Monday, 22 December 2014

Brief Look Back

Don't Look Back in Anger
Rather than talk about all the things that have changed in my life this past year, here are some of the selections that looking back I think are significant to me:

  • Hebrew Immersion: (continued) Went through Chumash (5 Books of Moses) with Rashi commentary again for 3rd time and completed 2 set of Mishnayot (Oral Law) Nashim. Now proficient enough to be able to read Rabbi Moshe Cordovero's commentary for first 5 chapters of Sefer Yetzira. Started on Introduction to Rabbi Eliezer of Germiza's Sodei Raziya
  • Fiction: Made a come-back in my life, in particular Merkabah Rider by Edward M Erdelac stood out as a good read. 
  • Disappearing Middle Ground: World and local politics apepars to heading away from a common ground in which common understanding can be found. I expect that this will unfortunately be a continuing trend in to 2015 as the mentality of us versus them continues to gain traction. 
  • Play-offs: tucked away in this update is a non-project that has had some measure of success "An awesome lion, who dares rouse him?". The Detroit Lions have made it to the play-offs. 
  • Looking for Common Ground: I've started looking in to where the over-laps occur between Rabbinic Kabbalah and Western Mystery Traditions. I expect this to be a project spanning multiple years and delving centuries in to the past. 
  • Acharon, Acharon, Chaviv ("Save the best for last"): I have finally started letter combinations as outlined in Chapter 2 of Sefer Yetzira... at last!

Be a Narrow Bridge
One other thing I'd like to mention as it happened pretty recently. Whilst at a friend's wedding, during one of the speeches I knew there was the potential for a massive emotional melt-down as the person speaking was going to mention the parent whom they had lost many years ago.

I know what this is like, but unlike my case - this parent seemed to still have an ongoing and unfortunately unhealthy attachment to at least one of their children. So on a whim I acted as a bridge to allow them to be present and bask in the joy of the occasion without souring the event.

It went well and the very touching moment in the speech passed without incident, leading to lots more celebrations and joyous dancing. Unfortunately I wasn't as careful as I should have been and a lady collapsed with suspected stroke. After she was taken out, I rushed to recite Psalms and later found out that she had just fainted due to low blood pressure.

So you could look at it as all in my imagination and perhaps it was. But on the off chance that it wasn't, I'll know for next time to form a narrower bridge when deceased relatives want to be present and prevent any hitch-hikers from catching a ride to pull someone to the other side before their time.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Bass, Oil, and Candle Light

All About That Beis
If you're a follower of popular music (which I'm not) you might be familiar with Meghan Trainor's "All about that bass" (no treble). You may also be familair with, what I consider to be a better version, Kate Davis' and Post-Modern Jukebox cover, "All About That Bass".

[Side note: Kate Davis has an interesting video on TEDex about her journey as a musician. OK, she's still just starting out but if you're trying to find your right magical path - she has a few pearls of wisdom to offer].

Celebrating Because of What?
Anyway, in case you're wondering what this all has to do with magic and mysticism... please bear with me a moment longer. You see, the The Maccabeats released - "All About That Neis" for the festival of Hanukkah. (If you want to get the story in summary, here is the round up by Veronica Monica).

Whilst Hanukkah is one of my favourite festivals.. The  Maccabeats  have me rather confused whether the celebration is about 1. the miraculous military victory or 2. one day's worth of oil burning for eight days. In truth I think of the battles as a conflict between the Hellenized Jews and their Greek army supporters versus the Jews who wanted to take back the Temple and overthrow Greek cultural imperialism.

This next bit is based on a recent lecture by a Rabbi B***...

Thirteen Breaches in a Small Wall
So what do the Rabbis have to say on the Hanukkah conflict? After all the Greek and Jewish cultures go back a fair way together and there were bound to be some influences upon each other. Well, apparently the Rabbi's don't have much to say about it. This extract from Misha Yomit is pretty much the only bit:
CHAPTER 2 MISHNAH 3
Within it was a latticework, ten tefa~im high, and thirteen breaches were there that the kings of Greece breached, and they repaired them again, and decreed thirteen prostrations opposite them. Within it was the Heil ten amot, and twelve steps were there, the height of each step was half an amah, and its depth half an amah. All the steps that were there, the height of each step was half an amah, and its depth half an amah, except those to the ulam. All the doorways and the gates that were there, their height was twenty amot and their width was ten amot, except that of the ulam. All the doorways that were there had doors, except that of the ulam. All the gates that were there had lintels, except the Gate of Tadi, where there were two stones leaning against one another. All the gates that were there were changed to be golden, except the Gate of Nikanor, because a miracle was performed in their case. But some say: Because their copper had a yellow hue.
A fence in the Temple had thirteen holes poked in to it... that's all they have to say on the Israel versus Greek conflict. So what was so important about this wall? It acted to delineate the public from the private domain in the Temple. Which meant that it was possible to carry in the private domain in the Temple during festivals. Wow, what a fuss over something so trivial...

However, it also represented the idea that there is creation and something beyond creation. The Divine is not simply within creation and that is all that exists. The Divine is just as far removed from the spiritual worlds as from the physical world.

And that is an idea that the Greeks did not like. There was in their minds no Divine existence beyond reality they knew, hence the thirteen breaches (gemmatria of thirteen is echad, Hebrew for one). To them there was just reality and nothing else.

So why does this matter?
Simple because it influences everything we do in relation to magic and mysticism. If there is Divine outside of reality and it can still have a relationship with us via the means of prophecy - then it means that there is a purpose to everything and we each have a role to play.

If not, then it's all just chaos and we can do whatever we desire.

It is, in my current way of thinking, the difference between using one's abilities in magic to act in service... or for personal gain.

I wish you a happy Hanukkah.

*** if you want his name, please contact me. I am not including it here as it could violate my law of unintended stakeholders.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Project Re-Start: Connecting the Letters

In a recent post I wrote about a meditation to connect to each of the Hebrew letters. Whilst the project has started... I am finding that doing a letter each day is much more effective than doing one letter each week. The other change that I may make is to start with the Mother letters, then Double letters, and finally Simple (Elemental) letters.

Here is the updated project description:
Connecting the Letters
Scope: Combine each letter with 21 others. Attempt to combine each letter with four-letter Name. One letter each day for 22 weeks.
Time: 22 weeks (approximately)
Cost: Most evenings per week.
Quality: Output of experiences will be recorded to evaluate how "energies" from each of the 22 letters "feels",
Communication: Progress update at end of project.
Risks:
1. Daily meditation of this nature is very time intensive at the slow pace that letters are meant to be sounded. (Warm up can take up to 20 minutes alone)
2. Project fatigue may kick-in
Issues: 1. Difficult to measure how effective the project might be.
First thing to note about the meditation so far is just how different each letters feels, tastes, and sounds. It's subtle, but I get a definite sense of identity from each letter.

Not in a "Hi, I'm Aleph and I like dogs, going for long walks in the country, and long comfortable silences". But rather that feeling you get when you have been around someone for awhile (in your life) and when they are close - they have a certain mental shape in your awareness even if you cannot see, hear, or touch them. A bit like knowing that a loved one is in a room nearby.

