Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Refresh

Penelope Trunk's recent article about re-inventing yourself, as well as Frater Acher's article about the limited lifespan of our magical tools - made me think about the transience of identities, objects, and even beliefs.

Jason Miller then wrote an article about Extraction Magic. Here is a brief extract from his post:
"...Most things like elements and directions, or planetary hours and days, are IMO a correspondence that magicians use to do magic and not inherently true. For instance I do not think that the west is inherently more watery, of that Thursdays are inherently more Jupitarian than Saturdays.
Just like a scientist might take a cell and use enzymes and alcohol to extract the DNA, magicians use colors, directions, days, and hours to extract the force that we want to address in our magic..."
This got me think that in order to know what you are changing, whether your magical tools, identity, or view on correspondences... you need to know where you are coming from before you can figure out where you are moving to.

Which in turn reminded me of a conversation recently with a friend about Alan Brill's book: "Judaism and Other Religions: Models of Understanding". In it he describes (copied from Amazon.com reviewer, my emphasis)...
A sturdy theological, categorical framework is borrowed from Race (1983) and Hick (1987), which broadly sets out four main positions of exclusivism, pluralism, inclusivism and universalism:
Exclusivism states that one's own community, tradition, and encounter with God compromise the one and only exclusive truth; all other claims on encountering God are a priori false.
Pluralism takes the opposite position, accepting that no one tradition can claim to possess the singular truth. The beliefs and practices of all groups are equally valid. It is widely taught among Western academics.
Inclusivism situates itself between these two extremes, where one acknowledges that many communities possess their own traditions and truths, but maintains the importance of one's comprehension as culminating, or subsuming other truths. One's own group possesses the truth; other religious groups contain parts of the truth.
Universalism proposes a universal monotheism; it was widely taught by medieval Jewish philosophers who postulated a common Neo-platonic or Aristotelian truth to all religions. (p.9)
Now take this model of 4 categories and see which your current belief system fits in to? Does your system believe that all magic is done via spirits exclusively? Do you think we all (or most) have a portion of a universal truth and are equally valid?

Whilst it might be argued that categorizing your magical belief system in to the 4 labels above is academic, I think it has merit purely on the basis as this reflects on how you interact with practitioners of other magical belief systems.

I struggled to come to any meaningful conclusion about this blog post. Perhaps just to open it up for discussion on:

Question: Do you look in to the paths of transmission that our traditions have taken to understand which giants shoulders you are standing on? If so, what surprises have you come across recently?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

M-Agile

Whilst there are a lot of interesting and educational conversations about magical practice on the Internet, this post is not likely to add to that...

Anyway, if you have or are working in the software world - you might be familiar with something called Agile. This is a philosophy based on 4 simple principles that is transforming the way that software is developed. Here is the Agile manifesto:

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Whilst I have read and re-read this manifesto in more books, articles, and blogs than I care to count... it never occurred to me to create one for the occult community until now. So here is version one of the magical agile manifesto (M-Agile):

Manifesto for Development of Magical Practitioners

We are uncovering better ways of developing
magical practitioners by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over magical societies and organizations
Working/Practical magic over comprehensive scholarship
Practitioner collaboration over teacher/student hierarchy
Responding to change over following a prescribed path

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Translation Mistakes, part 1

This post could have been titled "This is not a review: Future Tense by Rabbi J Sacks", but I'm only going to focus on one part of the book for now. That part is on pp.232-234 from the section "The Voice of Hope".

Below is the first of the sections that highlights what the implications are of mistranslation. Since I am reading through Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) and translating the commentary of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero for a second time, I am becoming painfully aware of just how big an impact mistranslation can have.

