Monday, 28 November 2011

“Ibbur: Soul Impregnation” Mini-Series 1

Jow recently made a comment on this blog that made me to take a slightly deeper look in to what an Ibbur is. Whilst ancestor prayer and offerings are not permitted within Judaism, some do perform rituals to attempt to impregnate their souls with a shard of the soul of a righteous person.

This is the first of four brief posts on this topic looking at a variety of sources.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia entry for Ibbur.

Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis in Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism has the following entry to Ibbur:
Ibbur or Devekut: “Impregnation/Cleaving.” These are generic terms for spiritual possession, usually beneficent, but not always. Also called a maggid, it is related to, but not to be confused with dybbuk. An ibbur coexists inside a living body, which already has a resident soul, usually for a short period of time (Sefer ha-Hezyonot 46; Sha'ar ha-Gilgulim). Some souls of righteous saints are able to do this for the benefit of mankind, either to perform a special task through, or to reveal a vital teaching to, the possessed individual. Sometimes the ibbur does on its own initiative, but more often a worthy mystical seeker deliberately induces possession. To achieve this, a period of purification and preparation is necessary. In some ibbur tales, wearing a “sign of the covenant,” such as tefillin, is a prerequisite to such possession. Usually, there is some kind of ecstatic practice involved. Isaac Luria preferred using an incubation ritual. A few Safed mystics wrote down testimonies of their ibbur possessions. It also marked early Chasidism*.
Goldish, “Spirit Possession in Judaism,” 101-19, 257-304, 404
The term “incubation ritual” is not something that I'm familiar with. Fortunately Rabbi Dennis has an entry for this too in his book:
Incubation: The practice of sleeping, usually in a sacred location, in order to induce divinatory or veridical dream, or for the purpose of communing with a numinous entity... In ancient times, Israelites would sleep in the Tabernacle compound in order to experience a dream revelation from God (1 Samuel 3). Zechariah experienced dream visions, but it is unclear whether he elicited them (Zechariah 4). Apparently some Israelites also used incubation for the purposes of necromancy by sleeping on or at graves. The prophet Isaiah roundly condemns this practice (Isaiah 8:19-22, 19:3)... By the high Middle Ages incubation techniques included the previously illicit practice of sleeping on or about the graves of meritorious dead... Preparatory techniques for incubation include fasting and immersion, the recitation of prayers and psalms, summoning angels, and incantations.
Here is a link to Rabbi Dennis' blog on Dybbuks and another link about Reincarnation.

Film about Dybbuk,
Female lead spends a lot of time in her underwear

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Lion Has Roared: Match 11

I appear to have lots track of the time in the past week or so and hence did not notice that the Detroit Lions were due to play the Green Bay Packers. Even if I had noticed, at the moment my spare time is almost non-existent due to the very recent birth of our daughter. Anyway, the final score was: Detroit Lions 15 - Green Bay Packers 27.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Dangers of the Mystic Experience

This is another extract from a recent talk on Early Jewish mysticism. This particlar extract is based on Chapter 6 of “The Ancient Jewish Mysticism” by Joseph Dan.

The story (in Babylonian Talmud Hagigah 14b, Jerusalem Talmud Hagigah 2:1) speaks of the four rabbis who entered PARDES (Persian for Orchard). The story is about the heavenly ascent of four leading Rabbis and their fates. Rabbi Akiva ascended, descended and survived. Ben Azzai looked and died, Ben Zoma looked and went mad, and Acher (previously known as Elisha Ben Abuya looked and became a heretic.

Harm Caused by Angelic Songs
Let's look at an example of a warning in Hekhalot Rabbati (Greater Palaces):
“The bearers of His glory – the Cherubs and Ofanim and the Holy Hayot – sing before Him in six voices, each voice better than the other and different from the one preceding it. With the first voice – whoever hears it immediately becomes insane. With the second voice – whoever hears it immediately becomes lost and never returns. With the third voice – whoever hears it is seized by convulsions and dies immediately. With the fourth voice – whoever hears it his skull is broken immediately and most of his ribs uprooted. With the fifth voice – whoever hears it is immediately spilled like a flagon, and turns entirely into blood. With the sixth voice – whoever hears it is immediatelyseized by a stabbing in the heart; his heart makes a noise and turns his bowels upside down, turning his innards in to water, as it states “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts,” etc. Rabbi Ishmael said: “All these songs are heard by Rabbi Akiva when he descended to the Chariot and he seized and learned them before the Throne of Glory, where His servants would sing to Him” (Schafer 'Synopse Zur Hekhalot', sections 103-104)”
This is linked to the Talmud story about the Pardes in the following way (according to Joseph Dan):

