Monday, 25 January 2016

New Project: Aramaic Absorption

The Hebrew Immersion Study Course project has completed.I succesfully studied the 5 Books of Moses all the way through four times (once with commantary from Nachmanides and three times with commentary from Rashi). However, studying the remaining books of Prophets and Writings stalled after the Book of Joshua.

Now that I am familiar with the five Books of Moses (and some commentaries), the next project I will pursue is to study it again - but this time with Aramaic translation by Onkelus. This is not a new idea - lots of people do it on a daily basis and the common name for this course of study is: shnayim mikra v’echad targum (two readings of scripture and one of commentary).

The Hebrew Immersion course was really good for improving my ability to read and translate Hebrew. I have another project in progress to augment that and plan to do a massive ramp-up for this programme later in the year. For now, I shall be concentrating on absorbing Aramaic on a daily basis until I have some level of fluency.

Scope: Read five Books of Moses with Aramaic commentary,
Time: 1 year deadline
Cost: Sunk cost of books purchased for Hebrew Immersion project already paid.
Quality: To be specified, see discussion on difficulty in measuring language proficiency above
Communication: End of year summary.
Risks:
1. Daily study is very time-consuming,  (Yes!)
2. Study fatigue may kick-in (Curiously no... it has become a Habit, I could almost say I have a craving for it)
3. Language skills may not improve significantly
Issues: 1. Difficult to measure proficiency of language.
Stretch Goal: Read the remaining books of the Prophets and Writings up to and including Book of Daniel.

Note: a number of authors (for example Rabbi Moshe Cordovero) who write about topics of Kabbalah in Hebew make use of aramaic phrases. Until now I have skipped over these and hence lost some of the understanding of the topic that they are discussing. This project will hopefully minimize this avoidance this in future.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Appraisal of the Patterns of 2015


I speak to my boss about once a year, when it is time for annual appraisal. The rest of the year we quietly ignore each other and get on with our lives. As it's a time of official retrospection, I thought it was a good time to review 2015.

Highlights of the year:
- Memorized chapter 1 of SY
- Found a teacher
- Gave a talk on history of Jewish Mysticism
- Read commentary of Ramak on SY
Lowlights of the year:
- Meditation ramped up and then ramped-down again
- Did not succeed in studying any other SY commentaries
- Got a clear warning that I'm not ready for this course of study

On the teacher front, I asked if we could study Sefer Yetzira but he declined. Instead we studied a book of Chassidut which is related to Jewish mysticism. My teacher also made me read the Hebrew aloud, giving me vital instruction on proper pronounciation and adding to my vocabulary.

The lecture that I gave on the history of Jewish Mysticism covered the first century before the common era through to the present day. I was going to talk about how these teachings and the Western Esoteric traditions have crossed paths over the centuries. But I discovered before the talk that the audience, who were very knowledgeable in other areas of Jewish studies, were not familiar with the history of Jewish mysticism. Hence it did not make sense to talk about points of intersection between the paths if both were unfamiliar to the listeners.

My ability to read and translate Hebrew has advanced sufficiently to be able to read the commentary on Sefer Yetzira by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. Not only was his commentary the easiest for me to read, I also felt that in some way he was the most approachable to learning these mysteries.

On the subject of being prepared to learn and practice the techniques of Jewish meditation (letter permutation, substitution, etc.), my wife got a clear warning in a dream that I was not ready. I had just received in the post a book on practical Kabbalah, that very night a rabbi (whom I believe was the author of the book) told her in no uncertain terms of all the destructive patterns of behaviour that I have in my life.

With regards to patterns of behaviour, as Blogos points out in a recent post – changes that are too abrupt either don't continue or have major detrimental side-effects. This is something that I have been thinking about quite a bit recently as my current work-life balance has been off-kilter for over the past year. Travelling four hours a day to work and back has impacted my ability to stay awake and focused during meditation. Which has resulted in a stop-start pattern of rapid ramping up to some fairly involved meditation and then stopping just as suddenly.

I think that part of the reason that I keep stopping when progressing with the letter permutation meditations is that they are uncovering more of the parts of my mind that I have kept under careful lock and key. To clear the channels of mental reception, there has to be a clearing out of mental dross, fantasies, and a re-balancing of deep emotional centres which is a time-consuming but necessary activity. The latest cycle has taken over three months and it's only now that I am considering re-starting the meditation.

