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Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

St. Germain

In Alchemy, History, Magic, Pharmacopeia, Plants on November 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm

◸◬◹ :: MAN / ELIXIR :: ◸◬◹

A man who knows everything and who never dies.  ::Voltaire::

The Count of St. Germain (fl. 1710–1784) has been variously described as a courtier, adventurer, charlatan, inventor, alchemist, pianist, violinist and amateur composer, but is best known as a recurring figure in the stories of several strands of occultism – particularly those connected to Theosophy and the White Eagle Lodge, where he is also referred to as the Master Rakoczi or the Master R and as one of the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom, is credited with near god-like powers and longevity. Some sources write that his name is not familial, but was invented by him as a French version of the Latin Sanctus Germanus, meaning “Holy Brother.” 

Giacomo Casanova describes in his memoirs:

St. Germain gave himself out for a marvel and always aimed at exciting amazement, which he often succeeded in doing. He was scholar, linguist, musician, and chemist, good-looking, and a perfect ladies’ man. For awhile he gave them paints and cosmetics; he flattered them, not that he would make them young again (which he modestly confessed was beyond him) but that their beauty would be preserved by means of a wash which, he said, cost him a lot of money, but which he gave away freely.

Myths, legends and speculations about St. Germain began to be widespread in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and continue today.  The list of his accomplishments is virtually endless:

He mastered all of the European languages. He was one of the best swordsmen of his day. He was a master violinist.  He founded Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry in England.  He also has been reincarnated several times.  Noteworthy physical embodiments include Samuel the Prophet, Merlin, Plato, Hesiod,Francis Bacon, Roger Bacon, Christopher Columbus, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Montaigne, Robert Burton, Cervantes, Valentine Andraes, Nicolas II, and Comte de Gabalis.

In 1930 Guy W. Ballard, hiking in northern California, met the Ascended Master Saint Germain on the side of Mount Shasta. His remarkable experiences are recorded in the books, Unveiled Mysteries and The Magic Presence, written under the pen name of Godfre Ray King. First published in 1934, the books have never been out of print. This introduction was followed by more than 3000 Discourses by the Ascended Masters. Out of this dynamic and practical instruction the “I AM” Activity was founded by Mr. and Mrs. Ballard, under the daily direction of Saint Germain.

TRADEMARKS AND SERVICE MARKS OF SAINT GERMAIN FOUNDATION INCLUDE: The Ascended Masters Instruction on the “Beloved Mighty I AM Presence,”® The Ascended Masters’ Instruction , “Beloved Mighty I AM Presence,”® Daughters of Light®, Heart of Heaven , Honor Cross®, Honor Cross Design®, “I AM,”® “I AM” Activity®, “I AM” Ascended Master Youth , “I AM” COME!® “I AM” Emblem®, “I AM” Music of the Spheres®, “I AM” Pageant of the Angels®, “I AM” Reading Room®, “I AM” Religious Activity®, “I AM” Religious Broadcast®, “I AM” Sanctuary®, “I AM” School®, “I AM” Student Body®, “I AM” Study Groups®, “I AM” Temple®, “I AM” Violet Flame, The Magic Presence, “Mighty I AM Presence”, Minute Men of Saint Germain®, Music of the Spheres®, Saint Germain®, Saint Germain Foundation®, Saint Germain Press®, Saint Germain Press, Inc®, Shasta Springs®, Unfed Flame Design®, Violet Consuming Flame®, Violet Flame®, “The Voice of the “I AM” ®

And then there is St. Germain, the delectably potent potable whose 
taste is only exceeded by its pretentiousness.   I have had the luck to try this delicious drink in a cocktail and I would say that it IS delightful.  From the website:

IN THE foothills of the Alps, for but a few fleeting spring days, this man will gather wild blossoms for your cocktail.
 The blossoms in question are elderflowers, the man un bohemien,
 and the cocktail a stylishly simple creation made with St-Germain, the
first liqueur in the world created in the artisanal French manner from
freshly handpicked elderflower blossoms. Our story, however, does not
end there.

 gently ushering the wild blossoms into sacks and descending the
hillside, the man who gathers blossoms for your cocktail will then
mount a bicycle and carefully ride the umbels of starry white flowers
to market. Vraiment.

