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Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Chalice and the Blade




During the Neolithic times our world was a much different place. The evidence is present not only in our technology but also of the presence of certain statues all over Europe. They are called Venus statues. They were misjudged at first and archaeologists thought they were used for lustful purposes. Well they were wrong the statues were used to worship the Goddess. The Goddess was seen as the creator of all, the giver of birth. There was a male consort who co -ruled with her. In those times heritability was passed matrilineally going down mother through daughter. In those days men and women shared power and responsibility. Life was based on agriculture and fighters were not admired. Everyone had what they needed and there was no gap between rich and poor like there is today. This was the time of the chalice. When the Earth was bountiful. But something happened to change all that and people began to fight one another. It was a time of the blade.

Crete which was the seat of Minoan civilization. Was Goddess centered. Greek philosopher called these people divine. They had fertile land their art was pleasing to the eye. Violent kings were not worshiped. There were no weapon or art scenes glorifying violence.There was a queen running the civilization as evidenced by their elaborate tombs. The form of governments was called Gilany. Which meant partnership between man and women. This would change with the coming off the Acheans who stormed their island and took it over. It is believed that most of the men were killed and the women were kept on as slaves and wives.

The Acheans were of Indo European stock who worshiped a warlike male god. Originally they were nomads who had no agricultural skills to speak of. they relied on Pillage and plundering. Crete was one of the lat places to fall. The warlike Indo-Europeans took over practically all of Europe and abolished the Gilany life style in favor of Andocracy. Andocracy is male dominated system of ranking people through coercion of violence. The power elite takes all the privilege for themselves. In this system the Goddess is subdued. The Kurgans were the ones who over ran Europe.

Yet despite their best efforts they could not keep the Goddess and her enlightened ways down. In the legends of old which were refashioned putting the male God on top and the Goddess in the lower position even humiliating, were used to control the society they had conquered. All across Europe and the Levant women lost their positions of power. Priestess and oracles were abolished. In Sumerian Legend and later Biblical legend the Goddess under went a transformation. In the beginning, tree's or sacred groves were sacred places meant for dispensing wisdom and blessing. The snake was a healing sign. All this got turned on it's head. Now the women tempted by the evil serpent is tricked into eating of the tree of knowledge. For her stupidity both Adam and eve are sent out of the Garden of Eden or Sacred groves.

On he Island of Crete they entered the Mycenaean age which saw the blossoming of the old ways.The Acheans adopted thee ways of the people they conquered. Oracle were established and listened to . Academies set up that taught women equally with men. In the Levant a figure named Jesus arose preaching compassion, non aggression and that women were equal. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first on his resurrection before coming to anybody else. She was almost the church leader. But of course Adocracy prevailed in the end. Later on the Dorians take over with a viscous onslaught. The ways of the Goddess creep up again.

Right now things are horrible under this andocratic system. We spend more on our military than feeding our children and educating them. One missile could feed hundreds and also fund some much needed areas in our schools. The idea of conquest and power must be replaced by Gilany or partnership.

Monday, March 22, 2010

She Who Dwells Within by Lyn Gottlieb

Rabbi Lyn Gottlieb is a trail blazer back in the 1970’s before it was even heard of she decided to become one of the first if not the first female Rabbi. One of her first instructors was Eli Wiesel. He asked his students to comment on a Jewish Hero. Lyn asked about Jewish women and their minimal roles. She was not happy with the response she received. Since that times women have been making a strong effort to reclaim their place in a male dominated Judaism. In services they are often sidelined to the female section and play no role whatsoever in the prayer service. Effort to change this such as female minyans, prayer groups and mediation circle have all been met with scorn and derision by the male dominated Rabbinote. Many women are tired of having famous female only being spoken of as seducers of men, or their relations to other men. All the prayers have been written by men even the ones for women. This does not meet feminine needs.

This book documents how the bible stole from the ancient religions and dis empowered the women. In the ancient near east women were often priestess, oracle and seers. They were respected by society for their knowledge of herbs and healing. The male dominated religion has taken away their power and made them less then equal.

Tehom in Hebrew means the deep. Tiamat in Babylonian is the mother Goddess who dies in order to make man. She is split in half by her grandson Marduk and her blood mixes with clay in order to create man. In Hebrew God penetrates the Tehom or the deep to create man.

Ancient Israel did in fact worship a hebrew fertility goddess. Her name was Ashira. Later on She was suppressed and much later the Shekina or divine feminine presence would appear. She accompanied the Jewish people into exile. She was in effect a queen without a throne. Women have never been as positively portrayed as men are in the bible. Lilith is seen as a rebel for not submitting to Adam's wishes. For that she is bad mouthed in the bible. Eve gets dissed for tempting Adam to eat from the tree of Knowledge.

This book announces that it is time for the Jewish women to regain her place in Judaism and to help make Judaism an egalitarian religion. She gives several different role that women can play in the community based on what the Torah ha Shekina teaches, or the Torah of the Divine presence.The author has also written prayers and ceremonies for women on special occasions like Bat Mitzvah, becoming old and rosh hodesh. Lyn employs element of Native American spirituality and Wicca into her practice and I think it makes her practice all the better.

She advocates forming groups. The groups should be dedicated to Judaism but also to Tikkun Olam or fixing the world. The author herself is vegetarian and talks a lot about eco kashrut which embraces being kosher as well as compassion to animal and taking care of our environment. She also stresses helping the poor and creates ceremonies to help people to release themselves from Trauma.

Though I am not a feminist I have found this book quite rewarding to read. It is something that I will refer back to many a times. The stress on Tikkun Olam is refreshing since it seems that many in the Jewish community are so focused on money that they have lost their way.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Message of the Lord of the Rings

JRR Tolkien’s books are filled with all sorts of mythological creatures. Elves, Dwarves, Wizards and the dark beings called Wring wraiths and orcs. Most he pulled from ancient mythology while his Hobbits were seemingly of his own invention. Like authors before him Tolkien is using fantasy to deliver a very timely message. A message that was valid when he wrote his books and a message that is valid today.

Reading “Lord of the Rings” one can get several messages. Perhaps you are thinking that the message is that good always triumphs over. Well maybe but then again so many stories portray that message that I cast doubts on it. Perhaps bravery and courage, after all a little hobbit is the one who saves the day. All the warriors have courage in his tales. Very likely considering that one of his inspirations was old Norse mythology which valued a warrior mentality.

Yet consider the “Two Towers”. Saruman is corrupted by Sauron. By his tall tower he cuts down all the trees and digs giant pits and caves. In these caves out come a hoard of deformed orcs. They are also engaged in metal working, the crafting of weapons. This cutting down of trees and the creation of a huge factory represent industrialization of our society and the destruction of nature. Saruman in his greed for power is destroying the environment. The orc could well represent the effects of destroying the environment on the human race. Thanks to factories dumping their industrial waist into the environment birth defects and deformities are on the rise. This is especially true in third world countries where the dumping of waste is unregulated and uncontrolled.

The Ent's Revenge: Nature Strikes Back


Of course in the end Nature has her revenge. It is the hobbits that inform the Ents, walking trees, what Saruman has done. They in turn rampage on Saramans tower and release a rampage of water washing away al his evil accomplishments. You cannot beat mother nature. Corporate leaders should watch this it might curb their greed.

Greed for gold is another such message I have gleaned from this trilogy. Everyone who touches that cursed ring becomes obsessed by it and refuses to part from it. Gollum killed his friend for that ring. Bilbo could not let it go and we could see Frodo becoming slowly corrupted by the ring. In the end he could not let it go into the fires of Mordor of his own free will.


Punishment for being greedy

Gold, Jewelry, fancy cars all seem to have a very similar effect on certain kinds of people. They become obsessed with these material goods and cannot let them go. They will do anything to get these goods and will not part with them. These people who are so powered by greed will act like Bilbo and Frodo who are slowly corrupted to the point of being unable to let go. Worse yet they become like Gollum, someone who kills and harms others in order to get their hands on the gold they desire..

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mythology behind :Lord of the Rings"

The last week or so I have been involved with watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Entertaining movies, classic and pretty true to the book, at least from what I remember from when I read the book some twenty years ago. JRR. Tolkien seems to have borrowed from numerous sources and he also had a message to deliver.

I believe Tolkien said that he got his idea by recording his dreams. While that might be true I also recognized a fair bit of Druid and Norse mythology. The warriors looked a lot like Viking. The practice of cremation was a Norse practice as it was a Druid practice. The Rune alphabet which is read by Gandolf came from the Norse Alphabet. Elves and Dwarves were common in Norse mythology. Dwarves were the blacksmiths of the Gods and Elves were magical beings. In both Norse and Druid mythology the race of Elves left the world of men. In Irish mythology they were called the Sidhe and were driven into fairy mound by the Milesians. In Norse mythology they are supposed to inhabit another world.




The tree on Aragorn’s shield was the Tree of Ygdrassil. This tree is what held together the three worlds. The Gods lived in the upper three worlds while humans, elves and dwarves inhabited the three middle planets. The last three planets were the realms of the dead. Remember the elves sail off at the end of Return of the King. One can assume that they go off to another world. Another of the middle planets.

Aragorn is the long awaited king who will rule mankind and save them from the darkness. It should be noted that it is mentioned somewhere that JRR Tolkien did read up on the Kabballa.,Jewish mysticism. According to jewish mystical teaching and later carried over into Christian teaching is that the world will be turned to darkness and the Messiah will save everybody thus ushering in a world of peace. In Jewish mysticism there are two messiahs. Messiah Ben Joseph and Mesiah Ben David. Messiah ben Joseph has to die in battle. He serves sort of as a steward of the Israelite Nation. Recal that the steward of Gondor led things against Sauron and Aragorn could not take his rightfull position until the steward passed on.

Yet in Druidic legend the Holly King has die before the new king can be reborn and marry the Goddess thus repeating the cycle over again. In ancient mythology Gandalphs were known as gray wizards while Sarumans were noted for being white magicians. Gandalf meant “wand elf “

Next installment is the “Message of Lord of the Rings”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan

For such a thin book Rabbi Kaplan's book packs a wallup of information. The book discusses various meditation techniques as can be culled from ancient Jewish sources. Rabbi Kaplan discusses basic techniquwes as can be found in other forms of meditation. Such techniques as mantras, visualizing, and contemoplating. One can also use the words of the prayers as mantras or contenplation. Mundane activities with the proper frame of mind can be turned into acts of meditation that put a person into a higher state of consiousness. Excellent book for those into practicing meditation.

By and large many people think of far eastern religions when the word meditation is brought up. Both Jew and non-Jew alike seem oblivious to the fact that there is a form of Jewish meditation out there. Jews like other people are spiritually hungry and end up looking to these far eastern religions to satisfy their appetite. It takes a lot of work to ferret out the Mediation techniques from Judaism. Jewish Mystics have a history of interacting with Sufi mystics and exchanging ideas. To lose such a connection would be a shame.

What exactly is meditation? Quite simply it means to control your mind. Have you ever tried to stop thinking? Bet you were not quite successful? Better yet try thinking about only one thing. You most likely thought about a whole lot of other things besides the one thing. It is very hard to control your mind.

If you close your eyes you will be bombarded with a barrage of fleeting images. To pay them attention and decipher them would be called “Free Association” This Free Association is one way of reading your subconscious mind. The mind can be divided into two parts. These two parts are the conscious and the subconscious mind. You can control the conscious mind but not your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind is what control your thoughts. So to control your thoughts you must control your subconscious mind.

Breathing is controlled by your subconscious mind it is voluntary. Hence many meditation method have you control your breathing as a first step to controlling your subconscious mind. Two more related techniques are discussed on is called “imaging”. Imaging occurs when you imagine let us say the letter “A” in your mind. The second technique is “Etching” this might be when you permanently engrave the letter A into your mind.

Why?......The big question what is the benefit of doing meditation? Throughout our lives we have not grown much in terms of thinking. In fact most of us were taught to think at the age of six and not much has really changed since then. Meditation means we take control of our thought and of our mind. At 6 years old we did not learn how to control or harness the power of our mind. This is a quantum leap. The Torah says that our thinking before we practice spirituality is that of a child while the thinking that we practice after spirituality training is considered adult thinking.


Consider looking at a rose. Is our perception pure? Actually it is not . Even with our eyes open in a well lit room there are images floating right in front of us being generated by our subconscious mind. It interferes with our perception. Some one who practices meditation could learn to quiet the other parts of the brain down. While this does not harness the full power of the mind is does reduce the interference. Considerably close to fine tuning a radio. Clearer sound but not any louder.

Our senses often interfere with each other. Ever try reading Braille? Even someone trained has a hard time doing it unless they close their eyes. Why? Because their vision interferes with their tactile sensations. Blind people also use their cane to navigate. This works because the sounds produced by the cane echo off the walls. This alerts the blind person if he is about to bump into something.

Tibetan healers can feel a person’s pulse and determine what is ailing the person. It takes many years to learn how to do this. The healer actually closes his eyes and enters a state of deep concentration as he feels his patient’s pulse. This closing of the eyes blocks all the distraction cause by our eyes.

Stimuli is constantly coming our way but our mind makes so much static that we do not even perceive it. Spiritual people, prophets were able to quiet their mind down. In this way way they could practice telepathy, Extra Sensory Perception and predictions.

The last chapter we explored the benefits of meditation. This time let us discuss what mediation should look like. Mediation like prayer is practiced in various different religions and cultures and all forms of mediation like prayer share several salient points in common.

When examining prayer one find three basic components. The first component is praise, next is petitioning and finally thanksgiving. Praise is when we extol the attribute of Hashem or any other Deity we chose to pray to. Thanksgiving is when we thank Hashem or any other Deity we are praying for doing something for us. The second aspect is petitioning. Petitioning is when we ask the creator for something, be it health, money or what ever.

One easy example of meditation would be to think about rearranging the furniture in your mind. The object would be to stay focused. If thought enter then you gently push them out or get your mind back on the subject. One can take things a step further and think about how they would rearrange their life. This would be an unstructured form of meditation that is internally driven. One can verbalize their thoughts and talk out loud to Hashem or their patron deity. This is still unstructured ad through such mediation which if one find productive can become a set pattern on a daily or weekly basis such meditation could help one realize that G-d is both within and at the same time way out there.

Such verbal meditation is called, by Rebbe Nachman, hisbodedus. One can turn this unstructured meditation into a structured meditation by adding an agenda of what they would like to discuss. In Tzaphat the mystical cabbalists would pick a verse out of the torah and meditate on it for insights. This was called Gerusin. They could repeat the verse over and over again like a mantra. Rebbe Nachman used to repeat master of the universe like a mantra.

