Saturday, 26 August 2017

August 2017 Reflections

The recent postabout wrestling with my prayers has got off to a good start. Rather than wrestle over every other word in the form of two people arguing, getting ever more heated – I do it every other sentence. This ends up creating a call & response type internal dialogue in which I engage more deeply with the meaning and intent of the prayers. It’s very similar to how I studied Mishnah (Oral Law) in which minority opinions are preserved and hence has this debate built in. A significant number of the prayers are set-up with this call & response and turning it in to an argument has added a surprising amount of depth.

On a slightly different topic – I spent some time at the beach recently. It’s not an environment that I am very comfortable in, hence I did some simple letter meditations. The ones that involved the mother letters and vowels may have had an effect. In particular the letters aleph (air) and mem (water) caused the waves to increase in height and power. If I was allowing myself a moment of self-delusions I would have said that it felt like there was a resonance with something far out at sea or the deep sea itself, as if my vocalization of the letters was a call and response with the ocean.


The last items that I wanted to post about was a recent chat with a fellow occultist on social media. During our brief chat we touched on the topic of what impact we may or may not have on others. There was a recent conversation that I had with an ex-colleague which did highlight an impact that I had on his life. He contacted me after a story in the news about a Google developer being fired. My ex-colleague reminded me of an incident where he told a racist joke and I quietly made him aware of this and offered to help him understand more of the history / context around the topic of the joke. My ex-colleague said “I could have been that Google developer if you had not had that chat with me.” So bottom line is you never know what the effects will be of your words, actions, silence or in-actions will have.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Wrestlers' Prayer

"Perfecting oneself is as much unlearning as it is learning." - Edsger W. Dijkstra (recently Posted on Programming Wisdom twitter account)

In my most recent re-reading of “The Thirteen Petalled Rose” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz the chapter that resonated the most was that on prayer. How does a person make prayer meaningful when there is a tension between whether one is prayer by oneself or part of the community – as there are individual prayers in a communal service. Also on the soul’s need for prayer when it has been institutionalized in terms of the service of prayer and the fixed schedule.

In the section on preparing for prayer there are three methods recommended:
  1. Wrestling with the prayer book
  2. Study and
  3. Set aside an Hour
The second method is to learn the meaning of prayer. The third method is to have a set amount of time preparing before and after prayer. The most extreme version of this is not to engage in any prayer until one is ready to pray – and not to engage in anything else until one reaches this state.

The first method is the one that I am currently pursuing. Rabbi Steinsaltz writes (chapter 12, pp144):

...The first, simplest, and perhaps most natural technique has been suggested by a certain sage: One should pray, he said, in the same way one quarrels. One says a word, the other says a word, until things get heated. This approach does not require preparation before prayer; one simply takes the prayer book and struggles with it on all the points that we have discussed: understanding the words, concentration, and consciousness in relation to and about the truth. One toils over every line of text, every word, every part of a word, attempting to squeeze some meaningful kernel out of it. In addition, one struggles over the question, “Am I merely repeating the words of others, or it this something of particular relevance to me?”...”

Friday, 11 August 2017

Renewal

Last weekend I took some time to meditate, think long and hard about which direction to go – and decided on the path of the mystic.

Now you could argue that Jewish magic and mysticism are two ends of a spectrum and that there are no clear boundaries separating one from the other. The counter argument to this might be that Halachah (Jewish law) states what is defined as magic, but again that is not so clear cut either. Throw in to the mix the concept of ritual adjurations to gain power have been used by people who would label themselves as mages, mystics, and wonder workers – and we get back to the model with a spectrum of magic and mysticism.

So in short I will be heading towards the mystic end, following some way behind in the footsteps of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia. As there is no how-to guide, FAQ, or teach-yourself-Abulafia-in24-hours – the path will be a long and slow one. However, as the last 7 years of this blog have shown – it takes time to learn, practice, and integrate the lessons in to one’s life.

Image from Chabad

Speaking of 7 years, that is the same duration as the Shmittah cycle: letting the land lie fallow for 1 year out of 7 and everyone can harvest from whatever grows. Think of it as a late bronze age strategy for sustainable agriculture, whilst at the same time being a reminder that we humans are not in charge of the world. We are only its caretakers – its gardeners after the last cycle of human history failed to achieve Divine consciousness.

To get my next 7 years of study and pratice started I am returning to my all time favourite book which got me started on this journey in the first place: “The Thirteen Petalled Rose” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. After this I will be systematically working through Rabbi Abraham Abulafia’s “Chaye Olam Ha-Bah” (Life in the world to come).

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Re-Learning, When the Wheels Came Off

Re-Learning to Learn
Recently I started to re-learn computer programming. It was role that I had earlier in my career before I joined dark side by becoming a Project Manager. There are multiple reasons why I chose to learn the program again – but one of them was to discover new ways of learning.

Sure enough I fell in the same pattern of: 1. buying a book (well, lots of books) 2. reading one cover to cover and then 3. discovering that I had forgotten most of what I read and could barely use any of it to solve basic problems.

Since then I have subscribed to newsletters and emails that point out what these pitfalls are. However, in order to learn in a better way requires paying for a course that at the moment I am reluctant to spend money on.

Wheels Came Off
Another reason for re-learning to program is that it provides a sense of achievement. On the path of mystical and magical development it can sometimes feel like going a long time before making any progress. Perhaps this is why some magical orders have grades – to give people that sense of advancement and achievement. Or perhaps they like wearing robes and strange hats.

The issue with my particular path is that I get in to a regular practice, start to do more advanced forms of letter permutation and then suddenly stop. It’s like I’ve gone off-road for a bit and the wheels just came off. Literally it feels like coming to a crashing halt and for awhile afterwards I don’t do any meditation at all.

Hence why I started looking in to other ways of learning – to see what other approaches to take. This is part and parcel of getting out of The Dip (see book by Seth Godin). It’s what I call “Attacking a problem from multiple angles”. But sometimes the best thing to do is not attack it at all and just wait it out.

There Cannot Be Two Skies
Perhaps one of the reasons why my practice keeps coming to a crashing halt is that I have unresolved blockages that need to be remedied. The “body” overloads and shuts down to protect itself.

Another reason that might be a root cause is my unresolved question of: am I a mystic or magician? My definitions for those terms in the context of this question are related to the end goal. Am I practising these techniques in service to the Divine? Or for personal gain?

Almost all the great Kabbalists in Jewish history were also well renowned Rabbis with vast knowledge of the revealed Torah and were masters of Jewish law. For example Rabbi Joseph Karo, the Vilna Gaon, and Rabbi Akiva.

Until this question is resolved, I think that the same pattern of “advancement & halt” is liable to repeat itself…

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Magic and Wealth, part 2


Starting to Charge for Magic or Not
This was originally going to be a lengthy post about how charging for magic changes the way that people interact. This is based on the study done in 2000 (Fine is a Price) about fines at nurseries and the effects behaviour of the parent – nursery-staff interaction.

In a nutshell, if a relationship is based on a social contract (that may only be vaguely defined) and then the terms are changed by introducing a monetary element – there are multiple factors that change in the relationship that may not be anticipated and will last even when the monetary aspect of the relationship is removed.

For example, Jane does Tarot readings for her friends. To earn a bit extra she starts charging and expands her client base. Her relationship with her friends is impacted on the basis that some of their interactions are now about the money. Even if Jane stops charging her friends, the impact will last some time…

I have not done the subject justice and there is a wide field of study related to this topic. Bottom line is, think carefully before charging for magic if you have not done so in the past.

Money for Magic
Whilst I am not an advocate of charging for magical services, I do believe that teachers should be compensated for the time and effort that they put in to providing lessons and guidance.

There s a story of a team designing a new plane and a fault is detected in the wing that none of them can figure out. One of the engineers knows someone who has worked in the industry for over half a century and brings the man to look at the wing. The man takes out a piece of chalk, walks around the plane for awhile and draws a circle around the part that was not designed correctly. Afterwards they ask him to send an invoice and he sends them one for $500. Shocked at the price for a short piece of work the team asks him for a break-down of the costs. The man responds: $1 chalk, $499 for 1 hour work by someone with over 50 years of experience in designing planes.

Now the thing is, does years of dedication translate in to 1. actual progress or just time served and 2. an ability to transmit lessons and provide guidance? These are things that you will need to investigate yourself for each potential teacher that you may wish to learn from.

One more Thing
In case you missed it, Victoria Hanna has released an album. I hope one day to hear her perform live. In the mean time – I will just listen to her on my journey into and back from work.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Magic and Wealth - Part 1

There’s a story of two businessmen having a chat.

One man says: “I’m working on my second million.”
The other man is surprised and says: “That’s amazing, you must be doing very well.”
The first man sighs and replies: “Not really. The first million did not go so well, so now I am working on my second million.”

I am sure that you are aware of the phrase that states that when people are younger they are time rich and money poor. When they get older they become time poor and money rich.

Well, speaking from experience there is a lot of truth to that. It’s also a really good lessons on what to do and what not to do when using magic to aid oneself in gaining and maintaining some measure of wealth. If you succeed in for example getting a job with an amazing salary and benefits – but you work more than 12 hours per day… The question is: have you achieved what you set out to?

In Kabbalistic literature there are lots of segulahs for wealth. The thing to remember though is that a segulah** by itself is highly unlikely to be successful – you need to put in your own effort.

There’s another story of a man who lives in a valley that suddenly floods. Fortunately he manages to climb up on the roof. A rescue boats comes to take him to safety but the man refuses and says “The Almighty will save me.” Two more boats come and he gives the same response. Even when a rescue helicopter arrives as the man is clinging to his chimney – he gives the same response. Sure enough he drowns and when he gets to heaven he demands to know why G-d did not save him. The answer he gets is: “What? Three rescue boats and a helicopter were not enough for you?”

