THE TOLEDANO TRADITION
Kabbalah is the esoteric dimension of Judaism and was reformulated by Z’EV BEN SHIMON HALEVI (1933-2020) to become a universal teaching for our age. Known as the Toledano School of the Soul, its guiding principles illustrated on the Tree of Life and Jacob’s Ladder may be used to understand ourselves, our world, and our relationship with the One.
The name Toledano derives from the city of Toledo in Spain where, in the Middle Ages, people from the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions conversed, shared ideas, and translated texts. This fusion of religion and philosophy brought about the modern working method and metaphysics that underpin the Toledano tradition.
Z’EV BEN SHIMON HALEVI (1933-2020) AND THE TOLEDANO TRADITION
The Kabbalah Society, founded in the early 1970s, is a loose affiliation of groups worldwide that teach and pass on the Toledano Tradition. Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi was its Principal Tutor and a Fellow of the Temenos Academy in London. Born into an English Sephardic Jewish family in 1933, Halevi began to study Kabbalah in his early twenties. In the 1970s he started to teach and write books on Kabbalah, and subsequently taught and lectured extensively around the world.
Over the past 50 years, Halevi continued to reformulate the teaching and clarify its principles. He saw it as his task to update its mythology and metaphysics in terms of modern science and psychology. His 14 BOOKS (and E-BOOKS) on the tradition have been translated int 16 LANGUAGES and are available internationally.
From those early beginnings, study groups now meet regularly worldwide. Halevi’s books are written in a way to inspire individual and group contemplation amongst companions of the light. Together with meditation, conversations, and experience, this form of contemplation is one of the most important and effective methods of oral transmission. Each group is autonomous and teaches the tradition in a form that is relevant to its own time and place. Thereby, the Toledano Tradition constitutes an esoteric school operating explicitly within the marketplace of life.
For over 40 years, Joanna Lapage-Browne and Kurt Browne studied with Halevi, taught groups, and raised a family in their home in northwest London which has been and continues to be, a home for the School.
While they help to provide a focus for many, the tradition of the Tree of Life and Jacob’s Ladder is alive and ongoing in the varied autonomous Kabbalah groups throughout the world. Continuing in many forms by way of group work, meditation, ritual, and ultimately through one’s own self in thinking, feeling, and acting consciously in the world, the interconnection between companions, tutors, and the international community, results in a rich diversity of ideas and shared experiences.
Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi / Warren Kenton
Z’ev ben Shimon Halevi, also known as Warren Kenton, died on 21 September 2020 at the age of 87. He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Rebekah. A man of wisdom and spiritual stature together with a sense of humour and practical nature, he used his long life to the full in his task of updating and clarifying the tradition of Kabbalah for our times.
Born into a traditional Jewish family in London on 8 January 1933, he spent much of his childhood in the area around High Wycombe where his family moved to avoid the bombing in the Second World War. It was here in the Chiltern Hills, where the rich history of the area, the beauty of the fields and the woods, and the impact of the war, left a deep impression on him.
He moved to London, which he explored extensively with his love of history, and studied at St. Martin’s School of Art and the Royal Academy School. His training as a graphic artist and a book illustrator came to good use later when he selected images for the revised editions of his books. He said, in art school, he learned to see, which made him think creatively rather than academically. He also drew human faces and observed characters which taught him about psychology. This became useful later when doing horoscopes.
He chose to spend his national service first in mental hospitals, and then in a large London teaching hospital and it was here he observed, at first hand, human psychology in life and death. He then returned to his love of art and took up a scholarship at the Royal Academy and School of Painting after which he found employment in theatre workshops. His time there gave him the practical skills to improvise and invent with all manner of materials, an aptitude that brought him much pleasure which continued into his old age and evident in the extensive collection of tools and raw materials he left behind.
His early enthusiasm for telescopes developed into an interest in astrology and esoteric teachings. He went on to explore the inner dimensions of various religions and philosophies but soon realised there was only one Teaching, and that was universal. It was in a Gurdjieff-Ouspensky school that he met a friend who instructed a small study group in astrology and introduced him to Kabbalah and the Tree of Life. He recognised and remembered the Tree of Life and saw its precision in explaining how the microcosm and the macrocosm came together. It was here that the extended form of the Tree of life was reformulated and called Jacob’s Ladder. He started to look deeper into his own Jewish heritage and found hidden treasures in its traditions and vast mythology. Teaching and writing about Kabbalah became his life’s work.
Halevi began to write on Kabbalah in the early 1970s while living in a small flat near Holland Park, setting out the four worlds of Action, Formation, Creation, and Emanation in terms of the body, psyche, spirit, and Divine elements in a human being. He made a point of studying other schools of the soul and meeting their teachers which enriched his understanding of the way that the Teaching is matched to different cultures and times.
His specific calling was to update the tradition of Kabbalah. He recognised the need to clear away the complexity and mystification that had accumulated over many centuries and to apply its universal principles to topics such as psychology, astrology, religion, and science. His particular contribution was to describe and fill in the triads of the Tree of Life diagram and to set out the Tree of the Psyche in great detail. His work on the Jacob’s Ladder diagram revealed how the physical, psychological, spiritual and divine worlds interact so that we, as Divine organs of perception, might ‘aid God to behold God’. His legacy is an integrated system and a contemplative working method.
While Halevi passed on the tradition of Kabbalah in his writings, he also ran study groups and meditations in his iconic ‘room’, filled with diagrams, sacred objects, and bookshelves of esoterica and, of course, his beloved telescopes. The same ‘room’ moved with him through all his various homes. His teaching was marked by its relevance to life experience and history, together with the vital element of humour, a tradition deeply embedded in Jewish culture. His telling of jokes is memorable.
Over 50 years, he taught groups, ran workshops, and lectured in other schools, such as the Theosophical Society and the Temenos Academy of which he was a fellow. He taught in many countries including Europe, North and South America, Japan, Israel, Egypt, Australia, and South Africa, and also led pilgrimages to sacred sites. Halevi’s school, the Kabbalah Society, is also called the Toledano Tradition, which refers to its lineage from classical Spanish Kabbalah and reflects the time in medieval Toledo when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived in peace and exchanged ideas.
Halevi advised many people privately, often using their horoscopes to gain insights into themselves and their life situations using his discerning knowledge of astrology and Kabbalistic principles. Central to his teaching is that the practice of Kabbalah is through personal experience and insight.
His seventeen books on Kabbalah, including astrology and a novel, have been translated and are available as foreign editions in sixteen different languages. The revised editions of his books are also available as eBooks.
Halevi was much loved by his many students and friends worldwide who will miss him greatly. The world has lost a visionary-wise one.
Obituary by Joanna Lapage-Browne