Monday, June 2, 2008

Spiritual Connections: Yoga and Judaism

[The following is an article originally created for Aquarius Magazine, published in their June 2008 issue]

Spiritual Connections: Yoga and Judaism
By Steven J. Gold

There has been a growing recognition in our culture of a distinction between spirituality and religion. Recent polls indicate that there is a sizeable segment of our population who acknowledge that they are “spiritual”, but not necessarily religious. I jumped on that bandwagon a long time ago, and have been merrily riding on it ever since. I have sought out spiritual elements from many sources, but I have had a particular focus on the equally ancient traditions of yoga and Judaism, from which have sprung forth many of the world’s other spiritual and religious traditions. Just as there is much more to yoga than the common conception of a system of physical exercises, there is also much more to Judaism than just a religion practiced by a small minority of the world’s population.

A close inspection and understanding of the texts and teachings from both traditions yields an incredible amount of commonalties and connections. The common conception of the story involving the much-maligned serpent in the Garden of Eden can be seen in a different light when the insights of yogic mysticism are applied. This serpent is representative of the Kundalini serpent-power described in yoga, whose energy and activity is essential for the existence of life as we know it. Adam and Eve were not intended to remain in the Garden. The serpent served as the instrument to get them out and get on with life. The exchange between Moses and Pharaoh was a confrontation between this serpent power properly employed in the service of the Divine, as depicted by Moses’ walking stick/staff turning into a serpent at his beck and call, versus the serpent power gone astray, placed on a pedestal and idolized as the headdress of Pharaoh, regarded as a flesh and blood God on earth, beholden to no superior power. Yoga and Judaism both teach that the purpose and goal of life is to yoke (same root as “yoga”) our inner power potential in service for the good of humankind, and to never forget its ultimate Source beyond all image, manifestation and understanding, to which we should surrender in awestruck praise and gratitude.

The book of Genesis in the Bible describes a river flowing out of the Garden of Eden and dividing into four major tributaries, one of them named the “Pishon”, which surrounded the land of “Havilah”, containing “good gold” and the “shoham stone”. Some Jewish commentators maintain that the “Pishon” is the Ganges and “Havilah” is India, to which the Bible pays homage by referring to it as the land containing “good gold”. Later on in the Bible, in the book of Exodus, these same mysterious “shoham stones” (which I believe are likely “Shiva lingams” described in the yoga tradition) are incorporated prominently in the vestments and breast plate of the Jewish High Priest.

Many are familiar with the Biblical story of Abraham and his two prominent sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Abraham is considered the originator of the Arab race through the lineage of his first-born son, Ishmael, and is also considered the first Jew and first Patriarch in the Jewish tradition, generated through his second son, Isaac. However, there is also a lesser-known story contained in the Bible about six more sons of Abraham born later in his life, whom he sent away to the East bearing his “gifts”. Some Jewish commentators maintain that these six sons sojourned to India, and the “gifts” they bore were mystical gifts for spiritual development and meditation. In India, they became what the yoga tradition refers to as the ancient Rishis, the originators of the Vedas and Eastern meditation practices and yoga. Proponents of the yoga tradition maintain that such practices originated in India and emanated out from there. And even the Bible acknowledges that Abraham was born somewhere East from the land of Palestine, to which he journeyed in his early adulthood. It was in the Eastern land of his birth that he received his basic revelation of an ultimate Divine unity underlying the diversity of manifest life, consistent with the teachings of Indian yoga and Vedanta.

It is quite clear in reviewing the writings of mystics from yoga, Judaism, and other varied traditions across all times and cultures, that there is a fundamental common recognition of this underlying unified Source of All. The distinctions and difference arise on more external, emotional and intellectual levels, all of which fall away as the realm of pure unadulterated Spirit is approached.


Steven J. Gold is author of the book, Yoga and Judaism (sub-titled Om Shalom: Explorations of a Jewish Yogi) available at http:/, and at major online retailers. Author’s blog:

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Quote of the Week 381 - Heaven

Heaven is all round,

Translated to sound.

--Michael Hedges



Announcing Publication of New Book, DIMENSIONS: Navigation the Spiritual Spectrum

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book, DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum, now available at Amazon, in paperback print and Kindle versions. It is easily found by searching my name, or by searching the full title and subtitle. You can also click on the image of the book in the right hand column of this blog.

What a great way to start the New Year, cozying up to a fire, real or imagined, and reading a new spiritually inspiring book, sure to become a classic!

DIMENSIONS: Navigating the Spiritual Spectrum

Grounded in the traditions of Torah and Veda, Steven J. Gold takes us on an oceanic tour of the depth and breadth of spiritual consciousness. Sharing personal stories and insights into various traditional scriptures as examples, he urges us to adopt a spiritual worldview, to “ponder infinity, awake and arise,” to “find your inspiration and follow it.”

“The chapters…are records of what happens when Steve’s right mind, and heart, are given full freedom to wander where they wish. As discoveries and correlations are made, his well-trained left mind and sharp wit give his observations shape and form…” – Brother Shankara, Resident Minister, Vedanta Center of Atlanta

“Universal Ice Cream: Dive deep into Steve’s wonderful book to help find your favorite flavor on the Spiritual Spectrum.” – Rabbi Mitch Cohen, Spiritual Leader, Congregation Shalom B’Harim, Dahlonega, GA

“Steven J. Gold’s Dimensions is an exploration of spirituality from the inside out. If you are looking for a guide through the pathless land of truth, read this book.” – Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author of The World Wisdom Bible

Interfaith/Inter-Spiritual Contemplative Groups

Please check out the following, which is an ongoing activity that may be of interest: