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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

kabala (also spelled cabala, kabbala, kabbalah, qabala, qabalah; from the Hebrew word meaning “collection”) A mystical Hebrew study of methods for controlling spirits and demons. It is largely mathematical in nature, concentrating on the configurations of certain magical words, anagrams, names of angels, etc. The earliest known book on the subject appears to be Sefer Yezira (“Book of Creation”) by a third-century Jewish neo-Pythagorean. The idea itself——of the magic in numbers and letters——is much older.
      The process of examining the permutations and combinations of the twenty-two letters of the Hebraic alphabet——a process known as “gematria”——is used to discover the numerical relationships between numbers and words. In kabalistic studies, simple arithmetic discoveries and the qualities of irrational numbers are naively looked upon as divine mysteries.



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