Recently it came to my attention that a pair of leaders of a commercial magical temple had put up a blog post on the stance of Quareia and Kabbalah. I found it sad, misleading, and it brought many things into question.
If this post was simply aimed at me as a magician I would sigh, roll my eyes and ignore it, but as the magical integrity of Quareia is being called into question, I feel I have to respond, even though in a tardy way. I will try to be as simple and to the point as possible. But be warned, this is long……..
I have copied into the body of this blog, large parts of the original post, broken down into sections… so it is a long read. The short version is, “know your shit before you open your mouth” or to put it better, ‘you don’t know what it is you don’t know.’
Before I answer the issues raised in the blog post, I want to have a brief look at the school in question where the blog originated from, and the leaders involved. The school is called, the Most Noble Order of the Masters of the Temple. Quite a heady title, which would bring one to assume the leaders were indeed magical masters, and were noble in their actions, intentions and teaching. The two ‘Masters’ are Miriam Fox and Peter Walters (formerly of the SOL)
Miriam (co Leader of a magical school) emailed me a year ago, and stated that she wished to join a private FB forum for Quareia Apprentice students, stating that she was studying the course. Now either she has advanced at breakneck speed from student to master in a year, or she was not wholly forthcoming with me. At no point did she say she was a ‘Master’ in a magical school, rather just that she was a practitioner with her partner who had reached adept level.(SOL)
I find it very strange that a person who is a leader of a magical temple with her partner, would feel it necessary to put herself in to a private student group designed for apprentices of another school. And in light of the following bio from their website, I seriously question the intent of wishing to have direct private access to students in a closed discussion group of another school.
All coloured italics in this post are the words of Peter and Miriam.
We are Peter and Miriam, and we both have many years’ experience in spiritual work. Together we run the Order. The Order was initially set up as a way of us developing our own personal Magickal practice, and we later decided to open the Order up to other people who wanted to get to know the theory and practice of Magick. We offer an opportunity to learn about Modern Ceremonial Magick, to participate in and learn how to construct Magick ritual, and to find a safe and sane way to become a practitioner of Magick. We have been very involved in spiritual development for all of our lives, and our experience has been in Christianity, Judaism, Kabbalah, Shamanism and Paganism.
I would also like to add into this that the Most Noble Temple has a heady price tag with its training course. While that is the individual business of the school and their choice, again, the need of a magical school leader, who deliberately withheld that information (being a leader) to be lurking in the apprentice shadows of another, free, school, brings up the question of motives and intent. What is that about???
The blog post which triggered me to write this response can be found here
in this post, the writer either innocently, or deliberately, misrepresents or misunderstands the comments, concepts and teaching that are about Kabbalah, and the approach of Quaeria.
Some of my comments on my approach to the system of Kabbalah, and intent, as explained to apprentices (i.e. beginners for the most part) can be found here…
if you do not wish to wade through that, this paragraph basically sums up my approach to the teaching of the external pattern of Kabbalah (i.e. paths, names, colours, and the Hermetic rituals and meditations that stem from that):
“For many years, I taught this aspect of magical learning from a Kabbalistic perspective, but slowly I came to realise that because Western magic has in general so bastardised the Kabbalistic system (in an effort to make it fit the Western worldview and its psychological theories), it is to all intents and purposes pointless to teach it that way: the student invariably wanders off into various offshoots of western Kabbalah and finds themselves stuck in mindless loops of magical babble.”
So taking off the external pattern reveals the gems that are hidden underneath. Peter and Miriam even own a Quareia Magicians deck that is used in the course. Did they not spot the Serifot hiding in plain sight, as all the Mysteries do?
What the writer has failed to understand, is that the Quareia course is littered with Kabbalah throughout, just not the dogmatic surface pattern dressing of Hermetic Kabbalah – if he knew as much about Kabbalah as he says he does, he would instantly recognise page after page of magic that flows from the source of Kabbalah, and that underpins the whole system of Kabbalah.
Kabbalah is a system of understanding the universe and the Divine. The mystical magician works within that: and that may be the root of the problem here. Quareia is essentially mystical magic. What Peter constantly refers to is not. The roots of the powers and magical systems that rise to the surface predate Kabbalah by at least two thousand years. Quareia works with the various deeper levels of the mystical system that flows through Kabbalah, and also its more ancient roots.
So let us have a look at what Peter has to say.
Recently I read something by a well-known magician and occultist. It is from a course of magical training that this person has written. The writer is someone I respect hugely, and is, I believe, one of the foremost magicians in Britain at the moment. For this reason it is not easy for me to disagree with the writer; but I regret to say that I have to. This piece touched on kabbalah. The writer said:
“This course will have no kabbalah in it…[kabbalah] is not necessary for a full magical education.”
Obviously, kabbalah is not compulsory in a magical course. You can be a perfectly competent magician without incorporating kabbalah into your system. But, I wondered to myself, why wouldn’t you?
If you simply dip into the course for a nosey around and find a sentence that says “this course will have no kabbalah in it”, and then draw conclusions straight from that sentence, then yes, I can understand the knee jerk reaction. However, if he had taken the time to read a little further, he would have then understood what that sentence meant, and also the style of the course and how it is put together.
It is not a bullet point, surface teaching method, that is employed in Quareia. Quareia is written in a long classical way of teaching that slowly unfolds itself in the true spirit of the Mysteries. It also employs a Kabbalistic way of writing, known as PaRDeS. If he was the Kabbalist he claims to be, he would have spotted that. He would have also seen, had he moved beyond the page he was reading and had delved further into the course, the many references, teachings, and mysteries of Kabbalah embedded within the course.
What is not included in the course is the dressing of Kabbalah or its western Hermetic bastardised offshoot. So the names, paths, colours, dressings, and all the things that have had magicians running around in silly circles for years, are not in there. The dressing is removed completely. The student works in steps, and slowly begins to realise that not only is there a lot of Kabbalah in the course, it also reveals the melting pot that Kabbalistic thinking emerged from.
For me personally, I feel that the surface presentation of Kabbalah is best left, because of the Western bastardisation, to its mystical and religious community. That is just my personal opinion as a teacher, and does not reflect on how other teachers approach it. As a magical teacher, it is my job to help students evolve as magicians, and not constantly repeat the same mistakes.
The reason for this is to avoid what obviously happened to him in his magical training: the devolved understanding added to psychology = tick box system. So let’s look a bit further.
For at least the last five centuries, kabbalah has been deeply imbedded in all western European magical systems; and the Golden Dawn, whose approach is the basis of most current magical systems (including Wicca, in spite of their wish to deny it) was based on kabbalah. Unless you want to be a Druid or an Odinist, kabbalah will have influenced your thinking and practice to a great extent. Given that I have seen Yggdrasil shown with Norse sefirot, even the Odinists are not always immune to kabbalah’s influence.
Let us have a look at a few things which are a major part of modern western magic and are derived from or influenced by kabbalah:
The four directions and the four elements
The four alchemical symbols of the elements
The four creatures – lion, eagle, bull and man
The four archangels
The twin pillars of the temple
The pentagram and its banishing and invoking rituals
The middle pillar ritual
The kabbalistic cross
If the writer thinks that all of these things come directly from Kabbalah, then he would be better served learning a bit more of ancient history and mysticism. For just one example, the magical pattern of the four directions heavily predates Kabbalah and Jewish texts. It appears in the Pyramid texts, the Amduat, and the Book of Gates, a mystical funerary text that is full of seeds that later flowered in magic. In fact one of the most confounding passages in Isiah (43) which has stumped many a theologian, is a clear example of much earlier aspects of the Justified One passing through the Duat, and includes, …wait for it….. the four directional pattern… but you have to read it in a Kabbalistic way, not psychologically. Of course the four directional magical pattern predates Pre Dynastic Egypt, and can be found in the temple structure of the Sumerian city states. They are the same, and they still work magically. And that is just one example from the list. I could tear the rest apart, but this post is already very long.
Also, the above list, with things like for example, the Kabbalistic cross, are surface patterns of a relatively modern specific branch of western hermetic system, they are not inherent to western magic or Kabbalah… if the writer thinks so, he needs to get out more.
his is not to mention the more obvious material, such as the sefirot, the Tree and the four worlds. So I have to repeat, why would you ignore kabbalah in a course on western magic?
If you read the course material properly, instead of skimming and trying to find something to disagree with, you will see that it is not ignored. Also, after your little list above, I would seriously question what it exactly is that you think Kabbalah and also Western Magic actually are, in the in depth forms… not just a side dressing of a branch of a side dressing.
The writer gives a number of reasons for this:
“The magician translates Hebrew words into English…and all you get is the outer meaning of the word. No power, no interface, no conductivity…all that happens is that…any engagement with that power is simply a psychological engagement with the self…this is not a magical use per se.”
This raises a number of questions for me. Firstly, I don’t know any magicians or magical systems who translate Hebrew terms into English. Obviously we do want to know the meaning of the words; but I have never seen any ritual using English words for kabbalistic terms. No-one I know says ‘crown’ instead of ‘keter’, or ‘glory’ instead of ‘tiferet’.
While my comments raise a number of questions for him, his answer in turn raises many questions about how he uses magic and what he thinks it is. The power of a formed magical utterance, where the language and sound has been used in the same way repeatedly over centuries during mystical and magical work builds up its own pattern of power and interface.
And if he has not come across magicians who cast the Hebrew to one side and use English, then maybe he would do better to come out of the echo chamber once in a while. The first magician I know of to cast the Hebrew to one side was W G Gray, a respected and skilled magician. I understand his reasons, and what he was trying to achieve. It’s not my way, but it was his and it worked well for him.
Secondly, is it correct to say that a psychological engagement with the self is not magic? Certainly it is not all that magic is; but psychological change, like any other change, is a vital part of magic, and a necessary part of any magical training or development. If the major magical and spiritual systems had had more psychological work embedded into them, they might not have so spectacularly failed in the ways they all did.
Well here we get to the foundation of the problem. Peters training in the SOL – a school which uses psychology in a major way in teaching. His understanding of psychology and magic is coming from a perspective of someone within that echo chamber, who is also a therapist, and not looking from the outside in…. which is where you see all of the weaknesses such an approach makes. It has become a dogma within Western Magic, and one that has done irreparable damage. But that is a different discussion to this one, and is one where the magician who posits the heavy mix of psychology and magic needs to have experience of the other side of the fence before commenting. Also, as a man who makes his money from psychology, it would be very hard for him to step out of that mind set.
The writer says that kabbalah “…helps the kabbalist to engage with the power of [the sefirah] Netzach to learn how to endure, to be victorious, and consequently become strong and knowledgeable by overcoming adversity’. Fine aims, but aren’t they all psychological processes?
No they are not. Being a builder or a carrier of bricks, or being a medical student would essentially be working with the power of Netzach if that work was approached with mystical intent (and yes, people do that)… that is not a psychological approach. Endurance, strength and knowledge do not come from mirror gazing. They come from hard work and perseverance, both in the mundane and the magical.
The writer has become so enmeshed in the mix of psychology and magic that they cannot look outside of it nor understand that the powers of the Sefirot flow through everything that lives, moves and exists. The sefirot were not invented by Jewish people, they are words that are names for Divine powers that naturally exist as Divine expressions in the world. What Kabbalah is, on its surface is a vocabulary and map for looking at Divine creation and destruction. Those powers exist and always have done.
I would say that internal psychological change is a crucial aspect of magic and needs to be integral to any magical training. I note that the writer does not say that engaging with the power of the sefirah helps the kabbalist to defeat enemies by purely magical means, such as sending the demon of the sefirah to terrify them. This goes against the writer’s previous assertion that ‘psychological engagement with the self…is not a magical use per se’.
I am a little lost for words to answer this paragraph as it is essentially magical babble.
Thirdly, do we have to use Hebrew to have effective magic? Let me park that very important question until later.
Nope…… and I have never said that.
The writer goes on to say: “These sacred languages…you cannot change them, co-opt them or dabble with them.” The fact is that throughout history we have been changing, co-opting and dabbling with words, ideas and practices. This is not wrong: on the contrary, it is absolutely necessary. All creative change comes from this process, and there are no magical, spiritual and religious systems which have not been subjected to these changes. That’s how we got Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as Buddhism, Gnosticism, magic, Wicca and all the major spiritualities, past and present. Kabbalah itself has changed massively over the last three thousand years of its mythical history.
The use of mundane language and even magical language does evolve, yes. However, if you are working within a set system for a specific magical reason, then changes to the language will change the magical pattern and can subsequently destabilize the magic if the magician does not know exactly what they are doing if they are working within a specific system pattern. So if you are not going to follow the pattern properly, you have to work a different pattern approach, which is what Quareia does. Kabbalists who are worth their salt understand that, as did the Egyptian priests. If you don’t understand that, then maybe a few more years of study may help you.
It would be wise I think, at this point, to point out that these clips of text that the writer has used, are from Apprentice texts… for beginners….. you cannot explain the complexity of magic in theory to people most of whom are going to be beginners. First they learn boundaries, and basics. You do not explain the complexity of voltage to a toddler, you block up plug sockets. When they are a bit older, you teach them not to stick metal things into plug sockets. When they are older still, they can learn the fundamentals of electric circuits, what is safe and what is not, and how to wire things properly. It is a skill called teaching.
We always need to update systems to keep them relevant, and unless we live on a desert island we will be affected by the belief systems of other peoples and cultures. And that’s just great!
“When used magically by a Jewish kabbalist…[this] ability comes from a deep understanding and knowledge of Torah.”
Let me get this straight: are we saying that to do kabbalah we need to be Jewish, and have a background in traditional Jewish religion? I would very emphatically say no to that, on many levels and for the following reasons:
No, I am not saying that.
I am Jewish and spent many years learning and teaching traditional Judaism. My partner was born and brought up until age forty in the ultra-orthodox Chassidic community. We searched for a long time, over the world, including in the kabbalistic town of Sefat in Israel, for true kabbalah and true spirituality – and we did not find it. The reality is that no orthodox religion contains magical truth and practice, only the sad fragments of real spiritual connection; and Judaism is no exception.
Actually, a background in Judaism does not help in understanding kabbalah or making a connection with its real energies – in fact it is a hindrance. Like all occultism, kabbalah hides in plain sight by using terms to mean something very different from its mundane or religious counterpart. The meaning of Jewish religious terms have to unlearned by the traditional Jew before kabbalah can become meaningful; and this is nowhere truer than with native Hebrew speakers in Israel, who have huge disadvantages in learning Kabbalah because of their fluency with Hebrew.
Maybe the better phrasing of mine would have been, “When used magically by a skilled, knowledgeable mystical magical Jewish kabbalist…[this] ability comes from a deep understanding and knowledge of Torah.”
If you think for one minute that someone who has done a few years of a course in general magic that has Hermetic Western Kabbalah in it is going to know more than someone who has been immersed in first the exterior (Peshat) knowledge for many years of study, and progresses through the stages of understanding and practice to arrive at an understanding that engages Sod in its most mystical and magical form, then maybe you need to re evaluate your ideas a bit.
And as for finding the deep and powerful kabbalists hanging around on Israeli street corners, maybe reading Plotinus and his ventures in to finding a suitable teacher will give you an understandable parallel.
In fact the most effective magicians of Western Europe, since the Renaissance, who have used kabbalah, have not been Jewish. And this is because:
Kabbalah in its magical sense is not exclusively Jewish at all. It was created in the Renaissance by scholars who were mainly Christian and who did not need to get their kabbalah from Jewish Rabbis. Undoubtedly there was a cross-fertilisation of ideas as society became freer, but the Jewish kabbalists who conversed with Christian scholars were certainly no more orthodox than their Christian counterparts. Hebrew language, theology and mysticism has been part of Christianity since the time of Jesus, and has had a parallel development to that of traditional Judaism.
Oh dear. Either you do not understand the subtle body of early Kabbalah works, which were indeed magical (and heavily predate the Renaissance), or you do not know your history of when the Renaissance happened, or you don’t also understand that Kabbalah existed long before ‘Kabbalah’ books appeared, or that the shiny Kabbalistic styled grimoires that came out of Renaissance Europe were for the most part (not exclusively) saleable mishmash of glitter to get money out of rich nobles.
or… which is what I suspect, what you term magical Kabbalah is the most surface debased magical dogma that subsequently emerged in popular Hermeticism. The very dogma that Quareia moves away from and instead peers more deeply into the roots of the mystical magical line.
Your pointing to the Renaissance as a starting point shows a glaring lack of knowledge of the texts from that period, where they came from, why they came into Europe and what they contained… and most importantly, how old they were. And the examples of mixed Christian and Jewish grimoire texts of that time that you offer as examples, were offshoots and often product, or fashion writing, or side shoot experimentation.
Kabbalah is a mixture of Jewish terminology, Christian mysticism, alchemy and Gnosticism (and much more) which created something distinct from Judaism or Christianity.
Look at this example: Christianity has always used the Hebrew bible and Hebrew words in its worship and theology. Does that make it a branch of Judaism? No.
Well, just to be awkward, it might be pedantic to point out that very early Christianity was in fact an exclusive Jewish sect (Gentiles need not apply).
does that mean that you have to have a background in Jewish religion to be an effective Christian? No.
Umm, you cannot make sense of the works of the New Testament if you do not understand the Old Testament (which is Jewish). So it all depends on what you consider a ‘good Christian’ to be, and also in relation to the current debate. If you do not understand the root and branch of where something comes from, you will not fully understand what it is you are doing in magic, why you are doing it, and how you are doing it. Quareia students have to study the NT, the Torah, along with Greek, Egyptian, Roman, and Sumerian patterns, texts and thinking. Know the roots of your magic, and you will not continue to make the same silly mistakes.
And so neither does being an effective kabbalistic magician mean that you need a background in traditional Judaism.
Nope.. that is your assumption, which is what comes from skim reading.
The writer goes on to say that:
“Kabbalah is a deep, powerful and mystical interface with Divinity…it does not find parking spaces for you.”
I know that this is a joke, of sorts. I’m not sure that magicians carry out ritual magic to find parking spaces – certainly I don’t. But let’s take it that this means ‘any low-level material benefit’.
Although all the systems we use are on their highest level ‘a deep, powerful and mystical interface with Divinity’, where they translate into practical magic they certainly are about material benefits. That’s the difference between magic and mysticism.
And here is the problem reveals itself. This bit is long, but I thought it best to leave Peter’s words in, entirely ….
We are using spiritual and psychic forces to bring about changes, hopefully for the better, by our Will. This may be to create ‘a deep, powerful and mystical interface with Divinity’; or it may be to help us to become more developed people, or to get a better job, or to help pay the rent. All of these are legitimate goals for the magician and the kabbalist.
The writer seems to have a very elevated view of Jewish kabbalists; wise sages with long beards who, in between learning Talmud create ‘a deep, powerful and mystical interface with Divinity’.
this is all your own baggage, Peter, not mine. I have an elevated view of people whom I know to be very skilled, mystical Kabbalists.. people I have known for decades, the fact that some of them are also Jewish Rabbis is neither here nor there. I have a deep respect for them, for their individual skill, knowledge, wisdom, maturity and experience. I also know a lot of Jewish (and Gentile) kabbalists who are full of shit.
As I said, in twenty years of seeking in the byways of Sefat and Meah Shearim, I never found any. But what I did find, in great quantity, were men (never women!) who did low magic. They wrote amulets, they created blessings and curses, they sold good-luck charms and they peddled strings and holy water.
Why am I not surprised?
Now I’m not saying this wasn’t legitimate magic; just that it certainly wasn’t ‘a deep, powerful and mystical interface with Divinity’.
Of course is isn’t… if the system is debased, misused, watered down, messed around with, or used to peddle wares, or is above and beyond the understanding of the practitioner, then it is nothing more than playing.
Any moron can ‘study’ kabbalah…. Any moron can study Hermetic western Kabbalah. It will go no further for them than their own level.
You are equating such practice with the highest tuning of a mystical magical and religious system, which indeed is a mystical interface with Divinity, as all religions have the potential to be. Why?
Perhaps you think that the kabbalists have gone down in the world from their original high-minded mysticism? So let me remind you that the most famous kabbalistic magical act was that of Rabbi Arieh Loew of Prague, who created a Golem to terrify local anti-Semites. A worthy act, to be sure, but not specifically ‘a deep, powerful and mystical interface with Divinity’.
Oh my…. Are you serious? You sweep aside hundreds and hundreds of years, and various examples of deep mystical and magical texts and stories, and whip out a single popular story to make a point. That, Peter, is not a worthy act at all.
My partner has inherited a hand-written book of kabbalistic magic, handed down through the family, which claims to be around three hundred years old (although it may be a nineteenth century copy) and to contain the kabbalistic magic of a holy Jewish kabbalist. It does not contain any spells to get a parking space, obviously, but it is all about similar low-level material benefits – how to avoid being bitten by a dog, how to get your enemy to leave town (or die a horrible death), for a pain-free childbirth, how to make sure you have a son, how to cure illnesses, etc. in fact it is very similar to a traditional western Witchcraft book. Useful stuff, if it works (we haven’t tried) but certainly not ‘a deep, powerful and mystical interface with Divinity’.
Yes, that is known as ‘glitter and glamour’ magic mixed in with Jewish folk magic. And your point is? Do you seriously think that such magic, and the highest form of mystical magical Kabblah are the same? Really? Can you not tell the difference? And can you not tell the difference between a 19th century text (they were very common) and a 17th century text? What sort of adept are you?
So let me put my view: kabbalistic magic is not, historically or currently, exclusively Jewish. In the west it has predominately been used by non-Jewish magicians over the last five hundred years and as such it has formed the basis of the most important magical systems of recent centuries. It can be used effectively by anyone, without any Jewish or Biblical background; and it can be helpful even on a superficial level. I do not understand the writer’s prejudice against using kabbalah, and I do not accept that a course on western magic should exclude kabbalah.
No prejudice, just your skimming reading…..
Earlier on I asked: do we have to use Hebrew to have effective magic? Is Hebrew an especially sacred language whose very sounds and letters have an intrinsic magical power that other languages do not?
Orthodox Judaism would certainly say yes. Hebrew was the language that God used to create the world, and saying ‘Aur’ made light come into being. The very shapes of the letters have a mystical power to them. But is this true?
Less psychology and going back to magical training somewhere would do you the world of good. I am not being sarcastic, I truly mean it.
Hebrew and its alphabet are not unique. For example, Norse and Anglo-Saxon runes are similarly little pictures of things and they too have magical powers if used correctly. But I would suggest that all languages, spoken and written, have a magical power to create out of nothing, because they are vehicles of the human creative Will. Hebrew certainly sounds exotic and ‘authentic’; but so does Latin and Greek, both languages popularly used by magicians in the past. Ancient Egyptian is even more so. But whilst there is a numinous quality about using ancient languages, as well as a snob-value, there is actually nothing that cannot, if need be, be said in English; and English has just as much magical power as any of the rest – provided we believe that it has. The language, whichever one we choose to use, is merely a vehicle for stating the Will of the magician, and it is this Will that brings about change.
Again you completely misunderstand the reasoning, the methodology, and the magical structure of both Kabbalah, and Quareia. It would take another long blog to try and explain any of this to you in a way you would understand.
So next time you decide to critique a system, any system, ensure that first you have fully understood it, and that you also understand the subject matter you are contending. You do no justice to yourself or your own school if you approach it the way you have with your blog. And in light of your expensive fees, many people will of course question your motives.
מנא מנא תקל ופרסין
Much of this is over my head as I am very much a beginner, but I applaud your response to his post. Very well written. And the memes are absolutely hilarious. Mary Ancilla Martinez Taasevigen
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Thank you Josephine! This is hilarious, especially that “things which are derived from or influenced by Kabbalah” part. So much Golden Dawn, so much Eliphas Levi!
The hexagram and pentagram aren’t Kabbalistic. You can trace them back to the Greeks’ sacred geometry. Besides, Indian Tantra and Japanese Onmyodo also use those patterns and they need no Kabbalah.
Same thing with the Tarot. The Kabbalistic correspondence was shoehorned into it in the 19th century and it’s not necessary. I use a Marseilles deck and all those Kabbalah don’t fit in.
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Oh absolutely. The post was already long enough, but virtually every thing this guy posited was completely off base. People just don’t learn their own magical history any more. I had to smile at the tarot comment he made… I thought I would leave that one hanging for the wolves… 🙂
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Wow, I have been banging my head off text book after text book trying to figure out why nothing was adding up for my when studying the Western version of Kabbalah. I even just stopped using it as part of my craft because it was so wrong. Thank you for the rabbit hole to travel down and bring Kabbalah back to my craft. Peter and what’s her name again, are the reason (not directly) I have spent 4 years going round and round trying to sort out the Kabbalah by their perpetuating “New Age” myth as a foundation for the practice of one’s craft. Down the rabbit hole I go. 🙂
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yes, it can be a powerful pattern to understand the universe with, or it can be a shackle of dogma that traps you in a glamour. Good luck with your journey!
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