Kabbalah, Theosophy or Hermetic Cross
Since launching this website, several people have written to us asking for clarification on various cross styles:
- "Does a Budded Cross always have twelve buds, or can it have eight?"
- "Is the Right beam of the cross on the right-hand side as seen by the viewer, or from the perspective of the crucified person?"
And we've usually been able to provide reasonable answers.
But when we get questions like:
- "What does Theosophy Cross look like?"
- "What does Hermetic Cross look like?"
- "What does a Kabbalah Cross look like?"
... then we've been stuck. There is no commonly accepted design because such crosses are rarely used by Theosophists, Hermeticists, Kabbalists, and so on. The Kabbalah Cross shown on this page is just something we've made up.
This image would be ridiculed by practicing Theosophists, Hermeticists and Kabbalists, as well as many other esoteric groups and occult societies, since the cross is a recognized Christian symbol. Some Rosicrucians call themselves Christian Cabalists, but like Jewish Kabbalism, Mystical Kabbalism, Neo-Gnostic, Pagan, Occult, Wicca, New Age, and so on, Kabbalah is universal and has no special relationship with any particular religion.
Appending 'Cross' to the term 'Kabbalah' implies there is a Christian basis. There isn't. Some may see an affinity of certain Kabbalistic doctrines with those of Christianity, but Kabbalah does not include the belief that Jesus is Christ.
It's impossible to define Kabbalah precisely in universal terms because it is very much a subjective belief system. 'Kabbalah' has become a name for the system of esoteric theosophy which began in the early 10th century. By the 12th century, it was the exclusive appellation for Jewish religious philosophy, which claims to have been handed down from Adam by word of mouth through patriarchs and elders. The emphasis remains Old Testament.
Of course, some of the smaller Christian denominations have a few unorthodox views about Christ or the meaning of the Crucifixion. But Kabbalah distances itself even further from the belief that God came to earth as a man. Jesus as Christ runs counter to the Kabbalist discipline.
Nevertheless, some people do link esotericism with Christianity, along perhaps with a sprinkling of astrology or other ideas, so we find such symbols appearing on book covers and elsewhere with the caption Esoteric Cross.
The cross we've made up for this page includes a few popular features:
- Celtic cross form, favoured by New Agers, since it incorporates a circle, an ancient and universal symbol of unity, infinity and everlasting life. To pagans it represents Mother Earth and the feminine. To Gnostics it represents the "world serpent" (Ouroboros) forming a circle as it eats its own tail. The circle also represents the sun, considered supremely important for millennia and associated with many deities, including Horus and Amun-Ra.
- Cross to represent salvation, Neopagans might see it as symbolizing the four directions: north, east, south, and west, and also the four 'classical elements' respected by the ancient philosophers: earth, water, air, and fire.
Other embedded symbols are optional, including:
- Eye of the Ancient Egyptian sun-god Horus or the 'All Seeing Eye' used for spiritual sight, inner vision, higher knowledge. Also interpreted as the Eye of Providence, which is useful for keeping evil at bay. This assumes, of course, that evil is always from an external source, suggesting that evil doesn't come from within ourselves.
- Astrological glyphs represent the band of twelve constellations that encircle earth and hold the keys of fate. Just how, or why, lumps of rock should or could, effect the fate of life on other planets is beyond belief for most people these days, but there are still plenty of fortune tellers in business so perhaps there is something behind it all.
- The Square and Set of Compasses are tools of the architect and mason, symbols dating from the Middle Ages. Freemasons understand these measuring instruments represent judgement and discernment.
They are taught to "square their actions by the square of virtue" and to "circumscribe their desires and keep their passions within due bounds toward all mankind". Generally speaking, the fraternity of Masons believe in a Supreme Being or Architect who created the Universe (see www.ugle.org.uk), which contrasts with mainstream Kabbalistic thought. Kabbalists generally believe that whilst God definitely exists and is, by definition, Supreme, God is not a being.
The nature of God in Kabbalism is complex, but simply speaking, they believe that God is neither matter nor spirit, since God is above such entities and created them. The nature of God is beyond man's comprehension; in other words, man cannot know God.
Such a concept is unacceptable to adherents of religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., plus groups such as the Masons. They all believe in a God who is a being, alive, and who can not only be known, but with whom we can communicate.
- pentagram, hexagram or Mogen Dovid is also useful for adding exotic mysticism. The emblem of modern Judaism is the six-pointed Star of David. In Kabbalism, this pattern symbolizes the six directions of space (north, south, east, west, up, down) plus the centre. The six points are made from two triangles; one pointing up and one pointing down. These two interlinked triangles represent male and female genitalia, the spiritual intercourse of male and female energy. The result of this union produces new spiritual life.
(See also Sex and the Church for a bit more background.)
- The Ankh; steeped in pre-Abrahamic religious thought and representing eternal life. As with the Celtic Cross, it is ancient, pre-Christian, and full of profound meaning. (See Ankh Cross)
- Just the presence of the Yin-Yang manages to introduce Eastern mysticism into the cross. The Yin-Yang symbolizes equilibrium and balance twixt the spiritual and physical. Like the Balance Scales also shown in the upper-right part of our figure above, it reminds us of the goal to strive for harmony between all opposites: light/dark, male/female, etc.
- runes are even more ancient.
- Other symbols might include a Crescent Moon: Pagans tell us that an aging goddess is the polarity of the universe and the Crescent Moon is a symbol of this goddess.
Tree of Life
Conspicuously absent from this diagram is a Tree of Life. This does not pretend to describe God, since for Kabbalists, the nature of God cannot be known.
The Tree of Life is an arrangement of ten interconnected sephiroth; spheres that represent the ten revelations of God's Will. This Divine Plan of creation and life is painstakingly described in the Zohar, a Medieval Kabbalah text, and also the Book of Creation.
The Tree of Life is a much more likely emblem for Kabbalism than the Kabbalah Cross.
Search for meaning
Now, if you have a search function on your browser for this page, highlight the text above this line and Find the word "love".
Not there? That's correct. There is no love in the Kabbalah Cross described above.
If there is no love represented by a cross, it might still be a cross, but you can be very sure it is not a Christian cross.
Love, is the fundamental meaning of the Cross.
Theosophy and Hermeticism will be featured on other pages soon. They share several ideas with Kabbalism and like many other esoteric groups, Theosophists and Hermeticists believe the Universe is ordered by the number seven.
Christian followers of Kabbalism often use the spelling 'Cabbalist'. The word Kabbala means 'tradition' and the Hebrew spelling often differs, according to the time or context, to give Qabbala or Cabbala, with a single of double 'b', a single of double 'l', with or without a terminating 'h'.
Snakes do not eat their own tail, even when they are starving. But mythical beings can have whatever diet we choose to imagine. Nevertheless, snakes do shed their skin, and this symbolizes rebirth.
If you think we have faith in a Supreme Being yet doubt astrology, you are right. Here's why.
It is unclear what the harmony might be between 'good' and 'evil', but the symbol is a popular addition to such crosses anyway.
Since runes are secret characters and generally unknown, it's pretty safe to make up your own symbol and call it a 'rune'.
We are not sure what the 'polarity of the universe' actually means, but it is comforting to know it is feminine.