There are no more than 40 or 50 men such as he, and in a matter of days
they will have gathered an…d bicycled to us the entirety of what will
become St-Germain for that year. You could not write a better story if
 you were François Truffaut.



In Animals, Government, History, Literature, Myth on November 25, 2009 at 4:43 pm

*Above:  A Thanksgiving Prayer by William S. Burroughs.  Dir. by Gus Van Sant.

Some light fare and portentous quotes for the Holiday.  Remember to tip your waiters and enjoy your parade.

Also, if you are feeling really “thankful” today, try donating some time/money/help to Black Mesa Indigenous Support.  Maybe your Grandma would like a Navajo Rug.  Maybe she would rather shit in the blood of our ancestors.  I don’t know the woman.  But when we build our houses with the bones of our progenitors, it is good to pay tribute, lest the ghosts of those we have wronged hunger for flesh of the living.  Just sayin’.

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for – annually, not oftener – if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians.  Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.

::Mark Twain::

Turkey: A large bird whose flesh, when eaten on certain religious anniversaries has the peculiar property of attesting piety and gratitude.

::Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary::

Got no check books, got no banks.  Still I’d like to express my thanks – I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night.

::Irving Berlin::

To Demeter Eleusinia. O universal mother, Deo famed, august, the source of wealth, and various named: great nurse, all-bounteous, blessed and divine, who joyest in peace; to nourish corn is thine. Goddess of seed, of fruits abundant, fair, harvest and threshing are thy constant care. Lovely delightful queen, by all desired, who dwellest in Eleusis’ holy vales retired. Nurse of all mortals, who benignant mind first ploughing oxen to the yoke confined; and gave to men what nature’s wants require, with plenteous means of bliss, which all desire. In verdure flourishing, in glory bright, assessor of great Bromios [Dionysos] bearing light : rejoicing in the reapers’ sickles, kind, whose nature lucid, earthly, pure, we find. Prolific, venerable, nurse divine, thy daughter loving, holy Koure [Persephone]. A car with Drakones yoked ‘tis thine to guide, and, orgies singing, round thy throne to ride. Only-begotten, much-producing queen, all flowers are thine, and fruits of lovely green. Bright Goddess, come, with summer’s rich increase swelling and pregnant, leading smiling peace; come with fair concord and imperial health, and join with these a needful store of wealth.

::Orphic Hymn 40 to Demeter (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) ::

Dream #2

In Animals, Dreams, History, Inner Space, Magic, Mystery on November 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Do you ever have dreams where you find secret doors? Hidden rooms? I often have such dreams.  On many occasions, I am at my house, or my elementary school, or another familiar place when I come across a previously concealed opening.   I crawl inside and navigate among a network of fleshy tunnels, sliding between walls, climbing up cold metal vents, and going down dark shafts to places strange and unknown.  Several times, these paths lead me to obscure worlds…  alien locations super-imposed on familiar locales.  I’d like to think that these dreams are metaphors for exploring your own “personal” psychic space.  There is a scene in the movie Dreamcatcher (based off the Stephen King novel) where the protagonist explores a metaphoric warehouse of his own memories while an alien creature inhabits his body.  While I do not advocate watching such a terrible, terrible film, the image is clearly useful and pertinent to the conversation.

One such dream lingers on my mind.  In this dream my parents purchased my favorite Haunted House in Ocean City, Maryland and wanted to run it as a family business.  To those unfamiliar with the Haunted House at the end of the Boardwalk, let my explain that, basically, it is a seated two-person ride where frightening automated tricks are triggered as the cart travels down a winding track through a serious of horrifying scenes.  The labyrinthine layout of the ride confuses the passengers’ understanding of space and time while the psychedelic optical effects of the black-lights loosen their subconscious minds, successfully allowing the ghosts of the ride unmitigated access to the personal fears of the travelers, or at least, that’s how I’ve always felt.

In the dream, I returned home to Maryland to help them renovate their new business.  I was walking through the ride and I noticed a door that I have never seen.

