Kabbalah & The TDG
Why reforming ourselves is not enough!
About a month ago, my Medium feed gave me a article by Tal Mandelbaum. I’m not sure why. But the title sounded intriguing, and I clicked. I was tricked.
Tal is a Kabbalist, and her article was about some of its teachings.
About 14 years ago, I had my first exposure with Kabbalah. An internet friend from Argentina emailed me about her new discovery — and wanted me to join. It sounded interesting. There were a few websites on the topic, and I spent 20 hours or so reading about this movement.
I kind of agreed with most of these websites, which was strange. Had I run into Kabballah a couple of years earlier, I would have easily dismissed the concept with: “There’s no way a small Jewish sect can teach me anything.”
“Why the different in attitude?” you ask. Well, I had undergone a bit of a personal evolution. This evolution allowed me to be more open minded to investigate new ideas.
What is Kabbalah?
As a jingle, Kabbalah is often described as “Jewish Mysticism.” That phrase didn’t mean much to me, so I sought a deeper meaning.
I would describe Kabbalah as process to change myself by taking my ego out of many life situations and trying to see real reasons for why things are the way they are. With my ego no longer clouding my vision, I can come to a better understanding of how the world really works. Then I can work effectively with other like-minded people to find solutions for whatever problems we share.
This sounds fairly utopian. And many people are rightly skeptical of utopias. But I saw some good changes in myself prior to learning about Kabbalah. So I could see how Kabbalah can move people forward in their life. For sure, it seemed to something my friend from Argentina needed.
Kabbalah’s source and inspiration comes from the Torah and other ancient Jewish writings. We might think psychology is a modern-day science. But with Kabbalah, we find psychology has roots that go back to antiquity.
I didn’t attend any Kabbalist school. It was just not that practical at that time for me to do so. But what I had read was great.
Here is what impressed me most about Kabbalah. I never got the impression that the goal of Kabbalah is to convert its students to Judaism. Rather Kabbalah gives the students the knowledge of their ego, how it works, and how to manage it. Then students apply that knowledge in their regular life after their Kabbalah training. In short, Kabbalah students really don’t change their life, they make a better life decisions and better life actions within that life.
And the more of us that take on this path, the better the world becomes. So simple.
Students from other faiths — even atheism — were welcome in Kabbalah schools. But it seemed the lessons were based on the Jewish Scriptures — and deviations from those writings were not normal.
And there were no expectations for a long-term involvement. Students were welcome to leave at any time. They were welcome to return for a refresher or even take in some higher-level Kabbalist training. Attendance was completely voluntary.
I couldn’t see any big monetary motivation from Kabbalah. School fees seemed modest, sometimes free. Maybe there was some benefactors paying the bills. I don’t know.
One surprise that for an organization that asks us to shed our ego, it seemed strange that it created a bit of a celebrity as its main spokesperson. Maybe connecting celebrities to movements are a necessary part of human nature.
Kabbalists seem to believe that their schools will better prepare their students for improving the real world. As these students react with that real world, their positive ways could be transferred to the people they interact with. Everyone reading this article may have already been influenced by Kabbalah in an indirect way. In this way, the teaching of Kabbalah moves through entire society, even though many people won’t care much about this philosophy.
The ultimate goal of a Kabbalah school is to move people forward in their life, thereby making a better society.
With my limited exposure, I concurred Kabbalah was a positive force for humanity, and I would encourage for people to attend. But that is as far as it went. I kind of forgot about this movement. Tal’s Medium article brought it back to me.
My Criticism with Kabbalah et al
I have encountered other philosophers and organizations who have a similar vision as Kabbalah. I would sum up this basic vision is: “If we first better ourselves, then our betterment will better the world.”
That sentiment indeed does sound logical. Except I have one life experience that tells me this isn’t going to work.
In my younger days, I was quite active is a political party, attending many, many meetings, mostly for the purpose of my party winning the next election. It took me about six years to realize that my party and all other political parties was inherently dysfunctional. This dysfunction spreads into government then into society at large. I could not change this direction. So I quit trying to save the world by politics.
Compared to today, I was much further away from a Kabbalist mindset in my political days. Yes, I have grown up a lot. So maybe I should go back to politics, bringing my more mature nature into the political process. But I’m done with being in toxic environments, especially as a volunteer.
So here’s my point why Kabbalah has limits. The closer one gets to a Kabbalist mindset, the less likely one is going to be an active political player. So politics really won’t have many Kabbalists (and other similar thinkers) helping to lift its collective consciousness. This leaves the door wide open for too many screwed-up, power hungry, drama-craving, overly ambitious people into politics. This may sound too funny, but unKabbalistic attitudes (i.e. toxic) eventually come around to be part of public policy and legislation. Scary, isn’t it?
Here is what is worse: These unKabbalistic attitudes in public positions are teaching other citizens that toxicity is normal. So they tend assume toxic ways are also OK in their regular life. So there is not much sense for them to consider something like Kabbalah.
What is an unKabbalistic attitude you might ask? Here are a few political examples:
1. Taking credits for good things that happened.
2. Blaming bad things on someone else.
3. Publicly attacking someone else as a means to get votes.
4. Maneuvering behind the scenes to advance in the party hierarchy.
5. Claiming that the sky will soon fall if certain policies are implemented (or not implemented).
6. When a public policy goes wrong, look for someone to blame rather than learn from the experience.
7. Say one thing, then say something different six months later.
8. Say the same thing, even after you have been proven wrong.
9. Protecting a prominent party member who doesn’t deserve protection.
10. Justifying a political perk because being in government is long hours while working with sharks.
11. Giving some advantage to those who donated time or money to the party.
None of these traits belongs in a true Kabbalah mindset. Yet it is hard to advance in a political party and win democratic elections without at least some of these traits.
