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.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Re-Integrating – Part 3

“Halakhic Man”, by Rabbi Jospeh B. Soloveitchik pp99-105. It's a bit long, but contains some important ideas (imo) about the integration fo Kabbalistic thought (e.g. Book of Creation / Sefer Yetzirah) and Jewsih laws.

Halakhik man is a man who longs to create, to bring into being something new, something original. The study of Torah, by definition means gleaning something new, creative insights form the Torah (hiddushei Torah). “The Holy One, blessed be He, rejoices in the dialectics of Torah” [a popular folk saying]. Read not ‘dialectics’ (pilpul) but creative interpretation’ (hiddush). This notion of hiddush, of creative interpretation, is not limited solely to the theoretical domain but extends as well into the practical domain, into the real world. The most fervent desire of Halakhik man is to behold the replenishment of the deficiency in creation, when the real world will conform to the ideal world and the most exalted and glorious of creations, the ideal Halakhah, will be actualized in its midst. The dream of creation is the central idea in the halakhik consciousness – the idea of the importance of man as a partner of the Almighty in the act of creation, man as creator of worlds. This longing for creation and the renewal of the cosmos is embodied in all of Judaism’s goals. And if at times we raise the question of the ultimate aim of Judaism, of the telos of the Halakhah in all its multi-fold aspects and manifestations, we must not disregard the fact that this wondrous spectacle of the creation of worlds is the Jewish people’s eschatological vision, the realization of all its hopes.

The Halakhah sees the entire Torah as consisting of basic laws and halakhik principles. Even the Scriptural narratives serve the purpose of determining everlasting law. “The mere conversations of the servants of the fathers are more important than the laws [Torah] of the sons. The chapter dealing with Eliezer covers two or three columns, and [his conversation] is not only recorded but repeated. Whereas [the uncleanliness of] reptile is a basic principle of Torah law [gufei Torah], yet it is only from an extending particle in Scriptures that we know that its blood defiles as flesh” (Gen. Rabbah 60:11). Our Torah does not contain even one superfluous word or phrase. Each letter alludes to basic principles of Torah law, each word to “well-fastened”, authoritative, everlasting halakhot [laws]. From beginning to end it is replete with statues and judgements, commandments, and laws. The mystics discern in our Torah divine mysteries, esoteric teachings, the secrets of creation, and the Merkabah [the chariot of Ezekiel’s prophecy]; the halakhik sages discern in it basic halakhot, practical principles, laws, directives, and statues. “The deeds of the fathers are a sign for the songs” [cf. Nachmaniddes, Commentary on the Torah Gen. 12:6]. And this sign – i.e. the vision of the future – constitutes a clear-cut halakhah. Halakhic man discerns in every divine pledge man’s obligation to bring about its fulfilment, in every promise a specific norm, in every eschatological vision an everlasting commandment (the commandment to participate in the realization of the prophecy). The conversations of the servants, the trials of the fathers, the fate of the tribes, all teach the sons Torah and commandments. The only difference between the conversation of Eliezer and the Scriptural portion concerning the reptile is that the former extends over two or three columns while the latter is but a brief passage.

Therefore, if the Torah spoke at length about the creation of the world and related to us the story of the making of heaven and earth and all their host, it did so not in order to reveal cosmogonic secrets and metaphysical mysteries but rather in order to teach practical Halakhah. The Scriptural portion of the creation narrative is a legal portion, in which are to be found basic, everlasting Halakhik principles, just like the portion of Kedoshim (Lev. 19) or Mishpatim (Exod, 21). If the Torah then chose to relate to man the tale of creation, we may clearly derive one law from this manner of procedure – viz. That man is obliged to engage in creation and the renewal of the cosmos.