It was down the crooked psychedelic hallway with its chipping black-light paint…

Past the terrifying old mill with its rusty saw blades…

Past the torture chamber with its racist primitive and its tied up maiden with giant animatronic heaving bosoms…

And directly after the horrific decomposing Victorian skeleton knitting a neon tea-cozy by moonlight.

There against a blank wall was a small, mysterious door shrouded by darkness.  I got on all fours and crawled through what seemed an endless maze of cobwebs-and-sand-encrusted tunnels.  Finally, after a long while, I reached a drafty, open chamber made of stone and marble.  The silvery moon must have been bright that magical night, because before me I saw illuminated some sort of ancient subterranean burial tomb.  It was then that I realized, “Holy shit.  This Haunted House is really just the top of a buried Egyptian pyramid!  Sweet.”  It was like the tip of an iceberg peering out of the water, only it was buried deep and forgotten in that cigarette-butt and broken beer bottle infested coastline that hugs the waters of the Atlantic.  I knew right then and there that I had found a great psychic doorway to the Underworld.  The ghosts that ran the haunted house were the lingering spirits of powerful beings.  At last, there would be proof that a proto-human species inherited these colossal geometric structures from their divine celestial fore-bearers (at least, these were my thought at the time).  And the best part… it was all mine to explore.  I don’t think I have ever been happier in a dream.  Then I woke up.  The dream was over.

Last night, I went looking for the actual blueprints of the fun-house (which I found) and luckily, I was charmed enough to come across The Bill Tracy Project, “a comprehensive look into the personal and professional life of the greatest designer and builder of dark attractions the amusement park industry has ever seen: Bill Tracy.”  He designed and built the Haunted House in Ocean City along with many others across the good ol’ U.S. of A.  He also designed many of the early Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats (how timely) and some display cases for Macy’s.  The list of his achievements is daunting (46 Dark Rides, 15 Walk-Thrus, 8 Water Rides, 6 Ride Displays, 1 Park Front, 1 Concept Ride, 1 Park Design/Layout, plus 2 Unknown Projects), and his carefully researched biography… fascinating.  This excerpt in particular seemed portentous:

Tracy’s creativity flourished and he became nationally known for his ceramics after being featured in the November 11, 1940 issue of Life, where a photo of Tracy’s ceramic creation, “Jonah in the Whale,” was published in an article covering the Syracuse Ceramic Show at The Museum of Fine Arts in Syracuse, New York, where his piece was on display. His unique sculpture featured a whale with a portion of its side removed to reveal a person trapped inside. 

For a full-page synchronicity, see Dream #1.

How did the young Bill Tracy gain access to the dreams of a of an individual 69 years in the future?  Why were the dead and hidden secrets of Ocean City’s occult origins revealed to humanity?  Will Nathan actually destroy the foundation of his favorite childhood thrill-ride to satisfy the ephemeral desires of a dream?  And just how much will the tickets cost to this new and wonderful attraction?  The answers to all these questions (and cooking tips for the holiday season!) in the next penumbra report.

Accidental Transhumanist Art: CAPTCHA

In Image, Internet, Language, Literature, Technology on November 22, 2009 at 4:27 pm

A CAPTCHA or Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.  Captcha is a type of challenge/response test used in com  puting to ensure that the response is not generated by a computer.  You may know it from those deliberately distorted or occluded images you see when signing up for online services.  Because other computers are unable to solve the CAPTCHA, any user entering a correct solution is presumed to be human. Thus, it is sometimes described as a reverse-Turing test because it is administered by a machine and targeted to a human, in contrast to the standard Turing test that is typically administered by a human and targeted to a machine.  There is an irony in humans using computers to create a test that distinguishes humans from computers.

You can create your own here.  

What fascinates me is the use of CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA as an unintentional art form.    Something characteristic of this current era is the appropriation of memes and internet phenomena in modern art.  More specifically, CAPTCHA art is a historical record of what is like to live a human life in our culture today.  Upon searching for artwork, I came across this tattoo.  What may seem at first as a symbol for our computer-mediated life is also a validation for all that is truly human. It is a declaration that this flesh has passed the test and is not a machine.

