Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Found in Translation

My many atempts to try to translate the works of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia define the stepping stones of my journey to date. Each time I failed I have come away with more knowledge and determination.

The current (5th) attempt to translate "Gan Na'ul" (The Sealed Garden) is gaining momentum and I have managed to read further in the book than previous attempts. It's a commentary on Sefer Yetzira (Book of Formation) and hence expects the reader to be familiar with this work.

A friend on facebook shared a link on a 1-day conference titled: "Western Esotericism and the Art of Translation" at the Open University in Israel. It would be awesome to attend. But even if I cannot go - I will draw inspiration from the fact that this topic of translation of esoteric material is the focus of debate.


Monday, 19 December 2016

Spinning Wheels

A couple of years ago a friend died. He had issues with his resporatory system that had been going on for some time. I remember trying to divine what was going on and only receiving a vision of what can only be described as snot eels or snot dragons lurking in a nearly empty river bed. The entities were having a very detrimental effect on my friend and the low riverbed represented his dwindling life force. I succeeded in moving the things to the North Pole in the vision briefly but they returned and my fried died some time later.

The reason I mention this is that last year I had a chest infection and had a sense that something was attaching itself to hitch a ride. At the time I thought little of it and wanted to be accommodating. It was a foolish thing to do aloowing whatever it was to lurk within the circle of my being and after two rounds of antibiotics I was able to move on.

This year, as is seasonal, the same pattern of illness started to manifest. Sure enough I had a vision of an unwanted visitor in the corner of my being. I tried folding it within the walls to section it off and send it away. However, that did not work. Then I probe sensed it (for want of a better term) to work out if it was benevolent or malevolent in its intent. Sensing only curiosity and seeming looking for a place to hide, I decided that this time I would move it with a little more force.

What happened next was a bit of a surprise as I started my usual cycle of letter meditations. The letters manifest as spinning blades of metal-like substance and I instinctibely assumed what I describe as the form of a jagged little time elemental. I moved what ever it was lurking on the edges of my being to a distant point in time and woke up in the morning feeling like the worst of my illness has passed. I've not shaken the illness entirely but this time I have ensured that there are no unwanted hitchers.


The thing is that my dreams often involve debating, arguing, learning from and teaching to other people. Some nights it feels like I am in a busy terminal crossing paths with lots of people. So it's not like I am hostile to the presence of others in my dreams or visions. Rather that when my physical condition is not good, I have learned to take a more active approach to dealing with it.

I could of cours be imagening all of this and some or all of it is likely to be the product of a very fertile imagination. The trick to changing shape in dreams is to use the substances around you. Literally form a body of what is surrounding you, making sure not to borrow something of someone else without getting approval first. There are few things worse than an entity borrowing a part of your body that then manifests as an uncontrolled growth.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Golem News

In case you have been living under a rock or buried a tonne of clay from a deactivated golem (a more common occurence than you might expect), this week has had a number of interesting golem news pieces.

  1. The Soul of the Golem is Truth by Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan author of the Sophia Street blog.
    1. This is in response to this CNN clip
  2. The Golem is alive by Frater Acher the author of the Theomagica blog
    1. This is (in part) in reponse to this golem exhibition in Berlin

Monday, 28 November 2016

Becoming More Golem-Like


Having looked back at the past 6 years of postings on this blog, it’s pretty safe to conclude that:
  1. I have written a lot of rubbish over the years
  2. Projects are a useful vehicle for initiating and tracking work (even if they are only sometimes successful and
  3. The study and practice of Kabbalah – in particular Sefer Yetzira, Book of Creation, is hard
I just want to elaborate a bit on the third point. Basically the problem domain can be broken down in a number of different parts:
  • A. Translating the text
  • B. Understanding the text at a basic level
  • C. Understanding the commentaries
  • D. Practising the techniques
  • E. Measuring progress
Whilst initially I thought that A to C would be challenging, it’s actually D and E that are the hardest. The techniques, for which I use the head movements, breathing, and chanting as taught in the writings of Abraham Abulafia, take a really long time.

It’s only when I try to use the techniques to solve a particular problem such as boosting the success of an American football team or finding a job or creating an amulet for a specific purpose – that it’s possible for me to get a good idea of how much or little I have progressed. Hence why I use projects as a vehicle for initiating and tracking progress, it’s a familiar way for me to package up and execute change in the world.


So what do the next six years have in store? I think probably a lot more of the same. But this time I am hoping to be more focused.

Life in this day and age is filled to the brim with distractions. Work emails coming in night and day, binge-watching on Netflix is the norm, Steam gaming portal has endless hours of distractions, not to mention the essentials such as work, family, and religious practice.

Over the past five years I have attempted to reduce my comfort zone as much as possible, to expose myself to ideas and views that challenge my world view, as well as reduce time on the things allow me to withdraw from the world (so to speak). Now my life has become a little more focused on a few things, rather than less focused on more things. My goal of having my evenings taken up only with study and meditation is drawing closer – although I will maintain some balance with other activities such as sport & socializing.

In summary perhaps the study of golem building has made me a little more boring, one-dimensional, and perhaps golem-like. But in order to advance in my study and practice of Jewish magic – more single-minded focus is required.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Project Summary 2011 to 2016


Date posted Project Title Summary Planned End Date Actual End Date Success Notes
Friday, 12 November 2010 Project: 40 Days for Wisdom An Invocation for Wisdom from The Book of the Angel Raziel 23/12/10 23/12/10 Yes This kick-started a whole series of book learning and practice based projects
Tuesday, 30 November 2010 Project: Understanding the Merkavah User Manual in 2000 pages or less Read 2000 pages of academic literature on Merkavah and Hechalot Mysticism 30/06/11
Yes Provided background of Merkava literature, not practical experiential knowledge
Thursday, 27 January 2011 Project: Memorize chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah (which deals with 10 Sefirot) Memorize all 14 verses Chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah (Gra version) in Hebrew 15/04/11 25/02/11 No The project succeeded initially but had to be repeated with the version used by Rabbi Cordovero
Tuesday, 3 May 2011 Project: Hebrew Immersion Study Course Read all of the 24 books of the Tanach 03/05/11
No Managed to study 5 Books of Moses three times, but only studied first book of Neviim
Wednesday, 10 August 2011 Project: Noten Kavod (Giving Respect) Noten Kavod (Give Respect/Honour) to people and things for next 3 weeks. 31/08/11 31/08/11 Yes I still practice on my commute, in particular to the local wildlife
Tuesday, 30 August 2011 Project: A Lion Has Roared Use spiritual influence to support Detroit Lions Time: Regular Season starting September 2011 01/01/12 01/01/12 Yes 10 wins, 6 losses. An improvement over previous seasons
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 “Amulet for Success” Improve financial status and employment prospects ?? ?? Yes Despite initial failure, it led to different opportunity that greatly boosted my career and earnings
Thursday, 22 December 2011 New Year, New You: Prompt 2: Goals as New Projects! Study 4 audio lectures on Sefer Yetzirah and do 2 practical exercises 14/02/12 14/02/12 Yes Lecture series kick-started wider range of Jewish meditative techniques
Thursday, 22 December 2011 New Year, New You: Prompt 2: Goals as New Projects! Translate 30 pages of Abraham Abulafia’s writing from Hebrew to English. 14/02/12 14/02/12 No Hebrew skills were really not up to the level required for this project
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 Sefer Yetizrah Readers Club Study chapter 1 of Sefer Yetzirah - with a number of commentaries ?? ?? No After a few study sessions the project stalled. Finding a committed study partner at a similar level is hard.
Friday, 1 June 2012 Make Yourself a Teacher Find an inner teacher 01/06/13 01/06/13 No I was not ready
Monday, 10 September 2012 Project: leaping forth from the Bashan Use spiritual influence to support Detroit Lions Time: Regular Season starting September 2012 30/12/12 30/12/12 No 4 wins, 12 losses…
Thursday, 8 November 2012 This is not a project: Translating Sodei Razaya Translate Sodei Razya HaShalem in to English 08/11/13 08/11/13 No Hebrew skills were still really not up to the level required for this project
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 New Project: Hack the Heichal (Heavenly Palace) Learn and experience as much as possible in the area of Angelic lore in Hebrew Kabbalah 21/05/12 ?? No Learned a little, experienced even less
Friday, 9 May 2014 Building a TARDIS-AS To travel through the spiritual realms with Rabbi Avraham Abulafia. 09/11/15 ?? No Project was too ambitious. Post-poned it to 2019
Sunday, 23 November 2014 Connecting the Letters Combine each letter with 21 others. Combine each letter with four-letter Name 23/04/16
Yes Gained a deeper connection to the Hebrew letters as living entities
Monday, 25 January 2016 New Project: Aramaic Absorption Read five Books of Moses with Aramaic commentary 25/01/07
No Managed 3 out of 5 books, then changes happened
Sunday, 14 February 2016 New Project: 10 Psalms for 10 Days Read 10 Psalms of Tikkin Klali every day for 10 days 24/02/16 24/02/16 Yes Project continued well beyond 10 days, improvements took 2 months
Thursday, 12 May 2016 New Project: Tzedek Tzedek like a Mensch Promote compassion and wealth 12/05/17
TBC

Friday, 11 November 2016

November 2016 update

It's been very quiet in this blog for awhile because there have been some major changes in my life recently. Changes that I initiated at the start of the year and are only now reaching the stage where the projects are completing and transitioning to business as usual.

The really important projects don't get mentioned on this blog until they are complete. Experience has shown that certain types of projects do not do well when they are publicised too early.

The long and the short of it is that I have moved out if London and changed jobs. The planning and preparation took 5 months, putting it in to action took 2.5 months.

To bolster the project I used a variety of magical techniques. Prayers for prosperity using Psalms and the prayers for financial success in the book Walking in the Fire. Combined with this I used numerous non-specifically magical techniques as outlines in the post about job hunting.

I learned during this journey that certain acts have a detrimental effect, in particular in job hunting. Also, building up one's patience to trust in the groundwork done in the first 5 months during the 2.5 months of being out of work - was for me quite hard.

The downside of being outside of London is that I am away from Treadwells, my favourite occult bookshop, as well as many of my magical friends. Plus I miss London itself. The city had me under her spell for over 15 years. There is something magical in traveling deep underground on the tube each day and feeling reborn after a literal journey through the world under our feet.

The benefits of the move are still crystallizing, but as a long term planner I know that good things require patience. One benefit that materialized recently was meeting a fellow Abraham Abulafia enthusiast. To find someone whose obsession matches and exceeds my own was very gratifying.

During the 2.5 month gap I forced myself to renew my study of Hebrew. I am learning 8-10 new words each day and my level of linguistic immersion has deepened significantly. Finally after many years of dreaming I will soon be ready to do some meaningful translation work of the Kabbalists whose life's works gave been cluttering my book shelves.

In closing I’m glad that a long term project hes worked out OK. there were some bumps on the road, but trusting in the principles of project management and magic helped turn it in to a success. I’d never thought that starting this blog six years ago that a combination of project management and magic & mysticism would get me this far. To be honest it was a bit of a joke at the start. However, regardless of the curious intermingling of disciplines I have got a lot of mileage out of it.

Coming up next: 6 year review and the plan for the next 6 years...

Friday, 30 September 2016

Happy New Year

My last post was somewhat on the depressing side, hence I wanted to end the year on a happier note. Whilst chatting to a good friend on Facebook last night she told me about many of the positive changes in her life, I feel similar changes occurring in mine. For all of these I am very grateful.

Rosh Hashanah is a time of judgement, self-reflection, and renewal. So if I have offended, upset, or caused you any harm - please can I ask for your forgiveness? Also, I forgive any offense, upset, or harm that you may have caused me.

At Rosh Hashaah we add some piyuttim (singula piyut) liturgical poems to our prayers. Here is a vidoe of Victoria Hanna explaining the pronunciation and provides insight in to its meaning.


