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The healer took Ikes hand in his, and promised to do the best he could. That night the old mystic ascended high into the spirit world, utilizing secret prayers and other worldly meditations known only to a few. When he reached the gates of heaven he was stunned to find that the gates were locked.
The fate of the little boy had already been sealed. The night soon passed and the morning sun began to rise in the eastern sky over this quaint Midwestern town. Ike and the old sage met outside the post office in the early morning. Sorrowfully, the old man told the mail carrier the news. Im afraid there is nothing I can do, the sage said. It has already been decreed that the gates of heaven remain locked to your only son.
Ike was shattered. Tears began streaming down his face as he begged the old man to try one more time.
I have nowhere else to turn! David is my only son, my only child. And you are my only hope!
Not having the heart to say no to this broken man, the old mystic replied, I cannot promise anything. But I will make one more attempt. And thats when a bizarre idea suddenly occurred to him. He quickly summoned his young assistant, Thomas, and made a peculiar request.
Please go at once to the city, the mystic said, and bring to me ten hardened criminals. No less than ten. Thomas was shocked. But he knew better than to question the man who could talk to angels.
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Find me pickpockets, burglars, looters, the worst scoundrels possible, the old man added. And please, hurry! Thomas drove into the city and, to his surprise, he was able to gather together ten thieves quite quickly.
In fact, he was amazed at how easily they agreed to accompany him to the home of his master. Even these villains had heard of the mysterious healer in the not-so-distant town who possessed supernatural powers. Thomas and this sordid band arrived at the house of the mystic. The wise old sage thanked them for coming and invited them all into his home.
Some of the nastiest criminals in the state sat around his living room, boastfully recounting their favorite crime stories. Then the old man motioned for them to be silent. Something about him commanded their respect.
So they all listened carefully as the mysterious old sage who could perform miracles, the healer who could cure the most dreadful ailments, asked each one of these wily thieves to assist him in what would be his most difficult, most impossible miracle of all! The next morning, at the break of dawn, as robins chirped and roosters crowed, as a sweet-scented summer breeze blew ever so gently, Ike the mail carrier was dancing wildly down Main Street, looking like the happiest man on earth.
A car pulled up alongside the dancing Ike. Thomas was at the wheel. In the back seat was the old sage. My dear friend, he exclaimed, It appears by your delightful face and your dancing shoes that you have good news to share.
I thank you with all my heart! My beautiful boy David received a miracle overnight.
Its as though he was never sick. He is out milking the cows right now, doing chores as we speak! Indeed, this is very good news, said the man who could talk to angels. Be well, my friend!
The old sage then drove off.
In this way, ethics is based on control of the body grounded in a microcosmic humoral model. Thus he aims to cultivate an affective state that generates heartfelt action so that is possible to meaningfully perform the commandments of the Torah.
In this way, contemplation of the relation between microcosm and macrocosm leads to ethical action. Segol: Kabbalistic Self-Help Page 5 of 25 about its creator and that meditation on the created world produced a model for imitation. This is a sort of cognitive mysticism,11 in which meditation serves as a means of ascent to the divine. It is based in Neo- Aristotelian thought and central to all the self-improvement literature examined here.
Eleventh-century Jewish thinkers adapted the form to serve as a model for ethics; they understood imitation of the macrocosm as imitation of the divine, and in this way, they ascribed virtue to observa- tion of the universe, to meditation on it, and to conformity to the struc- ture of the whole. Both these writers advocated control of the senses to adhere to Jewish law, and they saw this as the correct means of conform- ing to the structure of the macrocosm.
With the emergence of kabbalah in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the emanative model of the microcosm took a new form. According to it, the cosmos was created by means of the ten sefirot, a series of divine ema- nations. These emanations were simultaneously understood as aspects of God, elements of the cosmos, and parts of the human psyche. While other medieval writers produced ethical literature, we see the sefirotic model combined with the ethical microcosm only in the sixteenth century.
This book shows the first systematic use of the sefirotic microcosm in a kabbalistic work of self-improvement. In this way, it instructs the reader to model the body and the psyche on the sefirot, through contemplation, ritual, and social action. It instructs the reader to imitate the divine in order to achieve a messianic end.
