By occultist Dion Fortune, this is a Qabalah study guide and an introduction to the Tree of Life from the viewpoint of Western Mysticism.
By Dion Fortune
Book - Published by Weiser Books
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
The Qabalah sets a wonderful foundation for Tarot, even if one views it as a esoteric system that was overlaid on the cards. It is also a system that can be difficult to grasp, leaving it to be, in general, one of the last things that a Tarot student turns to in their studies. In "The Mystical Qabalah", Dion Fortune presents the Qabala from the viewpoint of Western Mysticism. It was written to be used as an introduction to the Tree of Life for students of the Society of the Inner Light, a society founded by the author.
The background for "The Mystical Qabalah" lies in work done by MacGregor MAtthews - specifically in the tables of correspondence that he presented in "Kabbalah Unveiled". The style employed in "The Mystical Qabalah" is one of the first things that struck me, with each paragraph being numbered. Perhaps this is simply a reflection of the times that Dion Fortune was writing in, and of the fact that the book was written as a study guide for students of her society.
Some of the information presented in this book not only reflect the times that they were written in, but come across as highly judgmental. For example, from the chapter entitled "Yoga of the West"
"2. The adepts of those races whose evolutionary destiny is to conquer the physical plane have evolved a Yoga technique of their own which is adapted to their special problems and peculiar needs. This technique is based upon the well-known but little understood Qabalah, the wisdom of Israel."
"18. In consequence of this deplorable limitation on the part of our theology, many Western aspirants take up Eastern methods. For those who are able to live in Eastern conditions and work under the immediate supervision of a guru this may prove satisfactory, but it seldom gives good results when the various systems are pursued with no other guide than a book and under unmodified Western conditions.
19. It is for this reason that I would recommend to the white races the traditional Western system, which is admirably adapted to their psychic constitution. It gives immediate results, and if done under proper supervision, not only does it not disturb the mental or physical equipose, as happens with regrettable frequency when unsuitable systems are used, but it produces a unique vitality. It is this pecular vitality of the adepts which led to the tradition of the elixir of life. I have known a number of people in my time who might justly be considered adepts, and I have always been struck by that peculiar ageless vitality they all possessed."
The Qabalah itself is covered well, if at a beginners level and in a somewhat repetitious manner. Fortune goes into the choice of the Path (manner of spiritual study and growth), the "method" of Qabalah and the Tree of Life (with its esoteric symbolism), negative existence, the four worlds and the three Supernals, the ten Sephiroth, the Gods upon the Tree (the Tree of Life) and practical work done upon the Tree. It was of interest to me to see the reference that Fortune made to MacGregor Matthews essay on what he termed the four types of Qabalah the practical Qabala (which deals with Talismanic and ceremonial magic; the Dogmatic Qabalah, which refers to Qabalistic literature; the Literal Qabalah, referring to the use of numbers and Hebrew letters and the Unwritten Qabalah, which concern itself with the "correct" manner in which the symbols/systems are arranged on the Tree of Life.
Separate chapters are devoted to each of the Sephiroth, including the following information title, magical image, situation on the Tree, Yetziratic text, God name, Archangel, order of angels, mundane chakra, spiritual experience, virtue, vice, correspondence in the microcosm, symbols, Tarot cards and color in Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah.
Included is a table of correspondences for pathworking, as well as an editorial update covering corrections to the transliteration of Hebrew into English, with corrections to the existing text, a fold out series of diagrams for the Tree of Life and an additional chapter of Dion Fortune's writings.
This is not a book for beginning students, as there are enough inconsistencies that there could be confusion as to what was being presented. I did find it well written, and easy to follow - if a bit verbose. It has its place as a reference book (even though some things are implied, rather than stated), and acts as a good reflection of the times that it was written in. I fully intend to keep it as part of my Tarot/esoteric library.
© Bonnie Cehovet
1. Fortune, Dion. "The Mystical Qabalah". Weiser Books. page 3.
2. Fortune, Dion. "The Mystical Qabalah". Weiser Books. page 7.
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.