Tag Archives: J S Kupperman

Gates of Light / Sha’Are Orah

J. S. Kupperman reviews Gates of Light / Sha’Are Orah by Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla, translated by Avi Weinstein, in the archive of the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition.

Gikatilla Weinstein Gates of Light

While there are many books discussing Jewish Cabala today, there are only a handful of primary sources available to the English reader. Written in the 13th century, Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla’s Sha’are Orah or “Gates of Light” can be added to the list of original Jewish Cabalistic texts that have been fully translated into English (a list that includes the Sepher Yetzirah and the Bahir, as well as the Zohar; though there is only one rather expensive English translation of this to-date) whereas many other cabalistic manuscripts have not been translated at all.

Gates of Light takes the reader, step by step, through each of the ten Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. Each chapter discusses in-depth many of the aspects of a particular Sefirah, but for the chapter which covers both Hod and Netzach, which are taken together as their functions are so complimentary to one another that they function often as almost a single Sefira. Primarily, the Divine Name or Names associated with each Sefira is discussed. This discussion often moves to moral concepts applicable to the Sefira in question; how one Sefira relates to another, and even how segments from Torah or the Talmud should be interpreted by the light of Cabala.

While valuable simply because it is a primary source for traditional Cabala, Gates of Light may be even more valuable and interesting for those who have only studied hermetic or magical Cabala. The descriptions of the Sefirot and Divine Names, even the very attitude that the writer takes towards his writing, are very different from those found in hermetic Cabalistic texts. Many concepts, such as the Resurrected God being integral to the makeup of the Sephira Tiferet, are not to be found. Instead one finds that Tiferet is the place of balanced Divine Justice or that visions and prophecy are directly related to Hod and Netzach while true and perfect vision comes from Tiferet. At the same time, familiar concepts are included, such as Tiferet being the focal point of the Tree of Life, balancing the Sefirot above and below it. The reader discovers both the many dissimilarities and similarities between hermetic and Jewish Cabala.

Though not always clearly written, and often digressing into sub-topics, Gates of Light can give the reader valuable insight into the nature of the Sefirot and the Divine unavailable in other traditional Cabalistic texts or in books written from the hermetic point of view. A primary source for traditional Jewish Cabala, and written even before the famous Zohar, Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla’s Gates of Light is a valuable addition to the library of any Cabalist.

Paths of Wisdom

J. S. Kupperman reviews Paths of Wisdom: Principles and Practices of the Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition by Hermetic Library Fellow John Michael Greer in the archive of the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition.

Greer Paths of Wisdom

At first John Michael Greer’s Paths of Wisdom appears to be just one of dozens of hermetic Cabalistic primers that are already available to the public. A deeper look shows, however, that Paths is much more akin to the Dion Fortune’s magnum opus The Mystical Qabalah. Indeed, additional study shows that Paths goes even farther than that seminal work.

Paths of Wisdom is divided into three sections; Principles of the Magical Cabala, Symbolism of the Magical Cabala and Practice of the Magical Cabala. Each section is effectively a separate primer for beginner, intermediate and advanced theories and practices involving the hermetic Cabala.

The introduction and the first six chapters which comprise part one of the book, discuss the history of the magical or hermetic Cabala, as well as the basic concepts surrounding the Tree of Life, the main glyph or symbol of the Cabala. First, the reader will learn about the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, whose practices for working on the Tree of Life Greer describes in the third section of the book, along with the order’s theories concerning the Tree of Life and the Cabala. Greer then describes the Tree itself, its Sefirot or ten basic manifestations of deity, and its Netivot, or the connecting paths between the Sefirot. Also discussed are the Macrocosm and Microcosm and the mystical paths Greer calls “the Way of Creation” and “the Way of Redemption”.

The second part of the book which comprises the bulk of Paths of Wisdom, contains an in-depth description of the ten Sefirot and the twenty-two Netivot of the Tree of Life. These descriptions include practical information such as the Name of God ascribed to each Sefirot or Path, their magical image and associated colors, all of which would be used in hermetic Cabalistic ritual. Going further though, each chapter discusses each of these listed associations, describing what they mean in relation to the Sefirot or Netivoth in question. Each aspect of symbolism is illustrated for the reader and connected to similar symbols existing in other areas of the Tree.

The third and final section of Paths covers everything from the basic theories of ceremonial magic, such as the Watcher on the Threshold and the Tools of the Magician’s Trade; to basic practices including the protective ritual known as the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. In later chapters the reader is introduced to more advanced practices such as pathworking or skyring on the Tree of Life and magical prayer. Finally there is a discussion on bringing the Magical Cabala into one’s everyday life.

Paths of Wisdom: Principles and Practice of the Magical Cabala in the Western Tradition is an excellent introduction to the Magical Cabala. Its language is clear and easy to understand and its descriptions of both ritual practice and the various parts of the Tree of Life are detailed and insightful. While containing very basic information, the book is none-the-less useful for the intermediate and advanced reader on the subject. Its constructive references and diagrams make it a valuable addition to the library of any hermetic Cabalist.

Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries

J S Kupperman reviews Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries by Pat Zalewski at Temples, Portals and Vaults in Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, No 0, Introduction to the Western Mystery Tradition.

Zalewski Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries

Zalewksi brings student of the Golden Dawn tradition previously unpublished material from one of the original off-shoot Temples of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

The work is published in three volumes, each dealing with a differing aspect of the Golden Dawn. Volume one includes an introduction and history of the Golden Dawn and the Smaragdum Thalasses (ST), the New Zealand branch of the Order founded by Dr. Felkin after the schism in 1903. The rest of the volume contains the grade ceremonies of the Outer Order as used by the ST. The reader may find that these ceremonies somewhat different from previously published versions. Zalewski states that they more closely resemble those used by the original GD and Mathers’ Alpha et Omega than those used by the Stella Matutina.

Volume two consists of Zalewksi’s commentaries on the rituals, as well as anecdotal accounts from his teacher Jack Taylor, a 7=4 and long-time Hierophant under Mrs. Felkin. Each ritual commentary has its own introduction, diagrams, and figures, including tarot cards for each path. Those familiar with Zalekwski’s The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn will find that these tarot cards differ from those used in his first self-published book. Where this volume shines, however, is in its publication of parts of a 6=5 paper on the god-forms and currents of energy in the temple by Moina Mathers.

Volume three of Rituals and Commentaries focuses on the Portal and Adeptus Minor initiation rituals. This volume contains both the ritual texts and commentaries on these ceremonies, as well as the list of 302 endnotes.

Aside from material written by Moina Mathers, Zalewksi provides a great deal of information on Golden Dawn ritual from a point of view that may be completely new to many readers. Not only does he discuss some of the standard interpretations of Golden Dawn material, but he also provides his own interpretations based on his experiences with Taylor and Chakra and Kundalini practice.

Rather than reproducing the Mathers material in full, Zalewski instead incorporates it into his commentaries and diagrams, demonstrating where the various god-forms are stationed and their relation to the pattern of energy in the hall. It is interesting to note that the god-forms used throughout the grade ceremonies differ radically from what might be expected. God-forms used in the 0=0 hall are not necessarily the same as used in other halls, and the same god-form may be used by different officers or stations in different halls. Numerous diagrams are included in these volumes, some of which have never been printed before and many of which differ from those used by the Stella Matutina.

As interesting and informative as this book may be, it still has its problems. Chief among these is the numerous typographical errors. A more thorough editing job would have easily remedied these difficulties.

Originally the publication was meant to be released as separate books by Llewellyn Publications as the Z-5 series. Zalewski did not, however, adequately revise his work to compensate for the merging of the separate works into one whole. The result is noticeable redundancy. The introductory paragraphs to the ritual commentaries are largely repetitive, indicating that they were intended to be printed in separate books, providing minimal new information in each introduction.

Published in 2000, the book was written in the early and mid 1990s. The historical information provided in the first volume, while interesting, is in some cases outdated, and includes several references to the publication dates of Zalewksi’s own work. These volumes were apparently intended to be released before the publication of The Magical Tarot of the Golden Dawn, which was published a few years before.

While the typos and occasional redundancy contained in Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries can be annoying at times, they in no manner outweigh the importance of the new information in its volumes. The Mathers information alone will make this book invaluable to Golden Dawn scholars and magicians alike. The anecdotal information from Taylor as well as Zalewski’s unique insight (whether one agrees with his conclusions or not) more than make Golden Dawn Rituals and Commentaries a worthwhile book and an excellent addition to anyone’s Golden Dawn library.

Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, Vernal Equinox 2014

Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, No. 26, Vol. 3., Vernal Equinox 2014, is available and may be of interest.

J S Kupperman Odin JWMT Vernal Equinox 2014
Odin by J.S. Kupperman, cover art

“What can be said about the Gods that has not already been said or written? Humanity’s oldest surviving writings are about Gods and heroes. We haven’t stopped writing about them, telling stories about them, or otherwise being engaged with them, ever since. The presence of the Gods in magic and theurgy has been, until very recently, ubiquitous. And today, after the spread of monothesim for some 3,000 years, we begin to see a revival of old ways combined with new traditions dedicated to Gods that have sometimes not seen steady worship in hundreds of years.

This issue of the Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition is dedicated to the eternal Gods, may they forever raise us to their presence!” [via]

Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, Vol 3 No 25

Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, Vol 3 No 25, which is organized around the theme “Eros and Agape”, was released for the Autumnal Equinox 2013. Contents listed include:

All You Need is Love, Editorial by J. S. Kupperman
Eros, Orpheus and On the Origin of the World by Alex Rivera
Eros and Agape in Dionysius the Areopagite by J. S. Kupperman

… as well as book reviews and other sundries of interest, including the theme “The Gods” for next issue.

Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, Vol 3 No 24

Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition, Vol 3 No 24, which is organized around the theme “Platonism”, was released today, for the Vernal Equinox 2013. Contents listed include:

To Become Like God, So Far as Possible, Editorial by J. S. Kupperman
Theurgy in Antiquity by J. Pedro Feliciano
The Gnostic Stranger in Unpanishadic Thought by Alexander Rivera
The Kybalion’s New Clothes by Nicholas E. Chapel
Interview with Michael Wilding by Teresa Burns

… as well as book reviews and other sundries of interest, including the theme “Eros and Agape” for next issue.