The following is an e-mail question I received from a fellow whose identity I'm not printing here for privacy reasons. He asks a good question since matters of the occult are becoming more and more popular these days. I think that spiritual matters as they relate to the Qabalah and especially angels receive part of their popularity because they contain a lot of elements shared by mainstream Christianity and Judaism.
If some denominations say it's OK to pray to Mary, then why not pray to angels like Metatron (or Sandalphon, ouch)? If the Torah is a great book written/dictated/inspired by God (and it is), then why not study the numerical value of its words and phrases, or look for secret, hidden messages such as they do in these Torah-code books?
These are just simple examples, but I hope you see my point. It's easy for people to get confused when one thing looks like another. Religion and theology are full of distractions, and somewhere hidden in there is righteousness. Christian Pursuit and this Home Page are about sifting through all of the distractions and finding what righteousness there is that can be verified and followed. I think that boils down to the simplest of virtues, relationship with God, and acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah. No more. I'm sure there are smarter people than me out there, but not too many people more cautious than me. With intelligence and education comes a self-deceiving belief that one's interpretations are more righteous than they truly are. Humility and fear of God, however, lead one to be more cautious when making doctrinal decisions, and therefore less likely to pursue these questionable gray areas of theology.
So when you are studying angels or Torah-codes or Qabalah, you may actually be onto something more righteous than most of us know about, and therefore possibly more blessed. But it seems to me that there is a greater danger that you are being deceived even though you think you are fulfilling righteousness. I'm not saying you are, and I'm not saying you aren't. Just be careful! And always return to the basics if you are ever in doubt (which should be always).
Have you studied the Qabalah at all? I have recently become a Christian. I was a student of the occult and got involved in the wrong type of spirituality, using tarot cards, etc. I would like to hear your own views on the Qabalah, as I am unsure whether this mystical tradition is good or not.
In response to your question, I have only studied the Qabalah indirectly as a result of studying the stories and legends of Jewish mystics such as the Ari, Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman, and others.
My interest in them wasn't so much for their supernatural insights, but to study what limits there are in Judaism for beliefs about the afterlife, salvation, and other theological themes. The mystics also have a large number of morality stories which show different ways of performing "mitzvahs" (mitzvot) and choosing good and God's will when presented with life's many decisions.
My own personal theology is centered on this ethical dimension. I seek to determine what God's will might be in a life filled with thousands of moral decisions that have to be made everyday. And not just the big issues like abortion or marriage, but little things especially. The Jewish mystics had a talent for finding moral dilemmas in the simplest of daily tasks and encounters. I've tried to apply that to Christlike modeling by using their Jewish mystic moral framework and inserting my belief in Jesus as the Messiah. But obviously I use many other non-mystic sources to increase my understanding of Christlike decision making.
Now, regarding the occult aspect: I'm no expert in the Qabalah. I only know from what I've gleaned from the stories and legends. I believe a Christian's energy needs to be applied to analyzing the daily moral dilemmas and responding to those in a Christlike manner. That task alone should take all of one's time, especially in studying the varieties of what "Christlike" could mean. But the mystics, from what I can tell, found other things to study: numerology, the puzzles in the Hebrew alphabet and sequence of the Torah, legends of the shattered vessels, learning secret names of God and angels, etc. So far in my spiritual life I haven't found any reason or need to study anything like that. And it has occurred to me that even if I were to begin, it would take years and years of studying just to lay a foundation just to begin learning the stuff that really matters to the mystics.
However, one thing I cannot dispute is that the legendary people who studied and explained the Qabalah (such as the mystics I named above) were, in my opinion (assuming the stories of their lives are true), that these people were probably among the holiest and most moral men who ever lived. So why would such giants in theology and morality spend so much time studying Qabalah which seems so obscure and impractical? I don't know the answer to that, and I would never judge them for having spent their lives in pursuit of that knowledge since I really don't know enough about it.
But when I say "obscure and impractical," I can only think about ethical growth and applying that to my interactions with the world. But obviously the mystics felt that they could apply their knowledge to some other part of their lives, a greater spiritual dimension of the soul, a part which I may not have discovered yet, or perhaps it may not exist at all, or exists only as a Satanic distraction, keeping one from focusing on ethical theology? It's a big mystery.
But think about this: What would you consider to be more powerful? To be able to recite many complicated Hebrew names for God, or to be able to walk up to any stranger or homeless person on the street and speak to that person with love and caring and share yourself with that person? To know the numerical values of different words and phrases in the Torah, or to be able to control your pride and anger so that you are more open to love others and be at peace with your enemies? That is the difference between occult theology and ethical theology.
Thank you for your question. Answering it has helped me to focus my own beliefs and attentions with regard to this mystery. If you don't mind, I may like to post it as an essay on my page (without naming you of course) because it may help people who may not see the differences between occult studies and ethical theology.
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