Thursday, 22 October 2015

There cannot be two skies!

Working with Letters
“...There's things I want, there's things I think I want
There's things I have, there's things I wanna have
They say the more you fly, the more you risk your life
Well I'm just looking, I'm not buying I'm just looking, keeps me smiling...”
 Stereophonics lyrics to “Just Looking”

I've just finished playing the Planescape:Torment (PS:T) computer game for the... well, I've lost track how many times I've played it. At the time, it was a ground-breaking game and there are numerous quotes from the characters which have a habit of lingering in my mind until I have learned their lessons.

Spiralling Through 

At the moment I'm in the process of studying chapter 2 of Sefer Yetzira again. This too I have lost track too of how many times I've tried to learn it.

In chapter 2, verse 2 (in the Kaplan edition) it states:
“Twenty-two Foundation letters: He engraved them, He carved them, He permuted them, He weighed them, He transformed them, And with them, He depicted all that was formed and all that would be formed” 
 As Rabbi Kaplan recommends in the Introduction, this verse (SY 2:2) should be read in the imperative. But what does it mean to engrave, carve, permute, weigh, and transform the twenty letters? Put simple, based on my current understanding, this involves:

Engrave – focus on each letter in turn, not necessarily the shape but the meaning. There are numerous books which are worth-while reading on the significance of each of the Hebrew letters.
Carve – focus on nothing outside of the letters. I normally do this using sound to carve away all extraneous thoughts and focus entirely on the letters (in combination with each vowel).
Permute – combine each letter with all the other letters of the Hebrew aleph-bet. This is done with each of the vowels. I believe that weighing should actually be done first...
Weigh – the way that I do this is combining each letter with the others but with only the base vowel of each letter. This gives a sense of how each letter relates to the others and can, I believe, give a deeper understanding of why the letters are in a specific order. Transform – this means gemmatria. There are numerous systems of gemmatria, some of them even work.

Gaming Quotes 

One of my favourite characters in PS:T is called Dak'kon. Here are some of his quotes and how I've applied them to the study of SY2:2...

“A divided mind is an unfocused mind.” Meditation is in my view focused thought. By focusing on each letter and not allowing other thoughts to dominate or intrude, my mind remains focused and undivided. This is the stage of engraving.

“There cannot be two skies!” In the fictional history of the game, Dak'kon comes from a race that fought off the shackels of slavery. One faction led by Gith sought to continue the genocidal war against their former owners. Zerthimon (whom Dak'kon follows) chose to not to pursue this war and a civil war ensued.
To focus only on the letters and nothing else, everything else must be removed in one's thoughts. There cannot be two skies, just each letter and that alone. This is the stage of carving.

“Balance in All Things.” To get the measure of each letter, it is necessary to weigh each one in one's thoughts. To ensure that no letters become one's primary focus to the exclusion of the others, it is necessary to stay balanced in all letters. This is the stage of weighing.

“All things, whether structure or flesh — their existence is defined by their knowing of themselves.” To know the essence of something, it is necessary to de-construct its name letter by letter. Cycling though each letter and vowel combination for one letter with all the other letters can give rise to great insights. This is the stage of permutation.

“Steel marks flesh, but flesh cannot mark steel.” Letter substitution allows, according to what limited amount of study I have done to date, allow for the transformation of one thing in to another. Flesh cannot mark steel, but legend has it that when Esau bit in to Jacob's neck, the latter's neck was transformed to marble. This is the stage of transformation.

Back to the Song 

I think that I want to game, but I really want to meditate. So why do I struggle to prioritise one other the other? I have plenty of books on Kabbalah and a basic knowledge of Hebrew to start studying them – what I wanna have is actually to have studied them already :-)

Friday, 16 October 2015

learning and livelihood

This is a brief blog post as it's posted from my phone....

Responding to a couple of posts on the issues with students today and whether it is possible or desirable to earn a livelihood from magical practices, here are my thoughts.

1. Wisdom

Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers] 4:1 states "... Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man. As is stated (Psalms 119:99): "From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation."..."

Every interaction is a learning opportunity. King David called someone his teacher for teaching him even a single letter. The thing to remember is to have space not occupied by ego to allow for new ideas and concepts. Hence "Kabbalah" meaning received tradition, but also IMO receptive to teaching.

Talmud Ta'anit 7a states "...R. Chanina remarked, "I have learned much from my teachers, more from my colleagues, and the most from my students"..."

If a person has set themselves up as a teacher and understand that they learn from their students via teaching them... then they are missing the point of the first quote. Sure, you're learning by teaching - but you can also learn from your students when not teaching.

2. Livelihood

As to the question if a person can make a living as an occult practitioner by being an author, tarot reader, astrologer, teacher, etc. The real question is my opinion should be rephrased as: CAN I MAKE A LIVING FOLLOWING MY PASSION?

Regardless of whether it is focused on occult path or bolstered by occult techniques... looking at the question in terms of a livelihood from one's passions hopefully forces a person to look at market conditions, budgets & forecasts, marketing, etc. All necessary to sustaining a strategic plan for one's livelihood.

OK, perhaps not as short a post as I would have liked.

One more thing if you are a teacher... please, please, please read Seth Godin's "The Dip". If you do not understand this simple teaching about why so ofew people become excellent in their chosen field - you will never succeed in being a successful teacher aside from the few exceptional students who will succeed in spite of you.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Da'at and Speech: Responses

On the blog: Osiris Risen, the author talks about praying out loud. It reminds me of an idea that a friend shared recently.

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (Ramak) in his commentary on Sefer Yetzirah chapter 2 talks about how we take the physical letters written on the page, transform them in to sounds which are part physical and part spiritual (ruach), and are then internalized in the consciousness - entirely spiritual.

The breath balances between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Between the watery intuition of the gut via the lungs to the fiery (electrical) thoughts of the brain. Neshima, the Hebrew word for breath, is the same root as the word Neshama - a level of soul consciousness.

So what does this all mean? Simply that by praying out loud we transform physical in to spiritual through the power of our breath. By having kavannah, focused intent, we can imbue our words with the power of emotion and enliven them. So the next time you pray, don't sit in silence - speak. And if you are readying psalms, for goodness sake Sing!

On the blog: Disrupt & Repair, the author talks about [NB] Da’ath and Gevurah in the Amidah. As it so happened, I have recently read some of Dovber Pinson's "Toward the Infinite" which has some interesting quotes on the topics of Chochmah, Binah, and Da'at.

"...We have discussed chochmah and binah, the first two of the three intellectual capacities that make up the word ChaBaD. The third letter of the word ChaBaD stands for da'at. Traditionally da'at is translated as knowledge...
...What exactly is this knowledge?...
...While knowledge is commonly perceived to be a function of the intellect, associated with the mind, da'at in fact is, in a sense, an act of identification. Leda'at, or to know, means to be completely identified with that information. Da'at is the attachment of the mind to the idea it is contemplating. A thought becomes fully absorbed in da'at. There is no thorough and complete understanding until the thought is brought down into the state of da'at...
...The Torah uses the term da'at to connote the idea of attachment, connection, and union. The word da'at essentially means to internalize a thought or concept, and make an association with the idea. In da'at consciousness, the boundary that usually separates the knower from the known is eliminated...
...Eating from the tree of knowledge caused an identification with and attachment to evil. Prior to eating from the tree of knowledge, Adam and Even intellectually understood that good and evil existed. By eating from the tree, they internalized evil. From then on, evil ceased existing as an external objective reality and became an internal subjective interpretation. From then on mankind knew and identified with both good and evil. The good resides within us, and so does the potential to do evil..."