Heart-Centered Living

What does it mean to live from the heart? There are plenty of opinions about it, ranging from giving it all to everyone to taking care of yourself first. Like everything else, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The Buddhists have a term, bodhichitta, which is defined as limitless compassion for all sentient beings. This is the ultimate in heart-centered living, but it is most difficult to attain. After all, it means the release of all attachments. These attachments are replaced by pure compassion. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Living from the heart means to have at least a well enough developed sense of empathy to be able to understand and truly feel with another’s experience. This releases judgment and replaces it with identification. But does the release of judgment mean that everything is OK, regardless of the action or its consequences? Obviously not.

On the Tree of Life, the sphere of Compassion (Chesed) lies opposite that of Severity or Judgment (Geburah). – You can review the Tree in my post here. – The goal of consciously incorporating the Tree into one’s being is based on balance, or following the Middle Way, to borrow a term from Buddhism. In other words, from a Tree of Life perspective, balance must be maintained between Compassion and Judgment. Straying too far one way or the other leads to error. To put a further twist on it, sometimes the best way of showing compassion is through a stern punishment. True tough love.

It’s difficult to live from the heart, and it’s an easy out to justify insensitivity on our part as “taking care of ourselves.” After all, love does begin at home. Without self-love, all other forms of love are hollow, being ill-directed attempts to find inner acceptance. Carried too far, though, self-love becomes narcissism. Not carried far enough, it becomes self-loathing. Neither alternative is pretty.

Balance, balance.

Is It Intuition?

Here’s a vexing question for you. We’ve all had intimations, gut feelings, vague senses, etc. Is it intuition? It can be tough to tell.

But what is intuition? It has been called a direct realization of the truth, without resorting to a reasoning process. Good enough; let’s use that. Not perfect, but it will do.

In the health care field, we have the notion of clinical intuition. It is a term that is accepted even by some of the stodgiest amongst practitioners. I have told class after class of budding healers that intuition needs a channel through which to flow, and that channel gets bigger and better worn the more one knows about the relevant field. In other words, intuition needs a translator to be useful, and the better the translator, the more accurate the intuition tends to be.

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than someone who calls themselves a healer without a good grounding in what they are doing. Such individuals have an unfortunate proclivity to speak every thought that crosses their minds as if it were Divine Guidance – when often it is only the pontificating of personal ego. Such healers can and often do harm to those they are trying to help.

So, is it intuition, or ego gratification? A most important consideration is whether there is true neutrality about the situation in the intuiter, to coin a term. When there is no ego involvement, the information is more likely to be accurate – but even that is no guarantee.

As you can see, there are no easy answers here. Outside verification of intuitive impressions is helpful, but not always available.

Bottom line: Caution is advised. Not much help, I’m afraid. I’ll do some Qabalistic musings about this soon, as it pertains to the Tree of Life.

De Profundis

So, anybody out there up on their Latin? Or their Psalms? Or their movie dialogue?

This post’s title comes from a famous Latin phrase. The full verse is: De profundis clamo ad te, Domine. (Of course, it wasn’t written in Latin originally, but it’s a cool thing to say; just rolls off the tongue.)

De david

Translation: Out of the depths I cry unto you, O Lord. It’s from Psalm 130.

Or, from M. Night Shyamalan’s movie The Sixth Sense.

[When I heard the line in the flick, I knew what it meant before they translated it. Thank you, Father Pius — one of my high school Latin teachers]

At any rate, the quote suddenly occurred to me the other day. When I Googled it, it turned up being used in several blogs recently. Synchronicity at work.

According to Biblical lore, King David (in the picture) wrote this when he was feeling pretty low, which seems to have been fairly often if you’ve ever given Psalms a look. This was evidently David’s scene: feel bad, pluck the lyre, make up a psalm. Probably worked as well as any anti-depressant. He was one of the world’s premier music therapists, I suppose.

Back to synchronicity. I mean, I wasn’t feeling down when the quote came to me. It must have just been floating about in the collective unconscious and bobbed to the surface. For several people, by the looks of it.

Why is that floating around now? People worried about the economy? Expecting God to give them some hot stocks for their IRAs? Well here’s a news flash: Don’t go to God for stock tips, because as Einstein supposedly said, “God does not play dice with the Universe.”