Tomer Devorah was a popular book, central to the formation of the genre, with many subsequent books modeled on it, especially in Hasidic circles. This systematic work grounds its ethics in the microcosm imagined according to the model of the ten sefirot.
The book contains ten chapters, each divided into three different sections. The first chapter Section 1 lists the thirteen attributes of God described in Exodus — and codified in liturgy and rabbinic literature , while the second section consists of eight chapters describing the qualities of the ten sefirot 13 and providing 11 See Lobel Page 6 of 25 Journal of the American Academy of Religion instructions to emulate them.
Each of its chapters in turn contain three parts: first, they describe the attributes of each sefirah and their correspond- ing human qualities; second, they include instructions to emulate those qualities by regulating the movements of the body,14 and finally they give in- struction for ritual and social practices to form the character in the image of the divine, expressed through the sefirotic model.
Its aim is ultimately mes- sianic; perfection of the self entails the perfection of society, which in turn effects cosmic change. Loving-kindness is a characteristic pred- icated of the creator, to be enacted by the reader.
We, therefore, state that the following are the types of Loving-kindness: First, when man is born it is necessary to provide him with all his food. Second, to circumcise the child. Third, to visit the sick and heal them. Fourth, to give Tzedakka Charity to the poor. Fifth, to welcome guests, Sixth, the living attending to the dead, Seventh: bringing the bride under the marriage canopy, Eighth: to make peace between man and his neighbor.
Moshe Cordovero The actions specified here entail the fulfillment of specific social responsi- bilities toward those in need. In this way, social actions are mapped onto a divine attribute, and they are imagined to spur the celestial forces to action. Importantly, Cordovero argues that cosmic action is impossible without social action.
In these works, cosmic repair was inseparable from good character, diligent ritual practice, and acts of social justice to ensure a properly functioning community. For more information on this, see Lawrence Fine Segol: Kabbalistic Self-Help Page 7 of 25 affect, managing the body, ritual practice, and social action.
This is in the end meant to repair the cosmos, to effect tikkun olam, which is a form of messianic action. The text contains clear instructions to use the body, part by part, to emulate the divine by acting in society. Subsequent works use different combinations of these elements in constructing and enacting their model of the ideal self. This literary tradition, with its basis in Jewish law and kabbalistic cos- mology, was embraced by Hasidism in the eighteenth century,16 and it has continued diversified but uninterrupted up to the present day.
Other groups employing this genre include Western Esotericists drawing on the teachings of orga- nizations like the Golden Dawn, Crypto-Jewish groups like the Kabbalah Centre, and neo-Hasidic communities. In their writings, kabbalistic-self- improvement literature becomes kabbalistic self-help, combining kabba- listic discourses with others, including but not limited to psychological therapeutic discourses, economic discourses, and those from other reli- gions such as Buddhism and the New Thought Movement.
The microcosm is transformed. This change is partly attributable to the substitution of psychothera- peutic and economic discourses for religious ones emphasizing social justice.
In Saving the Modern Soul, Eva Illouz argues that the culture of psychotherapy causes social difficulties as it works to resolve personal problems. The same holds true for economic discourses; in some contemporary literature, affect—feelings of generosity and love, for example—replaces material contributions that might enact such feelings.
It was reprinted in and then again in Laibl Wolf calls himself a mystic. For him, and in Hasidic thought generally, healing society is a messianic action. For example, he argues that the individual is a microcosm for the cosmos as a whole and that individuals affect the cosmos through thought, words, and social action.
True Prosperity: Success Without Side Effects by Rabbi Yehuda Berg
Chabad theology combines the kabbalistic microcosm with religious psy- chological discourse to understand individual change as the building block of social and then cosmic change. Generally, New Age kabbalistic texts posit that salvation can be achieved through individual affective and cognitive transformation, taking place in the mind rather than in the social sphere. For more information on messianism in contemporary kabbalah, see Boaz Huss Segol: Kabbalistic Self-Help Page 9 of 25 with psychotherapeutic discourse and those of Hinduism and Buddhism, which, according to the author, have derived some of their most impor- tant practices from Judaism in early encounters with the Biblical figure of Abraham Wolf In this way, Wolf assigns a Jewish origin to Hindu belief in re- incarnation and to meditative breathing practices.