Not for naught is Judaism acquainted with a Book of Creation, the mastery of which enables one both to create and destroy worlds. “Rabba said: If the righteous desired it, they could be creators of worlds, as it is written, ‘But your iniquities have separated between you and your God’ (Isa. 59:2). (Rashi explains: We may infer from this that if they would not have any iniquities, there would be no distinction [between man and God, in the matter of creation]). Raba created a man… Rabbi Hanina and R. Oshi spent every Shabbat eve in studying the Book of Creation and created a third grown calf” (Sanhedrin 65b).

The peak of religious ethical perfection to which Judaism aspires is a man as creator.

When God created the world, He provided an opportunity for the work of His hands – man – to participate in His creation. The Creator, as it were, impaired reality in order that mortal man could repair its flaws and perfect it. God gave the Book of Creation – that repository of the mysteries of creation – to man, not simply for the sake of theoretical study but in order that man might continue the act of creation. “As soon as Abraham had understood, fashioned, engraved, attached and created, inquired and clearly grasped [the secret of creation], the Lord of the universe revealed Himself to him, called him His friend, and made a covenant with him between the ten fingers of his hand...” Man’s task is to “fashion, engrave, attach, and create,” and transform the emptiness in being into a perfect and holy existence, bearing the imprint of the divine name.

“The earth was chaos and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep… And God said: ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.. God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day and the darkness He called Night… Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters… Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear… God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering of waters He called Seas, etc.” (Gen. 1:2-10).

When God engraved and carved out the world, he did not entirely eradicate the chaos and void, the deep, the darkness, from the domain of His creation. Rather, he separated the complete, perfect existence from the forces of negation, confusion, and turmoil and set up cosmic boundaries, eternal laws to keep them apart. Now Judaism affirms the principle of creation out of absolute nothingness. Therefore, the chaos and the void, the deep, the darkness, and relative nothingness must all have been fashioned by the Almighty before the creation of the orderly, majestic, beautiful world. “A philosopher once said to Rabbi Gamliel: Your God is a great artist, but He found good materials which helped Him: chaos and the void, the deep, the wind [ruah], water and darkness. He replied: Let the bones of that person [who so averred] be blasted! For the Scripture affirms that all these things were created. With regard to chaos and the void it is written: ‘I [God] make peace, and create evil’ (Isa. 45:7); with regard to the wind [ruah] it is written: ‘He formeth the mountains, and createth the wind [ruah]’ (Amos 4:13); with regard to the deep it is written: ‘Out of nothing I carved out the deep’ (Prov. 8:24)” [Gen. Rabbah 1:12]. All of these “primordial” materials were created in order that they subsist and be located in the world itself. Not for naught did He create them. He created them in order that they may dwell within the cosmos!

However, the forces of relative nothingness at times exceed their bounds. They wish to burst forth out of the chains of obedience that the Almighty imposed upon them and seek to plunge the earth back into chaos and the void. It is only the law that holds them back and bars the path before the, Now the Hebrew term for law, hok, comes from the root h-k-k- (which means “to carve, engrave”). Thus the law carves out a boundary, sets up markers, establishes special domains, all for the purpose of separating existence from “nothingness,” the ordered cosmos from the void, and creation from naught. “When He carved [hok] a circle [hug] upon the face of the deep” (Prov. 8:27) – hok, the carving, the engraving, the law = hug, the circle = an all-encompassing boundary. The perfect and complete ontic being extends until this divinely carved-out boundary; beyond that border is in the deep, chaos and the void, darkness, and the “nothingness,” devoid of image and form.

