbalah systems and their main differences? Briefly of course.

Is Kabbalah closely associated to any of the different types of divination?

Are there any book you would recommend on Kabbalah, but where it's about Kabbalah in general, so I can get an overall idea of what it is about, or any other recommendations.

And, is the book 'The Book of Kabbalah: Thirteen Principles to Overcome Challenges and Achieve Fulfilment' by YEHUDA BERG, a good place to start?

Sorry if it's asking too many question in a single thread, but any contribution will be welcome!



"Kabbalah" (there are many cute variations on the spelling) is...

1. Jewish Mysticism [this is the factual definition]

2. Heresy [also, factual]

3. Anything you want it to be [IMHO]

4. Enjoy! :)


I'm going to make an unusual recommendation here. It's an important source text from the late middle ages, but not commonly read. It really cuts through a lot of the nonsense and goes straight to the heart and the ethics of the Sephirot:

Palm Tree of Devorah by Moshe Cordevero (Author), Moshe Miller (Translator)

Generally, you'll see Kabbalah spelled two ways. With a K is usually the Hebrew version, which is actually derivative from a number of earlier sources like Gnosticism, etc, but then focused largely on the Tanach and then its own source texts like the Zohar, Bahir and Yetzirah, the oldesst.

Spelled Qabalah (a truer spelling of QBLH), it includes what the Western Mystery Tradition did with the lore, which in my opinion had much to offer. I would look for good books on both sides.

As general advice, I'd stay clear of books from the Research Center of Kabbalah.
If you want scholarly, I'd try Moshe Idel


Kabbalah is a school of thought dedicated to man's relationship with God, his place, the spiritual mechanics of creation. It is the codification of Jewish mysticism, and also includes some forms or ritual magick, sex magick and even black magick.

It is most certainly not "anything you can think of." :)

Honestly, KariRoad, if I were that kind of person, I'd feel a little put out at your insistance that Kabbalah is what Madonna makes of it. Every kind of spiritual practice has been appropriated by New Age, you're being a little unfair in assuming a pop version of something is what it really is!

However, in recent years I have to admit that it has become popular, perhaps for the wrong reasons. While one might say that any attention is good, I treat the modern celebrity interest in it like any New Age fad, like shamanism or anything else; quite corrupted and packaged. There is also no "one" Kabbalah, it is comprised of many schools of thought, some in keeping with Jewish tradition, some very heretical.

I don't know how to tell you how it relates to modern life, it is not really like that. It is, for me, mainly a fascinating spiritual map of the world, merely the conemplation is the thing. Hermetic Qabala is what people mainly study in relation to Tarot, as the Golden Dawn based their decks on it. That alone is a good reason to learn at least the basics of it, since it adds a wealth of symbolism to any deck, it really opens them up and makes you see them differently. Since I started learning it Golden Dawn decks have so much more meaning for me, Kabbalah is really, really the nitty gritty engine of the Golden Dawn. If nothing else, contemplate the basics of the Tree of Life, it alone will open up new Tarot worlds for you.

As to the book, I don't know the one you mentioned, but if you have it, read it, why not. In conjunction with Tarot, I actually recommend DuQuette's book about the Thoth as a very (very!) short and approachable introduction, as well as Chicken Qabala. These are introductions, of course, there are also commentaries on the Zohar and other more "professinal" texts. :)

Anyway, like I said, the Tree of Life and how the cards are arranged on it should give you plenty of food for thought. Although that in itself needs some introduction, I suggest you start from there.


Bradford, thanks, though the only thing I understood was the general advice.

Closrapexa, thanks. From what you've said, it sound like I should learn about the Kabbalah to a level of the basic principles to maybe intermediate - since I'm mainly using the tarot right now. I do use the Rider-Waite style and I intend to looking into the Thoth style a bit later. As for the tarot of Marseilles, I'm not so sure because it seem really complicated, especially the imagery - I'm more of a visual person.

I'll try Hermetic (in conjunction to tarot), and it seem the Christian Kabbalah and the Hermetic Kabbalah are the main ones, or according to Wiki. Is there not clear difference between the two?

Ross G Caldwell

Aryeh Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, and Meditation and the Bible are the two best books for classical, practical Kabbalah. He also did the most popular translation of the Sepher Yetzirah, which you will want to have.

But first, memorize the Hebrew alphabet, and read the Psalms every day. Use a Jewish translation, like TaNaKh, a long-dear standard of the Jewish Publication Society ("TaNaKh" is an acronym for "Torah" "Nevi'im" and "Ketubim", the three division of the Hebrew Bible). Reading them out loud while standing is the best way; divide them up so that you read them over the course of a week.

