Qabbalah: Writings of Solomon
Category: Judaism
19:33 h
Solomon ibn Gabirol was an 11th-century Andalusian poet and Jewish philosopher in the Neo-Platonic tradition. He published over a hundred poems, as well as works of biblical exegesis, philosophy, ethics and satire. Qabbalah: Writings of SolomonThe Philosophical Writings of Solomon Ben Yehudah Ibn Gebirol is devoted to a short account of the life and writings of the philosopher, Solomon ben Yehudah Ibn Gebirol or Avicebron; proofs of the antiquity of the Zoharic writings and the Qabbalah, a condensed statement of some parts of the Qabbalistic philosophy, quotations from the Zoharic books.


The Philosophical Writings of
Solomon Ben Yehudah Ibn Gebirol, or Avicebron

Translated by
Isaac Myer, LL. B.


“God hath spoken once; two-fold is what I heard.”

THE following pages are devoted to a short account of the life and writings of the philosopher, Solomon ben Yehudah Ibn Gebirol or Avicebron; proofs of the antiquity of the Zoharic writings and the Qabbalah, a condensed statement of some parts of the Qabbalistic philosophy, quotations from the Zoharic books, and various articles pertaining to the same, in Appendixes.

The investigation of the antiquity and content, of the Qabbalah and Zoharic writings, has been neglected by the learned, and, with the exception of a very few in England, Germany, Russia and France, has been almost wholly ignored by the writers of this century. To the student of the origin of religions or their philosophy, especially of the origin of the formulations, dogmas and doctrines of early Christianity; a study of the Hebrew Qabbalah and of the Zohar is of great value and importance, and has not received the attention it justly merits and demands. It is apparent from the many similarities in this Qabbalistic philosophy, to the doctrines in the New Testament and early Patristic literature; that both of the latter, most probably, have had a common germ and origin in the esoteiic teachings of the Israelites, as well as in the more open and exoteric teachings of the Hebrew Holy writings.

It was these striking similarities which struck my thought in the course of my reading, and caused an examination of the subject; the more the investigation proceeded the more manifest to me appeared many of these similarities, and the more satisfied I became, that a common origin existed. Many learned theologians have endeavored, without much success, to find these origins in the Talmud, but the latter treats almost entirely of the Ha-la’khah or Common Law, Customs and Ritual, considered essential to the outward life of the Israelite; however it sometimes, gives in explanations, short Ha-gadic statements, which most probably, were taken from the Secret Learning, the ancient Sod, i. e., Mystery, of the Hebrews; but one might as well study the English Common Law Reports and the Digests of the same, in order to ascertain the content of English philosophy, as to expect to find the full content of the inward esoteric metaphysics and philosophy of the ancient Israelites, in the Talmudic writings. It was through the spirituality of the doctrines of the Secret Learning, that many of the ideas and dogmas, set forth by the Evangelists in the New Testament as those of Jesus and his Apostles, found so ready an entrance and acceptance, in the Jewish thought of their period.

The New Testament taken in connection with cotemporary writings, especially those of Philo Judaeus, many of whose writings have reached our day; shows that the Jewish mind at the epoch of its formulations, was prepared to accept, without much questioning, many of its doctrines and conclusions. At that period, many of the Jews were daily expecting the appearance of a Messiah, coming to them through the generations from David; but all did not accept Jesus as that Anointed One, as that Messiah who was daily expected. It is in the study of the Jewish Disciplina Arcana, that we must hope to find the higher spiritual ideas of the cotemporaries of Jesus and the Apostles, and not in the outward law, ritual and forms, of the Pharisees; whose religious convictions stuck too much in the bark, and did not penetrate very deeply, into the heart and core of the tree of spiritual religious truth. But outside of the importance of the Qabbalistic philosophy to the theologian, to the philosophic mind; “Any form of speculation which has at any time powerfully influenced human thought, will repay the study which is spent in understanding it, and, sooner or later claim fresh regard. The variations of human nature are too limited, to place any of its developments wholly beyond the pale of interest.”

At the present time, the great foes to any rapid advance in the spirituality of religion, are materialism and formalism. The first tends to merge itself into agnosticism, pantheism or atheism; the latter, into the formuations in creeds and dogmas, and in ritualism. Like the formalism of the Pharisees in the time of Jesus, the second would see in the mere performance of ritual, the repetition of creeds or fixed forms, the letter of the law; and through mere attendance at the house of worship, a compliance with the true inner faith and requirements of real spiritual devotion. Against these phases of so-called religion, the free inward consciousness and liberty of the true spiritual and higher man, always rebels; the inner man, drawn by the Deity, desires to see, a worship from the heart, sentiment and soul, and not a mere formal observance of creeds and books, a mere repetition of words and genuflexions of the body as a saving Grace and a true road to Salvation. To such, the spiritualistic philosophy of the higher phases of the Qabbalistic system, when truly searched for, contemplated, and understood; opens her arms, and from its great height in the Unknown Essence of the Supreme Deity, the Eternal Boundless One, to its depth, in the lowest materialism of evil; gives an opportunity for the reception, and acquisition of the grandest and noblest ideas, to the highest and most subtile order of religious spiritual thought. The greatest Mystics of the past, be they John Tauler, Thomas A’Kempis (Hamerken), Saint Theresa, or Dionysios, the Areopagite, have all been under the influence of ideas which are fully included in those of the Qabbalistic philosophy. As to the materialists: “What are they finding, more and more below facts, below all phenomena which the scalpel and the microscope can show? A something nameless, invisible, imponderable, yet seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent, retreating before them deeper and deeper, the deeper they delve, namely; the life which shapes and makes. More and more the noblest-minded of them, are engrossed by the mystery of that unknown and truly miraculous element in nature, which is always escaping them, though they cannot escape it.”

