Essential Reading (again!)

by Michael Colantoni

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The Holy Name: Mysticism in Judaism explores the mystic truths common to Judaism and the teachings of the saints (Sant Mat). It covers several thousand years of Jewish mystic history and thought and provides the reader with a rich and varied compilation of writings collected from the prophets of the Bible, Jewish Sufis of thirteenth-century Egypt, the Kabbalists of Safed, the Hasidim of Eastern Europe, and many other Jewish philosophers and mystics.In order to clarify and elaborate on certain concepts and demonstrate the commonality of mystic experience, the author includes quotations from such mystics as Rumi (Maulana Rum), Bulleh Shah, Kabir Sahib, Guru Nanak and Mira Bai. She brings references from Judaism and other mystic traditions to show that the practice of meditating God’s Holy Name, or the inner sound reverberating within each one of us, is a timeless path to God-realization. She also affirms from mystic texts that we need the guidance of a living spiritual master or teacher for spiritual liberation.The first edition of The Holy Name was published in 1989. Maharaj Charan Singh passed away in 1990, naming Gurinder Singh Dhillon to succeed him. Under the present master’s guidance, the publications department of the Radha Soami Society at Beas is revising many of its English titles in the context of the globalization of knowledge about different religions and spiritual paths.This newly revised edition of The Holy Name thus reflects a decision by the publisher to minimize the use of Indian terms in books intended for a Western audience. Needless repetition has also been eliminated. In view of the explosion of interest in Jewish mysticism and meditation in the West, particularly in the U.S., the author has written a new introduction chronicling the history of mysticism in Judaism. She has also expanded the first chapter, “The Human Condition,” by adding more information concerning the Kabbalah’s treatment of the process of creation. The chapter consequently became disproportionately long, and so she has divided it into two: “God, Soul, and Creation,” and “The Human Condition.” Some minor editorial changes and correction have also been made throughout.This book will be of interest to anyone who seeks to understand more about the mystic tradition of Judaism and its place in the universal teachings of the saints.


The goal of all religions is the same – to help man know God. Rituals, prayers and ceremonies may differ from religion to religion, but they are all expressions of this universal human desire to meet the Creator. In Judaism, great emphasis is placed on the transmission of religious values from generation to generation. The family, perhaps even more than the synagogue or religious school, serves as the vehicle for this purpose. In a traditional Jewish family like the one in which I was raised, almost every daily activity is given religious meaning and expression. In our home we recited blessings before and after each meal, on going to bed and awakening, and on many other occasions; we ate special foods and celebrated the Sabbath and holy days. Because my father was a rabbi and scholar, our conversations often centered around Judaism as both a religion and a culture. Books on Judaism in Hebrew, English, Aramaic, and other languages lined vast bookshelves. Until I entered college, I attended parochial schools where half the day was devoted to secular subjects and half to religious subjects-Bible, Prophets, Talmud, creed, Hebrew language and literature, and Jewish history. As child, I found great beauty in the Bible and other religious books and happily adhered to the rituals, beliefs, and studies associated with Judaism. I would sit with my father and discuss the deeper meaning of many of the biblical narratives and stories, which, from time to time, provoked questions and doubts in my naive and curious mind. He instilled and encouraged in me a spirit of open-minded inquiry, and shared with me his deep and intuitive appreciation of the Bible and other religious texts. As I grew older, I realized that I shared a common spirit with people who did not come from the religious background. This spirit seemed to transcend our religious differences. I began to wonder if Judaism was primary identity, and questioned whether something deeper and more universal existed, linking me with other people and with the Divine. I started asking the basic questions of human existence: What is my real identity? What is the purpose of human life? What is death? Is there a God, and if so, what is his relationship to me? I wondered why some people belonged to one religion and some to another. My elders explained that God had instructed our ancestors to follow certain commandments, and that it was our duty to continue this tradition. I was taught that being Jewish was a special gift of God, as God had given the Jews a unique mission or purpose in the world. However, my best friend, with whom I felt a great closeness of spirit, was Roman Catholic. She performed different rituals and said other prayers. Yet she didn’t seem any the less blessed by God, and I couldn’t understand why I would be chosen for his special purpose any more than she. It appeared that accident of birth was determining our religious allegiance and outlook. Our religions were telling us to worship God differently, but the God we were trying to worship was the same God-the ultimate eternal Lord, the Creator, the source of everything. Why were there two ways to worship him if he was one? Were both ways equally effective? Both our religions sought to answer questions about death, justice, and mercy. How could there be different answers for different people to such universal question? Was one right and the other wrong? And what relationship did our religious observances have to the closeness of spirit that we shared, which seemed to go deeper than religion? No one could venture a satisfactory answer. Yet I felt that there must be something deeper, more universal, at the core of both religions. This experience was duplicated over many years in other relationships and arenas of life. In some people, I felt a spirit which drew me to them that had nothing to do with outer circumstances of religion, nationality, or cultural background. Religion began to seem like something that separated me from the people in whom I felt this kindred spirit, rather than being a source of love and harmony. Thus there came when the traditional answers did not satisfy, when the rituals no longer held me, and I was pulled from within to make a deeper and broader search. Ultimately, that search led me to the living mystic, Maharaj Charan Singh of Beas, Punjab, India. In 1970 he initiated me into the teachings of the saints, in India called Sant Mat, Sant meaning teachings, the age-old method of uniting the soul with God through inner meditation practice. Although Maharaj Charan Singh came from India, his teaching is universal and has been taught throughout in all countries and civilizations. The philosophy appealed to me immediately; it went to the depth of my being and struck a chord of truth. Suddenly everything made sense-like a jigsaw puzzle finally, easily, coming together, all the oddly shaped pieces finding their rightful places. After years of struggle, I now had the key to understand the contradictions and basic questions of life.In 1977, at a family gathering, I met one of my cousins, who comes from a background even more orthodox than my own. A seeker of truth himself, he asked me many probing questions about the Sant Mat philosophy and how I was able to reconcile it with my Jewish background. His questions started me thinking that a book on the subject might have some value. Just as I had felt the need to make a deeper search into the purpose of human life and the meaning of religion, I felt there were probably other spiritual seekers from a Jewish background who would benefit from my search as well. I wrote to Maharaj Charan Singh and proposed such a book. He approved the idea in principle, and in 1978 I embarked on the research that forms the body of this book. Through his teachings, Maharaj Charan Singh bestowed on me the key to mystic understanding, deepening my appreciation of Judaism and increasing my awareness of the universal relevance of Jewish mysticism. On the surface it might seem the there would be little in common between traditional Judaism and the mystic path taught by a living master from India. However, as I pursued my research, I became increasingly impressed by how much these seemingly disparate teachings have in common.

