Historical Reprints Esoteric - Spiritual Kabbalah or the Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews

Kabbalah or the Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews

Kabbalah or the Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews
Catalog # SKU1247
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.50 lbs
Author Name Adolphe Franck


The Kabbalah
or the
Religious Philosophy
of the

Adolphe Franck

A doctrine with more than one point of resemblance to the doctrine of Plato and Spinoza; a doctrine which in its form rises at times to the majestic tone of religious poetry; a doctrine born in the same land, and almost at the same time, as Christianity; a doctrine which developed and spread during a period of more than twelve centuries in the shadow of the most profound mystery, without any supporting evidence other than the testimony of a presumptive ancient tradition, and with no apparent motive than the desire to penetrate more intimately into the meaning of the Sacred Books--such is the doctrine found in the original writings and in the oldest fragments of the Kabbalah


Although one finds in the Kabbalah a complete system on things of a moral and spiritual order, yet it can not be considered either as a philosophy or as a religion; I mean to say, it rests, apparently at least, neither upon reason nor upon inspiration or authority. Like most of the systems of the Middle Ages, it is the fruit of the union of these two intellectual powers. Essentially different from religious belief, under the power, and one can say, under the protection of which, it was born, it introduced itself, thanks to peculiar forms and processes, unnoticed into the minds.

These forms and these processes would weaken the interest of which it is worthy, and would not always permit conviction of the importance which we believe to be justified in attributing to it, if, before making it known in its different elements and before attempting the solution of questions incident thereto, we do not indicate, with some precision, the place it occupies among the works of thought, the rank it should hold among religious beliefs and philosophic systems, and, finally, the requirements or laws which could explain the peculiar means of its development. It is this we shall attempt to accomplish with all possible brevity.

It is a fact, proven by the history of entire humanity, that moral truth, the knowledge which we can acquire about our nature, our destiny and the principle of the universe, were, at first, not accepted on the strength of reason or conscience, but by the effect of a power which was more active upon the minds of the people, and which has the general attribute of presenting to us ideas under a nearly material form, sometimes under the form of a word descended from heaven to human ears, sometimes in the form of a person who develops them in examples and actions.

This power, universally known as Religion or Revelation, has its revolutions and its laws; notwithstanding the unity that rules at the bottom of its nature, it changes its aspect, like philosophy, poetry and arts, with the centuries and countries. But, at what time and at what place this power may come to establish itself, it can not off-hand tell man all that which he needs to know, not even in the sphere of duties and beliefs which it imposes upon him, nor even when he has no other ambition but to understand it in so far as is necessary for his obeisance to it.

In fact, there are in all religions, dogmas which need to be explained, principles the consequences of which remain to be developed, laws without possible application, as well as questions totally forgotten which, surely, touch upon the most important interests of humanity. The work of answering to all those needs calls for great mental activity; and the intellect, therefore, is impelled to the use of its own powers by the very desire to believe and obey. But this impulse does not produce everywhere the same results and does not act upon all intellects in the same manner.

Some intellects will not yield any place to individual independence; they drive the principle of authority to its last consequences, and set up, side by side with written revelation where nothing but .dogmas, principles and general laws are found, an oral revelation, a tradition or perhaps a permanent power infallible in its decisions, a sort of living tradition which furnishes explanations, forms and details of religious life; and which produces, if not in faith, in cult and symbols at least, an imposing unity. Of such are the orthodox of all beliefs.

Other intellects trust no one but themselves, that is to say, their power of reasoning to fill these gaps and to solve the problems in the revealed word. All authority other than that of the holy texts appears to them as an usurpation; or, if they do follow it, it is only when it is in accord with their personal feelings. But. little by little, their mental forces, their reflection and judgment gain in firmness and development, and, instead of exerting themselves on the religious dogmas, they rise above these and seek in their own reason, their own conscience, or in the conscience and reason of their fellow-men--in a word--in the works of human wisdom, the beliefs which they were once obliged to let descend bodily from heaven.

Finally, there is in this sphere a third class of thinkers--those who do not admit tradition or, at least, whom tradition and authority can not satisfy, and who certainly can not or dare not use reasoning. On the one hand they are too high-minded to admit the revealed word in a natural and historic sense which accords with the letter and spirit of the masses; on the other hand, they can not believe that man can dispense entirely with revelation, or that truth reaches him in any other way than by the effect of divine teaching. It is because of this that they see nothing but symbols and images in the greater number of dogmas, precepts and religious tales; that they search everywhere for a mysterious, profound meaning in accord with their thoughts and feelings, but which, because preconceived, can not be found in or interpreted into the sacred texts except by more or less arbitrary means.

It is principally by this method and by this tendency that the mystics are recognized. I do not say that mysticism did not show itself sometimes in a bolder form. At a time when philosophical habits had already held sway, mysticism finds in this very consciousness the divine action, the immediate revelation which it claims to be indispensable to man. It recognizes it either in the feelings or in the intuitions of reason.

Thus it is, to cite an example, how mysticism was conceived in the fifteenth century by Gerson. 1 But when mystical ideas require the support of external sanction, that support can be produced only in the form of a symbolical interpretation of what people call their Holy Scriptures. These three tendencies of the mind, these three ways of conceiving revelation and of continuing its work, are found in the history of all the religions that have struck roots in the human soul. I shall cite only those religions which are nearest to us and which, therefore, we can know with more certainty.

In the bosom of Christianity, the Roman Church represents tradition and authority in their highest degree of splendor. We find reason applied to faith not only in the majority of Protestant communions, among the defenders of the so-called rational exegesis, but also among the scholastic philosophers who were the first to subject religious dogmas to the laws of syllogism and who showed the same respect for the words of Aristotle that they showed for the words of the Apostles.

Who does not see symbolical mysticism with its arbitrary method and exaggerated spirituality in all the agnostic sects, in Origen, in Jacob Boehm, and in all who follow in their steps? But no one carried the system as far, nobody formulated it as frankly and as boldly as Origen whose name we shall yet meet in this book. If we glance at Mohammed's religion, if among the many sects it brought to light, we stop at those which show a decided character, we are immediately struck by the same spectacle.

The Sunnis and the Chiits, whose separation came from the rivalry of individuals rather than from a marked difference of opinion, equally defend the cause of unity and orthodoxy; but, the first, in order to attain their purpose, admit in addition to the Koran a collection of traditions--the Sunnat--from which they derive their name; the others, the Chiits, reject the tradition, but replace it by a living authority, a sort of continued revelation, in as much as one of the most essential articles of their belief is that after the prophet, his apostle Ali and the Imams of his race are the representatives of God on earth.

Islamism had also its scholastic philosophers, known by the name of Motecallemin, and it had also a large number of heresies which seem to have joined the doctrine of Pelagius to the rational method of modern Protestantism. This is how a celebrated orientalist defined the latter:

"All sects of the Mutazilahs agree generally in that they deny the existence of attributes in God, and they endeavor particularly to avoid everything that could injure the dogma of the unity of God; and then, in order to maintain the justice of God and ward off any idea of injustice from Him, they accord to man full liberty of his own actions and deny God all interference with them; finally, they agree in teaching that all the knowledge necessary to salvation is within the province of reason, and that it can be acquired solely by means of the light of reason before, as well as after, revelation."

395+pages - 8 x 5 inches SoftCover
Fully Footnoted
and with a additional INDEX
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