Sunday, September 30, 2012


Sorry I've been gone for a while.  Life's been crazy.  To make up for it, here's a magic ritual.  It's a "consecrating space" ritual, like "calling quarters".

In the Name of the Eternal and Transcendent ONE
Who moment by moment calls the universe into being,
All gods, all angels, all guardians, all spirits of this place
I call to you, I summon you, I evoke you
Attend to me now.
In order that I might work my will,
Which is the same as the One Eternal and Ineffable Will,
I charge you to set this time and place apart for me.
This is request in the name of
Adone ha Adonim
The Lord of lords
Elohe ha Elohim
The God of gods.
Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh!

When I do this, I start in the east and turn slowly to the right.  I normally "kadosh-ify" the whole room, using the walls as the "walls", but you could cast a circle instead.  You might repeat the "kadosh" 27 times instead of 3 if you're having trouble getting it to "take".

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What's in a name?

So, it turns out that a lot of people don't get the "traif banquet" reference (which is, come to think of it, kind of obscure).  A very short, overly simplified, quite biased history lesson follows.  If you already know the reference, skip to the *** below to hear why I chose the name.

From the fall of the second temple until the mid 1700s, there weren't really any significant Jewish sects.  I don't want to romanticize it as some sort of golden age of klal yisrael, but modern notions of "orthodox" and "reform" just didn't exist until quite recently.  There were, absolutely, wide variations is practice, both from one community to another and also from person to person within any given community, but these differences mostly weren't seen as separate "forms" of Judaism.

As the enlightenment began, marked divisions began to appear.  On one hand, a new sort of rural, populist, mystic, results-driven folk religion called Chasidism, or the Pious Ones, started to take hold.  (Seriously!  Chasids used to be revolutionary pagans!)  At around the same time, many urban Jews (Baruch Spinoza is my favorite) advocated for an enlightenment/humanist idea of Judaism.  This movement came to be known as Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment.

In the 1800s in Germany, the more religious Haskalah crystalized into what we now call Reform Judaism.  In the US, Reform Jews (including my great grandfather) ratified the so-called Pittsburgh Platform, which (among other things) says: "all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state..."  In 1883, the first class of new rabbis was about to graduate from the Hebrew Union College (the school that "authenticates" Reform rabbis).  They threw a lavish banquet to celebrate, at which several overtly non-kosher (ie, "traif") things.  Many of these attendees walked out, shocked that the reforms had gone too far.  (This constituency would go on to become the Conservative movement.)  The radical reformers who remained sat down to a meal that has become known as "the traif banquet".  

Historical note: Actually, the traif banquet happened 2 years before the Pittsburgh Platform was actually ratified, but the ideas in it were already in place when the dinner took place.

For me, that traif banquet is an extremely important act of Jewish magic.  As many of you know, my magical practice especially values transgressive ritual.  For me,  the Work of the Jewish people, both individually and collectively, is to engineer the liberation of all sentient beings.  What makes me a satanist is that I sometimes think the thing we need liberating from is the same thing a lot of Jews worship.  Read the post called "Idolatry in my heart".    However, my point is, "Israel" means "wrestles with El", and the central mythology of our people is walking out of the house of bondage.  I think in 1883, it was important to liberate our people of the tyranny of mindless kosher observance, to let people know that our essential free will and autonomy made keeping kosher a joyful choice, not a dismal duty.  I've gone back and forth about keeping kosher over the years.  Most of you who know me know that when I started teaching at Jew school, I (sort of) kept kosher, and that I started eating pork soon after I started.  Overwhelmed by the (relative to me) conservativeness of the community, I too needed that sort of transgressive magic to hold on to my own Jewish identity.   

ps: My school really walks the walk when it comes to pluralism, and also has amazing hard-core academics and full merit scholarships.  If you doubt that, remember that the lead math teacher, when not teaching topology to 15 year olds, writes a blog about being a sorceress.  If you mean it too, put your money where your mouth is. :) 

Fuck It All, and Fucking No Regrets

A Tashlikh and Hatarat Nedarim ritual from the Pillar of Smoke 
(with some poetical inspiration cribbed from William Butler Yeats)

Purpose: At the end of the rite, each participant is freed from any and all ritual vows or oaths she has made in the last year.  This includes, but is not limited to, vows made to oneself, vows made to other people, vows made to non-human beings, and vows made to G-d.  If there are vows you do not want to abrogate (like marriage vows, for example), be sure to keep them in mind during the performance.

Preliminary considerations:  For best results, you’ll need at least four Jews (but not everyone needs to be Jewish), a natural body of water, and a patch of dirt for this ritual, but it can be modified however you feel is right.  Each person should have a green apple, a red magic marker, and a piece of matzoh left over from Passover.  Pick the most lovely, shiny, symmetric apples you can find.  If you can’t assemble all of those things, just make do.  (sharing markers, in our experience, makes the ritual tedious, assemble as many as you can lay hands on.  it's not vital that they be red)

While traditional practitioners may disagree, we think this ritual works great anytime between from the beginning of Rosh Hashannah until just before Yom Kippur begins. It’s important to pick a warm, bright day when it is pleasant to be outside.  It’s better to skip this ritual, or modify it to be indoors (perhaps by burning the matzoth instead?) than to do it in weather that makes it no fun.  As written, there’s a leader, but that’s just for logistics.   Anyone can read any part.

The Rite:

Leader:  In your hands, you hold the Bread of Affliction.  It was the Bread of Slavery in the House of Bondage, and it is now the Bread of Obligation.  With your words of red, it becomes all oaths, all sin, all regret.  On Rosh Hashannah, the anniversary of creation, you were each created anew, released of all bonds, all vows, all oaths.  Whatsoever oath you renounce, whatsoever sin you regret, whatsoever it is you cast off, write it on the Bread of Obligation.

Wait until everyone is done writing.

Leader:  Inheritor of a Breathing World, we call you into Supernal Beauty.  Break your bonds, and feed the waters of liberation!  Like the tree that sheds its leaves, let go of those things that can no longer nourish you.  Like the serpent that sheds its skin, wriggle free from anything that holds you back.  As you throw these things into the living water, know that you pledge nothing, are bound by nothing, are bathed in Nothing, awash in the Wild Dark.  Repeat!”

Participants should break their matzoh, throw the pieces into the water, and say: 

Each:  “I pledge nothing.  I am bound by nothing.  I am bathed in Nothing.  As I say it, so do I become.”

When everyone is done, hand out the apples.  No one should have an apple while anyone else (including the leader) still has matzah.

Leader:  In your hands, you hold the Fruit of Life.  It was the Fruit of Paradise in days gone by, and it is now the Fruit of Hope. With its seeds, it becomes all resolutions, all goals, all hopes.  On Rosh Hashannah, the anniversary of creation, we are all created anew, infused with infinite potential.  Whatsoever resolution you make, whatsoever goal you pledge yourself to, whatsoever hope you cherish, whisper it to your apple as you eat. 

Wait until everyone has eaten their apple.  (It's ok not to eat the whole thing, but unless you can't it's best to take at least a bit.  If someone can't eat apples, use a different fruit.  If apples won't grow where you live, use a different fruit that will.)

Leader:  Wanderers in the Wild Darkness, you have stepped into the Boundless Light.  Plant your seeds.  Like the tree that aches for the sky, your hope grows strong.  Like the rain that lusts for the silent earth, your goals are met in joy.  Light without Limit pierces the veil, and you are enlightened.  Take the boundless light and hang Stars of Glamor in the Dark.

Leader: Hakol yihtu muttarim lach, hakol mechulim lach, hakol sheruyim lach.  May everything be permitted to you; may everything be forgiven you; may everything be allowed you.  Repeat!

wait for people to repeat

All: Nothing is true.  Everything is permitted.  Selah and Amen.

Everyone plants her/his seeds.  When everyone is done, join hands, spin and laugh until dizzy and exhausted.  Note: spinning and laughing is NOT OPTIONAL.  It’s what seals the Work.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Totem Animal

I've been doing some pathworking lately, indirectly inspired by Jason Miller's AMAZING Sorcery classes. I can't recommend them highly enough.  He and I are paradigmatically more similar that I would have expected, and nearly every lesson has great things to say (Although his technical skill as an explainer is not so great).  If you sign up for lessons, tell him I sent you.  In a later blog-post, I'll tell you about my new work in the "horizon realm" of Solomon's Temple.