As in earlier works, this is a form of ritualized cognition meant to transform the reader. He begins with the sefirotic model in which each of the ten sefirot corresponds to one aspect of the psyche and the actions attributed to it.
Wolf combines the model with CBT when he uses the ten sefirot to represent the different aspects of the psyche. Jewish beliefs in reincarnation begin to be clearly articulated as such in the Zohar, composed most likely between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, with the earliest strata originating in Byzantium and the later ones in Spain.
The sixteenth-century Safed School kabbalists produced daily prayer books with marks providing ritual instruction for breathing exercises. They combine Jewish discourse and ritual with medical discourse, philosophical models, and even ritual practices from different religions known in their time and place. Wolf uses CBT to provide strategies and practices for forming the self according to the sefirotic model.
He includes visualization exercises specifically related to each of the sefirot and aimed specifically at changing negative thought patterns. Thus actualizing kabbalistic discourse by conforming to the sefirotic micro- cosm occurs first by means of the psychotherapeutic discourse of CBT.
Yehuda Berg Living the Kabbalah System
This is a form of ritualized cognition involving a structured navigation of a religious cosmology of space and of the human psyche. At the same time, there are social and messianic components to this model. Self-mastery results in social action, which in turn serves a messi- anic function. Social action, then, imitates God. In this sense too there is an eschatological component, for according to the Hasidic interpretation of kabbalah, the completion of creation will bring the messianic era.
Here the reader is taught to recognize that ideal and to model his or her behavior on it through a series of behavior modification exercises derived from kabbalistic ritual practices, authorized by Jewish and non- Jewish discourse and fused with psychologically conceived ritualized cognition. In this process, Wolf uses discourses that reinforce, authorize, and transform one another; for example, when the psychotherapeutic model and the sefirotic model are used together, they are together re- imagined to reinforce the authority of Jewish law on the one hand and to de-emphasize the individualistic aspects of psychotherapeutic discourse on the other.
While this group explicitly claims Kabbalistic and Hasidic sources for their ideas and prac- tices, they also use Buddhist discourses and practices that enhance these goals. This is to say that they try to modernize Hasidism, taking from it the ritual practices they deem meaningful and which accord with their liberal values and their commitment to social justice, adding other reli- gious discourses and practices to authorize that view and supplement Jewish sources.
Like Wolf, Roth combines a syncretistic religious discourse with psy- chotherapeutic discourse. Likewise, his aim is also messianic. However, Roth uses these discourses differently. Roth creates an authoritative religious discourse by synthe- sizing Jewish and Buddhist belief and practice. Similarly, Roth derives a model of the human psyche from Buddhist religious narrative mapped onto a microcosmic kabbalistic cosmology and its model of the human psyche.
In his work, non-religious psychotherapeutic discourse is present but minimally used. In this way, Roth uses a combination of Jewish kab- balistic and Buddhist discourses to model the mind, to create a religiously informed psychotherapeutic discourse, and to transform it toward a mes- sianic aim.
In constructing his model of the mind, Roth draws upon both Buddhist and Jewish discourses. These are understood as volitional and, as such, subject to individual control. Thus, kabbalistic terms are used to describe states of awareness and Buddhist ones are used to describe thought patterns.
Roth maps this hybrid model of the psyche and its operations onto a kabbalistic cosmology, making it function as a microcosm for the cosmos and society.
The kabbalistic model of the four worlds begins with the realm of formation, and in this move, he combines Buddhist psychology and kabbalistic cosmology to make the human psyche a microcosm for the whole. To accomplish this, he recommends practices that include prayer and chanting, derived from the traditional liturgy, meditative prac- tice derived from Buddhist meditation models, and pronunciation of divine names from medieval Jewish ecstatic mystical practice.
He presents his meditative techniques as a way to alleviate both. Thus, as in earlier kabbalistic literature like Tomer Devorah, ritual practice is coupled with social action intended to repair the universe, and to bring redemption.
