Thursday, 26 April 2012

This is Not a Review: Joe Golem and the Drowning City (Illustrated Novel)

I started reading Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden for two reasons.

Firstly despite there being a drought order in place in many locations in the UK, this could be the wettest April on record. Hence it feels a bit like London is becoming a Drowning City. Secondly, during a recent meditation session I had a vision of tentacles reaching up from the ground to the sky.

Anyway, the book is an illustrated novel – not a graphic novel. It's also very good in my opinion and only took a few hours to read cover to cover. The small caste of characters are well developed and even without the illustrations the atmosphere of the Drowning city seeps out of the pages.

The story centres around a young woman who is a conjurers apprentice. When the conjurer goes missing it up to the young woman to find him with the help of a golem. That and trying to prevent tentacled Elder gods from coming through to consume the world. So if you're a fan of Hellboy, this is one I'd recommend as an entertaining story.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Choose Time, Not Maps

It’s almost the weekend and since it’s been a slow week, I’d like to share with you a couple of thoughts.

Choose a Teacher, Not a School

One of my relatives advised me “choose the boss, not the job”. I’d posit that the same rule of thumb should be applied to your career in magic and mysticism. Choose the teacher and not the system.

I can’t really give an example for this one as I don’t have a teacher. Hence why this blog is called “Trainee Golem Builder” - to reflect my status as a beginner and my lack of teacher. Otherwise it might have been named “Apprentice Golem Builder” instead.

On Managing Carving out Some Time

To progress your studies and practice you need to make time. This does not mean simply reserving some time in your calendar - it also means making the people in your life aware of your intention to set-aside this time.

For example, in my typical week I spent at least two evenings reading and practicing meditation exercises for 1-2 hours at a time. In the run up to each session I make sure my wife knows about it and that she’s OK with it. Also, before each session I make extra effort to pay her attention and be mindful of our interaction. In the same way that I carve out time for my spiritual growth, I carve out time for our relationship to grow.

Paths Not On Google Maps

Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) chapter 1, verse 1 begins by describing 32 mystical paths of wisdom. As Rabbi Ayreh Kaplan explains, the word used for path used in this instance is not “Derech” meaning public road – but rather “Netiv” meaning a private road. In other words, there is no Google Maps which you can use to plot or follow a path of development in magic or mysticism, it’s largely internal development and difficult to plan very far in advance.

For example, about 5 years ago I decided to read up more about Jewish mysticism with the eventual aim of practicing meditation and learning how to build a golem. My understanding at the time was that the process of making a golem involved forces or energies of the Hebrew letters and not angels or spirits. The former I was comfortable working with, but not the latter. (Which I now realize is a bit like saying: I’ll only interact with light as a wave and not as photons). 

Recently I thought: If I had a spiritual guide, what would it be like? Awesome, was my immediate response. In fact, he would be so awesome that if he did not exist – he would have to invent himself. Which, I now realize typing this, he did about two years ago. That goes to show that even starting out with the intention never to work or interact with spirits, I have done just that.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Drought Mitigation Strategies

I’d just like to start by apologizing to Gordon and anyone else who lives in London who likes the sunshine. I prefer the rain and with the current drought… well, did I mention that I like the rain?

Defining Risks and Issues

In the language of project managers a risk is often defined as “uncertainty that matters”. So the next questions are: what matters and what happens when a risk actually occurs?

The answer to the first is subjective, which is important to consider as the attitude towards risks by stakeholders is, in my opinion, as important as the risk itself.

The answer to the second question is: it becomes an “issue”, i.e. a risk that is now a fact and needs to be dealt with. Risk & Issue mitigation is a fancy way of saying: sort it out!

Drought Mitigation:

At the moment in many parts of the UK there is a drought in effect due to the low amounts of rainfall over the past couple of years. Here is a poster from Thames Water on this topic:

The bit that irks me about this poster is a minor - but to me important - detail: “None of us can make it rain, but we can all use less water”. Well, speak for yourself. Some people do claim to be able to make it rain.

Rain Making Strategies:

Here are some techniques for rain making that every Trainee Golem Builder should know about.
  1. Prayer for Rain 
  2. Choni’s Circle 
  3. Rain Dance 
  4. Elijah’s prayer for rain

Let’s take a brief look at each in turn:

1. Prayer for Rain

This prayer is said at the end of Sukkot (Tabernacles), a pilgrim festival at the end of the harvest season that requests rain for the coming winter. Here is a link to some of the laws. This prayer is said until Pesach (Passover). In a land like Israel that relies on rainfall rather than rivers or lakes to supply water for drinking and agriculture, praying for rain can mean the difference between thriving and surviving.

