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Updated: 6 days ago

Most academics consider Rene Descartes (1596-1650) the father of modern philosophy and many people know his famous statement, “cogito, ergo sum”, (I think, therefore I am) which means thoughts cannot be separated from the person, therefore the person exists. Now, in the postmodern age computers can “think” and many jobs are becoming obsolete, even certain legal services, in favor of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. Postmodernism now holds relativism in vogue. Initially, it was a counter-philosophy to the blanket consensus generated by a "powerful elite's theory" of truth. "History is written by the victors" is a fitting example. Relativism is perfectly fine if there is a genuine interest in pursuing credible, albeit, minority theories such as critical race theory, or occultism. It is not okay when relativism has no guiding principles about right and wrong, and no ethical guidelines. It results in gullible people believing false narratives. It's when propaganda is defended with arguments such as "truth isn't necessarily everyone's truth" "facts aren't facts" or "there are alternative facts".   

"Thinking" inevitably involves an internal dialogue with oneself, and speaking to others. For some folks the act of thinking is underutilized. Or maybe, they are insecure, not strong in themselves, and eager for a leader, someone to follow. . . .Then along comes a charmer of a person.

I influence, therefore I am. What does that mean? Today, very important people are trailblazers and trendsetters on podcasts, TikTok, YouTube, and other social media platforms. Some of the sites are places where people get their "news". These modern day leaders are masters of communication with an enormous amount of self-confidence. An influencer who monetizes what they put on the internet through followers and subscribers is the dream-job many aspire to. Self actualization comes when others "click", "comment" "like", and "love" your posts. It can be addictive, which is also a hidden danger. However, these influencers have no real motivation to harm anyone, rather their aim simply might be to capitalize on their own vanity.

The Torah teaches creation occurs through the spoken word. So, it's no coincidence God is known in Hebrew by the name, HaMashpiah or The Influencer. The phrase “God said”, or some fashion of those words, are stated nine times in the first chapter of Genesis, while the tenth is an internal utterance or inner will of God inferred from the opening sentence, "In the beginning" or "With beginning". Kabbalists recognize these sayings, or fiats, gave rise to not only the seven days of creation but, more importantly, ten power centers known as Sephirot.

As a very brief introduction, the sephirotic system is loosely similar to the more familiar Chakra system. The Sephirot (singular Sephirah) are ten characteristics attributable to the Divine. Since we are created in the image of God, they are mirrored in HaAdam, or humans, and the world we live in. When translated into English the Sephirot are known as: Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, Kindness, Judgment or Power, Beauty, Majesty or Splendor, Endurance or Eternity, Foundation, and Kingdom. Future blog posts will address these aspects and their associations with the Tree of Life, the Hebrew Letters and Vowels, and the Tarot cards in greater detail. For now, let's acknowledge the act of speaking (and the written word) can be an energetic tool for manifestation, self actualization, engendering wholesome relationships, and fixing what's broken in the world. I honor this type of communication.

Speech used as a weapon for self aggrandizement, personal advantage and profit at the expense of others is never my style. This type of influencer can lead to crimes. The con men, conspirators, flim-flam artists, fraudsters, grifters, and tricksters will talk you out of your money. Their sales pitch takes the proverbial "used car salesman" to a whole other level. All their illegal conduct uses speech to gain your confidence. You put your trust in this person, or group of people, and don't realize you are their mark until it's way too late. You've already been swindled.

The great Jewish philosopher and Torah scholar, Maimonides considered it our personal responsibility to develop divine qualities which required selecting proper role models. Who are yours? When I think of an Influencer who uses speech to take advantage of others the tarot card The Devil comes to mind. Numbered XV, or 15 in the Suit of Trumps, this card exemplifies the charismatic personality who convinces folks with lies and half-truths he has new ideas, creative projects, and promises great monetary returns if they believe in him. Actually, he will lead people down dark alleys, and inevitably rob them of their wallets, life savings, and their souls too. Be aware! The Devil can disguise himself as anyone, even a politician. This false-prophet distracts with words about making the country great again. Meanwhile, he's fleecing his flock of supporters, and he'll engage in a criminal enterprise to nullify people's vote and retain power.

