Mysticism in Judaism
When non-Jews ask about Judaism, they commonly ask questions like: Do you believe in heaven and hell? In angels or the devil? What happens to the soul after death? What is the nature of G-d and the universe? The answers to questions like these define most religions; in fact, I have heard some people say that the purpose of religion is to answer these kinds of questions. Yet in Judaism, most of these cosmological issues are wide open to personal opinion. The areas of Jewish thought that most extensively discuss these issues, Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, were traditionally not even taught to people until the age of 40, when they had completed their education in Torah and Talmud.
Mysticism and mystical experiences have been a part of Judaism since the earliest days. The Torah contains many stories of mystical experiences, from visitations by angels to prophetic dreams and visions. The Talmud considers the existence of the soul and when it becomes attached to the body. Jewish tradition tells that the souls of all Jews were in existence at the time of the Giving of the Torah and were present at the time and agreed to the Covenant. There are many stories of places similar to Christian heaven and purgatory, of wandering souls and reincarnation. The Talmud contains vague hints of a mystical school of thought that was taught only to the most advanced students and was not committed to writing. There are several references in ancient sources to ma'aseh berei# (the work of creation) and ma'aseh merkavah (the work of the chariot [of Ezekiel's vision]), the two primary subjects of mystical thought at the time.
This line of Kabbalah follows the Toledano Tradition dating back to medieval Spain where the three branches of the Abrahamic revelation met in a civilised cosmopolitan atmosphere, not unlike our own epoch. Here the Kabbalah brought together an esoteric fusion of religion and philosophy. In our time we relate its ancient theories and practices to contemporary psychology, science and art.
The hallmark of the Toledo line is Jacob's Ladder, a metaphysical scheme of four interlocking worlds that originate in the primordial Tree of Life mandala of Kabbalah. This diagram composed of Divine principles, paths and triads is the key to comprehending the plan of Existence and our part in it.
The Society has groups on all five continents and periodically holds conferences and workshops in different countries. The Director of Tutors is Warren Kenton, whose books are written under his Hebrew name Z'ev ben Shimon Halevi. These thirteen volumes. which have been translated into almost as many languages, are the basis of the Toledano version of the Teaching.
These Should keep you reading for some time.