In this way, the author uses the com- bination of discourses described earlier, mostly Jewish Hasidic and kab- balistic discourse, to reconfigure the human being in the image of the macrocosm, including a social justice component. And while the book provides specific ritual instruction, it does not provide much in the way of instruction for particular social actions.
The book uses kabbalistic narratives to fulfill the mandate of the group.
Here, the expansion of individual consciousness and the individual manifestation of health and wealth itself transforms the whole. Social commitments are left out of this. Sasson and Weinstein 6 The reader is instructed to meditate for one week on each of the ten sefirot, beginning at the top with Keter. As in the microcosmic ethical lit- erature, the reader is transformed to act in the image of the divine, as rep- resented by the sefirot. While sefirotic discourses of kabbalah provide a template for imitatio dei, they are also used as a matrix through which to read other mythologies.
Consistent with the ideals of the Golden Dawn, the sefirotic tree acts as a conceptual map and a point of nexus for different mythological traditions: Over the ages, kabbalists have discerned that every sphere corresponds to a color, a planet, a number, a part of the body, and various real-world talismans. Mythic personalities and folklore spring from each cosmic 26 See Carl Jung Segol: Kabbalistic Self-Help Page 15 of 25 force as well.
For example Beauty [sefirah number six] represents the heart, Christ-consciousness, the folktale of Beauty and the Beast, the colors gold and yellow, roses, the number 6, and the Sun at the center of our solar system. Sasson and Weinstein 6 In this way, traveling the tree is a mythological journey. This is indeed a sort of perennialism common to Western Mystery traditions. You are a Creator. Thus it is possible to meditate on the sefirot to achieve self-transforma- tion to resemble the divine.
In so doing, it is also possible to achieve health, wealth, and happiness.
See also Beryl Satter 1— In this way, desire is itself valorized as a quest for communion. Campbell similarly valorizes human desire and transmutes it to a quest on behalf of the whole, as adapted by Sasson and Weinstein One is the physical deed, in which the hero performs a courageous act in battle or saves a life. Individual desire attains the status of an elevated quest as its fulfill- ment is equated with transcendent knowledge.
At the end of the book, as a sort of surprise, the authors inform their readers that their goal was not what they thought: By embarking on this journey, you have certified that. Your true wish was to undertake the journey, to engage in the universal process of creation, to experience the Tree of Life.
But you have ac- complished more than that. Through your courtship of these ten arche- typal powers. Your higher self guided you to the tree of life because it too harbors a wish: to repair all the shat- tered spheres of Creation. Social action has no place in this—it is the individual journey of the hero toward wish fulfillment and self-knowledge that transforms.
It is exclusively a cognitive and affective transformation. This second goal, transformation through knowledge, is introduced only at the end, so that the desire for wish-fulfillment serves as a sort of initiation to gnosis. This is consistent with Western Esotericist ideals, and in some ways with the desire for knowledge in order to benefit the community as posited by Jung and Campbell, who were themselves at the heart of the Western Esotericist movement in Europe in the mid-twentieth century.
Segol: Kabbalistic Self-Help Page 17 of 25 the community is changed from above; individual transformation changes the heavens, but does not touch the community directly. Unlike the works examined previously, other people are not part of this.According to it, the cosmos was created by means of the ten sefirot, a series of divine ema- nations.
Loving-kindness is a characteristic pred- icated of the creator, to be enacted by the reader. The obligation is poorly articulated because this occurs outside the context of either a religious or geographic community sharing sacred legal discourses. In Saving the Modern Soul, Eva Illouz argues that the culture of psychotherapy causes social difficulties as it works to resolve personal problems. I would recommend it. Read et al.
And this is what the noble and kind sage told him: When I prayed that first night for our friend and his only son, I saw that the Gates of Heaven were locked. Overall, I would say this is a great book to read the same message, but presented differently.
The next morning, at the break of dawn, as robins chirped and roosters crowed, as a sweet-scented summer breeze blew ever so gently, Ike the mail carrier was dancing wildly down Main Street, looking like the happiest man on earth.
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