Kabbalah and God

“Indeed, if we set our hearts to answer but one very famous question, I am certain that all these questions and doubts will vanish from the horizon, and you will look unto their place to find them gone. This indignant question is a question that the whole world asks, namely, ‘What is the meaning of my life?’”
—Rabbi Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) (1884—1954), The Study of the Ten Sefirot

This is a question that I have asked since a very young age. My parents even managed to convince our local library to let me have an adult lending ticket at the age of 10, since many of the books I unwanted to read could not be taken out on my junior ticket!

I have always believed in God but this question has led me to both study and practice a number of traditions some of which did not mention God, or at least drew a veil over the concept. Now I know that the word god has a whole range of meanings to different people. Brad Warner’s book, There is No God and He is Always With You, was an extremely thoughtful exposition on Zen and this concept. But this leaving out of God has always left me feeling that many of these traditions were missing an important and vital part of the creation story.

I have read a number of books on the Kabbalah and have started an online course that is given by Bnei Baruch. I am struggling with some of the concepts but I think that this is because of the many unfamiliar terms.

But from what I have read so far, it is the most complete overview of the human condition that I have come across. Kabbalah not only accepts the Creator, but gives an explanation of why we are in the state we are in and where the Creator wants us to be. The explanations offered clear up much of what the Christian church either neglects or relies on a very literal reading of the bible to explain.

I know that many feel that the study of the Kabbalah is a form of occultism that should be avoided at all costs. But I have not read anything in any of the authentic Kabbalah teachings that would lead me to this view.

It is early days in my study and I am hopeful that this is a truthful teaching that has much to offer. I hope and pray that this is the case, but time and continued effort in study will tell.

 

 

Celebrity Friday!

walden1854:

A challenge in itself, but a great guiding principle .

Originally posted on allthingsmommydotnet:

July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela

  • He was the 1st black South African President of South Africa.
  • The main purpose of his office was to dismantle the legacy of apartheid through tackling racism, poverty, and inequality.
  • Served as President of the African National Congress from 1991-1997
  • He studied law and became an attorney and was appointed superintendent of the organisation’s Transvaal chapter.
  • Co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 in association with the South African Communist Party.
  • He was sentenced to life (served 27 years) for conspiracy to overthrow the government.
  • Received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize
  • Received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Received the Soviet Order of Lenin & Bharat Ratna.
  • He died yesterday of a lung infection.

Nelson_Mandela-2008_(edit)

 

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Teachers in the Internet Age

In the age of the internet has the relation between student and teacher changed? Traditionally a face to face contact was deemed to be necessary, but with webcam seminars and a host of other material that is readily available, has this broadened or diminished this concept.

The reason I got thinking about this is that I am deeply interested in Kabbalah. When I was much younger I read a few books on this, but I don’t’ think the time was right. Just recently I was coming across more and more references to the Kabbalah in the stuff that I was reading. So I decided to do a bit of the old internet research and was amazed how much material is now out there. 

It seems that the internet is dominated by two groups that provide classes and training and I wanted to find out about these. I am not going to go into my final decision, but was quite impressed by some of the material out there. I have  signed up for  an introductory course on Kabbalah, all of which will be delivered by live streaming with interaction of teachers and students managed in the same way. Even a few years ago this would not have been possible. Indeed when I first read about the Kabbalah in the early 70s, it was extremely hard to come by any books covering the subject. 

But does this easy access come at a price? It may grant those wanting to progress opportunities that would otherwise have been denied. But there are many stories of organisations, perhaps starting off with good intent, but losing their way and taking their students with them. 

All this access has made discernment in the choice of a teacher much more complicated than in the past. Indeed a student may not even meet their teacher except over a webcast.  I have read some very moving testimonials from people that have had the chance to start their study over the internet. Some of these were very uplifting; some we very sad in that hopes and expectations were never met.

I hope that my discernment around my choice proves correct, but with both eyes open my journey continues …..

 

Spirituality at Work

I work in the kind of job in which you  wouldn’t necessarily expect to find someone with my interests.  Colleagues view other colleagues who have expressed a religious or spiritual conviction with some degree of suspicion. This attitude is fairly common across the organisation, but particularly prevalent in the area that I work in.

The organisation itself certainly takes employees religious views in to account,  we have a quiet room in our headquarters building and requests from  Muslim colleagues for prayer time are accommodated where it is possible within the confines of their work.

But in the area that I work there is always a degree of quiet suspicion. My close colleagues know that I practice yoga,  but I think that they believe it to be nothing more than a physical exercise.  I have mentioned to them  that it is far more than this,  but somehow the moment never seems right to offer a fuller explanation.

I have never explained my meditation practice to anyone,  and at times  have avoided declaring that I attended church on Sundays -  not a true St Peter moment,  but nevertheless I had opportunity, but avoided it. I am not out to convert anyone to the views and beliefs that I hold.  But find it difficult to express the beliefs that I hold in the work place.

The environment at work does not really present that many opportunities for deep and meaningful discussion and perhaps this is the root of the problem. In the meantime I will continue my practice both on the cushion and at work, and I think the latter is always the more challenging.

Beginnings

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I have always felt that there is much, much more to life than the everyday material aspect. This is not to say, that I consider the material side unimportant, but have always looked for meaning.

I was brought up as a Christian and regularly attended our local church. I didn’t really understand a lot of the doctrine, but deep down I felt it made sense. As I grew up, this feeling of making sense diminished. I started to explore other ways and paths.  I read a wide range of stuff over this period, Carlos Casteneda, Lobsang Rampa ( who turned out to be a plumber from Devon!), and many books about buddhism. I practiced Zen Buddhism for a time and sat with a group in London.  I was a seeker, but at times not too sure what I was seeking, but always felt that each new thing I tried had a core truth.

I was heavily influenced by the oriental martial arts, especially the ones that offered more than just the physical side. I developed a meditation practice around an ancient Chinese art, but this still did not fulfil my quest. I returned to the church, and read widely about what it meant to be a Christian.

But the message that was being delivered every Sunday and the main concerns of The Church of England, didn’t appear to me to have anything to do with the message that Jesus delivered.  The church in taking the stance that it did on issues such as the ordination of women bishops and gay priests,  seemed to be neglecting the teachings of Jesus. The church did not give a practical way, in which his message could be fulfilled. There was much talk about love and prayer, but  I struggled with this during everyday life.

With heavy heart I stopped going to church. But I still believed that the core message of Jesus was true.

I started to practice yoga, I had an idea that this was about more than just the poses, but it wasn’t until I started to read about the many other aspects that I came to realise just what it was really about. I am still only just starting to understand, but I feel that this is the path that I have been trying to find for a long time. The works of Paramahansa Yogananda have had an enormous influence on me. His Autobiography of a Yogi, made me realise that there was no conflict in much of what I had previously read. The teachings of all of the great prophets carry the same message, the differences have been introduced by the many interpretations that each of their teachings has undergone.

I would urge any seeker to read The Autobiography of a Yogi. Parts of it will stretch your understanding, but do not give up; take on the message and see how it fits in with your current world view. I did and was surprised where the evidence led.