Jude the Obscure…

Solved by Walking…

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While the initial idea was to consider all the scriptural references to Michael,

the General Epistle of Jude promised to be problematic.

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It is the first and only scriptural text to refer to Michael

as an Archangel and is important for that reason,

but that aside, for a long time, there seemed little else to commend it,

apart that is for an apparent obscurity.

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The quotation in full runs thus:

‘Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil,

he disputed about the body of Moses,

dared not bring against him a railing accusation,

but said, “The Lord rebukes you!”

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A couple of things present themselves…

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Firstly, ‘contending’ may not necessarily be ‘warring’ so

that the devil here accords more readily with the ‘Old Dispensation’

notion of Satan as accuser or prosecutor in a court of Law,

a disputant, as it were, in a legal confontation.

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From such a notion, presumably, springs

the age old tradition of playing, ‘Devil’s advocate’.

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And secondly, Michael, albeit, a mighty Archangel

relies exclusively upon ‘The Lord’s’ power in order to ‘win the day’.

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We are here, it seems, a far cry from the, ‘war in heaven’ of Revelation,

and perhaps a little closer to the Hebraic conception of a more orderly

and seemingly purposeful expulsion from the heavenly realms by God.

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But why should the body of Moses be key?

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The body here could be symbolic of the earth realm,

and as such would be the point at issue in any sought after transformation.

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The Old Dispensation relied soley on purification

and a raising of the earthly body through initiation.

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This process was symbolised by a new, clean raiment.

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The New Dispensation appears to have ‘upped the ante’,

by insisting upon a ‘World Apocalypse’,

which eventually results in The New Jerusalem…

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And nobody has ever seen that!

A Gnostic Chapter?…

Ancient of Days, William Blake

Left Hand Paths?

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… The concluding sections of Chapter Twelve are by far its weakest.

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In them much of the previous story is restated in far greater detail.

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The woman is given eagle wings with which to evade the ‘serpent’

and bring her to a place beyond it’s sight where she may safely feed?

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There is though some ambiguity here which rests on an

interpretation of the phrase ‘…from the serpent’s face’.

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Serpents ‘see’ via the vibrations carried on air waves,

and can hypnotise prey, with their gaze, before striking…

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The biblical flood is then unleashed by the ‘serpent’

but the Earth comes to the woman’s rescue

by swallowing the flood waters.

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If earlier sections have blurred the distinction between St Michael and Christ,

then this episode surely does the same for God and the Devil?

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The rest of time is to be played out with the ‘serpent’ persecuting

the remnants of the woman’s seed that have survived the flood…

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None of which accords particularly well with previous scripture,

although Moses is given ‘eagle’s pinions’ at one stage

in order to get him to where he needs to be!

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The chapter, taken as a whole, has a distinctly Gnostic aspect to it

with the Earth populated merely by

heaven’s discarded remnants,

and overseen by a wrathful demiurge railing against time.

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The time-phrase riddle for the ‘New Dispenation’,

resolves itself into a designation of the mystery woman

as Venus, the Pagan Goddess of Love,

which in the light of much that has transpired

in the last millenium makes a lot more sense than most other solutions –

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Of the ‘half-time’ planetary beings only the Moon and Venus

are conceived as Feminine and as the woman symbolically

‘stands-on-the-moon’ she cannot be the moon.

There are also some very persuasive

astronomical reasons for this designation…

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– The only way out of the nightmare is by death or, as St Michael proclaims,

by ‘the blood of the Lamb,’ and by the ‘word of testimony’,

which is, perhaps, not the clearest of ‘road maps’ for people to follow…

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Heaven by design, Earth by default,

has ever been the cry of those irrevocably lost at heart.

 

‘Heaven’s loud voice?’ …

Blake’s Angel neatly encapsulates aspects of the Books of Daniel and Revelation.

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… “Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God,

and the power of Christ: for the accuser of our brothers is cast down,

which accused them day and night…

Therefore rejoice you heavens and you that dwell in them.

Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea!

For the devil is come down to you, having greath wrath

because he knows that he has but a short time.”

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Are we to conclude that this is the voice of St Michael?

I think we are meant to.

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We may wonder after the inhabitants

of the earth and sea on the third day of creation?

And Christ’s participation at this early stage?

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The argument, presumably, would be that as the heavenly realms

are beyond time, they include all time, and the passages

we have considered so far are certainly consistent with this theme.

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Strength in relation to St Michael we already know about.

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Salvation is a lifting of veils, or scales, from the eyes:

an awakening into that living realisation which alone grants freedom.

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If some of the traditional attributes of Christ seem to fit Michael,

like casting out devils, then some of the traditional

attributes of Michael can also be seen to fit the Christ.

 

Shadow of the Earth…

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… The Book of Revelation is a notoriously difficult text to understand

because of its symbolism and iconography,

however, chapter twelve, which concerns us here,

is relatively straightforward.

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It commences with a vision: ‘And there appeared

a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed in the sun,

and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars…’

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This is an astrological description of Virgo, but wait,

‘…And she being with child cried, travailing in birth,

and pained to be delivered.’

