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Kabbalah/authentic Kabbalah

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Question
Can you explain the differences between the "cult" of Kabbalah and the authentic Kabbalah? I heard about a Kabbalah group that received some bad publicity. Thank you

Answer
Hi Gale,

There must have been some bad publicity lately, because I received a similar question on this topic not long ago. Here is a copy of my former response:

To understand how "authentic" Kabbalah began, it is important to understand the history of this fascinating Jewish mystical tradition.

According to scholars, there is no evidence that Kabbalah started at the time of Abraham (circa. 2,000 BCE) or Moses (circa. 1350 BCE). Since Moses grew-up as a "Prince of Egypt" in Pharaoh's court, it is more likely that he knew more about "The Egyptian Book of The Dead" than he did about Hebrew esoteric philosophy. There may have been some sort of "oral tradition" that began about this time, but there is no evidence of this claim either. So, rather than speculate about what Moses might have known - let's turn to Kabbalistic scholarship to find the answer about when "authentic" Kabbalah started.

According to Gershom Scholem (a world renowned, critically-acclaimed scholar), the Jewish mystical philosophy known as "Kabbalah" began in Provence, France in circa. 1200 CE. Most of earliest Kabbalistic texts were written during this period (Sefer Ha-Bahir, Sefer Raziel HaMalakh, etc.), and the earliest known Kabbalists include Abraham ben David (Rabad) and Isaac the Blind. The one textual exception is the Sefer Yetzirah, which according to scholars may have been written at an earlier time (circa. 600 CE).

In 1275 CE, Moses DeLeon authored the "magnum opus" of Kabbalah - "The Zohar." According to Scholem,

Unfortunately, the most voluminous kabbalistic work of the 13th century, The Zohar, namely, the complex of writings included within it, must be entirely eliminated from this discussion of the origin or early stages of the Kabbalah. The contention has often been made, and is still frequently repeated, that The Zohar contains texts of great antiquity whose identification and analysis would thus be of the greatest relevance to understanding the origins of kabbalah. However, I have presented the results of an extensive and detailed investigation of this work and demonstrated that there is unfortunately no basis for assuming that the Zohar contains any ancient texts. The entire work belongs to the last quarter of the 13th century and is of no use to discussing the origins of the Kabbalah.

So, based on Scholem's conclusions (and many other modern scholars), the "real" history of Kabbalah begins about 800 - 900 years ago. Therefore, the "real" Kabbalah began as a mystical movement that was intended to: 1) interpret the symbolism of the Torah (in language and in numbers), 2) instruct the Kabbalist as to how to "repair or correct" impurities within oneself (tikkun) and in the universe, 3) how to achieve a state of transcendence by experiencing the God-force (through mystical meditation - kavvanah) and, 4) and provide an explanation of the afterlife that includes the notion of "revolution of souls," which is similar to the concept of reincarnation (Gilgul Neshamot / גלגול הנשמות). Of course, there are many more important teachings - but, this is just a preliminary overview.

Today, there are many interpretations of Kabbalah available to everyone. An individual does not need to be Jewish or belong to any religion to study and practice Kabbalistic methods. There is no prohibition toward any human being from believing in Kabbalah. However, it is helpful to have an understanding of the Torah and the Talmud when studying this subject.

Alan, to answer your question directly - the most authentic type of Kabbalah is what you believe to be true after you've studied the fundamental principles of Kabbalah. If you're delving into this subject for the first time - you may want to start with books by Rabbi David Cooper, and then, move on to Aryeh Kaplan and Gershom Scholem. Also, there is plenty of reliable information available on Rabbi Michael Laitman's website that is of great value.

I hope this information is helpful for you...with best wishes, Bob Waxman  


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Kabbalah

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Robert Waxman, Ph.D.

Expertise

Please ask any questions that are relevant to Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism. Other topics to inquire about include: science and Kabbalah, parallel universes, reincarnation, after-death states, cosmology, numerology (gematria), hidden meanings of the Bible, the eternal validity of the soul, Plato, and Kabbalah, Vedanta and Kabbalah, and the meaning of life according to Kabbalah.

Experience

Author of "Kabbalah Simply Stated" published by Paragon House Publishers and distributed in 12 countries. Other books: "2012: The Meaning and The Message", "Seven Fundamental Propositions of Esoteric Philosphy" and "The Power of AWE!". Studied Kabbalah with Rabbi Azriel Abraham of Jerusalem from 1985 - 1998 and have been teaching Kabbalah and other subjects since 1998. Classes include: Kabbalah According To The Scholars, (Scholem, Kaplan, Tishby & Idel), Comparative Spirituality, Latest Research on the Near Death Experience (NDE), Spirtually Transformative Experiences & Cognitive Dissonance, Common Threads of Wisdom in Religion, Science, and Consciousness Studies. Thousands have attended these classes over the years. Additionally, on-going classes are given all year round along with guest speaking presentations at a wide variety of religious and philosophical organizations.

Organizations
Founding Member and guest speaker at The Open Center in Sarasota, FL. International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS) Longboat Key Education Center Unity Life Enrichment Center American Seminar Leader's Association

Publications
(3) Books, many original articles that can be found on the internet (ezine, netterweb, searchwarp, etc.) "Beyond Madonna - Kabbalah according to the Great Scholars" and "Beyond The Da Vinci Code".


Education/Credentials
Ph.D. from Saybrook University; Master's Degree from Skidmore College with a concentration in Comparative Religion; (2) B.A.'s from The American University. Additional courses in Philosophy at Columbia University.

Awards and Honors
Many certificates of appreciation and recognition from various organizations.

Past/Present Clients
Over the last 15 years classes have been held at The Open Center, (5) Jewish Community Centers in South Florida, synogogues, Longboat Key Education Center, The Center For Positive Living, Interfaith Centers, Unity of Sarasota, and other religious & philosophical organizations.

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