Coming back to the topic of patterns, the most effective way that I have found to change them (note: not break them, but rather reconfigure) is via a series of short-term projects with clear goals. These projects form a series of dots, or stepping-stones, in a larger programme to transform my current stage in life in to the kind of life-style that I would like to progress to. One in which my work-life balance is more harmonious to continuing my growth as a husband, parent, project manager, and trainee golem builder.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Gaming, Part 1

I've been struggling to write this post for some time. Actually I have been struggling to blog, full stop.

Anyway, let's talk about gaming. Computer gaming, board gaming, card gaming, role-play gaming, etc. I've done them all and been addicted to one or more of them for quite some time. Whilst I have learned a great many things about myself and others playing them - I also learned that gaming as an end in itself is not a valuable use of my time.

The Good:

Gaming is a useful sand-box, a contained space/time, in which to explore one's self. In particular I found that by playing a diverse range of characters of different races, genders, political outlooks, etc - I learned how to put myself as much as possible mentally in to someone else's shoes.

Another advantage is that it helps to build up the muscles of the imagination. Creating strange and unreal landscapes, peoples, and creatures has helped me to build and retain mental constructs for a time. As many writers have discovered, the characters that they imagine often take on a life of their own and as a role-player it can be fun to let one's character run wild for a time to see what and where to go.

Gaming also helps give a person a sense of achievement. Achieving goals and aspirations in a fictional setting such as the imagination, computer generated world, or within the dimensions of a board game. The danger here though is that many games, in particular multiplayer on-line games, hook people in to continuing to play long after it passes the point of not being healthy.

Last but not least I want to highlight that computer games have come a long way in terms of incorporating consequences of actions, often with a delay in the effects. This creates very engaging scenarios and story-lines.

The Bad:

Addiction. Money. Time. Social Isolation. Viewing the world as a game. Pursuing goals in an artificial reality that do not impact the physical world. Cheating.

Like most hobbies, gaming can be taken to an extreme and there does seem to be a hierarchy of "normal" amongst gamers. Last I checked the list went something like: computer gamers, cos-players, board gamers, card gamers,  role-players, live-action role-players, furries, and furries who have sex in their costumes.

The Magical:

I will elaborate more in a future post about what I have learned from gaming in terms of magic... but here are a few ideas from various computer games:
  1. Planescape:Torment - tried to answer a questions I have had since becoming an adult "What can change the nature of man?" I went on to study Chassidut and Kabbalah to answer this very question about myself.
  2. Dragon Age - the Golden City in the Fade became the Black city when blood mages entered the city. As Sefer Yetzira states, there is nothing higher than Oneg (joy) and nothing lower than Nega (plague). The mages used blood (the vessel of Nefesh) to open a gate (231 letter gate?) and the result was the Taint (plague!).
  3. Bastion - This game is literally about Tikkun Olam, rectifying a broken world.
  4. Bioshock: Infinity: This game explores alternate time-lines and travel between them. It's interesting as my studies seem to indicate that it is possible to do this...
  5. Neverwinter Nights: It's relatively easy to build a golem in a computer game... In this generate world though it take a little bit more time and training....
The list of computer games I've player and learned from is bigger than this small sample. But it's dwarfed by the list I have played and learned nothing from...


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Three Directions

In the Kaplan version of Sefer Yetzira 1:10 it states:
"Two: Breath from Breath
With it He engraved and carved
22 Foundation Letters
Three Mothers
Seven Doubles
and Twelve Elementals
And one Breath is from them"

The version that Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (Ramak) uses however states the following (my rough translation):
"Two: Breath from Breath,
With it He engraved and Carved
22 Foundation Letters
Three Mothers
Seven Doubles
and Twelve Elementals
He engraved and carved in/with them four Winds/Directions
East, West, North, South
And Breath is in each one from them"

The difference being the mention of the four directions or winds depending on how you translate it. Having read some of Josephine McCarthy's "Magic of the North Gate" recently, I decided to try an experiment of singing to the 4 winds.

So earlier in the year I sang to the East wind and made up a poem. Whilst there was more sunshine, there was not a great deal of warmth. The grass turned brown and the leaves on the trees remained small.

Then I sang to the South wind and made up a poem. Finally the warmth of summer came through. The grasses flourished and the streets were filled with lush green trees.

In the past week or so I began to sing to the North wind. There has been a fair bit of rain and the temperature has finally begun to drop after a really mild autumn that has lasted well in to November.

