Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Michael and Lucifer: Two Ends of the Stick

Michael slaying the dragon by Albrecht Durer


A well-known legend, found in the Book of Enoch and other Biblical and apocryphal texts tells the tale of a revolt in Heaven. In it, a certain key archangel named Lucifer gets his nose in a snit because God tells the angels that they must bow down to and serve his latest invention: mankind.
           
Lucifer announces that he will not bow down to anyone or anything besides God Himself. A bunch of angelic hosts side with him. The brouhaha escalates into a war that is resolved when the archangel Michael defeats Lucifer and throws him and his renegades out of Heaven. The Lucifer myth is conflated with a similar myth found in Biblical and apocryphal texts about the archanagel Samael/Satanel’s fall from Heaven.          

Lucifer was a name of the morning star (the planet Venus) in the ancient world. (For an interesting run down on the term Lucifer throughout the ages, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucifer .  In short, the myth of Lucifer’s fall from Heaven, in part, may have been just another version of how the morning star came to be separated from the other stars of the night sky. And the story of the war in Heaven is also said to be a veiled story about the fall of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar who identified himself with the planetary intelligence Lucifer (Venus). 

Venus is the third brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, respectively. Nevertheless, it cannot be seen at night like the other planets, nor can it be seen at midday, like the sun. Some myths about Venus explain why this is so: first, Venus was a bit of a cuckolding tease and vixen, and so was isolated by the other god-form planets. Second, it was fancifully suspected that Venus shined so brightly because she wanted to take over the status of the key deities of ancient Roman culture, Saturn and Jupiter, and was thus ousted from the night sky because of such overreaching ambition. 

Like Venus, Lucifer/Satanel of the Judeo-Christian tradition was a celestial entity who was full of himself and suffered a spectacular fall from grace because of it. For me, the myth is a moralistic tale about having the appropriate spiritual attitude. Lucifer was associated with the sin of pride (and Satan with wrath) in 1589, when Peter Binsfeld paired each of the 7 deadly sins with a demon who tempted people by means of the associated sin. As it relates to Lucifer, the idea was the self-importance and arrogance got the best of Lucifer, leading him disobey the will of God. I see something else in the myth, though. Although I have not seen it put this way, I think that the moral of the story is that one serves and “loves” God by serving and loving mankind, not by paying homage to a code or ideology. One might read a similar moral into the variant myth of Satan’s fall from Heaven. Satan, we are told, was a rather sadistic archangel who relished meting out God’s punishments. He then got above himself in his sense of importance and power. We are told that he sought to make his throne “higher than the clouds over the earth and resemble ‘My power’ on high.” Because of this Satan-Sataniel was hurled down (by God’s champion, the archangel Michael, a name with means “Who is Like God”), with his angelic renegades, “to hover in the air above the abyss.”        

   

In an important Hindu myth, we have a similar entity, Mahishasura, the “Buffalo demon,” whose name has figuratively been translated as “The Great Ego.” Just as the archangel Michael overcomes an entity who personified gratuitous self-will, ambitious, pride, and arrogance, the Great Goddess of Hinduism, who is described as the personification of the combined energy of the gods, overcomes an entity who also represents all that is base and self-ingratiating in the human character.            

Although some persons look at these myths and think of them as tales about good entities battling bad entities in some other dimension for the benefit of humankind, they are really metaphorical dramas in which the higher self is depicted as overcoming the lower self. This is what ideally occurs in the course of spiritual practices, such as yogic and hermetic work. It is sometimes tumultuous and often not “fun.” In it, one’s perceptions, habits, and conditioning must be broken down to liberate what was there before neuroses and artificial conventions took hold.             

Some years ago, I was doing meditations on the archangels of the four quarters. When I first began doing meditations on Archangel Michael, the impressions were a little troubling. I would find myself submerging into difficult childhood memories related to current patterns of emotional conditioning. Or else, I would simply feel odd and exhausted about the iconography in which the angel was fated to be continually stabbing and beating back a demon clawing at his feet. In time, I wondered what part of the iconographic image I mostly was: the demon, the struggle, the struggling angel, or something valorous and heroic.         

In time, however, the imagery became less about tension and struggle and about valor and even virility. I began to experience Michael as the ideal masculine, associated with the sun, fire, light, heroism, power, potency, self-control, and any all positive masculine attributes. I equated the angel’s signature staff with the Tantric lingam, which although thought to represent a phallus, also (and some Hindu commentators say only) represents the pillar of the light of creation.           

I view Michael as the transformational element—the Azoth and the Kundalini—through which the dragon and the angel are two poles of a single shaft—just as the leaden black sun of Saturn becomes the golden Sun of illumination and the coiled serpent becomes a splendorous goddess. Michael represents the courageous path of return from darkness to light.
           

Excerpt from Chapter 8: 7 [The Chariot] A Giant Pink Dragon from The Fallen Fairy

 A breeze swept over her and a light source flashed. It made Bella startle. She turned to see who had come upon her, but no one was there.
She closed her eyes and envisioned the sky as if jettisoned into the vault of night: the myriad of stars spied when the evening was clear and the moon was new. The scintillation before her eyelids was merely the effect of over-breathing from stress and sobbing. Still, with wet eyes and bitter endearment, she held the image of Michael in her mind and while uttering the name envisioned his angelic namesake. Micha-el, Who is like God: a towering archangel, shining white and made of fiery light who subdues chaos and guides and protects souls as they traverse the spheres. The crown of the secret fire and guardian of the interspaces between the end and beginning.

Bella let it embrace her. She imagined it being virile and great, like Michael had been. She let it pity her tenderly and gently command the cessation of tears. Its potency grazed her face. Her sinuses, impacted with bitter tears, cleared. Then she could breathe. A calm feeling overcame her.

So she rested with that feeling of communion with that presence (whether it came from within or without) until dusk descended and then night. Then Bella went home. That would be the end of visits to Michael’s apartment.






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