The mystical Kabbalah roots of natural language processing

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One of the progenitors of NLP (and, obviously, computing in general) is Leibniz, and I’m convinced that he took some inspiration from Kabbalah for his work (though there isn’t an academic consensus about that). So, imagine my excitement to find that this IEEE Spectrum article is just the first in a series, and the next one covers Leibniz! I really hope the author draws a connection between these early Kabbalah-NLP practitioners and ol’ Gottfried Wilhelm. Perhaps he’ll even consider Spinoza and Raymon Lull as parts of that connection…

The medieval roots of NLP also ties in quite a bit with what Eco covers in The Search for the Perfect Language (which features Kabbalah extensively)


I wish this was what Kabbalah was known for, instead of the grifters who sell magically blessed (and thus insanely priced) books, red string, and water to the suckers who get drawn into their cult.


Real Kabbalah takes mental discipline, emotional maturity,band spiritual -for lack of a better word- integration.

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I was going to mention Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, I didn’t know about this one. Looks a bit heavy going for me.


NLP has nothing to do with “mystical Kabbalah”. This is a joke.

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I can’t help but think that Kurt Gödel eventually catches up with any of these sorts of efforts in some way or another. If mathematics cannot be expressed universally, then the best we can do is continue to muddle forward with as many common concepts as our little brains can hold. In the end, it’s a bit like programming languages in the end; you pick the one that expresses the job at hand. That ideolects always exist as a product of our own irreducible human experience is something I have grown to accept with a smile.


Yeah, the Incompleteness Theorem certainly put a nail in the coffin of universal formal language. However, I find it amusing that, as the Wikipedia article on Leibniz’s characteristica universalis points out, Gödel

It’s funny how it was the Incompleteness Theorem that actually (eventually) revolutionized mathematics.

Also, Gödel’s conspiracy theory about the characteristica universalis is kind of just perfect: I’m inspired to write a Foucault’s Pendulum-esque story about a young Kurt trying to uncover a (possibly imaginary) conspiracy about Kabbalah and Leibniz (though the lazy Borgesian in me believes that simply suggesting the fiction is sufficient).

A little off-topic, but relevant to current events: obsession was pretty typical of Gödel (as you can imagine), and one noteworthy obsession was his belief that the U.S. Constitution has a logical flaw that can be exploited to legally establish a dictatorship. Apparently he was so distraught by this that he couldn’t stop talking about it at his hearing to become a U.S. citizen, appearing a little unhinged—so much so that Einstein had to intervene to save Gödel’s chance at citizenship!


I think the Bourbaki Group came closest to a universal exposition, didn’t they? Hilbert’s idea may not be feasible in the limit, but my understanding is that we use a lot of the Bourbaki notation. The problem to my mind is that something like Geometric Algebra occasionally comes along and whole expositions have to be re-written.

I love the story idea; sort of Foucault’s Pendulum meets the Davinci Code at Princeton? :smiley: Sort of “A Beautiful Mind” but with (what my 13-yr old would call) Illuminati overtones. :face_with_hand_over_mouth: But seriously, that might have legs.

I remember hearing stories about Gödel from older faculty who had known him. Mathematicians are a mixed bunch, that’s for sure.


Also, Rabbinical rules say you have to be at least 40 years old to study Kabbalah, and have a “belly-full of Torah”. So if you really want to study it, work on the pre-reqs first.

They also said you have to be male, but I checked with G-d and She told me that part’s just hooey.


They also said you have to be male to study Talmud, but that’s changing, too.


As @Slant and @Yri

Kabbalah is far more than just letter arrangement, it is a method of gaining deeper understanding of Torah (both written and oral) and while it does have some relationship to specifics of writing, very specifically of the written Torah, that most certainly is not the core of nor the limit of the Kabbalah.

Very specifically as @yri pointed out, it is not a subject to even approach without a very thorough understanding of the written and oral Torah. Doing otherwise can only result in a confused understanding.

Kabbalah is most definitely not prophetic. There is a strict limitation on that term.


I’m not sure why you (partially) directed your comment at my account, but, since you did: you seem steadfast in the rule that you cite, and you write as though you are an authority, yet I can’t help but notice that you stopped short of any sort of explanation. Please, do elaborate. Why would it result in a confused understanding?

It wasnt pointed at you, I was expanding on your previous comment is all.

In a way this very NLP article is a great example of misunderstanding Kabbalah. But similarly look at what has been made of it over the gas by conspiracy theorists, folks wishing to sell “magic” or the red string profiteers.

In the Jewish sense of misunderstanding trying to use sound bytes from texts to justify opinions on Torah or coming to wrong conclusions on Torah law or even the meaning of a story within Torah. Of course this aspect is relevant to Jews who care about such things.

EDIT: Note I’m far from an authority on Kabbalah as a subject, I don’t have enough Torah learning to approach it fully.I just know one thing from another in this area.


Yeah, it’s not divinatory but revelatory. I interpret the restriction as a protective measure as you describe; if you are lucky enough to have a good rebbe (teacher/guide) they should be able to figure out what you’re ready for even if you don’t meet the formal requirements.

@Slant, the basic reasoning is that if you try to reach some sort of higher level of consciousness without having understood the levels leading up to it, it can go seriously wrong for you, and you can wind up drawing conclusions that could be useless or even harmful to yourself and/or others.

In my own life, for example, I was a socially inept teenager who found the notion of mysticism attractive because then I wouldn’t have to bother figuring out how to function in society, I could go straight to blissful Satori or whatever.

What I eventually discovered was, “um, no”.

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Hi Yri. Maybe you’re withholding information here, I’m not sure, but I don’t think Kabbalah has much to do with lessons in how to be more social. For instance, I can count on zero fingers the number of people I’ve met on the street that have said to me: I’m so-and-so, and I’m a Kabbalist!

(Just kidding. I thought it was a fun image.)

I understand the larger point about gradations of knowledge, but I don’t think it possible to reach conclusions of substance (or revelations, as it were) without stepping thru a rigorous process anyway. For instance, it no doubt took Adam a lot of hard earned effort to learn how to act like the most subtle beast before the Elohim were so moved as to proclaim that their creation had become like one of them. Now, I suppose there are savants, but I’m talking about Joe Q. Kabbalist right now.

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