Joseph Smith: America’s Hermetic Prophet

Joseph Smith:America’s ProphetJoseph Smith: America’s Hermetic Prophetahpf2a Joseph Smith:  America's Hermetic Prophet
You don’t know me – you never will. You never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it; I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame anyone for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself.

– Joseph Smith, April 7, 1844.

IF THERE IS A RELIGION uniquely and intrinsically American – a religion worked from its soil, and cast in the ardent furnace of its primal dreams – that religion must be Mormonism. Founded in 1830 by the then twenty-four year old Joseph Smith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as it is formally named) has emerged from relative insularity during the mid-twentieth century to become a world-wide movement now numbering nine million members. Patriotic, conservative, influential, and vastly wealthy: modern Mormonism is a bastion of American culture.

Despite its success and respectability, however, a fundamental crisis looms before Joseph Smith’s church – and the crux of the predicament is Joseph Smith. Late twentieth-century Mormonism is being forced into an uncomfortable confrontation with its early nineteenth-century origins – an inevitable encounter given the preeminent import of the founding prophet to his religion. From the start, Joseph Smith has been cast by his church as a man more enlightened than any mortal to walk the earth since the passing of the last biblical apostles. No historical life could be granted a more mythological tenor than has his. To Mormons, Joseph Smith is, simply, “The Prophet”. He bares the imago Christi. He alone stands as doorkeeper to the last dispensation of time; to him angels came and restored God’s necessary priestly “keys” and powers; he built the Temple and taught the ancient rituals which therein make of men and women, gods.

But now, one hundred and fifty years after his death, Smith’s place in Western religious history is undergoing an important and creative reevaluation. Historians and religious critics alike are examining him anew. And in his history’s newest reading, themes unrecognized by its orthodox interpreters are quickly moving to stage center. Quite simply put, modern Mormonism – guardian of the Prophet’s story – has no idea what to do with the rediscovered, historical, and rather occult Joseph Smith.
ahpf2a Joseph Smith:  America's Hermetic Prophetahpf2a Joseph Smith:  America's Hermetic ProphetTwo years ago, Harold Bloom’s boldly original work, The American Religion, offered introduction to this unknown Prophet. The intrinsic and true American religion, pronounces Bloom in his widely reviewed book, is a kind of Gnosticism – alone a surprising enough declaration. But in evidence of this American Gnosis and as first hero of his story, Bloom gives us Joseph Smith. Of the man himself, he judges:

Other Americans have been religion makers….but none of them has the imaginative vitality of Joseph Smith’s revelation, a judgment one makes on the authority of a lifetime spent in apprehending the visions of great poets and original speculators…. So self-created was he that he transcends Emerson and Whitman in my imaginative response, and takes his place with the great figures of our fiction.”1

And of his religious creation,

The God of Joseph Smith is a daring revival of the God of some of the Kabbalists and Gnostics, prophetic sages who, like Smith himself, asserted that they had returned to the true religion….Mormonism is a purely American Gnosis, for which Joseph Smith was and is a far more crucial figure than Jesus could be. Smith is not just ‘a’ prophet, another prophet, but he is the essential prophet of these latter days, leading into the end time, whenever it comes.2


Joseph Smith a modern Gnostic prophet? Certainly nowhere within the vast domains of America religion did this proclamation cause more consternation or amazement than within its Mormon provinces and borderlands. But Bloom (a self-pronounced “Jewish Gnostic”) is no casual observer; his knowledge of Gnosis and Kabbalah is tempered by vast experience critiquing the creative matrix of its vision. His thesis deserves – and is receiving – attention. Joseph Smith is taking on a new visage, and words like “gnostic”, “kabbalistic” and “hermetic” have suddenly gained a quite prominent place in the vocabulary employed by those trying to understand him. [See sidebar, below: “Was Joseph Smith a Gnostic?”]

In the form now foreshadowed, Joseph Smith’s story is, of course, almost entirely unknown to his church. The oft-repeated orthodox version of the story – and the mythic function of that story’s recounting – remains so central to the Mormon past and present that it must be heard before exploring the evolving (and in turn, heretical) rereading.

That story begins around 1820 when the adolescent Smith retired to a grove near his family’s farm in Palmyra, New York and knelt in prayer. Troubled over his own deeply aroused religious yearnings and uncertain where to turn for sustenance, he felt compelled to petition God’s mercy. “The Lord heard my cry in the wilderness”, he wrote in his dairy several years later, “and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noonday came down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of God and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord.”3 When he came to himself again, he was lying on his back, totally drained of strength, looking up at heaven. This was the new Prophet’s first vision.

The young man apparently told several persons about his experience but, outside his own closely knit family, the account was met with general derision. Then in 1823 there came a second manifestation. On the night of September 21, while engaged again in prayer, a light suddenly began filling his room. Within the light there appeared an angelic being. “His whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightening.”

The Chaldean Magi: A Library of Ancient Sources Wisemen of the East

? The Chaldean Magi: A Library of Ancient Sources Wisemen of the East
Made famous by the account of the New Testament, by which the were said to have followed a start to the birth of the Christian Messiah, the Magi were priests of the Persian empire, who were renowned throughout antiquity for their knowledge of magic, astrology and alchemy. Thus, our own word for magic refers to the occult arts of the Magi

In truth, though, the Magi known to the Greek and Roman world, were not the same as the official priests of the Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, said to be founded by Zoroaster. For, when we compare the ideas that were attributed to the Magi by ancient writers, we find that they differed widely from what we know of the mainstream version of the religion, as found in its sacred scriptures, the Avesta.

