Christian Kabbalah

Title of Reuchlin's De arte cabalistica libri tres, iam denua adcurate revisi, 1530.
front page of Francesco Giorgi's De harmonia mundi.
Sephirotic diagram from Knorr von Rosenroth's Kabbala Denudata.

Christian Kabbalah arose during the Renaissance due to Christian scholars' interest in the mysticism of Jewish Kabbalah, which they interpreted according to Christian theology.

- Christian Kabbalah

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Giovanni Pico della Mirandola

Italian Renaissance nobleman and philosopher.

Portrait from the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence
Castle of Mirandola in 1976
The Childhood of Pico della Mirandola by Hippolyte Delaroche, 1842, Musée d'Arts de Nantes
Lorenzo de' Medici by Giorgio Vasari, c. 1533–1534
Innocent VIII, 15th century
Angel Appearing to Zacharias (detail), by Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1486–90, showing (l–r) Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino, Poliziano and Demetrios Chalkondyles
Figure from Raphael's The School of Athens, possibly Pico della Mirandola.

He was the founder of the tradition of Christian Kabbalah, a key tenet of early modern Western esotericism.

Hermetic Qabalah

Western esoteric tradition involving mysticism and the occult.

The Sephirothic tree showing the lightning flash and the paths
The Qabalistic Tree of Life in the Servants of the Light organisation's Hermetic theory
Syncretism of Cabala, Alchemy, Astrology and other esoteric Hermetic disciplines in Stephan Michelspacher's Cabala, Spiegel der Kunst und Natur: in Alchymia (1615)
The "Kircher Tree": Athanasius Kircher's 1652 depiction of the Tree of Life, based on a 1625 version by Philippe d'Aquin. This is still the most common arrangement of the Sephiroth and paths on the tree in Hermetic Qabalah

Hermetic Qabalah arose alongside and united with the Christian Cabalistic involvement in the European Renaissance, becoming variously Esoteric Christian, non-Christian, or anti-Christian across its different schools in the modern era.


Esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism.

Jewish Kabbalists portrayed in 1641; woodcut on paper. Saxon University Library, Dresden.
Kabbalistic prayer book from Italy, 1803. Jewish Museum of Switzerland, Basel.
Latin translation of Gikatilla's Shaarei Ora
The Ark of the Covenant in Solomon's Temple was the seat for God's presence. Ezekiel and Isaiah had prophetic visions of the angelic heavenly Chariot and Divine Throne
Grave of Rabbi Akiva in Tiberias. He features in Hekhalot mystical literature, and as one of the four who entered the Pardes
The grave of Shimon bar Yochai in Meron before 1899. A Talmudic Tanna, he is the mystical teacher in the central Kabbalistic work, the Zohar
The 13th-century eminence of Nachmanides, a classic rabbinic figure, gave Kabbalah mainstream acceptance through his Torah commentary
The leading scholars of Safed in 16th-century invigorated mainstream Judaism through new legal, liturgical, exegetical and Lurianic-mythological developments.
Synagogue Beit El Jerusalem. Oriental Judaism has its own chain of Kabbalah
The 16th-century Maharal of Prague articulated a mystical exegesis in philosophical language
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, a leading Italian kabbalist, also wrote secular works, which the Haskalah see as the start of modern Hebrew literature
The Vilna Gaon, 18th-century leader of rabbinic opposition to Hasidism—a Kabbalist who opposed Hasidic doctrinal and practical innovations
Synagogue of the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, in Medzhybizh (Ukraine). It gave a new phase to Jewish mysticism, seeking its popularisation through internal correspondence.
The Kabbalist (c. 1910–1920), portrait of an Hasidic man in Jewish religious clothing performed by the Austro-Hungarian Jewish painter Isidor Kaufmann (Jewish Museum, New York)
Metaphorical scheme of emanated spiritual worlds within the Ein Sof
Scheme of descending Sephirot in three columns, as a tree with roots above and branches below
In the 16–17th centuries Kabbalah was popularised through a new genre of ethical literature, related to Kabbalistic meditation
Amulet from the 15th century. Theosophical kabbalists, especially Luria, censored contemporary Practical Kabbalah, but allowed amulets by Sages
Joseph Karo's role as both legalist and mystic underscores Kabbalah's spiritualisation of normative Jewish observance
Building on Kabbalah's conception of the soul, Abraham Abulafia's meditations included the "inner illumination of" the human form
16th-century graves of Safed, Galilee. The messianic focus of its mystical renaissance culminated in Lurianic thought.
Title page of first printed edition of the Zohar, main sourcebook of Kabbalah, from Mantua, Italy in 1558
Golden age of Spanish Judaism on the Knesset Menorah, Maimonides holding Aristotle's work
Kabbalah mysticism on the Knesset Menorah, which shared some similarities of theory with Jewish Neoplatonists
Tikkun for reading through the night of Shavuot, a popular Jewish custom from the Safed Kabbalists
A version of Lekhah Dodi song to welcome the Shabbat, a cross denomination Jewish custom from Kabbalah

The definition of Kabbalah varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it, from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later adaptations in Western esotericism (Christian Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah).

