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.