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The Kabbalah of Light

Ancient Practices to Ignite the Imagination and Illuminate the Soul

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

• Shares 159 short exercises and practices to tap instantly into your subconscious mind and receive answers to your most important questions

• Explains how to dialogue with and understand the imagery and metaphors that arise during these practices

• Offers powerful practices to discover your areas of “stuckness” and quickly clear them, thus releasing past traumas and ancestral patterns and freeing the flow of the imagination for enhanced creativity and joy in life

In this step-by-step guide to kabbalistic practices to connect with your natural inner genius and liberate the light within you, Catherine Shainberg reveals how to tap instantly into the subconscious and receive answers to urgent questions. This method, called the Kabbalah of Light, originated with Rabbi Isaac the Blind of Posquieres (1160-1235) and has been passed down by an ancient kabbalistic family, the Sheshet of Gerona, in an unbroken transmission spanning more than 800 years.

The modern lineage holder of the Kabbalah of Light, Shainberg shares 159 short experiential exercises and practices to help you begin dialoguing with your subconscious through images. The images that pop up during these practices are unexpected and revelatory, and she discusses how to open them to greater understanding. At first, they may show you aspects of yourself you don’t like. But seeing them serves as both a diagnosis and a direct path to transformation. Fast and simple, the practices can help you discover your areas of “stuckness,” release past traumas and ancestral patterns, free the imagination, and open the way to the bliss promised us in the Garden of Eden.

Beginning this fertile dialogue with your inner world leads you to uncover your soul’s purpose and manifest your dreams in this world. Once your inner dream world and outer reality have merged, you will be able to see your superconscious--your soul’s ­blueprint--and experience the ecstatic illumination of a heart-centered life.


From the Introduction

This book is about the unconscious. Later I will call it the subconscious. There is a reason for this, which I will explain shortly. How is it possible to write a book about something that, if we take its name at face value, is unknowable? As I am writing, I am using words, a conscious language related to the activities of a much more recent brain development called the neo-cortex. But at the same time, many of my body functions are operating sub rosa, unbeknownst to my conscious mind. We have two brains, two different ways of processing our reality. Our more ancient brain is referred to as our reptilian brain. The two brains are like fire and water. Why has the unconscious received such a bad rap? This antagonism is not new. Joseph’s brothers, the Hebrew Bible relates, wanted to kill him because he was a dreamer. The ancient Greeks portrayed Apollo, the sun god, as transpiercing with his arrow of light, the womb-like darkness of the cave of the Pythia, keeper of messages from the unconscious. Thereafter Apollo, the clear light of the conscious mind, ruled over Delphi.

The conscious mind is naturally antagonistic to the unconscious. It prides itself on its precise observation and objectivity. It likes to separate, analyze, categorize. It uses its powerful logical thrust to establish scientific proof of things that it calls “facts.” This chair, this table, the sea are facts of the reality we live in. Facts depend on hypotheses, such as the types of questions we ask ourselves, and the points of view from which we perceive and examine them. Our dearly held certainties may shift and change when new questions and new hypotheses emerge. Ask Albert Einstein if the table is really solid, and he may say that also being pure energy, it is both a solid and not a solid at all. The sea is blue, but the ancient Greeks saw it wine red. Blue was not a “fact” in the time of Homer. The world was geocentric until Copernicus proved otherwise. A scientist will describe the rose as having a stem, thorns, leaves, petals, pistils, coloring and scent, which are different aspects of a totality of experience, which only the unconscious gives access to. The unconscious has no hypotheses, it is a cauldron of swirling experiences. Tap into it, and up pops a dream image. The unconscious deals only in revelation, and revelation, being an experience, is, by definition, true. If I turn a corner and am suddenly faced with a blazing sunset over the ocean, my heart moves not to the “fact” of the sunset, but to the wondrous experience. The conscious mind deals in facts, the unconscious deals in truth.

To get to the truth of what you really want, you’re going to have to tap into the unconscious. The unconscious runs the show, and this is a “fact” verified by many tests conducted by experimental psychologists and researchers. Some researchers go so far as to say that the unconscious runs 95 percent of our body functions. It is a “fact” that our carefully analyzed and agonized choices are mostly decided by the unconscious. Our creative innovations rise up, fully formed from the unconscious, and yet most of us have no clue how to access this great power. Unlike the conscious mind, the unconscious cannot be worked out, analyzed, or pinned down, it can only be received. It will come in whatever form it chooses. Kabbalah, which means receiving, is the science of letting the unconscious speak.

To learn who you are, to discover your hidden motivations, and to speak to your body and cells, you will have to leave behind what you perceive as the safe shores of the conscious mind. Can you trust the unconscious? There lies the rub. Most of us don’t see its value because we confuse our visions with fantasy. But fantasy is the contrary of “true imagination” as William Blake liked to call it. Fantasy is a product of your conscious mind seizing upon your brain’s capacity to make images, and twisting them to suit its purpose. Suppose you desperately want to believe this very handsome man (or woman) who is married to your best friend is really interested in you. You fantasize about the person overcoming many obstacles to come to you, including getting rid of their partner. You visualize the person finally embracing you, and now both of you are riding off into the sunset. This has nothing to do with the truth. Unfortunately, many of the visualizations taught today trade in fantasy. You are told what to see. While that may be entertaining, it is not transformative.

The unconscious is the source of all creativity. How to tap into your creativity, dialogue with your images, and trigger transformation is the subject of this book. There is a methodology to it that is as precise as anything science pertains to be. The Celts’ image for this work is a naked blade lifted above dark waters by a mysterious woman called the Lady of the Lake. The waters, you may have guessed, are the waters of the unconscious. The sword illustrates the jolting, the sometimes cutting truths of the images that pop up at the surface of the unconscious. If you wish to return to the Garden of Eden you must face the revolving sword of the angel guarding its gates. Don’t worry, you will not be cut by the sword or, as the Greeks saw it, turned to stone by your Medusa truths. Like the hero Perseus you will learn to disarm and, more saliently, to transform those aspects of yourself that you don’t like. But the Celts’ powerful image of a sword above waters speaks to the cutting edge of truth that the unconscious wields against you. What better way than to tackle your images head-on, and responding to their necessity to ignite the creative shift! You will become the warrior, hero, gallant knight or lady of your life story.

When Sigmund Freud coined the words “unconscious mind,” he may not have realized that the concept of a vast unconscious part of ourselves, submerged like an iceberg beneath the surface of what we commonly call the conscious mind, has existed since time immemorial. The ancients were well aware of an unconscious realm populated by dangerous or godlike characters, fierce animals, hybrids of all sorts, and mind-boggling obstacles. What Freud understood as the unconscious mind was a store of memories, repressed emotions, and other mental complexes that remained trapped in a no-man’s-land and could negatively affect our everyday life and behavior. He believed that these repressed emotions and memories should be brought to conscious awareness in order to be cured. He interchangeably used both terms “unconscious” and “subconscious,” until he finally settled for the word unconscious. Today psychologists are still debating the differences between the two, but the word subconscious is rarely used. The preferred term is “unconscious” for all of our “other than conscious processes.” Yet I propose to you that the term subconscious, coined by French psychologist Pierre Janet (1859-1947), is more accurate. Janet believed that there was a storehouse of information below our conscious mind that could be accessed through focused awareness. We will see more about the subconscious further on.

The ancient world had many names for the realm that lies below our awareness. They called it the other world, the world of the dead, the Happy Isles, Olympus. Heroes’ journeys involved crossing the “val” to the other world: Perce la vallée, pierce the valley, is the meaning of Perceval’s name in the Arthurian legends. An Ivri, or Hebrew, means the one who crosses over. Shamans the world over, speak of journeying out of their bodies to seek hidden knowledge and wisdom. Alchemists had a funny way of illustrating their relationship to the unconscious: a man sitting in a vast cauldron, a fire burning under the pot. Likewise in China, the oldest book in the world, the I Ching, has a hexagram named the cauldron. Here is what the hexagram says: “The image suggests the idea of nourishment . . . The supreme revelation of God appears in prophets and holy men.” In other words, without resisting, sit in the cauldron of natural forces, and the information from your unconscious will rise up in you, nourishing you, and flooding you with prophecy and holiness.

Do we really need to travel out of our bodies, or do we simply let the unconscious rise and submerge our conscious minds, thus giving us access to hidden knowledge? Here is another way it is described: “And God hovered over the p’nei tehom (the face of the abyss),” and created the world in seven days. Read p’nei tehom as God’s unconscious realm. Can we, like God, hover over the void of the unconscious and bring forth new creations? We do it every night when we dream. Kabbalists call this maneuver the plunge--yeridah--the drop of the conscious mind into the unformed substance of the unconscious mind to elicit new formations.

