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Kabbalah (also Qabbala, Cabala, cabbala, cabbalah, kabala, kabbala) is a religious philosophical system claiming a insight into divine nature.

The term "Kabbalah" did not come into use into sometime in the 12th century, and at that time referred to the Jewish school thought related to esoteric mysticism. Since that time Kabbalistic works gained a wider audience, outside of the Jewish community. As such, Christian versions of Kabbalah began to develop; by the early 18th century kabbalah had passed into widespread use by hermetic philosophers, neo-pagans and other new religious groups. Today this word can be used to describe many Jewish, Christian, or any neo-pagan schools of esoteric mysticism. Take note that each of these groups has different sets of book that they hold as part of the authentic chain of mystical tradition, and they reject each other's interpretations.

The first book on Kabbalah to be written, and still extant today, is the Sefer Yetzirah ("book of creation"). The first commentaries on this small book were written in the 10th century, and the text itself is quoted as early as the sixth century. Its historical origins are unclear. It exists today in a number of recensions, from to 2500 words long. Like many Jewish mystical texts, it was written in such a way as to be meaningless to those who read it without an extensive background in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Midrash.

The second of the important Jewish mystical works is the Bahir ("the illumination"), also known as "The Midrash of Rabbi Nehuniah ben haKana". It is some 12,000 words long. First published in Provence in 1176, many Orthodox Jews believe that the author was Rabbi Nehuniah ben haKana, a Talmudic sage of the first century. Historians have shown that the book was likely written not long before it was published.

The most imporant work of Jewish mysticism is the Zohar ("the radiance"). It is an esoteric mystical commentary on the Torah, written in Aramaic. Orthodox Jewish tradition maintains that it was written by Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai in the 2nd century. In the 13th century, a Spanish Jew by the name of Moshe de Leon claimed to discover the text of the Zohar, and the text was subsequently published and distributed throughout the Jewish world. Famed historian and scholar of Kabbalah Gershom Scholem has shown that de Leon himself was the author of the Zohar. Among his proofs was the text used 12th century Spanish grammar and word phrasings, and that the author did not have a correct knowledge of the land of Israel. The Zohar contains and elaborates upon much of the material found in Sefer Yetzirah and Sefer Bahir, and without question is the Kabbalistic work par excellance.

Thus, cabala has come to be used to refer to secret science in general; mystic art; or mystery.

Following that, the word cabal came to mean a secret association of a few individuals who seek by cunning practices to obtain office and power.

Other terms which originally described religious associations but have come to refer in some way to dangerous or suspicious behavior include zealot, assassin, and thug.

REQUEST - Christian works of Kabbalah should be discussed here. Non-Jewish and non-Christian works of Kabbalah, such as neo-paganism, should also be discussed here as well.

The below needs to be incorporated into the above

The Cabala (also spelled cabbala, cabbalah, kabala, kabbala, kabbalah) is a kind of occult theosophy or traditional interpretation of the Scriptures among Jewish rabbis and certain medieval Christians, which treats of the nature of god and the mystery of human existence. It assumes that every letter, word, number, and accent of Scripture contains a hidden sense; and it teaches the methods of interpretation for ascertaining these occult meanings. The cabalists pretend even to foretell events by this means.

External Links and References

1913 Dictionary entry