Thursday, 26 December 2013

Are Golems Physical or Not?

In the closing days of 2013 my thoughts often turn to the question of whether golems are phyiscal beings or spiritual/astral creatures? I think that to try to answer this question, it is important to consider the closing chapter of the brilliant Professor Moshe Idel's book: "Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions: On the Artificial Anthpoid".
Summary pp. 275-6
"After presenting the major texts concerning the creation of the artificial man in Franco-Ashkenazi and Sefardi mysticism, some general observations on differences between their treatments of this topic are in order. One major difference seems to be the attitude on the very act of creation: the Franco-Ashkenazi descriptions of the techniques of creation do not inelude a basic reticence regarding the performance of the ritual of creating a Golem. Indeed, they require certain conditions of purity, but that is basically all. In the case of Ashkenazi texts which include a warning against the creation, it is obvious that these are parts of an earlier text, which were influential on the Franco-Ashkenazi authors. I would like to emphasize that even then the warning does not occur together with the technique to create the man. On the other hand, those Sefardi texts which elaborate on the issue of the Golem end with a warning, as in the case of Abulafia, or the act of material creation is presented as an inferior activity to be transcended by the intellectual creation. In the most extreme case, that of Cordovero, the creation of the Golem is presented as a totally meaningless activity from the spiritual point of view. This last motif is totally absent from the Franco-Ashkenazi texts. This basic divergence is to be understood, as we have already remarked, by the influence of philosophical speculations which preferred the intellectual over the material, thought over matter, intellection over action. This fundamental divergence is carried down to the later centuries, when the Golem is discussed in a favorable light by Ashkenazi authors, as almost a human being, in comparison to the continuation of the line of Cordovero, so evident in the Sefardi milieux. 
Each of the important types of thought in the Franco-Ashkenazi provinces developed, in the thirteenth century, a certain view on the technique of the creation of the Golem. The differences between these techniques are obvious, and the common interest in this topic in the different circles may be important evidence that the deep concern with the Golem predates the period when the above texts were committed to writing. This situation stands in sharp opposition to the indifference toward this topic among the Sefardi mystics who, with the exception of Abraham Abulafia did not pay much attention to this tradition. Let us ponder the implications of the above distribution of the interest in the Golem. The early Kabbalists, Provencal and Catalan, deliberately minimize the interest in this topic in comparison to the Ashkenazi Hasidim. The attitude of the theosophicaltheurgical Kabbalists in Castile during the last third of the thirteenth century is even more reticent. It is highly significant that the luxuriant Kabbalistic production, which is unpreceded in Jewish mysticism, including the works of R. Joseph Gikatilla, R. Moses de Leon, R. Joseph of Hamadan and the literature which constitute the Zohar itself, are indifferent to the practice of creating a Golem. This is the case also in Safedian Kabbalah. As we have seen, R. Moses Cordovero, the single important Safedian Kabbalist who has something new to contribute to the idea of the Golem, is rather reticent in attributing any spiritual degree to the Golem, assuming as he does that no real spiritual faculty can be infused in the artificial being. The great Kabbalistic corpus of literature named Lurianic Kabbalah seems to totally ignore the issue of the Golem.19 Therefore, the two main bodies of Kabbalistic literature, the Castilian and the Safedian, were reticent in including this topic in their spiritual agenda. On the other hand, the Ashkenazi Hasidism and the ecstatic Kabbalah seem to be the only types of medieval Jewish mysticism which developed this idea, presenting it either as a mystical or as a magical technique. The most important influence of their interest in the artificial creation of man are the texts of the Renaissance authors, whose affinity to the texts of R. Eleazar of Worms and Abulafia is conspicuous. Therefore, using the distribution of the discussion of the topic related to the Golem, we may design two lines of medieval mysticism: the theosophical and theurgical Kabbalah running from Provence through Catalonia and Castile to Safed, indifferent to the problem of the artificially created man; the ecstatic one, flourishing in Germany, appearing momentarily also in Spain, but resurfacing basically in medieval and Renaissance Italy, and the East, namely, the Land of Israel..."
And to understand why there are divergent opinions and emphasis on the debate about golem creation, Prof. Idel adds to the above chapter:
Summary pp. 278
"The difference between the two religious emphases is due, I assume, to the influence of the alien philosophical theologies on the respective Jewish theologies. The Ashkenazi and French masters were immersed in the ancient Jewish mystical theology of the Heikhalot literature with its magical and anthropomorphical proclivities. The influence of the Sa'adyan thought, great as it is considered to be, did not totally erase the importance of the older forms of thought and practices. On the other hand, Spanish Jewish authors of the eleventh and twelfth centuries were already under the impact of Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosophies, without betraying a significant stratum of older Jewish theology, formulated under the influence of the Heikhalot literature. The impact of philosophy in Spain was earlier, greater and more profound than it was in Germany and France. The Franco-Ashkenazi elite was much more closed to external influence and even the influence of philosophy was already mediated by Eastern or Spanish Judaism. In comparison to the fine knowledge of Islamic philosophy found in the Spanish elite, the Northern European Jewish masters seem to be much more isolated and even reticent toward the alien lore. Even when the Spanish Kabbalists did refer to the Golem, it is as part of a more speculative discussion in the context of arguments on the nature of the soul; these discussions are conspicuously consonant with their general philosophical concerns..."