* * *

At the deepest part of the ocean, the old story goes, lies hidden the great serpent, Leviathan. Raising the Leviathan is what happens when, having cleared the subconscious of its garbage the subconscious and the conscious minds meet in an explosion of light, a revelation. This co-creation is what I call the manifestations of the third mind, the superconscious.

To think of the mind as comprised of three levels fits what ancient stories tell us about heroes exploring the three levels of Earth, the underworld and the sky. Descending from the Earth level into the underworld, the hero Herakles meets Cerberus who guards the entrance to the underworld. To be sure we don’t miss out on the deeper meaning of the myth, the story tells us Cerberus has three heads, three levels that Herakles must master (which he does with his bare hands) to ascend to Olympus, the heaven of the Greek gods, and become immortal, a god or a star in the firmament. Osiris, Isis and Horus are the Egyptian trinity, Father, Mother and Son, the active, the receptive and the holy breath that must be mastered to reach enlightenment. The same theme reemerges in the Christian trinity of Father, the Son and Holy Ghost. Jesus of Galilee dies and resurrects in three days. In medieval times, Dante’s journey takes him through hell and purgatory to paradise. The Tarot’s High Priestess wears the three-tiered crown to remind us that this is what we must aspire to. To escape the imprisonment of duality we need the movement through illustrated by the number three. Call these three levels the conscious, the subconscious and the superconscious. In the myth of Noah’s ark, God, infuriated by the villainy of people on Earth, sends a great Flood to annihilate them. He warns Noah, whose name means rest or comfort, to build an ark, a place of refuge against the chaos and subsequent flooding of the people’s untamed unconscious forces. According to midrash, the ark has three levels, one for the beasts, one for the refuse and one for the humans. Each level must be tamed, cleared, or visited for creation to reemerge, whether in the form of a new world, a new life, or a transformed personality. In either case, insight from the superconscious--in a brilliant flash zigzagging past the refuse into consciousness--can change the course of one’s life.

Leviathan, we are told, is the flash of insight. He rises at the call of the holy ones, the ones who dare to plunge. His scales spark colors radiant with rainbow hues and brilliant white. He offers himself up, like truth, on a platter for the sages’ delectation. The Leviathan’s scales of rainbow light are reminiscent of the flaring multicolored brilliance of the Holy Grail, or of the alchemists’ philosophical stone. It is he--the body-mind that “knows”--that rises up in response to threats to your survival, whether external or internal. When Leviathan rises, the place is flooded with light. And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Here is no place for anything UN-conscious. Keep using that word and your mind will subliminally hear “unconscious” as meaning unreachable, even by focused awareness. And since the subconscious is so powerful, this will block the light from rising.

Because the subconscious and the superconscious often appear together in a mixed state, I am choosing to use the word subconscious from now on to refer to both. The aim, of course, will be to clear the subconscious garbage so as to reveal the superconscious in its clarity, and give it free range to act in our favor, for our survival, and for our joy.

Like the heroes of old, the restful ones, the holy men and women who dare, can you also plunge into the underworld where creation is awaiting the jolt of your presence to emerge, like the great beast from tohu vavohu? How do you provoke the information hidden in the magma of the chaos? My goal here is proving to you that you can do what the old ones did. This book will guide you through the swamps, jungles, and deserts of your inner subconscious landscape. Like Herakles, you will find the tools and resources to deal with your Nemean lion, your Augean stables full of excrement, your Stymphalian birds screeching in your ear. You will learn to respond to the necessity of the images that surface in your mind, thus clearing the path for the superconscious to emerge. Will you find the light? Yes, you will.

This is a tried and true path to enlightenment, based on the knowledge of thousands of years of studying the plunge, and verified by many initiates’ successes in attaining light and what Jewish sages call dveikut, the cleaving of the self to the divine. This Kabbalah of dreaming is also called the Kabbalah of light or Saphire. Saphire is unique among other forms of Kabbalah, in that it limits its practice to the imagination and visualizations to access higher levels of consciousness. Whereas other schools use letters and chanting or mediations on the void, Saphire only works with dreams, day visions, waking dreams and guided imagery exercises to climb the ladder to dveikut. While the practice incorporates Jewish concepts, you do not need to be a Kabbalist, or even Jewish to do this practice, everyone dreams.

