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CABALA.—Name and Origin (Hebrew form Kabbalah [[Hebr.] = to receive”; literally, “the received or traditional lore”)]: The specific term for the esoteric or mystic doctrine concerning God and the universe, asserted to have come down as a revelation to elect saints from a remote past, and preserved only by a privileged few. At first consisting only of empirical lore, it assumed, under the influence of Neoplatonic and Neopythagorean philosophy, a speculative character. In the geonic period it is connected with a Mishnah-like text-book, the “Sefer Yezirah,” and forms the object of the systematic study of the elect, called “mekubbalim” or ‘ ba‘ale ha-kabbala” (possessors of, or adepts in, the Cabala). These receive afterward the name of “maskilim” (the wise), after Dan. xii, 10: and because the Cabala is called [Hebr.] (“hokmah nistarah” = the hidden wisdom), the initials of which are [Hebr.] they receive also the name of [Hebr.] (“adepts in grace”) (Eccl. ix. 11, Hebr.). From the thirteenth century onward the Cabala branched out into an extensive literature, alongside of and in opposition to the Talmud. It was written in a peculiar Aramaic dialect, and was grouped as commentaries on the Torah, around the Zohar as its holy book, which suddenly made its appearance.

The Cabala is divided into a theosophical or theoretical system, Kabbalah ‘Iyyunit [Hebr.] and a theurgic or practical Cabala, [Hebr.]. In view of the fact that the name “Cabala” does not occur in literature before the eleventh century (see Landauer, “Orient. Lit.” vi. 206: compare Zunz, “G.V.” p. 416), and because of the pseudepigraphic character of the Zohar and of almost all the cabalistic writings, most modern scholars, among whom are Zunz, Graetz, Luzzatto, Jost, Steinschneider, and Munk (see bibliography below), have treated the Cabala with a certain bias and from a rationalistic rather than from a psychologico-historical point of view; applying the name of “Cabala” only to the speculative systems which appeared since the thirteenth century, under pretentious titles and with fictitious claims, but not to the mystic lore of the geonic and Talmudic times. Such distinction and partiality, however, prevent a deeper understanding of the nature and progress of the Cabala, which, on closer observation, shows a continuous line of development from the same roots and elements.

Cabala comprised originally the entire traditional lore, in contradistinction to the written law (Torah), and therefore included the prophetic and hagiographic books of the Bible, which were supposed to have been “received” by the power of the Holy Spirit rather than as writings from God’s hand (see Ta‘an. ii. 1; R. H. 7a, 19a, and elsewhere in the Talmud; compare Zunz, “G. V.” 2d ed., pp. 46, 366, 415, and Taylor, “Early Sayings of the Jewish Fathers,” 1899, pp. 106 et seq., 175 et seq.). Each “received” doctrine was claimed as tradition from the Fathers

Meaning of the Word “Cabala.”

—“ masoret me-Abotenu” (Josephus, “Ant.” xiii. 10. § 6; 16, § 2; Meg. l0b; Slick. vi, 1)—to be traced back to the Prophets or to Moses on Sinai (compare “mekubbalani” In Peah ii, 6; ‘Eduy. Viii, 7). So the Masorah, “the fence to the Torah” (Ab. Iii, 13) is, as Taylor (l.c. p. 55) correctly states, “a correlation to Cabala.” The chief characteristic of the Cabala is that, unlike the Scriptures, it was entrusted only to the few elect ones: wherefore, according to IV Esdras xiv, 5, 6, Moses, on Mount Sinai, when receiving both the Law and the knowledge of wondrous things, was told by the Lord: “These words shalt thou declare, and these shalt thou hide.” Accordingly the rule laid down for the transmission of the cabalistic lore in the ancient Mishnah (Hag. ii, 1) was “not to expound the Chapter of Creation (“Ma‘aseh Bereshit,” Gen. i.) before more than one hearer; nor that of the Heavenly Chariot (“Merkabah,” Ezek. i.; compare I Chron. xxviii, 18 and Ecclus. [Sirach] xlix, 8) to any’ but a man of wisdom and profound understanding”; that is to say, cosmogony and theosophy were regarded as esoteric studies (Hag. 13a). Such was the “Masoret ha-Hokmah” (the tradition of wisdom, handed over by Moses to Joshua (Tan., Wa’ethanan, ed. Buber, 13); and likewise the twofold philosophy [page 457] of the Essenes, “the contemplation of God’s being and the origin of the universe,” specified by Philo (“Quod Omnis Probus Liber,” xii.). Besides these there was the eschatology-that is, the secrets of the place and time of the retribution and the future redemption (Sifre, Wezot ha-Berakah, 357); “the secret chambers of the behemoth and leviathan” (Cant. R. i. 4); the secret of the calendar (“Sod ha‘Ibbur”)-that is, the mode of calculating the years with a view to the Messianic kingdom (Ket. 111a-112a; Yer. R. H. ii. 58b); and, finally, the knowledge and use of the Ineffable Name, also “to be transmitted only to the saintly and discreet ones” (Zenu‘im or Essenes; Kid. 71a; Yer. Yoma iii. 40d; Eccl. R. iii. 11), and of the angels (Josephus, “B. J.” ii. 8, §7). All these formed the sum and substance of the Mysteries of the Torah, “Sitre or Raze Torah” (Pes. 119a; Meg. 3a; Ab. vi. 1), “the things spoken only in a whisper” (Hag. 14a).