Please note that I do not think or relate to the Hebrew letters as if they are people, spirits or in any way anthropomorphic. The description in the above paragraph is just a way to convey the idea in a familiar way. I think of the letters as living in the same way that everything in the Multiverse is alive. The electricity coming in to this computer as I write this blog has Shefa (Divine flow), the letters are simply more refined and abstract channels of Divine consciousness constantly manifesting the physical and spiritual worlds.

On a separate note... it's good to be focusing on just magic again on this blog. I felt a bit like my focus was diverging into too many different channels. Now I am back on the path... well, technically 32 paths.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

We need to talk about WMT

One of the many reasons why I started this blog some time ago was to explore the differences and similarities of the Western Mystery Tradition (WMT) with Rabbinic Kabbalah. Although I have attended a number of talks that touched on this subject at Treadwells bookshop in London, there has been very little on this topic on this blog unfortunately. However, now that I have become a bit more familiar with WMT and Rabbinic Kabbalah that should change in future.

Fortunately there are two good sources that I have been reading recently that have provided a great deal of information on this topic already. The first is a blog called Hermetic Lessons, in particular I am referring to these blog entries:
The other brilliant resource is a recently published book: Qabalah Gates of Light: The Occult Qabalah Reconstructed by Gary Jaron (paper and kindle editions).

There are two issues that I have with the book: 1. the first is a minor one is mixing up the letters Kuf and Kaf at the beginning of the book about the spelling of the word Kabbalah in Hebrew. 2. is to do with the attribution of planets to letters and Sephirot - unlike the author of this excellent book I do believe that there is a significance to why certain Rabbinic practitioners of Kabbalah differ in their planetary attributions.

However, these two relatively small issues aside - the book does a really good job of highlighting when dogma and a need for conformity crept in to the transmission of WMT. How this shaped later writers and how they could have avoided mis-attributions due to misunderstanding. In fairness some of these misunderstandings are due to the changes put in to works translated by the Christian Kabbalists - but even so there were plenty of good English Hebrew dictionaries when the earlier WMT writers were around.

Today when translation from Hebrew to English is so easy an undertaking - there is very little to prevent anyone from taking some of the earlier works and comparing, contrasting, and (Heaven forbid) correcting some of these inspiring books. Except perhaps dogma, a desire for departure from the early Kabbalah in order to assert one's own identity as a Tradition, or perhaps as Blogos points out... WMT is just falling out of fashion.





Sunday, 23 November 2014

Lessons, Death, and Connecting the Letters

Lessons

Over at the excellent Hermetic Lessons blog a four part series of (1, 23, 4) articles has been posted that sums up the work that the author does. My understanding of how Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) is put in to practice is pretty much in line with that posted there.

Death

A man who I greatly admired and hoped one day might become my teacher was murdered last week. He was hacked to death during morning prayer in a synagogue. He died as he lived - a man of peace in a house of prayer and study.

The four widows of the attack in Jerusalem posted the following request:
With broken hearts, drenched in tears shed over the spilt blood of holy men – the heads of our families.
We call on our brethren wherever they are – let us come together so that we may merit mercy from Heaven, and let’s accept upon ourselves to increase love and comradery, between each individual and each community.
We ask that every person accept upon himself on this Sabbath Eve (Parshat Toldot, November 21-22, 2014), to set aside the day of Shabbat as a day of unconditional love, a day during which we will refrain from words of disagreement and division, from words of gossip and slander.
May this serve to elevate the souls of our husbands and fathers who were slaughtered while sanctifying God’s name.
God will look down from the heavens, see our suffering, wipe away our tears and put an end to our tribulations.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Moshiach (Messiah) speedily in our days. Amen.
Signed with a torn heart,
Mrs. Chaya Levin and family
Mrs. Bryna Goldberg and family
Mrs. Yaacova Kupensky and family
Mrs. Bashy Twersky and family
The past Sabbath was one of unity, but it will take a long time before we get used to the empty rooms in our souls where these holy mens' influences used to shine their love and wisdom.

Connecting the Letters

Lastly, I meditate on the letters each day. But something has been missing of late and I realised that a new project would breathe new life in to my daily practice.

Therefore I will spent the next 22 (or so) weeks going through each of the 22 Hebrew letters in turn and combining them with all the others, plus with one of the four-letter Names of the Divine in the Torah (Five Books of Moses).

These meditation exercises have nothing to do with the Tree of Life or path-working between the Sefirot. The aim of this project is to become better attuned to "energies" of the Sefirot as they are manifest through the letters.

Scope: Combine each letter with 21 others. Combine each letter with four-letter Name
Time: 22 weeks (approximately)
Cost: Most evenings per week.
Quality: Output of experiences will be recorded to evaluate how "energies" from each of the 22 letters "feels",
Communication: Progress update at end of project.
Risks:
1. Daily meditation of this nature is very time intensive at the slow pace that letters are meant to be sounded. (Warm up can take up to 20 minutes alone)
2. Project fatigue may kick-in
Issues: 1. Difficult to measure how effective the project might be.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

November 2014 Update

This is a lump-it-all together post...

Film: Noah - the movie
See review from Paleojudaica. It certainly seemed to draw very heavily on Midrashic literature. Was a bit too long really... IMDB says it was 138 minutes but it felt longer... I think it was 138 minutes too long.

Space: Mars
See twitter quote: "Mars is the only known planet inhabited solely by robots." The current Mars is life-less, but it might not always have been...

Books: Broken Homes (Rivers of London 4) by Ben Aaronovitch et al.
The Bill (police procedural drama) meets Harry Potter.
This is not a review... summary: Continues a really great series. This one builds on an existing story arc is a really nice way.

Music: Discovered Red Band
Funny. Talented. Really made my 2014 :-)

Motivation: in the Matrix
What keeps a solitary Trainee Golem Builder going when the winter rolls in?

These two quotes from the The Matrix sum it up nicely:
Morpheus: "I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind - driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?" 
But that's not enough... just knowing is not the same thing as experiencing, as Morpheus points out:
Morpheus: "Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."
Conclusion:
So in summary... survival (Noah) is not enough. We need to continue our push to other planets (Mars) even with the tragic set-backs of this week.
As with all things, a balance needs to be maintained between the right and the left... science (robots) and art (Broken Homes, Red Band).
And the most important thing is to walk the path. What have you done to improve the world today?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Calling about the Seven Doubles

"Tet, Aleph, Aleph.. wat's your tsoross?" Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion answers with a tired voice.

"Uh, Rabbi it's me," I answer wondering for the seventh time whether calling him was a bad idea or not.

"Shimonelle," he sounds genuinely pleased to hear my voice. "Nu? How's my favourite talmid [student]?"

"Uh," now he's got me really worried. "Fine, just fine, thank Heaven. I had a question about chapter four from Sefer Yetzirah [Book of Formation]. It's about a difference of attribution between the seven double letters, the planets, letters, and sefirot."

"Och, that's an easy one. Simplez." he chuckles as he tries to slip in a bit of what he thinks is slang. "Just noch a minute, I wanted to ask you about this Farspace you have been watching."

"Farscape," I quietly correct him, my mind racing to avoid several dark corners.

"Firescape, yes that is the one. Why does John Klingon have this Scorpion in his head and is also a man on the outside of him? Seems to me he is either a yetzer [spiritual force/urge] or a shed [type of demon]. Rashi says in this week's parsha Noach, even the shedim got a ride in the teva [ark]."

"Uh," I hesitate as one of the dark corners in my mind coalesces in to a worm-hole. "Where are you going with this Rabbi?"

"Och, it's nothing." He sighs, disappointed that I have failed to pick up whatever he has tried to hint at. "We read every morning, 'Shnei Ketuvim... Two passages contradict one another and a third comes to reconcile between them'. So nu.. you have Ramak [Rabbi Moshe Cordovero] saying one thing and [Rabbi Chaim] Vital paskening [ruling] another way... now look for a third to reconcile between them".

"Uh, thank." I start to put down the phone receiver, not really sure if that vague advice was worth the price.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Rain Summoning Ancestral Hut

Rain, a blessing
It's Succot time, one of the three pilgrim festivals to celebrate the end of the harvest season. For this particular festival we build a temporary structure to commemorate surviving the desert. As well as wave a palm, willow and myrtle branches with a funny looking citrus fruit called an etrog.

The waving is to spread blessing, the succah (temporary booth... or rain summoning ancestral hut, as I like to call it) is to remind us that this world is a temporary abode where spirit and body inhabit (approximately) the same space.

Zombie Apocalypse

Whilst it's a happy festival - there is a note of sobriety injected by reading the book of Koheles / Ecclesiastes. However, the reading of Zechariah 14:12 made me consider my mortality:

"...This will be the plague with which Hashem will strike all the peoples that have organized against Jerusalem: Each one's flesh will melt away while he is standing on his feet; each one's eyes will melt away in their sockets; and each one's tongue will melt away in their mouths..."

Is it me, or does that read a bit like there will be a zombie apocalypse?

Death, A Dark Room

In all seriousness though I recently came across a beautiful and very moving description of dealing with loss of a loved one. This was written by Rabbi Avi Weiss following the death of his mother:

"...To what can death be compared? To a person who enters a darkened room  for the first time and trips over the furniture. Each time he enters the room, he learns more and more where the furniture stands. In time, he becomes familiar with the room, and despite the darkness knows how to get around...

So, too, death. There is a darkness in death that cannot be chased away. But it is possible to learn how to go on living despite the darkness that forever remains..."

New Year Retrospective

The last topic I want to touch on in brief is that of retrospectives. In project management it's used to drive continuous improvement (amongst other reasons). Generally 3 questions are asked: "What went wrong?", "What went well?", and "What can we improve on next time?"

"They tried to kill us.
They failed.
Let's eat!”

is the summary for most Jewish holidays and history in general. The main take-away message though is that survival is not just enough - we need to try to make the world a better place.

These past few blog posts have not touched on Kabbalah, golem building, or mysticism much. What I hope they have touched on is emotional resilience and well being. As I read further in chapter 4 of Sefer Yetzirah - I realize that emotional balance is not just a nice-to-have when it comes to the practice of magic, it's a survival skill. And as I've stated above - survival is not just enough - we have to do better.

Your minhag may vary (YMMV)



Tuesday, 7 October 2014

5775 Message

This New Year's 5775** message of hope if brought to you by George Deek in Oslo. Next post we'll get back to the intricacies of Golem Building :-)

** - 5775 is not the age of the planet or Universe (see Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's book on the age of the Universe). It's the time in years since a human gained Divine consciousness in this epoch of human evolution and development. If Adam was the first human ever, why did Cain build a city for his son. Seems like a lot of building for only a handful of humans on the planet... Whilst on the subject of not taking scripture at face value... how are your studies of Kabbalah progressing?

Saturday, 20 September 2014

End of Year Thoughts

As mentioned previously, I don't have much time to blog at the moment. So here is a round up the kernel of some thoughts that are knocking around in my head at the moment.

Want to Meditate versus Want to Have Meditated
A Rabbi once said to me: "Sometimes I want to pray and sometimes I just want to have prayed." In other words, sometimes the act is the goal and sometimes the goal is just having done it. An example is the difference between "I'm enjoying this meal" and "I'm glad I had lunch (but have no memory of the taste of it)".

Apologies for hammering home this point. I think it's quite important and Rufus Opus' recent post touches on a similar idea. What are you choosing to spend time on? Well, as Jason from Strategic Sorcery has stated on a number occasions.. if there is only one thing that you do in magic (paraphrasing) make sure it is meditation.

So... do you want to meditate or want to have meditated?
Do you find meditation boring or see it as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself?

Recommended reading:
[Book] Mastery by George Leonard (Scribbler recommendation)
[Blog Post]  On the Nature of Work (by Frater Acher)

Animating the In-Animate
Trainee Golem builders like me, learning to create humanoid life within inanimate matter such as clay, have a thing about finding out who else is working on creating human like life-forms from inanimate matter.

So you can imagine my delight when I came across these two TEDs talks. The first is about creating algorithms for quad-copters to work together. That might not sound very magical, but when you learn a little about how artificial life can be made - it gets pretty interesting (in my opinion) how you can create smaller entities that working together can achieve amazing results. And the secret is in getting the algorithms (i.e. instructions) right.

The other video (and if you only watch one, I recommend this one) is about making robots appear more life-like - with soul.

In Other News
Daf Zohar, daily study of Zohar, has been kicked off on Facebook. Here is the description of the project:
A Zohar study group. Currently focusing on Zohar Ammud Yomi, A Daily Page of Zohar. Members are also welcome to discuss any other Zohar passages. This is an unofficial group of students and teachers reading the Zohar (Pritzker Edition etc) together and sharing what we discover.
I bought a copy of the first book in the Pritzker edition translation of the Zohar. Until now I have shied away from studying the Zohar as I am mainly interested in pre-Zohar Jewish mystical writings. However, a recent comment by one of the people I consider to be a (distant) teacher made me realise that I should study it at some point in the next couple of decades.

Let's see how long the project lasts and whether I can keep up with the additional daily study or not.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

September Mini-Reviews

Jason just posted about keeping a balance between time, money, and attention. The way that I view it is that there are a number of plates that I need to keep spinning in my life: Family, work, studying, friends, meditation, finances, romance, parenting, etc (in no particular order). I can only focus on keeping a few of those well balanced and the others I just need to pick up and get spinning once in awhile.

Story reviews

Anyway, I digress before even getting in to the point of this post. Because my time is taken up with a lot of commuting (4 hours a day) and hence that is when my study time is... I don't have a lot of time for blogging. Therefore I am lumping a number of reviews all together. My apologies for the people whose work are mentioned - you deserve a more in-depth review.

1. Mechanicals by Jordan Stratford (5/5)
Starting with the best first. This book was my first Steampunk novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that the protagonists took in their journey. Along the way they encountered a number of people whose name will ring a bell with those familiar with historical figures in the occult world. What I really loved were the descriptions of how one of the characters learned to operate a mechanical, when some others encountered a doll that was not all it appeared and how a demon made two weeks seemingly disappear. Really exhilarating adventure but it ended a little too abruptly. I hope a sequel is in the works.