  • Rabbi Akiva went in and came out unharmed, he was able to incorporate his experiences both physciall and mentally.
  • Ben Zoma looked and went mad→ this is reference to "With the first voice – whoever hears it immediately becomes insane". He was unable to mentally reconcile what he had experienced and the psychic shock left him mentally unbalanced.
  • Acher looked and became a heretic → this is reference to "With the second voice – whoever hears it immediately becomes lost and never returns". He was also unable to reconcile his experiences came to the conclusion that there were two Powers, that the angel Metatron and God were of equal standing.
  • Ben Azzai looked and died → this in reference to "With the third voice – whoever hears it is seized by convulsions and dies immediately." He was unable to reconcile his experiences either physically or mentally. Although he had achieved a phenomenal level, he died without having a family of his own and some comment that he did not have enough of a reason to return from his Heavenly ascent back down to Earth. This is one of the reasons why some Jewish mystics make an oath that they will return.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Lion Has Roared: Match 10

Despite having planned to make use of a lengthy Kabbalistic Divine Name of Power - instead I've found myself awake for the past 37 hours and ecstatic about the new addition to my family.

Instead of going through every vowel and letter permutation of the name YHVH as planned - I did a brief "tuning and toning" exercise followed by a heartfelt please to the Almighty that the Lions be victorious in this match against the Panthers.

Sometimes the answer is "no", but unless you ask - you're not going to get a "yes". I'll check tomorrow what the outcome of my request was.

Edit: The answer was "yes". Final score: Detroit Lions 49 - Carolina Panthers 35. A panther may be able to take on a lion, but when a lion pack works together they make a powerful force indeed.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Focus Board To Discard or Not To Discard?

Inspired by a recent post from Jow at A Mage’s blog, I decided to draft up a list of characters who inspire me and which do not quite make the grade.

At first I was struggling just with what the definition of a focus board would be, until I settled on the following test… Would I ever ask the question: “What would [insert name] do in this situation?”

For example, “What would the Dread Pirate Roberts do in this situation?”. Anyway, here is the focus board. I’m still in the process of voting a few off and replacing them with those who can help provide me with a sharper focus.

1. Hellboy

He’s a kick-ass hero with a lot of will and raw potential. He’s loyal to his friends and willing to enter the land of the dead to bring them back. Hellboy is also a great example (albeit of a fictional variety) that it is possible to overcome one’s nature.

Then again he acts too often on impulse and is able to get through due to his demonic attributes of resilience and a almost unbreakable arm. So whilst he’s a fun hero to emulate, he’s difficult to copy or emulate. Hence Hellboy ends up on the Discard pile.

2. The Maharal of Prague

Rabbi Judah Loew was great scholar and leader of his generation. He’s remembered for creating a golem although it is questionable whether he actually did so or not. His commentaries on Jewish law are still studied today and his influence lives on.

Assuming that the Prague golems legens are true… The reason for building the golem was to protect the Jewish community against blood libels. The Maharal created it out of necessity. Whilst I admire his achievements, I don’t believe that I can ever get near his abilities as a leader, scholar, or golem builder. The Maharal for the moment moves to the discard pile, as I need to study his works to better copy his example.

3. Graham Marshal

This is a character from the film “A Shock to the System” about a man who is overlooked for promotion and resorts to murder to advance himself in the company. I admire his desire to move up the corporate ladder, something that I’ve not put enough time or energy in to and hence have remained a relatively low level project manager. However, murder is not the way in which I believe it is right to achieve career progression. Graham Marshall ends up the discard pile because he is a murderous bastard, but the film was entertaining enough to get me to think about what I can do within my moral/ethical framework to advance in corporate life.

4. Professor James Moriarty

I had thought to include Sherlock Holmes due to his incredible ability to notice details, spot patterns, and his genius. But he got rejected quickly due to his obsessive-compulsiveness and heroin addiction. Instead I settled on Moriarty for two reasons: 1. he is the Napoleon of Crime, brilliant at planning and execution, 2. He’s good enough at this to give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money.

On the other hand, the whole criminal genius does mean that his moral outlook is questionable to say the least. This means that ultimately Moriarty has to be discarded as he’s just too evil.

