Category: Articles

New Worlds of Kabbalah & Magic

kabbalahmagic

by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke

(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)

An essay-review of Lyam Thomas Christopher's Kabbalah, Magic and The Great Work of Self Transformation by Carl Llewellyn Weschcke

 

Advancing to higher levels of ritual magic with purpose and power requires an exaltation of consciousness—a spiritual transformation that becomes an antidote to the seeming banality of modern life.

Based on Kabbalistic techniques, the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and a Hermetic tradition spanning nearly two thousand years, this innovative new work introduces the history of the Golden Dawn and its mythology, the Tree of Life, Deities, demons, rules for practicing magic, and components of effective ritual. It is essentially a comprehensive course of self-initiation, guiding you through the levels of the Golden Dawn system of ritual magic. Knowledgeable and true to tradition, it presents a well-grounded and modern step-by-step program toward spiritual attainment, providing a lucid gateway toward a more awakened state.

 

Finalist for the Coalition of Visionary Resources Award for Best Magick/Shamanism Book

*"New Worlds" is a way seeing that places the reader/user at the center of understanding and application of the subjects we study while incorporating the perspective of contemporary science, language, and world-view to make a difference in the life we live. The "New Worlds" perspective is both practical and transformative in contrast to the more objective academic or "popular" approaches. The "New Worlds" attitude is forward-looking, just like the New Worlds of the Americas where people came from the Old World to make new discoveries, to be free of old prejudices and limitations, and to make a truly new world for humankind.

Ancient though the Kabbalah is, the practice of Magic is even older. And the goal of both is as ancient as the first spark of human consciousness: that a person should become greater than he is and thus fulfill his destiny and purpose, ultimately to become One. This is the Great Work of Self-Transformation To Become more than Human!

SELF-TRANSFORMATION – a word/phrase that commands attention

Obviously, "self-transformation" means to grow and change, to become different and better. To become more than "human." And it means you have to do it yourself; no one can really do it for you. Others may help with information and guidance, by providing favorable circumstance and environment, but this becoming super-human is your own life purpose.

No, we are not talking about a fantasy super-race. It's not a matter of genetics, breeding, or even education. Education can help by providing a solid foundation that makes study and practice easier. Good "breeding," in the old sense of childhood training and parental example, helps provide the discipline and visionary capacity so valuable to the journey.

Just as all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, so—in reality—is all transformation self-transformation. In either case, help can be provided by others—whether the voice of a hypnotist or the setting of a Golden Dawn ceremony. "Initiation" is another word for self-transformation. In a magical lodge, a stage setting can be provided, and a priest can transmit vision and energy, but if the student isn't ready, even the best teacher will fail. It's the properly prepared student who is necessary, not the priest nor the setting. Humans are born to discover their own purpose in life—not to have a synthesized "approved" version programmed into them that more likely serves an institution in which the person is submerged.

The education of a magician requires much more than the education of an engineer or medical physician because it really is the education of a human being readied for self-transformation beyond ordinary humanity into priesthood of men and women who are self-motivated, self-empowered, and—ultimately—self-transformed. Humans are born to become magicians.

A magician is a human being who has used special techniques to uncover his true nature. He is someone on the path of self-discovery, becoming more empowered every day—more himself.
Lyam Thomas Christopher

The transformation of self requires knowledge of self—hence self-knowledge and self-understanding are necessary stepping-stones. Everything is available in this book to enable this, proceeding from a complete analysis of the components of the human psyche to a full description of the process of initiation and the descent of light to transform the neophyte, and guidance to all the steps to make it so.

This book is a powerful self-study curriculum that is efficiently employed—without the grandiose fictions of ego, the fantasies of 19th Century London, or the heritage of Masonry. It is neither more nor less than what is needed to set free the imprisoned faculties of the soul, using the science of empowerment, word, image, and gesture, guided by Kabbalah and Hermetic Art.

Magic is the art of transformation, of altering consciousness and experiencing the life changes that result. It is a science of empowerment, of using word, image, and gesture to reach into the darkness and set free the imprisoned faculties of the soul.