Rather, it would appear that the Greeks had come into contact, not with priests of Zoroastrianism, but the notorious Magussaeans of Asia Minor, in what is now Turkey. These Magussaeans were Persian emigres that found their way to the region after it had come under Persian domination. Speaking the language of Aramaic, rather than Palahvi, they were unable to read their own scriptures in their original tongue, and thereby deviated from the faith.


Basically, the cult of the Magussaeans was a combination of heretical Zoroastrianism and Babylonian astrology. When Cyrus the Great conquered the great city of Babylon in the sixth century BC, the Magi came into contact with the teachings of the city’s astrologers, known as Chaldeans. According to Diodorus of Sicily, a Greek historian of 80 to 20 BC, and author of a universal history, Bibliotheca historica:

…being assigned to the service of the gods they spend their entire life in study, their greatest renown being in the field of astrology. But they occupy themselves largely with soothsaying as well, making predictions about future events, and in some cases by purifications, in others by sacrifices, and in others by some other charms they attempt to effect the averting of evil things and the fulfillment of the good. They are also skilled in the soothsaying by the flight of birds, and they give out interpretations of both dreams and portents. They also show marked ability in making divinations from the observations of the entrails of animals, deeming that in this branch they are eminently successful.

Though astrology has often been regarded as representing an ancient form of knowledge devised by the Babylonians, scholars have now determined that its development was impossible, before the eighth century BC, due to the absence of a reliable system of chronology, and that, more properly, astrology was a product of the sixth century BC. This transformation, according to Bartel van der Waerden, was the result of the influence of Zoroastrianism, with its doctrine that the human soul originated in the stars.

In addition, the sixth century BC is also known in Jewish history as the Exile, when their entire population was located in the city, having been removed to there by Nebuchadnezzar, at the beginning of the century, after he had destroyed Jerusalem. Having become substantial citizens, with some achieving minor administrative posts, it is possible the Jews also contributed to this development. In fact, in the Book of Daniel, Chapter 2:48, Daniel is made chief of the “wise men” of Babylon, that is of the Magi or Chaldeans. In any case, scholars have certainly recognized that the later teachings referred to collectively as the esoteric Kabbalah, seem to have been a combination of Magian and Chaldean lore.

Astrology was not a component of mainstream Zoroastrianism, and those who incorporated its concepts into their version of the faith seem to have been regarded as heretical. As Edwin Yamauchi describes, “the relationship of the Magi to Zoroaster and his teachings is a complex and controversial issue.” Ever since the early days of the Persian Empire, there had existed an antagonism with the proponents of true Zoroastrianism and the Magi. And, according the French Assyriologist Lenormant, “to their influence are to be ascribed nearly all the changes which, towards the end of the Achaemenid dynasty, corrupted deeply the Zoroastrian faith, so that it passed into idolatry.”
The Chaldean Magi: A Library of Ancient Sources Wisemen of the East

