Schools of the Soul

There is a great variety of schools within each line of a Tradition. That is because schools adapt to the needs of the time and place. Many schools have become extinct, but they have left behind traces that later become seeds for new schools. Although largely unnoticed, schools of the soul are vital for a civilisation. Without a spiritual teaching many societies would remain savage or barbaric.

We can observe three distinct spheres in schools of the soul. The sphere of activities centred on Yesod contains the ways of contemplation, devotion and action. The sphere of growth centred on Tiferet enables the student to shift these activities to a higher level of conscious awareness. The sphere of transformation centred on Daat is much deeper and has a profound effect on the individual as the Teaching becomes alive with fresh insights and understanding.

Video

School of the Soul Lecture

Suggested Reading

Kabbalah: School of the Soul

Kabbalah: School of the Soul applies kabbalistic principles to the study of esoteric organisations. This book is about the complexities and subtleties of old and new schools, the laws that govern them, and what to expect and avoid. These themes include modes of discipline, stages of development and the flowering and decline of esoteric schools, as well as the role of the teacher. Examples are given of individual progress, crises and initiations, as well as a description of how to create a school of the soul for our time. In this revised edition there are many new diagrams and images that enhance the original text.

Meditations

Schools of the Soul

Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
Recorded in London 17 October 2011

In this meditation we visit Schools of the Soul from prehistoric times up to the present, including the spiritual golden age in Toledo and Safed. They represent different traditions and lineages which carry on esoteric knowledge  and practice throughout millennia. Their form may change but the Light is always there to be drawn upon.

Meeting Your Inner Teacher

Voice: Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi
Recorded in London 17 February 2014

This inner journey takes you to visit your Teacher. Notice every detail on the way, the epoch and the terrain, because they may symbolise your interior landscape at the moment. What do you observe about the Teacher’s lineage and sanctuary? This meeting is an opportunity to review your life, ask questions and get advice.

Diagram

‘Work’ of a School of the Soul

Schools of the Soul: Questions and Answers

A large part of Halevi’s oral teaching came in responding to students’ questions. Such group discussions sometimes covered topics that were not written down in books. These questions and answers articles are compiled from group and workshop recordings over the years to give insights into Kabbalah as a living tradition.

Q: What do schools of the soul teach?

A: What is called the ‘lesser mysteries’ is the study of human psychology. The maxim “know yourself” comes from a Greek school of the soul. Esoteric psychology brings ancient, medieval and modern views together, teaching that a human being is not just a physical body but also has a psyche, a spirit and a Divine spark. The purpose is to raise consciousness, first by studying the theory, then by practising.

While psychology is primarily personal, schools also teach the ‘higher mysteries’ of universal principles and metaphysics. Thousands of years ago there was only the oral teaching and such principles were embedded in archetypal symbols and mythology. Now there are books which provide the written teaching, but there is always the need for study groups and teachers. The Chinese book I Ching recommends the company of like-minded friends unified by common ideal. Some more advanced groups may reach a truly spiritual level, while others may focus on their Divine connection in prayer and meditation.

Q: Does the teaching change?

A: The esoteric principles of the perennial teaching do not change. However, the teaching has adjusted and been updated in response to the needs of the time. Long distance travel and contacts with other traditions have brought in new ideas over the centuries. The kabbalistic teaching has absorbed Zoroastrian, Greek and Sufi concepts as well as Neoplatonic views. Science and psychology are the language of our present time and are now included in kabbalistic studies.

There is a saying “two Jews, three opinions”. That is why there are so many different schools. Besides the Classical Spanish Kabbalah there are Lurianic, Christian, occult and magical lines. Buddhism began with a small group of disciples around the Buddha but by now it has diversified into many lines and orders. Sometimes different schools are at war and try to destroy others whom they see as heretics or the enemy. That can happen when the original spiritual teaching descends to the yesodic level of tribal identity.

Q: Where are the Academies on High?

A: According to many traditions, such schools of advanced knowledge exist in the higher Worlds. They can be found in the celestial Paradise as well as in the pure Heavens above. The great ones of humanity reside there in their afterlife where they continue their particular line of destiny. Such academies can specialise in arts or sciences as well as spiritual teaching and learning methods or practical inventions.

It is possible to visit such places while incarnate; in dreams, in deep meditation or during intense contemplation. They can be a source of new ideas and inspiration. These teachers have an overview of history and they will help people who are working to lift the level of civilisations from vegetable and animal to a more human level. The Academies on High are watched over by Metatron, also called the Teacher of teachers, who is privy to the Holy One’s plans at the Keter of Beriah.

Q: What is the difference between exoteric and esoteric?

A: Exoteric understanding of any tradition sees only the obvious, literal meaning. Thus spirituality or religion can be just a tribal custom, and people at that level do not like real mystics. The word esoteric means ‘hidden’ but not in a sense of being secret. Most people do not see the esoteric significance, because they are not awake or not ready to consider deeper dimensions.