Last night, I went looking for an animal spirit guide.  Now, those of you who know me know that this is a thing I do every five years or so with weird results.  This time, like most other times, I was at the place where "the next animal you see come down the path will be your spirit guide" and when the door opened, it was a human.  Again.  Historically, I've just chalked this up as a failure (or a joke).  I've grown a lot as a spirit magician in the laste several years, so I thought I would try to examine it further.  I asked for the spirit to appear to me in my dreams and went to sleep.  I'm a big fan of oneiromancy.  The spirit appeared again, looking not unlike Christ, which would have been troubling to me if I were awake.  Is Jesus my spirit guide?  My yiddishe mama might have something to say about that!  Strangely, it also looked kind of like my boss.  This is relevant because I had a dream about my boss the night before, from which I awoke suffused with a feeling of love (not erotic love...chesed love), which was very weird, but makes more sense now.

I asked it for its name, and it said Adam Kadmon, and resolved into being the referent of the illustration at the left (which I've seen many times).   This is an illustration of the tree of life superimposed upon a human.  The human's, and the illustration's, name is Adam Kadmon, which means "Original Man".  It's the Platonic form of "human", created in G-d's image. Anyhow, immediately after giving me the name, I woke up.  That was about 5 this morning.  (My alarm goes off at 6, so that's not as early as it sounds to people who aren't teachers)

I decided to use the extra hour to meditate.  Other than confirming the name, I didn't really get any clarity.  I am thinking about trying to visit Tipheret (the sphere of supernal beauty where Adam's heart is) to see if that explains anything.  Thank G-d it's Shabbat!  ;)

More updates tomorrow if I have anything to report.  I'd very much appreciate insights on this; especially from people with spirit-animal experience.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Aleph and Tranfinite Arithmetic

Aleph is the first Hebrew letter.  By way of the Phoenician aleph, it is associated with the Greek alpha, and from there to the Latin/English A. It corresponds closely to the Arabic letter alif.  It is said to mean "ox".  It's associated with the tarot card The Fool, and traces the path from Keter to Chockmah.

It is difficult to describe the sound it makes.  Open your mouth, begin to say the word "all", but stop before you actually say anything.  Or, say "uh-oh" (as if something bad happened).  Aleph is the sound between the two syllables.

As expected, it is associated with the number 1.  Aleph begins the word El, which means God, as well as the words Ehyeh (I am), Emet (truth), and Achad (One/Unity). Aleph is very closely associated with the element of air, most especially with breath.

Examine the way the aleph to the left is drawn.  See that there are two mirror-image pieces(1) in the upper right and lower left, separated by a line?  This represents how G-d is both immanent (manifest in creation) and transcendent (beyond creation).  It can also be seen as a telling of how the created world is a reflection of the creator and vice versa (as above, so below).

There is a story told, that when G-d created the universe, he assembled all the letters and asked who should be used to begin Torah.  The aleph demurred modestly, and so was given the honor of beginning the Ten Commandments.  (I'll tell more of the story's really a story about beth.)

I associate the aleph with the opening chapter of the Dao de Ching: "The way you think you know is not the Way.   The name which can be said is not The Name.  The Aleph is the beginning of Creation, but by naming are the myriad things created."

For me, aleph represents the notion of infinite creation seen as a single unified thing.  This links it intimately with the Shema:
"Shema Yisroel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad"
"Hear, Israel, G-d is Our God, G-d is One."
"Listen, Israel:  G-d is both our patron god (2), and also the Ineffable One."

When I meditate on aleph, I do so mathematically.  In mathematics, the aleph stands for the set of all the transfinite cardinalities. That is, it is the set which contains all the different sizes of infinity.

Each different size of infinity has an aleph in its name.  For example, the size of the counting numbers is aleph-0.  (said "aleph-naught")  Anything which is this size is said the be "countable".  Things of this size can be listed, although the list goes on forever.

To understand this size of infinity, imagine a hotel with an infinite number of rooms, but which is entirely occupied.  If a new guest arrives, can the clerk find her a room?  Yes, but it is tricky.  The clerk makes an announcement, that each guest must pack up and move into the room to their right.  For example, the guest in room 1, must move to room 2, the guest in room 2362 must move to room 2363, and so on.  In this way, room one will be available.

