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Practical Kabbalah

In Judaism, Kabbalah is primarily an elaboration of religion, a form of sophisticated mysticism.  But there is another side to Kabbalah, that of Practical Kabbalah.  As Gershom Scholem explains, Practical Kabbalah is

 "identified with theurgy, the magical use of Sacred Names, which is not the some thing as the meditation on such names.....The Spanish Kabbalists made a clear distinction between traditions that had come down to them from "Masters of the doctrine of the Sefirot" (ba'alei ha-sefirot) and those that derived from magicians or "masters of the names.  "....From the 15th century on the semantic division into "speculative" and "practical" Kabbalah became prevalent...."

 [Scholem, Kabbalah, pp.182-3]



Maggidim

 The Kabbalist's interaction with the various worlds leads to the creation of  "thought-forms" or "angels", called Maggidim.  According to Luria's disciple Hayyim Vital,

 "One's good practices...result in the creation of angels and holy spirits....
When a person studies Torah, the words and breath that emanate from his mouth became a vehicle for the souls of the early saints.  These can descend and teach that person mysteries...
     These angels are the Maggidim mentioned in a number of books.  They reveal themselveses to individuals, teaching them mysteries and informing them of future events....
     Some Maggidim are absolutely true, these being created from Torah and observances done with perfection.  Other Maggidim occaisonally speak falsely, mixing truth and falsehood.  The reason for this is that when there is some falseness or ulterior motive in an observance, the angel created from it speaks both good and evil....
      Some Maggidim are created from the Universe of Asiah alone...through deeds involving action, done without Kavanah.  Others are from the Universe of Yetzirah, created from the study of Torah.  There are also Maggidim from the Universe of Beriah, and these are created from a person's meditations and thoughts, when he is involved in studying the Torah and observing the commandments...."

        [Aryeh Kaplan, Meditation and Kabbalah, pp.223­4]

internal linkThe Maggid [Heavenly Mentor] of R. Joseph Karo


It was only much later, in the development of non-Judaic Magical or Hermetic Kabbalah (or "Qabalah"), that Practical Kabbalah became predominant over Speculative or Theoretical (theological) Kabbalah.  But this development had no influence on Jewish Kabbalah.


internal link Rabbi Hayyim Vital on Worlds, Prophecy, and Practical Kabbalah

internal link Rabbi Falk, "The Baal Shem of London"
 
 
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page uploaded 20 March 1999