In his recent interventions, Pope Francis had repeatedly referred to a “paradigm shift” with regard to the Church’s attitude toward native cultures in different countries. It seems that he has in mind a return to rooted indigenous cultures and religions. One of his reference points for this approach is the Kabbalah, a Jewish occultist and mystical religion.
On 8 June, the Vatican’s general secretariat of the Synod of Bishops published the Instrumentum Laboris (working document) for the October 2019 Pan-Amazon Synod. This working document highlights the purported cruelties committed by the West when colonizing remote regions of South America, such as the Pan-Amazon region (emphasis added):
Also, the III Conference of Latin American Bishops, held in Puebla (1979), is a reminder that the occupation and colonization of indigenous lands was “an extensive process of domination”, which was full of “contradictions and deep wounds” (DP 6). Later, the IV Conference of Santo Domingo (1992) recalled “one of the saddest episodes in Latin American and Caribbean history”, which “was the forced transfer, as slaves, of an enormous number of Africans”.
It is because of this purported injustice that the Church now has to turn attentively to the native peoples of that region and ask them for guidance. Since these peoples are closer to nature – to Mother Earth – they also have much to teach the West, which seems, according to the Vatican, to have lost the way. The Instrumentum Laboris speaks about an “ecological conversion” that is needed, a new “convergent” solidarity oriented toward the local customs: “Embracing life through community-based solidarity entails a change of heart.” And here comes the phrase “new paradigm”: “This new paradigm opens up new perspectives for personal and societal transformation.”
Here, the Pope is being quoted as saying about the indigenous people that “we need to let ourselves be evangelized by them and by their cultures.” The text insists that we need “to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.” The Vatican also regrets that the Church still sometimes “demonizes” these cultures: “Today, unfortunately, traces still exist of the colonizing project, which gave rise to attitudes that belittle and demonize indigenous cultures.”
That this form of “new evangelization” implies a sort of syncretism can be seen in this following paragraph, which includes concepts that are still alien to the Catholic Faith, such as the idea of “cosmic love” and the thanksgiving thereby given by human beings and all of creation together:
In the Eucharist, the community celebrates an act of cosmic love, in which human beings, together with the incarnate Son of God and all creation, give thanks to God for new life in the risen Christ (cf. LS 236).
Let us consider now what these words could mean in the larger context of Pope Francis’s own teaching in other places where he also calls for a “new paradigm” and a “revolution” – while significantly quoting the Jewish Kabbalah.
For those of our readers who do not know much about the Kabbalah, let us first read what Joseph Dan, professor of Kabbalah at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has to tell us (emphasis added):
The Kabbalah insists that there is a feminine aspect within the divinity itself, the Shekhinah, and therefore all terms concerning family and sexual life are applicable to the divine world. The Kabbalah often presented the universe as a battleground between satanic divine powers and good divine powers, drawing a parallel of divine “emanations” of the left which are the enemies of God, yet they are divine in the full sense of the term. Lurianic Kabbalah found the origin of evil within the eternal Godhead itself. … [I]t is the task of the Jewish people to correct (tikum) the incompleteness of divinity itself.[i]
This is to say, the goal is to bring about what the Greeks called Apocatastasis (“Universal Salvation”), “to harmonize the forces of good and evil that exist within the Divinity.”[ii] The Jewish scholar Gershom Scholem explained it the following way: “Evil, therefore, for the Kabalist is simply the sitra ahra or ‘emanation of the left’ and at the end of time, through the process of man’s work of tikkun even the devil, ‘Samael’ (Satan) will become Sa’el, one of the 72 holy Names of God.”[iii]
What can be seen here is that, in the Kabbalah, it is believed and foreseen that Satan will himself become like God.
In the words of the renowned psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung, an ardent student of the Kabbalah and of Gnosticism, “[i]n our diagram, God and the devil appear as equal and opposite, thus conforming to the idea of the ‘adversary.’ This opposition means conflict to the last; and it is the task of humanity to endure this conflict until the turning-point is reached where good and evil begin to relativize themselves, to doubt themselves, and the cry is roused for a morality ‘beyond good and evil’.”
Pope Francis’s “new paradigm” and “cultural revolution” in light of recent remarks in Chile
Let us now consider some of the Pope’s recent statements. We shall turn first to his Apostolic Constitution Veritatis Gaudium (promulgated on 29 January 2018) and then to an address he delivered in Chile on 17 January at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.
The following portions of the text shall examine Pope Francis’s recent apostolic constitution on the importance of a cultural change at Catholic universities and faculties in light of his reference to the mystical Jewish Kabbalah while visiting Chile at the beginning of the year. He seems to have a new understanding of the Fall of Man and its consequences.
In January, Pope Francis called for a reform at ecclesiastical universities and faculties. His new 29 January 2018 87-page document, entitled Veritatis Gaudium (“The Joy of Truth”) replaces the apostolic constitution Sapientia Christiana, issued by Pope John Paul II in 1979. Pope Francis writes that the older document “urgently needs to be brought up to date” in light of changes in society and in academic life. Pope Francis writes in this document: “This vast and pressing task requires, on the cultural level of academic training and scientific study, a broad and generous effort at a radical paradigm shift, or rather – dare I say – at ‘a bold cultural revolution.’”
What this “radical paradigm shift” means may be seen in his 17 January address to the faculty and students at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. We include here the commentary of a Catholic scholar who studied this address carefully but who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. His account is followed by a commentary of our own.
Let us consider now first the words of the anonymous commentator:
Since his accession to the papal throne, Francis has showed a deep revulsion for the intellectual, contemplative tradition of Christianity. The 17 January discourse at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile is revealing about some of the sources of such papal revulsion, and it also teaches us what the pope thinks would be the better alternative to that ancient tradition.
On such a solemn occasion – when probably what was expected from him was that he was going to set the desired spiritual and intellectual framework for the orientation of that important Catholic institution – Francis quoted six sources. Three of them were his own words in Laudato Si and in a 2017 discourse. But the other three are, perhaps, the most revealing. All were words of Jewish authors: Zygmunt Bauman, Gilles Lipovetsky, and Gershom Scholem. The first two have early connections with Marxism and even communism. Bauman is regarded as one of the leaders of the alter-globalization movement, and Lipovetsky is a harsh critic of the Catholic Church.
The third quotation by Gershom Scholem is the most illuminating, and I will come back to it after revisiting part of the context and line of discourse in which it is located.
Pope Francis started his speech with the following topic: the need “to transform the university into a privileged space ‘to practice the grammar of dialogue which forms the encounter.’” Here he quoted his Discurso a la Plenaria de la Congregación para la Educación Católica (9 February 2017). This latter document has the key to understanding what Francis is talking about. It expands: “the grammar of dialogue, forms the encounter and valorization of the cultural and religious diversity.” The Catholic university must be “diverse.” His reference to religious diversity might well include the trustful turning to various indigenous cultures and religions.
Moreover, Pope Francis also advises us in that 17 January speech “to work simultaneously for the integration of the diverse languages which constitute us as persons. That is to say, an education – alphabetization – which integrates and harmonizes intellect, affections and hands, that is to say, head, heart and action.”
This is important, according to Francis, in order to overcome the current state of culture, which he assesses to be in accordance with Bauman and Lipovetsky.
In this liquid or light society, as some thinkers (Bauman and Lipovetsky) have chosen to name it, the points of reference with the help of which persons could build themselves individually and collectively are disappearing. Everything is volatile and therefore loses its consistency.
Somehow, the university must now create the conscience of the process of losing the public space. The way to do this would be by creating a feeling, and therefore an experience of this kind of modern alienation. Pope Francis says:
Without the “us” of a people, of a family, of a nation and, at the same time, without the “us” of the future, the children and tomorrow; without the “us” of a city which transcends “me” and which is richer than individual interests, life will be not only more and more fractured, but more conflictive and violent.
Notice well that, according to the previous paragraphs, knowledge must not be divorced from feeling and praxis. “Experience” actually is feeling, not intellect. This is the only way in which the individual can transcend himself toward the convergent collective reality of the city and of the future, and the only way to prevent the fragmentation of life.
In this context, Francis recommended to widen the concept of “educational community.” The researchers must be integrated with the peoples that form Chile so wisdom is integrated with “popular intuition.” Knowledge should not be cultivated for its own sake, but it should feel always that it is at the service of life. We must produce:
… that very enriching synergy between scientific rigor and popular intuition. The close interaction between them prevents the divorce between reason and action, thinking and feeling, knowing and living, profession and service.
Thus, what the pope recommends here is that the world of learning should turn to the local people and their customs and experiences for wisdom. Reason has to connect with action, which is the people.
Episteme (knowledge) must assume a pluralistic logic, and in this context it must pay attention as to its “main interlocutors,” to the “originary peoples,” according to Laudato Si, 146 (as quoted by Francis in his 17 January address). Thus, the university must put an end to such nonsense as the search for causes and the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. University knowledge must blend with the originary peoples – that is to say, with the “Third World” or “alter-globalization,” neo-pagan movements that go under that name.
Here the quotation from Gershom Scholem is inserted by the pope. According to Francis, an old Kabbalistic tradition teaches that the cleavage produced in man by the act of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the origin of evil. Notice well: not Genesis, but the Kabbalah is now our putative source to know the origin of evil. Francis goes on: “in this way, knowledge acquired primacy over creation, submitting it to its designs and wishes (Gershom Scholem, La mystique juive, Paris , 86.).” Thus, now the pope seems to understand evil in the way of the Jewish Kabbalah. It is a matter of unrestrained knowledge: “the lurking temptation in every academic realm will be reducing creation to interpretative patterns (‘ideologies’), depriving it of its own mystery which has led whole generations to search for what is just, good, beautiful, and true.”
(End of the commentary by a Catholic scholar.)
