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The Power Of Kabbalah * Yehuda Berg (isbn 1571892508 * 2004)

“No hocus-pocus here. Nothing to do with religious dogma, the ideas in this book are earth-shattering and yet so simple.”
Yes, this book is by Madonna’s spiritual master and the quote is from Madonna. The Dutch translation -that was just released- has a little red rope on the cover, probably on of these “Kabbalah armbands” that Madonna gave to her little boy. I am sure that there will be people who are pulled over the line of reading a book like this now. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Yehuda Berg wrote a nice and very well-readable book showing some spiritual thruths to the ignorant housewifes and other interested. However Berg puts himself in the line of Kabbalists who bring the thruth to the common man, there are hardly any references to the traditional Kabbalists and Kabbalah in this book. Instead you get a spiritual book with spiritual guidelines for daily life, loosely fitted on ‘the Kabbalah’. The book is a comparable with “The Key” of Yehuda’s brother Michael that I reviewed earlier. The book is mostly meant for beginners, but if you are used to reading books about the beard of God, Notaricon and Temura, Sephirothic trees and the like, you can regard youself a beginner in this more spiritual side of the subject. A nice read, but be aware that this is ‘another kind of Kabbalah’ than you usually get in these pages.

The Secret: Unlocking the Source of Joy & Fulfillment * Michael Berg (isbn 1571892044)

However the cover is almost the same, in Dutch this book is called “De Sleutel” (“The Key”). The writer was brought up a Kabbalist and mostly appreciated the teachings of Yehuda Ashlag (1885-1967). Berg gives a spiritual guide for everyday life in this little book. This may be based on the Kabbalah, but don’t expect to read about Sephiroth, anpins or Hebrew letters. Many stress is put on developing the ability to share, but you will get a quite whole spiritual worldview.

At the end of the book Berg proves to be the brother of the famous Kabbalist Yehuda (Philip) Berg of the Kabbalah Centre ( of who Madonna (for example) is member.

All in all a nice little book that shows another side of the Kabbalah than the one you usually read about.

777 And Other Qabalistic Writings Of Aleister Crowley * Israel Regardi (isbn 0877286701)

Not the easiest book about the Kabbalah, or better said “Qabalah” since it is the Crowley version. This book has three parts. First part is a collection of Qabalistic writings from Crowley’s “Equinox” magazine. Then you get the rather famous “Liber 777” and the last part is the “Sepher Sephiroth”.

The first part mostly deals with the Qabalistic wordgame “gematria” and is sometimes very detailed, sometimes not so detailed, but most of all pretty vague and difficult. I suppose that when you dig into it this could be a starter for your own gematrical experiments, but I know a better introduction than Crowley’s, even in the Crowley tradition (see “Chicken Qabalah” review).

Then we get the famous “Liber 777”. This was originally also more of a book. It contains writings about symbolism in different traditions and religions, but this is rather short. Then we get a lot of tables of correspondences which are undoubtely usefull for a practical magic(k)ian, but personally I don’t see too much in all this. The lengthy explanations are sometimes helpfull, sometimes not. The tables are sometimes nice, but often not really. They do show Crowley’s rather wide knowlegde of different traditions and religions and it all reminds a bit of H.P. Blavatsky, rather chaotic and a lot of information.

The third part is to me by far the most helpfull part of the book. The “Sepher Sephiroth” is a long list with words in Hebrew catagorised after number-value. So you get the most important words with the value 1, 2, 3, etc. This is of course very convenient when you want to experiment a bit with gematria. You have a word, find out the number value and you can easily look up a word with the same value without having to combine letters and search your dictionary if there is a word with these letters.

So, the books are combined and completed by Israel Regardi, which sometimes makes the layout not too wonderfull (Regardi’s few words in a normal font, Crowley’s text too small), but it can also be helpfull to try to understand Crowley’s chaotic style of writing.

Overall not a good introduction to the Kabbalah or even the Qabalah. Essential for Crowley-followers and eventually also for the more experienced Kabbalist I guess. But especially the “Sepher Sephiroth” makes this book a must-buy for anyone who wants to take gematria to a more practical level.

De Philonische Geheime Leer * Henk J. Spierenburg (isbn 9020285580)

I know Henk Spierenburg as one of the best Dutch Theosophical writers. He wrote massive books about all kinds of Theosophical subjects, but he is mostly known for gigantic archivical work. He wrote books for like example “The Vedanta Commentaries Of HBP” (HP Blavatsky) or “The Buddhism of HPB” for which he explored all of HPB’s work to find references to the Vedanta or Buddhist teachings. In this way Spierenburg has absorbed, digested and poored into a readable form massive amounts of literature into bigger and smaller books which always have big indexes and are perfect reference books. I am glad that Spierenburg also decided to use his talents for non-Theosophical work. However many of Spierenburg’s books are written or translated in English, I haven’t been able to find another than Dutch version of this one. Since it is still quite new, maybe there will be an English version in the future?

The book this review is called in English “The Philonic Secret Doctrine” and subtitled “The Kabbala of Philo of Alexandria” which gives enough information what this book is about. Philo the Jew or Philo of Alexandria was born about 15 to 10 BC and died somewhere between 40 and 50 AD. The two names given to Philo tell a lot about him. He lived in Alexandria, the Greek city in northern Egypt that was founded by Alexander the Great around 300 BC. Alexandria had a large Jewish population with people from different Judaic movements. Many of these Jews had lived in Alexandria for a few generations and didn’t speak the Hebrew language anymore. Therefor some time before Philo was born, a Greek translation of the ‘Hebrew Bible’ was made which is the well-known “Septuagint”. Philo wrote lengthy comments on the Septuagint and Spierenburg took a lot of quotes from these writings.
Philo wrote a massive amount of material which for the largest part didn’t survive to our times. Quite a lot of material only came to us in translations, for example in Armenic. In 2000 years about 10.000 pages have been written about Philo and his philosophy and Spierenburg has studied a large part of both the remaining texts of and about Philo to write this relatively short book.

To the subtitle then. The Kabbala is said to have come into being in the times that the Muslims occupied Spain which had led to a very healthy crossbreed between cultures and which caused a lot of ‘new philosophy’ to be born. This was, say, 400 BC. Spierenburg -however- took up the goal to prove that the well-known Kabbalistic tree of life (Sephirothic tree) can already be found in Philo’s texts, which would mean that it’s origins are a lot older than most experts of today think. Of course this isn’t too strange, since Kabbalism is an outcome of four centuries of development of the Merkavah-mysticism based on the Talmud and Midrash. These already excisted in Philo’s time.
The result of Spierenburg’s search is not only a nice introduction to Kabbalism and Philo’s esotericism, but also nice to read and original comments on well-known parts from the old testament, obvious inspirational ideas for doctrines that would come up many centuries later and a nice new look on the Kabbalistic tree. It is true that Spierenburg sometimes really had to search and sometimes even didn’t find too much evidence for his propositions or the placing of some ‘virtue’ or whatever on the tree, but he is not afraid to admit that. Especially around the end I had the feeling that there was a bit too much searching for something he wanted to find, but overall this is a nice a very well-readable book about the contemporary mystic of Jesus of Nazareth.
For the time being, only for Dutch readers though.