In Kabbalah as with neo-Platonism, all of Reality is seen as a set of emanations from the One, and life is a journey of return from Creator to Creation in a fluid and eternal dance. The Jewish mystical tradition infuses an emanationist philosophy with belief that the Hebrew letters themselves, ordered in a particular and Divinely-revealed way, provide a map that can guide humans in our life’s journeys. Accordingly, by reading the Hebrew scriptures with knowledge of the esoteric meaning of the divine letters, it is possible to expand one’s understanding of their truth and soteriologial value.
Why would this sort of mystic Judaism be of interest to thinkers outside the Jewish esoteric traditions today? Might there be something important about the nature of language that is seen both inside and outside Jewish mysticism, a truth that can benefit our quest for greater language awareness?
These are some of the many questions to be posed in this blog in the months ahead. For now, let’s make a quick note of a blog post yesterday by author and ritual magick practitioner Frater Barrabbas. He will be publishing articles about Kabbalah during the next month which will eventually appear in book form. I plan to read along, as I find his explanation of Kabbalistic nuances and influences refreshingly straightforward.
Barrabbas is the rare pagan author insistent on finding a place in his worldview for Kabbalah (which he spells Qabbalah, a form he argues is a more accurate translation). From what I’ve seen, his writings draw eclectically from different esoteric schools and are woven together with a “meta-system” which makes extensive use of Kabbalistic associations.
In “Is the Qabbalah Superfluous?” he makes the case for magick practitioners to use Kabbalah stripped from its overtly Abrahamic mysticism: a model of inner planes, paths for tables of correspondence, Gematria for numerological connections, and more. Kabbalah, he says, is not merely a Jewish tradition; it is also infused with deep neo-Platonic, neo-Pythagorean, and other pagan influences.
Here’s how he explains how it is possible to separate the Jewish mysticism from what he sees as the essential core:
[T]the Qabbalah is many things to many different occultists, and as a tool, it can be used by individuals who don?t share the same beliefs. The single and most important reason for this fact is because the Qabbalah is a kind of meta-system, which can be used to give meaning and insights to other occult systems, such as the Tarot, astrology, alchemy, occult philosophy and the many forms of ritual and ceremonial magick.
I’m not sure how persuasive his case will be to pagans whose worldview is rooted in staunch opposition to the Abrahamic religions, but you can’t fault him for trying to lay the groundwork for universal spiritual principles. Barrabbas’s definition of “meta-system” describes the structure of this groundwork:
A meta-system is a system that is described by attributes that are themselves abstract objects with their own properties and attributes. The interrelationships between these attributes would form what is loosely defined as a meta-system. It is, therefore, a system describing [sic] systems.
The notion of a “meta-system” and “meta-knowledge” which is so important to contemporary esoteric thought is here expounded as a system of abstract objects which are capable of specifying a model and structure for objects outside the system. Barrabbas looks to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life as a “meta-system” which can describe Tarot, astrology, alchemy, and so forth.
It’s an odd marriage of monotheism and magic, to be sure, but not necessarily an unhappy one. Still, Barrabbas seems to recognize that the love pairing of Kabbalah and magick isn’t “until death do we part.” He identifies qualities that would be needed by a future partner to magick that could replace Kabbalah, like a younger and more attractive spouse replacing an older one. He says:
A replacement system would have to have the following six elements:
- Stages or phases of emanation (analogous to the Sephiroth) based on pure number,
- Alphabetic system of interrelationships (analogous to the Pathways),
- Glyph or symbolic model depicting the structure of the emanations and pathways along with an implied hierarchy and interrelationships,
- Foundational language – typically a sacred tongue of some kind,
- Spiritual hierarchy,
- Various Tables of Correspondences – important occult attributes and their associated tags.
In addition to the above list of elements, the meta-system and meta-knowledge would be used to determine a cosmology and cosmogony, a structure of the inner spiritual planes, as well as the ability to define a kind of occult epistemology (nature and scope of knowledge) and ontology (nature of reality).
Consider now just the fourth bullet point: a foundational language. What esotericists such as Barrabbas are seeking in the Kabbalah, it seems clear to me, is that which is provided by the existence of a sacred tongue in which the meanings of letters are not separate from numbers, glyphs, and a symbolic model of the universe. If such a language were to exist, it might replace Hebrew (or Sanskrit, Arabic, or another ancient sacred language) by becoming the grounding “meta-system” inclusive of Kabbalah and other esoteric models.
The Magician’s quest, it seems to me, is the drive to move beyond language to a form of “meta-linguistic” communication. In the writings and explorations of esotericists are glimpses at what the future of language might hold: a system of communication capable of ordering all other systems of knowledge and itself suggesting a map of macro (cosmology) and micro (cosmogony).
Is it possible that the future of language might be previewed in the ancient mystical traditions of “sacred word,” “sacred symbol,” and “sacred number”? Could the end of language be reached by returning to its beginnings? I suspect that the answer is Yes. Follow along in Beyond Language as we explore the possibilities…