Knots Untied, Rabbi Nachman, and Bread Making

Welcome to our final newsletter of the year.

• Our first library highlight is an article by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy on the symbolism of knots, and on Dürer and Leonardo, with important considerations on Renaissance art and craftsmanship.

All determinations or knots are bonds from which one could wish to be freed rather than remain forever “all tied up in knots.” One would be released from all those “knots of the heart,” which we should now call “complexes” and of which the ego-complex (ahamkara, abhimana, Philo’s oiesis) is the tightest and the hardest to be undone… In Sanskrit also, to be independent (“on one’s own hook”) is expressed by the significant term sva-tantra, “being one’s own thread, string or wire’; we are not, then, if we “know our Self,” the knot, but the thread in which the knot is tied or on which beads are strung.
Duerer Knot

• We present next a selection of spiritual aphorisms by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, the greath 18th-century Hasidic master, shedding light on subtle aspects of prayer and realisation through music.

The secret of prayer is to be bold. We must have the audacity to ask God for everything we need—even if we need to ask Him to work miracles for us. Only with boldness and daring can we stand up and pray to God.

When we consider God’s utter greatness—if we can form any conception of it at all—and think of our own smallness and worthlessness, how can we stand up and pray before Him? Even so, when we pray, we must cast our timidity aside and boldly ask God for everything we need. Only with bold assertiveness can we overcome the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of our service of God.

• And we conclude the year with a brief article on the alchemy and symbolism of bread making: from the grain and the harvest, through mixing and kneading, to the baking of the soul’s “ingredients”—a craft and an alchemy, an alchemy and a craft.

As the rough grain is transformed into fine flour that is suitable for our consumption, so we “grind” ourselves, rid ourselves of weakness, passion, and pride—and into a substance capable for His deliverance. Water is mixed with flour to create dough. The water is also religion, from religio (“that which binds”); it is baptism and submission under orthodoxy. Then comes the process of kneading…