The lesson here is to be mindful of when opportunities arise or could potentially arise if you put in effort to play to your strengths. Judge how much each opportunity will affect your balance in life as much as your are able to, and try not to second guess yourself too much. Life is too short to carry around a suitcase of regrets or a book of grudges.

And coming back to the first story – don’t give up. If at first you don’t succeed, try a different avenue of magic within your chosen tradition/path. Supplement it with more mundane strategies for improving your monetary and health well-being. If you can manage all of that – the next step is to advance even further in your strategic planning, whilst also improving at your tactical movements.

** - spiritual remedy or protection t change one’s luck, destiny, or fotune.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Black fire on White fire


There is a concept in Jewish mysticism that the primordial Torah is the blueprint of creation. The question of course arises, if the primordial Torah is the blueprint – then what was it written on before material reality came in to existence?

The midrash (allegorical commentaries on the Torah) states that the primordial Torah was written black fire on white fire. Professor Moshe Idel in his second chapter of his book “Absorbing Perfections” focuses on this topic. The name of the chapter is “The God-Absorbing Text: Black Fire on White Fire”.

The question posed above is mentioned on page 47 and Professor Moshe Idel then goes on to state:

“...More specifically, however, some midrashic sources became aware that if the Torah anetdates the world, a quandary arises as to the material involved in the visible manifestation of the written. This question was explicitly posed in at least two different midrashim, using similar structural formulations, though the details differ substantially. A late midrash, ‘Aseret ha-Dibberot, formulates the question as follows: ‘Before the creation of the world, skins of parchments were not in existence, that the Torah might be written on them, because the animals did not exist yet. So, on what was the Torah written? On the arm of the Holy One, blessed be He, by a black fire on [the surface of] a white fire’...”

If we take for a minute the metaphor of the Divine as infinite light, anything that is created would instantly be absorbed and nullified in the infinite reality of the Divine. Hence why later Kabbalists (16th century) wrote about the concept of Tzimtzum – a Divine contraction so to speak in which the Divine light was constrained layer by layer until a “blackness” existed in which the presence of the Divine was not immediately apparent to any emanated entity. Thus the blackness is a carving out of “space” in the Divine to create room for eventually material reality to be formed (from our perspective).

Coming back to the difference between the black fire and white fire in the primordial Torah, the 13th century mystic Rabbi Isaac Ha-Kohen, son of Rabbi Jacob Ha-Kohen write as follows (quote from pp51-52 of Absorbing Perfections):

“...The inner [form] stands for the Holy One, blessed be He, as He is hidden from the eye of any creature and His innerness cannot be reached. The external form stands for the [external] world, which depends on the arm of the Holy One, blessed be He, as an amulet on the arm of a powerful man. And just as the inner form is the locus of the external form, so [also] is God the locus of the world, and the world is not the locus of God. What I have mentioned to you [si] that the white form of the ‘aleph stand for the level of Holy One, blessed be He, but not the black one, [which is] external. I did tell you this by way of a [great] principle, and as a great secret because the whie form stands for the white garment, and as our sages, blessed be their memory, said: Whence was the light created? It teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, clothed himself in a white garment, and the splendor of it shone from one end of the world to another, as it is said: “Who covers himself with light as with a garment and “and the lights dwells with him”...”

So… the Divine fills all of reality as explained via the metaphor of light but the Divine also transcends all of creation. As the quote above states, the Divine wears a garment of light (reality) but that is not the essence of the Divine (the metaphor of the body in the garment).

Taking this a step further, what meaning or use can be made with the white fire that surrounds the black fire? Are there deep secrets which can grant us a deeper connection with the Divine?

Rabbi Levi Isaac of Berditchev, a Hasidic master of the eighteenth century wrote (yet another quote from chapter 2 of Absorbing Perfections):

“...We can see by the eye of our intellect why in the Torah handed down to us one letter should not touch the other. The matter is that also the whiteness constitutes letters, but we do not know how to read them as [we know] the blackness of the letters. But in the future God, blessed be He, will reveal to us even the whiteness of the Torah. Namely we will [then] understand the white letter in our Torah, and this is the meaning of “A new Torah will go forth from me,” that it stands for the whiteness of the Torah, that all the sons of Israel will understand also the letter that are white in our Torah which was delivered to Moses. But nowadays the letters of whiteness are obscured from us...”

It’s a bit disappointing to hear that we’ll have to wait for the Messiah to understand and interact in a meaningful way with the white letters. However, perhaps there is a way of living in Messianic times before the advent of the coming of the Messiah…. Rabbi Abraham Abulafia, according to my studies & understanding, put forward the idea that we could all be our own personal Messiahs in a way.

Rabbi Abulafia wrote about permutating letters first on the page, then moving on to permutate the letters with sound and head movements, followed by just permutating them internally. Maybe, just maybe, we can absorb the whiteness from the page that surrounds the black letters – carve out this whiteness with sound and internalise the white letters finally to make them part of our being. Anyway, it’s just a thought.



