Rick Archer: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of interviews with spiritually awakening people. I’ve done over 525 of them now. And if this is new to you and you’d like to listen to previous ones, please go to batgap.com and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible by the support of appreciative listeners and viewers. So if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there’s a PayPal button on every page of the site. My guest today is Rabbi Zvi Ish-Shalom Ph.D. He is a professor of Wisdom Traditions at Naropa University and is the founder of Kedumah, a universal mystical school that teaches a step-by-step approach to spiritual awakening and personal development. Integrating the timeless wisdom of the great mystical traditions with cutting-edge knowledge of psychology, science, and the somatic healing arts, Zvi gently points us towards the primordial light of boundless freedom that abides at the heart of our experience. He is the author of the book The Kedumah Experience. Let me get that on camera, the Primordial Torah, and he teaches retreats, workshops, and inner work groups internationally. He’s based in Boulder, Colorado. So welcome, welcome Zvi. I met Zvi at the Science and Non-duality Conference in October. And it was nice getting, we were actually going to do this interview then and I had publicized it, but we were both feeling a little tired, we had scheduled the interview for the nighttime, we thought it’d be better to put it off and do it over Skype. So that’s what we’re going to do now. So Zvi, I’ve, as usual, I’ve read quite a bit and listened to quite a bit of your talks and your book over the past week or so. And you alluded in both to some very profound, transformative, and really rather difficult in many ways, an awakening that you had back in your 20s. Now you’re about 40, I guess. And but I didn’t hear much elaboration. So I thought it might be interesting for me and for the viewers to give us the whole story about that even if we took an hour talking about it, or whatever you feel is justified to just explain to us what you went through, what led up to it and how it changed you and things like that.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, thank you. First of all, I’m just so happy to be here so I just want to acknowledge that. Thank you for having me, Rick.
Rick Archer: Oh, it’s really a pleasure. I felt a kind of camaraderie or affinity with you out at SAND when we met. You’re just a very comfortable guy to be with, no pretensions, and very natural and down to earth. And yet, I shouldn’t say and yet, because the two aren’t mutually exclusive. But reading your book, I’m quite amazed. The book is basically a transcription of some talks you gave, and to be able to give such detailed talks, maybe you prepared for them a lot, maybe they weren’t extemporaneous. But there’s such a wealth of wisdom and knowledge in them that I was really impressed. One hint as to how you did that is at some point in your book. You talk about having developed a state in which when you read the Torah or any wise book, any spiritual book, the meaning or deeper meaning kind of jumps out at you, which it wouldn’t have had you not undergone the shift in consciousness that you did.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, that’s right. Part of those early experiences that I allude to in the book is a certain kind of opening of perception that allows a certain way of perceiving what is hidden behind the words, you could say. So it’s not so much an intellectual or a mental understanding of it but it’s more of a felt sense of what the state is that the text is communicating. So that was part of what really opened up in a more clear way during that time.
Rick Archer: And just if I could interject, and I won’t talk this much throughout the whole interview, but my sense of that is that the people who wrote these books were speaking from a certain level of experience, a certain level of consciousness. And generally, the people who read such books don’t share that level of experience. And so something is seriously lost in the translation. And speaking of translations, also, these books tend to be translated, and the translators don’t have that level of experience. So there’s a tremendous sort of crumbling of knowledge on the hard rocks of ignorance. But if you have a level of experience or awareness, approximate to that of those who wrote the books, then the meaning just comes through to you – that the connection is lively.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So at that time, I was not familiar with other traditions. I had not had experience reading sacred texts, or spiritual books from practitioners of other wisdom paths. But after that time, and to this day, when I open up a book or, or a text, what stands out is more of the frequency or the vibration of the experience that’s behind those texts. And that’s how I’m able, in a way to appreciate and relate to these other traditions in a deeper way that goes beyond just the surface meaning of the words.
Rick Archer: What if the book has been, firstly, not even written down for a couple of 100 years after the person that it’s written about has died? And then secondly, it goes through translations from maybe Aramaic to Hebrew to Greek or whatever, to English? And then you read the book? I mean, do you think that inevitably, regardless of what state of consciousness one is in, you’re just not really going to get it? Or do you think that somehow, the essence survives?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: I think it depends, I’ve had the experience of still feeling the essence come through even after multiple translations and centuries. Somehow, you can still get a whiff of the original kind of transmission. But it definitely, with each step that’s removed from the source, it gets a little bit more diluted. I find that the easiest way to experience the direct transmissions is from transcriptions of talks, actually, rather than from books that someone sits down and writes. It can go both ways. But there’s something about verbal communication, that for me, is more kind of immediate in the transmission. It’s not edited. It’s not refined to make it come across in a particular way, but it’s very raw vibrationally.
Rick Archer: But then you’re talking about living teachers probably, rather than people who lived 2,000 years ago.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, unless, like, for example, there are Hebrew texts that are recordings of oral teachings as well.
Rick Archer: Someone transcribed them.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah and I’m sure it’s altered to some extent, over the centuries, but you can get a whiff of the original. Yeah. And it’s…
Rick Archer: Okay, we’re getting a little arcane here. But it’s an interesting point. But in terms of you, you personally, how did you get started with this business? Were you one of these? I often interview people who had profound mystical experiences when they were little children and very often then it fades when they’re starting to approach their teenage years. And sometimes then they, when they get to their late teens, early 20s, attempt to recover it. But in your case what happened?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Well, I was raised in a pretty traditional orthodox home. So we lived a very religious life that I did experience as having much richness in terms of the dimensionality of religious experience. So it wasn’t just a rote performance of the tradition, but I did experience a deeper connection through those practices and rituals, I don’t remember as a child having what I would call a mystical experience exactly. But I do remember feeling a sense of connection to the divine. I would put it that way. And it felt like a certain kind of implicit trust in the goodness of reality. In those days, I would frame it as the goodness of God, right? That there was a basic, kind of, like a baseline of benevolence, that infused creation. So it was a subtle thing, it wasn’t like some kind of a fireworky type of opening. It was more of an ongoing sense of protection. And it was marked by these different deepening experiences in the tradition. So at different holidays, for example, we would go to synagogue and the particular kind of prayers of that holiday and the particular practices associated with that holiday would create a kind of gestalt of richness and inner vibration that affected me, I would say as a child. Yeah. So I felt connected through that paradigm. But it wasn’t until I was older, really, when I was in my late teens, early 20s, that I more consciously turned inward, and really started practicing and studying the more contemplative and mystical facets of the tradition. And that turning marked the beginning of a process that I allude to, or point to, several times in the book. But that whole process, which lasted a period of time, had many different aspects to it and many peaks and valleys that culminated in a really radical kind of shift and transformation that, in some sense, marked like, I would say, like the beginning of my life, and it was like the end of a former life and the beginning of a new life.
Rick Archer: What did you learn? Or practice? Did you cook something up on your own? Did you find something in the ancient texts that you could apply as a practice? Or did you have a living teacher or what?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: I didn’t have a teacher in terms of this dimension of spiritual experiences that I was having. I didn’t really have a guide in that sense. I was studying. I had gone through what’s called the yeshiva system. So these very traditional academies of Jewish learning, which mostly was exoteric learning. Actually, I would say 99% of it was studying the Talmud and Jewish law, those kinds of more performative kinds of works. But there’s this whole rich inner dimension of Judaism, that it wasn’t until my late teens that I really discovered the teachings usually referred to as Kabbalah and also Hasidism or Hasidut in Hebrew. And those bodies of wisdom really turned me on. Like, when I first encountered them, I was like, oh, this is what I’ve been looking for. This is speaking to my heart and soul in a way that the more normative teachings were unable to touch. And so I really just dove into study and it was mostly self-guided study. I just started reading texts and getting ahold of whatever I could and I started meditating according to some of those practices and that combination of deep study of mystical texts and practicing the tradition that I was so intimate with for my whole life, but from this different angle, more from a contemplative mystical angle, the combination of those two things really sort of began an inner shifting, an inner transformation that really initiated and catalyzed this process for me.
Rick Archer: And so what was your experience of that shifting?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Well, there was a lot to it. I mean, I would have to
Rick Archer: We have time.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, at some point, maybe I’ll write about it.
