The Qabala is a specific, and now dominant, form of the Chokmah Nistara, i.e. Jewish Mysticism and/or Occult praxis, dating to the 2nd Century AD, arising from earlier forms such as the Razei Torah, the Bereshit Mysteries, the Merkabah Mysteries and the School of Enoch.
Traditionally held to be the revelation of the nature of existence given by God to Adam in Eden and passed down orally by the Prophets, it also has a Gnostic component, an ongoing revelation within the context of tradition. It was written down in a series of mysteriously obscure and ambiguous self-contained texts from the 1st century onwards. Starting with the Sepher Yetzirah and continuing to the 13th Century with the classic text, the Zohar. Its popular modern form was standardised by Isaac Luria in the 16th Century, though other forms are still in use.
It can be best summarised as a model of the isomorphic structure of the Universe or God and the Archetypal Man based on the esoteric structure of the Hebrew Language (both numbers and letters) and the forms of manifestation possible within that structure. Later this is graphically overlaid onto versions of the traditional World Tree or Tree of Life. The general purpose is a better understanding of theology, mystical metaphysics, creation cosmology, esoteric psychology and ethics, and a basis for the exploitation of this knowledge in occult practice.
The Qabala may be divided into four branches, not always compatable with each other, but sharing a similar set of ideas and practices.
The original Jewish mystical form firmly grounded in Judaic Religion.
A non-doctrinal, practical form of Judaic kabbalism based on esoteric practices.
The Christian form of kabbalism developed during the Renaissance, with strong Hermetic elements.
The Hermetic form of qabalism developed by modern occultists, usually free of religion as such.
This exclusive separation is not intended to indicate the primacy or authenticity of one form over the other, as all truth is generally fragmented and filtered through a lens of subjectivity, but rather to facilitate the clarification of each form and allow for a more thoughtful exchange of ideas between the paradigms.