[BTW, if you think the stock market is anything other than a sophisticated casino, think again. Anymore, it doesn’t have anything to do with how a company is doing, or the quality of its product. It’s about what the computer programs say, and about “the house” (the large investor) taking “the suckers” (you and me) for a ride.]

Oh, yeah — synchronicity. It may be the mind’s fervent need to make sense of the random (I doubt that), but it seems like certain themes, events, etc. associate themselves with each other to give us messages or lessons. That’s one way to think about synchronicity.

So, what am I supposed to get from Psalms 130:1? I think it has to do with remembering that the Higher Self is always there, even when one is not in the depths. After all, as I said before, I wasn’t there when the quote hit me. Also, I think it’s about not waiting until one is in the depths to check out whatever guidance there is to be had. In other words, it’s always good to see what can be gleaned from powers that have a greater perspective.

How to go about this checking is one’s personal choice. From prayer and meditation to Tarot cards and bird entrails, various methods have been tried. I know some prefer looking at guts, but as for myself, I think I’ll pass on the entrails.

However you choose to do it, pick your method and don’t be concerned about how others go about it. As they say in Latin: De gustibus non est disputandum (There ain’t no accounting for taste).

Seeing, Not Just Looking

Some time ago I had a dream in which God gave me the ability to see with my eyes closed, like looking through my eyelids. Not a great superpower, but something. Oh, and what did God look like? In this manifestation, the Almighty was a 40-ish guy who was pretty nondescript, slightly chubby, looked kind of
Hispanic. Thin mustache. Polo shirt and chinos. Loafers. I suppose the Ineffable One can look — however, you know?

Anyway, I did a few parlor tricks with my new-found ability (the Ancient of Days was rather amused, looking on), and woke up. Pondering the dream, one message I got was that this ability was so that I could look at the true nature of things, rather than just the illusion of consensual reality playing out before my senses. Now, if I could only hold onto that gift . . .

In the Tarot, 15 - Devil the illusion of reality is often represented by the card known as The Devil (Major Arcana number 15). The card is also associated with the astrological sign of Capricorn. Just because this card represents Capricorn, though, doesn’t mean that Capricorn is bad. We need our inner Capricorn to push us forward in the world, and Capricorn rules career and business. Also, a certain little Savior was born a Capricorn, according to popular reckoning.

No, the problem comes from being captured (note the chains that attach the two figures to the Devil’s throne) by that illusion. Looking deeply, we can begin to peel back the frilly distraction to find the spiritual core, though. Take a good look at the card. You can see pretty easily that the chains around the figures’ necks are roomy enough that they could remove the chains on their own, if they so desire. That’s the trick — wanting to remove the chains. Don’t be fooled like Faust, who nearly condemned himself by wanting the illusion of reality to stay. “You are so wonderful,” the doomed doctor said. That was all Mephistopheles needed to hear, and ol’ Faust was almost a goner. Thanks goodness the cavalry (angels) came to the rescue.

Don’t let yourself get bamboozled by appearances. To paraphrase Smoky the Bear: Only YOU can prevent hellfile.

Contacting Your Self

Tarot cards aren’t just a divinatory device. In fact, that’s one of their more mundane uses. The deeper uses of Tarot involve its function as a map of the journey toward true knowledge of the Self. What is most true is the inner knowing of the Self. Some call it “the God within.”

One of the best ways to access it is to use certain Tarot cards as aids to meditation. It’s not that tough to do. Use the indicated card as a focus point for your meditation; you can even just gaze at it and let associations flow. Notice the colors, the figures in the picture, etc. What do they suggest to you?

A card that’s especially good to get your intentions clear regarding wanting to keep the relationship with the Self strong is The Chariot (Number 7 in the Major Arcana, a.k.a. Key VII). [This picture is from the B.O.T.A. deck. To some extent, the deck one uses isn’t critical. However, some decks are more faithful to the traditional (proven effective) associations of the cards. These decks will work more directly in meditation.]

The importance of Key VII lies in its associations to the ideal state of consciousness. 7 - ChariotThe body is the chariot itself, pulled by the twin sphinxes of intellect and desire (wants and needs, left and right brain, etc.). The Charioteer is the Higher Self, the true expression of the God within. Therefore, the true mover/driver of our existence should be that Higher Self, rather than letting the sphinxes run amok. BTW, notice how peacefully they await the charioteer’s command. This is symbolic of the inner peace that accompanies allowing the Higher Self to be the driver of our life.

Of course, this is just the start of the associations to this card, and I won’t go into them all here. Patience, gentle reader.

One other tidbit, though. The Hebrew letter on the lower right of the card is Cheth (pronounced chet’ where the ch is kind of like that in the Scottish word “loch”), which means fence or enclosure. So, this card can also be used as a way of strengthening our personal, psychological boundaries.

Chakras and the Planets of the Ancients

Recently, while giving a Reiki treatment, I was struck with the profound energies surrounding the chakras, and some of the associations that have been formed over time. Specifically in the Western mystery tradition, planets and metals have been associated with these seven, prime energy centers of the human body. They are located at (common name and planet in parentheses):Sol

  • the perineum (Root chakra; Saturn)
  • just below the navel (Sacral chakra; Mars)
  • at the solar plexus (Solar Plexus chakra; Jupiter)
  • at the heart (Heart chakra; Sun)
  • at the throat (Throat chakra; Venus)
  • at the brow (Third Eye chakra; Moon)
  • at the crown of the head (Crown chakra; Mercury)

Notice that these assignments were made before the discovery of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (and I still think Pluto is a planet, dadgumit!)

These associations weren’t made will-nilly. For instance, Saturn (associated with Binah on the Tree of Life — see my post on the Tree of Life here.) is seen as a limiting force, but it also allows things to come into concrete existence. The Root chakra is our connection with the Earth, so that correspondence makes sense. Mars, the action-driven force that pushes us to create is linked to our Sacral, generative chakra. Jupiter, with its expansiveness is link with the chakra of Will, which pushes us forward in the world. The Sun is linked with the Heart center, which aligns with the Tree of Life sphere of Tiphareth, our connection to the Son (this is explained a bit in my post on the Holy Family). Venus, the expresser of beauty is linked to our expressive Throat center. The Moon, that mystical, feminine, intuitive planetary body is set into the Third Eye, our intuitive center. Finally, Mercury is at the crown. Mercury, messenger of the gods, linked to the point where we receive messages from the gods. Good fit.

Try this exercise: Visualize the planets or their mythological human representations at each of the seven centers. If you have a problem with visualizing more than one at a time, that’s no biggie; do one at a time. Concentrating on each center, feel the energy of it. Just let it come, don’t force it. See how the center feels to you. See if it makes sense to place that planet there. How does it fit? How does it not? Let it rumble around in your consciousness for a while. Nestle into it and let it flow. See where it takes you.

There are colors associated with the chakras too. I don’t want to get into that now, since there are several systems, and the one I favor doesn’t match the most popular one.  Sigh, always the outlier, this guy.

Take time to have fun with your chakras, because they have fun with you.

Four Worlds

I want to write a bit today about the four worlds of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. You see, things unfold in an orderly fashion on the Tree (for a more complete explanation of the Tree itself, my post on it is here). The Life Energy, God Consciousness, whatever you want to call it, unfolds gradually over the ten spheres of the tree. That’s just one kind of unfolding, though. Another type involves the energy’s evolution through the four worlds of [now, hang with me here, since the words may look a little funny]: Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiah. Anyway, there they are. Not so bad, eh?


Atziluth is the first world, if you will. That is to say, it’s the world that’s made of pure principles and archetypes. This is the ultimate raw material. It is the place of complete, yet abstract, conceptualization. Next comes the world of Briah, which is the creative world. Here, those first principles are grasped in such a way that they can be worked with in a creative (in all senses of the word) fashion. Third is Yetzirah. It is the world of Formation, where the creative energy is molded by thought and image, powered by desire. Finally comes Assiah, the manifest world. Here is where the principles, that have been acted upon by the creative urge and formed through the power of thought, actually come to be. It’s kind of, but not quite, like the matryoshka dolls in the picture.