In between the exoteric and esoteric is a zone called mesoteric which people may encounter in everyday life. It is found in arts and literature as well as fairy stories. Artists and writers are sometimes called the ‘lesser prophets’ because they are sensitive enough to pick up yeziratic patterns and transmit them in archetypal forms. The ‘greater prophets’ did not dream, they had visions.

Q: What is the history of the Kabbalah Society?

A: Our present school started in London in the 1970s as a small group studying the Toledano Tradition, which goes back to Classical Spanish Kabbalah in medieval Spain. There were also public lectures and workshops which brought in more people. Over time, the books created interest in other countries like Holland, Mexico and Japan. It usually took just one committed person in a country to start a regular study group and to teach others.

With the arrival of the internet in the 1990s, such study groups came together under the umbrella of the Kabbalah Society. International conferences and pilgrimages to Spain and Israel brought people into personal contact with each other. During the Covid-19 lockdowns the groups had to adapt and started zoom meetings online. Students are no longer limited by physical distances and the need to travel but they can attend a group from anywhere in the world. The future of the Kabbalah Society seems set to become even more international with global communications and new foreign editions of the books in process.

Q: Are there examinations?

A: A school of the soul is not like an academic institution where you work for a formal qualification; a real school is about self-development. When you are engaged in esoteric work, the tests and initiations are provided by ordinary life. Every day is an examination inhow you conduct yourself in your personal and professional life. The most obvious temptations are money, sex and power, but there can be more subtle temptations to test your integrity. To quote T S Eliot, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason”.

Deeper examinations come at the soul level when your conscience awakens and you review your life from an ethical perspective. You may endure deep remorse for your past actions. Deeper still comes what is sometimes called ‘the dark night of the soul’ at the spiritual level of Binah-Hokhmah when you may question your whole belief system. If you are sincere and persevere, there will be a breakthrough when you really know for yourself, without doubt.

Q: What about teachers?

A: People who do not know or think for themselves are always looking for authority figures and believe what is said. There is a risk that they become attached to the teacher instead of the teaching, especially if the teacher is charismatic. He or she could become the focus of a personality cult. Many teachers have abused their guru position and fallen from grace when they have lost their integrity. You need to use your discrimination to recognise a good teacher from a false one. “Don’t just listen to what they say. See what they do, because that is what they are.”

Teachers themselves are still learning and maturing. Initially you need to find someone who is at least one week ahead of you. You may encounter many teachers before you find the one who is right for you. There needs to be a particular resonance between a student and a teacher. In the long run you learn to listen and trust your inner teacher. Ultimately you have to climb the Holy Mountain on your own, one foot after another. You may have a companion, a guide or a teacher, but you have to do it for yourself.

Q: What are the Companions of the Light?

A: In the invocation at the beginning of kabbalistic group meetings we include the companions of the light. They may be former teachers and students, now discarnate, who are still connected to a particular school or a study group. They attend meetings as watchers and observers as well as advisors and inner teachers. Their presence is sometimes felt even by occasional visitors as the companions bring a certain uplifting radiance to the room. In other groups they may be evoked by a moment of silence and the lighting of a candle.

According to some oriental schools, devas and other inhabitants of the subtle world come to listen to advanced teachers such as for example the Tibetan saint Milarepa. They may or may not hear what is said, but certainly they are attracted to the light of the teacher’s consciousness and connection with the higher Worlds. Unfortunately a bright light also draws the attention of what is called the opposition; dark and shadowy entities who want to disrupt spiritual work. The cosmic battle between good and evil, light and dark, can manifest in many ways in the lower Worlds.

Q: What is a soul group?

A: Your biological family may or may not be your soul group. A soul group is a different kind of family where relationships are based on a common purpose rather than tribal and blood connections which are instinctive. Soul groups can come together for a period of time when the conditions are right and disperse when people move on. You may belong to many such groups in your lifetime. However, the soul connection with your old companions remains because it is much deeper than just social acquaintance.

As in any family, there are archetypal roles in a soul group depending on people’s age and development. There are brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, parents and grandparents. You can act as any of these roles for the others in your soul group. The teacher or another very mature individual may become the patriarch or the matriarch of a group or of the whole school. There can also be family politics and quarrels in a soul group when people work out their personal and karmic problems which are often unresolved issues from previous lives.

Q: How can I know my inner teacher?

A: Ask questions. One person who was struggling with writing and editing noticed that sometimes she got into a flow of insights which were not her usual way of thinking. She started to wonder: “Is somebody helping me?” The answer was big smiles. Later: “I wonder who it is?” A name came to her mind instantly but it did not mean anything to her. A bit later she got a clear instruction: “Look it up in the dictionary of biographies!” She found a scholar whose speciality was to teach basic English, especially to foreigners. From then on, she could enter into a dialogue with him when needed. After the book was finished, she did not feel his presence any more.

The above is an example of specialist teachers who can come to help when somebody is working on a particular project. Otherwise an inner teacher can be your Tiferet/self watching your ego, or a discarnate individual who is keeping an eye on your personal development. It is said that God enjoys good conversation. Ultimately, kabbalists regard the Holy One as their only teacher and their closest friend.