Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Descending into the Chariot

I'm reading a fascinating book, Joesph Dan's "Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction." It's a history of Kabbalah, which is not as straight forward as one would think. The idea that's struck me the most, and which shouldn't have been so much of a surprise, is that Kabbalah (like the Egyptian collection of spells known as "The Book of Going Forth By Day") has been changing, developing and fragmenting over centuries.

Dan's thesis is that Kabbalah has been used for many things; that Kabbalahistic writings are probably only about two thousand years old; that at various times it's been used as a kind of secular set of rules to be Jewish without being orthodox; and although it has non-mystic roots, mystics have latched onto it; and, about every three hundred years or so someone does a radical reinterpretation of it that eventually is considered "ancient wisdom."

As an amateur historian of Neo-Paganism, what I find interesting is the dualism and strands of Neo-Platonism that have worked their way into Kabbalah studies -- which, apparently, wasn't originally the case. I'm waiting to see if Dan will make mention of either Dion Fortune or some other member of the Golden Dawn (he has mentioned Robert Fludd), since they were so keen on Kabbalah, and their conceptions of ceremonial magick influence the worship format of Neo-Paganism.

As a writer, this history is interesting to me. Yes, I'm working on an alternate world, and the problem as an architect of a believable Secondary World is the nature of divinities in the world. I want to have my fantastical divinity active -- which means I have to decide things like the nature of Nature in relationship to divinity, and the nature of divinity (is it perfection, or just super-natural?) And I probably don't want to go down the road of "Is a Perfect Divinity Knowable through Human Awareness?"

Hmmm.... looks like I have to go create a boulder so big I'm unable to move it. Oh. Wait...
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