Thursday, 22 June 2017

Through the Gates of Gold, Chapter 1, part 4

Here the question  is considered how one is to know what the Gates of Gold are, or is it possible to gain a conception of them? And a certain number of keys are given. First of all by concentration focused on any one idea, knowledge will be gained. Second, by seeking, one can come closer to them. And third, the answer lies within.
“If, therefore, instead of accepting the unknown as unknowable, men were with one accord to turn their thoughts towards it, those Golden Gates would not remain so inexorably shut. It does but need a strong hand to push them open. The courage to enter them is the courage to search the recesses of one’s own nature without fear and without shame. In the fine part, the essence, the flavor of the man, is found the key which unlocks those great Gates. And when they open, what is it that is found? “
It is possible to get an idea by scanning accounts of written testimonies. These can help to awaken one’s intuition and develop the conviction one needs to make the efforts.
“What is to be found within the words of those books is to be found in each one of us; and it is impossible to find in literature or through any channel of thought that which does not exist in the man who studies. This is of course an evident fact known to all real students. But it has to be especially remembered in reference to this profound and obscure subject, as men so readily believe that nothing can exist for others where they themselves find emptiness.
Hidden behind the thin yet seemingly impassable veil which hides it from us as it hid all science, all art, all powers of man till he had the courage to tear away the screen. That courage comes only of conviction. When once man believes that the thing exists which he desires, he will obtain it at any cost. The difficulty in this case lies in man’s incredulity. It requires a great tide of thought and attention to set in towards the unknown region of man’s nature in order that its gates may be unlocked and its glorious vistas explored.”
Some relevant passages from Light on the Path:
Close to the central heart of life, on any plane, there is knowledge, there order reigns completely; and chaos makes dim and confused the outer margin of the circle. In fact, life in every form bears a more or less strong resemblance to a philosophic school. There are always the devotees of knowledge who forget their own lives in their pursuit of it; there are always the flippant crowd who come and go — of such, Epictetus said that it was as easy to teach them philosophy as to eat custard with a fork.
He serves humanity and identifies himself with the whole world; he is ready to make vicarious sacrifice for it at any moment — by living not by dying for it. Why should he not die for it? Because he is part of the great whole, and one of the most valuable parts of it. Because he lives under laws of order which he does not desire to break. His life is not his own, but that of the forces which work behind him.
He is the flower of humanity, the bloom which contains the divine seed. He is, in his own person, a treasure of the universal nature, which is guarded and made safe in order that the fruition shall be perfected. It is only at definite periods of the world's history that he is allowed to go among the herd of men as their redeemer. But for those who have the power to separate themselves from this herd he is always at hand. And for those who are strong enough to conquer the vices of the personal human nature, as set forth in these four rules, he is consciously at hand, easily recognized, ready to answer.  (Comment 4)

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Astrology: Summer Solstice June 21 2017 12:24 pm

Burning Down the House
As the Sun passes from Gemini to Cancer at the Summer Solstice, it is joined in a strong conjunction from Mercury, ruler of Gemini, also in conjunction with the Mid Heaven – this is good for new business ventures, sharpness of mind but also self-absorption and restless tension. Moreover, it makes for very strong-wills and brings much attention from authority, for better or worse, and public recognition from work, reputations can thrive or fall.
Sun/Mercury - Chiron - Mercury T-Square
However this high profile, upbeat energy gets a serious reality check from Saturn, which brings a sense of alienation and inhibition and possible negativity, gloominess and hypercriticism. Indeed, Chiron enters the scenario and will form a Sun – Saturn – Chiron T-Square making for a very intense focus on personal identity, self-esteem, repressed feelings and childhood wounds as well as difficulty getting a message across.
A very sensitive period for ego-based issues as weaknesses can be brought to the fore that may require attention. The Sun-Uranus Trine should help alleviate things with a sense of open-mindedness, self-awareness and intellectual creativity. Surprise sudden events can occur. And the long-standing Saturn-Uranus Trine should also help stabilize the new changes.
Mars-Jupiter-Pluto T-Square
If the previous T-Square represented significant personal challenge, there is also the strong Mars-Jupiter-Pluto T-Square, which is a continuation of the Spring Uranus-Jupiter-Pluto T-Square, signifying the ongoing call for radical socio-political change. Now the Jupiter-Uranus opposition has temporarily faded, replaced by a series of volatile Mars-Saturn and Mars-Pluto Oppositions and an upcoming Mars-Uranus Square. The effects of these can be noticed so far with high-profile terrorists attacks in the UK and political intrigues and turnarounds in the UK and the US. Except for the intense Pluto-Uranus Square, these volatile aspects will eventually fade by the end of October, when we will finally see some smoother sailing.
So we have a Mars-Pluto opposition which brings severe power struggles, authoritarianism and fierce oppositions. The Mars-Jupiter Square brings tendencies over-extending oneself, ego inflation and over-optimism. The Jupiter-Pluto Square can bring conflict with power, obsession and fanaticism. The Moon-Pluto Trine can soften some of the sting of Pluto here. This powerful T-Square can represent a very ambitious, productive energy for change and restructuring, with the power to overcome obstacles.
Venus-Mars-Neptune &  Venus – Neptune – Pluto Minor Grand Trines
Fortunately, there are a couple of interesting Minor Grand Trines that help channel the volatile energies in a peaceful manner. The Venus-Mars-Neptune Trine brings a sense of altruism, charity, strong friendship and creative intellectual imagination to the mix.
There is also a Venus – Neptune – Pluto Minor Grand Trine symmetrically overlapping the other one, making a kind of butterfly formation of Trines and Sextiles. This brings depth to relationships, a sense of renewal  and mind-expanding introspection. These two aspects have a kind of beneficial hippy-trippy “Make love not war” vibe and Venus is kicking up quite a storm or sensual and romantic passions. Additionally, the Venus/ Neptune sextile forms a Yod with Jupiter, placing Jupiter at the apex of a very complex , symmetrical figure composed of a T-Square, Minor Grand Trine and a Yod (call it a Hyper-Yod, to coin a term, or maybe an X-Wing Fighter).
It is hard to say if there is a larger significance, but I think it shows the pivotal role of Jupiter (in Libra) this year and the important Jupiter-Uranus Opposition. The key to solving the Jupiter tendency for over-indulgence and deluded optimism would be the Venus/Neptune Sextile acute sensitivity to the needs and feeling of loved ones and the willingness to put them before our own. The Mars/Neptune (Service, Charity) and Venus/Pluto (Profound relationship insights) Trines can possibly figure as effective keys in resolving this complex formation. This chart has some very difficult Pluto and Saturn aspects, but it also has some well-placed complementary easy aspects that gives it a very interesting complexity for dynamic evolution.