How old the Cabala is, may be inferred from the fact that as early a writer as Ben Sira warns against it in his saying: [Hebr.] — “Thou shalt have no business with secret things” (Ecclus. [Sirach] iii. 22; compare Hag. 13a; Gen. R. viii.). In fact, the apocalyptic literature belonging to the second and first pre-Christian centuries contained

Antiquity of the Cabala.

the chief elements of the Cabala; and as, according to Josephus (l.c.), such writings were in the possession of the Essenes, and were jealously guarded by them against disclosure, for which they claimed a hoary antiquity (see Philo, “De Vita Contemplativa,” iii., and Hippolytus, “Refutation of all Heresies,” ix. 27), the Essenes have with sufficient reason been assumed by Jellinek (“B. H.” ii, iii, Introductions and elsewhere), by Plessner (“Dae Mosheh wi-Yehudit,’ pp. iv. 47 et seq.), by Hilgenfeld (“Die Judische Apokalyptik,” 1857, p. 257), by Eichhorn (“Einleitung in die Apoc. Schrifften des Alten Testaments,” 1795, pp. 434 et seq.), by Gaster (” The Sword of Moses,” 1896, Introduction), by Kohler (“Test. Job,” in Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 266, 288 et seq.), and by others to be the originators of the Cabala.

That many such books containing secret lore were kept hidden away by the “wise” is clearly stated in IV Esdras xiv. 45-46, where Pseudo-Ezra is told to publish the twenty-four books of the canon openly that the worthy and the unworthy may alike read, but to keep the seventy other books hidden in order to “deliver them only to such as be wise” (compare Dan. xii. 10); for in them are the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the stream of knowledge (compare Sotah xv. 3). A study of the few still existing apocryphal books discloses the fact, ignored by most modem writers on the Cabala and Essenism, that “the mystic lore” occasionally alluded to in the Talmudic or Midrashic literature (compare Zunz, “G. V.” 2d ed., pp. 172 et seq.; Joel, Religionsphilosopie des Sohar,” pp. 45-54) is not only much more systematically presented in these older writings, but gives ample evidence of a continuous cabalistic tradition; inasmuch as the mystic literature of the geonic period is only a fragmentary reproduction of the ancient apocalyptic writings, and the saints and sages of the tannaic period take in the former the place occupied by the Biblical protoplasts, patriarchs, and scribes in the latter.

So, also, does the older Enoch book, parts of which have been preserved in the geonic mystic literature (see Jellinek, i.e., and “Z. D. M. G.” 1853, p. 249), by its angelology, demonology, and cosmology, give a fuller insight into the “Merkabah” and “Bereshit” lore of the ancients than the “Hekalot,” which present but fragments, while the central figure of the Cabala,

Cabalistic Elements in the Apoc-

Metatron-Enoch, is seen in ch. lxx-lxxi in a process of transformation. The cosmogony of the Slavonic Enoch, a product of the first pre-Christian century (Charles, “The Book of the Secrets of Enoch,” 1896, p. xxv), showing an advanced stage compared with the older Enoch book, casts a flood of light upon the rabbinical cosmogony by its realistic description of the process of creation (compare ch. xxv-xxx. and Hag. 12a et seq.; Yer. Hag. ii. 77a et seq.; Gen. R. i.-x.). Here are found the primal elements, “the stones of fire” out of which “the Throne of Glory” is made, and from which the angels emanate; “the glassy sea” (Hebr.), beneath which the seven heavens, formed of fire and water (Hebr.), are stretched out, and the founding of the world upon the abyss (Hebr.); the preexistence of human souls (Plato, “Timaeus,” 36; Yeb. 63b; Nid. 30b), and the formation of man by the Creative Wisdom out of seven substances (see Charles, note to ch. xxvi. 6 and xxx. 8, who refers to Philo and the Stoics for analogies); the ten classes of angels (ch. xx.); and, In ch xxii, version A, ten heavens instead of seven, and an advanced chiliastic calendar system (ch. xv.-xvi, xxxii.; see MILLENIUM). Its cabalistic character is shown by references to the writings of Adam, Seth, Cainan, Mahalalel, and Jared (ch. xxxiii. 10, and elsewhere).