Sunday, 16 April 2017

Passing over Allegories

On the shabbat (Saturday) during Passover we read the Song of Songs, an erotic love poem between God and the Israelites. It’s a poem pregnant with meaning and very explicit in its wording. However, rather than translate the literal meaning of the poem – one of the popular publishers of Jewihs prayer books has chosen another path:

“The Complete Artscroll Machzor: Pesach…

Introduction:…
Without question, King Solomon’s Song of Songs, Shir HaShirim, is one of the most difficult books of scripture – not because it is so hard to understand but because it is so easy to misunderstand. Not only is it love song, it is a love song of uncommon passion. No other book seems to be so out of place among the twenty foud books of prophecy and sacred spirit. Nevertheless, one of the greatest and holiest of all the Sages of the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva, said ‘all of the songs [of Scripture] are holy, but Shir Hashirim [Song of Songs] is the holy of holies.’ How is a love song holy?

The question is perplexing only if Shir Hashirim is taken literally, but neither the Sages nor the commentators take it so. The song is an allegory. It is the duet of love between God and Israel. Its verses are so saturated with meaning that that nearly every one of the major commentators finds new themes in its beautiful but cryptic words. All agree, however, that the true and simple meaning of Shir Hashirim is the allegorical meaning. The literal meaning of the the words is so far from their meaning that it is false.

That is why Artscroll’s translation of Shir Hashirim is completely different from any other Artscroll translation. We translate it according to Rashi’s allegorical translation..”

Personally speaking I found this very frustrating. The first thing I did was look for an older publisher and ready their translation. Sure enough it was much closer to the text. This attitude of trying to protect the uninformed reader from the text is something that unfortunately Artscroll also did in their translation of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Nachmanides / Ramban) in his commentary of the Torah.

“Artscroll Series: Bereishis / Genesis
The Torah: with Ramban’s commentary translated, annotated, and elucidated.

Introduction….

Kabbalah
One of Ramban’s greatest impacts upon Jewish thought lies in the fact that he was the first “mainstream” Jewish sage to include Kabbalistic (mystical) ideas into material that was intended for the general public. In his introduction, however, he issues a stern warning that his Kabbalistic comments cannot possibly be understood by the uninitiated and that any attempt to do so would result in distortion of the lofty theological matters. For this reason, we have not translated Ramban’s Kabbalistic comments into English (although they can be found in full in the all-Hebrew Ram ban text on the page)..."

In response to this – I did what any frustrated person would do and taught myself sufficient mastery of Hebrew to read the untranslated parts. Not only those parts but also books such as Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) along with at least 2 commentaries.

Then I added to my small library a Hebrew version of Sword of Moses, Key of Solomon, Rabbi Chaim Vital’s Sefer Pe-ulot, and a number of other texts that the editors & translators at Artscroll publishing would likely not approve of me owning – never mind actually translating and making use off. 

So I would like to conclude with a big THANK YOU to the staff at Artscroll for raising my frustration at my lack of Hebrew education to such a degree that I am now proficient enough to read the texts that they did not translate for me – as well as a host of other texts that they would likely not consider me qualified to read.

Necessity is the mother of invention. Frustration is the catalyst of aspiring golem builders the world over.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Mis-adventures in Magic: Part 6 Close Call

In small movementsin time, I tried to invent a method to try to dream about the future – specifically the next day. Here is the description:

“...My initial plan is to start with something that I consider to be relatively simple. I'll find a verse in the Torah related to time, then engrave, carve, etc. letters and see if I can "dream tomorrow" during the night to predict (experience in advance of my current perception of linear time) what the events of the next day will bring...”

Not so long ago whilst using this technique I had a rather disturbing dream. I say dream, but it was really something that came to mind as I was falling asleep and not yet dreaming. In any case – I saw a child’s arm as if via x-ray goggles. The image was not static like an x-ray picture but rather like watching through someone’s eyes who can only see what is normally visible with an x-ray machine. It was all in black (dark blue) and white and I suddenly saw that there was something wrong with the arm. The child’s arm was severed and I sensed a presence nearby that was frustrated at the careless sequence of events that led to the child being in this terrible state.

The next day whilst walking back from the house of prayer, I was crossing the road with family members including small children. Half-way across the pedestrian crossing I experienced the same sense of frustration and broke off my conversation to see that the car approaching the zebra crossing was not slowing down.

With a loud shout of “What are you doing!” - the driver suddenly slowed down the car to a stop. The startled driver and everyone crossing the road suddenly became aware of each other. I honestly don’t think the driver saw us despite the large crowd, perhaps he was using his smartphone. Most of the children were in shock at me raising my voice and I was in shock tat the fact that shouting at a speeding motorist actually caused them to stop.

Some time later as we sat down to lunch I mentioned the incident to the father of the toddler who had been nearest to the car. He looked rather surprised and said: “I had a dream about a car hitting my child last night, but thought I was just being a paranoid parent.” So whilst my technique may have given me a cryptic clue about x-rays and careless accidents, the father received the message in plain and simple terms...

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Tools of the Trade

Some extracts from Professor Moshe Idel’s “Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah and Interpretation.”

Chapter 1: Seciotn VI. Sefer Yetzirah and Linguistic Creational Processes

“...In the Bible and in the midrashic-talmudic literature the implicit assumption is that language was not created but used, that language is coexistent with God. The very question of the production of its elements or the processes of the interaction between them was not addressed at all. Therefore, the little treatise under consideration addresses questions of the origin and organization of language but, unlike the other corpora mentioned above, is less interested in the way ordinary language organizes reality…”

Sefer Yetzirah, being a book of linguistic magic, according to my understanding – attempts to adress where language comes from. This is a major topic of Rabbi Moshe Cordovero’s commentary on Chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah.

“Another cardinal topic that occurs only in this version of the linguistic creation is the description of the extraction of the letters of the alphabet from the second sefira, the pneuma, out of which God has carved the alphabet. After the completion of the emergence of the twenty-two letters, God combined them in all possible permutations of two letters as part of the cosmogonic processes. Given the impact of this book, let me succinctly address some of the maigcal-linguistic elements found therein. In the second chapter God is portrayed as creating Hebrew letters that served as the tools, and perhaps the prima matter, for the creation of the world: “Twenty-two letters, He engraved them and He extracted them and He weighed them and permutated them and combined them, and He created by them ‘the soul of all the formation,’ and the ‘soul of all the speech,’ which will be formed in the future...”

Here we see the importance of engraving, carving, weighing, permutating, etc. the letters. A there that recurs in each chapter and is emphasized in the first and last chapter. These verbs play an important role...

“...The recurrence of these verbs in the first and last chapters of the same book suggest that Abraham’s deeds are understood as a case of imitatio dei...”

That in my understanding is the rcux of how the linguistic magic of Sefer yetzirah works. It’s imitating the process of creation.

“...Thus, by imitating the divine acts, some of the including the operations related to language like permutation and combination of letters, man is able to create here in the lower sphere. In other words, Sefer Yetzirah offers a special kind of imitatio dei, not by means of an act of intellection, as in Jewish Neoaristotelianism, nor by performance of commandments, as in talmudic thought, nor by love or suffering, as in Christianity. It is by exploiting the creative power of language that the perfecti are able to imitate God...”

Please note I am very far removed from whatever a perfecti might be. 

Where does the power of linguistic magic come from? The power is in the language itself. When God said “let there be light” it was not said once, it was something that started (from our time perspective) and that saying has continued from that point onwards. In other words, the act of creation was not a one-off but is rather a continuous process. A process that we can imitate and use.

“...We should also mention in this context that a rather magical view of creation of the world by means of linguistic material – the various letters of the divine name – was also expressed in rabbinic literature. Thus, the magician using the divine names, or some of their letters, not only relies on the inherent powers of those letters but at the same time imitates divine creative acts. Yet unlike the more clear-cut medieval parallelisms between the lower and supernal language, in Sefer Yetzirah and the passage from Berakhot it seems that the same type of linguistic unit is used by both God and the perfect religious persons. The letters were indeed created by God, but they entered the constitution of the world, and the mystic is able to use them. Thus, when imitating God’s acts, the mystic is, according to these two texts, also resorting to His tools...”



Thursday, 23 March 2017

March 2017 Link-o-rant

I'd like to get back to blogging about my progress in terms of learning and practice - and I will soon. But before that I'd just like to re-visit a few links.

A Gathering Storm
You see a few years ago, I sensed that things in Europe were starting to change for the worse. The initial signs of the polarisation grew faster than I expected and at the same time a migration was underway from blogging to more interactive social media.

Initially I thought that this was a natural migration, similar to bulletin boards to email lists to message boards to blogs to twitter and Facebook. But then I started to see that Facebook in particular had a risk of railroading people's development. The thing I loved about blogs was how they made me look at things from different angles, especially when that made me leave my comfort zone.

The other thing that social media such as Facebook reduced was time to contemplate and perhaps even say sorry. Early on I already saw the occult community as a disparate group of individuals who happened to share some overlapping interests. Unfortunately FB has reinforced some of those divisions and there are few people I would nominate as ambassadors for the occult community.

Moving Forwards
So despite the writing being on the wall for awhile that things need to improve, we can each take small steps to continue progressing.

Start by following your passion. If you've lost your passion - perhaps think about why magic is now (and has always been) a necessary tool for survival? Make time for magic, carve it out from your day as a special time that almost nothing can intrude upon.

Sometimes you'll fail, I certainly do a lot of the time. It's understandable that not everyone can maintain a blog long term for a number of reasons.

But you need to persevere and keep putting in the effort because in the long run you will have grown in ways you could never have foreseen. Enduring on your path is at time a victory in itself.


Whilst theatre, literature, and even gaming are all beneficial in keeping ones momentum going....The bottom line is that we just need to keep doing the work! And sometimes even blog about it...