It is my desire to awaken a higher spiritual feeling towards the investigation of the Mysteries of Ancient Israel, in which, the Mysteries of the New Covenant lie hidden; Which shall help to awaken in Christian Mysticism its fundamental elements, faith and belief in the True; to animate it to study the metaphysics of the great Fathers of the Church, especially the great Greek Fathers, the most erudite thinkers of the early Christian church; and establish the vast edifice of theology on deep philosophical principles and belief in the True, and not on man’s alterable creeds and formulations: and by so doing; prepare a common centre for the reunion of all the, at present divided, religious sects. I also believe that such researches and investigations are calculated to pave the way to an understanding of the true principles in the primitive history of mankind, and be an assisting guide, in the dark labyrinth of myths, mysteries and archaic religions; and that they will place much, which is now uncertain, on a firm foundation and in a stronger and clearer light, and so prepare the way, for that which the Deity never intended should be separated, the union of sound reason and correct philosophy with true religion.

We cannot in this connection forbear quoting the words of a great German thinker: “Whenever in religion, or polity, or civilization, in art or science; the inner element is developed most strenuously in its outward productions and tJie spiritual earnestly sought after, be it with more or less modifications of existing institutions, there is progress at hand; for it is from within that life issues forth into the external, from the centre to the circumference. This therefore is the pathway which leads to life, that on which there are ever opening new outlets for the Spirit, and on which Genius, can unfurl its wings with god-like self-assurance. If this be true, the contrary result must also happen, wherever the external or material life is continually exalted, — wherever the symbol supersedes and stands more and more for the essence; a form of words or an external work for the mental act or for conscience; where the symmetrical superfices is accepted for the inner content, and the outer uniformity for vital unity, and appearances for truth. In every such happening the luckless future must be impending whatever be the aspect of the present. When such a path is once entered upon, the necessity very soon becomes apparent, of treating the dictates of the common conscience as apostacy, of putting down conscientious objections as insubordination, and suppressing personal freedom as sedition. And then tyranny, either ecclesiastical or political, becomes a necessity, etc.” To-day around us this latter feeling appears to be getting the upper hand, there is too much desire for wealth and the gratification of the present and not enough of the Divine Afflatus. Too much of the spirit of Voltaire, Condillac and Descartes, and not enough thought of our future existence, nor of the feelings which animated the Qabbalists, true Theosophists and Mystics, of the past. We want more men influenced with the same feelings as were Savonarola, Tauler and Jacob Böhme.

In the Hebrew Holy Scripture, the visible or creation, is regarded as the manifestation of the Divine Glory or She’kheen-ah. The attributes of the Deity are therefore seen through His works, so St. Paul says: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and glory.” (Rom. i, 20.)

But the human mind obtaining its ideas in this matter-world, can never whilst existing in it, raise the veil to its full height nor thoroughly understand in their full purport, the mysteries concealed behind it. Even the words used in the most abstract sciences and in religion and philosophy, to signify the most perfect abstractness, have only a partially definite meaning, and in most minds, are vague and tinctured by the grasp of individual intellect, surroundings, modes of thought, imagination, experience; yes, even by the prejudices, dislikes and sentiments of thought, in the minds of those who use them; and so mar the tendency to the true, the abstract, and the real. There is an endeavor on the part of enlightened abstract thinkers to avoid this as much as possible, and they frequently seize upon foreign words and the “mixed modes” of one tongue, to express through them the pure simple ideas of another language, for in their new position these words are clear of the alloy of experiences and the mistakes caused by the senses of their old masters. The naturalism therefore of the Hebrew Old Testament has been largely merged into the Greek language, as a greater idealization and abstraction; first we see this in the Septuagint or Greek translation, and then, more thoroughly, in the New Testament, a fusion of Hebrew and Hellenic thought. We can imagine a language in its first beginnings, in which every act and operation of the mind, every idea and relation, was expressed by a matter-image or symbol, a language at once based purely on the senses and the material, its words only mental pictures like its written symbols, of which, the archaic Egyptian hieroglyphics may be considered as example; higher than this we can imagine a language with the world of mind and the world of matter distinct, but such cannot in this matter-world, exist. All language exists between two extremes and is passing continually from one to the other, it is never, no more than are the stars and the universe at anytime standing still.