More instructive still for the study of the development of cabalistic lore is the Book of Jubilees written under King John Hyrcanus (see Charles, “The Book of Jubilees.” 1902, Introduction, pp. lviii. et seq.)—which also refers to the writings of Jared, Cainan, and Noah, and presents Abraham as the renewer, and Levi as the permanent guardian, of these ancient writings (ch. iv. 18, viii. 3, x. 13; compare Jellinek, “B. H.” iii. 155, xii. 27, xxi. 10, xlv. 16)

A Contin-
uous Tra-

—because it offers, as early as a thousand years prior to the supposed date of the “Sefer Yezirah,” a cosmogony based upon the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and connected with Jewish chronology and Messianology, while at the same time insisting upon the heptad as the holy number rather than upon the decadic system adopted by the later haggadists and the “Sefer Yezirah “(ch. ii. 23; compare Midr. Tadshe vi. and Charles’s note, vi. 29 et seq.; Epstein, in “Rev. Et. Juives,” xxii. 11; and regarding the number seven compare Ethiopic Enoch, lxxvii. 4 et seq. [see Charles’s note]; Lev. R. xxix.; Philo, “De Opificios Mundi,” 30-43, and Ab. v. 1-3; Hag. 12a). The Pythagorean idea of the creative powers of numbers and letters, upon which the “Sefer Yezirah” is founded, and which was known in tannaitic times—compare Rab’s saying:


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[page 458] “Bezalel knew how to combine [Hebr.] the letters by which heaven and earth were created” (Ber. 55a), and the saying of R. Judah b. ‘Ilai (Men. 29b), quoted, with similar sayings of Rab, in Bacher, “Ag. Bab. Amor.” pp. 18, 19-is here proved to be an old cabalistic conception. In fact, the belief in the magic power of the letters of the Tetragrammaton and other names of the Deity (compare Enoch, lxi. 3 et seq.; Prayer of Manasses; Kid. 71a; Eccl. R. iii. 11; Yer. Hag. ii. 77c) seems to have originated in Chaldea (see Lenormant, “Chaldean Magic,” pp. 29, 43). Whatever, then, the theurgic Cabala was, which, under the name of “Sefer (or “Hilkot”) Yezirah”, induced Babylonian rabbis of the fourth century to “create a calf by magic” (Sanh. 65b, 67b; Zunz, “G. V.” 2d ed., p. 174, by a false rationalism ignores or fails to account for a simple though strange fact!), an ancient tradition seems to have coupled the name of this theurgic “Sefer Yezirah” with the name of Abraham as one accredited with the possession of esoteric wisdom and theurgic powers (see ABRAHAM, APOCALYPSE OF, and ABRAHAM, TESTAMENT OF’; Beer, “Das Leben Abrahams,” pp. 207 et seq.; and especially Testament of Abraham, Recension B, vi., xviii.; compare Kohler, in “Jew. Quart. Rev.” vii. 584, note). As stated by Jellinek (“Beiträge zur Kabbalah,” i. 3), the very fact that Abraham, and not a Talmudical hero like Akiba, is introduced in the “Sefer Yezirah,” at the close, as possessor of the Wisdom of the Alphabet, indicates an old tradition, if not the antiquity of the book itself.

The “wonders of the Creative Wisdom” can also be traced from the “Sefer Yezirah,” back to Ben Sira. l.c.; Enoch, xiii. 1, xlviii. 1, lxxxii. 2, xcii. 1; Slavonic Enoch, xxx. 8, xxxiii. 3 (see Charles’s note for further parallels); IV Esdras xiv. 46; Sotah xv. 3; and the Merkabah-travels to Test. Abraham, x.; Test. Job, xi. (see Kohler, in Kohut Memorial Volume, pp. 282-288); and the Baruch Apocalypse throughout, and even II Macc. vii. 22, 28, betray cabalistic traditions and terminologies.

But especially does GNOSTICISM testify to the antiquity of the Cabala. Of Chaldean origin, as suggested by Kessler (see “Mandæans,” Gnosticism in Herzog-Hauck, “Real-Encyc.“) and definitively shown by Anz

Gnosticism and Cabala.