2. Choni’s Circle

Choni was a Mishnaic sage who lived at the time of the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem. He was a wonder worker who asked God to make it rain by drawing a circle and refusing to move out of it until the right kind of rain fell.

3. Rain Dance

OK, this one is not something I learned from a person or a book but rather developed a knack for at school to get out of playing football. Over the years I’ve improved the technique and miniaturized it to just using one finger. My wife learned the technique too and although she does not believe in magic, her use of the dance has more powerful effects than mine.

4. Elijah’s prayer for rain

In a previous blog posting, I linked to some instructions by Fisdel on how to use Biblical narrative for meditative purposes. This same technique can be used for 1 Kings 18:41-46 to bring about rain.  The main thing I’d like to highlight with this technique is that it does require repetition as evidenced in the narrative.

Which Mitigation Works Best?

I use “1. Prayer for Rain” regularly, but not for the UK - It’s difficult to test the success of this technique so we’ll focus on the next three instead. Technique “2. Choni’s Circle”is not one that I would recommend unless you’re at the same level as Choni. Technique “3. Rain Dance” is relatively straightforward, it just requires trial and error until you find something that works. My advice is to infuse the dance with passion and intent, if nothing else it should be a good workout. Finally technique “4. Elijah’s prayer for rain” is not one that I’ve tried before, I was planning to save that one for later in the year.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Morpheus from the Matrix which hopefully explains the rather sporadic rainfall and hail occurring in London…
“…What you must learn is that these rules are no different than the rules of a computer system. Some of them can be bent, others can be broken. Understand?”

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The Ties that Bind

It’s currently the festival of Passover that celebrates the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt. The Hebrew word for Egypt (Mitzra-yim) means constraints. Hence the festival is not just about leaving physical slavery but also mental and spiritual slavery.

The introduction to The Complete Artscroll Machzor (festival prayer book) for Passover contains the following extract based on the teachings of Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen:
“…Chiddushei HaRim comments that there were three kinds of Jews in Egypt. There were some who perceived God in everything; they were not in exile at all in the truest sense, because nothing impaired their awareness of God in all things. At the other extreme, there were other Jews who were equally not in exile, because they were so thoroughly assimilated into the beliefs of Egypt that they considered themselves Egyptians, albeit enslaved and persecuted. Their goal was not to leave Egypt, but to be accepted by their masters… Finally, there was the mass of Jews in the middle. They were in true exile because they were not part of Egypt nor did they wish to be…”

Each of us at some point in our lives confronts the thought of: is there more to life than this? A moment when we become aware of the chains that bind us and have to choose whether to take action or not.

Most people move between the three mind-frames rather than live only in one. Exceptional people such as Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky, despite being imprisoned were always free in their minds and spirits.

At the other extreme are people who live just for the moment, to experience whatever pleasures they can and focus only on the physical rather than spiritual growth.

The rest are somewhere in between, moving closer to side of spiritual freedom for a time and back to the side of exile of the spirit on the other. My personal experience of this is the festivals and Shabbat that are islands in time for family time and spiritual growth. The remainder of the week the “yoke of mundane/worldly affairs” rests on my shoulders and I have to deal with work, bills, travel, etc.

Following a path of development in magic and mysticism can help a person keep their attention more focused on being free in one’s spirits – but it still requires breaking the mental bonds and chains that bind us.

My job role is not a part of my identity, it’s how I manifest my will in the world of commerce but it barely reflects my inner nature. My mortgage is a vehicle for providing a nice place to live for my family and I, but it’s only a crushing monetary weight if I allow it to become one in my mind.

My point is that in your head you have the power to break the chains that everyday life seems to force you to carry. Once you break those bonds you can carry on doing exactly the same job, commute and other activities, however in your heart and mind you are free.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Cycle of Understanding and Wisdom, SY1:4

OK, slightly out of order in terms of SYRC studying. We’re at Sefer Yetzirah chapter 1 verse 6 (1:6) and this is about 1:4. Anyway, perhaps this is a lesson to read Sefer Yetzirah in a non-linear manner.