Who knows, we may help someone else on their magical journey by sharing a few hard earned lessons from our colourful pasts.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Weaving and Flower Beds

Today I finally had some time to practice meditating on the 231 gates. It's detailed in chapter 2 of Sefer Yetsirah. I use Abulafia's head movement for each letter and used the initial vowel of each letter. For example: Ah for Aleph, Beh for Bet, Gi for Gimmel, etc. It took just over an hour and that was rushing it a bit.

231 Gates


The curious thing is that during the latter part of the meditation, it felt like the letters were being woven together. In Sefer Yetsirah is states in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's version in Chapter 1 Verse 11:

"...He engraved them like a sort of garden
He carved them like a sort of wall
He covered them like a sort of ceiling..."
I have learned from one of my teachers that the garden is like a flower bed. The ceiling can be like a thatched roof - woven together. Another meditation I do feels very much like arranging the letters in a flower bed. I wonder what meditative technique builds the walls...?

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Small Movements in Time - Part 2: Response to Blogos' Response

Blogos posted recently in response to my previous article. Within the framework of the Hermet Lessons it makes perfect sense and fits with the Metabilism of Time work that he has posted over the past few years.

In reponse to his response I would like to post a fuller extract from Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz that talks more about the concepts of "space," "time," and "soul" that recur in Sefer Yetsirah.

“The Thirteen Petalled Rose” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

pp3.-4

“...The world of action, however, is only one world in a general system of four fundamental dimensions of being, or four different worlds, each with its own cosmos of varying essences. These four worlds have been called, in order from the highest to the lowest, “emanation,” “creation,” “formations,” and “action”. Thus, the world directly above ours is the world of formation. To understand the difference, one must first understand certain factors common to all four worlds. These factors were traditionally known as “world,” “year,” and “soul”; nowadays we would call them “space,” “time,” and “self” (experience of one’s being). Each world is distinguished from the others by the way these three factors are manifested in it. For example, in our world, physical place is a necessary external element for the existence of things; it is the background against which all objects move and all creatures function. In the higher worlds, and also in the world of spiritual action, that which is analogous to space in the world of physical action is called a “mansion.” It is the framework within which various forms and beings converge and connect. Perhaps one may compare it to those self-contained systems – known in mathematics as “groups” or “fields” - in each of which all the unit parts are related in a definite way to the other parts and to the whole. Such systems may be inhabited or full to capacity, or they may be relatively sparse or empty. Whatever the case, such a system of related existences constitutes a “place” in the abstract – a “mansion” in the higher worlds.

Time also has a different significance in the other worlds. In our domain of experience, time is measured by the moment of physical objects in space. The “year” as it is called abstractly constitutes the very process of change; it is passage from one thing to another, from form to form, and it also includes within itself the concept of causality as that which keeps all transition from form to form within the bounds of law. Indeed, upon ascending the order of worlds, this time system becomes increasingly abstract and less and less representative of anything that we know as time in the physical world; it becomes no more than the purest essence of change, or even of the possibility of potential change.

Finally, what we call “soul” is, in the physical dimension, the totality of living creatures functioning in the time and space dimensions of this world. Although they are an essential part of this world, they are distinguished from the general background by their self-consciousness and knowledge of this world. Similarly, in the higher world, the souls are self-conscious essences acting within the framework of the mansion and the year of their world...”

Space, Time, Soul – My understanding To Date

This extract from Rabbi Steinsaltz, a man I consider to have a vast knowledge of both revealed (i.e. written & oral law) and concealed Torah (i.e. Kabbalah), contains some critical elements in the understanding of the other “worlds” and the entities that operate within them.

In terms of “place”, entities in the various worlds can interact with those that they are similar to. However, opposites can only come together in this world of action. The angels of anger have no commonality with the angels of joy and hence are unable to properly interact in the world of “Yetsirah”. “Place” in that realm is not one dictated by physical space, that only exists as such in the lower parts of the world of action. Now imagine what “place” may be in the worlds of “Beriyah” and “Atzilut” - what the entities are that populate those worlds and how they “move” in the dimensions of place?

Time in the world of “Yetsirah” flow in the reverse order to what we experience in this world of action “Assiyah”. Time does not operate in a way that we can really understand in the world of “Atzilut”, it’s the mere hint of the potential for change.

“Soul” is another distinguishing quality of the four worlds that I do not understand sufficiently to explain.

Each of these three qualities “space,” “time,” and “soul” of the four worlds are different in each of the four worlds. The fact that Sefer Yetsirah refers to space, time, and soul in each of the chapters is to reinforce this point that they exist in each of the four worlds.

My limited understanding is that in order to move in space, time, and soul mansions/sets of the four worlds – we have to carve, engrave, permutate, etc. them. Else we only end up moving along one of these axis and not all three.

Back to Abulafia

Now back to Rabbi Abraham Abulafia. As written in my previous post – he talks of 3 sets of Sefirot. 10 for space, 10 for time, and 10 for soul.

