Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Balancing of Netzach and Hod

I was going to jump on the bandwagon and add my two coppers to the amazing discussion on HGA that has been ongoing lately. Here is an excellent post by MC called “Holy Guardian Angels, Helpful Spirits, S.A.'s and The Genius” that links to some of the other blog posts. However, seeing as I've not done the HGA rites it's probably best to avoid proving my vast ignorance on this topic.

Anyway, on to the reason for this post. Rob over at Doing Magic blog recently posted about feelings of Malaise. In one of my two comments I mentioned ensuring that Netzach and Hod were in balance and when he replied asking for clarification... well I once again proved my vast ignorance. So to make up for it, here is a (hopefully) very enlightening extract from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's excellent book “Inner Space” on Netzach, Hod and Yesod (pp65-66): 

“...Let us examine how this relationship relates to Netzach-Dominance and Hod-Empathy. Netzach-Dominance is on the right side, under Chesed-Love, whereas Hod-Empathy in on the left. Hence Netzach-Dominance is a derivative of Chesed-Love, and Hod-Empathy is right beneath Gevurah-Restraint. If I am dealing with another person, it is not just a question of giving or holding back, because essentially, the more I give (Chesed), the more I am changing this person, the more I am overwhelming him (Netzach). The more I restrain myself (Gevurah), the more I give way to the needs of another, the more I allow him to assert his own individuality (Hod). What is required is a harmonious balance between Netzach-Dominance and Hod-Empathy, and it is this that leads to a perfect Yesod relationship.
The word Netzach (Nun-Tzaddi-Chet) comes from Menatzeach (Mem-Nun-Tzaddi-Chet), meaning to “conquer” or “overcome”. One can see this implication in a male-female relationship. Some men in a relationship feel that they must totally overwhelm the woman, who is not left with much personality of her own. Some woman also have a Netzach relationship with their husbands, where they have to dominate them in every way.
Hod-Empathy is just the opposite. It is a relationship where I totally give in to the other person. In Hod-Empathy, I essentially annul myself, and lose all account of myself. For instance, if a person allows himself to become totally passive to the point of being seduced, this would be the ultimate Hod relationsip. It is for this reason that the Hebrew word for Splendour, Hod, also has the connotation of Hoda'ah, which means submission. As we shall see, Hod-Empathy is submissive in the sense that it allows evil to exist.
The idea of Netzach and Hod is a question of asserting your identity on the one hand, or total compliance with the other person's identity on the other. The perfect Yesod-Foundation relationship is of course the balance between the two. What is important to emphasize here is that this rule holds true both in relationship between man and God as well as between man and woman. Yesod-Foundation represents the most powerful bond that can exist between two individuals. At the same time it is the ultimate attachment of man to the Divine. In fact, the Ball Shem Tov explains that marital intimacy is the paradigm of man's relationship with God. The motions of the sexual act represent the balancing back and forth between Netzach and Hod, while the final cessation of motion is Yesod. Yesod-Foundation is this the perfect mean between Netzach-Dominance and Hod-Empathy, the blending of two people in love. It is not only the physical blending, but a psychological and emotional blending which is the perfect balance between maintaining our identity, yet surrendering it...”

Some concluding thoughts for all (28 of) my readers... consider where the balance lies in your relationships in terms of Netzach-Dominance and Hod-Empathy with your partner, loved ones, friends and God. Also, consider that it is a dynamic system and every instance of thought, speech or action affects it.

For example, my recent interest in learning to do any kind of food preparation started with bread making and threatened to expand in to other areas. That had a subtle and significant effect on my household, hence I made the conscious decision to limit myself to bread making so as not to adversely affect the Netzach – Hod balance between my wife and I.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

New Project: A Lion Has Roared

My last project Noten Kavod finished on Monday this week. In summary it was a partial success**, it worked to some extent in Nefesh attunement and having a more positive interaction with people, animals, plants and minerals.

