Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be

After the last post, I dusted off a short book I put together a couple of years ago. The book was the root of this blog. After finishing it, it became clear to me that the understanding animating was still inadequate and working through those inadequacies motivated me to start the blog.

I thought about giving it a revision and sharing it, but the inadequacies are pervasive enough that it would be easier to start over rather than revise. I probably won’t do that either because once you clear away the inadequacies, it seems like there are straighter roads already out there to which I could just point people.

Some of those straighter roads wouldn’t be books at all but practices. Writing and reading are great, but if you start with them rather than with practice, it is easier to fall into the trap of trying to model your experience upon your ideas of the text.

Start with your experience and end with your experience. If you make use of texts, those should be set in service to your experience, not the reverse. If your reading takes you through a jagged and discontinuous course through history, so be it. The future is always decomposing the past to make a body for itself. Live for the future, for your future, and for the future of the world. Live.

Don’t be afraid of silence. Project your attention into it until you can sense the something within it. Many good and powerful spirits do their work without speech. To appreciate them, you have to tune your perception to other forms of communication and presence than the human. You need to hear them thrumming out of sight, all around you.

The Sefer Yetzirah‘s account of the sefirot provides some useful insights into that process, by the way. When we distinguish between the two major ‘worlds’ of Chokmah and Malkuth, we can see disitnguish two intertwined modes for navigating through our life. Nothing provides us with a greater sense of divine majesty and complexity than the contemplation of Malkuth. Within Malkuth, we find a humbling breadth, depth, and extension that allows us to glimpse the way things are joined in God.

Malkuth is the breath of breath because it is most like God ‘in itself,’ most like God in containing the full sweep of existence, including those forms of existence which will be our end as individuals within it. Read Job with this in mind and notice how many naturalistic observations it contains. Job is about a human being’s place in the natural (i.e., divine) order and reflects upon that order throughout.

I find that fascinating to consider alongside Zora Neale Hurston’s observation about the role of Job in some Hoodoo initiations. Part of the root worker’s spiritual DNA lies in her incorporation into the natural order and her skills derive in part from her intimacy with natural things (plants, animals, minerals, etc.) that allows her to rally them to human needs. It also enshrines some of the majesterial apathy within the root worker. Moses and the burning bush. (Speaking of the Viridis Genii.)

Chokmah is the water of the breath because it brings gentleness, respite, to the intensity and seeming apathy of the Malkuthian experience. If we are dwarfed by the grandeur of Malkuth, we are embraced by the grace of Chokmah. All of that which has been winnowed free from Malkuth and all that which extends itself into Malkuth to succor, finds its home in Chokmah. That seems like a useful way to talk about angels and ancestors, as being differentiated more by origin than by operation.

Binah then finds its place as a modulation of that, the specific way in which the friction between mercy and majesty flash hot. There seems to consider Binah under the auspices of the conflict between mercy and existence, as containing within its unfolding both hubris (the excess of mercy to moderate existence) and wisdom (the awareness that comes with crashing into limits). The connection of the two enriches, too, the affirmations found in the Zohar about even demons having their place as enforcers of divine rule (and that sheds light on the role played by the galla in the punishment of Inanna).

3 thoughts on “Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be

  1. Pingback: [NB] Viridis Genii (Pt. II) | Disrupt & Repair

  2. Pingback: [NB] Da’ath and Gevurah in the Amidah | Disrupt & Repair

  3. Pingback: Idolatry and Dissonance | Disrupt & Repair

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