Monday, 25 October 2010

Hunting dreams


My dreams last night took me to Africa where I was witness to a tragic loss. A lioness I was hunting alongside was shot after straying in to the wrong area. When mentioning this in passing to a colleague he rather surprisingly mentioned that he had seen me in his dream last night. Whilst watching himself walk through the office the other people in the dream were indistinct but I stood out clearly in his dream. I take this to be a good omen for the future as I was busy at work. I’ve interpreted the Africa dream to mean mourning the end of my current job, but that other work will be forthcoming.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

CV update, a call to action


Normally walking is my preferred means of thinking through issues as the motion of my legs seems to lull my mind in to just the right level of consciousness to make heavy decisions or ponder subjects of metaphysics. Such as the structure of the soul and how Kabbalists in different centuries interpreted the word ‘Tselem’ (loosely translates to Astral body).

However, of late my walks have got fewer and fewer due to not enough free lunch time at work. At home walking opportunities have also decreased which on the whole is not a bad thing as the daylight hours grow shorter as the cold weather moves in for winter.

This does leave the issue of when opportune times for pondering arise. To which my answer is that perhaps this is a sign that there should be: a little less pondering and a little more action please. Having spent the last few years reading up on books by professors Scholem, and Idel on Kabbalah as well as a number of other paper and electronic sources – so far all I have to show for it is a handful of meditative techniques used for 15 minutes each morning and presenting a couple of talks on obscure subjects at Treadwells bookshop.

The trouble is that my background is not one that encourages meddling in things unseen and occult. My religion goes back a ways and has a number of practices in-built to safeguard oneself from influences from the spirit worlds (even if many people have forgotten this). There’s plenty of lore of interaction with spirits of which I have only recently begun to scratch the surface, partly due to interest in other areas and in part a language barrier. So whilst I have taken an interest from a theoretician’s point of view on such things as Abramelin, Grimoires, Amulets, Yichudim, etc via reading and talks at Treadwells bookshop – I’m reluctant by nature and nurture to do anything practical.

Having read a blog not so long ago about updating one’s magical CV – it occurred to me that mine is weighed very much towards the theory side. Although I’m part way Chajes’ book “Between Worlds” (about malign possession by Dybbuks and bening soul impregnation of Ibburs) – I’d be stumped as to how to actually perform an exorcism.

Fortunately my life path has steered me from ever needing to apply my learning to practical matters although it has taught me to see the world through different coloured lenses. For example, it helps to explain the shift in politics in Europe and how the spiritual vacuum that exists in Europe is shaping geopolitics. I’ll not bore you with Kabbalistic terms, as the symbols can often divert attention from the physical and spiritual realities that they are referring to. But the Tree of Life is a pretty handy guide to examining reality.

Coming back to the subject of CVs, my work life is undergoing a bit of upheaval and the current new jobs on offer differ somewhat. Whilst polishing my CV for work, it reminded me of my lack of practical experience in my other studies.

One area that has shown some success recently is in the area of dreams. For quite some time now my dreams have been very “crowded”. There’s always many other people (or things) present and it’s quite common for me to wake up having endured a night of listening to them all argue amongst themselves – with me trying to play the peace-maker. Since I don’t subscribe to the school that says “It’s all just in your head”, this leads me to the conclusion that my dreamscape is like Babylon 5 a home away from home in which humans and others come together to look for those rare things – common ground and understanding.

Well that’s come to a halt recently. Having grown tired of these dreams I’ve taken an active stance and started challenging my dreamscape visitors to teach me Torah. Almost all have made themselves scarce and I suspect that the few that remain are hanging around hoping that this is a passing phase. My studies to date on the Neshamah (soul) and finding one’s own spiritual teacher have made me take this practical step in weeding out from the dreamscape visitors to just those that actually have something to teach. My chosen subject is Torah for the simple reason that if these are any shedim (type of demon) or other malign entities that they are unlikely to want to teach this subject.

So now there are two activities that I engage in regularly that can go on the practical section of my other CV, namely daily meditations using basic Abulafian (13th century mystic) techniques and seeking a dream teacher. This coming week I’ll be doing a bit of travelling to a place that personally I’ve found to be teeming with ghosts and spirits. The land has a very long and violent history indeed and relatives of mine who have visited there before have commented on their very memorable and busy dreams. Hence it’ll be an interesting experience to see who’ll pop up in my dreamscape and whether they’ll have something to teach or not.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Body of Light, part 1


Whilst reading several different books, I started to come across references to a body (garment) of light / astral body. In the extract below Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok describes how this was the original form of humanity and one that we'll eventually return to.