(“Die Frage nach dem Ursprung des Gnostizismus,” 1879), Gnosticism was Jewish in character long before it became Christian (see Joel, “Blicke in die Religionsgeschichte,” etc., 1880, i. 208; Hoenig, “Die Ophiten,” 1889; Friedlaender, “Der Vorchristliche Judische Gnostizismus,” 1898; idem. “Der Antichrist, “1901). Gnosticism-that is, the cabalistic “Hokmah” (wisdom), translated into “Madda” (Aramaic, “Manda‘” = knowledge of things divine)—seems to have been the first attempt on the part of the Jewish sages to give the empirical mystic lore, with the help of Platonic and Pythagorean or Stoic ideas, a speculative turn; hence the danger of heresy from which Akiba and Ben Zoma strove to extricate themselves, and of which the systems of PHILO, an adept in Cabala (see “De Cherubim,” 14; “De Sacrificiis Abelis et Caini,” 15; “De Eo Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiatur,” 48; “Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres Sit,” 22), and of PAUL (see Matter. “History of Gnosticism,” ii.), show many pitfalls (set GNOSTICISM, MINIM). It was the ancient Cabala which, while allegorizing the Song of Songs, spoke of ADAM KADMON, or the God-man, of the “Bride of God,” and hence of “the mystery of the union of powers” in God (see Conybeare, “Philo’s Contemplative Life,” p. 304), before Philo, Paul, the Christian Gnostics, and the medieval Cabala did. Speculative Cabala of old (IV Esd. iii. 21; Wisdom ii. 24) spoke of “the germ of poison from the serpent transmitted from Adam to all generations” (Hebr.) before Paul and R. Johanan (‘Ab. Zarah 22b) referred to it. And while the Gnostic classification of souls into pneumatic, psychic, and hylic ones can be traced back to Plato (see Joel, l.c. p. 132), Paul was not the first (or only one) to adopt it in his system (see Hag. 14b; Cant. R. i. 3, quoted by Joel; compare Gen. R. xiv., where the five names for the soul are dwelt upon).

The whole dualistic system of good and of evil powers, which goes back to Zoroastrianism and ultimately to old Chaldea, can be traced through Gnosticism; having influenced the cosmology of the ancient Cabala before it reached the medieval one. So is the conception underlying the cabalistic tree, of the right side being

Cabalistic Dualism.

the source of light and purity, and the left the source of darkness and impurity (“sitra yemina we sitra ahara), found among the Gnostics (see Ireneus, “Adversus Haereses,” i. 5, § 1;. 11, § 2; ii. 24, § 6; Epiphanius, “Haeres,” xxxii. 1, 2; “Clementine Homilies,” vii. 3; compare Cant. R. i. 9; Matt. xxv. 33; Plutarch, “De Isike,” 48; Anz, l.c. 111). The fact also that the “Kelippot” (the scalings of impurity), which are so prominent in the medieval Cabala, are found in the old Babylonian incantations (see Sayce, “Hibbert Lectures,” 1887, p. 472; Delitzsch, ”Assyrisches Woerterbuch,” s.v. [Hebr.]), is evidence in favor of the antiquity of most of the cabalistic material.

It stands to reason that the secrets of the theurgic Cabala are not lightly divulged; and yet the Testament of Solomon recently brought to light the whole system of conjuration of angels and demons, by which the evil spirits were exorcised; even the magic sign or seal of King Solomon, known to the medieval Jew as the MAGEN DAWID, has been resurrected (see Conybeare, in “Jew. Quart. Rev.” xi. 1-45; also EXORCISM).

To the same class belongs the “Sefer Refu‘ot” (The Book of Healing), containing the prescriptions against all the diseases inflicted by demons, which Noah wrote according to the instructions given by the angel Raphael and handed over to his son Shem (Book of Jubilees, x. 1-14; Jellinek, “B. H.” iii. 155-160; Introduction, p. xxx.). It was identified with the “Sefer Refu‘ot” in possession of King Solomon and hidden afterward by King Hezekiah (see Pes. iv. 9, 56a; “B. H.” l.c. p. 160; Josephus, “Ant.” viii. 2, § 5; compare idem, “B. J.” ii. 8, § 6, and the extensive literature in Schürer, “Gesch. des Volkes Israel,” 3d ed., iii. 2, 99 et seq.), whereas the secret of the black art, or of healing by demonic powers, was transmitted to heathen tribes, to “the sons of Keturah” (Sanh. 91a) or the AMORITES (compare Enoch. x. 7).