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CONTEXTUALLY YOURS (article first published : 2004-11-11)

News has reached me that Madonna (yes, that Madonna) has been banned by the government of Egypt from visiting that country. This would seem to be a fairly unlikely event, anyway, but I suppose you can’t be too careful.

The reason for this ban is interesting. “Madonna has adopted the religion of the Kabbalah”, according to my newspaper source, and that statement sent me to the dictionary for further enlightenment. There are several spellings of the word in question as well as the one above - cabala, cabbala, kabala, kabbala and qabalah, so there’s plenty of room for freedom of expression there. That last spelling looks to my untutored eye like Arabic, but turns out to be from the Hebrew qabbalah, meaning tradition.

The meaning of the word as given by the Chambers Dictionary is “a secret mystical tradition of Jewish rabbis, who read hidden meanings into the Old Testament and other texts; any secret, esoteric, occult or mystic doctrine.” I can only speculate on the relationship between Madonna and any such tradition, but the crux of the matter as far as the Egyptians are concerned is of course the Jewish connection. If they fear Madonna as an ambassador for the Jewish state or religion I can only think that they are paranoid to the point of requiring expert help but, as I said before, I suppose you can’t be too careful, and they are taking no chances. At least where they are, Islam is safe for the moment.

The English, in their bluff tradition of simplifying anything they can’t spell or pronounce, came up with the word “cabal”. This, says Chambers, means “a small group or council united for some secret purpose, especially political intrigue; a secret plot; a name in English history given to the King’s inner group of advisors.” And here comes one of those beautiful coincidences that pop up from time to time to make life more interesting.

In the late 17th Century, Charles II sat uneasily upon the throne of England. He was not averse to a pleasant life, having had thirteen known mistresses, but was chronically short of money. Winston Churchill, in his History of the English Speaking Peoples, tells the tale:

“The growing discontents of the Cavalier Parliament at the morals and expense of the Court made it necessary to broaden the basis of the government, and from 1688 five principal personages began to be recognised as the responsible ministers. There had been much talk of Cabinets and Cabals; and now, by chance, the initials of these five men, Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale, actually spelt the word ‘CABAL’”.

I like it.

Contextually Yours, Ulysses Online.




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