However, having chosen to interact with everything in my environment it became a bit much and I found that I was unable to maintain the meditative focus. In the second and third week I was only able to manage bursts of Noten Kavod meditation, mainly when on a journey from one place to the next. Building up to keeping a mental focus 100% of my waking hours is something beyond my skill level at the moment and will take an unknown amount of time to develop.

Anyway, Ananael Qaa posted recently about Taking the "Wizard" Out Of "Triwizard" on his blog. It gave me the idea for another project that would address one of the lessons learnt from the Noten Kavod project – namely to restrict the time and focus of meditation to specified periods of time rather than attempting to do it continuously.

Instead of going for something meaningful such as world peace, an end to poverty or other worthy and very difficult to measure effect; I've chosen something less serious and arguably still quite difficult to measure effect. Namely to provide spiritual support for an American football team.

For this project I've chosen The Detroit Lions. I've got no connection to this team (that I'm aware of) and have picked it solely on the basis of the following two factors:

1. The wikipedia entry for Detroit Lions states that...
The Lions have won four NFL Championships, the last in 1957, giving the club the second-longest NFL championship drought behind the Arizona Cardinals. The Lions are one of four current NFL teams that have yet to qualify for the Super Bowl. The 2008 Detroit Lions became the only team in NFL history to lose all 16 regular season games.
2. “Put Your Hands Up For Detroit” by Fedde Le Grand (music video link not work safe). This song is used in a dance workout DVD that is frequently played in my home.

Amos 3:8

Here are the project details:

Scope: Use spiritual influence to support Detroit Lions  Time: Regular Season starting September 2011
Cost: 1 hour of prayer, theurgy, trainee Golem builder techniques per game Quality: The success criterion for this project is a significant improvement performance of the Detroit Lions during the Regular Season of 2011. The stretch goal is to qualify for the Super Bowl. The super stretch goal is to win the Super Bowl.
1. The simple success / failure metrics are whether each game is lost or won. However, it is more meaningful to measure trend information. The risk is that the analysis of improvement in performance or lack thereof may be too complicated or time-consuming to be monitored on a frequent basis.
2. The recent track record of the Detroit Lions has not been stellar. The risk is that improvements in the team's performance may not be due to my input and entirely due to other factors. Which makes measuring effect on the team's performance even harder.
3. My not being used to the NFL play schedule or having any understanding of how American football is played means that another risk is that my efforts may be misdirected or have a negative effect. However, it also means that this as an opportunity to learn more about the game and not make the requests for success in too specific a manner. 

** - technically the project failed to meet it's objectives.

Edit: Adding link to post by RO to remind me of results from previous 13 years by Detroit Lions
Edit: Adding match results.

Win / Loss ratio: 10 - 6

  1. Detroit Lions vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Win! 27-20
  2. Detroit Lions vs Kansas City Chiefs: Win! 48-3
  3. Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings: Win! 26-23
  4. Detroit Lions vs Dallas Cowboys: Win! 34-30
  5. Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears: Win! 24-13
  6. Detroit Lions vs San Francisco 49ers: Loss. 19-25
  7. Detroit Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons: Loss 16-23
  8. Detroit Lions vs. Denver Broncos: Win! 45-10
  9. Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears: Loss. 13-37
  10. Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers: Win! 49-35
  11. Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers: Loss 15 - 27
  12. Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints: Loss 17 - 31
  13. Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings: Win! 34 - 28
  14. Detroit Lions vs. Oakland Raiders: Win! 28-27
  15. Detroit Lions vs. San Diego Chargers: Win! 38-10
  16. Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers: Loss 41-45

Friday, 26 August 2011

Side project: Investigations into Islamic magic and Djin

Every so often a headline pops up that catches my attention about a subject that I’m very curious but know very little – that being Islamic magic and Djins. Here are a few sample headlines:
The Wikipedia article on the subject of Magic (Paranormal) in Islam was fairly informative, although it left me with a load more questions. As part of my new year’s resolution to become more informed about others faiths I’d intended to read their holy books, hence my bookshelf labeled “to be read this year” has had the Penguin Classics translation of “The Qur’an” added to it.

This should hopefully provide some more context and background to this fascinating field about which I know next to nothing. Conjure Man Ali is someone who appears to be very knowledgeable in the area of Djins, you can find his web site here and his excellent blog here. If he ever does a book or course on it I’d seriously consider signing up (circumstances permitting, there’s a fair number of changes in my life at the moment).

Anyway, if you have any book, blog, mailing list or other online resource recommendations the please let me know!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Reworking of Gnostic or Christian text - You Decide

One of the reasons I read so many academic works is to broaden my knowledge, but also to challenge my world view and see if it can be turned on its head.

Whilst reading “The Ancient Jewish Mysticism” by Joseph Dan recently, one such a moment of “oh wow!” occurred. If you don't want to read the whole extract, just skip to the third paragraph.

“The Ancient Jewish Mysticism” by Joseph Dan

“...The study of the Nag-Hammadi library has brought about a series of changes in the conception of the spiritual world of the Gnostics. It became clear, for example, that the extreme dualistic view, which opposes the good, concealed of with the wicked god who created the world, is not shared by all Gnostic sects. In many of the works this conception is totally absent. The divine world of the Gnostics, it has become clear, is much more complex and varied than one might have assumed from the polemic works of the Church Fathers. The Gnostic literature is one with many shades and different literary forms, to an extent not imagined before the discovery of the library.
However, the most important discovery in this library, as far as we are concerned, is evidently the fact that not all of the Gnostic literature is Christian. There is no doubt that all of the Nag-Hammadi writings which we have were written centuries after the emergence of Christianity- evidently in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Yet a number of striking occurrences in this library show that not all these Gnostic writings were composed under Christian influence or in the Christian domain.
The most striking example relates to two works in this library. One is known as The Sophia (i.e. the supreme wisdom) of Jesus Christ, and the second as Eugnostos, The name of the second work is derived from the name of the author of the epistle which is the major part of the work, and has no special theological significance, The first work, as its name indicates, is clearly a Christian/Gnostic work, which quotes various sayings in the name of Jesus. In the second work there is no hint of Christianity or its views (studies which have tried to prove a Christian influence on Eugnostos have only proved the opposite – their authors have had to resort to marginal and insignificant points, which have reinforced the view that this work is far removed from Christianity.) However, the most surprising thing to emerge from the study of these two texts is that they are but a single work. The Sophia of Jesus Christ is nothing but a reworking of Eugnostos to make it Christian, by addition at the beginning and end of a number of clearly Christian elements.
We therefore have the choice of deciding whether a certain editor deleted the Christian parts of The Sophia of Jesus Christ or the reverse: that a certain editor took a non-Christian gnostic work and added an external veneer to it in order to give the work a certain Christian character. As it would be more logical to assume that in the 3rd or 4th century an editor would attempt to impart a Christian character to a non-Christian work than the reverse, it is very likely that here we have clear proof that the Christian Gnostics used non-Christian works that preceded them, and imparted a Christian character to these works. This implies that a non-Christian gnostic literature existed, which to a certain extent served as a source and basis for the literature of the Gnostic Christians. This is enough to undermine to a large extent the belief in the conception held of the Gnostics by the Church Fathers, namely that they were a heretical movement which grew out of Christianity. Eugnostos is not a work that denies Christianity, but one which belongs to a religious movement which did not know of the existence of Christian scriptures, and the Christian doctrine was simply not within the spiritual purview of its creators...”

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cursing: Proof in sharing a little of the misfortune

Last week an incident happened that affected some of my extended family in a place very dear to my heart. It barely made the news however there was significant loss of life. When I found out my immediate response was one of fiery anger, an emotion that thankfully I do not experience very often.

