Monday, 14 April 2014

Books as Roving Castles

Through out life's ups and downs, it's nice to have a place of sanctuary to retreat to and get away from the bewildering and at times scary world in which we live. For most people this is home and family, they provide care & protection and whilst not conflict free - are certainly a lot safer than the world outside.

Unfortunately I have not been able to call on the aid of home or family very often. My (until recent) nomadic existence and distance from family meant that I had to build miniature sanctuaries of my own to take with during my travels. So instead of retreating to a place of bricks and mortar, I retreated to a pages filled with letters and hidden meanings.

The first roving castle that I constructed in my minds eye was using Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Formation, translated and commented on by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Although the meaning of the text was obscure to the point of being impenetrable, that itself gave it the quality that I needed to make a sacred space in which to temporarily retreat, recharge and find sanctuary from the winds of change.

Next came learning Hebrew and building my ability to read and understand it. This involved a three year Hebrew immersion project that has recently completed but is being extended to go to ever deeper depths. Having learned to start navigating the corridors of meanings and insights of Sefer Yetzirah by gaining a small measure of mastery of Hebrew - I discovered that the book was not a sanctuary at all.

It was instead an engine of change, a roving castle filled with machinary of self-transformation. Slowly moving about the inner landscape of my life, the practices of meditation contained in the book were beginning to dig up the imbalances buried in my life, holding them up to the light of day and forcing me to tackle them before moving on to new challenges. It's been a slow and painful process, but looking back now I understand that without this laborious work I would have become unbalanced through the energy meditations that I practice.

So what's next? Well, Sefer Yetzirah, it's commentaries, and meditations will always be a part of my life. But I am now in a position where I can consider adding other engines of change in to the landscape of my life. Starting with Rambam's Hilchot Teshuvah (Laws of Return), part of his Mishnah Torah series, which contains instructions on how to live in a state of constant return to the Divine.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Truth of my Dishonesty

I watched this video today:

Which I presume is based on this book. "The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves" by Dan Ariely.

The reason why I am sharing this video is it brought a few things to light about myself. The upcoming festival in the Jewish calendar is Pesach (Passover) and as is explained in Chabad chassidut... Mitzrayim (the Hebrew word for Egypt) means boundaries and constraints. Dishonesty is in my view a primary source for creating boundaries and constraints between the people around us, but also internally within each and every one of us.

The passover blog post that I had planned to write was to go beyond the constraints highlighted in this Hermetic Lessons posting about issues with the Western Mystery Traditions. The approach that I was going to take was to look at some of the history and influences of the Western Mystery Traditions, but Frater Acher posted about it in a much better researched and eloquent post than I was motivated to write.

So instead of reflecting on how a movement or set of ideas could evolve, all that I am left with is a list of things that I have been dishonest about and the understanding that changes need to happen now. On my list are the following items:
  • Reports on how much I spent on books were false, it's an embarrassingly high amount
  • Most of those books will never get read
  • I use magic for personal gain and not in service for the community, land, etc
  • Despite the name of the blog, I have no intention of building a golem
  • My name is a lie

For the past couple of years I've almost crossed a point of transition and have chickened out eat time. To be the agent of self-change that I need to be, I have chosen to create a mini-crisis to help passover the threshold.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Opposing Schools of Fantasy Magic

Like many mages today, I grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, and taking part in role-playing games. Whilst the latter did not lead to devil worship, it also did not lead to an interest in real world magic. That came from the comic “Mendy and the Golem” as well as stories of wonder-working Hassidic rabbis.

Anyway, the first book that I learned to read English from at a relatively young age was the “Elfstones of Shannara” by Terry Brooks. Shortly after that I read the other books by Terry Brooks in the Shannara series and then moved on to the Dragonlance (Dungeons & Dragons) books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – as well as a whole host of other less-well written fantasy novels.

The main difference that struck me between the Shannara books and D&D books was the way that magic worked. In the D&D novels and role-playing books – once a spell was learned it could be cast each time with pretty much the same results**. In the world of Shannara on the other hand the magic could be called upon but it seemed to very much have a will of its own.

Since I read the Shannara books first, they left a lasting impression on me. I still see magic as something that is not easily repeatable in the way that D&D presents and it certainly has a life of its own. Perhaps it’s more about how I connect with the Divine flow/sheaf, but once the flood gate opens, it’s anyone’s guess how it’s going to play out.

So which school of fantasy magic was most influential in your youth? And does it impact the way that you view magic today?

** - excluding for the moment planar effects, anti-magic shells, counter-spells, etc. etc.

Follow you Passion

For many years I’ve heard people give out career advice that can be summarized simply as “follow your passion”.

However, for someone like me – following my passion as a golem builder has not been very successful from a financial point of view. Adding up all the books, courses etc. that I have paid for over the years, well it comes to several thousand dollars of sunk costs that I had pretty much written off.

Short of selling my talents as a golem builder to create life-sized Claymation style love dolls, I had pretty much written off my career as a golem builder before it had even started. The only reason this blog carried on for the past year or so is that updating the blog had become a habit – and habits can be hard to break.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when a few months ago I was head-hunted by someone very famous in the music industry (even I had heard of them) representing a charity that promotes the study of Kabbalah in society. After several interviews, presenting some lectures and interactive workshop demonstrations – the society has finally agreed to hire me as golem builder in residence.

So from today onwards for the next three years I have been commissioned to create a golem! This comes as a great relief as the “life-sized Claymation girlfriend experience” business was very niche and to be honest rather messy.

So the advice was true after all, follow your passions and that ray of light you cling to will turn in to a torrent of Divine flow.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Trainee Golem Builder Shelfie

The in thing at the moment seems to be taking selfies. Now since I'd rather not scare away my last three regular readers, I have instead decided to share with you dear and loyal readers a 'shelfie'. Which I am reliably informed by refers to:

A picture or portrait of your bookshelf. Showcasing literature IN ALL IT'S GLORY!
(This term was originally defined by author Rick Riordan).
Not to be confused with selfie .
As you can see, everything in my shelfie is color coordinated.
by chocopath December 17, 2013

Anyway, here is my shelfie in all it's glory:
Trainee Golem Builder 101 bookshelf
As you can see, the books are in Hebrew but to help get through them - I sue Klein's Etymological dictionary. It's the best dictionary that I have come across so far. As it covers biblical, post-biblical, mediveval, and modern Hebrew. In truth there is not that much difference between the different stages of Hebrew development, at least not compared say to Greek.

Anyway, let's take a close look at some of the books and explain why they might be of interest to a trainee golem builder...

Sefer Yetzirah (2) and Emek Hamelech
Sefer Yetzirah Hashelem (in white) "Complete Book of Creation" - The earliest Kabbalistic text that survived. Redacted around the 2nd to 5th centuries common era, Rabbinic sources claim it was edited and collated by Rabbi Akiva and first penned by the Patriarch Abraham. There are a number of different versions and this version of the text has commentaries by a number of famous Kabbalists.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translated and added commentary to one version of the text. But having started studying other commentaries (and there are well over 20 different commentaries) the Rabbi Kaplan version is somewhat academic and not that easy to turn in to a practical manual of meditation and magic.

The blue slim volume second from the right is the commentary on Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (wiki entry). He lived around the time of the Arizal and drew on some interesting sources such as Rabbi Abraham Abulafia.

Next to that book is the two volume set entitled Emek Hamelech. It actually details the steps needed to build a golem. However, before rushing to follow the steps please bear in mind even if someone provides you with instructions for building a jet engine - you still need the fuel to make it go. The book Emek Hamelech ("Valley of the King") was written by Naftali Hertz ben Yaakov Elchanan.

Abraham Abulafia (4 blue books in middle)
The four blue books in the middle are all by Rabbi Abraham Abulafia. He was a 13th century wandering Kabbalist whos is widely regarded as the father of Ecstatic or Prophetic Kabbalah. He led, in my opinion, a very interesting life including one episode where he survived an attempt to convert the pope. No one is sure where he is buried.

