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The Jewish Kabbalah


Kabbalah is an ancient Jewish doctrine of esoteric knowledge. According to this doctrine the nature of God and the universe were was revealed to elect saints in the remote past, and have been preserved through the centuries by a chain of initiates. Kabbalah is part of the Jewish Oral Law - a mystical interpretation of the Torah. Kabbalah stresses an understanding of the divine commandments, the events described in the Torah, and the rules by which God governs the universe.

Early forms of esoteric mysticism existed before the time of Jesus. Ben Sira warns against esoteric teachings in his saying: "Thou shalt have no business with secret things" (Sirach iii. 22). Apocalyptic literature from the second and first centuries BC contained elements of Kabbalah. According to Josephus, such literature was jealously guarded by the Essenes, who claimed that they already dated from distant antiquity. Many books containing secret lore were kept hidden by the Enlightened (IV Esdras xiv. 45-46). One of the most sustained criticisms of Kabbalah is that it leads away from monotheism, and towards dualism, the belief that there are two gods. The dualistic system of good and of evil powers, traceable back to Zoroastrianism, was popular among Gnostics and certainly influenced the Kabbalah. Curiously, we know little of Kabbalism through the dark and middle ages until it reappears in the twelfth century in the Languedoc. One particular book of Kabbalah, the Bahir ("illumination"), or The Midrash of Rabbi Nehuniah ben haKana was first published in Provence in 1176. Many Orthodox Jews believe that the author was a Talmudic teacher of the first century. Most historians believe that the book was written soon before it was published in the Langue d'Oc.

That Kabbalistic writings should surface in the Languedoc, precisely at the time and in the place that dualist Gnostic Cathars and mystical Troubadours flourished, has excited justifiable interest. With the power of the repressive Roman Catholic Church temporarily checked, it looks as though poets, theologians and philosophers enjoyed a temporary freedom to work together until the papal inquisition exterminated the Cathars and expelled the Jews, and the Troubadours disappeared into the mists of history.

Most forms of Kabbalah teach that every letter, word, number, and accent of scripture contains a hidden sense; and it teaches the methods of interpretation for ascertaining these occult meanings - one of the aspects that have attracted some of the more vacuous celebrities to Kabbalah.

If you want to learn more about these questions, on location in the Languedoc, you might be interested in Templar Quest Tours.



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