Western esotericism called esotericism and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term under which scholars have categorised a wide range of loosely related ideas and movements which have developed within Western society. These ideas and currents are united by the fact that they are distinct both from orthodox Judeo-Christian religion and from Enlightenment rationalism. Esotericism has pervaded various forms of Western philosophy, pseudoscience, art and music, continuing to affect intellectual ideas and popular culture; the idea of grouping a wide range of Western traditions and philosophies together under the category, now termed esotericism developed in Europe during the late seventeenth century. Various academics have debated how to define Western esotericism, with a number of different options proposed. One scholarly model adopts its definition of "esotericism" from certain esotericist schools of thought themselves, treating "esotericism" as a perennialist hidden, inner tradition.
A second perspective sees esotericism as a category that encompasses movements which embrace an "enchanted" world-view in the face of increasing disenchantment. A third views Western esotericism as a category encompassing all of Western culture's "rejected knowledge", accepted neither by the scientific establishment nor by orthodox religious authorities; the earliest traditions which analysis would label as forms of Western esotericism emerged in the Eastern Mediterranean during Late Antiquity, where Hermetism and Neoplatonism developed as schools of thought distinct from what became mainstream Christianity. Renaissance Europe saw increasing interest in many of these older ideas, with various intellectuals combining "pagan" philosophies with the Kabbalah and Christian philosophy, resulting in the emergence of esoteric movements like Christian theosophy; the seventeenth century saw the development of initiatory societies professing esoteric knowledge such as Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry, while the Age of Enlightenment of the eighteenth century led to the development of new forms of esoteric thought.
The nineteenth century saw the emergence of new trends of esoteric thought that have come to be known as occultism. Prominent groups in this century included the Theosophical Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Modern Paganism developed within occultism, includes religious movements such as Wicca. Esoteric ideas permeated the counterculture of the 1960s and cultural tendencies, from which emerged the New Age phenomenon in the 1970s. Although the idea that these varying movements could be categorised together under the rubric of "Western esotericism" developed in the late eighteenth century, these esoteric currents were ignored as a subject of academic enquiry; the academic study of Western esotericism only emerged in the late twentieth-century, pioneered by scholars like Frances Yates and Antoine Faivre. Esoteric ideas have meanwhile exerted an influence in popular culture, appearing in art, literature and music; the concept of the "esoteric" originated in the second century AD with the coining of the Ancient Greek adjective esôterikós.
The term "esotericism" thus came into use in the wake of the Age of Enlightenment and of its critique of institutionalised religion, during which time alternative religious groups began to disassociate themselves from the dominant Christianity in Western Europe. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the term "esotericism" came to be seen as something, distinct from Christianity, which had formed a subculture, at odds with the Christian mainstream from at least the time of the Renaissance; the French occultist and ceremonial magician Eliphas Lévi popularized the term in the 1850s, Theosophist Alfred Percy Sinnett introduced it into the English language in his book Esoteric Buddhism. Lévi introduced the term l'occultisme, a notion that he developed against the background of contemporary socialist and Catholic discourses. "Esotericism" and "occultism" were employed as synonyms until scholars distinguished the concepts. The concept of "Western esotericism" is a modern scholarly construct rather than a pre-existing, self-defined tradition of thought.
In the late seventeenth century, several European Christian thinkers presented the argument that certain traditions of Western philosophy and thought could be categorised together, thus establishing the category, now called "Western esotericism". The first to do so was de: Ehregott Daniel Colberg, a German Lutheran who wrote Platonisch-Hermetisches Christianity. A hostile critic of various currents of Western thought that had emerged since the Renaissance—among them Paracelsianism and Christian theosophy—in his book he labelled all of these traditions under the category of "Platonic–Hermetic Christianity", arguing that they were heretical to what he saw as true Christianity. Despite his hostile attitude toward these traditions of thought, he was the first to connect these disparate philosophies and study them under one rubric recognising that these ideas linked back to earlier philosophies from late antiquity. In Europe during the eighteenth century, amid the Age of Enlightenment, these esoteric traditions came to be categorised under the labels of "superstition", "magic", "the occult", terms which were used interchangeably.
