The Yoga of the West

The Mystical Qabalah

~Dion Fortune

1. Very few students of occultism know anything at all about the fountain-head whence their tradition springs. Many of them do not even know there is a Western Tradition. Scholarship is baffled by the intentional blinds and defences with which initiates both ancient and modern have wrapped themselves about, and concludes that the few fragments of a literature which have come down to us are medieval forgeries. They would be greatly surprised if they knew that these fragments, supplemented by manuscripts that have never been allowed to pass out of the hands of initiates, and completed by an oral tradition, are handed down in schools of initiation to this day, and are used as the bases of the practical work of the Yoga of the West.

2. The adepts of those races whose evolutionary destiny is to conquer the physical plane have evolved a Yoga technique of their own which is adapted to their special problems and peculiar needs. This technique is based upon the well-known but little understood Qabalah, the Wisdom of Israel.

3. It may be asked why it is that the Western nations should go to the Hebrew culture for their mystical tradition ? The answer to this question will be readily understood by those who are acquainted with the esoteric theory concerning races and sub-races. Everything must have a source. Cultures do not spring out of nothing. The seed-bearers of each new phase of culture must of necessity arise within the preceding Culture. No one can deny that Judaism was the matrix of the European spiritual culture when they recall the fact that Jesus and Paul were both Jews. No race except the Jewish race could possibly have served as the stock upon which the new dispensation was to be grafted because no other race was monotheistic. Pantheism and polytheism had had their day and a new and more spiritual culture was due. The Christian races owe their religion to the Jewish culture as surely as the Buddhist races of the East owe theirs to the Hindu culture.

4. The mysticism of Israel supplies the foundation of modern Western occultism. It forms the theoretical basis upon which all ceremonial is developed. Its famous glyph, the Tree of Life, is the best meditation-symbol we possess because it is the most comprehensive.

5. It is not my intention to write a historical study of the sources of the Qabalah, but rather to show the uses that are made of it by modern students of the Mysteries. For although the roots of our system are in tradition, there is no reason why we should be hidebound by tradition. A technique that is being actually practised is a growing thing, for the experience of each worker enriches it and becomes part of the common heritage.

6. It is not necessarily incumbent upon us to do certain things or hold certain ideas because the Rabbis who lived before Christ had certain views. The world has moved on since those days and we are under a new dispensation but what was true in principle then will be true in principle now, and of value to us. The modern Qabalist is the heir of the ancient Qabalist, but he must re-interpret doctrine and re-formulate method in the light of the present dispensation if the heritage he has received is to be of any practical value to him.

7. I do not clairn that the modern Qabalistic teachings as I have learnt them are identical with those of the pre-Christian Rabbis, but I claim that they are the legitimate descendants thereof and the natural development therefrom.

8. The nearer the source the purer the stream. In order to discover first principles we must go to the fountain-head. But a river receives many tributaries in the course of its flow, and these need not necessarily be polluted. If we want to discover whether they are pure or not, we compare them with the pristine stream, and if they pass this test they may well be permitted to mingle with the main body of waters and swell their strength. So it is with a tradition: that which is not antagonistic will be assimilated. We must always test the purity of a tradition by reference to first principles, but we shall equally judge of the vitality of a tradition by its power to assimilate. It is only a dead faith which remains uninfluenced by contemporary thought.

9. The original stream of Hebraic mysticism has received many tributaries. We see its rise among the nomad star-worshippers of Chaldea, where Abraham in his tent among his flocks hears the voice of God. But Abraham has a shadowy background in which vast forms move half-seen. The mysterious figure of a great Priest-king, "born without father, without mother, without descent; having neither beginning of days nor end of life," administers to him the first Eucharistic feast of bread and wine after the battle with the Kings in the valley, the sinister Kings of Edom, "who ruled ere there was a king in Israel, whose kingdoms are unbalanced force."

10. Generation by generation we trace the intercourse of the princes of Israel with the priest-kings of Egypt. Abraham and Jacob went thither; Joseph and Moses were intimately associated with the court of the royal adepts. When we read of Solomon sending to Hiram, King of Tyre, for men materials to aid in the building of the Temple we know that the famous Tyrian Mysteries must have profoundly influenced the Hebrew esotericism. When we read of Daniel being educated in the palaces of Babylon we know that the wisdom of the Magi must have been accessible to Hebrew illuminati.

11. This ancient mystical tradition of the Hebrews possessed three literatures: the Books of the Law and the Prophets, which are known to us as the Old Testament; the Talmud, or collection of learned commentaries thereon; and the Qabalah, or mystical interpretation thereof. Of these three the ancient Rabbis say that the first is the body of the tradition, the second its rational soul, and the third its immortal spirit. Ignorant men may with profit read the first; learned men study the second; but the wise meditate upon the third. It is a strange thing that Christian exegesis has never sought the keys to the Old Testament in the Qabalah.

12. In Our Lord's day there were three schools of religious thought in Palestine: the Pharisees and the Sadducees, of whom we read so frequently in the Gospels; and the Essenes, who are never referred to. Esoteric tradition avers that the boy Jesus ben Joseph, when His calibre was recognised by the learned doctors of the Law who heard Him speak in the Temple at the age of twelve, was sent by them to the Essenian community near the Dead Sea to be trained in the mystical tradition of Israel, and that He remained there until He came to John to be baptised in the Jordan before commencing His mission at the age of thirty. Be that as it may, the closing clause of the Lord's Prayer is pure Qabalism. Malkuth, the Kingdom, Hod, the Power, Netzach, the Glory, form the basal triangle of the Tree of Life, with Yesod, the Foundation, or Receptacle of Influences, as the central point. Whoever formulated that prayer knew his Qabalah.

13. Christianity had its esotericism in the Gnosis, which owed much to both Greek and Egyptian thought. In the system of Pythagoras we see an adaptation of the Qabalistic principles to Greek mysticism.

14. The exoteric, state-organised section of the Christian Church persecuted and stamped out the esoteric section, destroying every trace of its literature upon which it could lay hands in striving to eradicate the very memory of a gnosis from human history. It is recorded that the baths and bakehouses of Alexandria were fired for six months with the manuscripts from the great library. Very little remains to us of our spiritual heritage in the ancient wisdom. Everything that was above ground was swept away, and it is uniy with the excavation of ancient monuments the sands have swallowed that we are beginning to rediscover its fragments.

15. It was not until the fifteenth century, when the power of the Church was beginning to show signs of weakening, that men dared to commit to paper the traditional Wisdom of Israel. Scholars declare that the Qabalah is a medieval forgery because they cannot trace a succession of early manuscripts, but those who know the manner of working of esoteric fraternities know that a whole cosmogony and psychology can be conveyed in a glyph which means nothing to the uninitiated. These strange old charts could be handed on from generation to generation, their explanation being communicated verbally, and the true interpretation would never be lost. When in doubt as to the explanation of some abstruse point, reference would be made to the sacred glyph, and meditation thereon would unfold what generations of meditation had ensouled therein. It is well known to mystics that if a man meditates upon a symbol around which certain ideas have been associated by past meditation, he will obtain access to those ideas, even if the glyph has never been elucidated to him by those who have received the oral tradition "by mouth to ear."

16. The organised temporal force of the Church availed to drive all rivals from the field and destroy their traces. We little know what seeds of mystical tradition sprang up only to be cut down during the Dark Ages; but mysticism is inherent in the human race, and although the Church had destroyed all roots of tradition in her group-soul, nevertheless devout spirits within her fold rediscovered the technique of the soul's approach to God and developed a characteristic Yoga of their own, closely akin to the Bhakti Yoga of the East. The literature of Catholicism is rich in treatises on mystical theology which reveal practical acquaintance with the higher states of consciousness though a somewhat naive conception of the psychology thereof, thus revealing the poverty of a system which does not avail itself of the experience of tradition.

17. The Bhakti Yoga of the Catholic Church is only Suitable for those whose temperament is naturally devotional and who find their readiest expression in loving self-sacrifice. But it is not everybody who is of this type, and Christianity is unfortunate in not having any choice of systems to offer its aspirants. The East, being tolerant, is wise, and has developed various Yoga methods, each of which is pursued by its adherents to the exclusion of the others, and yet none would deny that the other methods are also paths to God for those to whom they are suited.

18. In consequence of this deplorable limitation on the part of our theology many Western aspirants take up Eastern methods. For those who are able to live in Eastern conditions and work under the immediate supervision of a guru, this may prove satisfactory, but it seldom gives good results when the various systems are pursued with no other guide than a book and under unmodified Western conditions.

19. It is for this reason that I would recommend to the white races the traditional Western system, which is admirably adapted to their psychic constitution. It gives immediate results, and if done under proper supervision, not only does it not disturb the mental or physical equipoise, as happens with regrettable frequency when unsuitable systems are used, but it produces a unique vitality. It is this peculiar vitality of the adepts which led to the tradition of the elixir of life. I have known a number of people in my time who might justly be considered adepts, and I have always been struck by that peculiar ageless vitality they all possessed.

20. On the other hand, however, I can only endorse what all the gurus of the Eastern Tradition have always averred-that any system of psycho-spiritual development can only be safely and adequately carried on under the personal supervision of an experienced teacher. For this reason, although I shall give in these pages the principles of the mystical Qabalah, I do not consider it would be in anybody's interest to give the keys to its practice even if by the terms of the obligation of my own initiation I were not forbidden to do so. But, on the other hand, I do not consider it fair to the reader to introduce intentional blinds and misinformation, and to the best of my knowledge and belief the information I give is accurate, even if incomplete.

21. The Thirty-two Mystical Paths of the Concealed Glory are ways of life, and those who want to unravel their secrets must tread them. As I myself was trained, so can anyone be trained who is willing to undergo the discipline, and I will gladly indicate the way to any earnest seeker.