And the West wind? I have yet to sing to the West wind. But when I do, you'll remember me as I walk in fields of gold.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Blinkers

Constancy of world-views

Recently I met up with a friend I've not seen in eight years. This is unusual for me because... well I don't have many friends and it was interesting to see how our lives have diverged over the years and yet our viewpoints have remained largely the same. That got me thinking about confirmation bias...

So when this friend sent me a story by Isaac Asimov called the Last Question (PDF and audio), I tried hard to read it with as open a mind as possible. If you've not read it - I heartily recommend it but don't let that influence your decision...


Interviews with Leading Jewish Scholars of Kabbalah

After digesting that little gem, you might also like to watch this set of mini-clips. Same caveat regarding confirmation bias applies...


Thursday, 22 October 2015

There cannot be two skies!

Working with Letters
“...There's things I want, there's things I think I want
There's things I have, there's things I wanna have
They say the more you fly, the more you risk your life
Well I'm just looking, I'm not buying I'm just looking, keeps me smiling...”
 Stereophonics lyrics to “Just Looking”

I've just finished playing the Planescape:Torment (PS:T) computer game for the... well, I've lost track how many times I've played it. At the time, it was a ground-breaking game and there are numerous quotes from the characters which have a habit of lingering in my mind until I have learned their lessons.

Spiralling Through 

At the moment I'm in the process of studying chapter 2 of Sefer Yetzira again. This too I have lost track too of how many times I've tried to learn it.

In chapter 2, verse 2 (in the Kaplan edition) it states:
“Twenty-two Foundation letters: He engraved them, He carved them, He permuted them, He weighed them, He transformed them, And with them, He depicted all that was formed and all that would be formed” 
 As Rabbi Kaplan recommends in the Introduction, this verse (SY 2:2) should be read in the imperative. But what does it mean to engrave, carve, permute, weigh, and transform the twenty letters? Put simple, based on my current understanding, this involves:

Engrave – focus on each letter in turn, not necessarily the shape but the meaning. There are numerous books which are worth-while reading on the significance of each of the Hebrew letters.
Carve – focus on nothing outside of the letters. I normally do this using sound to carve away all extraneous thoughts and focus entirely on the letters (in combination with each vowel).
Permute – combine each letter with all the other letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet. This is done with each of the vowels. I believe that weighing should actually be done first...
Weigh – the way that I do this is combining each letter with the others but with only the base vowel of each letter. This gives a sense of how each letter relates to the others and can, I believe, give a deeper understanding of why the letters are in a specific order. Transform – this means gemmatria. There are numerous systems of gemmatria, some of them even work.

Gaming Quotes 

One of my favourite characters in PS:T is called Dak'kon. Here are some of his quotes and how I've applied them to the study of SY2:2...

“A divided mind is an unfocused mind.” Meditation is in my view focused thought. By focusing on each letter and not allowing other thoughts to dominate or intrude, my mind remains focused and undivided. This is the stage of engraving.

“There cannot be two skies!” In the fictional history of the game, Dak'kon comes from a race that fought off the shackels of slavery. One faction led by Gith sought to continue the genocidal war against their former owners. Zerthimon (whom Dak'kon follows) chose to not to pursue this war and a civil war ensued.
To focus only on the letters and nothing else, everything else must be removed in one's thoughts. There cannot be two skies, just each letter and that alone. This is the stage of carving.

“Balance in All Things.” To get the measure of each letter, it is necessary to weigh each one in one's thoughts. To ensure that no letters become one's primary focus to the exclusion of the others, it is necessary to stay balanced in all letters. This is the stage of weighing.

“All things, whether structure or flesh — their existence is defined by their knowing of themselves.” To know the essence of something, it is necessary to de-construct its name letter by letter. Cycling though each letter and vowel combination for one letter with all the other letters can give rise to great insights. This is the stage of permutation.

“Steel marks flesh, but flesh cannot mark steel.” Letter substitution allows, according to what limited amount of study I have done to date, allow for the transformation of one thing in to another. Flesh cannot mark steel, but legend has it that when Esau bit in to Jacob's neck, the latter's neck was transformed to marble. This is the stage of transformation.

Back to the Song 

I think that I want to game, but I really want to meditate. So why do I struggle to prioritise one other the other? I have plenty of books on Kabbalah and a basic knowledge of Hebrew to start studying them – what I wanna have is actually to have studied them already :-)

Friday, 16 October 2015

learning and livelihood


This is a brief blog post as it's posted from my phone....

