In an age where ‘authenticity’ is prized above all things (even if what this actually means is that — like, say, Trump — you are just celebrated for being authentically narcissistic), it seems a rare kind of delight to investigate a spiritual/mystical philosophy of which it is airily claimed that: ‘It’s meaningless to speak of authenticity.’ Wow. Double-blink.
Welcome to the curious but fascinating world of Harry Freedman’s Kabbalah: Secrecy, Scandal and the Soul, a cheerfully non-partisan, no-frills attempt at demystifying one of the world’s most mysterious, opaque and esoteric spiritual traditions. Yes. Kabbalah… or…um… Cabala. Freedman certainly has his work cut out here. As if explaining the rudiments (and the rudiments are all that it’s humanly possible to explain in a book of this length) of Kabbalah/Cabala isn’t difficult enough, there’s long been this schism between the original, inward-looking, Jewish Traditionalist Kabbalists and loopy factions in the west (and this is a psychological kind of west rather than a geographical one) where the tradition has taken on a more occult/New Age/self-help incarnation.