Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Magical Healing & a Consumer Society - Part 1

The employment of Segulot (Magical techniques or Spiritual Remedies) has generated heated reaction from “mainstream” religionists rejecting its use altogether, whilst the more esoterically minded consider such remedies to be most valuable and effective. Regarding the latter, Shlomo ben Adret, the great Rashba, wrote: “And I say that it was the kindness of the Supreme Being at the start of Creation to create in his world things that would ensure the health of the created beings, that if the existents happen to fall ill or for any other reason deviate from their natural perfection, these [things] are ready to restore them to their realm or to make them healthy. And He placed these forces in the essence of things found in nature, as may be attained by study, such as medications and aids known to scholars of medicine, or in nature based on properties but not attainable by study..... And it is not impossible that such a power should also be in speech, as in the case of amulets and similar things.” [Ben Adret, S.: Responsa, transl. in Schwartz, D.: Studies on Astral Magic in Medieval Jewish Thought, Brill, Leiden & Boston 2005.]
I am a firm believer in Segulot, Refu’ot, Kame’ot, in fact, in all things “magical” and “miraculous,” and I have personally derived great benefit from the use of Segulot for a variety of purposes. After all, my life to date has been all about magic, and long may it continue that way! However, in this regard one is so often faced with the dichotomy of “Divine Will” and “(H)human (W)will,” i.e. that “either or” situation in which those who are of the “man proposes, God disposes” persuasion maintain faith in the absolute imposition of “Divine Will” in the least of our human affairs, usually by a deity whose lofty existence is quite removed from us lowly earthlings, whilst at the other end of the scale there are those who avow with equal faith and fervency their belief in the absoluteness of “Human Will” as far as determining our material existence, i.e. life and destiny, is concerned.
I believe the truth regarding this matter lies somewhere in the “middle,” and that if everything is indeed “God,” as some Kabbalists maintain, the will of an individual must also be “God’s will.” Of course, there are endless problems for those who allow their consciousness to embrace this line of thought, since then they are faced with all the rubbish humans have foisted on their own kind and environment, and having to acknowledge these to be the self inflicted injuries by “God” on “God”! Oyoyoy!.....I can hear the deafening roar of fundamentalist dismay at the other end of this page at such blasphemy!
Be that as it may, the intention here is not to address the religious contentions, but to focus on what is accurately termed “magical” or “miraculous” living factors. Those who consider themselves generally more “respectable,” follow passionate prayer to the Almighty One rather than intensive invocation of His subtle minions. We might note that the mainstream religionists have certainly no qualms in what they might be praying for, hence they will employ prayer for any personally justified purpose whatsoever. Again those who are more esoterically minded do the same with their Segulot, Refu’ot, Kame’ot, etc. Regarding the “ardent prayer” for all purposes approach, we might recall the example of a fundamentalist religious organisation that started a “Pray at the Pump” action, that is “gas pumps” in the U.S. of A., and “petrol pumps” for the majority of humanity living beyond American borders. The intention was to implore Divinity, who has power over everything, to reduce gasoline prices. In this regard, one commentator remarked that “God is first answering the prayers of those who want people to lose weight by forcing them to walk and ride bicycles.”
Being a true believer in the “miraculous,” I am naturally intrigued by such quaint religious antics, and particularly by the keenness of those who pray so as to “twist the arm of the Almighty” into interfering with others in order to favour themselves. I am well aware that there would be arguments that such prayers are never for personal benefits, but that they are meant for the greater good of everyone! Besides, so what if these prayers were uttered for ones’ personal benefit only? After all, anyone praying is still hoping that they might turn “divine decision” into personal favour. I do not have an issue with that at all.
What interests me greatly are the actual mechanics of “prayer” and how a “god” can hear us. Having discovered the “gateway to magic and miracles” inside myself, rather than in the actual prayer and external ritual, I attempted to address this in “The Book of Self Creation,” stating that the manner in which “God” hears us is “through ourselves, and to the extent that we are in contact with ‘God.’ On this planet WE are the ears, eyes and agents whereby He (She or It) knows man.” My fifty plus years of “praying” have brought me to the full realisation that Kabbalah was right all along in stating that all is God. In this regard, the late Israel Regardie related a delightful saga regarding a “chela” whose “master” had taught him that he was “God.” Mr Disciple was wandering absentmindedly down a road reiterating to himself “I am God......I am God......” Approaching him from the opposite end was a huge elephant, yet he was paying no attention and continued to recite “I am God.....I am God.....” Eventually, virtually at the instant of serious impact between man and beast, the master wrenched the wretch out of the way of the larger mammal, exclaiming “You idiot! Didn’t you see the elephant?” “But master” retorted the startled disciple, “I am God!” “So is the elephant!” returned the master. So you see, it is all a matter of perspective! I am “God,” you are “God,” the pump is “God,” the fuel is “God,” everything IS “God.” Never all of “God,” but still part of “God.” Everything is God but God is not a “thing”.....and neither are you!