Robert Hand, Planets in Transit

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Theosophy Basics: The Doctrine of Cycles, part 2

More from Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled vol. 1, chap. 1:
Sacred Mathematics are key in understanding the evolutionary process, which has an involutionary phase from spiritual to material; and an evolutionary phase from material to spiritual, a return to the spiritual origin.
The sacred numbers of the universe in their esoteric combination solve the great problem and explain the theory of radiation and the cycle of the emanations. The lower orders before they develop into higher ones must emanate from the higher spiritual ones, and when arrived at the turning-point, be reabsorbed again into the infinite. (8)

Misconstrual of the esoteric concepts of the computation of cycles has lead adventist religious sects and all kinds of misguided apocalyptic prophecy theories.
This method of calculating by the neroses, without allowing any consideration for the secrecy in which the ancient philosophers, who were exclusively of the sacerdotal order, held their knowledge, gave rise to the greatest errors. It led the Jews, as well as some of the Christian Platonists, to maintain that the world would be destroyed at the end of six thousand years. Gale shows how firmly this belief was rooted in the Jews. It has also led modern scientists to discredit entirely the hypothesis of the ancients. It has given rise to the formation of different religious sects, which, like the Adventists of our century, are always living in the expectation of the approaching destruction of the world. (34)

The ancient cycle of the Great Year is a cycle of creation and destruction characterized by a formation period followed by a dissolution phase mark by a cataclysm and a changing of the earth poles.
At the close of each “great year,” called by Aristotle — according to Censorinus — the greatest, and which consists of six sars* our planet is subjected to a thorough physical revolution. The polar and equatorial climates gradually exchange places; the former moving slowly toward the Line, and the tropical zone, with its exuberant vegetation and swarming animal life, replacing the forbidding wastes of the icy poles. This change of climate is necessarily attended by cataclysms, earthquakes, and other cosmical throes.*
As the beds of the ocean are displaced, at the end of every decimillennium and about one neros, a semi-universal deluge like the legendary Noachian flood is brought about. This year was called the Heliacal by the Greeks; but no one outside the sanctuary knew anything certain either as to its duration or particulars. The winter of this year was called the Cataclysm or the Deluge, — the Summer, the Ecpyrosis. (30)

An explanation is given of the traditional Hindu concept of the Four Yugas, a key concept that is closely adopted for theosophical purposes.
The Neroses, the Vrihaspati, or the periods called yugas or kalpas, are life-problems to solve. The Satya-yug and Buddhistic cycles of chronology would make a mathematician stand aghast at the array of ciphers. The Maha-kalpa embraces an untold number of periods far SHAPE back in the antediluvian ages. Their system comprises a kalpa or grand period of 4,320,000,000 years, which they divide into four lesser yugas, running as follows:
1st. — Satya yug — 1,728,000 years.
2d. — Tretya yug — 1,296,000 years.
3d. — Dvapa yug —— 864,000 years.
4th. — Kali yug —— 432,000 years.
Total ————– 4,320,000 years.
which make one divine age or Maha-yug; seventy-one Maha-yugs make 306,720,000 years, to which is added a sandhi (or the time when day and night border on each other, morning and evening twilight), equal to a Satya-yug, 1,728,000, make a manwantara of 308,448,000 years;* fourteen manwantaras make 4,318,272,000 years; to which must be added a sandhi to begin the kalpa, 1,728,000 years, making the kalpa or grand period of 4,320,000,000 of years. As we are now only in the Kali-yug of the twenty-eighth age of the seventh manwantara of 308,448,000 years, we have yet sufficient time before us to wait before we reach even half of the time allotted to the world. (32)

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Theosophy Basics: The Doctrine of Cycles, part 1

The Doctrine of Cycles is an important aspect of the Theosophical world view and was introduced as early as chapter one, volume one of Isis Unveiled. Blavatsky’s theory of cyclical history is one of the more sophisticated ones to emerge in modern times and is beginning to  elicit more serious attention; for a more academic exposition on essentialists concepts of history, the classic work in the field remains Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return – Cosmos and History, 1954
What follows is a brief outline of Isis Unveiled, V. I, Chap. 1:

