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The Influence of Kabbalah on the West

Yakov Leib HaKohain
(with a few additions by M.Alan Kazlev)

Outside the sphere of Judaism, Kabbalah has had a  termendous influence on Western thought.

In the seventeenth century Christian Knorr von Rosenroth wrote The Kabbalah Denudata, the first translation of the Zohar from its original "Hebrew" (actually a strange combination of  Hebrew, Ladino, Aramaic, etc.) into another language, Latin. It was this document that had a profound effect on the early Alchemists and also the so-called "Christian" Kabbalists and, through them, the so-called "Western" or "Hermetic" Kabbalah.  The latter draws from, but is now pretty much divorced from the main body of Jewish speculation, having developed within a Christian milieu.

Jacob Frank (Yakov Leib Frank) was a favorite of the Empress Marie Teressa and the thousands of Kabbalistic Jews he brought into Catholic conversion in the early 18th century were, along with their ideas, assimilated into the Polish nobility, intelligensia and Roman Church. His movement has been credited with fomenting the Turkish, French and even American revolutions.

Rosicrucianism also has its roots in Kabbalah, and particularly the Zohar.

Similarly Freemasonry and the "Order of Illuminati" founded by Adam Weishaupt in the late 1700's.

All the founding fathers of the United States were Freemasons and, therefore, indirectly influenced by Kabbalah, as were the philosophers D'Alembert and Voltaire.

In 1863 Christian Ginsberg, a Jewish convert to the Church of England, wrote the first scholarly and extremely knowledgeable expositions of the Kabbalah. It was reissued by Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd. in 1955, but has been out of print for some time.

The psychoanalyst David Bakan argues convincingly that Freud was influenced, directly and indirectly, by the Kabbalah (or Hassidic psychology?) as was - through his enormous impact on it - the whole of Western civilization.

The Roman Catholic Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, although not expressly a Kabbalist, is a Jewish convert to the Church who continues to practice the Jewish Sabbath and other rituals which have strong Kabbalistic implications.(Incidently, this "Jewish" Cardinal is considered a strong contender for being elected Pope, and it is a Kabbalistic tradition that the Jewish Messiah will come when the Catholic Pope becomes a Jew.)


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