#Mysticism

Episode 72 - Joel Bakst

Joel David Bakst is a teaching rabbi and scholar of Talmud and Kabbalah who, while living in Jerusalem for 20 years, studied and taught in Orthodox yeshivot.

Raised in a Southern California Conservative Jewish home, Joel became a ba’al teshuva (newly religious) at the age of 20 bringing full circle his lineage from a long line of rabbis.  Both his grandfather and uncle were Orthodox rabbis, his great grandfather was chief rabbi of St. Louis, MO and his great, great grandparents made aliyato Eretz Yisrael and are buried on the Mount of Olives.  He is the 8th generation of Rabbi Avraham Ragoler of Skhlov, the brother of Rabbi Eliyahu, the famed Gaon of Vilna, whose unique teachings and School of Kabbalah, have been a focus of Joel’s esoteric studies.

Joel’s spiritual search through comparative religions led him to Israel in 1971 where, upon enrolling in a traditional Eastern European style yeshiva, he became part of the original Ba’al Teshuva movement, the initial great wave of assimilated Jews returning to traditional Judaism.  For 10 years he pursued a path towards rabbinical ordination and studied Talmud, Halacha (Jewish Law) and mussar (Jewish Ethics).  During the next 10 years, while continuing his Talmudic studies, he also began a search into Hassidic and Kabbalistic literature.

He studied under Sephardic kabbalists (Moroccan and Tunisian) along with Ashkenazic teachers and colleagues versed in Kabbalah.  Uncommonly, Joel has had the honor of having immersed in all four of the great rivers of Kabbalah that flow from the holy Arizal (Lurianic Kabbalah): 1) R. Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov (the Besht), 2) R. Shalom Sharabi(the Rashash), 3) R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (the Ramchal), and 4) R. Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna (the Gra).

Joel continued his rabbinical education and continued on a path of intense Torah study and practice as well as teaching the traditions he received . He has lectured and taught in Israel, the United States and India. Joel is the author of numerous works on rabbinical methodology, esoteric Judaism, the prophetic confluence of Kabbalah with the new sciences and the messianic role of the maps and models pouring forth from modern technology. A guiding light for Joel’s stimulating approach to Torah teaching is stressed by the Gaon of Vilna, “There can never be a contradiction between the esoteric (sod) and the exoteric (pshat)”.

Concurrent with his traditional yeshiva training, Joel had also taken a deep interest in the Torah’s interface with world religions and Noahide movement. He has done extensive research into the Talmudic, Midrashic and medieval rabbinical sources concerning Noachides, Christianity and the “Seventy Nations”.  This investigation includes many obscure and little known Kabbalistic teachings about Yeshu HaNotzri (Jesus of Nazareth) , the role of Christianity and Islam as well as the role of Oriental religions in our “Final Generation” – the present period on the cusp of entering into the Messianic Era. “In the Torah world it has always been known that the non-Jew can best access his true essence and mission from an authentic Jewish perspective. As we are currently accelerating toward the Edge of Time the Torah and her ancient sages are beginning to reveal that a key to the mystery of Jewish existence is also to be found in the eternal mystery of Philo-Semites and especially wihtin the growing movement of Noahides”.

Continually evolving, the City of Luz web site is the culmination of over 35 years from the time he began a systematic study of Torah in search of a coherent interdisciplinary Torah-based system.  City of Luz offers the beginner, as well as the advanced talmid chacham (Torah scholar), a unique approach and collection of methodological tools that teach both conscious learning and direct experience.  The secret of Luz allows for a seamless interface between every field of Talmud, Halacha and Kabbalah.  The City of Luz also interfaces Torah itself with every school of science, theology and mysticism found among the Seventy Nations of the world, both ancient and contemporary. City of Luz is the ultimate interdisciplinary meta-tool for eveyone, regardless of religion or belief system.

Joel lives in Southern Colorado where he has been teaching in his yeshiva to a dedicated group of Jews and Bnai Noach for more than 10 years.

Episode 70 - Andrew Harvey

Andrew Harvey is Founder Director of the  Institute of Sacred Activism, an international organization focused on inviting concerned people to take up the challenge of our contemporary global crises by becoming inspired, effective, and practical agents of institutional and systemic change, in order to create peace and sustainability. Sacred Activism is a transforming force of compassion-in-action that is born of a fusion of deep spiritual knowledge, courage, love, and passion, with wise radical action in the world. The large-scale practice of Sacred Activism can become an essential force for preserving and healing the planet and its inhabitants.

Andrew was born in south India in 1952, where he lived until he was nine years old. It is this early period that he credits with shaping his sense of the inner unity of all religions and providing him with a permanent and inspiring vision of a world infused with the sacred. He left India to attend private school in England and entered Oxford University in 1970 with a scholarship to study history. At the age of 21, he became the youngest person ever to be awarded a fellowship to All Soul’s College, England’s highest academic honor.

By 1977, Harvey had become disillusioned with life at Oxford and returned to his native India, where a series of mystical experiences initiated his spiritual journey. Over the next thirty years he plunged into different mystical traditions to learn their secrets and practices. In 1978 he met a succession of Indian saints and sages and began his long study and practice of Hinduism. In 1983, in Ladakh, he met the great Tibetan adept, Thuksey Rinpoche, and undertook with him the Mahayana Buddhist Bodhisattva vows. Andrew’s book about that experience, Journey in Ladakh, won the Christmas Humphries Award.

In 1984, Andrew Harvey began a life-long exploration and explication of Rumi and Sufi mysticism in Paris with a group of French Sufis and under the guidance of Eva De Vitray-Meyerovitch, the magnificent translator of Rumi into French. Andrew has written three books on that subject: The Way of PassionThe Celebration of Rumiand Perfume of the Desert, an anthology of Sufi mysticism. With Llewellyn Baughn Lee, he founded the Sufi Conferences, which have played a prominent role in uniting Sufis of all persuasions during the past six years. He has close connections with great Sufi teachers in America, Africa, India and Pakistan, and a very clear, comprehensive grasp of the state of modern Sufism in both the west and the east.

In 1990, he collaborated with Sogyal Rinpoche and Patrick Gaffney in the writing of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. In 1992, he met Father Bede Griffiths in his ashram in south India near where Andrew had been born. It was this meeting that helped him synthesize the whole of his mystical explorations and reconcile eastern with western mysticism.

Andrew has since lived in London, Paris, New York, and San Francisco, and has continued to study a variety of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. He has written and edited over 30 books. Other honors he has received include the Benjamin Franklin Award and the Mind Body Spirit Award (both for Mary’s Vineyard: Daily Readings, Meditations, and Revelations). Among Harvey’s other well-known titles are: Dialogues with a Modern MysticHidden JourneyThe Essential MysticsSon of ManThe Return of the Mother and The Direct Path.