Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trapped By Enchantment

כ״ז בסיון תשע"א
Alban Heruin 29

As a Jewitch, I am often asked what is the critical difference between magic and mysticism? and how can I resolve practicing witchcraft against the Torah's seeming prohibition on witchcraft with the claim that I am a Torah observant Jew?

There is a chapter in a book by Adin Steinsaltz (The Strife of the Spirit) which discusses the traditional rabbinic view of magic and mysticism, between that prohibited by Torah and that allowed by Torah. In this chapter, Rabbi Steinsaltz explains that the critical difference between Torah-prohibited magic and Torah-allowed magic all comes down to who does it and from what level the power comes. Engaging in magical pursuits, from a rabbinic perspective, is dangerous until one reaches a certain "madreiga" or spiritual level of developmental maturity. Prior to attaining that level, the rabbis believe that a person can become fascinated with power (that is, trapped by enchantment) in such a way that a person's continued spiritual development is impeded. The rabbis recognize that oftentimes many of the powers associated with witchcraft naturally unfold as one evolves spiritually, but also recognize that powers may also unfold prematurely leading to a detrimental enchantment with power. In other words, a person is liable to become trapped by an enchantment with the very real power released through magical-mystical practices such that he or she becomes confused and deadlocked spiritually. For this reason, rabbinic tradition discourages magical/mystical pursuits, and in my opinion, has misled laypeople as to what the Torah actually teaches about magic and mysticism. Interestingly, the situation in traditional rabbinic Judaism today suggests that many rabbis are indeed confused spiritually and trapped by an enchantment with power.

Enchantment of a whole group of people is not unheard of in the occult mysteries. In Celtic magical-mystical tradition, the story of a whole city's enchantment is told in the first branch of the Mabinogion in the tale known as The Enchantment of Dyfed. In consequence to enchantment, except for four individuals, the lives of all of the city's inhabitants became suspended. In other words, they became spiritually deadlocked not too unlike rabbinic Judaism today.

We cannot always judge what is permitted and what is prohibited by the labels we put on practices. Sometimes we can only make a proper judgement as to what is prohibited and what is allowed by its effect upon us.

I note as an interesting side observation - as with the Judaic tale of the Exodus, the number four figures prominently in the Celtic tale of Dyfed as well.

5 comments:

Simon Tomasi said...

Great post!

Rabbi Steinsaltz's book "The Strife of the Spirit" is one of my favourite books. I particularly like the chapter about Rabbinic view of people who display psychic gifts.

Myfanwy said...

Thank you :)

~ Jayne ~ said...

As always,I have learned from you,but am wondering what is the consequence of practicing acceptable withcraft,or otherwise,from Judaic view-point.Is the judgement in the "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" vein or is theirs a more tolerant edict? Also, does gender come into the mix,or would both sexes be condoned as practitioners?

Myfanwy said...

The Torah does not say thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. More importantly, none of the Torah's teachings are to be understood at face value. Judaism recognizes that all women are natural witches, Talmud teaches that "the best among women practice witchcraft." Moses, the greatest of teachers, and the person through whom the Torah was given to Israel, was a wizard.

~ Jayne ~ said...

Thank you for the enlightenment : I am glad to know that information and better understand why I am so drawn to it.

Dare to be true to yourself.