Maybe the very first puzzle that crops up for the beginner is the different spellings for the word itself. We peruse the bookstores and the Internet. Is it Qabalah, Kabbalah or Cabala? Which is correct? What’s the difference, what does it mean, or does it matter at all?
The original Hebrew/Chaldea word was spelled: קבלה, transcribed in the reverse order into English as QBLH, Qabalah. That first letter, ק, Qoph, is transcribed into the English 'Q'.
The Jews were dispersed throughout Europe for many centuries. Two major groups wrote of the Qabalah in those Medieval times: The Ashkenazim in Germany; and the Sephardi in Spain. In Germany Hebrew letter Qoph took the sound of 'K'. Qabalah became Kabbalah in the German translations of Hebrew originals. In Spain the early Jewish writers wrote in early Latin, which had no ‘K’ (except for copying Greek words). To copy the ‘Q’ sound from Hebrew the Latin transcribed it as ‘C’. So Qabalah became Cabala in the Latin translations of Hebrew originals (later they wrote in Spanish also, but kept that ‘C’). Much later, after the invention of the printing press in the late 1400s, the varied translations of Hebrew letter Qoph into those other tongues were carried over from script to type. Then, English translations of those texts kept the spellings of the regions. So today we see Qabalah, Kabbalah and Cabala from different printers around the world. In Europe one may even come across the rare French version (Qu) from Qabalists who resided there.
Nonetheless, the spirit behind all the Dogmatic writings of Qabalah/Kabbalah/Cabala from one country or another purported the same essential content. The different English spellings with Q, K or C for the word mean nothing. There is, however, esoteric implications behind the original Hebrew spelling קבלה, QBLH. This is addressed in detail within the section "קבלה, QBLH" from the Index.
Dogmatic Qabalah proposes an initial level of reading instruction with which we can approach the overall subject. Everyone begins with the Dogmatic Qabalah. Most, after a period, stop there. This level of material can be examined through texts offered in most of the modern languages. We need not be fluent in Hebrew or even be Jewish to appreciate the general description and sub-topics. The various authors may be Jewish or Gentile, and from all parts of the globe. The literature generally delves into the origins and history of Qabalah, the early key personalities, and some of the basic tenets as the Tree of Life with its Spheres and Paths, the Hebrew/Chaldean alphabet, the Three Veils of the Absolute, the Four Worlds, and other fundamentals with which to explore and guide us into the deeper elements if we feel so inclined, or pulled.
There is a mountain of Qabalistic literature made available in recent decades. Unfortunately, because this is the lowermost and most easily accessible Qabalah in bookstores and on-line, there may be many authors seemingly unqualified to write about it or to make on-line videos concerning it. This has put off some initial investigators. Some zealous writers very new to Qabalah get excited with the subject. It may come upon us like that. Feeling inspired, the neophyte must tell others of their initial discoveries but end with merely repeating the same information that is commonly offered from many other sources. The fresh, beginning explorers in Qabalistic literature are exposed to a legion of individuals who themselves might be suspect. It takes considerable time and concerted effort even to realize if the initial information that had been presented has put the investigator on a meaningful and intelligible path. Initially we are too ill informed even to formulate, let alone ask, the right questions. It is not that these zealous writers are deliberately deceiving us, I do not believe that that is the case. It just might be that some presenters are merely not seasoned enough with the material to lead beginners. Only you can be the ultimate judge for yourself.
So when it comes to these initial investigations it does behoove us to take notice of the authors. And be patient. Try not to let the first, disappointing author/commentator dissuade you too soon. Learn to discriminate wisely, or you may end up guzzling Kabbalah Water or sporting red wrist bands. While it is true, as stated above, we need not be fluent in Hebrew or be Jewish to investigate this beginning level of Qabalah, it most certainly helps that the authors we come to rely upon would be at least very familiar with the particular language or be a native commentator. Any subject can only be taught properly, or introduced initially, by a purveyor somewhat accomplished with the material.
There are also many different schools teaching Qabalah on-line. Stay skeptical, and maintain a sense of humor might be good advice. Some groups require fees. Some insist you join their site with log-ins and passwords. Some of these schools offer little genuine erudite information. One basic shortcoming with the on-line presentations is that we are listening to individuals who are putting forth their personal views on the subject. This of course might not be too detrimental unless they come across sounding overwhelmingly dictatorial. They themselves may not have the necessary grasp and/or experience to teach or even introduce others to a proven path. They might be on-line merely to make money. Some offer lessons so structured as to prevent any supplemental references to support their claims. Should we attempt any verification from other sources and texts, or measure the material against another school or individual teacher, we discover that we must relearn an entirely new vocabulary; that the venue we began with uses vocabulary utterly foreign to all other sources we may investigate for corroboration. Once more, some teachers do not seem to remind viewers that Qabalah also means reception, and that the reception is intensely personal and private. The hidden, sacred elements that may be given to our lower, outer, self-conscious awareness come from the very inner depths of our being. Very, very few, if any, presentations offered over the Internet tell us exactly how we may come to that Source within us. We are very often left fending for ourselves, which precludes the necessity of tuning into their particular brand of Qabalah in the first place. One will learn very little in the long run, and the need to relearn it all again elsewhere may become frustrating, tedious and disheartening. Best to change from such a school or individual immediately. There are even native Jewish schools teaching Qabalah, but dismiss entirely the material in the New Testament of The Bible. The Acts and Revelation, for example, are packed with Qabalistic symbolism, but these and other books of the NT are ignored altogether because the Jewish faith does not recognize New Testament literature.