Another size of infinity is the number of points on a line.  This is much larger than the number of counting numbers (aleph-0). 

UPDATE: There's a new, better explanation of this here:

There are many ways to prove this, but the easiest is by contradiction.   First, we will start with a line segment 1 unit long.  It should be clear that the number of points on this segment must be less than or equal to the number of points on a whole line, which extends infinitely in each direction. (In fact, they contain the same number of points.)  With each point on our unit segment, we can associate a real number between 0 and 1.  For example, the point 1/2 of the way along the segment we denote by 0.50000000000000...  The number a third of the way along is point 0.33333333...

Now, if there are the same number of points on our segment as there are counting numbers, we should be able to match them up one-to-one.  That is, we should be able to write a list of the points' numbers.  I will show that it is impossible to have such a list by showing that, no matter how the list is ordered, there will always be at least one number between 0 and 1 which isn't on the list.  Let's say our list looks like this:

1: 0.03426...
2: 0.31964...
3: 0.48612...
4: 0.12694...
5: 0.00971...

Now, I will construct my number by first highlighting the diagonal along my list.  That is, I pick out the first digit of the first number, the second digit of the second number, etc.  In our example, this number begins: 0.01691...

Now, I will construct a number number by adding one to each digit.  In order to keep things circular, let 9+1=0.  In our example, this new number begins: 0.12702...

I claim that this number does not appear ANYWHERE on the original list.  This is how I know:  In order for two numbers to be the same they have to match in every decimal place.  That is to say, if two numbers differ in even a single place, they are not the same number.  The last number we constructed differs in at least one place from every other number on the list.  Its first digit is different from the first digit of the 1st number; its second digit is different from the second digit of the second number; its thousandth digit is different from the thousandth digit of the thousandth number; and so forth.  So, we know that there is a number which isn't on our list.  Since this would have worked for any list, we conclude that there are just too many points along a line to list (even an infinite list), and so the number of points on a line must be BIGGER than the number of counting numbers.

While I will not prove it here, in fact the number of points on a line is exactly equal to 2 to the aleph-0 power.  (Where, recall, aleph-0 is the size of the counting numbers.)


(1) These pieces are actually the letter yod.  I'll talk about that more when I get to yod.
(2) Like Athena for the Athenians.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Shabbat Shul Shopping

It's the first sabbath of the school year tonight.  Because I've lived my whole life on a school calendar, either as a teacher or a student, for me, new years really do start in the fall.  I'm sort of missing having a "spiritual community" to worship with.  I LOVED my community in Pittsburgh (the Pillar of me and I'll send you details), but I haven't really been able to find anything in CT yet.  I went to Romemu (a very progressive Renewal neo-chassidic shul in Manhattan, which was ok) a couple of times last year, but now that I moved to New Haven, that's just too far (and it was a little too mega-church for me).

I asked my boss (who, since he's the headmaster of a Jewish school, pretty much knows all the local congregations), and he says there's not any particularly progressive shul; they're all "fairly run of the mill".   I'd really like to start a thing here, but I don't think there's enough interest.  Sigh.  So, short story is, if you know anyone near New Haven CT (maybe at Yale?) who might be interested in heretical Judaism, tell them to email me!

About my school:  I'm the head of math at the Jewish High School of CT, which is a really progressive, pluralistic high school in New Haven CT.  I was worried about taking a job at a religious school (being, as I am, a Satanist), but I'm happy I did.  There were some growing pains last year, but it's a great school.  We've got hard-core academics, and really walk the walk when it comes to pluralism...I mean, I hear the math teacher is a bisexual, pink-haired heretic and a sorceress! :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Idolatry in my heart

This post was inspired by this lovely and thoughtful one on animism:

Although the writer there and I agree on almost every detail, he thinks of himself as a polytheist, and I think of myself as a hard-monotheist. Why?

"There is no theological reason to make a distinction of kind between the honor we pay to the Gods that that we pay to the Landwights or the Dead. In fact there is no clear boundary between those poetic categories. One tribe’s ancestor may be another’s more distant god, etc."

I couldn't possibly agree more. For me, it's not the type of entity that determines whether or not a specific act is idolatrous. Rather, it's your relationship to the object of worship. Do you surrender yourself to it, let it's will supplant your own? If it asked you to kill your son on the altar in the high places, would you? That's what worship means, and I think it's always wrong. Anything you can possibly avoid worshiping is unworthy of your worship.

I've had the experience of being in a presence so overwhelming divine that I had no choice but to worship. It is clear to me, in those times, that the thing...although I'm hesitant to even describe it as a noun, but I don't know how else to construct this sentence...

I'm confident that divinity at that level is all one, interconnected, transcendent thing, and that's why I'm a monotheist. I can't worship anything but that.

On the other hand, I'm happy to honor, respect, bargain with, and have all sorts of intercourse with all kinds of other spirits, angels, daimons, gods, whatever we want to call them. But my worship is reserved for that eternal One, Who moment by moment names the universe into being.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Four Worlds Meditation

This simple meditation is a good prelude to other work.  Energetically, it's similar to the Middle Pillar ritual. You should NOT do this meditation until you've made sure you understand which world is which and read through the meditation a few times.  This wikipedia article has the basics.  While it's not exactly dangerous, forgetting a name in the middle could be disconcerting and uncomfortable; the metaphysical equivalent of the bends.
Close your eyes and take several deep breaths.  Imagine a door called Asiyah.  I imagine it like a swinging saloon door in a cowboy movie.  Take a deep breath, and with your exhalation, throw open the gates and pass through.  When you do so, your physical body dissolves, leaving just your "body of light".  Take some deep breaths, and give yourself time to adjust.
The next door is called Yetzirah.  Take a deep breath, and with your exhalation, throw open the gate and pass through.  Your "body-of-light" dissolves, and all that's left is your name--your essential you-ness.  Again, breath for a while and let yourself aclimate.
The next door is called Beriah.  Take a deep breath, and with your exhalation, throw open the gate and pass through.  Your self is dissolving, but don't worry; it will wait for you on the other side of the door.  What's left is just the idea of person-ness.  At this point, you're not really directing the action anymore, because you don't entirely have a distinct will.  Just breath into it for a while.
The next door is called Atziluth.  Take a deep breath, and with your exhalation, throw open the gate and pass through.  Even the idea of being a person will dissolve, and you will be coextensive with the universe; both in time and space.  This can be terrifying and disorienting.  If you need to, remind yourself that all of your youness is still there, surrounding you; you're still inside your body, you've just contracted yourself down to your inner core. 
Whenever you're ready, take some deep breaths and with an inhalation pass back through the door to Beriah.  Your person-ness should be there waiting for you to re-inhabit it.  I imagine it like putting on a robe.  It should feel comfortable and familiar.  Wait until you're settled into it, and then...
Take some deep breaths, and with an inhalation pass back through the door to Yetzirah.  Your name should be there waiting for you to re-inhabit it.  This should be a very joyous reunion, like in a movie when lovers run across a field of flowers to embrace.  When you've completely merged with yourself....
Take some deep breaths, and with an inhalation, pass through the door back to Asiyah.  Your idea of yourself should be there waiting for you to re-inhabit it.  This should be a very easy integration.  For me, it just sort of collects around me like electrical charge.  When you're ready....
Take some deep breaths, and with an inhalation, pass back into the physical world.  Your body is right where it always was.  You never actually left it.  For me, this entry can be a little uncomfortable.  I'm often stiff and sore from sitting so long, and I sometimes feel a little claustrophobic.  I think that's probably because my relationship with my body isn't entirely healthy.  Your re-entry should probably be easier.  You will probably find that significantly more time than expected has passed.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Avot v'Imahot

Blessed are You Adonai, our G-d, who showered our ancestors with blessings in days gone by.
Bless us now, Adonai, as you did for our fathers.
Bless us by the merit of Abraham, who abandoned the faith of his fathers.
Bless us by the merit of Isaac, who loved one above another.
Bless us by the merit of Jacob, who wrestled with El.
Bless us now, Adonai, as you did for our mothers.
Bless us by the merit of Rachael, who stole her father’s idols.
Bless us by the merit of Leah, who took her sister's place.
Bless us by the merit of Rebekah, who set brother against brother.
Bless us by the merit of Sarah, who laughed at You,
and laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
As I do.