Sefer Yetzira 1:4, from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s commentary and translation (Sefer Yetzira: The Book of Creation).

Ten Sefirot of Nothingness
ten and not nine
ten and not eleven
Understand with Wisdom
Be Wise with Understanding
Examine with them
And probe from them
Make [each] thing stand on its essence
And make the Creator sit on His Base

Sefer Yetzira 1:4, from Steven A. Fisdel’s commentary and translation (The Practice of Kabbalah):

There are ten nonsubstantive Sefirot. Ten, not nine. Ten, not eleven. Understand through Wisdom and be wise through Understanding. Search within them. Examine from them. Arrive at a decision. And seat the Yetzer in its place.

But how do you understand with/ through wisdom and be wise with/through understanding? Fisdel explains it in one sentence: “Understanding is gained through the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom is gained through experience.”

What you have to do it tie knowledge and experience together in a loop. Extract from that an idea, or principle. Turn that in to a symbol and apply it in your actions in everyday life to help manifest your reality as you will.

Below is a simple diagram that shows the cycle of meditation and contemplation; experience and knowledge. Some Kabbalists refer to this as oscillating consciousness. You get better at it with practice, plus it sensitizes you to experiencing the Sefirot.

Below is a simple diagram that shows how the Sefirot can be used to probe the inner workings of a thing, to “examine with them”. Next “probe from them”, examine the outer appearance of something using the Sefirot as lenses.

Out of this meditation and contemplation should emerge a pattern, an idea or principle. In the same way that the idea of a car is quite abstract and there are many, many different designs of cars – you need to make a clear decision about how the idea will be shaped. This is “making each thing stand on its essence”

The final part is in the Sefirah of Yesod, the one preceding Malchut and Yesod is referred to as dwelling, machon. This is where the energy and light that you have meditated on and contemplated is focused through the symbol of the idea that you’ve extracted is channeled and used to shape your reality.

Here is a quick revision of the steps to “understand with wisdom, be wise with understanding” and “examine with them and probe from them”:

  1. Pick a topic, object or thing to meditate on 
  2. Spend a set period of time meditating on it 
  3. Spend a similar amount of time contemplating your meditative experiences 
  4. Extract an idea or concept from the contemplation 
  5. Meditate on stillness, silence or whatever it is you do to tune yourself in the experience of to Sefirot energies 
  6. Examine the inner nature of the object of the meditation, what Sefirotic energies are you experiencing? 
  7. Reflect on how the object is viewed through different Seforit looking glasses 
  8. Channel the flow of energy through a symbol that represents the idea extracted from your meditation 
  9. Hold that Symbol in your mind’s eye and use it to create your day to day reality

Steven A. Fisdel does a better job of describing the meditation on page 80 of his book “The Practice of Kabbalah: Meditation in Judaism

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Disclaimer of Liability

Having made reference to various meditation techniques in this blog, I have no idea if anyone has ever used them or what their experiences and effects have been. Therefore for the sake of completeness…

Simon Tomasi (aka Trainee Golem Builder) makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, funniness or adequacy of the contents of this site, and expressly disclaims liability for errors and omissions in the contents of this site. No warranty of any kind, implied, expressed, or statutory, including but not limited to the warranties of non-infringement of third party rights, title, merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, freedom from mental destabilization, freedom from unmitigated enlightenment or headaches, is given with respect to the contents of this website or its links to other Internet resources. Any and all of content of this site for magical or mystical advancement are done at the practitioners own risk and the content providers cannot accept any liability or credit for Immanentizing the eschaton. 

Original image by marciojlima 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Project Update: Opening the Heart and Memory

It’s been awhile since this blog mentioned doing any magic and that is because I haven’t done any serious magic since the Detroit Lions played their last match. Actually that is not entirely true…I did some recently to help me to land an ideal job.

Anyway, landing the job is just the next step in my (now) 10 year plan to become a corporate wizard. It’s a ten year plan as that is when my earning potential is likely to peak. The plan involves milestones that indicate what job I should switch to and by what date. Also which interest circles that would be beneficial to move in and which are less useful.

For example, going to a monthly meet-up to network & discuss the latest news in technology domains and project management are on the list of things to pursue for next couple of years. As was pointed out in Strategic Sorcery in a recent blog post  – it’s important to decide where you look for value in investing your time & money.