Thursday, 29 September 2016

The horse has already bolted

And now for a post on geo-politics.... Here is a 5 minute video by the former chief Rabbi of the UK and how jew-hatred is resurgent across Europe.

It's an important speech in my opnion, but my view is that the horse has already bolted. When I have to wear stab proof vests during my voluntary security shift outside my synagogue and kids' school, the rot in society has spread so far that it is almost irreversible. It's mainstream.

Video link.

Two Solitary Meditators meet up - you won't believe what happens next!

Apologies for the terrible post topic name...

Today I met up with someone whom I have been friends with online for close to a decade. It was awesome to meet another Abraham Abulafia enthusiast, like him I need this hobby (obsession) to make it through the day, week, year, and fleshy incarnation in general. Professor Moshe Idel once referred to folks like us, i.e. Abulafia lovers, as the (paraphrasing it to) “brotherhood of solitary meditators”.

It really felt like meeting a long lost friend. We talked about life in general, gave each other a tonne of links and ideas to follow-up on, and renewed each other’s enthusiasm. It always amazes what a diverse group of people are in to Abulafia and I suspect that the shard of Abulafia’s Neshama have scattered far and wide with his passing to re-appear almost a thousand years later. Whilst we landed in the same time location, spatial separation has not been a big challenge due to electronic communication and the relative easy of speedy long distance travel.

Anyway, I expect that some of the impacts of this meeting will take a while to bring to fruition existing and new projects – it also led me to another wave of Abulafia experiences. My friend told me about an art exhibition that I immediately included in my travel itinerary.
Alchemy of Words:
Abraham Abulafia, Dada, Lettrism

The exhibition, marking the 100th anniversary of Dada, presents 60 works from public and private collections from Israel and abroad of Dada and Lettrist artworks, sound poems and video clips, and works associated with the medieval mystic Abraham Abulafia, who served as inspiration to the Lettrist leader Isidore Isou and the Dada-affiliated poet Yvan Goll.
OPENING DATE: Friday 17 June 2016
CLOSING DATE: Saturday 19 November 2016
LOCATION: Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Sculpture Gallery, Main Building
CURATOR: Dr. Batsheva Goldman-Ida
CREDITS: The exhibition and catalogue were made possible through the support of the David Berg Foundation, New York

Pictures of that part of my trip are included below.

Exhibition Entrance
There was a screen showing two videos by the enchanting Victoria Hanna, whom you can find here and here on youtube. If you have not listened to her yet - please, please do so - she's simply amazing.

In this corner where two recordings of Abulafia meditations (chanted). The one on the left was with audio & video for 7 minutes, the one on the right was an audio recording of 46 minutes.

Recordings of Abulafia meditations
The video was by Avraham Lieder meditating on the combination of Aleph with Heh.
Ah-Yo
Ah-Yah
Ah-Yeh
Ah-Yih
Ah-Yoo

Ya-Oh
Ya-Ah
Ya-Eh
Ya-Ih
Ya-Ooh
As always, everything is lost in translation in describing it in this format... but even if I coud describe the meditation perfectly with the head movements... it still would be the map and not the territory...

The paintaing was by the late (great) Abraham Pincas (1945-2015) and the work is called Untitled: Abraham Abulafia "light of the Intellect" (ca. 1980) gall-nut ink, water-based pigments, and varnish on parchment. Courtesy of Shoshana and Moshe Idel, Jerusalem.

Untitled: Abraham Abulafia "light of the Intellect"
Next to this painting, to the right and lower down was a head-set with a 46 minute recording by Abraham Pincas (1945-2015) going through the letters Aleph to Caf (i.e. letter after Yud) and combining each with the letters of the four-letter name Yuh, Heh, and Vav, Heh.

Abraham Pincas meditation recording

I have tried this meditation in the past and found that I could only make progress by going at a decent pace - rather than drawing out each and every breath to its limit. Much to my delight, the recording had the same chant I used, although it was a much more musical.

The other image that really caught my attention was an illustration of Raziel - by Victor Brauner (1903-1966). After contemplating this, I had some very unusual dreams on the train. By unusual I mean like almost nothing I have a frame of reference to.

Raziel - Victor Brauner

Raziel - Victor Brauner



Strategic Job Hunting

This is a brief post following up on the project: “Tzedek Tzedek like a Mensch “. Specifically this is a very brief guide on strategic job hunting as part of improving one’s financial circumstances.

As well as doing any and all “magic” to enhance job hunting success (see blog post linked above), here are some more mundane strategies that should be all done in parallel. But before we get on to this awesome bullet point list, here is another to pre-empt it which gives a guideline for the order of precedence in which companies recruit:

  1. Look for an internal candidate (much cheaper option most of the time)
  2. Look to see who is cold calling / emailing to get a job
  3. Ask employees to recommend a colleague (or friend, or relative)
  4. Post an advert on job sites or via social media e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook
  5. Go via a recruiter (costs more than other option in general)

Now bearing that list in mind – and it’s not gospel as it can really vary from one industry / country to the next – if you only rely on one method then you are really limiting your options. If you’re willing to put in the effort, why not do the same for this list?

1. Networking
Yes, it’s hard and does not come naturally to many people (me included) but when in some sectors many jobs are simply not advertised… the only way to find out about these opportunities is via contacts.

2. Go direct to the company
A pretty good approach is to to say “here is an issue you may be facing” (based on actual research you’ve done on the organization) and “here is how my skills / experience / ideas can help you overcome them. Chutzpah has a place in business, why not embrace it and learn it’s inner mysteries. Just be prepared for some rude awakenings.

3. Job sites
There are lots of these. LinkedIn is becoming a big meat market, so be sure to keep your profile up to date. Also read at least 5+ articles on how to manage your profile, a lot of employers check that your LinkedIn is in line with your CV. Also whilst endorsements are good, you can have too much of a good thing.

