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Kabbalah or Qabalah?


There are a number of ways to spell Kabbalah.  You may come across Cabalah or Cabala or Qabalah or Qabala,  So what is the difference?  All spellings are transliterations of Hebrew, so all are valid.  But if you were to look at Kabbalah with a ‘K’ and Qabalah with a ‘Q’, what would you be most attracted to?  Do they bring a different feeling?

Personally, I like the “Q”.  The letter feels more interesting to me.  It looks like the ouroboros – the snake eating its tail – the concept that all beginnings come from endings, the cycle of life.  The letter ‘Q’ makes me curious!  It draws me in.  It feels like I am about to embark on a journey.

The letter ‘K’, to me, feels like it is fixed, inflexible, final.  As if the journey has been had and so now I must listen to someone else’s experience of it.

Well … that’s my feel of it.  Over recent years I have felt drawn to change the spelling to Qabala with a ‘Q’ primarily because as I explore the heights and depths of these ancient teachings, it feels appropriate, it feels right, it feels empowering in some way.

But here’s the rub … Tree of Life Kabbalah has come to be affectionately called TOLK.  And we Kabbalists, in the spirit of fun and play that is always part of our sessions, call ourselves TOLKERS.  When we are ready to start meeting again the message goes out:  “TOLKERS UNITE!”

If I were to change the spelling, it would become TOLQ and we would be TOLQERS.  And that’s just plain weird!

Below is an article by Will Parfit, a long time Kabbalist from the United States:


Kabbalah or Qabalah?

By Will Parfitt

Kabbalah is a way of understanding ourselves and is a rewarding guide for personal and spiritual development. Based on a map of consciousness called the Tree of Life, Kabbalah, or Qabalah (an alternative spelling), is, perhaps surprisingly, not too difficult to learn and understand. You can use Kabbalah to improve your daily life, at work, during leisure time and particularly through your relationships, and find out why it has influenced many people from all walks of life.

Basically there is no difference between ‘Qabalah’ and ‘Kabbalah’, they are simply alternative transliterations of the Hebrew word composed of the letters Qoph, Beth, Lamed and He. As these are usually written as QBLH it makes sense, in one way, to use the transliteration QaBaLaH. On the other hand, more people use the word Kabbalah than use Qabalah, and maybe it makes sense to stick to one spelling.

It used to be the case that the transliteration Qabalah was applied to the version of the work associated with the Western Mystery Tradition, whereas Kabbalah was applied when the version being used was associated with the Jewish Mystery Tradition. Taking this even further, the transliteration Cabalah was used when it was the Christian version being applied. This quite useful difference was never fully accepted however, and never rigidly applied to. In more recent times it has completely broken down and the words are often used interchangeably.

Qabalah/Kabbalah working in the Western Mystery Tradition use the same correspondences, or very similar ones. At the bottom line, it seems to me it is what is being described that is important, not the way you spell the word. How you transliterate the Hebrew letters QBLH doesn’t make one iota of difference to the Magical Hebrew Alphabet itself which remains infinitely mysterious and excitingly revelatory when it is used by a Kabbalist, Qabalist or cabalist.

The same applies to the pronunciation of Hebrew words. Should GBVRAH be pronounced Geburah or Gevurah? As what we are dealing with is an ancient holy alphabet, not a modern language, I prefer to say Beth is ‘B’ because it avoids any misunderstanding. And from a magickal viewpoint, when we say Geburah we are not using a modern Jewish word (meaning power or strength) we are pronouncing individually and together a string of sounds which create an effect. Perhaps ultimately with spelling and pronunciation, the important factor is in the intent.

Having said all this, I have generally moved over to using Kabbalah for my work rather than Qabalah, despite a long association with the latter. This is a mainly pragmatic decision (the word with a K is more widely recognized and used.) The reification of language is a vital part of the work of a Kabbalist and magician; petty disagreements on how to transliterate words is of no value in the journey to come to One Self.


ADDENDUM:  I learned a new word from this article.  REIFICATION.  It means to make something real, to bring it into being, to make something concrete.