The language and words in the Holy Scripture are intermediaries between the seen and the unseen, thoughts are the winged angels which partake of both the visible and invisible as did the angels of the Bible. They are spirits which may be clothed in the aether of man’s breath and so become visible, but not always, for language cannot always define and formulate, those things which are within the veil; there are things we feel which we cannot formulate into words, the sigh of sorrow, the cry of despair, the exclamation of anger, the ecstasy of heavenly bliss, of love and hope and earthly happiness, are a few of the thoughts we can never formulate into words.

The nearest approach that man can make to the unseen, is that inner communion which works silently in his soul but which cannot be expressed in absolute language nor by any words, which is beyond all formulations into word symbolism yet is on the confines of it and the unknown spiritual world. This is conceptualism. We experience these feelings only in our hearts and inner thoughts, that which strikes our consciences as right or wrong comes unbidden to us and without any logical sequence, is like a dream. The more intensely man feels the highest intellectuality, the more thoroughly does his spirit enter into this spiritual communion and the more difficult is it to express to others, these emotions and this undefined consciousness, this converse with another world; formulate them, express them, in words; and we draw them down to a gross, dark and material plane. Silence, meditation, intercommunion with self, this is the nearest approach to the invisible. They are sublimations. Many of our ideas are only negations, the Highest Deity is clothed, as to Its essence and appearance, in darkness to the finite thought. Yet even these negations are affirmations and we only leave the opposition to the negation, a condition to our thoughts, of vagueness and uncertainty. “There is a spiritual body and there is a natural body,” but this does not take us out of the material-world, a spirit can only be conceived of as something vague, dim, in opposition to matter, yet the inner motor of us, is spirit. The Deity and Its attributes cannot be defined, they are to us an absolute negation of all our so-called absolute knowledge, for all our absolute knowledge is based, raised upon, centred and carried on, through our matter-world knowledge and symbolism, e. g. Eternity is not the past, present, future, these are in Time, Eternity can be conceived of, only as an absolute negation of all thought of Time, so only can spirituality by the absolute negation of all matter-world thought and matter-world existence. The Non Ego is the nearest approach to the invisible, the Ego is a manifestation.

From a want of knowledge of the Qabbalistic philosophy, the translations of many statements in both the Old and New Testaments are frequently erroneous, and this is especially evident in numerous of the asserted improvements in the revised versions, e, g. Ephesians iii, 15, the older versions of which evidence the fact, that it is in agreement, with both the Qabbalah and Talmud, in the use of the words “family in heaven:” to signify, the Upper angels and spirits who are near the Deity; also Matt, vi, 13, where the desire to be delivered from the Ye’tzer ha-rah, i. e. the evil inclination, which is asserted in the Qabbalah to accompany every human being through life, is referred to the Devil.

The reader may be sometimes startled by my statements, which may be at times contrary to his conventional religious ideas, as to this I can only say, that I have stated the subject as I have found it, and, as this is not a polemical work, do not criticize it.

The student of Assyriology and ancient Babylonian thought, will find many similarities between it and the ancient Hebrew Qabbalah. Both are Semitic but in germ derived, I think, from other sources. The student of archaic Hindu Aryan thought will also notice many similarities, especially in the Upanishads of the Vedas, in old Hindu Mythology, also in the Bhagavad-Gita and the Vedantas. Much of the mystery of the Practical Qabbalah will be undoubtedly discovered in the Tantras, but I have not as yet had an opportunity of seeing any of the latter.

The study of the Qabbalah in the disfigured condition which the powers of evil have succeeded in placing it, is one of extreme difficulty, and I have appreciated the full force of the words of the German historian I. M. Jost, when he says:

“Whoever desires to fathom all this, must give up the entire present and bring himself into a world of thought which stands absolutely alone. As the work of an elevated observing understanding accompanied by phantasy, she awakens admiration, and this, more on account of the purpose, for the purpose declares, that the Kabbalah brings the soul of man into undoubted communion with God, which entirely sanctifies his thoughts and walk.” (History of the Jews. Leipsic, 1859, p. 146.)

The Zohar is a very difficult book to translate, as it is full of strange words in Aramaic, Syriac, Hebrew and Chaldee; also, many formed from Greek, Persian, Sanskrit and Syriac roots: besides it has many dark and veiled suggestions and hints, which require explanations, as one proceeds with the setting forth of its system.

I also ask the indulgence of the critic for any errors in this new exposition of a difficult subject. Unable to find a publisher, because of the timidity of those engaged in the business of publishing resulting from their unfamiliarity with the subject, and fears for its financial success; I have been compelled at considerable expense and extra work, to take the risk of publishing upon myself and of getting a return for my outlay in printing, etc., and therefore became my own publisher.

No. 929 Clinton Street,

Philadelphia, Penna.

Qabbalah: Writings of Solomon

Ibn Gebriol's Life and Writing

SOLOMON ben Yehudah Ibn Gebirol, of Cordova called by the Jews, Solomon the Sephardi, i. e., Spaniard, the Hymnologist, and by acrostic from the initials of his name, Ra S H Ba G.; by the Arabs, Abu Ay}’ub Suleiman ben-Ya’hya Ibn Djebirol, and by the scholastics, Avicebrol, Avicebron, Avicembron, etc., was bom at Malaga about 1021, educated at Saragossa, and died at Valencia, 1070. It is said, in a legend, that he was killed by a Mohammedan who was jealous of his great talents, that the murderer buried him under a fig tree, in the former’s garden; the tree bore so much fruit, of such extraordinary sweetness, that the king, informed of the phenomena, made the proprietor of the garden come before him, and being pressed by questions, the murderer ended by avowing his crime, and expiated it with his life. Ibn Gebirol may be considered as the greatest philosopher of his century.