My suggestion would be not to rely on merely one venue with studies in Qabalah. A reputable purveyor of any proven esoteric Wisdom would offer an array of supplemental resources for reference and verification. Eternal truths can always be verified from several directions. The study of Qabalistic Ageless Wisdom is an investigation of the entire cosmos from its inception, its expanding divergences, and its potentially future trajectories. It is a hidden science and as such it is demonstrable in all its guises. Its truths are evidenced and eventually verifiable by all the genuine physical sciences, and concur with all other proven veins of esoteric literature rooted from East or West. The mythologies of several ancient cultures hold these truths within the personification of principles disguised as characters in celestial drama. Self promoted schools or teachers who narrow their curriculum with special vocabularies, elitist pontifications and unsupported declarations are substituting their hidden agenda under supposed ‘privileged’ information. Some schools might dupe their followers with 'inner, advanced' and 'secret' information and initiations after extorting certain ‘fees’ from the ‘selected’ few. The difficulty for those unaware, duped disciples is that they are left absorbing dictates as the “gospel according to whomever” without the advantage of cross references for any verification. Please be aware, and beware, of any schools or individuals declaring “my way or the highway” by subtle nuance. Genuine venues of eternal truths are open to and welcome, and indeed support, all corroboration willingly because diversity verifies their own particular curriculum. Genuine Qabalah teaches us how to investigate our universe through many sub-texts. The study will lead us into many labyrinths for verification.
I can personally recommend four outlets in the United States that offer credible information in Ageless Wisdom toward understanding the universe as a whole and our particular place in it. They have chapters throughout the world. And there are, most assuredly, more such venues. However, over the years I have physically been involved with the four mentioned here and have studied with each over some time. During the period of my studies with them they all served course lessons to the home address. The charge for those lessons at the time of my tenure was merely for the postal mail service, which was extremely fair in my opinion. One can Google all these outlets for the more current specifics:
Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.), Los Angeles, CA
The Rosicrucian Order (AMORC), San Jose, CA
Manly P. Hall’s Philosophical Research Society, Los Angeles, CA
Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship. Encinitas, CA.
This last one is not in the Western Tradition, but the fundamental principles are similar for those leaning to the Eastern Traditions. All roads lead Home.
One final basic problem forming hurdles toward a deeper understanding of the Hidden Qabalah might be the ardent aspirant’s need for sincere and serious insight into one’s own personality complex. In other words, that ‘old’ personality eventually needs to be torn down, that old life, which is the product of our accrued self-conscious and subconscious experiences. We hold built-up patterns of bias and prejudice layered upon the previous course of our lives in this world before we even heard the word Qabalah; our parentage, our ethnicity, our religion by birth or choice, our cultural habits, our early education, and even our economic background have all shaped us heretofore. The lower self-conscious mind is full of pseudo ego patterns biased against anything that might usurp its false identity and misused power. Some individuals refuse to follow instruction, thinking they know best about something they know nothing. The sub-conscious mind is full of resistances formed of ignorant habit patterns and preconceived ideas that foster knee-jerk reactions against anything radically new and especially threatening. Moreover, what puts many beginning miners off are the short comings within us that surface to glaring conscious awareness. Many of us do not appreciate having these shortcomings in our psychological underworld exposed, even if it is a private exposé to us alone. We must release our pseudo sense of self importance altogether. It all may appear much too threatening and unsettling. Submitting ourselves to a proven method for breaking down all those resistances may appear all too daunting.
Consequently, for many this is as far into this Qabalah stuff the curious are willing to venture. This is perfectly fine of course. An introduction to the material is all we may actually need or want with this initial exposure. After all, we have an eternity. That is, the Soul within us has eternity. The pseudo, petty, personality self, within this temporal body named and numbered on all our worldly documentation has no future whatsoever beyond death. The Soul within us will reincarnate to begin another earthly sojourn just as we did this one, with no conscious memory of any of it. Only that which pertained to the Soul in this and previous lives will eventually return with a new vehicle for a new, continuing round; until we are fully enlightened.
Now, for those of us who have exhausted books of words tending to repeat themselves, there is another venue of the Qabalah that teaches methodology whereby we may examine a deeper stratum. Lacking this next level with its particular set of tools the aspirant then discovers the Book of Formation (Sepher Yetzirah) and the Zohar completely inaccessible to inquiry. Even the English and other modern language translations remain enigmatic. The Bible in English and other modern languages remains confusing, contradictory and fraught with conundrum and enigma.
That next level is the Literal Qabalah.