An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah

01dzyportaelucis1515 An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah
It must be confessed that the origin of the Kabalah is lost in the mists of antiquity; no one can demonstrate who was its author, or who were its earliest teachers. Considerable evidence may be adduced to show that its roots pass back to the Hebrew Rabbis who flourished at the time of the Second Temple about the year 515 B.C. Of its existence before that time I know of no proofs.
It has been suggested that the captivity of the Jews in Babylon led to the formation of this philosophy by the effect of Chaldean lore and dogma acting on Jewish tradition. No doubt in the earliest stages of its existence the teaching was entirely oral, hence the name QBLH from QBL to receive, and it became varied by the minds through which it filtered in its course; there is no proof that any part of it was written for centuries after. It has been kept curiously distinct both from the Exoteric Pentateuchal Mosaic books, and from the ever-growing Commentaries upon them, the Mishna and Gemara, which form the Talmud. This seems to have grown up in Hebrew theology without combining with the recondite doctrines of the Kabalah. In a similar manner we see in India that the Upanishads, an Esoteric series of treatises, grew up alongside the Brahmanas and the Puranas, which are Exoteric instructions designed for the use of the masses of the people.
With regard to the oldest Kabalistic books still extant, a controversy has raged among modern critics, who deny the asserted era of each work, and try to show that the assumed author is the only person who could not have written each one in question. But these critics show the utmost divergence of opinion the moment it becomes necessary to fix on a date or an author; so much more easy is destructive criticism than the acquirement of real knowledge.
Let us make a short note of the chief of the old Kabalistic treatises.
The “Sepher Yetzirah” or “Book of Formation” is the oldest treatise; it is attributed by legend to Abraham the Patriarch: several editions of an English translation by myself have been published. This work explains a most curious philosophical scheme of Creation, drawing a parallel between the origin of the world, the sun, the planets, the elements, seasons, man and the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet; dividing them into a Triad, a Heptad and a Dodecad; three mother letters A, M, and Sh are referred to primeval Air, Water and Fire; seven double letters are referred to the planets and the sevenfold division of time, etc.: and the twelve simple letters are referred to the months, zodiacal signs and human organs. Modern criticism tends to the conclusion that the existing ancient versions were compiled about A.D. 200. The “Sepher Yetzirah” is mentioned in the Talmuds, both of Jerusalem and of Babylon; it was written in the Neo-Hebraic language, like the Mishna.
The “Zohar” or” Sohar” spelled in Hebrew ZHR or ZUHR “The Book of Splendour” or of “Light,” is a collection of many separate treatises on the Deity, Angels, Souls and Cosmogony. Its authorship is ascribed to Rabbi Simon ben Jochai, who lived A.D. 160; he was persecuted and driven to live in a cave by Lucius Aurelius Verus, co-regent with the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Some considerable portion of the work may have been arranged by him from the oral traditions of his time: but other parts have certainly been added by other hands at intervals up to the time when it was first published as a whole by Rabbi Moses de Leon, of Guadalajara in Spain, circa 1290. From that time its history is known; printed Editions have been issued in Mantua, 1558, Cremona, 1560, and Lublin, 1623; these are the three famous Codices of “The Zohar” in the Hebrew language. For those who do not read Hebrew the only practical means of studying the Zohar are the partial translation into Latin of Baron Knorr von Rosenroth, published in 1684 under the title of “Kabbala Denudata”; and the English edition of three treatises,–“Siphra Dtzenioutha” or “Book of Concealed Mystery”; “Ha Idra Rabba,” “Greater Assembly”; and “Ha Idra Suta,” ” Lesser Assembly,” translated by S. L. MacGregor Mathers. These three books give a fair idea of the tone, style and material of the Zohar but they only include a partial view: other tracts in the Zohar are :–Hikaloth–The Palaces, Sithre Torah–Mysteries of the Law, Midrash ha Neelam–The secret commentary, Raja Mehemna–The faithful shepherd, Saba Demishpatim,–The discourse of the Aged–the prophet Elias, and Januka–The Young man; with Notes called Tosephta and Mathanithan.
01dzyportaelucis1515 An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah
In course of publication there is now a French translation of the complete Zohar, by Jean de Pauly: this is a most scholarly work.
Other famous Kabalistic treatises are :– “The Commentary on the Ten Sephiroth,” by Rabbi Azariel ben Menachem, 1200 A.D. ; “The Alphabet” of Rabbi Akiba; ” The Gate of Heaven” ; the “Book of Enoch”; “Pardes Rimmonim, or Garden of Pomegrantes”; “A treatise on the Emanations”; “Otz ha Chiim, or The Tree of Life” of Chajim Vital; “Rashith ha Galgulim, or Revolutions of Souls” of Isaac de Loria; and especially the writings of the famous Spanish Jew, Ibn Gebirol, who died A.D. 1070, and was also called Avicebron, his great works are “The fountain of life” and “The Crown of the Kingdom.”
The teaching of the Kabalah has been considered to be grouped into several schools, each of which was for a time famous. I may mention :–The School of Gerona, 1190 to 1210, of Rabbi Isaac the Blind, Rabbis Azariel and Ezra, and Moses Nachmanides. The School of Segovia of Rabbis Jacob, Abulafia (died 1305), Shem Tob (died 1332), and Isaac of Akko. The School of Rabbi Isaac ben Abraham Ibn Latif about 1390. The School of Abulafia (died 1292) and Joseph Gikatilla (died 1300); also the Schools of “Zoharists” of Rabbis Moses de Leon (died 1305), Menahem di Recanti (died 1350), Isaac Loria (died 1572) and Chajim Vital, who died in 1620. A very famous German Kabalist was John Reuchlin or Capnio, and he wrote two great works, the “De Verbo Mirifico,” and “De arte Cabalistica.”
In the main there were two tendencies among the Kabalists: the one set devoted themselves entirely to the doctrinal and dogmatic branch: the other to the practical and wonder-working aspect.
