Monday, November 21, 2016

The "New Testament" as fan fiction... A discussion...

Please Note: This is going to be a controversial post and needs to be examined in the context of someone who has a lot of respect for Jesus and his followers (except for those ones, you know who I'm talking about!) and is not trying to bash Christianity or has an agenda against it. It is merely an opportunity to examine the role of appreciation, love of and commitment to the Tanakh ("Old Testament") by Jesus and his Disciples. It is also about identifying and respecting the primacy of the Tanakh to the creation, maintenance and existence of the Jesus movement, then Christianity.

This opinion piece is purely my own perspective, it is not, nor ever will be, linked with any of the organisations I am a member of/related to/affiliated with.

'It is very easy to take a cynical approach to both 'fan fiction' and the Gospels, I try not to take that approach in life. As someone who has worked in and around the Education system for 15 years it is an easy modality to fall into. It is just as easy for people who have changed their religious path to be cynical and highlight the negatives of their former paramour. I would like to approach fan fiction as a genuinely interesting phenomenon. In the modern context, fan fiction is responsible for things such as '50 Shades' and the ongoing Star Trek and Star Wars universes on multiple platforms (gaming, film, fiction, television etc). While many would say that this approach limits imagination and chokes the creation of new ideas; it can be considered an opportunity to use the bare bones of a system to build a new and interesting world, both familiar and new.

In the religious context, this is a challenging world view. Generally, Judaism has significant issues with both the claims and teachings of Christianity. The unity of HaShem cannot be challenged in any way, his uniqueness and 'HaShemness' (to use a terrible descriptor) is a core belief of Judaism throughout the ages ("Behold Yisrael, the Lord is One"). The idea that HaShem is three, and was once a Human is demeaning and insulting to HaShem and Yisrael. Also non negotiable is the fact that Jesus, sorry to say this, was not Moshiach (the Messiah). The Jews have not ingathered to Jerusalem, the Nations have not fallen down and praised Israel; and many of the signs and miracles that are requisite for Moshiach's arrival, are nowhere to be seen. That is, unless you have the ability to look at the Tanakh and retrofit things into it in the form of a "New Testament"... hmmmmm

Much like the Fan Fiction writer looks at a narrative arc and places their own ideas into the existing timeline, the writers of the Gospels and Paul (Saul) had the material to work with and the desire to see their narrative inserted into the Tanakh's context.

Paul was a Greek speaking Jew before his conversion and did not meet Jesus before his Crucifixion. He had an ecstatic vision (which blinded him) while walking on the road to Damascus and he changed from being an ardent oppressor of the 'Jesus Movement' to a passionate supporter of his opinion of what the 'Jesus Movement' was. He squabbled and outright worked against the leadership of the movement based in Jerusalem; James and the other 'physical Apostles' who had followed Jesus before his Crucifixion. Reza, in his exploration of the topic of the Historical Jesus titled 'Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth', strongly identifies the core differences between those who knew Jesus when he was alive, and those after he died. The 'living' apostles were often uneducated men and women, mostly from the Galilee, who understood Jesus's mission in a purely Jewish way. They based themselves in Jerusalem and awaited his immanent arrival there for final Judgement. This group was ultimately destroyed by the Roman destruction of the Temple and depopulation of Jerusalem in 70CE.

The members of the movement who moved around the Diaspora communities, like Paul, were more likely to be Greek speaking and often literate, educated individuals, familiar with the current Greek thoughts flowing around the Empire. If they were slaves or non-citizens, then the chances are that they would have been influenced by their previous ritual lives and experienced a complete paradigm shift. The focus of Christianity on the inner life over outer expressions of their religion, is one that had significant difficulty within the polytheist structure that supported and gave the nutritious teat to Roman society.

I'm posting this now because I'vebeen working on it for 2 years and I cannot be fu#@ed finishing it off. Enjoy if you do etc etc etc



Monday, July 4, 2016

Elie Wiesel Ancestor Work

Stolen from 'Rare View' Blog, sorry
While by no stretch of the imagination is a first generation, white, lower middle class, Catholic son of a Forgotten Australian and a Dutchwoman from the eastern suburbs of Perth, Western Australia a descendant of the tower of literature that is Elie Wiesel. I would like to remember his pivotal contribution to the examination of the Human Soul that is an outgrowth of his Nobel Prize winning autobiography, "Night". I will work to remember him in my deeds as a Shoah Educator, passionate advocate for Civil and Religious Rights and future Gur.

Vale Elie Wiesel, ancestor.

In memory of his work and the delicious irony that is an American War Office Propaganda film;
"Don't Be a Sucker" was posted by The Magpie Mason recently, and sits perfectly.
Once we are divided, we fall.

I close with the sobering knowledge that over 33,000 Western Australians voted for the Right Wing, Xenophobic 'One Nation' Party in this weekends Senate election; the fourth largest primary vote in the State...

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Re-approaching the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram


(This is an ironic post. A group I am a member of just did a training session on the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram last week. I started this post in March, 2016).

My personal religious views have changed over the last few years; with this is mind I have decided to re-approach my magical work with my new religious point of view consciously part of the procedure. This has been both confronting and illuminating to my growth.

This post is bitsy and relies on expressing things that are difficult to express. The post is a whole, to be read as parts and whole (if that made sense to you, then the post will work for you).

In particular I have found the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram (LRP) to be a very powerful study of the changes to my magical process. In particular, the power of the names being invoked, my deeper understanding of Hebrew (still terrible though!) and the role that the Spheres, Angels and humans are to play in the Universe as Hashem has decided. The LRP names the forces that are to be invoked and are involved in the ritual. They are not really forces per say, but are part of, and an expression of, Hashem's will to align the universe with Hashem's will.

When pronouncing the Hebrew names of the Archangels; the El at the end of each name is particularly important. El refers to Hashem and denotes the role that each Archangel plays in maintaining creation in alignment with Hashem's will. The flow from this understanding is key to implementing the pentagrams in their side of the ritual space. The first sound of the name is their designation and reason for creation. You link the names of the Archangels to the name of Hashem that is allocated to that direction.

The LRP has an elemental focus that contains an allocation of the cardinal directions with the four Archangels and builds within their forms symbols of the elements. This indicates the importance of working with the elements within Malkuth. The elements make up and are essential to Malkuth as part and whole. Malkuth should not be disdained, but accepted as part of the whole.

Separation of the Archangels from Hashem is impossible, identifying the Archangels as Hashem is impossible, the six rayed star is key...

This is a complex issue, the LRP cannot be ignored for it's importance and relevance to practice. I can see why it was the only magic that members of the original Golden Dawn practised for years in some cases.



Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Magic in being Mystical

Hasidism is not traditional Judaism as recorded in the Torah.

It is a system created by the Hasidic revolution that swept across Eastern Europe due to the inspirational and almost Messianic efforts of the Baal Shem Tov, Israel ben Eliezer (1698-1760). It was born in a time when Judaism in Eastern Europe was at a low spiritual ebb and needed mystical support.

Ongoing pogroms (Cossack Uprisings 1648-1654) in Russia and violent unrest in Poland, the invasion of the Ottoman Empire of 1672-76 and the ongoing conflict over large areas of Poland by the Russian Empire lead to a chaotic and dangerous time for minorities in Eastern Europe. The influence of local strongmen and vast military campaigns tore up the contract of normality that had existed in Jewish Eastern Europe for over 100 years.

At the same time as this physical danger, spiritually rocking the Jewish world was the failed Messiah and apostasy of Sabbetai Zevi; the Messianic and eventually anti-Jewish movement of Jacob Franks and conflict between different schools of thought over Kabbalah and mysticism during the 17th and 18th Centuries. All of this lead to a chaotic and spiritually draining time for Yisrael in Eastern Europe.

Hasidism is at its core a Ashkenazim movement; as the rest of Yisrael did not experience the same pressures and situations. It is the result of the unique conditions, culture, language and experiences. The most obvious thing that non-Hasidic Jews point out as the difference between Orthodoxy and Hasidism is the role of the Rabbi, or Rebbe as he (always a he!) is called in Yiddish. These men are almost revered as living links to Hashem and provide spiritual, financial, personal and all types of advice to their followers.

One of the core lessons and skills of the Tzaddik's was the telling of profound and intensely deep lessons within the provision of stories. Stories of the activities of the Rebbes, stories of miracles they had performed, lesson they had given and conflicts with the sins of Yisrael. These stories are told, retold and examined for their spiritual and religious lessons. I am currently taking a course in the stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov run by his Hasidism. Many of these stories are very complex, many are simple. Some of them can even be as short as a few sentences or chapters in length. I have a number of collected sayings in my library and I'll often spend a lot of time reading through them, trying to find the core of their teachings.

By spending time with the Rebbe's and trying to reconstruct their lives and teachings we are projected into a time where Torah became part of everyday life. Instead of the complex theological and dry debates of the establishment, Hasidism gave ordinary uneducated and poor Jews the opportunity to engage in the bringing of Mosiach and the end of suffering on Earth. Hasidism emphasised the presence of Hashem in the everyday. Simple daily chores and actions became mystical when imbued with the theories and mystical attitudes of the Rebbes, recalling Hashem and dedicating everything to contemplating Hashem. The act of working a field or another trade were thus filled with a mystical power that connected the Jew to Hashem and his plan for the world. Charity was a key, in thought and deed, Joy was another and was the watchword of many Hasids. By joyously following the Halakha and rulings of their Rebbe; Hasids were able to cleave to Hashem in a mystical, almost magical relationship that gave them hope and purpose in life. The presence of Kabbalah and other magical formulas were inherent to the Hassidic way of life. Rebbe's were capable of great miracles, could ascend to the Holy Seat and beg on behalf of lost Jewish souls. They could identify souls that had returned to Earth to fulfil a certain role or perform an act that was essential to Hashem's plan. Rebbe's could open the gates of Heaven to allow the blessings of Hashem to descend on their congregations. They could say a word to an individual and change their whole life journey and purpose. They were magical because of their intense cleaving to Hashem and understanding of his plan and Creation. Many of the miracles that Rebbes and their followers have attributed to them can be moved into and likened to ceremonial magic. Rituals, prayers, working with aspects of creation that are behind the scenes, linked to specific ceremonial dates, festivals and astronomical events. Their miraculous relationship can be linked to that intricate life long commitment to trying to focus all of their acts to Hashem and giving thanks for ALL situations no matter whether they are good or bad, feast or famine.