The only way out of the devil's snare of corruption and web of deceit is through due diligence, make informed decisions, and not to follow others blindly. Most importantly, develop a sense of humor. It can be your greatest ability to disarm a bully. Laugh at the Devil. You will humiliate him. Tell others, and tell the "Devil" he is not wearing any clothes.

Street Tarot
Street Tarot

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Updated: Aug 2

While standing on my front balcony, situated across from three city parks and two churches, a tap-tap scraping sound captures my attention. My eyes focus on the culprit. It's a fallen, bronze colored, magnolia leaf. An early morning breeze rolls the hardened frond along the road. Tap-tap, scrape. Tap-tap, scrape.

There's something about Nature. As with me, does she call to you to see her, walk with her, recognize your body is aligned with her, and your senses interact with her? Mother Nature cleanses my spirit from the angst of city life. At the same time her raw power makes me fearful. We witness tumultuous conditions from climate change even if not experiencing her wrath directly. News outfits stream videos of catastrophic events from around the globe. It is unsettling. Full of compassion my heart sinks laden with sadness for those in harms way. Today, I feel lucky. But what is luck and how long does it last?

Awe and fear also characterizes how we can experience the spiritual realm. Interestingly, life-affirming and destruction wrapped up in one female god manifests in a number of religions; the Hindu goddess Kali exemplifies the powers of creator and destroyer; in Kabbalah, the feminine Divine Presence dwelling amongst us is known as the Shekhinah who rewards us for good deeds or meters out punishment for bad ones; and Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest who causes plants to grow or not.

Many people prefer to seek the divine amongst the forests and lakes, rather than in a church, synagogue or temple of organized religion. Even on a secular level most of us are in awe of Mother Nature. She reflects more clearly the notion God's presence is everywhere. As a society we place great value in preserving her through State and national parks, and protective statutes. Unfortunately, a few people hold everyone and everything on the planet hostage while they peddle their anti-science propaganda in support of polluters. Certainly, biblical exegesis of Genesis 2:15 recognize Adam was put in the Garden of Eden "to work it and to guard it" and not to exploit it to serve his own ends. "As stewards of resources placed at our disposal by the Creator, we are duty-bound to expand our concern beyond instant gratification and economic benefits and assign much greater weight to our policies' effect upon posterity." - Rabbi Walter S. Wurzburger.

I am no expert in the field of ecology and climate change, but I do know this; the minor suits of a tarot deck numbers 56 cards, and correspond to the four basic elements. Here, the suit of Disks, or Pentacles is earth; water is Cups; air is Swords; and fire is Wands. The major suit of Trumps, composed of 22 cards, provides an archetypical, and phenomenological map to mirror ourselves and our experiences in the world. Studying and working with the cards is a personal, subjective, and intuitive way to understand we are a part of Nature, and not totally distinct from her. "The Tarot could be described as God's Picture Book, or it could be liked to a celestial games of chess, the Trumps being the piece to be moved according to the laws of their own order over a checkered board of the four elements." - Lady Frieda Harris, artist and collaborator of Alister Crowley's Thoth Tarot Deck.

The Tower, numbered XVI or 16 in the tarot deck's major suit of Trumps, is representative of unexpected change, danger or destruction and a subsequent liberation that transforms one’s life and rebirths a new point of view. In its foreground, the card is traditionally depicted as a tall tower struck by a lightning bolt. Dark smoke billows, while a raging fire threatens folks inside. Some of them jump from the tower's balustrades. Terror reigns. Contrarily, a sun shines in a distant sky as a peaceful dove flies across the expanse.

The symbolism of a shattered structure can refer to an actual tragedy, or a forced move from a home, store, or office building. There is a psychological aspects to the card where one suddenly must abandon entrenched paradigms and beliefs for something new. A calamity can set you free from a stale status quo or prison-like conditions, and usher in new physical formations and cognitive formulations if you are ready to move forward…into the sunlight.

The Tower expresses profound, cataclysmic change. The card indicates innocence lost, never to be regained. We all must grow up, face hardships and some not of our making. In particular, it is apparent man's negligence, and in some cases greed, has escalated us into a climate emergency. The reign of fossil fuels is over. Renewables and sustainability is the new way. It has to be. Issues about access to charging stations, especially for renters, and the many hours it takes to charge an electric battery must be addressed. However, the danger represented in the Tower card points to this exact moment when the world experiences the hottest days on record.

