Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Pausing to Contemplate


I've not blogged for awhile, it always gets busy over the summer and one of the first things to suffer are blog updates. Anyway, the only update is that my working to secure a job have so far yet to bear fruit. I managed to get through four rounds of interview with the first company I applied to, but have had to put the job hunting on pause for a short time due to other priorities.

Not Reacting

I've been thinking about social media recently and how it shapes the way that people interact. Here are few thoughts of social media interactions as seen (by me) through the lens of the Sephirot.

1. Keter (Will)
Have you ever considered why you like certain things? There is a technique in Project Management that is called the “Five Whys” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys). It's meant as a way to drill down to find the root cause of a problem. If you apply it to the question “What is your favourite food?” it often leads to an unsatisfactory answer of “just because I like it”.
The level of Will is above logic, whilst we can rationalise certains biases and prefernces up to a certain extent – there comes a point where logic fails.
Social Media: from this point a person posts what they like or do not like. Arguments that result from these are almost never resolved as we're dealing with a level of consciousness that is not logical. You either believe that kittens are cute or not and no one can convince you otherwise.
2. Chochmah (Knowledge) and Binah (Understanding)
In previous posts I have talked about the concept of oscillating consciousness. Moving like a pendulum from the rational mind to the intuitive mind. By analysing something in detail and then allowing the mind to drift and make connections of it own – a person will often find that they suddenly come across a dpper insight and begin the process of logical analysis all over again. Then allowing the mind to drift again, the intuitive side takes over and the oscillations continue. This article clearly explains how this applies to the Talmud (http://www.koshertorah.com/PDF/mysticaltalmud.pdf).
Social Media: unfortunately it appears to me that the mediums of electronic social exchange do not promote oscillating consciousness. Few articles posted have an indepth analysis of a situation and look at trends and patterns. More often than not people respond emotionally and only later does the analysis get done by which point the moment has passed and something else is dominating the cycle of post-respond-forget.
3. Chesed (Kindness) and Gevurah (Strict Justice)
Chesed means kindsness, but it is also an expansive kindness that makes no room for whatever may be receptive to the kindness. On the other hand Gevurah means strict judgement, the creation of boundaries and holding back that does not take in to account the others it affects. Both Sephirot are overpowering in their own way. Neither are sufficient to keep the process of Creation going without the support of the other.
Social Media: One the one extereme all views are valid, on the other extreme there is only one view that is right. An example of the former is remaining silent when someone posts something racist. An example of the latter is “if you vote for X, please unfriend me”.
4. Tiferet (Harmonius Beauty)
At this point the powers of Chesed and Gevurah can co-exist without one cancelling out the other. But the two powers still do not act in a way that factors in the needs or considerations of the other.
Social Media: To be honest I am not sure what this looks like from a social media point of view. Perhaps it's “the middle ground”, but my view is that this has been disappearing rapidly over the past few years.
5. Netzach and Hod (Eternity and Splendour)
When it comes to Netzach and Hod, they each give and withhold with consideration to the other. These Sephirot do not seek to cancel each other out.
Social Media: At this point the debate is possible, as each side has made sufficient room in their worldview to accommodate the arguments of the other.

6. Yesod (Foundation)
The point on the Tree of Life where all the other Sephirotic energies are channeled through. It's the gateway to the higher worlds, to other states of consciousness and is the realm of time and the imagination.
Social Media: When manifesting in a positive way, it emerges as artistic output in the form of poems, art, etc. A less positive manifestation (IMO) is memes....

7. Malchut (Kingship)
The end point of the frequencies of Divine emanations. What we think of as the real world.
Social Media: This is the domain of selfies.


Note: Please take the above writings with a big pinch of salt. I've written it in a sleep-deprived state and may edit it later...

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Taking Five

No PM

In a previous job, I questioned the value of the project manager (PM) role that I was employe to do. Actually I question this every day on my way to work, and plenty of my colleagues also question whether PMs are a necessary evil or a waste of time & money.

