Kabbalah is the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible. It has been said it can take decades to study and truly comprehend Kabbalah’s lessons. Fortunately, I found a short cut.
The author and religious scholar Daniel C. Matt studied Kabbalah for decades and condensed his knowledge into an easy-to-read book titled The Essential Kabbalah. Matt points out that the word kabbalah means “receiving” or “that which has been received.” And while it refers to knowledge being received through study, it also means that “if one is truly receptive, wisdom appears simultaneously, unprecedented, taking you by surprise.” Matt says that:
The spiritual seeker soon discovers that he or she is not exploring something “up there,” but rather the beyond that lies within.
I have no doubt that to truly master the lessons of Kabbalah takes years–but with the upmost respect for the tradition, and our purposes here, I’ve distilled Matt’s work down to several passages that had special meaning to me and grouped them by category.
You’ll note that Kabbalah tradition includes a practice that sounds very similar to meditation and centering prayer. It represents additional proof that there are common threads within all faiths, and that ultimately, we are trying to connect with the same God. (For a more in-depth look at Kabbalah, I recommend you pick up Matt’s book or his new writings on the Zorah.)
Lessons from Kabbalah.
- When you contemplate the Creator, realize that his encampment extends beyond, infinitely beyond, and so, too, in front of you and behind you, east and west, north and south.
- Be aware that God fashioned everything and is within everything. There is nothing else.
- All your physical and mental powers and your essential being depend on the divine elements within. You are simply a channel for the divine attributes.
- Select a special place where no one in the world can hear your voice. Be totally alone. Sit in one spot in the room or the loft, and do not reveal your secret to anyone.
- As you prepare to speak with your Creator, to seek the revelation of his power, be careful to empty your mind of all mundane vanities.
- If it is at night, light many candles, until your eyes shine brightly.
- If your mind races, return to the place you were before the thought. Return to the site of oneness.
- If you wish your intention to be true, imagine that you are light. All around you, in every corner and on every side, is light…a radiant light…up above, the light of the Presence. The light is unfathomable and endless.
- Place in front of the eyes of your mind the letters of God’s name, as if they were written in Hebrew script.
- Remember God and God’s love constantly.
- Interpret what you hear in an uplifting manner, approximating it as best you can.
- When you see that you have achieved a little, concentrate more deeply in your meditation, until you experience a pure spirit speaking within.
- Search and discover the source of your soul, so that you can fulfill it and restore it to its source, it essence. The more you fulfill yourself, the closer you approach your authentic self.
- The desire to act and work, the passion to create and to restore yourself, the yearning for silence and for the inner shout of joy—these all band together in your spirit, and you become holy.
- When you train yourself to hear the voice of God in everything, you attain the quintessence of the human spirit…by training yourself to hear the voice of God in everything, the voice reveals itself to your mind as well.
- When you desire to eat or drink, or to fulfill other worldly desires, focus your awareness on the love of God…elevate the physical desire to spiritual desire…draw out the holy spark that dwells within. You bring forth holy sparks from the material world. There is no greater path than this.
- In the end, the Blessed Holy One will guide you on the path that it wishes and impart holiness to you. You are walking in the presence of God while being right here in the world. You become a dwelling place of the divine.
This post previously appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos. Click here to see my latest stories.