However, this relative “nothingness” is plotting evil, the deep is devising iniquity, and the chaos and void lie in wait in the dark alleyways of reality and seek to undermine the absolute being, to profane the lustrous image of creation. “Thou didst cover it with the deep as with a vesture; the waters stood above the mountains. At They rebuke they fled, at the sound of Thy thunder they hastened away… Thou didst set a bound which they should not pass over, that they might return to cover the earth” (Ps. 104:6-9). “When He assigned to the sea its limit, so hat they waters might not transgress His command, when He carved out the foundations of the earth” (Prov. 8:29). The deep wishes to cast off the yoke of the law (hok), to pass beyond the boundary (hug) and limit that the Creator set up and carved out and inundate the world and the fullness thereof. However, at the rebuke of the Almighty, it flees in retreat. From the sound of His thunder it is driven back and hastens to its “lair” - the lair of nothingness. The sight of tempestuous sea, of swirling, raging waves that beat upon the shore there to break, symbolizes to the Judaic consciousness the struggle of the chaos and void with creation, the quarrel of the deep with the principles of order and the battle of confusion with the law.

The mysterious power of the delineated law and the limiting boundary which the Almighty implanted in existence presented itself in all its awesomeness and majesty to King David, the sweet singer of Israel, as reflected in the natural phenomenon of the orderly ebb and flow of the sea (caused by the gravitational force of the sun and the moon and the rotation of the earth). The sea at high tide and the sea at low tide appeared in their whirl of colors as a symbolic elemental process, as a bewitching spectacle of an eternal clash of forces. It is as though the sea at high tide, rushing to meet the shore, desires to destroy the boundary and the law, as though the disorder of the primordial forces, of chaos and confusion, desires to cleave asunder the perfect and exquisitely chiselled creation and lay it to waste. Only the mighty strength of the law of the Almighty bars the path before them [the waves] and shatters them. “Thou rulest the proud swelling of the sea; when the waves thereof arise, Thou dost shatter them” (Ps. 89:10).

“R. Johannan said: When David dug the pits, the deep arose and threatened to submerge the world… David thereupon inscribed the ineffable name upon a sherd, cast it into the deep, and it subsided.” “When David began to dig the foundations of the Temple, he dug 15 cubits and did not reach the deep. Finally he found one potsherd and sought to lift it up. Said [the potsherd]unto him: You may not. Said [David] unto it: And why not? Said [potsherd] unto David: Because it is I who am restraining the deep. Said [David] unto it: And for how long have you been here? Said [potsherd] unto him: Since the Almighty proclaimed on Mount Sinai ‘I am he Lord they God’ (Ex. 20:2). At that moment the earth trembled and began to sink and I was placed here to restrain the deep. David, nevertheless, did not listen. As soon as he lifted it up, the waters of the deep arose and sought to inundate the world.

Thus the deep desires to burst out of the enclosures of the law and shatter the realms of orderly creation, the cosmic process, the regular course of the world, and plunge them all back into “nothingness,” into desolation and ontic emptiness. However, it is held firm in the grip of the mighty laws and principles.

All of kabbalistic literature is imbued with this idea. The “other side”, the “husks”, the “mighty deep”, and “angels of destruction”, the “offspring of chaos”, etc. all symbolize the realm of emptiness and the void, the domain of “nothingness,” devoid of any image or stature, that does battle with glorious existence enveloped by the luster of the image of the Divine Presence.

However, this view, which threads its way through the entire course of Jewish thought is not just a mysterious theoretical notion but a practical principle, a fundamental ethico-halakhik postulate.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Re-Integrating – Part 2

At the moment, amongst the many books that I am reading is “Halakhic Man”, by Rabbi Jospeh B. Soloveitchik. Truth be told I struggle with some of the ideas in his book. Not their understanding as such, but more whether I agree with them or not. The back of the book states:

“Rabbi Jospeh B. Soloveitchik has ordained more rabbis than anyone else in history; his student and followers in all branches of Judaism have shaped the character of modern Jewry; his teaching have stood as paradigms of philosophical insight and religious sensitivity.”

Anyway, he sums up very nicely in this book my growing understanding of how all levels of interpretation play an integral part in day to day activities. Kabbalah is not something foreign grafted in to the religion but a core strand that weaves its way in and out daily practices and observation that make up a way of life. Rather than a system of religious practices with a mystical spin, that form a separate part of people’s lives.

