September 17th, 2003


Feed The Birds

I haven't yet looked at Madonna's new book, The English Roses. I'm not even curious about it, I say to myself. But here I am still thinking about it, or rather its supposed basis in the Kabbalah/Qabbala. As far as I understand it, study is traditionally restricted to Torah scholars (and these are obviously all men) above the age of 40. But in these days, no one really believes in mystery, the gates are wide open, the secrets are available to all, at least upon a modest financial downpayment and hungry souls storm the castle. Give me knowledge! And make sure it is in bite-size digestible chunks, something that won't disrupt the schedule, something that sits at ease with all these other palliatives and snake oils, and please make sure it's not in Hebrew.
In my own pathetic attempts to get to grips with the Kabbalah, I concluded early on that without a profund knowledge of Hebrew and the Torah, it was never going to get anywhere at all. It would take hours of study every day and for many years and probably (say when I was about 40), I might just be about ready to start. It made me doubt the supposed basis of the Hermetic tradition I was interested in at the time - Rosenkreutz, Levi, Golden Dawn - these people were just dilletantes or, at best, incredibly underinformed. It didn't stop them mucking around with the machinery though. I don't doubt that they had some success in their intentions. Now I'm genuinely fearful of the occult - blundering around in the kitchen late at night, knocking plates over, drinking all the milk - go to sleep, will you?
This fear stems from my belief that hardly anyone in that world is reading the manual, because the manual is written in a forgotten language and it's twenty thousand pages long. It's a dream book: the letters morph into glyphs into animals, how can you possibly follow it? The paper is dissolving into your hands. A golem appears and smashes your head into the floor. I should have done a little more preparation. We all should, but we're arrogant and impatient.
I wonder how much time Madonna has spent wondering whether her series of KBL-derived children's books might have some disastrous sympathetic magical effect on the world we inhabit? It makes me glad to live in Stamford Hill, where the level of real Kabbalah scholarship is hopefully sufficient to prevent the Yog-Shoggoth from tearing Safeways apart this afternoon.
Of course Madonna's aren't the first children's books with a mystical subtext. Mostly I'm thinking of Mary Poppins. A friend of mine, who adores the film, told me some time ago that PL Travers was a Sufi. She was certainly closely involved with Gurdjieff. Mary Poppins seems quite different viewed in this light, but Travers' scholarship strikes me as genuine enough, even if I'm not quite in agreement.
The Kabbalah, as a saleable commodity, I despair... would anyone dare to wear these t-shirts round here?
I'm just hoping that the fad will be forgotten and exchanged for another before Demi Moore manages to stumble across the true name of God.
We are in true mortal danger until then.
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