“I maintain that the cosmic feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.”Albert Einstein, New York Times Magazine, 9 Nov 1930, pg 1-4, reprinted in Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, Crown Publishers, Inc. 1954, pg. 36-40.
PART I: Jewish Mysticism: History, Theory, and Practice
Inspiring is the spiritual heritage of humankind to which Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah is central. The ancient secret meditative tradition of Kabbalah unlocks the mysteries of the “Hidden Church of Israel” (Waite 22). In Hebrew, Kabbalah simply means “to receive” hidden or secret wisdom thru meditation (Halevi 6).
Jewish Renewal focuses on the “metaphysics of healing and transformation.” (Lerner xviii). Meditation, contemplation, and action are powerful ways to revitalize metaphysical roots, heal spirits, and transform the world (תיקון עולם in Hebrew).
For any kind of liberation or renewal to succeed, individuals must seek to find truth. Rabbi Hillel and later Jesus taught in the Jewish mystical tradition, “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:23) Of. course usually the deepest and most powerful truths are hidden or concealed as in Kabbalah or Jewish mysticism. Start by caring enough to seek the truth. Then mysteries will be revealed.
It is necessary in this time of terrorism and violence to renew faith in the ancient spiritual ethic rooted in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Mystical Judaism has provided foundations for Christian and Muslim illumination and scholars note parallels in Jewish secret knowledge with those of the mystery schools of ancient Babylon, India, China, and Egypt (Waite 67).
Modern psychoanalyst of the subconscious Dr. C.G. Jung was not the first scholar and teacher to note people all over the world will do almost anything to avoid harming their individual egos which rely on limited and distorted knowledge. The story of Jacob, for example, is the story of a man fighting his ego to restore his full self in the form of an angel (Halevi 6). Dr. Jung and the biblical Patriarchs wisely recognized spirituality does not reside in the material ego; it is instead close to what Emerson called the “Oversoul.” The best way to find this “Oversoul,” is to dig deep thru meditation into the individual subconscious to find the collective unconscious of universal archetypes and the Akashic Record of all knowledge.
Metaphysicians utilize scientific logic and intuition to explore the frontiers of empirical reason. Scientists will probably one day find keys to the collective unconscious in our DNA. We must nevertheless resolve to activate the two (2) pillars of God’s universal energy, reason and faith. Balancing and applying both reason and faith activates the unified field of metaphysical science.
We live in an age of sensational information which often does not reveal the whole essence or true story. Kabbalah teaches us to look deep past the often-deceptive coating to the essential structure and substance animating souls. For example, some in Islam have recently staked false claim to the Western Wall of Jerusalem the Israelite King David built. Palestine and Jerusalem are not mentioned in the Koran. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has repeatedly deprived its people of basic resources while inciting the horrible legacy of violence against Jews in daily attempts, along with other hate filled violent terrorist groups, to annihilate Israel. Let us choose another path and practice tolerance.
We must condemn the evil scapegoating of any one people whether it is Israel’s indigenous Jews, Christians, Muslims, or anyone else. In our age where innocent Jews are purposely stabbed by hate instructed Palestinian children, rammed by terror cars, and blown up by young child bombers, we should ask what changes in consciousness will bring Jews, Christians, Muslims, and people of all faiths to reason, faith, and higher states of consciousness. This is the most important scientific and spiritual or metaphysical challenge facing us in this Age of Terrorism.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advised correctly saying “we must learn to live together as brothers, or we will surely perish as fools” (Washington 634). King implored throughout his life we must defend the right of democratic Israel to exist. All people have a right to live in peace and harmony with the environment. We must defend too equal rights for all people and all life forms. Israel’s constant acceptance of a Palestinian state has repeatedly been answered with missiles and hateful terror attacks against the historically, legally valid, and prophesized return of the Jews to Israel before the Last Judgement (Isiaiah 43:5-6, Jeremiah 23:3-6, and Sura 5:21).
Democracy, individual rights, and respect for all-natural resources and wildlife are political manifestations of spiritual enlightenment. Conversely, fascist hate, arrogance, and greed animate the angels of darkness. This insight was transmitted by Jewish mystics who recorded this secret tradition in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Kabbalah has a long history and much of it remains hidden or concealed. Nonetheless, there is “no separation between God, humanity, and nature.” (Waite 185). We are partners with God in the repair (tikkun) of the world (olam).” (Lerner 29).
The grassroots liberal Jewish Renewal movement focuses now on creating bright, tolerant, and compassionate interfaith faces of Light. The Jewish Renewal movement is named for the Sons of Light described in the Dead Sea Scrolls. For this reason, Jewish Renewal is often viewed as a branch of New Age consciousness. Jews and others may rediscover the lost history of Jewish mysticism and apply post-modern critical theory to timeless metaphysical practices. Then we will bless ourselves and each other with spiritual abundance. Happiness is key to set you free and it is like everything in life a choice.
Conservatives, moderates, and progressives will do well to reject hate in the media against Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others. Instead promote peace. But, we must respect each other as God’s creations and not shrink from exposing darkness to light. Be determined and with the help of God and the angels transform evil.
Jewish Renewal is part of an ancient Jewish mystical tradition that focuses on direct experience. It integrates the theoretical with the practical and the historical with the prophetic. The Jewish Diaspora began with frequent forced exiles from their ancestral homeland. The mystical tradition then moved to the Gnostics and the Talmudists of the Jewish Diaspora. They created medieval Jewish academies (yeshivas) where students could study Kabbala. European Chasidic (pious) scholars of the 1700s continued the Jewish mystical tradition into modern times with the establishment of Chabad Lubavitcher houses of worship and study.
