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.
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.