Where is your passion for the Kabbalah coming from and how did you discover it?
Eight years ago I became father. When I looked for the first time in the eyes of my daughter Zonneke (means: Little Sunshine) I was impressed with the wisdom that I saw. I saw the wisdom of all the generations of women that lived before reflected in this little baby. I thaught; my only task will be to take care that she can do exactly that why she came on earth and fulfill her great mission. At the same time I realized; help, I'm not living my mission myself. I worked at that time for years as a theatre director but lost my passion for that profession. It was empty in my eyes. I gave up my real big dream; to become a writer and to write inspirational novels. That Christmas night (she is born at Christmas) I decided; I shall follow my heart, so I can teach my daughter one is never too old to do that. I wrote a angry letter to God, who ever he or she should be and asked: Now I want to receive concrete answers about what is life all about; why are we here, do you exist, how can we fulfill our dreams, and so on. I promised God; if you answer me, I will write a book about it, and will guarantee whole the world will read it. The next day when I put my computer on, I received an email... not from God but from a kabbalah teacher in Amsterdam, who I didn't know at all and who invited me to follow lessons. I thought; yes, God gave we a wing, all though I don't know nothing about kabala, I will try. At first instance I didn't understand nothing about it, but after several lessons, suddenly I saw what a wonderfull, logical almost scientific view and philosophy it was. It inspired me so much and all the questions I had, get answered, and this process is still going on.
In the Kabbalist, you tell the story of Rabbi Chaim Vital Calabrese. I am really interested in knowing what inspired and convinced you that this story is worth telling.
After a few months my kabbalah teacher said in a lesson, not to a particular person, but in general: "There is someone in this class who should write a novel about a cabbalist who lived in the 16th century, Chaim Vital, and his teacher Itschak Luria. If this person will dare to do this and is prepared to take all the responsibilities that will come with this book, I guarantee this book will be a world bestseller. It will be a movie and so many people will be inspired with it. " I was excited and hoping that he meant me. At the end of the lesson I asked him, but he didn't answer, he just had a vague mystical smile on his face. Two days later, I received with the post an envelop with 10 pages of notations of my teacher about Chaim Vital. I was immediately sold; this was the story I was looking for my whole life. This was also my story, and I knew for sure the story of million people. The story about a young man who wanted to unveil all the big questions of life and universe, who wanted to understand why we are here. The story about the friendship between him and his teacher and how his teacher finally betrayed him. And the story of a big love from Chaim for the beautifull, wise girl Francesa, the daughter of his teacher. And how Chaim had to make the impossible choice; to receive all the secrets of wisdom, or to go for eternal love. In this particular story I could share everything I learned myself about life from kabala in a thrilling page-turner.
In your opinion, what is the relationship between absolute wisdom and absolute love?
Absolute wisdom and absolute love are the same. You cannot be a wise person without love, and real love cannot exist without wisdom. Once a pupil asked his kabbalah teacher; "Rabbi, can you tell me all the secrets in the time that I can stand on one leg?" The teacher smiled and said; "Of cause; love your neighbor as you love yourself, all the rest is just commentary." It sounds perhaps simple; but just try it one day. To make the other people as important as you consider yourself. It is very difficult. It asks practice every day, to live with love. Not speaking bad words about people, not having bad thoughts, help people where ever you can. But wisdom is not achieved with sitting on a mountain in lotusposition... you can only learn wisdom in relationship with your fellow people. Who you treat people, is the perfect mirror to see how wise a person is.
In the end, I understood from reading your novel, that every struggle is a blessing in disguise.
Yes, nothing happens without reason in your life. Most people have no problem with all the good things that happens in life; the coincidence that you met your soul mate, how lucky you were when you get that job, how blessed you are with that good friend etcetera. But when bad things happen, people are angry; they accuse God; Why did you let happen this to me? Why do I have always so much bad luck? Why is life so difficult? But in reality, both, good and bad things that happen in life are 2 sides of one medal. Both come in our lifes to unleash our power, to make us stronger and wiser, to force us to get more out of life. Of cause, it's normal that in first instance, you can feel very sad and angry. But after while , you don't have a choice. You have to stand up, and ask yourself, why did this happen to me? What can I learn from this? How can this influence the new choises I will make in my life. How can this bad luck be a present for myself and even the world. To give one example; a good friend of mine lost his beautiful young wife on cancer. Of cause he was broken, and life seems a while meaningless from him. Untill the day he took a decision. He said to himself; I have to give meaning to this otherwise my life is also over. So he start running marathons. Each day one. From village to village and from city to city. He run 365 marathons through Europ, and where ever he came he gave interviews about cancer, more then 2000 interviews. And at the end of that year he founded 250.000 euro to give to a cancer fund!
