Tuesday, 31 January 2012

SYRC, Sefer Yetizrah Readers Club

Having only in the past 5 years or so become serious about a structured self-directed course of study in Kabbalah and Early Jewish mysticism; and only put that knowledge in to practice in the past 6 months – I’ve decide to find some study partners to help me on my journey.

Fortunately, due to amazing places such as Treadwells bookshop, there are opportunities to meet like minded individuals in a neutral place. Treadwells is a place of commerce, lectures and making connections for the South-East of UK and beyond. It is a shining beacon in London; a hub where witches, academics, ceremonial magicians, shamans, kabbalists, etc all rub shoulders.

This is the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind, when space exploration and the explosion of magical practice around the world collide. The world that is ever more connected and ever more fragmented. 

SYRC member required reading

In order to navigate my way through these rapidly changing and challenging times I’ve turned to the wisdom of the oldest surviving kabbalistic manuscript, Sefer Yetzirah. Having got to level 1 as a Trainee Golem Builder I’ll be linking up one by one with others to form a Sefer Yetzirah Readers Club for people who want to study, practice and master this enigmatic and powerful little book.

At the moment the SYRC consists of just two people, a fellow blogger in London and I. Once we’ve been through chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah - with a number of commentaries (such as Ramban, Abulafia, Kaplan and Elazar of Germizah) to guide us in our journey - then we’ll send out an invite for others to join the club.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Monday 30 January 2012 Project Update

One of the great things about blogging is that it allows you to easily look back over a period of time and reflect on how one’s knowledge, experiences and practice have changed.

Currently there are 3 projects active:

Projects: 1. Hebrew Immersion – a 3-year project to translate and read through the 24 books of the Tanach (5 Books of Moses, Prophets and Writings). In a couple of weeks time I will have made it through all of Torah (5 Books of Moses) with Rashi’s commentary. It has taken on average 20-40 minutes of study each working day for a year to get this far. Unfortunately the Nach (Prophets and Writings) part of the study stalled in the Book of Samuel and I need to do a “mini-rescue project” to get that back on track.

Projects: 2. and 3. are much shorter duration from Dec 2011 to Feb 2012. They cover 2. Listening to 4 audio lectures (each approx. 1 hour) on Sefer Yetzirah, Book of Creation, the oldest Kabbalistic text that as well as introducing the 10 Sefirot is THE manual for creation of Golems.

Project 3 is to translate 30 pages from a book by Abraham Abulafia. I’ve chosen to translate the first part of Gan Naul (Sealed Garden) which is a commentary on Sefer Yetzirah. A year ago when I tried it the project was an abject failure. This year, despite a challenging start, my knowledge of Hebrew is sufficient to get to page 15 so far. This is entirely due to my daily Hebrew study as part of the Hebrew Immersion study.

It goes to show, the long slow path does yield results if you have the patience and courage to walk it.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

[New Year New You]: Maps, Meditation on Self-Honesty

Deb’s post about Maps inspired me to come up with a new internally focused semi-structured meditation. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Sit with your back straight on a comfortable chair.
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Focus on your breathing, guide it to a regular pattern such as for example "breath in for count of 4, hold for 2, breath out for count of 4 and hold for count of 2. Repeat: 4,2,4,2."
  4. Once your breathing is relaxed and regular, become aware of your body as a whole
  5. In your imagination, visualize yourself sitting on the chair
  6. Now mentally – whilst keeping your physical eyes closed – stand up and step back from your body
  7. You should now be looking at the back of your body sitting on a chair
  8. Take a mental walk around your body, noting that its eyes are still shut.
  9. Visualize pulling up a chair and sit down opposite your body.
  10. Wait for your body to open its eyes.

You will now have a one to one with your unconscious mind, the part of you that remains active in your body. The “you” that is sitting opposite your body is your conscious mind.

Your unconscious mind may not speak in words, it may use imagery, sounds, feelings and the initial “dialogue” may be more of an assault on the sense that requires some processing afterwards. This is your opportunity for your unconscious mind to be brutally honest with your conscious mind in a place that you’ve imaged and is safe for such an exchange.

I’ve done this meditation twice. The first time was shortly after watching the film Inception. I learned two things. Firstly that my unconscious mind was militarizing itself using Tyranids as a source of inspiration. The other thing was that I was suppressing certain messages that the unconscious was shouting loud and clean and my unconscious was not happy about the way I’d dismissed its suggestions.  In the second meditation my unconscious mind guided me to finding a way to overcome an emotional block.

That’s it for now. Good luck if you try this meditation. Feel free to pass it on and modify it as you see fit.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Material Components

Back in the day I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, not wishing to blow my own trumpet too much, I was a pretty good Dungeon Master. But one of the things that I disliked as both a player and DM was material components. Sure they could be fun to role-play gathering now and then. However, it gets less fun when each time you need a pearl the party spends a week tracking one down for an Identify spell.

Anyway, my dislike of material components for spells in a role-playing game in fictional worlds carried over to the real world. When reading about preparations for rituals that involve wands, incense, candles, etc, my mind immediately rebelled and asked: WHY? WHY? WHY?

The answer that I most frequently came across is that when you start out your mind is weak and the material components and props are like crutches that help a person achieve success in rituals. Once the person progresses they have less need for material components.

However, I found that answer less than satisfactory. Perhaps that is the case that the mind is weak and I just needed to get over my cognitive dissonance.