The greatest of the wonder-working Rabbis were Isaac Loria, also called Ari; and Sabatai Zevi, who curiously enough became a Mahommedan. Both of these departments of Occult Rabbinic lore have their living representatives, chiefly scattered individuals; very rarely groups of initiates are found. In Central Europe, parts of Russia, Austria and Poland there are even now Jews, known as Wonder-working Rabbis, who can do strange things they attribute to the Kabalah, and things very difficult to explain have been seen in England, at the hands of students of Kabalistic rites and talismans.
The Rabbinic Commentaries, many series deep, overlaying each other, which now exist in connection with the old treatises form such a mass of Kabalistic lore as to make it an almost impossible task to grasp them; probably no Christian nor Jew in this country can say what doctrines are not still laid up in some of the old manuscript works.
The Dogmatic or Theoretical Kabalah indicates philosophical conceptions respecting the Deity, Angels and beings more spiritual than man; the human Soul and its several aspects or parts; concerning pre-existence and re-incarnation and the several worlds or planes of existence.
The Practical Kabalah attempts a mystical and allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament, studying each phrase, word and letter; it teaches the connection between letters and numbers and the modes of their inter-relation; the principles of Gematria, Notaricon, and Temura; the formation and uses of the divine and angelic names as Amulets; the formation of Magic Squares; and a vast fund of allied curious lore, which subsequently formed the basis of Mediaeval Magic.
For those who do not wish to read any Kabalistic work as a whole, but rather to glean a general view of this philosophy, there are now three standard works; two are in English; one by Dr. C. Ginsburg, 1865, a formal and concise résumé of the doctrines; the other, an excellent book, “The Doctrine and Literature of the Kabalah,” by Arthur E. Waite, 1902; and one in French by Adolph Franck, 1889, which is more discursive and gives fewer details.
Many points of the teaching of Indian systems of religious philosophy are not touched on by the Hebrew system, or are excluded by differences of a fundamental nature: such as the Cosmogony of other Worlds, unless the destroyed Worlds of Unbalanced Force refer to these; the inviolability of law, as Karma, is not a prominent feature; Reincarnation is taught, but the number of re-births is limited generally to three.
Some small part of the Kabalistic doctrine is found in the Jewish Talmud, but in that collection of treatises there is some grossness that is absent from the true Kabalah; such are the theories of the debasement of men into animal forms; and of men to be re-born as women, as a punishment for earthly sins in a previous life.
It must be remembered that many points of doctrine are limited to the teachings of but a few Rabbis; and that the differences between the earliest and latest doctrines on a given point are sometimes very great, as is shown by a comparison of the Books of the Rabbis of different eras and schools. Some of the Kabalistic teaching has also never been printed nor published, and has been handed down even to this day from master to pupil only: there are some points not found in any Hebrew book, which I myself have taught in the Rosicrucian Society and in Hermetic Lodges. An attentive study of some of these old mystical Hebrew books discloses the existence of intentional “blinds,” which appear to have been introduced to confine certain dogmas to certain students fitted to receive them, and to preserve them from promiscuous distribution and so from misuse by the ignorant or vicious.
Two or three centuries have now passed since any notable addition to the body of Kabalistic doctrine has been made, but before that time a long succession of commentaries had been produced, all tending to illustrate or extend the philosophical scheme.
As already said, when the Kabalah first took shape as a concrete whole and a philosophic system, may remain for ever an unknown datum, but if we regard it, as I believe is correct, as the Esotericism of the religion of the Hebrews, the foundation dogmas are doubtless almost as old as the first promulgation of the main principles of the worship of Jehovah.
I cannot now attempt any glance at the contentions of some doubting scholars, who question whether the story of the Twelve Tribes is a historic fact, or whether there ever were a Moses, or even a King Solomon. It is sufficient for the present purpose that the Jewish nation had the Jehovistic theology and a system of priestly caste, and a coherent doctrine, at the time of the Second Temple when Cyrus, Sovereign of all Asia, 536 B.C., holding the Jews in captivity, permitted certain of them to return to Jerusalem for the express purpose of reestablishing the Hebrew mode of worship which had been forcibly interfered with by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C.
After this return to Jerusalem it was that Ezra and Nehemiah, circa 450 B.C., edited and compiled the Old Testament of the Hebrews, or according to those who deny the Mosaic authorship and the Solomonic régime, it was then that they wrote the Pentateuch.
The renewed worship maintained until 320 B.C., when Jerusalem was captured by Ptolemy Soter, who, however, did not destroy the foundations of the Jewish religion; indeed his successor, Ptolemy Philadelphus, caused the Hebrew scriptures to be revised and translated into Greek by Seventy-two scholars, about 277 B.C.; this has been known for centuries as the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.
Further Jewish troubles followed, however, and Jerusalem was again taken and pillaged by Antiochus in 170 B.C. Then followed the long wars of the Maccabees; subsequently the Romans dominated Judea, then quarrelling with the Jews the city was taken by Pompey, and not long after was again plundered by the Roman general Crassus in 54 B.C. Yet the Jewish religion was preserved, and we find the religious feasts and festivals all in progress at the time of Jesus; yet once more in A.D. 70, was the Holy City taken, plundered and burnt, and that by Titus, who became Emperor of the Romans in A.D. 79.
Through all these vicissitudes, the Hebrew Old Testament survived, yet must almost unavoidably have had many alterations and additions made to its several treatises; the more Esoteric doctrines which were handed down along the line of the priestly caste, and not incorporated with the Torah offered to the people, may no doubt have been repeatedly varied by the influences of contending teachers.
Soon after this period was framed the first series of glosses and commentaries on the Old Testament books, which have come down to our times. Of these the earliest are the volume called the “Targum of Onkelos” on “The Law,” written about A.D. 100, and that of Jonathan ben Uzziel on “The Prophets.”
About A.D 141 there first came into note the now famous treatise written by the Rabbis of Judah, called “Mishna,” and this formed the basis of those vast compilations of Hebrew doctrine called the “Talmud,” of which there are two extant forms, one compiled at Babylon-the most notable, and the other associated with Jerusalem. To the original “Mishna” the Rabbis added further commentaries named “Gemara.” From this time the literature of Judaism grew apace, and there was a constant succession of notable Hebrew Rabbis who published religious treatises, until at least A.D. 1500. The two Talmuds were first printed at Venice in 1520 and 1523 respectively.
The Old Testament books were the guiding light through the ages of the Jews, but the learned Rabbis were not satisfied with them alone, and they supplemented them by two parallel series of works of literature; the one, Talmudic, being commentaries based upon Thirteen Rules of Argument delivered by Moses to illustrate the Old Testament, and supply material for teaching the populace; and the other a long series of treatises of a more abstruse character, designed to illustrate their Secret Doctrines and Esoteric views. The Sepher Yetzirah, and the Zohar or Book of Splendour represent the kernel of that oral instruction which the Rabbis of the olden times prided themselves upon possessing, and which they have even claimed as being “The Secret Knowledge” which God gave to Moses for the use of the priests themselves, in contradistinction to the Written Law intended for the masses of the people.
One of the principal conceptions of the Kabalah is that spiritual wisdom is attained by Thirty-two Paths, typified by the Ten numbers and the Twenty-two letters; these Ten again being symbols of the Divine Emanations, the Sephiroth, the Holy Voices chanting at the Crystal Sea, the Great Sea, the Mother Supernal, Binah; and of the Twenty-two occult forces of the Nature of the Universe symbolised by the Three primary Elements, the Seven Planets, and the Twelve Zodiacal influences of the heavens, which tincture human concerns through the path of our Sun in its annual course. I have given the names and definitions of the Thirty-two Paths at the end of my Edition of the” Sepher Yetzirah.”
Now to show the close connection between the Kabalah and orthodox Judaism, we find the Rabbis cataloguing the Books of the Old Testament into a series of Twenty-two (the letters) works to be read for the culture of spiritual life; this Twenty-two they obtained from the Thirty-nine books of the O.T. Canon, by collecting the twelve minor prophets into one treatise; Ruth they added to Judges; Ezra to Nehemiah; while the two books each of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, they called one each. The Canon of Thirty-nine works was fixed in the time of Ezra.
Returning to the books which illustrate the Kabalah, whatever may be the authenticity of their alleged origins, it cannot be denied that those ancient volumes, Sepher Yetzirah and Zohar, contain a system of spiritual philosophy of clear design, deep intuition and far-reaching cosmologic suggestions; that are well worthy of the honour of receiving a special name and of founding a theological body of doctrine,–The Kabalah.
The bulwark and main foundation of the public Hebrew religion has always been the Pentateuch, five treatises attributed to Moses, which proclaim the Laws of Jehovah given to his chosen people. The Old Testament beginning with these five books is further continued by historic books, by poetical teachings and by prophetic works, but many portions are marked by materialistic characteristics and a lack of spiritual rectitude which the books of a Great Religion might be expected to display, and they even offend our present standard of moral life.
The Mosaic Law, eminently valuable for many purposes to a small nation 3,000 years ago, and containing many regulations of a type showing great attention to sanitary matters, is yet marred by the application of penalties of gross cruelty and harsh treatment of erring mortals, which are hardly compatible with our modern views of what might have emanated from God the personal Creator of this Universe with its million worlds; and the almost entire absence of any reference to a life after death for human beings shows a materialism which needed a new Revelation by Jesus, whose life has earned the title of “Christ.” Yet the orthodox of England hear this statement with incredulity, and if asked to show the passages in the Old Testament which insist on a life after death, or on a succession of lives for purposes of retribution, or the passages demonstrating the immortality of the soul, they could not produce them, and are content to refer you to the clergy, whose answer generally is, “If not plainly laid down, these dogmas are implied.” But are they? If they are, how is it that notably clear passages can be quoted which show that important authors in the Old Testament make statements in direct opposition to these doctrines? And how is it, again, that a great author of modern times has said, “Prosperity was the blessing of the Old Testament for good works, but adversity that of the New”? This could only be true if there were no future life or lives, or no coming period of reward and punishment contemplated by the Old Testament doctrine.
01dzyportaelucis1515 An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah
But the comment is true and the Old Testament does teach that man is no more immortal than the beast, as witness Ecclesiastes, iii. 19 :–“For that which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea they have all one breath; so that man hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. . . . Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?” Who, indeed, except his own Ego, Soul or Higher Self.
But perhaps this book is from the pen of some obscure Jew, or half pagan Chaldee or Babylonian. Not at all: Jewish critics have all assigned it to Solomon, who was the King of the Jews at the time of their heyday of glory; surely if the immortality of the soul were the essence of the Judaism of the people, Solomon could not have so grossly denied it.
Go back, however, to the narrative of Creation in Genesis, and the same story is found; the animals are made from the dust, man is made from the dust, and Eve is made from Adam, and each has breathed into the form, the “Nephesh Chiah,”–the breath of life, vitality; but there is no hint that Adam received a Ray of the Supernal Mind, which was to dwell there for a time, to gain experience, to receive retribution, and then enter another stage of progress, and achieve a final return to its Divine source. And yet the authors of these volumes, whoever they were, could hardly have been without the conception of the higher part of man, of his Spiritual Soul. The critical contention is that the Old Testament was deprived at some period of its religious philosophy, which was set apart for a privileged class; while the husk of strict law and tradition was alone offered for the acceptance of the people. The kernel of spiritual philosophy which is lacking in the Old Testament as a religious book may be the essential core of the Kabalah; for these Kabalistic dogmas are Hebraic, and they are spiritual, and they are sublime in their grandeur; and the Old Testament read by their light becomes a volume worthy of thc acceptance of a nation. I speak of the essentials of the Kabalah, the ancient substratum of the Kabalah. I grant that in many extant treatises these primal truths have been obscured by generations of editors, by visionary and often crude additions, and by the vagaries of Oriental imagery; but the keynotes of a great spiritual Divine concealed Power, of its Emanations in manifestation, of its energising of human life, of the prolonged existence of human souls, and of the temporary state of corporeal existence, are fundamental doctrines there fully illustrated; and these are the points of contact between the Kabalah of the Jew and the so-called Esotericism of the teachings of Buddha and of Hinduism.
It may be that the Catholic Church, from which the Protestant Church seceded, was from its origin in the possession of the Hebrew Rabbinic secret of the intentional Exoteric nature of the Bible, and of a priestly mode of understanding the Esoteric Kabalah, as a key to the true explanations of the Jewish books, which being apparently histories are really largely allegorical. If this were granted, it would explain why the Catholic Church has for ages discouraged the laity from the study of the Old Testament books, and would lead us to think that Protestantism made a mistake in combining with the Reformation of a vicious priesthood the encouragement of the laity to read the Old Testament books.
I note that the literal interpretation of the Mosaic books and those of the Old Testament generally has repeatedly been used as a support for vicious Systems of conduct; a notable example of which was seen even a hundred years ago, when the clergy of Protestant nations almost unanimously supported the continuance of the Slave Trade from arguments derived from the laws of Jehovah as stated to have been compulsory upon the Jews.
The Freethinkers of that day were largely the champions of suffering and oppressed races, and for centuries the wisest of men, the greatest scientists have maintained, and ever won, struggle after struggle with the assumed infallibility of old Hebraic Testament literal instructions, assertions and narratives.
The Old Testament may indeed be, to some extent, the link which binds together thousands of Christians, for Jesus the Christ founded His doctrine upon a Jewish people, but the interminable list of Christian sects of to-day have almost all taken their rise from the assertion of a right of personal interpretation of the Bible, which might have remained debarred to the generality by the confession that the keys of interpretation were lost, or at least missing, and that without their assistance error of a vital character was inevitable.
The vast accumulation of varying interpretations of the Bible, although a folly, yet sinks into insignificance as an incident of importance, before the collateral truth that the followers of each of the hundreds of sects have arrogated to themselves, not only the right of personal interpretation, but the duty of condemning all others–as if the infallibility they claimed for the Bible could not fail to be reflected upon their personal propaganda, or the specialities of a chapel service. Religious intolerance has cursed every village of the land, and hardly a single sect has originated which has not only claimed the right to differ from others, and to criticise, but also to persecute and assign to perdition all beyond its own narrow circle.
The Mystic, the Occultist and the Theosophist do indeed do good, or God, service, by illustrating the bases and origins of all faiths by the mutual illumination that is available. By tolerance and mutual esteem much good may arise, but by the internecine struggles of religionists, every faith is injured, and religion becomes a by-word meaning intolerance, strife and vainglory, and the mark and profession of an earnest sectarian is now that he is ever ready to condemn the efforts of others, in direct opposition to the precept of Jesus the Christ, Who said–“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
One sect of the Jews, the Caraites, successors of the Sadducees, throughout history rejected the Kabalah, and it is necessary to say here that the Hebrew Rabbis of this country of the present day do not follow the practical Kabalah, nor accept all the doctrines of the Dogmatic Kabalah. On the other hand, many famous Christian authors have expressed great sympathy with the Doctrinal Kabalah.
St. Jerome, who died in A.D. 420, in his “Letter to Marcella,” gives us all the Kabalistic Divine Names allotted to the Ten Sephiroth. Others were Raymond Lully, 1315; Pope Sixtus the Fourth, 1484; Pic de Mirandola, 1494; Johannes Reuchlin, 1522; H. Cornelius Agrippa, 1535; Jerome Cardan, 1576; Gulielmus Postellus, 1581; John Pistorius, 1608; Jacob Behmen, 1624; the notable English Rosicrucian, Robert Fludd, 1637; Henry More, 1687; the famous Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, 1680; and Knorr von Rosenroth, 1689. To these must be added Eliphaz Lévi and Edouard Schuré, two modern French writers on the Occult Sciences, and two English authors, Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland. The notable German philosopher Spinoza, 1677, regarded the doctrines of the Kabalah with great esteem.
01dzyportaelucis1515 An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah
Let us take the Practical Kabalah before the Dogmatic; it may perhaps have preceded the Theoretical Philosophy because it was at first concerned with an intimate study of the Pentateuch; a research based upon the theory that every sentence, word and letter were given by Divine Inspiration and that no jot or tittle (the Yod the smallest Hebrew letter) must be neglected. The Rabbis counted every word and letter, and as their numbers were represented by their letters, they counted the numeration of all God names and titles, and all proper names, and the numeration of the phrases recording Divine commands.
The Hebrew letters and numbers were :
Aleph A 1
Beth B, V 2
Gimel G, Gh 3
Daleth D, Dh 4
Heh H 5
Vau O, U, V 6
Zayin Z 7
Cheth Ch 8
Teth T 9
Yod I, Y 10
Kaph K, Kh 20
Lamed L 30
Mem M 40
Nun N 50
Samekh S 60
Ayin Aa, Ngh 70
Pe P 80
Tzaddi Tz 90
Qoph Q 100
Resh R 200
Shin Sh 300
Tau T, Th 400
There were also several final letters, final K, 500; final M, 600; final N, 700; final P, 800; and final Tz, 900. Note that the Divine Name Jah, JH, numbered 15, and so in common usage the number 15 was always represented by 9 and 6, ThV, Teth and Vau.
The Kabalistic Rabbis granted the natural meaning of the words of the “Torah” or Law books of the Old Testament as a guide to a knowledge of proper conduct in life and as a proper reading for the Synagogue and home but they claimed that each verse and narrative, each law and incident, had also a deeper and concealed meaning of a Mystical character to be found by their calculations, conversions, and substitutions, according to their rules of Gematria, Notaricon, and Temura: the first name is of Greek origin, the second from the Latin, but the third was Hebrew and meant permutation, TMURH, from the root MUR,–changed.
The most famous Rabbi of the Seventeenth century named Menasseh ben Israel, compared the Books of Moses to the body of a man, the commentaries called Mishna to the soul, and the Kabalah he called the Spirit of the soul: “ignorant people may study the first, the learned the second, but the wisest direct their contemplation to the third”; he called the Kabalists,–divine theologians possessed of thirteen rules by which they are enabled to penetrate the mysteries with which the Scriptures abound.
Many Kabalists claimed that their doctrines and methods were brought down from Heaven by Angels to primeval man, and they all believed that the First Four Books of the Pentateuch enshrined their peculiar doctrines as well as narrated histories and laid down laws.
The Zohar says :–If these books of the Torah contain only the tales of, and the words of Esau, Hagar, Laban and Balaam, why are they called–The Perfect Law, The Law of Truth, The True Witness of God?–there must be a hidden meaning. “Woe be to the man who says that The Law (Torah) contains only common sayings and tales: if this were true we might even in our time compose a book of doctrine which would be more respected. No, every word has a sublime sense, and is a heavenly mystery. The Law resembles an angel: to come down on earth a spiritual angel must put on a garment to be known or understood here, so the Law must have clothed itself in a garment of words as a body for men to receive; but the wise look within the garments.”
At some periods both the ordinary Jew and even Christian Fathers have made a somewhat similar declaration of a literal and a mystical meaning of scripture. The Talmud in book “Sanhedrin” remarks that Manasseh King of Israel asked whether Moses could not relate something of more value than tales of Timnah a concubine, and Rachel with her mandrakes, and he is answered that there is a concealed meaning in these narrations.
The Christian Father Origen (A.D. 253), in his “Homilies,” wrote that everybody should regard these stories, the making of the world in six days, and the planting of trees by God,–as figures of speech under which a recondite sense is concealed. Origen granted a Three-fold meaning,–somatic, psychic, and pneumatic; or the body of scripture, its soul and its spirit.
Nicholas de Lyra who died in 1340 accepted four modes of interpretation; literal, allegoric, moral, and anagogic or mystical.
In this he nearly follows the scheme of the Zohar ii. 99: in which paragraph there is a parable comparing the Sacred Law to a woman in love who reveals herself to her friend and beloved: first by signs, ramaz; then by whispered words, derush; then by converse with her face veiled, hagadah; and at last she reveals her features and tells all her love, this is sod, association in secret, a mystery.
The late Dr. Anna Kingsford and Edward Maitland were notable Kabalists who always insisted on the concealed meanings underlying the ordinary sense of the old Hebrew writings; and the late H. P. Blavatsky used to declare that the truly ancient texts of ancient religions were susceptible of explanations on seven planes of thought.
The Kabalists discovered deep meanings in each Hebrew letter, common and finals, and found secrets in large letters, misplaced letters and in words spelled in unusual manners. At different times they represented God by an Aleph, A; or by a Yod, I; or by a Shin; or by a Point; or by a Point within a circle; or even by a Triangle; and by a Decad of ten yods.
GEMATRIA was a mode of interpretation by which a name or word having a certain numerical value was deemed to have a relation with some other words having the same number; thus certain numbers became representative of several ideas, and were considered to be interpretative one of the other. For example, Messiah spelled, MShICh, numbered 358, and so does the phrase IBA ShILH, Shiloh shall come; and so this passage in Genesis 49 V. 10, was considered to be a prophesy of the Messiah: note that Nachash, NChSh, the Serpent of Moses, is also 358. The letter Shin, Sh, 300, became an emblem of divinity by corresponding with Ruach Elohim, RUCh ALHIM, the Spirit of the Living God.
NOTARICON, or abbreviation, is of two forms; one word is formed from the initial and final letters of one or more words; or the letters of one name are taken as the initials or finals of the words of a sentence. For example, in Deut. 30 V. 12, Moses asks, Who shall go up for us to Heaven? The initial letters of the original words MI IOLH LNV HShMILH, form the word MILH, mylah, which word means circumcision, and the final letters are IHVH, the name Jehovah: hence it was suggested that circumcision was a feature of the way to God in heaven.
Amen, AMN is from the initials of Adonai melekh namen. “The Lord and faithful king”; and the famous Rabbinic word of power used for talismans AGLA is formed of the initials of the words “Ateh gibur leolam Adonai,” “The Lord ever powerful,” or Tu potens in saeculum Dominine.
