THE GOLDEN DAWN JOURNAL BOOK II: QABALAH: THEORY AND MAGIC
This is the second collection of articles selected by Chic and Tabatha Cicero for their Golden Dawn Journal series. The aim of the series is to "reflect the magical teachings and philosophy of the Hermetic Tradition," a tall order indeed. Qabalah, which translates loosely as tradition, comes from the Jewish religion as the wisdom behind wisdom, the meaning behind the laws. Those seeking the Divine along the Qabalistic path hope to gain enough wisdom and purity so that one day they may glimpse the Face of God Itself. The Golden Dawn Journal series seeks to reveal the truths of the Qabalah to the seeker, and does in fact go a long way in that direction.
The collection begins with a very short explanation by the Ciceros of the basics and structure of Qabalah and the Qabalistic Tree of Life that is very well done. Because of the many details written over the years about the different parts of the Tree of Life, it is quite common for such explanations to get bogged down by detail. The Ciceros mercifully avoid that pitfall and convey to the reader a direct understanding of the ten sephira on the Tree. As the authors indicate, there is Wisdom in Qabalah for everyone regardless of faith or path if they will but look, and even a small glimpse gives a lot.
The theme of this volume is Theory and Magic, and the articles give a good overview of the many approaches made by Qabalists. Because of the richness of the tradition, many different approaches and indeed beliefs have arisen and been pursued over the thousands of years Qabalah has existed. Like Wicca, these many different possibilities can confuse the beginner. The Ciceros do a good job of selecting articles that convey a similarity and continuity while at the same time expressing an amazingly wide range of approaches to the same subjects. Similarly, each individual contributor's articles present their own viewpoints in a very lucid manner.
The collection begins with "The ABC's of Qabalah" by Harvey Newstrom. This article discusses some of the meanings of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which the tradition says are the keys to unlocking the wisdom of Qabalah. Newstrom makes a compelling case in that regard, stepping through the characters with a good discussion of what they mean and how the letters build one on another. He shows how the letters are combined and analyzed to reveal hidden meanings beyond simply comprising letters in words. This is an excellent beginning article both in gematria (the analysis of the hidden meanings in spelling and words) and in Qabalah itself.
While space does not permit a discussion of all the articles in the collection, several stand out as worthy of notice. The article "She Dances On The Tree" by Oz attempts to restore lost femininity to the Tree of Life, and to Qabalah itself. While many argue that the Qabalah is a very balanced system, it is obvious even to the beginner that most of the symbols offered in the "traditional" teaching are distinctly male. Oz attempts to reverse this by presenting a very lucid and insightful argument, then suggesting alternative female figures for each sephira on the Tree of Life. Her argument is very well done, despite the occasional lapse into fingerpointing and blame. With a very little reflection and some minor cleanup, her article could well be a cornerstone in the attempts to restore true balance to the Tree in both symbol and meaning. As Oz herself points out, the Qabalah stands as solidly as it does because it is inherently so well balanced that even some fairly awful symbolism cannot unseat its foundations.
The collection includes articles that appeal to the intellectual scholar and to the practicing magician. Articles by Dolores Ashcroft-Norwicki and Isidora Forrest provide teaching in ritual magic, along with one full ritual each that both illustrate their points and offer something constructive to do. After all, as Edgar Cayce said, knowledge not used becomes sin, and the Qabalist acquires so much knowledge along the path that something must be done with it. In another article, Mitch and Gail Henson offer a sequence of exercises to help the budding Ceremonial Magician explore the paths and planes described by the Qabalah. At first these exercises are well described. As the article progresses the instructions become more and more vague, allowing the magician to experience more and more for themselves. This is as it should be, for much of magic involves finding out how things work, not having everything handed to you on a silver platter.
The final article addresses the issue of astrology and Qabalah, and Lisa Roggow does an excellent job of presenting an overview with enough detail to entice the reader to want more. This reviewer hopes she can indeed finish the work and produce the hinted-at book on the Astrological Qabalah. (A search of authors and book titles in March 2000 did not uncover any published books by Lisa Ruggow.)
The collection concludes with a section wherein each contributing author answers the question "What makes the Qabalah such a valuable Resource for Students?" The responses are almost as good as the articles themselves, showing the diversity of the contributors and their commitment to their paths. The answers to this question alone are well worth the price of the entire book.
All in all, this is a very good collection, one which beginning and intermediate Qabalists would do well to study and work.
Reviewed by Mike Hammer
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