As the subject line indicates, this one should be your first. Poncé gives an excellent review of some of the history of the Kabbalah in the first half of the book. It is not a boring history, but rather a very engaging account of its supposed origins and medieval uses.
The middle of the book treats some of what people call "Christian Kabbalah" and its uses and interpretations.
The last half of the book relates Kabbalah with Yoga, and other forms of modern usage/interpretation.
The cover has changed somewhat; I have an older edition that has a very obnoxious orange cover, so those of you purchasing this book used might beware that the older printings don't look like the one featured here. Also, this book is small enough to fit into a jacket pocket or briefcase. The pictures in the book alone are worth it.
All in all, an excellent work for those beginning their quest of knowledge into the Kabbalah. For a more advanced study of Kabbalistic concepts, see Leonora Leet's series on the subject.
I have read my lot of works about the Kabbalah (Kabala,Kabalah, Kabballah, Qabbalah, however you want to spell it), but noneis like Charles Poncé's work that is the subject of this review. Thebest part of this book is that Poncé opens with a full history ofJewish literature and mystic and Rabbin traditional writings. This -ashe says himself- had never been done before. For full account, I'mtalking about the following works: Talmud, Misjnąh, Gemarąh, Midrąsj,Halachąh and Agadąh (forgive me if the English equivalents are writtendifferently). Given are explanations to what books and tradition theseterm refer and a brief history and description of the Jewishstreamings that are associated with them. Lengthy chapters about theSephen Jetsirąh, Zohar and shorter parts about 'less important'books. Clear information about the two forms of Kabbalism (practical,speculative), the links that can be made with astrology, the tarot,eastern philosophies. Of course explanation of the Hebrew alphabet andgematria, variations of the Sephirothic tree, explanations of theSephira, different views and variations of combinations. Then there isa large part about Kabbalistic teachings and doctrines and to closeoff Kabbalism in modern times. All the information you need to havefor a proper start with Kabbalism and a descent supplement for thosewho already work with the Kabbalah for some time. And that is arelative small book. Last point to mention (but not the least): thereare a lot of pictures in this book! ...