Definitions

Kabalist [Qabbalist]. From Q B L H, KABALA, an unwritten or oral tradition. The kabalist is a student of “secret science,” one who interprets the hidden meaning of the Scriptures with the help of the symbolical Kabala, and explains the real one by these means. The Tanaim were the first kabalists among the Jews; they appeared at Jerusalem about the beginning of the third century before the Christian era. The books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Henoch, and the Revelation of St. John, are purely kabalistical. This secret doctrine is identical with that of Chaldeans, and includes at the same time much of the Persian wisdom, or “magic.” History catches glimpses of famous kabalists ever since the eleventh century. The Mediæval ages, and even our own times, have had an enormous number of the most learned and intellectual men who were students of the Kabala (or Qabbalah, as some spell it). The most famous among the former were Paracelsus, Henry Khunrath, Jacob Böhmen, Robert Fludd, the two Van Helmonts, the Abbot John Trithemius, Cornelius Agrippa, Cardinal Nicolao Cusani, Jerome Carden, Pope Sixtus IV., and such Christian scholars as Raymond Lully, Giovanni Pico de la Mirandola, Guillaume Postel, the great John Reuchlin, Dr. Henry More, Eugenius Philalethes (Thomas Vaughan), the erudite Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, Christian Knorr (Baron) von Rosenroth; then Sir Isaac Newton, Leibniz, Lord Bacon, Spinosa, etc., etc., the list being almost inexhaustible. As remarked by Mr. Isaac Myer, in his Qabbalah, the ideas of the Kabalists have largely influenced European literature. “Upon the practical Qabbalah, the Abbé de Villars (nephew of de Montfaucon) in 1670, published his celebrated satirical novel, ‘The Count de Gabalis,’ upon which Pope based his ‘Rape of the Lock.’ Qabbalism ran through the Mediæval poems, the ‘Romance of the Rose,’ and permeates the writings of Dante.” No two of them, however, agreed upon the origin of the Kabala, the Zohar, Sepher Yetzirah, etc. Some show it as coming from the Biblical Patriarchs, Abraham, and even Seth; others from Egypt, others again from Chaldea. The system is certainly very old; but like all the rest of systems, whether religious or philosophical, the Kabala is derived directly from the primeval Secret Doctrine of the East; through the Vedas, the Upanishads, Orpheus and Thales, Pythagoras and the Egyptians. Whatever its source, its substratum is at any rate identical with that of all the other systems from the Book of the Dead down to the later Gnostics. The best exponents of the Kabala in the Theosophical Society were among the earliest, Dr. S. Pancoast, of Philadelphia, and Mr. G. Felt; and among the latest, Dr. W. Wynn Westcott, Mr. S. L. Mac Gregor Mathers (both of the Rosicrucian College) and a few others.

Kabalah [Qabbalah] (Heb.). The hidden wisdom of the Hebrew Rabbis of the middle ages derived from the older secret doctrines concerning divine things and cosmogony, which were combined into a theology after the time of the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. All the works that fall under the esoteric category are termed Kabalistic.

— H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary


Key Texts

Zohar (זֹהַר, Zōhar, “Illumination”)

They most important of all Qabbalistic works, divided generally into 3 volumes of 49-52 books (depending on the arrangement). Three sections of the Zohar were translated into English earlier than the others and were the subject of study and commentary by early theosophists, including H. P. Blavatsky. These three sections are:

The Book of Concealed Mystery” [Zohar 2:176b-179a] (סִפְרָא דִּצְנִיעוּתָא, Sifrā Diṣnīʿūṯā)
The Greater Holy Assembly” [Zohar 3:127b-145a] (הָאִדְּרָא רַבָּא קַדִּישָׁא, haʾIḏrā Rabbā Qaddīšā)
The Lesser Holy Assembly” [Zohar 3:287b.15-296b] (הַאִדְרָא זוּטָא קַדִּישָׁא, haʾIḏrā Zūṭā Qaddīšā)

English: Daniel C. Matt et al., The Zohar: Pritzker Edition (12 vols.), 2004-2017.
Aramaic/Hebrew: Zohar, sefaria.org


Sefer Yetzirah (סֵפֶר יְצִירָה, Sēp̄ɛr Yəṣīrāh, “The Book of Creation”)

English: Sepher Yetzirah: The Book of Formation by William Wynn Westcott
Hebrew/English: Sefer Yetzirah, sefaria.org


Additional Kabbalistic Texts, sefaria.org


See also:

Qabbalah: The Philosophical Writings of Solomon Ben Yehudah Ibn Gebirol, or Avicebron by Isaac Myer

Kabbalah Denudata: The Kabbalah Unveiled by S. L. MacGregor Mathers

Le Livre des Splendeurs: Etudes sur les Origines de la Kabbale [The Book of Splendours: Studies on the Origins of Kabbalah] by Eliphas Levi

Key to the Hebrew-Egyptian Mystery in The Source of Measures by J. Ralston Skinner

The Kabbalah; or, The Religious Philosophy of the Hebrews [La Kabbale, ou La Philosophie Religieuse Des Hébreux] by Adolphe Franck

The Doctrine and Literature of the Kabalah by Arthur Edward Waite

Theosophy in the Qabbalah by Grace F. Knoche


Translations


Selected Articles, Commentaries, etc.