April 22, 2016 TOLS

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

A book I’ve referenced here before is Harold Bloom’s Jesus and Yahweh: The Names Divine. Always ready for contention, Bloom in this dismisses the concept of a “Judaeo-Christian” tradition as nonsense, a view he’s also expressed in various interviews.
The topic of a Judaeo-Christian tradition came up last week in a lecture I gave in Toronto on how Crowley, in accordance with The Book of the Law‘s instructions, had “purged the rituals of the old time.” Many people come to Qabalistic magick with a load of religious baggage from their upbringing, and the idea of the sacred Names and the Archangels drawn from the Tanakh (the Jewish name for the Old Testament), or that they’ve seen simpering prettily in stained glass windows, bothers them. They end up hunting for substitutes.
Because Christianity did such a good job of re-translating the Tanakh and re-interpreting it as predicting Jesus of Nazareth, many people raised as Christians still retain the idea that God the Father (a fiction Bloom delights in demolishing) was just biding his time before incarnating as his own son, and that the Bible is essentially one integrated text.
But if you bother reading in Deuteronomy or Leviticus for a few depressing minutes you’ll realise Yahweh was a savage god. He has no resemblance to the serious-minded gentleman in his heaven that Bloom mocks and that so many people pretend to bow down before on Sundays. He wanted blood and the smell of burning animal bodies, he was kinky enough to make men with foreskins then require their amputation without anaesthetics, and he rather reveled in agonising legal punishments. And he would have seen Jesus as a disappointment.
As Bloom points out in the interview I link to above, a fair reading of the old scriptures reveals Yahweh as an unreliable whack-job – though Bloom uses more scholarly wording. And this, remember, is going by the Book he himself supposedly wanted people to study in order to know and love him.
Normative Judaism today copies a number of tropes from Christianity. Mostly, it adopted them because it seemed safer to do so. That didn’t work, as a certain Austrian postcard painter and his followers demonstrated 75 years ago, but it was a reasonable effort at self-preservation.
The flowering of Qabalah eight centuries ago was a sideshow, an offshoot of medieval Judaism. External conditions often made life difficult or intolerable for Jews living in Christian Europe, and it was natural to look for a mystical escape-route from oppressive earthly conditions. The Qabalistic systems doubtless encode some ancient esoteric Jewish traditions, and they definitely include elements of Pythagoreanism and Gnosticism, depending on the teacher. I just don’t see much direct evidence of a link to the Tanakh’s traditions, and even less to modern, synagogue-based Judaism. Sure, there are fascinating Qabalistic explanations of the classic Bible stories, some of them really convincing and some … ingenious. But essentially, Qabalists had to establish a mythology and legends of their own, because the Tanakh doesn’t back up transmigration of souls, or the existence of sephiroth, or an emanationist theology. That’s why they held the Zohar in such respect. It offered a kind of Tanakh 2.0 (New! Improved!) for aspiring mystics.
Qabalah is pre-Christian in its roots, its teachings and its practices. There’s no good way of linking it to some pseudo-concept of a conjoined Judaeo-Christanity, unless you’re perpetually scared ever to open a Bible (Old Testament or New) and see how wrong your Sunday school teachers really were. This is why magicians use Qabalah: it has the juice. The mainstream scriptures, worthy of study as they might be, as well as of scorn, are a different kettle of tropes entirely.
It’s time non-Christian occultists (and Christian ones, surely?) junked this “Judaeo-Christian” thing completely, and let the phrase die. Christianity was invented by St. Paul, abetted by Augustine and other early theologians. Post-Exilic Judaism had a score of fathers. They share a few ideas, but their foundations differ immensely.
Rather, then, that try to find some substitute for the various Divine Names or the Archangels of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram among ancient mythologies, might I suggest that you perform the rite soon and take long pauses to suss out what you’re actually calling? That you feel what emerges in each quarter, in its primal purity and transcendent vitality? And that you recognise, finally, that neither Jesus, nor the Lord, not the Father nor the Holy Ghost, nor other bits of the Christian god-concept, have direct connection to these beings? They come from a level, a plane, a world, a state of existence deeper and richer than any sickly, guilt-making sentimental Churchianity can possibly concern itself with. They exist to lift us out of all that persistent mental garbage, and only if we refuse to make a constructive effort away from that detritus do they seem to link us back to it.

Love is the law, love under will,
Edward Mason

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