Qabalah of the 50 gates
by Steven Ashe
Reviewed by Stephen Blake for The Esoteric Book Review.
I didn’t know whether I was the right person to review this book, as I don’t consider myself an expert on the Qabalah. As it turns out, you don’t need to be in order to get something from this work (although obviously a great deal is added if you can see what the story is saying on a higher level). No, the biggest barrier to understanding Ashe’s tale is the language he uses in the first part of the book. This is dense, serious stuff, aimed at students who want to investigate his experiences with the Golden Dawn path of attainment through highly symbolic story.
The introduction starts well, and the author includes a very enjoyable summary of the development of the Western Mystical Orders in the Western world. Very soon, however, he’s talking about quantum physics and man as a pan-dimensional being, and the reader finds themselves confronted with statements such as this:
“Sceptics may argue that our relationship with these ‘extra dimensional’ aspects of the Universe, given that they do exist, may only hold in that these extra dimensions may have existed only as points of origin for us at some point in the distant past of the Universe.”
I quickly moved on to the next section.
This was “a general introduction to the Qabalah” and was excellent. Clear and easy to follow, he compares the Golden Dawn version of the Tree of life to that of Isaac Luria, and talks about the personal differences used between models. More sections of explanation follow: ‘The Qabalah: its origin and development’ and the ‘The Rosicrucian Cabalah’. These are actually useful for beginners to refer back to as they go through the later tale.
In fact, we’re almost a third of the way through the book by the time we get to that story. The format of the first chapter is different to the others. It concerns the Ten gates of Malkuth, and consists of short statements about each. For example:
“The Eighth Gate (Binah of Malkuth). The seat of Intelligence. The gate that is entered by our ability to learn from experience.”
Later chapters also consist of short passages under the name of each gate, but now as fiction since “they can only be intimated through allegory and parable”, because they lie beyond this more easily comprehended world.
The storylines are simple, but their symbolism and meaning are often very deep. The three main characters represent parts of the soul in Qabalah, and each entry is the distilled essence of the challenge facing an initiate on that part of the tree. As I said earlier, I’m no expert – but I found the extra levels that I did know about added immensely to the power of the narrative. Taken at face value of course, it would barely make sense (let alone offer the ignorant reader any kind of wisdom). This journey is therefore for two types of people: those who know at least a little Golden Dawn symbolism, and those who can learn some Qabalah and allow dream-like scenes to penetrate their subconscious.
The imagery is probably the book’s strongest point. It is constantly beautiful, filled with Cities and Palaces, mountain ranges, the White King and Red Queen, The purple Sage and the other usual suspects. Even when some of the symbolism is fully expected, Ashe’s tale still makes the whole come fully-coloured into life.
I’m fairly certain that I don’t understand Ashe’s experiences all the way up the tree (or large parts of his introduction). Thankfully, I don’t need to. His book enables the reader to take their own knowledge and walk through the gates. A very intriguing book which I ended up liking a great deal – it may not offer much to the absolute beginner, but there’s a lot here for a serious student.