Review of Total Kabbalah by Maggy Whitehouse (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2008, 224 ff.)
Ancient mystical wisdom for today
By Dr Howard A. Jones (Carmarthen, Wales UK)
This book could well have been subtitled `Everything you ever wanted to know about Kabbalah but were afraid to ask'. Perhaps `Total' Kabbalah is not achievable in one volume, but this book comes as close as one could wish for. It covers so many aspects of Kabbalah in an easily readable and lucid style.
After a short introduction for those not familiar with the subject, the book gives general principles and then elaborates details for those who use Kabbalah as a source of divine inspiration. As would be expected, the text is structured around the Tree of Life - the Otz Chiim of Jewish tradition - with a detailed exposition of its many meditative interpretations: its relationship with the seven-branched menorah, the seven chakras of spiritual healing, the ten sefirot or archangels at its nodes and their association with the qualities of human consciousness such as wisdom and understanding, its astrological significance (not the nonsense we read in the daily press but as a true ancient mystical study), the relationship between Kabbalah, Tarot and Numerology, and its practical application in bringing balance and happiness into our personal lives.
The ancient Lurianic Kabbalah is briefly mentioned, but the book mainly uses the Toledano tradition based on the Jacob's ladder metaphor found in Genesis 28.12 which has been revived by the contemporary mystic, Shimon Halevi. Myths of the Christian Old Testament, which Jews call the Tenakh, are woven at appropriate places into the text, but this is very much a book for today's world, skilfully using historical traditions.
Perhaps the outstanding feature of the book from a reader's point of view is the presentation, with a meaningful use of colour and each topic presented separately and copiously illustrated on a double-page spread. The book is published in A4 format, which allows it more easily to lie opened on the desk for teaching purposes.
I would unreservedly recommend this book, not only for those interested specifically in Jewish or Christian Kabbalah, but to inform and assist practically those who have already joined the emerging New Spirituality movement.