Pp92.

“...We have already emphasize earlier that Judaism does not direct its glance upwards but downward. The Halakhah [Jewish law] does not aspire to a heavenly transcendence, nor does it seek to soar on the wings of some abstract mysterious spirituality. It fixes its gaze upon concrete , empirical reality and does not allow its attention to be diverted from it. Halakhik man does not compartmentalize reality – this is the domain of eternal life and this is the domain of temporal life. On the contrary, he brings down eternity in to the midst of time. He does not enter in to a hidden, pure, transcendent realm even in his intimate prayer-colloquy with his Creator Even when Halakhik man enters the synagogue or house of study he does not leave his this-wordly life behind. His prayer is replete with requests regarding bodily needs: healing, prosperity, political freedom, a good and peaceful life, and such…”

Pp93-94.

“...The Halakhah declares that man stands before God not only in the synagogue but also in the public domain, in his house, while on a journey, while lying down and rising up. ‘And thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down and when thou risest up’ (Deut. 6:7).
The primary difference between Halakhic man and homo religious is that while the latter prefers the spirit to the body, the soul to its mortal frame, as the main actor in the religious drama, the former, as has been stated above wishes to sanctify the physical-biological concrete man as the hero and protagonist of religious life. Therefore, the whole notion of ritual assumes a special form in Judaism. The standard notion of ritual prevalent amongst religious men – i.e. ritual as a non-rational religious act while whole purpose is to lift man up from concrete reality to celestial realms – is totally foreign to Judaism. Acording to the outlook of Halakhah, the service of God (with exception of the study of the Torah) can be carried out only through the implementation, the actualization of its principle in the real world. The ideal of righteousness is the guiding light of this world-view. Halakhik man’s most fervent desire s is the perfection of the world under the dominion of righteousness and loving-kindness – the realization of the a priori, ideal creation, whose name is Torah (of Halakhah), in the realm of concrete life. The Halakhah is not hermetically enclosed within the confines of cult sanctuaries but penetrates into every nook and cranny of life. The marketplace, the street, the factory, the house, the meeting place, the banquet hall, all constitute the backdrop of religious life. The synagogue does not occupy a central place in Judaism...”

I think that it is important to understand this context to gain an insight in to Kabbalist teachings and practices.

Whilst the Kabbalists of 13th century Spain where busy studying the Bahir and Zohar to build up a framework for how the observance of religious obligations had a theurgical effect on the world – Rabbi Abaraham Abulafia seems to fall in to the category of homo religious mentioned by Rabbi Soloveitchik.

But whilst Rabbi Abraham Abulafia’s writings were placed under a ban by the Rashba – he was not declared a heretic. He operated in the same Halakhik framework and was part of main-stream rabbinic Judaism at the time. Centuries later his works are referenced and quoted by some of the great Kabbalists such as Rabbi Chaim Vital and Rabbi Haim Yosef David Azoulay.

Rabbi Soloveitchik has some very interesting things to say (in my opinion) on chaos and void (Tohu and bohu) mentioed in Genesis and Sefer Yetzirah – as well as time in the realm of the spiriti and unidimensional time. So in parts 3 and 4 we’ll hopefully be exploring a depth of beginning & end as well as a depth of evil and good.

Re-Integrating – Part 1

When I started this journey just over five years ago, I was coming from a place of interest in Jewish Magic & Mysticism from a narrow angle. Trying to plumb these mysteries without much knowledge of Hebrew or core Jewish texts, there was only so far I could go. Don’t get me wrong, authors such as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, Prof. Moshe Idel, Prof. Gershom Scholem, and a whole host of other authors took a quite a long way in to this vast area of study.

However, as I started trying dive deeper – the main barrier that I kept coming up against was my inability to read primary source texts due to my lack of knowledge of Hebrew. Rather than focus on just learning the language, the path that I took was to study the core texts and try to build up a small portion of knowledge that many of the great Kabbalists over the centuries assume their readers have already gained in their early years.

