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Aryeh Kaplan & other sources distinguish ‘meditative kabbalah’ as in between theoretical, and practical. Some ‘meditations’ seem purely practical, what distinguishes the two?

  • With a few pages remaining from finishing Aryeh Kaplan’s book commentating on Sefer Yetzirah, I see a vast amount of content that is practical , in terms of its focus on precipitating influences on the physical world, although the methods involve meditative approaches.

  • Among these meditative practices, a handful involve physical actions (e.g., movements, speech), although in conjunction with a meditative counterpart — this is the only aspect I see as possibly differentiated from other meditative techniques which still are centered on precipitating an outcome in the physical world, or at least insights into the future (versus, edifying insights which would lean more towards theoretical kabbalah).

  • Chaim Vital’s work has also been argued as within the ambiguously defined borders of meditative kabbalah.

  • Again, regarding Aryeh Kaplan’s commentary on Sefer Yetzirah, many practical kabbalah sources are countlessly referenced (e.g., Sefer Raziel).

  • From my own understanding, which still lacks any defined border only examples, it would seem the practices falling strictly within practical kabbalah would be: (1) physical construction of sigils* (including both pre-existing, representative ones and/or self-constructed one’s possibly utilizing the preexisting ones in it), likely utilizing Divine Names, iterations, and combinations; albeit, this is also, at least appearing, a *meditative technique when construction is restricted to the mind. (2) more clearly recognized practical practices such as the notorious Pulsa diNura, ceremonial practices, and others a bit too obvious for discussion. Oddly, paradoxically though, Rabbinic authorities called for punishment via Pulsa diNura of publishers of the Zohar in the 16th century.


  • Is there any actual distinction between meditative and practical kabbalah? If so, what broadly defines the borders? What would differentiate a non-practical meditative technique from a practical meditative technique?

  • To me, it seems implied Aryeh Kaplan referenced some of these otherwise forbidden practical books (as they’re cited, unless he reviewed the source indirectly, perhaps with a limited excerpt of the source versus the source cited in its totality). Given this, is reviewing a practical work for theoretical purposes/edification/learning (versus, utilizing the practices described) sanctioned? From my understanding & practice, I don’t even dare open such works out of concern regarding how the contents may affect me from even viewing, not even reading, the materials (e.g., potentially seeing a sigil within a work like Shorshei HaShemot, which I have wrapped in archival paper & bubble wrapped to mitigate someone from even accidentally opening it, I only presume to own it due to the cover title — if the contents were not what the cover says, I would not know).

  • Before anyone says “doesn’t matter you shouldn’t be concerned with this”, I have no ambition of delving into frankly any/either practice, although my question still looms. Honestly even if it was considered completely fine to peruse the contents of something like Shorshei HaShemot for theoretical/academic/knowledge-expanding purposes, I’ve seen far too many cautions of mortal consequences to even entertain the idea.

submitted by /u/greatoctober
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Source: Reditt