Newton, Jung, Freud, Shakespeare, Blake, and Pythagoras what do they all have in common? These great minds have all studied the hidden mysteries of the Kabbalah.
So what is it all about? This mysterious religion which is an offshoot of Judaism. In this article I hope to demolish a few myths and confront a few pre-conceived ideas about what Kabbalah is really about and what it isn't.

The Holy Kabbalah sometimes spelt Cabbala, or Qabbalah or abbreviated "Qbl" which means to receive is based on the Torah or the law. It was traditionally passed from mouth to ear and it was said that one could not learn the Kabbalah until you were forty years of age as the rabbis considered you would not be spiritually mature or worldly wise enough to comprehend its deep mysteries until you had experienced life a little in all its facets.
Lets start with what is isn't. Firstly you don't need a red string bracelet, or a protection necklace, or blessed water or swing chickens round your head to study Kabbalah! nor despite popular belief do you need to be Jewish. Kabbalah is universal by nature and open to all, it is the universal teaching given by God to man.

It is a divine system of universal wisdom which relates to man and his place in the cosmos, and explains creation, life, death, and the rules of existence. It is a unique way of understanding ourselves and a blueprint for personal and spiritual development based upon a "map" of consciousness called "The Tree Of Life".

Although it can be taught and learnt intellectually it must be experienced. Its emphasis is on individual experience. Kabbalah is a spiritual science that teaches us the way things should be in the world and allows us to extend ourselves beyond the standard routine of our everyday lives so that we become aware of the bigger picture of creation.
Students of Kabbalah perceive everything that happens in the world in a different manner than everyone else. They understand the global processes working on us because they are connected to the source of these processes.

The Kabbalah made its first known appearance in written form in a holy book known as the "Sefer Yitzirah" (or book of formation), though traditionally the much older oral tradition is said to date back to Abraham or even earlier.

The Sefer Yitzirah is a relatively short treatise explaining the basic structure of the Kabbalah and how creation came about of the En-Sof (or no-thingness) from the absolute, via thirty two hidden paths of wisdom; the ten sephiroth ("numbers", emanations" or sefiras) and the twenty two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is attributed to Rabbi Akiba but its exact date is unknown. The Sefer Yitzirah was attributed as the origin of later branches of Kabbalistic thought which used letter permutations and The Tree Of Life as subjects for meditation and contemplation.
During the sixth century a form of Kabbalah emerged called Merkabah mysticism or Maaseh Merkavah (tales of the chariot) .The purpose of those who seek was to achieve direct experience of the Divine by concentrating on a series of images that showed the hekhalot (heavenly palaces) leading to the throne of God.

Rabbi Akiva was a role model for all seekers who travelled the path. History said that he and three of his companions "entered the garden", which means that they practiced this highly disciplined form of meditation. They became known as Merkavah Riders or chariot riders.
However, one rabbi died in the effort; another went mad; and the third one became an apostate. The lesson that was imparted by the rabbi, and all teachers of the Merkavah it to be like Akiva and NOT separate the life of the Divine from the life of everyday existence.

In 917 what was to become known as early Germanic or early Hasidism began in Italy with Aaron Ben Samuel. This had its roots in the earlier Merkavah mysticism; its emphasis on the magical power of words fuelled the development of the Kabbalistic techniques of Gematria (the numerical values of letters and words), Noktarion (the study of the first and last letter of the words) and Temurah (the study of the permutation and combination of letters).

The pre-eminent form of Jewish mysticism, sometimes referred to as classical Kabbalah, began in France, in the thirteenth century, but flourished in mediaeval Spain. It contains elements of both Gnosticism and neo-Platonism, and is more concerned with the nature and structure of all creation from the divine to the material worlds, than with ecstatic, mystical experience.

These early kabbalists used a compendium of the Hebrew alphabet and the sephiroth of the tree of life together with meditation on the tetragrammaton (the four letter name of God), YHVH, composed from the letters Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh), with colours and deep breathing techniques to achieve a deep meditative state of consciousness. From this the modern Kabbalah was born.
In 1280 Moses de Leon a Spanish kabbalist fused the ancient and modern together in a treatise called the "Zohar" (sefer ha-zohar or book of splendour). It was written by de Leon but attributed to a second century rabbi, Simeon bar yohal.This deals with the ten sephiroth emanating from the ineffable infinite (en sof) through which the universe is created and maintained. The mutual interaction of these sephiroth and their individual natures are seen both as expressing the nature of divinity and as archetypes for all creation.

The Bahir (book of illumination) is the third important Kabbalistic text, appearing in France around the eleventh century. The expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 served to spread the Spanish Kabbalah further into Europe. The next milestone was with the advent of Lurianic Kabbalah, named after its originator, Isaac Luria Ashkenazi (1534-1572). In this the En Sof contracts through a process called tzimtzum (pronounced phonetically zimzum) at the start of creation to allow room for divine expansion.