Now, regarding the employment of “magical tools” in ones daily life, e.g. Segulot and Refu’ot, I would like to point out that my personal domicile is in Africa, a continent in which our normal three dimensional existence is comfortably shared with the multiple degrees of the “realm of the ancestral spirits.” The traditional African healer called a “Sangoma” or “Inyanga,” functions in what could be termed an “in-between” condition of consciousness, one in which he or she mediates between the world of physical matter and the subtle realms of spirit. Like other practitioners of “sympathetic magic” around the globe, the African medicine man, or woman for that matter, attempts to alleviate all manner of disease, whether of the physical, psychological or spiritual kind, employing unique remedies which they, under the guidance of the spirits of their ancestors, glean from their physical surroundings. These include special herbs, a variety of tree barks, skins, bones, teeth, and other bodily parts of various animals and birds, some rocks, insects, etc.[Ademuwagun, Z.A.: African Therapeutic Systems, Crossroads Press, Los Angeles 1979; Cumes, D.: Africa in My Bones: A Surgeon’s Odyssey into the Spirit World of African Healing, New Africa Books (Pty) Ltd, Claremont 2004.]
Whilst the average Westerner today might frown at such practices, it is worth considering that similar magical practices are to be found in the tribal medicinal traditions of our own ancestors, and much of these ancient folk customs have come down to us. It might be generally believed that the Hebrew Bible proscribed all forms of sorcery. This view is not quite accurate, since many distinctly magical activities abound in its sacred pages. In this regard, we have been informed that “to say that the Bible prohibits magic is to make no statements about primordial realms. The ancient Hebrews shared with their contemporaries the belief that certain rituals were approved by the gods and that others were disapproved.” [Green, A.: Jewish Spirituality: From the Bible, through the Middle Ages, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1986.]
We have also been reminded that “the interpenetration of religion and magic was even more pronounced in Jewish communities where.....the problem of removing magic from religion was hardly an issue.” [Sharot, S.: Messianism, Mysticism, and Magic: A Sociological Analysis of Jewish Religious Movements, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1982.] However, it should be noted that throughout Jewish history, the higher rabbinical authorities attempted to rid post-biblical Judaism of that which those who claimed to be “enlightened” called the gross, ungodly superstitious customs of their kinsfolk. Some of the mediaeval magical customs were indeed extremely crude, and many of these can be traced in the protection and healing recipes listed in the Talmud, not to mention in the primary literature of Practical Kabbalah.
In this regard, it should be noted that we have “come a long way,” and have indeed transcended crude mediaeval customs.....or have we? Judging by the popularity of the coarsest favoured “magic recipe” texts, these being mainly “for the millions” presentations in which the most tasteless magical practices are freely pandered without blinking an eyelid, it is quite clear that those very crude customs of our ancient forebears, are in fact being “idealised” rather than “transcended” in our day. Considering this, it would seem that the “magical apothecary” of the modern magician would still have to include items like the teeth of dogs and foxes, horns of she goats, and other assorted oddities.
These items are basically no different from the “magical inventory” of South African “traditional healers,” which may include the tooth of a hyena or of a lion; or suggestions that you apply to a wound some hair taken from the dog that bit you in order to prevent infection and rabies; or the dung of an elephant; the skin of a puffadder; or the horn of a kudu; all very unhygienic yet remarkably effective and successful remedies amongst local inhabitants. This must appear quite revolting to moderns with their remedies “clinically distilled,” as it were, from plants, placentas, or from the genes of “the fowls of the air and beasts of the fields,” or perhaps “generically” manufactured and sold at lower prices, etc. The difference appears to be but the mindset of the “end-user,” and, of course, the quality of the product, albeit without the dried heart of a dove or “forefinger of a mummy”! However, as in the case of the greedy chemical companies controlling modern medicine, you will get from your local “Sangoma” or “Inyanga” the best service for the best price.....we hope!
What I am really trying to say is, that it seems to me there is little difference between our local African “Sangoma” with his or her herbs, bones, stones, assorted potions and ancestral spirits, and the medieval Kabbalist (including some moderns like myself) with his or her herbs, bones, stones, assorted potions, and unique “spirit intelligences.” It is but a question of angle of approach, semantics for lunatics, or simply that “sweet rose by any other name would smell!”
(More to follow)

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