Towards the middle of the XIth century, Ibn Gebirol began to make himself known, as a philosopher and poet, notwithstanding the repugnance towards each other, which these two branches of human thought generally evince; so as rarely to be found united in the same individual. However in Ibn Gebirol’s poetry are most profound philosophical meditations, and in his philosophical works are to be found traces of the rhetoric, lively imagination, and inspiration, of the poet. The philosophical works he wrote in Arabic, his poetry in Hebrew. In poetry, he occupied a first rank among the Jewish poets of the Middle Ages, and was, we think we are justified in saying, among all contemporary poets, the greatest poet of his time.

The Jewish poetry of the Middle Ages was much more elevated than the Arabic; it was founded upon the magnificent imagery of the ancient Hebrew prophets and poets, was based on the memories of their wonderful past, the sufferings of the present, and the hopes of a more glorious future. It was more universal. The elegies of the Jewish writers of this period were full of a sombre melancholy, their hymns and prayers full of a profound religious sentiment, and a touching resignation; and their lessons of morality and wisdom, gathered in the midst of ruins and tombs, found a reverberation in the hearts of all men, at all times; because in them were thoughts, sentiments, and emotions, for men of all countries, and of all centuries. The vanity of terrestrial things is the ruling thought, which reproduces itself under a thousand forms, in the Jewish poetry of this period. Ibn Gebirol especially, always directed his regards towards heaven, the earth had not offered him many charms, happiness had flown from him without cessation, and a settled sadness, proceeding out of all he saw, made him refuse the most legitimate and purest joys. This melancholy is apparent in writings by him, when only i6 years of age. The Kether Malkhuth or Crown of the Kingdom, was given by him the first place among his hymns, and he tells us in it, that it was written in his declining years. It is a hymn celebrating the only one and true God, and the marvels of His creation. The veil, which covers the mysteries of Nature, the poet seeks to fathom and unravel, by means of the scientific knowledge of his time. The task is divided between the spirit and the heart, between intelligence and sentiment, between knowledge and the imagination. It is not only a religious poem, but a poetical resume of the Peripatetic, Oriental, Alexandrine and Qabbalistic cosmology; and in it he endeavors, in magnificent language, to unite religion and philosophy or the spiritual and physical, in a perfect harmony, so as to glorify and praise the only True Being.

We here give a few lines from it:

“Thou art God, and all creatures are Thy servants and adorers; Thy Glory is not diminished in any way, should they adore others than Thee, because their aim is entirely, to come nearer unto Thee; but they are as the blind, it is towards the Royal route that they direct themselves, but they have strayed from the right road; one has fallen into an abyss of destruction, the other fallen into a pit. They believed that they had wholly reached the desired aim, Lut they have labored in vain. But Thy true servants are as those travelers who, marching in the right road, turn neither to the right nor to the left, until they enter into the court of the palace of the King.

“Thou art God, who supports, by Thy Divinity, all the Things formed, and sustains all the existences by Thy unity. Thou art God, and there is not any distinction established, between Thy Divinity, Thy Unity, Thy Eternity, and Thy Existence; because all is only one mystery, and, although the names may be distinct, all have only one meaning. Thou art Wise, Wisdom which is the fountain of life, floweth out from Thee, and compared with Thy Wisdom, all the knowledge of mankind is foolishness. Thou art Wise, being from all eternity, and Wisdom was always nourished by Thee. Thou art Wise, and Thou hast not acquired Thy Wisdom from another than Thyself. Thou art Wise, and from Thy Wisdom Thou hast made a determining Will, as the workman or artist does, to draw the Existence from the No-Thing, as the light which goes out of the eye extends itself. Thou didst draw from the Source of Light without the impression of any seal, i. e., form, and Thou madest all without any instrument.” This theory of the Divine Will limiting the faculty of the Highest Deity, which, unlimited, produces only the Infinite, is largely set forth in his Me’qor ‘Hayyim, i. e., The Source of Life. This Upper Will is, we think, in the Ideal Man, the Adam Qadmon of the Qabbalists, and is in the Kether of the Sephiroth, i. e., the highest point of the brain or head, of the Ideal Man. In the Kether Malkhuth, Ibn Gebirol also says: “Thine is the Might, in the mystery of which our contemplations are too feeble to stay.” “Thine is the hidden Name, from the habitations of Wisdom. “Thine is the Existence, from the shadow of the light of which all existence came.” “Thou art One, and the mystery of Thy Unity confounds the wise in heart, for they do not know what it is.” “Thou art the Living One, and he who reaches to Thy mystery, findeth eternal delight, he eats and liveth forever. He illustrates the work of creation by the simile of “the extension of light which proceeds from the eye;” and he says: “The exalted Name which is girded with Might, is one in all Its forces, like a flame of fire in Its various appearances, like the light of the eye, proceeding from the blackness of the eye, one emanating from the other, like smell from smell, light from light.”