The practice of Jewish Renewal today features ecstatic prayer with movement (davening) and cross-cultural music rituals. Jewish Renewal services often include interfaith chanting, yoga, and storytelling, and may even borrow from other spiritual traditions like shamanism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and Islam. All these practices may be combined into unique alchemical mixtures for Jewish Renewal.
This is a general prescription for Jewish Renewal. It involves multi-plane consciousness or meditation and whole life interfaith spirituality. It is imperative we create an individual and collective ethic of peace and love and this is the mission of Jewish Renewal.
Judaism is love. This tradition of love includes we defend ourselves against evil. We must convert our destructive energy into creative positive spirituality. This requires directed effort as well as openness and awareness. Be prepared for survival but reject to the very last hate. Instead seek the path of love. Therefore Israeli medics treat Palestinian suicide bombers first if their condition is more critical than that of Israeli victims they just tried to murder. Love other beings as yourself. There is no higher moral or spiritual purpose than loving life and all beings and forms of life. Love of life is the way to transform and transcend evil.
Connected by love we are individual rays of Light of the Sun. Like all stars and the dark of the endless Universe, we echo the eternal sound and visions of illumination across time and dimensions of space. Some like Jung would call this tapping into the Akashic Record of All Time (Pargod, where the Messiah resides, according to the Book of Enoch).
Humans have individual free will. We must balance freedom with responsibility to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy. Attitude and behavior on this earthly plane are tools of free will to be used in Jewish Renewal to ascend thru the higher degrees, levels, gates, mansions, and halls of consciousness. In the seven (7) Halls of Heaven those who meditate deeply can find the Academies on High presided over by eminent teachers (Halevi 47). All that is needed from the student of Kabbala is a sincere and deep desire to learn, grow, and transform.
A fine place to start your journey through the landscape of Jewish mysticism is a general reader on Jewish history. To understand the context of Jewish history in general, the 50th anniversary updated revision of Jews, God, and History (2012) remains a valuable historical resource. Dimont’s writing is colorful, engaging, and insightful. Dimont is an uncommon public intellectual. The public marketplace recognizes his love of knowledge from the vantage point of various social science and humanities disciplines. His love of history, culture, and society jumps off the pages of scholarship.
The Forbidden Mysteries of Enoch (1984) reveals the untold story of angels and humanity. This volume includes the Book of Enoch and its parallels in the Bible. It also records concealed or hidden references to the angelic Watchers, their offspring the Nephilim, and names of embodied angels. Here we find the Book of the Secrets of Enoch, specific details on Enoch from the forgotten Book of Jubilees, the Testaments of the twelve (12) Patriarchs, the Law and the Prophets as later quoted by Jesus, and mystical and apocalyptic revelations of Essenes John the Baptist and Jesus. These were no mainstream Jewish Establishment rabbis (teachers). They were Jewish mystics or Kabbalists who not only meditated and contemplated words of the wise but additionally took direct action.
Recent archeological finds documented throughout volumes of Biblical Archaeology over the last twenty (20) years (1995-2015) moreover reveal material evidence the mystic Essenes at Qumran were stockpiling weapons and ammunition to stage yet another of its many rebellions against the Roman Empire. The Essenes were preaching the end of the world was nigh. These were Apocalyptic preachers, teachers, and healers calling for repentance and redemption at Armageddon and they recorded and stored the tradition of hidden or secret knowledge in their desert monastery.
Reform Rabbi Michael Wise’s The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (1996) provides foundation stones for the study of Jewish mysticism. These foundation stones, the Dead Sea Scrolls, along with the Old and New Testaments, remain essential primary sources for the study of early Jewish mysticism. These Dead Sea Scrolls include the words of Moses the Levite, the Book of Secrets, material on the Psalms and Last Days, as well as divination prayers and songs to disperse demons many of which date back to King Solomon. We often forget the power of song to inspire and heal, but the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrate the vibrational power of sounds, repeating or chanting sacred words, reciting rhythmic and allegorical poetry, and singing and playing musical instruments.
The Readers Digest Bible through the Ages (1996) is an outstanding and easy to read general resource with colorful illustrations detailing the role of the oral tradition, the written word, and printed word for Judaism and its offspring Christianity. Articles collected and contained in this volume deal with the sociological and administrative history of Jewish Talmudic law and commentary as well as the role of ancient Jewish storytelling and prophecy. We are reminded of the traditional wisdom of the Jewish spoken word and of the power of touch to heal the sick and poor. We do have as a prime directive in Jewish Renewal the responsibility to ease the pain of the afflicted and help raise the injured.
James R. Lewis’ and Evelyn Dorothy Oliver’s Angels A to Z (1996), edited by Kelle S. Sisung, intrigues readers as a modern treasure trove and encyclopedia of celestial lore. Angels A to Z provides the spirit(s) behind the letter of the law. Topics such as the Book of Enoch, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Archangels are summarized concisely and colorfully with rare glimpses into hidden sacred knowledge. Its thematic focus on the relationship of angels to Jungian symbolism is deep enough to attract scholarly and lay lovers of esoteric wisdom.
