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Kabbalah: World of Angels and Magic

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The text of magic, Sefer Raziel Hamalakh (The Book of Raziel the Angel) is ascribed to the angel Raziel. The name says it all: God’s secrets. Although the book appeared first during the 13th century, tradition has it the angel Raziel himself gave it to Adam.

The book includes a mystical interpretation of Creation along elaborate angelology, uses of the zodiac, appeals to angels and protective spells. In short, as the blurb on the cover of the concise contemporary Hebrew edition claims, every household should possess this book for its own protection…

In the rich angelology of the Kabbalah there are two types of angels; temporary and permanent. Temporary angels were created on the second day of creation, and have been created ever since in troops every morning to perform brief tasks, after which they cease to exist. Permanent angels, on the other hand, were created on the fifth day of creation and unlike the temporary, have names. These angels are like souls to the stars, and each star has its own angel. Together, angels and stars form the lowest yet an important component of God’s interaction with the world. This level of providence can be deciphered through Kabbalistic astrology.

The Talmud tells God interacts with the lower world through his word, and this interaction, namely God’s word, creates the spiritual force that is the angels. However, Isaac Luria, the famous Safed Kabbalist, believed angles are also created by human word and action. These angels, called Maggidim, (Answering Angels) are originally holy, but may become flawed by an impure intention that motivated the human act. This bold belief demonstrates a startling faith in human capacity to influence spiritual and divine realms.

Along the belief in angels as spiritual forces, there is an old anthropomorphic Kabbalistic tradition that ascribes human form to each angel. God reveals himself through the angels who correspond to different parts of the divine body structure, to the extent that at times a sefira (an attribute of the Tree of Life) may transmute into an angel. This move that transfers divine forces to angels, is demonstrated in the figure of the archangel Metatron. To purge God of any negative qualities, Metatron became the ruler of his own world of the tree of knowledge. This is the realm of the ability to tell good from evil and consequently of the origin of evil. We now see the figure of Metatron as an ambivalent angel that incorporates the cosmic struggle between the two divine attributes of mercy and judgment. While some regard him as a classic rival demiurge, I find this ambivalence renders him all too human…

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About michal Schwartz

  • Jeannine LaFontine

    Dear Michal, I read your book,”Gateway of Souls”, and enjoyed this look at Kabbalah history. Angels are of special interest to me and I look forward to learning more from your work.

  • meir livenh

    This article is very interesting and thought provoking. I have always been fascinated by Kabbalah and your article is very insightful. Looking forward to read more on your blog.