Monday, December 18, 2006

A talk with Jacob

I was reading the Torah portion last week and was intrigued by the story of Dinah (Genesis 34). What puzzled me most was Jacob's silence through most of the story, only to be broken when he berates his sons for what they've done.

So I called the soul of Jacob to get some insight. I do this by reading words that Jacob said in the Torah. A few years ago, I discovered that when I read a text, I feel the presence of the soul of the author. The more spiritually powerful the author, the clearer their soul feels to me. One of the amazing things about the Tanach is that if I read the words spoken by characters in the Tanach, I feel their presence. The Torah itself, at least at this point, is transparent, that is to say, I feel the people being written about, not the author. The Talmud, on the other hand, I find very difficult to reach souls because it feels like there are too many authors, too many redactors. So I called the soul of Jacob.

He told me to understand that Dinah was still a child when she was raped. She was raped, held captive, and then the rapist thought he fell in love with her and had the gaul to ask her father to let him marry her. Jacob asked me, as a father of two young girls, to imagine what I would feel like if anything like that happened to my daughter, even in a culture where they were married much younger than today. He was silent because he was paralyzed by his rage. He knew that shechem held the power, but his rage prevented him from knowing how to respond in such a way as to avoid a war and get his daughter back. He knew that his sons were better liars than he, and they did not shy away from violence.

When they came home, they were able to find the still, cold place in their anger and lure Shechem and his father Hamor into weakening themselves so they could be overcome and Dinah could be freed. But Jacob didn't realize they would take it so far as to kill the entire city. He just wanted to kill Shechem and Hamor and get Dinah back . That was why he chastised them.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I just finished Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and was very impressed by it. One piece that particularly struck me was his description of the food tasters (chapter five, pp 176-186). They were able to train their taste buds to an extreme - even being able to taste the differences between different quality ingredients in different batches of the same foods. Gladwell writes that they are able to understand so much about their tastes because they have an extensive vocabulary to describe what they are tasting. They are able to talk extensively about a brief moment of taste. Gladwell's book is all about how people make snap decisions, so this fits right into his theme.

Earlier, he writes that most people who are asked to describe why they like or dislike something end up changing their opinions once they have tried to justify it. They lose that moment of experience to the longer thinking process. The food tasters are able to hold onto their initial opinions because they were trained to accurate describe the initial experience and therefore don't need to change the taste to fit the description.

I see a clear link between this and shamanism. When I first began having shamanic experiences, my initial reaction was to try to explain what happened. Part of working with a teacher was having him explain what was happening, but I still wanted a clearer idea of what was going on. It's the same as driving a car: you press on the gas and the car goes, but most people have no idea what's going on under the hood. I used to be an auto mechanic so I have a pretty good idea what's going on. I know all the names of the parts and what they do. Shamanic healing is a lot like driving. I turn on the key and call the souls. Then I drive around, though not always knowing where I'm going, and then people get healthy. I have no idea what's going on under the hood: what makes the car move or how the engine works.

In my practice, I've found that the Jewish explanations for the experiences seem to most accurately describe what's happening, which is why I try to study as much as possible. But I've heard a lot of crazy explanations for what's going on once you turn the key. It seems that people can't accurately describe what they are experiencing (myself included) and so we do our best to come up with an explanation. And the explanation sometimes, or often, changes what we experience. I've seen that often the explanation is more about the practitioner than the experience.

So what if we took a page from the tasters and came up with a detailed vocabulary for describing the experience of driving the shamanic car. Not how it works as I think that's beyond us and will always remain a mystery, but what we actually experience. I have no idea how to do this, but am curious to see what I can come up with.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

a beginning

I'm starting this blog to explore the shamanic within Jewish Mysticism. Shamanism and mysticism are not that different - they are both related to direct experience of God and the ability to perceive and interact with the spirit world. Shamanism is mostly concerned with one's ability to heal. Jewish Mystics have often been healers, and my intention is to try to look at these mystics to understand how they healed. The next step is to come up with a "Seder halacha", a method for doing, and try to bring their words off of the page to learn how to heal as they did.

I bring to this my training as an acupuncturist, craniosacral therapist, and shaman. I have been studying with a shaman for the past seven years. I am hoping that my training and my healing practice will give me the tools to understand what the Jewish mystics did. And hopefully I am not so immersed in them that I will be unable to avoid the trap of finding new names for what I already do, rather than finding new things to do.

I will also post notes and translations for things that I do in the hopes that others will be able to find ways of making these mystical practices work.