Anyway, in that moment of anger the idea of a curse popped in to my head and I spoke it. My late mother would not have been proud - she believed in fighting fear with courage.

I know very little about cursing; but what I did was combine two Hebrew words. One word to encompass the people who supported the murderers with logistics, weapons and passage. The other word encompassing ill fortune.

The intended time frame for the curse to come in to effect is this winter. However this left me wondering if it would be effective or not. Not long afterwards some strange things happened which reminded me of something a woman told me when I was younger, namely that when she cast the evil eye something bad (to a lesser degree) would also happen to her – that's how she knew it was working.

So the strange things that happened in my life within a day of the curse were: standing outside of work in the rain due to a fire, bleeding unexpectedly, a loved one getting a high fever which did not break for several days (she rarely gets ill) and my house getting struck by lightning. All in all a curious series of events, but the proof as they say is in the pudding. Hopefully the people involved will mend their ways and avoid the curse, if not it will be a most unpleasant winter.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Dr. John Dee and Arguing with Angels

Over at PaleoJudaica a blog entry caught my attention regarding a new book on Dr. John Dee that some of the readers of this blog may or may not be interested in. The release date is May 2012 and cost for hardback and electronic copy is $75.

A 16th-century portrait of Dr John Dee by
an unknown artist.

Here is the SUNY PRESS link and a copy of the summary:

An exploration of John Dee’s Enochian magic of angel contact, its reinterpretation over the years, and its endurance to the present day.
This fascinating work explores John Dee’s Enochian magic and the history of its reception. Dee (1527–1608/9), an accomplished natural philosopher and member of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, was also an esoteric researcher whose diaries detail years of conversations with angels achieved with the aid of crystal-gazer Edward Kelley. His Enochian magic offers a method for contacting angels and demons based on secrets found in the apocryphal Book of Enoch.

Examining this magical system from its Renaissance origins to present day occultism, Egil Asprem shows how the reception of Dee’s magic is replete with struggles to construct and negotiate authoritative interpretational frameworks for doing magic. Arguing with Angels offers a novel, nuanced approach to questions about how ritual magic has survived the advent of modernity and demonstrates the ways in which modern culture has recreated magical discourse.

Egil Asprem is a Research Fellow at the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Project update: Food, Respect and Learning

This is a quick update how my currently active projects are going. The projects are:
  1. Hebrew Immersion Study Course 
  2. FAD (Food Attitude aDjustment) and
  3. Noten Kavod (Giving Respect)

1. Hebrew Immersion Study Course 
The scope for Hebrew Immersion Study Course is to read and translate all of the 24 books of the Tanach. So far I've been able to keep up with reading the daily portion of the Torah with commentary from Rashi. However I'm falling behind with studying the later books, having completed the book of Joshua and Judges but getting stuck at the start of the book of Samuel.

2. FAD (Food Attitude aDjustment)
Project FAD (Food Attitude aDjustment) is going pretty well and is almost over. The objective was to change my attitude towards food by eating less comfort food and being more mindful when eating.

Using a strategic approach of combining techniques from Paul McKenna's “I can make you Thin”, Rabbi Bar Tzadok's “Walking in the Fire” and a technique that worked partially last time of keeping a food diary – I'm quite pleased with the results.

As well as going down from 208 pounds (94kg) to 199 pounds (90kg), the thing that really astonished me was how often I was turning to comfort food. Being mindful of eating made me have to think about whether I was eating because my stomach was asking for food or whether it was my head demanding food.

3. Noten Kavod (Giving Respect)
The Noten Kavod project is now in its second week. In the first week the effect of giving respect, transferring some “energy” and smiling inwardly (as well as often outwardly) meant that my interaction was improved with my colleagues, family and friends. It's made me more aware of my surroundings and pay more attention to detail. This week the focus is on giving and returning “energy”. All in all I can begin to understand the effects of this Nefesh attunement exercise but I'll hold off on a complete report until the 3 weeks is up.