Responding to a couple of posts on the issues with students today and whether it is possible or desirable to earn a livelihood from magical practices, here are my thoughts.

1. Wisdom

Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers] 4:1 states "... Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): "From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation."..."

Every interaction is a learning opportunity. King David called someone his teacher for teaching him even a single letter. The thing to remember is to have space not occupied by ego to allow for new ideas and concepts. Hence "Kabbalah" meaning received tradition, but also IMO receptive to teaching.

Talmud Ta'anit 7a states "...R. Chanina remarked, "I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students"..."

If a person has set themselves up as a teacher and understand that they learn from their students via teaching them... then they are missing the point of the first quote. Sure, you're learning by teaching - but you can also learn from your students when not teaching.

2. Livelihood

As to the question if a person can make a living as an occult practitioner by being an author, tarot reader, astrologer, teacher, etc. The real question is my opinion should be rephrased as: CAN I MAKE A LIVING FOLLOWING MY PASSION?

Regardless of whether it is focused on occult path or bolstered by occult techniques... looking at the question in terms of a livelihood from one's passions hopefully forces a person to look at market conditions, budgets & forecasts, marketing, etc. All necessary to sustaining a strategic plan for one's livelihood.

OK, perhaps not as short a post as I would have liked.

One more thing if you are a teacher... please, please, please read Seth Godin's "The Dip". If you do not understand this simple teaching about why so ofew people become excellent in their chosen field - you will never succeed in being a successful teacher aside from the few exceptional students who will succeed in spite of you.




Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Da'at and Speech: Responses

Speech
On the blog: Osiris Risen, the author talks about praying out loud. It reminds me of an idea that a friend shared recently.

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (Ramak) in his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah chapter 2 talks about how we take the physical letters written on the page, transform them in to sounds which are part physical and part spiritual (ruach), and are then internalized in the consciousness - entirely spiritual.

The breath balances between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Between the watery intuition of the gut via the lungs to the fiery (electrical) thoughts of the brain. Neshima, the Hebrew word for breath, is the same root as the word Neshama - a level of soul consciousness.

So what does this all mean? Simply that by praying out loud we transform physical in to spiritual through the power of our breath. By having kavannah, focused intent, we can imbue our words with the power of emotion and enliven them. So the next time you pray, don't sit in silence - speak. And if you are readying psalms, for goodness sake Sing!

Da'at
On the blog: Disrupt & Repair, the author talks about [NB] Da’ath and Gevurah in the Amidah. As it so happened, I have recently read some of Dovber Pinson's "Toward the Infinite" which has some interesting quotes on the topics of Chochmah, Binah, and Da'at.

pp50-52:
"...We have discussed chochmah and binah, the first two of the three intellectual capacities that make up the word ChaBaD. The third letter of the word ChaBaD stands for da'at. Traditionally da'at is translated as knowledge...
...What exactly is this knowledge?...
...While knowledge is commonly perceived to be a function of the intellect, associated with the mind, da'at in fact is, in a sense, an act of identification. Leda'at, or to know, means to be completely identified with that information. Da'at is the attachment of the mind to the idea it is contemplating. A thought becomes fully absorbed in da'at. There is no thorough and complete understanding until the thought is brought down into the state of da'at...
...The Torah uses the term da'at to connote the idea of attachment, connection, and union. The word da'at essentially means to internalize a thought or concept, and make an association with the idea. In da'at consciousness, the boundary that usually separates the knower from the known is eliminated...
...Eating from the tree of knowledge caused an identification with and attachment to evil. Prior to eating from the tree of knowledge, Adam and Even intellectually understood that good and evil existed. By eating from the tree, they internalized evil. From then on, evil ceased existing as an external objective reality and became an internal subjective interpretation. From then on mankind knew and identified with both good and evil. The good resides within us, and so does the potential to do evil..."


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September update 2015

Changing Time

This is a short note to self as a reminder of a recent lesson by my teacher. The way to change the past is Teshuvah , Teffilah , and Tzedakah.

Teshuvah is often translated as repentance. But the word actually means 'return'. As in, the return to the correct path to align oneself in the service of the Divine. Teshuvah can change the past.

Tefillah means judging oneself, weighing up how to change in order to follow the correct path. Thinking about how to improve the relationships we have with our fellow humans and with the Divine. Tefillah can change the present.

Tzedakah is charity and charity given in the right way is giving someone hope. Tzedakah can change the future.

Monday, 7 September 2015

New Year, New Chapter

New Year

Next week it will be Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year. Actually there are four New Years... Rosh Hashanna is for the anniversary of mankind achieving awareness of Divine consciousness; the other three new years are the boundaries in time for Kings, Festivals and of course Trees.

Anyway, rather than being a time for wild parties and celebrations - Rosh Hashanna is a time for taking in to account all the things that we have achieved or not achieved, all the people we have helped or harmed, and is generally a time for weighing up all our actions over the past year. It's a time for reconciliation between each person and their friends, family & community, as well as reorienting ourselves to aim towards reconnecting with the Divine.

Teshuva means return rather than repentance. Teshuv-heh means taking action to return the letter heh to the Divine four letter name. Being a partner in ongoing Creation of these realities.

If I have caused you any upset, insult, or harm - I sincerely apologise for my misdeeds. Please let me know how and I will endeavour to improve for the coming year onwards.

New Chapter

Every year I re-read Sefer Yetzira, the Book of Formation. Initially I read it in English from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's commentary and translation. Then I read the text in Hebrew and in the last couple of years I have moved on to reading and translating the commentary by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (RaMaK).

Whilst my skill as a translator still has a VERY long way to go before it's worth sharing much, here is a sample of a loose translation of Ramak's commentary on Chapter 2 Verse 2. [Words in square brackets are my additions to the text to ease reading] I have also added paragraph breaks to make it easier to read.


2: Three Mothers Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin], the offspring of the heavens are fire, the offspring of the earth is water, the offspring of the air is wind.

[Commentary starts]
I have not found this mishna [verse] in many books nor explained by the [previous] commentators. None the less we will go over it. Three Mothers Emesh. There is no doubt that they are called mothers to be as a source for all because they are three firsts [primaries]. In the [same] way that that the ten [Sefirot] conceal in general the twenty two [letters], so the three [Mothers] conceal the remaining [letters] which are nineteen, and they [three Mothers] are the sources to all that is emanated.

Or if you would like [to say], because fire, air, and water are not actually the three [Mothers] they - [the Mothers] are actually Keter [Crown root of the will], Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom], Binah [rational Understanding], rather [the Mothers] are a root [source] to them [their existence].  The essence of water is in Chesed [Kindness], the essence of air is in Tiferet [Harmony] and fire in Gevurah [Severity].

The offspring of the heavens are fire, the essence of the intent here [with regards to] firsts [primaries] is to separate the letters Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin] with the emanation of fire on [His] domain, since the essence of heavens if from the letter Shin which is from Binah [Understanding], this is why is states that the offspring of the heavens are fire.

And so The offspring of the earth is water, if so they are from Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom] that since Mem is water without any doubt. And we need [to say] that the existence of earth comes from water. And this is explained by those who know that if you boil water in a vessel [for] many days you end up with dust [earth].

The offspring of the air is wind, we need [to say] that the air is called air which rests quietly between the earth and fire [heavens] which is the foundation of the supernal [realms]. The offspring is from wind. If so, we find it's existence is rooted in Aleph which is Da'at [intimate Knowledge]. If so, we find the these three [Mothers] that are heavens and earth and what is between them is emanated from the letters Emesh without any doubt.

On this basis at length we learned the reason for the heavens offspring [being] fire as it is written [Psalms 104: 4] "..., burning fire His ministers...", because their existence is from fire. It's possible they stated offspring, [because] it's explained that they emanate their existence. 

So too the offspring of the earth is water, as we see coming out of the earth are water, rivers and canals. And the offspring of the air is wind, if you force out air resting in a bag it creates a powerful wind [really not sure about this last sentence's translation]. 

And so it is possible to explain the offspring of heaven, it's explained that to raise [grow] created [organisms] requires fire, like the the sun which gives light of the fire and so too the stars.  That is why our Sages of blessed memory explained the blessing on [the multi-wicked candle at the conclusion of Sabbath] "Blessed [is He who gives] light to the fire".

The offspring of the earth is water since water [provides an environment for the] germination of life specifically. The offspring of air is wind, since there are living things in the air who are sustained by the winds, and is known that no vacant space [devoid of life] between earth up to the heavens, and their offspring is from the wind. 

