C. J. M. Hopking, Author . Sterling $16.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-8069-3121-0

Don't be fooled by the glitzy look of this Kabbalah "primer." Like the star appeal of this rediscovered mystical path, followed today by numerous celebrities, it attempts to win readers over with its 128 glossy, full-color pages. But from the opening chapter, its jumble of traditions, poor writing, stark inaccuracies and small type—suggesting that the text is less important than the accompanying illustrations—should telegraph a warning to readers. In his introduction, Hopking distinguishes between the Judaic (Kabbalah), Christian (Cabala) and Western (Qabalah) mystery traditions, using the best-known image, the Tree of Life, and a derivative image, the Ladder of Light, but frequently leaves the reader to wonder which tradition he is describing. This synthesis, which confuses instead of clarifies, is further diluted by doses of astrology, mythology, psychology and self-help. Exercises such as breathing, journaling and meditating are suggested to encourage personal change. Some Hebrew words are inaccurately translated (e.g., "malkuth comes from the Hebrew mal, meaning royal, and kuth, meaning vulva"). Hopking delivers infuriatingly subjective statements as truth, claiming, for instance, that "it was not until very recently that the Kabbalah was seen as anything other than a backwater by the mainstream Jewish community." Illustrations from art museums and science libraries around the world make this a pretty book to look at, but not an informative, accurate guide. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/14/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
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