Q. I can see that the strands of things I have picked up through the years are articulated by Kabbalah, and it might provide some frame I can understand. Can you explain what you mean by the real Kabbalah?
A. The principles articulated in the Kabbalah are uniquely geared to producing clarity and insight. In every circumstance of human engagement these principles, in their various articulations, can be seen at work. Mercifully though, it does not mean that someone trained in the Kabbalah analyses everything with reference to the sephirot and their attributions. That’s for beginners, part of the training. Once internalized, the inner Kabbalah operates through consciousness in every moment. It operates at a level where the ‘strings’ cannot be seen any longer, but the result is clarity in a confused situation, and insight into the deeper motivations and workings of human situations and psyche.
A situation—whether it seems mainly physical, emotional, intellectual in nature, or more usually a blend of all three in varying proportions—presents itself as an experiential fusion of many influences. It's a Totality, with Me in the middle perceiving and experiencing but also inherent in and part of it.
Some Teaching, Non-Dualism for instance, emphasizes separating out the perceiver as Witness from the objective situation. By virtue of being identified, the Witness becomes a temporary object, and a stage beyond dissolves even the Witness, leaving only the boundless Subjective (awareness), and the Situation.
Kabbalah takes a different approach. Within a complex situation are many forces at work at many levels. The Kabbalistic Eye recognizes them at play, not by laborious analysis (except at first), but at a level which is integrated emotionally and intellectually into a seamless apprehension. The Kabbalistic Eye sees and can separate out experiential threads, usefully and for a purpose, by knowing the laws of interaction and causality and being able to identify them in a live situation. How magical is that?
The consequence of this kind of seeing is self-knowledge and power, the power to change and to initiate. It is also Freedom, that same boundless freedom from dominating self-ness which is the aim of every valid spiritual tradition, so that we act as aware beings guided by Freedom's partnership with Necessity. Freedom and Necessity together are a ‘Gateway’ through which consciousness is expressed creatively in our polarized lives and world.
What the Kabbalah offers more specifically than other Teachings, is understanding of the process, and therefore an ability to help others to develop clarity and insight, to Know for themselves.
So what constitutes ‘real' Kabbalah?
The identification of laws, processes, principles etc, in the context of Inner Teaching has taken many forms historically. What we now know as Kabbalah, Qabbalah etc. was formulated into a Tree glyph in Judaism, but necessarily pre-existed this context, and fragments (not always the whole import) can be recognised in many formats, including Platonism and the mysticisms of many religions, and even in occult practices. Internalized ‘Kabbalah’ may no longer appear in the format in which it was learnt, and if it is the real thing, can be formulated differently as necessary. The line continues--- the same line, albeit with a different face.
The Tree of Life diagram is an extremely useful formulation because of its simplicity and easily graspable format. Its problem, however, is that it is too simple, and has encouraged simplistic and mechanistic interpretations and manipulations (throughout history). The real Kabbalah may be concealed behind Light, Fields and Waters, or three Sounds in meditation, or a poke in the eye with a burnt stick—if the Eye wakes up, and the stick is all that remains of one’s illusions.