One might conclude from this commentary that Pope Francis shows in this address in Chile an aversion to an intellectual culture and sets forth as an alternative a form of “going native,” a turn to popular traditions. The basis for this argumentation is set out by the Kabbalah. Let us therefore now turn to the Kabbalah, its roots, and some of its current adherents.
Gershom Scholem and Adin Steinsaltz on modern Judaism and Kabbalah
The reference to the Kabbalah given by Pope Francis is taken from Gershom Scholem’s La mystique Juive (Jewish Mysticism), and the pope is referring here to “an ancient cabbalistic tradition in regard to Original Sin.” The quote comes from the writings of the world’s foremost authority on the Jewish Kabbalah: Gershom Scholem.
The Kabbalah is a series of Gnostic mystical texts begun following the destruction of the Second Temple, further developed in medieval Spain and the French Provence, and then moving on to Eastern Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.[iv] It is the core doctrine of modern-day Chabad-Lubavicher Hasidism. Scholem (1897-1982) was a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a historian of Jewish mysticism, but himself not formally a Kabbalah practitioner.
This is not the case with the Chabad-Lubavicher Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, a world leader in Hasidic and “Orthodox” Jewish circles. It is known that Rabbi Steinsaltz – the original “Nasi” or prince of the newly created (Oct. 2005) Sanhedrin – has openly stated that Kabbalah is now the official theology of the Jewish people.
On December 5, 2016, Pope Francis met with Rabbi Steinsaltz. What was discussed has yet to be revealed.
To return to the Pope’s 17 January speech where he quotes from the Kabbalah, he says that “evil originates in the rift [‘cleavage’] produced in the human being by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge thus gained the upper hand over creation, subjecting it to its own designs and desires [6; reference: cf. Gershom Scholem, La mystique juive, 86.].” He goes on to say: “This will always be a subtle temptation in every academic setting: to reduce creation to certain interpretative models [ideology] that deprive it of the very mystery that has moved whole generations to seek what is just, good, beautiful, and true.”
In essence, the pope is telling the assembled audience in Chile that the role of the university is not to seek universal truths of faith and reason, imbedded in Western culture, and reveal them to humanity; rather, “the new episteme” of plurality is to dialogue with the indigenous cultures and religions. As said above by the anonymous Catholic scholar, for Pope Francis, “[u]niversity knowledge must blend with the ‘originary peoples.’”
The goal, therefore, is to form a convergent and integrated whole where Catholic truth and pagan superstitions are placed on equal footing.
As I have shown elsewhere, the majority of these pagan religions or superstitions are Satanic (Luciferian) in origin. Additionally, LifeSiteNews just discussed the fact that still today, some of these “original peoples” have, as part of their customs, child sacrifice.
How do such evil practices in native religions go together with the modern Catholic Church?
As Jorge Luís Borges attempts to inform us in his scholarly essay on the teachings of the Kabbalah, “[e]vil is in the variety, but variety is necessary for the world.”[v] The true aim of the Kaballah is not simply that “[e]vil is necessary for the world,” but, as stated above by Gershom Scholem and corroborated by Borges, the true aim of Kaballah is the incorporation of Satan as necessary to the harmony of the divine essence. “All creatures, including the Devil will … to be mingled again with the Divinity from which they once emerged.”[vi]
Such a worldview might explain, too, why Cardinal Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was taking part in a ritual of worship of “Pachamama,” the Earth Mother, while he was in Argentina on November 29, 2014. It seems that the distinctions between the Catholic Faith and those syncretic “native religions” that were once supposedly “demonized” (in the words of the Instrumentum Laboris of the upcoming 2019 Pan-Amazon Synod) are being slowly elided. Now we have to learn from the “originary peoples” instead of helping to convert them to the one, true Catholic and Apostolic Faith.
It should concern all Catholics when the vicar of Christ himself references in an uncritical way the Kabbalah and refers the faithful back to those native religions that have not yet received the Light of Christ.
[i] Joseph Dan, “Jewish Mysticism and Jewish Ethics,” an interview with the author by Jewish Book News (The Jewish Book Club, Allentown, PA:), May 9, 1996, p. 27
[ii] Jorge Luís Borges, Seven Nights (New York: New Directions, 1984). Review by Anthony Kerrigan, The University Bookman, Winter, 1987. p. 13
[iii] Gershom Scholem, Kabbalah (New York: Dorset Press, 1974) p. 123.
[iv] Gershom Scholem, ibid., pp. 8-20
[v] Borges, Seven Nights
[vi] Borges, ibid.
Reed Armstrong is a Catholic artist (sculptor) living in Front Royal, VA whose work is displayed in churches, public spaces and private collections both here and abroad. He is also a writer and lecturer on religion and art, often with a focus on occult, or diabolical influences on art starting in the Renaissance and proliferating in the 19th and 20th centuries. His writings have appeared in Crisis Magazine, Communio, Latin Mass and the Journal of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, among others. Some of these essays, along with examples of his sculptural endeavors, may be found on his website www.agdei.com .