Within each person there is a divine force, and there are proven methods to call it forth. This, however, is the "road less traveled," because it involves work and a personal discipline that insulates the student from the societal, bureaucratic, tribal, familial, and economic institutions that attempt to sell him substitutes for the truth. The required decision is to lead your own life and not to be a cog in the machine. It takes work, but it is rightly called "The Great Work," for it leads to freedom and enlightenment.

The Great Work requires that one become an "observer of self" so that the personality can undergo restructuring, a self-directed and reverent "re-programming" of the parts into a whole new person with power able to channel the Higher Self. It requires honesty in self-observation, and persistence and determination to conquer the limitations of the old but familiar self. It truly means to be "born anew"—not in service to an external deity or hierarchy, but to be reborn as a new person incarnating your own true Self, expressing your own True Will. Not mine or thine, but MINE in unity with the Divine. It is the ultimate realization of man created in the image of the Creator. Realization, and Fulfillment for it requires more than belief and faith. It is Work!

The very first chapter of this book provides a very good argument for the need for self-transformation and the search for spiritual enlightenment. The author shows that even with our advanced technologies, scientific advancement, longer life-span, and modern comforts there is much more suffering and misery in our world and we are even more confused about our purpose and place within the Universe. The author proposes that the reason for this unhappiness is that we have built our world around the survivalist mentality where men and women buy prosperity. We have shunned away our spiritual birthright where imagination flourishes where we, as mortal men, can achieve realization of our immortality in exchange for the material comforts of the modern world, which are all too often fleeting and temporary.

Frater OMNI, Temple of Thoth, New Jersey

Kabbalah is a way of organizing our perception of the universe. While evolving out of ancient Jewish mysticism, it stands today as a metaphysical system applicable to any spiritual quest. Through its system of correspondences, one can put into practice any faith, spiritual practice, or map of the soul one chooses in order to achieve a definite, tangible result. Kabbalah is a method for testing spiritual theories and applying them to reality.

Kabbalah is the method of the Golden Dawn, using the myths and symbols familiar to the European and American mindset. This is the Western Esoteric Tradition. The task before you is to establish the intellectual framework and system of correspondences by which you will navigate the recesses of your soul and "come home" to your fundamental self.

 

The recommended practical work provided in this book allows the student to learn and become consciously aware about the inner workings of the human psyche. This allows the student to develop an intimate relationship with his/her lower and animalistic nature, not to destroy or banish it, but to make it subject under the authority of the Higher and Immortal self (so one can achieve happiness—not in the afterlife, but in the here and now within ourselves, the true Heaven on Earth).The author puts a lot of emphasis on the importance of developing a new kind of existence that rises above the survivalist mindset bent on the prestige and comfort of gaining status in our miserable and confused society. The book offers a new perspective and approach in spiritual development within the Western Mystery Tradition.
Frater OMNI, Temple of Thoth, New Jersey

This is a program for the modern student, often working on his own. With this book, there is no need for group initiation ceremonies in a temple or lodge. This is not about inducing fleeting altered states of consciousness. The Kabbalistic exercises will produce a gradual and thorough transformation. The method is safe, efficient, and constructive. The procedures are presented one step at a time and require no exotic equipment beyond a few notebooks. Reasons are given for each step of personal discipline. Proper pronunciations of words are given, gestures and magical images are described and illustrated, rituals are explained, and the role of drama affirmed. Appendices include physical exercises appropriate to each grade level. Imagination Exercises have been added that stimulate the level of the soul corresponding to your current Grade.

 

The book is a course of self-initiation into the Golden Dawn system of ritual magic. It begins with the Neophyte Grade and concludes with an examination of the Adeptus Minor Grade. The purpose of the author is to provide a way of initiation for those working alone, who do not belong to a modern branch of the Golden Dawn.
Donald Tyson

Using the four Tree of Life images, the step-by-step techniques enclosed within this book will more than adequately awaken the latent Trees within, helping you recover your lost knowledge. Each Tree corresponds to one level of your evolution through matter. These four divergent Trees, these four images of God, will eventually unite under the rulership of one transcendent entity, your divine aspect transcending the four-fold nature of matter.

The goal of the Great Work is not to know the Divine, but to become It. The adept is someone beyond human, so much so that his physical body begins to show signs of his attainment. His transformed mind/body is capable of slowing its own aging processes, of sensing levels of reality that exist beyond the physical, of projecting its astral body, and of becoming the "co-creator" of its environment through the manipulation of the astral plane.

