The Kabbalah

Joseph Smith God's Sex Life
Glorified Man Primal Man
Measure of the Body Bad Theology
Reincarnation Metatron
Sparks Adam-God
God the Sinner Tsaddik
Pot, Kettle In Practice

Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith began his prophetic career penning a pious forgery intended to stir up faith in the living God: "For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved." (Book of Mormon, Nephi 6:4). He ended by teaching how "the gods" organized matter into the worlds. What on earth happened? Where does all this stuff come from? The reader of the King Follett Discourse lands in unfamiliar territory, but pick out a few landmarks, and it all starts to look strangely familiar.

Joseph Smith's Hebrew translations, indefensible though they may be, are not altogether original. Some of the themes that appear in his late work are familiar from the Kabbalah, such as worlds within worlds:

  • "Then you wonder, astonished: Who am I? I am a mustard seed in the middle of the sphere of the moon, which itself is a mustard seed within the next sphere. So it is with that sphere and all it contains in relation to the next sphere. So it is with all the spheres -- one inside the other -- and all of them are a mustard seed within the further expanses. And all of these are a mustard seed within further expanses. Your awe is invigorated, the love in your soul expands."
  • (Moses Cordovero, 'Or Ne'erav,' ed. Yehuda Z. Brandwein, 2:2 (18b-19a), paraphrased p. 22, The Essential Kabbalah, Daniel C. Matt).

The Kabbalah first appeared in medieval times but incorporates prior gnostic material: "The early kabbalists drew on old gnostic traditions and on philosophical ideas that lent themselves to a mystical and symbolic view of the world." (Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, by Gershom Scholem, p. 15).

And gnostic it is: in the Zohar, the God of Israel is not the first cause, but a product: "Thus: Brashith bara Alhim ath hashamayim signify: He, the unknown mysterious One, created alhim the fructifying and generative principle of the heavens, one in origin but dual in operation." (The Zohar, the Book of Light. Section 1, Genesis: Creation). There is a God above God: the "unknown mysterious One," the Deists' god. This higher god is the uncaused cause, not the God of Israel, who is lower down the food chain.

One striking feature of the Kabbalah is an anthropomorphic analysis of God's bodily geometry. This distinctly unpromising line of inquiry has a long history, stemming from an intensive analysis of Ezekiel's vision of God's chariot-throne:

"And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it." (Ezekiel 1:26).

From the original undifferentiated infinity, Ein Sof, emanated ten sefirot, powers or attributes, and from thence the created universe. Ein sof is Spinoza's god: the undifferentiated, infinite, ground of all being, itself devoid of any attribute and thus unknowable: “This then is the explanation: The Ein Sof is called 'nothing' for it is impossible to grasp.” (Hayyim Vital, The Tree of Life, Gate 42, Chapter 1, page 5). The ten sefirot originate, not from any willed act of creation by a transcendent Creator-God, but arise by 'emanation,' as does the entire universe. The sefirot are still within the realm of the divine, although they have been elaborated into a plurality, and one of them, the Shekinah, is fated to go into exile, thus busting up the family. Just as the Christian Trinitarian does not intend to divide the Divine Unity, neither does the Kabbalist:

"There is no change and division in the Emanator such as would justify the statement that in the ten sefiroth He is divided in parts. Division and change do not apply to Him, but [only] to the external sefiroth [that are His vessels]. We may make this more plausible to the understanding of the thoughtful student by means of a suitable comparison, to wit, of water in communicating vessels of different colors, such as white, red, green, and so forth. As the water spreads through the vessels, it appears to be colored with the hues of the vessels, although it is essentially one and the same." (Pardes Rimmonim, bk. IV. ch. 4, quoted pp. 32-33, Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystic Messiah).

Every existing thing is incorporated into this chain of emanations:

  • "There is nothing -- not even the tiniest thing -- that is not fastened to the links of this chain. Everything is catenated in its mystery, caught in its oneness."
  • (Moses de Leon, 'Sefer ha-Rimmon' (The Book of the Pomegranate), paraphrased p. 26, The Essential Kabbalah, Daniel C. Matt).

Rembrandt, Philosopher in Meditation

Possible transmission routes for this material include Joseph Smith's two Hebrew teachers, one of whom, Alexander Neibaur, was an adept of this esoteric science. Freemasonry is another candidate. Brigham Young would later express another strikingly distinctive Kabbalistic theme, that Adam is God. The very eccentricity of this material makes it unlikely Joseph Smith and his comrades discovered it independently. Joseph's reading of the first verse of Genesis climbs way out on a limb, reading 'elohim' as object rather than subject. He is convinced this reading is authentic to the Hebrew original, because the Kabbalists had already pioneered it:

  • "Then Beginning emanated, building itself a glorious palace. . .With Beginning, the unknown concealed one created the palace, a palace called God. The secret is: 'With Beginning, ______ created God.'"
  • (Zohar 1:15a (thirteenth century), paraphrased pp. 52-53, The Essential Kabbalah, Daniel C. Matt).

Joseph is not faithful to the Kabbalist interpretation of the passage, though he does follow their lead in inverting the grammar. Where are the Kabbalists going with their concept of a "created" God? Their preferred theology elevates Ein Sof, a featureless infinite, the Liebnitzian Monad, the God beyond God. They present the God of the Bible: the God who loves, who hates, who talks to humankind,-- as a collaborative project between man's imagination and emanations from Ein Sof. The God of the Bible is left diminished, shown up as the man behind the curtain, the God who wasn't there, having been unveiled as an illusion. This is not where Joseph wants to go; a polytheist with a low conception of deity, he portrays a heavenly conference:

"It read first, 'In the beginning the head of the Gods brought forth the Gods,' or, as others have translated it, 'The head of the Gods called the Gods together.'" (Joseph Smith, Sermon On the Plurality of Gods).

Because Joseph elsewhere reduces everything to matter, perhaps eternal and indestructible matter is the Ein Sof of his conception. Where to find the synergy here is perplexing. The Mormons were expansive, optimistic Americans; the Kabbalah is Valentinian gnosis, a deeply pessimistic viewpoint, with an understandable appeal to a persecuted and despairing population. The God of the Bible surveyed His creation and found it good: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31). But to the gnostic, the creation is not good; it is an unlooked-for catastrophe in need of repair. Adoration is withheld from the party responsible for this botched job; gnosticism is not a mind-set which inculcates gratitude to the Creator. Yet there is undeniably a connection, implausible as it may seem.

Return to Answering the Latter-Day Saints. . .

God's Sex Life

From the start, Kabbalah represented itself as ancient wisdom rediscovered. When he wrote the Zohar in the thirteenth century, Moses de Leon pretended he was copying ancient texts. When 'ancient wisdom' marketing schemes such as Freemasonry or Rosicrucianism set up their stands, Joseph Smith stood in line and believed every word. Joseph's education was limited by opportunity, not aptitude, but his lack of grounding in critical thinking left him gullible and naive. They wouldn't say it was 'ancient wisdom' if it wasn't, now would they? Dan Brown is another who happily sent in his box-top to learn the 'ancient wisdom' of Shekhinah's femininity:

  • "Hokhmah and Binah are called man and woman, father and mother. Just as human sexual union requires the medium of genitalia, so above, these two qualities unite by means of the mystery of primordial Da'at, which mediates between father and mother. This union maintains and renews the sefirot, which are continually revitalized through their root, sunk deep within Binah and Hokhmah. . .This manner of union may be found in Tif'eret and Malkhut, who are male and female, groom and bride, lower father and mother, son and daughter of the upper couple, king and queen, the Holy One, blessed be he, and Shekhinah."
  • (Moses Cordovero, (sixteenth century) 'Or Ne'erav,' ed. Yehuda Z. Brandwein, paraphrased pp. 45-46, The Essential Kabbalah, Daniel C. Matt).

The reader of classical fables is not surprised to read about Zeus and Hera's sex life inasmuch as these were participants in an unabashedly polytheist pantheon. What is surprising is to recall that the Kabbalists belong to a nominally monotheistic tradition.

This way of thinking is undeniably ancient,-- students of pagan idolatry are familiar enough with phallic symbols,-- but it is not anciently part of the religion of Israel. What procreative function does this coupling serve?:

"One might ask: what comes into being from the sacred marriage of Tsaddik and the Shekhinah? The Zohar's answer is: the souls of the righteous. Thus, a unique element is emanated into the substance of life -- the Tsaddik procreates the righteous." (Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead,' pp. 114-115).

Biblically, God does not procreate people but creates them:

"The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:. . ." (Zechariah 12:1).
"For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before Me, and the souls which I have made." (Isaiah 57:16).

As should be apparent, we have left Biblical religion far behind.

Holy, Holy, Holy

Glorified Man

Kabbalah's influence in the present day goes far beyond Hollywood starlets. Some of this material has entered into mainstream Judaism: "Much of what now passes for normative Judaism (Hasidism included) essentially is Jewish Gnosticism. . ." (Harold Bloom, 'Omens of Millenium,' p. 230). Renewal movements that are commonly but erroneously thought Biblically-based, like the Hasidic movement, eagerly devour this material. What is so bad about Kabbalistic theology? First there is the crass anthropomorphism of the starting concept, a map of God's physical body to various bodily parts of which are assigned divine attributes. Some students of this science insist this sketch is intended as metaphor. It may indeed be intended as mockery:


Kindly note the blasphemy is in the conception illustrated, not in this artist's heart. Incidentally, the stage directions for this homunculus ("right arm," "left thigh") are invariably given in terms of a man looking in the mirror, not facing the figure depicted. Those who invented this form of 'spirituality' want a man looking in the mirror to see God. The one constant in this imaginative system is its imperative to elevate man, while dragging down God.

Two millenia of Christianity have left the question 'What does God look like?' to the kindergarteners. Yet people well aware of the Westminster Confession's God "without body, parts, or passions," including Joseph Smith, Finis Dake, who wrote a popular Pentecostal Bible commentary, and Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole, son of a Baptist preacher), have rejected 'the spook god of the Christians' in favor of a corporeal deity. To materialists, proclaiming God's corporeality reclaims His reality, and Mormon doctrine is materialist: "All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;. . .We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter." (Doctrine and Covenants No. 131). Joseph Smith was a great believer in the Kabbalist 'insight' recorded in the above sketch:

"If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world its in orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible -- I say, if you were to see him today you would see him like a man in form -- like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another." (Joseph Smith, King Follett Discourse).

Primal Man

The pagan mystery religion cultivated at Samothrace projected Adam, the first man, into the heavens:

"This is, he says, the great and ineffable mystery of the Samothracians, which it is allowable, he says, for us only who are initiated to know. For the Samothracians expressly hand down, in the mysteries that are celebrated among them, that (same) Adam as the primal man. And habitually there stand in the temple of the Samothracians two images of naked men, having both hands stretched aloft towards heaven, and their pudenda erecta, as with the statue of Mercury on Mount Cyllene. And the aforesaid images are figures of the primal man, and of that spiritual one that is born again, in every respect of the same substance with that man." (Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 3).

Whether this aspect of the Samothracian mystery religion strikes us as a bizarre, repellent, paganish concept or old hat depends on our point of reference. In Lurianic Kabbalah, the primordial man, Adam Kadmon, is above and prior to the sefirot. He is God in the highest: "The Adam Kadmon serves as a kind of intermediary link between Ein-Sof, the light of whose substance continues to be active in him, and the hierarchy of worlds still to come. In comparison with the latter, indeed, the Adam Kadmon himself could well be, and sometimes was, called Ein-Sof." (Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, p. 137)

This Primal Man is no 'little god,' He is the Creator:

"He is the creator, preserver, and prime animator of the world. He is the “Light of light,” possessing the three primitive forces of the Godhead; the light, the spirit, and the life. Inasmuch as he has received what he gives, the light and the life, he is considered as equally a generative and conceptive principle as the “Primitive Man,” Adam-Kadmon; and as man himself is called the “little world,” or the microcosm, so this Being, this Type, is properly designated the “great world,” or Macrocosm." (King, Charles William. The Gnostics and Their Remains (Kindle Locations 749-752). Part 1, Gnosticism and its Sources.)

Followers of the Kabbalah have been captivated by this thought: "Above, the Son is the whole Kosmos; below, he is Mankind. . .as the Kabbalists have it, the 'Ancient of Days,' descending on Adam Kadmon whom he uses as his vehicle to manifest through, gets transformed into Tetragrammaton." (Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 24909). Is this what the Bible teaches?:

Measurement of the Body

Kabbalist writers offer the Shi'ur Komah, the measure of God's stature, without hinting it is anything other than matter-of-fact information about the world meant to be taken literally: "[Rabbi] Akiva is presented as receiving such visions, saying that God is 'virtually like us, but is greater than anything; and this is His glory which is concealed from us.'" (quoting Hekhaloth Zutrati, p. 21, Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead.'). Observers of bad religion cannot safely conclude that, if a given teaching is absurd, it cannot be seriously tendered: this is to say that, since the 'deportation of the moon' is absurd, Elijah Muhammad cannot have taught it.

Enemies of religion such as Bishop Spong refer often to a certain vision of God and the world, as of a snow globe at whose summit sits a very large white-bearded man seated upon a throne. The earth in this conception is flat and small. This concept, which has persisted down through the centuries in the face of active educational efforts by a variety of religious traditions to stamp it out, is not original to the atheists. The Kabbalists are heirs to this tendency: "The key figure in the measurements of the body of the Creator, which appears repeatedly, is 236,000,000 parasangs." (Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead,' p. 23). This may be the oldest feature of this system. As noted, the Kabbalah claims antiquity for itself, though its real heritage lies, not in the Talmudic rabbis whom it 'quotes,' nor, God forbid, in Moses and the prophets, but in gnosticism, an 'international style' of religion popular in the early Christian centuries. To avoid the disgrace of having adopted a discarded Christian heresy, Kabbalists argue strenuously, though not always convincingly, for Jewish priority in this once broadly popular paganizing trend.

Philo Judaeus, writing in the first century A.D., shares the Christian conception of God's incorporeality:

"For if the living God has a face, and if he who desires to leave it can with perfect ease rise up and depart to another place, why do we repudiate the impiety of the Epicureans, or the godlessness of the Egyptians, or the mythical suggestions of which life is full? For the face is a portion of an animal; but God is a whole, not a part: so that it becomes necessary to invent for him other parts also, a neck, and a chest, and hands, and moreover a belly, feet, and generative organs, and all the rest of the countless number of internal and external faculties. . .But the living God has need of nothing; so that as he does not at all require the assistance to be derived from the parts of the body, he cannot possibly have such parts at all." (Philo Judaeus, 'On the Posterity of Cain and His Exile,' I. 1-4).

Commenting on Numbers 23:19, Philo says,

"But God, inasmuch as he is uncreated, and the Being who has brought all other things to creation, stood in need of none of those things which are usually added to creatures. For what are we to say? Shall we say, if he is possessed of the different organic parts, that he has feet for the sake of walking? But where is he to walk who fills all places at once with his presence? And to whom is he to go, when there is no one of equal honor with himself? And why is he to walk? It cannot be out of any regard for his health as we do. . .Once more, he had no need of eyes, the organs without which there can be no comprehension of the light perceptible by the outward senses; but the light perceptible by the outward senses is a created light; and even before the creation God saw, using himself as light. And why need we mention the organs of luxury? For if he has these organs, then he is fed, and when he has satisfied himself he leaves off eating, and after he has left eating he wants food again; and I need not enumerate other particulars which are the necessary consequences of this; for these are the fabulous inventions of impious men, who represent God, in word indeed only as endued with human form, but in fact as influenced by human passions." (Philo Judaeus, 'On the Unchangeableness of God,' XII.)

So this carnal way of thinking is by no means a consequence of lacking John 4:24, "God is a Spirit. . ." Where, then, did the 'God is a glorified man' theory originate? What is incomprehensible as piety is fully comprehensible as mockery.

Biblical difficulties with the idea include God's omnipresence, which cannot belong to a body present at only one place:

"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me." (Psalm 139:7-10).

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Bad Theology

To continue on the theme of bad theology, next there is the concept of a needy, dependent God, who requires human assistance to maintain and restore his mental health, his sexual satisfaction, the equilibrium of his various component parts, or indeed his very existence. For this theology, 'God' is a collaborative project between man and worlds beyond:

  • "The Righteous One stands gazing out at humanity. When he sees human beings engaged in Torah and mitsvot, seeking to refine themselves, to conduct themselves in purity, then the Righteous One expands, filling himself with all kinds of flowing emanation from above, to pour into Shekhinah, the divine presence, in order to reward those purifying themselves, those cleaving to Torah and mitsvot. Thus, the entire world is blessed by those righteous humans, and Shekhinah is likewise blessed through them.

    "But if, God forbid, humans defile themselves by distancing themselves from Torah and mitsvot, by perpetrating evil, injustice, and violence, then the Righteous One stands to gaze at what they have done. When he sees, he gathers and contracts himself, ascending higher and higher. Then the flow of all the channels ceases, and Shekhinah is left dry and empty, lacking all good.

    "One who understands this secret understands the immense power a human has to build and to destroy. Now, come and see the power of the righteous: they can unite all the sefirot [divine attributes], harmonizing the upper and lower worlds."
  • (Joseph Gikatilla (thirteenth century), Sha'arei Orah, 19a-b, paraphrased p. 79, The Essential Kabbalah, Daniel C. Matt).

Those whose knowledge of these matters comes from the Bible understand the power a human has to build and destroy God is nil. God requires no such assistance:

"For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness." (Psalm 50:10-12).
"Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless." (Isaiah 40:15-17).

The resentment of a religious tradition deserted by God drives man to fill the void left by the departed God, even creating angels:

  • "It is impossible that anything that comes out of man's mouth should be in vain and there is nothing that is completely ineffective. . .for every word that is uttered creates an angel. . .Consequently, when a man leads a righteous and pious life, studies the Law, and prays with devotion, then angels and holy spirits are created from the sounds which he utters. . .and these angels are the mystery of maggidim. . ."
  • (Hayim Vital, disciple of Isaac Luria, quoted pp. 86-87, Harold Bloom, 'Omens of Millenium').

In the Bible it's not man but God who creates angels:

"Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts!. . .Let them praise the name of the LORD, for He commanded and they were created." (Psalm 148:2-5).

Much of this literature is so strange as to defy analysis. The Bible principles to bear in mind include the fact that the Bible has nothing positive to say about men who make themselves to be gods:

"Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD:
“Because your heart is lifted up,
And you say, ‘I am a god,
I sit in the seat of gods,
In the midst of the seas,’
Yet you are a man, and not a god,
Though you set your heart as the heart of a god. . .
Because you have set your heart as the heart of a god,
Behold, therefore, I will bring strangers against you,
The most terrible of the nations;
And they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom,
And defile your splendor.”’" (Ezekiel 28:2-7)


Along with the Buddhists, Hindus, Platonists, Pythagoreans, and their own parent gnostics, the Kabbalists believe in the transmigration of souls:

  • "The Kabbalists believed in a doctrine of transmigration of souls through various bodies and forms of existence. Was this teaching developed independently, by means of spiritual experiences and states similar to those that produced it in other religions? Or should we assume that the initial impulse toward this teaching originated in an older tradition and among other groups -- although, of course, subsequently developed by Kabbalah in its own way? This question arises in light of the circumstances under which the doctrine of metempsychosis (transmigration) first appears in Kabbalah. In the earliest known Kabbalistic text, Sefer ha-Bahir, redacted in the south of France around 1180, this teaching is taken for granted, and is elucidated without any apologetic tone."
  • (Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead,' p. 197).

The Zohar traces out the transit of the souls, from their native abode in heaven down toward incarnation in human bodies and then back again:

"Of the celestial regions whither souls come forth to be incarnated on earth, one of them, the eighth in order, is termed Haya (living). . .The words: "and every living creature" refer to the sacred name imprinted on the bodies of all incarnated souls coming from the celestial region called Haya. . .The region included under the right wing contains two divisions through which pass the souls of the children of Israel, when after death they ascend to the celestial locality called Haya. " (The Sepher ha-Zohar, or the Book of Light, Introduction, the Fourteen Precepts, pp. 78-79)

As should by now be apparent, Kabbalah is a recycling operation, polishing up discarded bits of refuse from other religious traditions, including the living Cathar tradition of its place of origin. The Valentinian gnostics believed in reincarnation, which had been taught by Plato, Pythagoras, and other heathen authorities. The doctrine is absent from the Old Testament, specifically denied in the New: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:. . ." (Hebrews 9:27). Kabbalists defend this doctrine, called gilgul, with proof-texts whose relation to the concept could best be described as whimsical, like Ecclesiastes 1:4: "One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh:. . ."

In light of this belief, the Kabbalists retell the Bible stories as the interaction, over the generations, of the same players:

  • "King David, of blessed memory, was a great sage and recognized transmigrations. When he saw Uriah the Hittite, he knew that he was the Serpent who had seduced Eve, and when he saw Bathsheba he knew that she was Eve, and he knew that he himself was Adam. Thus, he wished to take Bathsheba from Uriah, because she was David's mate. . ."
  • (Sefer Peli'ah (ca. 1350-1400), quoted p. 215, Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead').

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If they truly think David was a great sage, they should take his comments about his dead son to heart: "But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." (2 Samuel 12:23). The reincarnationist demurs, 'No, he will.'

Surprising as it may sound, reincarnation is not considered a heretical view in Judaism. It goes way back, and is in fact a borrowing from once popular pagan religious conceptions:

"In fact, R. Simlai, the third-century Haggadist, advances the Platonic conception of the pre-existence of the soul, as a being of the highest intelligence, which sees before birth all things throughout the world, but forgets all at birth, so that all subsequent learning is only a recollection." (Kaufmann Kohler, Jewish Theology, p. 289).

Buddhists and Hindus today will look upon a handicapped child with equanimity, explaining that the blameless child is being punished for misdeeds in another life. Likewise those Rabbis partial to the concept of transmigration blame the sufferer for his current affliction, even if he is newborn: "Or most souls being at present in a state of transmigration, God requites a man now for what his soul merited in a bypast time in another body, by having broken some of the 613 precepts." (Kitzur Sh'lh, p. 6, col. 1, Hebraic Literature: Translation from the Talmud, Midrashim,  and Kabbala, Kindle location 4376).

The aspect of reincarnation that provokes a gag reflex in many people, the prospect of reincarnation into animal form, did not deter the Rabbis:

"For one form of uncleanness the soul will be invested with the body of a Gentile, who will (eventually) become a proselyte; for another, the soul will pass into the body of a mule; for others, it transmigrates into an ass, a woman of Ashdod, a bat, a rabbit or a hare, a she-mule or a camel. Ishmael transmigrated first into the she-ass of Balaam, and subsequently into the ass of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair." (Nishmath Chaim, chap. 13, no. 14, Hebraic Literature: Translations form the Talmud, Midrashim, and Kabbala, Kindle location 4424). 

It's a good thing you can't catch kuru from eating fish:

"At each of the three meals of the Sabbath one should eat fish, for into them the souls of the righteous are transmigrated. And in relation to them it is written (Num. xi. 22) 'All the fish of the sea shall be gathered together for them.'" (Yalkut Chadash, fol. 20, col. 4, no. 9, Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, Kindle location 4432).

Many Bible verses are incompatible with this concept of reiteration, like "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." (Psalm 139:16), which suggests the story is not an old one but a new one. If "none" of the pages belonging to the child in the womb are written on, then he is a first-timer. Moreover the frequent contrast between God's endurance versus human transience loses much of its force if human beings also endure to all generations:

"All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:6-8)

or, "My days are like a shadow that lengthens, and I wither away like grass. But You, O LORD, shall endure forever, and the remembrance of Your name to all generations." (Psalm 102:11-12).

Job, who knew that his redeemer lived, makes the same point in his complaints:

"As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house, nor shall his place know him anymore." (Job 7:9).

Almost proving reincarnation in its own self, this bad idea just will not go away, but keeps coming back, most recently in a pastor who imagines Christ has 'integrated' with him:


The angel Metatron is known to Kabbalists as the "lesser Yahweh:"

  • "Elisha ben Abuyah, invariably attacked by the normative rabbis as the very archetype of heresy, was known by them under the nickname of Acher, the 'other,' or 'stranger,' perhaps because he worshipped the 'stranger God' of Gnosticism. Elisha saw Metatron seated on a throne, in a vision of Heaven, and thus was moved to the observation: 'Perhaps there are two Gods in Heaven.'. . .Another Talmudic passage identifies Metatron with the angel of Exodus 23:21, who teaches Moses to ascend to God, and who shares in the name of Yahweh. . .We still do not know what the name Metatron meant; we do not even know its etymology. The Books of Enoch speak of the angels as the Watchers, and there could be a link between nator, 'watch over,' and Metatron. Rather more likely, the name could be Greek, derived from meta thronon, or 'beyond the throne.'"
  • (Harold Bloom, 'Omens of Millenium,' pp. 203-204).

Is Metatron the angel of God's presence who guided Israel in the wilderness?: "Once a Min said to R. Idith: It is written, And unto Moses He said, Come up to the Lord. But surely it should have stated, Come up unto me! — It was Metatron [who said that], he replied, whose name is similar to that of his Master, for it is written, For my name is in him. But if so, [he retorted,] we should worship him! The same passage, however, — replied R. Idith says: Be not rebellious against him, i.e., exchange Me not for him. But if so, why is it stated: He will not pardon your transgression? He answered: By our troth we would not accept him even as a messenger, for it is written, And he said unto him, If Thy [personal] presence go not etc." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 38b). The scriptures cited are familiar to those Christians who believe that the angel of God's presence who accompanied Israel in the wilderness was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.

After Israel's apostasy in the wilderness, God threatened to send the people on their way, without His presence:

"And I will send My Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people." (Exodus 33:2-3).

There are many travelling angels who could accompany the people, created beings who rejoice to praise their Creator:

"Praise Him, all His angels;
Praise Him, all His hosts!. . .
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
For He commanded and they were created." (Psalm 148:2-5).

None of these creatures is God; He is their Creator. But as it turned out, these created angelic hosts were not Israel's companions. God's own presence, His face, led them on:

"And He said, 'My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.' Then he said to Him, 'If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.' So the LORD said to Moses, 'I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.'" (Exodus 33:14-17).

From the logic of Moses' prayers and response, the reader may conclude that no angel led Israel. Yet an angel did lead Israel, and continued on with them:

"When we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border." (Numbers 20:16).

'Angel' simply means messenger or ambassador. While God sends many created angels, there is also one eternal and uncreated messenger who presents God's face, His very presence:

"In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the Angel of His Presence saved them;
In His love and in His pity He redeemed them;
And He bore them and carried them
All the days of old. . .
As a beast goes down into the valley,
And the Spirit of the LORD causes him to rest,
So You lead Your people,
To make Yourself a glorious name." (Isaiah 63:9-14).

Who is this Angel of His Countenance? Who stands in the midst of the throne, not in human speculation but in the Bible?:

'Meta thronon' can mean, as suggested, 'beyond the throne,' or 'behind the throne,' or indeed 'in the midst of the throne.' For the exact phrase, see, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with [meta] my Father in his throne [throno]." (Revelation 3:21). A similar concept is expressed in Revelation 5:6: "And I looked, and behold, in the midst ['mesos'] of the throne ['thronos'] and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain,. . ." (Revelation 5:6). The idea that the Son of God is the throne-sharer is expressed by Eusebius: "And this is He Who was the Beloved of the Father, and His Offspring, and the eternal Priest, and the Being called the Sharer of the Father's Throne. And Who else could He be but the Firstborn Word of God, He that in the beginning was God with God, reckoned as God through all the inspired Scriptures. . ." (Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, Book IV, Chapter 15).

This vision of God's throne, written by the apostle John around 62-63 A.D., is the closest New Testament approach to Ezekiel's great vision by the river. No 'wheels' are mentioned, though 'kuklos' in Greek means 'circle' or 'ring,' and the adverb 'kuklothen' is found in 5:11. 'Kuklo' (in a circle) occurs in 4:6: "And in the midst of the throne, and around ['kuklo'] the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back." These large structures are made up of other living creatures, which may be why they are full of eyes. Ezekiel's vision aroused great enthusiasm amongst those who thought they saw Ptolemy's astronomy hidden in it. The 'seven heavens,' beloved of the Rabbis, are Ptolemaic not Biblical.


Aurelius Augustine devoted his early years to the Manichaean faith. One of the odder doctrines the Manichees taught him was that scattered dismembered bits of deity lay about the world, which the saint could heal and reunite by munching:

"And if some 'saint' ate this fig -- providing, forsooth, that it was picked not by his but by another's sinful hand -- then he would digest it in his stomach, and from it he would breathe forth angels! While he groaned and retched in prayer, he would even breathe forth bits of God! And those bits of the most high and true God would have remained bound up in that piece of fruit, unless they had been let loose by the teeth and belly of an elected saint!" (Augustine, Confessions, Book 3, Chapter 10 (18).)

Wondrous to relate, those sparks of deity are still sizzling in the frying pan, waiting to be liberated by the hungry saint:

  • "You can mend the cosmos by anything you do -- even eating. Do not imagine that God wants you to eat for mere pleasure or to fill your belly. No, the purpose is mending. Sparks of holiness intermingle with everything in the world, even inanimate objects."
  • (Isaac Luria (sixteenth century), recorded by Joseph Don Don, paraphrased p. 149, 'The Essential Kabbalah,' Daniel C. Matt.)

  • "When you eat and drink, you experience enjoyment and pleasure from food and drink. Arouse yourself every moment to ask in wonder, 'What is this enjoyment and pleasure? What is it that I am tasting?'
    "Answer yourself, 'This is nothing but the holy sparks from the sublime, holy worlds that are within the food and drink.'"
  • (Alexander Susskind (eighteenth century), Yesod ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah, paraphrased p. 150, 'The Essential Kabbalah,' Daniel C. Matt).

How did little bits and pieces of God get into the food? An industrial accident:

  • "To fashion pottery, the potter first takes an unformed mass of clay and then puts his hand inside the mass to shape it. So the supernal emanator put its hand into the amorphous mass, that is, a ray of light returned from above. As this light began to enter the mass, vessels were formed. From the purest light, Keter; next, Hokhmah; then, Binah; and so on through all ten sefirot. Since Keter was the purest and clearest of all the vessels, it could bear the light within it, but Hokhmah and Binah, though more translucent than those below, were not like Keter. Not having its capacity, their backs broke, and they fell from their position. As the light descended further, six points appeared -- six fragments of what had been one point of light. Then the vessels shattered."
  • (Hayyim Vital (sixteenth-seventeenth centuries), 'On the World of Emanation,' in Liqqutim Hadashim, paraphrased pp. 94-95, The Essential Kabbalah, Daniel C. Matt).

This kitchen mishap is familiar to students of the gnosis, ". . .a great disturbance occurred among the dishes, for some were emptied, others filled: some were provided for, others were removed; some were purified, still others were broken. All the spaces were shaken and disturbed for they had no composure nor stability. Error was disturbed not knowing what it should do. It was troubled; it lamented, it was beside itself because it did not know anything." (Valentinus, The Gospel of Truth).

Lucky for God that the Kabbalist masticators have picked right up where the Gnostics left off, so that His scattered and damaged sparks have some hope of restoration and repair. Alas, I am only a Baptist, so I cannot confirm this phenomenon, though I have heard that if you bite down on a Wintergreen lifesaver in the dark, it will give off sparks. In general however I would suggest avoiding food that is glowing. In fairness to the Kabbalists, their proposals for 'raising the sparks' do not necessarily involve mastication. In fact there are a bewildering array of different Kabbalistic systems. But they all take off from the same template: this world is not the 'good,' intentional creation of a good God, but a 'Super-fund' site requiring clean-up, the result of an unintended cosmic catastrophe. Divine sparks (found mostly in Jews) are mingled with evil (located mostly in Gentiles). These must be regathered. Evil is not the by-product of creaturely free-will, but inherent in God. God Himself is broken, and it's up to man to fix Him/Her. Alas, the vessels broke.

Lest anyone think such a calamity might befall the created order but not the living God, realize it's God that's broken, Israel who have manfully picked up the task of repairing Him/Her:

"The breaking of the vessels introduced a dramatic element into the mystery of the Godhead. In the kabbalistic view, the lights that burst forth from the Primordial Man belonged to the sphere of the divine; they were part of the Godhead. The breaking of the vessels was thus an event that took place within the Deity itself. Its repercussion are manifest in every single detail of Lurianic cosmology. But for the breaking of the vessels, everything would have occupied its rightful and appointed place. Now everything is out of joint. Even the sefiroth, whose vessels should have received the supernal influx of light and passed it on — according to the laws of emanation — to the lower orders of being, no longer are where they ought to be. Henceforth everything is imperfect and deficient, in a way 'broken' or 'fallen.'" ('Sabbatai Sevi, The Mystical Messiah, by Gershom Scholem, Bollingen, p. 34)

In the Bible, it is God who heals and man who is sick and broken, not the other way around:

"There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, 'If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you.'" (Exodus 15:25-26).

Rembrandt van Rijn, Head of Christ


It is a familiar Bible teaching that man was made after the image of God. Because neo-Platonism finds archetypes of earthly things in the heavens, first century Jewish theological speculation differentiated between the primordial man, the man whose image was stamped upon us, and the man of clay, the creaturely Adam, who bears that image. One is the die, the other the casting. This reflects the way this verse unfolds in the Septuagint translation: "And God made man, according [kata, after] to the image of God he made him, male and female he made them." (Brenton Septuagint). While no such teaching is offered explicitly in the New Testament, it is conceivable there may be a reflection of this thinking in Jesus' title 'Son of Man.'

The Kabbalists concur with (possibly) the early Christians in identifying the Messiah with the heavenly Adam, the archetype after whom the creature was constructed: "'But this can be accomplished only in the days of the messiah who alone can perform the tiqqun [restoration] of all the worlds, being himself the First Adam.'" (Gershom Scholem, 'Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah,' p. 817). So far so good; we have not yet lifted off from Bible ground. But recall some of our Kabbalistic interpreters have recast Primordial Adam as a gigantic blimp suspended in the sky, putting on a light show, as the spheres (sephirot) whiz about in various configurations, mingling astrology with theology.

What begins as bad theology will get even worse as it is reflected through the distorting lens of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, gullible enough to believe anything, but not sapient enough to understand its limitations or relevance. They fail to differentiate between the primal Adam and the man of dust; they meld the two into one, although it must be conceded this confusion is the intent of the Kabbalistic doctrine anyway. What is clear is that man is made in the image of God; he is not God. He is the creature, not the Creator: "Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." (Psalm 100:3):

"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'" (Genesis 1:26).

Thus far the Bible. But wait: now, we are not in Kansas anymore. An unfamiliar development of this teaching is that the man of clay, the man made after the image, the man who fell: he is our God:

  • "When our father Adam came in the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken -- HE is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom we have to do."
  • (Brigham Young, in the Journal of Discourses, Volume 1, page 50, quoted p. 178, The Kingdom of the Cults, Walter R. Martin).

Ancient of Days
Fellow Travellers

At this reason and piety jointly revolt: God has not fallen! How can He be identified with the man of clay who fell?!!! The God to Whom Christians sing hymns is no sinner; He is holy and undefiled:

"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God;' for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. . .Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:14-17).
"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5).

Where could such a disastrous misstep have come from? This inversion, substituting the first man for the God who made him, is already underway in the Kabbalah. Adam's fall does not only, as in the Bible, separate Adam from fellowship with God; it induces an existential catastrophe within God, who emits Satan as an independent being (having previously been inherent in God):

"Satan's independent being is thus a consequence of the decision made by Adam who, by his improper contemplation of the Divine, caused a separation within the Godhead that had a baleful effect on all of Creation. When he plucked and ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, he allowed the power acting in the Tree of Knowledge from the north (i.e., the principle of Severity) to operate upon it in isolation." (Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead,' p. 70).

This principle of 'Severity,' which is one of the sefirot, has thus gotten loose in the world and is now running amuck. The 'roots' of evil arise within God Himself. Finding the origin of evil within God is a Kabbalistic innovation which can never be reconciled with Biblical religion, for which God is only holy:

God the Sinner

The Kabbalah represents a Copernican revolution. This theology is not a continuation of what has gone before, it does not fall within the parameters of Biblical theology. Recall, in the Bible, God is wholly good, and man is a sinner who must repent to restore sundered fellowship. In the Kabbalah, God is the sinner; He is broken, and man (meaning here, only Jewish men) must repair him. Kabbalah inverts the Biblical relation between God and man:

"'He [Isaac Luria] offered his followers a profoundly disturbing secret: he helped them understand the nature of evil and the means by which it would eventually be overcome.' God, too, was understood as grappling with evil. . .Luria's teachings spread quickly through the traumatized Jewish world. In an ingenious leap of religious imagination, Luria enabled Jews to transcend their recent experience of catastrophe by positing a primordial catastrophe — tsimtsum — in which elements of the Divine Being were splintered into an infinity of broken pieces. These 'shards' are the stuff of creation. The purpose of creation, this splintering of God, was seen as nothing less than, in Silberman's words, 'destroying the principle of evil from within.' Once this shattering of the divine has occurred, it becomes the responsibility not of a single Messiah but of the Jewish people to bring about the gradual restoration of cosmic unity and God's own being, the ultimate ingathering of those broken pieces — a redemptive process that is called tikkun olam." (James Carroll, Constantine's Sword, p. 388).

This is the great secret hid behind the veil: God is evil, man is good. Not to worry, man has the tools in his hand to remold and repair God, remaking Him after his own image. This alarming message appeals to some people: people who didn't like the old way, people who hate God and are inordinately fond of themselves, people who take offense at John the Baptist's cry, 'Repent!'

God created the world and pronounced His creation "good." The free will of the creatures led to their defection. Even the fallen angels were not created evil, but chose their own course; they wanted to go that way. The Kabbalah promises not only man's, but also God's salvation,— not salvation by the grace of God,— but His own salvation! It had not previously been known that He, like His creatures, stood in need of it:

"The Zohar too takes the position that the crux of the redemption works itself out in the uninterrupted conjunction of Tiferet and Malkhut, and that redemption of Israel is one with the redemption of God Himself from His mystic exile. The source of this belief is talmudic and can be found in both the Palestinian Talmud, Sukkah 4, 3 and in the Midrash Lev. R. 9, 3: 'The salvation of the Holy One blessed be He is the salvation of Israel.'" (Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, p. 166)

Christians are familiar with the idea that Adam's fall ruined our own hopes for happiness; the Kabbalah adds the new wrinkle that Adam's fall sundered God:

"And this is the tiqqun [healing, restoration] of the world and the restoration of all things to their pristine state, as they were before Adam sinned. For then all the worlds were perfectly balanced and co-ordinated, and the Great Name [that is, God] was in perfect union with his glorious Shekhinah. But by Adam's sin the unity was disrupted, the buildings destroyed, and the world corrupted, so that the innermost things were turned out and the outward things penetrated inside and the spirit of uncleanness spread over the world, as a result of which humankind sinned further, hewed down the beautiful plantations, and sundered the holy union." (Ibn Gabbay, quoted pp. 47-48, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah, by Gershom Scholem.)

Teaching like this, which has man healing a God wounded by evil, is an abomination.



The reader has already encountered "the sacred marriage of Tsaddik and the Shekhinah." Having discovered that this system is based on a mapping of divine potencies to a human/divine stick figure, as sketched above, the reader can exercise his imagination to discern which of God's body parts is the Tsaddik. Anatomically accurate imagery of God, and the celebration of this particular bodily organ, is by no means unique to the Kabbalah; Justinus the gnostic celebrated the same thing:

"Now the Good One is Priapus, (and) he it is who antecedently caused the production of everything that exists. On this account he is styled Priapus, because he previously fashioned all things (according to his own design). For this reason, he says, in every temple is placed his statue, which is revered by every creature; and (there are images of him) in the highways, carrying over his head ripened fruits, that is, the produce of the creation, of which he is the cause, having in the first instance formed, (according to His own design), the creation, when as yet it had no existence." (Hippolytus, The Refutation of All Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 21).

Worship of this unique feature is part of the Kabbalah's heritage from gnosticism. This bodily part also makes peace within God, ensuring His unity, or rather such divine unity as this system permits:

"As the Tsaddik awakens the world to repent or to fix that which is not whole, this attribute is called Peace, mediating for good between YHVH and Adonai, making peace between them and bringing them near to dwell together without separation or breaking up in the world; and at that hour we find that God is one." (Sha'arei Orah, f. 22b, quoted p. 104, Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead.')

Tsaddik is also the righteous man, praised by the rabbis as the foundation of the world. At times there is confusion between this righteous man, a created being, and the bodily part/power or logos of God, the divine Washington Monument so to speak. The two are effectively identified in this passage:

"What is the eighth? The Holy One, blessed be He, has one righteous man in His world, and he is very precious to Him, because he maintains the whole world and he is its foundation. . .He is loved and treasured above, loved and treasured below; feared and sublime above, feared and sublime below; comely and accepted above, comely and accepted below; and he is the foundation of all souls. You say that he is the eighth [logos] and that he is the foundation of all souls?" (Sefer ha-Bahir, quoted p. 94, Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead.')

Is the Tsaddik here a man created in the image of God, or a divine potency/body part? That it must be read as both seems to be the whole point of this enterprise, which drags God down from heaven and exalts man to the heavenlies. While everything in the sphere above is mirrored in the sphere below, it often seems that the 'active' sphere which governs the system is the one below; it is from here below that Israel proposes to repair God. And do not think 'man' means 'humanity.' Though there is a whole department of the publishing industry devoted to promoting the fiction that gnosticism is feminism, the Kabbalah is not feminist-friendly: ". . .all females belong to the 'left side,'" (Gali Razaya, quoted p. 62, Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah).

In the present day atheists rail against God, pointing to every deformed child as evidence of His cruelty and/or incompetence. When asked, 'Why are you so angry at God?, the atheists object, plausibly enough, 'How can I be angry at Him when I don't believe He exists?' Today's atheism attracts the 'I hate God' constituency, but then leaves them perplexed at their own irrationality. In days gone by there was a religion which fit this constituency's needs far more closely than atheism: gnosticism. This tendency portrayed the God of the Bible, the God with whom humanity has to deal, the God who rules our world, as fallen, incompetent, and unworthy of worship, holding up in His place a stranger God far, far away as the God after man's own heart, the God who deserves our love and worship. The Kabbalah adopts the gnostic attitude and fits it within the confines of Jewish piety. The Deist god, 'Ein Sof,' is allowed to be God, but for the rest Israel's God is unveiled as man writ large. This religion is atheism wearing a broad-brimmed hat.

Those who understand this convoluted and elaborate system best understand it intends to deconstruct the God of the Bible: "Was God originally anything more than the Adam Kadmon?" (Harold Bloom, 'Omens of Millenium,' p. 205). The Kabbalists dislike being expected to bow down to a party who has absented Himself; thus the battle-cry of their religion: 'Hear, O Israel, your God is. . .Yourself.'

If this seems harsh, consider the Kabbalistic ideal of prophecy. In Kabbalah, the prophet encounters. . .himself:

"'The deeply learned Rabbi Nathan, of blessed memory, said to me: Know that the complete secret of prophecy to a prophet consists in that he suddenly sees the form of his self standing before him. . .And the learned sage R. Abraham ibn Ezra, of blessed memory, said "The one who hears [at the time of prophecy] is a human being, and the one who speaks is a human being."'

. . .This is the experience of the prophets, whose own pure 'self' conveys to them the prophetic tiding. What they encountered was not essentially different from themselves; what was sent to them was not a divine apparition or an angel, but their own pure form." (Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead,' pp. 253-254).

Several of the imposter Messiahs who have afflicted Israel have been Kabbalists:


Ten Thousand Moses of Crete
Yemeni Madman Simon bar Kochba
Emperor Vespasian Serene
David Alroy Abraham Abulafia
Asher Lemmlein Solomon Molko
Sabbatai Sevi The Franks
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson

Pot, Kettle

There have been Christian Kabbalists like Pico della Mirandola, addicted to looking on the sunny side. To this day there are 'Messianic' Jewish Christians who respect this material, and study it. Most Christians, I think, would be appalled. But Christian complaints about Kabbalistic theology may strike some as unfair. If three powers/hypostases in God are fine, then what is the problem with ten sefirot? The number ten may reflect the decalogue, the ten creative words, or this number's sacred status in the Pythagorean system. So what is the problem?

In Biblical theology, God always is what He ever was and ever will be: He does not change:

"For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob." (Malachi 3:6).

Certain heresiarchs, such as Sabellius and Arius, sought to understand the triune God by giving God a history: by hypothesizing a time when God's original monad 'dilated' or expanded into a triad. Orthodoxy rejected this approach, because God's nature does not change. Yet in the Kabbalah, God was not always surrounded by the sefirotic superstructure; the sefirot were emanated by a process in time, and indeed can be deflated by human activity or inactivity. . .and will ultimately be destroyed:

"In the 'Great Jubilee,' after 50,000 years, everything will return to the bosom of the Sefirah Binah, which is also called the 'mother of the world.' Even the other sefirot, through which God guides creation, will be destroyed with the destruction of creation." (Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah, p. 336).

Yet if these attributes, which include all the personal qualities of the God of the Bible, came to be, then they are not God. Ultimately, this theology intends to replace an obsolete God. . .with man: "Everything in the Universe follows analogy. 'As above, so below;' Man is the microcosm of the Universe." (Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 28674). That is the great secret: there is no God. . .other than man.

While in trinitarian theology, God does have an internal life, there is nothing in Christian theology remotely resembling the Kabbalists' ongoing R-rated romantic fling between Tsaddik and Shekhinah. One must look to pagan polytheism for exemplars.

The one constant of the Kabbalah is the elevation of man and the corresponding degradation of God. As Madame Blavatsky, an eager student of this gateway into paganism, quotes Kabbalist Eliphas Levi, "It is quite true, though uttered by that incarnated paradox, Eliphas Levi, that 'Man is God on Earth, and God is man in Heaven.'" (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 73486). The glorification of man which is the one constant of this ever changing, ever shifting, ever proliferating system, may strike some as an unfair target for Christian critics who proclaim that God became a man. Yet the incarnation was not just puddle jumping, but vast condescension on God's part:

Christ's journey out of the ivory palaces down into a filthy stable was not a small adjustment. Christian theology fully appreciates the gulf in nature between God and man: "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent." (Numbers 23:19). In the Kabbalah, the proportion between God and man is seen through the wrong end of a telescope.