So there you have it... One set of Kabbalists who believe the golem to be a physical creation and the other who consider the golem to be an intellectual creation. Whilst I would normally side with Rabbi Abulafia in most discusson on Kabbalah, when it comes to understanding the creation of the golem - I hold with the opinions of the Chassidei Ashkenaz (German Pietists).

Clay Terminator?

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Ark Phone Home - Ancient Aliens S06E10 Aliens and The Lost Ark

Normally I don't have the patience or desire to watch lengthy videos like the one above (sorry Gordon). But I found this one to be quite interesting. One thing that struck me was the constant reference to aliens inhabiting distant planets. I'm not convinced that our Neighbours (angels or aliens) are that 'far' away...

Monday, 16 December 2013

Bumbling Bimblomancy

There are 3 games left this season against a Norse themed line-up including Ravens, Vikings and Giants. Anyway, this week's bibliomancy came up with the following result:

Book of Daniel Chapter 12, verse 7:
7. And I heard the man clad in linen, who was above the waters of the river, and he raised his right hand and his left hand to the heavens, and he swore by the Life of the world, that in the time of [two] times and a half, and when they have ended shattering the strength of the holy people, all these will end.
This is quite a timely verse as this week's portion of the Torah read includes a reference to the Patriarch Jacob attempting to, and being denied the ability to, predict what will happen in the end of days.  In fact, on the same day as I read the verse from Daniel, was also the same day that Judah gets his famous Gur Aryeh blessing from his father.

So take-aways from todays bibliomancy are:
  1. Initial impressions matter and my initial impression was that Daniel 12:7 was both confusing and technical
  2. The context in which the verse is found appears not to matter
  3. The raising of the hands may relate to referee signals and decisions
  4. The strength of the Lions will be returned in the second half (?)
  5. I don't really understand how bibliomancy works, but it's been fun trying to figure it out each week
Bibliomancy is recommended before the match, not during
If you're wondering if bibliomancy works, a brief search shows of at least one recent success story. Anyway, it looks like I have to do a lot more learning about how bibliomancy works... back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Thoughts on Love

The blogger Moloch Sorcery wrote a great piece on love magic, I’m a bit surprised that it’s not been followed up by other bloggers chipping in their 2 cents on the use of magic for love.
Anyway, here is the entry for love in the Encyclopedia ofJewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism By Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis:
Love: (Ahavah; Chesed; Yedidutl Chaviv). To be loved is a universal human need. For Jewish magicians, love really can come in a bottle. A variety of love potions and love-inducing amulets are documented in medieval Jewish literature (Naveh and Shaked. Magic, Spells and Formulae, 150, 177, 199. Also see Janowitz, Icons of Power, 113) One example involves a magic square with angelic names written on a shell (it is unclear whether an egg shell, turtle shell, or sea shell ins meant) with ink made from spices, using a bronze or copper instrument. Several love incantations involve casting a spell inscribed on metal or clay into a fire, using the flames as a magic analogy for burning passion: “just as this pot shard burns, so may burn the heart of…” SEE CAIRO GENIZA; SEFER HA-RAZIM; SWORD OF MOSES
As you can see there is a rich tradition of love spells in Kabbalah, however it’s not something that I have ever tried – hence I cannot comment whether they work or not.

Anyway, the sages in Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot5:16) say:
16. Any love that is dependent on something--when the thing ceases, the love also ceases. But a love that is not dependent on anything - never ceases. What is [an example of] a love that is dependent on something? The love of Amnon for Tamar. And one that is not dependent on anything? The love of David and Jonathan.

So here are the three guidelines of romance that every golem builder should consider:
  1. Look for a partner with similar life goals. If you’re not heading in a similar direction in life, sooner or later you’re in danger of moving in different directions.
  2. Look for character traits that you admire. Sure physical attraction is important, but it’s not what it should all be about. Eventually good looks will fade (see quite from Ethics about love based on a thing). 
  3. A relationship is like a garden. A small amount of frequent tending will reap great rewards, but if you leave it untended for too long – the weeds will overgrow the garden and you’re left with the choice of replanting your garden or abandoning it. 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Divining the Wings of Eagles

Kings 22: 37 "The king had died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried the kind in Samaria. The driver rinsed out the chariot at the pool of Samaria; the dogs licked up the king's blood, and the harlots bathed in it - like the word of Hashem that He had spoken."

This describes the ignomious end of King Ahab. He went in to battle disguised and was hit by a stray arrow. "A man of Aram drew his bow aimlessly, yet hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor." (Kings 22:34). So my advice? Don't discount those aimless tackles, you never know which key (disguised) player may get taken out at a critical juncture.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

This is not a review: The Thirteen Petalled Rose

I've just started re-reading "The Thirteen Petalled Rose: A Discourse On The Essence Of Jewish Existence And Belief" by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz.

Keeping with the theme of 'this is not a review', I will not go in to any detail about this book. However, if I were to recommend only one introductory book about Kabbalah this would be it. Rabbi Steinsaltz tops pretty much any other author whom I have come across, whether in Hebrew or Western Mystery Kabbalah books. After five years of reading about Kabbalah, practicing meditation, and struggling to get some kind of experiential knowledge of Sefer Yetzirah, Book, of Creation, I am still learning new things from this amazing introductory text.