Jewish mystics have always believed that a profound mystical meaning is hidden in the scriptures, for discovery only by those ready for the spiritual journey. They regard the literal text of the Bible as a shell which protects the inner essence, the spiritual meaning, from the uninitiated. Only one who is well versed in spiritual knowledge can appreciate the true value and meaning of the Bible.

The great hasidic rabbi, Dov Baer, the Maggid of late eighteenth-century Mezhericz, Poland, taught that the Bible’s “inner essence is robed in stories, commandments, admonitions, and exhortations. Man’s limited powers of comprehension necessitate these particularizations.” In this light, I have studied the Bible and other religious texts to see where there are parallels with the mystic principles that are taught today by the spiritual masters in the Radha Soami line of mystics at Beas. Many of the interpretations I have offered are traditional and can be found in the writings of the Jewish mystics; others are my own interpretations, based on my perception of universal mystic truths. I do not pretend to be a scholar of Jewish mysticism or of any other form of mysticism. My purpose is simply to share my discovery of the commonality to be found in Judaism and the teachings of the saints. Historically, there is a great deal about Jewish mysticism that we still do not know. In recent years, researchers have unearthed the writings of many Jewish mystics that had been lost or hidden. The more we discover, the more we find similarities between Jewish mysticism and the mystic teachings of other religions. And thus many questions are raised about our assumptions and definitions of specific religions and definitions of the limits and borders of specific religions. What researchers and scholars are discovering today will probably prove to have great bearing on our understanding of Jewish mysticism as a whole.


 Introduction: Mysticism in Judaism1
1God, Soul, and Creation21
 The Soul and the Lord21
 The Creation26
 The Ain-Sof aand the Sefirot26
 Substance of the Ain-Sof31
 Divine Realms33
 Teachings of the Indian Saints37
 Cycles of Creation41
 The Return of the Soul42
2The Human Condition44
 The Story of Adam and Eve44
 Good and Evil49
 Karma and Reincarnation51
 Free Will and predestination58
 The ?Human Condition61
 State of the World67
3The Path Home72
 The One Lord72
 The One Path75
 The Lord is Within77
 The Barrier of Mind80
4The Name of God89
 The Holy Name of God90
 Prohibition on Pronouncing God’s Name98
 Word as Creator100
 Mystic Revelation of the Torah105
 Sound and Light of the Name109
 Fountain of Living Waters112
 Salvation and God-Realization117
 The Third Eye130
 Listening to the Sound140
 “The Path of the Names”144
 Dying While Living149
 Sound and Light Within152
 The Experiences of Moses155
 The Inner Journey159
6The Living Master165
 The Master and the Lord165
 Need for Living Master169
 Moses and the Prophets181
 The Master and the Disciple187
 Marked Souls187
 Company of the Master189
 The Master’s Power and Protection195
 There Have Always Been Perfect Masters200
 What is a Genuine Master?202
7Rituals and Prayer208
 Symbols of Light and Sound215
 The Sabbath as Meditation219
 The Holy Land221
 Study of Scripture224
8The Way of Life235
 Four Basic Principles240
 The Vegetarian Diet242
 Abstention from Alcohol and Drugs247
 A Clean, Moral, and Honest Life249
 Remembrance, Association, and Service253
 Love and Longing259
 Addresses for Information and Books315
 Books on this Science321