There are many symbols used in Magick, and in every day life. Symbols are an inner kind of language conveying much more than simple words—much as scientific formulae convey much more than numbers. The symbols used in Magick, and indeed in Meditation and Prayer, are rich in meaning and easily accessed after brief explanations. They are like addresses that open files and files of information. But unlike mere information files, they are also keys to building new inner structures going beyond the past to open new vistas of experience and knowledge.

You will learn many symbols and formulae, and how their manipulation changes reality. And you will learn the ways of magical manipulation. Undertaken as a solitary study, there is no limitation other than your own imposed upon Magickal Attainment, the liberating of the Divine Spark within. Step-by-step exercises prod your mind to awaken from the "fatalistic, automated laws of matter."

Indeed, the true study of Magick is the ultimate course in self-improvement. Your life will be richer, fuller, but your success will be measured in your own terms, not those imposed from without. This work enriches any other esoteric study or spiritual practice.

Many people come to Wicca looking for a way to transform themselves. Mr. Christopher wrote Kabbalah Magic to be a complete guide to the Golden Dawn system of self-transformation. The book is a do-it-yourself manual for anyone wanting to improve his or her life. Mr. Christopher gives complete instructions for daily rituals and studies, including suggested readings that will, if followed, bring the transformation about. If you are interested in the Golden Dawn Tradition, this book is a do-it-yourself course and self-initiation.
Lorriedel Davis, WiccaNet Assistant Site Manager

What this book does is to make the entire Western Mystery Tradition accessible and its goals attainable. While it can be used within a Golden Dawn or other lodge setting, it can be said that self-working by the solitary student is superior to that of group-working when truly undertaken. As a solitary, the work is not linear and fragmented, requiring later integration, but is instead a comprehensive, "as you go," basic program. Yes, the Great Work is demanding and requires discipline, but no discipline is superior to self-discipline while your own work is less demanding of time and energy than that of group working, nor is the solitary program complicated by the complexes of other people.

Yes, an effective group has value and power, and its members are mutually supporting. What Lyam Christopher has done is to create a productive textbook for either group or solitary work, and as a curriculum for self-study he has opened a gateway previously not practical. As a solitary you are on your own, but you have access to the greatest Teacher there is—your own Higher Self who is awaiting your call.

 

 

kabbalahmagic

Kabbalah, Magic and the Great Work of Self-Transformation: A Complete Course. 384 pages, 7 _ x 9 1/8, 56 illustrations, US $17.95. EAN 9780738708935.

 

Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007. All rights reserved.

"Life happens. Life in the flow."

We learn over time that nobody can solve our problems, but someone can guide you how to solve the problem. You may receive guidance through a teacher, a guru or even strangers that you run into every day. As we practice yoga we learn that the more we know, the less we truly know. Every day I am reminded how much I truly do not know; a very humbling experience.
Yoga teaches me to be present. To just live for being and enjoying life as it is right NOW. Not ten minutes from now, no five days ago, but right now. We are taught to get out of our heads, to release worries and fears of the past or the future and to only live for this very moment. Presence.

"Lead me from untruth to truth, lead me from darkness to light." ~ Buddha

Through yoga we are reminded that we do have a dark side as well as a light side. We are not to repress the dark side, but embrace that side of our Self. We are the yin and the yang. We ultimately cleanse the dark stuff we hold inside. We shine the light on this. We must make friends with dark side. Both positive and negative balance out the whole. Daily practice refines and improves our inner vision to see our Self more clearly. We no longer need to run from fears. Face them and say I'm not running from you anymore. So much is in our heads, so much dark is only in our heads, self-doubt judgment betrayal. Yoga grounds the body so that the light and dark sides of ourselves become clear. So much is truly untrue. But as we diligently practice we are able to find the middle ground and walk our centered balanced line in life. We gain balance in centered lightheartedness. We can have harmony in both light and dark.

"Yoga tells us that the world is actually a projection of our own thoughts and we can modify our inner world to manifest into our outer world. When our inside realm is at peace and in harmony, our outer world shines this projection back at us."
~ David, Jiva Mukti Yoga co-founder

Yoga is observation.

We can observe our world and see what part that is in us is begin reflected back to us. We can then see what part of us needs modification or adjustment in order to have our outer reality reflect back to us the peace, happiness and love we so greatly desire and deserve.

Yoga is already inside of you. Happiness is there. Yoga helps you peel away the onion layers to get to the core. To freedom. The deepest Divine connection to the Ultimate Light Source.

Come out of wanting and back into acceptance and Joy. A yogi or yogini can turn any situation into bliss. That is a yogi. Yoga is being now. Ultimate yoga is meditation. Just BE.

Yoga is love.

"Love is the light that dissolves all walls between souls." 
~ Paramahansa Yogananda

Through a dedicated practice of all forms of yoga we can participate in the world with a sense of freedom, unaffected from trauma, depression, anger, etc. The freedom is balance in both.


Maggie Anderson is a Yoga & Spiritual Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher, Integrated Energy Therapy® Master Instructor, Soul Coach®, Past Life Coach, Magnified Healing® Master Teacher and Angelights Messenger. She is the author of How I Found My True Inner Peace and Divine Embrace. You can contact Maggie at SpiritualCompassConnection.com.

"Follow Your Bliss. It's Your Spiritual Compass."

Enhancing Your Workouts with Kabbalah

Enhancing Your Workouts with Kabbalah, by Tony Mierzwicki

(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)

Don Kraig stresses that magick isn't something you do, but rather is something you are. By this he means that it should be a part of everyday life, and not just something practiced when the moon is full.

The Spartans pushed the ideal of striving for excellence in body and mind. The diligent study of magick will certainly develop the mind, but what of the body? Most people are aware of the benefits of moderate regular exercise, but whether they actually engage in it, is another matter altogether.

Gyms in our society provide a convenient way for patrons to exercise regardless of the weather, and are a great way to socialize and meet like-minded, health-conscious people.

So many people in society have only small amounts of time at their disposal, especially if their responsibilities include full-time employment and a family. Working out in a gym takes up valuable time, and practicing magick and developing spiritually take up valuable time as well. It is however possible to combine them so as to save time.

Those practicing contemporary Qabalistic magick tend to work with Golden Dawn-type magick, centered on the Tree of Life. With a little bit of ingenuity, it is possible to structure gym workouts on Qabalistic principles, leading to what could be termed "Qabalistic Workouts."

Please note that this article is not targeting gargantuan behemoths, but rather the average person in the gym seeking to spice up his or her workouts.

Principles of Qabalistic Workouts
The Tree of Life is the central glyph in the Qabala. It can be seen as the blueprint for all of creation, providing a model both for the macrocosm and the microcosm. For centuries, Qabalists have been projecting the figure of the primordial man, Adam Kadmon, into the Tree of Life. In some early attempts the Tree of Life was distorted to neatly project onto Adam Kadmon. In the Golden Dawn tradition, the only distortion was to extend Malkuth to the feet of the figure. For reasons that will become apparent later, I will also use this representation.

The Tree of Life is aspected to the human body through the primordial figure of Adam Kadmon, with Malkuth at his feet and Kether at the crown of his head.

Sephira
Kether
Chokmah
Binah
Da'ath
Chesed
Geburah
Tiphareth
Netzach
Hod
Yesod
Malkuth
Body Part
Crown
Left face
Right face
Throat
Left shoulder
Right shoulder
Heart
Left arm
Right arm
Genitals
Feet
Sphere
Primium
Zodiac
Saturn
-
Jupiter
Mars
Sun
Venus
Mercury
Moon
Earth
Color
White
Grey
Black
-
Blue
Red
Gold
Green
Orange
Purple
(*)
God Name
EHEIEH
YAH
YHVH ELOHIM
-
EL
ELOHIM GIBOR
YHVH ELOAH VE-DAATH
YHVH TZABAOTH
ELOHIM TZABAOTH
SHADDAI EL CHAI
ADONAI HA ARETZ

Note (*) corresponds to a combination of the earthy colors citrine, brown, olive, and black.

As we know, each day of the week is associated with one of the seven planets, as defined by the ancients. For the purposes of this essay, I will hence limit myself to the Sephiroth aspected to the seven planets.

