Thursday, 28 April 2016

49 Day Omer Cleanse

On the second night of Pesach / Passover, we start to count the 49 days to the festival of Shavuot / Weeks. Each week is the focus of one of the seven lower Sephirot. Within each of those week we rectify / cleanse each of the seven Sephirot.

Last night and today is Hod in Chesed.

The prayer after each night of Omer counting is as follows

Master of the universe, You command us through Moses, Your servant, to count the Omer Count in order to cleanse us from encrustations of evil and from contaminations, as You have written in Your Torah: You are to count from the morrow of the rest day, from the day you brought the Omer- that is waved - they are to be seven complete weeks. Until the morrow of the seventh week you are to count fifty days, so that the souls of Your people Israel be cleansed from their contamination. Therefore, may it be Your will, Hashem, our God and the God of our forefathers, that in the merit of the Omer Count that I have counted today, may there be corrected whatever blemish I have caused in the sefirah

Gevurah shebechesed (2nd day)
Tiferes shebechesed (3rd day)
Netzach shebechesed (4th day)
Hod shebechesed (5th day)

May I be cleansed and sanctified with the holiness Above, and through this may abundant bounty flow in all the worlds. And may it correct our lives, spirits, and souls from all sediment and blemish; may it cleanse us and sanctify us with Your exalted holiness. Amen, Selah!:

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Say No to Digging Holes

A recent discussionwith Mr Black at The Razor’s Edge about Mastery, a post by Blogos at Hermetic Lessons about Masks, and an old post the festival of Passover – had me thinking about what are the things that can hold us back?

My teacher told a story recently of how early in his career someone helped him get out of a big hole, so to speak. Having got over that mess (hole), the helper told him “now try in future not to dig any more holes”.

That’s easier said that done. The klippot, husks, that drain us of life-essence exploit our self-destructive urges. My recent 10 Psalms exercise helped kick my computer gaming habit. 

Whilst magic and mysticism can be useful for providing techniques to remove negative patterns – I don’t believe that is the thing to aim for. Rather those are just preparatory steps to enable a person to progress along the path.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Do. Learn. Think. Do It Again.

Experience, Learn or Perish
Mr. Black over at The Razor's Edge has two excellent posts about Why Your Magic Fails and Magickal Plateau. The former posts ends with some excellent advice: "Do. Learn. Think. Do It Again." Or as we like to refer to it as in the Project Management world: "Plan. Do. Check. Act".

It's this iterative cycle with a step for reflection and learning lessons from past experience that helps us to grow. I used to call it "keeping my edge sharp", constrictive criticism from without or within to keep pushing to do better all the time. For me it's about running (trying something) and returning (to reflect on new lessons), objects in motion is life & growth and objects at rest start to resemble stagnation & death.

So we've covered the bit about reflecting to learn lessons from past experiences. If you're not sure how to do this - just write three headings on a piece of paper: "What went well", "What did not go well", and "What can I do better next time".

Stuck in the Mud
The next challenge is to deal with reaching a plateau. You see, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that people's first attempts at magic are very successful and then those same approaches seem to get harder. Perhaps we over-analyze, or simple the "first one is free" so to speak.

George Leonard has written a pretty good book on Mastery that I came across from a post by Seething Among the Suits blog.

Recently I asked myself the question about whether to focus on gaining some level of understanding and experience of the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia - or focus on diving deeper in to the commentaries on Sefer Yetzirah (SY) to understand the mysteries of Ma'aseh Bereishit (workings of creation).

Having seen on FaceBook recently that Abulafia is in vogue, I've decide to carry on learning from his books and leave the commentaries on SY alone for now. Never one to miss a band-wagon, I'm joining the Abulafia fan-club and perhaps one day soon will actually meet someone who has read all his works and could teach me.

Hence I'm leaving the Tohu and Bohu - the muck, mire, and mud of Sefer Yetzira - to focus on ecstasy.

Nu! Make it a Project... Sorry, Programme
As with many things in life, the only way I get things done is to turn them in to a project. A set of activities to create a product or service. In this instance the desired outcome is a product - namely an experiential understanding of the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia.

As there are 13 books of his published (that I am aware off), reading, translation, and using each one will take some time. Each book could be a project of it's own, making the overall project a programme - a series of connected projects with a single desired outcome.

I was going to post something about a "burn-down chart", a popular technique in Agile (the word Agile has by now lost all meaning, btw) whereby the effort / work planned is plotted as a line on a graph over time. The actual effort is then measured against the planned to see if the project is on-track or not in each iteration (sprint). The problem with this approach is that it does not show the amount of value being produced.

This is an industry wide issue and there are a number of approaches to resolve this. However - tracking the progress on each book is not really a meaningful way to track value delivered by the programme, except as a way to record when I read which book.

Hmmmm, I will have to think about this... As the kabbalists say: "Tzarich Iyun" (it requires contemplation).

Monday, 4 April 2016

Translator's log: Rabbi Abraham Abulafia on 2 levels of Kabbalah styudy and SY attributions

Whilst doing my first round of reading of material by Rabbi Abraham Abulafia, I come across bits that I want to reference later. However, I'm not recording my translation work and I can't maintain more than 4 mental bookmarks at a time.

Hence dumping some snippets here for future reference. Below are two extracts from Ve'Zot Le'Yehuda - a letter written in response to being put under ban by the Rashba (Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet).

Figure 1. Introducing two levels of Kabbalistic study.
In this section Abulafia identifies two levels of study in Kabbalah. The first is a portion on knowledge of the Divine names by way of the Sefirot that reveal the secret of unification. The second is knowledge of Divine names by way of the 22 letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet that reveal the Names and seals.

Figure 2. Confirmation that Abulafia is versed in the first before progressing to second
 In this section Abulafia outlines that only by gaining an understanding of Divine names through the study of the Sefirot can one progress to an understanding of Divine names and secrets by way of 22 letters.

On a personal note - this is how I understand Sefer Yetzira. Chapter 1 focuses on the Sefirot (and in the commentaries Divine names). From chapter 2 onwards it's all about the letters and no further mention of Sefirot is made.

Figure 3. Abulafia attribution of letters to body, elements, etc

This extract is from Chaye Olam Ha-Bah (Life in the World to Come) which is published in the same volume by Amnon Gross. In this section Rabbi Abraham Abulafia outlines (in very short amount of text) the following: (mistranslated by me)

"...Know that in mankind there are 3 matters created by 3 letters EMESH [Aleph, Mem, Shin] which are permutated with Yud,Heh,Vav, and they are the messengers of fire, air, and water..."

Underlined in Red: "...The head is created from fire with three forms of fire corresponding to Tet,Aleph,Kuf (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) fire..."

Underlined in Blue: "...Stomach is created from water in three forms of water Samech,Ayin,Daled (Cancer,  Scorpio, Pisces) water..."

Underlined in Yellow: "The chest from air (ruach) corresponding to Tav,Mem,Daled (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) air..."

The three letters are an acronym that Amnon Gross has added in smaller ltters in brackets. The acronum represent the first letters of names of the constellations. Please note that Rabbi Abraham Abulafia has additional commentaries on Sefer Yetzira that are much longer and go in to more detail. I have yet to discover if he changes his attributions or not.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Getting out of dodge

I had a long post planned about how Europe and the UK are changing. Old hatreds have come back from all sides of the political spectrum. But bottom line is I don't want my kids to go to university in the UK. So we're moving. Not sure when or how. To me magical practice has always been about aiding survival, so it's time I found some fellow Sefer Yetzira practitioners and more from dabbler to expert level.