Ibn Gebirol wrote poems and hymns as early as the age of 16 years, and a Hebrew grammar in verse at the age of 19. A writing called Choice Pearls, composed of moral maxims, is attributed to him. It is in 64 paragraphs. A Latin edition was published in Frankfurt on the Oder, in 1630, by Ebert, and it has been printed several times since in various languages. Another writing attributed to him, is, On the Soul, a Latin translation was made of it, by Archdeacon Dominic Gundissalimus, or Gundisalvi. Gebirol says he wrote, a special treatise, “On the Will”; this is lost. In 1045 A. D., he wrote the ethical-philosophic work, called Tiqqun Middoth han-Nephesh, i. e., The Correction of the Manners (Faculties, Qualities), of the Soul (or Vital Spirit, the Nephesh). In the latter work man is contemplated as the Mikrokosm, and viewed in his relation to the Makrokosm, the entire Universe, considered as the Great Universal Ideal Man or Adam Qadmon of the Qabbalah. In it, he quotes the Old Testament, the Talmud, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Arabian philosophers, and especially the maxims of a Jewish philosopher called Chefez Al-Kuti. In consequence of some personal allusions in this work, the author was obliged to leave Saragossa in 1046, and wandered about Spain, until he obtained recognition and encouragement, from Samuel ha-Levi ben Josef Ibn Nagrėla, also called Nagdilah, and by the Jews, han-Nagid, i.e., the Prince; the celebrated Prime Minister of Moorish Spain.

Before the voice of the Jewish prophets had ceased to guide that people, the Interpreters of the Thorah; i.e., the Law, or Pentateuch, the Sages, Wise-Men, and Doctors of the Mishnah and the Talmud, had began their labors, and before the great Oriental Jewish universities and schools of Mesopotamia and Babylonia were closed, centres of Jewish thought were flourishing in the West, in Italy, France, and especially, in Spain.

Rabbi Abraham ben David Ha-Levi, or Hallevy, of Toledo, Spain (d. 1180), in his Sepher haq-Qabbalah, written in 1160, says :

“After the death of the last rector, ’Hiz’qee-yah, Head of the Academy and Prince of the Exile, called the Rosh Hag-golah or Resh-galutha, the Academies were closed and no new Ge’onim appointed. But long before that time, a ship sailing from Bari was captured by Ibn Romahis, commander of the naval forces of Abd-er-rahman al-Nasr (A. D. 912-961). In this ship, were four distinguished rabbins of the celebrated Babylonian Jewish school of Sura, these were R. ‘Hushiel, father of R. ‘Hana-nel; R. Moses, father of R. ‘Ha’noch; R. Shemaryahu, son of R. Erhanan, and a fourth whose name is not given. They were sold as slaves; R. ‘Hushiel was carried to Kairuan, (in Africa); R. Shemaryahu was left in Alexandria; R. Moses was brought to Cordova; he was there ransomed as a supposed uneducated man. In that city was a synagogue known by the name of Keneseth ham-Midrash, i.e., assembly for study, and a certain R. Nathan, renowned for his great piety, was the head (or judge) of the congregation. The members held meetings at which the Talmud was read and discussed. One day when R. Nathan was expounding a Talmudic passage, he was not able to give a satisfactory explanation of it. R. Moses spoke, and at once removed the difficulty, and answered several other questions which were submitted to him. Whereupon R. Nathan thus addressed the assembly: ‘I am no longer your leader; that stranger in sackcloth shall henceforth be my teacher, and you shall appoint him your chief. The admiral upon hearing of the high attainments of his late prisoner, desired to revoke the sale, but the Khalif would not permit this, being pleased to learn, that his Jewish subjects were no longer dependent for their religious instruction on the schools of the East.”

The knowledge of Ibn Gebirol, was undoubtedly fostered by the patronage and erudition, of the before-mentioned Samuel ha-Levi ben Joseph Ibn Nagrėla, or han-Nagid, who was bom about 993 A. D., died about 1055, aged 62 years. This great scholar, usually called Samuel han-Nagid, i.e., the Prince, supported Ibn Gebirol after his banishment from Saragossa in 1046. And our author has dedicated to Samuel many of his verses. Samuel han-Nagid was educated at Cordova, in Spain, in the Jewish school of that place, by R. ’Ha’noch, son of R. Moses of Babylonia, whom we have just mentioned, in the Talmud and the history of his people, and was taught Hebrew by R. Yehuda ‘Hayyug, one the most erudite founders of Hebrew grammar. At the age of 20, owing to a revolution, he was obliged to quit his studies, for a fearful conflict between the Berbers, Arabs and Sclavonians, who composed the bodyguard of the Khalif, brought desolation on Cordova in 1013. Samuel escaped to the seaport-town, Malaga. Here he continued his former studies, and entered into others, applying himself especially to philology. He knew six languages; besides Hebrew, Chaldee or Aramaic, and Arabic, he understood Berber, Latin and Castilian. This evidences great application, mental power, and perseverance, for there was not at that time any method to facilitate the study of languages. The educated Arabs seldom knew Latin, and the Christians of Spain Seldom acquired much knowledge of Arabic. In 1027 Samuel was appointed Grand Vizier and Minister of State to the Khalif Habus, the monarch of Moorish Grenada. For nearly 30 years he occupied this position in that kingdom. During this period he found time, to write several books on the Talmud, a Jewish history, and books on proverbs, maxims, prayers, poetry, a grammar, etc. He shared his riches with every disciple of Jewish erudition, not only in Spain, but in Babylonia, Judaea, Sicily, and Africa. He kept up a thorough correspondence with all the distinguished Jews of Syria, Egypt, Irak, and Africa, took the greatest interest in their studies, and was in close relations with the African authorities on Judaism. He also employed transcribers to make many copies of the Talmuds and Holy Scriptures, which he presented to poor students.

Can we wonder if we find, that Ibn Gebirol living under the influences and learning of so great a scholar, had at the basis of his philosophical knowledge, an acquaintance with the ancient Midrashim treating on the Sod or Mysteries, the Secret Learning, afterwards termed the Tradition or Qabbalah, and which we believe, were afterwards redacted into the Zohar and the Zoharic books? Is it surprising that we find him in his Me’qor ‘Hayyim, i.e., Source of Life, and in the Kether Malkhuth, anticipating many of the statements subsequently to be found in the Zohar and Zoharic writings, if he received a knowledge of these ancient writings in their early, disconnected, Midrashic form, before they were collected and redacted in Spain? The Zohar and the books bound up with it, were accepted by the Jewish learned men, almost immediately upon their publication in MSS., as a verity, if not by the Qabbalist, R. Shim-on ben Yo’hai, at least, as containing an accepted ancient secret tradition, part likely coming through him. Everything points to this, and denies the authorship and forgery imputed by many critics, to R. Moses ben Shem-Tob de Leon of Spain, who only claimed in his writings, to be a copyist and redactor of older Qabbalistic works, and not their author. These strange, wonderful, weird writings, required more than one intellect to produce them, and contain a mine of ancient Oriental philosophical thought.

Ibn Gebirol’s process of treating his philosophical system, however, differs from that pursued in the Zohar and the Zoharic books. The Zohar proper, is a running commentary on the Five Books or Pentateuch, touching at the same time, upon numerous problems of philosophical speculation of the deepest and most sacred import, and propounding many ideas and doctrines, with an acumien, worthy to proceed from the greatest intellects. It, and the Zoharic books, support their statements by continual references and quotations, from the Old Testament. Ibn Gebirol in his, “Source of Life” does not follow this course, and differs from almost all other Jewish philosophical authors of the Middle Ages, in not quoting Scripture; nevertheless, from their similarity, his writings, and the Zohar and Zoharic books, are most probably, offshoots from the same ancient roots. The Zohar, and the fragments contained in it, were not made public in MSS., for over 225 years after Gebirol’s death, but it does not follow that its secret traditional sources, were not open to the friend of that great Jewish scholar and patron of learning, upon whose shoulders fell the traditions, learning and mantle; of the Rectors of the Babylonian schools; the erudite and celebrated, Samuel ha-Levi ben Joseph Ibn Nagrėla, also called Nagdilah, and han-Nagid, the Prince of the Jews, and Grand Vizier, under two Mohammedan Khalifs, of Moorish Spain.

It was after his recognition by Samuel han-Nagid, and about 1050, that Ibn Gebirol wrote, in Arabic, his great philosophical work, Me’qôr ‘Hayyira, i.e., Fountain of Life, called in Latin, De Materia Universali and Fons Vitæ, which is really a philosophical Qabbalistic work. He is, however, mostly known by his coreligionists, from his Kosmic Qabbalistic hymn, founded on Aristotle’s De Mundo, and based on the Ptolemaic astronomical system: the Kether Malkhuth, the Royal Crown, perhaps not incorrectly, from its referring to the highest and lowest Sephiroth, Crowned Kingdom, which we have above mentioned. We shall refer hereafter in this essay, more especially to his Me’qôr ‘Hayyîm and its connection with the wonderful Sepher haz-Zohar, or Book of Splendour, the text-book of the Hebrew Qabbalists. The Me’qôr is one of the earliest exposures of the secrets of the Speculative Qabbalah. It was first translated into Hebrew by Shem-Tob ben Joseph Ibn Falaquera. A MSS. of this translation was discovered by the learned Arabic and Hebrew, German scholar, Salomon Munk (b. 1802), one of the Librarians of the French Imperial Library, at Paris, in the “Bibliothèque Impirialé” whilst redacting its Hebrew MSS. This, he found, was almost in the words of the Latin Fons Vitce, attributed by the scholastics to Avicebron. After this he found in the same Library a MSS. in Latin of the Fons Vitæ. Afterwards in the “Bibliothiquè Mazarine” a second Latin MSS. of the same work, was discovered by Dr. Seyerlen, of Germany. M. Munk, in 1859, in his Milanges de Philosophie juive et arabe, published the Me’qor ‘Hayylm, in French, from the Hebrew MSS. translation by Falaquera, supplementing omissions by statements from the Latin MSS. We acknowledge obligations to M. Munk’s work, for assisting us in this essay, as to the contents of Ibn Gebirol’s philosophical writings.

