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.