There is a dual, interactive process of spiritual and material evolution that functions according to cycles.
The revolution of the physical world, according to the ancient doctrine, is attended by a like revolution in the world of intellect — the spiritual evolution of the world proceeding in cycles, like the physical one. (34)

Civilizations rise and fall according to these cycles, with each new phase gradually bringing a new element of progress.
Thus we see in history a regular alternation of ebb and flow in the tide of human progress. The great kingdoms and empires of the world, after reaching the culmination of their greatness, descend again, in accordance with the same law by which they ascended; till, having reached the lowest point, humanity reasserts itself and mounts up once more, the height of its attainment being, by this law of ascending progression by cycles, somewhat higher than the point from which it had before descended. (34)

The ancient concept of the four ages indicates that civilizations go through a dual phase of unconscious inspired productivity followed by a phase of critical analysis.
The division of the history of mankind into Golden, Silver, Copper and Iron Ages, is not a fiction. We see the same thing in the literature of peoples. An age of great inspiration and unconscious productiveness is invariably followed by an age of criticism and consciousness. The one affords material for the analyzing and critical intellect of the other. (34)

Historical evolution is based on archetypal principles which are continually reflected in historical events.
Thus, all those great characters who tower like giants in the history of mankind, like Buddha-Siddartha, and Jesus, in the realm of spiritual, and Alexander the Macedonian and Napoleon the Great, in the realm of physical conquests, were but reflexed images of human types which had existed ten thousand years before, in the preceding decimillennium, reproduced by the mysterious powers controlling the destinies of our world.
There is no prominent character in all the annals of sacred or profane history whose prototype we cannot find in the half-fictitious and half-real traditions of bygone religions and mythologies. As the star, glimmering at an immeasurable distance above our heads, in the boundless immensity of the sky, reflects itself in the smooth waters of a lake, so does the imagery of men of the antediluvian ages reflect itself in the periods we can embrace in an historical retrospect.
“As above, so it is below. That which has been, will return again. As in heaven, so on earth.” (34)

There are many different smaller cycles contained in larger ones, as the diurnal cycle is a miniature reflection of the annual cycle.
As our planet revolves once every year around the sun and at the same time turns once in every twenty-four hours upon its own axis, thus traversing minor circles within a larger one, so is the work of the smaller cyclic periods accomplished and recommenced, within the Great Saros. (34)

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Ravi Shankar – World Peace - 3rd Global Conference on World's Religions after September 11

Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, a spiritual teacher, and an ambassador of peace. He is a spiritual leader and founder of the Art of Living Foundation created in 1981, which aims to relieve individual stress, societal problems, and violence. In 1997, he established a Geneva-based charity, the International Association for Human Values, an NGO that engages in relief work and rural development and aims to foster shared global values. His talk featured a video highlighting his work with Colombian guerillas, prison meditation programs, environmental cleaning and multi-cultural events. The following is a paraphrase of a talk given on September 15, 2016 at the 3rd Global Conference on World's Religions after September 11.
The problem with terrorists are their beliefs that:

  1. that they’re doing the work of god
  2. they’re doing something right – soldiers of god
  3. terrorism is caused by poverty

Countries spend billions in defences, but only 1% in peace education. We need to be calm, get rid of negative emotions. If you can’t be friendly to 500 people in your school, how can we live on a planet of billions? We need to encourage a multi-religious education, to teach a little about all the great religions of the world, so children can grow with an inclusive attitude. The heart and head go together.

There are three main prejudices:  race, gender, social status. Only by getting rid of them can we have a healthy society. We should be together is a spirit of interconnectivity to effect a change in the thought process, we can make a big difference. Five suggestions:

  1. keep balance in mind
  2. accepting people as they are
  3. not be individualistic, but compassionate
  4. not see intention behind others –
  5. love in the present moment
It is good to combine breathing and meditations. Religions want to do good. From time to time, it is good to have an intercultural festival. 3.7 million people participated in world cultural festival a celebration of diversity in 155 countries. Soul is like space, it is everywhere and nowhere – we need to look into god – hope can be kindled.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Through the Gates of Gold, Chapter 1, part 3

Part 3
By looking at history, one can consider the mutability of human existence, the ever-recurring rise and fall of civilisations and see that the problems of pain and decay are perennial. But one can consider what lies beyond these ever-changing appearances:
“Yet there is now and then one brave enough to gaze fixedly on this glittering, and to decipher something of the shape within it. Poets and philosophers, thinkers and teachers, — all those who are the “elder brothers of the race,” — have beheld this sight from time to time, and some among them have recognized in the bewildering glitter the outlines of the Gates of Gold.

Those Gates admit us to the sanctuary of man’s own nature, to the place whence his life-power comes, and where he is priest of the shrine of life. That it is possible to enter here, to pass through those Gates, some one or two have shown us.

Plato, Shakespeare, and a few other strong ones have gone through and spoken to us in veiled language on the near side of the Gates. When the strong man has crossed the threshold he speaks no more to those at the other side. And even the words he utters when he is outside are so full of mystery, so veiled and profound, that only those who follow in his steps can see the light within them.”