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If the Virgin is to give birth then it must be the Great Goddess Isis or the

Virgin Mary, or at any rate the Star of the Sea, Stella Maris…

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Already we start to see the problem.

 The iconography may be precise,

but its interpretation can still be ambiguous,

or could the ‘images-of-heaven’ encompass all of these exemplars?

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‘…And there appeared another wonder in heaven,

a great red dragon, having seven heads

and ten horns and seven crowns upon his heads…’

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Lying alongside the constellation of Virgo in the night sky,

coiling around her, is Hydra, and in Greek mythology,

Hydra appears as a many headed snake, but wait,

‘…And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven

and did cast them to earth.’

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Not all the stars of the firmament are visible at any one time,

about a third of them move in and out of view over the rim of

the earth’s horizon during the course of a year.

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Just as the ‘night-time’ at any one location

is caused by the shadow of the earth

passing across the face of the sun,

a third of the night sky

is also obscured by the earth’s horizon.

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Bodies, planetary or otherwise,

moving through space are shadowed.

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But what to make of this psychologically?

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The ‘shadow-side’ of our personality, obscured by a continually

attention seeking conscious mind,

resides in the unconscious, and whilst lurking there,

shrouded in shade, it can be regarded as our own ‘personal devil’.

Menorah?…

Hanukkah Menorah Jewish Judaica Israel Vintage Brass Chanukah ...

Menorah as Chalice

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… The Book of Revelation can be described

as a book of arcane symbolism.

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It seems to me astonishing that such a work should have been

accepted into the recommended canon when so many

other far less controversial texts are regarded as apocryphal –

this word which now has connotations of spuriousness or falsity

is derived from the Greek word for ‘hidden’ –

Apocryphal works, then, can be regarded

as those books which possess hidden wisdom.

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It will be useful to consider the opening few paragraphs

of Revelation and compare them to Daniel’s vision of Michael

which we looked at in earlier posts

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“It was on the island of Patmos.

I was meditating on the seventh day

when I heard behind me a voice as of many waters,

“I am the beginning and end, first and the last.”

I turned to see who it was that spoke,

and I saw a figure resembling the Son of Man.

He was standing in the middle of seven golden candlesticks.

His beard and his hair were like white wool.

His eyes were flames of fire.

His countenance was bright, as the sun when it shines at its height.

He was clothed in a long white robe.

About his breast went a golden girdle.

In his right hand he held seven stars.

His words rang out of his mouth clearly

with the poignancy of a double-edged sword:

“I am he that lives and was dead.

I possess the keys to death and hell.

I shall live forever more.”

I fell down at his feet and they were like fine-brass forged in a furnace.

He laid his hands upon me, “You must write down all you see in a book,

and send it to the Seven Churches of Asia.

Let all the churches know that I am he who searches

the reins of the heart and gives to every one, according to their works.

Tell them to remember from whence they have fallen,

to return to their first love lest I come upon them like a thief

and remove their candlestick from its place,

thus speaks the ‘Amen’: ‘I know your works, I know that you have a name,

I know that you live, and yet, you are as the dead!'”

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It might be difficult for St Michael to be described as the,

‘one who is living but was dead’, but

he could certainly lay claim to being regarded as

‘the first and the last’ and also as possessing,

‘the keys to death and hell’…

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In the Book of Daniel, we may recall,

St Michael was described as a Great Prince,

as a Chief Prince, and as Daniel’s Prince.

‘War in Heaven’…

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… We have to wait until the final book of the ‘New Dispensation’ before we

encounter a Dragon.

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“And there was war in heaven:

Michael and his angels fought against the dragon…”

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The Dragon in question, though, is red and, “… has seven heads,

and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads…”

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This being the Book of Revelation we may well wonder about the symbolism…

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Unusually for this text we do not have to wonder for very long for we are told,

“… and the Great Dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan…

he was cast out into the earth and his angels were cast out with him.”

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At which point we realise that although the book purportedly deals with ‘last things’,

this particular vision has to do with ‘first things’, the Third Day of Creation to be precise,

and the expulsion from Heaven of Lucifer and the Fallen Angels…

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Why this Dragon should have seven heads is an interesting question made all the

more interesting by the fact that few if any of the depictions of St Michael

show him in combat with a seven headed Dragon or accompanied by any other angels!

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Also worth consideration is the attempt to visualise ten horns on seven heads…

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It can be done thus: the two ‘end-heads’ and the ‘central-head’ have two horns each,

and the other four heads have only one horn each.

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In this context the phrase, ‘for a time, times and half-a-time,’

which was first brought to our attention

in the Book of Daniel, and is again utilised

later in this Chapter of Revelation, springs to mind.

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It is possible that the Seven Headed Dragon is a symbol of time.

Satan is earlier described as the one, “…which deceives the whole world.”

A description which could also serve for time…

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The Creation, in this schemata, takes seven days to complete,

and seven is the basis for a number of natural rhythms and cosmic cycles,

and is the symbolic number used throughout the text of Revelation…

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Obviously, we still, in some part, retain this rhythm by following a seven day week.

