I've been asked to recommend a book on the Qabala. The writer indicates that he'd read some but found nothing helpful. I will recommend a book. However, it may be more valuable to discuss how to study qabala.
With the appropriate amount of NoDoz or 5 Hour Energy, you can learn the qabala by reading Mathers or many others. I'd suggest reading three or four books in a year and rereading those same books the next few years and see if that helps. Boring.
There are other ways, first this tip:
When buying books check the spelling of Qabala. It doesn't always follow the rule but Cabala often refers to Christian Cabala and mysticism. A spelling with a K as in Kabbalah refers to Jewish Kabbalah. Qabalah with a Q usually means as studied in the Western Mystery Traditions (WMT). A scholarly type would have more than a passing familiarity with the Kabbalah while focusing on the Qabala. A really deep scholar would study all three but I'm at a loss as how you'd find time to actually do the work if you studied all three forms. Is now the time to remind folks that I've never considered myself a scholar?
The Qabala is the study of a particular cosmology. That cosmology is based upon a set of interrelated patterns. So, read the words, more importantly, write down the words used to describe the various places on the map. Should a book tell you that a the sephira Chesed translated to Mercy. Write it down. Then grab a thesaurus and jot down some synonyms and antonyms. If you read a path is called the "administrative intelligence" write it down. It doesn't matter that you have no clue what they mean by that. Then study, meditate and work magick based upon those charts.
This method is hinted at by all those lists of correspondences you'll see in books. They'll give you the commonplace answers. The trick is making those answers your own. That takes a long time. The qabala is not a quick study. However, it is so challenging and so life changing it is worth it.
The reason it is life changing is that it gives you a peculiar lens through which to view the world and yourself. When you've looked for enough patterns, you'll automatically begin seeing your own. Once a pattern emerges, you can then decide to reinforce it or change it.
I will share what both my mentor taught me and what Jason Miller has posted previously. It is a mistake to assume that this is the end all be all of occult cosmic mapping. There are many other views, equally valid with equally valid reference points in the subtle realms. That said, at the time of the working, it is THE world view you must hold on to. Save the other viewpoints for other workings.
My training in Qabala is through an initiated tradition. The advantage there is that you're exposed to certain points in the very receptive state of an initiation. This disadvantage there is you may run into some so-called teacher that will interpret for you. Learning on your own trades those advantages and disadvantages for others. Such as you need greater persistence on your own and the interrelated sharing of ideas from folks doing the same type of work you are doing is lost. The upside is when you're done it will definitely be your qabala. Until you make it yours, it is so many words on a page. Did I mention this takes a long time?
I am going to get some groans in the comments section for these recommendations.
A basic primer for the qabala is Lon Milo DuQuette's dvd Qabala for the Rest of Us. This explains the basic cosmology so well that it should be mandatory viewing for an new student of the WMT. I looked to link it and I can't find it. I will ask Lon if it is available anywhere a post a link if it is.
The second is the Chicken Qabala also by DuQuette. This book is very funny. For instance, regarding the Hebrew letter Lamed
I always get groans from folks when I recommend DuQuette. In my opinion, Lon Duquette is Baal Shem. His books though hide his vast expertise because he's teaching the building blocks. I am convinced you can do vast amounts of work by studying the foundations and eschewing for the time being the massive complicated and wordy structures more 'learned' authors building upon those foundations. For in the qabala, the foundation is the key. Once you have that, other people's structures are merely illustrative of what can be done. The trick is building your own structures. Never ever let a teacher or author build the structure for you. For you, your crude hut will teach you more than another man's skyscraper.
Soon I will write a post of questions one should ask while studying the qabala and the WMT. If I don't get there, someone remind me. The same holds true for the second part of the question. How is qabala used for practical magick? The answer may surprise some.
Side note: I've been linked to Amazon for some time. In all that time, not a single person as purchased a book that I have recommended. Despite that, I've made $20.00. My favorite purchase? A slinky! How someone went from reading this blog, following a link I've posted about a book, skipped the book and bought a slinky I will never know. It was fun to see though.
Peace all. Smile for no reason at all.