2. Alice Adventures in Steamland: Clockwork Goddess by Wol-vriey (2/5)
Whilst the former novel had a character with a bit of a virgin theme, this novel's main character is a prostitute and there was plenty of sex. Now, I don't mind sex in a novel if it's done well - but this was not the case for this novel in my opinion. If you fancy a spunky (literally) heroine in a gore-filled version of Wonderland with steam, cake, icing, hatters, more icing, a clockwork goddess - this is the novel for you.

3. Joe Golem and the Copper Girl: A Short Story by Mike Mignola (5/5)
Having done the good and the bad, it's now the turn of the ugly. Except that the only ugly thing in this short story are the looks of the hero and the ugly side of human nature. Thoroughly enjoyable story set in the drowning city (reviewed here). Although the city was not described in as vivid detail as I might have liked (I find the setting to be as interesting a character as the protagonists or villains - for example my favourite character in Farscape if Moya) it was a beautifully written and moving short story.

Meditation Review

Getting back in to basic letter meditation. Going well so far. Considering that I am now reading through chapters 3 and 4 of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero's "Ohr Yaka" commentary on Sefer Yetzirah - I should hopefully get in to the more involved letter combination meditations in the coming months. Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon.

The Lions 

Unfortunately I will not be able to actively provide any aid to the Detroit Lions football team this year, seeing as I am currently a theoretical golem builder. However, there were two techniques that I used in the first year of the Lion Who Roared project that seemed to have a big impact. One was a meditation on the Divine Name of 72 triple letters. The other was refraining from certain activities.

In Judaism there was a number of positive and negative commandments. There are 613 in total and 248 positive (do something) and 365 negative (do not...) commandments.

So this year I will be putting special emphasis and focus on one of the "do not" commandments. Let's see if that has any passive boost to the performance of the Lions as I seem to have some level of entanglement with them. I call this not-a-project "An awesome lion, who dares rouse him?"

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Finally, chapter 3 It's about Time

Finally, I made it past chapters 1 and 2 in Sefer Yetzira (Book of Creation**). Here is a quick recap of the first few chapters in the form of a bullet list, the hot new way to convey esoteric material.

  • Chapter 1:
    • Introduced the Sefirot at length. I don't really have a good translation for Sefirot, they're all equally poor at conveying what the Esser Sefirot Beli-Mah are about. 
    • The Sefer Yetzira is the oldest Kabbalistic text to mention the Sefirot. They are only mentioned in the first chapter (and not all listed by name). 
    • After chapter 1 there is no further mention of the Sefirot
    • The author assumes that you've either understood and had experience of the Sefirot as outlined how to achieve this in first chapter - or not. 
    • Failure to achieve this in chapter 1, makes the remaining chapter (in my opinion) academic.
  • Chapter 2:
    • Now we get in to the detail of the division of the Aleph Bet series in to 3 mother, 7 double, and 12 elemental/simple letters.
    • This chapter explains various techniques of how to manipulate the letters as meditative exercises
    • These include (for want of a better translation on my part): engraving, carving, letter cycling, weighing, and refinement. 
    • Revealed in this chapter is the basis for creating a golem
    • Rabbi Moshe Cordovero at the end of this chapter's commentary spends a lot of time expounding the meaning of the shape of the letters
    • I have to respectfully respond to this by countering that the sound is more important that the shape.
  • Chapter 3: 
    • Well, I'm still part way through this chapter.
    • So far it's covered the 3 mother letters
    • What they represent in terms of space, time, and soul / consciousness / mind?
    • And how they map on to the 3 worlds, 3 elements, and how they fit in to the chain of emanation that we like to call Creation  of all the worlds.
This is not related to topic of Sefer Yetzira, but does have to do with sound. There are certain tunes that are frequently sung at the end of service to a prayer called Adon Olam. I'm hoping that this Happy tune will join the repertoire being sung in congregations around the world(s).

** There are two words in Hebrew about creation, the first Barah is generally used in Kabbalistic writing that I have come across to refer to creation of Something from Nothing. The other word Yotzer means creating Something from Something. Hence the Sefer Yetzira, book of formation is about the 3rd 'world' in the chain of world emanations (Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzira, Assiah... we're mostly conscious of the latter).

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Mix of Ideas, Part 1

This post is a mix of ideas, none of which are fully developed. Please think of them as seed ideas, do with them as you will...

Eclecticism 
Jason recently wrote about  eclecticism part 1, part 2, and part 3. Really good articles and advice that I heartily recommend. It got me thinking about the fact that certain types of problems that face are very common and we come up with very similar solutions to them each time. In software development terms we call them Design Patterns.

There is however the idea of anti-Patterns, which in brief refers to the applying the wrong Design Pattern (common tried and tested approaches to solving problems). I can't really think of a decent example of this in a magical context...

Keep Your Head Off the Mat
I recently started attending a weekly Aikido class. Inspired by Scribbler's post, I finally got organised enough to attend four weeks in a row. In the class a new person joined and I initially made the mistake of thinking that he was a novice like me... boy was I wrong. Turns out he learned from O-Sensei's last pupil and he ended up running that evening's class.

One of the things the guest Sensei taught is to keep your head off the mat. It's hard to explain how different it feels to let your head rest on the floor when someone is trying to grapple you - compared to how you feel in the same situation but you make an effort to keep your head off the floor. In the former your body feels like it has at least partially given up. In the latter you feel stronger, as if you can struggle for longer.

Sometimes on your magical path you feel like life gets the upper hand and you end up on the floor so to speak. Even if you end up in such a situation, remember to keep your head up Mr. Black and you've got a fighting chance of getting back in the game.

Ecology of Spirits and Lands
Today the Digital Ambler posted a call to arms: Get Off Your Ass and Work: Magic and Politics. I commend his desire to better the world, if we don't at least try to leave the world as a better place for the generations to come... what are we really here for?

Here are three things that I have learned in my brief forays in to this area:
  1. Geopolitics is like studying ecology. You can look at only one aspect, for example 'follow the money', religion, etc in the same way that a biologist might only focus on the water cycle, carbon cycle, etc. But oversimplifying it leads to (more) flawed analysis and hence I recommend looking at it as a complex system of constantly interacting and changing organisms and environments. Embrace the complexity. If you've read Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams you'll know that by saving the coelecanth, the dodo died out.
  2. Analysis of Spell Patterns. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson does a really good job of explaining that if you cannot decipher communication, that by studying when and where signals are being sent - you can learn something about who is sending messages and  speculate about why. I think that the same idea could be applied to trying to map the influence other mages have in the realm of geopolitics. You may not be able to work out how they're doing it. But you could see patterns emerge in how various political figures behave and when they start 'acting out of character'. Then again, this could be an anti-pattern of what Stephenson describes...
  3. You're playing with the big boys now. The politics of nations, which the Book of Daniel mentions each has an angelic prince representing them is not an arena to wonder in to, dabble a bit and then go back to your day to day life. This is not re-tweeting your 20 seconds of emotional outburst about one of the many, many conflicts going on the world. Dreamworks even has a song about it. 
Anyway, I had another couple of topics to add to this post. But it's too long already of under-developed ideas and it's late in the evening for me. Sleep tight.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Not enough golems to hold the centre

Holding the Centre

Yeats wrote the poem Second Coming in 1918 after the First World War which starts with:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I first came across the line "the centre cannot hold" in Babylon 5. Both in Yeats' time and in G'Kar's fictional time-line in B5, a great war came along soon afterwards. I'm quoting this because I believe that the centre can hold, I am optimistic for the future...