The books in order from right to left are: 1. Chayei ha-Olam ha-Ba ("Life of the World to Come") (1280), 2. Imrei Shefer ("Words of Beauty") (1291), 3. Gan Naul ("Sealed Garden", a commentary on Sefer Yetzirah), 4. Otzar Eden Ganuz "Hidden Treasury of Eden", another commentary on Sefer Yetzirah. He wrote many more books, but for the moment I am holding off purchasing them as I have yet to study these four. Amnon Gross has, in my opinion, been instrumental in bringing Abulafia's teaching in to the hands of the masses - even if for example Proff. Idel has some concerns about the accuracy of the manuscript transcriptions.

Sodei Raziya, Sha'ar Kedush, Ginat Egoz,
Shorshei HaShemot, Sefer Peulot
The texts in this series are: Sodei Raziya by Rabbi Elazar of Worms (Germiza), Sha'areh Kedushah HaShalem ("Complete Gates of Holiness", includes chapter 4 which was censored until recently) by Rabbi Chaim Vital , Ginat Egoz ("Nut Garden") by Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla who started off as a student of Rabbi Abulafia in the school of Ecstatic Kabbalah and then moved across to join the theosophic Kabbalists in Spain , Shorshei HaShemot ("Roots of the Names") By Rabbi Moshe Zucato , Sefer Peulot by Rabbi Chaim Vital - another book on the banned book list and mentioned a number of time on evocation magic forums. I got that one mostly to see what the fuss was all about.

Anyway, I have just been informed that selfie (and hence probably shelfies too) are meant to be glanced at briefly and not over analyzed. Looking back at this post, I think that I have failed to grasp what a selfie or shelfie is all about. So I'll stop here and re-visit several of these books in more detail over the next year or two as and when I get through them.

The book that I am currently studying is: the commentary on Sefer Yetzirah ("Book of Creation") by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero. After several months of very slow progress, I have made it to the commentary on chapter 1, verse 9...

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Dissolving Coagulation of Clay

For the past two weeks I have felt a deep sense of sadness which manifest by a strong desire to want to cry all the time. This caused some interesting interactions in the office at work.
The thing is there was no immediate cause that I could identify as the source. So as any good project manager would do, I held a retrospective meeting to see what had happened over the past couple of months that might have brought about the sadness.

Here is the shortlist of possible causes:
  1. Reading “Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis” by David Chaim Smith – the continued emphasis on the non-dual nature of Creation gave my ego a serious battering. 
  2. Reading “World Mask” by Rabbi Akiva Tatz – this too gave my fragile ego a battering, however this was compounded by the fact that unlike the book above, Tatz actually challenges the reader to take action based on their new-found knowledge.
  3. Several failed attempts to get a new job – got through first and second round, but then the roles are withdrawn due to lack of funding or re-organization. Whilst disappointing as set-backs, I am not sure they would evoke quite this level of sadness.
  4. Studying commentary on Sefer Yetzirah) Book of Creation) by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero – in Hebrew. It’s pretty mind-blowing stuff and as my wife says: “you’re punching way above your weight”. To which I replied: “how else am I going to keep progressing?”
  5. That some of my favourite vices no longer give me any pleasure – this took a while to realize. Having spent the last few years moving my ‘set point’ in terms of study, practice, and behaviour it dawned on me that some of the things I loved doing are now empty shells without appeal. 
Looking back at the list I think that it is likely to be point 5. Habits are incredibly hard to change, especially when they are bordering on the level of addiction. The again it could be a combination of all of the above that has made me feel like a layer of my being has broken off and something inside me is regenerating in to a clearer form.