And this is possible in all three [elements] since all are in this and in this - their existence hangs together and it's all one thing. These [living things]  are [generated] in water and their offspring in water develop further in the water. [I believe this means that the element of water supports life that forms a chain of emanations or evolutions of forms]. So too with the heavens and with the winds as we have explained.

And we have explained the emanation of Emesh according to their order and it states Fire above which is in the [conceptual] domain of Bina [rational Understanding], Water below which is in the [conceptual] domain of Chochmah [intuitive Wisdom], Air in the conceptual domain of Da'at [intimate Knowledge] balances between them. [This is a quote from earlier in Sefer Yetzira] since water is not lost [does not intrude upon] fire and fire not on water. Air is the same to fire as it is to water. [Which is in the] secret of Da'at which is severity from one side and kindness from the other side and thus it balances between them. These three foundations are the vehicles for all [of] emanated [reality].

And if you say that the foundation earth is the fourth to them [then] why do we have three Mothers and no four foundations, I will answer that the three are the essential foundations. Since the foundation of earth is the offspring of water in combination with fire and air. Because the fire lights up by means of the air which boils the water and from it comes forth the earth which is a complex [combination of the other three elements].

And it does not have a portion of water, and a portion of fire, etc. as if it was combination of four foundations. Rather the intention is [to consider] the fourth foundation that comes out of the existence of the three [elements]. If so its existence is by means of the three. So too with the supernal attributes that are Emesh, the Malchut [receptive Kingship] is the fourth to the [other] three as is explained in the previous chapter. And if so Emesh [Aleph-Mem-Shin] are the Mothers to all that is emanated and to each division of creation which are heavens, earth and what is between them.

And more going over the topic of Fire above etc, this is what out Sages of blessed memory stated that the Shedim are masters of air and winds, they are between men of the earth and angelic entities of the heavens without any doubt [angels and shedim entities are not composed of as many of the elements and hence do not generally have corporeal form in the way that humans do]. It's possible to say that the reason for the combination of the foundations is due to their sources [roots]. Since it was fitting for water to be above [see division of water and firmaments in Genesis chapter 1] since Chochmah is above, and the fire is below since Bina is below.

Since existence is from the side of Gevurah and Binah and the forty two letter name and name Elohim which balances and it strictness [judgement]. So too in [the month of] Tishrei the world was created and this is [the month] of judgement. And we have seen that [the world could] not [be] sustained with[out] the participation of compassion. So the fire is the essence and the stronger [element], and that is [why] fire is above and water is below, and this is how it [creation] has arisen and is founded. 

[This cycle of creation is dominated by Gevurah in combination with Chesed as the former was not suitable for being the sole source of power for creation and neither was the latter. Only in combination could they sustain to form this cycle of creation with Gevurah dominant - hence why this cycle of human development has been shaped mostly by severity (war) and boundaries (various forms of rulership backed by force)]

And Air rules, the word rules needs to be given an attribute that it rules in two directions. And this is [that it] balances between them and the way the wording [uses] balances. And with this we finish this mishna [explanation of this verse].


[This is a loose translation of 2 pages from a commentary on SY that is on pp.57 - pp.158 of a book containing multiple commentaries in Hebrew.  Time to learn (more) Hebrew].

Friday, 31 July 2015

July 2015 update

Like the Digital Ambler, I've been offline for a bit and taken a break from most of my projects. It's been what I call a couple of "dry months" or simply the doldrums. Thankfully that is now starting to change. Rants, as Rose highlights, are one way to keep the conversation going - but I prefer (mostly) to focus on study, if not practice.

The one project that I have kept going is memorizing Chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah (again). There is something transformative about memorizing this text. I don't just recite it in Hebrew as a series of sounds, but need to think about what the next words are and why they are a meaningful continuation from the previous verses.

In other news I've received a copy of Sa'adiah Gaon's Arabic with Hebrew translation of his commentary to Sefer Yetzirah. This means that I now have he following commentaries to Sefer Yetzirah:

From the Big White Book:
  • Ra'avad
  • Ramban
  • Eliezer of Germizah
  • Sa'adiah Gaon 
  • Moshe Bottril
  • Chakmoni
  • Gra (Vilna Gaon)
  • Pri Yitzchak
Other Books:
  • Sagie Nahor (Isaac the Blind) [Read]
  • Ramban (chapter 1 only)
  • Ramak (Moshe Cordovero) [Read]
  • Sa'adiah Gaon (Arabic and Hebrew)
  • Abraham Abulafia (Gan Na'ul and Otzar Eden Ganuz)
In other news I have started to fill in the massive void in my knowledge of Jewish astrology. Starting with Glazerson's "Above the Zodiac". Next on that stack of books are Joel Dobin's books.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Expectations

Life has been very busy of late, apologies for the lack of updates. Here is a brief summary of the things that I have learned in the last month or so...