Disappearing Centre

In my community and in similar communities across the United Kingdom, there has been a shift happening away from the centre for the past few decades. Reform and conservative Judaism are drifting away (from my viewpoint) from the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities and the middle(-ish) ground of Modern Orthodox is shrinking. People are either choosing to assimilate and leave their Jewish heritage behind or making a sustained effort to engage deeper with their Jewish heritage.

When challenged on this viewpoint (which should certainly be challenged as it is my very biased opinion), I ask: "How many fourth generation Reform Jews do you know?" and on the other side I ask "How many people do you know who have become frum (observing of religious law) through Aish or other Jewish outreach organizations?"

However, despite the erosion of the middle ground I believe that the centre can hold, I am optimistic for the future...

Discernment

Back in the day when I was at University a couple of decades ago, it was possible to have a civilized conversation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - be critical of both sides and have a creative debate on various resolutions. Now it seems that there is such cognitive bias and so much of an "us versus them" mentality, that I wonder if those University days were just a dream.

Anyway, this part of the post is about discernment... as I believe that it is a crucial skill for any aspiring warlock or witch to develop. Especially given the variety of books, blogs, lectures, etc available in this age of connectivity.

For example, regarding the current conflict between Hamas and Netanyahu government.. did you know that there is a special United Nations aid agency for the Palestinians? Every other refugee in the world gets refereed to the UNHCR. The latter has "..As of April 2008, the UNHCR employed a staff of 6,351 people in 117 countries..." Whilst the former has "...employing over 25,000 staff, 99% of which are locally recruited Palestinians..." The reason why I am highlighting UNWRA is that they are not the neutral party the media might like you to think, here is a less positive view.

OK, so what about all the civilians who were killed in the last few weeks in Gaza? Again I recommend continuing development in the area of discernment to work out exactly who was killed. But Simon, all this is an extremely biased view of what happened... you might say and you would be correct. Don't believe me. But please do question the reporters who show Syrian photos and attribute them to Gaza and the same reporters who after the conflict admit to harassment and intimidation, as well as the fact that rockets were fired from civilian areas.

OK, last video and it's a long one. But it's important in my opinion as it's the words of a man who has fought in the Middle East and know how wars are conducted in this part of the world.

Conclusion

I would like to say that I am hopeful about the future, but I'm not so sure about that future for my family in Europe. Arguments such as these for legitimate protest against Israel have one glaring hole. The lack of protests around the Ukraine conflict is deafening.

The legendary Golem of Prague was originally created to prevent blood libels. As a trainee golem builder, I am not sure that I could ever build enough golems to counter the reporting that would have you believe that the Israeli army deliberately target women and children.

Discernment and dialogue are the two means by which I believe the centre could hold... and with those in mind I can retain my optimism for the future.

DISCLAIMER: I wrote this article in a sleep-deprived state. I will edit it in the coming days...

Monday, 11 August 2014

This is not a reivew: Merkabah Rider by Edward M Erdelac

This is not a review of Edward M Erdelac's four books of short stories, but if it was it would be effusive with praise shouted from the rooftops. I bought the first book awhile ago and did not get around to reading it right away... and then to break up the monotony of reading project management books I decided to try reading the first book. In just under 2 weeks I had read all four books.
For those unfamiliar with Merkava Mysticism, it was a set of techniques used by Jewish mystics in the early centuries of the common era (and possibly before) that used Ezekiel's vision as a means of Heavenly ascent. The teachings of Ma'aseh Merkava ("Workings of the Chariot") made their way from the Near East to Germany and then on to Spain.

The last of an ancient order of Jewish mystics capable of extraplanar travel, The Merkabah Rider roams the demon haunted American West of 1879 in search of the renegade teacher who betrayed his enclave. But as the trail grows fresher, shadows gather, and The Hour Of The Incursion draws near...

The Merkabah Rider stories weave together the Merkava mystical ascent narrative in to the Wild West setting. It combines so many elements of Jewish Magic, Myth, and Mysticism that I was glad to have my copy of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis on hand for cross-referencing of terms.

If that was not enough of a reason to read the stories, they are all really well written and I just couldn't stop reading them. The fact that it combined Jewish mythology with Cthulhu mythology was just a cherry on top of the icing of this excellent series.

Merkabah rider series gets 5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Project Update 20 July 2014

It's been awhile since I last reviewed my projects... so here goes:
  • Project TARDIS-AS
    • On hold for next 5 years, due to advice given not to advance practical side of learning with young family.
  • Hebrew Immersion Study Course 
    • Completed. However, the Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings) parts was not done. Also, the scope was expanded to include studying Mishnah on a daily basis. I am now half way through studying Nashim and hence on-track for completing the 6 year cycle in 5 years time.
  • Finding a Teacher
    • Recently I was sitting on the bus studying Sefer Yetzirah commentary by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, when upon completing chapter 2... I asked if it would be possible to find someone else with whom I could share my experiences and learning. "Who did you ask?" would be a sensible question and the truth is: I don't know.
    • However, as a dear friend said recent 'the Universe blinked' and through a series of events whose probability is rather small - I ended up finding a group of like minded people. Let's see if this goes somewhere interesting after my recent attempt to form a group never really got off the ground...
Whilst on the subject of finding a teacher... I just want to take this opportunity to plug Josephine McCarthy's and Frater Achers' new free magic training course: Quareia, a Magical School for the 21st Century. If you find the initial teachings useful, I recommend that you show your support by helping fund the creation of the course if you are able.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Revealing Light, Responsibly

The past couple of weeks have been very painful. As my Rabbi put it... when our extended family are killing each other - killing children - something is very wrong. The question is what can we do?

I stumbled across the answer last week when watching a pod-cast on PMI.org about Agile thought leadership. You can find the slides here, in particular slide 18. It talks about the journey that a person goes through from:
  1. Denial
  2. Lay Blame
  3. Justify
  4. Shame
  5. Obligation
  6. Responsibility
I've personally been stuck feeling "trapped" in stage 5. and it's something that RO touched on recently. To move to the last stage - the author of the Ideosphere posted on this recently - it's about taking responsibility for your own success and investing in learning.

The action that I'll be taking is to learn more Mishna (Oral Law) and Nach (Prophets and Writing). How is that going to help you may ask? Well simply reading with understanding by itself has a transformative effect on my surrounding and the world in general.

But it is also a plea for the Divine not to "hide itself" in the world. There is a level at which Divinity operates that is within the natural order of things, where the laws of cause and effect prevail. This is symbolized by the name Elohim. On the other hand there is the level of Divinity that transcends nature. This is symbolized by the four letter name of the Divine.

Taking responsibility is in my mind making a choice to actively engage with the Divine on the level of the four letter name that is beyond nature as well as the name of the Divine within nature. Hence my decision to put more emphasis on study, it elevates and connects transmission of Divine flow from the latter in to the former.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Healing from Shrapnel

A colleague of mine told me how at the weekend she pulled out a piece of glass from her arm that was as large as her nail. Apparently she'd been in a collision with a bus thirteen years ago whilst riding a bike. Whilst the doctors were able to remove most of the glass from her body, they missed this (rather large) piece. For the last thirteen years her body had slowly and steadily been working on ejecting the glass shrapnel from her body.