Some related passages from Light on the Path:

What then will be the value of the knowledge of its laws acquired by industry and observation? I pray that no reader or critic will imagine that by what I have said I intend to depreciate or disparage acquired knowledge, or the work of scientists. On the contrary, I hold that scientific men are the pioneers of modern thought. The days of literature and of art, when poets and sculptors saw the divine light, and put it into their own great language — these days lie buried in the long past with the ante-Phidian sculptors and the pre-Homeric poets. The mysteries no longer rule the world of thought and beauty; human life is the governing power, not that which lies beyond it. But the scientific workers are progressing, not so much by their own will as by sheer force of circumstances, towards the far line which divides things interpretable from things uninterpretable. Every fresh discovery drives them a step onward. Therefore do I very highly esteem the knowledge obtained by work and experiment. (Comment 2)

He stands always in advance of himself, if such a contradiction can be understood. It is the men who adhere to this position, who believe in their innate power of progress, and that of the whole race, who are the elder brothers, the pioneers. Each man has to accomplish the great leap for himself and without aid; yet it is something of a staff to lean on to know that others have gone on that road. It is possible that they have been lost in the abyss; no matter, they have had the courage to enter it. Why I say that it is possible they have been lost in the abyss is because of this fact, that one who has passed through is unrecognizable until the other and altogether new condition is attained by both. (Comment 2)

This statement, I feel, will appear involved; but in reality it is quite simple. Man, when he has reached his fruition, and civilization is at its height, stands between two fires. Could he but claim his great inheritance, the encumbrance of the mere animal life would fall away from him without difficulty. But he does not do this, and so the races of men flower and then droop and die and decay off the face of the earth, however splendid the bloom may have been. And it is left to the individual to make this great effort; to refuse to be terrified by his greater nature, to refuse to be drawn back by his lesser or more material self. Every individual who accomplishes this is a redeemer of the race. He may not blazon forth his deeds, he may dwell in secret and silence; but it is a fact that he forms a link between man and his divine part; between the known and the unknown; between the stir of the market place and the stillness of the snow-capped Himalayas.(Comment 2)

Friday, 5 May 2017

The Kabbalah and Reincarnation 5/5

William Q. Judge on Gilgul

The Zohar is a work of great weight and authority among the Jews. In II, 199 b, it says that "all souls are subject to revolutions". This is metempsychosis or a'leen b'gilgoola; but it declares that "men do not know the way they have been judged in all time". That is, in their "revolutions" they lose a complete memory of the acts that have led to judgment. This is precisely the Theosophical doctrine. The Kether Malkuth says, "If she, the soul, be pure, then she shall obtain favor . . . but if she hath been defiled, then she shall wander for a time in pain and despair . . . until the days of her purification". If the soul be pure and if she comes at once from God at birth, how could she be defiled? And where is she to wander if not on this or some other world until the days of her purification? The Rabbis always explained it as meaning she wandered down from Paradise through many revolutions or births until purity was regained.

Under the name of "Din Gilgol Neshomes" the doctrine of reincarnation is constantly spoken of in the Talmud. The term means "the judgment of the revolutions of the souls". And Rabbi Manassa, son of Israel, one of the most revered, says in his book Nishmath Hayem: "The belief or the doctrine of the transmigration of souls is a firm and infallible dogma accepted by the whole assemblage of our church with one accord, so that there is none to be found who would dare to deny it . . . Indeed, there is a great number of sages in Israel who hold firm to this doctrine so that they made it a dogma, a fundamental point of our religion. We are therefore in duty bound to obey and to accept this dogma with acclamation . . . as the truth of it has been incontestably demonstrated by the Zohar and all books of the Kabalists."

These demonstrations hold, as do the traditions of the old Jews, that the soul of Adam reincarnated in David, and that on account of the sin of David against Uriah it will have to come again in the expected Messiah. And out of the three letters ADM, being the name of the first man, the Talmudists always made the names Adam, David, and Messiah. Hence this in the Old Testament: "And they will serve Jhvh their God and David their king whom I shall reawaken for them." That is, David reincarnates again for the people. Taking the judgment of God on Adam "for dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return", the Hebrew interpreters said that since Adam had sinned it was necessary for him to reincarnate on earth in order to make good the evil committed in his first existence; so he comes as David, and later is to come as Messiah. The same doctrine was always applied by the Jews to Moses, Seth, and Abel, the latter spelt Habel. Habel was killed by Cain, and then to supply the loss the Lord gave Seth to Adam; he died, and later on Moses is his reincarnation as the guide of the people, and Seth was said by Adam to be the reincarnation of Habel. Cain died and reincarnated as Yethrokorah, who died, the soul waiting till the time when Habel came back as Moses and then incarnated as the Egyptian who was killed by Moses; so in this case Habel comes back as Moses, meets Cain in the person of the Egyptian, and kills the latter. Similarly it was held that Bileam, Laban, and Nabal were reincarnations of the one soul or individuality. And of Job it was said that he was the same person once known as Thara, the father of Abraham; by which they explained the verse of Job (ix, 21 ), "Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my own soul", to mean that he would not recognize himself as Thara.
(Reincarnation in Judaism and the Bible - The Path – February 1894)
see also:
“Qabbalah, the Theos-Sophia of the Jews:”Jewish Theosophists and their Perceptionsof Kabbalah

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Kabbalah and Reincarnation 4/5

Blavatsky on Gilgul
Although quite brief and mainly referencing Mackenzie’s Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia, Blavatsky's comments on the notion of Gilgul are original and intriguing.
Also the doctrine of Gilgul, held to the strange theory of the "Whirling of the Soul," which taught that the bodies of Jews buried far away from the Holy Land, still preserve a particle of soul which can neither rest nor quit them, until it reaches the soil of the "Promised Land." And this "whirling" process was thought to be accomplished by the soul being conveyed back through an actual evolution of species; transmigrating from the minutest insect up to the largest animal. But this was an exoteric doctrine.

But this doctrine of permutation, or revolution, must not be understood as a belief in reincarnation. That Moses was considered the transmigration of Abel and Seth, does not imply that the kabalists — those who were initiated at least — believed that the identical spirit of either of Adam's sons reappeared under the corporeal form of Moses. It only shows what was the mode of expression they used when hinting at one of the profoundest mysteries of the Oriental Gnosis, one of the most majestic articles of faith of the Secret Wisdom. It was purposely veiled so as to half conceal and half reveal the truth. It implied that Moses, like certain other god-like men, was believed to have reached the highest of all states on earth: — the rarest of all psychological phenomena, the perfect union of the immortal spirit with the terrestrial duad had occurred. The trinity was complete. A god was incarnate. But how rare such incarnations!(Isis Unveiled 2, 152-53)

The idea was metaphysical as well as physical; the hidden interpretation embracing “gods” or souls, in the shape of atoms, as the causes of all the effects produced on Earth by the secretions from the divine bodies.* No ancient philosopher, not even the Jewish Kabalists, ever dissociated Spirit from matter or vice versa. Everything originated in the one, and, proceeding from the one, must finally return to the One. “Light becomes heat, and consolidates into fiery particles; which, from being ignited, become cold, hard particles, round and smooth. And this is called Soul, imprisoned in its robe of matter;”† Atoms and Souls having been synonymous in the language of the Initiates. The “whirling Souls,” Gilgoolem, a doctrine in which so many learned Jews have believed (See Mackenzies Royal Masonic Cyclopaedia), had no other meaning esoterically. The learned Jewish Initiates never meant by the “Promised landPalestine alone, but the same Nirvana as the learned Buddhist and Brahmin do — the bosom of the Eternal One, symbolized by that of Abraham, and by Palestine as its substitute on Earth.‡ The passage of the Soul-Atom “through the Seven Planetary Chambers” had the same metaphysical and also physical meaning. (Secret Doctrine I, 568)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Kabbalah on Reincarnation 3/5

The higher levels, nehsama, chayah, and yehidah, function in a way that they connot be directly affected by what a person does to his or her consciousness. However, they are indirectly affected by the states of the nefesh and ruach. After death, the higher levels of the soul will return to their home “regions,” but they must await the redemption of the nefesh before finally resting in their natural states.
If the nefesh does not get redeemed, the ruach cannot be “crowned” in the lower Garden of Eden. If it cannot be crowned, the higher soul levels cannot reach the center of awareness. In this sense, all of the levels are “punished” by having to await the redemption of the lowest level of soul, the nefesh.
It is said that the nefesh wanders between the grave and the dwelling place of the deceased for the first seven days after death, looking for its living body. After, the nefesh is purified in gehennom, and then it wanders the world until it has a garment (signifying an awareness level) (Zohar I;226a-b). This process of purification takes twelve months. Once it has its garment, it gains access to the lower Garden of Eden, where it joins the ruach. The ruach then gets crowned, the neshama unites with the Throne, and all is well.
In a remarkable section, the Zohar outlines the process of the purification of the nefesh during the twelve months after death, suggesting a completely different scenario  from what most of us have been taught. The Jewish mystical system is designed to continue the process of tikkun olam (mending the universe) even after death. The reader must keep in mind that the language of Kabbalah is poetic, the images are metaphors, and the intention is to arouse the soul rather than the mind. Form this perspective, let yourself enter these mystical teachings as a garden of delights.
Once a nefesh no longer has a body, it loses its free will, which is associated only with living people. (Zohar II;225a). Therefore, it no longer can redeem itself, but needs the guidance and help of a living being with free will. In this context, there are a number of ways in which a nefesh can be redeemed. (p. 262)
Kabbalah adds another dimension to death, suggesting that it is not monolithic but has a number of levels. It says that the Angel of Death is protected and “ridden” by the Shadow of Death. Although they have different energies, they are inseparable partners. Moreover, they different gateways into the realm of death, for there are ”gates of death” and “gates of the shadow of death.” Indeed, it is said that there are innumerable, mysterious passageways to death “hidden from humankind, who know them not.” (Zohar I;160b).  (p. 280)
From God is a Verb, Rabbi David A. Cooper, Riverhead, 1997

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Kabbalah on Reincarnation 2/5

Eschatology: Descent, Ascent and Elevation
The process of descent, and subsequent elevation and ascent through rectification outlines a dynamic concept of spiritual progress and evolution. The Jewish Virtual Library gives the following description:
They maintain that transmigration occurs in all forms of existence, from the Sefirot ("emanations") and the angels to inorganic matter, and is called din benei ḥalof or sod ha-shelaḥ. According to this, everything in the world is constantly changing form, descending to the lowest form and ascending again to the highest. The kabbalists of Safed accepted the doctrine of transmigration into all forms of nature and, through them, this teaching became a widespread popular belief.
Dubrov gives details of the soul’s journey, which parallels the above-described cosmic process at a microcosmic level:
The soul is eternal, a spark of the Divine, or as the prophet Job calls it “a part of G‑d above.” The soul exists before it enters the body and it lives after the body is laid to rest. Though the soul’s place of origin is in the higher worlds, there is something that the soul can achieve in a body that it cannot achieve in the heavenly realms. It has already been explained that the purpose of creation is to make an abode for the Divine in this world. Although higher worlds are glorious in terms of revelation and offer the best reward for a soul after it has achieved its earthly mission, the heavenly realms are not the purpose of creation. It was G‑d’s desire to create a world where His presence would be acutely concealed and darkness and evil would prevail. He charged his children with the task of creating a home in this world, and the soul fulfills that mission by its adherence to Torah and Mitzvot.
Kabbalah explains that the soul is comprised of 613 channels, which parallel the 248 limbs and 365 blood Vessels of the body. These 613 channels attain eternal elevation when all 613 Mitzvot are fulfilled by a soul in its earthly descent.
Usually a soul does not manage to fulfill all the commandments in one descent, and the Arizal writes that every soul must be repeatedly reincarnated until it has fulfilled all 613 Mitzvot in thought, speech, and action. In the previous chapter, the notion of purification through Gehinom was introduced. (Dubrov)
Furthermore, Dubrov notes that:
Here the soul is cleansed in order to be elevated to the Garden of Eden. How is this concept reconciled with the possibility of reincarnation and a return to our world? The Kabbalists explain that when a soul returns to this world, the part of the soul that was elevated by its Torah learning and Mitzvah performance is not reincarnated, rather it is only the other parts of the soul that were not affected by the first incarnation that return. The possibility of a soul being divided and part of a soul being reincarnated is discussed at length in Kabbalah. (Dubrov)
The Baal Shem Tov in his Instruction in Intercourse with God (Of the Holy Sparks and their Redemption), considers that humans are participants in the scheme of cosmic renewal:
"The Holy Sparks that fell when God built and destroyed the worlds, man shall raise and purify upward from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being -- purify the Holy Sparks that are imprisoned in the world of Shells . . . And who, with the good strength of his spirit, is able to raise the Holy Spark from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being, leads it into freedom; and no setting free of captives is greater than this. It is as when a king's son is rescued from captivity and brought to his father." (Buber, 89)
(Instructions on Intercourse with God, p. 188 in Hasidism and Modern Man by Martin Buber.)
Psychological Aspect
The body-soul relation in this process involves a complex explanation of the human constitution. Jacobs outlines a basic dualistic concept:
Rabbi Schneur Zalman explains in the Tanya that every Jew is composite of two distinct souls. The first soul is the Nefesh HaBehamit which animates the body. This soul is complete with an infrastructure of soul powers ranging from pleasure and will to intellect and emotions. Common to all the soul powers of the Nefesh HaBehamit is that they all wish to fulfill the base needs, passions, and desires of the body. Essentially the Nefesh HaBehamit is self-centered.From it stems the negative character traits, such as anger, apathy, and arrogance.
The second soul is the Nefesh Elokit. This soul is described by Job as “a part of G‑d,” and exists both before its descent into the body and after the ascent from the body. The Nefesh Elokit in itself is not in need of rectification; rather its descent into this world is to refine the base and the animalistic nature of this material world. (Jacobs)
Brandwein explains the more complex fivefold nature of the soul:
The Midrash states that the soul has five names:
Nefesh (soul of vitality),
Ruach (spirit),
Neshamah (breath of life),
Chaya (living one), and
Yechidah (singular one). (Brandwein)
He adds that:
According to the Zohar, the four higher levels of the soul usually enter a person during his lifetime in Ibur: First, a person receives nefesh when he or she is born; then, when they merit it, they receive ruach; when they merit it, they receive neshamah; when they merit it, they receive chayah. The higher the level, the rarer its occurrence. Very few have ever merited to neshamah, let alone chayah. Nobody has ever received the highest level, yechidah. Adam would have received it had he not sinned. (Brandwein)
Moreover, one can find a classic esoteric microsmic-macrocosmic correspondence in this system. Dubrov notes that:
Kabbalah explains that these five names of the soul correspond to the level of soul in each of the worlds. Nefesh corresponds to the soul in the realm of Assiyah, Ruach in Yetzirah, Neshamah in Beriah, and Chaya in Atzilut, while Yechidah represents the quintessential point of the soul (Etzem HaNeshamah) which is rooted in the Or Ein Sof. Hassidism teaches that the Nefesh resides in the blood, Ruach in the heart, Neshamah in the brain. Chayah and Yechidah are transcendent of the body, not enclothing themselves in any particular limb. The Kabbalists explain that through successive incarnations, all levels of the soul are elevated. (Dubrov)
Ibbur Neshamot
Jacobs gives a succinct summary of the basic types of reincarnation:
In the kabbalistic literature three types of reincarnation are mentioned:
1.      gilgul, transmigration proper, in which a soul that had previously inhabited one body is sent back to earth to inhabit another body.
2.      ibbur, “impregnation,” in which a soul descends from heaven in order to assist another soul in the body.
3.      dybbuk, a generally late concept, in which a guilt‑laden soul pursued by devils enters a human body in order to find rest and has to be exorcised. (Jacobs)
Brandwein gives the following explanation for Ibbur Neshamot:
It involves receiving a new (higher) soul sometime during one's lifetime. That is, a new soul comes into a person's heart while he is still alive. The reason this is called Ibur, gestation or pregnancy, is because this person becomes "pregnant" with this new soul while he is still alive. This phenomenon is the deeper explanation behind certain people going through drastic changes in their lives. They either undergo a change of mind about certain things or change their lifestyle, and thereby ascend to the next spiritual level. This is also included under the general heading of gilgul-incarnation because they are now hosting a new soul [or an aspect of their own soul or a higher soul of which they are a part] in order to be a vehicle for that soul's rectification. This is what occurs when a person is ready to advance in his soul evolution. This is why the soul has five names, each higher than the other, nefesh, ruach, neshamah, chayah and yechidah. (Brandwein)


