Kabbalah (also spelled Kaballah or Qabalah) is a mystical and esoteric tradition within Judaism that seeks to understand the nature of God and the universe. It is a system of thought and practice that aims to uncover hidden spiritual knowledge through the study of Jewish texts, meditation, and ritual.
The origins of Kabbalah are somewhat unclear, but it is believed to have emerged in the 12th century in Provence, France, and to have been heavily influenced by earlier Jewish mystical traditions as well as by Neoplatonism and other philosophical and religious ideas from the Middle East and Europe.
Kabbalah emphasizes the idea of Ein Sof, an infinite and ineffable God who created the universe and continues to sustain it. It also explores the structure of the universe and the various levels of reality, including the sefirot, which are ten emanations or attributes of God. The study of Kabbalah often involves complex systems of correspondences between different aspects of the universe, such as the Hebrew alphabet, numbers, colors, and elements.
In addition to its focus on metaphysical and cosmological ideas, Kabbalah also includes practical techniques for spiritual development, such as meditation, visualization, and the use of amulets and other talismans. It has had a significant impact on Jewish mystical and philosophical thought, as well as on occult and esoteric traditions outside of Judaism.
Kabbalah has a long and complex history, with different schools of thought and practice developing over time. One of the most important texts in Kabbalah is the Zohar, a mystical commentary on the Torah that was written in 13th-century Spain by the Jewish mystic Moses de Leon. The Zohar is considered by many to be the central work of Kabbalah and has been influential in Jewish mystical thought for centuries.
Kabbalah has been studied by many Jewish scholars throughout history, but it has also had a significant impact on non-Jewish esoteric traditions. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Kabbalah became popular among Western occultists and spiritual seekers, and it has influenced a wide range of New Age and esoteric movements.
One of the most well-known contemporary teachers of Kabbalah is the Kabbalah Centre, a nonprofit organization founded in 1984 by Philip Berg and his wife Karen Berg. The Kabbalah Centre is known for its popularization of Kabbalah and its teachings on spiritual transformation and personal growth.
The study of Kabbalah has also had an impact on Jewish cultural and artistic expression, particularly in literature, music, and visual art. Many Jewish artists and writers have been inspired by Kabbalistic ideas and symbols, and Kabbalah has been a source of inspiration for many works of Jewish art throughout history.
Despite its popularity and influence, Kabbalah has also been controversial at times, with some critics accusing it of promoting magical thinking and superstition. However, many practitioners and scholars of Kabbalah argue that it is a profound and meaningful system of thought and practice that offers a deep understanding of the nature of God and the universe.