In fact, what I learned is that the old scramble method of CAPTCHA has been replaced with the two-word combination method in a global effort to further human knowledge.

About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.

The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.  reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

That’s right.  Each time you solve one of the reCAPTCHA challenges correctly, you are unknowingly participating in the digitizing of old NEW YORK TIMES articles that were printed before the digital age.  And so you may delight in the knowledge that those tedious puzzles are not merely validation tools, but also accidental poetry and a massive unintentional social conservation project.

Mystery Woman

In Image, Mystery on November 13, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Flexaret Model

I found this photograph on the internet.  I sold my Flexaret a few months ago.  I came across this picture while looking up the camera model.  She is beautiful, no?  Sometimes I just sit at my computer and stare at her hips.  The way the soft lens of the camera engraves the light into the film is incredible.  I love the hazy beach background covered in fog, as well.  In fact, I think about this photo so much, that I tried to channel it when taking my own photographs of Haley on the Dunes of Mendocino.  haleylegshaleyfacebw2I think I did an OK job with creating  a similar feel between the images.  I was using a Diana my sister got me and not a Flexaret I assume was used for the prime image.  The plastic is too soft and the distortion too heavy, but it was fun nonetheless.  I have so many small obsessions like this.  Little mysteries that I try to duplicate in order to gain a greater understanding.  What is it about soft black and white photographs that make them seem so dreamy?   If the oneiric nature of photography is obvious, then the connection to death is implicit.


In mythology, the Oneiroi were the three sons of Hypnos, the god of sleep. They lived on the border of the Underworld and were the rulers of visions, the personifications of dreams.  Morpheus (the root of the drug morphine) was the sculptor of dreams and had the ability to take any human’s form; Phobetor (root of phobia) orchestrated nightmares; and Phantasos (root of fantasy and phantasmagoria) produced tricky and unreal dreams. The twin brother of Hypnos was Thanatos or Death.

Susan Sontag writes, “Photographs tend to transform, whatever their subject; and as an image something may be beautiful—or terrifying, or unbearable, or quite bearable—as it is not in real life.”  In fact, the collapsing act of photography pulls an image deep into the bosom of the underworld.  We’ve all learned from our collective education to depreciate images, to concentrate rather on ideas, conceptual formations, and to assume that the psyche and the ego are equivalent.  This has the effect of blinding us to the reality of the psyche as an autonomous, objective entity.  It is through photography, cinema and dreams that we make contact with this strange creature, or at least, witness its functions and habits at close hand. The psyche is a wild beast, and like any other beast, it hungers.  To understand its needs, we must observe the environment in which it thrives: the dream.  What we eat in dreams is not food but images; we possess a psychic need for nourishing images.  It is the consumption of images that fascinates me, and it is here that I will attempt to flesh out certain phenomena intrinsic to the digestive process of my own psyche.

Dream #1

In Animals, Dreams, Magic, Psychology on November 12, 2009 at 11:45 pm

I have been having a series of vivid dreams.  I have tried to keep a dream journal in the past, but to no avail.  Jungian Psychology places a strong emphasis on dream analysis.  Hopefully, this process will prove therapeutic and, of course, entertaining.  Public feedback is also an important part of the process so please feel free to chime in with your thoughts.  So, let’s lay the corpse on the table and start dissecting…

Last night I had a dream about a Whale-man.  I often have dreams concerning whales.  I distinctly remember one such dream several years ago wherein I was a whale floating through outer space.   Groovy, right?  Well, this dream was pretty “far out” too, but it carried with it a more sinister tone.  I dreamt of an immense palace with a large, open ballroom.  There were ornate balconies lining the walls in a saccharin Rococo style reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast.   I was sitting alone on the marble and I was a child.

