THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL
Angelology, the study of angels, has always been of particular interest to mystics who believed that the more we understand how angels function, the more we will be able to interact and work with them. Some of the earliest known mystics in the Jewish tradition were the Essenes, who lived in Qumran. They developed an elaborate system of guardian angels that were represented as heavenly princes.
When we compile references to different angels there are thousands of names that appear, strange names such as: Zagzagael, who was revealed to Moses in the Burning Bush; Dubiel, the guardian angel of the Persians; Gezardiya , the guardian angel in charge of everything in the Eastern direction; Pesagniyah, the angel in charge of the South; Petahyah, the angel of the North; Zebuliel, the chief angel of the West; Kafziel and Hizkiel, chief angels under the archangel Gabriel; Zophiel and Zadkiel, chief angels under the archangel Michael, and on and on the list continues.
As mentioned earlier, we will center our inquiry on a small number of the most frequently mentioned angels in the oral tradition, including the archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, and the special angels Metatron, Sandalphon and Elijah. We will also take a detailed look at the Angel of Death, as well as the Shekhina. Each of these angelic archetypes has unique qualities, and, as we will see, each can be called upon to imbue an individual with certain powers.
An important note to remember: The work that you are about to engage has enormous potential. Treat it with respect and care. You will find that the techniques we describe work on many levels as long as you approach your own potential for imagination with an open mind and a willingness of heart.
The Archangel Michael
The name “Michael” in Hebrew literally means, “Who is like God (El)?” The archangel Michael (pronounced in Hebrew “Meh-khi-ayl”) is envisioned as “standing” to the right of the throne of God, and indeed, this angel is considered in many ways as the right hand of God.
In kabbalistic terms, the right hand of God represents mercy and loving-kindness. This association appears many times in normative Jewish practice. A mezuzah is put on the right side of an entrance door to one’s home and for traditional practitioners, almost every doorway in one’s residence has a mezuzah on the right side (going into the room). The mezuzah is touched with the fingers of the right hand upon entering a home. Traditional Jews put their right shoe on before their left. They light a right candle before a left one; they hold the kiddush wine cup in the right hand. Blessings of children are usually done with the right hand. The Torah makes references to the right thigh (for taking an oath), the right ear and the right thumb for certain rituals.
In each of these acts, and many others, one can invite the sense of open-heartedness and caring. With imagination or simply thinking about experiences which have the qualities of mercy and loving-kindness, one can shift one’s mood and sensitivity in this direction. In essence, when we do this, we are invoking a sense of presence that we can actually feel. We are softened in this process, more relaxed, more open.
Most of us have the experience of occasionally sensing something by our side or nearby in the room. The sensation usually arises spontaneously and it can have a particular emotion attached to it. Often, when we look to see, we find nothing. Then, we usually ignore the experience and write it off to a trick of the mind; but at times it is so strong we cannot deny the feeling.
Sometimes there actually is someone there. Or there is a knowing of something about to happen that proves to be correct. When that happens, we assume that such experiences come either through subtle cues that are subconscious, or perhaps there is a touch of Grace from an unknown source. Many of us have had a taste of such experiences. However, mystical practitioners learn that we do not have to wait for the finger of Grace to alert us to something; rather, we can practice invoking certain experiences and feelings in a way that sensitizes us and makes us more available.
As a first step, there is no need to go further than simply to discover how to cultivate the experience of being at ease and at peace. This usually leads to a feeling of open heartedness. When such a feeling happens, we can associate it with the name: Michael. Through repetition, this association can be created in a short time so that all we need do is think of the name Michael, and our mood rapidly shifts. (Be sure to keep the association with Archangel Michael, a vision we will develop, rather than to any human Michael you may know.) The experience of this archangel is not like having someone else in the room, it is more the experience that would be expressed by saying: “I am feeling open and loving right now,”
The point is not that someone must “believe” in angels to embrace the potential empowerment of dwelling in certain mind states. Just as there are well-known placebo effects in medicine that can be stimulated through the use of imagination, so too is there an opportunity for invoking our own hidden potentials by taking on practices that strengthen our attitudes, moods, convictions and other powerful states of mind.
So, the archangel Michael is associated with acts of loving kindness. We see in the Torah that one of Michael’s tasks was to inform Abraham and Sarah of the upcoming birth of their son Isaac. This birth was considered a miracle as both parents were both quite advanced in age—Abraham being one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety.
In the oral tradition, Michael was the angel that accompanied Eliezer, Abraham’s servant in the search for Isaac’s soul mate, as mentioned earlier. Michael and Gabriel both witnessed the sale of Esau’s birthright to Jacob; they both were present when the Torah was given to Moses.
While the above incidents reveal various acts of loving kindness, we occasionally find Michael in a fierce role. The most obvious example is that he is viewed as one of the angels who cause the destruction of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria and Babylonia in the 7th century BCE, as recorded in the Talmud. As tradition tells the story, on the first night of Passover the angel Michael went forth and destroyed the entire Assyrian army of one hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers. Some historians say it was actually a plague that struck the army. From our perspective both viewpoints are completely compatible—all so-called acts of God are carried out by angels.
The specific visualization work we do with the energy of Michael is to reflect upon special times of unusual open-heartedness we have experienced in the past. We reflect upon periods of great generosity, sharing, caring, and being available. The reflections can be of our own acts of loving kindness, or those of others. We repeat these images over and over again. We will do this on the next track of the CD.
We then allow ourselves to remember situations in which there may not have been much loving kindness, where we held back, were tight fisted and contracted. We allow ourselves to recall these situations and feel the tightness in our hearts.
Then, using our imagination, we allow ourselves to “pretend” that we are able to remember an event in an entirely new way, this time with a completely open-heart and a generous spirit. This wishful thinking that we bring to the situation has a quality of softening our hearts. Our intention is not to feel remorseful about our past deeds, rather it is to reflect and recommit ourselves to becoming more generous of heart from this time forward. By imagining ourselves engaged in situations in a new way, we begin to build a new potential for automatically relating with greater open heartedness when new situations arise.
This is our practice in the name of Michael. We will have a different practice for each of the major archangels so that when we do the long version of the Archangel Meditation, our visualizations become richer and we deepen our connection with each of the selected angels