Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quote of the Week 152 - The Psalms, The Prophets, Lunacy and Enlightenment

It would…be of some interest to make an etymological analysis of the Hebrew name for the Psalms, which is Tehillim. This comes from the root Halal, which is normally translated as “to praise”. The Psalms are therefore most often simply viewed as nothing more than a series of praises to God.

The root Halal, however, has two other meanings which are very significant from our viewpoint. The first is that of brightness and shining, as in the verses, “Behold the moon does not shine (halal)" (Job 25:5), and, “When [God’s] lamp shined (halal) over my head” (Job 29:3). The second connotation is that of madness, as in the noun Holelut, referring to the demented state in many places in the Bible.

This would therefore indicate that the word Halal denotes a state where one leaves his normal state of consciousness, and at the same time, perceives spiritual Light. It is distinguished from the many other Hebrew terms for praise, since Halal is praise designated for attaining enlightenment through a state of oblivion.

The relationship between enlightenment and madness should not be too difficult to understand, since the Bible explicitly relates madness to prophecy. In one place, a prophet is called a madman, and the leading commentator, Rabbi Isaac Abarbanel, comments, “They called him mad, since as a result of his meditation (hitbodedut), he appeared demented, not paying attention to mundane affairs.”

In another place we find an even more explicit parallelism. God says, “Every man who is mad, who prophesies, shall be put in the stocks” (Jeremiah 29:26). Here again, the commentaries, most notably Rabbi David Kimchi, state that many people considered the prophets to be mad because of their unusual actions. It was not unusual then, to use the term “prophet” as a synonym for madman.

The word Halal is thus related to the roots Lahah and Lo, which, as discussed above, denote states of negation. It is also related to the root Chalal, meaning hollow, especially in a spiritual sense. Such a level of “hollowness” is closely related to prophecy, this being the level of King David, who said of himself, “My heart is hollow (chalal) within me” (Psalms 109:22).

All this indicates that Halal denotes negation of the senses and ego in the quest of enlightenment. The Psalms were therefore called Tehillim because they were especially designed to help one attain this exalted state.

This philological analysis might not be conclusive if it were not backed up by a solid tradition. In the Talmudic tradition there is a clear indication that the Psalms were used to attain the state of enlightenment called Ruach HaKodesh.

If one looks at many Psalms, one sees that they begin with either the phrase, “A Psalm of David” (Mizmor LeDavid) or “Of David, a Psalm” (LeDavid Mizmor). The Talmud states that when a Psalm begins with the phrase, “Of David, a Psalm,” this indicates that he recited the Psalm after he had attained Ruach HaKodesh. But when the Psalm begins with “A Psalm of David,” it means that David actually made use of the Psalm in order to attain his state of enlightenment. Thus at least eighteen of the Psalms were specifically composed as a means of attaining higher states of consciousness.

--from Meditation and the Bible by Aryeh Kaplan

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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: