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Author Topic: Paging Dr. Bob, Paging Dr. Bob
Merlion-Emrys
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Of course, anybody can chime in on this, but its in your area of expertise, Dr. Bob...I suppose it also is not technically writing related so if it needs moved feel free...

Anyway, as I was browsing Netflix today I noticed there is a movie director named Azazel Jacobs. I said to my Mom, who would name their child that? Since my immediate association with the name is as that of various demons. So we looked it up in Wikipedia and my Mom's Bible and aside from what I already knew about the desert demon the scapegoat would get sacrificed too by the Israelites there are several other linguistic and conceptual interpretations of the name/word, such as possibly meaning "strong mountain" and referring to the mountainside the unfortunate goat would be hurled down. Seeing as how you, Dr Bob, are our resident expert on such things I wanted to ask your opinion on the matter and also about pronunciation. I usually say it AY-zuh-zel or As-uh-zel but Kevin Bacon and Denzel Washington say Uh-ZAY-zul. I'm curious which would be closer to a proper Hebrew pronunciation.

Thank you and everybody for the assistance in advance [Smile]

[ November 13, 2011, 07:42 PM: Message edited by: Merlion-Emrys ]

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History
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Shalom.

Kevin Bacon and Denzel Washington use the correct Hebrew pronunciation.

In Hebrew Scripture, Azazel is mentioned thrice in Vayikrah (Leviticus) 16:8-10:

וְנָתַן אַהֲרֹן עַל-שְׁנֵי הַשְּׂעִירִם, גֹּרָלוֹת--גּוֹרָל אֶחָד לַיהוָה, וְגוֹרָל אֶחָד לַעֲזָאזֵל.
וְהִקְרִיב אַהֲרֹן אֶת-הַשָּׂעִיר, אֲשֶׁר עָלָה עָלָיו הַגּוֹרָל לַיהוָה; וְעָשָׂהוּ, חַטָּאת.
י וְהַשָּׂעִיר, אֲשֶׁר עָלָה עָלָיו הַגּוֹרָל לַעֲזָאזֵל, יָעֳמַד-חַי לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, לְכַפֵּר עָלָיו--לְשַׁלַּח אֹתוֹ לַעֲזָאזֵל, הַמִּדְבָּרָה.

And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for Azazel.
And Aaron shall present the goat upon which the lot fell for the LORD, and offer him for a sin-offering.
But the goat, on which the lot fell for Azazel, shall be set alive before the LORD, to make atonement over him, to send him away for Azazel into the wilderness.


This is where the term "scapegoat" comes from--though the practice is far older, recorded even in the Ebla tablets (24th century BCE).

In pre-Biblical times, animal sacrifice was one of the means for sin atonement. The idea is of transmuting one's sins by transferring them to an animal (Christianity later adapted this in regard to Jesus' sacrifice), though Judaism rejects this idea, instead acknowledging we are all responsible for our own sins and cannot transfer them to another: "the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father with him, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son with him" (Ezekiel 18:20). The goat for Azazel is merely symbolic of our ability to atone for our sins and thereby cast them away.

Anyway, there is nothing in these Biblical verses that clarifies who or what is Azazel. Asssumptions include an angel, fallen angel, or goat-like devil or demon (in the non-canonical Pseudoepigraphia Books of Enoch and later Rabbinic literature].

In Jewish mysticism, the Levitical passage of the two goat sacrifices are understood as the recognition of the dual nature of man (righteous and sinful), dedicating our good deeds and love to G-d and sacrificing (atoning and casting out) our sins: When placed upon the altar they become charged with the good deeds and thoughts, as also of the sins and evil thoughts of the sacrificer, each of them ascending to its own appropriate place on high and distinguished as emanations from a man's higher self and denominated Adam or from his animal or lower nature and called "behemoth" (beastly). This distinction is referred to in scripture, "Thou savest both man (adam) and beast." (Ps. XXXVI. 6). (Zohar, Beresheis 64b-65a).

I'll end with an excerpt from the Encyclopedia of Judaism:

The derivation of the word is not completely clear; the Talmud suggests that AzazeI was a craggy cliff, over which the goat was thrown to its death in the wilderness (Yoma 67b). According to the sages of the Talmud, the law of the azazel is included in the category ofḥukim, namely those laws which man's intellect cannot understand.

In the kabbalistic and midrashic literature, Azazel is considered to be a composite name for two fallen angels, Uza and Azael, who had come down to earth at the time of Tubal Cain and had become corrupted in their ways. Some commentators, medieval and modern, have suggested that Azazel was the name of a desert demon.

In modern Hebrew slang "go to Azazel" is the equivalent of the English "go to hell."

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

P.S. I suspect he will show up in one of my KABBALIST stories or novels one day.

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Merlion-Emrys
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Thanks very much, esteemed Dr. Bob for all that lovely info. And Hebrew script as well.

So, I'm curious, what is your opinion...or do you necessarily have one...as to what "Azazel" was to the Hebrews of antiquity?


quote:
In pre-Biblical times, animal sacrifice was one of the means for sin atonement. The idea is of transmuting one's sins by transferring them to an animal (Christianity later adapted this in regard to Jesus' sacrifice), though Judaism rejects this idea, instead acknowledging we are all responsible for our own sins and cannot transfer them to another:
I may just be confused about pre-Biblical (since there's the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Testaments), but I was under the impression that Jews even in Christ's time performed animal sacrifices for this purpose (the idea then being in Christianity, as you say, that Jesus's sacrifice rendered this unnecessary.)


quote:
P.S. I suspect he will show up in one of my KABBALIST stories or novels one day.
I would certainly hope so. And that raises another question, which actually does relate to my writing...I've a character in my proto-novel who is sort of golem-like...it takes place in my Universe of the Nine Roads, wherein there is a definite line drawn between life-force and soul. This character was created by White magic...he's essentially a stone-like body infused with a magically created soul. So my question is, with a golem what is considered to be the nature of the force that animates it? I know the classical animation method is the name of God on the forehead, but I only know basic golem folklore and, at your leisure I'd just like to hear some info and thoughts from someone with a deeper knowledge of that culture and tradition. I'm also curious about golems and sentience. No rush at all...its an ongoing project so just whenever you have a moment. Thanks again for making your insights available.
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History
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Yes, the Golem is a frequent object of interest to writers, artists, and philosophers--Jews and non-Jews alike. I'll get to this in a moment.

The word "golem" is mentioned only once in Scripture [Tehillim (Psalms)139:16] where it means "shapeless mass". In the Talmud (Jewish Biblical commentary)it means "uncultivated" and "imperfect."

The very first "golem" was Adam, whom G-d formed from clay, then brought to life by His breath.

In the Jewish mystical tradition, it is believed as one grows closer to G-d [through study of His ethical Teachings (Torah) and through dedication to a righteous life], G-d (or G-d-like attributes) comes closer to you. The most righteous (tzaddik)and holy (kedusha)may gain the power to animate clay (i.e. make a golem), though they pale in comparison to the Creative power of G-d.

However in the two millenia of Golem literature, mimicking G-d to create and bring a semblance of life to a golem is almost universally seen as presumptuous and leads to disaster (the act seen as one of inescapable arrogance and vanity, however good one's intentions).

Human-made golems are pale reflections of G-d's creation (i.e. Man). They remain of clay (or inanimate matter), never transform to flesh as did Adam, are intellectually feeble, exerting no independent will (though, in later and modern literature, they lack sentience or have limited self-awareness only initially but later mimic man's rebellion against the Creator by rebelling against their own human ones). In all aspects, they are imperfect (as are we).

Even with the semblance of G-d's creative power, these great and powerful men/mages still require the Holy Name to animate their golems--either by reciting it while walking around their creation, or writing it on parchment and placing it in their golems' mouths. The former may be de-animated by walking around them in the opposite direction and reciting the Holy Name and/or rubbimg out the first aleph from the word EMET ("Truth") etched upon their brows, leaving MET ("Death"). For the latter, the parchment containing the holy name is removed from their mouths.

The Golem legend is the inspiration for such comparatively modern classics as Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN, and Capek's R.U.R (where the word "robot" first appears). George Bernard Shaw's PYGMALION (and in the play MY FAR LADY) also incorporate the Golem myth, theme, even archetype. Terry Pratchett includes golems in his DISCWORLD novels (e.g. FEET OF CLAY).

And there are many other variations. You should also check out the next WOTF anthology and read fellow Hatracker Nick Tchan's winning entry and see his use of the Golem myth. The story is excellent.

I (without initial intent) incorporated the myth in my novel THE KABBALIST: THE FOUNDATION OF THE KINGDOM, where the good intentions of creating a golem leads to...well, I won't give it away. Perhaps I'll self-publish the novel next year. I also have a work-in-progress entitled THE GOLEM OF CHESTER COURT, where a somewhat atypically constructed golem (leading to a self-aware and intelligent one) immigrates to Brooklyn in an attempt to run from his creator's intent. [Note: this story includes my wife and her childhood friends on the street where they grew up--my intent being to have her actually read a fantasy tale of mine (she abhors f&sf)]. Thus, even I can't escape playing with the legend. [Smile]

Anyway...after this long lesson and digression, the answer to your question "with a golem what is considered to be the nature of the force that animates it?" is the power of G-d as inherent in his Holy Name.

Respectfully,
History

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shimiqua
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I'm so glad you are on this forum, Doctor Bob. This is fascinating.
~Sheena

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Merlion-Emrys
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Oooo thanks so much Dr. Bob, that's fantastic.

