Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Project Update 28 February 2012: Mostly Studying, A bit of Tinkering

Still have some translation work to do for first 30 pages of Abraham Abulafia’s Gan Naul (Sealed Garden, commentary on Sefer Yetzirah/Book of Creation). Went at this a bit too fast at the start and lost momentum. Must remember to pace myself and finish this project with a new & realistic end date.

Hebrew Immersion
This project is to go through Torah (Five books of Moses) with Rashi commentary. I’m now on my second time through. It’s improving my knowledge of Hebrew. The project is also providing new avenues of exploration for focused meditation, such as for example on cherubs in Tabernacle.

SYRC (Sefer Yetzirah Readers Club)
Although we’ve only met twice so far to go through Chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah; this project is off to a good start. My study partner and I are gaining new insights in to this text and sharing findings from meditation exercises based on what we are studying. Whilst most of meditation in recent years has largely been focused on channeling Divine flow through the Hebrew letters, I am now starting to properly work with the energies of the Sefirot beli-mah (without what).

The amulet that I used in a recent interview did not work as anticipated. Whilst it helped me to dodge a taxi fare, I did not get the job. However, the day before names were published of who got the jobs – I changed my mind and decided that I did not want it. Heeding a piece of advice from a relative “choose your boss, not the job” - I am focusing my job hunting elsewhere.

Wealth magic
This is something new that I’ve started to explore. Just tinkering and experimenting at the moment based on my domain of study and practice. Depending on how the initial exploration goes, this may turn in to new projects later in the year.

Mini-rant on Tolerance
Last but not least – here is my 2 cents on tolerance. To me tolerance means accepting people for who they are. It does not, in my opinion, mean that all opinions/world-views are equal and should be treated as being of the same worth. The proof of how valid an opinion or worldview is by studying its impacts in the wider world.

Some opinions when manifest in day to day life have positive impacts on people’s lives and some do not. Here is a link to a speech of a Durban III attendee which highlights to me the dangers of the very selective focus of human rights activists.

How do you decide which manifestation of intolerance to combat?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Golem Building: Sources Part 1

For someone who claims to be a Trainee Golem Builder, I spend a remarkably small amount of time talking about how to create Golems. Trying to excuse it by saying that in a similar way “to become a neuroscience you have to know a lot about medicine” – so becoming a golem builder requires a lot of knowledge of Jewish mysticism and magic… is well a bit of a cop out.

To rectify that I’ve located my notes written 3 years ago on golem building and will over the next couple of months start updating and posting some of that information. If there is an interest in an audio lecture on this topic, that can be arranged. However, since people tend not to value things that are free as much as those they have to pay for – the lecture would be available for a small fee.

Anyway, here is a list of sources used for the lecture:

  • “Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid (SUNY Series in Judaica)” - Professor Moshe Idel 
  • “The Idea of the Golem” by Professor Gershom Scholem (see “On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism (Mysticism & Kabbalah)”) 
  • “Sefer Yetsirah” translation and commentary by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan 
  • “Jewish Meditation” by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan 
  • “Jewish Magic/Myth and Superstition” by Trachtenburg 
  • “Jewish Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic and Mysticism” by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis 
  • Mendy & the Golem comics 
  • “Mind, Body and Soul: Kabbalah on Human Physiology, Disease and Healing” by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg 

Plus a couple of extracts from the Talmud (Jewish oral law, recorded in final form in 450-550 common era) that mention golems: 

Talmud Sanhedrin 38b
Rabbi Yochanan the son of Chanina said, The day’s length is twelve hours, The first hour, dust was gathered. The second hours it [Adam] was kneaded into a shapeless form (Golem). The third hour, his limbs were stretched out. The fourth hour a soul was cast into him. The fifth hour he stood on his feet…

Talmud Sanhedrin 65b
Rava said: “If the righteous wished, they could create a world, for it is written: ‘Your inequities are a barrier between you and your G-d.” For Rava created a man and sent him to Rabbi Zeira. The rabbi spoke to him [the man] but he did not answer. Then he [Zeira] said: “You were created by one of my colleagues; Return to your dust.”

Rashi (commentary on above Sanhedrin 65b)
Created a Man: Through Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) that you learn to join letters of G-d’s name.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Follow your Passion

Passion in mundane pursuits

There is a lot of discussion in the online Project Management community around “being passionate about Project Management.” At first I thought the idea a curious one, how can one be passionate about a risk register or a budget?

Then I started coming across the idea of joy, passion and bliss in other sources such as these quotes:

“Follow your bliss.” Jon Bentley, author of Programming Pearls
“I believe that I just work better if I enjoy what I’m doing. I suspect that if anybody wants to be ‘the best’ at whatever they do, they have to realize that it takes decades of hard work. And the main way to actually keep doing decades of hard work is to simply enjoy it so much that you don’t want to stop.” Linus Torvalds, original author of GNU/Linux
As well as this advert by BMW The Story of Joy (1 minute advert).

