Review copyright 2013() Freeman Presson, all rights reserved
The Qabalah Workbook for Magicians aims to be a follow-on to Lon Milo DuQuette’s The Chicken Qabalah of Rabbi Lamed Ben Clifford, serving as a first workbook. It covers the Sephiroth, and gives the beginnings of a master table of correspondences for each one, with room for the student to add more. The recommended use is to work through the book, spending about a month on each Sephirah. This will complete the path of manifestation from Kether to Malkuth. It is then suggested that one could return up the Tree in the next 9 months, gaining new insights along the way.
The primary method given is to contemplate the correspondences of each Sephira, and make and maintain an altar for the Sphere of the Month, spending some time each day with it. Questions and suggestions are provided to guide the student in doing the work and making it personal.
Traditionally, this is how everyone comes to understand the Sephiroth: by contemplating the various kinds of objects, processes, and experiences which fall under the influence of each one.
One of the major themes of Chicken Qabalah is that the Kabbalah/Qabala/Cabalie/QBL/Gabalis/What-the-cluck1 is not something static, but is a process that happens anew between the tradition and each student. This is certainly a reasonable starting point for modern (Hermetic) Qabalists. The present book continues that emphasis. I am going to pretend I am blissfully unaware of the scornful opinions of certain traditionalists, even to the point of imagining that LMD2 made up the story of the spitting Rabbi as a cautionary tale: for to get involved in such unworthiness is surely as damning as originating it would be.
I like the idea of making and using altars for such purposes. I already do it for my talismanic works: I have a little space set aside to keep all of my celestial and elemental talismans (when they’re not riding around on my person), with appropriate statuary, candle, etc. I think of the works of the talismanic art as being part of the Hermetic practical Qabalah, anyway. I am sure the process as outlined in the Workbook would be very helpful if undertaken with the proper diligence and reverence.
I don’t believe the book says this explicitly, but it hit me while reading it, so I will give Kraft part-credit: the act of setting up and consecrating an altar for a very specific spiritual work like this is the same kind of magical act as creating a talisman: one is making a vinculum3 by drawing together symbols and objects related by tradition and by synthemata4, and ensouling it with either the influence of a particular known spirit helper, or with one that is being synthesized for the present purpose (pause for a collective gasp from all who thought A. O. Spare invented that).
Thinking about that should help anyone (possibly even me) keep from doing such things slap-dashedly.
I find only four cautions worth mentioning:
- Do be aware that this book covers only the ten Sephiroth. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but I suspect a sequel may be in the works covering the paths, which is where the alphabet and the Tarot Major Arcana (along with a possibly disproportionate share of the attention of modern magicians) go.
- On page 21, there is a detailed explanation of planetary hours, copied directly from what Mathers wrote in his edition of the Clavicula Solomonis, and unfortunately repeating Mathers’s error. One would think that Mathers, not to mention the present author and editor(s), might have read Agrippa, Lilly, or any other major source of traditional lore and learned that the planetary hours are based on sundial time, not on equal sixty-minute hours (but on p. 47, when discussing the correspondences of Sunrise-Noon-Sunset-Midnight, Kraft affirms that she prefers local solar noon and midnight. By the way, there’s a typo in the diagram on that page: Sunset is listed for both East and West instead of Sunrise and Sunset). Fortunately, neither Kraft nor anyone else I know insists that one should work with a Sephira only in the appropriate planetary hour, all the more so since Kether and Chokmah do not have them (nor do they properly have Zodiacal or other Gods, as Kraft has filled in for consistency).
- Readers who are Thelemites or quite comfortable with lots of Crowleyan influence will have ample reason to like this book, as references to Crowley and to the use of 777 for correspondences abound throughout. I would recommend Skinner instead, for anything involving correspondences, as he has been at great pains to go beyond Crowley, and to rectify some of Crowley’s lacunae. Going beyond Crowley is the only real way to follow him, anyway: if anyone ever packed his metaphysical knapsack and lit out for the frontier, it was Crowley!
- There is an extensive bibliography, but it somehow fails to include Dion Fortune’s The Mystical Qabalah or Israel Regardie and Chic Cicero’s A Garden of Pomegranates: Skrying on the Tree of Life, which is the most likely recommendation to replace the present work.
Everyone will have their own set of issues with any such book, of course. I consider this one worth having, and the “Sphereolatry” process intriguing as a precursor or supplement to pathworkings. If Chicken Qabalah made it into your working knapsack, it’s likely this book should go with it.
1. Maestro Lon Milo would say, “Spell it any way you want! You’re a chicken Qabalist”; but over the years, a convention has developed whereby Kabbalah refers to the Hebrew Kabbalah, Qabalah to the Hermetic variety, and Cabala to Christian Cabala.
2. LMD = Lamed; took me too long to see that.
3. Vinculum: A magical connection made via a confluence of related items with the intent of the operator.
4. Synthemata: Items related by magical correspondence. Nigel Jackson made me fall in love with this term.
The Qabalah Workbook for Magicians
A Guide to the Sephiroth
Anita Kraft, Foreword by Lon Milo DuQuette
9 x 6
Some Art and Photos
July 1, 2013
[Complimentary review copy from the publisher gratefully acknowledged, opinions my own, your mileage may vary, etc.]