What do the teachings of Kabbalah tell us about the path toward achieving our goals?
For kabbalah the meaning of life IS to achieve your goal. Every person comes on earth with a mission. A specific mission and talent that no one else has in this world. It is as personal as your fingerprint. Every one has a present for this world, to make this world a better place. So kabbalah has a sophisticated system how to achieve this goals. Because everything in the universe is following the same laws in creation; a flower, a star, a book, a castle, ... everything in this world is created by the same 10 laws. Kabbalah teaches how you can learn this laws to use them for achieving your goals. I wrote a practical workbook about that; Step to step from wish to reality. Because for kabbalists it is your obligation to become the biggest version of yourself and to fulfill all your dreams. That is the meaning of life.
and also - in your novel, are all the details of his story true, or are some parts of it fictional?
My novel is totally based on facts. There is a lot of documents about those two men that I studied intense. I am a maniac in research, also in my second novel about the secret life of Isaac Newton, I did two years research. Did you know he was also a kabbalist? And an alchemist and freemason? I found it very important that everything has its sources. Because otherwise if readers discover a fault it will bring the whole novel in discredit. But of cause it is romantized, it is a novel, not a workbook, or a scientific study. I want to write pageturners. So I comprimize, make some things a litlle bigger, but always with respect for the historical facts. And of cause for the feelings of my characters I use my imagionation and my own experience. I cannot impossible know how they felt 400 years ago, but while I'm writing a novel I become my characters. In the opinion of my kabbala teacher, I was Chaim Vital 400 years ago, and he was also then my teacher... but I don't know if this is truth. However... my teacher also stole my book just as Itchak Luria stole the book of Chaim Vital 400 years ago... But I did get it back... so perhaps I live another version of Chaim's life.
What is the meaning of the Ego in the Kabbalah teachings?
The ego isn't that bad as people mostly think. We need our egos. Without ego there weren't cathedrals built, books written, music composed, we didn't send a rocket to the moon. The ego is what men drive to do things in the world, to achieve goals. It is the engine of your dreams. But as with all energy you can use it destructive or constructive. If what you do is only egobased for your own fulfillment, then it will finally destroy you. That's why kabbalists also say that the ego is like Satan. It can bring the most bad character forth in you, but it will leave you empty. But if you use it for goals that are bigger then yourself, it is a wonderfull tool to get things done in life.
How do you feel when people compare you to other famous writers who also approached the dilemmas of spirituality and esoterism?
I'm proud on that. It are also the novels I like to read and that inspire me. Unfortunately there are not much writers who write inspirational novels. We have Paulo Coelho, we had James Redfield, and then? Hermann Hesse of cause, but that is already a long time ago. I think that people get more inspired with such novels then with any workbook from other spiritual writers. Because in a novel you read with your emotions, you identifie with the characters, the story becomes your story if it is a good novel. So it is more intens then in a workbook that is mostly touching the ratio instead of the heart and soul. So if people say I write as inspirational as Paulo Coelho, as thrilling as Dan Brown, and as well researched as Umberto Eco... I can only be very gratefull for that!
I read that you handled your book to Madonna? How did you meet her?
That's truth. I followed also kabbalah lessons in the Kabbalah Center in London. Several times I was in the same lessons and celebrations as Madonna was. She is totally different there then as we know her in the media. She is very serious about kabbala and studies it totally devoted. One day I gave her indeed the English translation of The Kabbalist, and when she received it she hold the manuscript embracing to her famous breasts... so I was very proud to that as you can understand! While the lessons are going on the children play downstairs with elchalder, so also my daughter Zonneke. At one morning Madonna came to get her son Rocco, while he was kissing Zonneke. She said; "O my God, is it starting already, is this my daughter in law!"
Another thing that I heard is that she wrote the song Isaac after reading your novel. Is this true?
Yes, that is true. It is a beautifull song an her CD Confessions on a dancefloor and was released approximately 10 months after I gave her the novel. The song is about Isaac Luria, one of the two main characters of The Kabbalist. The male voice in the song is also sung by one of our kabbalah teachers. So I ‘m convinced this will be one day the title song of The Kabbalist , the movie!
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