Then I came across the following section in “World Mask” by Akiva Tatz: pp.40-41
“…This matter is very deep, and it has many layers. The fact is that physical actions are the key to the spiritual world. The Nefesh Hachaim explains in detail how changes in higher worlds are brought about by your actions in this material world. Physical actions are necessary to produce changes n the non-physical; that is part of the secret of the very existence of the physical, and it is the reason that the human has been given a body. We cause the spiritual world to move. The physical world is like the keys of the piano – the music is not produced by the keys, it is produces in the strings hidden deep within the mechanism behind the facade; but the keys are necessary. Without those keys here is no access to the inner mechanism, and although the keys are dumb, when they are struck there is music.
Even when the result is out of all proportions to the magnitude of the physical action, there must be an action. When Pharaoh’s daughter stretches out her arm to save the infant Moshe from the Nile although he is out of reach, her arm miraculously elongates. Her effort, her attempt, is the key; when we make a sincere effort we may merit to see it amplified beyond expectation, but without some attempt there is nothing to amplify. We must act; if we are sufficiently spiritually developed we may be granted a view behind the mask to see that the result is really not dependent on the action at all. But act we must. We are never passive passengers….”
The piano analogy really struck a chord with me (terribly sorry for the pun). It highlighted the idea that repeats again and again in Kabblistic writing that for a change to happen in the higher realms, it must first be initiated in the lower realms.

For example, Moses turned to look at the burning bush. Pharaoh’s daughter stretched out her arm to the basket carrying Moses when he was an infant. In both cases something miraculous happened because those people did something in the physical world. The arm of Pharaoh’s daughter elongated to reach the basket. Moses reached a state of prophecy and was commanded to set in motion the events that led to the Exodus of Israelite slaves from Egypt.

The answer that the mind is weak and needs prompts may have some merit, perhaps it’s 100% true. But the extract quoted above also reinforces the idea that like a piano, the material world needs to be changed by human agents in order to affect cosmic resonance that leads to physical repercussions.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

[New Year, New You] Some Enchanted Evening

This week’s prompt from the Charmed I’m Sure blog is as follows: 
So, when we broke down your goals, part of the question was what are you going to do magically to make sure that your goals happened. This is the week to really focus on that. If you have a ritual you've been wanting to do to shore things up, do it. If you need to check in with your spirits on where you're heading, get going. If you've hit a road block, break out your runes or tarot deck or whatever you use. If you've been meaning to meditate, go with Gaia. 
Enchantment… it’s a tough one as I don’t really do spells, at least that’s not how I define my practice. Then again I struggle to define what I do sometimes. When I read Deb’s post I thought: “Damn it Jim, I’m a project manager, not an enchanter!”

Anyway, Wikipedia’s definition of Enchantment rides to the rescue with the following definition:
Enchantment is a popular Business / Psychology book written by Guy Kawasaki  . Enchantment, as defined by the writer, is the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization or idea. The outcome of enchantment is voluntary and long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial. 
So now I’ve got a choice of people to enchant, my wife or myself. My wife – to delight her – in order to make time & space to do the Abraham Abulafia Hebrew manuscript translation work. Or myself – to bring delight through some service or product.

Since I’m already trying to do the former as much as I’m able (in my current sleep deprived state), it will have to be the latter. So what this means is that I’m focusing on writing some “Introduction to Project Management” articles for another blog. This will help bring more rigour and discipline in to my day to day planning - with the end result of being more disciplined in getting the translation work done.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Lion has Roared: Wild Card Weekend

Today is the first match of the play-offs, called wild card weekend. Unfortunately I erred on two occasions in my preparations this week which means that my capacity to pray and meditate on behalf of the Detroit Lions is limited. Hence I studied, donated some funds to charity and did some simple meditation.

EDIT: Final score: Loss. Detroit Lions 28 - New Orleans Saints 48
It's disappointing that the Lions did not get further in the play-offs. However, I'm looking forward to next season and watching the Lions grow from strength to strength in the coming years.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

NYNY 3: Relax, Don't Do It

This week's assignment from Charmed I'm Sure blog is.. indulge yourself. Well, what better way to do so than to eat the breakfast of choice from my childhood. In English it is called Chocolate Pudding, but we called it Vla (pronounced: fla).

Vla (pronounced: fla)
After hunting around I found some in shop nearby and the funny thing is the name of the manufacturer.Shefa is the Hebrew word that means Divine abudance or flow. The 13th century Abraham Abulafia uses the word in his writings to the extent that it features in the book & film "Bee Season" that is heavily influences by Abulafia.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A Lion Has Roared: Match 16

Happy New Year! It's finally 2012 and the last game of this NFL season before the play-offs to the Super Bowl. This season the Detroit Lions have made it to the play-offs for the first time since 1999.

Today's match is against the Green Bay Packers. This is a tough team to beat as they've won all but one of their games this season. However, here at Trainee Golem Builders central we like nothing better than a near improbably challenge.

Amos 3:8

So in preparation for this match the following meditation exercises were done:
  • Tuning and toning, pore breathing of Ruchniyut (spirit)
  • Simple Abulafian meditation of Aleph-Bet
  • Use of Divine Name: Emesh to request from the Almighty that the natural order of things be shifted to allow the Lions to overcome the Packers
Win or lose, it's been one amazing season and I applaud each of the Lions players, staff and fans on doing a phenomenal job this season to achieve so many wins. By the time the next season comes along my studies of Sefer Yetzirah should have advanced to boost my abilities in praying for the teams success in the 2012-13 season.

Edit: Final score: Detroit Lions 41 - Green Bay Packers 45. It was a nail-biting match with each team taking the lead in the final quarter. This brings to a close the official scope of the project, supporting the Lions through the play-offs is the stretch goal that could only be dreamed off when this season started.

My closing remarks on this project of supporting the Detroit Lions is that the way I see it - any and all meditation exercises, prayers and techniques were used to boost the Lions and not the cause of their victories. My prayers may have helped but G-d is the boss and in charge of everything.

Edit 2: Wikipedia link to 2011 Detroit Lions season