First of all, apologies for the title, I couldn’t resist. And for publishing this ahead of time, but there’s no time like now. Hallowe’en, All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, call it what you like, has become a very lighthearted affair and, having just done my weekend shop, I feel it’s on top of me already. I shall no doubt be on duty with a bucket of sweets for the local children dressed up in scary costumes (them not me!); I probably won’t go and see the new Halloween movie.
I used to be a little po-faced about trick or treating – an American import that really has little basis in British tradition, but if it makes a few people happier, who am I to complain in these troubled days. We surely need something to cheer us up as the winter draws in.
But in saying “Hello All” I’m not being entirely whimsical, because this is a very inclusive tradition. It has its roots in paganism, was adopted by Christianity, and, in the form of trick or treating, is open to anyone who wants to participate.
It also involves both the living and the dead! It is for Christians a night to pray for the recently deceased, when the saints and martyrs are honoured. According to some, the veil between worlds is at its thinnest, hence the idea of ghosts wandering. Less charming, it is a night when the dead might reek revenge on their enemies still living – hence the masks worn by the living to disguise their identities.
In pre-Christian times, Samhain heralded in the winter. The flocks were brought in from their summer pastures and, it was believed, the nature spirits (Aos sí) could more easily enter into our world, so offerings of food and drink were left outside for them for good luck. Dead relatives were invited to feast and a place was laid for them at table.
As a Kabbalist, I am very conscious of the different Worlds we inhabit. The physical world is constantly in a state of flux and, as human beings, we shift between states of being all the time. Most obviously in dreams, when you are no longer subject to the limitations of physical laws, time itself loses meaning and one can experience whole lifetimes in a fraction of a second. Actually, most of us spend most of our time in our heads, projecting our own feelings onto others. If I’m in a good mood then everyone is smiling at me, if I’m in a grumpy mood, naturally everyone’s got it in for me!
An old Talmudic saying is that we rarely see the world as it is but as we are. This is because of the power of Yesod, whose home is in the psychological World of Yetsirah. The veil between Worlds is indeed very thin, and not only on Halloween! Equally, our discarnate companions, spirit guides, guardian angels, call them what you like, are constantly available to us, if only we choose to shift levels and engage with them. (Even as I type, I can hear mine laughing, or perhaps groaning: “so why do we see so little of you?” I know, I know!!!)
As an exercise, observe people in the street, or driving their cars, lost in their own worlds. The veil between worlds is thin and we spend surprisingly little time consciously awake down here.
So my exercise this Halloween will be to watch the veil between worlds – not ghost-hunting or anything extreme like that, just being aware that as a human being I have access to more. Perhaps in doing so, I might take a step beyond both the physical and psychological Worlds, into the World of Spirit, the transpersonal realm where all Creation meets in its most perfect manifestation, and where the Malkhut of Atsilut – The Hem of the Robe of God – lies within reach of all, if only we choose, consciously and with intention, to reach out and touch it.
Then, as my first teacher used to say, there is no turning back, and we might fully encounter the Divine Presence, here and now.
The Eternal One is God, And All is One.