An abjad is a type of writing system where each symbol or glyph stands for a consonant, leaving the reader to supply the appropriate vowel. So-called impure abjads do represent vowels, either with optional diacritics, a limited number of distinct vowel glyphs, or both; the name abjad is based on the old Arabic alphabet's first four letters—a, b, j, d—to replace the common terms "consonantary" or "consonantal alphabet" to refer to the family of scripts called West Semitic. The name "abjad" is derived from pronouncing the first letters of the Old Arabic alphabet in order; the ordering of Arabic letters used to match that of the older Hebrew and Semitic alphabets: ʾ - b - g - d. According to the formulations of Daniels, abjads differ from alphabets in that only consonants, not vowels, are represented among the basic graphemes. Abjads differ from abugidas, another category defined by Daniels, in that in abjads, the vowel sound is implied by phonology, where vowel marks exist for the system, such as nikkud for Hebrew and ḥarakāt for Arabic, their use is optional and not the dominant form.
Abugidas mark a minor attachment to the letter, or a standalone glyph. Some abugidas use a special symbol to suppress the inherent vowel so that the consonant alone can be properly represented. In a syllabary, a grapheme denotes a complete syllable, that is, either a lone vowel sound or a combination of a vowel sound with one or more consonant sounds; the antagonism of abjad versus alphabet, as it was formulated by Daniels, has been rejected by some other scholars because abjad is used as a term not only for the Arabic numeral system but, most important in terms of historical grammatology as term for the alphabetic device of ancient Northwest Semitic scripts in opposition to the'south Arabian' order. This caused fatal effects on terminology in general and in Semitic philology, it suggests that consonantal alphabets, in opposition to, for instance, the Greek alphabet, were not yet true alphabets and not yet complete, lacking something important to be a working script system. It has been objected that, as a set of letters, an alphabet is not the mirror of what should be there in a language from a phonological point of view.
The first abjad to gain widespread usage was the Phoenician abjad. Unlike other contemporary scripts, such as cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Phoenician script consisted of only a few dozen symbols; this made the script easy to learn, seafaring Phoenician merchants took the script throughout the then-known world. The Phoenician abjad was a radical simplification of phonetic writing, since hieroglyphics required the writer to pick a hieroglyph starting with the same sound that the writer wanted to write in order to write phonetically, much as man'yôgana was used to represent Japanese phonetically before the invention of kana. Phoenician gave rise to a number of new writing systems, including the Greek alphabet and Aramaic, a used abjad; the Greek alphabet evolved into the modern western alphabets, such as Latin and Cyrillic, while Aramaic became the ancestor of many modern abjads and abugidas of Asia. Impure abjads have characters for optional vowel diacritics, or both; the term pure abjad refers to scripts lacking in vowel indicators.
However, most modern abjads, such as Arabic, Hebrew and Pahlavi, are "impure" abjads – that is, they contain symbols for some of the vowel phonemes, although the said non-diacritic vowel letters are used to write certain consonants approximants that sound similar to long vowels. A "pure" abjad is exemplified by early forms of ancient Phoenician, though at some point it and most of the contemporary Semitic abjads had begun to overload a few of the consonant symbols with a secondary function as vowel markers, called matres lectionis; this practice was at first rare and limited in scope but became common and more developed in times. In the 9th century BC the Greeks adapted the Phoenician script for use in their own language; the phonetic structure of the Greek language created too many ambiguities when vowels went unrepresented, so the script was modified. They did not need letters for the guttural sounds represented by aleph, he, heth or ayin, so these symbols were assigned vocalic values; the letters waw and yod were adapted into vowel signs.
