Friday, 28 June 2013

I Could Have Been a Druid

In a recent blog I wrote about why I am hiding my library. There is a balance to be continuously sought to work out how much and how soon I expose my children to the idea and practice of magic.

Introducing the idea of magic is something that TV has taken care off to some extent. For example, you only need to a quick search for “CBeebies and Magic” to see how many shows feature magic. For example, Tree Fu Tom encourages children to join in a somatic (movement) based ritual in the form of dance to build of 'energy' for powering a spell.

Had I known about Tree Fu Tom a decade ago or even earlier, I probably would have chosen to become a druid. Instead I ended up going down the default path of following my ancestral calling and become a first generation (trainee) golem builder.

There was a time when I was seeking a universal theory of magic. In particular when I first started attending talks at Treadwells bookshop and knew next to nothing about a path of magic. Since then I have matured a bit and abandoned the idea of finding a unified theory.

Link explaining why Tom needs you to dance

Anyway, looking back at ‘what might have been’… which my rabbi considers as little-known as the future… I wonder what it might have been like to be a druid? What other path might you have taken if you knew then what you know now?

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Power and 70 Nations

My previous blog post was a bit stark and perhaps had an element of "we're all doomed". I'm an optimist by nature (how else would I survive as a project manager?) and so here are two quotes that related to people's relationships with governments.

In Bamidbar, Parshat Beha'alotcha (Book of Numbers) 11:16 Moses asks G-d if he can share the load and is instructed to appoint 70 men to act as lesser prophets (compared to Moses) to help look after the Israelites:
"Hashem said to Moses, gather to me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and its officers; take them to the Tent of Meeting and have them stand there with you."
Ramban (Nahmanides 1194-1270) wrote the following commentary:

Gather to me the seventy men from the elders of Israel
Ramban discusses the significance of the number seventy here and in other contexts

Our Sages of blessed memory, have mentioned that there are seventy nations in the world, with seventy languages. And each one of these nations has a constellation in the heavens and a heavenly minister above which determines its affairs, like the idea that is stated in Daniel (10:13), And the minister of the Persian kingdom, referring to an angel, and it is written there, besides the kings of Persia and Behold, the minister of Greece (ibid. v20). And this is the meaning of what is stated: It shall be on that day Hashem will deal with the hosts of heaven in heaven and the kings of the earth on the earth (Isaiah 24:21). And the Sages said further that the seventy bulls offered on the holiday of Succot allude to [the seventy nations] (Succah 55b). And in Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer  we find as well: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to the seventy angels who surround His Throne of Glory, "Come let us confuse their language"  (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer Ch. 24).... 
There is more to this quote, but it's not directly relevant to this blog post.

What nation might have this minister?
Every nation has a minister watching over it. Which means that each nation is subject to Divine providence. One of the things that I like to look for in reading up on geopolitics is how well or badly the heavenly minister interfaces with those in power in each nation. The coupling has it's ups and downs as every relationship has.

Anyway, whilst I believe that we are subject to general providence via this heavenly minister and associated constellation - we are also subject to individual providence. So why bother having a government at all?

Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 3:2 answers that with the following quote:
2. Rabbi Chanina, deputy to the kohanim, would say: Pray for the integrity of the government; for were it not for the fear of its authority, a man would swallow his neighbor alive....
That's it... this blog post does not really have a "message", just some quotes to get you thinking about how some form of governance is necessary and built in to the framework of reality. Plus how you relate to that and may even try to influence it as a magician. Good luck with that!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Adapt or Perish

An Eye That Watches
Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) Chapter 2, Mishna 1(a)
"Rabbi [Yehuda haNasi] said: What is the proper path a person should choose for himself? Whatever brings glory to himself [before G-d], and grants him glory before others. Be careful with a minor mitzvah (commandment) as with a major one, for you do not know the reward for the mitzvos. Consider the loss incurred for performing a mitzvah compared to its reward, and the 'reward' received for sinning compared to the loss. Consider three things and you will not come to sin: Know what is above you: an eye that sees and an ear that hears, and all your deeds are recorded in the Book."
Please don't subscribe in to the infantile thinking that god is an old man on a cloud who gets angry quickly. If you do, then you can stop reading this blog now.

"An eye that sees..." Everything that you do, say or think leaves an impression on the Universe around you. Everything. Is it any surprise that sages in centuries past understood this principle and used it as a way of guiding people away from thoughts and actions that would lead to negative spirals of behaviour?