What I have discovered since then is that when not dealing with the complex realms of Jewish laws, there is a huge wealth of opinions, philosophies, and world-views that have flourished. Since the exile following the Roman conquest there has not been a central religious authority (Sanhedrin) to impose uniformity. There is a main stream current of Rabbinic laws, but even within that there is room to manoeuvre as each ruling is judged on an individual basis. Traditions and customs carry a lot of weight too.

Four levels of Interpretation

When I mention that there is plenty of leeway for creativity, interpretation, and innovation of thought in interpretation of texts – I am of course referring to the four levels of interpretation. These are referred to as PaRDeS.

Here are some handy links:
  • Chabad link on PaRDes 
  • Ohr Sameyach link on PaRDes
  • Wikipedia link on PaRDes
The four levels of intepretation of the Torah are:

  1. Pshat: is the simple interpretation of the Torah
  2. Remez: is the different hints and allusions which are contained within the Torah.
  3. Drush: expounds upon the deeper meaning of the verses of the Torah.
  4. Sod: is the esoteric, mystical part of Torah.
The last part, Sod, contains within it Kabbalah.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Choice of trees and books

Just over a year ago I wrote about a plan being like a 'path of dots'. Specifically I wrote:
A plan is particularly useful for mapping out a 'path of dots'. It helps me figure out how to get from a known starting point to a theoretical next level. Although the plan is a nice fiction, it's a very useful tool for putting ideas in to a coherent order and testing whether it is achievable or not. Benjamin Franklin supposedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Also in that post was a mention of my daily study regime. Here are some details of my current study regime.

  1. On commute to work read 10 Paslms and study Torah with Aramaic translation.
  2.  On the way back from work, study Mishnah (now up to Sefer Moed, Ta'anis)
I also used to study Rabbi Moshe Cordovero's commentary on  Sefer Yetzirah, but in recent weeks I have started trying to translate and study the writings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia starting with Ve'Zot Le'Yehuda ("And this to Judah", the response to being put under ban by the Rashba). I'm using the books published by Amnon Gross.

But now I have a choice to make... to continue studying all the writings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia and become a full-time student of Abulafia's teachings. Or to follow his example and study a dozen commentaries on Sefer Yetzirah. So the choice is become a student of Ecstatic kabbalah or a student of Ma'aseh Bereishit (work of creation).

Which ever path I choose, I know which path of books will lead me in each direction.

The other seeming junction that I was pondering recently about which tree to explore first - the Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - was confirmed by my teacher. Before delving in to the depths of the Tree of Knowledge, it is important to first delve deeper in to the Tree of Life in other words the written law (Torah) and oral law (Talmud) .


Sunday, 6 March 2016

Project update: 10 Psalms for 10 Days

This project is officially completed, but none the less I have continued with reciting 10 Psalms as outlined in the Tikkun Klali (General Rectification) from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

One of the tricky parts to measuring success (or lack thereof) is to work out what measures to track. For example, schools in UK had numbers tracked on pss rates of exams. These in turn changes form measures in to targets. Now it’s all about getting the right results as opposed to producing well-rounded individuals. Parents in turn have come to see the school as service providers and relationships are breaking down between the community and schools. This in turn leads to those who can afford it hiring tutors and the circle gets more viscous with each iteration.

Anyway, getting back to the results of the 10 Psalms in 10 Days. The aim of the exercise was to have a “significant impact on behaviour patterns”. It did, but not in the way that I was expecting.

Previous to this exercise I was commuting 4 hours a day to a job that was stressful but not overly demanding. Since the 10 Psalms in 10 Days has started I have moved to a different job with slightly reduced commute time and the number of change-overs between trains, buses, and tube trains has also significantly reduced. On the other hand, the amount of stress and work has increased by a significant amount. I’ve had a couple of evenings where I did not have to catch-up on the work, but for the rest of the time I now spend my train journeys and evenings doing more work.

