Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Learning light the hard way

This is an extract from The Jonathan Sacks Haggada in which Rabbi Lord Sacks has just described the moral lesson taught to Jonah with the incident with the gourd providing him shade from the sun.

“…God teaches Jonah to care by giving him something and then taking it away. Loss teaches us to value things, though usually too late. What we have, and then lose, we do not take for granted. The religious vision is not about seeing things that are not there. It is about seeing the things that are there and always were, but which we never noticed, or paid attention to. Faith is a form of attention. It is a sustained meditation on the miraculous of what is, because it might not have been. What we lose and are given back we learn to cherish in a way we would not have done had we never lost it in the first place. Faith is about not taking things for granted.

This is the key to understanding a whole series of narratives in the book of Genesis. Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel long to have children but discover that they are infertile. Only through God’s intervention are they able to conceive. Abraham goes through the trial of the binding of Isaac, only to discover that God, who asked him to sacrifice his child, says ‘Stop’ at the last moment. This is how the covenantal family learns that having children is not something that merely happens. It is how the people of Israel learned, at the dawn of their history, never to take children for granted. Jewish continuity, the raising of new generations of Jews, is not natural, inevitable, a process that takes care of itself. It needs constant effort and attention. The same is true of freedom…”

Looking back over the learning that I've done in the past five years and could have done - I realize that Education is light.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wizards in the Mist

(c) Steve Partridge, image used to illustrate the start of the path
Exploring magical paths is like following a trail of sign-posts in the mist.

Books are the guide posts, but we sometimes confuse them with maps.

Some people promote their books as if they are selling treasure maps, it's good to have a goal in mind but people should really try to create their own treasure maps.

Sometimes the books are just guide posts that seemingly point the seeker in the direction that they want to go, but the book just leads the seeker deeper in to the mists of confusion.

The main point of books, blogs, forums, email lists, etc are to encourage people to walk in to the mist and explore magical paths of development.

Crossing boundaries from the mundane to a deeper level of engagement with the worlds is what it's all about!

Sometimes we form joint expeditionary parties to explore the mists, we dress up in furs or robes and give out titles. But ultimately we must go it alone.

Can technology help us, as a community, communicate with better sign-posts than clay tables, parchment, and books?

Before we can answer that question, it's worth examining these definitions of community by Rabbi Lord Sacks.

My view? We're a tsibbur, a rabble... and is that such a bad thing?

We are the technology! Our bodies, minds, and souls.

Blogs, forums, email lists, etc are simply the sign posts we put up in the hope that someone will comment on them in our individual journeys.

If you like this post, please pay it forward by commenting on someone else's blog? I get too much traffic already thank you very much.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Books as Roving Castles

Through out life's ups and downs, it's nice to have a place of sanctuary to retreat to and get away from the bewildering and at times scary world in which we live. For most people this is home and family, they provide care & protection and whilst not conflict free - are certainly a lot safer than the world outside.

Unfortunately I have not been able to call on the aid of home or family very often. My (until recent) nomadic existence and distance from family meant that I had to build miniature sanctuaries of my own to take with during my travels. So instead of retreating to a place of bricks and mortar, I retreated to a pages filled with letters and hidden meanings.

The first roving castle that I constructed in my minds eye was using Sefer Yetzirah, The Book of Formation, translated and commented on by the late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Although the meaning of the text was obscure to the point of being impenetrable, that itself gave it the quality that I needed to make a sacred space in which to temporarily retreat, recharge and find sanctuary from the winds of change.

Next came learning Hebrew and building my ability to read and understand it. This involved a three year Hebrew immersion project that has recently completed but is being extended to go to ever deeper depths. Having learned to start navigating the corridors of meanings and insights of Sefer Yetzirah by gaining a small measure of mastery of Hebrew - I discovered that the book was not a sanctuary at all.

It was instead an engine of change, a roving castle filled with machinary of self-transformation. Slowly moving about the inner landscape of my life, the practices of meditation contained in the book were beginning to dig up the imbalances buried in my life, holding them up to the light of day and forcing me to tackle them before moving on to new challenges. It's been a slow and painful process, but looking back now I understand that without this laborious work I would have become unbalanced through the energy meditations that I practice.

