Kabbalah and the Supernatural
There has always been a religion for the masses, for the ordinary, average person who was satisfied with general rules and regulations. So long as he could safely follow a pattern which more or less gave sense to his life and answered what (for lack of a better term) were called his spiritual needs, he found fulfillment in his faith, and happiness.
But there were others to whom this type of faith was insufficient and, therefore, unsatisfactory. It lacked depth and true meaning. Nevertheless, they were also aware that the profound knowledge they really craved was beyond the grasp of man's limited intelligence. Only by mystical vision and ecstatic experience could they approach, and in some exceptional cases, actually attain and preserve this state.
They were conscious that the majority of people were unable to follow and understand them and the fact that their pursuit and preoccupation carried tremendous mental and spiritual dangers.
Such "esoteric" groups with their carefully guarded secrets existed in various ancient cultures.
All esoteric knowledge, of course, was far beyond the grasp of the uninitiated. Its daring speculations would at best be totally misunderstood by them and, at worst, would cause confusion in their minds. From the very beginning, therefore, the exceptional men who steeped themselves in this type of search and mystical contemplation did not reveal it to outsiders. Their refusal to do so was not prompted by false intellectual and spiritual pride nor by the wish to create an exclusive, power-wielding circle of initiates.
Naturally, those who had acquired the rare and precious insight did not want to see it wasted. To keep it for themselves, therefore, would have defeated the very purpose of their dangerous pioneering mission. So sharing the revelation they had received with those able to absorb it, became to them a sacred duty. Hence the mystic scholars, with great care and caution, selected those they regarded as worthy and ready to have the message revealed to them, thereby to become a link in that chain transmitting the heritage of esoteric tradition.
To "receive" in Hebrew is called kabal. The volume of mystical knowledge handed from one generation to another became thus known as Kabbalah, a term which could be rendered as "receiving" and "tradition." But in its specific meaning, it referred exclusively to the carefully transmitted profound mystical insight. The Kabbalah taught that the Bible, apart from the literal meaning of its text, had deep occult meaning, contained in each of its words and letters. To interpret Scripture "in (mystical) depth" was the hallowed task of the Kabbalist!
To begin with, the speculations of the Kabbalah had been taught orally, because of their very nature and danger of their falling into wrong hands. But they were eventually recorded, through fear of their getting lost. They became the contents of some significant works. These included The Book of Creation, The Alphabet of Rabbi Akiba, and The Book of Splendor or the Zohar which, in fact, has been called "the Bible of Mysticism." Other manuscripts of similar kind were discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The knowledge of the Kabbalah and certain of its most treasured details, however, remained the exclusive property of some few individuals who claimed the special gift of mystical intuition. They further developed the occult message they had received and became experts in supernatural art and practice. Greatly revered, they were at times looked upon as "wonder workers." But as was only to be expected under the circumstances, the secret lore presented a fruitful field for abuse as well. Unscrupulous men exploited it and took advantage of it for their own enrichment and power.
The Kabbalah was assiduously studied by many mystics and searchers after supernatural wisdom, no matter of which faith. It helped them in their exploration and possible application of the profound secrets of existence. The Kabbalah has proved a truly rewarding source for devoted study and has left also its deep imprint on the art and teaching of the occult.
Taken From: Webster's World Encyclopedia 2002. Published by Webster Publishing, 2000. Copyright Webster Publishing, and/or contributors.