It describes Gods projection and concentration of his divine presence, his shekhinah, at a single point. This voluntary contraction on the part of God, the En-Sof in this case, is the act which causes creation to come into existence. Without this act there would have been no universe.
Because En-Sof was limitless, in all things and all places, a plenum of divinity, it was necessary that a primordial space, their, be established. It was therefore that the En-Sofs first creative act be a withdrawal or contraction into himself. In so doing he permitted to come into being the primordial space which was necessary for the creation of the finite world. But the space created was not entirely empty. In much the same way that the fragrance of perfume lingers in an empty bottle, so did a divine presence remain behind in primordial space. Once this space existing outside and separate from the En-Sof was established, the second act of creation began to take place.

The first act of creation was an act of limitation: the second, that of emanation. At this time the En-Sof rayed out a single beam of light to form the first configuration ever fashioned, the body of Adam Kadmon (the primordial man), from which there then burst forth from his eyes, nose, mouth and ears the lights of the sephiroth of the Tree of Life. The sephiroth, themselves light concentrated from the original beam, were at this stage totally undifferentiated, without the qualities presently assigned to them.

In this form they did not require special light-made bowls to contain them. The plan of creation that the En-Sof had in mind demanded that the sephiroth became differentiated and contained so that they might receive the heavily concentrated beams of light emanating from the eyes of Adam Kadmon.

Since these bowls or vessels were constructed out of varying mixtures of light, the heavier lights streamed forth from the primordial mans eyes and were received without difficulty into the first three sephiroth: Kether, Binah and Chokhmah, When it came time to fill the bowls of the lower sephiroth the light suddenly burst forth with such intensity that it broke the vessels designed to contain them.

The light which composed the vessels themselves shattered into sparks and fell into the realm of the demonic Qlippoth or shells, the evil powers created out of the residual waste. Everything fell into a state of chaos, the divine machinery came to a stop and a new blast of light issued forth from the En-Sof. This light then burst forth from the forehead of Adam Kadmon in an attempt to stop the chaos.

Instead of the original plan, therefore, according to which the whole of creation would have been illuminated by the light of the En-Sof, now only certain portions are lit by the sparks, and other portions are left in total darkness. This darkness is the realm of the shells, the evil in creation which would have been redeemed if all had gone as planned. Instead, the sparks which fell into the darkness became ensnared by the shells. This mingling of the sparks led to the present reality where there is no evil which does not contain some good, no good which does not contain some evil. It is at this point, the point where the En-Sof streams forth again, that the sephiroth begins the work required of the Tikun, the restoration.

The only way in which the sparks may be retrieved from the dark realm of the shells is by the work of Tikun, part of which is undertaken by God. But the restoration of the original order becomes complicated by the fall of Adam. All the souls that were ever to exist existed in Adams Soul, and after the fall his size was diminished to the size of man. His soul was exiled from his body; so too are our souls in a state of exile. They are the sparks hidden in the darkness of the shells. The recovery of the original unity cannot come about without the aid of man, for which purpose he was created and sent down into the place of the shells which is our world. The restoration of the original unity is a collective venture each individual must set out to accomplish for him or herself, for the restoration of his exiled soul is HIS OWN RESPONSIBILITY.

This freedom of choice or "free will" is born of the godheads self-inflicted suffering, and the redemption (Tikun) of the broken world and the reunification of divinity becomes the overriding goal of humanity.

The Hassidic movement made the Kabbalah more accessible. Today's kabbalists are the heirs to this sacred, holy knowledge of creation and life. Israel Baal Shem Tov, also known as the Baal Shem Tov transformed the complexity of the earlier chariot riders into a simple "way of the heart".
The tree of life gives us a blueprint of creation, life, and love in everyday existence; you can study it all your life and never truly understand its mysteries. But if you stand by its tenants and contemplate Tiphareth (the heart centre) you can transform yourself and humanity into a better person, the key to it is to let go of the ego, love your fellow man as you would love your brother , give of yourself and not take, be of service to humanity, defend the weak , the innocent and the persecuted, heal the sick and recognise that everything in creation EVERYTHING is one, from the one source of life itself, God.

Author's Bio: 

Ian Broadmore is a practicing healer and hypnotherapist who uses The Kabbalah with his in depth knowledge of inner alchemy, psychology and spiritual philosophy to help heal the human condition and bring about positive change. With over thirty years of study of mysticism philosophy and psychology Ian teaches the path in an easy to understand manner based upon his own experience of walking the path of the arrow, and the knowledge that was imparted to him from his own Kabbalistic and Rosicrucian teachers. He offers a unique perspective and engages with both individuals and groups with compassion, understanding and humility. With an in depth knowledge of Gnosticism, Alchemy, Kabbalah, and Hermiticism Ian fuses together in an easy to understand manner the deep spiritual teachings for all to understand, he is the principle of the Kabbalah School. He travels extensively and has lectured in the USA, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Europe. He is also a successful therapist and life coach working with both individuals and corporations worldwide.