Edited by Bib Leo Phyle – Planet Earth
Hoffman, Edward, ed. The Kabbalah Reader: A Sourcebook of Visionary Judaism. Boston: Trumpeter, 2010. Pp. xxxv + 266. $17.95
The Kabbalah is Jewish theosophy, widely known for its central glyph of the Tree of Life, a diagram of the ten sephiroth (from the Hebrew word for “number”), representing emanations from the Absolute, by which it produces the relative world. The sephiroth are connected by twenty-two “paths,” corresponding with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and representing the relationships between those emanations. The sephiroth are divided into three higher and seven lower. The higher three can be seen as corresponding to HPB’s three logoi and the lower seven to her seven rays.
Kabbalah was developed during a period longer than a millennium and a half, so it has a great many different expressions and variations. The term Kabbalah itself is a Hebrew word meaning “tradition, that which has been received.” The book under review here is a collection of short extracts from 42 source documents, ranging from the fifth century to the present day. The first is from the Sefer Yetzirah, or “Book of Formation,” of unknown authorship; the last is from “Hidden Aspects of Shabbat [Sabbath]” from The Candle of God (1998), by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (a notable Israeli scholar born in 1937).
The extracts in this book do not focus on what is best known about Kabbalah, but rather represent an overview of the varied concerns of Kabbalists over the centuries. The editor also provides an introduction surveying the history of Kabbalism and a glossary of terms ranging from agadot (Talmudic legends) to zaddik (a Hasidic “pious one”). For anyone who thinks of the Kabbalah only as the diagrammatic Tree of Life, this book will be a revelation of its complexity and varied interests across the ages.
Mindell, Arnold. ProcessMind: A User’s Guide to Connecting with the Mind of God. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, Quest Books, 2010. Pp. xiii + 303. $17.95
The author’s neologism processmind is his term for something similar to what has also been called “cosmic consciousness” (as in the title of the book by Richard M. Bucke) or the “collective unconscious” (by Carl G. Jung). Mindell defines it as the “deepest part of ourselves . . . the dreaming intelligence and field that organizes all our experiences . . . a nonlocal ‘oneness’ experience [that] appears in dreams and reality.” He also likens it to what Einstein sought when he declared, “I want to know God’s thoughts . . . the rest are details.” Einstein, like other great scientists, was often poetically metaphorical rather than prosaically literal.
The book’s concluding chapter is on ubuntu, defined as the “central and southern African community ethic that stresses the interconnectedness between all peoples, as in the phrase, ‘I am because you are’.” Universal human interconnections and other ideas expressed in the book are generally familiar; the language used to express those ideas tends to the novel. The re-articulation of old knowledge in new ways can be helpful in communication.
Williams, S. Lloyd. “Did J. Krishnamurti Write At the Feet of the Master?” In Theosophical History: A Quarterly Journal of Research, ed. James A. Santucci (California State University, Fullerton), vol. 14, nos. 3 & 4, July-October 2010 (double issue), 11-113. Subscription information at www.theohistory.org.
We do not normally review periodical publications here, but this is no normal periodical publication. Theosophical History was founded by Leslie Price in 1985, and has been edited by James Santucci in recent years. It is the most distinguished journal devoted exclusively to the history of the Theosophical movement; its current issue contains an interesting and important study of a question that has long been badgered about.
S. Lloyd Williams began his study of the question in his article’s title when, in 1993-2001, he was compiling an edition of Krishnamurti’s early writings, commissioned by the Krishnamurti Foundation of America. His detailed and convincingly documented study, now published here for the first time, occupies most of this long, double issue of Theosophical History. The thesis of the study is set forth by Williams in his abstract:
“The little book At the Feet of the Master, published in 1910, claimed J. Krishnamurti wrote it as a probationer for initiation, thus at age 14 in 1909. But Subrahmanyam, a Theosophist and angry opponent of Krishnamurti’s World Teacher mission, claimed that Krishnamurti privately confessed the book a forgery. Subrahmanyam’s uncorroborated hearsay was deceptively amplified by Ernest Wood in 1936. It was recklessly re-amplified by Arthur Nethercott in 1963. The alleged confession now dominates the book’s history. But accusers never state when, where, nor how the forgery was carried out, nor what led Krishnamurti to support it. They disagree whether the forger was Annie Besant or C. W. Leadbeater. And only “junk” evidence (hearsay, gossip, and suspicions) ever backed the accusation. Junk evidence makes junk history. For over 20 years Krishnamurti promoted the book as his basic testament. He published the book as his own. Krishnamurti claimed countless times in public that he wrote it. Six eyewitnesses agreed. No witness ever reported an act of plagiarism, dictation, or forgery. Yet many believe the forgery myth. Some believe because it symbolically severs Krishnamurti from Theosophy. Others believe because it destroys Krishnamurti’s integrity. But bad history is bad philosophy. J. Krishnamurti wrote At the Feet of the Master.”
Anyone interested in history, Theosophy, or Krishnamurti should read this study in full.