EXPERIENCING THE KABALLAH
It's true, kaballah is a deep subject. In reality, learning it is no worse than the rest of magical arcana in that you can look into it at whatever level you like and it will be there for you, with the continual hint that there's moreshould you care to explore. The depth of kaballah is really what's at issue, not that there's so much of it, but that it ties into everything so completely and so understandably that, given time for study, it seems you can understand anything through kaballah. And besides, almost everything worth learning takes a lifetime to really learn and understand, at least by most of us mortals.
One of the nice things about kaballah is that the initial stages can be reworded to fit almost any era or societal genre. So the student approaching kaballah is not stuck with ancient language until they want or need to be. Even hundreds of years ago this was seen as one of kaballah's good points; fortunately for us it still holds true today.
Chic and Sandra Cicero are apparently trying to help make kaballah more accessible to everyone in American culture. In the past five years or so they've published a slew of books introducing, probing and discussing many aspects of this once mysterious subject in modern terms. While they sometimes stray from traditional imagery and manner of presentation, their books are proving worthy of study by today's students wishing to take their first steps into the kaballistic world.
Basically, the kaballah's central symbol (the Tree of Life) is composed of ten 'worlds' (called sephiroth) interconnected by a system of paths, which represent the relationships between the connected worlds. Study of the kaballah consists initially of learning the system of spheres and paths and associated symbology.
Experiencing the Kaballah is just what it saysa guidebook containing enough instructions so the reader can walk themselves through the many paths and sephira of the kaballah to see what they're like.
The book opens with what is fast becoming a "Cicero trademark"an introductory chapter giving an outline of the topic, reasoning behind their approach to the current subject matter, and an outline of what lies ahead. The purpose of Experiencing The Kaballah is to allow the reader to experience the simpler levels of the kaballah for themselves by going through a series of short plays. The scripts are written so they can be done by a single person as a series of guided meditations, or (more to the intent of the authors) by a group as a set of walk-through encounters, led by a more experienced person acting as a guide. The intent is to open up each participant to the energy of each sephiroth by interacting with someone embodying qualities of that sephiroth. Once contact with a given sephirotic energy has been made, exploration of the 'world' represented by that sephiroth is easier. And perhaps, hopefully, the participants will be encouraged to delve just a little more deeply into the world of the kaballah.
There is much in this book to like, or to dislike depending on your mood at the time. As anyone who has studied kaballah knows, there are distinct levels usually taught, each with specific time-honored symbolism and representations. The Ciceros have used their own symbolism and personifications for their mini-encounters which is a mix of some old and some new symbols, making the plays somewhat confusing to those experienced with the kaballah. As a result, it is difficult for someone who learned more traditional symbology to say whether the Cicero's imagery will indeed lead a newcomer into contact with the sephiroth.
My take is that the plays will work, with some distortion that can be overcome as the student progresses. I considered giving some examples of these distortions, even wrote them up, then realized such a discussion might persuade you not to try the plays in this book. Not going through the plays would be a bad thing to do!
While I started off with a bias against this book, it slowly won me over with its sincere approach and with some very nice meditative imagery at the end that does resolve correctly, so at the end of the book a sincere student will most probably be in contact with the Guardians to the gates of the kaballah. That is a most valuable contact, for once it is made you will find personalized instruction given to you directly from those who live in the Tree itself.
I would only encourage students to try the methods and practices outlined in this book, understanding that they are taking first steps that will be built upon. Indeed, after the years I have studied kaballah I can say with certainty that my initial understanding, while correct in literal wording, was very different than my current understanding. That's how it should be I thinkwe should gain in wisdom over the years, not harden into stone. After all, the world is constantly changing, even the kaballah.
Reviewed by Mike Hammer
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