4. Recruiters
I’m not sure how much of the light of Creation reaches this level, but like estate agents I believe that as King Solomon said everything has a time and a place.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Tension at the Cross-roads

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan writes in his Sefer Yetzira book in section 1.3:
“…When the Sefirot are in their normal state, arrayed in three columns, they are in a state of equilibrium. But when the Sefirot of the central column are moved to the right and left, so as to divide the Sefirot in to two arrays, a powerful tension is produced. When they are in such a mode, powerful spiritual forces can be directed and chaneled...”
States of tension exist throughout our daily lives to a greater or lesser extent depending on the influences in our lives and our personal decisions. Right now there is a significant amount of creative potential in my life due to some recent decisions I made in the past half year. I’m wondering how long the state can be maintained for and what the long terms effects are.

It’s another journey through the cross-road for me. My teacher and I parted ways literally due to the distance in space that has opened up between us. We can stay in touch via electronic means, but I always feel like there is a huge part of communication that is lost this way.

Now there are other teachers in to whose presence I may become a regular visitor. By presence I don’t just mean in the classroom, but in to their homes to observe and learn. There is a story of a chassid who travelled a long distance just to learn how his teacher tied his shoes. Thankfully at this stage in life I know how to tie my shoe laces, however I believe that there is a great deal to be learned from how someone is present in each moment. Whether that is teaching about secret Divine names or how to crack a nut.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Pausing to Contemplate


I've not blogged for awhile, it always gets busy over the summer and one of the first things to suffer are blog updates. Anyway, the only update is that my working to secure a job have so far yet to bear fruit. I managed to get through four rounds of interview with the first company I applied to, but have had to put the job hunting on pause for a short time due to other priorities.

Not Reacting

I've been thinking about social media recently and how it shapes the way that people interact. Here are few thoughts of social media interactions as seen (by me) through the lens of the Sephirot.

1. Keter (Will)
Have you ever considered why you like certain things? There is a technique in Project Management that is called the “Five Whys” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5_Whys). It's meant as a way to drill down to find the root cause of a problem. If you apply it to the question “What is your favourite food?” it often leads to an unsatisfactory answer of “just because I like it”.
The level of Will is above logic, whilst we can rationalise certains biases and prefernces up to a certain extent – there comes a point where logic fails.
Social Media: from this point a person posts what they like or do not like. Arguments that result from these are almost never resolved as we're dealing with a level of consciousness that is not logical. You either believe that kittens are cute or not and no one can convince you otherwise.
2. Chochmah (Knowledge) and Binah (Understanding)
In previous posts I have talked about the concept of oscillating consciousness. Moving like a pendulum from the rational mind to the intuitive mind. By analysing something in detail and then allowing the mind to drift and make connections of it own – a person will often find that they suddenly come across a dpper insight and begin the process of logical analysis all over again. Then allowing the mind to drift again, the intuitive side takes over and the oscillations continue. This article clearly explains how this applies to the Talmud (http://www.koshertorah.com/PDF/mysticaltalmud.pdf).
Social Media: unfortunately it appears to me that the mediums of electronic social exchange do not promote oscillating consciousness. Few articles posted have an indepth analysis of a situation and look at trends and patterns. More often than not people respond emotionally and only later does the analysis get done by which point the moment has passed and something else is dominating the cycle of post-respond-forget.
3. Chesed (Kindness) and Gevurah (Strict Justice)
Chesed means kindsness, but it is also an expansive kindness that makes no room for whatever may be receptive to the kindness. On the other hand Gevurah means strict judgement, the creation of boundaries and holding back that does not take in to account the others it affects. Both Sephirot are overpowering in their own way. Neither are sufficient to keep the process of Creation going without the support of the other.
Social Media: One the one extereme all views are valid, on the other extreme there is only one view that is right. An example of the former is remaining silent when someone posts something racist. An example of the latter is “if you vote for X, please unfriend me”.
4. Tiferet (Harmonius Beauty)
At this point the powers of Chesed and Gevurah can co-exist without one cancelling out the other. But the two powers still do not act in a way that factors in the needs or considerations of the other.
Social Media: To be honest I am not sure what this looks like from a social media point of view. Perhaps it's “the middle ground”, but my view is that this has been disappearing rapidly over the past few years.
5. Netzach and Hod (Eternity and Splendour)
When it comes to Netzach and Hod, they each give and withhold with consideration to the other. These Sephirot do not seek to cancel each other out.
Social Media: At this point the debate is possible, as each side has made sufficient room in their worldview to accommodate the arguments of the other.

6. Yesod (Foundation)
The point on the Tree of Life where all the other Sephirotic energies are channeled through. It's the gateway to the higher worlds, to other states of consciousness and is the realm of time and the imagination.
Social Media: When manifesting in a positive way, it emerges as artistic output in the form of poems, art, etc. A less positive manifestation (IMO) is memes....

7. Malchut (Kingship)
The end point of the frequencies of Divine emanations. What we think of as the real world.
Social Media: This is the domain of selfies.


Note: Please take the above writings with a big pinch of salt. I've written it in a sleep-deprived state and may edit it later...

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Taking Five

No PM

In a previous job, I questioned the value of the project manager (PM) role that I was employe to do. Actually I question this every day on my way to work, and plenty of my colleagues also question whether PMs are a necessary evil or a waste of time & money.

But when I saw a project progressing without the coordination and management of a PM - it was obvious what difference having a good PM made to having no PM at all. Nobody knew how the project was prorgessing, issues kept coming up that could have been dealt with easily with a bit of forward focus, and the requirements were constantly being added to resulting in massive cost over-runs.

In some companies that is not a problem. They have the money to keep a project like this going. But in most places where I have worked there is oversight of what is being done, when it needs to be done by, and how much it will cost.

NO TGB

The way that I put my knowledge of Sefer Yetzirah in practice is a layered approach. Psalms, letter permutation, prayer, studying certain tracts of oral law, visionary approaches, letter permutation with Divine names, etc.

But sometimes it's hard to know if adding or removing techniques is having a measurable effect. Perhaps it would help if I kept a better diary and to be honest I am starting to question whether or not I have developed an over-inflated perception of the effects of any of my practices.

So I'm going to stop all practies that relate to certain areas of focus for a period of time (6 months) and see what effects, if any, I may have had. It's a slightly complicated way of saying "I'm not going to do magic in area X and see what is different"**.

** - In no event will Trainee Golem Builder author(s) be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of life or money arising out of, or in connection with, the the cessation of magic in maintaining stability in this corner of the globe.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Education of Golems: Part 2

5 Tools for Cultivating Golem Builders

In the previous post I highlighted some sources that expain the origins of the word golem. Another couple of sources were brought to show the guide-posts for creating an education plan for one’s children and students.

The things that I would like to cover next are the additions that I have made to the more formal elements of the education plan to help turn my children from golems (in the sense of being (uncultivated / uneducated) to more rounded individuals.

Here is my 5 point plan:

1. Patience
2. Self-Awareness
3. Focus
4, Problem solving
5, Curiosity

1. Patience

I have devised a game based on the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment that teaches patience and enhances delayed gratification. Quite simply I place a marshmallow in front of them and ask the kids to sit still and in silence for X number of minutes. If they succeed then at the end they get a second marshmallow.

I ran the game each Sunday morning (whilst my wife was out) and built them up from 1 minute to over 6 minutes. Considering that my kids were five and three at the time, sitting still for that long at those ages seems like an eternity.

Two side benefits of the game have been an improvement in behaviour of one of my kids who is very wriggly and finds it hard to sit still in school. The other is that I use the term “marshmallow game” to either get them to sit still for a short time or to help explain why they need to wait for a better reward.

2. Self-Awareness

Time-outs… they’re not much fun for parents or kids. I’m not a huge fan of them, but they do succeed in interrupting the behaviour pattern that the parents wants to adjust. The problem that I found was that whilst I could get my kids to sit on the step for the count of ten or twenty (depending on the severity of their actions), they often said “sorry” and then began to repeat the same behaviour patterns.

So I started sitting next to them and asking them to slow down their breathing a bit. We counted our breaths and this seemed to have a significant impact. My kids and I would still talk about how we felt but with more depths. The act of focusing on our breathing proved to be a great way for each of us to exert some influence on our emotional states.

Nowadays I just say “breathe deeply” as a shorthand for saying “be conscious of how you are feeling so that you can make a better informed choice about how you want to behave/respond”.

3. Focus

Some kids can focus for hours from a young age and some can’t. Well that is not exactly true, it’s really very much dependant on what is happening in that child’s life at that time and what it is that they are being asked to concentrate on.

To help stimulate my kids ability to focus we do a variety of activities. Painting, obstacle courses in the house and garden (my wife prefers the latter), building projects involving Lego, marble-runs, etc.

I also insist on playing “daddy’s favourite game” with them which involves lying on the floor on our backs and staring upwards. As you can imagine it’s not very interesting to start off with. But after a bit of “focus on breathing”, our minds settle and we start to observe all kinds of details that would otherwise pass us by.

Out in the garden we can imaging shapes in clouds, spot birds and insects that we would normally miss and indoors we watch the way that the shadows and light shape our view of the ceiling. OK, I know it sounds a bit boring and we don’t play it often but it’s helpful for learning to concentrate even when it seems pointless or we lack the desire to do so.


4, Problem solving

My kids fight from time to time, it;’s a natural sibling thing to do. One of the things that I have tried to stop myself from doing is solving their conflicts for them. Instead I ask them about creative ways that they can resolve their own conflicts. Taking turns, making it in to a game, joke competitions, etc are all ways that they have solved conflicts.

The trouble with trying to find a problem for kids/students is that the problem has to not be too hard and not be too easy – a Goldilocks problem. Creating these is quite challenging, hence I don’t make too many of these. But instead help them to think about other ways to approach a problem.

For example, one of my kids had some issues with not being included in some games at school. We role-played it a couple of times and found that “inviting other to join us” or “asking to be invited to join them” was a good way to resolve it sometimes.

Seth Godin’s “The Dip” talks about how people get good at something and then get stuck, unable to become really awesome at something. I think that this in part due to a lack of creativity in finding different approaches in how to overcome obstacles.

5, Curiosity

Kids come with their own sense of curiosity. There are lots of ways to enhance and nurture this. One game that I play with the kids is “spot the trickseter”. In our house we have a small toy figure of one of the famous princesses. One day I decided that she would “borrow” some of the toys and hide them around the house with the princess standing next to her ill-gotten gains.

This game of spot-the princess really took off and when she disappeared for a year, we all missed her. It turns out one of my relatives joined in and then left the country. Luckily we found her again and now the game of spot the princess has begun again, and she has been busy causing all kinds of minor mischief in our home.

One recent example of her little schemes is the appearance of two identical princesses. When one of my kids asked why there were suddenly two, I replied “she has been stealing the secrets of the Lego Sith toys and figured out how to clone herself”. My kids face went from amazement to horror to amusement as they realised that I had bought a second toy. But for a brief moment, their minds were opened to a possible world in which things happen that are quite outside their normal expectations of everyday life.

In summary, the shaping of a child’s education is a monumental undertaking that makes conventional golem building look simple in terms of time, resource, and patience. Combining traditional religious education with the curriculum from Maimonides and a toolbox of: patience, self-awareness, focus, problem soling and curiosity will hopefully build a new well-rounded future generation of golem builders.



EDIT:  Everything that I have learned about parenting has come via my wife. Everything that I get wrong about being a parent is from me alone.

