To London on Saturday to attend a talk on the Qabalah by Z’ev Ben Shimon Halevi (which is the Hebrew name of an English gentleman named Warren Kenton). Interestingly enough it was being held at Dion Fortune’s place in Chalk Farm, London. We were even privileged to use Dion Fortune’s own temple room, though I understand this was only because it was a special occasion – the Society of the Inner Light’s Director of Studies told me they don’t usually let hoi polloi in there as it is “consecrated ground.”Anyway: Z’ev, who has mixed Sephardic and Ashkenazic ancestry, teaches what he calls the “Toledano tradition” of the Kabbalah, which is a particular form of the Sephardic school which derives from mediaeval Toledo in Spain. Z’ev said that he was first moved to study the Kabbalah after having lived in Toledo in a past-life. From what I can make out, the Toledano tradition is fairly similar to the conventional Kabbalah though with a few peculiarities such as their focus on the “Great Tree,” which appears to be a concatenation of the regular Tree of Life in the four worlds of Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah (see picture).
I picked up the following tid-bits from Z’ev’s presentation:
- Despite the Kabbalah being the mystical tradition of the Hebrews, its inner meaning is a Perennial tradition which has been known to different cultures at different times, even those unconnected with one another: e.g. China, Tibet, Babylon, etc. This is even shown in iconography from these regions which all purport to show variants of the Tree of Life.
- The story of Noah’s Ark is metaphorical: the real Ark was in fact knowledge of the Kabbalah itself, whilst the various animals that were saved were particular aspects of that knowledge, which Noah managed to preserve for posterity. In that respect the Great Tree (left) was the blue-print for the Ark described in Genesis. (Alex thinks: Hmm, I wonder if the Royal Ark Mariners have ever considered this?)
- Z’ev takes a curiously wary view of Angels. He used the metaphor of a corporation: God is the boss of the company; Man is the boss’ son; whilst the Angels are the boss’ employees. Thus whilst it is entirely possible that if one were to approach God directly, He would instruct one of His Angels to help: but an Angel would not necessarily be helpful if it were approached directly. In fact, according to Z’ev, an Angel might be downright troublesome. Z’ev took the view that if one asked an Angel to help, one might end up “paying with one’s soul.” At first this makes it seem that Angels are hardly any different from Goetic spirits: although by viewing angels this way it might explain why e.g. Enochian angels are often reported to be troublesome when invoked.
- Z’ev believes in the existence of spirit guides – Maggidim – but avers that they are they are human spirits, rather than “Holy Guardian Angels” (this is probably connected with the dim view that he takes on Angels generally – see above). Z’ev himself claims that he is guided by the spirit of a Kabbalist who lived in the 11th century. He also believes that everyone has within their psyche an “Inner-Teacher” which is equivalent to Daath. From the way he described it, the Inner Teacher seemed to be equivalent to Freud’s notion of the Super-Ego.
- Apparently, in every age at any one time there is an “Alpha-Qabalist” (Aleph-Qabalist?) living, who is like a Secret Chief, world teacher or Qabalistic version of the Messiah. The identity of this Alpha-Qabalist is always secret: he or she always keeps him-or-her-self to him-or-her-self. Z’ev was far too modest to hint in anything other than the mildest terms that it was himself!
After lunch, Z’ev led those assembled on a Qabalistic pathworking exercise. From the ease with which he interpreted peoples vision-experiences I very much suspected that he had done this kind of thing many times in the past, and consequently knew every type of symbolism that commonly cropped up!