Within the varied teachings of the Jewish mystical tradition known as Kabbalah there is a minor tradition known as Practical Kabbalah (Kabbalah Ma’asit). This branch concerns itself with the use of magic, particularly the permitted ‘white magic’ as opposed to forbidden ‘black magic’.
This tradition includes incantations of holy divine or angelic names, the use of amulets, and various forms of divination and soothsaying. One of the most prominent texts of this tradition is the Sefer Raziel HaMalakh – The Book of Raziel the Angel.
This single, lengthy text “contains all of the knowledge of the Universe known at the time” including “everything from Astrology of the planets in our solar system to the creative life energy of this earth- birth, death, reincarnation of the soul and many other spiritual subjects” (Zucker, 2016).
A page from the Book of Raziel. ( huberheights.co.il)
Differences Between Mainstream and Practical Kabbalah
The mainstream Kabbalah tradition (Kabbalah lyunit) is concerned with trying to understand the nature of God and existence. This globally practiced system of beliefs includes a number of theological discourses and meditative techniques.
In contrast, Practical Kabbalah seeks to create life through magical means and has sought ways to summon and/or to communicate with God and the angels. However, Jewish texts widely condemn the use of magic as evil, so a fine line had to be drawn to separate the black magic of the devil from the holy and pure magic of Practical Kabbalah. The practical and theoretical challenge of this feat explains why Practical Kabbalah remained a minor tradition – mostly reserved for the Jewish elite.
An excerpt from Sefer Raziel HaMalakh, featuring various magical sigils (or סגולות, seguloth, in Hebrew). ( Public Domain )
Adam and the Angel Speak
The Book of Raziel the Angel, which is divided into five books or sections, claims to relate an interaction between Adam and the Angel Raziel shortly after the Fall. Out of Eden, Adam prays to God and apologizes for betraying his trust by eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Moved by his prayer, God sends him the very best of his Angels, Raziel (whose name means ‘secrets of God), in order to help improve man’s existence outside of paradise.
In Heaven, Raziel stands close to God’s throne, so he is well placed to have heard and to have understood the edicts of the Supreme Being. The angel is sent to the world below so that mankind may learn how to once again come home, i.e. the house of the heavenly Father.
Raziel provides Adam with a wealth of important information, including how to speak and the power thoughts can have on both one’s spirit and on the physical world. He describes the laws of nature and of the planets, of life on earth, and of life among the stars.
Most importantly, Archangel Raziel teaches Adam that the human soul, though confined within the flesh of the physical body, is a person’s means of finding a balance between the spiritual and temporal realms while living on Earth. In addition, Raziel explains the Hebrew alphabet and how its 22 letters can be used.
The Aleppo Codex, a tenth century Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. ( Public Domain )
Drawing on a wide range of previous texts, most notably the Sepher Yetzirah, and the Sepher Ha-Razim, the Book of Raziel tells how all creation and energy begins with a thought inspired by the divine. This thought moves from the spiritual to the physical realms and finds manifestation in speech and actions. The book also contains many key mystical teachings such as the names of God and of the Angels, magical uses of stars and the zodiac, various protective spells, and how to use amulets for healing.
Passing the Text Through the Ages
Popular myths claim that the other angels were angered by the Sepher Ha-Razim as it represented a second chance for humans- beings who appeared to have done so little to be worthy of redemption. It is believed that one, or several Angels, conspired to steal the text from Adam and Eve and throw it in the ocean. God retrieved the revelations and it was safeguarded through the many decedents of Adam, including Noah – who found assistance in building his ark from the wisdom of Raziel. The Sepher Ha-Razim was believed to have disappeared after the days of Solomon, only to be recovered by mystics in Medieval Germany many centuries later.