No one of these worlds is superior to any other, as all are equally important. Reality as we know it, or however we conceive it to be, could not exist without the active involvement from all four of these entities. In the Tarot, the suit of Wands (element of Fire) is associated with Atziluth, Cups (element of Water) with Briah, Swords (element of Air) with Yetzirah, and Pentacles (element of Earth) with Assiah.

Everything in creation arises in the same way. Behind all our perceptions and experiences are first principles, creative energy, thoughtforms, and materiality. Part of the process of spiritual evolution is learning to see all of these at once, and understanding the principles or Cosmic truths that lie behind worldly appearances. [When I get to that point, I’ll let you know]

Walking the Paths

When looking at the Tree of Life (TOL), one sees the 10 spheres, which represent the ten aspects of God as translated into human personality, and the 22 paths that connect the spheres. However, the idea of pathworking, or pathwalking, is not often talked about, except in books especially written on the subject (for example, books by Will Parfitt and – my personal favorite – Gareth Knight).Paths

[An interesting graphic novel series, the Promethea series, has a couple of volumes that deal with the TOL and other, relevant magical topics. It’s a vividly depicted, entertaining read if you’re into that artform]

I prefer the term pathwalking to pathworking, since pathwork is often used to describe the work of John and Eve Pierrakos (which is also known as Core Energetics). Besides, pathwalking implies a pilgrimage of some sort, which is what this form of inner exploration is akin to. In this practice, we take a pilgrimage into our own personalities – and even reach out to that boundary between god and human.

Depending on the path to be walked, particular symbols, colors, and aspects of personality are used to awaken the relevant forces in the subconscious. Each path also has a Tarot card of the Major Arcana associated with it. This card provides the key that unlocks the path to be walked.

The journey begins in one of the two spheres connected by the path (the paths are two-way streets, so either sphere can be the starting point). By carefully envisioning the appropriate symbols, the pilgrim walks the path to the other sphere, gaining insight, wisdom, and sometimes surprising experiences.

It is important to remember that everything one experiences during this process is already within the psyche. There’s nothing there that isn’t ultimately under the pilgrim’s control. I say that because, along the way, the pilgrim may experience the negative side of the path, as well as the positive. Remember, the TOL is made of polar opposites as well as complementary forces. Therefore, there can be the occasional Qliphothic encounter. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but it can be challenging when it happens.

BTW, I intend to do a guided visualization series based on the paths. This format is a nice way to go when pathwalking, as the symbols can be laid out in the visualization. This makes memorization less of a chore. Stay tuned, though, because right now it’s only one of many things bouncing around my tortured brain.

See you on the paths.

The Holy Family of the Central Pillar

The central pillar of the Tree of Life (TOL) is composed of four spheres: Kether (Crown, white), Tiphareth (Beauty, golden yellow), Yesod (Foundation, violet) and Malkuth (Kingdom, multi-colored). A brief explanation of them can be found in my two previous blog entries on the Tree itself. The relationship among these spheres is fascinating, and is worth many hours of meditation.

[For the rest of this entry, I may be coming off as a little sexist, or at least a little genderish. Please don’t get all upset with me. I’m talking gender polarities here. I’m not trying to be either misogynistic or misanthropic. Sorry for the interruption, but I had to say that. These days, people can get so sensitive.]

First, Kether is the outpouring of the Divine, and is like God the Father in Christianity. Next comes Tiphareth, seat of Christ Consciousness; God the Son, if you will. It is also the seat of the ideal, primal human or Adam Kadmon. At the base is Malkuth, God the Holy Spirit. However, Malkuth is also the seat of the Shekinah, the Female aspect of the godhead in ancient Hebrew mysticism. At times, Qabalists will refer to Malkuth as “the bride” of Kether. I didn’t forget Yesod, but it is the odd one out. This sphere is where little ol’ us come into the picture. Yesod is the residence of the human collective unconscious, and the individual soul. This is the place where we get messages from the Divine.

Looked at another way, the central pillar represents the Holy Family of Joseph (Kether), Jesus (Tiphareth), and Mary (Malkuth) – or as my mother used to swear at us kids, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! If you kids don’t quiet down, I’m going to . . .” (insert here the scariest thing you can imagine a Sicilian mother doing with some unnamed cooking utensil)

The Holy Trinity, the Holy Family; sometimes I miss Catholicism, but only sometimes. At any rate, the way these spheres, and all spheres, connect on the Tree is via paths. Each of these paths has a Tarot trump associated with it. From Kether to Tiphareth, the High Priestess is the path. From Tiphareth to Yesod, it’s Temperance, and from Yesod to Malkuth, it’s The World. (I will talk about these cards and paths in due course. For now, just take my word for it.)

This gets complicated quickly, so I will try to be brief. The High Priestess is the holder of memory and guards the entrance into the Holy of Holies. Temperance is represented by an angel (Michael, angel of the heart and Tiphareth). When we communicate with our highest nature, the Christ Consciousness, we are having what Qabalists call the “conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel.” This is how high consciousness speaks to us meat puppets. Making our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs into 3D reality is accomplished by the force symbolized by The World, a card associated with limitation and restraint. How else could the chaos of our minds become reality without a little restraint?

It is said that the Tree is embodied in us, and that the Malkuth of any Tree is the Kether of the next. Like Ezekiel’s wheels within wheels, perhaps. Nevertheless, it is possible for us to commune with the primal forces of the Masculine, the Feminine, and their union, the Child. This is done through the powers of our imagination and our intuition which, not so coincidentally, are said to reside in Yesod.

If you aren’t completely confused by now, congratulations. Now do you see why some people say we made our first mistake as a species when we came down out of the trees?

The Tree of Life – Part 2

Yesterday I talked about the first three spheres, the so-called supernal triad. Now let’s continue our journey down the tree. The next triad is composed of the 4th, 5th, and 6th spheres of the tree. The fourth is Chesed (Mercy), the sphere of compassion. It is at the middle right. It is said that this is the highest sphere at which an incarnate human can resonate. This is where the great mystics, saviors, etc. reside. It is associated with the planet Jupiter. Next comes Geburah (Severity), which is opposite Chesed and balances it. This sphere allows us to temper our mercy with judgment. These two spheres are rather interdependent. Too much of one or the other leads to an unbalanced approach to life. Geburah is associated with the planet Mars. TolThe sixth sphere is Tiphareth (Beauty). This is the heart centered sphere which is the balancing point of the tree. It has more paths connected to it than any other sphere. When we are at our most balanced, this is where we are centered. It is associated with the Sun. (Notice its direct communication with God via Kether). In fact, it connects with all of the first three spheres – no other point on the tree does that directly.

The next triad is the 7th, 8th, and 9th spheres. Number seven is Netzach (Victory). It’s the one on the lower right of the tree. It is associated with the desire nature of the human psyche. All that we wish for and covet find homes here. Out of control Netzach energy leads to several of the seven deadly sins, like Lust, Gluttony, Covetousness, and Envy. Hmmm, four out of seven – not bad. (The other three, for the record, are Pride, Anger, and Sloth). Anyway, this is the sphere of Venus – not surprisingly. The eighth is Hod (Splendor), the sphere of the human intellect. In the ideal case, reason balances desire. Interestingly, this is also traditionally seen as the sphere where our ideas of God reside; that is to say, this is where the godforms arise. Everything from the bearded old guy, to Thor with his hammer and Diana with her bow. (Strange story: Once, while meditating on this sphere, I was indeed confronted by Thor. The dude has a temper. — Details maybe at another time). Hod is associated with the planet Mercury. The ninth sphere is Yesod (Foundation). This is our intuitive sphere, the place of the collective unconscious. It is associated with the Moon. This is a good place to go for insight and clarvoyance.

The final, tenth sphere, is Malkuth (the Kingdom). It is physical reality and, while it has no astrological association, it is the sphere of the Earth. It anchors the tree and is the culmination of all that came before, receiving direct input from the realms of desire, intellect, and intuition.

So, there you go. A little bit about the TOL. For meditation, the tree is a strong object. In some ways, it’s not for beginners, since its symbology runs very deep. My favorite book on the symbolism of the tree is A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism by English mystic Gareth Knight. It’s a masterpiece and hits virtually every nail on the head (pardon the poor savior-on-a-tree pun).

More on the Tree to come.