All of the sudden, the oak doors creaked open and the Whale-man entered the great room, his wet footsteps echoing all around me.  He was dressed as a Count, but had the head of a sperm whale.  I found this picture online, the tone and expression is all wrong but the general idea is correct.  I remember his head being enormous, like the actual head of a whale, though his torso may only have been 7 feet tall.  I think his skin was orange, too.  It was definitely a bright color.  He had a mouth like the picture, but I don’t remember him using it to speak.  I believe he was telepathic.  He was wise beyond his whale-years, I could tell you that.  He was monstrous and it frightened me, but I felt drawn to him and his presence was familiar.  He came up to me and touched me with his hand on the small of my back, as if we were about to dance.  But instead of dancing, we floated up into the air, levitated, if you will.  I knew right then that he was MAGIC.  I felt terribly insecure but he calmed me with a kiss, which I found erotic.  I became embarrassed and paranoid that the Servant would find us.  Servant may not be the right word.  There was a man on the balcony looking for me (his job was to look after me), and he seemed to be like a nurse-maid or pseudo-parental figure… like Zazu from the Lion King ( are you counting the number of Disney references?).

The Whale-man took me straight out of the palace and across the dark ocean.  At this point he morphed into a Seaplane.  We flew close to the skin of the sea and I watched as other whales were following us.  They popped in and out of the sea like wooden puppets.  It was night.  I was worried, but the Whale-man seem to say, “Don’t worry.  I am taking you away.  We are running away together.  Trust me.”

After a long journey we made it to his Castle.  He seemed to say: “Have a look around, my boy;” and so I did.  It was really neat, his Castle that is.  Very dark, lit by candelabra, Gothic.  “Nice place, you got here, Whale-man,” I said.  But he had transformed again.  This time he was dressed back as the Count and was a VERY old  man with a thick mustache.

But I couldn’t focus on this new manifestation; I was too transfixed on the knife he held behind his back with pale, thin hands.  I could see it as he crept toward me because I was viewing things in the third person.  He lunged forward and cut me, I don’t remember where, but it was deep.  For some reason he couldn’t kill me, because I knew who he was now: he was Dracula.  He seemed disappointed.  So he swooped me up into his arms and returned me to the Palace.

I found my father in the Hall of Elders and told him I was raped by Dracula/Whale-Man.  He said the same thing happened to him when he was my age and to his father before him.  I thought it strange that Ole’ Drake had been lurking around my family lineage initiating every male child into some sort of divine molestation for all eternity.  And with that thought, I woke up.

Phineas Gage and Phileas Fogg

In History, Literature, Psychology on November 11, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Jules-Verne-TextLately, I’ve been on a bit of a Jules Verne kick.  In particular, I have become fixated on the protagonist from Around the World in Eighty Days:  Phileas Fogg.

Phileas Fogg can be described as being an arcane, stolid, reserved, wanderlustuous, expeditious, untoady, indomitable, burnished, hyperopic, magnanimous, well-mannered, benignant, abstinent, daedal gentleman.  The story itself is quite fun, but what I found to be truly fascinating was the closely linked Philip Farmer meta-fiction: The Other Log of Phileas Fogg:

In an introduction, Farmer posits that Verne’s story was not simply an article of fiction, but the chronology of actual events, which Verne later decided to adapt into a fictional setting. In the book’s epilogue, Farmer playfully alludes to the notion that Phileas Fogg is still alive, and may in fact be the actual author of the story (Farmer notes that they both share the same initials, suggesting that Phillip Farmer is actually an alias for Phileas Fogg).

From Farmer’s perspective, Jules Verne revealed only a small and significantly subdued portion of the actual background and exploits of Phileas Fogg. He establishes that the events surrounding Around the World in Eighty Days is actually a singular aspect of a greater conflict taking place between two immortal alien races, the Eridani and the Capellas. Farmer’s story does not challenge any of the elements of the original text, but rather it adds an ambitious secondary tale taking place behind (and often in between) the scenes of Verne’s material.

Instead of a wealthy dilettante with a taste for odd wagers, Phileas Fogg is an agent of an alien race who have been conducting a secret war on earth for years. His race around the world is part of this arcane war generally designed to help ferret out Fogg’s nemesis: Captain Nemo.  The whole thing is reminiscent of a David Icke speech and has clearly been the inspiration behind League of Extraordinary Gentleman and similar fan fiction.

For those unaware of Farmer’s fiction, it may be interesting to note that he was behind the infamous “Kilgore Trout” pulp:  Venus on the Half-Shell. Evidently the Venutian language is a great source of anagrams for naughty bits (Tunc and Angavi come to mind). The story is of the life and travels of our hero, Simon Wagstaff, the Space Wanderer. He goes around in a giant flying dildo picking up androids and becoming immortal.  Good stuff.