One of the primary effects that this has had is that I simply do not have time to invest in any of the behaviour patterns that I am trying to remove. When I do get the time late at night, the desire is reduced. This to me is the critical part of the success. It was not about trying to change behaviour loops through techniques outlined in “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg. Rather the aim of the working was to change the desire itself which triggered the patterns. Using that as a measure of success, the change in the desire levels, the working was a success.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Magic of Project Management

If you’ve ever seen the film “A Shock to the System”, you’ll know that a successful Project Manager is also a sorcerer who walks softly and casts a long shadow. Find that hard to believe? Well, perhaps if I re-phrase some of the arcane language of Project Management in to everyday descriptions of magical practices – you might start to see the lightning path of Project Management in a new light…

When a project is first dreamt up in the dark reaches of the underworld, an outline of the ritual is first captured in the Project Charter. This channelled piece of writing often contains fantastical leaps of imagination and glimpses of a future riven by beings of nightmare who form inter-dimensional breaches in to our reality.

The Powers-that-Be are often most active at this stage of the preparation to begin the magical working, known in closed circles as the Project. The Charter texts commonly promises great rewards such as wealth, the ability to fly, conjuring armies out of mist, and gaining access to the vast anthropomorphic Body of Knowledge of Project Management that is more commonly called the Akashic Record.

The Charter is the starting point of a larger working that can take months, if not years, to complete. Often the magical practitioner, also known as the Project Manager, burns out long before the magical working is complete. It is usual practice for wizards for hire, contractors, to be brought in to fill the gaps and keep the rituals going.

Some doomed workings acquire the nick-name death-march projects and this is a sure sign that the magical energies in the working have become unbalanced. The only thing to do is regular cleansing by moving from one project to the next, until the death-march is but a dim memory. Often practitioners will lure another more junior Project Manager on to the working with promises of incredible power and influence with the Powers-that-Be. But it’s all just meat to the slaughter as the entities involved in the working get ever more desperate for fresh blood to sate their jaded hearts. The haunted looks of defeat that Project cultists carry around is a sign to run away as fast as you can.

The fortunate few Projects that make it past the initial stages of Chartering and Funding progress on to planning and design. In this part of the magical working the practitioner creates vast tables of correspondences, researches any and all astrological charts that contain even a faint glimmer of hope. The final stage is sometimes called Sizing and may even involve such arcane terms as PERT and weighted averages. But please don’t be fooled that there is any science behind such practices. It’s simple another way of doing one Tarot reading after the other until you find a spread that is one you like and then using that particular one instead of all the displeasing readings from before filled with despair and insanity which the Project Manager has discarded with an ever increasingly manic cackle.

Now comes the part where the magic really begins to come together. The Scope of the ritual has been outlined, divinations have been made to create a Schedule, and favoured spirits, angels, and the dead have been pulled together from the Grimoire of Named Resources. Four gates are opened in turn to allow the magical energies to start acting upon the world.

The gate of Initiation is one in which the practitioner ignites the enthusiasm and favour of the Power-that-Be with the element of fire. Next the gate of Planning is opened with a lengthy reading of spirit names and barbarous sounds. This is a delicate stage in which the Plan is held up for scrutiny and the Project Manager often has to use every trick and mojo bag to escape being found out as a fraud and a trickster. The favoured element is Air for this Gate. Much hot air is expended in trying to get through this Gate and it’s only by frequent offerings to the Power-that-Be before reaching this Gate that the Project magical practitioner has any chance of passing this Gate unscathed.