But when I saw a project progressing without the coordination and management of a PM - it was obvious what difference having a good PM made to having no PM at all. Nobody knew how the project was prorgessing, issues kept coming up that could have been dealt with easily with a bit of forward focus, and the requirements were constantly being added to resulting in massive cost over-runs.

In some companies that is not a problem. They have the money to keep a project like this going. But in most places where I have worked there is oversight of what is being done, when it needs to be done by, and how much it will cost.

NO TGB

The way that I put my knowledge of Sefer Yetzirah in practice is a layered approach. Psalms, letter permutation, prayer, studying certain tracts of oral law, visionary approaches, letter permutation with Divine names, etc.

But sometimes it's hard to know if adding or removing techniques is having a measurable effect. Perhaps it would help if I kept a better diary and to be honest I am starting to question whether or not I have developed an over-inflated perception of the effects of any of my practices.

So I'm going to stop all practies that relate to certain areas of focus for a period of time (6 months) and see what effects, if any, I may have had. It's a slightly complicated way of saying "I'm not going to do magic in area X and see what is different"**.

** - In no event will Trainee Golem Builder author(s) be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of life or money arising out of, or in connection with, the the cessation of magic in maintaining stability in this corner of the globe.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Education of Golems: Part 2

5 Tools for Cultivating Golem Builders

In the previous post I highlighted some sources that expain the origins of the word golem. Another couple of sources were brought to show the guide-posts for creating an education plan for one’s children and students.

The things that I would like to cover next are the additions that I have made to the more formal elements of the education plan to help turn my children from golems (in the sense of being (uncultivated / uneducated) to more rounded individuals.

Here is my 5 point plan:

1. Patience
2. Self-Awareness
3. Focus
4, Problem solving
5, Curiosity

1. Patience

I have devised a game based on the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment that teaches patience and enhances delayed gratification. Quite simply I place a marshmallow in front of them and ask the kids to sit still and in silence for X number of minutes. If they succeed then at the end they get a second marshmallow.

I ran the game each Sunday morning (whilst my wife was out) and built them up from 1 minute to over 6 minutes. Considering that my kids were five and three at the time, sitting still for that long at those ages seems like an eternity.

Two side benefits of the game have been an improvement in behaviour of one of my kids who is very wriggly and finds it hard to sit still in school. The other is that I use the term “marshmallow game” to either get them to sit still for a short time or to help explain why they need to wait for a better reward.

2. Self-Awareness

Time-outs… they’re not much fun for parents or kids. I’m not a huge fan of them, but they do succeed in interrupting the behaviour pattern that the parents wants to adjust. The problem that I found was that whilst I could get my kids to sit on the step for the count of ten or twenty (depending on the severity of their actions), they often said “sorry” and then began to repeat the same behaviour patterns.

So I started sitting next to them and asking them to slow down their breathing a bit. We counted our breaths and this seemed to have a significant impact. My kids and I would still talk about how we felt but with more depths. The act of focusing on our breathing proved to be a great way for each of us to exert some influence on our emotional states.

Nowadays I just say “breathe deeply” as a shorthand for saying “be conscious of how you are feeling so that you can make a better informed choice about how you want to behave/respond”.

3. Focus

Some kids can focus for hours from a young age and some can’t. Well that is not exactly true, it’s really very much dependant on what is happening in that child’s life at that time and what it is that they are being asked to concentrate on.

To help stimulate my kids ability to focus we do a variety of activities. Painting, obstacle courses in the house and garden (my wife prefers the latter), building projects involving Lego, marble-runs, etc.

I also insist on playing “daddy’s favourite game” with them which involves lying on the floor on our backs and staring upwards. As you can imagine it’s not very interesting to start off with. But after a bit of “focus on breathing”, our minds settle and we start to observe all kinds of details that would otherwise pass us by.

Out in the garden we can imaging shapes in clouds, spot birds and insects that we would normally miss and indoors we watch the way that the shadows and light shape our view of the ceiling. OK, I know it sounds a bit boring and we don’t play it often but it’s helpful for learning to concentrate even when it seems pointless or we lack the desire to do so.


