Tuesday, June 30, 2015

“Of Sound and Inner Light”: A Review of Healing with God’s Love: Kabbalah’s Hidden Secrets, Rabbi Douglas Goldhamer with Peggy Bagley

 (Larson Publications, 2015, the www.larsonpublications.com). ISBN 978-1-936012-74-9

This has been an impressive few years for Larson Publications. While continuing to bring the works of philosopher Paul Brunton to a new generation of readers, they have published such moving titles as Elaine Mansfield’s Leaning into Love, which recently won the Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award for Aging/Death & Dying and the book that is the subject of this review. Larson continues to provide its readership with profound and life-altering books on spirituality, ritual, healing, and enlightenment.

Healing with God’s Love is a practical, highly readable guide to healing meditations and rituals derived from the Judaic esoteric practices of the Kabbalah. Although I was familiar with the Kabbalah, and the Tree of Life (the Sefirot), Rabbi Goldhamer provides sufficient background and explanation for those not familiar with its principles and practices.

First, a bit about the author (who shares authorship with his wife). Rabbi Goldhamer, who also holds a PhD, helped to found Chicago’s Congregation Bene Shalom, is a professor of Jewish mysticism, and president of Hebrew Seminary. Nearly 40 years ago, he suffered from a disease called Klippel Trenaunay syndrome, a “debilitating vascular disorder which impeded [his] ability to walk” (11). Facing possible amputation of both legs, he invested his energy and belief in the healing power of prayer, and a year later, he was healed.

As a student and practitioner for 15 years of mantra-based meditation practice, using Sanskrit, I believe in, and have experienced the power of, the vibrational qualities of letters and words, and how they affect internal and external energies (the section in the book that deals with the “Law of Sympathetic Vibration” links these Kabbalist practices with a larger world of spirituality and science regarding the chakras and studies of the heart by organizations like HeartMath). Rabbi Goldhamer provides ample explanation and illustrative tables to explain the energies, designs, and meanings of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Although I was familiar with the sacred power of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) because of the sound healing work of composer Jonathan Goldman, I learned a great deal about the other letters of the Hebrew alphabet over the course of the book.

Rabbi Goldhamer also educates the reader about the necessity of breath work for potent meditation, visualization, and healing, comparing the Jewish word for breath, Ru’ach, to the Chinese chi and the Sanskrit prana (crossing religious boundaries is a strength of the book, and reflects the philosophy of the publisher as well; more of this is needed in our divisive, intolerant world). Although my knowledge and practice of breathing techniques (developed in my spiritual practice as well as my work as a performer and in training actors) was helpful as I experimented with the meditations in the book, there is plenty of guidance for the novice.

Another strength of the book is the Rabbi’s continual discussion of the nature of (false) dualities such as spiritual and physical; male and female; God and man; reality and dream and other “non-real” states, rightly pointing out that such perceptual falsities put us in a fractured state where sickness and disease can thrive.

Everything I have mentioned thus far provides the necessary foundation to begin practicing the abundant meditations offered step by step in the book, and Rabbi Goldhamer not only reinforces these foundational elements throughout, he provides an overview, through anecdotes and scholarship, of a continuum of scholars and practitioners of the Kabbalah, including his own mentors, going back thousands of years, and describes how the meditations have been modified over time.

Other interesting aspects of the book are the Rabbi’s paintings, which are interspersed throughout; his touching upon gematria, the science of converting letters to numbers, which decode the deeper meanings in the ancient texts (for those interested in this fascinating aspect of sacred texts, I recommend Jesus, Sun of God, by Don Fideler); the notion that when you pray, you should pray as if your prayers are already answered (a main tenant of Paul Brunton’s “Short Path to Enlightenment”); and the holographic principles of the Kabbalah, which makes a good case for the relevance of quantum physics to our overall spiritual lives.

The highest compliment I can pay to Rabbi Goldhamer and Healing with God’s Love is that this will be not just a book read, reviewed, and put on a shelf, but a handbook that I will return to time and again throughout the rest of my life. For those looking for, or experienced in, alternative healing modalities or for storytellers and performing artists wanting to better understand sound and energy and how they can enhance the creative experience and the effect upon an audience, reading and working with this book is a must.

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