Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Kabbalism is not Deism

On the surface, Kabbalism sounds like Deism. But, when one digs beneath the surface, we find they are very, very different theosophies.

Deism is generally understood to be belief in a non-intervening God. More specifically, once God created the universe, God abandoned it! All the natural laws that govern the operation and evolution of the universe were literally built-into the seed of creation. The universe evolves automatically. God effects no control over living creatures, has no influence on natural phenomena, and provides no supernatural insights to sentient beings. Religion is believed to be the result of the natural machinations of the rational human mind, and ought to be inspired by a scientific understanding of the world around us. Thus, Deism is a form of personal, self-realized religion. It seems that modern Deism emerged in Europe in the mid-17th century with the work of Spinoza. It reached its popular peak in the 18th century with Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. While its popularity diminished in the 19th century, one principle adherent was said to be Charles Darwin. In the 20th century, we might find that many famous scientists like Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking have some deist notions contained in their writings, but classifying them as Deists would be a stretch.

There are a few similarities between Kabbalism and Deism, but many, many differences. Kabbalism identifies an infinitely perfect, infinitely knowing creator God, whom is given the name Ein Sof. Ein Sof caused the seed of creation to come into physical being, containing all the ingredients necessary for the universe to eventually become precisely what we find today. But, Ein Sof did not abandon anything. For creation to begin and evolve, a great hierarchy of angels were brought into being concurrent with the formation of the seed of creation. A few very special angels called Seferah have enormous power, and seem to be divine from the perspective of the human mind. One most important Sefirah is named Elohim (Alhim) who caused the seed of creation to inflate, transmutate from primordial pre-creation substance into created substance (both physical and spirituous), and evolve exactly as intended by the will of Ein Sof. Elohim is the facilitator of creation. Thus, Elohim was the first cosmic intervener in creation. Other Angelic interveners include Sefirah like Yahweh and Jehovah, Seraphic angels like Michael and Gabriel, Cherubic communal angels, and a countless myriad of lesser angels that constantly surround and influence each of us. Thus, Kabbalism believes in a non-intervening Creator, but is not a belief in total non-intervention. The angels intervene in creation, according to their respective reasons for existence. This may be correctly understood as indirect intervention, but not Divine intervention per se.

In addition, Kabbalism teaches that once Elohim’s role of facilitator ended with the culmination of the sixth stage (day) of creation, the universe has operated independent of Ein Sof and Elohim. This is a result of the natural laws and forces built into the seed of creation by Ein Sof and fine-tuned by Elohim during the first six stages of creation. While this has some superficial similarity to Deism, the notions of Angelic facilitation in the progression of creation and on-going Angelic supernatural interaction within creation, decidedly contradict Deist theosophy.

Modern Deism also teaches that we must be skeptical about the Bible, arguing that there are many passages which contradict each other in the Old Testament and should be ignored. Further, Deism asserts that if new scientific discovery contradicts scripture, then we should reject the passages found to be at odds with scientific understanding. Kabbalism addresses these situations, with a subtle but significant twist. If we find an interpretation of a passage or passages to be in contradiction with other passages of scripture, then our interpretation must be incorrect and needs to be amended. Scripture is God’s word, and there is no contradiction in God. We might not understand the reasons why we incorrectly read contradictions in scripture the moment they are realized. However, as our spiritual nature evolves and becomes more learned, we will eventually understand the correct understanding of previously problematic scriptural passages. Deist rejection of scripture based on the appearance of epistemological contradiction is essentially an exercise in short-sightedness. What‘s more, Kabbalism ascribes to the theosophy that echoes St. Augustine, who taught that if our interpretation of scripture contradicts what we find about the world around us, then our interpretation of scripture must be incorrect. Scripture is not what appears to contradict science, but rather it is the incorrect teaching of scripture that results in the apparent contradiction. It should be noted that, to date, no Kabbalist teachings of scripture have been found to contradict science!

Lastly, while Deism presents itself as a self-realized form of non-ritualistic religion, Kabbalism makes no such claim. Kabbalism is pure theosophy, i.e. theological philosophy. If one embraces Kabbalist doctrine and still feels drawn to partake in the religious rites and practices of a specific theological persuasion, then by all means do so. If the practice of institutionalized religion doesn’t work for an individual, and a more personalized spirituality seems best, then follow that path. Deism rejects all forms of organized religion. Kabbalism doesn’t reject religion at all. Kabbalism shuns judgment and the rejection of institutional religion is nothing less than base judgment. Whether one rejects or follows a specific religious persuasion makes no difference to the Kabbalist. Kabbalism may well be the most “accepting” theosophical doctrine in existence.

In summation, while Deism and Kabbalism at first glance seem to have similarities, the number and depth of their respective dissimilarities make them no less than mutually exclusive. Kabbalism should not be confused with Deism.

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