The Kabbalah Fallacy

I’d like to comment on something very particular that I’ve heard come out of the mouths (or fingertips) of several Pagans lately: Namely, that Kabbalah was the original form of Judaism, and that Judaism has, since its Kabbalistic foundation, well-neigh degraded into something restrictive, totalitarian, evil, etc.

WTF, mate. Here’s a good example of what I’ve been calling the ‘Kabbalah Fallacy’: “I’m no expert on the Kabbalah, but I know enough to realize that Jewish mysticism is very different from modern Judaism and Christianity.  (How something so full of wisdom managed to give birth to dogmatic, patriarchal religions is beyond me; I’ll just point out that humans have a way of royally screwing things up and that this is a classic example!)”

I’m talking specifically about the “something so full of wisdom managed to give birth to dogmatic, patriarchal religions” part. The historical fact of the matter is that the exact opposite is true, that is, that that which this author is calling dogmatic and patriarchal is, in fact, that which itself gave birth to “something so full of wisdom.” Judaism as such developed alongside ancient Levantine polytheism and, by 586 BCE when Solomon’s temple was destroyed, the tradition was highly developed and supported. Only six centuries years later, in the 13th century, can we begin to speak of Kabbalah as such, setting aside various traditional ascriptions to biblical figures. Kabbalah grew up in Spain out of various Jewish influences as well as Neo-Platonism and influence from Islam. Kabbalah is the outgrowth; it’s not the other way around.

Though Kabbalistic literature obviously grew out of previous sources, among them Jewish Apocalyptic literature and oral traditions, it is impossible to speak of Kabbalah as it is known today–and ESPECIALLY of the Hermetic Kabbalah and the even later New Age Kabbalah (which incorporates various “Eastern” concepts like the Chakras)–as if it pre-dated Judaism itself. It strikes me as inane that the same groups of folks who constantly berate Abrahamic faiths cling so powerfully to what is essentially a flow-chart of YHVH’s attributes.

So, to all the Wiccans or Thelemites or Ceremonialists or Chaotes out there (among others) who “Just hate Abrahamism, no reason” (as I heard an acquaintance blather a few weeks ago), put down your wands and stop casting your circles and let go of the Kabbalah. The Kabbalah, that is to say, essentially JUDAIC esotericism, is where ALL of the Wiccanate Pagan religious structures come from. So, and this is just reason number 1, I think we need to shut up about Abrahamism because the hypocracy is making me sick.

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About John Harness
John Harness is an artist and educator in Chicago. He is a member of Socialist Alternative and the Klingon Language Institute. He writes about political activism and roleplaying games.

3 Responses to The Kabbalah Fallacy

  1. I’m not clear on this statement:

    The Kabbalah, that is to say, essentially JUDAIC esotericism, is where ALL of the Wiccanate Pagan religious structures come from.

    What specific structures do you refer to?

    • cartweel says:

      Hey Tracie, thanks for your comment!

      When I wrote this post, I was ticked off because of a couple of individuals who had committed the hypocrisy of talking down to Abrahamic religion while also claiming to practice Kabbalah. And so, though I think that everything I have said above is still essentially true, it’s possible that I overstepped the truth in the statement that you’ve quoted. Let me try to amend myself.

      When I say “Wiccanate”, I mean Wicca in its many forms as well as those images, sayings, traditions, and ideologies that have shaped Paganism through the influence of Wicca. So, I also mean influence from the Hermetic Kabbalah and those traditions that are based upon or heavily influenced by it, namely Crowley/Thelema, The Golden Dawn, and Freemasonry. Also, the “Hermetic Kabbalah” isn’t essentially Jewish, since it incorporates influence from late developments in Hermetic Philosophy; however, the Jewish influence on the Hermetic Kabbalah is fundamental and cannot be overemphasized in a discussion such as this one.

      For me to claim that “ALL” Wiccanate structure comes from Kabbalah is stretching it a bit, I admit. Still, Wiccanate Paganism is essentially drenched in the rhetoric and practices of Hermetic Kabbalah. These includes the core of all of Wiccan theology: There is one source or ultimate God from whom emanates the various Gods and Goddesses according to archetypal understandings of the universe. This is deeply deeply Kabbalistic (Neoplatonic). Calling to the four Elements came to Wiccanate Paganism via the Kabbalah (which was influenced by Aristotle). The idea of “The God” and “The Goddess” is linked to understandings of the two pillars in the Kabbalah. Even the casting of a circle, though of course this practice has many many ancient antecedents, became prevalent in Renaissance magic (and therefore in later Elizabethan and Modern magic) because of European magus’ interpretation and use of Jewish Kabbalistic angel literature as well as Solomonic grimoires.

      What I’m trying to say is that the influence is DEEP. For further information, I’d encourage you to look into the history of the development of the Hermetic Kabbalah and its influence on modern magical practice.

      Cheers!

  2. Kirk Roche says:

    If only more than 91 people would read this..

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