Education of Golems: Part 1

Golem: Unformed

Ethics of the Fathers 5:9
“Seven traits characterize an uncultivated person and seven a learned one. A learned person does not begin speaking before one who is greater than he is in wisdom or in years; he does not interrupt the words of his fellow; he does not answer impetuously; he questions with relevance to the subject and he replies accurately; he discusses first things first and last things last; about something he has not heard he says, ‘I have not heard’; and he acknowledges the truth. And the reverse of these characterize an uncultivated person.”
The word that has been translated by Artscroll to mean “uncultivated person” above is golem in Hebrew. It comes from the word used in Psalm 139:16:
“Your eyes saw my unshaped form and in Your book all were recorded; though they will be fashioned through many days to Him they are one...”
The words for ‘raw’ and ‘cocoon’ in moden Hebrew are also golem. So we can see that the word refers to something that is a state which is transitional to another. Uncultivated to cultivated, unshaped to shaped, raw to processed and cocoon to butterfly.

Education: Formal

The reasons for mentioning the above is that whilst this blog has referred to golems almost exclusively in terms of a mystical android created through the permutation of Hebrew letters and Divine names – it can also refer to the transformation of someone via education.

So what is the Jewish guidance on eduction? There is a lot written on the subject of Chinuch, education, but for now I just want to quote two sources.

Ethics of the Fathers 5:25:
“He used to say: a five-year-old begins Scripture, a ten-year-old begins Mishnah, a thirteen-year-old becomes obliged to observe the commandments, a fifteen-year-old begins to study Gemara, an eighteen-year-old goes to the marriage canopy, a twenty-year-old begins a pursuit of a livelihood, a thirty-year-old attains full strength, a forty-year-old attains understanding, a fifty-year-old can offer counsel, a sixty-year-old attains seniority, a seventy-year-old attains a ripe old age, an eighty-year-old shows strength, a ninety-year-old becomes stooped over, hundred-year-old is as if he were dead, passed away and ceased from the world.”
Which covers the education of Jewish law, customers, history, etc. Secular studies are recommended by Maimonides in “Guide to the Perplexed” to be taken up in the following order:
“Consequently he who wishes to attain to human perfection, must therefore first study Logic, next the various branches of Mathematics in their proper order, then Physics, and lastly Metaphysics. We find that many who have advanced to a certain point in the study of these disciplines become weary, and stop: that others, who are endowed with sufficient capacity, are interrupted in their studies by death, which surprises them while still engaged with the preliminary course.”
The above two sources are the basis on which I am structuring the education of my children, First a focus on the natural world by visiting farms, zoos, and the countryside. Next comes the study of logic and Scripture that helps them gain critical analytical skills and story-telling – forming a balance of scientific and artistic thinking.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Forward Momentum


Meditation as Fire-walking
“The floor is made of lava”. Ever play that game as a child? The aim is to get from one point of the house to another without touching the floor. It’s best not to play it near breakables or furniture with sharp edges.

Whilst this is a cute analogy to introduce the dangers of Practical Kabbalah, it’s also a rubbish analogy. There are techniques that carry less risk and those that carry more risk. Warning are often about people dying suddenly whilst relatively young. Even Umberto Eco’s “Foucault's Pendulum” contains a warning about the risks of letter permutation.

So when it gets late at night and the rest of the household has gone to sleep. I tell myself “Why not watch another episode of Doctor Who? It’s safer than navigating the lava”. Cue reference to fear being the mind killer, but again this is not a good analogy.

Anyway, all this waste of ink is me reminding myself why I do this. Why a project manager spends countless hours on trains and at home reading and practising meditations (or not as is often the case). I do it because I must.

Going Back to Earlier Sources
No, not because older is cooler – but because in order to understand later sources… you sometimes need to understand how they built on earlier sources. For example, this audio by prof. Moshe Idel talks about why Abraham Abulafia is the latest bandwagon everyone is jumping on. I love a bandwagon, and sure enough I’ve got half way through Chayeh Olam Ha-Bah (Life in the World to Come).

The trouble is that Prof. Elliot Wolfson points out that to understand Abulafia, you first need to have studied Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation) and read works by Rabbi Ealzar of Worms. Whilst I have done some of the former (2 commentaries on SY), I’ve yet to start on the latter even though it’s been on my to-do list for awhile (close to 4 years).

Tzedek Update
Last Thursday was Lag B’Omer. Nothing else special happened except that I seem to keep winning Lucky Dips (2 numbers) but nothing more significant than that.

OPEN Thread
This blog has been quiet for a bit as there seems to be some odd activity going on term of frequent visitors from the USA. By frequent I mean nearly the same number of page views on a regular basis, see image below.

So either it’s bots (most likely) or suddenly this blog has got an extra visitor (unlikely). Just in case it’s the latter – please consider this post an OPEN thread. Leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer any questions, feedback, smack talk in the next few days.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

May Project Update 2016

Project Updates:

This project has been running for over a month now and the effects appear to be cumulative. Each day of reciting the Psalms shifts my though patterns out of the old behaviour loops and in to new behaviour loops. Actually, that may not be entirely correct. The effect seems to start at the level of Will and then enters in to the conscious and unconscious mind (from Keter to Chochmah and Binah). So the old loops rarely, if ever trigger.

Two results from last week. First one is that I managed to pin two out of six numbers in the Lotto and won a free lucky dip. Every success, how ever minor, should be celebrated – so Yay! OK, that’s enough celebration for now.

The other success is that in my wider community a leaflet went around reminding the families in our community that there are services available including:
  • Cooked meals when someone is sick, has given birth, has lost a loved one, etc.
  • Hospital visits, including bringing others to appointments or visits
  • Friendship meet-ups (it’s amazing in how such a connected world, too many are lonely)
  • Financial support to help balance monthly budget as well as short term funds
That’s another success for compassion.

This seemed to go well at first. Trouble is that the long-Jewish-goodbye can take, well forever. Some people leave but don’t say goodbye. Jews say goodbye but don’t leave. I have spent more than half-an-hour in a hallway once waiting to leave whilst goodbyes were said, news was exchanged on loved ones, jokes were made that other corrected, recipes were compared, photos were taken, etc. That’s a normal goodbye.

Now imagine what happens when you invite six amazing souls from the past to share some of their wisdom with you? Sure, there’s the whole license to depart thing, but it kind of gets pushed  to the side by the long-goodbye I mentioned above.