Sometime between 1167 and 1186 R. Yehudah Ibn Tibbon, called “Father of the Translators,” in conjunction with R. Joseph Ibn Qimchi, translated, from the Arabic into Hebrew, the writings of Ibn Gebirol for the Qabbalist Asher, son of Meshullam ben Yacob, of Lunel (d. 1170 A. D.). The name of Asher has been confounded with that of the great Qabbalist Azriel, and the translation may have been for the latter, who has given us, in his: — “Questions and Answers as to the Ten Sephiroth” one of the most scientifically philosophical expositions of these Qabbalistic intermediaries, between God and all the existences, ever published. Meshullam was teacher of the celebrated Qabbalist, R. Abraham ben David, junior, of Posquieres, France (d. 1198), called acrostically R A Ba D. In the XII century, Joannes Hispalensis, or, of Seville, also called Abendehut, perhaps the same as Ibn David and Andreas, whom Roger Bacon says, was the real Author of that, which Michael Scot, called the Wizard (d. circa 1290), published as his own writing; made a translation from the Arabic of some of Albenzubrun’s (Ibn Gebirors) works. Abraham ben David (called Ibn Daud by the Arabs, also called Ben Dior) ha-Levi, or Hallevy, the Elde; of Toledo, Spain, who died ajnartyr in 1180; in 1160 A. D., in Spain, attempted with bitterness, a refutation of Ibn GebiroFs philosophy in his writing called The Sublime Faith, in which Abraham b. David tries to put the Jewish religion in accord with Aristotelian ism. He wrote the Sepher haq-Qabbalah above mentioned. In 1209 the Fons Vita, of our author, and the celebrated book, De Causisy were interdicted by the University of Paris, as Aristotelian. In 1502 the Neo-Platonic Jewish Qabbalist, of the School of Count Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, R. Yehudah Abravanel, also known as Messer Leone Hebreo, and Leo Hebrseus, is acquainted with our author, but only from Christian authorities, and calls him, Albenzubrun. Ibn Gebirol’s writings are of great importance to Oriental scholars, from the assistance they render to the settlement of questions as to the authenticity, authorship, and authority of the Zoharic writings, the antiquity of the Qabbalistic philosophy, its earliest formulated ideas, and its origin.

The Sepher ha-Zohar; Writings as to, its Bibliography, Authors and Antiquity

AS we have already stated, the Zoharic writings were not published as MSS. to the uninitiated, until some 225 years after the death of Ibn Gebirol; his writings, however, when compared with them, tend to confirm the opinion, that they have an older common source, and the learned German Jewish orientalist, Salomon Munk, is compelled to acknowledge, that after investigation, the Zohar, and the fragments bound up with it, entire, are neither the work of a simple cheat, nor a pure invention, but the editor or compiler used very ancient documents, among others, certain Midrashim, which we do not possess to-day, and Falaquéra says, that Ibn Gebirol’s Meqôr ’Hayylm, contains an antiquated or ancient system, going back to philosophers of the highest antiquity. R. Moses Shem-Tob de Leon, who has been termed, by most of those opposed to these writings, their forger, expressly tells us, that he only edited and compiled them from the works of older writers, among others, from those attributed to the School of the Tannaite, R. Shim-on ben Yo’hai. A large room could be filled with the books written upon the validity or forgery of the Zoharic writings. In our time. Dr. Adolph Jellinek, Drf Hirsch Graetz, Dr. A. Tholuck, Dr. Abraham Geiger, Dr. Leopold Zunz, S. D. Luzzatto, Dr. Christian D. Ginsburg, and earlier, the French ecclesiastic Jean Morin, Lewis Cappelus, Jacques Basnage de Beauval, Frederick Strunz, Gabriel Groddeck, Buxtorf, the Elder, Scaliger and Winder, among others, think they were written by R. Moses de Leon.

The learned M. H. Landauer was just as positive, that they were written by R. Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia. The erudite Samuel Cahen, in his Great French Bible, is sure that they were composed by a convocation of Christianized Rabbins, sitting together for the purpose, in a monastery in Spain, and employing R. Moses de Leon, to publish their work.

In favor of their antiquity, and that they were not written by Moses de Leon, in modem times, are, Franz Joseph Molitor, Dr. Adolphe Franck, Dr. D. H. Joel, Salomon Munk, Dr. J. W. Etheridge, David Luria, Dr. J. M. Jost, Dr. John Gill, M. H. Landauer, Ignatz Stem, Leopold Low, John Allen, Jacob Frank, Joh. Ant. Bemh. Lutterbeck, Eh’phas Levi (Abbe Louis Constant), Moses ben R. Me’na-a’hem Mendel Konitz, etc. Earlier, Raymond Lully, John Reuchlin, Pico della Mirandola, the learned Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, Dr. John Lightfoot, Giulio Bartolocci (de Celano), Augustus Pfeiffer, Valentine Ernest Loescher, Christian Knorr von Rosenroth, Henry Cornelius Agrippa, of Nettesheim, John Baptist van Helmont, Franz Mercurius van Helmont, Dr. Robert Fludd, Dr. Henry More, Buxtorff, the Youngeis Rev. John Francis Buddaeus, Dr. Johann Friedrich von Meyer, the Cardinal Ægidius of Viterbo, Christian Schoettgen, Rev. John Christopher Wolff, Jacques Matter, and many others.