Her story reminded me of the emotional shrapnel that I have been working to remove. I've managed in recent years to overcome my addition to computer gaming, but that has been in large part to reconfiguring my life to leave little or no room for gaming. Rather than locate and adjust the root cause of my addiction. It was perhaps a rather extreme solution, but it worked.

Whilst on the subject of shrapnel, Gordon raises an interesting point about what percentage of population needs to be convinced of an idea (regardless of its validity) for it to take root.
Another quote, this time from Dr Robert Schoch.
A study carried out at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (see Xie et al. 2011) indicates that when 10 percent of a population holds strongly and unshakably a certain belief, this belief will be adopted by the majority. Thus, to gain widespread acceptance for an idea actually only requires convincing 10 percent of the group under concern (such as the community of scientists). But of course this is a double-edged sword. The initial 10 percent (with the majority following in its wake) may be convinced of an idea independent of whether that idea is valid or not.
The take-away that I derive from this quote is that the beliefs of the silent majority are irrelevant. As seen in China, Germany, Russia, Cambodia, and Congo. When the portion of the population with malevolent intent gains power, the outcome is tragic beyond words.

And then there is the shrapnel that comes with the fall-out. For years the world has ignored what has been going on in Syria and suddenly when Iraq is being carved up the world audience perks up. But not yet, it seems, to make any significant move to avoid tragedy. Right now the news in the UK is focusing on the shrapnel. Think it is much ado about nothing? Some people in Belgium might think differently.

I used to obsess about world news and geopolitics. Now I realize that's pretty pointless. Blogos gives some brilliant advice on how to deal with the darker side of Chesed, i.e. obsession, and that is become a Healer.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Theoretical Golem Builder

Over the weekend I got some unexpected advice about practicing magic around young children. The long and the short of it is: don't do it.

Having had some unwanted exposure to magic in my childhood, I'd rather not see history repeated. Anyway, this means that I'll continue my study of Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) and translation work. Plus I'll be able to spend more time on writing projects.

On the subject of Sefer Yetzirah, I've making good headway in chapter 2 of Rabbi Moshe Cordovera's commentary. This is large part due to my daily commute increasing from an hour each way to two hours. Tipping a situation from the pan of liability to the pan of merit is often easier than you might think :-)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Clouds, Lens, and Magic in the Blood

This is a brief update about the past week. I learned two things, one from one of my kids and the other from the land.

The first lesson was how to stop the rain. Whilst making it rain (and become overcast in general) works for me both in England and abroad - I have had limited success in stopping the rain. That is until quite by chance my kid told me of a simple incantation to break up the clouds. My approach had been to use sunlight to burn away the clouds, but encouraging them to de-congregate seems a gentler and more efficient approach.

The second thing is a lesson that I am still trying to grasp. It's very simply that the world appears to have (at least) one eye. The phrase 'eye of the world' - meaning attention on a global scale - may be more literal than I had previously thought. It was rather disconcerting going to sleep away from home for several nights and feeling each time as though I was lying on the lends of an eye the size of a country... just below me.

The third thing (rule of three) that I learned is that an interest in magic appears to be hereditary. My wife tolerates my interest in magic and it's not something that I share with my kids, but it looks like at least one of them may be following me some distance down this path...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Next Gen Golem Builder

Recently I sat down for a meal with some friends and one of the other parents who is a teacher in a very orthodox school asked: “Do you teach your children about dinosaurs?” I paused, slightly shocked by the question and the answered very firmly. “But of course!”

You see, as this article’s sources show, there is a lot of discussion amongst the sages over the centuries about pre-Adamic human civilizations. The question about dinosaurs did get me thinking though about the question: “Do you teach your children metaphysics? If so, at what age?”

Well, as I have already mentioned a year ago… I am in the process of obfuscating my library to make it less obvious to my children that I have an interest in golem building, Sefer Yetzirah, metaphysics, mysticism and magic. When it comes to the law of unintended stakeholders, children may or may not be planned – but how much and how soon to expose them to metaphysics can be planned (at least to some extent).

Since in all the five years of studying Kabbalah and reporting progress on this blog I have had a grand total of three questions, I consider myself an expert at not being taken seriously. It's important to me that I don't get taken too seriously if at all... I’m hoping that my children will thus not take my interest in metaphysics seriously and pass it over. But in case they don’t, I have a plan B based on The Guide to the Perplexed by Maimonides.

As Maimonides wrote in the 12th century, there are a number of reasons for not teaching someone metaphysics before they are ready. Here is a link to the text translation, and the summary of the top few reasons:

  • First Reason--The subject itself is difficult, subtle and profound, "Far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out?" (Eccles. vii. 24).
  • Second Reason--The intelligence of man is at first insufficient; for he is not endowed with perfection at the beginning, but at first possesses perfection only in potentiĆ¢, not in fact. Thus it is said, "And man is born a wild ass" (Job xi. 12)
  • Third Reason.--The preparatory studies are of long duration, and man, in his natural desire to reach the goal, finds them frequently too wearisome, and does not wish to be troubled by them.
  • The Fourth Reason is taken from the physical constitution of man. It has been proved that moral conduct is a preparation for intellectual progress, and that only a man whose character is pure, calm and steadfast, can attain to intellectual perfection: that is, acquire correct conceptions.
  • Fifth Reason.--Man is disturbed in his intellectual occupation by the necessity of looking after the material wants of the body, especially if the necessity of providing for wife and children be superadded: much more so if he seeks superfluities in addition to his ordinary wants, for by custom and bad habits these become a powerful motive.

In the third reason, Maimonides lists various areas of study that a person should pursue:
“...Consequently he who wishes to attain to human perfection, must therefore first study Logic, next the various branches of Mathematics in their proper order, then Physics, and lastly Metaphysics... As regards the privileged few, "the remnant whom the Lord calls" (Joel iii. 5), they only attain the perfection at which they aim after due preparatory labour. The necessity of such a preparation and the need of such a training for the acquisition of real knowledge, has been plainly stated by King Solomon in the following words: "If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: and it is profitable to prepare for wisdom" (Eccles. x. 10); "Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end" (Prov. xix. 20).

There is still another urgent reason why the preliminary disciplines should be studied and understood. During the study many doubts present themselves, and the difficulties, or the objections raised against certain assertions, are soon understood, just as the demolition of a building is easier than its erection: while, on the other hand, it is impossible to prove an assertion, or to remove any doubts, without having recourse to several propositions taken from these preliminary studies. He who approaches metaphysical problems without proper preparation is like a person who journeys towards a certain place, and on the road falls into a deep pit, out of which he cannot rise, and he must perish there: if he had not gone forth, but had remained at home, it would have been better for him...”
My apologies for the lengthy quote, but I wanted to draw your attention to how seriously Maimonides takes the preparation for learning metaphysics. Although my children are too young to start formally learning Logic, Mathematics, and Physics – they are able to learn about the natural world: animals, plants, etc. This will hopefully inspire them and others to do more work for the conservation of the biosphere and gain a deeper connection to Nature.