The Jewish Encyclopedia offers the following explanation of Dybbuk:
This belief assumes that there are souls which are condemned to wander for a time in this world, where they are tormented by evil spirits which watch and accompany them everywhere. To escape their tormentors such souls sometimes take refuge in the bodies of living pious men and women, over whom the evil spirits have no power. The person to whom such a soul clings endures great suffering and loses his own individuality; he acts as though he were quite another man, and loses all moral sense. He can be cured only by a miracle-working rabbi ("ba'al shem") who is able to cast out the soul from his body by exorcisms and amulets. The usual exorcism in such cases consisted in the rabbi's reciting, in the presence of ten men (See Minyan), the 91st Psalm, and adjuring the soul in the name of God to leave the body of the afflicted one. In case of refusal on the part of the soul to yield to this simple injunction, the ban and the blowing of the shofar are resorted to. In order that it may cause the least possible amount of damage to the body, the soul is always directed to pass out through the small toe. (Jewish Encyclopedia)
Yaakov Astor . (Reincarnation and Jewish Tradition) Soul Searching, Targum Press
Rabbi Avraham Brandwein (Gilgul Neshamot - Reincarnation of Souls) (Transl. Avraham Sutton)
Martin Buber, Hasidism and Modern Man, 1958
Nissan Dovid Dubrov (The Soul and the Afterlife)
Rabbi Louis Jacobs (Is there a Jewish Afterlife?)
Jewish Encyclopedia (Gilgul Neshamoth)
Jewish Virtual Library (Gilgul)
Aryeh Kaplan. Sefer Yetzireh – The Book of Creation. Weiser, 1990.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

The Kabbalah on Reincarnation 1/5

The Isaac Luria Synagogue, Safed
Gilgul/Gilgul neshamot/Gilgulei Ha Neshamot (Heb. גלגול הנשמות, Plural: גלגולים Gilgulim) describes a Kabbalistic concept of reincarnation. In Hebrew, the word gilgul means "cycle" or "wheel" and neshamot is the plural for "souls." Souls are seen to "cycle" through "lives" or "incarnations", being attached to different human bodies over time. Which body they associate with depends on their particular task in the physical world, spiritual levels of the bodies of predecessors and so on. The concept relates to the wider processes of history in Kabbalah, involving Cosmic Tikkun (Messianic rectification), and the historical dynamic of ascending Lights and descending Vessels from generation to generation.

Rabbis who believed in the idea of reincarnation include, from Medieval times: the mystical leaders Nahmanides (the Ramban) and Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher; from the 16th-century: Levi ibn Habib (the Ralbah), and from the mystical school of Safed Shelomoh Alkabez, Isaac Luria (the Ari) and his exponent Hayyim Vital; and from the 18th-century: the founder of Hasidism Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, later Hasidic Masters, and the Lithuanian Jewish Orthodox leader and Kabbalist the Vilna Gaon; and - amongst others - from the 19th/20th-century: Yosef Hayyim author of Ben Ish Hai as well as Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag. (The above from Wikipedia article. Gilgul)
In the Bahir and the Zohar
In the Bahir, it is stated:

Why is there a righteous person to whom good things happen, while [another] righteous person has bad things happen to him? This is because the [latter] righteous person did bad in a previous [life], and is now experiencing the consequences? What is this like? A person planted a vineyard and hoped to grow grapes, but instead, sour grapes grew. He saw that his planting and harvest were not successful so he tore it out. He cleaned out the sour grape vines and planted again. When he saw that his planting was not successful, he tore it up and planted it again. (Bahir 195)20
The Jewish Virtual Library notes that, according to the Bahir:

transmigration may continue for 1,000 generations, but the common opinion in the Spanish Kabbalah is that in order to atone for its sins, the soul transmigrates three more times after entering its original body (according to Job 33:29, "Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man"). However, the righteous transmigrate endlessly for the benefit of the universe, not for their own benefit. (Jewish Virtual Library)
The same article adds:

After the Bahir the doctrine of gilgul developed in several directions and became one of the major doctrines of the Kabbalah, although the kabbalists differed widely in regard to details. In the 13th century, transmigration was viewed as an esoteric doctrine and was only alluded to, but in the 14th century many detailed and explicit writings on it appeared. In philosophic literature the term ha'atakah ("transference") was generally used for gilgul; in kabbalistic literature the term gilgul appears only from the Sefer ha-*Temunah onward; both are translations of the Arabic term tanāsukh. The early kabbalists, such as the disciples of *Isaac the Blind and the kabbalists of Gerona, spoke of "the secret of ibbur" ("impregnation"). It was only in the late 13th or 14th centuries that gilgul and ibbur began to be differentiated. The terms hitḥallefut ("exchange") and din benei ḥalof (from Prov. 31:8) also occur. From the period of the *Zohar on, the term gilgul became prevalent in Hebrew literature and began to appear in philosophic works as well. (Jewish Virtual Library)
In the Zohar, in Parashat Mishpatim, under the title Saba deMishpatim (the Old Man or the Grandfather of Parashat Mishpatim), the secrets of reincarnation are discussed at length:

As long as a person is unsuccessful in his purpose in this world, the Holy One, blessed be He, uproots him and replants him over and over again. (Zohar I 186b)
All souls are subject to reincarnation; and people do not know the ways of the Holy One, blessed be He! They do not know that they are brought before the tribunal both before they enter into this world and after they leave it; they are ignorant of the many reincarnations and secret works which they have to undergo, and of the number of naked souls, and how many naked spirits roam about in the other world without being able to enter within the veil of the King's Palace. Men do not know how the souls revolve like a stone that is thrown from a sling. But the time is at hand when these mysteries will be disclosed. (Zohar II 99b)

In Lurianic Kabbalah
The concept of reincarnation gradually expanded, for example, The Jewish Virtual Library notes that:

The expansion of the notion of transmigration from a punishment limited to specific sins into a general principle contributed to the rise of the belief in transmigration into animals and even into plants and inorganic matter. This opinion, however, opposed by many kabbalists, did not become common until after 1400. Transmigration into the bodies of animals is first mentioned in the Sefer ha-Temunah, which originated in a circle probably associated with the kabbalists of Gerona. (Jewish Virtual Library)
Referring to the  Shaar HaGilgulim (The Gates of Reincarnation) of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572), otherwise known as the 'Arizal.', recorded by his foremost disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, and amended by Rabbi Shmuel Vital, his son, Brandwein explains:

In Shaar HaGilgulim, the Ari explains that Adam had a universal soul (neshamah klalit) that included [aspects of] all creation [i.e. every individual angel and every individual animal - all were asked to give an essence part of themselves to Adam; only as a miniature reflection of the entire universe could he be connected to all creation, and either elevate it or lower it...]. His soul also included all the souls of mankind in a higher- unity. This is why even one action on his part could have such a powerful effect. After he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, his soul fragmented into thousands of thousands of sparks (fragments and fragments of fragments) which subsequently became clothed/incarnated in every single human being that was ever born and is alive now. [The main job of these soul-sparks is to bring about all together the tikkun (rectification) that Adam was to do alone.] (Brandwein)
Based on this, the Or HaChaim HaKadosh (Rabeinu Chaim ben Attar, Parashat Veyechi) explains why the initial generations (Adam's and those immediately following his) lived hundreds of years. Only as the generations diminished in spiritual stature did people's lifespans dwindle to 70 and 80 years. The reason for this is because earlier generations had very large, inclusive souls. They therefore needed more time in each lifetime to fix whatever they had to fix. When they then did not utilize their long lives for this purpose, for the purpose of tikkun (for instance, the generation of the Flood), their souls were diminished and fragmented into "smaller" people with less soul illumination, in order to make the work of tikkun "easier" for each person. This is why people's lives became shortened. (Brandwein)
From the point of view of the whole system, all of these souls still are part of one great soul that is split up and incarnated into countless distinct bodies generation after generation. In the same way, we can understand that all the different bodies that ever existed were particular manifestations of one great soul. The differences between them (the souls) lie in the different bodies that they incarnated into, for no one body resembles the next (each incarnation is totally unique). This is why our bodies must presently be buried to return to the basic elements of which they are composed. The soul, on the other hand, that enlivens the body, is eternal. Thus, the bodies of each generation of souls that are born are likened to so many pairs of clothing that are taken off when a person goes up to heaven. (Brandwein)
We have mentioned the principle that everything contains a power that enlivens it. In a human being, this power is truly godly, and is called the neshamah. Animals as well have a soul which is called nefesh ha'behemit (animal soul). [Plants and other growing things have a vegetative soul.] Inert matter also contains a portion of that power called nefesh. (Brandwein)
Kaplan gives some further details about the cosmic aspects of the Lurianic system:
There is, however, an aspect of creation that existed before the Sefirot. In this stage, the proto-Sefirot existed as simple non-interacting points. In the language of the Kabbalists, this is known as the Universe of Chaos (Tohu). In this state, the Vessels, which were the proto-Sefirot, could neitherinterect nor give to one another. Since they could not emulate God by giving, they were incomplete, and could therefore not hold the Divine Light. Since they could not fulfill their purpose, they were overwhelmed by the Light and “shattered.” This is know as the “Breaking of Vessels.”
The Broken shards of these Vessels fell to a lower spiritual level, and subsequently became the source of all evil. It is for this reason that Chaos (Tohu) is said to be the root of evil. After having been shattered, the Vessels were once again rectified and rebuilt into Personifications (Partzufim). Each of these Partzufim consists of 613 parts, paralleling the 613 parts of the body, as wells as the 613 commandments of the Torah. These Partzufim were then able to interact with each other. More important, through the Torah, they were also able to interact with man. This is the stage where the Sefirot become givers as well as receivers.In this rectified state the Vessels (or Sefirot) became fit to receive God’s Light. In Kabbalistic terminology, this state is called the Universe of Recitification (Tikkun). (Kaplan 140-41)
Yaakov Astor . (Reincarnation and Jewish Tradition) Soul Searching, Targum Press
     Rabbi Avraham Brandwein (Gilgul Neshamot - Reincarnation of Souls) (Transl. Avraham Sutton)
Martin Buber, Hasidism and Modern Man, 1958
Jewish Encyclopedia (Gilgul Neshamoth)
Jewish Virtual Library (Gilgul)
    Aryeh Kaplan. Sefer Yetzireh – The Book of Creation. Weiser, 1990.