Sunday, September 25, 2016

Reading "Mysteries of the Kabbalah"

I have been reading Marc-Alain Ouaknin (the most famous for his account on Talmud: The Burnt Book) "Mysteries of the Kabbalah" for quite a long time, both in Polish and English...
I was coming to and going away from it for other books.
I must say that this is one of the most important and most beautiful and most comprehensive (for us mere mortals of XX/XXI centuries...) book about the Kabbalah...

This is not a review yet. This is a running log of some finest thoughts and ideas.

Let me start with, actually, some quotes the author makes:

"... the mystery of evil, the only one in which God does not make us believe but makes us think" (Marie Noel)

opens Chapter 20.

"The very root of evil is hidden in the depths of absolute good and it is the act of denying the miracle and the possible" (Yosef Ben Shlomo from "The Master of Lights")

Now, Marc-Alain himself:

"For man, good resides in the gap between the perfection of God and the transgression of this perfection through the creation of the world. This creation is a break in the immanence of perfection. Any creation is less perfect than the source of all perfection."

I will perhaps come here to some previous thoughts of the book later ...

There we go now: from Rabbi Nachman from Breslov: "It is forbidden to be old" .

And from the author: "A person is old when he has lost hope. A person is old when instead of seeing hope as a door opening onto the future, he sees it opening onto the past. Old age is a nostalgia for hope. It is when one does not have the strength to say, 'Tomorrow'"


"... in the beginning, after the contraction of the divine, the tsimtsum, and the first emanation of light, there was beriya. This word literally means 'creation', the transition from absolute nothingness to a state of being, the transition from ayin to yesh, to produce the raw material of the universe ..."

"This raw material, the infinitesimal element in matter, had a specific shape, the point.(...) So, in the beginning, there was the point ..."

"The second phase of creation for the kabbalists is called yetsira: "formation". (...) the first transfiguration of the point was a vertical line, (...) After this vertical line a horizontal line was born and attached to it, and thus the plane was born."


"This silence of words that speak to say nothing is perhaps the very essence of literature"

Rabbi Nachman from Breslov: "Words are like birds; why keep them shut away in cages?"


"Joy is the creation of space in which speech can be expressed and exist."

Rabbi Nachman from Breslov: "It is a great obligation to always be in joy" , "Sadness is the exile of divine presence"

Jean-Yves Leloup: "Being is not a thing, but a Space, an Opening which must remain free. God is the freedom of man."


"The letter of the Ten Commandments were produced 'in a void', as one might say 'in marble' or 'in wood'. The actual substance of the writing is a nonsubstance"


Rabbi Levi Isaac of Berditchev: "Everyone has a duty to look at their nothingness and to respect it"


"Saying that 'father' and 'mother', each in their own way, possess the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet is expressing the fundamental relationship between language and fertility; it is stressing the fact that 'making' a child is first and foremost a dialogue and that the human being anchors the possibility of his existence in the linguistic potential unleashed in speech"


"To summarize the theory of tsimtsum, the space occupied by the world is created aby an emptying or withdrawing of the infinite and by a force that maintains the light of the infinite at the periphery. This force is called Shaddai"

"It is also the name of God, which designates the force that prohibits the infinite from reoccupying the void it has left."


A quote from Maurice Blanchot: "... at the beginning of everything, the power of words and exegesis is affirmed, in which everything begins from a text and everything comes back to it, a single book in which a prodigious sequence of books unfolds, a library that is not only universal but which takes the place of the universe and which is even more vast and more enigmatic than the universe."


"The Revelation is first and foremost the revelation of a text; this is the revolution contained in the Bible story"

"The question of the relationship to the text is not merely that of reading but of interpretation. Interpreting is discovering meaning but not truth - not revealing a secret, but revealing that secret exists."

"The "Text-God" must be accorder its status of infinity; in other words, every means must be used to give it an infinite meaning. These means consist of all the rules of interpretation that have been explained in the previous chapters, and especially gematria, tseruf, and so on. The need to interpret the text as the liberation of the divine is one of the fundamental meanings of all the work of kabbalists and Talmudists."

"Truth does not mean the appropriateness in relation to certain prior existing meanings, but resides in being "open to" ...


"The infinity of God is self-limiting. He created the world and became its guest in a finite form. For the Kabbalah, this passage from the infinite to the finite occurs through the text"

"For kabbalists, the incarnation is produced in the body of the Text"

"The name is a meditation on nothingness that becomes a being, and which returns to nothingness. It is entry into movement and an infinity of time"

Saturday, September 24, 2016

End of reading of "My journey to Lhasa"

I have finished this great book.

Let me share only one reflection that comes to its reader's mind: it is deeply tragic what has happened to amazing Tibetan culture since Chinese invasion and during their occupation of Tibet. On the eyes of the entire world, China has killed the smaller world of the culture so deep and beautiful.

How many times in the history of the world, large and powerful countries were destroying the peoples and their culture on the eyes of powerless world ...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reading "My journey to Lhasa" ...

I have been reading, for some time, "My Journey to Lhasa" by Alexandra David-Neel.
Interesting account about Tibet as it no longer exists ...

This is not a review yet. Just some quotes...

"When we left him the old farmer's face expressed a perfect serenity, a complete detachment from all earthly concerns, having, it seemed, entered the true Blissful Paradise which, being nowhere and everywhere, lies in the mind of each one of us."

"Farther in the deserts, higher still on their giant peaks, they seek caves and almost inaccessible shelters, where they may meditate and be alone, face to face with the Infinite and the Eternal."

more to come ...

The Hope and a Fear ...

I just finished reading (listening in fact) of "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Siddhartha Mukherjee.
The only thing I could tell you all is the message of hope and ... a message of fear. While absolutely incredible progress has been made when it comes to cancer cure - we still are far away from victory. And the reasons are absolutely mind-blowing: the very essence of cancer is the same as is the essence of life itself...
Despite enormous efforts, like the one described in the book - The cancer genome atlas: - we are far, on the clinical level from the precise knowledge how to treat the malady ...
However, the overall tone of the book is realistically optimistic. At least to the extent of cancer prevention - we can do a lot ...

It will stay with me for long ...

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Jacob's Scriptures

This incredible book (by Olga Tokarczuk) is not yet available in English. I hope it will be one day.

On 900 pages of it we get one of the most fantastic mixture of fiction and history of XVIII century Poland and Eastern Europe.

The book tells the story of Jacob Frank, a Jewish mystic, who created almost impossible, new messianic sect in XVIII Judaism - the sect that broke with traditional Judaism, adopted some tenants of Sabbatai Zevi, had a short affair with Ottoman Turkey Islam, and then ...converted to Catholicism! Frank and his family and followers got into plays with Austrian Emperor, had a kind of small kingdom in Brno, were imprisoned in Czestochowa and ended its glory in a noble castle in Offenbach, Germany !

Absolutely amazing book; from the perspective of care paid to facts and play between imagination and history - I could compare it only to Umberto Eco’s “Prague Cemetery” …

The book ends beautifully:
“It has been written though that a man who labours himself with the works of Messiahs', even the unsuccessful ones, will earn respect as the one who studies the eternal mysteries of the Light, just by telling these stories.”

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Last books read ...

It is not yet a review. It is just a harbinger of the reviews to come.

Let me list here three books I read during last months with great admiration:

  1. "Moon in a dewdrop" by Eihei Dogen
  2. "One Man's Judaism" by Emanuel Rackman
  3. "Moral tribes" by Joshua Greene

I'm sure I will review them soon. They were just great.
I'm now in famous "Superintelligence" by Nick Bostrom... Lot's to tell about it ...


Return to blogging ...

I hope to return to regular blogging. Yes since almost 2 years I was not active here, and I regret it. As always, I have explanations (hard work at MakoLab while in Europe, equally hard at Chemical Semantics - while in US)

However, I just realized, that I can't stay silent here. I have this blog for more than 10 years. In most cases it was about books I have been reading (and listening). And I'm going to come back to this. But there is something else.

My country is in quite dangerous situation. The democracy and open society we have been building since 1989 is endangered. It is not just for the fact that some right-wing party won elections. It is for the way they deconstruct the pillars of all open societies - by manipulating with judicial authorities, with media, taxes, and, if take what they plan - perhaps soon with Civil Service...

What is more, when citizens started to protest through non-partisan movement called KOD, the government officials started to use a specific rhetoric against them, which unmistakably reminds me time of late communist regimes.

You could read more about that here: 

I don't know how much time my life will give me to write here. But I just realized that I have no choice. Everything I did in my life, particularly since 1989, when I started MakoLab, lead it through its 2007 IPO to today's status, kept it open to people from many countries, cultures, religions may easily be wasted if this country becomes some authoritarian island, contesting European Union, judicial supervision, free media etc etc.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tragedy in Paris

Paris is tragic city this year.
With Charlie Hebdo tragedy in the begining to
Friday, November 13, attacks...
We stay in prayers with all our French friends...
Mirek Sopek

Thursday, January 08, 2015

No more words ...

"I disapprove of what you say,
but I will defend to the death your right to say it"

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Yet another backlog list ...

Well, after breaking the long period of silence, the only better post I can make is about the current backlog of books I have read, but did not write about.
There we go:

  1. "Buddhism Without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening" by Stephen Batchelor
  2. "Guns" by Stephen King
  3. "Zen Judaism: For You a Little Enlightenment" by David M. Bader
  4. "Hyperion" by Dan Simmons
  5. "The Fall of Hyperion" by Dan Simmons (the last two books are on this list thanks to my son, Maciej)
  6. "Proof of Heaven" by Eben Alexander
  7. "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist" by Stephen Batchelor
  8. "Rabbi of 84th Street" by Warren Kozak
  9. "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Bhante Gunaratana

plus some more books I even can't recall... well I read (and listen to) like crazy ....