Friday, 12 August 2011

I haz the Powr!

I've got the power!

OK, perhaps not yet but a recent rather expensive acquisition should help me on my way. The trick to acquiring this book was to decide on a maximum budget, set that amount aside and then to check on a regular basis to see if a copy was available that either matched or was below the set-aside budget. It took 5-6 months and below is the result:

Transcription of the ancient Jewish Hekhalot/Merkabah literature

The next step is being able to translate what is contained in this book. However this is where things get a little more complicated.

Data, Information, Knowledge and Power
Let’s start with the basics about how I define data, information, knowledge and power. Here is a Wikipedia entry on this topic. My definition is similar:
  • Data – letters, numbers, and symbols
  • Information – Data arranged in a meaningful manner for specific reader(s)
  • Knowledge – Internalization of information for meaningful purpose for the reader(s)
  • Power – Application of knowledge for practical purpose(s)

Transforming Knowledge in to Power
Fortunately a lot of research has been done recently in to Merkabah (Chariot) mysticism in the academic community. This makes the translation of the Merkabah texts a little easier. Don Karr has provided a handy PDF on his web site that indicates where translation of specific sections of the Merkabah texts can be found in which books.

Using Don Kar’s information together with my growing skill at translating Hebrew to English, it should be possible for me to translate some key sections over the next few years. Yes, I did say years and not weeks or months. The main reason for this is limitations on my time from family and work.

Coming back to the previous definition of data, information, knowledge and power…

  • Data – Got a hard copy of the book with Merkabah texts
  • Information – Schafer has collated the information in the Synopse document. Current research which I’ve read recently will help to make sense of the data
  • Knowledge – Translating specific parts should help internalize the information to make it more meaningful

This leaves the last part - the transformation of knowledge through practical use in to applied knowledge, also known as experiential knowledge, also known as Power. Which for me is a step in to an undiscovered country so to speak. I’m currently not aware of anyone who makes use of the Merkabah rituals and practices. If you are or know someone who is, please get in touch!

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan warns against the use of Ma’aseh Merkabah in his book Meditaion and Kabbalah stating that in this day and age we lack the means of proper ritual purification. The texts themselves state what the criteria are for use (although they vary somewhat on who is eligible) and spell out the risks of what can go wrong when using heavenly ascension techniques.

It is my firm belief that knowledge is not power unless that knowledge is acted upon. However it’s not my intent to exert power in to my external environment, but rather to focus inwardly and use it to draw ever closer to the Ayn Sof, the Source that continuously emanates all that was, is and will be.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

New Project: Noten Kavod (Giving Respect)

Pirkei Avot: (Ethics of the Fathers) 4:1
Ben Zoma said: “…Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows. As is stated (I Samuel 2:30): "For to those who honor me, I accord honor; those who scorn me shall be demeaned."…”

Responses to Riots
With the recent riots, scenes of looting, in the UK it seems to me that one of the things that people are lacking is respect. Not just respect from others but also respect for themselves.

There are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) to a number of the responses taken by people in affected communities. Some have formed broom squads to clear up the mess left by looters and others are standing on the streets at night to chase off looters. Unfortunately some have paid the ultimate price to defend their homes and businesses.

I’m fortunate that in the area that I live people do on the whole respect each other and treat their neighbours well. On the weekend people even greet each other warmly with a smile.

Crown of Respect

Counter Strategies
Anyway, as well as reading the wikiHow guide on how to survive in a riot, I’m also starting a meditation to greet others with respect that is taken from Jacobus Swart’s “The Book of Self Creation” (First in the Shadow Tree Series). See pages 186 to 188 for the details of the Rite of Noten Kavod (Giving Respect).

In summary it has 3 stages, each of which is done on a consecutive week.