Relationship expectations - don't!
Recently a Rabbi and Rebbitzen came to the community to talk about relationships. The Rabbi gave a very interesting talk in which he said (in a nutshell) that putting expectations on other people in a relationship limits them. It limits their freedom, happiness, ability to express themselves, etc. If you agree to live within certain bounds and not set any expectations - you open the relationship up to the potential to thrive.

I gave this advice to a colleague who was struggling to support his daughter in her end of school studies. Instead of telling her "you must study", he said "I would love for you to succeed in your studies, but if you have your own ideas about other routes to success let me know and I will support you 100%. However I will no longer pay your mobile phone bill when you reach 25". That night she stayed up until 1am studying.

Book: magi & maggidim - some unexpected connections
'Magi and Maggidim: The Kabbalah in British Occultism 1860-1940' by Liz Greene is a really, really interesting book. Here is part of the blurb:
Current scholarship generally assumes that 'occultist' Kabbalah is a modern reinvention of older traditions,with little relationship to its Jewish roots. This assumption ignores the documented contributions of Jewish scholars and Kabbalists to the occultists' work, and there is little, if any, in-depth comparison of the ideas expressed by British occultists and the Jewish Kabbalistic literature of the medieval and early modern periods. And why was the Jewish Kabbalah was so compellingly attractive to non-Jewish occultists at a time of turbulent social and scientific change, when religious, political, and racial antisemitism constituted a normative attitude in many circles of British society? This book provides a new, exciting, and penetrating analysis of how and why the Jewish Kabbalah was adopted and integrated, rather than reinvented or recreated, by important figures in the British occult revival, and why it remains a dominant
I did not know, for example, that Mather's wife Mina Bergson came from a Chassidic family. This explains much. In fact, the book helped me fill in a lot of connections between occultists and their sources of inspiration and translations.

This book met my expectations

Mike Cohn - admitted he was wrong, in a good way
In the free lecture "Letting Go of Knowing: How Holding on to Your Views May be Holding You Back" the Agile guru Mike Cohn explains concepts such as Confirmation bias, Hindsight bias, and Intellectual Humility.

It was particularly refreshing hearing him describe how the Project Management community has moved on in its adoption to better ways of working. RO wrote a blog post recently about getting a job in tech industry in the USA. When I get time (tm) I will work on a similar post of my own. Finding the right job is quite a bit (IMO) about setting correctly - your and your potential employers expectations.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - worth watching
The TV adaptation of the book by Susanna Clarke available via BBC iPlayer has exceeded my expectations. Really enjoying it so far and I will be sad when it finishes, but one mini-series is about as much TV watching as I have managed in the past year or so.

Jupiter Ascending - no expectations, fun & full of symbolism
Having said that I have only had time to watch one TV mini-series, I have also managed to watch a couple of films. One of those was Jupiter Ascending. It's a very pretty film that I hope will one day grow in to a cult classic. There is a lot of symbolism in the film which I could write a whole blog post about (and may still do so). I had no expectations of this film and enjoyed it for what it was, a visually very impressive film that conceals more than it illuminates.

Time as a commodity - not meeting own expectations
I mist apologise about having complained too much that I have little in the way of spare time these days. Most of the beginning of the year was filled with catching up with things that spilled over from last year. Also, I have increased my daily study routine, which has left less time for things like blog updates.

Anyway, Jason's blog post on Strategic Sorcery about time being a commodity has helped to keep me sane in this time of growth, learning, and transformation.

A final note
One last thing... I really recommend the Tree of Life series by Blogos. Especially if you have some knowledge of biology and if you don't, it's still interesting to see how the Sa'adia Gaon's commentary is mapped out on to the molecular structure of the building blocks of life.

EDIT: One last, last thing. Seth Godin made a really good posting recently on The tragedy of small expectations (and the trap of false dreams). The important distinction that I understood from his post and my comment on expectations in a relationship is that is that expectation on self can be positive, expectations on others are sometimes less so.