Logan was kind enough to remind me of the importance of stoicism. Rabbi Kaplan makes this point in his book ‘Meditation and Kabbalah’. All of the activities 1-5 can be classed as “running”. By that I mean trying to go beyond the point where I find myself at to try to reach a new stage of my development.
However, as Logan pointed out – “running” must be accompanied with “returning” as is made explicitly clear in Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation). There is a balance to be found in all things and a person cannot be constantly “running” form one level of development to the next without having periods of “returning” and allowing the changes to be integrated in to one’s life in a healthy manner.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

This is not a review: The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis: Commentary on Genesis 1-3

The back cover of "The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis: Commentary on Genesis 1-3" by David Chaim Smith has the following blurb:
"The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis is the first book of its kind. It rigorously re-examines the first three chapters of the book of Genesis from a radical non-theistic position, completely removing the concept of a creator God. Despite this 'heretical' position, the book utilizes a traditionally precise kabbalistic vocabulary and structure. Previous works that have attempted to unpack the text invariably rely on theistic dogma and mythology. Smith's book is absolutely devoid of conventional religious 'truth', and probes the ultimate mysteries using epistomological and ontological questioning from the base of gnostic realization. The Kabbalistic Mirror of Genesis was previously only available to a small group of Smith's students and close colleagues, but it is now apparent that this work is enormously important and had to be made available to a wider audience."
Firstly I would like to say that it is a brilliant book, doing a really good job of explaining some (in my opinion) difficult to traansmit concepts from Ma'aseh Bereishit (The Work of Creation).

Second of all, there is nothing heretical in this book in my opinion.

However, one thing that I am struggling to understand is why the author wanted to extract the honey from the sandwich. In other words, all of the rabbis and tzaddikim that the author quotes extensively in the book observed the commandments. And yet the author writes on pp. 116:
Religious law posits that right and wrong are a closed book; there is no creative choice when morality is frozen solid. It is up to the human beings to assert that morality does not need a set form other than kindness and awareness. It can be based on the fluid adaption to every unique circumstance, each in its peculiarities.
This to me hints that perhaps the author whilst knowledgeable of 'esoteric' Hebrew teachings, may not be as versed in 'exoteric' teachings. I use inverted comments to describe esoteric and exoteric as I believe this dualistic view of Judaism is flawed. There is no gap between and these teachings are not just known by a handful of advanced kabbalists.

Anyway, rant over. I learned a lot from the book. Including the lesson of not entering the Pardes unprepared. Which means being proficient in all levels of Pshat, Remez, Drush, and Sod.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Festival of Masks, Looking at Text through Differing Personas

It's coming up to Purim, which comes from the word relating to 'casting lots', and a friend of mine sent me a link to a talk by Rabbi Hayyim Angel that takes a very different view of the Megillat Ester - the Scroll of the Story of Ester.

Apart from it being a very ineteresting view on the story of Purim, it also highlights that different ways of interpreting the scriptures is perfectly acceptable. It could become an issue if the outcome of the re-interpretation had legal implications, by that I mean affecting religious laws and customs.

1651 Jan Victors
However, in an area such as the Kabbalah - there are many different ways and schools of thought to interpret scriptures and they are of equal validity. One example is the differences between the theosophic (focused on ten sefirot) Kabbalistic schools compared to the ecstatic (prophetic) Kabbalistic schools.

I guess that is one of the things that I don't understand about some Wester Mystery tradition books that I've come across. In a number of books the attribution of colours, planets, letters, precious stones etc to specific Sefirot is presented as definitive. Rather than presenting a variety of views & attributions as put forward by different Kabbalists over the centuries.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Haunted by a undying god

Yesterday evening I went to a fascinating lecture at Treadwells Bookshop about Antinous.

24 February 2014 (Monday) Antinous: Last God of the Ancient World

by John J. Johnston
When, in 130 AD, the beautiful youth Antinous, favourite of the Roman emperor Hadrian, drowned in the Nile, under suspicious circumstances Hadrian proclaimed him a god and his cult survived until the eventual fall of the Empire. Drawing upon archaeological and textual sources, tonight’s lecture explores Antinous’ religious and artistic legacy from the time of his death and apotheosis until the modern age, and examines the importance of his name and image to gay men since the 18th Century. John J Johnston is Vice-Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society. This event celebrates LGBT History Month.

Taking a few of the snippets of information from the talk…
  • The theory that Hadrian** allowed Antinous to sacrifice his life in the Nile - acting as a surrogate for the ill fate that had been prophesied for Hadrian**.
  • Hadrian** raises Antinous to the level of a god and his imagery (in the form of coins and statues) spread far and wide across the empire.
  • The recurring motifs of death and rebirth with Antinous portrayed as Dionysus and Osiris.
  • Hadrian** was miserable for the eight years following Antinous death and then Hadrian** dies.

This made me wonder whether perhaps…
  • The prophecies of the demise of Hadrian** represented the death of the Roman Empire
  • Hadrian** sacrifices a willing Antinous to preserve the empire. Perhaps this is why the Christians hate him so. Not only because he is a pagan roman god, but also because he represents the Roman Empire that the Christians want to re-make the empire in their own image.
  • Antinous’ popularity spreads further than Hadrian** anticipated and he is faced with the imagery of his sacrifice where ever he looks for the last eight miserable years of his life.
  • After his death, Antinous haunts Hadrian**. Is it possible to exorcise a god?

Whilst I am not in favour of waking sleeping or dead gods, part of me wonders if Antinous was active today if he would mind going via Sochi to (haunt) hang out with the leader of the Russia and then on to the leader of Uganda.

** - may his bones be crushed.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Shadows in Europe

Gordon mentioned Belgium Jews in a recent post: Pyramid Schemes: Return To Giza. It reminded me of a video I came across recently of one (of many) Jew(s) leaving Belgium. Europe is changing faster than ever and it may well become dark again before the return of the light.

Friday, 21 February 2014

A Little Less Conversation...

I've been a terrible friend recently, hardly staying in touch and meeting up only occassionally. Once of the things that I have been struggling with recently has been the simple matter of small talk. Whilst it took me some time in my early 20's to overcome my incredible shyness and develop some ability to converse in a normal fashion with my fellow human beings - I now seem to be going in to the other direction. Perhaps it's just that I am more conscious of the passing of the years, perhaps having small children has taken much of my time and energy.

Anyway, the reason for all this negative self-analysis is partially inspired by the extract copied below. It's made me ponder that perhaps my reluctance to engage much in small talk may be driven by something greater. Then again perhaps I am just anti-social by nature.

“WORLDMASK” by Rabbi Akiva Tatz
Extract form Chapter 10 “Speech, Prophecy, and Wasting Words”

Perhaps we can now begin to understand the severity of sins of speech in Torah. Speech is the basic tool of Creation and revelation, as we have noted, and the ability to speak is the hallmark of the human. Misuse of this central gift is particularly devastating – the first sin ever committed was brought about by improper speech: the serpent’s devious words to the unsuspecting Chava (Eve). In that immoral and treacherous temptation lay all the danger that misused speech can hold.
There is an aspect of the misuse of speech which needs special study: wasting words. There is a particular problem in wasting words, even when the words spoken are not false or intrinsically sinful. In general, this is part of the problem of wasting any human resource: any time or effort wasted in a human life is wastage of that life itself and therefore a very serious matter. But wasted words, d’varim b’telim, are particularly problematic.
A lie presents a false picture of that which is hidden within, it betrays the inner dimension. D’varim b’telim, wasted and meaningless words, present a picture of that which has no inner dimension, and this is no less a betrayal. Words are given in order to reveal meaning, to clothe a deeper reality; empty nonsense betrays the very fact that there is a depth at all.
The Vilna Gaon states that the consequence of wasted words is a particular suffering in the next world: kaf ha’ela, the “cup of the slingshot”; a neshama which must endure that particular suffering as a result of wasting words experiences the sensation of being flung from one place to another, but before arriving at the destination is flung yet again in another direction and so on. The Gaon says that for every empty statement a person must be flung from one end of the world to the other. There is an experience of constant travelling towards a goal, but never arriving – this is the reality generated by a life which used the tools of human growth for nothing other than their own sake, a life which moved through the world but wasted its creative energies.
Such a life consists of talking constantly but not saying anything; the version of such a life which is reflected in the next world, the world of reality, is the experience of moving but not arriving. To speak and create is to live in the Divine image; to speak without creating is to negate that image.
The world is full of empty words. The nature of modern media is such that there is virtually no limit to the amount of words which are spewed out constantly, and our society is inundated with talk. But it seems that the more words are poured out, the less meaning they convey. We have plenty of words, but very little communication. 
One of the mysteries of the sin of wasting words is why it feels so good: why do people relish spending hours talking nonsense? It is a particular feature of human interaction that there is intense pleasure in speaking to an acquaintance or in a group of people for long periods even when no important or relevant subject is discussed. People often get together for no purpose other than to chat. If one cares to analyse the flow of conversation one will find that the topics discussed range widely and wildly with almost no logical connection between them other than mere association of ideas – one topic leads to another, some detail of that topic suggests another topic, the discussion veers in that direction for a while, and so on. Very often one cannot even trace the course of the discussion or remember what was covered. And yet – the experience was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
It is sobering to note that a large proportion of human conversation, perhaps the major part, belongs to this category of idle and directionless speech. One has only to listen to a party of people relaxing over dinner or socializing in some other context to be struck by the random and irrelevant nature of the talk. And again, it is pleasurable. If nothing in the make-up of the psyche is accidental, why is this so?
In order to understand this phenomenon we shall have to study a particular depth of human motivation. The gemara states that Anshei Knesses Ha’gadola, the Men of the Great Assembly, annulled the human drive for idolatry. They reckoned that due to the relative descent of the generations in spiritual power, the ordeal provided by the temptation to idolatry was greater that the reward to be earned in overcoming it. Since it offered too dangerous a test, they decided to work for its obliteration, and they successfully exorcised it from the human psyche. From that time on, people do not have a natural and intrinsic drive to worship idols.
But the very act of abolishing the drive to idolatry also abolished prophecy. That generation was the last to experience prophecy; in fact, Chaggai, Zecharia and Malachi were the last three prophets and they were the members of that convocation of Sages and prophets. What is the connection between idolatry and prophecy? Why must they stand or fall together?
The answer is that both of these ideas relate to transcendence. The human mind and neshama long to transcend the bounds of the finite and physical, and essentially, such transcendence is possible. At a high enough level of human preparation and purity, prophecy is the result. In prophecy, the neshama breaks through into a transcendent realm, breaks through into a zone outside of the self and closer to that of the Creator, and the experience is of a magnitude that is impossible for us to understand.
But there is a false channel for transcendence, too. That is the idea of idolatry; the desire to annul the self in an experience of merging with a greater reality can be misdirected to idolatrous ends. Idolatry provides an opportunity for going beyond the self; it provides a sense of transcendence, but of course in a false and misguided way. In fact, in its impure heart, idolatry is really the worship of the self, but its guise is worship of that which is above.
Prophecy is a pathway, a channel, to reach above the self. Idolatry is a false pathway to reach above, a misguided application of the faculty of relating to that which is above the human realm. And that is why they both inhabit the same zone within human consciousness and motivation – the very pinnacle of the mind, the point at which consciousness can transcend into superconsciousness, is that faculty which is activated by prophecy and betrayed in idolatry.
And that is why they stand or fall together. If that most powerful drive, the drive to connect with the Divine in prophecy ,is removed, then the temptation to worship a false version of holiness is removed too. And the reason is that they are one and the same faculty in the mind. There is no intrinsic good or bad in the human form, only energies which are more or less powerful; good and bad lie solely in the application of those energies. If there is an energy directed at rising above the finite, at transcending, then that energy will be the stuff of prophecy, and of necessity it will be the stuff of the drive to idolatry. If prophecy goes, the temptation to idolatry will be deflated too.
What happened is that the organ, the faculty of the mind which is able to reach above itself has been excised, and all its functions must disappear as a result. If one removes an organ of the body surgically, all of its functions are lost – one cannot expect some functions of the liver to remain intact in the body if the liver has been removed, and similarly, when the Men of the Great Assembly removed the craving for idolatry from the human heart, they were simultaneously removing prophecy from the realm of human attainment. What was in fact removed was not idolatry or prophecy in themselves, but rather the mental and spiritual faculty which spawns them, when that faculty was removed, its functions disappeared.
Now the fascinating question is: when a part of the mind is thus weakened or removed, what remains in its place? And the answer i: nothing. But let us understand: we are discussing the highest faculty, the point of origin of the mind, the point of origin of consciousness. This point represents the highest point imaginable, the drive for reaching up, the drive for the ecstasy of bonding with the Creator. And when that point is emptied, what is left is a drive for nothing at all. The drive to move out and beyond has become a drive to be where one is and not to progress. The space remains, that area of the psyche remains , the drive remains; but instead of being geared to reaching up and on, it remains as a drive to be involved in movement which does not have to go anywhere. The pleasure of being able to transcend has become the pleasure of being in a place which is an end in itself. Talking about nothing, using the deepest and most creative of human faculties for nothing other than its own sake, is the result.
When the real transcendence of prophecy was possible, a sane individual would not have enjoyed talking nonsense, talking or working or moving without the achieved of tangible progress; nothing would have been more frustrating. But now we have a zone of emptiness where the zone of transition to a higher state once was, we enjoy simply using out tools of progress to go nowhere.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Meditate Before Prayer