This verse could also be gazed upon and looked at. This would be called contemplation. Just staring at it and absorbing it’s meaning. This contemplation could also be applied to looking at a flame or a Hebrew letter.

The common elements of meditation are contemplation, mantra, structured and unstructured thinking and internally and externally directed meditation.

States of consciousness are always difficult to describe because they are internal event that are subjective hence there is no common vocabulary to describe what I am experiencing in my head. I may even perceive a brand new color yet be totally unable to describe. The situation is different if we both observe a rose because we are seeing the same thing we would be able to describe it using the appropriate vocabulary.

There are two states of consciousness that we are most familiar with and they are waking state and our sleeping state. Within our waking state we can find that at times we can be very drowsy and at the other end of the scale we are extremely alert. Between these two extremes scientists have noted a different wavelength and pattern in our brainwaves.

Likewise when we are asleep there are two different states of consciousness. The two states are called “Dream State” or REM sleep and there is Non Rem or non dream state.

During our waking state even without actively meditation we can become so engrossed in a problem that we work for our without end trying to solves. This is what we would called “Locked on” or “Hot Mode” Sometimes I call it the problem solving mode. The “Cool Mode” is when you relax in the bath tube and your mind just drifts lazily over to the problem and somehow you are able to solve the problem.

Memory is also something you can control the author while in Jewish seminary challenged himself memorize several pages of Talmud. The first page was real difficult but as he memorized more and more it got easier. Our memory has a barrier that blocks extraneous memories after all the brain could not withstand the information over load.

There are some exercises you can do for starter. Sit comfortable for 20-30 minutes close your eyes and let the static coalesce into images. Try holding on to those images for as long as possible. The next exercise is say a mantra over and over again and allow an image to form in your mind. Focus on it for as long as possible.

Jewish Meditation as we have seen shares many salient points with other forms of meditation save for the end result or outcome. Many of the techniques are the same. The bible, Talmud and Kabala all have meditation techniques contained there in. These days it can be a work of Linguistic Archaeology to ferret them out. The Jewish nation has been a nation that practiced meditation as part of their practice quite consistently up until 150 years ago.

The enlightenment or Haskalla encouraged intellectual pursuits and frowned on anything mystical. Anything mystical was derided as superstitious. This infected the Torah world as well. Meditation fell out of practice. In the early days of the Israelite nation meditation was practiced quite regularly.

There were schools of prophets ran by master teachers. They taught their students meditative techniques that would help them reach higher states of consciousness. These school were usually headed by the prophets themselves and only extremely dedicated and spiritually advanced students were permitted to join these schools. Many Jews seeking spiritual ecstasy would practice avodah Zarah or idol worship. This was not too big of a problem provided that the Jewish nation was living in their country. Once the Nation of Israel was placed in exile things began to change.

The spiritual leadership of the Jewish People could no longer contain the problem of Jews seeking other spiritual path to transcendence, ones that may be easier. Merkavah mysticism was practiced by Ezekial the prophet. He was most likely one of the last ones to openly practice it before the Sanhedrin decided to submerge the teaching and keep it secret. This was done at some risk. None the less certain schools kept it alive.

Meditation was further eroded with the coming of Shabbtai Tzvi a false messiah. He used mysticism to promote his own end and challenge the Sultan. He ended up converting to Islam in order to save his skin.

In the Kabalistic realm The Sefer Yetzirah was written during the Talmudic times. Abraham Abulafia wrote treatises on meditation. There was also a book on Merkavah meditation. The Rambam himself analyzed meditation as did Gersonides .

Yet even within Kabbalsitic realms meditation suffered a setback. The Zohar a long complex kabbalistic work was reduced to an intellectual pursuit. The Chassidic movement while providing a bit of a revival in meditation also caused a set back. Due to it’s ecstatic character and focus on one person the Rebbe the Jewish community as a whole especially the leadership issued bans against the movement.

The sages built meditative devices within the Jewish prayers. The Amidah is said three times per day. Some would argue that this is repetive yet it’s purpose is to function like a mantra. A mantra when repeated over and over again produces an altered state of consiousness. Kavannote are also built in they serve as a focus or mental perspective that one is to concentrate on while praying.

Kavahna means focus or what you are to direct your mind to. Some mistake the meaning as concentration or emotional content. Actually the term means to direct our mind towards something.

Another important term mentioned by Abraham Maimonides is Hitbonenute which literally means self understanding. This self understanding can be achieved by contemplating on an object or and idea. This leads to an increase in ones love for God. An example would be to go out in an open field and contemplate the stars.

The last term I wish to discuss is Hitbodetude . This form of meditation was made famous by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. It literally means isolation. There are two kinds of isolation. External isolation obviously means getting away from everybody. Internal isolation means blocking out all external stimuli and thought.

Rabbi Kaplan proceeds to discuss mantras. Matras as you recall are words and phrases that are repeated over and over again. Not only is it a good meditation on it's own but it can also be combined with other forms of meditations. Such would include contemplation and visualizations. Contemplation is when you gaze on an object or a word. Some examples of a good contemplation are a candle and the word yud hey vav hey
THis word is loaed with meaning. Inside it is the secret to charity. It is also the secret to Hashem benifence to the Jewish people and the citizens of his planet. Visualization while being safe is very difficult to perform. Most people can keeop a vision in their mind for maybe a few minutes and then it fades. There are a couple of visualization in that chapter. THe first one being the letter aleph. Picture it as colered black against a white background. If the background is hazy then you can visualise a dot that erases all the background distortion. Another visualiztion is to visualize the seven layers of heaven and imaging your self ascending those layer and coming to a curtaqin with G-d's name on it. Real powerful meditation. Even a candle can be mystical for when one gazes upon it once seeing Black, Red, Yellow and blue. Blue is a spiritual color that open up the gateways to God.

THe book explores how mantras were written into the daily prayer. The Amida which said three times daily. One should say the words slowly and concentrate their meaning. The words establish that God is the one who bestows blessing upon us. We must pray at the proper times.

THe Shema is another mantra that is used. Said over and over again one thinks about the unification of the nation of Israel and about the unification of God. Further in the prayers there are also contemplations on the redeemer.

Hitbodedute is discussed. At times it can be rather difficult to start a conversation with God. One can use a mantra " Master of the Universe" in order to get the ball rolling. One can also discuss with God how difficult it is to get into a conversation with him. Hitbodedut is a great meditation for clarifying your life and getting the house in order but be wary of using it as self therapy. One can get into a cul desac they canot get out of.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mantras

Rabbi Kaplan proceeds to discuss mantras. Matras as you recall are words and phrases that are repeated over and over again. Not only is it a good meditation on it's own but it can also be combined with other forms of meditations. Such would include contemplation and visualizations. Contemplation is when you gaze on an object or a word. Some examples of a good contemplation are a candle and the word yud hey vav hey
THis word is loaed with meaning. Inside it is the secret to charity. It is also the secret to Hashem benifence to the Jewish people and the citizens of his planet. Visualization while being safe is very difficult to perform. Most people can keeop a vision in their mind for maybe a few minutes and then it fades. There are a couple of visualization in that chapter. THe first one being the letter aleph. Picture it as colered black against a white background. If the background is hazy then you can visualise a dot that erases all the background distortion. Another visualiztion is to visualize the seven layers of heaven and imaging your self ascending those layer and coming to a curtaqin with G-d's name on it. Real powerful meditation. Even a candle can be mystical for when one gazes upon it once seeing Black, Red, Yellow and blue. Blue is a spiritual color that open up the gateways to God.


THe book explores how mantras were written into the daily prayer. The Amida which said three times daily. One should say the words slowly and concentrate their meaning. The words establish that God is the one who bestows blessing upon us. We must pray at the proper times.

THe Shema is another mantra that is used. Said over and over again one thinks about the unification of the nation of Israel and about the unification of God. Further in the prayers there are also contemplations on the redeemer.

Hitbodedute is discussed. At times it can be rather difficult to start a conversation with God. One can use a mantra " Master of the Universe" in order to get the ball rolling. One can also discuss with God how difficult it is to get into a conversation with him. Hitbodedut is a great meditation for clarifying your life and getting the house in order but be wary of using it as self therapy. One can get into a cul desac they canot get out of.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Jewish Meditation




Jewish Meditation as we have seen shares many salient points with other forms of meditation save for the end result or outcome. Many of the techniques are the same. The bible, Talmud and Kabala all have meditation techniques contained there in. These days it can be a work of Linguistic Archaeology to ferret them out. The Jewish nation has been a nation that practiced meditation as part of their practice quite consistently up until 150 years ago.

The enlightenment or Haskalla encouraged intellectual pursuits and frowned on anything mystical. Anything mystical was derided as superstitious. This infected the Torah world as well. Meditation fell out of practice. In the early days of the Israelite nation meditation was practiced quite regularly.

There were schools of prophets ran by master teachers. They taught their students meditative techniques that would help them reach higher states of consciousness. These school were usually headed by the prophets themselves and only extremely dedicated and spiritually advanced students were permitted to join these schools. Many Jews seeking spiritual ecstasy would practice avodah Zarah or idol worship. This was not too big of a problem provided that the Jewish nation was living in their country. Once the Nation of Israel was placed in exile things began to change.

The spiritual leadership of the Jewish People could no longer contain the problem of Jews seeking other spiritual path to transcendence, ones that may be easier. Merkavah mysticism was practiced by Ezekial the prophet. He was most likely one of the last ones to openly practice it before the Sanhedrin decided to submerge the teaching and keep it secret. This was done at some risk. None the less certain schools kept it alive.

