Articles on Talmidaism Theology
Kabbalah: Its Origins In Pagan Magic And Mysticism
Here is an excerpt from the Jewish Encyclopaedia on Kabbalism:
“The Kabbalists developed a form of Jewish Magic. Demonology . . . occupies an important position in the works of many Kabbalists; for the imps are related to those beings that are generally designated as demons, being endowed with various supernatural powers and with insight into the hidden realms of lower nature, and even occasionally into the future and the higher spiritual world. Magic may be practised with the help of these beings, the Kabbalists meaning white magic in contrast to the black arts.”
We Jews today are well and truly having the wool pulled over our eyes if we are fooled into thinking that Kabbalah comes from Judaism.
In the 21st century, Kabbalah has been sanitised and window-dressed to give it some kind of respectability. We are given selected quotes to make us think it is innocent, but at its origin and core it is nothing more than a mediaeval attempt to blend pagan philosophy, magic and superstition with Jewish mysticism.
Kabbalah is not an ancient belief system. It was started in the 13th century by Moses de León (1240 – 1305), the author of the Zohar – the foundational mystical text of Kabbalism. Kabbalism, as it was originally founded, was about the power to control demons and magical forces, giving some people good fortune, and cursing others; essentially, it was a form of Jewish witchcraft. Modern Kabbalah has been heavily sanitised in order to hide its occult origins. The main reason why Talmidaism is opposed to Kabbalism, is because its origins are in medieval witchcraft – something that is forbidden by God in Torah.
In the 17th century, proponents of Kabbalist magic were called baaley shem (‘lords of the Name’), because they were said to use the Name of God as a weapon against demons. By the 18th century, baaley shem would make amulets (magical charms on small pieces of paper) to supposedly treat the sick. The Babylonian Talmud argues in favour of using magical charms (Pesachim 112a:11), so the baaley shem used the Talmud to justify these magical practices. Some (eg Chaim Samuel Jacob Falk, an alchemist) were even accused of witchcraft by Christian authorities. Some rabbis (eg Rabbi Hagiz) in Amsterdam even tried to discourage Kabbalah, because of its involvement in magical rituals. In Eastern Europe, Kabbalist healers would perform demonic healings and exorcisms on the sick.
The nature of Kabbalah
Modern proponents of Kabbalah claim that the goal of Kabbalism is to gain a higher understanding of God and human existence, but surely this is also the goal of most religions – including ours. The objection we have is how it gets there. The path of Yahwism to a higher understanding of God is through a code of holiness and righteous behaviour. Yahwism eschews ALL pagan methods of reaching God; we are to be a people holy to YHVH, holy in all our ways. In total contrast, the path of Kabbalism reaches a higher understanding of God through secret knowledge, study of artificially created, pagan concepts of the structure of the universe, and practises which stem from pagan magic, divination and superstition.
One belief from Kabbalah that is rife today, and which has infected modern Judaism, is that the words of Torah have a hidden, secret meaning. This belief comes from ancient Chaldean magic. It taught that words, even the individual letters of words, had enormous hidden power, and by studying them one could use that power to obtain a glimpse of the hidden secrets of the Universe.
A Follower of the Way must reject this way of thinking; it goes against what YHVH teaches.
The Zohar claims that Kabbalah is hidden wisdom, and that good and evil are equal and opposite forces. This is pure Gnosticism.
The Way we follow, teaches that what we are told in secret, we are to shout from the rooftops; there is to be nothing held secret amongst us. And to claim that evil is equal to God, goes against everything that Yahwism stands for in our assertion that YHVH is the one, all-powerful and only Creator, and that there is nothing and no one like YHVH.
Many, many years ago, in an attempt to understand why so many young people were gravitating towards magic and witchcraft, I took it upon myself to become informed on the subject. I became acquainted with a number of key aspects of the nature of magic and superstition. This was a long time before I even knew Kabbalah existed.
When I finally came across Kabbalah, I instantly recognised the pagan elements in Kabbalah. I recognised Greek and Arabic elements in its descriptions of how the Universe was constructed, the Chaldean origin of its teaching on the hidden meaning of words. The Kabbalist division of the universe into ten sefirot is taken directly from Platonic thought. The fact that the study of pagan philosophy is forbidden to Jews, enables Kabbalists to use this lack of acquaintance with pagan ways to claim with impunity that it is Jewish in origin.
No matter how much people might claim that it is Jewish in origin, there is nothing Yahwist in the early foundations of Kabbalism. I would even venture as far as to encourage people to study the mysticism of the Greeks, Arabs, Chaldeans etc, if only to open their eyes to where Kabbalism actually comes from.
I think nowadays, Kabbalists deliberately hide the foreign elements in it, to make it look more Jewish, but look for a good, unbiased article on the Zohar, and you cannot avoid seeing the pagan origin of Kabbalah. It is a mediaeval attempt to Judaise pagan mysticism to enable Jews to study it.
If there is anything that should make people see where Kabbalism comes from, it is the 23-volume Zohar, Kabbalism’s holy book itself. The reading of it is discouraged except by those well-versed in Kabbalism. I would actually encourage you to try and read parts of it, because you will instantly see its true nature.
The Zohar is a mystical commentary on Torah which purports to give the Torah’s true meaning. This ‘true meaning’ was deemed only worthy of being taught to a select few. It is more likely that it was only taught to those chosen few who would not freak out at the fact that it contained a lot of pagan magic, superstition and demonology, in direct opposition to the basic tenets of Yahwism.
“In a word, its works represent that movement in Judaism which attempted to Judaize all the foreign elements in it, a process through which healthy and abnormal views were introduced together.” (Jewish Encyclopedia, from the article on the Zohar).
In the Zohar, there are legends about Solomon controlling demons in order to build the Temple. The demon Asmedai is presented as Solomon’s teacher (Zohar Lev. pp. 19a, 43a; ib. Num. 199b).
I always find it interesting how originally, study of the Zohar was limited. Among Orthodox Jews the study of the Kabbalah is not encouraged unless the student is over forty, married, with children, and well versed with the Talmud and the Torah. I don’t think this is an accident. It is probably to make sure educated Jews do not become taken by the pagan elements in it. Modern Kabbalists do their utmost to hide certain parts of the Zohar and early Kabbalist teaching, but it is there.
And the claim that the Zohar is ancient: I cannot find any actual mention of it before the 13th century (eg “The Zohar with its various strata was without doubt composed in the years that immediately preceded its publication, since it is impossible to uncover any section that was written before 1270” Encyc. Jud). I can only say that if all the prophets were alive today, they would be vociferous in their condemnation of it. It takes the Israelite religion back 3,000 years.
What does Torah say in regard to magic and superstition?
“Let no one be found among you who . . . practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to YHVH”
(Deut. 18. 10-11)
“Neither shall you use enchantments nor practise augury. Do not turn to them who consult familiar spirits nor wizards”
(Lev. 19: 26, 31)
Kabbalist practises are pagan practises
Let’s look at Kabbalist practises for what they truly are:
- Believing that it is the actual formula of words in a prayer that can bring about a result, without even having to know their meaning, is akin to casting a spell.
- Believing that speaking a Hebrew prayer without knowing what it means can bring change, is akin to saying an incantation to invoke supernatural powers.
- Believing that Kabbalist mezuzot can, in and of themselves, bring protection, is akin to hanging up pagan fetishes to ward off evil.
- Believing that the mere wearing of a relic or the words of a prayer, will bring protection or good luck, is akin to wearing a magic amulet.
I have read of Kabbalists who wear a red string believing that it has power, or who say that certain people died because they refused to wear a sacred amulet containing a prayer.
Those who follow YHVH, when we wear symbols and prayers, should see them for what they are – simply as reminders of who we are, and of the path we follow; they have no intrinsic power of their own – that’s the difference. When we say prayers, we should try to understand each and every word that we say, for only then do words have true power.
In ancient times, the prophets railed against the people of Israel because they engaged in pagan practises. Yet today, you have people who fervently study Kabbalah and claim that it is Jewish. It is NOT Jewish in origin; it is not even Yahwist. It is a mediaeval melding of pagan, magical and superstitious practices with Judaism. Let no one fool you into thinking otherwise.
A Follower of the Way follows YHVH’s way, and YHVH’s way does not mean following magic or superstition.
If you insist on studying Kabbalah, you have to be aware that Kabbalist mysticism is identical to the mysticism of ancient pagan magicians, augurs, and soothsayers.
I cannot tell anyone not to study Kabbalah. Go ahead. I can only say that I am extremely disturbed by it. It legitimises superstitious practises that the prophets died to condemn. I cannot ever, in all conscience, approve of Kabbalah. There is much in it that is not from YHVH.
As with all things in our faith, I encourage you to make up your own minds. I cannot tell you what to think. In my humble opinion, YHVH’s wisdom is one thing, and Kabbalist wisdom is another.