Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Three Simple Questions

As I was coming home on the train today - I had a moment of clarity and numerous pieces fell in to place.

For example, how a Maggid might manifest. How that may or may not be similar to HGA. The way in which my studies of Ma'aseh Bereishit (literally translated as "work of creation" - i.e. Sephirot and metaphysics as understand through the Hebrew letters) in the form of Sefer Yetzira (Book of Formation) had come full circle in to the study of Ma'aseh Merkavah (literally translated as "work of the chariot" - i.e. angels, entities, heavens and other realities) after I completed chapter 6 of Sefer Yetzira.

Anyway, the thoughts are still falling in to place. Sometimes they don't always click in to place instantly - especially when interrupted from another source. This time it was a brief call from my favourite teacher and critic Rabbi Bar-zel Arieh Tzion. He asks me three questions, that I'd like you to ask yourself as well:

  • Question 1: How much can you explain about Kabbalah without referring to the Sefirot or Tree of Life?
  • Question 2: Is the HGA (Holy Guardian Angel),  as stated by the Gaon of Vilna, a manifestation of the higher self? If so, is the level of refinement of the person directly proportional to the level of the HGA that they make contact with?
  • Question 3: Does doing magic make you feel special?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

How to Learn

Early Lessons

Growing up I had the good fortune to be taught two important lessons.

1. Always question. The previous chief Rabbi (Sacks) of the United Kingdom tells a story of how, when growing up, his mother did not ask him "what did you learn today?" - rather she asked him "what questions did you ask today?"

2. If you are not moving forwards, you're going backwards. This lesson may seem a bit harsh, but in today's fast moving world this can certainly feel painful at times. I was given the analogy of walking up an escalator that is going doing. You need a certain speed of walking to remain stationary, stop and life (the escalator) will naturally move you down. If you want to move up - it requires significant and continuous effort.

Sefer Yetzira Commentary

After over half a year of concerted effort - I have finally finished reading for the first time the commentary by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero on Sefer Yetzirah - the Book of Formation.

I say first time as I intend to start all over again in a couple of weeks. Why? Because the first hurdle was being able to understand the vocabulary. The next time I hope to understand the concepts better and who knows? Perhaps the third time through I'll actually have completed all the meditation exercises.

Learning to Learn

Why did it take so long to get through pages 57 - 178 of this book? Because my knowledge of Hebrew was (and still is largely) fairly basic. I found that studying it for 20-30 minutes each day on my daily commute worked best. It turns out that this is the Pomodoro technique.

You can learn more about Learning to Learn at this lecture series at Coursera. In fact, if you take nothing else away from this blog ever - just look in to this Coursera lecture series and it could well transform your life.

The diffuse and focused minds that the lecturere talks about in the first week are oscillating consciousness that Sefer Yetzira chapter 1, mishna 4 talks about: "Underrstand with Wisdom and be Wise with Understanding". This book was redacted in to it's various forms probably between 200-900 CE, so you can see that the ideas of different mental states go back a long way - much, much longer if you do your research properly.

Anyway, since you are reading this blog I hope that you are a life-long learner. If not, I encourage it strongly since it will keep you mentally healthy & balanced, improve your world outlook and who knows what opportunities it may open up?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Endure, Resolutions, and Predictions

Resolutions

Normally I only make New year resolutions from June onwards, that way I reduce the time spent failing by half. This year however, I will not be making any resolutions at all. This was inspired by a recent talk about professional certification. The certifications fell broadly in to two camps: "Having" and "Being".

The former ("Having") focused on paying fees, sitting an exam and that was it. No prior experience required. The latter ("Being") focused on exam, fees, and critically demonstrating experience in the given field. In this instance it's project management and for me, if anyone bothers to get certification - it's generally as a hygiene factor and I pay a lot more attention when reviewing CVs to candidates who have demonstrated experience, i.e. in a state of being a great Project Manager. Rather than having accumulated knowledge with little or no experience to back it up.

I guess you can think of it in terms of the difference between an "armchair occultist" versus a practitioner with experience under her belt. Anyway, this lengthy rant is just to say.... 2015 for me will be a year of "being" for me rather than "having", continuing a theme that I started to built up last year.

Predictions

Like resolutions, I think these are a waste of time. Either they are too vague to be meaningful or people have a way of making world events squeeze in to part of the prediction or "what they really meant". The other predictions that bug me are the obvious ones like "the weather is going to get more severe in 2015", well duh!

Jacob in this week's reading of the Torah tries to tell his sons what will happen in the "End of Days". Rashi explains that Jacob loses his access to prophecy at this point and hence talks to his sons what will happen to them but not in the End of Days.

Endure

Da'akon in the game Planescape: Torment is a Githzerai follower of Zerthimon. He has some of the best line in any computer game that I have played. My favourite one that resonates with me right now is: "Endure. In enduring, grow strong."

The year 2014 has been one of transition to the next stage of my career, level of study & practice. This year will be (B"H) another year moving up a notch. The progress may at times seem a bit slow to me, but sometimes enduring is the sweetest victory of all.