Corporate Wizards use same-day delivery, not hobbit-mail

Anyway, getting the right jobs, pay etc is not a goal in of itself but rather the means to achieve it. Putting a strategy in to practice takes planning, skills, behaviours, knowledge and experience. Project Managers value regular introspection, or lessons learned as some call it, which means that you need to frequently review how you’re doing and work out what is working and what needs to be fixed.

On the subject of skills, one of the ones that I’m planning to improve is memorization. Fortunately there are already a number of books on this subject such as Frances Yates’ “The Art of Memory”. However, as Michael Swartz points out in “Scholastic Magic” (extracts can be found here) there is a difference in the way that the Greco-Romans would memorize to the Rabbinic schools that memorized the Mishnah (Oral Law). The latter were much more concerned with remembering the exact words, ‘Memora ad res’ versus ‘Memoria ad verba’. (I hope that I copied the Latin correctly).

Anyway, apparently there are a number of spells for improving memory in The Greek Magical Papyri. See PGM 1:232-47, 3:410-23, 3:467-78 and 3:424-66. Here is an extract from Swartz book for a ritual called peti(c)hat lev (opening the heart):
If you want to perform opening of the heart, purify yourself and take a cup of wine and say the psalm over the cup seven times and drink it. This one shall do three times in the morning and drink and one’s heart shall be opened to Torah. And this is reliable and tested. “My God, My God, why are you…”

Note: the Hebrew indicates that it should be done for three days, not three times in one day. Also psalm refers to psalm 63 (I think, it could be 22).

The question I’ll leave you with before the long weekend is: Why is memorization such an important skill when we live in an always-connected world where information is instantly accessible?

Monday, 2 April 2012

Collective Noun for…

Project Managers
When my employer last made a large staff cut, it removed 70% of the project managers. At the time the main question on my mind was: “What is a collective noun for Project Managers?”

It is, I will readily admit, a silly question to be asking when my livelihood was at risk and the business was suffering due to its inability to adapt to a changing world. I asked a number of my colleagues and got several interesting and amusing answers: a slip, a risk, a contingency… of project managers. Here is a link to some more suggestions. 

It was absurd question in a time when everyone seemed to acting in an irrational manner. Perhaps it was my way of taking the chaos, uncertainty & madness and condensing it in to a single question.

Unfortunately chaos, uncertainty and madness are daily facts of life right now. At a global level the geopolitical map is changing, technology is transforming how we interact and people are taking their views on to the streets to protest about how they would like their environment to change.

At the same time that all this chaos is going on, there is also an explosion of creative experimentation, growth, experience sharing and exploration going on in various occult communities. As evidenced by what is happening in the blogosphere and publishing world for example.

However, there is one corner where chaos energy is not being transmuted in to growth. Rufus Opus has already blogged about it here and Rob posted about it here .

To me it feels quite a lot like my silly question, getting distracted by nonsense when there was important work to be done.

The Ugly (Truth)
My experience of interaction with people interested in the occult and esoteric studies – is that there are lots of cool & interesting people with a few muppets & weirdos. But the risk of getting cornered by a conspiracy theorist or self-proclaimed messiah after a lecture on the occult is more than off-set by the chance to discuss ideas, experiences and renew my enthusiasm.

"GD flame war? Those guys really like to keep a tradition alive"

Nothing quite, in my opinion, beats listening to what others are passionate about, comparing notes from different schools of thought and experiencing the syncretism of ideas evolving.

In closing, here are a couple of suggestions for collective nouns for wizards and witches. (Plus this amusing bonus collective noun sheet for gaming geeks). 

My suggestion for the collective noun for any practitioner who takes part in a flam war is: opportunity-waster. If you have enough time and energy to take part in a flame war, just think about how much more you could achieve doing magic?

Edit: Aaron Leitch has writtena really good post, IMO, about the Golden Dawn.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Book Launch

It is with great excitement and anticipation I can finally announce the new Golem Builder book will be published in the summer of 2012. Here is a copy of the front and back cover of the book. The publishers were very excited by the initial manuscript that they read as they see Golem building as the next big disruptive technology to change the way we live, being even bigger than tablet PCs and space travel.

Front page:
Back cover:

Please register your interest in the book in the comment section below as the publisher is keen to find out if the print run should be in single, double digits or imaginary numbers.