I'm curious about one thing though. What is the philosophical explanation as to, if creating a golem is more or less always a bad thing, hubris and all, why would the ability be granted? Or, is it less that its granted and more that its kind of a holy power by association/osmosis?


This will be quite useful for my stories and also interesting and useful in a general "spiritual path" sort of way. Although I was raised in a more or less Christian environment, I've always felt a bit of spiritual affinity toward Judaism and especially in recent years with its more mystical branches.
On that subject, I have a media recommendation for you. My first actual contact with Kabbalah came, oddly, through an anime series called Neon Genesis Evangelion and its companion film, the End of Evangelion. The Tree of Life, Adam and Lilith, union with the Divine and that sort of thing are major underpinnings of the story (especially from about the halfway point of the series) with a good dose of Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End", Freudian psychology and such things thrown in. I think you'd enjoy it.

Anyway, thanks so much again for sharing your knowledge in such fantacular detail.

Edit: I agree with Sheena.

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History
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You are both welcome. I find Jewish mysticism and folklore (as well as ethics) a wonderful resource for many of my stories.

Merilon, in Jewish mysticism, I would say that power is not "granted." It is earned. It could be best understood as the natural (or preternatural [Smile] ) result of seeking G-d and living a righteous life dedicated to Him and His Teachings. Thus, I concur with your assessment that it is "a holy power by association/osmosis."

That the human use of such power may go astray is not surprising, since G-d's perfection is not possible for Man to achieve. We are imperfect beings (and made deliberately so).

Thank you for the recommendation of Evangelion.
"Childhood's End" left an indelible impression on me as a middle schooler (long ago), which I carry to this day.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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philocinemas
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Merlion, I highly recommend you read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, who is Jewish. It is what most refer to as literary fiction, but it is a good story and there are several things that I suspect would be of interest to you, including a golem.

It starts during the holocaust, and it's a little historical, so don't expect much in fantasy elements, but I think you'd enjoy it.

Philo

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Merlion-Emrys
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I think I remember seeing something about that when I was looking through the "Golem" entry on Wikipedia. Might be worth looking at sometime, thanks, philo. I'm in the midst of the first Gormenghast book right now.

I also need to read up on Pygmalion and Galatea. I know a bit about the story (I'm naming my Golem-esque character after Galatea, and that name was also used in another anime series, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, which also deals with Golem-themes) and such. Although the character isn't a super-main character in my novel, the concepts involved are important for the world.

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Teraen
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Wow. Dr. Bob, what exactly is your doctorate in?? Ancient Hebrew lore? Mythology? General awesomeness?

I'm not writing anything shadowed on Jewish lore, but you inadvertently gave me inspiration for a problem I was struggling with on my novel. Your simple insight on "earned" power which is somehow an inexact copy of the divine power (with all its attendant problems) is exactly the type of thing my novel needs... That was such a central thing to my story that if you are still around in about 70 years (at the rate I'm going) when I get around to finishing this story, I'll send you a free copy!

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History
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I'm glad to be of help, Teraen.
And I look forward to reading your novel.
But as I am over 50-something (>mumble mumble<), I hope you complete it at least before my centennial. [Wink]

I've had a few decades to explore and study (and be inspired by) Jewish mysticism and folklore since I accidentally discovered the Kabbalah as a college freshman (not something they taught us in Hebrew School).

As an undergraduate, I wrote three chapters of a "Jewish" epic fantasy incorporating Jewish mystical cosmology, demonology, and angelology, taking place in a parallel ancient Israel during the time of the Two Kingdoms (Judah and Israel). I put it aside to pursue a paying career. My doctorate is in medicine.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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InarticulateBabbler
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We should get together and have a live workshop sometime. We're within fifteen miles of one another.
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History
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Actually more like 30-40; I only work in Brunswick. [Smile]

I'm in a slightly rough period now, unfortunately, but if you care to swap stories, perhaps we can attack them over sandwiches at Big Top deli sometime.

Good Shabbos!

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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InarticulateBabbler
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I work in Brunswick, too, Cook's Corner.
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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
As an undergraduate, I wrote three chapters of a "Jewish" epic fantasy incorporating Jewish mystical cosmology, demonology, and angelology, taking place in a parallel ancient Israel during the time of the Two Kingdoms (Judah and Israel).

Now that sounds interesting, not to mention unique.
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History
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Well, IB.

I'll show you my newest tale (when completed) if you show me yours, and I'll treat you to lunch sometime after the holidays.
How's that?