Following on from Meditate More with Less - I have made one more adjustment to my regular meditation which has had a significant impact.

Previously I would get all required prayer services out of the way and clear the rest of the evening for (potentially) practicing meditation. Now instead I make a concerted effort to meditate before the evening prayers rather than after them.

Just to be clear when referring to the term prayer, I do not mean here that this is an activity or ritual in which I basically say “give me, give me, and give me more”. Instead what I am referring to by the word prayer is beautifully explained in the Artscroll prayer book’s Overview / Prayer, a Timeless Need. In the section Prayer’s Function it states: (transliterated terms [] appear in square brackets)

“Its Hebrew name is tefillah, a word that gives us an insight into the Torah concept of prayer. The root of tefillah is [Peh, Lamed, Lamed], to judge, to differentiate, to clarify, to decide. In life, we constantly sort out evidence from rumour, valid options from wild speculations, fact from fancy. The exercise of such judgement is [PehLilah]. Indeed the word [Pelilim] (from [Peh Lamed Lamed]) is used for a court of law (Exodus 21:22), and what is the function of a court if not to sift evidence and make a decision? A logical extension of [Peh Lamed Lamed] is the related root [Peh Lamed Heh], meaning a clear separation between two things. Thus, prayer is the soul’s yearning to define what truly matters and to ignore the trivialities that often masquerade as essential (Siddur Avodas HaLev).
People always question the need for prayer – does not G-d know our requirements without being reminded? Of course He does, He knows them better than we do. If prayer where intended only to inform G-d out desires and deficiencies, it would be unnecessary. Its true purpose is to raise the level of the supplicants by helping them develop true perceptions of life so that they can become worthy of His blessing. 
This is the function of the evaluating, decision-making process of [Teffillah], prayer. The Hebrew verb for praying is [Mispallel]; it’s a reflexive word, meaning that the subject acts upon himself. Prayer is a process of self-evaluation, self-judgement; a process of removing oneself from the tumult of life to a little corner of truth and refastening the bonds that tie one to a purpose of life.”

To put my own Kabbalistic spin on the above, prayer enables self-reflection required in order to recognize which "vessels" are in ones life or can be brought in to ones life in order to receive the blessing of Divine plenty (i.e. "light"). With that in mind, here is an extract from “Living in Divine Space” by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh which convinced me to meditate before payer. Something that in hindsight seems very clear, but took me many moons to grasp and put in to practice.

Living in Divine Space” by Rabbi Titzchak Ginsburgh  pp. 6 "The Service of the Heart":
"The sages refer to prayer as “the service of the heart.” Since the initial point of meditation is” with all my heart, I seek You,” meditation may also be understood as “the service of the heart.” This we see that there exists an intrinsic relationship between meditation and prayer. Indeed, prayer is the culmination, the consummate expression, of meditation. The initial “point” of focus creates Divine structure; the final “point” within, prayer, reflects our inner experience when we enter the consciousness of “Living in Divine Space.” Prayer, as the “point” of the six directions of Divine spare, converts the meditative “line into a living, pulsating Divine “area”. 
As will be explained, prayer is the striving of the soul to transform the meditative state into Divine life, to metamorphose out of a state of self-consciousness into one of Divine consciousness."