Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Paths of Wisdom

The Mystical Qabalah is the canonical textbook for anyone on the Hermetic Path. Unfortunately, the book isn't very accessible to newbies. To be honest, Paths of Light: A Guide to the Magical Cabala by John Michael Greer, isn't much more accessible, but it's more modern, and could make a nice stepping stone after reading something like The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford: Dilettante's Guide to What You Do and Do Not Need to Know to Become a Qabalist.

As you may expect, the book focuses on the Tree of Life. (If all you know about the Tree of Life is that it was in the Garden of Eden, read The Chicken Qabalah first.) One difference in the treatment of the Tree of Life is the use of the Hebrew letters that spell the name of God associated with each sphere. Each letter is explained in terms of the associated Tarot card, but this isn't a Tarot book, so the associations aren't made explicit. There's also a nice explanation of the Veil of Paroketh, which separates our mundane life from the higher levels of the Tree. The key concept is that the Veil is at least partially composed of our belief systems.

The treatment of the Tree is quite thorough, including even the four color scales and magical images. An instructive exercise for the artistically inclined would be to paint or draw the magical images. The Yeziratic Texts (an obscure description for each of the spheres and paths) are covered, and these can be hard to make sense of, but the book provides good explanations. The Golden Dawn models of the Garden of Eden before and after the fall are also included and explained.

So what's the bottom line? I recommend this book for serious Hermeticists who have read at least one (preferably three or more) books on the subject already. But you still need The Mystical Qabalah.

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