Tree of life

Fundamental archetype in many of the world's mythologies, religious, and philosophical traditions.

An 1847 depiction of the Norse Yggdrasil as described in the Icelandic Prose Edda by Oluf Olufsen Bagge
17th-century depiction of the tree of life in Palace of Shaki Khans, Azerbaijan
Confronted animals, here ibexes, flank a tree of Life, a very common motif in the art of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean
Assyrian tree of life, from Nimrud panels.
The Urartian tree of life
Tree of life on a rhyton from Marlik, Iran, currently at the National Museum of Iran.
Bronze Tree with birds, flowers, and ornaments from Sanxingdui
Allegorical painting of the Tree of Life in the Church of San Roque of Arahal (Seville). Oil on canvas by anonymous author. Dated 1723
Manichaeans worshiping the Tree of Life in the Realm of Light. Mid 9th — early 11th century.
11th century tree of life sculpture at an ancient Swedish church
Carpet tree of life
Judaic Kabbalah tree of life 10 Sefirot, through which the Ein Sof unknowable divine manifests Creation. The configuration relates to man
The tree of life, as seen as in flag of Chuvashia, a Turkic state in the Russian Federation

From the time of the Renaissance onwards, Jewish Kabbalah became incorporated as an important tradition in non-Jewish Western culture, first through its adoption by Christian Kabbalah, and continuing in Western esotericism occult Hermetic Qabalah.

Christian theosophy

Christian theosophy, also known as Boehmian theosophy and theosophy, refers to a range of positions within Christianity that focus on the attainment of direct, unmediated knowledge of the nature of divinity and the origin and purpose of the universe.

An idealised portrait of Jakob Böhme

Faivre describes the "theosophic current" or theosophy as a single esoteric current among seven other esoteric currents in early modern Western thought (i.e., alchemy, astrology, Neo-Alexandrian Hermeticism, Christian Kabbalah, Paracelsism—that is, the studying of the "prognostications" of Paracelsus—philosophia occulta and Rosicrucianism).

Pseudodoxia Epidemica

Work by Thomas Browne challenging and refuting the "vulgar" or common errors and superstitions of his age.

Title-page of 1658 4th edition of Pseudodoxia Epidemica

The German Christian Cabalist Christian Knorr von Rosenroth translated the book into German in 1680.

Frances Yates

English historian of the Renaissance, who wrote books on esoteric history.

Frances Yates in graduation robes, 1924
Frances Yates in graduation robes, 1924
The Warburg Institute in Woburn Square, London

In 1979, Yates published The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, in which she discussed the place of the Christian Cabala during the Renaissance and its influence on Christian Neoplatonism.

Christian Knorr von Rosenroth

Sculpture of Christian Knorr von Rosenroth in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, by Peter Kuschel
Sefirotic diagram from Christian von Rosenroth's Kabbala Denudata.

Christian Knorr von Rosenroth ( 15/16 July 1636 – 4 May 1689) was a German Christian Hebraist and Christian Cabalist born at Alt-Raudten (today Stara Rudna) in Silesia.

Pietro Colonna Galatino

Italian Friar Minor, philosopher, theologian and Orientalist.

A cross, Christ's arm and Saint Francis's arm, a universal symbol of the Franciscans

Resolved to combat the Jews on their own ground, he turned the Cabbala against them, and sought to convince them that their own books yielded proof of the truth of the Christian religion, hence their opposition to it should be branded as obstinacy.

Western esotericism

Term scholars use to categorise a wide range of loosely related ideas and movements that developed within Western society.

The tree of life as represented in the Kabbalah, containing the Sephiroth.
A colored version of the 1888 Flammarion engraving
The Magician, a tarot card displaying the Hermetic concept of "as above, so below." Faivre connected this concept to 'correspondences', his first defining characteristic of esotericism
A later illustration of Hermes Trismegistus
The Masonic Square and Compasses.
Hypnotic séance. Painting by Swedish artist Richard Bergh, 1887
Pentagram of Eliphas Levi
Sculpture of the Horned God of Wicca found in the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, Cornwall
London's Warburg Institute was one of the first centres to encourage the academic study of Western esotericism
Prominent scholar of esotericism Wouter Hanegraaff

Pico della Mirandola's increased interest in Jewish kabbalah led to his development of a distinct form of Christian Kabbalah.