Bottom line, the Universe is constantly being affected by what you think, say or do. There is no static state and to think of this as "being observed" can act as a useful metaphor for thinking about how you act in your  relationship with the Universe.

Demons Everywhere

(Talmud Brachos 6a)
It has been taught: Abba Benjamin says, “If the eye had the power to see them, no creature could endure the mazzikim (devils/destroyers).” Abaye says, “They are more numerous than we are and they surround us like a ridge around a field.” R. Huna says, “Every one among us has a thousand on his left hand and ten thousand on his right hand.” Raba says, “The crushing in the Kallah lectures comes from them. Fatigue in the knees comes from them. The wearing out of the clothes of the scholars is due to their rubbing against them. The bruising of the feet comes from them. If one wants to discover them, let him take sifted ashes and sprinkle around his bed, and in the morning he will see something like the footprints of a cock. If one wishes to see them, let him take the afterbirth of a black she-cat, the offspring of a black she-cat, the first-born of a firstborn, let him roast it in fire and grind it to powder, and then let him fill his eye, and he will see them. Let him also pour it into an iron tube and seal it with an iron signet that they should not steal it from him. Let him also close his mouth, lest he come to harm.” R. Bibi b. Abaye did so, he saw them, and came to harm. The scholars, however, prayed for him and he recovered.”

Non-human entities intersect with our reality at any place & time we give them access whether consciously or unsconsciouly. This has been going on for a very, very long time. By intersect, I also mean influence, manipulate and control. I hope that's no great surprise to you and please bear in mind that this is just my interpretation.

The Universe is watching, demons are watching and now the government is watching you too.

Adapt or Perish

It reminds me of a joke about a priest, imam and rabbi who find out that global warming is going to cause sea levels to rise and unless we take radical action, we will all be living underwater in 30 days time.

The priest turns to his flock and says: "we must all march on Jerusalem and be saved". The imam turns to his congregation and says: "let us pray, cleanse our souls and Allah will save us." The rabbi turns to the community and say: "right... we have 30 days to learn how to live underwater."

The fight has been going on for a very, very long time. Regardless of how well you may be at interacting and/or tracking the imprints that non-humans leave on our world, I don't believe that we're anywhere nearer to winning the war. In fact in this period of geopolitical flux I think we're losing. It may soon be time to learn to live underwater.

Here endeth the rant.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

On Why I am Hiding my Library

At the weekend I took my Kindle on a family outing. It was the first time that my wife saw my Kindle and although she was vaguely aware of its existence, was rather curious about its contents. 
There are several collections on my Kindle:
  • Project Management books
  • Books on Computing
  • Metaphysics in English – e.g. Kabbalah, Western Esoteric literature, etc.
  • Hebrew books on Kabbalah, mainly by Abraham Abulafia that I try in vain to translate
It took a couple of years before I was convinced of the value of a Kindle. And now I find myself relying on it more and more. Not because technology reasons but rather social reasons.

You see in my community the study of Kabbalah is something that is frowned upon. You need to of a certain level of learning and observance, if not also of age and family status (married and with kids). There have been many, many great Kabbalists who did not meet the age and family criteria but learning and observance criteria are a must.

Anyway, I’m on a journey to increase in all these areas and have a couple of books on Kabbalah on the shelves that anyone visiting the house can see. However, the other books are hidden away in boxes, in wardrobes and bed-site tables.


The problem that I now have is that within a few short years my kids will be proficient enough in reading that they may try to read some of these books. Whilst I do not in principle have an issue with exposing them to the ideas in these books, it’s a question of when and how. Now is too early as they do not yet have a frame of reference to evaluate the information against and grasp the context in which it was written.

So I am forced for now to hide my library further. Some will transfer to a password locked Kindle and the rest will go in to a locked chest. I feel a bit sad about having to hide the books away. But for me finding these books was a journey of (self-) discovery and instead of allowing easy access… My aim is to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so to speak that will enable my children to pursue these studies should they chose to do so at an age when it will be meaningful to them.

In the mean time I will continue to go on trips with them around the psychogeography of London, exploring its wild and varied wild-life and cultivating their imaginations to be a rich tool for future life.

Do you have any advice on how to remove access from my library without having to bury it at the back of the garden?