TEMURA is a more complex procedure and has led to an immense variety of curious modes of divination: the letters of a word are transposed according to certain rules and with many limitations: or again, the letters of a word are replaced by other letters as arranged by a definite scheme, often shown in a diagram. For example, a common form was to write one half of the alphabet over the other in reverse order, and so the first letter A was replaced by the last T, and B by Shin, and so on. On this plan the word Sheshak of Jeremiah 25 v. 26, is said to mean Babel: this permutation was known as ATBSh, atbash. On this principle we find twenty-one other possible forms named in order Albat, Abgat, Agdat: the complete set was called “The combinations of Tziruph.” Other forms were rational, right, averse and irregular, obtained from a square of 22 spaces in each direction, that is of 484 secondary squares, and then putting a letter in each square in order up and down, and then reading across or diagonally, etc. Of this type is the so-called “Kabalah of Nine Chambers” of the Mark Masons.
A further development of the numerical arts was shown by the modes of Contraction and Extension; thus Jehovah, IHVH 26, was extended to IVD-HA-VV-HA, and so 10, 5, 6, 5 or 26 became 20, 6, 12, 6 or 44. By extension Zain, Z.7, became 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 or 28; or 28 was regarded as 2 and 8 or 10. The Tetragrammaton, Jehovah 26 was also at times regarded as 2 and 6 or 8: so El Shaddai, God Almighty, AL ShDI, 1, 30, 300, 4, 10, was 345 and then 12 and then 3, a Trinity. A quaint conceit was that of the change of the spelling of the names of Abraham and Sara: at first Abram ABRM and Sarai ShRI, became ABRHM and ShRH: they were 100 and 90 years old and were sterile: now H, Heh, was deemed of a fertile type, and so the letter H was added to ABRAM, and the Yod I, converted into an H of the name Sarai.
In the very old “Sepher Yetzirah” is found the allocation of letters to the planets; from this origin arose a system of designing talismans written on parchment or engraved on brass or gems: as each planet had a letter and a number, in regard to each was allotted a Magic Square of lesser squares; thus for Jupiter 4 was the number and Daleth the letter, and the Magic Square of Jupiter had 16 smaller squares within it; in each a number 1 to 16, and so each line added up to 34 and the total of numbers was 136.
Every Talisman duly formed bore at least one God name to sanctify it: notable names were IH, Jah; ALH, Eloah; then IHVH; then the notable 42 lettered Name, which was really composed of others,–Aheie asher aheie (I am that I am) Jah, Jehuiah, Al, Elohim, Jehovah, Tzabaoth, Al Chai and Adonai.
The Shemhamphorash, or Separated Name, was a famous Word of Power; it was formed of Three times 72 letters: the words of three verses, 19, 20 and 21 of Exodus XIV. were taken: the separated letters of verse 19 were written down, then the letters of verse 20 in reverse order, then those of verse 21 in direct order: this gave 72 Names read from above down, each of 3 letters: to each was added either AL or IH, and so were formed the names of the 72 Angels of the Ladder of Jacob which led from earth to heaven: these names were often placed on the obverse and reverse of medals or rolls of parchment to form 36 Talismans.
According to some Kabalists both King David and King Solomon were able to work wonders with Kabalistic Magical Arts: The Pentagram was called the Seal of Solomon, and the Hexagram was called the Shield of David; to the points of the former were assigned the Spirit and Four Elements, while to those of the latter were ascribed the Planets. The treatise called “The Clavicules of King Solomon” is of course a mediaeval fraud.
The Hebrew letters are also associated with the Twenty-two Trumps of the Tarot pack of cards; these cards have been much used for purposes of divination. The Gipsies of Southern Europe use these cards for Fortune-telling. The French author Court de Gebelin (1773-1782) declared that these Trump cards as mystical emblems were derived from the magic of Ancient Egypt. Occult Science allots each card to a Number, a Letter and a natural object or force,-the Planets, Zodiacal signs, elements, etc. “The Sanctum Regnum of the Tarot Trumps” edited by myself can be consulted.
Dr. Encausse of Paris, who writes under the pseudonym of “Papus,” has also a work relating to the Tarots and gives a Kabalistic attribution of the Trump cards which Rosicrucians consider to be erroneous.
So far as is known to me the practice of Kabalah as a Magical Art is now almost restricted to Russian and Polish Rabbis, and to a few students of occultism in this country, some of whom constantly wear a Kabalistic talisman although they are Christians.
Symbolism and Kabbalah
The Hebrew letters would embody the history of creation, every letter being a hieroglyphical entity, combining Gods Trinity, the 12 zodiacal signs and the seven planets to a total of 22 letters: 3+12+7=22. This is in fact the famous basic system as outlined in the Sepher Yetzirah and other kabbalistic standard texts. But the Kabbalists used not only those fundamental 22 but 27 letters, a fact which Bardon absolutely takes into account basing his system on 27 letters. BN overlooks like many not-Jewish people the so called “final-letters” which are used at the end of a Hebrew word. This piece of information would have been easily obtainable, for example in Agrippa’s “De Occulta Philosophia” and many other sources:
01dzyportaelucis1515 An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah
27 Hebrew letters.
“Aiq Beker” – arrangement
(Source: Agrippa: “De Occulta Philosophia”, Book III, chapter 30)
(Numbers by PA)

I.) Simple letters with the numerical values 1-9: Aleph (1), Beth(2), Gimel(3), Daleth(4), He(5), Vau(6), Zayin(7), Cheth(8), Teth(9). They represent the mental plane with 9 orders of angelic powers (Agrippa).
II.) Letters with the numerical values 10-90: Yod(10), Kaph(20), Lamed(30), Mem(40), Nun(50), Samekh(60), Ayin(70), Pe(80), Tzaddi(90). They represent the “heavenly things within the 9 spheres of heaven” (Agrippa).
III.) Letters with numerical value 100-900: Qoph(100), Resh(200), Shin(300), Tau(400), Kaph-final(500), Mem-final(600), Nun-final(700), PE-final(800), Tzaddi-final(900). They represent the lower things: the four elements and “5 species of composed things” (Agrippa).

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An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah