Maggy Whitehouse is an independent sacramental minister and teacher of Kabbalah in the Toledano Tradition who has recently found a second strand of work as a professional stand-up comedian. In this remarkable and profoundly wise book, she leaves her own journey to the final chapter entitled ‘a life of miracles’ where she describes various critical turning points, including a near fatal encounter with a barracuda where she was saved by her inner voice. She studied the New Testament Greek before encountering the Kabbalah, the structure of which provides the mystical scaffolding of this book. She draws on the correspondence between inner attitudes and outer circumstances from her own life to help readers reflect on this topic for themselves. In this respect, we all need to listen to what life is trying to tell us, and Maggy remarks that ‘every time, every time I have given our control and asked for help, then the situation has been resolved.’ (p. 203) This represents the dance between active intervention and surrender, though one needs the wisdom to know when each mode is appropriate.

The structure of the book is provided by the four pivotal relationships with the divine, ourselves, others and the Earth based on the fact that all of creation is One, so all life is relationship. The author relates how a passage from Psalm 118 synchronistically turned up at a number of critical moments: ‘I shall not die; instead I shall live to praise the Lord my God.’ The initial part of the book explains the four relationships in more detail, where readers come to realise the centrality of their relationship with God and the fact that we are extensions of each other. This fundamental pattern is reflected in money and health where a connection with the life force is fundamental in terms of flow, balance and abundance: ‘we need to receive, appreciate and then give for the whole system to work healthily.’ (p. 26) The scaffolding provided by the Kabbalistic tree of life is universal, and beautifully explained here in various different contexts, for instance in climbing and descending the tree; the author revealingly applies this to her own experience of illness as a challenge to heal and transform.

In the section on the divine, the author explains the various Hebrew terms and their meanings – Elohim as a plural expression of masculine and feminine, Yahweh as a non-gendered verb meaning ‘To Be Being’ and ‘Ruach Elohim’ as the feminine spirit of God. All this is a long way from our cultural conditioning of a wholly masculine fundamentalist Trinity. I agree with her argument that religion’s problems are always caused by adherence to law rather than openness to spirit, and that faith is the opposite of certainty since it is ‘mysterious, receptive, transformative and always open to the new’ – and to Grace. The section on the Divine is the longest one, dealing as it does with various aspects of God and the deeper meaning of the commandments – here there is much to contemplate, including the danger of making graven images, setting ideas in stone, and taking the divine name in vain by doing evil in the name of God. However, the author gives various methods for healing our relationship with God such as contemplative prayer to anchor ourselves in our true self, creating an altar in your home, using affirmations and expressions of gratitude (100 are provided).

Our relationship with ourselves at different levels comes next, distinguishing between the ego and persona that die and the soul that is both individual and eternal. The process involves loving and transforming the shadow, taking space and time out, and being kind to ourselves. We also need to be aware of self-destructive forces within us and the hazard of covering up pain through distraction and denial. Here again there are many healing techniques and activities, including meditation, gardening, dancing, ‘watching a butterfly hatch’ (I love that one) – these should settle us within ourselves. The author also suggests doing something new every day and practising the Hawaiian forgiveness mantra: ‘I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you.’

Having made some progress in sorting out our relationship with ourselves we can now move on to our relationship with others – each of the chapters is tellingly illustrated with respect to the Kabbalistic tree. The author comments on the significance of the exodus, the wilderness and the ten plagues, leading into a treatment of the everyday commandments seen in a new light where bearing false witness can be equated with presenting a mask or marketing glamour. She also advises us to remove ourselves from harmful environments and to practise the Buddhist lovingkindness meta meditation: ‘may all beings be safe, may all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may they live in peace.’ Like the forgiveness mantra above, this is a simple but powerful practice that we can all undertake.

Our current relationship with the earth could be characterised by covetousness in terms of envy and greed that also require healing. Again, the author provides many constructive suggestions to become more conscious and to earth ourselves, perhaps spending time contemplating flowers or in the company of a favourite tree. We have to tune into the silence if we are to listen to that still small voice and keep ourselves on track on this journey of life. This richly textured book is an instructive companion on the path.

 

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