Here is the quote from Rabbi Sacks (warning: long!) answering the question about what the 4 distinctive messages that G-d seeks to say to the world via the Jewish people, its laws, life and history:

"...The Great Mistranslation

The first occurs at the formative moment in the life of Moses, when the prophet encounters God at the burning bush. God summons him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses is reluctant. 'Who am I,' he asks, 'to be worthy of such a task?' God reassures him, and then Moses asks, 'Who are you? When the Israelites ask, who has sent you, what shall I say?' God replies in a cryptic three-word phrase, Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Exodus 3:14).
It is fascinating to see how Christian Bibles translate this clause. The King James Version reads it as 'I am that I am.' Recent translations are variants of the same idea. Here are some examples:

I am who I am.
I am what I am.
I am - that is who I am.

These are all mistranslations, and the error is ancient. In Greek, Ehyeh asher ehyeh becomes ego eimi ho on, and in Latin, ego sum qui sum: 'I am he who is.' Augustine in the Confessions writes: 'Because he is Is, that is to say, God is being itself, ipsum esse, in its most absolute and full sense.' Centuries later, Aquinas explains that it means God is 'true being, that is being that is eternal, immutable, simple, self sufficient, and the cause and principle of every creature'. And so it continued in German philosophy. God became Hegel's 'concrete universal', Schelling's 'transcendental ego', Gilson's 'God-is-Being' and Heidegger's 'onto-theology'.
The mistake of all these translations is obvious to the merest beginner in Hebrew. The phrase means, 'I will be what I will be.' The verb does not use the present tense. Elsewhere, the Bible does. In the Ten Commandments, for example, the first verse reads, 'I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.' Here the present tense ('I am') is used. But then, that verse does not speak of God's name. It speaks of his deeds. Here, however, Moses asks God for his name. God might have replied, as did the angel who wrestled with Jacob, with a rhetorical question, 'Why do you ask for my name?', implying that the very question is out of order. There are things that human beings cannot know, mysteries they cannot fathom, matters that transcend the reach of human understanding.
But that is not what God says. He does answer Moses' question, but enigmatically, in a phrase that needs decoding, God tells Moses to say to the Israelites, '"I will be" sent me to you. ' It is as if God had said, 'My name is the future tense. If you seek to understand me, first you will have to understand the nature and significance of the future tense.'
'I am that I am' is a translation that owes everything to the philosophical tradition of ancient Greece, and nothing to the thought of Ancient Israel. The God of pure being, first cause, prime mover, necessary existence, is the god of philosophers, not the God of the prophets.
What, then, is the meaning of 'I will be what I will be'? The name itself never recurs in the Hebrew Bible, but there is a later echo, in the great scene in which God appears to Moses on the mountain after the sin of the Golden Calf, in which he says, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion' (Exodus 33:19).
What this means is that God cannot be predicted or controlled. He cannot be confined to categories or known in advance. He is telling Moses, 'You cannot know how I will appear until I appear; how I will act until I act. My mercy, my compassion, my strategic interventions into history, cannot be controlled or foretold. I will be what, when and how I choose to be. I am the God of the radically unknown future, the God of surprises. You will know when you see me, but not before.'
To be sure, in one sense, the future is connected to the past. God keeps his promises. That is an essential element of Jewish faith. But this very fact reveals the difference between predictability on the one hand, and faithfulness on the other. Objects fall, gas expands, particles combine: these things are predictable. But people freely honour obligations that they have undertaken because they are faithful. That is the difference God never fails to teach Moses and the prophets. 
God's name tells us that he is not an entity knowable by philosophers or science, deducible from the past. God awaits us in the unknown and unknowable future. That is the first stage of the argument: the God of Israel is the God of the future tense..."

Kind of makes me wonder how many other mistranslations have had such a profound impact? In particular in translation of Kabbalistic literature...

Sunday, 15 March 2015

March 2015 round-up

This is another somewhat random post of topics that could have become larger posts, but I lack the time to develop them further...

Passing in to Legend

As I am sure that you must be aware Terry Pratchett passed away last week. Although I met him only briefly in passing, some of my friends knew him well and were all great fans. I particularly liked that for many years I could walk in to any number of airports and find one of his novels. It was nice to know that no matter what was happening in my personal world or the wider world - Discworld novels would accompany me from one adventure to the next.