Linus’s quote is particularly apt when it comes to magical practice. It takes a long time, you have to work at it and there are many occasions on which it seems that it’s too much of a struggle for too little reward. So how do you find the motivation to go on?

Joy in magical and mystical paths
Some people find external motivating factors such as commitments to their community, financial or other rewards. But to me the biggest motivator is that my studies and practice give me joy. Not all the time, in fact only on a few occasions. Those few instances are enough to remind me why I spend so many hours of my life in the pursuit of experiential knowledge – its joy.

So coming full circle I can now see why passion is so important. The question that remains is: what gives you joy and are you doing something that is a burden or a passion?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

[New Year, New You]: Wheel of Morality Turn, Turn, Turn, Tell Us the Lesson that We Must Learn

Here are the things that I learned from each of the [New Year, New you] prompts:

Space, Time and Rocks: You have to know and be realistic where you are starting from.
Goals: projects are a great way for me to structure my studies and meditation, sometimes though I bite off more than I can chew. It happened on this project, but that too is a learning experience.
Relax, Don't Do It: Mmmm, chocolate pudding. I’ve become rather addicted lately.
Some Enchanted Evening: impressing others is a form of enchantment requiring no magic words.
Maps: taught me a meditation exercise in being brutally honest with myself
Glamour: helped me to recognize that people spend a lot less time thinking about you less than you might realize. On the other hand how you present yourself plays a large part in how they judge you.
Shoulder to the Wheel: When the going gets tough, it’s time to see what needs to change in order to achieve one’s goals.
Asking for Help: is a good thing! This is especially when it comes to studying ancient and hard-to-penetrate texts.

In Summary:
  •  Take a deep long look at yourself and chose one or two things to change
  • In knowing yourself, plan the best route to making that happen
  • Give yourself a break once in awhile, just not too often
  • The world is not how we want it to be, this means we need to adapt and for example dress better for success
  • It’s easier to carry on going through the tough times when you have friends. It’s even easier when they're going through similar changes as sharing experiences can be a great source of inspiration.
  • You are an agent of change, now go charm the world!
An artists impression of my Muse
Last but not least, the [New Year, New You] project encouraged me to continue to practice meditation and magic when I was tempted to take a break due to fear. Not from fear of failure, but rather afraid of how powerful and successful the results can be.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Half-Completed Thoughts on Energy and Spirits

This post is really just for my benefit, but since blogspot does not appear to have a “me only” option I will share it with the world. Please note that it reflects partially completed thoughts and I take no responsibilities for any flame wars, existential crisis, or mass paradigm shifts that it may cause.

Read this Post first Basically, a recent post by blogger Ananael Qaa called: Head Sizes and Reality Selection got me thinking about energy and spirits. Before you read the next bit of this post, please follow the link to Head Sizes and Reality Selection, it really is an excellent post. Rather than reality tunnels I think of it in terms of potential waveforms that diverge from or and collapse in to each other. We’re all tuned in to the dominant band of waveforms we call ‘reality’.

3 School of Kabbalah
You may be familiar with the 3 “schools” of study in Kabbalah: 1. Theoretical 2. Meditative 3. Practical

This logical decomposition of Kabbalistic study & practice is pretty modern. An older classification that goes back at least to the days when the Talmud was being edited and recorded (450-550 common era) are:

  1. Sitrei Arayot 
  2. Ma’aseh Merkavah 
  3. Ma’aseh Bereishit

Sitrei Arayot literally means laws of forbidden relationships, which teaches what human couplings are forbidden. Viewed as a whole they describe the natural order of the world. Siblings mating for example goes against that order and never really ends well.

Ma’aseh Merkavah means Work of the Chariot, Action of the Chariot. It refers to the school of mysticism based on the visions of the heavenly spheres and angels as recorded by the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah. Calling it a school of mysticism is a bit of a misnomer as the texts for this school of Kabbalah describe how to perform heavenly ascents, and how to adjure angels to earth for a variety of purposes.

Ma’aseh Bereishit means Work of Creation, Actions of Creation. This school is focused on the use of the 10 sefirot and 22 Hebrew letters to channel the forces of Creation using the names of God. The main text for this school is Sefer Yetzirah, the Book of Creation, which in the past has been used to create humanoid clay figures, called golems, as well as create animals. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan wrote a fairly recent translation and commentary in which he states that using this book of practical meditation gives the practitioner skill at clairvoyance and telekinesis. This is the reason I’m studying the book at the moment.

The Half-Completed Thought 
Now we get to the point of the blogpost and thanks for reading up until this point… There appears to me to be a split in the paths of magical practice between those who predominantly work with spirits to those who work with energy. (Please note that I am purposefully not defining those terms).

Perhaps my understanding is flawed (and I hope that it is), but the fact that the schools of Ma’aseh Merkavah focus on working with angels and the school of Ma’aseh Bereishit works with Divine energies gives weight to the argument that practitioners lean towards one or the other and rarely, if ever, master both.