The Delivery gate takes the longest to open. Between the last gate and this one, the Project Manager threatens, begs, provides numerous offerings up to an including sacrifice of sentient life, in order to guarantee some degree of success in the magical working. Common fall-outs from a project ritual in which proper grounding in common sense is not applied result in late night and weekend workings, broken marriages, binging on alcohol and drugs, depression, retreats in to MMORPGs for months or even years. The element that dominates this Gate is water. Bitter tears wept by the Project cultists as they watch helplessly whilst the Project sucks the life out of them are carefully collected and worn in an amulet of protection by the Project Manager. If the reservoir in this amulet starts to run low, an easy way to re-fill it is to utter the eldritch curse “yeah… I’m going to have to ask you to work on Saturday… and uh, Sunday”.

Worst of all it can result in the spawning of new Project Managers as the old ones lose their Will and fade away. The more junior members of the Project Cult may then be unceremoniously promoted without warning or training in what has in effect become a death march Project.

Finally, after numerous attempts to gain the favour and attention of the Senior Stakeholders (the Powers-that-Be) who have long since lost interest in anything to do with this Project ritual and are busy transitioning to a new organization to run in to the ground. Finally... the last Gate is approached with awe, trepidation, and a desperate hunger that results in sanity and dignity being entirely abandoned in equal measure. This is the Gate of Earth, where project rituals and practitioners go to die. Some pass through this Gate of the Underworld in to a new life as a Business Analyst. Others are hardened by the fires of the Abyss and reformed in to such hellish creations as Programme Managers and Programme Directors.

The rest spend an eternity in the Purgatory of the Project Management Office, endlessly dreaming up new processes, good practices, and occasionally being allowed back in to the mortal realm to conduct a Project Audit. Some few pure souls even manage to pass on a few diamonds of wisdom through a process known as Mentoring. But many believe that these Mentoring lineages are nothing but myths and legends, they refuse to believe that Project Management has an ancient lineage preserved by a few initiates who built the pyramids and mined the moon of all it’s cheese lakes until only a barren pock-marked ball remained.

Having completed the Great Work of the Project, the magical practitioner know as the Project manager often allow themselves a small degree of self-satisfaction at having lived through it all. That brief moment of calm often lasts no more than a few minutes after which they are commonly interrupted by a Certified Chaos Magician with the question “Why didn’t you run it as an Agile project?”

Sunday, 14 February 2016

New Project: 10 Psalms for 10 Days


The Aramic absorption project is taking less time each day than expected. Hence for the next 10 days I'm planning to add some Shimush Tehilim - Magical Use of Psalms. Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis' "The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism" has the following entry:
Shimmush Tehilim: "Practical Psalms." A 16th-century popular compendium of psalmsthat explains their theurgic uses.
Unfortunately that was not enough for me to start making use of them, hence I had a brief read through some of the explanations what each psalm can be used for at HebrewBooks.org.

Whilst there are 150 applications corresponding to the 150 paslms... I'm left wondering what would happen if multiple psalms were combined? It migh in effect be tzeruf (permutation) of psalms which may work in a similar way Tzeruf works with the Hebrew letters creating new results.

So after a tiny amount of digging on the net, I came across the Tikun Ha-Klalih (General Remedy) by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the grandson of the founder of the most recent Chassidic movement - the Baal Shem Tov (Master of Good Name). The purpose of saying the 10 Psalms that form the Tikkun Klali are mongst other things meant to help with depression. Whilst I do not suffer from depression, the "gnawing dissatisfaction with himself" that this article mentions is certainly something that I can relate to.

Scope: Read 10 Psalms of Tikkin Klali every day for 10 days
Time: 10 days
Cost: Time, approx. 20 minutes per day
Quality: Expect to see some significant impact on behaviour patterns based on the completion of the 10 Psalms in 10 days. Behaviour patterns are well known and established, hence deviance from said patterns should be easy to measure.
Communication: End of project retrospective.
Risks:
1. Daily prayer is time-consuming
2. The effect of the Psalms may not have any significant effect on behaviour
3. The psalms may have unexpected transformative effects

Stretch Goal: Read the Psalms for an additional 10 days