Okay so I think it’s high time I had an explanation written down of why I don’t use Hermetic Qabala, and why I think we should all give a good hard long think to the issue.
If you want a tl;dr or an audio version, What Magic is This? has opinions pretty similar to my own. If you want a present day Jewish Leftist opinion on the issues of antisemitism in the occult, here is a zine. If you need a 101 on the history of anti-Semitism, start here.
I’m not gonna start out by saying nothing ever has or should have crossed over from Judaism in Christianity. That’s ridiculous. Rather, I think we need to pay attention to when, why, and how the issues crossed over. If you want a good text for seeing some of the ways Jewish people have been influenced by their neighbors, Trachtenberg’s Jewish Magic and Superstition is a good read.
So there are some thing Christianity inherits from Judean culture from before it really broke off to be a separate thing entirely instead of a radical subsect. Genesis as a creation myth is a good example. The body of Christ is unleavened because its descended from the passover matzoh. These are things we share, though in a Christian context they have different use and meaning, through perfectly honest means.
There are also some more modern examples of crossover that I see as ultimately harmless in the hands of most people. Lilith first garnered Christian attention in the Modern Satanic art/religious movements, but really gained steam with people who are culturally Christian after she had an revival in Jewish Feminist writing. Jewish women joined the Goddess movement and Lilith came with them, later getting picked up by folks of Christian background as a divine feminine being. So when feminist and leftish people of Christian ancestry tell me they see Lilith as a goddess and worship her, I don’t see antisemitism in that, especially if they are dedicatedly standing with the Jewish struggle for liberation.
The history of Hermetic Qabala is not like that. Knowledge and use of Jewish Kabbalah by Christians as Christian Cabala begins in the 1400’s as part of an effort to weaponize conversos to mass convert other Jewish people. It gained popularity in the Renaissance under people like Ficino, who was an anti-semite. It was carried forward by people like Constant, who notably said the Kabbalah needed to be improved by Christians in order to be correct.
I hope still that one day someone will show me reason to believe the Golden Dawn or Crowley or some other person in the history of Hermetic Qabala saw all this and decided to really stand in solidarity with Jewish liberation, but I’m not holding my breath. Having been on magic related subreddits, I can tell you that you are just as likely to find fash using HQ as you are to find someone who is Jewish. The structure of the practice knows no morals.
Aside from my moral issues with Hermetic Qabala, I have structural issues. The Zohar, a foundational Kabbalistic text, makes it pretty clear that following Jewish law is central to the mystical practice. If the Cabala or Qabala had their own ways of romancing and dancing for Creator, I’d be open to considering them on a practical level.I have not. I have seen them used as ways for intellectuals to get trapped in the intellect. I have seem them used as gatekeeping tools. They are a hollow shell of their origin.
On an aesthetic level, the way so many things have been glued on to the Heremtic Qabala from Hellenic deities to planets to precious stones just makes the whole thing an absolute cacophony. Is this my silliest contention? Yes. More than that, though, half-assedly weaving all these ideas together is not a form of religious pluralism I can get behind. If multiple spiritual practices are capable of helping you to attainment, I believe you should pick one and stick to it instead of trying to collect them all.
The last reason why I won’t use the Hermetic Qabala is because I found a perfectly fine substitute: the celestial spheres. Planetary magic is pretty central to grimoires and Thelema, and the celestial spheres make a fine cosmomap. It also allows for the use of the Music of the Spheres in place of long exorcist speeches and barbarous names. You even get a similar number of spheres as Qabalistic Sephirot due to the discovery of the outer planets and the creation/discovery of Da’at. It’s not so much a completely new thing to Occultism as it is narrowing down which tools are used and why.
If you’re looking for a tool to help you figure out which trances, dreams, or visions to give credence to, I cannot recommend highly enough Spiritual Accounting by Jim Two Snakes. A google search isn’t turning it up. Guess you’ll have to go find it! It’s not as if recon pagans the world over haven’t been doing this sans gematria or isophepsy for years now.
At the very least, I think we need to stop the armchairs and broccultists from acting like it’s impossible to do occultism without Hermetic Qabala, because that’s extremely narrow minded.