Tag Archives: cabala

Kabbalah, Magic and the Great Work of Self-Transformation

J S Kupperman reviews Kabbalah, Magic and the Great Work of Self-Transformation: A Complete Course [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] by Lyam Thomas Christopher, in the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition archive at A Post-Modern Golden Dawn?.

Christopher Kabbalah Magic

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is perhaps the most famous, or maybe infamous, magical order of the last two centuries. Today’s occult book market is filled with “magical primers” based on the Golden Dawn’s particular form of astro-Qabalistic magic. Here is one more book for the list.

Kabbalah is a mixed bag of history, philosophy and practical esotericism. In the first chapter of this ten-chapter work Christopher provides the most important caveat of the piece; that there is nothing new in this book. This is not actually a mark against Kabbalah, quite the contrary in fact as it lets the would-be purchaser know what they are getting; not new information but another approach to the information that is being presented. As an educator I am aware that different students learn in different ways so another approach to the Golden Dawn system of magic may provide the student a way that works for them.

Christopher’s purpose in writing this book appears to have been to present the Golden Dawn material, as well as a method for initiation into the Golden Dawn current, in a way that fits the ideologies of post-Modernism. Thus, while there are elements in Kabbalah that will be familiar to any Golden Dawn magician his approach may be quite foreign. In some ways this is to be expected but the text does present some internal inconsistencies. For instance Christopher stresses the importance of focusing on the Outer Order material while in the Outer Order, and indeed this makes up the bulk of the book. However in his Outer Order material he includes practices such as the hexagram rituals and the LVX signs, which are taught in the grade of Adeptus Minor. He says that both of these can be useful to the Outer Order magician in their work, and while this may very well be true it is inconsistent with his previous message of focusing on Outer Order information.

Christopher’s methodology is not entirely original and appears to be a combination of Regardie, whose Golden Dawn you will also need to purchase to use Kabbalah, Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley and a bit of Pat Zalewski, through Christopher’s own training by Peter and Laura Yorke. The focus of the work is on the practice of variation of the Middle Pillar exercise, pentagram and hexagram rituals and the study of the Z material, which is the underlying formula of the Golden Dawn’s initiation ceremonies. There is more to it than this, but these three rituals and the Golden Dawn’s Z formulae are what are primarily employed for the process of self-initiation and self-transformation. This methodology, which Christopher claims to be superior to the Golden Dawn’s initiation rituals, is to bring the magician into alignment with the elemental forces of the Golden Dawn’s outer order and Portal grade.

Unfortunately there is a great deal more to the Golden Dawn’s initiation ceremonies than elemental energies and Christopher does not sufficiently explain how these missing elements are incorporated into his magical praxis. This is not to say that Kabbalah presents a non-functioning esoteric and spiritual practice; its methodology will subject the magician to the elemental energies associated with the Golden Dawn. However it remains to be seen whether or not it will provide access to the other aspects of the Golden Dawn current.

The first three chapters of Kabbalah, rather then focusing on practice, present the author’s ideology and raison d’ être. Here the author discusses his understanding of history, religion, philosophy, magic and learning. These chapters are important for understanding the author yet they tended to leave me as though I should feel that by disagreeing with his conclusions, philosophy or history I was somehow just not enlightened enough to understand him. It is here that Christopher’s revisionist history and spiritual biases are the most obvious.

These chapters are not all bad however. Beyond tendencies towards revisionist history Christopher stresses the difficulty of the work and the importance of actually doing the work and not just reading about it. There is an important emphasis on the need for discipline and perseverance. The message that the work is in fact work is hammered home and this is something often missing from other magical primers. The philosophy and history, some of which is both interesting and useful, also continue throughout the whole of the book, breaking up the magical instructions.

All this being said, again, there is still nothing new in Kabbalah, Magic and the Great Work of Self-Transformation. For the beginning magician who is interested in the Golden Dawn or one who has tried other magical primers and found them to not work Kabbalah may be the book that works, and it will provide such a reader with an unique interpretation of the Golden Dawn material that should not necessarily be ignored. However if you are already accomplished in the Golden Dawn system, while you may find some of the variations on the Middle Pillar or Hexagram rituals interesting, you can still safely pass this one by.

The Tao & the Tree of Life

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus review The Tao & The Tree of Life: Alchemical & Sexual Mysteries of the East & West [Amazon, Weiser Antiquarian, Local Library] by Eric Steven Yudelove, foreword by Mantak Chia.

Yudelove Chia The  Tao and the Tree of Life

Author Eric Yudelove is a practitioner of both Taoist internal alchemy and occultist Kabbalah, and this book sets forth his effort to synthesize the two sets of theory while comparing and harmonizing their techniques. It is written with accessible language and a sometimes irritatingly informal tone, occasionally coming across as rather credulous about the metaphysical bases of the two disciplines at issue. In addition, Yudelove is an “initiated shaman” (initiatory pedigree not supplied) who claims that a sort of generic shamanism forms the substratum of all historical mysticisms.

