Posted by: Nyxks | February 19, 2007

The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah

The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah
by Leonora Leet, Ph.D. © 1999
Inner Traditions
ISBN 0-89281-724-0
412 pages + Notes, Bibliography & Indexes
$19.95 (U.S.) $31.95 (Canada)
Reviewed by: Mike Gleason

Reading this book, I kind of felt like I had walked into a movies theater part way through the film. This is the second book in a four-book series. I have not read the preceding volume, and my knowledge of Kabbalah is, at best, minimal, so I was sort of playing catch-up” at the beginning.

The author is a Ph.D. and professor of English which, at first blush, doesn’t give any indication of a background conducive to Kabalistic studies. She has, however, spent more than two decades re-envisioning the Kabbalah. This amount of time spent in experiencing the Kabbalah provides a more than adequate background for this work.

This book comprises mostly theoretical concepts whereas Reviewing the Covenant, (©1999, Inner Traditions) complements it with the leas theoretical side of the Kabbalah.

Perhaps the approach to the Kabbalah from the inspiration of sacred geometry (a non-orthodox starting point in many ways) is what inspired the approach used by Dr. Leet. How valid her understanding of the study of Kabbalah is must be judged by each reader. My own level of Kabalistic understanding is less than mediocre, thus giving me no real basis for judgment.

Her approach is, by her own admission, non-traditional. Therefore, since it runs counter to the academic scholarship on the Kabbalah, many readers may object to her conclusions. All I can say is that a person’s conclusions are not subject to judgment until and unless they are presented as facts.

The inter-relationship of Pythagorean geometry and Kabalistic though and interpretation forced me to reactivate memories I haven’t used in decades, and also forced me to begin rethinking in mathematical terms. It was a struggle in the beginning, and it took me a while to get up to speed.

I am a little too old, and a little too set in my ways of thought, to enjoy being forced to confront quantum physics. Math and science were never strong subject for me (English and the humanities were more my style). So I really had to knuckle down for this book.

Prior to starting this book I thought I understood the basics of gematria, but it quickly moved beyond what I thought I knew. I learned a lot more in a relatively few pages than I had ever experienced before.

Each chapter of this book is designed as a stand-alone treatise on a particular aspect of the Kabbalah.

Do not even consider tackling this work if you are not prepared to dedicate time and energy to assimilating the information and ideas contained within its covers. This is not casual treatment. The author assumes a working knowledge of Hebrew theology and cosmology, Kabbalah and, at least a moderate familiarity with the relationship between Hebrew and Christian perceptions of the Kabbalah. In other words, it is a work intended for a serious student and not a dabbler.

It will certainly repay the effort put into its study in the long term. If, on the other hand, you expect to have one of those “Aha!” moments, you will likely be disappointed.

If you are interested in the mysticism which the Kabbalah embodies, this book (and the other three in the series) belong on your book shelf. The cost is moderate and, given the unique perspectives the author brings to the topic, should prove an incentive to adding these works to your collection. You may not agree with all of Dr. Leet’s conclusions, but I am sure your will find this work stimulating.

Did I learn a lot from this book? Probably not as much as I should have. Quite frankly, a lot of it was beyond my comprehension at this point. That does not; however preclude the possibility that I may have a sudden flash of insight at some future time.

As much as I found myself scratching my head my head, and scribbling notes for further exploration, I have to give Dr. Leet credit for tackling a subject which has long needed a text which does it best to be comprehensible to both the layman and the academic. I am sure that readers with more current understanding of the sciences of linguistics, quantum physics, and music theory will extract a lot more information than I was able to.

While I do not recommend this book to the casual reader, I do recommend it to the serious student of the Kabbalah, as well as those interested in exploring Judaica in some depth. Be prepared to work for your knowledge. If you do so, you will find your understanding (and desire for more exploration) expanded.

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