Using this as a foundation - Plan B is to see how far they progress along Maimonides’ schedule. If and only if they complete the majority of the schedule, then I’ll sit down with them and start going through Sefer Yetzirah with a commentary… Until then the library remains hidden in plan sight.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Heh, Returning the Call

“Tet, Aleph, Aleph” he says immediately upon answering my call. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Yes, it’s me,” I reply somewhat sheepishly. “We need to talk.”

“So nu… talk already!”

“Uh,” I pause - caught off guard by his usual bluntness - “Listen Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion, what does it mean ‘to become a Ba’al Shem you must first become a Ba’al Teshuv-Heh’?”

“It always amazes me,” the Rabbi sighs “how small the steps are that you are taking…”

I cut him off before he goes into another rant about how slow I am to learn, or complaining about my irregular meditation practice, or even worse my lack of spiritual diary.

“Sorry Rabbi, I just want a quick answer.”

There is silence on the other end of the line. The silence drags on and for a moment I have visions of great Old Ones waiting patiently for the last few suns in the Universe to burn out and die. Finally I crack and the words spill out so fast that I have trouble keeping up with my own stream of consciousness.

“OK, so a I understand that a Ba’al Shem refers to a Master of Name. In other words someone who is able to use Divine names to alter the natural flow of things in this world. And that a Ba’al Teshuvah refers to a person who has returned to a life of religious observance having come from a lifestyle of little to no observance through ignorance or choice. However I have trouble with the term Ba’al as it implies mastery and who can master repentance completely?”

I pause for a deep breath. There is no sign that the Rabbi wants to jump for which I am both grateful and rather concerned about what he has prepared.

“But what does Teshuv-Heh mean? I understand that the word teshuvah is the same as teshuv with the letter Heh pronounced separately at the end. But there is no such word as Teshuv-Heh, it’s meaningless. It literally means to return the Heh and the point of the word teshuva is that means to return to the Divine source by means of religious observance. So what is the significance of returning the letter Heh in the general context of trying to turn one’s life around and return to a path that is striving to connect with the Divine?”

I gulp some more air, and hear the Rabbi clear his throat.

“Perhaps the Heh belongs to another word,” he says slowly and quietly. “A name.”

It takes awhile for the penny to drop.

“You mean the four letter name of G-d, right? Yud, Heh, Vav, and Heh.”

“Correct.”

“OK. I understand that being a Ba’al Teshuvah, or as you call it a Ba’al Teshuv-Heh is about rectification of a Divine name…. and in order to become a Ba’al Shem… I need to be able to rectify the name. This is beginning to make sense as to why chapter one of Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) refers to the letters Yud, Heh, and Vav but not an additional Heh. Creation as described in the first chapter is incomplete.”

“You are getting there,” he says sounding bemused. “Slowly.”

“Thank you, I think that I am beginning to understand.”

“No you don’t,” he states firmly. “But you may understand it soon enough. And in case you’re wondering why the tune ‘He’s a bit of a fixer upper’ has been in your head this past week - it’s because the tune is referring to rectification of self in order to be of service. Get it? Teshuvah. Return to the Source.”

He hangs up. As usual I am left with more questions than answers, the main one being how comes he knows what songs have been in my head. Followed by, how do I get this tune out of my head...

Friday, 9 May 2014

Mechanics versus Living Interactions, and launching a new project

The recent bloggers conversation about Jupiter - in particular reading the updates by Andrew, Rose, and Moloch - made me realize how much my learning and practice has been focusing on the mechanics and metaphysics of creation through the lens of Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation). And not about the living interplay of forces and entities...

Let me try to illustrate it with an story... my first job was as a scientist, then moved on to computing (programming), and finally fell in to project management by mistake. What I realized after awhile as a project manager is that it's not about managing projects - rather it's about managing the people who work on the projects. That was quite a revelation and unfortunately one that only some project managers make.

You see I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how things work and why. Not everything mind you, that would drive even me crazy. But in certain subjects I don't just want to know a deep level, I have a strong drive to learn it inside and out. So I learned one aspect of science and computing at a deep level - at what I call the theoretical and mechanical levels. How the nuts and bolts fit together to make the whole work.

For the last five years or so I've been trying to learn Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) to understand this ancient book of Jewish metaphysics. Recently I have been focusing on chapters 1 (about the Sefitor) and 2 (about the division of the letters and how to use them in meditation).

However, whilst in the world of work where I have transitioned from learning about the internals of the systems to how they interact via people - I have yet to make the transition in the study of magic from the internals of the systems to the interactions of people and entities.

So when Rose and Moloch speak about their experiences of interacting with Jupiter, I realized just how much that contrasted to my post about the mechanics of using Jupiter's influence. It's like the difference to looking at an IT infrastructure projects from the point of view of servers, software, networks, etc. Compared with looking at how the system is used by people and how they interact via the systems.

I must admit that reading Josephine McCarthy's books has had a significant impact in helping transform my understanding of Kabbalah as a mechanical system to a living interplay of entities and forces. Thank you Josephine, I'll get there in the end.


So now what? Well, realization is one thing, acceptance is the next and then it's on to Plan - Do - Check - Act. Fortunately here is a plan that I made earlier but never got around to actualizing. So please consider this the official launch of Project TARDIS-AS.
Scope: To travel through the spiritual realms with Rabbi Avraham Abulafia.
Time: Unknown, current best guess 6-18 months.
Cost: Lots of time for meditation! Plus buying the remainder of the Abulafia books published by Amnon Gross.
Quality: The aim of this work is to travel in a Dr. Who style TARDIS. Except that it is made up of Hebrew letters, has 221 gates and is able to not only travel in "time and relative dimension in space (TARDIS)" but travel through the dimension(s) of spirit. Instead of taking Dr. Who along for the ride, my travelling companion of choice would be Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, the father of prophetic (also known as ecstatic) Kabbalah. The other co-pilots I'd love to have on the bridge of this TARDIS-AS would be Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and Rabbi Eliezer of Germiza.
Communication:  I'll send a couple of post-cards once I can build the gates and have made contact with Abulafia.
Risks:
  1. Complete failure (to communicate with Rabbi Abraham Abulafia) 
  2. Lack of sufficient time to dedicate to the project
  3. Insanity. 
  4. Death. 
  5. Insanity followed by Death 
  6. It could take a really long time and I could get distracted by other shiny and curious projects

Thursday, 8 May 2014

It must be Juedi

Finally... the blogger conversations of old are coming back. It must be a Juedi (Thursday) because the discussion is about Jupiter and its influence.

In a review of a Pete Carroll book, Gordon wrote
That’s an astral Manhattan skyline in the background. Praying to Jupiter has always struck me as waving a little flag as the Queen goes by. This is a god of kings and Rothschilds. It is Jupiter that allows Wall Street criminals to avoid jail and have you foot the bill for their crimes. That’s what kings do. Few forms embody having different laws for the wealthy than the rest of us quite like Jupiter.’ - Gordon White, Runesoup
Jason responded to this with a blog post of his own in which he highlighted that "Jupiter is the god of Aristocrats, but is also the god of Justice". He emphasized working in the system rather than against it.

Rufus, from Head for the Red blog, pitched in to say that life is unfair, but as wizards we have the ability to game the system and turn it to our advantage... which is my way of saying: cheat :-)

Next came the response from Hermetic Lessons about how each planetary influence has a lighter and darker side. Is it fair to blame the influence of one planet for all the ills of the modern world?