From my life experience, I can’t see how Kabbalists et al can change the current nature of politics — even indirectly with its few votes. The political parties will cater to the many more non-Kabbalist voters. When these politicians are elected into office with these votes, they perpetuate a culture that discourages individual and societal investigation into a more meaningful life.
Let’s assume, there is a battle for psyche of humanity. In the green corner, we have Kabbalists and similar thinkers, asking us to reform ourselves. When we change ourselves, then we change the world. In the orange corner, we have the current the milieu of active political players — with all the media attention and backed by political money. This is the way it always has been and the way it always will be. There is no need to change ourselves because we all are already smart.
Who is really winning this battle?
A New Mission for Kabbalists et al
It’s great when a person can rise above his or her ego and apply this new-found attitude to help solve problems in his or her life.
But it is really that great when such a person realizes the futility of working in toxic environments — and leaves such environments for saner pastures?
If Kabbalists et al are not moving into the field of politics, then politics is not likely to evolve.
Then toxic politics then contributes a worsening toxic society — while the Kabbalists et al sit on the sidelines and say, “No, we can’t go there because it is too toxic.”
A definite Catch-22 situation here. How do we resolve it?
I have a way.
For 24 years, I have been working on an alternative democracy called the TDG (Tiered Democratic Governance). In short, this TDG has these basic principles:
1) No political parties
2) No noisy election campaigns
3) Voting is based on good character and capacity for governance
4) Decisions are made with the process of consultation, where the knowledge, experience, and wisdom of all decision makers blends into one voice.
Sounds too utopian, right?
If we take society-at-large, it’s actually quite easy to see how something like the TDG cannot work. When compared to other systems of governance, western democracy has somehow corralled the power-gathering instinct many of us seem to have and turned it into something positive for society. Those periodic elections where governing parties can be thrown out of office have an immense impact on the kinds of decisions these too flawed politicians make. They have to, somewhat, consider the needs and wants of citizens who are not politically connected.
But I’m pretty sure the Kabbalists et al can make the TDG work. They will look beyond their political career and more towards the betterment of society. If a Kabbalist et al finds him- or herself not elected in the TDG, he or she will wish the victors well, rather than undermine their future work and fight to become re-elected. Kabbalists et al will be much more open to different ways of solving problems — rather than rely on some ideology or campaign donations to do their thinking. Kabbalists et al will be spending much of the day on governance, not figuring out how to be re-elected. If Kabbalists et al want a new kind of democracy that is more in tune with a collaborative, consultative, consensual psyche, the TDG is that new democracy.
The early TDG builders need to spend about 10 hours a month working with their neighbors to start their TDG. With Kabbalist attitudes, the builders can build this system without any of the toxicity that permeates throughout our societies. Rather, the early TDG builders will be focusing on collaboration, consultation, and consensus to reach group decisions. They will be making these humanistic features an integral part of the TDG culture.
The TDG won’t be built overnight. At first, the local TDG will be mostly governing itself and ensuring this new culture becomes ingrained. Local TDG’s will merge, furthering the skills in TDG governance. These merged TDGs will start taking on small roles in civil society. More people will be attracted to the TDG and the non-toxic movements that support it.
In time, this new democratic movement will prove itself as superior for finding the better people to be in government — and giving those people the tools to do governance much better. There will be a transfer of power, similar to one political party replacing another after an election. All this will be done with a Kabbalistic-like approach to working together.
In essence, I am providing an alternative path for Kabbalists and other similar thinkers to promote their vision for a better world. We can continue to sit on the sidelines, educating people about reforming themselves, hoping that those reforms translate into better votes, better politicians, and more functional governance. Or we maybe we can build a new system of governance based on our principals — and show the world how it all really can work.
What makes more sense: hoping for a result or working for a result?
Back in the Real World
In the past 28 months, I’ve had discussions with at least 1000 Medium contributors about the TDG. If just 10 of them said: “I am willing to spend 10 hours a month with my neighbors to build this new democracy,” I would call that a success. But Medium has not provided me with even one TDG worker.
Like all my 178 Medium articles, this article is likely not to go very far on Medium. My low readership is just another sign I have been wasting my time.
And Medium is not my first forum. Results have been similar to the other 10 or so places I have participated in.
From my perspective, the world is still too arrogant about its “western democracy” as the only good way for a society to organize itself. Maybe the world needs to learn a few more harder lessons before it is ready to consider a new democratic way. That’s unfortunate.
The universe is telling me that it’s time to give my TDG a rest and move on to other things. I will just finish up my fifth incantation of the TDG. Then I will put it on the shelf again to collect dust (again). Maybe in a few years, I will get an inspiration to promote the TDG it in a different way. But it’s getting time to move away from this project.
In the meantime, I am now on Tal’s subscription list. I get notices of her new videos and new essays. They are good refreshers to better my purpose for being here on this world. While the TDG might not be my destiny, I have another life challenge that needs attention. And Tal is helping me out a little on this journey.
One day, I just might take some Kabbalist training. They have moved to having online seminars since I first discovered the movement 14 years ago. Maybe when I finally shuck off my Medium addiction.