Also divise a plan for reading the other "Wisdom Books" - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes - and the Song of Songs (Solomon) - on a regular basis.

The Bible has to sink in, become part of you. This is the key to Kabbalah. Don't go for dumbed-down popularizations. Don't worry if you aren't Jewish, or Christian; don't judge these ancient words until you have let them become part of the language of your heart.

(P.S. a roughly even distribution of the Psalms (by length) over the course of a week that I use is:

Sunday - 1-25
Monday - 26-44
Tuesday - 45-68
Wednesday - 69-84
Thursday - 85-105
Friday - 106-119
Saturday - 120-150

Different Jewish and Christian traditions have divided them up differently over one or two weeks for liturgical and private devotional purposes, but this one has no confessional bias, just a straight through reading)


Ross, thanks for your comment but I know absolutely nothing about Kabbalah, and it's getting me confused. I need it for practical purposes and I never intended to go into too much detail with the Kabbalah. I'm just inquiring about it and trying to get a general idea of it.

Alos, did you mean for me to read parts of the Bible? I went to a Catholic primary school from years 4 to 6, and I attended a Catholic high school for the whole 6 years. They never managed to conform me and my parents aren't religious at all. So, I kind of want to stay away from the Bible for now.

I was looking to learning the basics of Kabbalah I guess, after reading the previous comments, to use it in conjunction with the tarot. Since I won't be able to use it any where else - I won't be able to apply it in the religious part of my life, if it is correct to call it that, but I'll use it when using the different types of divination where appropriate.

Ross G Caldwell

Alca, I'm sorry I overwhelmed you with that.

For Tarot, the connections with Kabbalah are superficial, and were developed most fully by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Basically it is the Tree of Life, as Kircher, a 17th century Jesuit, portrayed it.

The Ten Sephiroth (Sfirot) correspond to the Ace through Ten of the four suits.
Kether - Crown - Ace
etc. to
Malkuth - Kingdom - Ten

The four suits correspond to the "Four Worlds" of Kabbalah, as representing the elements with their macrocosmic and microscosmic attributions:
Atziluth - Emanation - Fire - Inspiration - Wands
Briah - Creation - Water - Emotion/Feeling - Cups
Yetzirah - Formation - Air - Intellect - Swords
Assiah - Action - Earth - Body/physical deeds - Disks/Pentacles

The 22 letters are paths between the Sephiroth, and correspond to the 22 Tarot trumps. In the English tradition depending on the Golden Dawn, Aleph is the Fool, and Beth is the Magician. In France, a slightly earlier attribution put Aleph as the Magician, and placed the Fool as Shin, next to the last letter, Tau/World. Thus the only thing the two sets of attributions have in common is the letter Tau.

For divination/meditation, the way to use them is to think about the elemental and psychological meanings, combining the meaning of the Sephira for the minor arcana with the paths that influence it. For the major arcana, they express the paths themselves.

So, the thing to do is to memorize the Tree of Life with its attributions, and use as much as you can when coming up with divinatory meanings in context.


That's still a bit confusing, but, I should look at the tree of life then.

So, where would I start? I have the books, 'The Kabbalah Tree' and 'The Forest of Souls', both by Rachel Pollack in my to-buy-booklist. Would they be a good start? Well, I have to be able to use it with the Tarot.

Ross G Caldwell

That's still a bit confusing, but, I should look at the tree of life then.

So, where would I start? I have the books, 'The Kabbalah Tree' and 'The Forest of Souls', both by Rachel Pollack in my to-buy-booklist. Would they be a good start? Well, I have to be able to use it with the Tarot.

I don't have those books, but I think if she shows you the diagram with Tarot attributions, you have all you need to begin with.

The most practical advice is to copy the diagram by hand, in order. In other words, draw the ten circles, write their names in them, then draw the lines with the names of the Hebrew letters, in order.

If you don't know the Hebrew alphabet yet, then the very first thing to do is memorize it. You don't have to know how to draw the letters, just the names of the letters. So instead of "A Bee Cee" etc., you say "Alef Bet Gimel Dalet Heh" etc. To learn it with the Tree, draw the lines as you say the letters - so from Kether to Hokmah, you have "Alef", from Kether to Binah you have "Bet", from Kether to Tiferet, you have "Gimel" etc.

When you have it committed to memory, after a few dozen drawings, you'll be able to begin working with it inside your mind.