There’s some difficult stuff that must be addressed before I round off my series of blogs about the Archangels. Today I look at how Christian dualism has managed to dump a very dangerous theology into Western culture and many of our issues today can be put down to the misguided concept that there is a supernatural evil force at work in Creation.
Watch the video for further discussion on this theme.
Our own mind is a boundless space
I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space… If you’ve been following me for a while you will already have come across me quoting this line from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. It’s a very profound mystical statement that describes our capacity for experiencing deep realms of consciousness. Incidentally, it also reminds us that during Shakespeare’s time ancient hermetic teachings were being circulated in Europe.
But what does Hamlet mean? He is telling us that, within the tiny, limiting boundaries of his skull, he can experience the boundless arena of the cosmos and he can be sovereign of his inner kingdom. We also can take ownership of our cosmic landscape. We can know the stars and the planets, including the Archangelic potentials, by putting our attention on them. Attention to spiritual things is the first step to spiritual knowledge, as it is said in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
What if your inner kingdom is in turmoil?
After Hamlet talks about being ‘king of infinite space’, he goes on to say were it not that I have bad dreams. So if we truly want to take charge of our own inner landscape, we must be aware we will have to wrestle with negative thoughts. Our psycho-spiritual world can be like a Game of Thrones scenario, or like the very unpleasant, endless quarrels among the gods on Mount Olympus, where archetypal potentials compete with each other for supremacy. This is why Carl Jung says: We do not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
We can’t expect conversations with Archangels to always be nice, comforting and reassuring. In my opinion, there are no ‘fallen angels’, but any supressed desires will be rooted in an archetypal need that can promote ‘bad dreams’ if you deny their expression. Old family or tribal patterns of denial, or past-life memories going back for generations, can present difficult dreams and make us feel our inner kingdom is a battleground.
But I disagree with Jung. I do think working with what he calls ‘figures of light’ can assist us in making the darkness conscious. Nor do we have to ‘imagine’ these figures of light. They are what he calls archetypes and they can be present for us, but we do have to be willing to admit we all have shadows to deal with. They won’t go away just because we summon an Archangel of light. Indeed, the appearance of an Archangel may show us exactly how many shadows we are hiding from ourselves!
The wonderful opportunity we gain from taking imaginal journeys to experience Archangels is a gift from the Jewish mystical tradition. Because the Tree of Life demonstrates the flow of energy across the three pillars: active, passive and balance, we can see how the Archangels can hold the movement between yang and yin, allowing the complementary opposites to take turns, rather than compete with each other.
Archangels as partners, not competitors
Archangels differ from the Greek or Roman gods because they are engaged in a co-operative system that does not permit them to disrupt the flow by taking independent power. The only time when one Archangel could ‘get above’ themselves is when we pay excessive attention to a favoured archetype.
An example would be if a society emphasised competition and turned to war as a means of solving problems. The ‘god’ of war is Mars. His temple would be overflowing with honours and adulation. Hanael is the Archangel who represents the same archetype. In order to rebalance this energy, we would pay more attention to the complementary opposite – the Archangel Raphael, who is equivalent to Venus. However, if we give too much focus to Raphael’s gentle, reassuring, healing energy, we may never get anything done. Look how dozy Mars has become in Botticelli’s painting!
In order to repair the world – tikkun olam in Hebrew – we must pay attention to the complementary archetypes and reconcile them so they work in harmony.
Michael and the adversary
The most famous ‘battle’ involving Archangels is presented in the last book of the Christian New Testament, The Book of Revelation. This visionary account emerges from a culture that had a dualistic approach to spiritual matters. For St. John the Divine, who describes his revelatory experiences, the created world was a battleground where the forces of good and evil were in competition. In order for the Kingdom of Heaven to be established on Earth, dualists believe there has to be a ‘last battle’ between the Princes of Light and the Princes of Darkness. St. John describes how Michael the Archangel slays an evil dragon that represents Satan, a so-called ‘fallen angel’, who became the ruler of the dark regions of Hell. Christian iconography depicts Michael with Satan cowering at his feet, as in Epstein’s bronze at Coventry Cathedral.
Ha’ satan is a Hebrew word meaning ‘the adversary’. In the Hebrew Bible, the satan was not an evil character. He was not Lucifer or Beelzebub or Mephistopheles. He was a member of the council of bene elohim – the Sons of God. In The Book of Job he is given permission to test Job, to discover whether Job’s faith would survive the loss of all he holds dear. The satan is a tough adversary, bringing all kinds of challenges – the like of which we would rather not experience! But these tests are not the work of an ‘evil’ force with its own agenda. Not only Christian scriptures, but also other literature, such as Milton’s great poem, Paradise Lost, have embedded our culture with the idea of an evil power, determined to overturn all attempts to create harmony and beauty. But accepting this story disempowers us, as this fatalistic view of reality denies our agency.
Many years ago I met a woman sculptor, Lyn Constable Maxwell, who had been asked to create a bronze statue of Michael the Archangel. The commission came from Lord St. Levan of St.Michael’s Mount, together with the National Trust. She agreed to fulfil this request, but only if she was allowed to represent Michael as holding out a gesture of reconciliation towards Satan. She was not willing to continue the tradition in which Michael is slaying, or stepping on the devil. In this version of the confrontation, Michael is offering his open hand towards the shadowy figure cowering at his feet. All the power is with Michael and he has defeated Satan, but he holds the sword up as a symbol of Christian forgiveness, not as a weapon of destruction.
Beyond good and evil
Because the Tree of Life incorporates the flow of light and dark in a holistic energy map, we can relax! There’s no fight here. When we work with the ebb and flow of the creative process – with the Tao, as some might say – we accept the rising, shining and setting of all our activities as having equal value. If we can step into that state of awareness, we no longer have any concerns about death. And without that anxiety we are very likely to live long happy lives!
The most significant takeaway from these mystical ideas is to realise that, when we exteriorise the difficult aspects of our psyche and project them onto an invisible, evil or satanic force outside ourselves, then we abdicate our free will and self determinism. If we want to take up our personal and collective power, we must avoid imagining the Archangels are independent archetypes who can manipulate us, according to a Divine plan. That would be an unforgiveable resignation of our personal responsibility, and the worst kind of fatalism. There is a larger, evolving design unfolding, but we are participating in this, we are not simply puppets with no creative agency.
As always, I suggest a twice-daily meditation practice will open portals into your inner kingdom. If you haven’t already found a technique that easily and reliably takes you to a place of deep stillness, consider learning The Shefa Method. It’s not difficult, but can have profound benefits at all levels.
The SoulSchool Gateway course Accessing Angelic Realms has been designed to help you explore angelic opportunities for yourself. Check out the course here. I will be delighted to support your spiritual journey, as you discover the potential of the Archangels in your own heavenly kingdom.
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