  • Stage 1 is greeting everyone and everything that you interact with an exhalation whilst mentally saying Noten Kavod. Your whole mind, body and soul smiles and you image your smile flowing outwards to the thing that you are interacting with. Whether this is a friend, stranger, tree or other thing that is honoured.
  • Stage 2 follows the same procedure as stage 1 except that you imagine giving and receiving from the object or person that you are interacting with. The flow in the second week is bi-directional.
  • Stage 3 is the same as the previous two stages except that it focuses on a specific colour, element or quality (such as love, health, communication).

Here is the project summary:

Scope: Noten Kavod (Give Respect/Honour) to people and things for next 3 weeks.
Time: 3 weeks.
Cost: None.
Quality: The success criterion for this project is based on whether other people and things reciprocate the respect and honour given to them. If this goes viral and shows of respect spread across the length and breadth of this fair and green land, that’s a bonus.
Risks: The main risk is that I forget to do it repeatedly. Also that respect is not reciprocated and the unrest could get worse. This risk would be mitigated by helping promote local safety by going out on to the streets, backed up with the use of Tehillim (Psalms).

Friday, 5 August 2011

If You Watch Enough Crap

A Wide Range of... Interests
Amongst my many interests such as Project Management, Magic, and Mysticism there are also some items that I’m less excited about publicizing.

One of those is watching what some people refer to as B-movies. Well, OK perhaps some could be referred to as Z-movies but I take great enjoyment in any film that includes space pirates, explosions, helicopters, cheesy one-liners and general mayhem.

As one of my colleagues who became a recent unintended stakeholder in my hobbies put it: “Simon you’re interested a small range of high brow areas and well… a wide range of utter crap”.

A Hidden Gem
However, with the chance of find a hidden gem or two I continue on my ongoing quest to boldly explore strange new B-movies. One of the recent gems was a film called: “In the Name of the King

If we ignore for the moment the plot, script, some of the acting and certainly the way that the Krugs were portrayed in the film…. The plus side of the film is that it included the always entertaining (in my opinion) Jason Statham and the gorgeous Claire Forlani.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this then please bear with me for a moment longer as this post does contain a gem of interest from a Jewish magic point of view.

Glimpse of Magical Text
In the film the character called Muriella (played by Leelee Sobieski) who is learning magic. During one scene there is a brief glimpse of the book that she is studying which is shown in the image below:

My first impression was: “Ah, they’ve done that thing of including Hebrew characters to make it look magical”. And then it struck me, the text is from the Torah portion Ha’azinu!  (Marked within red box in image below showing right hand column of text, the left side if missing from the picture).

The film researchers must surely have done their job well to pick this section since the Rabbis believe that this Torah portion contains the letter combinations for everyone’s name as illustrated by this story of Ramban (Nahmanides) and his student. (Links here and here)

Haazinu Text linked from Wikipedia

In short the Ramban’s student becomes an apostate, summons his old teacher after gaining a position of worldly power and challenges Ramban to find the former student’s name in the portion of Ha'azinu. The Ramban does so - the ex-student realizes the error of his ways and goes on walk-about to seek forgiveness for his wrongdoings.

I’m impressed by the research done by the makers of “In the Name of the King”. The brief glimpse of the portion of Ha’azinu shows that they understood its message and this is reflected in the teacher versus ex-student plot that plays a significant part in the film.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Elijah meditation by Fisdel

The Practice of Kabbalah: Meditation in Judaism” by Steven A. Fisdel is one of those rare (in my experience) books that spells out the techniques of Jewish meditation step-by-step. Recently a friend put an update on social media that she's facing a small crisis of lack of direction.

It happens to me more often than I care to admit, often on a Monday morning coming out of the train station on my way in to work. To me it's a sign that I need to do some active world view deconstruction. My favourite meditation that deal with facing one's fears, going through the pain of watching one's illusions crumble and then passing through barriers of self-imposed fears is the Elijah meditation described in Fisdel's book.