“Protection from Evil” by HaRav Ariel Bar Tzadok (KosherTorah.com)
Chapter 3, pp42-43

“...G-d's great plan for humanity is that we as a race eventually overcome the proverbial “sin of eating the forbidden fruit” and return to how we were originally created in the “Garden of Eden”. Torah tradition is very clear on this point, that the original physical form of Adam (and thus the indigenous natural state of humanity) was a body of light, not one of flesh and blood.

We never lost our original body of light. It never went away. The result of the “sin” was that our light body become encased in a body of flesh. Our consciousness became split between that part which stayed conscious of our light body and now a detached part, which became entrapped in the body of flesh. This is why today we have conscious and unconscious parts to our mind/soul. This is also why we have two bodies, one being our physical body, the other being what today many call, the astral body. The astral body is our true indigenous form. In the language of the Torah, this astral body is called the Haluka D'Rabbanan...”

The remainder of this chapter is well worth reading and I would recommend this book 100%. In the extract below Chajes quotes Rabbi Moshe Cordovero as stating that the body of light is only accessible to the righteous.

“Between Worlds: Dybbuks, Exorcists and Early Modern Judaism” by J.H. Chajes
Chapter 1, pp.19-20

“...The garment of skin ('or) fashioned by G-d for Adam (Gen. 3:21) was created first as light (or). Sin resulted in its corporealization and with physicality came opacity and, tragically, perishability. In other words, when Adam was first created, like the dead, he too was formed of a fine, diaphanous body of light, partaking of immortality.
This original Garment of Light was removed from ordinary men as a consequence of Adam's sin, yet remains available tot he righteous, whose recovery of this ethereal body enables them to communicate with the souls of the dead...” (source: Moshe Cordovero, Or Yakar, 64)

Finally in the translation and commentary of Sefer Yetzirah, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan touches on how this body can be accessed as an astral vehicle to animate a Golem or ascend to the spiritual realms.

“Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation. In Theory and Practice” Translation and commentary by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan.

Chapter 2, pp. 127

“...There is evidence that creating a Golem was primarily not a physical procedure, but rather, a highly advanced meditative technique (see note 62). By chanting the the appropriate letter arrays together with the letters of the Tetragrammaton, the initiate could form a very real mental image of a human being, limb by limb. This could be used as an astral body, through which one could ascend to the spiritual realms.
The formation of such a spiritual body, however, would also result in a tremendous spiritual potential. Once the conceptual Golem was completed, this spiritual potential could be transferred to a clay form and actually animate it. This was the process though which a physical Golem would be brought to life...”

I'd be interested to compare this information with how this subject is dealt with in Hermetic Kabbalah. To see whether it draws on the same or different sources.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

A Donkey Carrying Books


Recently a friend asked me for some advice. Having read a few books on Kabbalah and mysticism and thinking that I have enough knowledge of spiritual matters to posit an opinion I shared my thoughts on which way to decide. However, in retrospect I realise that having knowledge and thinking one can make rulings in spiritual matters - is what the Rabbis describe as “a donkey carrying books”.

Here is an extract from a book that highlights this idea beautifully. Showing the abyss between theoretical knowledge and having a grasp of the concepts enough to come to a conclusion based on analysis that is both scientific and artistic. This is illustrated both in Jewish law and United States law.

“Lomdut: The Conceptual Approach to Jewish Learning”
edited by Yosef Blau, Robert S. Hirt Series Editor
Chapter 4
“Lomdut and Pesak: Theoretical Analysis and Halakhic Decision-Making”
J. David Bleich

This chapter deals with the issue that it is not enough to simply know the law as spelled out in relatively recent works in Jewish history – such as the Shulchan Aruch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shulchan_Aruch) in the 16th century. But rather that judgement calls for evaluating citations, precedents, arguments, etc. As the chapter states near the start:

“...But halakhic (Jewish law) decision-making is indeed an art as well as a science. The kunst lies in the ability to make judgement calls in evaluating citations, precedents, arguments, etc. It is not sufficient for a halakhic decisor to have a full command of relevant sources. If so, in theory at least, the decisor par excellence would be a computer rather than a person. The decisor must have a keen understanding of the underlying principles and postulates of Halakhah as well as their applicable ramifications and must be capable of applying them with fidelity to matters placed before him. No amount of book learning can compensate for inadequacy in what may be termed the “artistic” component. The epithet “a donkey carrying books” is the derisive reference employed in rabbinic literature to describe such a person...”

The example given relating to Jewish law is about an argument between Rabbi Hayyim of Brisk (who advocate this way of learning) with a non-Lithuanian Rabbi (who argued that just knowing the law was sufficient). Rabbi Hayyim challenges the other rabbi with a hypothetical example and is confident that the other rabbi will come to an incorrect ruling.

