Thursday, 10 January 2013

Learning and Integrating Experiences

Learning Kabbalah is relatively easy**. Of course there are multiple forms of Kabbalah and I can only speak about what little I have learned and practiced. So here is my where-to-get-started list of recommended reading for an introduction to Hebrew Kabbalah:

  • “The Thirteen Petalled Rose” by Adin Steinsaltz - good introduction to the basics of Hebrew Kabbalah metaphysics, how the world was created, what a soul is, etc.
  • “Jewish Meditation” by Aryeh Kaplan - solid introduction to meditation.
  • "Meditation and Kabbalah" by Aryeh Kaplan - introduction to different strands of thoughts and practice in Hebrew Kabbalah.
  • "Ecstatic Kabbalah" by David A. Cooper - good introduction to strand of Hebrew Kabbalah that deals with prophetic experience.
  • "Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism: An Essential Introduction to the Philosophy and Practice of the Mystical Traditions of Judaism" by Perle Besserman. - good introduction.
  • "God is a Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism" by David A. Cooper - interesting look at how the Divine and creation interact and are one.
  • "Path of the Kabbalah" by David Sheinkin - another good introduction with some practical advice.

Once you start learning, the next thing to do is practice. The above mentioned books have some instructions on how to meditate and try out practical exercises. However, in the course of this reading and looking at the bibliographies you should find other sources to study in more detail to look for practical techniques. My personal favourite is “Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation” by Aryeh Kaplan.

The thing that I have found is that study & practice go in a sort of cycle, a bit like the Plan-Do-Check-Act that is so often spoken about in Project Management. Here is a simple diagram that lines up the two cycles below.

You start by reading books and/or finding a teacher. Then you practice. After which I would recommend keeping a diary of your experiences and dreams as part of the “reflect” stage. Then you integrate your experiences and new insights in to the next round of learning. Please note that some or all of these stages can overlap. Also, it is recommended that you have a teacher to help guide you (note: this does not mean railroad) you through. If like me you do not have a teacher, you may experience some difficulty at any stage, in particular the “integrate” stage.

The “integrate” stage is where you absorb the experiences and new insights. What this means to me is that your worldview and beliefs may be adjusted, it may affect other factors or your life as well. Here is a simple diagram that illustrates what may be affected in your life by following a magical and/or mystical path.

Rinse and repeat the above cycles until you start to see effects. It may be a little uncomfortable at times and it is important to constantly monitor the effects of your pratice in your life and those around you. Reflect often, each night works best for me. Meditate every day and good luck!

** for a given definition of easy.