Dr. Bob

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History
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Thanks Reziac,

I recall drawing a map, working out the mysticism/magic/heavenly and demonic heirachies, and sketching a novel outline. However, I wrote only the first three chapters, introducing the different sets of major characters:

Ch 1: A scout soldier of Jehosephat's army who battles a Nephil/giant, heralding the start of a new supernal/infernal war. (I even drew a sketch of the giant--I was a university paper cartoonist at the time.)

Ch 2: King Ahab and Jezebel, in a somewhat lurid scene summoning the demon lord Baal.

Ch 3: A tent-dwelling tribe, a young woman betrothed to an apprentice mage, the mage's master, and a riverside battle between the apprentice mage and the demon succubus Naamah--again heralding that a new cycle of war has come.

I believe the chapter four was to be of King Jehosephat in Jerusalem and the soldier reporting that the War of Powers was again upon them (and the King's advisors ridicule him, especially one who has "made a deal with the devil").

Chapter five was to be of the Prophet Elijah and his internal conflict to accept his guardian angel's message to give up his family and his life for the fight against Ahab, Jezebel, and the priests of Baal.

Chapter six returned to the tribal tents and preparing the young mage for the mystical battle to come.

I am very surprised I remember this much. I wrote this in 1978, I believe. Maybe I'll dig it out and take a look at it; but I'm hesitant to do so.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Reziac
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Well, consider that if you rewrote it today, it would have the benefit of your current experience. It sounds like it's got potential, for sure. (LOL at the "lurid scene"!)
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Merlion-Emrys
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Something just occurred to me. In many Christian forms, Angels are servants of God but have free will and can "fall" and the assumption is that "The Devil" is a fallen Angel. In Islam, Angels have no free will and are, from what I can tell, little more than extensions of God's will and the Jinn, or some of them, take on the "fallen" role.
So I found myself wondering...in Jewish belief, do Angels have free will? Can they "fall?" And if not...or either way really...what then are the origins of the various "demon" type things that I believe do exist in especially ancient Hebrew belief?
(I know this is more complicated than it sounds probably and as always, answer entirely at your leisure, this just popped in my head...)

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History
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Hi, Merilon.

Islam adopted (and adapted) many Christian doctrinal beliefs (e.g. Jesus as the messiah, belief in Paradise and Hell, the primacy of correct belief as the determinating factor of whether one earns eternal salvation or eternal damnation, and that life's purpose is to achieve one's desired place in Heaven).

Islam eschewed other Christian doctrinal beliefs for the older Jewish ones (e.g. strict monotheism and the inseperability of faith and law and ethics).

In Judaism, angels are servants of G-d with no will but His Will. They cannot act independently. You may recall in the Book of Job, ha-satan ("the adversary") can only act against Job when G-d permits him:

"And the LORD said unto Satan: 'Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thy hand.'" [1:12, see also 2:6]

In Judaism, Satan is not evil nor the creator of evil (in strict monotheism G-d alone [Deut. 6:4] is Creator of "all" and all "was good" [Genesis 1:31]; thus even "evil" (selfishness) serves G-d's purpose for good...but don't let me digress into Jewish philosophy and ethics or we'll be here for days [Smile] ].

Satan is merely an angel appointed with a distateful job [as Rabbi Cane points out in my recent KABBALIST tale A MADNESS MOST DISCREET], he's a prosecuting attorney (a laywer [Wink] ).

Thus there are no "fallen angels" in Judaism--nor "fallen" Man, for that matter (but that's another discussion).

Jewish demonology has its basis more in folklore than in theology; however, it was a not infrequent topic of discussion and concern even among the ancient Rabbis. And, as with nearly everything in 4000 years of Jewish history, the old adage remains true: "Two rabbis, three opinions." [Smile]

I have found four major conjectures:
--first (and most keeping with Jewish theology), demons are merely angels similary permitted by G-d to test and teach Man.
--second, demons are the remnants of an earlier Creation, a Creation without Torah. This flaw required a new Creation and these denizens were (mostly)destroyed by G-d when He Created our universe[the Islamic djinns derive from a similar assumption].
--third, demons are derived from either the interbreeding of man with these earlier beings, or of Man and angels (who subsequently became sexless).
--fourth, demons are derived from man alone and our failings (e.g. Lilith's spite of not being Adam's equal).

"No religion is an island" taught Rabbi Abraham J Heschel (my favorite modern Jewish philosopher), "We are all involved with one another. ... Views adopted in one community have an impact on other communities. Today religious isolationism is a myth. For all the profound differences in perspective and substance, Judaism is sooner or later affected by the intellectual, moral and spiritual events within the Christian [and Muslim] society, and vice versa." [http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~alan/chaplain/Heschel.html]

Historically, this is very true with regard to conjectures regarding Heaven, Hell, angels, demons, etc. Jewish folklore from Christian Europe or early Persian or the later Muslim Near East was influenced by Christian, Zoroasterian, and Islamic myths and folklore as well. Ask many (uneducated) Jews today, and they may say there is a "Hell" and a Satan like the Christians believe, but these are not found in or derived from Judaism. Therefore your confusion and uncertainty on the subject, Merilon, is understandable and not unique.