As to elevating the Congregation of Israel into the heavenlies, Kabbalists may object that Christians do the same in making the church the body of Christ. But making God dependent, for His health, integrity, and happiness, upon a specific group of people, as the Kabbalists do, ought to excite John the Baptist's rebuke: "For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones." (Matthew 3:9). How can God be held hostage in this way? And as for Shekhinah's jaunts on the dark side:

"When these forces of the Left Side become stronger, primarily due to human erring and sinning, the Shekhinah becomes the executrix of the powers of judgment which have entered her. But at times the Zohar goes even further: the Shekhinah actually comes under the sway of the Other Side, which penetrates and becomes entrenched within her, with disastrous consequences for Israel and for the entire world. This may be caused by the weakness or helplessness of the Shekhinah, because it is lacking the impetus created by man's good deeds; or it may be caused by the preponderance within her of those forces that, because of their stern and punitive nature (Din Kasheh), have an affinity with the Other Side. Overwhelmed by these dark forces, the Shekhinah herself becomes dark and destructive:
"'When the righteous multiply in the world, Kennesseth Yisra'el [i.e., the Shekhinah] emits sweet fragrances [like a rose], and is blessed by the holy king, and her face is radiant. But when the wicked people increase in the world, Kenesseth Yisra'el as it were does not emit sweet fragrances, but tastes of the Other, bitter Side.'" (Gershom Scholem, 'On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead,' pp. 189-190)

. . .do not the Christian gospels represent Christ as tempted in the wilderness by Satan? Yes, but futilely! He does not go for a walk on the wild side, strolling the Other side hand in hand with the Kabbalists' Shekhinah, but is "holy, harmless, undefiled" (Hebrews 7:26).

Much of the Kabbalah, as cannot be denied, comes from gnosticism. To its apologists, the Kabbalah has squared the circle by incorporating dualistic material, presupposing a good god and a bad god (the minimum god-census in gnosticism is two), into a monotheistic system. Yet the monotheism is only nominal; they have made God a composite being, mixed of both darkness and light, leaning now to the dark side, now to the good, awaiting rescue and redemption by man. Like the gnostics of old, the Kabbalists are vocal and enthusiastic proponents of monotheism, at times even naming some of their multitude of gods 'One:'

"There is another, who is a renowned teacher among them, and who, struggling to reach something more sublime, and to attain to a kind of higher knowledge, has explained the primary Tetrad as follows: There is [he says] a certain Proarche who existed before all things, surpassing all thought, speech, and nomenclature, whom I call Monotes (unity). Together with this Monotes there exists a power, which again I term Henotes (oneness). This Henotes and Monotes, being one, produced, yet not so as to bring forth [apart from themselves, as an emanation] the beginning of all things, an intelligent, unbegotten, and invisible being, which beginning language terms “Monad.” With this Monad there co-exists a power of the same essence, which again I term Hen (One). These powers then — Monotes, and Henotes, and Monas, and Hen — produced the remaining company of the Aeons." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 1, Chapter 11 - the Opinions of Valentinus, Section 3, p. 657, ECF_0_01).

While it's impressive to realize the four main gods of the gnostics are all named some version of 'One,' and one cannot think of any reason why this should be so other than as a homage to monotheism, it would be more impressive if there were fewer than four of them.

Jewish apologists explain that the Kabbalah is not so bad because mainstream Judaism encourages Jews to study this material only after grounding themselves in the Talmud and other sources. This is like saying Mormonism would not be so bad, if Latter Day Saints first grounded themselves in Christian fundamentalism before studying it. If they grounded themselves in the Bible, their response to the Kabbalah would be to run away. The gnostics were always elitists; followers of gnostic heresiarchs like Valentinus were willing to sit with the congregation, exchanging supercilious smiles and knowing glances with each other as the simple-minded nodded at the pastor's teaching of one God who was wholly good. They knew better, but they were not looking to capture entire congregations, their doctrine was for the few, not the many. What their status then was, before apologists like Tertullian, Hippolytus and Irenaeus rooted them out of the church, is just the same as what Kabbalah now is to the synagogue. It is the parasite silently feeding off the host, the cancer growing within.


In Practice

The theoretical Kabbalah is unbiblical theology, but what's called 'practical Kabbalah' revives every superstitious, idolatrous, and demonic practice of the pagan nations and gives these age-old rites a Jewish veneer, including necromancy (communicating with the dead):

Definition One Only
Talking to Dead People Paganism
As the Romans Do Joan of Arc
The Witch of Endor Veneration
Dead Men's Bones Nailed to the Cross
Saints that Ain't Maggid
Santeria Spiritism


In fairness it must be emphasized that not all Kabbalists are antinomians: many adherents to this system of thought lead unremarkable and unalarming lives. However, there is a strain in Kabbalist thought which led to the conclusion that 'the way down and the way up are one and the same.' Seventeenth century false Messiah Sabbatai Sevi engaged in strange acts from the outset of his Messianic career, but at first these were not so much immoral, as intended to signal that Moses' law had a date-stamp on it, and that it was not applicable to the Messianic era,— a conclusion to which an earlier Messianic movement, Christianity, had already come. However, after the Turkish Sultan had impressed upon Sabbatai the wisdom of converting to Islam, the legal status of 'Jewish Messiah' being somewhat iffy in the Ottoman domain, he speedily did so. This left his 'prophet,' Nathan of Gaza, with a great big problem: an apostate Messiah. Many of Sabbatai's dense crowds of followers simply abandoned him. However, Nathan proved up to the task, explaining that the sinning Messiah was deep-sea diving to rescue the lost 'sparks' of divinity, which had sunk down into the mud as a result of the cosmic industrial accident aforementioned, namely the 'breaking of the vessels.' That this explanation satisfied some people is itself remarkable; there continued a Sabbatarian cult both in Islam and in Judaism. Jacob Frank picked up the fallen Sabbatarian banner at a later date; his apostasy was to Polish Catholicism. These groups dallied into open antinomianism, seeking salvation through sinning.

As long as this inverted 'salvation plan' was limited to Kabbalistic lore, most western Christians paid little attention to it. However, in a stroke of genius, it was repackaged and rebranded as 'science.' Sigmund Freud, by a process of self-analysis, 'discovered' that the Sabbatarian antinomians had been right all along; that the way down is the way up, that sinning does a body good, what does harm is 'repression' or any effort to combat the sinful tendencies. Thus repackaged, the antinomian gospel took the world by storm, and its harmful influence is still with us, even though the long-suffering insurance companies are no longer bound to pay for this quack 'therapy:'

Quackery Moses and Monotheism
Rebranding Catholic Scandal
Reaction Formation L. Ron Hubbard