As well as learning a lot about life, the universe and everything from his novels "Small gods" and "Good Omens"... I also really liked that he could make people genuinely care about golems.


Blew a Fuse

Last week whilst I had two major workings on the go and another one just completed I got ill rather suddenly. It's nothing serious but I spent 23 hours out of 48 asleep and have not done any meditation or magical work since. It felt as though I had used up all my mana pool so to speak and had nothing left. Any practitioner, even a petty dabbler like myself, needs to listen carefully to what their physical and subtle body is telling them. If it is says "stop!", better listen before you're made to stop.

Victoria Hannah

Whilst taking some time out to wonder the wider web, I came across this video Victoria Hanna- Aleph-bet (Hosha'ana). I'm an instant fan of her work for a number of reasons. First the video is about the Apelh-bet, but has plenty of symbolism from Sefer Yetzira. Elemental, numerical, vowel permutation, etc.

Secondly then there is this talk: "Victoria Hanna - I sleep and my heart is awake" she gave at the conference "Music and Brains: The Surprising Link". It's basically a lesson in vowel sounds from Sefer Yetzira and how they are made by the throat, lips, tongue, palate, and teeth. OK, if you need a simpler demonstration - check out her Victoria Hanna - Hebrew Vowels Demonstration.

Thirdly, if that is not enough... here is a jamming session that she did with Bobby McFerrin. In it she is quoting mishnas (verses) from Sefer Yetzira. Word for word she has it memorized! This is a lady who has a relationship with the Hebrew letters and vowels that I can only dream off.

Now I'm off to have a cold shower.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Shushan Funk

I forgot to include something light-hearted in my last post about Purim and Gemmatria. So please find below my favourite Purim song this year.


I'll return to posting about Merkavah mysticism, practice and Sefer Yetzira shortly. And remember folks, you need to be in a state of joy to access Divine inspiration.

Waiting for a Gemmatria

Sometimes it takes awhile for a Gemmatria to be clear. In the case copied from Ohr Somayach website below, it took approximately 2500 years.

On 1 October 1946, after 216 court sessions, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg delivered its verdicts sentencing the leaders of the Nazi party to death by hanging. The author of the following account, Kingsbury Smith of the International News Service, was chosen by lot to represent the American press at the execution of ten of those leaders.
NurembergGaol, Germany
16 October 1946
International News Service