Chrisopher Bradford, in his blog Heavens Within Earth, summed it up beautifully (in my opinion) that it's about power and not morality. "Power has no sentiment".

Mr Black, of Razor's Edge fame, added to the discussion by pointing out that if the bankers had gained Jupiter's favour - then this was proof that they had worked to acquire that favour.

Andrew B Watt argues in his post on Jovial nature that Jupiter is about rules and not cheats. "It takes a pretty deep level of discernment to figure out when we’re making house-rules up as we go along, and when we’re following the Jovial Code… and the key, perhaps, is Temperantia." (simplicity of life)

And finally (for now), Rose posted of her own personal interactions with Jupiter. Thank you Rose for teaching in such a moving and eloquent fashion.

EDIT: one more addition to the conversation came from Molcoh, Eye of the Sorcerer blog, about his experiences working with Jupiter. "Jupiter's role is one of expansion & growth" and he reminds the reader that they need to work to create avenues in which the wealth can grown. Plus the fact that Jupiter likes jokes and story telling. This for me was a very eye-opening insight.

So what can a Trainee Golem Builder add to the discussion that has already included the response I would have liked to add courtesy of Christopher and Jack? Well, here are a couple of quotes from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's translation and commentary of Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation), chapter 4 on how to use the seven double letters**to channel and transmit the influence of Jupiter in the world.
4:1 Kaplan commentary Hard and Soft
"...The seven Doubles would be used to climb the vertical lines of the Tree of life. When the initiate would use the letters to "run" and climb upward. he would use the hard sound, when he would "return" he would use the soft sound.
The Bahir states that the letters are the body of the script, and the vowels are its soul..."
4:3 Kaplan commentary on the Transpose of Grace is Ugliness
"...According to the Tikkuney Zohar, the harsh sound implies harsh judgment, while the soft sound implies lenient judgment.The good qualities would then be associated with the soft sound and the bad qualities with the hard sound. There are however some authorities who reverse this...."
4:7 to 14 Kaplan commentary
"...Most important are the relationships between the letters, days of the week, and planets and between the seven primary traits: Wisdom, Wealth, Seed, Life, Dominance, Peace and Grace. One can use the methods of Sefer Yetzirah, to attain or enhance any one of these by using the soft pronunciation of the seven Doubles. If one wishes to transmit the opposite, one uses the hard pronunciation..."
The world was made in such a way as to be unfair, broken and in need of fixing. Whether you choose to use the knowledge and skills available to you to help or not to repair the world and societies we live in... that's up to you. As Rabbi Chanina says (in Talmud: Berachot 33b) "Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven".

** The Hebrew alpha beita is divided up in to 3 mothers, 7 doubles, and 12 elementals

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Learning light the hard way

This is an extract from The Jonathan Sacks Haggada in which Rabbi Lord Sacks has just described the moral lesson taught to Jonah with the incident with the gourd providing him shade from the sun.

“…God teaches Jonah to care by giving him something and then taking it away. Loss teaches us to value things, though usually too late. What we have, and then lose, we do not take for granted. The religious vision is not about seeing things that are not there. It is about seeing the things that are there and always were, but which we never noticed, or paid attention to. Faith is a form of attention. It is a sustained meditation on the miraculous of what is, because it might not have been. What we lose and are given back we learn to cherish in a way we would not have done had we never lost it in the first place. Faith is about not taking things for granted.

This is the key to understanding a whole series of narratives in the book of Genesis. Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel long to have children but discover that they are infertile. Only through God’s intervention are they able to conceive. Abraham goes through the trial of the binding of Isaac, only to discover that God, who asked him to sacrifice his child, says ‘Stop’ at the last moment. This is how the covenantal family learns that having children is not something that merely happens. It is how the people of Israel learned, at the dawn of their history, never to take children for granted. Jewish continuity, the raising of new generations of Jews, is not natural, inevitable, a process that takes care of itself. It needs constant effort and attention. The same is true of freedom…”

Looking back over the learning that I've done in the past five years and could have done - I realize that Education is light.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wizards in the Mist


(c) Steve Partridge, image used to illustrate the start of the path
Exploring magical paths is like following a trail of sign-posts in the mist.

Books are the guide posts, but we sometimes confuse them with maps.

Some people promote their books as if they are selling treasure maps, it's good to have a goal in mind but people should really try to create their own treasure maps.

Sometimes the books are just guide posts that seemingly point the seeker in the direction that they want to go, but the book just leads the seeker deeper in to the mists of confusion.

The main point of books, blogs, forums, email lists, etc are to encourage people to walk in to the mist and explore magical paths of development.

Crossing boundaries from the mundane to a deeper level of engagement with the worlds is what it's all about!

Sometimes we form joint expeditionary parties to explore the mists, we dress up in furs or robes and give out titles. But ultimately we must go it alone.

Can technology help us, as a community, communicate with better sign-posts than clay tables, parchment, and books?

Before we can answer that question, it's worth examining these definitions of community by Rabbi Lord Sacks.

My view? We're a tsibbur, a rabble... and is that such a bad thing?

We are the technology! Our bodies, minds, and souls.

Blogs, forums, email lists, etc are simply the sign posts we put up in the hope that someone will comment on them in our individual journeys.

If you like this post, please pay it forward by commenting on someone else's blog? I get too much traffic already thank you very much.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Books as Roving Castles

Through out life's ups and downs, it's nice to have a place of sanctuary to retreat to and get away from the bewildering and at times scary world in which we live. For most people this is home and family, they provide care & protection and whilst not conflict free - are certainly a lot safer than the world outside.

Unfortunately I have not been able to call on the aid of home or family very often. My (until recent) nomadic existence and distance from family meant that I had to build miniature sanctuaries of my own to take with during my travels. So instead of retreating to a place of bricks and mortar, I retreated to a pages filled with letters and hidden meanings.

The first roving castle that I constructed in my minds eye was using Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Formation, translated and commented on by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Although the meaning of the text was obscure to the point of being impenetrable, that itself gave it the quality that I needed to make a sacred space in which to temporarily retreat, recharge and find sanctuary from the winds of change.

Next came learning Hebrew and building my ability to read and understand it. This involved a three year Hebrew immersion project that has recently completed but is being extended to go to ever deeper depths. Having learned to start navigating the corridors of meanings and insights of Sefer Yetzirah by gaining a small measure of mastery of Hebrew - I discovered that the book was not a sanctuary at all.


It was instead an engine of change, a roving castle filled with machinary of self-transformation. Slowly moving about the inner landscape of my life, the practices of meditation contained in the book were beginning to dig up the imbalances buried in my life, holding them up to the light of day and forcing me to tackle them before moving on to new challenges. It's been a slow and painful process, but looking back now I understand that without this laborious work I would have become unbalanced through the energy meditations that I practice.

So what's next? Well, Sefer Yetzirah, it's commentaries, and meditations will always be a part of my life. But I am now in a position where I can consider adding other engines of change in to the landscape of my life. Starting with Rambam's Hilchot Teshuvah (Laws of Return), part of his Mishnah Torah series, which contains instructions on how to live in a state of constant return to the Divine.