A.E Waite’s The Holy Kabbalah: A Mystical Interpretation of the Scriptures (1995) delivers a comprehensive historical account of the Jewish esoteric philosophy of Kabbalah through the ages. The influences of Kabbalah have reached into monastic Christianity and Sufi Islam. Jewish yeshivas, Waite notes, not only actually preceded European universities but probably inspired their establishment (27). Kabbalah is the mystical path for universal consciousness and its divisions and resources are aptly detailed. This is a technically advanced and highly detailed academic reference work. The quality of scholarly research and writing is outstanding.
Aryeh Kaplan’s Meditation and Kabbalah (1982) provides a useful introduction to various schools of meditation in Jewish mysticism as well as specific methods and techniques for meditation. This is a practical guide. It deals with among other topics the techniques of the Talmudic mystics such as Rabbi Akiva, the medieval-era Rabbi Abulafia and Mediterranean or Sephardic scholars of Muslim Spain and Italy, as well as the Ari Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, Israel and the Eastern European or Ashkenazi Chasidim. This useful work provides a taste of Jewish mystical practices from across the world’s ages.
Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi’s Kabbalah: The Divine Plan (1996) is a brief and concise narrative of Kabbalah. It deals with the traditional history, and images of divinity. It also deals with angels, demons, and the humanistic aspects of meditation and hidden wisdom passed from Judaism to the Christian Gnostics, the Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and the Western Occult traditions. Rav P.S. Berg’s The Essential Zohar (2002) and Yehuda Liebes’ Studies in the Zohar (1993) provide in-depth structure for studying medieval texts and teachings of spiritual transformation using the secret liturgy of the Zohar. The author of the Zohar was Moses de Leon. Published about 1290, it remains the central work of medieval Kabbalah. Known in English as the Book of Splendor. It states angels live in seven (7) heavenly halls, the Heikhalot. The Zohar states we are born with a good angel and bad angel and when we die, we are met by either the angels of peace or destruction depending upon our actions (Lewis and Oliver, 424).
For a scholarly guide to practices that can be implemented every day, consult the eminently readable Toward a Meaningful Life (2002) by Chabad Lubavitcher Rabbi Simon Jacobson. When this author met Rabbi Simon Jacobson in Brooklyn in 2003, ominous thunder and lightning with heavy rain appeared outside the window as we debated at the Crown Heights Chabad House and Meaningful Life Center. The moment could not have been more dramatic. It was the kind of the thunderstorm that earned American Revolutionary evangelical Patrick Henry the name the “Son of Thunder.” Synchronicity may be to blame for “Thunderhorse” becoming this author’s Native American name five (5) years earlier since the “thunderbird” remains the Native American symbol of transformation. Coincidence or prophecy? There are no mistakes only synchronicity for seemingly random but related events.
Michael Lerner’s Jewish Renewal (1994) charts a path for alienated and progressive Jews to return to liberal equality thru healing and transformation. Its psychoanalytic message for social justice and compassion in political activism is especially noteworthy and needed for our time of economic inequality, hunger, and homelessness. Inspired by the founder of modern Jewish Renewal, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Lerner posits that the Jews have always been “the people of the book” Christians and Muslims admire and emulate or fear and hate. Martin Buber’s “Renewal of Judaism” calls it the “immense return and transformation.” (Lerner xxvi). Jewish Renewal is a return to the mystical tradition of Judaism.
The scientific study of Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah may be divided into the historical, theoretical, and practical. The theoretical Kabbalah deals with the mysteries and teaching structures of angelic and earthly domains and the divine emanation of divine energy (Ain Soph) that pass thru the thru ten (10) Sephirot represented in this vibrant chart. These ten Sephirot activate the channels to “enlightenment” (Kaplan 261). We may intuitively and intellectually enlighten and with humble devotion direct our actions to develop each of the ten (10) Sephirot
Angels were created by God on the first day according to the Book of Enoch (Prophet 38). These higher angels or Archangels and Divine Mother or Shekinah and Great Father are interchangeably called in ancient Hebrew sources “Elohim.” The Book of Enoch goes into detail about the names and functions of the Archangels, the higher order angels, and the lesser angels and demons. This knowledge of angels was given first to Enoch for the benefit of humanity. Such awareness of higher consciousness helps humans understand the divine Kabbalistic precept: it is in heaven as it is on earth. All on high and all in the material world effect and reflect each other.
Source: A.E Waite. Introduction by Kenneth Rexroth. The Holy Kabbalah: A Study of the Secret Tradition in Israel as Unfolded by the Sons of the Doctrine for the Benefit and Consolation of the Elect Dispersed thru the Lands and Ages of the Greater Exile. New York: Citadel, 1985.
Enoch, “the Teacher of Righteousness,” the “Initiate,” and “Teacher of Teachers” was the father of Methuselah (Halevi 14). Methuselah is often called the longest living descendant of Adam. Enoch was the grandfather of Noah. That’s how long-ago Enoch lived. The Book of Enoch is believed by Jewish tradition to be transmitted by Enoch after he was, like Ezekiel who followed him, taken up into the heavens during meditation. Enoch explains sinful angels described as the “Sons of God” mated with human women, the “Daughters of Man,” and conceived of giants known as Nephilim (Lewis and Oliver 311-12). This mystery is perhaps one of the most puzzling in the knowledge of spiritual and human evolution.
The mystical tradition teaches these giants or Nephilim, the results of angelic sin with humans, were then wiped out by the Great Flood, as punishment for (wo)man’s sins. Human Enoch was taken into Heaven and transformed by fire into the divine angel Metatron. Enoch then returned to Earth and taught humans on this plane they could access the higher angelic realms for divine secret wisdom of “the inner tradition” which Moses said should be studied at night and in secret. (Halevi 6).