…Julius Streicher made his melodramatic appearance at 2:12 a.m. While his manacles were being removed and his bare hands bound, this ugly, dwarfish little man, wearing a threadbare suit and a well-worn bluish shirt buttoned to the neck but without a tie (he was notorious during his days of power for his flashy dress), glanced at the three wooden scaffolds rising menacingly in front of him. Then he glanced around the room, his eyes resting momentarily upon the small group of witnesses. By this time, his hands were tied securely behind his back. Two guards, one on each arm, directed him to Number One gallows on the left of the entrance. He walked steadily the six feet to the first wooden step but his face was twitching.
As the guards stopped him at the bottom of the steps for identification formality he uttered his piercing scream: 'Heil Hitler!' The shriek sent a shiver down my back.
As its echo died away an American colonel standing by the steps said sharply, 'Ask the man his name.' In response to the interpreter's query Streicher shouted, 'You know my name well.'
The interpreter repeated his request and the condemned man yelled, 'Julius Streicher.'
As he reached the platform Streicher cried out, 'Now it goes to G-d.' He was pushed the last two steps to the mortal spot beneath the hangman's rope. The rope was being held back against a wooden rail by the hangman.
Streicher was swung suddenly to face the witnesses and glared at them. Suddenly he screamed, 'Purim Fest 1946.' [Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrated in the spring, commemorating the execution of Haman, ancient persecutor of the Jews described in the Old Testament]…
Streicher had been a Nazi since early in the movement’s history. He was the editor and publisher of the anti-Semitic newspaper "Das Strummer." In May of 1924 Streicher wrote and published an article on Purim titled "Das Purimfest" (The Festival of Purim). In order to publish his vitriolic attack Streicher must have had a good deal of knowledge about Jewish thought and practice. However we can only speculate to what extent he was aware of the remarkable parallels between Haman and his own execution. However, they are indeed striking:
“And the king said to Esther the queen, ‘The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the capital, and the ten sons of Haman...Now whatever your petition, it shall be granted; whatever your request further, it shall be done.’
Then said Esther, ‘If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews that are in Shushan to do tomorrow also as this day, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.’ ” (Esther 9:12-14)
If Haman’s ten sons had already been killed, how could they hanged?
Our Sages comment on the word “tomorrow" in Esther's request: "There is a tomorrow that is now, and a tomorrow which is later." (Tanchuma, Bo 13 and Rashi, Shemot 13:14).
In the Megilla, the names of Haman’s ten sons are written very large and in two columns. This is in distinct contrast to the style of the rest of the Megilla. The left-hand column contains the word v'et (and) ten times. According to our Sages the word v'et is used to denote replication. The inference is that another ten people were hanged in addition to Haman's ten sons.
If we examine the list of Haman's sons three letters are written smaller: the taf of Parshandata, the shin of Parmashta and the zayin of Vizata.
Those three letters together form taf-shin-zayin, the last three numbers of the Jewish year 5707, which corresponds to the secular year 1946, the year that those ten Nazi criminals were executed.
The Nuremberg trials were a military tribunal and thus the method of execution was usually by firing squad. The court, however, prescribed hanging. Esther’s request "Let Haman's ten sons be hanged" echoes down the ages,
Equally uncanny is that the date of the execution (October 16, 1946) fell on "Hoshana Rabba" (21 Tishrei), the day on which G-d seals the verdicts of Rosh Hashana for the coming year.
As the Megilla recounts, a decree that the king has sealed cannot be rescinded, and thus Achashverosh had to promulgate a second decree to allow the Jewish People to defend themselves. In other words, that first decree was never nullified.
Our Sages teach us that eventually the Jewish People will return to G-d either voluntarily, or if not, G-d will raise up another despot whose decrees will be “as severe as Haman” (Sanhedrin 97b).
When we look toward the place of our original encounter with Haman and see the rise of a fanatic whose rhetoric rivals our most vicious enemies, we should remember that history most often repeats itself for those who fail to learn its lessons.
© 1995-2015 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Here is the relevant bit of text from the megilla (scroll) read on Purim.


In case you were wondering what happened to the 11th person in this trial in 1946 - Hermann_Göring committed suicide. According to the Midrash - Haman's daughter also committed suicide. Whilst there are rumours that Goering was a transvestite, Wikipedia states:
Göring was known for his extravagant tastes and garish clothing. He had various special uniforms made for the many posts he held; his Reichsmarschall uniform included a jewel-encrusted baton. Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the top Stuka pilot of the war, recalled twice meeting Göring dressed in outlandish costumes: first, a medieval hunting costume, practicing archery with his doctor; and second, dressed in a red toga fastened with a golden clasp, smoking an unusually large pipe. Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano once noted Göring wearing a fur coat that looked like what "a high grade prostitute wears to the opera". He threw lavish housewarming parties each time a round of construction was completed at Carinhall, and changed costumes several times throughout the evenings.
Last but not least, Jacob's son Benjamin never bowed to Esau (since he had not yet been born). His descendant Saul failed to destroy the last of Amalek. Mordechai, also a descendant of Benjamin, vanquished Haman the descendant of Amalek in his lifetime. I just hope that the Benjamin of this generation got his message through about the lessons from history.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Feedback

Feedback Rant
Seems there's been some feedback to various blogs asking for magical techniques. I think that this is great! Bloggers getting constructive feedback, what more can you ask for?

People blog about magic in theory, to promote books & courses, magic in practice, its manifestations in the wider world, etc. Each blogger has their own reasons for blogging, but something that I have been noticing of late is that people leaving comments on blogs almost universally agree with the topic being blogged about.