“...The hypothetical involved two women, one Jewish, the other a gentile, each cooking meat outdoors in separate pots over adjacent fires. The question: The gentile woman shakes her pot causing a piece of non-kosher meat of indeterminate size to fly through the air and land in the pot belonging to the Jewish woman. Is the food in the Jewish woman's pot permissible or is it impermissible because of the admixture of non-kosher meat? The rabbi responded observing that the answer hinges upon whether or not the quantity of kosher food is sixty times as great as the quantity of non-kosher food that fell in to the pot. When the non-kosher food is of a variety different from the kosher food, the requirement for a quantity of sixty times as great for nullification to be effective is biblical; if both foods are the same variety, biblical law regards the non-kosher food to be nullified even if the kosher food is only slightly greater in quantity. In order to prevent confusion, rabbinic law established a uniform principle for nullification and requires that the quantity of kosher food always be at least sixty time as great as the quantity of non-kosher food. In the case under discussion , the kosher food was greater in quantity than the piece of non-kosher meat but is was doubtful whether or not the quantity of kosher food was sixty times as great as that of the non-kosher food. Accordingly the rabbi responded that since the kosher food and the non-kosher food were meat and have the same taste, the requirement of a quantity of kosher food sixty times the quantity of non-kosher food is rabbinic in nature. Hence, he concluded, the principle that matters of doubt with regard to rabbinic matters are adjudicated permissively applies.
To that R. Hayyim responded that the rabbi had forgotten to take in to account the fact that the gentile woman had no reason to soak and salt her meat and therefore the non-kosher food consisted not only of meat but of blood as well. Blood is distinct from meat and differs also in taste, The rabbi immediately reversed himself and conceded that since the doubt was with regard to nullification of a foodstuff in an entirely different type of food, the doubt is with regard to a matter of biblical law and must be adjudicated on the side of stringency.
R. Hayyim countered by informing the rabbi that he was again in error because he had overlooked the fact that the meat had already been cooked in the pot for some time and hence the blood within the meat had been cooked as well. Most early-day decisors rule that the blood that has been cooked is prohibited by virtue of rabbinic decree rather than biblical law. Hence, the matter still involved only a possible rabbinic violation. The rabbi was forced to concede error for the second time.
Thereupon, R. Hayyim told him that he was in error yet again. Blood of a properly slaughtered animal is prohibited as blood and is biblically prohibited only in an uncooked state; blood of carrion, in addition to being prohibited as blood, is prohibited as carrion as well. However, the cooked and uncooked carrion are equally proscribed by biblical law. Therefore contented R. Hayyim, the matter involves a possible biblical violation of the prohibition against carrion. The rabbi confessed that the point had not occurred to him. R. Hayyim then countered once again by pointing to Tosafot, Pesachim 22a s.v. Ve-harei dam, that establishes that blood is not included in biblical usage of the term “animal” and hence is not equated with meat for the purposes of the prohibition against carrion...”

If you're reading this far, I'm impressed. Next is an example from the U.S. Supreme court that shows how difficult subtle proper legal rulings are to make.

“...an Independent Council was appointed to investigate whether crimes had been committed by members of the Executive Branch during the course of prior investigations in to the 1993 dismissal of employees of the White House Travel Office. During the course of the investigations, Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster Jr. met with an attorney for the purpose of obtaining legal representation. The attorney took notes during the course of the meeting. Foster committed suicide some days later. Subsequently, a Federal Grand Jury, at the request of the Independent Council, issues subpoenas for those notes. The attorney sought to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that the notes are protected by attorney-client privilege.
The issue before the Supreme Court in Swindler & Berlin and James Hamilton v. United States was whether the attorney-client privilege survives the death of a client. Resolution of the question depends upon the nature of the attorney-client relationship: Is the privilege rooted in, and is an expression of, the right against self-incrimination? If so, it should not survive the death of the client since the deceased is now beyond the reach of the law. Or is the privilege designed to encourage full and frank communication between attorneys and their clients for much broader purposes that do not necessarily involve criminal liability, e.g. personal and family matters and problems arising in the course of operating a business? Knowledge that such communications might be revealed after the client's death would have a chilling effect upon a person desirous of such advice.
The Court of Appeals rules that posthumous revelation may be compelled in situations in which the relative importance of the communication to a particular criminal litigation is substantial. The Supreme Court found such a holding to be consistent with the notion that the attorney-client privilege is but another aspect of the privilege against self-incrimination but, upon determining that the attorney-client privilege is designed to promote an entirely different goal, reversed the Court of Appeals...”

So the next time that someone asks me for advice I shall kindly decline. This also reinforced to me how much knowledge a person needs in Halakhah in order to properly appreciate and understand Kabbalah.

Testing 1,2,3


This is a test. Do not panic.
My main update site is LiveJournal and this blog is an attempt to discover if the format of the information presented will have an effect on the content and the readership.
I suspect not, but without experimentation it remains an hypothesis.