This “Teacher of Secret Knowledge” archetype indicates transformation thru meditation leads to wisdom. The use of this universal archetype can be seen in psychoanalysis and shamanism as well as throughout the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim mystical paths. The Book of Enoch reads: “While the Watchers promise them liberty, they are the servants of corruption,” and this admission rings out as a fitting invocation for human material ego-based greed (Prophet 295). Furthermore, the “dumb ass speaking with the man’s voice forbade the madness of the Prophet.” (295). Much about prophetic Enoch was revised after Noah for the Old and New Testaments but remain as relevant today as to any period and space.
The mystical Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 date back to between 100 BC and 68 AD, but their origins are hundreds or thousands of years old, and its wisdom may originate with some older lost civilization of pyramid temple builders. These uncovered Dead Sea Scrolls however date back to around Jesus’ time. The Dead Sea Scrolls also contain pictographic images of the magic seals of the seven Archangels associated with the days of the week (Lewis and Oliver 122-23 and 125).
There are interesting parallels in the Dead Sea Scrolls with Persian Zoroastrianism including themes of good v. evil and the Apocalypse. You can even see the Arabesque designs of the Seals of Solomon and this can best be explained by remembering when Solomon built his great Temple on the Temple Mount, he also permitted pagan temples to remain.
King Solomon was liberal in his spiritual, diplomatic, and philosophical tastes but he was nonetheless a Jewish legal scholar and mystic. Solomon built his Temple to house the Tabernacle so it would open the gates to the Four Kabbalistic Worlds of (1) Action, (2) Formation, (3) Creation, and (4) Emanation (Halevi 15). Solomon built his Temple by putting angels and demons to work for God.
Solomon was David’s son. David’s line Jewish tradition says will produce the Messiah or “Anointed One.” (Halevi 16) Most striking is David’s prophetic revelation in The Dead Sea Scrolls of his own crucifixion, which never occurred, a thousand years before Jesus was crucified and one millennium before the cruel practice existed or was recorded (Psalm 22:9). David foresaw Jesus’ crucifixion or his own in another life.
The Dead Sea Scrolls place faith in a great “Teacher of Righteousness” in the tradition of Enoch, Abraham, and Moses. The Essenes inscribed on their Dead Sea Scrolls books from the canonical Old Testament as well as sublime entries like “The Ages of the World,” “Phases of the Moon,” and “Purification Rituals.” Due to the Essene faith in the immortal soul, they appear to have influenced the Early Christian Gnostics. The Gnostics also kept alive the Neolithic Mesopotamian idea of the “sacred feminine” preserved in the renewed form of the Jewish Shekinah.
The importance of the Essene monastery at Qumran, Israel with ritual purification baths remains underappreciated in many standard historical narratives. At least some of the “initiated” Sons of Light at Qumran were storing arms and preparing for an apocalyptic revolt against Rome and the Sons of Darkness (Waite 195). There are even some non-canonical versions of Jesus’ life which show him wielding the sword of the Archangel Michael. This may have been homage to the Jewish idea the Messiah would be a military commander instead of a pacifist, but such versions were not accepted by early church authorities. Perhaps this was a form of social control as well as a sincere message of faith for universal peace during a time of state sponsored war and terror from imperial Rome and its appeaser clients including the mainstream Jewish rabbinical legal establishment known as the Sanhedrin.
The non-canonical Apocrypha (Hidden) and Pseudigrapha (Somewhat Hidden) sources include the Books of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch. These early Jewish mystical texts portray the human soul as a battlefield for the angels of light and darkness. The Book of Jubilees recounts the Book of Enoch. The Apocryphal Book of the Maccabees sacred to Rastafarians in Ethiopia and Jamaica recounts the Jewish rebellion against the imperial Syrian Greeks. The heroes of the Jewish revolution against the Hellenized pagans demanded the right to freely worship above all the Jewish law of the divine covenant with one God. One of the leaders of the rebellion against the Greeks, Judah Maccabee, was himself known among the Tribes of Israel as “The Hammer” when he established the Jewish Declaration of Independence and Festival of Lights known as Chanukkah. The Maccabees foreshadowed frequent Jewish revolts against Rome such as the Bar Kochba Revolt (132-35 AD) supported by Rabbi Akiva and documented by Roman historian Josephus in The Jewish Wars.
The lesser known, hidden, esoteric, and non-canonical books provide a glimpse into the world between the Old and New Testaments which some of the Church accepted texts do not provide. One bit of context is for certain. Many early Jewish historical texts, especially those not from the accepted church canon, both from before and after Jesus, were spiritual, revolutionary, and prophetic. The apocalyptic content of the Dead Sea Scrolls was retold in the form of the Book of Revelations and made a part of the New Testament.
Knowledge is the first step toward contemplation and ascension to wisdom. In Jews, God and History (2003), Max I. Dimont describes a 4,000-year-old Jewish culture here on Earth. He notes the ancient Jews outlasted the Babylonian, Philistine, Greek, Persian, Roman, Ottoman, and even British Empires.
Dimont notes the Jewish people defeated slavery, survived worldwide diaspora, and even created Talmudic law living in the medieval Golden Age of Islam. Jewish Sephardic scholars even held high office in Islamic governments during the Middle Ages and many even wrote in Arabic (Dimont 198-99). Dimont explains Jews then went from the European Ashkenazic ghetto to become great political, scientific, intellectual, and industrial leaders while facing the growing anti-Semitic discord of the modern age. Hate of Jews has grown worse in this age of world war and terrorism.