Anyway, I’ve left the hallway, so to speak, to spend a bit of time by myself. It’s a little embarrassing as one of the souls I wanted to learn from was Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and having re-read his writings on the attribution of the double letters in Sefer Yetzirah… well, I’m really embarrassed to say that I do not agree with the great and holy Rabbi.

This project is going well. It’s a lot easier than I thought to read scripture (twice) with Aramaic translation (plus English translation). This is a project that is meant to act as a foundation for a later project, however as a side benefit if I ever go crazy from all this Kabbalah stuff – I can do a pretty good impression of being a time traveller from olden days, or someone possessed.



Thursday, 12 May 2016

New Project: Tzedek Tzedek like a Mensch

Tonight is the start** of 20th day of the Omer count. That makes it Yesod in the week of Tiferet, Foundation in Harmonious Beauty (reconciling the opposites of Chesed and Gevurah).

The meditation of today in the app from Chabad that helps track Omer counting is as follows:
What is the difference between kindness and compassion?

Kindness gives to another.

Compassion knows no ‘other’

From the Wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, words and condensation by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman.
So it’s Thursday, the day associated with wealth and poverty according to the different Sefer Yetzirah commentaries (Sa’adiyah Gaon, R. Eliezer Rokeach, and R. Keter Shalom b. Avraham) that are open in front of me as I write this article. The (fairly) recent Jupiter discussion by Jason and Blogos comes to mind. And I am left with the question, how can I turn all this in to something practical that promotes compassion in both my own life and the world at large.

Guess it’s time for a new project:
Title: Tzedek Tzedek like a Mensch
Scope: Promote compassion and wealth
Time: 1 year deadline
Cost: Time and charity.
Quality: The aim of the project is to promote compassion and wealth both in my life and in the lives of others. The measure of this will include changes in wealth over time, changes in frequency and size of charitable donations, as well as new initiatives to promote compassion.
Risks:
1. Poverty. As Sefer Yetzira (Book of Formation) states, the transpose of wealth is poverty.
2. Publishing a new project can trigger a counter wave due to the public nature of the initiative. One way to mitigate this risk is to use the principle of aikido to return the energy and momentum back to the source.
3. No significant effect. Since I am a dabbler rather than a serious practising occultist – this could all just be wishful thinking on the part of a Project Manager with a curious interest in Jewish magic & mysticism.
Stretch Goal: Generate sufficient wealth to take a career break for 7 years and study like Rabbi Akiva.

Just to explain the title of this project… there is a phrase “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof” in the section of Shoftim in the Torah. It means “Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue so that you will live and take possession of the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you.” [Devorim 16:20] as explained in this article.

The word Mensch comes from the German term Humanit├Ąt, in the philosophical sense of compassion, as explained here by Wonkipedia.

Image from https://scifiladynerds.net/
Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan talks pp.167-174 about the attribution of angels to planets, as well as the differences between temporary angelic entities created on the second day and permanent ones on the fifth day. Unfortunately the reference to the angel for Tzedek (Jupiter) in Raziel HaMalach (pp67 of the Hebrew version published in Me’ah She’arim in 2003) has a different attribution of angel to that planet.

In any case, the techniques that I will be using to promote this project include some of the following techniques:

  1. Giving of charity each Thursday (excluding festivals that fall on Thursdays). Tzedakah meaning charity, has the same root as the word Tzedek = righteousness / Jupiter. It’s better to give frequently smaller amounts, rather than one lump sum as it habituates a person to sharing a portion of their wealth to those in need.
  2. Recite Psalms 65, 144, and 147 – as explained on pp. 367 of “Jewish Spiritual Practices” by Yitzchak Buxbaum. These psalms are for being ‘Grateful to God for success, prosperity’.
  3. Recite the ‘Prayers for Financial Prosperity’ on pp. 388 to 393 of “Walking in the Fire” by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok.
  4. Purchasing a lottery ticket, it’s pretty much like a voluntary tax.
  5. Letter permutation as explained in Sodey Razia (require more study before starting this).
  6. Experiment with the concept of fixed moments in time. Rather than play with probabilities, create a fixed point in time/space that is pinned with a particular outcome. Small things with little to no geopolitical impact but which create a ripple effect of compassion and will in time allow the pinning effect to fade. A bit like self-dissolving stitches if you will.

** - the day starts at nightfall until the next nightfall, mirroring the “and then it was evening, then it was morning day one” from first chapter of Genesis.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Invite the others

Awhile back I had this crazy idea to build a TARDIS-AS. Having started studying Chayeh Olam Ha-Bah (Life in the World to Come) by Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, the proto-project is starting to materialise in to something a bit more solid.

A few weeks ago as I was catching up from Dr. Who season 3 to season 6, a curious comments in the episode Journey's End stuck out. In the attached link (containing many spoilers) it statesabout Dr. Who that:
He explains to his companions that the reason that he has so much trouble piloting is that a TARDIS is normally piloted by six people, and he has had to do it all on his own
 Which got me thinking, perhaps travelling in a group might be a better idea. But who? And How? Shortly thereafter I came across the below article by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok, which made me think... can it really be that simple? I think yes it is. And now to do some prototyping, some experimentation...

Daily Thought
by Ariel B Tzadok. 
Copyright (C) 2016 by Ariel Bar Tzadok.  All rights reserved.


Today: Friday. May 6, 2016

To ascend the ladder to Heaven
is easy,
once you know
hows it's properly done.
To descend into the depths
of the unconscious
does not have to be hard
once you understand
what it actually means.

There are many paths before us
that are only hard
in the mind of the beholder.
It is personal perception
that makes a path
either hard, or easy to walk.

Your mind is a powerful tool.
Your mind is what connects you
to Heaven.
At the same time,
your mind is what connects you
to Earth.

Do you see it?
Do you understand?
Your mind is the ladder
that bridges Heaven and Earth.
The ladder is inside you.
The ladder is YOU!

You can ascend into Heaven
or descend into the unconscious,
as a matter of Will.
You have the power,
and internally,
you already know the Way.