4, Problem solving

My kids fight from time to time, it;’s a natural sibling thing to do. One of the things that I have tried to stop myself from doing is solving their conflicts for them. Instead I ask them about creative ways that they can resolve their own conflicts. Taking turns, making it in to a game, joke competitions, etc are all ways that they have solved conflicts.

The trouble with trying to find a problem for kids/students is that the problem has to not be too hard and not be too easy – a Goldilocks problem. Creating these is quite challenging, hence I don’t make too many of these. But instead help them to think about other ways to approach a problem.

For example, one of my kids had some issues with not being included in some games at school. We role-played it a couple of times and found that “inviting other to join us” or “asking to be invited to join them” was a good way to resolve it sometimes.

Seth Godin’s “The Dip” talks about how people get good at something and then get stuck, unable to become really awesome at something. I think that this in part due to a lack of creativity in finding different approaches in how to overcome obstacles.

5, Curiosity

Kids come with their own sense of curiosity. There are lots of ways to enhance and nurture this. One game that I play with the kids is “spot the trickseter”. In our house we have a small toy figure of one of the famous princesses. One day I decided that she would “borrow” some of the toys and hide them around the house with the princess standing next to her ill-gotten gains.

This game of spot-the princess really took off and when she disappeared for a year, we all missed her. It turns out one of my relatives joined in and then left the country. Luckily we found her again and now the game of spot the princess has begun again, and she has been busy causing all kinds of minor mischief in our home.

One recent example of her little schemes is the appearance of two identical princesses. When one of my kids asked why there were suddenly two, I replied “she has been stealing the secrets of the Lego Sith toys and figured out how to clone herself”. My kids face went from amazement to horror to amusement as they realised that I had bought a second toy. But for a brief moment, their minds were opened to a possible world in which things happen that are quite outside their normal expectations of everyday life.

In summary, the shaping of a child’s education is a monumental undertaking that makes conventional golem building look simple in terms of time, resource, and patience. Combining traditional religious education with the curriculum from Maimonides and a toolbox of: patience, self-awareness, focus, problem soling and curiosity will hopefully build a new well-rounded future generation of golem builders.



EDIT:  Everything that I have learned about parenting has come via my wife. Everything that I get wrong about being a parent is from me alone.

Education of Golems: Part 1

Golem: Unformed

Ethics of the Fathers 5:9
“Seven traits characterize an uncultivated person and seven a learned one. A learned person does not begin speaking before one who is greater than he is in wisdom or in years; he does not interrupt the words of his fellow; he does not answer impetuously; he questions with relevance to the subject and he replies accurately; he discusses first things first and last things last; about something he has not heard he says, ‘I have not heard’; and he acknowledges the truth. And the reverse of these characterize an uncultivated person.”
The word that has been translated by Artscroll to mean “uncultivated person” above is golem in Hebrew. It comes from the word used in Psalm 139:16:
“Your eyes saw my unshaped form and in Your book all were recorded; though they will be fashioned through many days to Him they are one...”
The words for ‘raw’ and ‘cocoon’ in moden Hebrew are also golem. So we can see that the word refers to something that is a state which is transitional to another. Uncultivated to cultivated, unshaped to shaped, raw to processed and cocoon to butterfly.

Education: Formal

The reasons for mentioning the above is that whilst this blog has referred to golems almost exclusively in terms of a mystical android created through the permutation of Hebrew letters and Divine names – it can also refer to the transformation of someone via education.

So what is the Jewish guidance on eduction? There is a lot written on the subject of Chinuch, education, but for now I just want to quote two sources.

Ethics of the Fathers 5:25:
“He used to say: a five-year-old begins Scripture, a ten-year-old begins Mishnah, a thirteen-year-old becomes obliged to observe the commandments, a fifteen-year-old begins to study Gemara, an eighteen-year-old goes to the marriage canopy, a twenty-year-old begins a pursuit of a livelihood, a thirty-year-old attains full strength, a forty-year-old attains understanding, a fifty-year-old can offer counsel, a sixty-year-old attains seniority, a seventy-year-old attains a ripe old age, an eighty-year-old shows strength, a ninety-year-old becomes stooped over, hundred-year-old is as if he were dead, passed away and ceased from the world.”
Which covers the education of Jewish law, customers, history, etc. Secular studies are recommended by Maimonides in “Guide to the Perplexed” to be taken up in the following order:
“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. We find that many who have advanced to a certain point in the study of these disciplines become weary, and stop: that others, who are endowed with sufficient capacity, are interrupted in their studies by death, which surprises them while still engaged with the preliminary course.”
The above two sources are the basis on which I am structuring the education of my children, First a focus on the natural world by visiting farms, zoos, and the countryside. Next comes the study of logic and Scripture that helps them gain critical analytical skills and story-telling – forming a balance of scientific and artistic thinking.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Forward Momentum


Meditation as Fire-walking
“The floor is made of lava”. Ever play that game as a child? The aim is to get from one point of the house to another without touching the floor. It’s best not to play it near breakables or furniture with sharp edges.

Whilst this is a cute analogy to introduce the dangers of Practical Kabbalah, it’s also a rubbish analogy. There are techniques that carry less risk and those that carry more risk. Warning are often about people dying suddenly whilst relatively young. Even Umberto Eco’s “Foucault's Pendulum” contains a warning about the risks of letter permutation.

So when it gets late at night and the rest of the household has gone to sleep. I tell myself “Why not watch another episode of Doctor Who? It’s safer than navigating the lava”. Cue reference to fear being the mind killer, but again this is not a good analogy.

Anyway, all this waste of ink is me reminding myself why I do this. Why a project manager spends countless hours on trains and at home reading and practising meditations (or not as is often the case). I do it because I must.

Going Back to Earlier Sources
No, not because older is cooler – but because in order to understand later sources… you sometimes need to understand how they built on earlier sources. For example, this audio by prof. Moshe Idel talks about why Abraham Abulafia is the latest bandwagon everyone is jumping on. I love a bandwagon, and sure enough I’ve got half way through Chayeh Olam Ha-Bah (Life in the World to Come).

The trouble is that Prof. Elliot Wolfson points out that to understand Abulafia, you first need to have studied Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) and read works by Rabbi Ealzar of Worms. Whilst I have done some of the former (2 commentaries on SY), I’ve yet to start on the latter even though it’s been on my to-do list for awhile (close to 4 years).

Tzedek Update
Last Thursday was Lag B’Omer. Nothing else special happened except that I seem to keep winning Lucky Dips (2 numbers) but nothing more significant than that.

OPEN Thread
This blog has been quiet for a bit as there seems to be some odd activity going on term of frequent visitors from the USA. By frequent I mean nearly the same number of page views on a regular basis, see image below.

So either it’s bots (most likely) or suddenly this blog has got an extra visitor (unlikely). Just in case it’s the latter – please consider this post an OPEN thread. Leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer any questions, feedback, smack talk in the next few days.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

May Project Update 2016

Project Updates:

This project has been running for over a month now and the effects appear to be cumulative. Each day of reciting the Psalms shifts my though patterns out of the old behaviour loops and in to new behaviour loops. Actually, that may not be entirely correct. The effect seems to start at the level of Will and then enters in to the conscious and unconscious mind (from Keter to Chochmah and Binah). So the old loops rarely, if ever trigger.

Two results from last week. First one is that I managed to pin two out of six numbers in the Lotto and won a free lucky dip. Every success, how ever minor, should be celebrated – so Yay! OK, that’s enough celebration for now.

The other success is that in my wider community a leaflet went around reminding the families in our community that there are services available including:
  • Cooked meals when someone is sick, has given birth, has lost a loved one, etc.
  • Hospital visits, including bringing others to appointments or visits
  • Friendship meet-ups (it’s amazing in how such a connected world, too many are lonely)
  • Financial support to help balance monthly budget as well as short term funds
That’s another success for compassion.