Invariably, typos in my quest led me to the likes of Phineas P. Gage.

On September 13, 1848, 25-year-old Gage was foreman of a work gang blasting rock while preparing the roadbed for the Rutland & Burlington Railroad outside the town of Cavendish, Vermont. After a hole was “drilled” into a body of rock (via a laborious process which today might best be thought of as “chiseling”) one of Gage’s duties was to add blasting powder, a fuse, and sand, then compact (“tamp down”) the charge using a large iron rod. Possibly because the sand was omitted, around 4:30 PM:  the powder exploded, carrying an instrument through his head an inch and a fourth in [diameter], and three feet and [seven] inches in length, which he was using at the time. The iron entered on the side of his face, shattering the upper jaw, and passing back of the left eye, and out at the top of the head.

Amazingly, Gage spoke within a few minutes, walked with little or no assistance, and sat upright in a cart for the 3/4-mile ride to his lodgings in town. The first physician to arrive was Dr. Edward H. Williams:

I first noticed the wound upon the head before I alighted from my carriage, the pulsations of the brain being very distinct. Mr. Gage, during the time I was examining this wound, was relating the manner in which he was injured to the bystanders. I did not believe Mr. Gage’s statement at that time, but thought he was deceived. Mr. Gage persisted in saying that the bar went through his head….Mr. G. got up and vomited; the effort of vomiting pressed out about half a teacupful of the brain, which fell upon the floor.

This has become a case study for Psychology students as the damage to only the frontal lobe allowed Gage to function normally for the rest of his life.  Apparently, his behavior and personality was strikingly different after the accident.  Causing him to swear in public and become irritable in private.  Most close friends reported he was “no longer the Gage I knew.”  Eventually, he moved down to South America and became a carriage-driver in Chile.

This is the end of the beginning.

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Welcome and Hello to the launching of *penumbra report.

Zohar in Focus: Manna and Wisdom

In Religion on November 10, 2009 at 4:28 pm

There exists a magical word in Welsh folklore: Caerdroia.  The literal translation of this idiom into modern English is roughly equivalent to “Castle of Turns,” although we may find a more familiar and congruous synonym in the word labyrinth.  Labyrinths can be thought of as symbolic forms of pilgrimage; people can walk the path, ascending towards salvation or enlightenment. This spiritual awakening is manifest in a more practical and corporeal sense, as well.  By walking amongst the turnings, the user of the labyrinth loses track of direction and of the outside world, and thus quiets the mind. The result is a relaxed mental attitude, free of internal dialog. This is a form of meditation.  One need not travel outwardly to holy sites and far away lands for understanding, as the use of labyrinths supplant that need.

By its design, the Zohar is such a labyrinth. It is a mystic garden of living statues, breathing fountains, and rich foundations that support a veritable cornucopia of myth and interpretation. The rhizomatic structure of the Sefirot weaves along its soft walls like a web of ancient vines.  These are the holy veins of the Zohar, which keep the text alive with the constant gush and flow of divine light.  This light pours out in prismatic splendor for all of those who have learned the secrets of the maze, and may navigate freely through her ornate arches and mirrored halls.  The Zohar is full of hidden passages, each one an enigmatic tableau laced with subtle paradoxes and complex meanings.  In order to reveal these latent paradigms and hidden networks of understanding, it becomes necessary to focus the attention to a specific passage of the Zohar, Manna and Wisdom.

A passage of the Zohar is like a flower in bloom; each portion, an interpretive amplification of the Torah, much like the Midrash.  Manna and Wisdom is a beautiful poem and an enigmatic reflection on an excerpt from Exodus (Verse 16:4, 9-10, 13-15) that depicts the miraculous event wherein YHVH proclaims to Moses that he will deliver to the wandering Israelites “bread from heaven.”  The term “manna” does not appear anywhere in the Zohar passage, but as Daniel Chanan Matt insightfully reveals, it is a clever pun derived from the Hebrew phrase “what is it?” (or man hu in Hebrew), which also translates to “it is manna.”  The excerpt from Exodus is an intriguing base for the Zohar to blossom, although certain lines are still a mystery and left unrendered by the mystical Zohar.  Specifically, the line “That evening, the quail rose and covered the camp” is a gross vagueness.  Are the quail messengers from God? Are they a blessing?  A miracle?  A hidden Sefirot?  This foul remains a mystery.

The Sefirot are exposed from the biblical passage by the filtrating lens of the Zohar.  The path of the holy bread is traced down the Tree of Life in the following lines:

Every single day, dew trickles down / from the Holy Ancient One to the Impatient One, / and the Orchard of Holy Apple Trees is blessed.

The Holy Ancient One in this verse is a reference to Keter, the crown and the first Sefirot.  It is from Keter that the spiritual dew is first differentiated from Ein Sof, the infinite Godhead.  The Impatient One, explains Matt, is an allusion to the eight lower Sefirot from Hokhmah to Yesod.  The Orchard of Holy Apple Trees implies the Shekhinah drawing divine substance from Hesed to Yesod who populate her orchard.  The imagery stresses the need for students of mysticism to study the Sefirot and the dynamic path that leads life from the unknowable Ein Sof down to the Presence of Shekhinah. The manna was made available to the Israelites through (or at least strengthened by) their connection to Yesod or the “Holy King” by circumcision.  This covenant with God secured Israel’s tie to divine gifts and protection.  The mazzah that the Children of Israel ate when first entering the desert symbolizes their communion with Shekhinah. In fact, the Zohar interprets the entire journey from Egypt to Sinai as direct metaphor for the “spiritual journey into the divine realm.”  This type of structured symbolism is typical of the Zohar and typified specifically by this verse.  It illustrates the Zohar’s purpose as a mystical tool that aids in the understanding of the Ten Sefirot and their connection to all things (but especially to Jewish history and mythology).   The word “Heaven” is used several times in explaining the divine realm that is the source of manna.  “Heaven” is linked with Tif’eret, the bridegroom of Shekhinah. The last major Sefirot touched upon in the passage is partnered with Manna in the very title of this reading, it is “Wisdom” or Hokhmah. This is the highest Sefirot and spiritual union with Hokhmah is one of the greatest goals of the mystic.  It is at the single point of Hokhmah that the Torah was derived and it only with Hokhmah that one arrives at the source of revelation.

The insights that make Manna and Wisdom a truly unique passage are its exclusive discussion between Rabbi Shim’on and Rabbi El’azar on the nature of “angel bread” and other gradients of divine sustenance, and the relationship between these delicious sacraments and the mysterious Comrades.  The latter being a term for the disciples of R. Shim’on and the mystic followers of the Zohar.  R. Shim’on remarks, that while mazzah and “angel bread” (or manna) were given to the wandering Israelites by Shekhinah and Tif’eret, respectively, “Comrades engaging the Torah are nourished from an even higher sphere.”  This sphere is Wisdom or Hokhmah. The Comrades are granted this diet as their close understanding and appreciation of the Torah, brings them closer to the sphere from which the Torah was forged: Wisdom.  R. El’azar counters with a query that examines the discrepancy between the Comrades supposed spiritual power and their physical weakness.  R. Shim’on carefully explains that food from that high a sphere is too fine a substance to  be detected on the physical planes of existence, and is manifest only in the realms of spirit and soul-breath.  “Happy is the body that can nourish itself on food of the soul!”

Manna and Wisdom is a carefully crafted blueprint that thrives equally off of the Torah and Jewish imagination; it is a mystical guide depicting how students may climb the ladder of the ten Sefirot and partake of the blessed tastes that fill the upper realms.  It is a reminder to “engage Torah day and night” and to cleave to their heart the forces of YHWH, so that they may flourish in the garden of life and live long, prosperous lives[i]

[i] All quotations and information gathered from “Manna and Wisdom,” a chapter in Daniel Chanan Matt’s translation of the Zoahr.  Paulist Press.  1983.


This is the beginning of the end.

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2009 at 4:21 am

Hello and welcome to the launching of *penumbra report.