Prayer for the Festivals of Light

The rebirth of the life-generating and life-sustaining sun
at the darkest moment of the seasons;
The oil of an ancient temple lamp burning beyond its limit;
A shining star in a dark sky illuminating the way;
The light of mercy revealed through prayer and devotion;
The guiding light of seven principles arising from the heart of
the Dark Continent.
This is the season of The Festivals of Light...
The Winter Solstice,
In the darkness of this Winter
during these terror filled and challenging times;
May we all find the light in darkness,
faith amidst struggle,
rebirth following change and loss,
and virtue and devotion in the face of great challenge.

Published in: Beben, M. T. (2002). New Wine: More Eucharistic Liturgies for 21st Century Small Faith Communities. Boulder, CO: Woven Word Press.

The Love of Wisdom

This year I graduated with my doctorate. As I prepared for graduation I struggled with the shift from perceiving myself as a student, to perceiving myself as a Ph.D., a Doctor of Philosophy. The self-construct of being a student was so ingrained in me that it was difficult to transcend.

I decided to look up the root meanings of the words doctor and philosophy. I discovered that the English word doctor comes from the Latin doctor, meaning "teacher;” and that the word philosophy comes from the Latin philosophia, meaning, “love of knowledge or wisdom."

When I combined these terms and realized that the phrase Doctor of Philosophy could be translated as Teacher of the Love of Wisdom, I had a visceral breakthrough in my self-perception. I recognized that I was holding onto the idea that being a Ph.D. meant that I had to be a master of knowledge and wisdom. To be honest, I surely did not feel like a master yet. But when I considered the idea that a Ph.D. degree was actually calling to be a "teacher of the love of wisdom," I found myself being able to hold that role easily within my heart and mind.

Indeed, on my journey toward my doctorate, I had grown to love wisdom and the journey of seeking it, and that I believe I can teach...I cannot teach wisdom, but I can teach the love of it, or at least try to share the love I have for the path of wisdom.

The Experience of Divine Guidance

Announcing the publication of...

The Experience of Divine Guidance: A Qualitative Study of the Human Endeavor to Seek, Receive, and Follow Guidance from a Perceived Divine Source

By Mark Allan Kaplan, Ph.D. 


This research study examined the experience of seeking, receiving, and following guidance from a perceived source of divine wisdom. Nine advanced spiritual teachers (5 men and 4 women) from 7 spiritual traditions participated as coresearchers in this study. Coresearchers were North American or European born, predominantly Caucasian, California (USA) residents between the ages of 52 and 74. Coresearcher participation consisted of individual semistructured in-depth interviews. The questions and topics of discussion used for the interviews were developed through a process of researcher heuristic and spiritual self-inquiry. The results of a grounded-theory-based qualitative content analysis of the interview transcripts suggested that the experience of divine guidance, as measured in the current study, is characterized by a common structuring of the experience that includes general categories, factors, and patterns which appear to manifest into various particular and contextual forms depending on the individual person, event, and circumstance. The reported common structures of the experience included: The perception of a divine source of guidance; the experience of seeking, receiving , and following guidance from this perceived source; and various contributing, impeding, developmental , and mediating factors . Additionally, each coresearcher reported a unique metaphor of divine encounter that appeared to give them an archetypal and visceral way of describing and holding the experience. The researcher appeared to experience each of the coresearcher's metaphors of divine encounter through some kind of resonant learning or mimicking process. A Guidance Experience Template, Guidance Experience Evaluation Checklist, and Synthesized Guidance Practice were developed as aids to counselors, practitioners, and researchers exploring the experience of divine guidance. The findings of this study, and the development and implementation of guidance-related applications in this research, may advance the understanding of this common and historically significant human experience, and offer a valuable contribution to the fields of transpersonal psychology, spiritual guidance, and spiritual psychology.

Proquest Dissertations And Theses 2005.  462 pages; [Ph.D. dissertation].United States -- California: Institute of Transpersonal Psychology; 2005. Publication Number: AAT 3174544.

Index terms (keywords): Divine guidance, Guidance, Spirituality, Religious experience, Transpersonal psychology

Source: DAI-B 66/05, p. 2855, Nov 2005


Subjects: Developmental psychology, Religion, Theology

ISBN: 0542126788

The Divine Orchard

I have traveled through a long dark night of the soul. As I emerge from this sacred time of exploration and wonder, I am still unable to fully understand it, yet I can share that I feel as though I have traveled through the Divine Orchard that the Kabbalists speak of…

The following is my own mystical interpretation of the famous passage of the “Four Who Entered the Divine Orchard” from the Babylonian Talmud (Hagigah 14b):

Four seekers entered the Divine Orchard. The first seeker said to the others: “When you reach the stones of marble, do not speak the words: 'water, water'...for it is said: 'You that speaketh falsehood shall not be established before my eyes.'” The second seeker gazed and died. Of this seeker it is said: “Precious in the sight of the Divine is the transcendence of physical form.” The third seeker gazed and was stricken with Holy Madness. Of this seeker it is said: “Hast thou found the sweetness? Consume that which is sufficient, or be filled to overflowing.” And the fourth seeker cut down the shoots in renunciation. In the end, only the first seeker departed in peace.

  • The first seeker sees the truth behind form, and leaves in peace.

  • The second seeker gazes at the Divine and loses body, for one cannot gaze upon that which is formless without losing form.

  • The third seeker gazes at the Divine and loses mind, for one cannot gaze upon that which is beyond thought without losing thought.

  • The fourth seeker gazes at the Divine and loses heart, for one cannot gaze upon that which is beyond love and fear without losing all attachment.

During my journey into the orchard, I felt all four forms of seeking within me: At times I felt as though I was going to die, and at other times I felt as though I was transcending my constructs of the physical universe; At times I thought I was losing my mind, and at other times I felt a loosening of my mental constructs; At times I felt myself losing heart and faith, and at other times I felt a loosening of my emotional attachments; and throughout the process I felt a soft whispering presence holding me and showing me the way through the orchard’s maze of truth and illusion.


Louis Jacobs. Jewish Mystical Testimonies. New York: Schocken Books, 1997.

Gershom Scholem. Jewish Gnosticism, Merkavah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1960.

Isidore Epstein. The Soncino Press Babylonian Talmud: Ta’anith/Megillah/Hagigah. Brooklyn, NY: The Soncino Press, 2001.

*Originally published on KabbalahBlog hosted by


“Darkness covered the face of the deep.”
- Genesis 1:2

Before there was light, the EIN SOF withdrew itself (Zimzum) from one place and created a void. This void made a space for the EIN SOF OR, Eternal Light, to enter. This void was the darkness that covered the face of the deep.

Before there could be light, there needed to be darkness through which it could shine and penetrate. This is the foundation for the dualistic nature of the world of creation, out of which all other dualities unfold...light and dark, earth and sky, masculine and feminine, yin and yang, and love and fear.

This darkness is not just the absence of light, it is the boundary between form and formlessness, and it is also the spiritual darkness that descends upon us as we struggle to touch the light of the Divine.

I have experienced this spiritual darkness many times. I am immersed in a spiritual darkness at this very moment. This darkness has lasted a long time and began after writing my last entry about the Eternal Light. The writing of the entry and several other processes in my life and spiritual practice converged and I experienced an extended experience of "light" which was then followed by a descent into darkness.

Through my experiences of light and darkness I have come to realize that after a period of closeness or nearness to the Divine light, I often experience a period of disconnection or desolation in which I seem to loose touch with the Divine, and the light and love of the Divine appears to be replaced by an experience darkness (or a Dark Night of the Soul). This darkness is like a cloud of unknowing that surrounds me and fills my being.

For years I perceived these dark times as a withdrawal of the Divine presence, but I have learned that from the Kabbalistic perspective, one can actually perceive this darkness as a sign of a greater nearness to the Divine. From this perspective, as we approach the Divine through intent and practice, we move through many layers of body, mind and spirit until we reach the light, then we enter that dark void between the light and the EIN SOF, which is actually the closest we can be to the Divine without giving up our physical form.

Now that I hold these times of darkness as times of nearness to the Divine, my entire experience of the dark times is very different. I surrender into the unknowingness and feel a sense of grace and blessing. I become aware that there are forces beyond my perception moving deep within, unearthing and dissolving the barriers I have between myself and the Divine. In this way darkness covers the face of the deep within me and reveals the hidden Divine face.

"I will come to you in a cloud of thick darkness,
that you may come near to me
and hear when I speak with you..."
- Exodus 19:9

"Clouds and darkness surround the Divine Presence"
- Psalm 97:2

"The Divine Presence makes darkness Its hiding place"
-Psalms 189:12

*Image: Divine Cloud over Mt. Sinai

*Originally published on KabbalahBlog hosted by