METATRON THE PRINCE OF THE PRESENCE
Metatron, the sar ha-panim, (prince of the Presence), is the greatest, largest, most important of all angels, second only to the Presence itself and sometimes even confused with the YHVH, the Source of Being. Some Jewish mystics refer to the sar ha-panim as the “little YHVH,” which is only one step under God, so to speak. An earlier name for this angel was Yahoel, which translates as either the “breath of God,” or the “God-face presence of God.” In other words, M…tron (sic) is in many ways a greater presence than all of the archangels combined.
In traditional Judaism, even to this day, one is quite circumspect in saying the name of this angel out loud, or even writing it. This is why I will refer to this supreme angel as M throughout this chapter. In kabbalistic circles, this angel is often referred to as “the youth,” “the lad,” or “the boy,” as a typical, intentional understatement that is often used by the sages to say just the opposite of what they mean—in this instance, “the enormous,” “the beyond measure,” or “the gigantic.”
In the Talmud, a sage once considered the possibility that there were perhaps “two powers,” suggesting two deities, which of course is absolute heresy in Judaism. This sage was quickly disabused of these dualistic thoughts by experiencing M being struck with sixty blows of red-hot rods as a demonstration that this was an angel that despite its enormity—as large as the universe—it could still be punished, metaphorically, and therefore was not a god.
It is thought that M’s name may have been derived from a combination of the Greek meta and thronos, meaning “one who serves behind the throne.” In essence, this suggests that M is the hidden true power behind creation and everything that unfolds in the universe. Most scholars generally agree, however, that the source of the name is more likely to be the word “metator,” which means “guide.” In fact, some say that the cloud and fire that guided the Israelites when they first escaped to the wilderness was actually the angel M.
This idea of the Spirit of Guidance as a universal force is the subject of a beautiful Sufi invocation that goes: Toward the One, the Perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty, the Only Being, United with all the Illuminated Souls who form the embodiment of the Master, The Spirit of Guidance. This invocation could be M’s mantra.
When we seriously practice any authentic spiritual exercise, we sooner or later come to the recognition that we are not individuals seeking some exalted goal for ourselves, but are sparks of Oneness, the “Only Being,” an aspect of the total embodiment of the Spirit of Guidance that leads all of creation back to its source, the perfection of Love, Harmony and Beauty. In our motivation to attain the highest levels of awareness, we eventually release our personal identification and become completely connected with an inner guide, a meta-magnetic urge that prods us at all times—day and night—to let go into the One.
M is associated in the Bible with Hanoch (Enoch), father of Methuselah. Hanoch is one of two biblical characters that tradition believes never died—the other being Elijah. The language of the Bible says that “Hanoch walked with God, and he disappeared (was “nothing”) for God took him.”
Many sages argued that everyone has to die, despite the power of miracles, so Hanoch could not live forever. One solution was to suggest that rather than being a human who became an angel, M was always an angel who temporarily took the form of a human in the guise of Hanoch. This sidesteps the issue of a creature who never died, for as an angel, Hanoch was never born as a human. Nonetheless, however we chose to interpret the biblical language, it is generally agreed by commentators that there is a definite association between Hanoch and the supreme angel M.
As an apparent human, Hanoch was the keeper in his time of the Book of Adam. It is said that he foresaw what would be on the tablets that were later given to Moses on the mountain. He also possessed the miraculous rod that Moses used when confronting the Pharaoh. He knew the secrets of the heavens and celebrated special calendar days long before they were revealed to Moses in the Torah. While on earth, he remained hidden except when instructed to teach others—and his teachings were said to cause peace on earth during the period he taught. He lived in human form for three hundred and sixty five years, a well-known number that is not by accident related to the number of days in a year.
As an angel, M ascended to the heavens enwrapped in a glowing chariot of fire, pulled by horses of flame. In the heavenly realms, all the supernal mysteries beyond those given in the Torah were revealed to him and he was shown the Garden of Eden with the Tree of Life. This is all described in another mysterious book of wisdom, the Book of Enoch, which has had enormous influence over many centuries for those who study the mysteries of the cosmos.
The numerical value of the Hebrew letters that make up the name of M is 314, which is identical with the numerical value of the God-name Shaddai. Shaddai comes from the root that means “breast,” thus Shaddai is often referred to as the “breasted God.” Its features are strength, protection and nurturing, which is why all traditional Jews hang a mezuzah on their doorposts, and each mezuzah container has the Hebrew letter shin publicly displayed—shin being the first letter of the God-name Shaddai.
There is another interpretation of this name, Shaddai, as it can be broken into two smaller sections: sha, which means “who,” and dai, which means “enough.” This combination then could mean, “who is enough.” In the Zohar, the word “who” is yet another name of God, so this phrase “who is enough,” is not treated as a question, but as an assertion: “Who (God) is enough!” In this context, Shaddai is essentially the idea of sufficiency.
Whether at the breast of the omnipotent mother or in the arms of omniscient knowledge, wherever we are, right now, this moment is filled with God and therefore is enough just as it is. This is a powerful idea that suggests we can constantly rest in the power and the recognition of the sufficiency of this moment—and M’s main attribute is connected with this everlasting sufficiency.
From all that we have learned above about M and other angels, we can more clearly experience the sparkling imagery described in the Zohar, from the following excerpt: “Sixty mighty beings surround the king [Ein Sof] representing sixty rods of judgment [Gabriel] that gird the youth [M], who holds a flashing sword in the right hand [Michael] and coals of fire with seventy thousand consuming flames in the left [Gabriel]…All the beings gather at midnight [Gevorah/Gabriel] and the youth [M] who sucks at his mother’s [Shekhina’s] breasts [Shaddai] purify them…. Midnight [Gevorah/Gabriel] is a special time of unity [Shekhina] when all come together under the wings [Chesed/Michael] of the Source [Ein Sof], and all experience both its wisdom and its mercy.”
Finally, regarding the mystical perspective of M, we find that the Zohar distinguishes between the idea of an “Academy of Heaven” and an “Academy on High.” The Academy of Heaven is overseen by M while the Academy on High is directly managed by the Source Itself. There are other “lower” academies, such as the Academy of Moses and the Academy of Aaron. In this context, we see once again that M is only one step below the Godhead, itself. In a way, as Ein Sof is never accessible or imaginable, anything we can in fact imagine as the ultimate power of the universe must, by definition, be in the realm of the supreme angel M. Even the messiah is viewed as being in M’s academy.