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For the ‘Old Dispensation’, Friday, Saturday and Tuesday,

which is Venus, Saturn and Mars would represent, ‘times’,

whilst Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday,

that is, Sun, Moon, Mercury and Jupiter would be, ‘half-times’.

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And for the ‘New Dispensation’, Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday,

and their corresponding Planetary Cycles would be considered, ‘times’,

whilst Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and their

corresponding Planetary Cycles would be the ‘half-times’.

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But does any of this really matter?

Over such things, traditionally, are wars fought and countless lives lost…

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With regard to this particular stained glass window we might wonder

why Michael needs to be armoured, with a hand resting on the

pommel of his sword, in order to weigh

the souls of the dead?

 

Graven Image…

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‘ … And look! A man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold… His body also was like beryl and his face had the appearance of lightning. His eyes were as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to burnished brass. The voice of his words was as the voice of a multitude… and he said, “… To you am I now sent. Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, your prayers were heard and I am come for your prayers… I am come to make you understand what will befall your people in the latter days. I will show you the literal truth of these things. There is no other that can do this.”‘

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It is very difficult to find any illustrations for this piece.

Perhaps that is linked to the Hebraic injunction against graven images.

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In the current climate of image saturation it might be worthwhile

 considering the possible reasons for such an injunction…

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Speaking of his encounter with the ‘man clothed in linen’ Daniel says, “I alone saw the vision and the men that were with me saw it not but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled and hid themselves… I was left alone and threw myself to the ground. When he spoke I stood, trembling, and when he had finished speaking I was strengthened.”

Elsewhere in the text Daniel is less sure of this being’s precise nature:

“… And look! One like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips. I opened my mouth and spoke… Then there came again, and touched me, one like the appearance of a man…”

Michael is described both as a ‘Chief Prince’, and as ‘Daniel’s Prince’ by the narrator.

And later, as a ‘Great Prince’… “How long until the end of these awful things?”

Then I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the water of the river, swear by the Ever-Living One as he lifted his right hand and his left hand to heaven, “For a time, times, and half a time and when the breaking of the power of the holy people comes to an end, then shall all these things be fulfilled.”

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Already, after this brief overview we can glimpse some of Michael’s traditional attributions.

He is concerned with ‘end times’.

He strengthens and protects the individual and can be petitioned on behalf of nations or ‘a people’.

He acts as a bridge and can communicate, high to low, and low to high.

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In times of hardship and stuggle he may well be worth invoking…

 

Curiosities…

St Michael’s victory over the Devil – Sculptor, Jacob Epstein

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The French occultist, Eliphas Levi, the German philosopher Franz von Baader, and the Theurgist, Louis Claude de St. Martin spoke of 1879 as the year in which Michael overcame the dragon.

In 1917, Rudolf Steiner the founder of anthroposophy, similarly stated, “In 1879, in November, a momentous event took place, a battle of the Powers of Darkness against the Powers of Light, which ended in the image of St Michael overcoming the Dragon.”

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All of which is, to say the least, curious…

The traditional texts which mention Michael, and they are few, do not mention a dragon, and yet, iconographically, St Michael slaying the dragon is almost as ubiquitous as St George…

Religious paintings, sculptures and stain glass windows are all in agreement despite many, if not most,  of them being produced before 1879!

So what is going on?

Pull up a seat…

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‘ … And look! A man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold… His body also was like beryl and his face had the appearance of lightning. His eyes were as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to burnished brass. The voice of his words was as the voice of a multitude… and he said, “… To you am I now sent. Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, your prayers were heard and I am come for your prayers… I am come to make you understand what will befall your people in the latter days. I will show you the literal truth of these things. There is no other that can do this.”‘

– First appearance of Michael :  The Book of Daniel, Chapter 10: 5-21

Blinded by the Light…

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… So, we return to the quest.

And turn shining eyes to the south.

Not that we ever left it, yet the churches had definitely ‘fallen off-line’…

Until Skipton.

Until one particular stained-glass window in Skipton.

It is tempting to think that later traditions lose much that is essential to preceding ones.

In magical traditions derived from the Hebrews, the Archangel Mikael is a guardian of the south quarter and if a ‘Michael Window’ is present in a church, it is a relatively safe bet that it will be found on a south wall of that church.

So, why were we charging around St Michael’s, Hathersage, looking at stained-glass windows on the north wall, with such singular precision?

Because we were desirous of another window.

This headlong, wilful charge, bugles blaring, could well have been our undoing, had we been alone.

There was no ‘Michael Window’ in St Michael’s, Hathersage.

But there was this…

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So, what to say of this banner?

It is a work of art, certainly.

It is a work of art which transcends the medieval style of its composition, although, the ‘S’ as an ‘eight’ and the ‘M’ as an ‘omega’ are remarkable.

The ‘lance’ too, as ‘celtic crozier’, is a sublime touch.

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Was the dragon always golden?

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Does this hue, denote the beginning or even the end of a process?

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Was the beast once much bigger?

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Is this really how one earns one’s ‘spiritual wings’?

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The spirals on the Saint’s shield are, to say the least, suggestive…

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 But the burning question which most readily springs to our mind is this:

if we nearly missed this depiction

can we hope to find the Archangel when it is being deliberately ‘hidden’?

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