Rick Archer: The little snippets that you did write about it that you mentioned in some of your talks sounded pretty profound and pretty intense.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, it was pretty. It’s true. I would say that. And it’s something that I often don’t talk about. So I actually think this may be the very first time that I’m really sharing some of those details.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Some people are reluctant to talk about this kind of stuff because it’s intimate. And they also don’t want to sound like they’re tooting their horn, isn’t it cool what I experienced? But I don’t know, people find it fascinating. And I don’t think. It’s like, if you read Yogananda’s book or something, you don’t think Yogananda is sort of some egomaniac for talking about these profound experiences he had. You think, wow, it’s possible for a person to have those kinds of experiences. Isn’t that great? Maybe I could have them. My orientation is that if we hear people’s experiences, it can inspire others to aspire to the same sort of thing or something that would be comparable for them.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, totally, that totally makes sense. Traditionally, there’s also another reason why some of those experiences are not shared. And that has to do more with not wanting to somehow erroneously present these fantastical kinds of experiences as something to be sought after, or as holding more value in some sense, then a more gradual, progressive kind of path. So we don’t want to, the risk is that it would create more attachment for people to have it go a particular way. So I’m happy to talk about it, but I just want to have that, so that
Rick Archer: That’s really important. I mean, I spent years and years, decades in a particular meditation group, and I just wasn’t the flashy experience type. And some people were and there were definitely times when I was envious. I think, Jack, why aren’t I having those things, but in the long run it becomes evident that that’s really not that important. That some people are just wired that way. Others aren’t. But the significant development is, as you say, more incremental, more gradual, more and more abiding. It’s just not fireworks.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. And in our school, in Kedumah, we emphasize really the gradual, step-by-step kind of layer-by-layer path, since it is a more integrated and more sustainable path for most people. My experiences early on were very explosive and that brought with it also a lot of difficulties that weren’t really necessary, if I had had a more progressive path. So it’s important I think, for our listeners to appreciate that if you don’t relate to some of these experiences that I describe, that doesn’t say anything or mean anything about your inner state, and in terms of the value of your path.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and also, I mean, some of the people that, in my experience, who were having these flashy experiences back in the 70s, ended up just going off the deep end in one way or another. I mean, I saw one woman that was in the paper getting arrested for drug possession or something. I mean it’s interesting. It’s interesting to know that people can have these things, but if it’s not happening to you don’t sweat it, and it’s no guarantee of any kind of long-term, significant development. But having said that, usually, you read people like Ramanuja, the Buddha, or various others, and they definitely had profound experiences. So it kind of goes with the territory. But if there’s not a tight correlation between that and ethical development or permanent establishment in being or any such thing.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Exactly, yeah. If anything, it’s sort of the other direction. People who tend to have these explosive experiences tend to be less integrated. And it’s more difficult for them to actually kind of mature into a full
Rick Archer: Yeah, they might be biting off more than they can chew.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah. Yeah. So I would say, now that we’re clear about all that,
Rick Archer: set the stage here,
Zvi Ish-Shalom: we’ve established all the disclaimers,
Rick Archer: yeah,
Zvi Ish-Shalom: I would say that my personal path or those early experiences I could divide up into two main phases. The first phase was more of a devotional phase that was marked by a deep practice of prayer. It wasn’t like formulaic prayer, like just reciting the Hebrew sort of liturgy, which is the way I was trained to pray as a child. It was more personal prayer. So really spontaneously relating verbally through body language with the divine. And I would talk to God as a formal practice. And this is actually found as a practice in the Hasidic tradition. And it wasn’t that I was really following a particular thing. It was more of an upwelling of inspiration that came just through my own connection to and desire for the divine.
Rick Archer: You mentioned that you would sometimes stay up all night in bed communing with God.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah. Yeah, I was wacko. I was like nuts for God. I was love-obsessed, you could say. Like when someone meets someone and they fall in love with them. And they just like, can’t stop thinking about them. And they want to be with them all the time. And they want to talk to them on the phone all the time. It was like that.
Rick Archer: That’s great. Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras says that the yogis who have vehement intensity are the ones that realize most quickly.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah. And at the time, I didn’t. In retrospect, I can look back and say yes that’s actually true. That’s absolutely true that my path, in a sense, opened up because of that initial devotional, enthusiasm, passion, and heartfelt kind of desire. Like I didn’t have any model really of where this was supposed to go. Like, I didn’t know a real map that was laid out that I was trying to walk down. This was like a real heartfelt kind of self-inspired movement. Like I just wanted to know God.
Rick Archer: Like, would you say you were a pretty happy guy? Or were you suffering and so your yearning for God was born of that suffering?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Um, I certainly had all kinds of suffery kind of knots. What would the word be like? Knotted up. But I wasn’t unhappy. I would say there were two threads to this movement. One was not connected to relief of suffering. It was really just for its own sake, like really just wanting to be intimate with the God that I had internalized right? At that point I didn’t know what God was. I had all kinds of ideas about it.
Rick Archer: You just knew something was there and you wanted to know it.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: I knew that I believed that there was something that was there. And that was enough to, like, get me and I had enough experience, I had enough of a sense of you could say, like a kind of benevolent spirit that’s animating all of reality. As a child, I had already known that, not directly, but like a sense of it, you could say, that there was enough of that sense that I trusted that there was indeed, such a reality, behind the veils of perception. And so there was a movement toward that, to know that spirit that was more of the for its own sake. And then there was another thread that was more along the lines of wow, life is hard and there’s a lot of I, I suffer. And it would be really wonderful if this benevolent spirit like healed all my pain. So there was also that kind of yearning, I think, for freedom from suffering. So there was both, I would say there was both there at the same time. And both of those threads were kind of intertwined in a way in this prayer practice. So I was going deep into prayer and I also started doing various kinds of meditations at that time. It was at the same time, I’d say, my early 20s, that I was getting turned on to these mystical texts and playing with different meditation practices that I was discovering in these texts. So I think the meditation was also deepening the prayer and the prayer was sort of inspiring the meditation and the two were going hand in hand. But primarily it was a devotional inspired path at that point. And as I was deepening into that, what I started to experience was I started to feel myself drop into a real sense of intimacy with, at first it started with intimacy with God, like that’s what it felt like, and communion with God. And I started to. Let’s see, if I can describe. It was a presence of sweet, innocent, pure, loving goodness and goodness in like the richest kind of textured way that started to grow inside of me. Like, I started as I deepened my intimacy with what I was calling the divine at the time, and as I really started unloading my wounds into this God field, into this devotional field with God, really expressing whatever it was that was in my heart and even in my body, because this was a very embodied sort of practice of prayer, it wasn’t just saying words, it was like moving with the spirit of what I was experiencing. So if I was experiencing pain, my body, I would let my body kind of express that – its prayer to God, I would go into those postures, if it was experiencing anger, frustration, then I would yell at God and like bang things and like kind of acted out in a way. It wasn’t something, I didn’t know about therapy or anything at the time, right? I was like this orthodox kid just having out this whole thing with the divine. And so as this whole process was unfolding, it was like my, the burdens of my soul were releasing and more and more of a kind of inner presence started to emerge. This presence of sweet intimacy.
Rick Archer: Nice. Don’t let this question sidetrack you, but how you see the Orthodox Jews at the Wailing Wall praying, and they’re doing this thing where they’re nodding their head like this back and forth. And I wonder if that’s some kind of like retrofit of what you were doing spontaneously. It’s like maybe they read someplace originally, that people went to movements when they’re undergoing profound transformation and so then they did movements in order to put the cart before the horse sort of, but I don’t know. What is that all about?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, good question. They call that shuckling.
Rick Archer: Okay?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: That’s the term and it’s, as you describe, it’s body movements that go along with prayer. It’s an interesting question. There’s also this theory about the asanas in Hatha Yoga.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Whether they’re spontaneous or they were retrofitted. Yeah.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly.
Rick Archer: And then when people have Kundalini awakening, sometimes their body naturally contorts or they go through spontaneous mudras and things like that.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. And I’ve had those experiences which I can get to when we talk about that. So I actually do believe that the asanas in hatha yoga are reflections of, or you could say retrofit, like you say, from these Kundalini awakenings.
Rick Archer: Yeah. And at the same time they help to, I mean, they may happen spontaneously through a Kundalini awakening, but also by doing them, they help to facilitate awakening because they kind of loosen up and help to free deep conditioning in the body. It’s kind of like you can pull any one leg of a table and all the other legs will come along.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And I think the shuckling, which is to shake really, that’s what it means, it’s a shaking is also in some sense. We don’t know for sure, of course, but I think it’s a good, solid hypothesis. That movement reflects in, like the spontaneous movements that can happen during prayer, because I’ve experienced that. So
Rick Archer: It’s kind of a mimicking of them. Because probably those guys don’t really have to do that based on their subjective experience. But people did that. And so somehow it became a thing.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, and it can bring people, just like yoga, right? You just like the
Rick Archer: Yeah, maybe, maybe it elicits something.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: It brings them into a more embodied kind of connection to the prayer, which can bring in a whole other kind of experience.
Rick Archer: Okay, well, that was a bit of a tangent, but let’s get back to what you’re saying.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, so this presence started to just kind of grow and blossom, in a sense, inside me, and as it grew the way I started to relate to it was this is the Divine Presence that’s, like, birthing in me. It’s like, growing in me, because it had this quality of – it was such purity and it had such a richness and depth to it, it was not like anything I had ever experienced before in ordinary human kind of mode of experience. It was like a kind of magical substance, a magical elixir of divinity, of Divine Presence. And this was kind of starting to fill me up through this process. And as it grew and started to nourish me from the inside out it actually began to initiate a whole other process of deepening, I would say, that brought in and there was a lot to this whole phase, but it brought in and it sort of inspired a whole other phase of the journey that was more of a phase not devotion, but of some kind of annihilation.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I noted down some quotes from your book, you said “There was a very intense black fire that consumed my entire body soul and burned me away. There was literally nobody and nothing left at all. For a long time I could not find any sense of self whatsoever. Yet everything carried on as usual around me. I felt super alive. Life unfolded in a spontaneous way. There was intense aliveness but there was not anybody there that was alive.” There is more but I’ll let you say some more.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. And before that incident that I described in the book, there’s a lot that happened before that, that kind of was a deepening into deeper and deeper states of silence. And it was also during this time that there were a lot of these spontaneous purification kinds of processes that were occurring, that would be akin to, of course, at the time, I had no language for this, but it would be akin to some of these descriptions of Kundalini processes where you’re just kind of, your body is clearing out all content, you could say impressions from our historical life, our historically conditioned life. And so there was a whole kind of process of this that was going on for several weeks. A very, very intense kind of purification.
Rick Archer: But somehow you realized that something good was happening, you didn’t think you’re having seizures or something like that.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: It’s kind of a miracle that I stuck with it because it was so. Yeah, I trusted in a deep way that this was guided by the Divine. It grew out of this deepening intimacy with God, right? So I had this deep trust that what was unfolding, even though it was super, super difficult, and really even painful on a physical level but I knew in a deep way, that there was a deep, that there was a real kind of intelligence, there was a divine intelligence to this process that was, like, way beyond me, and that, like, I could either just surrender to this thing or try and resist it or try and fight it. And I just had enough trust that I allowed it to happen. And it’s a little bit nuts because there were things that were happening that were just not, I hadn’t, they did not fit in the like the worldview that I had been coming from at all.
Rick Archer: Like what just for kicks? Give us an example.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Well, as you mentioned, like going into body contortions and yeah, yeah, some of them that would be impossible to do. Like, I wouldn’t have been able to do those. Like if I had tried, right?
Rick Archer: Right.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: There were a lot of paranormal experiences, perceptions, like different kinds of paranormal, psychic and clairvoyant and astral kinds of experiences that were part of this. There was a spontaneous, what I would now because I have a context for the Hindu tradition, spontaneous kind of pranayama breathing practices, very intense. There were just altered perceptions of various kinds that I had no explanation for. Like a whole constellation of bizarre kinds of experiences.
Rick Archer: Yeah. It’s interesting that you went through all this without a teacher just to sort of reassure you that it was okay.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: No, I know. I was really out on a limb like, I knew I was on an edge, that you maybe I was going crazy, and maybe I really didn’t know exactly what was happening. Other than I knew that I had, that my intention was very sincere. And that I felt this presence there with me. And that presence was my teacher. That was my guide. That was my reference point for some kind of an inner stability and connection that I trusted deeply enough. In some sense, I felt like everything that was happening, like I knew, on some level was part of this benevolent process of opening, even though my whole rational like conditioned self was kind of going bonkers.
Rick Archer: Did you feel that the presence had a sentience to it such that it was almost like a guardian angel kind of thing? I’m just using that as a convenient term, but that you were sort of being looked over, looked after by a compassionate or well-meaning guide of some kind?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: It did not feel like a sentient being in that, like an entity, it didn’t feel like that. It felt like it was
Rick Archer: That the vastness had a sentience to it.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes. Yes. The vastness had a sentience to it. Yes.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I like that, I mean, cause sometimes vastness or absolute or whatever is portrayed as kind of, like a rock, dumb, just being without any sort of intelligence inherent in it. But what you were describing, and what I think many people experience is that it’s, there may be some level of it that’s that way, but there’s profound intelligence permeating and orchestrating everything.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, yes. I cannot find any part of me that has any doubt about the intelligence, you could say, the divine intelligence that’s guiding and that is animating our human experience.
Rick Archer: Nice. I like that.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: It is as real, it’s more real, to me, from my vantage point than anything in the sort of usual, sort of conventional human realm. So, yeah.
Rick Archer: You want to continue, or do you want me to ask a question or read a bit more from your book?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: I’ll just say this about that experience that you described. That experience was, in a sense, a culmination if you will, of this phase of these pure spontaneous purifications, what I call purification kinds of events, that one could position as a kind of Kundalini type process. And it culminated in this kind of burnout, you could say, I felt like, a burnout. And it really changed my perception in a radical way. It’s what initiated for the first time I would say really initiated a nondual type of experience, which the former kind of experience of the divine presence was really one of union. It felt like communion and union with God like I was becoming more and more unified with this presence. This presence was in me, I was in it, it was like, where I ended and this presence began started becoming blurred, and it was like this presence of divine sweetness and purity and love. But with this burnout experience, it was like everything was erased. And not only was the conventional sense of self erased like any sense of being a person with a history or thoughts but also this sense of a self in union with God was also erased so it was like everything was annihilated, including God. Right, including this sort of presence that I had become like in some sense wed to. So all that was left was just a sense of just clear, just perception, you could say, there was just awareness, but there was no location to the awareness. So it wasn’t like I was perceiving reality, it was like, just reality was perceiving, was aware of itself. And there were no demarcations or divisions in perception, which was up until that point things were wacky, but this was like, I had no, like, there wasn’t even any way to process this. Because there was no one to process it, it was just like it was. So I would say that began the second phase, what I call the annihilation phase, which was the annihilation of self. And, yeah, and there was certainly nothing in the Jewish tradition that I had known at that point that could explain this occurrence. And I had not studied Buddhist or Hindu texts at that point. So it was like, for a while, I thought, maybe I died. Like, that’s what happened after you die. Like that was a serious consideration.
Rick Archer: Interesting. Of course, you’ve now discovered that there are things in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions that describe this. Yeah, there are.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: That was very, very helpful for me, actually, at that time after this happened, and I started to look for explanations. And I came across these Buddhist and Hindu teachings, they were super, super helpful in terms of understanding more of what was happening.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Now, it seems that the next step was that you just said, have I died? There’s absolutely no one here. There’s just reality perceiving itself. But then you said, “What I realized was that while there was no self in any conventional sense there was still a location from which perception was occurring. There was also a reflective mechanism that was operating. That is, there was something that was able to reflect on the experience of not having a self. It was possible to discern a very subtle presence of a being-self at the very center of things.”
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, yeah. So at first, when it first occurred, there was nothing, there was nothing, there’s no location, there was no presence self, there was, it was just like, total absence. And then, as that, as I kind of settled into that for lack of a better word, or like, it was a sense of accepting it in some sense. Then I started to explore more of this phenomenon. And, and it was, in that there’s actually more subtlety to this whole thing, I don’t know how much we want to get into it.
Rick Archer: Get into it, go ahead.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: So, I’ll mention it because you mentioned the passage where I’m talking about the Black Fire. So, the Black Fire is actually important, because before there was just the vastness of nondual sort of space, there was a sense of deepening into a black void, you could say, and this was what I mentioned, the journey of silence earlier, I called the journey of silence in the book, which was a deepening into deeper and deeper states of inner silence. And that deeper state of inner silence really had a quality of dropping into a black hole that was just getting more and more silent and more and more kind of deep. And this fire was of this black hole quality that had like that, it was like the presence of deep absence but as a force, as a fire. And that is what like, I actually felt it viscerally through my body, like actually like burned through my body and burned through my consciousness, burned through my mind, my heart. And then there was just like a sense of just like going into just black unconscious space, like vast, deep black nothing, right? And it was from that black nothing
Rick Archer: Was this in an inner meditative condition, or was it actually while you’re eating breakfast, and it was happening all the time, that kind of thing.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: This happened during a meditation.
Rick Archer: Okay, right?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, it was a Kabbalistic
Rick Archer: I was wondering whether you were still able to function while this was going on?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Well there, there was the, at the height of the experience, I was meditating so I had my eyes closed, and I felt like I had kind of gone blank, kaput, there was the sense, I had gone kaput, and then I came to at some point. And then when I came to, and I opened my eyes, everything was that non-dual. You see, so there was actually there was before the perception of just pure, you could say awareness, there was this black annihilation. There was the black annihilation fire, a sense of just being completely annihilated in black space. Going kaput, as you say, I like that, and then after kaput, open my eyes, and then, and then there was a sense of just kind of, like 360 awareness, without a location.
Rick Archer: Mm hmm.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: And it was like that for some time. But perception was very, very vivid and permeable. So like I could see through things like that was sort of the way it’s hard to describe it. Everything looked kind of transparent. So there was this sense that you could actually see through things and that things, objects don’t exist the way we conventionally perceive them to exist. So like, it was like this kind of magical reality where nothing is actually solid. And there’s not really a location of perception in the usual sense. It’s just you are that everything that is transparent like it was clear that that is just so there was that phase. And then the next phase was what you’re describing now. So this kind of beginning to contemplate from this place of who is the one that’s perceiving this? Who is having this experience of non-dual perception? That was then when this sort of, point of light started to appear at the center of everything. And what I realized was that this point of light that appears at the center of everything, which I recognized as this is me, this is actually my soul spark. This is the original point of my consciousness. This is me in its most, in its primordial state of existence, not existence in the usual sense, but in its eternal existence.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Is that what you’re referring to as starlight in your book?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, exactly.
Rick Archer: There’s a little passage, you said “Starlight is the first light. It is the original primordial light of creation. It has that nondual quality to it – formless, dimensionless, timeless. And yet, when the primordial point, the star, displays itself more distinctly, it carries an implicit sense of I, there’s a sense that I am this light because it is the first light of the individual soul. It is the seed of the soul, the soul spark.”
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So this point of light, this starlight can manifest as you just read, as either a distinct kind of starlight shining in the vastness of space, with a clear sense of eternality. Like that’s the mark of it is that it doesn’t feel like it was ever born or will ever die it feels there’s a distinct sense that this eternally abides. This is an eternally abiding light that is pre-existence, pre-creation, and this is the primordial star. But then we can also experience this as just the light, just the starlight without a star. And now what I realized was this state of just non-dual vastness of being, right? What I first sort of realized when I came out of this black fire it’s just starlight. Like everything is kind of shining, scintillating, transparent scintillation of pure awareness as reality without a particular location, without a particular center, or the starlight can kind of crystallize into a particular form, to a particular spark of light, which then gives a sense of there being a center for the self. But it’s not the ordinary self like that we usually think of a self, it’s not a thinking self, it’s a being self. It’s a self that is of being, it’s being manifesting, as a first spark of itself, as a first spark of a something that we can call an individual consciousness. So that’s the discrimination between the starlight and the star. And they’re both of the same nature, they’re just different manifestations of it.
Rick Archer: You’re doing a really good job of describing something that’s really hard to describe. You know how Genesis says, “Let there be light, and there was light” and in the Vedic tradition, or at least some aspects of it, and perhaps some other traditions, they understand that the subtlest realm of creation is light, it’s called the celestial field. And there are beings who dwell there who have celestial bodies who live in celestial homes and the whole thing is just fabricated of light. And then things get more concrete and more manifest from there. But many people do kind of experience that realm. Not many, but people do experience that realm. And I have something else I want to ask you about light, but maybe you want to comment on that before we go on.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, totally makes sense. And it wasn’t until after I had all these experiences that I went back to these Kabbalistic texts and then understood that my experiences were also known and sort of described in these metaphysical terms in the kabbalistic system. So just like in the Hindu tradition, right, as you’re sharing, there’s an understanding of the primordial light of creation.
Rick Archer: Hiraṇyagarbha, it’s called the golden egg of creation.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, that’s beautiful. Yeah, there’s in Kabbalah, and a lot of what I do in this book, really, most of the book doesn’t talk about my experiences, as you know, it’s mostly
Rick Archer: I know we’re just squeezing that out of you.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: It’s a good exercise to speak to the experiential source of actually, these teachings. Because the Kedumah teachings that I articulate in the book are mapping out these experiences in a way that can be kind of utilized, can be retrofitted perhaps, or replicated or duplicated, through practice by people. And what I’ve found is that in the Kabbalah tradition, and the Jewish tradition, there is an understanding of these processes, it’s just that the way the texts are written, unless a person has some sense of the experience, it would be almost impossible to understand what they’re talking about. What happens is that people read these texts, and then it’s just mental, it becomes like this intellectual exercise, which is the way that I had encountered it prior to these experiences. And almost all, if not all, of the Kabbalistic kind of teachers that I had encountered were coming at it from the outside in. Right? So they read the text, and then they try and like, try and understand the experience from the text. My experience was inside out. I had no idea like, I wasn’t looking for any of this stuff to happen. I had no map and none of this stuff would have made any sense from what I had read and it was only later on I studied more deeply and I saw, oh, wow, they’re actually describing. They’re describing these primordial processes that I had become intimate with in my own experience, but had no framework, certainly not in Judaism, for at that time. And yet, what I discovered is that the framework is there. It just has to be understood properly.
Rick Archer: Interesting. Well, I want to ask you another question about light but the thought that just popped into my head when you said that is that you could actually be instrumental in helping to bring about a sort of renaissance or a rediscovery of the true meaning of, or the inner meaning of all these things that, I mean, you could write a commentary on certain scriptures saying here’s what they said and here’s what, here’s the experience they’re actually referring to and then here’s another thing, and here’s that experience, without tooting your own horn too much. But obviously, these guys wrote this stuff down because they consider these experiences significant and worth writing about. And it’s kind of a shame if they’re completely not understood or misinterpreted. There may be a coming generation that would find this extremely useful because my feeling is that more and more people are going to be awakening experientially, and they already are. And many people are doing their best to glean meaning from ancient scriptures. But as we started this whole discussion an hour ago, those have very often been misinterpreted or mistranslated, and become rather obscure, so either we need to write new ones, or we need to sort of find out what the old ones were actually talking about.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, totally. You read my mind, because it’s on my list of projects to work on a commentary on the Torah that
Rick Archer: Oh, cool.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: that actually explains it more experientially.
Rick Archer: Yeah, that’s great. So, while we’re on the topic of light, you said something I found very interesting, you said, “When we enter this dimension of light, it can open up the channel of divine oils. It is possible to actually experience an ethereal oil descending from the top of the head, down the whole body. This seems similar to the teachings on amrita in the Vajrayana tradition, some texts describe this deathless ambrosia in similar ways flowing down the body from the crown of the head.” There’s also in the Vedic tradition, the notion of soma, the ninth mandala, of the Rigveda, is all about soma, and there’s stuff about it in Ayurveda and so on. And it’s often thought to be some kind of plant that you can find in the Himalayas, and you can grind it up and use it. But and maybe it is that also, but there’s a whole explanation of how the body produces it, when it becomes refined enough. So the most refined products of digestion or the whole metabolic process end up fabricating or creating soma, which then has a further refining influence on the whole nervous system and perception.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, makes total sense. Experientially, for me, what’s happening in the
Rick Archer: When you experience it coming from the top of the head, was it kind of like this, as if someone had poured oil on the top of your head? And there was this sort of blissful cascade kind of coming down like that?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, exactly. Exactly. It was like a sense of being anointed, of being anointed with oil. It was very, very visceral, like, you actually feel as if there is a substance, that
Rick Archer: Yeah, it’s like running down your face and down the side
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Running down your face. And then your whole body right? But down the head and face it’s very, very distinct like so it’s an ethereal kind of presence that can feel like oil. And you mentioned soma, and the sort of the inner metabolism and how this process occurs. In the Kabbalah tradition, this is correlated with the Messianic condition. Like the Messiah, the Messianic state is correlated with the experience of anointing with oil because this English word messiah is actually a transliteration of the Hebrew word Mashiach, which appears in the Hebrew Bible, to refer to one who is anointed with oil. That’s actually what the word means – Messiah is one who is anointed. Right? So in the Hebrew Bible, when it refers to a Mashiach it is referring to a king or maybe to a priest, as well, where, because there was a coronation ceremony where they were anointed with oil, so they were the ones who were anointed with oil. So in the Kabbalah tradition, the Messianic condition is part of our nature, as each one of us, is a Messiah in drag, so to speak. And we have this inner potential for being anointed by the inner oil, by the ethereal divine oil. And it’s part of connecting to this Starlight dimension, in my experience, at least, at any rate, right? It could be other people have a different process in which this plays out. In my experience, it was when I connected to that state, that this ethereal oil, that I have that sense of that anointing and it was part of the transformation of perception and of consciousness because the result of the oil was commensurate with this radical kind of opening up of perception into like, non-localized, kind of pure awareness. So I think that we need to also revise this whole concept of the Messiah and move away, in a sense, from looking to one person as sort of embodying the Messiah potential, and in a sense, really reclaim our collective potential for each of us to know ourselves, in this deep way, to know ourselves in this primordial way, as a living kind of King or Queen of the Divine.
Rick Archer: Yeah, didn’t Jesus say something like all these great things that I do, you shall do even greater things? He kinda said, Hey, you got this too.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Exactly. Yeah.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and regarding the royalty, isn’t there something in the 23rd Psalm “Thou anointest my head with oil? Isn’t that one of the lines?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Mhmm.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I love that. But it’s interesting because it’s perhaps another one of these subjective experiences that get externalized into ritual. So you know people describe this experience like you just described, and then some people who maybe weren’t having the experience thought hey, let’s make this part of the tradition and pour oil on people’s heads.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, no, totally. That’s the way these things go. Yeah. It’s like the asanas and the shuckling, right? And the anointing like, we ritualize these inner processes, in some sense, perhaps, and as a way to domesticate them too.
Rick Archer: Or maybe there’s a value in them in that they’re symbolic of a subjective experience, but perhaps people eventually forget the symbolism and take them too literally.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Totally, yeah. I also find that the rituals in general, ritual can have powerful, especially if rituals are in some sense, the closer connected they are to the original experience. Or you could say, the closer they are in spirit. And in Genesis, to those original experiences, they have the potential to in some sense, replicate the sense. I think that’s what draws people to ritual so much is that they actually feel something happening. They may not have all the language to articulate the subtleties of it, but it’s like people can feel these forces at play when they perform rituals.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and sometimes people want to just throw the whole thing out because they feel it’s superficial. But as Thoreau said, he said you’ve built castles in the air, that’s where they belong, now build foundations under them. So we don’t necessarily have to chuck all this rich tradition, but it could be supplemented or substantiated by an experiential foundation.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Totally.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Okay, so we spent the first hour and 15 minutes talking mostly about your experience. But we’ve obviously gone off into various profound bits of knowledge. Is there anything more you want to say in this sort of chapter of the conversation? And actually here’s a good segue point, perhaps that might help us do that. And then we can get on to talking more about your book. A question came in from Tom in Chicago, who asks, what is the color of light in this dimension? Does it gradually change colors? Or is it a constant color? I’ve heard the color golden referring to the celestial light. But what do you have to say to Tom?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, so are you referring to the starlight?
Rick Archer: We had that whole conversation about light and starlight and everything. I think he’s asking, is there a color to it?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: I think this is a good segue because in the book I talk about the colors actually, a bit. This starlight itself is colorless there. It’s like the color of starlight like it’s primordial and this is the thing about the starlight is that I can legitimately use the word light to point to it. Even though there’s no light to be seen. Like, it’s not a visible light in the usual sense. And even in the inner sense. It’s as if it’s the light prior to it coming through the prism. It’s like the colorless light that is the essence of light. It’s like it is
Rick Archer: The light that goes into a prism is actually all the colors combined, but they end up being colorless when they’re all combined.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Exactly. Yeah, that’s exactly, that’s really the perfect metaphor then. Because it’s like all the colors are implicit in the starlight. So it has this sense of like potency.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Like, there’s a potency to it, even though there isn’t a distinct color to it. There’s that sense of like all of creation packed into this light.
Rick Archer: Perfect. Yeah.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, if it’s the sort of primordial field from which creation arises, then obviously, all the qualities and so-called colors of creation would have to be inherent within it.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: That’s right, yeah, they’re implicit in it, and then as we come into formation, and as we come into manifestation, as a particular individual consciousness, right, so I talked about the point of light. But this point of light births itself, you could say, through the human form, through the human being, into a more full embodied expression of this light. And it’s through that coming into form, into incarnation, that this colorless, primordial light begins to discriminate itself, begins to express itself into the distinct colors of what Kabbalah would call the sephirot or the divine qualities, which are the particular colors of lights that discriminate out of the colorless primordial light. It’s like the colors of the rainbow. So, all of the realm of manifestation, the world of appearances, the conventional world that we typically experience is constituted by various combinations of these colors, of these discriminated light forms, each of which has a particular quality that can be experientially discerned through our inner and outer experience, actually. And so these qualities of light, these divine qualities or qualities of being or I call them the lights of being in the book, do have distinct colors to them and there’s many of them, right? There’s the golden light, the red light, the white light, the black light, the green light, and they’re more like kind of hues. They’re subtle frequencies of light, you can say, that can be experienced in our human organism in everyday life. So in some sense, they serve as the typical portals to the primordial light because they’re usually much more accessible to our human experience. And each one of these lights has its own teaching and in the Kedumah path we work with our experience in a way that brings forward and clarifies these particular lights. But the primordial light itself is not a particular color in my experience. It’s more of that colorless light prior to its coming through.
Rick Archer: Yeah, it hasn’t diversified.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah.
Rick Archer: Yeah, there’s a thing in physics called sequential, spontaneous symmetry breaking, where there’s a perfectly symmetrical field at the foundation of everything. And then it sort of breaks into greater and greater diversity. And various forces and matter fields come out and from there, elements come out, and just the whole thing just sort of gets more and more manifest and diverse. But it sort of mirrors what you’re talking about.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, that’s beautiful. That makes sense.
Rick Archer: But anyway, the basic concept I think we’re talking about here is that there’s this fundamental field, and it actually could be, could be experienced to have the quality of light and that everything arises from that fundamental field and becomes, appears to become, kind of, material creation. Now, you said that when you had that profound awakening, it was as if material creation was immaterial, that as if you could see through things, they seem to have no materiality, even though you could see their distinctions.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, that’s right. From the starlight condition, one mode of the starlight condition is transparency, the transparency of form. So there’s more of a pure sense of formlessness that presents itself in this dimension of experience. There are even more subtle kinds of variations of this. There’s absence of formlessness also, I mean, and there’s like, you could say different gradations of formlessness itself that can present itself in that state. It’s not like a static. We’re getting a lot of subtlety here, which is good. But in my experience, there’s both a baseline of a non-changing formlessness. And it’s also possible for there to be a radical, intense kind of dynamism in that formlessness. And this can be confusing to understand it from a conventional kind of mind state. Because how can it be both sort of dynamic and changing and also totally unchanging and formless at the same time? And yet, experientially that’s possible. So
Rick Archer: In reality that’s possible. And in both certain ancient traditions like Tantra and also modern physics. It’s understood that there’s this sort of infinite dynamism and silence simultaneously coexisting and that there’s this kind of relationship between the two. And we can talk more about it, but definitely, both ancient and modern knowledge relates to that.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, totally. I mean, it really is the essence of the whole Shiva Shakti kind of unity and in Kabbalah, it would be YHVH and Elohim or YHVH and Adonai which are the feminine and the masculine principles of pure unchanging being, on the one hand, Shiva, and then the dynamism of creation on the other, Shakti. It’s a mistake to understand those as two separate phenomena in the ultimate sense, the real realization at least in my experience is that they actually are totally coexistent and interpenetrated. They’re not two, it’s like two sides of the same thing. And they simply, are facets of one unity.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you talk a lot in your book about expansion and contraction. And I think those could be regarded as simultaneous. And there’s an interesting explanation, which is that we could call it the self-interacting dynamics of consciousness, where consciousness in its sort of primordial state because it’s conscious, there’s nothing for it to be conscious of other than itself. But it does that because it’s its nature to be conscious. But in doing that, it goes from one to three, the three being observer, observed, and process of observation. And yet, at the same time, it’s one. And so this sort of infinite frequency gets set up between the one and the three. And that counts for this infinite dynamism at the foundation of everything.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, that’s beautiful. Makes sense.
Rick Archer: Another question came in. Let’s see what this is here. Oh, we’ll get to this a little bit later. He’s asking about reincarnation and karma. But maybe we’ll get to that. We could have started the interview with this. But let’s take a moment just to define some basic terms like what is Torah? What is the mystical Judaism that Madonna was studying? What is it called?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Kabbalah.
Rick Archer: Right, what is Kabbalah? What is Kedumah? It’d be good to get familiar with the terminology a little bit for those who aren’t.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Torah is a Hebrew word that means teaching and the normative use of that term refers to the Hebrew Bible or to the oral traditions of Judaism. However, the term traditionally refers to the totality of the teaching not to a specific text so it could include the Hebrew Bible, and sometimes people just use the word Torah for the Hebrew Bible, but it’s really used more similarly to the way the word dharma is used in Buddhism. Dharma refers to the totality of the teaching of the path, of the way, which includes the oral teachings, includes the practices, it includes the innermost essence, so too Torah is a word that points to all the dimensionalities of the teaching.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. And then how about Kabbalah?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Kabbalah is the Hebrew word that means receiving, to receive. And it’s a term that’s used to refer to the totality of the Jewish mystical tradition. So there’s a subtle distinction we can make, in that scholars in the field of Jewish thought, who study Jewish mysticism, will position Kabbalah as a particular school within the Jewish mystical tradition. However, the word Kabbalah in the traditional framework is used to just refer to the totality of the Jewish mystical tradition, including all of its various historical manifestations.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. And then until I met you, I’d never heard the word Kedumah. So what is that?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Well, you’re not the only one. No one’s ever heard of the word Kedumah. Okay. Kedumah is not a word that appears in the tradition. Well, it does appear in the tradition. Actually, I’ll explain where it appears. But it’s a word that is not, I mean, I made it up in a sense that I should say, I’ve adopted it.
Rick Archer: Right. You found that someplace, and you thought it was a good word to use?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah. I say it appeared to me in meditation, as a term that points to this teaching that I began to teach, right? So Kedumah itself is a word that means primordial and it appears in an ancient Hebrew text that talks about this principle of there being a Torah Kedumah, a primordial Torah, that existed before the creation of the world. And so the teaching goes that the Holy One gazes into this Torah or consults this Torah, and then creates the world so it’s talking about some kind of a primordial blueprint of creation. So
Rick Archer: That’s kind of what the Veda is thought to be also in that tradition is kind of this blueprint of creation, which contains all the laws of nature and then which can be kind of Xeroxed whenever a new creation needs to arise.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. That fits. So this word sort of points to this primordial reality prior to creation. And when after I had all these experiences and went through a decade of integration, right? Of all of it, and this teaching, this path and teaching, and understanding of Torah. Now, Torah, in the larger sense of Torah, not Torah as like, some religious teaching, right?
Rick Archer: The centrality of knowledge.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, the Dharma right, this dharmic teaching or this Torah teaching, started to present itself through me. And I started to teach it. And the first time I taught it was five years ago when I gave this first series of 11 teachings, which form the basis for this book that you shared – The Kedumah Experience.
Rick Archer: When you say it presented itself through you, did you sort of feel like kind of an inner prompting that you just had to expound this stuff and that you almost felt like you weren’t the originator of it. It was just sort of you were the channel for it, maybe?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, that’s right.
Rick Archer: Okay.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, it was like that. And so this first series of talks that formed the transcripts for this book, was the first time that I had taught this teaching that I call the Kedumah teachings. I call them the Kedumah teachings, because when this teaching sort of revealed itself to me, that was the name that it had. Like that it presented itself as the teachings of the Torah Kedumah, the primordial Torah, the Torah before the creation of the world. So, I use this term Kedumah. So the reason why you’ve never heard of it, nobody’s ever heard it, is because it’s a very obscure word. It’s not a word that’s used in the tradition at all. I’m kind of reviving it and claiming it as an esoteric principle that I feel is important to reconnect to in our time, which is really about reconnecting to the primordial spirit. Not just of this tradition, not just as Judaism, right because Kedumah is not about Judaism, it’s not about any particular religion or any particular tribe or anything like that. Kedumah is really a trans-religious approach that is about supporting humanity, supporting the planet to reconnect to its primordial source, to its primordial nature. Because it’s through connection, reconnection, remembering of ourselves in our eternal nature that – first of all, it brings a tremendous amount of like freedom from suffering and all that, there’s a side benefit. But also, it’s through that connection that we have the possibility of, you could say, reformatting our human collective experience on this planet going forward.
Rick Archer: Hmm. Nice. Take as much time as you want now to kind of summarize what you’re offering here. I won’t interrupt you unless I feel some point might need clarification. But I want you to have a chance to really expound on what it is that you’re offering. You’ve told us in a nutshell, but I’m sure it can use some elaboration.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, I’ve shared the essence of it, which is really about reconnecting to ourselves. That’s why remembering ourselves,
Rick Archer: Yeah, so a person gets to be a serious student of this, what are they going to be studying? What are they going to be practicing?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah.
Rick Archer: What would they learn if they read this book, that kind of thing.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: So, there are a number of fundamental points in terms of what this Kedumah path is about. Because there are many, many teachings out there as we know, many paths, many approaches, many practices, some ancient, some more contemporary, Kedumah is both ancient and new. That is to say, it roots itself, links itself to an ancient lineage. I experience it as an inner lineage, a lineage that is not through flesh and blood, through time and space exactly. But it’s kind of an inner wisdom stream that reveals itself in human form and through the human community at various times and places. So many traditions have expressions of Kedumah, you could say, within them and have kind of articulated a pathway to our primordial nature, to our innermost essence. In our time, this is why I say it’s both ancient and new. Our time has particular challenges to it in terms of what we’re working with, both just in the outer world and also in the invisible forces at play. And so the Kedumah path articulates a very simple kind of five-step or five journey I call them the five journeys in the book. Five dimensions of our experience, that at any point in time, we can use as a map of our experience, both of the territory we’re in, but also as a way to deepen and understand ourselves more fully all the way back to our primordial source and even say even more subtle dimensions of freedom that I articulate in the book than what we’ve discussed so far.
Rick Archer: So are these five journeys like alternate routes, or do we take all five?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Well, the five journeys are more five dimensions of freedom that can be experienced in a linear fashion.
Rick Archer: Sequentially?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Sequentially, yes. Or not, they can be non-linearly experienced, but they’re really just dimensions of our experience at any moment in time that are possible for us to connect to. And most people are dominantly familiar with the first journey, what I call the journey of contraction. Contraction is the normative state of identifying with being a separate self and having all kinds of contractions in our system, in response to our everyday experience, right? Reactions of various kinds, disturbances, mostly due to identifying with the narrative or surface layer of our experience, our thinking mind, and its historical conditioning. So this dimension of our experience, what I call the journey of contraction is akin to, I use this metaphor in the book. It’s like the narrative layer of a scroll if you take a sacred scroll and you read the text. I use the Torah as an example, right, the Hebrew Bible, many people read the Hebrew Bible, and they read it on a level of stories like these are stories about people in history. That’s the narrative level, that’s the level of contraction. Actually, that’s not the real sort of understanding of the meaning of the text nor of reality, so usually our experience of our life day today is one that is imprisoned and in identification with the stories that are historically derived. So that’s the usual experience. Most spiritual traditions have some kind of a technology or path out of contraction. So most spiritual awakening paths are about how to become free from contraction. So in Kedumah, we talk about the journey of expansion, which is the second journey. And the journey of expansion is when we are able to work with our experience of contraction and work with it skillfully. And so we do that through various kinds of practices, that are embodied practices of working with the material of our contraction, as opposed to bypassing it and sort of ejecting into some non-dual state, we really work to stay present with and understand the nature of our contraction and what we discover when we do that, is that inside, at the heart of every experience, is the primordial light of freedom, of expansion. And so we just have simple practices that we learn and that we work with, to help us connect to the spirit of expansion that is available to us through any experience in our daily life. So in that sense, contraction and expansion go hand in hand. And in fact, you can’t have one without the other. Right? The contraction only makes sense in relationship to expansion, and vice versa. So it’s a mistake to think the goal is to just sort of get rid of contraction and experience expansion all the time. Right? Because that just leads us into a different kind of suffering. It’s a more subtle kind of suffering, but it’s a suffering, nonetheless. Because we’re setting up a sort of split in our experience, and we become just attached to expansion, expansive contraction.
Rick Archer: Yeah, also the world works in boundaries and specificities and so on. I mean try landing a Boeing 747 in a snowstorm without being very focused and contracted on specific details that you need to attend to.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: And you bring up a very good point, which is a fundamental principle that we work with in Kedumah, which is the relationship between contraction and concentration. in Kabbalah, there’s this term tsimtsum, which means to concentrate or to contract, as well, actually. And it’s actually through contraction of energy, of presence, of awareness, that it can become super, super-concentrated. And through the super hyper-focus of our awareness and our presence, what we start to experience is actually more and more spaciousness at the heart of that concentration, which is how concentration meditation practices work, actually.
Rick Archer: Say that airline pilot could be experiencing an inner vastness and an inner freedom, while at the same time focusing very precisely and sharply on the task at hand.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. And so with our contracted experience in life, oftentimes because we’re lost in the narratives and the storylines with it, and the identities, the self-dramas related to the experience of contraction, we have forgotten how to use the experience of contraction as a doorway into the inclusion of the spaciousness and freedom of expansion. And so, we really work to capitalize on all of our everyday experiences as doorways and portals to more of the fullness, a full spectrum of who and what we are, so we’re really approaching it not as a include as ancluj, what’s the word?
Rick Archer: Inclusive.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Thank you. Inclusive approach to our experience where we’re not trying to get rid of our contraction or somehow fix it or alter it or change it, we’re really learning how to more fully embrace the totality of our experience, including our contractions, as expressions of the totality of reality. Our experiences of contraction are equally valid as our experiences of expansion. And this inclusivity brings in more of the potential for the third journey, which is the journey of wholeness. The journey of wholeness is really the integration of the journeys of expansion and contraction into a more full, embodied
Rick Archer: totality
Zvi Ish-Shalom: totality of our human experience, that is able to hold all the dimensionality of our everyday life, and also embrace more of the full horizontal dimensionality of our journey, which includes the relational, and the functional dimensions of our experience. So without wholeness, we have this problem that we see in spiritual communities today. Especially in spiritual communities, or spiritual paths that tend to emphasize expansion without really understanding or processing, or digesting the content of our contracted experience. So we have this phenomenon where it’s possible for us to do certain practices and kind of stay in this somewhat removed state of non-dual experience
Rick Archer: somewhat disembodied
Zvi Ish-Shalom: somewhat disembodied. And then relationships are kind of a disaster, like, people or behaviors are kind of out of whack or out of alignment.
Rick Archer: Yeah, you’re not making a living and you’re just not dealing with the world.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. So that’s, like, that’s just like total expansion without the harmonization and integration and digestion, metabolizing of the content of our experience, and of our personal history and all that. It’s what wholeness really represents. There’s this phrase in the Talmud that says, the real full human being as tokho ke-varo, the Aramaic word phrase which means the inside is like the outside. And so on the journey of wholeness, we’re really working with integrating the inside and the outside so that our external life or the outer world becomes a true reflection of an expression of our inner realization. Tokho ke-varo, and that’s the realization of wholeness in our experience, which is a different kind of realization. It’s actually more mature, more full, more real, more human, and human at the same time Divine. It’s like the meeting
Rick Archer: Yes. On earth, as it is in heaven. What that means to me is that the inner divine quality has been sort of suffused into the outer world through our interaction with the outer world and our living realistically with the outer world such the outer world becomes, is elevated in all of its functions, all of its forms.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Exactly. Yes, yeah.
Rick Archer: So that was three of the journeys.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, so that’s the journey of wholeness. Then we have the journey of vastness, which deals more with the primordial light than I described already. So the journey of vastness is a different kind of expansion. So, in the journey of expansion, we’re still experiencing expansion relative to contraction. So there’s more of that sense of, we feel free from the contraction, but we still experience ourselves as a kind of individual self that’s feeling expanded and we can have that sense of expansion through the body, more spaciousness. But in the journey of vastness, it’s a radically different kind of expansion because it’s really the erasure of all sense of self altogether. So it’s no longer expansion relative to contraction. It’s more moving into that more primordial state of eternal vastness of being, which you could say, ushers in a different set of realizations and understandings about the nature of who we are, and of reality. And so the journey of vastness represents that dimension of the journey. And there are various phases, there are various subtleties to the journey of vastness. As I mentioned, there’s like the black, no kind of space, of kaput, the void. And there’s the starlight, there’s the star and then there’s also a more radical kind of emptiness that can appear in the journey of vastness that’s not just the emptiness of self. But it’s like the emptiness of all… and this is again where words fail us because it’s even to say emptiness is not a good term. It’s saying too much. It brings in more of a state or a mode of experience, in which the categories of empty and full no longer apply, that there’s no longer an inside or an outside, there’s no longer a fullness or vastness, there’s no longer presence or absence, it’s like there’s just a complete and utter deep, you could say, divestment of all charge in experience. This moves into the fifth journey, the journey of freedom, which in a sense, brings in a different kind of realization, which is the realization of a certain kind of radical equanimity, or the Zen tradition talks about the one taste state, where there is no longer a value preference for states of realization or states of contraction. It’s like a more radical kind of, mode of freedom, from all concept, even from the concept of freedom. And this journey of freedom is marked in a sense by the dissolution of all hierarchy, dissolution of all value preference, not the dissolution of all preference. It’s just preferences become simple. Just like life becomes radically simple in the journey of freedom. The journey of freedom, it marks also the end of the journey, the end of the spiritual journey, not that the journey doesn’t continue to unfold with learning and understanding and life experience and all of that. It’s like the end of the journey in the sense that there’s such a complete and radical contentment with what is right in front of our face, even the most mundane kind of thing, that there’s no longer the impulse to seek anything other than exactly where we are in any given moment regardless of how ordinary and mundane it is, and so it’s like the radicalization of the mundane and the ordinary as the ultimate. There is no longer a kind of ultimate that we seek. Because the ultimate is whatever appears in our experience. That’s what I mean by the divestment of all psychic energy in the experience and the equalization of all value to experience in terms of preference that there’s like an arriving at a radical kind of simplicity where everything is collapsed into whatever the immediate sense perception is before us. And so that brings a certain, a different kind of freedom than the freedom of vastness and the freedom of wholeness and the freedom of expansion, even the freedom of contraction. That’s why I say the five journeys are really all different dimensions of freedom. The journey of freedom is a particular kind of freedom, it’s the freedom to be with whatever experience we have, without, it’s like the erasure of the impulse to be anywhere else. Now each of these journeys, I’m like summing them up quickly, each of these journeys is a whole teaching and has a whole set of sort of subtleties and understanding to it. But what I’m saying so far is kind of, like, how is this landing? Or making sense?
Rick Archer: Oh, it makes sense. As you traverse each journey and then move on to the next one, do you sort of abandon the previous one? Or do you kind of incorporate it and then add the next one to it?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Well, they’re not, even though I’m presenting them in a kind of,
Rick Archer: they’re simultaneous,
Zvi Ish-Shalom: What? Yeah, then these are really, all always already present. Yes. And at any moment, we can be in any one. It’s really like, just a way of situating where we are.
Rick Archer: Yeah, so maybe according to the circumstances, one or the other would predominate.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah. Now we do have a formal curriculum where we teach them progressively, right? But that’s more for pedagogical reasons. It’s a more efficient way of learning and there is for many people a natural progression. However, we’re always cycling, circling, and spiraling back and forward through all the journeys at any moment in time. So we can be studying things that pertain to the journey of freedom, or to the journey of vastness but we’re always practicing skills that relate to the journey of wholeness, which has to do with aligned and skillful relating and functioning. We’re always working with issues around contraction because every day brings new kinds of reactions that we have to understand about ourselves. And so this is why, at the very beginning of this conversation, when we talked about sharing personal experiences because of the perspective of the journey of freedom that we hold in Kedumah, and that I personally hold, there really isn’t a value preference for having an experience of contraction, visa vie an experience of radical awakening. They each are real and true expressions of reality, that are
Rick Archer: They have their value, they have their relevance. Yeah.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah.
Rick Archer: But I think what people find is that contraction is no longer binding as it once was, that in the midst of what may appear to be a contraction there’s an inner freedom, which makes the contraction a whole lot more tolerable, if not enjoyable.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: That’s exactly right. Yeah. So without the journeys of expansion and the other journeys, it will be very, very difficult, if not impossible, to really work with contracted experience. So we need to have the perspective of the other journeys in a sense in order to most efficiently work with, to understand the nature of contractions, to see contraction as a manifestation of spirit.
Rick Archer: Yeah. When you say we’re studying this, and you’re teaching this and so on, do you mean students at Naropa University are studying it and teaching it or can it be studied in some other context?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: No, at the Kedumah school that I run.
Rick Archer: Okay. Independent of Naropa.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, that’s right.
Rick Archer: I see. Is that an online thing or is it in Boulder?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: We have online programs. We have in-person retreat programs. We’ve been meeting in Boulder. We’re still in our early years. We have workshops. We have a retreat program called the Soulship where we have, it’s like a multiyear curriculum of teachings that we have people that have gone through the whole thing. And we have people who are now training to support others in this path. So Kedumah is both a, it’s like a principle of reality, this primordial principle, and then it’s also a formal kind of teaching and path that whoever if someone resonates with it there are opportunities to actually experience it so if you go to the website, kedumah.org, they have all those programs there, you can check out and see.
Rick Archer: Okay, great. I’ll be linking to all that. So some questions came in that I want to take the time to ask and have you answer. And we’ll jump around a little bit because the questions are on different things, but that’s okay. You’re ready for that?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, sure.
Rick Archer: Okay, so firstly, there are a couple of questions about light that we were talking about. Dan from London asks, “Does this description of light relate to the regular light we experience? It seems that when the light of the sun illuminates the world the light itself is mostly colorless, and it’s not detectable or perceivable in and of itself, but generally, only by the illumination of objects, we can find the source, the sun, and we can notice the light rays through clouds. So I guess we’re talking about this description of light, maybe let me try to summarize this question, the light that you were talking about, which is sort of like the subtle field of relative creation, celestial light, does that in any way relate to the more obvious light that we see with our eyes, which is actually just a tiny fraction of the spectrum of the electromagnetic field?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Well, in some Kabbalistic texts they actually use the metaphor of the sun and the rays of light to the point to it. So I think it’s helpful as a metaphor. And to some extent, perhaps it’s also a literal metaphor, in the sense that the physical world, including the sun and the light that emanates from the sun, and all the processes at play that reveal the light to us, they are, in some sense, an expression of like all things in the physical realm and in the human realm are expressions and emanations of this primordial light. So they still carry the vibrations and the frequencies of this primordial light. And so yeah, so the invisible light of the sun that we usually don’t see with our ordinary eye, I think is both an apt metaphor and also, in some sense, perhaps a literal metaphor, it really is an expression of that light itself. In terms of the vibrations of it.
Rick Archer: Another question on light from Tom again, in Chicago. Does each color of light have a specific a special healing power or capability?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, each color of light has a specific function both in the inner life and in the outer world. So, for example, the light of compassion is very healing in terms of our own inner wounds. It can feel like we’re being bathed in the light of loving-kindness, which is incredibly healing to experience. And the light, the function of the lights is to serve as a bridge between the primordial preexistent reality and the realm of forms, the realm of manifestation. And so every light serves as a bridge from the inner to outer, it serves as an inner light of healing, but it also functions as a way for us to communicate that loving-kindness and that compassion to others in the world.
Rick Archer: That’s interesting, the notion of a bridge, there’s a saying in Sanskrit, I forget the Sanskrit but it’s the lamp at the door, as if there’s a lamp or a light at the interface between the, let’s say, the inside and the outside or the unmanifest and the manifest. So that’s kind of cool.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, that is cool. And I’ll add too that there’s a verse in the book of Proverbs. Ki Ner Hashem Nishmat Adam Chofes Kol Chedrei Vaten. That’s the Hebrew. For, it means, for the light of being is the soul of the human.
Rick Archer: Yes. Nice.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: And so the human soul or the human consciousness is a light and this is the light of being. It is the interface from primordial light of being to all the manifest forms of light that make up the world of appearances. And we as human beings, in some sense, are that lamp at the door, right? We are that interface. And the human being is uniquely situated in this sense that we have access to the primordial. We are vehicles of the primordial light, purity of the primordial light
Rick Archer: Very good. Okay, continue. You finish.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: into the realm of form.
Rick Archer: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, we could say that all animals and beings of any sort, from amoebas to humans or whatever, are conduits for the light of being, but the human, as you just said, is uniquely qualified to straddle the whole realm of creation, the whole range of creation in his awareness, to appreciate the whole thing from the unmanifest through all realms of manifestation to the most contracted.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, I don’t know for sure if we’re the only creatures that have that capacity, but
Rick Archer: Yeah, I mean, maybe whales and dolphins or something like that. But
Zvi Ish-Shalom: yeah, but certainly the traditional texts, at least in Kabbalah, position the human being as uniquely situated in that way.
Rick Archer: Yeah.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: And it does seem that we have that but who knows.
Rick Archer: Yeah, and I would conjecture that given the vastness of the universe and the probability of life on trillions of planets that we’re probably rather stunted little slugs by comparison, to what’s possible.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: That’s for sure.
Rick Archer: Here’s another question. This is the one that came in earlier from Pierre Livingston in Quincy, California. Do reincarnation and karma play a role in your system?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, so there is a rich tradition of reincarnation in Kabbalah. And there is an equivalent to karma. It’s not exactly the same, actually. But there is
Rick Archer: As you sow, so shall you reap.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, yeah. And there’s in Hebrew, it’s middah ke-neged middah, there’s a phrase in the oral tradition. There’s a measure for every other measure. Yeah. So there’s this concept that everything we do has some kind of consequence in the fabric of reality, right? There’s a ripple effect of every action and even every word that we utter. So and one could even say
Rick Archer: every thought
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Every thought, yeah. So yes, we have an understanding of that. And that’s why the journey of wholeness is so important. The journey of wholeness deals with integrating our speech and our action with our realization. Because it’s not enough to just realize the truth of reality or some state of vastness, but without really manifesting that through our speech, behavior, and incarnate form of consciousness, then we can be still causing quite a bit of harm to each other and to the planet and to ourselves. And then also in reincarnation, I want to make a distinction between Kabbalah and Kedumah. Kabbalah is the traditional teachings of the esoteric dimension of Judaism that has a rich tradition of reincarnation, and actually I have a new book that’s coming out that translates some of the mystical Kabbalistic meditation practices that work with reincarnation. In the 16th century, there was a series of Kabbalistic teachers and texts that have a kind of elaborate system of meditation for how to expedite the journey of rebirth so that we don’t have to come back. So you can, like do these meditation practices as you’re going to sleep at night and this helps the journey of reincarnation. So there is a rich tradition of reincarnation. In Kedumah itself, Kedumah as I shared, is an ancient but new teaching. It’s a contemporary kind of revelation or expression that doesn’t work with those ancient practices in their traditional format, but really is more of a secular, it’s contextualized more in a secular framework. So we’re not saying religious or ritualistic practices from Judaism like the Kabbalists would do. So in Kedumah, we don’t use reincarnation as the central organizing principle. And also in the journey of freedom the understanding of reincarnation shifts quite a bit because it’s no longer past lives but concurrent lives because one of the realizations in the journey of freedom is you could say, the collapsing dimensionality of time and space. And with the collapsing of the element of the property of distance in time and space all we have is the kind of radical now and so we can experience ourselves in parallel lives, in parallel universes and parallel realities. But there’s no longer the sense that they transpired in the past. There’s the distinct sense from when we’re in the journey of freedom mode, that these are all lives and realities that are occurring concurrently now.
Rick Archer: Yeah, I’ve heard other people say that too, that our human mind and nervous system is kind of an interface, which imbues a sense of linearity or sequentialness to things which are actually simultaneous in reality.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly.
Rick Archer: Okay, there are a few questions that came in from Jose Luis Solaire in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Jose is associated with something called futureprimitive.org, which is a podcast that looks like it’s really cool. I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to it, but I want to check it out. But anyway, we’ll ask some of his questions. Now, the first one, you may have already answered so don’t need to go on at length. But if there’s any little bit more you want to say feel free to say it, and that is that in your book you state that Kedumah is a tantric Jewish path somehow related to Eastern lineages. Do you want to elaborate on that?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah. First of all, Hi, Jose.
Rick Archer: Do you know Jose?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Thanks for your question. Sure. Yeah, I do know Jose.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. I’ve never met him.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Actually, we did a podcast together
Rick Archer: Okay, cool.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: on Future Primitive, which is really fun. So your listeners could check that out. The tantric, what I mean by tantra, when I talk about tantra, most people are familiar with tantra as it relates to either the Hindu tradition or the Buddhist tradition, tantra right? Vajrayana in Buddhism or usually Kashmir Shaivism or non-dual Shaiva tantra in Hinduism. I don’t mean to suggest that Kedumah is in some sense a derivative or an expression of those tantric lineages. I’m using the term tantra in its general, in its much more broad sense.
Rick Archer: It shares some understandings and experiences with those traditions without necessarily having been derived from them, right?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Rick Archer: Like a lot of you know, the primordial, what was that? Houston Smith. Perennial wisdom. I mean, certain streams of wisdom just show up all over the world. They’re closely similar to one another.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. So, I’m using tantra in a sense that any path or approach you could say, that draws from and utilizes the energies of our life, life energy, energies of the body, of life all the way to pleasure and sex and all of that can be utilized as material for awakening. You can transmute all experience into fuel for the awakening of consciousness and the opening of perception. And in that sense, Kedumah is a tantric lineage. It’s not Jewish in the sense that it’s not claiming any kind of allegiance with a particular religion. However, it does draw from the tantric teachings within Judaism that are not as well known. For example, in the Hasidic lineage. Hasidism was a particular expression of the Jewish mystical wisdom stream that appeared in the 18th century but developed in different directions, especially in its early sort of generations. There was an explicitly tantric set of practices and teachings within Hasidism and they called it “Avodah She-bigashmiyut”, which means practice or worship through corporeality, through materiality. And the whole premise of that was that we can use our physical experience, our physical life energy including pleasure – eating, drinking, sex, work – as not just the optional but as the optimal vehicles for awakening. So Kedumah very much works with that tantric approach to spiritual practice and this is embodied in the way we work with contraction. We are not trying to turn away from our experience, but we turn toward all of our experience regardless of its content. All content of our experience can be portals to the mystery.
Rick Archer: Okay, good. Second question. Being a tantric path means also the veneration of the feminine principle. Is there a practice within the Kedumah teachings related to the Shekinah?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, there are. The Shekinah is at the center of it. Shekinah is a Hebrew word that means presence so he’s talking about the Divine Presence. In the Jewish mystical tradition, the presence teachings have to do with embodiment, with the realm of creation, very similar to the way Shakti is used in the Hindu tantric tradition. It has to do with the manifestation of the formlessness into form, into the realm of creation. And so all of the material of the created realm including the body and the physical forms of reality are expressions of the Shekinah, of the Divine Presence. It’s the presencing of the formless nature of reality into form, coming into, becoming presence as form that is represented by this feminine principle. Now again, the feminine and the masculine are principles. They’re not meant as gender or sort of biological distinctions. Every human consciousness embodies both feminine and masculine principles. We both have our formless nature and the realm of form. We both have the transcendent and the immanent. We both have the unmanifest and the manifest, the infinite and the finite, the absence and the presence. All of these represent the polarity of creation. And so in Kedumah, we work a lot with the realm of presence, which is the feminine, which is the Shekinah. We work with it through embodiment practices, through working with presence in consciousness as it reveals itself through our embodied experience. And we work with the physical forms of creation as portals to the absolute nature of reality, and ultimately to the realization of the unification and the unity of the two, as I’ve discussed earlier that they are two sides of the same truth. So we work with it mostly through presencing embodiment practices and in our overall approach to transmuting the content of our experience.
Rick Archer: Good.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Hopefully, that makes sense.
Rick Archer: It does. It gets a little abstract at times. But one example I always think of when I think of the divine in form, infused into all the forms of creation is just that, you know, take a scientific analysis of anything and consider what you’re actually looking at. And one example I’ve often used is like they say that if you took a gram of hydrogen and made all the atoms in it the size of unpopped popcorn kernels they would cover the continental United States nine miles deep. And then consider that and consider how perfectly each one of those little atoms it’s functioning within itself and in relationship to all the other atoms in terms of the forces of attraction and repulsion, and then consider that the whole universe is like that everywhere. And it’s mind-boggling to consider the vastness of intelligence which orchestrates everything from the tiniest to the largest, aṇoraṇīyānmahato mahiyàn they say in Sanskrit, smaller than the smallest, bigger than the biggest. When I think that way, I’m just kind of dazzled by the display of divinity that we’re actually living in and looking at and interacting with all the time.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: It is totally magical and mysterious.
Rick Archer: Okay, here’s his third question. You know Thich Nhat Hanh was famous for saying the next Buddha may be the Sangha. Do you have any commentary on that? Oh, his question, the way he phrased this question is, “Is the next Messiah the awakened sangha, to paraphrase Thich Nhat?”
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, so Thich Nhat Hanh did phrase it as the Buddha. In our teaching, in the Kedumah teaching, we very much hold a similar perspective. I mentioned the Soulship. The Soulship is the name of our school, of our program.
Rick Archer: Soulship, like starship?
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yes, Soulship. There are many levels of meaning to that, right? On the one hand, it’s like fellowship, Soulship, right? We’re a community, the Soulship is our community.
Rick Archer: Or a conveyance for souls.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Exactly. And it’s also like a spaceship, like it’s a vehicle for travel through inner space, in our case, its inner space and outer space, because inner and outer, at some point become one. So the Soulship represents the collective body of presence that forms when we come together intentionally in community to explore truth, to explore our experience, to understand the nature of reality. When human beings come together like we’re doing here. Rick, what you bring to the world is a kind of manifestation of that, of this principle of the Soulship, and it’s bringing in the intentional heart for truth into communion with each other, and then what forms is like a certain kind of presence starts to manifest in the relational field. And in the collective field, as we gather, it’s like when we were at SAND it was like,
Rick Archer: yes, there’s definitely a collective consciousness there. I used to engage in group meditation practices and sometimes with as many as 8,000 people, and boy, just a very powerful field gets generated by all those people doing that together.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, exactly. So it’s a very, very powerful thing. And it’s, especially with the advent of technology, which we get to do here, right, this is what we’re practicing. We’re practicing Soulshipping through technology because you have, instead of gathering together in the same location, we’re scattered all over the world. But right now, like as I speak through this medium of technology. We can actually all the listeners right now, and not just all the listeners who are listening live, but all the listeners who will listen and watch in future time. Through the perspective of the journey of freedom, like through that realization, what we recognize is that all of those moments of connection in future past present time can actually be unified in a singular point of non-dimensional interconnectivity.
Rick Archer: Hmm, nice.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: And so the Soulship has the potential and as we move into this new paradigm, the next paradigm of technology it’s like we’re being called as a collective to step into more radically, I think, this more nondimensional potential of our human nature, of our human consciousness. And it’s through this kind of Soulship, certainly coming together in person remains a powerful vehicle and we need to capitalize on that potential. But we also have the potential to now include the nondimensional and this Soulship, as the next Buddha or the next Messiah, if we want to, kind of use the language of the Hebrew tradition, the next Buddha, the next Messiah, as the Sangha, makes much more sense, actually, to me, cause my experience of this messianic light, of this point of light is intimately connected, you could say, to the constellation of stars of light, that constitute all of humanity. In other words, there’s like the vast constellation of stars, is what forms the starlight. The starlight is not just an emanation of one particular light, it’s actually the collective light of all the stars. And so as humanity, as we wake, as humanity wakes up more, and it is happening, albeit slowly, however there seems to be a more of an uptick in terms of this process. As this starts to happen, we have this potential for the stars to meet in unity in this non-dimensional space. And in some bizarre way technology is actually pointing us to that potential. And in that non-dimensional space where all the stars actually come into one, we have the formation of the next Buddha, or the next Messiah, which is in fact, the Sangha.
Rick Archer: Great answer, you have a gift for articulating really deep principles, which I think is symptomatic of a great degree of depth that you’ve experienced and also a great degree of integration that you’ve undergone of that depth. So it’s really cool talking to you.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: I appreciate it so much. Thank you.
Rick Archer: So I should wrap it up. I really appreciated talking to Zvi and I’ll be linking to his website, as always, and his book, and so on. So you can check out his page on batgap.com and hop from there to those things. In conclusion, give us a quick overview of the ways in which people could engage with your teaching.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Yeah, so if you go to www.kedumah.org, K E D U M A H, all of our offerings are there. And basically, we have different modules that people can plug into depending on your situation and what makes sense for you. We have some online courses you could take. We have some intro workshops that are more like weekend-type workshop events that you can attend in person. And then we have a more comprehensive program, right now it’s three years with several in-person retreats a year with me and we do a combination of meditation practices, and teachings. We do a lot of interpersonal type work and exercises that are really rich. We have some videos of teachings and audios that you can check out and have a look at. But really the Soulship which I mentioned is the way to get the curriculum of Kedumah teachings, which really walks us step by step through these different dimensions of the different journeys of freedom. And it’s totally experiential. This is not a kind of academic or intellectual exercise. This is a journey of inner exploration and discovery. And it’s super fun and exciting. I personally love sharing the process with others and seeing what’s possible for human beings. It’s really quite amazing and really quite phenomenal. So the Soulsoup is our multiyear program of retreats. And that’s the best option for someone who really wants to get deep into the teachings.
Rick Archer: Great. Okay, well, thanks. We’ll be seeing you around I’m sure.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Rick, thank you and blessings for all the amazing work that you do. Thank you for having me on. I look forward to seeing you again.
Rick Archer: Oh, yes, oh yes. You’ll be at SAND maybe or we’ll see you someplace. I have a lot of relatives in Boulder. Maybe I’ll get out there sometime. I’ll give you a call when I do.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Definitely we’ll get some coffee on Pearl Street.
Rick Archer: Oh, I can’t handle the caffeine. I’ll have a decaf.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Tea, herbal tea.
Rick Archer: Okie dokie. So thanks a lot. And thanks to those who have been listening or watching and I won’t be doing any more interviews for the next month or so. But I’ll be releasing ones that I’ve recorded when I was out at SAND. So there will be interviews coming out every week. So we’ll see you for the next one. Thanks.
Zvi Ish-Shalom: Bye everyone. Thanks for listening.
Rick Archer: Bye Zvi. Thank you.