So what's next? Well, Sefer Yetzirah, it's commentaries, and meditations will always be a part of my life. But I am now in a position where I can consider adding other engines of change in to the landscape of my life. Starting with Rambam's Hilchot Teshuvah (Laws of Return), part of his Mishnah Torah series, which contains instructions on how to live in a state of constant return to the Divine.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Truth of my Dishonesty

I watched this video today:

Which I presume is based on this book. "The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves" by Dan Ariely.

The reason why I am sharing this video is it brought a few things to light about myself. The upcoming festival in the Jewish calendar is Pesach (Passover) and as is explained in Chabad chassidut... Mitzrayim (the Hebrew word for Egypt) means boundaries and constraints. Dishonesty is in my view a primary source for creating boundaries and constraints between the people around us, but also internally within each and every one of us.

The passover blog post that I had planned to write was to go beyond the constraints highlighted in this Hermetic Lessons posting about issues with the Western Mystery Traditions. The approach that I was going to take was to look at some of the history and influences of the Western Mystery Traditions, but Frater Acher posted about it in a much better researched and eloquent post than I was motivated to write.

So instead of reflecting on how a movement or set of ideas could evolve, all that I am left with is a list of things that I have been dishonest about and the understanding that changes need to happen now. On my list are the following items:
  • Reports on how much I spent on books were false, it's an embarrassingly high amount
  • Most of those books will never get read
  • I use magic for personal gain and not in service for the community, land, etc
  • Despite the name of the blog, I have no intention of building a golem
  • My name is a lie

For the past couple of years I've almost crossed a point of transition and have chickened out eat time. To be the agent of self-change that I need to be, I have chosen to create a mini-crisis to help passover the threshold.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Opposing Schools of Fantasy Magic

Like many mages today, I grew up reading science fiction, fantasy, and taking part in role-playing games. Whilst the latter did not lead to devil worship, it also did not lead to an interest in real world magic. That came from the comic “Mendy and the Golem” as well as stories of wonder-working Hassidic rabbis.

Anyway, the first book that I learned to read English from at a relatively young age was the “Elfstones of Shannara” by Terry Brooks. Shortly after that I read the other books by Terry Brooks in the Shannara series and then moved on to the Dragonlance (Dungeons & Dragons) books by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman – as well as a whole host of other less-well written fantasy novels.

The main difference that struck me between the Shannara books and D&D books was the way that magic worked. In the D&D novels and role-playing books – once a spell was learned it could be cast each time with pretty much the same results**. In the world of Shannara on the other hand the magic could be called upon but it seemed to very much have a will of its own.

Since I read the Shannara books first, they left a lasting impression on me. I still see magic as something that is not easily repeatable in the way that D&D presents and it certainly has a life of its own. Perhaps it’s more about how I connect with the Divine flow/sheaf, but once the flood gate opens, it’s anyone’s guess how it’s going to play out.

So which school of fantasy magic was most influential in your youth? And does it impact the way that you view magic today?

** - excluding for the moment planar effects, anti-magic shells, counter-spells, etc. etc.

Follow you Passion

For many years I’ve heard people give out career advice that can be summarized simply as “follow your passion”.

However, for someone like me – following my passion as a golem builder has not been very successful from a financial point of view. Adding up all the books, courses etc. that I have paid for over the years, well it comes to several thousand dollars of sunk costs that I had pretty much written off.

Short of selling my talents as a golem builder to create life-sized Claymation style love dolls, I had pretty much written off my career as a golem builder before it had even started. The only reason this blog carried on for the past year or so is that updating the blog had become a habit – and habits can be hard to break.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when a few months ago I was head-hunted by someone very famous in the music industry (even I had heard of them) representing a charity that promotes the study of Kabbalah in society. After several interviews, presenting some lectures and interactive workshop demonstrations – the society has finally agreed to hire me as golem builder in residence.

So from today onwards for the next three years I have been commissioned to create a golem! This comes as a great relief as the “life-sized Claymation girlfriend experience” business was very niche and to be honest rather messy.

Source: http://adayinthelifeofalemon.blogspot.co.uk/
So the advice was true after all, follow your passions and that ray of light you cling to will turn in to a torrent of Divine flow.