His Taoist internal alchemy credentials are impressive, as he was a senior American student and long personal associate of Mantak Chia, whose instruction and publications represent the most conspicuous and widespread sources of technical information on this school of practice in the late 20th century. At certain points in The Tao & the Tree of Life Yudelove says he is revealing internal alchemy practices about which Mantak Chia had never written in his books, and this claim is ratified in the foreword by Mantak Chia himself. Of special note are the astronomically-oriented mediations discussed towards the end of the book, which Yudelove identifies with certain passages from the Thelemic Book of the Law.

When writing about Kabbalah (his preferred spelling), Yudelove distinguishes between the Jewish Kabbalah, an esoteric religious tradition, and what he calls the “Western Kabbalah,” a syncretist mystical system. (I think “Hermetic Qabalah” is a more accurate and telling label for the latter.) He emphasizes the value of the Western Kabbalah in this book. Here he surpasses Perle Epstein, whom he cites as the only prior writer to intimate the parallel between Kabbalistic and Taoist mediation. She had merely set apart a “Christian Cabala” which she deprecated relative to its Jewish antecedents. Yudelove’s foremost cited authority on Jewish Kabbalah is Ariyeh Kaplan, and for the Western Kabbalah he is openly indebted to both Aleister Crowley and Franz Bardon. Possibly more important, although only cited for one title in the appended bibliography, is Israel Regardie, whose publication of the “middle pillar ritual” is so important to Yudelove’s understanding of Kabbalistic practice. When Yudelove writes that “the Cherubim are the Angels of Yesod in the world of Assiah” (161) he is using Aleister Crowley’s correspondences in 777, but Crowley–who followed Maimonides in this attribution–notes that authorities differ and “there are many other schemes” (note to Col. C).

An interesting feature of the book is the colloquial review of some relevant literature of sex magic and sex mysticism available in the early 1990s. Yudelove praises Ashcroft-Nowicki’s Tree of Ecstasy, and he amusingly dogs Fra. U.D.’s Secrets of the German Sex Magicians: “It just makes me wonder what the German sex magicians were doing before Chia began to publish?” (131) Still, he admits of his own book, “This is not a scholarly, exhaustive work” (159). It is a very broad, practical overview of its subject.

The exception to this wide focus is the detail afforded in the appendices, which represent language developed by Yudelove for in-person instruction in both Taoist and Kabbalist meditations. These are very good, although not flawless. In particular “Taoist Meditation 2” has a passage in which various “points” are addressed, and for each there is the symptom of the point’s “open” (good) and “closed” (bad) functioning, in that sequence. These should really be reversed, so that the sequence reflects and guides improvement rather than suggesting and possibly fostering deficiencies.

As far as I have been able to tell, this 1996 Lllewellyn book was Yudelove’s first. He went on to publish more in the same vein. In 2005, he furnished a minor headline for the New York Post when he was subjected to arrest and multiple criminal charges for altercations he seems to have initiated at the Hustler Club strip joint on 51st Street. To the extent of my knowledge, he is still alive and in good health, so perhaps his claims are sound for the ecstasy and immortality supposedly conferred by his practices. Still, his recorded behavior indicates they are no guarantee of wisdom or beneficence.

The book is useful enough on its own terms, although best read in conjunction with related literature, for which the author helpfully provides a competent biography.

The Rosicrucian Enlightenment

The Rosicrucian Enlightenment by Frances Yates, the 2002 paperback from Routledge Classics, is part of the collection at the Reading Room.

Frances Yates The Rosicrucian Enlightenment from Routledge Classics

“In the early seventeenth century two manifestos were published which proclaimed, in terms of magic, alchemy and the Cabala, the dawn of a new age of increased knowledge and power over nature. These anonymous documents (reproduced in the appendix to this work) were written on behalf of ‘the Fraternity of the Rose Cross’. Ever since, this mysterious movement has been the subject of endless fascination, speculation and intrigue. In a remarkable piece of detective work, the renowned historian Frances Yates here reveals the truth about the ‘Rosicrucian Enlightenment’ and details its impact on Europe’s political and cultural history. She transforms, for instance, our understanding of the origins of modern science by placing it in the context of an occult tradition key figures such as Descartes, Bacon, Kepler and Newton. Beautifully illustrated, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment remains one of those rare works of scholarship which no reader can afford to ignore.” — back cover


The Hermetic Library Reading Room is an imaginary and speculative future reification of the library in the physical world, a place to experience a cabinet of curiosities offering a confabulation of curation, context and community that engages, archives and encourages a living Western Esoteric Tradition. If you would like to contribute to the Hermetic Library Reading Room, consider supporting the library or contact the librarian.