The major innovation of Greek was to dedicate these symbols and unambiguously to vowel sounds that could be combined arbitrarily with consonants. Abugidas developed along a different route; the basic consonantal symbol was considered to have an inherent "a" vowel sound. Hooks or short lines attached to various parts of the basic letter modify the vowel. In this way, the South Arabian alphabet evolved into the Ge'ez alphabet between the 5th century BC and the 5th century AD. Around the 3rd century BC, the Brāhmī script developed; the other major family of abugidas, Canadian Aboriginal syllabics, was developed in the 1840s by missionary and linguist James Evans for the Cree and Ojibwe languages. Evans used features of Devanagari script and Pitman shorthand to create his initial abugida
The Hebrew alphabet, known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script, block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew language. It is used in the writing of other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Judaeo-Spanish, Judeo-Arabic. Two separate abjad scripts have been used to write Hebrew; the original, old Hebrew script, known as the paleo-Hebrew alphabet, has been preserved in a variant form as the Samaritan alphabet. The present "Jewish script" or "square script", on the contrary, is a stylized form of the Aramaic alphabet and was known by Jewish sages as the Ashuri alphabet, since its origins were alleged to be from Assyria. Various "styles" of representation of the Jewish script letters described in this article exist, including a variety of cursive Hebrew styles. In the remainder of this article, the term "Hebrew alphabet" refers to the square script unless otherwise indicated; the Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. It does not have case. Hebrew is written from right to left.
The alphabet was an abjad consisting only of consonants, but is now considered an "impure abjad". As with other abjads, such as the Arabic alphabet, during its centuries-long use scribes devised means of indicating vowel sounds by separate vowel points, known in Hebrew as niqqud. In both biblical and rabbinic Hebrew, the letters י ו ה א can function as matres lectionis, when certain consonants are used to indicate vowels. There is a trend in Modern Hebrew towards the use of matres lectionis to indicate vowels that have traditionally gone unwritten, a practice known as "full spelling"; the Yiddish alphabet, a modified version of the Hebrew alphabet used to write Yiddish, is a true alphabet, with all vowels rendered in the spelling, except in the case of inherited Hebrew words, which retain their Hebrew spellings. The Arabic and Hebrew alphabets have similarities because they are both derived from the Aramaic alphabet. A distinct Hebrew variant of the Phoenician script, called by scholars the paleo-Hebrew alphabet, emerged around 800 BCE.
Examples of related early inscriptions from the area include the tenth-century Gezer calendar, the Siloam inscription. The paleo-Hebrew alphabet was used in the ancient kingdoms of Judah. Following the exile of the Kingdom of Judah in the 6th century BCE during the Babylonian captivity, Jews began using a form of the Assyrian Aramaic alphabet, another offshoot of the same family of scripts; the Samaritans, who remained in the Land of Israel, continued to use the paleo-Hebrew alphabet. During the 3rd century BCE, Jews began to use a stylized, "square" form of the Aramaic alphabet, used by the Persian Empire, while the Samaritans continued to use a form of the paleo-Hebrew script called the Samaritan alphabet. After the fall of the Persian Empire in 330 BCE, Jews used both scripts before settling on the square Assyrian form; the square Hebrew alphabet was adapted and used for writing languages of the Jewish diaspora – such as Karaim, the Judeo-Arabic languages, Judaeo-Spanish, Yiddish. The Hebrew alphabet continued in use for scholarly writing in Hebrew and came again into everyday use with the rebirth of the Hebrew language as a spoken language in the 18th and 19th centuries in Israel.
In the traditional form, the Hebrew alphabet is an abjad consisting only of consonants, written from right to left. It has 22 letters. In the traditional form, vowels are indicated by the weak consonants Aleph, He, Vav, or Yodh serving as vowel letters, or matres lectionis: the letter is combined with a previous vowel and becomes silent, or by imitation of such cases in the spelling of other forms. A system of vowel points to indicate vowels, called niqqud, was developed. In modern forms of the alphabet, as in the case of Yiddish and to some extent Modern Hebrew, vowels may be indicated. Today, the trend is toward full spelling with the weak letters acting as true vowels; when used to write Yiddish, vowels are indicated, using certain letters, either with niqqud diacritics or without, except for Hebrew words, which in Yiddish are written in their Hebrew spelling. To preserve the proper vowel sounds, scholars developed several different sets of vocalization and diacritical symbols called nequdot.
One of these, the Tiberian system prevailed. Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, his family for several generations, are credited for refining and maintaining the system; these points are used only for special purposes, such as Biblical books intended for study, in poetry or when teaching the language to children. The Tiberian system includes a set of cantillation marks, called "trope", used to indicate how scriptural passages should be chanted in synagogue recitations of scripture. In everyday writing of modern Hebrew, niqqud are absent. Unlike the Paleo-Hebrew writing script, the modern Ashuri script has five letters that have special final forms, called sofit form, used only at the end of a word, somewhat as in the Greek or in the Arabic and Mandaic alphabets; these are shown below the normal form in the
Kabbalah is an esoteric method and school of thought of Judaism. A traditional Kabbalist in Judaism is called a Mequbbāl; the definition of Kabbalah varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it, from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its adaptations in Western esotericism. Jewish Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between God, the unchanging and mysterious Ein Sof, the mortal and finite universe, it forms the foundation of mystical religious interpretations within Judaism. Jewish Kabbalists developed their own transmission of sacred texts within the realm of Jewish tradition, use classical Jewish scriptures to explain and demonstrate its mystical teachings; these teachings are held by followers in Judaism to define the inner meaning of both the Hebrew Bible and traditional rabbinic literature and their concealed transmitted dimension, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish religious observances. One of the fundamental kabbalistic texts, the Zohar, was first published in the 13th century, the universal form adhered to in modern Judaism is Lurianic Kabbalah.
Traditional practitioners believe its earliest origins pre-date world religions, forming the primordial blueprint for Creation's philosophies, sciences and political systems. Kabbalah emerged after earlier forms of Jewish mysticism, in 12th- to 13th-century Southern France and Spain, was reinterpreted during the Jewish mystical renaissance of 16th-century Ottoman Palestine. Isaac Luria is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah. During the 20th-century, academic interest in Kabbalistic texts led by the Jewish historian Gershom Scholem has inspired the development of historical research on Kabbalah in the field of Judaic studies. According to the Zohar, a foundational text for kabbalistic thought, Torah study can proceed along four levels of interpretation; these four levels are called pardes from their initial letters. Peshat: the direct interpretations of meaning. Remez: the allegoric meanings. Derash: midrashic meanings with imaginative comparisons with similar words or verses. Sod: the inner, esoteric meanings, expressed in kabbalah.
Kabbalah is considered by its followers as a necessary part of the study of Torah – the study of Torah being an inherent duty of observant Jews. Modern academic-historical study of Jewish mysticism reserves the term "kabbalah" to designate the particular, distinctive doctrines that textually emerged expressed in the Middle Ages, as distinct from the earlier Merkabah mystical concepts and methods. According to this descriptive categorisation, both versions of Kabbalistic theory, the medieval-Zoharic and the early-modern Lurianic kabbalah together comprise the theosophical tradition in Kabbalah, while the meditative-ecstatic Kabbalah incorporates a parallel inter-related Medieval tradition. A third tradition, related but more shunned, involves the magical aims of Practical Kabbalah. Moshe Idel, for example, writes that these 3 basic models can be discerned operating and competing throughout the whole history of Jewish mysticism, beyond the particular Kabbalistic background of the Middle Ages.
They can be distinguished by their basic intent with respect to God: The theosophical tradition of Theoretical Kabbalah seeks to understand and describe the divine realm. As an alternative to rationalist Jewish philosophy Maimonides' Aristotelianism, this speculation became the central component of Kabbalah The Ecstatic tradition of Meditative Kabbalah strives to achieve a mystical union with God. Abraham Abulafia's "Prophetic Kabbalah" was the supreme example of this, though marginal in Kabbalistic development, his alternative to the program of theosophical Kabbalah The Magico-theurgical tradition of Practical Kabbalah endeavours to alter both the Divine realms and the World. While some interpretations of prayer see its role as manipulating heavenly forces, Practical Kabbalah properly involved white-magical acts, was censored by kabbalists for only those pure of intent, it formed a separate minor tradition shunned from Kabbalah. Practical Kabbalah was prohibited by the Arizal until the Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt and the required state of ritual purity is attainable.
According to traditional belief, early kabbalistic knowledge was transmitted orally by the Patriarchs and sages to be "interwoven" into Jewish religious writings and culture. According to this view, early kabbalah was, in around the 10th century BCE, an open knowledge practiced by over a million people in ancient Israel. Foreign conquests drove the Jewish spiritual leadership of the time to hide the knowledge and make it secret, fearing that it might be misused if it fell into the wrong hands, it is hard to clarify with any degree of certainty the exact concepts within kabbalah. There are several different schools of thought with different outlooks. Modern halakhic authorities have tried to narrow the scope and