All you need to do
is remove the many hindrances
that litter the road,
making your passage
seemingly more difficult.
We call this road repair,
rectification.

When looking outside ourselves
all we see is chaos.
When loosing inside ourselves,
we often see the outside world
reflected inside us.
Therefore, inside us,
we also see chaos.
But this is not the way
it is supposed to be!

We should never reflect
the outside world
inside us.
Rather, we must always
reflect the inner world
into our surrounding world.
Inside influences outside,
not the other way around.

Yet, in order for the inner You
to influence your outer world,
you must know the Inner You,
and allow its clear sense of identity
to impose itself upon
the chaotic outside world.
The power of the mind is the key.
The source of the mind is the Will.

Think clearly.
Focus strongly.
Desire only that which is within.
Forget about the chaos outside.
Focus on the internal reality,
and make it real!
You can do this!
And why?
Because thoughts are things.
And thoughts are the souls
that come to inhabit
the bodies that make up this world.

Therefore, draw down to Earth
the souls of your choice.
Transform the world.
Rectify it!
Repair the road.
It all begins with,
and ends with,
the power of YOUR mind!

This is kosher Torah!


Thursday, 28 April 2016

49 Day Omer Cleanse

On the second night of Pesach / Passover, we start to count the 49 days to the festival of Shavuot / Weeks. Each week is the focus of one of the seven lower Sephirot. Within each of those week we rectify / cleanse each of the seven Sephirot.

Last night and today is Hod in Chesed.

The prayer after each night of Omer counting is as follows

Master of the universe, You command us through Moses, Your servant, to count the Omer Count in order to cleanse us from encrustations of evil and from contaminations, as You have written in Your Torah: You are to count from the morrow of the rest day, from the day you brought the Omer- that is waved - they are to be seven complete weeks. Until the morrow of the seventh week you are to count fifty days, so that the souls of Your people Israel be cleansed from their contamination. Therefore, may it be Your will, Hashem, our God and the God of our forefathers, that in the merit of the Omer Count that I have counted today, may there be corrected whatever blemish I have caused in the sefirah

Gevurah shebechesed (2nd day)
Tiferes shebechesed (3rd day)
Netzach shebechesed (4th day)
Hod shebechesed (5th day)

May I be cleansed and sanctified with the holiness Above, and through this may abundant bounty flow in all the worlds. And may it correct our lives, spirits, and souls from all sediment and blemish; may it cleanse us and sanctify us with Your exalted holiness. Amen, Selah!:



Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Say No to Digging Holes

A recent discussionwith Mr Black at The Razor’s Edge about Mastery, a post by Blogos at Hermetic Lessons about Masks, and an old post the festival of Passover – had me thinking about what are the things that can hold us back?

My teacher told a story recently of how early in his career someone helped him get out of a big hole, so to speak. Having got over that mess (hole), the helper told him “now try in future not to dig any more holes”.

That’s easier said that done. The klippot, husks, that drain us of life-essence exploit our self-destructive urges. My recent 10 Psalms exercise helped kick my computer gaming habit. 

Whilst magic and mysticism can be useful for providing techniques to remove negative patterns – I don’t believe that is the thing to aim for. Rather those are just preparatory steps to enable a person to progress along the path.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Do. Learn. Think. Do It Again.

Experience, Learn or Perish
Mr. Black over at The Razor's Edge has two excellent posts about Why Your Magic Fails and Magickal Plateau. The former posts ends with some excellent advice: "Do. Learn. Think. Do It Again." Or as we like to refer to it as in the Project Management world: "Plan. Do. Check. Act".


It's this iterative cycle with a step for reflection and learning lessons from past experience that helps us to grow. I used to call it "keeping my edge sharp", constrictive criticism from without or within to keep pushing to do better all the time. For me it's about running (trying something) and returning (to reflect on new lessons), objects in motion is life & growth and objects at rest start to resemble stagnation & death.


So we've covered the bit about reflecting to learn lessons from past experiences. If you're not sure how to do this - just write three headings on a piece of paper: "What went well", "What did not go well", and "What can I do better next time".


Stuck in the Mud
The next challenge is to deal with reaching a plateau. You see, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that people's first attempts at magic are very successful and then those same approaches seem to get harder. Perhaps we over-analyze, or simple the "first one is free" so to speak.


George Leonard has written a pretty good book on Mastery that I came across from a post by Seething Among the Suits blog.


Recently I asked myself the question about whether to focus on gaining some level of understanding and experience of the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia - or focus on diving deeper in to the commentaries on Sefer Yetzirah (SY) to understand the mysteries of Ma'aseh Bereishit (workings of creation).


Having seen on FaceBook recently that Abulafia is in vogue, I've decide to carry on learning from his books and leave the commentaries on SY alone for now. Never one to miss a band-wagon, I'm joining the Abulafia fan-club and perhaps one day soon will actually meet someone who has read all his works and could teach me.


Hence I'm leaving the Tohu and Bohu - the muck, mire, and mud of Sefer Yetzira - to focus on ecstasy.


Nu! Make it a Project... Sorry, Programme
As with many things in life, the only way I get things done is to turn them in to a project. A set of activities to create a product or service. In this instance the desired outcome is a product - namely an experiential understanding of the teachings of Rabbi Abraham Abulafia.


As there are 13 books of his published (that I am aware off), reading, translation, and using each one will take some time. Each book could be a project of it's own, making the overall project a programme - a series of connected projects with a single desired outcome.


I was going to post something about a "burn-down chart", a popular technique in Agile (the word Agile has by now lost all meaning, btw) whereby the effort / work planned is plotted as a line on a graph over time. The actual effort is then measured against the planned to see if the project is on-track or not in each iteration (sprint). The problem with this approach is that it does not show the amount of value being produced.


This is an industry wide issue and there are a number of approaches to resolve this. However - tracking the progress on each book is not really a meaningful way to track value delivered by the programme, except as a way to record when I read which book.


Hmmmm, I will have to think about this... As the kabbalists say: "Tzarich Iyun" (it requires contemplation).