within, held in adoration by the Mohammedans, as containing the black stone said to have been given by an angel to Abraham.The word is derived from the Hebrew Kabal, signifying to receive, because it is the doctrine received from the elders.
In what estimation the Cabala is held by Jewish scholars, we may learn from the traditions which they teach, and which Doctor Ginsburg has given in his exhaustive work ( Kabbalah, page 84) in the following words: The Cabalah was first taught by God himself to a select company of angels, who formed a theosophic school in Paradise.And when the remains were deposited in the tomb, another voice was heard from heaven, saying, "This is he who caused the earth to quake and the kingdoms to shake!" His son, Rabbi Eliezer, and his secretary, Rabbi Abba, as well as his disciples, then collated Rabbi Simon ben Jochai's treatises, and out of these composed the celebrated work called Sohar, that is, Splendor, which is the grand storehouse of Cabalism.The Cabala is divided into two kinds, the Practical and the Theoretieal.The Practical Cabala is occupied in instructions for the construction of talismans and amulets, and has no connection with Masonic science.By the aid of this mysterious science, the lawgiver was enabled to solve the difficulties which arose during his management of the Israelites, in spite of the pilgrimages, wars, and the frequent miseries oi the nation.
He covertly laid down the principles of this secret doctrine in the first four books of the Pentateuch, but withheld them from Deuteronomy.
It was in this way that the Egyptians obtained some knowledge of it, and the other Eastern nations could introduce it into their philosophical systems.
Moses, who was learned in all the wisdom of Egypt, was first initiated into it in the land of his birth, but became most proficient in it during his wanderings in the wilderness, when he not only devoted to it the leisure hours of the whole forty years, but received lessons in it from one of the angels.
The origin of the Cabala has been placed by some scholars at a period posterior to the advent of Christianity, but it is evident, from the traces of it which are found in the Book of Daniel, that it arose at a much earlier day.
It has been supposed to be derived originally from the system of Zoroaster, but whether its inventors were the contemporaries or the successors of that philosopher and reformer it is impossible to say.
It has sometimes been used in an enlarged sense, as comprehending all the explanations, maxims, and ceremonies which have been traditionally handed down to the Jews; but in that more limited acceptation, in which it is intimately connected with the symbolic science of Freemasonry, the Cabala may be defined to be a system of philosophy which embraces certain mystical interpretations of Scripture, and metaphysical and spiritual beings.