  • Yesod is the lowest Sephira aspected to a planet, and hence represents the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
  • Hod and Netzach represent the arms (biceps, triceps and forearms) and stomach (abdominals).
  • Tiphareth represents the chest (pectorals).
  • Geburah and Chesed represent the shoulders (deltoids), back (latissimus dorsi), and traps (trapezius).
  • Binah, which represents the head, implying a day of rest, and possibly meditation and spiritual study!

It is interesting to note that there is only one Sephira for the chest and only one for the legs, indicating that there are no choices available. On the other hand, there are two Sephiroth to choose from for arms and stomach, as well as for shoulders, back and traps. Arms and stomach can easily be trained in one session, so readers are encouraged to experiment with the Sephirothic correspondence that best suits them. Shoulders, back, and traps make for a formidable training session. I will leave it up to the readers' discretion as to whether they wish to train them all in one session or split them.

Tabulating the planetary spheres, days of the week and corresponding muscle groups:

Sphere
Sun
Moon
Mars
Mercury
Jupiter
Venus
Saturn
Day
Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Muscle(s)
Chest
Quads, hamstrings, calves
Shoulders, back traps
Arms and stomach
Shoulders, back, traps
Arms and stomach
Rest / Meditate

It is interesting to note that the day of rest corresponds to the Jewish Sabbath rather than the Christian one.

There are two rituals which will complement your efforts in the gym.

The first is the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (LBRP). This is without a doubt the best known banishing ritual amongst ceremonial magickians. Apart from creating a safe zone within which rituals can be performed, it psychologically prepares for further magickal work. Kraig's version is very clear and easy to follow, but unfortunately changes the spelling of the words of power in an effort to make them easier to pronounce. I recommend using Kraig's technique, but taking the spelling and pronunciation from the Ciceros.

The second is the Middle Pillar Exercise. This exercise has the effect of astrally constructing the Tree of Life in the body and strengthening the aura. Readers should strongly visualize themselves standing within the Tree of Life whilst performing it. The diagrams in Regardie's The Golden Dawn and the Ciceros' Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition indicate that the Tree of Life should be visualized as normally represented by the Golden Dawn, but with Malkuth extended to coincide with the feet.

The purpose of the Middle Pillar exercise in Qabalistic Workouts is to form a bridge between Qabalistic spirituality and our muscles.

These two rituals can be performed physically before going to the gym or mentally whilst at the gym. Silently chanting the corresponding god name will help to reinforce the connection between the Sephirothic/planetary energies and the muscles being trained.

Cranking It Up a Notch

    • Incorporating color
      Readers who have the flexibility to go to the gym on the required minimum of four days per week, so as to put Qabalistic Workouts into effect, may be interested in intensifying their efforts. The most popular colors in gyms tend to be very "safe" colors—black, grey, blue, and white. Why not add the other Sephirothic colours to your wardrobe?

      Day
      Sunday
      Monday
      Tuesday
      Wednesday
      Thursday
      Friday
      Saturday
      Color
      Yellow
      Purple
      Red
      Orange
      Blue
      Green
      Black

      The really upsetting thing about these colors is that black, which is without a doubt the "coolest," most slimming, and easiest to coordinate color, is scheduled for the day of rest.

 

    • Optimal Times to Train
      The Greater Key of Solomon provides magickians with a system of planetary hours. They can be found in Kraig's book Modern Magick. The planetary hours are the optimum times to work rituals, and can be readily applied to Qabalistic Workouts.Planetary hours are not the same as hours as determined by a clock. To determine the length of the planetary hour of any given day, divide the total time between sunrise and sunset by 12. To determine the length of the planetary hour of any given night, divide the total time between sunset and sunrise by 12. The planetary hours for the day and for the night will be of different lengths except on the Equinoxes.A perusal of a table of the planetary hours indicates that on each day of the week, there are three optimum times for performing a ritual or training in the gym:

      1. The first planetary hour after sunrise
      2. The eighth planetary hour after sunrise
      3. The third planetary hour after sunset

      See Don Kraig's Modern Magick for easy-to-follow instructions on determining the precise times for rituals and training.

      Once the precise times are known, it is a matter of coming to the gym a short time beforehand for stretches and warm-ups. The workout should be completed within the planetary hour for optimal results. Save your gossiping for after your workout!