What does this book offer you? Food for both your conscious and your subconscious minds. You will be led step-by-step through the methodology and tools to tap into your subconscious, thus satisfying the needs of your conscious mind. Simultaneously, through practicing the visual exercises you will find in this book, you will be plunged into the wondrous experience of your subconscious mind. There are no words, save a poet’s, that can come anywhere close to describing the experience of the inner light. I will not even attempt to express its power and wonder. Each of you has a unique version of the interior world, like an individual signature the world has been waiting for. By activating your inner vision, you make your outer world more real, alive, and exciting. Try the exercises, and you will fall in love with your creative power to transform yourself and--oh, surprise, to change your world.

About The Author

Catherine Shainberg, Ph.D., is a psychologist, healer, and teacher with a private practice in New York City. She spent 10 years of intense study of the Kabbalah of Light in Jerusalem with Colette Aboulker-Muscat and an additional 20 years in continuing collaboration with her. In 1982 Catherine Shainberg founded the School of Images, dedicated to teaching the revelatory dream and kavanah (intent) techniques of this ancient Sephardic Kabbalah tradition. She conducts imagery and dreaming workshops internationally.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (June 28, 2022)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781644114759

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Raves and Reviews

“This book is a gift to dreamers, to Kabbalists, to meditators, and to the world. Amid the fascination with Kabbalah, seekers have thirsted for a way into the mystical experience. The Kabbalah of Light is that way in.”

– Rabbi Jill Hammer, Ph.D., author of Undertorah

“Catherine Shainberg teaches us how our dreams can become real and the unknowable known. Her book will give you courage to learn from the creativity of your dreams.”

– Rodger Kamenetz, author of The Jew in the Lotus

“In her wonderful new book Catherine Shainberg inspires us to plunge deep into the ocean of dreams and access gifts of the great unconscious. She declares with informed passion that dreaming is a royal road to enlightenment and shows us that it opens doors to many worlds.”

– Robert Moss, author of Conscious Dreaming

“Catherine’s done it again, assembling the hidden ingredients of mindfulness and brewing them in a cauldron of ancient and early medieval Hebraic mystery wisdom. An excellent guide whose magic we have yet to fathom and of which, through the book’s many exercises, we might finally catch a glimpse.”

– Rabbi Gershon Winkler, author of Magic of the Ordinary

“Catherine Shainberg’s new book is serious, delightful, and tinged with the magical, as is the author. It is a creative effort, filled with wonderful practices and exercises to raise the great Leviathan from the depths of the unconscious so as to awaken our creative imagination and life force. Shainberg’s readings into biblical and Kabbalistic myth are wonderfully creative.”

– Melila Hellner-Eshed, author of A River Flows from Eden

The Kabbalah of Light is an audacious endeavor to present the esoteric wisdom of the Jewish mystical tradition as the science of letting the unconscious speak. The guidance in this book is to lead one to spiritual enlightenment and psychic well-being, the experience that Kabbalists call dveikut, cleaving to the divine, the highest rung on the ladder of dreams.”

– Elliot Wolfson, Marsha and Jay Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies, University of California, Santa Barba

“In this brilliant book, Catherine has given us a great gift. Not only is this work dazzling in its depth and beauty, it is also eminently useful and practical. Catherine guides us on a grand journey, a voyage of self-discovery. There lies buried treasure--the riches of a more fulfilling transformed life, illumined by the golden sunlight of divine revelation.”

– Kevin Melville Jennings, past contributor of The Daily Scope for

“In her thrilling new book, Catherine Shainberg’s treasure trove of playful and profound ‘inductions’ will guide you to plunge deeper and deeper into the innermost realms of your soul. What a gift this book is to all seekers of light and delight. The Kabbalah of Light is mind-expanding. It’s fun and fabulous!”

– Didi Conn, actress and playwright

"This book is so full of spiritual practices that it must be the most applicable use of Jewish mysticism ever published in a single volume. Never have we seen a book that presents Kabbalah with so many exercises designed to enhance understanding. Sprinkled throughout the chapters are 160 numbered exercises from 'Awake while Falling Asleep' (#1) to 'Oneness' (#160)."

– Jon M. Sweeney, Spirituality & Practice

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