Uncertain as to the author, but opposing the books, are many of the orthodox Jewish Talmudists, also the learned bibliographer M. Steinschneider, although he acknowledges a deficiency of thorough study upon the subject. R. Jacob Emden, named acrostically Ya Be T Z, started out to oppose them, using Morins arguments. From the very excellent introduction of Dr. Adolph Jellinek (or Gellinek), to his German translation of Prof. Adolphe Francks La Kabbale, we condense the following: There are three names under which more especially the wonderful monument of the Qabbalah appears. I. Midrash of the Rabbi Shim-on ben Yo’hai. “This name,” Jellinek says; “speaks for the genuineness of the work.” II. Midrash va-Ye’hee Or, i. e., “Midrash; let there be light !” So called because in some of the MSS. the explanation to the verse in Genesis i. e., Yehee or, forms the beginning of the work, or which is more probable, because it leads the reader to the light imparted to him through this book. III. Zohar, i.e., Splendour or Light, called so after Daniel xii, 3. This last name has become the governing one since the

compilation called Yu’hazin, which was published in Constantinople 1502 A. D. It is so called, either because it begins with the theme as to the light, or because the word Zohar frequently occurs on the first page. In the work itself it is also sometimes called by this name. (Comp. Raӱah Me’hemnah III, 153 b.) Mena’hem di Recanati of Italy, circa 1290-1320, commented upon it as undoubtedly genuine and calls it: The Book of Zohar, The Wonderful Book of the Zohar, Book of the Great Zohar. R. Isaac Ibn Minir (1330) terms it, the Midrash Haz-Zohar, also Midrash of R. Shim-on ben Yohai. Other early. Qabbalists call it, Book of the Holy Zohar by R. Shira-on ben Yo’hai. The Zohar is also quoted by R. Moses de Leon, the alleged forger, in his other writings; it is referred to by name by Yo-seph ben Abraham Ibn Wakkar of Toledo (flour. A. D. 1 290-1 340), referring as a Qabbalist to the Ten Sephiroth, he recommends as reliable guides: the Talmudim, Midrash Rabboth, Siphra, Siphree, Bahir, Peraqim of R. Eliezer, the opinions of Nachmanides and Todros Ha Levi Abulafia, also the Zohar, but says the latter has some errors. The reason of this remark was, Ibn Wakkar desired to introduce Aristotelianism into the Jewish philosophy and found the Zohar in his way. The Zohar is mentioned, with favor, by Todros (Theodorus) Ha-Levi Abulafia (b. circa 1204, died 1283 A.D., at Seville). We have not space in this writing to go fully into the subject, but it is certain that the Zohar was accepted as a correct exposition of orthodox Hebrew Qabbalism, immediately upon its publication, which universal reception is strong proof for the antiquity of its doctrines. Its opponents were almost universally Jewish Aristotelians, who therefore opposed the ancient Secret Learning of the Israelites, because it was more in accord with the Philosophy of Plato and Pythagoras, and indeed most likely originated from the same sources, the Aryan and Chaldean esoteric doctrine.

The book Zohar proper, is a Qabbalistic commentary on the Penta-teuch, wherein the entire system of the Hebrew Qabbalah is compiled. It is written partly in Hebrew and partly in Chaldee or Aramaic, and is a mine of occultism, giving the mystical foundation of the Mosaic ordinances, poetical and philosophical views on the Kosmogony and Kosmology of the Universe, soul, redemption, triad, sin, evil, etc.; mystical expositions of many of the laws and appearances in nature, e.g., light, elements, astronomy, magnet, etc.; explanations of the symbolism of the Song of Solomon, of the construction of the Tabernacle, etc.; forming a complete Qabbalistic Theosophy. In its present form in the editions as hereinafter set forth, there are imbedded in the Zohar proper, the following independent works.

The books bound together and generically termed the Zohar are: —

1. The Zohar properly so-called. That is a running Commentary on the first Five books of the Old Testament, or the Pentateuch.

2. Siphrah D’Tznioothah, Book of Mystery, Concealment or Modesty.

3. Idrah Rabbah, The Great Assembly (of the Threshing-floor).

4. Idrah Zootah, The Small Assembly (held in the house of R. Shim-on ben Yo’hai).

*5. Sabah D’ Mispatim, The (discourse of the) Aged Pne in Mish-patim. (Exodus xxi-xxiv inclusive.)

*6. Midrash Ruth, (Fragments).

*7. Sepher Hab-bahir, Book of Brightness.

Ocean 2.0 Reader. Empty coverOcean 2.0 Reader. Book is closedOcean 2.0 Reader. FilterOcean 2.0 Reader. Compilation cover