 

  • Incorporating Lunar Phases
    The waxing moon is a time of growth and expansion, while the waning moon is a time of attrition and contraction.Heavy weights and low repetitions (from 6 to 10) are traditionally considered good for building muscle, while high repetitions (from 10 to 15) are good for defining and trimming muscle.Combining these principles, the Qabalistic Workouts aficionado would train with low repetitions from the day after the new moon to the day of the full moon; and then with high repetitions from the day after the full moon to the day of the new moon.

Some readers may find the whole concept of Qabalistic Workouts rather fanciful and contrived. However, by only adding a few extra minutes to their gym sessions, readers will be performing the LBRP and Middle Pillar exercise at least four times a week, thus enhancing their auras and strengthening their ties to spiritual dimensions. They will be harmonizing with the subtle Sephirothic/planetary energies that permeate every week and every day, not to mention becoming very familiar with the Tree of Life. Finally, they will be harmonizing with the lunar phases.

So, pack your workout gear, go to the gym, and have a magickal training session!

Bibliography
Cicero, Chic and Cicero, Sandra Tabatha. Self-Initation into the Golden Dawn Tradition. St Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2003.
Kraig, Donald Michael. Modern Magick: Twelve Lessons in the High Magickal Arts. St Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2010.
Regardie, Israel. The Golden Dawn. St Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 1989.

Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2006. All rights reserved.

"Life happens. Life in the flow."

We learn over time that nobody can solve our problems, but someone can guide you how to solve the problem. You may receive guidance through a teacher, a guru or even strangers that you run into every day. As we practice yoga we learn that the more we know, the less we truly know. Every day I am reminded how much I truly do not know; a very humbling experience.
Yoga teaches me to be present. To just live for being and enjoying life as it is right NOW. Not ten minutes from now, no five days ago, but right now. We are taught to get out of our heads, to release worries and fears of the past or the future and to only live for this very moment. Presence.

"Lead me from untruth to truth, lead me from darkness to light." ~ Buddha

Through yoga we are reminded that we do have a dark side as well as a light side. We are not to repress the dark side, but embrace that side of our Self. We are the yin and the yang. We ultimately cleanse the dark stuff we hold inside. We shine the light on this. We must make friends with dark side. Both positive and negative balance out the whole. Daily practice refines and improves our inner vision to see our Self more clearly. We no longer need to run from fears. Face them and say I'm not running from you anymore. So much is in our heads, so much dark is only in our heads, self-doubt judgment betrayal. Yoga grounds the body so that the light and dark sides of ourselves become clear. So much is truly untrue. But as we diligently practice we are able to find the middle ground and walk our centered balanced line in life. We gain balance in centered lightheartedness. We can have harmony in both light and dark.

"Yoga tells us that the world is actually a projection of our own thoughts and we can modify our inner world to manifest into our outer world. When our inside realm is at peace and in harmony, our outer world shines this projection back at us."
~ David, Jiva Mukti Yoga co-founder

Yoga is observation.

We can observe our world and see what part that is in us is begin reflected back to us. We can then see what part of us needs modification or adjustment in order to have our outer reality reflect back to us the peace, happiness and love we so greatly desire and deserve.

Yoga is already inside of you. Happiness is there. Yoga helps you peel away the onion layers to get to the core. To freedom. The deepest Divine connection to the Ultimate Light Source.

Come out of wanting and back into acceptance and Joy. A yogi or yogini can turn any situation into bliss. That is a yogi. Yoga is being now. Ultimate yoga is meditation. Just BE.

Yoga is love.

"Love is the light that dissolves all walls between souls." 
~ Paramahansa Yogananda

Through a dedicated practice of all forms of yoga we can participate in the world with a sense of freedom, unaffected from trauma, depression, anger, etc. The freedom is balance in both.


Maggie Anderson is a Yoga & Spiritual Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher, Integrated Energy Therapy® Master Instructor, Soul Coach®, Past Life Coach, Magnified Healing® Master Teacher and Angelights Messenger. She is the author of How I Found My True Inner Peace and Divine Embrace. You can contact Maggie at SpiritualCompassConnection.com.

"Follow Your Bliss. It's Your Spiritual Compass."

What Is a Jewish Myth?

60candle+of+hope

What Is a Jewish Myth?, by Geoffrey W. Dennis

(Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal.)

What is a Jewish myth? For quite a number of people, that is a nonsensical question. Many have argued that there is no such thing as Jewish myths; being monotheistic, Judaism is a mythless system of belief. You see this thinking, for example, in the title of Frank Moore Cross's book on ancient Israelite beliefs, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Saga. As far as Cross (and many others) are concerned, only polytheists have myths. Cross had to hunt around for another word to describe the "master stories" of the Hebrew Bible, and he chose "saga." Elliot Ginsburg writes, "Judaic scholars through the 1970s tended to define myth narrowly and negatively, linking it with so-called 'pagan' religions. They therefore tended to see Judaism as a demythologizing tradition, broken only by the "mythic resurgence" of Kabbalah."

Truth is, however, that Judaism has always had its own complex, compelling mythos, starting with the Bible and extending up to today. Most Jewish myths, such as are found in the Midrash, are "spiritual" myths that incorporate divine things and supernatural times and events, but Jews also have secular myths; some of the best modern example revolves around the founding of the state of Israel. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Jewish or not, what precisely is a "myth?" Set aside for the moment the common use of myth today to mean simply "something that isn't true," and instead consider these more sophisticated definitions of "myth."

In the 19th Century, John Ruskin offered one of the earliest attempts to give a positive definition what a myth is: "A myth, in its simplest definition, is a story with a meaning attached to it other than it seems to have at first; and the fact that it has such a meaning is generally marked by some of its circumstances being extraordinary, or, in the common use of the word, unnatural."

The French linguist-philosopher Ernst Cassirer sees myths as early patterns of thought. Cassirer believed that man perceives the world in symbolic forms, and that myth is one such symbolic language for giving order to the world.

Among Jewish scholars, a number of different definitions of myth have been proposed. Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher and Bible translator, was an early advocate for recognizing the role that myth plays in Judaism. Buber emphasizes the centrality of myth, but uses the term so broadly in his writing that he seems to be working without a fixed definition. Mostly, Buber applies the concept to primordial sagas, stories of initial encounters between man and the divine.

Ignac Goldhizer, like Cassirer, has argued that myths express patterns inherent to the working of the human mind. The historian Yosef Yerushalmi has a very broad idea of a myth—it is a narrative about the past that provides collective and sacred memory for a group (think, for example, of how many Americans celebrate Thanksgiving as a shared national holiday—yet how few of us actually have any familial, ethnic, or historic connection to the Pilgrims). Ithamar Gruenwald, a scholar of Israelite and early Jewish culture, links the idea of myth to rituals, arguing that a myth is a story connected to a ritual. He offers the story of the Exodus from Egyptian slavery as a signal example—Jews revisit the Exodus through various rituals on a daily (prayer), weekly (Kiddush) and annual (Passover Seder) basis.

Howard Schwartz, perhaps the most prominent Jewish folklorist today, writes that "'Myths' refer to a people stories about origins, deities, ancestors, and heroes…within a culture, myth also serve as the divine charter...Myth itself is the collective projection of a people."

I prefer to keep the definition simple and only elaborate by example. I like what Elliot Ginsburg writes: "Most recent scholars understand myths more broadly, as a fundamental human impulse (found in virtually all cultures) to structure life around orienting stories." I also appreciate what Daniel Breslauer says when he describes them as "any narrative which conveys messages about eternal patterns of life and history."

I tend of offer my definition of myth against the common usage of it mentioned above. Myth is not "something that never happened;" a good myth is about something that happens all the time. Like Ginsburg, I think myths are fundamental to human thinking (and therefore both important and useful). They tell us great human and cosmic Truths couched in the form of stories. One of the supreme examples of this that was mentioned earlier is the story of the Exodus. On one level, the Exodus is a story about a specific event that happened to a specific people (us, the Jews) in a specific place (Egypt), though it happened long, long ago in a civilization far, far away (another quality of most myths). But the story is really about the eternal human experience of exile and homecoming, of being trapped and being liberated by the power of spirit. That's why people love the Exodus story so much—not just Jews, but Christians, and Muslims, people in America, Africa, and Asia, have all embraced the Exodus, often using it as a paradigm for their own struggles, personal and collective. In a different context Gershom Scholem writes that the Exodus mythically becomes "an event which takes places in ourselves" and"…acquire[s] the dignity of immediate religious experience."