Meditation was further eroded with the coming of Shabbtai Tzvi a false messiah. He used mysticism to promote his own end and challenge the Sultan. He ended up converting to Islam in order to save his skin.

In the Kabalistic realm The Sefer Yetzirah was written during the Talmudic times. Abraham Abulafia wrote treatises on meditation. There was also a book on Merkavah meditation. The Rambam himself analyzed meditation as did Gersonides .

Yet even within Kabbalsitic realms meditation suffered a setback. The Zohar a long complex kabbalistic work was reduced to an intellectual pursuit. The Chassidic movement while providing a bit of a revival in meditation also caused a set back. Due to it’s ecstatic character and focus on one person the Rebbe the Jewish community as a whole especially the leadership issued bans against the movement.

The sages built meditative devices within the Jewish prayers. The Amidah is said three times per day. Some would argue that this is repetive yet it’s purpose is to function like a mantra. A mantra when repeated over and over again produces an altered state of consiousness. Kavannote are also built in they serve as a focus or mental perspective that one is to concentrate on while praying.

Kavahna means focus or what you are to direct your mind to. Some mistake the meaning as concentration or emotional content. Actually the term means to direct our mind towards something.

Another important term mentioned by Abraham Maimonides is Hitbonenute which literally means self understanding. This self understanding can be achieved by contemplating on an object or and idea. This leads to an increase in ones love for God. An example would be to go out in an open field and contemplate the stars.

The last term I wish to discuss is Hitbodetude . This form of meditation was made famous by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. It literally means isolation. There are two kinds of isolation. External isolation obviously means getting away from everybody. Internal isolation means blocking out all external stimuli and thought.

Next on the discussion is Mantras.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

States of Consciousness





States of consciousness are always difficult to describe because they are internal event that are subjective hence there is no common vocabulary to describe what I am experiencing in my head. I may even perceive a brand new color yet be totally unable to describe. The situation is different if we both observe a rose because we are seeing the same thing we would be able to describe it using the appropriate vocabulary.

There are two states of consciousness that we are most familiar with and they are waking state and our sleeping state. Within our waking state we can find that at times we can be very drowsy and at the other end of the scale we are extremely alert. Between these two extremes scientists have noted a different wavelength and pattern in our brainwaves.

Likewise when we are asleep there are two different states of consciousness. The two states are called “Dream State” or REM sleep and there is Non Rem or non dream state.

During our waking state even without actively meditation we can become so engrossed in a problem that we work for our without end trying to solves. This is what we would called “Locked on” or “Hot Mode” Sometimes I call it the problem solving mode. The “Cool Mode” is when you relax in the bath tube and your mind just drifts lazily over to the problem and somehow you are able to solve the problem.

Memory is also something you can control the author while in Jewish seminary challenged himself memorize several pages of Talmud. The first page was real difficult but as he memorized more and more it got easier. Our memory has a barrier that blocks extraneous memories after all the brain could not withstand the information over load.

There are some exercises you can do for starter. Sit comfortable for 20-30 minutes close your eyes and let the static coalesce into images. Try holding on to those images for as long as possible. The next exercise is say a mantra over and over again and allow an image to form in your mind. Focus on it for as long as possible.

The next chapter will discuss meditative techniques

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Face of Meditation

The last chapter we explored the benefits of meditation. This time let us discuss what mediation should look like. Mediation like prayer is practiced in various different religions and cultures and all forms of mediation like prayer share several salient points in common.

When examining prayer one find three basic components. The first component is praise, next is petitioning and finally thanksgiving. Praise is when we extol the attribute of Hashem or any other Deity we chose to pray to. Thanksgiving is when we thank Hashem or any other Deity we are praying for doing something for us. The second aspect is petitioning. Petitioning is when we ask the creator for something, be it health, money or what ever.

One easy example of meditation would be to think about rearranging the furniture in your mind. The object would be to stay focused. If thought enter then you gently push them out or get your mind back on the subject. One can take things a step further and think about how they would rearrange their life. This would be an unstructured form of meditation that is internally driven. One can verbalize their thoughts and talk out loud to Hashem or their patron deity. This is still unstructured ad through such mediation which if one find productive can become a set pattern on a daily or weekly basis such meditation could help one realize that G-d is both within and at the same time way out there.

Such verbal meditation is called, by Rebbe Nachman, hisbodedus. One can turn this unstructured meditation into a structured meditation by adding an agenda of what they would like to discuss. In Tzaphat the mystical cabbalists would pick a verse out of the torah and meditate on it for insights. This was called Gerusin. They could repeat the verse over and over again like a mantra. Rebbe Nachman used to repeat master of the universe like a mantra.

This verse could also be gazed upon and looked at. This would be called contemplation. Just staring at it and absorbing it’s meaning. This contemplation could also be applied to looking at a flame or a Hebrew letter.

The common elements of meditation are contemplation, mantra, structured and unstructured thinking and internally and externally directed meditation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Quieting the mind

Jewish Meditation chapter two adapted from Aryeh Kaplan’s Work


Why?......The big question what is the benefit of doing meditation? Throughout our lives we have not grown much in terms of thinking. In fact most of us were taught to think at the age of six and not much has really changed since then. Meditation means we take control of our thought and of our mind. At 6 years old we did not learn how to control or harness the power of our mind. This is a quantum leap. The Torah says that our thinking before we practice spirituality is that of a child while the thinking that we practice after spirituality training is considered adult thinking.


Consider looking at a rose. Is our perception pure? Actually it is not . Even with our eyes open in a well lit room there are images floating right in front of us being generated by our subconscious mind. It interferes with our perception. Some one who practices meditation could learn to quiet the other parts of the brain down. While this does not harness the full power of the mind is does reduce the interference. Considerably close to fine tuning a radio. Clearer sound but not any louder.

Our senses often interfere with each other. Ever try reading Braille? Even someone trained has a hard time doing it unless they close their eyes. Why? Because their vision interferes with their tactile sensations. Blind people also use their cane to navigate. This works because the sounds produced by the cane echo off the walls. This alerts the blind person if he is about to bump into something.

Tibetan healers can feel a person’s pulse and determine what is ailing the person. It takes many years to learn how to do this. The healer actually closes his eyes and enters a state of deep concentration as he feels his patient’s pulse. This closing of the eyes blocks all the distraction cause by our eyes.

Stimuli is constantly coming our way but our mind makes so much static that we do not even perceive it. Spiritual people, prophets were able to quiet their mind down. In this way way they could practice telepathy, Extra Sensory Perception and predictions.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jewish Meditation by Steve G © adapted from Areye Kaplan’s Work

By and large many people think of far eastern religions when the word meditation is brought up. Both Jew and non-Jew alike seem oblivious to the fact that there is a form of Jewish meditation out there. Jews like other people are spiritually hungry and end up looking to these far eastern religions to satisfy their appetite. It takes a lot of work to ferret out the Mediation techniques from Judaism. Jewish Mystics have a history of interacting with Sufi mystics and exchanging ideas. To lose such a connection would be a shame.

What exactly is meditation? Quite simply it means to control your mind. Have you ever tried to stop thinking? Bet you were not quite successful? Better yet try thinking about only one thing. You most likely thought about a whole lot of other things besides the one thing. It is very hard to control your mind.

If you close your eyes you will be bombarded with a barrage of fleeting images. To pay them attention and decipher them would be called “Free Association” This Free Association is one way of reading your subconscious mind. The mind can be divided into two parts. These two parts are the conscious and the subconscious mind. You can control the conscious mind but not your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind is what control your thoughts. So to control your thoughts you must control your subconscious mind.

Breathing is controlled by your subconscious mind it is voluntary. Hence many meditation method have you control your breathing as a first step to controlling your subconscious mind. Two more related techniques are discussed on is called “imaging”. Imaging occurs when you imagine let us say the letter “A” in your mind. The second technique is “Etching” this might be when you permanently engrave the letter A into your mind.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

" The Phoenicians" by Glenn Markoe

A full yet concise book about Phoenician History. Starting all the way from their beginning and covering their lives all the way until they disappeared. The book gives and over all summary of their history in time line pattern. Other chapters describe their city and house lay-out, overseas colonies and religion.

The Phoenicians were North Western Semites they were a subgroup along with the Israelites of the Canaanites. Not much is known about the Phoenicians save what others have written about them. It is quite Ironic that they are the ones who gave us our alphabet and were one of the most literate societies of the Middle East, yet very few of their writing remain. What we know about the Phoenicians comes to us from outside sources. That would also mean their opponents or enemies, so what is said about them must be taken with a grain of salt.

Outside sources say mixed things about the Phoenicians. On the one hand they are known as master shipbuilders, architects, and businessmen. Yet on the other hand they bare depicted as being devoid of morality or being so low as to sell their own daughter for a profit. The question remains, how did the Phoenicians? Define themselves? They had no country to speak of , rather they had city-state each with it's own king. The word Phoenicians comes from the Greek word Poinex which could be a reference to the purple dye they were known for or the red color of their skin. It is Doubtful they called themselves Phoenicians.

It is shortly after the expulsion off the Hykso that Egypt invaded Canaan. At this point in time the two super powers were the Hittites and the Egyptians. The Egyptian had control a good portion of the time. THe Egyptians bought lots of timber from the Phoenicians. It could be noted that the Egyptians had a stronger cultural impact on the Phoenicians than did the Hittites. A number of Egyptian Gods were added to the Phoenician pantheon. Also the Phoenican incorporated the ahnk and the scarabs. When the Egyptian had control things went well as trade routes into Arabia and the South were open. The Phoenicians even set up a trading colony in Memphis as evidenced by the Phoenician temples. When the Hittites were in control Many Phoenicians would traade to the north and even settle in the North. Penultimately The Egyptians won out.

