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


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).