Dimont looks at the Jews from a variety of historical perspectives. He takes the political, economic, geographic, psychological, and philosophical views of history. He applies Toynbee’s concept of linear societal evolution and combines it with Spengler’s cycles of history. He also integrates Hegel’s dialectic on the role of ideas in history. Hegel’s and Marx’s conflicting thesis and anti-thesis resulting in historical synthesis bears earlier antecedents in Eastern and various tribal sources as do many roots of Western spirituality.
Dimont’s analysis involves the role of religion in history, but he does not shirk the role of the cult of personality in driving the public and private affairs of great men and women. He rests on the philosophical proposition that the one Almighty God allows humans free will for which individuals are held accountable. In other words, power could be acquired without God’s blessing, but the ego does not translate to real lasting eternal power. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King informs us “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (For video of MLK’s1965 speech from the Alabama state capitol, click here).
Dimont astutely declares ethics and character put God in charge. Perhaps then it is this focus which has allowed Jews, who make up only a third of a percent of the world population, to feel based on their amazing achievements in science, spirituality, psychology, and technology, they are God’s Chosen People. Contemplation requires more than knowledge. It requires judicious deep wisdom based on contemplation or reflection. Meditation is one way to acquire such mystical insight. Character is then simply put the divine force we recognize when we see spiritual power in action.
Meditation and Kabbalah (1982) reveals the history, theory, and practice of Jewish meditation. While the historical provides us with the knowledge of the theoretical, the actual practice of meditation allows us to open our soul to extra-sensory ascent. Moses himself practiced Egyptian forms of magic and meditation rooted in the Mystery School of Horus. The overriding problem is many Hebrew manuals on meditative instruction remained secret taught orally to only one Jewish disciple at a time and were never published due to their highly sacred and energetic nature. Some outstanding manuals on Jewish meditation remain extant albeit rare due to fear of co-opting by Christian and Muslim mystics or uninitiated Jews.
The Ari’s sixteenth century Gate of the Holy Spirit was for example not printed until 1863. The Gates of Holiness (1715) is another meditative manual with explicit instructions for meditative techniques. In the eighteenth century, the Chasidic movement brought such techniques like those of Rabbi Nachman to the masses over mainstream rabbinic opposition. Despite similarities with East Asian techniques of spiritual liberation, teaching sacred Kabbalistic techniques was banned for the masses in the Jewish meditative tradition until Freud, Einstein, Manly P. Hall, and Jung along with the subsequent interfaith Jewish Renewal movement of the twentieth century popularized the teaching of hidden esoteric metaphysical wisdom.
Some of the very first Kabbalists to engage in Jewish meditative practices were of course the Israelite patriarchs and prophets who used them to attain enlightenment and prophecy. It would not be a stretch to extol them as the higher consciousness of the people, angels, and God. They were the best story tellers and there is no better story for people to remember than parable. Kings 19:4 makes it clear their inspiring stories in the form of parables were only possible due to the meditative “sound of silence” Elijah found walking in the wilderness for forty days (Law 15). Elijah, another manifestation of Enoch riding a fiery chariot was the “instructor and protector of Kabbalists” and “master of time and space.” (Law 14 and 17). Ezekiel rode his fiery merkabah chariot thru the higher realms during deep meditation. (Halevi 16). Moses also “freed the Self which lifts the soul out of the body’s domination.” (Halevi 14). Jesus’ sermons and healing practices make it clear he was intimately familiar with the path of the Jewish mystics, their teachings, as well as the power of their symbolic actions before him.
The mystical Gnostics branched off from Judaism to form Christianity in the centuries immediately following Jesus. The first Jewish Talmudists believed in the soul’s immortality, resurrection, and the End Days. (Waite 236). These Talmudic scholars commented sociologically on Jewish law and on the substance of mystical experiences in the first century after Jesus’ crucifixion, but they said little on the practice of meditation. Rabbis repeated divine names and concentrated on the transcendental spheres in early sixth century medieval texts such as the Book of Formation (Yetzirah) or Greater Chambers (Hekhalot Rabatai). The Book of Formation, which was originally given to Patriarch Abraham, makes up the “nucleus” of the Kabbalah and Sephirot transmitted to the Zohar. (Waite 98). These manuals documented allegorical visions and voices master rabbis heard meditating on the letters, words, and sounds of Hebrew.
Most of the “best known medieval Jewish scholars who studied the Kabbalah as a way of life trace the Zohar however back a thousand years to the second century Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.” (Berg 5). Rabbi bar Yochai claimed the angel Elijah came to him when he was secluded praying in a cave. Rabbi Akiva also passed down to bar Yochai and his disciples known as the “The Great Assembly” The Book of the Veiled Mystery which sets down the structure of the “creative process.” Bar Yochai used letters of the Hebrew alphabet and numbers to reveal what he called the Secrets of the Torah. Kabbalists call such meditative cipher formulations gematria. Kabbalistic concepts have been adopted over the centuries for use in numerology, yoga, astrology, and the tarot.
Kabbalist books on spiritual alchemy remained cloistered in Jewish secret societies until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Kabbalah was concealed for a thousand years because it was believed to be so much like a powerful “electrical current” it could be dangerous (Berg 9). The Bahir opened the way to teaching the secret meditative methods and Rabbi Abulafia was the first of his time to put them in writing with Rabbi Isaac of Acco and Rabbi Gikatalia soon to follow.
The Zohar, the classic compilation of Jewish mysticism, dwelt on the rhapsodic substance of Kabbalistic meditations. The Zohar is a commentary on the Bible and a map of the spiritual landscape. The Zohar ultimately provides the tools and instructions on how to be a cosmic navigator. Its goal is the true purpose of our lives: transformation (Berg 9-10 and Kaplan 7-8). The Zohar is a call to action for Jewish scholars to recognize the scenic spiritual pathways of the Sephirot illuminated by the Light of God.
In Ottoman Palestine of the1500s, the Safed (Israel) School of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari, again demonstrated various letter combinations from the Zohar could be used in meditative practices. The Chasidic movement of the Baal Shem Tov in the 1700s focused intensely on the earlier Kabbalistic classics and integrated them into new Chasidic vernacular phrasings. There was much strong opposition among rabbis (teachers) of Chasidim to the teaching of Jewish mystical practices to the masses, so they refused to teach it publicly. (Kaplan 8-9). In 1778, the Book of Enoch was found in Ethiopia which scholar Graham Hancock believes also housed Moses’ Ark of the Covenant. Let us turn now to the specific purpose and techniques of Kabbalistic meditation.
Meditation is a method of attaining spiritual or physical liberation and it may or may not be directed. A mantra, a word or phrase, is often repeated verbally aloud or it may just be repeated mentally silently. Structured meditation may include gazing at an object like a crystal ball, water, or a flame. Mandalas, pictures, or letter designs may be used in structured meditation. The Ari, the Rabbi Isaac Luria, often meditated on external combinations of divine Hebrew names to activate the Sephirot. Internally directed meditation is practiced purely in thought (Kaplan 11-14). Such positive daily spiritual affirmations are one important way to unlock subconscious visions of higher realms.
Non-directed meditation strives for complete stillness of the mind with withdrawal from all perceptions external and internal. Non-directed meditation, the most advanced of Kabbalistic meditation seeks “nothingness” where all perception and imagery cease to exist. This is the highest level of transcendence known in Hebrew as “Ayin.” (Kaplan 11-12).
The Chasidic Chabad system of the Baal Shem Tov delves deeply into the history and theoretical aspects of mysticism to access the highest state of spiritual ecstasy. The intellectual aspect of meditation may include devotional works to attain self-improvement. In the 1700s, Rabbi Luzzato’s Path of the Just (Mesilat Yesharim) calls for study and contemplation of the Commandments to rectify one’s life considering these teachings. This is a common thread for practitioners of Jewish mysticism.
The Chasidic tradition emphasizes physical practices for emotional release. This is often accomplished thru meditations involving music which played an important role for prophets and teachers of the Bible and Kabbalah. Chesek (passion) as described by Rabbi Moses Maimonides involved love. Love is the combination of intellect and emotion. “Contemplating God, thinking of his mighty deeds and wondrous creations and wisdom brings one to passionate love for God.” (Kaplan 274).
Physical practices are useful in Jewish meditation. Rhythmic body motions initiated thru deep breathing were important to Rabbi Abulafia. Swaying and bowing during prayer is an example of this unifying practice. Dance, singing, and playing musical instruments were all techniques used by King David and still enjoyed by the Chasidics. Dance may bring ecstasy and enlightenment because it is based like Kabbalah on balance. Dance associated with chanting hymns of praise are also often used to deliver the ultimate enlightenment in the form of meditation (hitbodedut) and self-isolation. We need not dance naked around the Temple like King David to feel liberated!
Rabbi Isaac of Acco pointedly stated meditation is “the divorcing of the thought processes of the soul from all perception, clothing it in the spiritual essence of the transcendental” (Kaplan 16 and 137). It is the removal of all stimuli to receive the spiritual realm. This is the non-directed form of meditation drawing from the subconscious texts of divine theoretical contemplation on Hebrew letters or the Word of the Infinite God. In the beginning Genesis tells us there was the Word, the Sound, and the Light in the void of space.
The challenge today is to maintain the Jewish tradition of freedom and democracy with an ethical imperative to do good works (tzedakah) as individuals and as part of a community known in Arabic as the umma. Mystical Islam may have adopted many of its principles and practices like dancing whirling dervishes from Judaism and Christianity while demanding conversion, taxes, or death from non-Islamic “infidels” as Mohammed defined Jews, Christians, and pagans. Micah 6:8 conversely reminds us we should “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” (Law 9). This is the inspiration for Jesus’ teachings on the Good Samaritan helping the alien suffering in the wilderness. Do not be cruel to neighbors. We are all wounded healers. (Lerner 33).
Jews and Israel are surrounded today by many people trying to destroy them with hate and violence. The nearly unanimous anti-Jewish sentiments of most modern Arabs and their leaders in the Middle East has found a home in the West. We must find out why and how such hate is rising. We must heal the wounded and the poor. We must bridge the divide. We should help refugees escaping the tyranny of terrorism just as Jewish refugees came to the United States seeking refuge from Nazism. In most cases, Jews were sorrowfully turned away to die by American and European governments, but Jews today still tend to still be more accepting of the plight of Syrian refugees since Jews know what it is like to be denied asylum in the face of a pursuant death cult. “Israel suffered crucifixion to aid in the salvation of the world.” (Waite 127). God is calling us to what our love can be (Lerner 37).
Banning all Muslims from the United States is an awful idea spiritually and politically. The American intelligence community must learn more from the Israeli intelligence and security communities which foil most terror plots while Western nations often miss the signs that strike San Bernadino, Paris, New York City, Washington, DC, and so many other places worldwide every day.
What can we do about veiled terrorism today? We must be more careful in analyzing sources. Even professors and scholars sometimes must be reminded to ask what is and what is not there in the record under review. As Mitchell G. Bard states in Myths and Fact: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict (2012), if we see children killed by Israel Defense Forces (IDF), we must ask why and what is the context. Most people are not aware Palestinian textbooks and children’s television programs indoctrinate Palestinian children with hate and violence against Jews. The same judiciousness goes for who we call “freedom fighters.” Are they governed by love or hate of others, what are the reasons for their hate, and were innocents targeted?
There is something sick and evil about societies that promote terrorism against innocent civilians while outlawing equality, democracy, and individual rights. President Obama is correct calling Islamic terrorist groups such as ISIS part of a “death cult.” Children being sent with knives, machine guns, and suicide bombs is not what God wants from us. Killing children with Downs Syndrome as ISIS does is hate and reminds us of Nazi eugenic policies of World War II. It is important to remember the Palestinian leadership allied with Hitler in the 1930s and in World War II and Islam was instituted by Mohammed to unify Arab peoples and take them from the traditional path of revenge, tribal warfare, and death. We must remind Muslims and sympathizers of these facts to reemphasize peace.
The Hebrew tribute l’chaim (to life) is important to remember. We must learn to coexist peaceably. Israel has agreed repeatedly since 1948 to a Palestinian homeland. Yet, leaders of many Arab states and terrorist groups repeatedly respond by calling for Israel’s annihilation as Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren documents in his Six Days of War. Recently in 2015, 70,000 Muslim clerics agreed to a fatwa, a Muslim clerical resolution, condemning terrorism. As Arab nations now band together to fight militarily against Islamic terrorism, we hope conservative, moderate, and progressive Muslims will continue to ally with the Jewish Renewal movement for interfaith understanding.
The Jews have been the indigenous people of Israel for more than 3,000 years and they have returned home. Israel was a wasteland in 1948 when the Jewish state was established. It is now a thriving democratic state which demands equal rights for all. Israel has demonstrated at war and at peace it respects human rights more than any other Middle Eastern or Islamic state. We have a responsibility to speak out for human rights and democracy. It is the spiritual thing to do. We are all vessels of God whose radiance must shine and not be snuffed out by the darkness of hate and terror.
As individuals, we must learn to transform our material reality with spiritual principles, meditation, contemplation, and action. Rabbi Simon Jacobson has some useful recommendations for daily living he learned from the Chasidic Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Jacobson focuses on awareness and consciousness in his writings from Crown Heights Brooklyn. He realizes we must move beyond religious scholarship to “nourish the body and spirit every day in the small things we do (Jacobson 3).
Deeds have consequences. Remember “if you hurt children, you hurt God” (Jacobson 25). We must treat children with respect and sensitivity. The best we can do to educate people is to teach them to think for themselves. We must teach children they have freedom to act virtuously (Jacobson 35). Of course, the teacher learns from students. When students grow toward marriage, husband and wife must learn to be equal friends (Jacobson 52). A home should build self-esteem. On using children as terrorists, the Code of Jewish Law states: “One has no right to harm his body, for it is not his property but God’s.” (Jacobson 85). “No matter how lofty your pursuits, you must never fail to hear the cries of a child,” Chabad Rabbi Schneerson declared. (Jacobson 157). Break the chain of anger and cruelty passed down from generation to generation with creative soul-searching activities.
A holistic approach to health and physical fitness is essential for individuals and groups to feel renewed. The great triad of mind, body, and spirit must be respected and developed. “A sound and healthy body is dependent on a sound and healthy soul.” (Jacobson 85). Isometrics and yoga involving deep breathing relaxes the body. Tai chi and martial arts are also great. Eat healthy organic foods whenever possible. It states in Exodus God is the ultimate healer. Psalms 106:3 even says “happy are those who are charitable at all times.” Positive visualization and faith will provide you with the spiritual abundance you need.
True wealth is measured with emotional, spiritual, and intellectual gains (Jacobson 110). Each year our experience brings greater wisdom and the soul never dies. We reach a higher state when our goodness, virtue, and selflessness provide us with ascension, but we must also fulfill our responsibilities on the earthly plane. (Jacobson 118). Pain must thru transformation become righteous action. As our tears of sufferance grow, we become stronger and wiser. Like Buddha and the Dalai Lama know, suffering is a part of life that helps us appreciate the joys of existence. We all make mistakes. Jewish Renewal admits repentance is more important than righteousness (Berg 235). Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow.
Do not forsake your righteous principles for family, money, job, or society. Do not negotiate out of fear except from your own values and standards. God overcomes all sickness, poverty, and death. Replace fear and anxiety with joy and celebration. Do not give up on yourself or fellow humans but be careful to defend yourself against evil. Refine yourself even in your most mundane activities. God is in everything and all you do every moment. Your soul, part of God, is your compass.
A righteous government is of, by, and for the people and it places faith in God who created everything from one source. These principles were presented to Abraham and then Moses on Mount Sinai. These Ten Commandments were the first precedent in legal history for equal rights and a just democratic society. It was groundbreaking and would not be established in the West until the Enlightenment when it was termed “natural rights.” The Ten Commandments contained respect and praise of God, human life, others’ rights and property, and all creatures, as well as an independent judiciary. Sound morals and ethics are created by timeless and universal laws. The first principle of government is of course to provide security and peace while respecting individual rights. When the wealthy abuse the poor and the worker, there are spiritual repercussions ripe for repair. We are at such a point of inequality in world and American history. What shall we do to heal the divide?
Maimonides wrote in the Laws of Kings 4:10 everyone must be a leader seeking to “fill the world with justice.” Leaders are not those filled with ego, arrogance, and self-interest. Leaders take a global and even universal view. The true leader is an example of his or her teachings. Moses was so humble he did not want to even approach the Pharaoh. Moses was a leader because he was selfless, virtuous, devoted, visionary, humble, and courageous (Jacobson 176). As Maimonides wrote in Laws of Knowledge 5:1: “Just as a wise person is knowledge, so too must he be distinguished by his actions, behavior, and conduct.” (Jacobson 264). Wisdom does not complete positive change on the earthly plane. Only direct action can do that, and it is our duty to take direct action to protect all people’s God given natural rights and liberties under the Soul of the Ancient Law.
Kabbalah teaches we as part of God all have masculine and feminine characteristics. We know the nature of women is often subtle and men more aggressive. God’s feminine characteristics, the Shekinah, must above all not be forgotten. Both gender associated Kabbalistic pillars are important for a uniform whole, whether it be for a human being or society. Both genders should share in the responsibilities of the home and in decision-making. Even beautiful and erotic love making of the Heavenly Father and Divine Mother detailed in the Zohar revives the Universe. Let us also remember Adam was androgynous. It is on earth as it is in the heavens.
We must learn to balance the scientific and spiritual. This is possible because they are intertwined. The Internet today does allow us more possibilities to be compassionate and universal. It also can lead us to indoctrination if we do not learn to see issues from multiple perspectives. We live in an age of unrivalled materialism, but redemption and heightened spiritual consciousness are also now upon us with equal splendor. The shame is now more than ever there is a divide between rich and poor and more devastating violence and war. We must deal with the deification of evil (devils) focused on greed and lust focused on the material. People are so much more than commodities. We must rebel against slave wages and white-collar crime by elevating and strengthening our minds, bodies, and spirits.
Upheaval is a sign of change. The dark times Jews face now is a sign a new renaissance of Jewish life looms on the bright horizon of dawn’s early light. We are moving now toward a new world order in which freedom and spirituality reign supreme. In troubled times, there is nothing more important than defeating fear, hate, and violence.
Faith in the here and now is the way to victory. God is with you when you are alone and afraid. Abraham and David, Moses, Jesus, and other Prophets were at least in part sheep herders, and so naturally they found God and their connection to all God’s creations and cosmic order alone in the wilderness. Such solitary meditation leads us to Redemption which the Midrash says will come by “an attack on an Arab nation by Persia (Iran).” (Jacobson 210). This is an interesting prophecy considering the recent (2015) nuclear non-proliferation treaty by the United States with Holocaust denying and terrorism financing Iran. Iran has dishonored this and many other international agreements as it pursues annihilation of Israel and human rights. Integrity by the pure at heart is a clear sign an individual or group is ready to receive the Light of the Almighty. Darkness is simply the absence of Light and it only needs a little space to shine (Berg 235).
We need a grassroots awakening. God is wherever you let Him/Her in, so we must learn to introduce God energy to our studies, conversations, and ways of living. Each of our unique missions is important. Become aware of your mission and channel all your energies toward it. Faith does not replace reason. It should enhance it. Reason is the expression of God and it tells us how to live. Faith tells us why. (Jacobson 241). God created the metaphysical laws of nature and we may discover divine unity studying and experiencing the historical, theoretical, and practical sides of Jewish mysticism. This is the holistic and loving path of Jewish Renewal in the Age of Terrorism. Without evil, there can be neither renewal, transformation, or redemption.
Alliance for Jewish Renewal. http://ww5w.aleph.org. 2015.
Bard, Mitchell. Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Chevy Chase, MD: American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2012.
Berg, Rav. P. S. The Essential Zohar: The Source of Kabbalistic Wisdom. New York: Random House, 2002.
Halevi, Z’ev ben Shimon. Kabbalah: The Divine Plan. San Francisco: HarperCollins. 1996.
Huber, Robert V. The Bible Through the Ages. New York: Readers Digest, 1989.
Jacobson, Simon. Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. New York: Harper Collins, 2002.
Kaplan, Aryeh. Meditation and Kabbalah. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1985.
Law, Philip. Introduction by Donald Coggan. Wisdom of the Prophets. Oxford: Lion, 1997.
Lerner, Michael. Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation. New York: GP Putnam, 1994.
Liebes, Yehuda. Studies in the Zohar Albany: State University of New York, 1993.
Oren, Michael. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. New York: Ballantine, 2003.
Prophet, Elizabeth Clare. Forbidden Mysteries of Enoch. Malibu: Summit University Press, 1984.
Schachter-Shalomi, Zalman. Interfaith Spirituality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNl3F-6_EQU\, 2012.
Waite, A.E. The Holy Kabbalah: A Mystical Interpretation of the Scriptures. Introduction by Kenneth Rexroth. New York: Citadel, 1995.
Washington, James W. (ed.) A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1986.
Wise, Michael, Martin Abregg, Jr., and Edward Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994.