With the coming of the Assyrians the Phoenicians put up stiff resistance. In the end the city of Tyre was besieged and taken over but not totally destroyed as the Assyrians knew that Tyre if allowed to trade would be a cast cow. Several times though did the Phoenicians rebel against the Assyrians even under Egyptian sponsorship. The rebellion was crushed.

When the Babylonians came to power the Phoenician were loyal until the Persians came about. Under the Persians it was the Phoenicians who built their ship and composed a majority of their navy. When the Greeks came under Alexander the Great the Phoenician put up a stiff resistance. In the end Tyre was besieged and fell. Within a short time the Phoenicians on mainland Phoenicia would Hellenize and lose their identity. Their over seas colonies would last much longer before disappearing.

There were four major Phoenician cities in the mainland. They were Tyre,Arwad, Byblos and Sidon. Tyre was most famous for setting up Carthage and other colonies in the Mediterranean Sea basin. While there was an over all pantheon of Gods in Phoenicia each city state worshiped it's own God and Goddess. In Tyre Astarte and Melqart were worshiped. Based on the agricultural cycle with the male G0d dying and then being reborn in Marriage to the Goddess. In other City-States it was Eshmun and Astarte or Baal and Astarte. In Carthage it would be Punay and Tanite. The Phoenicians did have sacrifices of mostly plants and animals. On occasions there were human sacrifices to the God Baal Hamon and Tanite. When Carthage was about to be over taken by the Roman they sacrificed 200 noble born children. This was after they sacrificed 200 poor children. Temple prostitution was also prevalent with both male and female prostitutes. The temples were usually open air court yards with an altar in the middle. They were ran by priests and priestesses. Sometimes priestesses could be in charge. THe king was usually the high priest of a temple. There was a ritual called Marzeh which was intense eating and drinking in honor of the dead.

Their cities were built near the coast and tended not to be too large. Their harbors were defensible. The warehouses were often located near the shore. Houses were square shaped and tend to have a corridor with room on the side. Two story houses were around also with residences being on the second floor and the first floor being devoted to business. The Phoenicians set up colonies all over the known world. They reached as far as Spain. Most of their colonization was driven by trade, and the search for metallic ore. Their economy aslo relied on slavery and their metal working as well as their purple dye. Cathage and Cadiz (in Spain) developed into full blown cities. Kition was a Phoenician settlement in Cyprus. The Phoenicians even had settlements in Italy and had good relations with the Etruscans and Etrurians. The Phoenician in fact even allied with these two groups to fight against Greeks.

Phoenician culture disappeared after Carthage's defeat from the Romans during the Punic war. Yet their legacy goes on forever.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Haunt of the Jackals

THis book is the second in the Trilogy called the Jerusalem Undead. The book continues in the Romanian forest with Gina Lazaresque fighting off the collectors. At the end of the last book she defeated Lord Aristin the cluster leader from the Akeldama in Jerusalem, a coven of vampires dedicaded to wiping out the 36 righteous ones. After Gina kills Lord Ariston she flees from the cave with Shalom in hot pursuit. Gina is badly wounded. She finally confronts Shalom who takes on the body of a pig Gina kills her by giving her a taste of the Nazarene blood. She dies.

Meanwhile Cal and Dov are in flight from Erota who pursues them through the forest. She takses on the form of a Raven and attacks them many a times. Along the way they have an adventure at a farmers house where they work for some food. Later on they capture Erota in a cave and with warm milk persuade her to talk and give out details but they are yunable to destroy her. She flees and speaks witrh the other part of the divided coven ion the Negev at their hide away called the Huaunt of the Jackals where Judas IScariot was born. THere is a confrontation and Erota barely gets out alive. She then heads back to Romania.

Gina and Cal reunite in Hungary with Teo her childhod friend in tow. Teo has always had a crush on Gina but could never get that love off the ground. He is jealous of Cal who meets her there also. Littel does Teo realize the Cal is her father a former Mistar himself until he fathered Gina. From Cal Gina gets a new identity and adopts Kenny a Romanian child destined to be one of the 36 Nistarim. They later move to Junction City ,Oregon.

In Junction City they lay low and lead a quiet life. While in a museum her father tells how he was the famous DB Cooper and how her brother supposedly died at the hands of Natira a former Jewish warrior vampire who was killed by the Romans. Mean while Natira is up and around killing of the Nistarim left and right.

Erota in the meantime is travelling to Romania promoting her wine business and making contacts in the Russian dissidents in order to install the Romanovs missing heir to power. Her brother Shelomzion is transfroming into a were wolf after killing so may people and hanging with wolves.

Erota and the Romanian part of the coven unite with Natira to settle matters with the Israeli branch of the coven. Basicaly a power struggle. Shelmomzion goes to kill Gina and Kenny but is defeated. At the end Gina fakes her death and I will let you read it from there.

Baba-Sali

Baba-Sali
Holy Morroccan Sage engaged in Prayer

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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