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Kabbala and Magic


Rabbi Chaim Vital:

[There are four universes, Atzilut (Nearness), the universe of the Sefirot, Beriyah (Creation), the universe of the Throne, Yetzirah (Formation), the universe of angels, and Asiyah (Making), the universe of forms.]

The prophets were able to see into Atzilut, although it was completely clothed in the lights of Beriyah when they saw it. Ezekiel lived after the destruction [of Solomon's Temple], and he therefore only received prophecy from Atzilut after it was clothed in Beriyah, with Beriyah itself clothed entirely in Yetzirah.

After this, the lights of Atzilut and Beriyah were no longer revealed at all. This is the meaning of the teaching that after Hagai, Zechariah and Malachi, prophecy ended completely, and only Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) remained.

[This Ruach HaKodesh] consists of a transmission of the lights of Yetzirah itself, as well as lower levels. Attaining this level is called "Ascending to the Orchard (Pardes)." This refers to Yetzirah, which is called "the Universe of [the angel] Metatron."

There are given techniques through which one can open the gates of the physical world so as to enter Asiyah and Yetzirah. These consist of Unifications (Yechudim) and prayers pertaining to the Universe of Yetzirah and its Ten Sefirot. It is these techniques that are taught in the Chapters of Hekhalot, and these practices were used by Rabbi Nehuniah, Rabbi Akiba, Rabbi Ishmael, and the members of the Great Assembly.

These techniques were then forgotten. Besides this, the ashes of the Red Heifer were lost in the period of the later Talmudic sages (Amaraim), during the generation of Abaya and Rava [who lived in the Fifth Century], as mentioned in the Talmud. After this, they no longer made use of these techniques to ascend to the Orchard.

From then on, people only made use of techniques involving the universe of Asiyah. Since this is the lowest of the universes, its angels have only a little good, and are mostly evil. Besides this, this is a level where good and evil are closely intertwined [and it is very difficult to separate them]. This does not bring any enlightenment, since it is impossible to perceive good alone, and one's perception is therefore a combination of good and evil, truth and falsehood.

This is the significance of the Practical Kabbalah. It is forbidden to make use of it, since evil necessarily attaches itself to the good. One may actually intend to cleanse his soul, but as a result of the evil, he actually defiles it.

Even if one does gain some perception, it is truth intermingled with falsehood. This is especially true today, since the ashes of the Red Heifer no longer exist. [Since one cannot purify himself,] the uncleanliness of the Husks (klipot) attaches itself to the individual who attempts to gain enlightenment through the Practical Kabbalah.

Therefore, "he who watches his soul should keep far from them. For besides polluting his soul, he will also be punished in purgatory (Gehinom). We also have a tradition that such an individual will be punished in this world. Either he or his children will become sick, will be impoverished, or will become apostates. Learn a lesson from Joseph Della Reina and Rabbi Shlomo Molcho, who made use of the Practical Kabbalah and were destroyed from the world.

All this is because of the above-mentioned reason. This involves a realm where there is no good devoid of evil. Besides this, it involves coercing angels with oaths against their will. These angels retaliate by enticing this individual, draw him into evil ways until his soul is destroyed.

Beyond this, the methods involving these oaths were concealed by earlier generations, and we are not well-versed in the proper techniques. One must therefore keep himself far from these things.


[Taken from Meditation and Kabbala by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan]


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