Friday, December 22, 2017

Booknote: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Kabbalah

Michael Laitman with Collin Canright, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Kabbalah. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 2007. ISBN: 978-1-59257-542-8.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: reference, educational, self-help, religion, mysticism
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

I picked up this book from my local public library mainly out of curiosity. I've also seen some Tarot decks, such as The Hermetic Tarot that I recently added to my collection, that feature Kabbalah elements, and that gave me another reason to pick up the book. 

The Complete Idiot's Guide series, along with  the For Dummies series, tends to be a pretty good and basic introduction to whatever topic it presents. However, the books can be hit or miss, and this one was more of a miss. I am not sure if it is because the topic of Kabbalah is too complicated for a book designed to be very basic, or if the author was not able to focus, stay on point, and distill the topic down to basics.

The book is organized into four parts, and each part has various chapters. The book attempts to cover a lot of ground from defining Kabbalah to key concepts to how to study it. It also wants to claim that Kabbalah is scientific and empirical (xv), but the more you read, the more you find it is just another religious belief system that is neither scientific nor necessarily empirical. It may have a system; it may require a lot of study and reading; that does not make it "scientific." By the way, introducing "faith" such as needing it to experience the relationship with a creator means you can't really claim to be "scientific." By definition, faith does not require evidence, which science and the scientific method do.

The book can  also get a bit repetitive, especially in Part One where various concepts are repeated over and over, though not well explained because the explanations come later in the book. The early parts of the book are basically an annoying tease. The letters and numbers symbolism, something I was interested in, does not come until Part Two, Chapter 11. By then, I care little about the book because I had to drag myself through the previous stuff.

Overall, the book is overdone, and it lacks focus. It feels like the author just tossed everything in, but there is no depth. It also plays down Kabbalah's origins in Judaism and Jewish mysticism as well as how it has evolved and adapted outside of Judaism.

In the end, for this book, I feel I could have read the Wikipedia entry for Kabbalah, gotten a better understanding, and not wasted my time. If you want to learn some basics on Kabbalah, skip this book and find other sources.

1 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2017 Reading Challenges:

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