There are, of course, problems associated with myths. Like all impulses human, myths must be viewed carefully, even critically. Jews especially have been the victims of bizarre and hateful myths, as have minorities and aboriginal peoples all over the world. Mythic language also has to be used with care. Take for example the rhetoric of the Vietnam war. Many times we have heard it said that veterans were "spit on" upon returning from Vietnam. It has become a pervasive part of our mythic understanding of that war, the Sixties, and what it means to be a civil society. Jerry Lembecke, a professor of sociology and a Vietnam combat veteran, has written a book, The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam that explores the reports of protesters "spitting upon" Vietnam vets. He finds that the stories have little basis in fact. The fact is that few (if any) veterans were ever physically spit upon by their countrymen, but that many felt as if they had been. Yet because of the way this myth is told, I am sure that are people who imagine there were once ranks of hippies hanging around army depots waiting to spit on discharged soldiers. The overly-literal application of this myth is not helpful to us today.

But if we use our myths with care, applying them in order to help ourselves make sense of our world (but not to explain away or devalue others), our myths speak Truth (with a big "T") in the way few other things can: they bless us with meaning, consolation, even healing.

Article originally published in The Llewellyn Journal. Copyright Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007. All rights reserved.

"Life happens. Life in the flow."

We learn over time that nobody can solve our problems, but someone can guide you how to solve the problem. You may receive guidance through a teacher, a guru or even strangers that you run into every day. As we practice yoga we learn that the more we know, the less we truly know. Every day I am reminded how much I truly do not know; a very humbling experience.
Yoga teaches me to be present. To just live for being and enjoying life as it is right NOW. Not ten minutes from now, no five days ago, but right now. We are taught to get out of our heads, to release worries and fears of the past or the future and to only live for this very moment. Presence.

"Lead me from untruth to truth, lead me from darkness to light." ~ Buddha

Through yoga we are reminded that we do have a dark side as well as a light side. We are not to repress the dark side, but embrace that side of our Self. We are the yin and the yang. We ultimately cleanse the dark stuff we hold inside. We shine the light on this. We must make friends with dark side. Both positive and negative balance out the whole. Daily practice refines and improves our inner vision to see our Self more clearly. We no longer need to run from fears. Face them and say I'm not running from you anymore. So much is in our heads, so much dark is only in our heads, self-doubt judgment betrayal. Yoga grounds the body so that the light and dark sides of ourselves become clear. So much is truly untrue. But as we diligently practice we are able to find the middle ground and walk our centered balanced line in life. We gain balance in centered lightheartedness. We can have harmony in both light and dark.

"Yoga tells us that the world is actually a projection of our own thoughts and we can modify our inner world to manifest into our outer world. When our inside realm is at peace and in harmony, our outer world shines this projection back at us."
~ David, Jiva Mukti Yoga co-founder

Yoga is observation.

We can observe our world and see what part that is in us is begin reflected back to us. We can then see what part of us needs modification or adjustment in order to have our outer reality reflect back to us the peace, happiness and love we so greatly desire and deserve.

Yoga is already inside of you. Happiness is there. Yoga helps you peel away the onion layers to get to the core. To freedom. The deepest Divine connection to the Ultimate Light Source.

Come out of wanting and back into acceptance and Joy. A yogi or yogini can turn any situation into bliss. That is a yogi. Yoga is being now. Ultimate yoga is meditation. Just BE.

Yoga is love.

"Love is the light that dissolves all walls between souls." 
~ Paramahansa Yogananda

Through a dedicated practice of all forms of yoga we can participate in the world with a sense of freedom, unaffected from trauma, depression, anger, etc. The freedom is balance in both.


Maggie Anderson is a Yoga & Spiritual Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher, Integrated Energy Therapy® Master Instructor, Soul Coach®, Past Life Coach, Magnified Healing® Master Teacher and Angelights Messenger. She is the author of How I Found My True Inner Peace and Divine Embrace. You can contact Maggie at SpiritualCompassConnection.com.

"Follow Your Bliss. It's Your Spiritual Compass."