Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Stoking the Divine Fire and Blowing Smoke

In giving it some thought, there are some other barriers to comprehending the Kabbalah, perhaps the biggest one being the insularity of Judaism, which is there for a reason. Recall what we said the other day about "blending," and its significance to Jewish metaphysics. For a non-Jew to poke his head behind the veil and presume to understand the highest and deepest secrets of Judaism requires a kind of breathtaking presumptuousness. I guess the technical term would be chutzpah.

When you think about the taboos against mixing this and that -- e.g., meat and milk -- part of this has to do with evoking vertical recollection of the original separation. I'm pretty sure it's not just meant to be a mechanical act, but that it has multiple layers of meaning. But this is why, for example, cross-dressing would be a "sin" in Judaism, because it represents an indiscriminate mixing and undoing of the supernatural separation that God has ordained. It certainly has absolutely nothing to do with repression or prudery; to the contrary, robust sexual polarity is a key to maintaining sexual passion.

Likewise opposition to the redefinition of marriage. Another key idea in Judaism is that the unit of mankind is not man or woman, but man and woman: maleandfemale he created them. Note that the unit is not the blending of male and female, but the personal transformation that results from their dialectical play. Yes, a man's feminine side -- his anima -- is developed through this process, but a man cannot bypass or hasten the process by wearing dresses, playing with dolls, or voting Democrat.

The ultimate intent of the Law is to prolong the vertical into the horizontal by imbuing various otherwise mundane activities with the recollection of God. It's not intended to be oppressive but liberating -- liberty from bondage being another central motif of Judaism.

Indeed, when it merely becomes law emptied of spirit, I'm pretty sure something has gone wrong. I have an elderly relative by marriage who maintains a rigidly kosher home, but who couldn't be more of a cold and heartless witch. In her case, I think religious ritual has been thoroughly highjacked by mind parasites from below, so that it is merely OCD by another name. It is simply a way to manage her abundant aggression and consequent unconscious guilt.

Furthermore, mechanical discharge of the Law does not facilitate ascent through recollection, but like any other compulsion, keeps her where she is in an endless loop. It is a magical way to "undo" what the mind parasites have done.

Please note that the same thing can occur, for example, in Catholicism, when a person misuses the sacraments in order to remain the same, not to change. If they are not transformative, then something is not working as it should be -- probably due to a lack of sincerity, or a being who is riven by mind-parasites with competing agendas, about which the person has no conscious awareness.

More generally, the Raccoon view would be that the ultimate purpose of any religious ritual is to invoke, activate, and "invite" the Grace (↓). Obviously we do not create the grace, but can only try to live in such a way that we get out of its way. This dovetails with what we were discussing last week about man's role in the cosmic economy. I would put it this way: we cannot save ourselves, but we can certainly condemn ourselves (in a manner of speaking).

Now, I could very well be talking out of my yarmulke here, and if so, I will be pleased for Gandalin to smite me. I have no problem with that. I admittedly have no authority to belowviate on these elevated matters, except for the questionable authority Toots Mondello has vested in me and every other dues-paying Raccoon. The Raccoon is obviously a generalist, not a specialist. Much of what he does will appear to the uninitiated to be "blending," but it actually isn't, since it is operating from "above" not "below."

In other words, whether rightly or wrongly, we cannot help ourselves from examining the underlying principles by which a religious proposition is true (similar to how science reduces multiplicity to unity). This path is not for everyone, and in fact, it may well be for no one but me, since, while I can't help being me, you presumably can.

But assuming that I am animated by pneumacosmic principle, then the same principle should be active in at least a few others. I would certainly never attempt to proselytize my views to outsiders, as I well understand why they would be offended or indifferent. Thus, I preach only to the coonverted -- to those who, when they read my words, have that distinct sense that they are not so much learning anything new as recalling who they have always been.

Again, I have no illusions that this path is for everyone. Our Oly slackraments no doubt appear loose and lazy to outsiders, but I can assure them that it is much easier than it looks, since nothing is easier than being oneself. The hard part is becoming oneself.

One of Schuon's closest friends, Leo Schaya, wrote a book on the Kabbalah that is closer to the universalist perspective we have in mind. Of course Raccoons have our differences with the Traditionalists, but I think we can nevertheless draw some useful insights from this study. For example, Uncle Leo says that the ultimate purpose of Kabbalah is "spiritual contemplation, pure inspiration, or 'intellectual intuition.'" It endeavors to "rise above the plane of phenomena" through a plunge into the depths of the soul.

I suppose the main point is that Kabbalah can only maintain its universality by preserving its particularity -- in the same way that a man is only a "real man" to the extent that he is an individual man. One does not "become a man" by blending into some indistinct archetype, but by filling out the content of the archetype from below.

Thus, by becoming a true individual, one becomes a "mode of the infinite." In contrast, the "false individualism" of narcissism renders one a mode of the finite -- or death incarnate -- since one is severed from the source of the person, which is the metacosmic Person. It is the difference between being a mere eccentric and a true esocentric, to coin a word.

The book we are discussing begins with a foreword that tells the story of a meeting with an elderly Jewish sage who seems to be in a perpetual state of ecstatic raving about the Kabbalah. I think it's fair to say that it has become "operative" in him, and is doing what it is supposed to do -- which is to say, the Tree of Life beleafing in abundance. Again, it should not be a matter of memorizing dry or mechanical knowledge, but should facilitate a flow of vertical recollection on the soul-plane.

This man -- whom the author calls "Ezekiel" -- says that the purpose of life is "to know and experience God like a fire in the core of the core of your heart." In other words -- actually, the same words in a different order -- the idea is for your heart to be on fire with the experience of God. Then it's just a matter of properly stoking the fire and blowing a lot of smoke.

More holy smoke tomorrow....

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would certainly never attempt to proselytize my views to outsiders, as I well understand why they would be offended or indifferent. Thus, I preach only to the coonverted...

Interesting. So, does that mean you would be indifferent to whether homosexual marriage was allowed, but would not consider such marriages theologically valid yourself?

That would sort of be like the treatment of cross-dressing as a sin, though legal, though I haven't had that impression of your views overall.

1/26/2010 08:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"indifferent" being the wrong word there, I realize, but "not actively opposed".

1/26/2010 08:28:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Excuse me? I wasn't speaking to you.

1/26/2010 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Loved the last part about the purpose of life being the experience of God as a fire in the heart. I've met a few people like that, and God willing maybe someday I too will experience such ecstasy.

1/26/2010 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Well now! This post set my brain to buzzing. There were multiple references, in-sights and phrases that I thought are worthy of serious pondering, and discussion.

But I admit: speculating about your relationship to cross-dressing and homosexual marriage just didn't jump out at me!

1/26/2010 08:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

Such obsessives see what their mind parasites compel them to see, and nothing more.

1/26/2010 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Apparently, this guy wants to examine the fleas before he's fully apprehended whether he's looking at a dog or a cat.

1/26/2010 08:56:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

I deeply admire Dennis Prager, however his open letter to Charles Johnson is WAY off base. Prager is far to kind to Queeg and seems to totally misunderstand him. Charles Johnson has always been a pure leftist of the very worst sort. His inner emptiness made it simple for him to don the mantle of anti-Islamist for a few years, and as Prager points out he did some good (inadvertently) in that field. Lurking beneath the anti-Islamist veneer was a true lizard (not for no reason did he adpot this animal as his mascot) who never veered from his reptilian stance on everything from abortion to scientism to absolute hatred of God.

Queeg had years of daily exposure to some very fine minds on his blog (one thinks of River and jwm for example, and of course GB). I was constantly amazed that nothing ever got through to Queeg. No amount of counter-evidence or subtle argument could ever sway him from his stench-filled lizard-hole of a mind.

Even during his anti-Islamist phase there was a robotic quality to his presence, and he as much as anyone constantly blurred the line between Islamists and the hundreds of millions of people who just happened to be born Muslim.

Prager cut this asshole far too much slack, going so far as to say "I miss you". Miss what? Charles Johnson was never anything but a wicked atheist.

1/26/2010 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't think Prager is off base at all. In fact, he should in no way treat leftists the way they treat us. Rather, he is treating him with respect and taking him at his word. Prager is all light and very little heat. Or, there is a more subtle but profound heat that emanates from the Light. I certainly hope that Johnson takes up Prager's offer to appear on the program. Then you will see him eviscerate Johnson -- as he does with other leftists -- in a calm, detached, and rational manner, and without lowering himself to the vital level of the leftist.

1/26/2010 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Although not as virulently crazy as Queeg, Andrew Sullivan evinced a similar switch from fragile, half-hearted "conservative" to raving leftist lunatic in much the same way.

Over at First Things they are engaging Sullivan in some sort of debate over Sullivan's latest insane-o-rama conspiracy theory. I guess I shouldn't second-guess those good Christian folk, but it seems to be akin to inviting baboons into the cathedral. Somebody will have to clean all the excrement off the floors once they get bored and leave.

1/26/2010 09:09:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

GB:

Well Prager's a far better man than I ;-)

If I had a show and Johnson came on it I'd hit him with a pie.

1/26/2010 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Sullivan is a different matter, since he appears to be genuinely mentally disturbed and is incapable of intellectual honesty or even basic consistency, nor can he be shamed, so there is nothing to be gained by debating him.

1/26/2010 09:11:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Prager has a very different approach than I do, since he very much wants to speak to the other side and bring them over. I can attest to his effectiveness, since it ultimately worked on me!

1/26/2010 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Heh. Well that's why he's Dennis Prager and I'm not. Few people have the almost saintly patience and inner calm to deal with people like that. I sure don't.


I have to say I am trying to improve though. I am taking Christianity seriously and forgiveness is a pretty deal.

1/26/2010 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Bob - I can attest to his effectiveness, since it ultimately worked on me!

Yep, me too. I had forgotten that, but it was listening to Prager and Hewitt that had me rethinking my atheist/ agnostic stance, back around '04 and '05 -ish. I figured if someone as obviously both wise and intelligent as he was could also be a man of deep faith, I must have been missing something.

Apropos, and also in line with the post, Chastek has this up this morning:

In order to have the truth enter consciousness I needed someone to say it.

I could multiply examples like this, and I think they point to a fact of human knowing that is easy to overlook. By nature we learn by a real interaction with other human beings, in a way that is utterly different and more causal than the way we learn from first- hand experience (whether of the words in a book or of the facts of the world).

1/26/2010 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I cannot even imagine being as calm as Prager, at least in the midst of battle. He's a neurological freak, very much like Navy SEALS or Army Rangers whose heart rate and blood pressure decrease when the bullets are flying.

1/26/2010 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

“For a non-Jew to poke his head behind the veil and presume to understand the highest and deepest secrets of Judaism requires a kind of breathtaking presumptuousness.”

Sometimes a good old-fashioned foot in the mouth produces new insights. This has been the case with me a few times. Maybe too many. Shoot the mouth off, then have the ass hat handed to me. It’s not something I plan. But it has led to breakthroughs. If you’re mission is the truth, or understanding, you gotta throw yourself in there sometimes. One should have no problem throwing your old ideas in the basket afterwards, where they belong. That’s the part to work on, I think.
The Raccoon way?

1/26/2010 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Bob,

You are spot on regarding the concept of separation in the traditional Jewish weltanschauung, and on the seamlessness of all of the apparently disordered and jumbled requirements in the traditional Jewish way, at least as I understand them.

One is not supposed to sow different grains in a mixed field, one is not to plow with an ass and an ox harnessed together, one is not to wear a garment made of both wool and flax (although the High Priest is required to), one does not mix milk and meat, and a man does not lie with a man as he would with a woman. These prohibitions are all of a piece. They are intended to maintain the sanctity of the immanent, physical world.

The word for holiness in Hebrew ("the language the Bible was writ in" after all) implies separation. Something that is holy is something that is separated and set aside, like the tithes and sub-tithes of agricultural produce.

The Jewish way recognizes that the transcendant Unity of the Creator is manifest through a series of unfolding dualities - weekday & Sabbath, day & night, male & female, good & evil, Israel (the people, not the State) and the other nations - and respects these separations. It does not attempt to achieve Unity by homogenizing everything into a chaotic, entropic soup.

Today is an auspicious day to read the chapter about Manna (Exodus 16:4-35) as a reminder that our temporal success is really an unfolding of Divine power and grace, rather than the product of our own plans and labors. (Of course this Divine grace is manifest through us in our labors, but these should be dedicated to Him, and not worshipped in and of themselves.)

There is a very relevant passage in the chapter of Manna: (Exodus 16:16-18) [This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. (KJV)]

The Israelites did not all gather identical quantities of Manna. Each one gathered the right amount for himself and his househould. There was no attempt by Moses and Aaron, nor by the Creator, to smash everyone down into a uniform equality-of-results. Everyone received the right amount of Manna that was appropriate for his situation.

The same can be said of other manifestations of Divine grace today. If we aren't as successful in our material endeavors, or in our spiritual pursuits, as we think we should be, then we should both rededicate ourselves to the work (and the Work) with even greater fidelity, and also seek in prayer and meditation to understand what it is that we are supposed to receive, what it is that we are receiving, and accept the bad and the good, since both come from the Hand of God, with gratitude. The meaning of "Yehudi" or Jew, is One Who Gives Thanks ("Hodaah").

1/26/2010 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Northern Bandit said...

Ricky:

I'll never forget a number of years back when I first took a real interest in politics. I injected into a conservative discussion thread the notion that the Constitution is "a living document" (I had a very mushy idea in mind). The sniping and bombardment proceeded apace for about 20 or so posts. Chastened, I slunk away and started to read more about what the Constitution actually was.

Another primary Christian virtue universally missing from the Left: genuine humility.

1/26/2010 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ricky, The Raccoon way?

Heh - maybe. Lord knows it's been working for me.

1/26/2010 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

My wife handed me my ass hat this weekend. I’ll have to dig threw the trash to find out what the hell it was about. Alls I remember was her saying was, "why are you getting all worked up?"

1/26/2010 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

ZoBob,
I'm a little coonfused. Which book are you reading?:

a. the little 135 pager
b. the 5 volume series
c. all of the above.

1/26/2010 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Just the leetle one, but in consultation with Schaya, Gershom Scholem, Lawrence Kushner, and some other mensches that I have on my shelves....

1/26/2010 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

OK, don't tell me...

Just kidding. Are you in deep enough yet for a raccoomendation?

Not like I'm in a hurry. I still have about 800 pages left to the Fr. Rose book.

BTW, Pieper really pulls things back together just in the nick of The End of Time. That was close.

1/26/2010 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Don't yet know if I can recommend it. I'm going to read it very slowly and meditatively, and post about it as I go along.

1/26/2010 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Gandalin said...

Bob,

As far as smiting you is concerned, I don't have my kyosaku with me, anyway.

1/26/2010 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Sounds good.

BTW, I thought Dave's joke was a 6 or 7. I didn't laugh out loud, but I lol'd.

1/26/2010 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

One last important news flash

Rene Girard’s: “Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre” somehow slipped by me this Nov. It’s on Amazon. Gil Bailie says:

“Another book-length interview with Rene has recently been translated into English: Battling to the End. It is a remarkable book, but it takes time and thought. It is vintage Girard. There are a few (very few) shortcomings, but they are far, far outweighed by the grand sweep of the book. It is often riveting.”
Thanks, Gil.

Also…
There is a free audiobook of the KJV Bible for iPhone/iPod touch. Haven’t downloaded or listened to it yet. Probably multiple non-pro narrators. I'll let you know...
I recall Robin saying awhile back that he enjoyed the new experience (insights?) listening to extended portions of the Bible.

1/26/2010 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

... a man is only a "real man" to the extent that he is an individual man. One does not "become a man" by blending into some indistinct archetype, but by filling out the content of the archetype from below ...

I suppose most people would agree with this statement. Nevertheless, blending into the group is what everybody seems to want to do. It is evident in "mainstream" religions, of course, but it's also the issue in much of politics and life in general. To get past it is to move from a spiritual adolescence to genuine maturity.

1/26/2010 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. Ezekiel, he strikes me as the type of person whom it would be an honor to observe simply tying his shoelaces.

1/26/2010 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I just remembered my anniversary is tomorrow. Three years since I found this place. I got here this a way.

1/26/2010 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I think that would make you my last new reader. Maybe I should publish there more often.

1/26/2010 07:36:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

I think that is a splendid idea.
All those in favor...?

1/26/2010 07:43:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I get huge exposure there, but the problem is, I'd have to write something purely political, and the people who come here would expect more of the same. Only one in a thousand might be interested in rest. And of those, only one in a million wouldn't be annoying. So you are a rare bird!

1/26/2010 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

But the Brotherhood is scattered!

1/26/2010 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Ricky Raccoon said...

Sha-doo-bee.

1/26/2010 07:59:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I know nothing about Kabbalah except that I understand Madonna had an interest in it. Now thanks to Bob I know a little about it, at least. I was stoking a fire today, but only literally. Splitting wood is a lot harder than it looks, by the way.

1/26/2010 08:09:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thus, I preach only to the coonverted -- to those who, when they read my words, have that distinct sense that they are not so much learning anything new as recalling who they have always been.

Again, I have no illusions that this path is for everyone. Our Oly slackraments no doubt appear loose and lazy to outsiders, but I can assure them that it is much easier than it looks, since nothing is easier than being oneself. The hard part is becoming oneself."

Amen to that, bro! :^)

1/27/2010 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Julie said...
Apparently, this guy wants to examine the fleas before he's fully apprehended whether he's looking at a dog or a cat."

It's always tick-ed off about somethin'. :^)

1/27/2010 12:42:00 AM  
Blogger Flat Joshua said...

Ricky:
Sometimes a good old-fashioned foot in the mouth produces new insights.

Your example reminds me of Peter (aka Simon bar-Jonah), who made all kinds of mistakes--but who never made the same mistake twice. He was gently chastised more than once for his errors, and lesser men probably would have rankled at the correction and departed in a huff. But Peter took every new insight born of his error as a chance to grow. That, I suspect, is what earned him his nickname of "the rock."

Northern Bandit:
Loved the last part about the purpose of life being the experience of God as a fire in the heart. I've met a few people like that, and God willing maybe someday I too will experience such ecstasy.

The first and greatest commandment: to love God with one's whole heart, soul and mind. It's the first commandment because once you find your way to it and live in it, all the other commandments naturally fall into place. It's the greatest commandment because, essentially, it's what we're made for; our very design is such that when we learn to love God so completely, we become precisely who and what we should be. By losing ourselves in the love of God, we become fully ourselves.

1/27/2010 01:05:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"...but I can assure them that it is much easier than it looks, since nothing is easier than being oneself. The hard part is becoming oneself."

Heh, sums it up in a notshall.

1/27/2010 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

"Furthermore, mechanical discharge of the Law does not facilitate ascent through recollection, but like any other compulsion, keeps her where she is in an endless loop. It is a magical way to "undo" what the mind parasites have done."

I think a lot of us first contract the 'Jesus Willies' from folks like this... they meticulously make all the right moves, and punctuate every other sentence with 'praise' and 'bless'... but so obviously are only posing, there being little or know gnoing going on within their actions.

It does give you the willies to be around them.

I wonder how well that 'undo' works for them... and what we'd be seeing if they didn't?

Serious willies.

1/27/2010 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Never fear, Prager and Hewitt have help waiting in the wings!

"Does God have a Future?
A Great Debate Filmed by ABC’s Nightline
Event Date: Sunday, March 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm
Location: Beckman Auditorium
Speakers: Deepak Chopra & Jean Houston versus Michael Shermer & Sam Harris"

With friends like that...
omg

1/27/2010 06:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

They're just dyslexic fleas asking if dogs have a future.

1/27/2010 06:50:00 AM  

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