I understand this to mean that there are 3 sets of 10 in each of the four worlds. So there are for example: a Binah of space, a Binah of time, and a Binah of soul in the world of Yetsirah. There is a Netzach of space, a Netzach of time, and a Netzach of soul in Atzilut.I will leave it up to you to permutate the other combinations...

Does this mean that I believe that there are 120 Sefirot in total? No! There are more. As Rabbi Abulafia writes (pp.14 of Amnon Gross’ Otzer Eden Ganuz (Hidden Treasury of Eden)):



“And it (Sefer Yetsirah) states ‘Ten Sefirot Without What (Beli-mah) their attribute is ten that has no end. And this matter is very important because he [the author of SY] wants to inform us that that the Sefirot are not physical (do not have bodies) that have an end and the Sefirot do not have an end. And if they are ten, then see that they are also tens of ten, and also a thousand that are also ten hundred, and also more that they are tens of thousands and so on until there is no end (Ein Sof). And by this way the truth is hinted when it states [in Sefer Yetsirah] “Their attribute is ten that has no end”. And it did not say ten alone without mentioning the name of attribute. None the less it did not say attributes but rather a single attribute to all of them.”

What I believe Rabbi Abulafia is saying is that when Sefer Yetzira states that the attribute of the Sefirot is ten and it has no end – what it is teaching is that we can assign 10 Sefirot across the four worlds, we can assign ten Sefirot in each of the four worlds, we can assign 3 sets of ten according to place, time, and soul in each of the four worlds…. But that still does not encompass the essence of the Sefirot. The number ten is an attribute that alludes to orders of infinity. Anything less is putting a limit to the Sefirot which I think SY tries to reinforce in chapter one is ultimately meaningless by the repeated mention of Sefirot Beli-Mah (literally without what, without anything… infinite).

Monday, 20 February 2017

Small movements in Time

Blogos' posts on Time have made me take another look at the way Time is written about in Sefer Yetzira. Whilst my focus of practice has until now has been mostly about Space, it's time I started looking deeper in to my relatiosnhip and interactions with Time.

RSA ANIMATE: The Secret Powers of Time
Before I dive in to the deeper part of the post, I just want to point this informative little video about how we relate to time most often.



Getting Textual

In  Abraham Abluafia's Ozter Eden Ganuz (Secret Treasury of Eden) at this link (page 14) it states:

"...And know that the body of a person is created with 10 Sefirot and so is the Year and so is the World and they are 30 Sefirot, and on this we received to write the Name with 3 Yud (letters) and call His Name EL to show that He blesses one with all..." (My poor translation of the above opening sentence).

So what is this Year and World that Abulafia speaks about? Well this is explained by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in his "Thirteen Petalled Rose" pp.3 writes:
"...These four worlds have been called, in order from highest to the lowest,  "emenation," "creation," "formatioim," and "action". Thus, the world directly above ours is formation. To understand the difference, one must first understand certain factos common to all four worlds. These factors were traditionally known as "world," "year," and "soul"; nowadays we would call them "space," "time," and "self" (experience of one's being)..."

Rabbi Steinsaltz then goes on to talk more about the differences within the four "worlds" (realities) and how time, space, and self differ in each.

Now that we understand that "Time" is a property of the four "worlds", we can understand the references in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's commentary and translation of Sefer Yetsira (Book of Formation) in 3:3, 4:6, and 5:3.

In chapter 3 verse 3 (3:3) he writes:
"Three Mothers: Alef, Mem, Shin
He engraved them, He carved them,
He permuted them, He weighed them,
He transformed them
And with them He deipcted
Three Mothers AMSh in the Universe,
Three Mothers AMSh in the Year,
Three Mothers AMSh in the Soul,
male and female"

In chapter 4 verse 6 (4:6) he writes:
"Seven Doubles: BGD KPRT of Foundation
He engraved them, He carved them,
He permuted them, He weighed them,
He transformed them,
And with the He formed
Seven planets in the Universe,
Seven days in the Year,
Seven gates in the Soul,
male and female"

In Chapter 5 verse 3 (5:3) he writes:
"Twelve elementals
HVZ ChTY LNS OTzQ
Their foundation is [that]
He engraved them, carved them, permuted them,
weighed them, and transformed them,
And with them He formed
twelve constellations in the Universe
twelve months in the Year
and twelve directors in the Soul,
male and female"

Of course, as Rabbi Kaplan writes in his Introduction to Sefer Yetsira the book can be read in the imperative. So instead of stating "He carved,..." it should be read as "You should carve..."

These three verses encapsulate a lot of what chapters 3, 4, and 5 are about. The 3 Mother letters in chapter 3. The 7 double letters in chapter 4 and the 12 elemental (or simple) letters in chapter 5.

By engraving the meaning of the letters, carving away all other thoughts, permutating the letters with the other letters of the aleph-bet, "weighing" them (putting them next to each of the other letters in turm is how I do this), and transforming them (replacing with numerical equivalents) - we can align ourselves with the forces that are channeled through the letters.