You may find it helpful to read texts or perhaps peruse a number of on-line sites ( http://ejmmm2007.blogspot.com/2007/05/jewish-demonology-demon-origins.html
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0005_0_05094.html) but you will not find one single unifying and universally accepted Jewish belief on the subject--except one.

It is all conjecture.

...just as Judaism realistically acknowledges belief in the afterlife is mere conjecture. As conjecture, they are both interesting but unimportant. What is important is what we know (G-d, Creation, and Torah [His Teachings for ethical human behavior]) and, especially, what we do.

The human purpose is to strive to appreciate all three (G-d, Creation, and His Teachngs) by being good to one another, living ethically, and behaving righteously.

I didn't discover Jewish angelogy, demonology and mysticism until I was in my twenties. I asked my rabbi, "You've been teaching me all my life and said not a word...what's up with this?"

He shrugged and answered, "Who knows? It's not what matters."

But having already discovered fantasy literature, I was intrigued, and have studied and played with this material off-and-on for years. And now I write stories based on it.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Merlion-Emrys
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Wow that was quick. Thanks for all the lovely info.


quote:
Satan is merely an angel appointed with a distateful job [as Rabbi Cane points out in my recent KABBALIST tale A MADNESS MOST DISCREET], he's a prosecuting attorney (a laywer [Wink] ).
I actually knew this but it slipped my mind and I wasn't quite sure which culture the idea came from. In this aspect or version he also as I remember has a sort of Santa Clause job...keeping track of humans sins on his "naughty list."


quote:
In Judaism, angels are servants of G-d with no will but His Will. They cannot act independently. You may recall in the Book of Job, ha-satan ("the adversary") can only act against Job when G-d permits him:
The conceptual question that occurs to me is, if Angels are, mentally and spiritually, basically just extensions of God used to carry out his will...given that there are instances of God carrying out said will (I believe) more directly, what, exactly is the purpose of the Angels?


quote:
second, demons are the remnants of an earlier Creation, a Creation without Torah. This flaw required a new Creation and these denizens were (mostly)destroyed by G-d when He Created our universe
That's a very intriguing concept. It also raises several questions about His omni-ness on a couple of levels (both in the very idea of a irreparably flawed Creation and in the idea that any denizens would have survived if God wanted them gone.)


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[the Islamic djinns derive from a similar assumption]
I thought they were made from smokeless fire around the same time Man was made from clay?


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third, demons are derived from either the interbreeding of man with these earlier beings, or of Man and angels (who subsequently became sexless).
Ahhh yes. And that led to the Flood, I believe? That's another argument I have with my Mom now and then...most modern, conservative Christians are totally unwilling to entertain the idea of Angels and Humans interbreeding and creating...various things...but it's pretty clear there in Genesis.


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fourth, demons are derived from man alone and our failings (e.g. Lilith's spite of not being Adam's equal).

Oh don't even get me started about Lilith...that is interesting though. So in that sphere of thought, Lilith was human but her anger and spite alone transformed her into something not-human?


I find I can't quite agree with the last part, about it not being what's important, especially in our modern world. As a sort of free-lance mystic living in American I've often found it quite odd that while most Americans are "religious" and believe in some permutation of the Abrahamic God and in Angels and miracles of the past, they are generally very nearly materialist in their views on anything else spiritual, even as far as things coming from their own tradition. For my part, while morality is of course important, I feel like right now there is important conflict between belief and unbelief, and that in this learning about and believing in the various earthly spiritual wonders is of great importance.

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quote:
that was quick. Thanks for all the lovely info.
You are welcome.
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The coneptual question that occurs to me is, if Angels are, mentally and spiritually, basically just extensions of God used to carry out his will...given that there are instances of God carrying out said will (I believe) more directly, what, exactly is the purpose of the Angels?
1) They are G-d's Waldo's (tools). Just a sculptor is not his sculpture or a painter his painting or a potter his pot, G-d as Creator is not His Creation. He requires chisel, brush, and fingers to interact with the physical world. In Judaism, G-d is wholly spiritual. Angels, like Man, have both physical and spiritual forms. Thus, angels serve as His Messengers to Man.
2) Angels are potential physical manifestations of G-d's attributes--wisdom, love, strength, beauty, courage, knowledge, etc.
quote:
That's a very intriguing concept. It also raises several questions about His omni-ness on a couple of levels (both in the very idea of a irreparably flawed Creation and in the idea that any denizens would have survived if God wanted them gone.)
Perhaps He didn't. We don't know because we are not G-d.
The idea of a previous Creation is not a more commonly known conjecture. I only share it because it is mentioned in some texts.
quote:
I thought they (djinns) were made from smokeless fire around the same time Man was made from clay?
Djinn were around before men, at least 2000 to one million years before men, and then were banished from the physical world.
E.g. http://www.ipad-ebooks-online.com/244/book_split_002.html#page0040
quote:
Ahhh yes. And that led to the Flood, I believe? That's another argument I have with my Mom now and then...most modern, conservative Christians are totally unwilling to entertain the idea of Angels and Humans interbreeding and creating...various things...but it's pretty clear there in Genesis.
Well, something is said in Genesis. How "clear" it is? Well, that is debatable.
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Oh don't even get me started about Lilith...that is interesting though. So in that sphere of thought, Lilith was human but her anger and spite alone transformed her into something not-human?
See: http://www.gnosis.org/lilith.htm
Raphael Patai's book THE HEBREW GODDESS is well-sourced in regard to the Lilith myth (and other female beings in Hebrew theology and myth). Lilith and her children appear in a number of my stories, including the one I've just finished and revising.
quote:

I find I can't quite agree with the last part, about it not being what's important, especially in our modern world. As a sort of free-lance mystic living in American I've often found it quite odd that while most Americans are "religious" and believe in some permutation of the Abrahamic God and in Angels and miracles of the past, they are generally very nearly materialist in their views on anything else spiritual, even as far as things coming from their own tradition. For my part, while morality is of course important, I feel like right now there is important conflict between belief and unbelief, and that in this learning about and believing in the various earthly spiritual wonders is of great importance.

Thank you for sharing.
The Jewish emphasis is different. Righteousness (ethical moral human behavior) is the most important human endeavor. How you behave, not what you believe, takes precedence (thus nowhere in Judaism will you find acceptance that nonbelievers go to Hell).
Also, righteousness and spirituality are tightly interlinked. Through righteous living one becomes more spiritual.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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LDWriter2
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A couple of comments here:

Do all of the various Jewish groups believe as you state? I kinda would be surprise if the Orthodox branch does but I don't know enough about them to say for sure.

I am a member of a group of Christians who doesn't have a problem with angels producing children with humans. By the way it is stated in the Story of David, a lot of us believe an angel produced Goliath and his brothers. Of course they weren't monsters.

And I have heard the idea of a pre human creation put forth by a Christian or two. Evidently there are two verses that kinda hint at it.

I had heard of Lilith before but I don't recall it being a Jewish myth. Interesting fact there.

But she does pop up in a couple of books lately. There are two series I am reading where the MC is a child of Lilith. Well, one might be more of a great-great grand daughter.

And even though maybe I shouldn't get too deep into theology I kinda feel the need to say Even though most use the term unbeliever, a closer looks shows it's more the unforgiven who gets judged to hell not just people who believe something else. That's a subtle difference but I think important. Even though I could say more I will restrict myself here to just that.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I should clarify that when I spoke of conflict between belief and unbelief, I did not mean in a specifically religious sense and in particular not in a way related to the Christian doctrine (of some sects anyway...most of my acquaintance) that non-believers go to Hell.
I was referring more to trends of materialism, secularism and rationalism that have grown in strength since the so-called "Enlightenment." I'm talking about the lack of belief or active disbelief in any form of spirituality, deities, magic etc.

As far as morality or righteousness...as someone who believes in the spiritual but not a specific religion, from my perspective most of the major religions especially have a very similar moral foundation (don't murder, don't steal, cheat, maliciously lie, basically the golden rule treat other people as you would be treated.) Further it's my belief that these things human beings can, sometimes will and at times have believed or used without any sort of religious framework.
And what I was saying about the "fringe" aspects of Abrahamic belief...angeleology, demonology etc is that for me I see its being presented as unimportant as kind of a part of the overall loss of a sense of wonder I perceive in the modern world...even amongst those who are nominally "believers" in a religion. In my experience many Western Christians, Jews etc basically believe in God but otherwise seem largely ok with the advance of "science" paring away there other beliefs or any sense that this world is a fantastical place.


Back to the specific topics...Lilith has become a pretty popular pop-culture figure in recent years. She exists in the Marvel Universe for example, or did and in Neil Gaiman's Sandman universe. Most of the Biblical and Jewish/Christian folkloric entities or at least their names pop up a good deal in horror and fantasy fiction, in all media.


Dr. Bob about the Angels that's quite interesting and reminds me somewhat of the relationship between Eru and the Ainur in Tolkien's work...although the Ainur did have free will and the Creation process was a little more of a ah...group effort.


I wasn't sure about the Jinn-Human creation timeline in Islam, I had just always assumed that they were part of the same iteration of existence as Humanity, but then again my research is far from exhaustive.


As for the Human-Angel bit in Genesis. Well...humanity has throughout history believed this world was populated by a variety of other denizens besides ourselves. Almost every culture has Giants and Little People and such like. And each culture has it's own stories about their natures and where they come from.
Interestingly, John Keel a journalist who wrote The Mothman Prophecies and many other books on UFO phenomena and cryptozoological sightings believes all the modern reports of such things (from UFOs and alien abductions to things like Big Foot, the Jersey Devil and the Loch Ness Monster) are manifestations of other-dimensional beings who have been messing with our heads since the beginning. His theory is that in the old days, we perceived them as Fairies or Succubi and now in the modern age we see them as extraterrestrials.

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LDWriter2
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I'm not sure now if it was Dr. Bob or Merlion who said something that implied that angels once had free will bit don't anymore.

I'm not to sure about that anymore part. Nothing, except for that fact that none as far as we know have rebelled since the original Morning Star did, even hints at that.

I know one writer who has taken that idea and ran with it. He writes about angels and how some have still rebelled or tried to things their way. Oops, come to think of it two writers have, but I don't read the second anymore.

But back to the discussion: After thinking about the whole angelic free will thing I decided they still do. Not that I'm any great theologian, guru or deep spiritual thinker. Just someone who has learned a thing or three about spiritual things. And I decided I like angels-- not just in artwork either. And it's Christmas- a fine time to think of such things.

And even though there were giants-not huge ones but still big- in the Bible I don't recall any Little People. Or the like.

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Good Shabbos.

While interesting to share (and deserving of mutual respect), personal beliefs and thoughts about spirituality, religion, angels, demons, etc. diverges from and obscures the actual subject.

There are numerous, and some wonderful, stories with religious themes (Arthur C. Clarke's THE STAR and THE NINE BILLION NAMES OF GOD; C.S.Lewis' NARNIA, James Blish's A CASE OF CONSCIENCE, even our Eric James Stone's 2010 Nebula WinnerTHAT LEVIATHAN WHOM THOU HAST MADE, etc) and many based on Christian, Scandinavian, Hindu etc. doctrine and myth and angelogy/demonology/and eschatology. [I'm thinking someday I should create and edit an on-line magazine or anthology with fantasy and sf stories that contain some faith-based element, however small, since I so much enjoy these stories and like to read them].

The questions I've answered on Jewish folklore and mysticism for you, Merilon (and LD), are not necessarily my personal beliefs but what may be found within Jewish (and other texts) that speak on these subjects. None of this (in my stories or my answers here) is of my own invention. It is not (for me) a question of what one or another believes but what is present in the source materials we have researched that we can (or could) use to add authenticity to our fiction--a delightful paradox. [Smile]

As for what we individually ascribe to in our beliefs, I will only say (with thanks to another old master this Erev Christmas): "G-d bless us every one."

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
While interesting to share (and deserving of mutual respect), personal beliefs and thoughts about spirituality, religion, angels, demons, etc. diverges from and obscures the actual subject.

The questions I've answered on Jewish folklore and mysticism for you, Merilon (and LD), are not necessarily my personal beliefs but what may be found within Jewish (and other texts) that speak on these subjects. None of this (in my stories or my answers here) is of my own invention. It is not (for me) a question of what one or another believes but what is present in the source materials we have researched that we can (or could) use to add authenticity to our fiction--a delightful paradox.

For me, there isn't really a whole lot of difference. Most of what I write is either an expression of my beliefs about things or an exploration of them. Since one of my only absolute beliefs if that anything is possible, I use both my stories and my researching of other people and cultures beliefs as a way to further my understanding or to try and pass on the things I believe I've learned to others.
Likewise when learning about various belief systems, I come at them with the assumption that they are in some way based on something true, however much the details may have altered by the passage of time and so since almost every culture ever has beliefs about a variety of other spirits and creatures apart from us, I tend to believe there's some truth to that.
And since I don't believe in single absolute universal spiritual truths in the sense that many religions do, for me all parts of a belief in greater things are important as a counter to what I see as the real problems...ideas that try to negate wonder and possibility.
(it's funny you mention Arthur C. Clarke since while I enjoy some of his work, he's one of those materialist types that likes to try to break down the very idea of believing in anything.)

I realize though that some folks aren't necessarily comfortable discussing specific and/or personal beliefs...I don't relate to it myself, but I realize it. But for me...and to some extent in general in a place like this...there's going to be some crossover.


quote:
I'm not sure now if it was Dr. Bob or Merlion who said something that implied that angels once had free will bit don't anymore.
What was said was more than, in Judaism and Islam they don't have free will and never did. In Christianity (or most versions anyway) they do and presumably continue to do so.


quote:
And even though there were giants-not huge ones but still big- in the Bible I don't recall any Little People. Or the like.
Well, I was using the term in a broad sense (in the Western European/Celtic/Brythonic areas where the term is used, it is sometimes used for being's who aren't actually "little.") My overall point is that most older belief systems...and even parts of what we in modern times think of as "religions" have beliefs in various other types of beings besides humans, God or gods and their specific servants. All of what we think of as "fantasy races" were earnestly believed in by people in some times and places...and in some cases still are to an extent.
On a side note, I have encountered things of Celtic/British Isles origin or subject matter putting forth the idea that the Faerie type beings, mermaids, selkies and other such things believed in in those areas were originally "neutral" Angels...Angels who took no sides during the "war in heaven." Totally non-Biblical of course but an interesting thought.

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Merlion-Emrys
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You've expressed interest in my Universe of the Nine Roads and I just recently updated my blog with fuller and more current descriptions of them...I'd be keenly interested in having you take my "Roads test".
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Well, my last Road Test was nearly 40 years ago, though I did pass on my first attempt. [Smile]

I do love the detailed magic system of the Universe of the Nine Roads, and I look forward to reading an anthology of your stories and the novel one day.

Ideally, as a man of faith and healing, I would like to see myself as an acolyte of The White Road. In reality, and in recollection of the decades of my life, I recognize that my gifts and my failings draw upon the attributes of many if not all the Roads--thus, I am more likely to be found among your hedge wizards for whom no one Road commands, as it were.

By contrast to the singular influence of each of the Nine Roads, in the Kabbalah's symbolic representation of the universe in the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life), the ten sephirot (and their dark opposites the qliphot) are all interconnected: Divine Essence, Wisdom, Understanding, Kindness, Judgement/Strength, Beauty, Perseverance, Splendor, Foundation/Fertility, Manifestation/Presence (The Kingdom).
e.g. http://altreligion.about.com/od/symbols/ig/Occult-Symbols/Tree-of-Life.htm
These are the emanations (from the World Above to the World Below and vice versa, from G-d to us and back again) that sustains the universe. These are "roads" that be traveled as well by mages and mystics and souls of all who seek Him [Psalms 145].

In my first novel, THE FOUNDATION OF THE KINGDOM, I incorporated the lowest two sephirot. Someday I hope to continue with successive novels ascending the Kabbalistic Tree of Life.

Some day.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Merlion-Emrys
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Yes, I'd say that Judaism (indeed all three Abrahamic faiths) would almost certainly be White Road religions. And I do think that'd be a fitting choice for you, though I could see you leaning a good deal toward Yellow as well.

It's funny you mention the Tree of Life. I was planning, or at least thinking about, that one day it would be interesting to discuss with you the thought I'd had of mapping my Roads to the Sephirot (leaving out, since there are nine of one and ten of the other, either Malkuth or Keter, probably Malkuth since just as Malkuth is the earthly kingdom, the final manifestation of the Divine forces through the other Sephirot so in my stories is reality composed of the combination of all nine Roads.)

Also, I do see the Nine Roads as interconnected, though I speak of it as "overlap." Many of the Roads contain separate aspects of a single concept, and many contain the same concepts but approach them in a different way, both philosophically and especially in terms of the abilities they offer. For example, White, Green and Blue all have powers of healing but for different reasons and those powers work in different ways. Whites healing is based both on its concepts of altruism and compassion and also on its aspects of creation and repair. Green healing is regenerative, achieved by bolstering life-force. Blue heals primarily by cleansing and through its association with water, the element of life, but also, to some extent, by way of compassion, like White.
Likewise philosophically, for example, both Blue and Yellow contain the concept of Knowledge but Yellow is somewhat more knowledge gained through direct teaching, reading etc or by trial-and-error, scientific method style experimentation, whereas Blue promotes knowledge gained intuitively and by direct experience. Likewise Blue and Red share Freedom, Red containing a freedom that largely ignores the needs of others, Blue's freedom being a more universal concept.


I relate the Blue Road very much to Tiferet, because Tiferet is more or less in the center of the Tree of Life with the greatest connectivity to the other Sefira, just as my Blue Road has the greatest overlap with the other colors and encompasses a broad range of concepts.

I'd love it if you'd post what you posted here on the thread on my blog...it's the most thoughtful reply I've gotten yet to the "what Road would you walk?" question.

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Done, Justin.

As for the comparisons between the Nine Roads and the Tree of Life, I'd imagine that the Roads are less representative of the nodal sephirot themselves but of the 22 Pathways between them along which the Emanations ebb and flow and by which our souls can ascend.

Respectfully,
History

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Merlion-Emrys
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Yeah I'd thought of that too, although of course the numbers are off. Still its interesting to contemplate...I wasn't thinking of the Tree of Life when I created the Roads but I realized pretty quickly there were some broad and interesting similarities. My personality type is one that tends to try and look for similarities and connections anyway.
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