This seemed to go well at first. Trouble is that the long-Jewish-goodbye can take, well forever. Some people leave but don’t say goodbye. Jews say goodbye but don’t leave. I have spent more than half-an-hour in a hallway once waiting to leave whilst goodbyes were said, news was exchanged on loved ones, jokes were made that other corrected, recipes were compared, photos were taken, etc. That’s a normal goodbye.

Now imagine what happens when you invite six amazing souls from the past to share some of their wisdom with you? Sure, there’s the whole license to depart thing, but it kind of gets pushed  to the side by the long-goodbye I mentioned above.

Anyway, I’ve left the hallway, so to speak, to spend a bit of time by myself. It’s a little embarrassing as one of the souls I wanted to learn from was Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and having re-read his writings on the attribution of the double letters in Sefer Yetzirah… well, I’m really embarrassed to say that I do not agree with the great and holy Rabbi.

This project is going well. It’s a lot easier than I thought to read scripture (twice) with Aramaic translation (plus English translation). This is a project that is meant to act as a foundation for a later project, however as a side benefit if I ever go crazy from all this Kabbalah stuff – I can do a pretty good impression of being a time traveller from olden days, or someone possessed.



Thursday, 12 May 2016

New Project: Tzedek Tzedek like a Mensch

Tonight is the start** of 20th day of the Omer count. That makes it Yesod in the week of Tiferet, Foundation in Harmonious Beauty (reconciling the opposites of Chesed and Gevurah).

The meditation of today in the app from Chabad that helps track Omer counting is as follows:
What is the difference between kindness and compassion?

Kindness gives to another.

Compassion knows no ‘other’

From the Wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, words and condensation by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman.
So it’s Thursday, the day associated with wealth and poverty according to the different Sefer Yetzirah commentaries (Sa’adiyah Gaon, R. Eliezer Rokeach, and R. Keter Shalom b. Avraham) that are open in front of me as I write this article. The (fairly) recent Jupiter discussion by Jason and Blogos comes to mind. And I am left with the question, how can I turn all this in to something practical that promotes compassion in both my own life and the world at large.

Guess it’s time for a new project:
Title: Tzedek Tzedek like a Mensch
Scope: Promote compassion and wealth
Time: 1 year deadline
Cost: Time and charity.
Quality: The aim of the project is to promote compassion and wealth both in my life and in the lives of others. The measure of this will include changes in wealth over time, changes in frequency and size of charitable donations, as well as new initiatives to promote compassion.
Risks:
1. Poverty. As Sefer Yetzira (Book of Formation) states, the transpose of wealth is poverty.
2. Publishing a new project can trigger a counter wave due to the public nature of the initiative. One way to mitigate this risk is to use the principle of aikido to return the energy and momentum back to the source.
3. No significant effect. Since I am a dabbler rather than a serious practising occultist – this could all just be wishful thinking on the part of a Project Manager with a curious interest in Jewish magic & mysticism.
Stretch Goal: Generate sufficient wealth to take a career break for 7 years and study like Rabbi Akiva.

Just to explain the title of this project… there is a phrase “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof” in the section of Shoftim in the Torah. It means “Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue so that you will live and take possession of the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you.” [Devorim 16:20] as explained in this article.

The word Mensch comes from the German term Humanit├Ąt, in the philosophical sense of compassion, as explained here by Wonkipedia.

Image from https://scifiladynerds.net/
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan talks pp.167-174 about the attribution of angels to planets, as well as the differences between temporary angelic entities created on the second day and permanent ones on the fifth day. Unfortunately the reference to the angel for Tzedek (Jupiter) in Raziel HaMalach (pp67 of the Hebrew version published in Me’ah She’arim in 2003) has a different attribution of angel to that planet.

In any case, the techniques that I will be using to promote this project include some of the following techniques:

  1. Giving of charity each Thursday (excluding festivals that fall on Thursdays). Tzedakah meaning charity, has the same root as the word Tzedek = righteousness / Jupiter. It’s better to give frequently smaller amounts, rather than one lump sum as it habituates a person to sharing a portion of their wealth to those in need.
  2. Recite Psalms 65, 144, and 147 – as explained on pp. 367 of “Jewish Spiritual Practices” by Yitzchak Buxbaum. These psalms are for being ‘Grateful to God for success, prosperity’.
  3. Recite the ‘Prayers for Financial Prosperity’ on pp. 388 to 393 of “Walking in the Fire” by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok.
  4. Purchasing a lottery ticket, it’s pretty much like a voluntary tax.
  5. Letter permutation as explained in Sodey Razia (require more study before starting this).
  6. Experiment with the concept of fixed moments in time. Rather than play with probabilities, create a fixed point in time/space that is pinned with a particular outcome. Small things with little to no geopolitical impact but which create a ripple effect of compassion and will in time allow the pinning effect to fade. A bit like self-dissolving stitches if you will.

** - the day starts at nightfall until the next nightfall, mirroring the “and then it was evening, then it was morning day one” from first chapter of Genesis.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Invite the others

Awhile back I had this crazy idea to build a TARDIS-AS. Having started studying Chayeh Olam Ha-Bah (Life in the World to Come) by Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, the proto-project is starting to materialise in to something a bit more solid.

A few weeks ago as I was catching up from Dr. Who season 3 to season 6, a curious comments in the episode Journey's End stuck out. In the attached link (containing many spoilers) it statesabout Dr. Who that:
He explains to his companions that the reason that he has so much trouble piloting is that a TARDIS is normally piloted by six people, and he has had to do it all on his own
 Which got me thinking, perhaps travelling in a group might be a better idea. But who? And How? Shortly thereafter I came across the below article by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok, which made me think... can it really be that simple? I think yes it is. And now to do some prototyping, some experimentation...

Daily Thought
by Ariel B Tzadok. 
Copyright (C) 2016 by Ariel Bar Tzadok.  All rights reserved.


Today: Friday. May 6, 2016

To ascend the ladder to Heaven
is easy,
once you know
hows it's properly done.
To descend into the depths
of the unconscious
does not have to be hard
once you understand
what it actually means.

There are many paths before us
that are only hard
in the mind of the beholder.
It is personal perception
that makes a path
either hard, or easy to walk.

Your mind is a powerful tool.
Your mind is what connects you
to Heaven.
At the same time,
your mind is what connects you
to Earth.

Do you see it?
Do you understand?
Your mind is the ladder
that bridges Heaven and Earth.
The ladder is inside you.
The ladder is YOU!

You can ascend into Heaven
or descend into the unconscious,
as a matter of Will.
You have the power,
and internally,
you already know the Way.

All you need to do
is remove the many hindrances
that litter the road,
making your passage
seemingly more difficult.
We call this road repair,
rectification.

When looking outside ourselves
all we see is chaos.
When loosing inside ourselves,
we often see the outside world
reflected inside us.
Therefore, inside us,
we also see chaos.
But this is not the way
it is supposed to be!

We should never reflect
the outside world
inside us.
Rather, we must always
reflect the inner world
into our surrounding world.
Inside influences outside,
not the other way around.

Yet, in order for the inner You
to influence your outer world,
you must know the Inner You,
and allow its clear sense of identity
to impose itself upon
the chaotic outside world.
The power of the mind is the key.
The source of the mind is the Will.

Think clearly.
Focus strongly.
Desire only that which is within.
Forget about the chaos outside.
Focus on the internal reality,
and make it real!
You can do this!
And why?
Because thoughts are things.
And thoughts are the souls
that come to inhabit
the bodies that make up this world.

Therefore, draw down to Earth
the souls of your choice.
Transform the world.
Rectify it!
Repair the road.
It all begins with,
and ends with,
the power of YOUR mind!

This is kosher Torah!


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.