Three Mothers in the Year (time). Seven days in the Year (time). Twelve months in the Year (time). Once we are aligned with the Divine flow that forms the framework of Time - we should, in theory, be able to affect time that is different to the way that was described in the RSA video at the beginning of this blog post.

My initial plan is to start with something that I consider to be relatively simple. I'll find a verse in the Torah related to time, then engrave, carve, etc letters and see if I can "dream tomorrow" during the night to predict (experience in advance of my current perception of linear time) what the events of the next day will bring.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Biopsy of the Occult Blogosphere

Digital Ambler recently comment at the end of his article “Work, Lineage, and Auturgy” :

Given the general quietude of the occult blogosphere, and how so much has petered out or calmed down over the past few years (my own blog included!), I wonder if this is a sort of predicament-shift that is facing many people who got into magic around the Great Blogosphere Renaissance, and how many others are wondering this same thing I am now.

It’s a great article and the ending makes much more sense in context of the whole article. I personally think that the occult blogosphere has gone dormant for a bit and when the need arises due to changes in the world, it will either flourish again or go underground (so to speak).

Here are some additional reasons why the occult blogosphere may have reduced in terms of active participants and volume of output. This list is speculative (mostly) and not exhaustive.
  1. Ennui – It can be a lot of work providing regular updates to a blog with good quality updates.
  2. Death – I know of at least one blogger who died. He was a great man and I miss his company.
  3. Family – Changes in family circumstance such as getting married, having kids, getting divorced, becoming a widow(er) are all life changing events that can bring an active blog to a sudden stop.
  4. Success – Strange as it may sound, if a blogger has achieved a level of success with their magical practice where they no longer feel the need to track their progress in a public forum, they may stop blogging and even stop being active practitioners
  5. Social Media – The shift to interactions on Facebook has meant that the frequency of interactions have gone up, even if the quality of those interactions hasn’t necessarily kept pace.
  6. Responses – or lack there-off. Some bloggers need comments and feedback to motivate them to continue to publish online.
  7. Fear – whether it is via the Law of Unintended stakeholders (i.e. people finding out you have a blog on the occult who you’d rather had not found this out) or perhaps fear from success in operations that the practitioner is not able to process and integrate in to their magical world-view – fear is a powerful force that can eat away at even the most resilient of people.
  8. Books – some practitioners reach a certain stage and publish one or more books. Promoting books, even on occult topics, is in my opinion not contributing to the occult blogosphere. The only exception I have in this is people who make their living off teaching magic and hence I have some acceptance of marketing of their courses and books.
  9. Material – some people run out of material. Actually I’m not sure this is even possible, please ignore this entry.
  10. Mission accomplished – everything must come to an end, even a blog. If a blog has served the purpose for the author(s) and it no longer contributes to their life, what is the point in carrying it on?
  11. Egregore – if there was an egregore of the occult blogosphere, it has either starved or otherwise been done away with. There were times in the past when I felt that my blog was alive on some level and need regular feeding with content.
  12. Underground – lastly some bloggers join organizations that do not permit publishing of their activities. Whether it is an occult order or intelligence agency, mum’s the word and any violations are dealt with harshly.


Tuesday, 31 January 2017

New Project: Rokeach on Sefer Yetzira

Josephine McCarthy recently wrote in a blog post: "The struggles with Magical Training, and the Quareia Apprentice Section":

The progress, particularly in the apprentice section also relies not only on your work ethic and keen mind, it also depends upon your body, what is happening to your body at that time, and also what is happening around you at work, at home and out in the world. You are a part of a holism in life, and the course works through that holism: there will be times it is not right for you to jump forward, and you will be held back. At other times, you will push forward suddenly – the tide is in your favour.
Recently there have been a number of significant changes in my life. The world too seems to be changing at a rapid pace and for the last few months I've been riding it out - waiting to start doing meditation on a regular basis again.

Now it feels like it's the right time to start another cycle of learning Sefer Yetzira (Book of Formation) and by the looks of it - I am not the only one.

A new year calls for studying a new commentary on Sefer Yetzira. And no commentary on Sefer Yetzira is ever old.


Here are the details of the new project:

Scope: Read and translate chapter 1 of commentary on Sefer Yetzira by Rabbi Eliezer of Worms (wonkypedia link on author)
Time: 10 week deadline
Cost: Sunk cost of books purchased ($43)
Quality: Translate minimum of 2 pages per week and meditate on content minimum of 2 times per week
Communication: Summary of key points in each verse and any interesting experiences from the meditation sessions
Risks:
1.Lack of time, need to set aside dedicated evenings for this.
2. Inability to translate, or understand the translation (Hebrew Immersion project was preparation for this project
3. May not achieve any meaningful results until completing chapter 2, planned for next project
Issues: 1. Difficult to understand terms of reference from 12th century text.
Stretch Goal: Read and translate chapter 2 before the start of the next project