So how does one best adapt to profound change? By being bold, experimental, and open to newness. The Torah states when the Hebrews left Egypt they did so boldly, being given what ever they asked for from the Egyptians. Exodus 13:36. This attitude of confidence beckons our society to take up the challenges of climate change. Sure there will be setbacks, ie golden calf. Nevertheless, we must allow our awe of Nature to guide us. To do nothing is to choose fear and to live on an increasingly uninhabitable Earth.

Street Tarot
Street Tarot

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Updated: Jul 14

"The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head." - Terry Pratchett.

Most of us have the ability of internal communication. For many people their inner dialogue (ID) aids them in decision making. Whether to plan a vacation, how to fix a plugged sink, or hammer out an essay for school, one's ID is capable of rational thought and forming sentences. It is a valuable gift when used properly. If not, ID can be a constant flow of disparagement, and festering resentment which contributes to bitterness and low self-esteem. Obviously, how we speak to ourselves on a daily basis affects our wellbeing.

Our intuitive voice is another internal way of communicating. Generally speaking, it is an instantaneous knowing. It can be internally heard as a soft whisper, or with the inner bang of an "Ah ha!" moment. The intuitive usually speaks in a word or phrase, perhaps accompanied by an image. Voodoo possession, or a Catholic in the need of an Exorcist is something else entirely. However, intuitive knowledge might start as a feeling. Energetically felt through our body, it's often referred to as a "sixth sense", "gut feeling" or "hunch".

Street Tarot relies on being ruthlessly honest with yourself. A discerning mind recognizes what is helpful or hurtful, and right from wrong. Hopefully, we behave accordingly. Sometimes we go astray, even when we know better. I'm certainly guilty of that. It is imperative to be able to distinguish between the two ways we communicate to ourselves. With our intuitive voice the heart is somehow involved. As a moral compass it can lead us from disrepute towards honorability. Intuition connects us to an aspect of our Neshama, or soul. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto states that "habitual lying is a spiritual illness. Ultimately, contact with the soul is lost completely."

Rabbi's diagnosis applies to oneself and also to how we respond to others. Jewish ethics understands the dilemma of lying to protect someone from hurtful or harm words and conduct, but self-deception is not excused. Obvious examples of allowances made for lying; when a father lied to the Nazi officer about where he hid his children, or you pretend a prior engagement because a straightforward "no" is a harsh rejection. Certainly, the deeper point the rabbi makes explains Donald Trump's lying with impunity and the formerly grand GOP's soulless support of him. You cannot hide from the truth, or tell made-up stories to take advantage of people, nor steal elections.

The tarot card representative of our inner voice is the High Priestess. The jeweled treasure of mystics is to have a clear channel, a flow of wisdom as if we walk and talk directly with the Divine. The high priestess is in all of us. We just have to listen. Fittingly, the Shema, the foundational prayer of Jewish faith, begins with the word, "Hear". The High Priestess already knows the correct choice to make. Symbolically depicted as a woman who is seated between two distinct black and white pillars. In Kabbalistic terms she is the feminine, indwelling presence of God or Shekhinah, represented as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. She renders rewards and punishments. Her heightened wisdom draws from the capacity to keep these opposing forces separate, and able to see a middle way if need be.

Most of us live outside of Eden where we are constantly faced with moral and ethical dilemmas. Here, right and wrong is all mixed up. Almost moment to moment we must make course corrections on the road of life. Societal and religious ethics pulls us towards doing what is the good and right thing to do. Our actions and their consequences follow our decisions. Being ruthlessly honest with oneself is paramount to choosing wisely.

A relevant walking meditation is to watch the light. As you set out clear your mind of ID talk by repeating a phrase or a word such as "Shema". Continue doing the mantra and focus on the light as you go. Notice how it plays off the leaves of trees and plants, or against the shadows on the buildings, sidewalks and streets. The High Priestess is your guide to walk in the light of your authenticity, and in righteousness.

Street Tarot
Street Tarot

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