Jewish texts on metaphysics describe how the Hebrew letters as both channels of Divine flow (energy) and angels (spirits). As a practitioner though, I cannot seem to relate to them in both their spirit form and energy form at the same time.

Waves and Particles 
In this Wikipedia article: Wave-Particle duality is described how light can travel as both a wave and particle (at least I hope that what it means, the physics is way beyond my feeble grasp of physics). Perhaps light travels as not quite a wave and not quite a particle.

Anyway, the reason why I am throwing this in to the mix is that I think that the Universe is built this way, both for light (frequently used as a metaphor in Kabbalistic texts) and magical practice.

What are your thoughts on this idea?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Jethro Rant

This rant is inspired by some advice I heard today. If you are already active in helping people in your community on a regular basis then please feel free to skip this post.

Jethro – A Man for the People
Today my local Rabbi spoke about the Torah portion that we read titled “Yitro / Jethro”. The text describes the receiving of the 10 commandments but before that talks about Moses welcoming his father-in-law Jethro. After Moses describes all the miracles that God has done during the plagues in Egypt and the splitting of the Sea of Reed, Jethro responds with:
“Jethro rejoiced over all the good that God had done for Israel, that He had rescued it from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 18:9) 
Note that Jethro make his praise linked to the people rather than just focused on God. At the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, the heavens also parted and the Midrash states that a lowly maidservant had a greater vision of the heavenly realms – angels and all - than the prophet Ezekiel. The Israelites sang praises to God as they were all about the relationship that they had between man and God.

Jethro on the other hand was much more concerned about the relationship between man and man. Jethro criticized Moses for the way that he interacts with the people, arguing that he should set-up a system of judges and adjudicators for the people rather than trying to solve all their problems and disputes himself. This is what Moses did and the people were a lot happier.

Forget Social Justice, Just for a Short While
So what does this incident teach us? Whilst it is cause for celebration that so many people are involved in fights for social justice and help promote human rights around the world – it's easy to forget the small picture when being bombarded by news, social media and other sources of the big picture all the time.

It kind of reminds me of an article in the newspapers after the hysteria around Princess Diana's death had died down of a girl who lost her mother in a car accident around the same time. All her friends went to London to lay flowers and wept openly at the loss of a woman they had never met before but who had touched their lives. However, none of them thought to bring flowers or visit their grieving friend whose mother had fed them, hugged them, been there fore them and had an immediate impact on their lives.

Practice Small Acts of Kindness Before Trying to Fix Society
How many witches, wizards and other practitioners die alone and forgotten because no one offers to be there for them? Don't wait for someone to be asked for help, offer it now. All the “likes” and postings on Facebook in the world don't add up to a single smile of the person who is brought soup when they are too ill to cook. Or the mother who has just given birth and is given meals every day for 2 weeks. Just being in regular contact is enough to lift someone else's spirits when they're feeling low, have SAD, or just having a bad day.

Stop and look at the small picture, the here and now of the people you care about and in your local environs. Help save each other and we have a chance of a better future. Here endeth my rant.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

[New Year, New You]: 3 in 1 update

Deb's been busy with [New Year, New you] writing prompts and I am 3 behind. Hence this post addresses all three prompts in order: Glamour in the Year of Hustle, Shoulder to the Wheel, Asking for Help.

I'm going to buy a new suit, possibly two and some new shirts, I just need to make the time to do it. If I can get a good recommendation for a tailor who will do a suit for around £300 in London, then I'll consider getting it tailored. Whilst I used to feel like a bit of an impostor wearing a suit, I now recognize that it is great for social and corporate camouflage.

Shoulder to the Wheel:
To be honest I'm struggling at the moment. Not due to the almost daily organizational changes in my company, not due to the lack of sleep, not due to job insecurities; but because I got stuck trying to make sense of the Sefer Yetzirah commentaries that I've translated from Hebrew to English.

For the first time since I was at University I feel stupid. Back then it was due to the fact that some of the people on my course were incredibly intelligent.

My translation effort of Abulafia's Gan Naul has stalled on page 7. I've ploughed onwards to page 15, but my comprehension of the text got left behind around pages 4-5. Which makes the next prompt from Deb rather timely.

Asking for Help
To increase my chances of understanding Sefer Yetzirah and its commentaries I've started getting together with a friend to read, practice and discuss the text and a select number of commentaries. Fisdel's book the  "Practice of Kabbalah" has some good meditation exercises that will help us to get an experiential understanding of the book to go theory-based commentaries. It's early days yet and this could take several years. However, Sefer Yetzirah is meant to be studied with a partner rather than alone so at least it gets me moving in the right direction.

On the work front, I've got over my inhibitions and started doing a bit of networking. Asking for help in terms of mentoring and career's advice from friends and colleagues is proving to be easier and less daunting that I thought.

So far I have multiple avenues of opportunities opening up. I'll be adding in some prayers for support, some meditation exercises and all being well my career should be back on track with all pistons firing in the next 6 months or so. My only concern is ending up with a role that makes me travel too far and too frequently from my family.