Modern Rebbe's are not always considered in the same way as the original Rebbes as many scholars track a decline in the quality of Rebbes equal to the increase in quantity of Rebbes over time. Stratification, splits, conflict and an increasing authoritarian approach by some Rebbes has caused a decline in the overall appreciation of Hasidic life by non-Hasidic Jews; but this is not necessarily true for all Hasidic Dynasties (and many of them are dynasties with formal Courts similar to autocratic rulers of the 'old country). There are still true Tzaddik's building their communities links to Hashem and being real leaders of Hasidic thought.

My favourite story collection is a relatively new text of Hasidic tales from the Shoah (the Holocaust) and how the faith and miraculous works of Tzaddik's managed to help carry and support many of the Hasidic believers through this event. Some of the greatest stories (in my opinion) are about Yisrael Spira z'l the Bluzhever Rebbe. He observed such great power amongst Jews in the camps that he had to tell their stories as testaments to their lives and belief. He was a true Tzaddik.

The Baal Shem Tov, the Arizal, DovBer, Nachman of Breslov, the Angel there are hundreds of individuals with amazing lives and relationships with Hashem.

Also, a modern approach to this idea is examined in Radzyn which is an amazing combination of art, animation, storytelling and mysticism staged at the start of WW2 and the Shoah. Please, visit this site and explore. The stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in any form are too amazing to ignore, especially the annotated versions available through the Breslov Institute.

Please, please, please spend the time to explore these amazing individuals and their stories.



Monday, February 8, 2016

Hasids got me trippin'!

When I was a younger man, my father told me (in between swigs of his 16th beer of the evening) that I should always try to cut out the middleman. It's probably one of the very few good pieces of advice he ever gave me, it took me a long time to realise this particular gem but now; I'm a regular at our local fruit wholesalers, buy in bulk from friends and I can be found at warehouse sales every now and then.

The same can be said for my spiritual journey. It has taken me years to get to where I am now. I've spent that time looking, exploring and investigating. But returning to the Source over time.
There has never really been a time where I have not acknowledged and believed in who I now refer to as Hashem.

My Masonry has given me a great foundation (ha) in symbolism, ritual and seeing the power (Hashem) behind what we physically see. It has opened me up to occult thought and brought me to some amazing depths and horrific highs.

My magical journey has been guided by my contact with individuals and non-individuals as well as the steady rhythm of Masonry in the background. I have turned more to the Golden Dawn system of magic as it relies heavily on the Jewish thought pattern and religious thinking. The Cabbalistic Cross and the LBRP/LIRP carry aspects of the Mincha (afternoon prayers) and Psalm magic is literally 70% of the contents of the Siddur (Jewish Prayer book). While this may be due to the appropriation of Hebrew as a magical language due to the nature of Hebrew itself (numerology and the symbolism of every letter); Iit may have more to do with a saying that the sages gave us: There are 70 facets to Torah. This means that every chapter, every verse, every sentence, every word and every letter can be viewed and explored in 70 different ways. With this multitude of ideas and occult ways of thinking, Judaism offers a surprising amount of territory to explore.

I have been delving into the sayings, stories and lives of the Rebbe's of the Hasidic revolution in the 1700's to today. The Hassidic movement changed the focus of Judaism away from the legalistic and complex wrangling between scholars to something that would appeal to the Jew of the street. There was a renewed focus on putting Hashem before you in all things, from doing your day job, eating, talking playing suffering and rejoycing. They also added in a massive dose of Mysticism and Kabbalistic teachings as well as a helping of practical self help and care for Yisrael; all Jews no matter who they where and where they were on the road towards Hashem.

This is an indication of where my magic is going and has made significant impacts on my ritual and areas of interest.

The most interesting thing that I have found is that the sayings and stories of the Rebbe's possess something that is eternal and ineffable. One of  the introductions to their stories begins with this statement; "These stories are not necessarily true, but no one could ever agree that they were false".

I'll finish this quick update with the final words of Zusha z'l.

The story is told of Zusha, the great Chassidic master, who lay crying on his deathbed. His students asked him, "Rebbe, why are you so sad? After all the mitzvahs and good deeds you have done, you will surely get a great reward in heaven!"
"I'm afraid!" said Zusha. "Because when I get to heaven, I know God's not going to ask me 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't you more like King David?' But I'm afraid that God will ask 'Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?' And then what will I say?!"