Category Archives: kabbalah

Kabbalah, de complete gids * Alexandra Gabrielli (isbn 906271664X)

And another book about the Kabbalah. A different one from the books that I already had though. Gabrielli treats the Kabbalah in a philosophical way. She took a few interesting subjects to dig out, such as the creationof the world, the creation of mankind, the soul(s), dreams and visions, death and praying. The writer uses information from different sources making this a modern interpretation of Jewish wisdom. Minor points -though- are that the text just keeps going on without much survey and there is no index. A nice read, but not really a reference-work. And not available in another version than Dutch either it seems.

The Secret Doctrine Of The Kabbalah * Leonora Leet (isbn 0892817240)

Only when I received this book, I found out that it was the second in a series of four. The first is called “Renewing The Convenant” and the last two parts will be released as one book. I don’t know if this is already available, but I think not.
The book as subject here is a very wide-ranging book about Kabbalism and related subjects. It starts with a nice introduction to Jewish mysticism and religion, but as soon as the subject switches to Kabbalism, it becomes clear that the writer supposes that you have some background knowledge. I usually had my copy of Charles Poncé’s book “Kabbalah” (reviewed elsewhere) at hand. This is not only necessary because the first part of “The Secret Doctrine…” hardly contains any visuals, but also to look up terms, words, titles, traditions, etc. A strange thing is that Leet’s book has a huge bibliography at the end, but Poncé’s book isn’t in it, while the first chapters seem to follow Poncés book pretty closely. Anyway, especially the lack of visuals is a big minor point about Leet’s book. For example, she writes about and describes the Sephirotic tree with the figure of the Adam-Kadmon, but when you never saw a picture of it, you probably can’t imagine what it is supposed to look like. Poncé’s book has a few versions of the picture, which is very helpfull.
Leet’s version of Kabbalism is clearly based on the rather sexual Kabbalism of Isaac Luria who was one of the biggest reformers of Kabbalism. Leet knows enough about the ‘other’ version of Cordovero too though.
A good point about this book is that Leet is also familiar with other traditions, such as gnosticism and the Dead Sea Scrolls, some Eastern religion and (what becomes evident around the end of the book) modern science. Sometimes she draws a bit too much to the subject in my opinion. I had to think hard to remember my music-classes of 13 years ago when Leet starts with ‘harmonics’, maths come up, physics and at the end of the book science that I was never thought at school.
Personally I have particular problems with understanding her Kabbalism and harmonics, with diagrams ascribed to tones and kindred elusive subjects.
Much attention is given to the geometry of the Tree Of Life (see my article “Etz Chayyim”), which is sometimes very clear, but sometimes terribly difficult and only shortly founded.
This is also a problem for the book as a whole. Sometimes Leet explains certains things over and over again, but more difficult items seem to be taken as common knowledge. This results in some ‘revelations’ here and there when I finally understood a certain part of Kabbalism and sometimes a swamp of information which makes my head spin. Around the end Leet wants to bring together Kabbalism and quantum physics, which she sometimes does really well, but the extremely detailed explanation of quantum theories are way over my head and do not remain interesting for so many pages. Then a more theoretical part is very interesting again.

All in all I would say that this is not a book for beginners. Maybe when you first read “Renewing The Convenant” “The Secret Doctrine” would be better understandable, but when you not familiar with Kabbalism yet, I suggest (but I suggest it to anyone!) Poncé’s book. If you are interested in new approaches in Kabbalism and you are familiar with harmonics, science and geometry, this book may be a good start in your investigations.
Personally I don’t find myself an expert enough to use this book as a starting point.

Read more in my article in the articles section partly based on this book and which is called “Etz Chayyim”.

Elements Of The Kabbalah * Eliphas Levi (isbn 1558183663)

This book has just as the other Levi book in Dutch been in print since 1984 and has just had a new pressing. It is a short text about the Kabbalah and Freemasonry. Levi speaks a bit about the Siphra Dzeniûta, but only has a fairly short version of the Idra Suta. After this some information about the Kabbalah, Christianity and Eastern religions and then on to Freemasonry. A nice little book, but nothing for a beginner or reference-work. And it is sold out in english too…

An Introduction To The Study Of The Kabalah * William Wynn Westcott (isbn 1564592618)

This text from 1910 seems to be an improvement and enlargement of the famous “Kabbalah Unvieled” of MacGregor Mathers (also reviewed). It isn’t that much of a thick book, but still quite large, especially for an ‘onliner’. Unfortunately Westcott decided to keep the order that Mathers used, being a short introduction to the concept of the Kabbalah, then quite detailed explanation of the Kabbalistic wordgames Gematria, Notaricon and Temurah, explanations of difficult subjects such as the Shemhamphorash and after this explanations of Kabbalistic basis-ideas such as these of the four worlds, three souls, (arch)angels, etc.

But, the text is well-written, clear, quite detailed (very detailed at times) and all in all a very good introduction to the practical Kabbalah.

Available online from the Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn page.

Sepher Yetzirah * William Wynn Wescott (isbn 1564592626)

Earlier I reviewed Wescott’s “Introduction To The Kabbalah” and here we have the man’s own translation of the most famous Kabbala-book, the “Book Of Formation”. The first publication was in 1887 and Wescott used his own knowledge of the Hebrew language, but also a few translations that were already available in his time in several languages.

The Sepher Yetzirah is introduced and then a quite readable translation is given with a lot of references to explaining notes in the back. The Sepher Yetzirah itself isn’t very long, but Wescott added a few texts that are often found together with the SY in different versions. These are “The Fifty Gates Of Intelligence”, a list of 50; “The Thirty-Two Paths Of Wisdom” of course explaining the 32 paths on the Tree Of Life (10 sephiroth and 22 paths connecting them) and here and there an ‘extra’ part in the SY that isn’t found in all versions.

Since this work is available online on www.hermeticgoldendawn.org , you have got an easy way to lay your hands on a nice translation of this basic text.

Zohar * Ernst Müller (isbn 9020247417)

“Sohar – das heilige Buch der Kabbala” is the original title of this book of which we have had a Dutch translation since 1984, but I couldn’t find an English translation. The book is an anthology of the Zohar. Müller translated parts of the ‘book of brightness’ or ‘sepher ha-zohar’ and arranged them in subjects. Unfortunately he didn’t say from which book a quote comes, so the book can’t be use as reference-work. I can therefor only recommand it to people who want to know the tone, language, subjects and atmosphere of this famous Jewish text.