OPENING THE KNOTS OF OUR SOULS
How do we untie the knots of our souls? Imagine the soul as a vessel made of clear glass surrounded by light, but the glass is encased in a fabric, woven in tight knots, that prevents light from entering (or exiting). We will see later that this metaphor is inadequate, for everything is composed of light—the so-called glass itself and the fabric that surrounds it—but as a starting point, this is a useful tool for our beginning meditation practices.
The imaginary fabric is often referred to in mystical teachings as “veils” that separate us from the full understanding of things. These veils are mainly composed of the “material” of our earliest conditioning, beliefs, ideas, prejudices, judgments, criticisms, desires, aspirations, hopes and fears. For must of us, the fabric is a thick mat of personality traits and ego assumptions that seem at first to be almost impenetrable.
Abulafia’s method is to concentrate the mind on something specific that will by its nature dissolve the knots that hold the fabric together. The theory is simple and direct. It is based on the principle that we become what we immerse in. If we jump into a pool of water, we get wet all over. If it is a pool of ink, our skin gets dyed. If we spend all of our time reading current events, our minds constantly turn to the subject material that we have absorbed. If we sit quietly and simply take notice of our own thoughts, we will soon realize that we have a fascinating capability of observing our own minds; we can watch our thoughts, how they arise, how they are sustained, and how they inevitably evaporate and disappear.
If we concentrate on and repeat sounds and words that quiet the mind, we will eventually enter a transcendent dimension of the pure soul, a place of peaceful calmness and gentle tranquility. In this quiet mind-state, knots automatically begin to unravel. At some point, small openings appear in the fabric, and pinpoints of light enter the glass. This light is so powerful and so penetrating, we experience a moment of truth, so to speak. This momentary vision can permanently influence us. In an instant of realization, we gain a certain confidence that arises as a result of our direct experience. That is to say, when only a few knots are loosened, we can see an attractive light/truth (in some form) that pulls us to it. This attraction often becomes a continual urge to engage in spiritual practices that can loosen and untie more and more knots.
Abulafia used the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and names of God as primary images upon which his concentrative techniques were founded. Each Hebrew letter has been the object of intense study among Kabbalists, each has been the subject of hundreds of chapters. A letter’s intrinsic meaning, the words that start with that letter, its shape, its placement in the alphabet, its numeric value (for example, a = 1, b = 2, c = 3… etc.), the numeric value of words and entire phrases, where in the mouth a letter is pronounced, all these and many other aspects are explored. But we do not have to be kabbalistic scholars to follow Abulafia’s technique, for although he was learned in all aspects of Kabbalah, he leaned more heavily on intuitive, inner revelation than on intellectual expertise. (See Index for Abulafia’s techniques.)