This "yes men" culture as I call it is something I consider to be troubling. Perhaps I am being naive thinking that the blogosphere is a place for debate - but this request about for blogs to carry more magical practice information / experiences seems to have hit a nerve. I think that is a good thing as blogging is in my view trying to form a connections with the readers.

If the readers ask a question that causes friction - this can either be turned in to something positive... or shot down. From my simplistic view of things, this instance appears to have favoured the latter option.

Give the Readers what they Want
So as a blog author you can write whatever you want and that is exactly what drives the entries here at Golem Builder central. In truth, very little thought goes in to these updates - they are just a way for me to record and reference my thoughts, experiences, spiritual bookmarks.

I've not been personally been asked for any magic techniques and I don't know many. But in the interests of countering the trend of promoting a culture of "yes men" and turning down valuable feedback, here is a link to a technique for improving one's income.

https://mekubal.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/segulah-for-parnassa/

Just to explain a couple of things...
  1. Mekubal is the Hebrew word for what others might call a Kabbalist. They are wonder working Rabbis who are able to do things that a person might call magic**.
  2. A Segula according to wonkypedia is: "A segula (Hebrew: סגולה‎, pl. סגולות, segulot, "remedy" or "protection"[1]) is protective or benevolent charm or ritual in Kabbalistic and Talmudic tradition."
** there are a number of words in the Hebrew language for magic and magical practitioner. Just as there are numerous names for different types/species of angels. I generally do not define what magic, mysticism, etc mean because everyone comes with their own baggage in their understanding of these terms. There is actually no word in Hebrew for mysticism.

So anyway, I'll be trying this technique too - just to say whether or not it is a tried and tested technique. I have utmost respect for the blogger whose link was posted above and I believe that if you carry out the technique with faith, humility and do not mix it with other practices foreign to this system - then you will have success.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Lightning, meditation, turbulence

Lightning
On a recent trip abroad I had a rather curious experience after meditating. Due to the fact that it was a family trip, I only got two chances to meditate. However, after each session there was a fierce storm in the area. The second storm in particular lasted for longer than the locals told me was normal for that place. The lightning was striking just down the street and it really felt like there were lightning sprites dancing outside.

On the flight home we had almost 2 hours of turbulence. Initially I tried to shield the plane, but then on a whim decided to make friends with the air and lightning sprites. Although the turbulence lessened to the extent that the air crew were allowed to move around again - it was none the less a fairly bumpy ride all the way home. That'll show me for meditating in a new place without making some attempt to make friends / peace with the local entities manifesting as wind, rain, and lightning.

Meditation
The experience above and my advancement in ability to understand and put in to practice techniques in Hebrew Kabbalistic manuscripts & books has made me more aware of finding a teacher. This has been re-enforced having read "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales. In this book he describes how some people (and not others) have survived life threatening crisis.

Whilst the situations described in the book are (thankfully) very rare, they are of interest to me as a practitioner as I am aware of the changes that following a magical path can take. "You will be changed by it" was amongst some of the first advice I was given. The second piece of advice "When you open the door and can see them, they can see you too" is the advice that still keeps me awake at night.

Anyway, the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (who tragically died young) gave the following warning in his commentary and translation of Sefer Yetzira: (pp.124)
"...One of the early 10th century mystics, Hai Gaon, noted that many people who embarked on the mysteries were successful, but then met with an untimely death The higher the climb, the more dangerous the fall. 
A person would not attempt to climb a dangerous mountain without the proper training and equipment. Any novice who would attempt a climb without an experienced guide would be courting disaster. Climbing spiritual heights can be equally dangerous. One needs the proper training and mental equipment, as well as an experienced spiritual guide..."
Reading "Deep Survival" reminded me of this quote from Rabbi Kaplan. It made me keenly aware of my lack of teacher.

Turbulence
So in order to find a teacher and to advance my Hebrew Immersion project - I am taking a multi-pronged approach. This involves meditation, seeking a guide, integrating more Hebrew study in my (already packed) day, and creating a plan.

A plan is particularly useful for mapping out a 'path of dots'. It helps me figure out how to get from a known starting point to a theoretical next level. Although the plan is a nice fiction, it's a very useful tool for putting ideas in to a coherent order and testing whether it is achievable or not. Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Planning a change is also an invitation to enter in to a state of crisis. To be an agent of change requires one to be changed too. I think that I whilst I knew that in theory, it's taken reading Deep Survival to understand just how paralyzing and insidious fear can be. Thankfully I picked up Rabbi Jonathan Sack's "Future Tense" book at just the right time to prevent the fear** from becoming overwhelming and instead channel it to more productive ends.

** fear of delving deeper in to letter combination meditations and the likely outcomes.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Forum for Discussion

Weddings

Many years ago I went to a friend's wedding, I knew that he and his fiancée where from different Christian backgrounds but I was not sure of the details. Anyway, he told me before the wedding that the families had argued about where to get married and in the end his family won.

So when I turned up to the wedding and saw the back rows of the church filled with smiling people, I turned to my friend, the groom, and commented about how happy the bride's family looked. "They are the choir", he replied.

Sure enough the people slightly further forward were standing stone-faced, glancing around with sour expressions and generally looking like they did not want to be in that church. When the groom's family turned up and together with his friends - we balanced out the bride's family numbers.

Just as I was sitting down in the pew, wondering how anyone could attempt to reach joyful communication with the Divine on furniture that was hurting my backside, in walks the vicar. The vicar, it turns out, is a woman. My smile from earlier returned and I looked over to see the mood of the bride's family has darkened further. Apparently the happy couple had chosen not to share this detail before the wedding.

When the vicar in her speech started talking about an orthodox Jewish wedding, how it is held under an open canopy (chuppah) to invite the wider community to participate and support the newly joined couple - well, I burst out laughing.

The rest of the wedding went well and in the end pretty much everyone had a good time.

Relationships

The reason I mention the above incident is that I was reminded about it by a recent story from a Rabbi. The story he tells is of a vicar doing his rounds in the village.

When the vicar comes to visit Greg, he discovers that Greg is upset about his missing bike. He suspects that it has been stolen and he is feeling down. The vicar assures him that during his Sunday sermon, he'll be sure to say the right thing to reunite Greg with his bike.

Sure enough when Sunday comes around the vicar talks about the Ten Commandments in his sermon. When he gets to the part about "Thou shalt not steal", he gives it his all and puts the fear of God in to his community.

Later that week the vicar is doing his rounds again and comes across Greg and his bike. Pleased at the result the vicar says: "Well, it looks like my sermon really had an effect."

"Uh," Greg replies. "Kind of of. You see vicar, when you got to the bit about 'Thou shalt not commit adultry'... I remembered where I'd left my bike."

That's Not What I Meant

Anyway, all of that is a preamble to say two things:

  1. Sometimes the things we say have unintended consequences. 
  2. There is a new forum in town: The Great Work Forum
Please consider item 1. when getting involved in point 2. Here endeth my sermon.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Three Simple Questions

As I was coming home on the train today - I had a moment of clarity and numerous pieces fell in to place.

For example, how a Maggid might manifest. How that may or may not be similar to HGA. The way in which my studies of Ma'aseh Bereishit (literally translated as "work of creation" - i.e. Sephirot and metaphysics as understand through the Hebrew letters) in the form of Sefer Yetzira (Book of Formation) had come full circle in to the study of Ma'aseh Merkavah (literally translated as "work of the chariot" - i.e. angels, entities, heavens and other realities) after I completed chapter 6 of Sefer Yetzira.

Anyway, the thoughts are still falling in to place. Sometimes they don't always click in to place instantly - especially when interrupted from another source. This time it was a brief call from my favourite teacher and critic Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion. He asks me three questions, that I'd like you to ask yourself as well:

  • Question 1: How much can you explain about Kabbalah without referring to the Sefirot or Tree of Life?
  • Question 2: Is the HGA (Holy Guardian Angel),  as stated by the Gaon of Vilna, a manifestation of the higher self? If so, is the level of refinement of the person directly proportional to the level of the HGA that they make contact with?
  • Question 3: Does doing magic make you feel special?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

How to Learn

Early Lessons

Growing up I had the good fortune to be taught two important lessons.

1. Always question. The previous chief Rabbi (Sacks) of the United Kingdom tells a story of how, when growing up, his mother did not ask him "what did you learn today?" - rather she asked him "what questions did you ask today?"

2. If you are not moving forwards, you're going backwards. This lesson may seem a bit harsh, but in today's fast moving world this can certainly feel painful at times. I was given the analogy of walking up an escalator that is going doing. You need a certain speed of walking to remain stationary, stop and life (the escalator) will naturally move you down. If you want to move up - it requires significant and continuous effort.

Sefer Yetzira Commentary

After over half a year of concerted effort - I have finally finished reading for the first time the commentary by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero on Sefer Yetzirah - the Book of Formation.

I say first time as I intend to start all over again in a couple of weeks. Why? Because the first hurdle was being able to understand the vocabulary. The next time I hope to understand the concepts better and who knows? Perhaps the third time through I'll actually have completed all the meditation exercises.

Learning to Learn

Why did it take so long to get through pages 57 - 178 of this book? Because my knowledge of Hebrew was (and still is largely) fairly basic. I found that studying it for 20-30 minutes each day on my daily commute worked best. It turns out that this is the Pomodoro technique.

You can learn more about Learning to Learn at this lecture series at Coursera. In fact, if you take nothing else away from this blog ever - just look in to this Coursera lecture series and it could well transform your life.

The diffuse and focused minds that the lecturere talks about in the first week are oscillating consciousness that Sefer Yetzira chapter 1, mishna 4 talks about: "Underrstand with Wisdom and be Wise with Understanding". This book was redacted in to it's various forms probably between 200-900 CE, so you can see that the ideas of different mental states go back a long way - much, much longer if you do your research properly.

Anyway, since you are reading this blog I hope that you are a life-long learner. If not, I encourage it strongly since it will keep you mentally healthy & balanced, improve your world outlook and who knows what opportunities it may open up?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Endure, Resolutions, and Predictions

Resolutions

Normally I only make New year resolutions from June onwards, that way I reduce the time spent failing by half. This year however, I will not be making any resolutions at all. This was inspired by a recent talk about professional certification. The certifications fell broadly in to two camps: "Having" and "Being".

The former ("Having") focused on paying fees, sitting an exam and that was it. No prior experience required. The latter ("Being") focused on exam, fees, and critically demonstrating experience in the given field. In this instance it's project management and for me, if anyone bothers to get certification - it's generally as a hygiene factor and I pay a lot more attention when reviewing CVs to candidates who have demonstrated experience, i.e. in a state of being a great Project Manager. Rather than having accumulated knowledge with little or no experience to back it up.

I guess you can think of it in terms of the difference between an "armchair occultist" versus a practitioner with experience under her belt. Anyway, this lengthy rant is just to say.... 2015 for me will be a year of "being" for me rather than "having", continuing a theme that I started to built up last year.

Predictions

Like resolutions, I think these are a waste of time. Either they are too vague to be meaningful or people have a way of making world events squeeze in to part of the prediction or "what they really meant". The other predictions that bug me are the obvious ones like "the weather is going to get more severe in 2015", well duh!

Jacob in this week's reading of the Torah tries to tell his sons what will happen in the "End of Days". Rashi explains that Jacob loses his access to prophecy at this point and hence talks to his sons what will happen to them but not in the End of Days.

Endure

Da'akon in the game Planescape: Torment is a Githzerai follower of Zerthimon. He has some of the best line in any computer game that I have played. My favourite one that resonates with me right now is: "Endure. In enduring, grow strong."

The year 2014 has been one of transition to the next stage of my career, level of study & practice. This year will be (B"H) another year moving up a notch. The progress may at times seem a bit slow to me, but sometimes enduring is the sweetest victory of all.