5. Abraham Abulafia

Born in 1240 and died (approx) 1291, Abraham Abulafia was an iterant scholar and Kabbalist who travelled around Spain, Italy, and Sicily. He taught a method of meditation referred to as Ecstatic or Prophetic Kabbalah and wrote down in detil the techniques that he used.

However, he ‘rocked the boat’ so to speak and was excommunicated by the leading rabbi in Spain. His writing survived the centuries and was brought back in to prominence in Safed schools as well as in modern day.

Abulafia did have a bit of a Messiah complex though, although I do not quite believe that he thought he was THE Messiah. Rather he was trying to get everyone to achieve their innate potential of living with Divine consciousness as it was in the Garden of Eden. In his travels he tried to convert the Pope and was saved from being burnt at the stake when the Pope died suddenly.

Abulafia should be on the discard pile due to his Messianism, but I can’t quite bring myself to move him off the list. Abulafia stays simply because he wrote so much down and has been an inspiration ever since I find came across him in a book by Prof. Gershom Scholem.

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Lion Has Roared: Match 9

For match 8 I decide to change my approach to helping the Detroit Lions win their matches. Instead of various meditation techniques, prayers and studying – I used a single method.

This method was using the 216-letter Name. It’s also known as the 72 letter name although it’s actually made up of 72 triplets of letters. Abraham Abulafia describes how the name should be used and Avi Solomon has translated the relevant texts in his succinct book.

For match 8 it worked. For match 9 it did not, in part because I was very tired when I tried to use it and hence may have made an error.

Last weekend I spent over a day with a loved one in hospital in what turned out not to be a serious issue. However, the experience made me question the use of this Divine Name for helping to win a football match. Hence in the future I will be relaying on other techniques.

Final Score: Detroit Lions 13 – Chicago Bears 37

Friday, 11 November 2011

Prayer as Ascent through the Four Worlds

Here are some of my scribb notes notes from the lecture on Heavenly ascent and angel adjuration in (early) Jewish ritual practice. This particular part refers to how the concepts are used in prayer to this day and are taken in part from "Walking in the Fire" by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok:

  • Daily prayer is structured to reflect the ascent of the practitioner through four “worlds”.
  • Staring off in “Assiyah” the realm of action. The prayers in this part are mainly about blessings for physical things and reciting sections of Oral Law related to sacrifices in the temple.
  • The next world is “Yetzirah” - the realm of emotion. These prayers are focused around selected Psalms. Yetzirah means creation of something from something.
  • Then the practitioner ascends to “Beriah” - the world of mind. Here the prayer is all about the declaration of faith “Listen Israel, G-d your Lord, G-d is One”. Beriah is the word meaning creation of something from nothing.
  • Finally the practitioner reaches “Atzilut” - the realm of spirit. This is a realm of emanation and not considered to be separated from the Ayn Sof or Ohr Ayn Sof in the way that Tzimtzum (Divine contractions) separate the lower worlds.
  • Prayer is meant to be reflective rather than a give-me, give-me exercise. It's supposed to motivate us to change our actions, feelings and thoughts.
  • At each level or world in prayer we elevate the fallen sparks of that world. Visualization of specific Divine names is the way in which a person elevates those sparks
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of 4 worlds in Kabbalistic thought and would like an introduction, I recommend reading "The Thirteen Petaled Rose" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Project Update: Path of Dots, Fireflies and Galaxies

It’s been awhile since my last project update post. This is in part due there not being many ongoing projects and in part to moving away from posting about Project Management. I’ve set-up another blog in which Project Management as a life skill is discussed. This blog will remain focused on Jewish magic, mysticism, rituals and esoteric research & practice in general.

Gordon over at Rune Soup recently posted about “Anatomy of A Firefly” and one bit in particular struck a chord with me:

“This is why I put practical enchantment on equal -and oftentimes higher- footing than classical theurgy. Because every time you demonstrate to yourself that magic works in the world your universe gets bigger. A new oddly-shaped puzzle piece materialises above the box and clatters down onto the others.

Each time your silly little luck spell increases your good fortune, each time your card reading shows up the family member that is turning toxic behind your back, each time the money spell gets you promoted it’s like discovering that Giza’s coordinates are just fucking weird.”

Practice vs. Study
A year ago my practice time compared to research time was about 10% to 90%. The practice was a bit of daily meditation to get used to certain techniques but not to influence the world around me. Perhaps heeding the cautions a little too strongly, I was starting to take some baby steps.

Recently I started a project to support the Detroit Lions and it’s provided a great opportunity for trying out some new techniques. Last week I tried a single technique, rather than a combination. It worked much better than expected. My understanding of the use of Divine names jumped as well and as Gordon describes in his post “my universe got bigger, much bigger”.

Dots and Galaxies
Looking back at last year, my Project Management career was entering a stormy phase with job cuts looming. I went for a couple of job interviews and thought I’d got one, but it fell through last minute hence I had to take the offer from my existing company.

Fast forward a year and I’m working at the company that I interviewed for and got rejected from. I prayed to get a job in that company but the way in which it manifest was that my entire business unit was moved across. Over 2000 staff all transferred to the new company, with impacts to the wider industry.

On the one hand I could read in to that it was just a happy coincidence. On the other hand I could read it as: “my prayers worked better than expected, just not in the way that I expected”. Only by looking back on this now can I see the pattern and again my universe got bigger, much bigger.

By plotting a course for my Project Management career and linking that up with my magical career, I can now see how to transform the path of dots to a path in which every dot is a galaxy. Each one is an opportunity to experiment, grow, practice and reflect.

Perhaps this post should be re-labeled to: “The Birth of a Corporate Wizard”...

Friday, 4 November 2011

Lecture Handout 02 November 2011

Here is the (mostly) spell-checked and updated lecture hand-out from 2nd November 2011 on “Early Jewish Mysticism: Descent to the Chariot and Angelic Adjuration” at Treadwells Bookshop.

The questions at the end of the lecture were fantastic, which makes presenting the lecture so much fun. I think of it less of cross-examining my knowledge - than an opportunity for helping me connect dots I would not have otherwise, exchanging ideas and a test to see how well/badly I’ve managed to summarize my research of 2000 pages of academic works and books on Kabbalah.

Based on the review by Medieval Mystics blog, I think that the lecture on “Early Jewish Mysticism: Descent to the Chariot and Angelic Adjuration” went pretty well.

Next public lecture will have to wait until at least later in 2012. I’ve got a ton of research and project lined up that I’d like to do next.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

This is not a Review: Wellcome Exhibitions: Charmed Life and Henry Wellcome

Inspired by a recent posting by Ananael Qaa over at his Augoeis blog, I decided to take a slightly extended lunch break and visit the Wellcome trust exhibitions for the first time.

The first exhibition that I visited was about Amulets and Talismans. The formal title of which is: “Charmed Life: The Solace of Objects” by Felicity Powell (6th October 2011-26 February 2012)

Although there were some interesting bits and pieces, nothing really caught my attention for long.

So figuring that I’d spent a fair bit of time travelling to Euston, I should at least visit another exhibition and decided to look at the permanent exhibition: Medicine Man. I’m struggling to put in to words just how eclectic and strange the collection was, so instead I’ll quote the official blurb:
“Henry Wellcome was a man of many parts: entrepreneur, philanthropist, patron of science and pioneer of aerial photography. He also created one of the world’s great museums: a vast stockpile of evidence about our universal interest in health and the body.

More than 150 years after his birth in 1853, this exhibition reunites a cross-section of extraordinary objects from his collection, ranging from diagnostic dolls to Japanese sex aids, and from Napoleon’s toothbrush to George III’s hair. It also provides a very different perspective on some of our own obsessions with medicine and health…”

After coming across an early dentistry chair and an actual torture chair (there were more blades on the latter) I then came across Florence Nightingale’s shoes. Then turning the corner I was confronted by this:

The inscription with the exhibit was as follows:

Mummified male body
Chimu people, Peru, c. 1200-1400
This naturally preserved mummy is from the north coast of Peru, where Chimu culture buried their dead in ‘mummy bundles’. The body would have been seated in an upright position (with the knees at the face). The body was then wrapped in layer of fabric and a false head attached to the bundle. It was then buried with personal possessions, ritual objects and food offerings, revealing a strong belief in a continuing existence after death.

It seemed to me that he was not to happy with being put on display- but mummys don’t always get what they want in the afterlife. Just as I was about to go I found what had drawn me the exhibit, a Hebrew inscription artifact.

Unfortunately this was the best photo I managed to take, as my lurking around this one exhibit for a long period of time was beginning to attract the attention of the staff. I once had a guard follow me around half the British Museum, so perhaps there’s something about my behaviour that sets of mental alarms in museum staff.