Sword Which Turned Every Way

Ain Soph – The Unknown God

Chapter 29

F. J. Mayers

Genesis III, v, 22 to 24.

v. 22:“And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of Life and eat and live for ever:

v. 23:“Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

v, 24:“So He drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden the Cherubim and the soph to keep the way of the tree of Life.” (English A.V. and R.V.)

These three verses are somewhat difficult to deal with; there is a certain obscurity in the way they are written ; and the style is, perhaps intentionally, rather mysterious, as if the writer wished to avoid saying all that he had in his mind. The translators must have felt their task difficult, as they could not succeed in making their rendering of the passage either satisfactorily connected in itself or harmonious with the previous portion of the narrative.

The “Lord God” is, of course, “Ihoah Elohim”: the “Eternal” in His creative activities. “Elohim,” as the Unity of all the Divine manifesting attributes, speaks sometimes in His singular aspect and sometimes as a plurality. In this verse, “the Lord God said” is singular, but in the next sentence He says “The man is become as one of us,” thus indicating that man had become possessed of one of His own attributes–a moral sense.

One thing which strikes us at once as rather strange in the English Version is that Elohim appears to confirm’ exactly what “Na-hash” had said to “Aisha”: “ye shall be as Elohim.” Had Na-hash (the “serpent,” so generally considered synonymous with the “Father of Lies”) really been telling the simple truth after all? We think that impression arises from the faulty translation of the word “mimmennou,” literally “from us.” The preposition mi, or min, is always known as the “separative” or “extractive” particle. It is invariably translatable by “from” or “out of.” In every case it denotes the separation of something from something else, and in this case the doubling of the particle emphasises the idea of separation more strongly.

The translation: “one of us” conveys exactly the opposite idea. What Elohim really says is: “Behold the Adam has become as one separated from us in order to know good and evil.” The word “la-daath” means Iterate “in order to know” or “for the sake of knowing.” Read in that way, the verse connects up quite intelligibly with the rest of the narrative.

The remainder of verse 22: “and now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life and eat and live for ever,” while it is not incorrect literally, is awkwardly worded for leading up to the next, verse which begins with the word

The only mis-translation in the above quoted words is the expression “the tree of life.” The original says quite clearly: “tree of lives.” “Tree,” as we already know, should be translated “substance” or “growth”; and whenever the “Tree of Life” or “lives” is spoken of it is always plural (like the word “shamaim”- “heavens”); the reason for that will appear as we proceed.

(The narrative does not say to whom, if anyone, Elohim speaks.” We must assume that it simply expresses in words the thoughts in His mind.) When Adam was warned that his descent into physical existence would inevitably involve him in the “mortality” which is inherent in the very nature of all that is physical, nothing was said of the existence of any “tree” or substance,” or “essence” of life, by the “eating” of which one might become immune from mortality and “live for ever.” This is the first suggestion of any such thing, and now it is mentioned as something which must be kept out of the reach of Adam at all costs. Now, why was Elohim so concerned that Adam should not take hold of the essence of life and “eat and live for ever”? The answer is really very simple :-To allow man to become “undying,” as a physical being, would mean to doom man’s spiritual nature to be buried for ever in an earthly prison; never again could he be re-born into the freedom and life of Spirit. His primal ignorance would beget errors, and errors would beget errors. All material knowledge he might gain would be distorted by error and only serve to increase his scope for error. Error would grow into “sin.” His life would be an incessant and hopeless struggle against himself and warfare against all others. Sin would beget sin and its burden would grow ever more intolerable. He would long for the death that brought peace-even the peace of extinction-to all other creatures, if death was for him impossible. Surely Dante, in the most terrible pictures of his “Inferno” vision, never conceived anything worse than would have been the fate of man universal if he had been permitted to deprive himself of the last hope of the despairing, the “smoothing hand” of Death. Instead of a “tree of lives” with its roots deep down in the “Eternity before time,” “kedem,” and its head ever rising towards “olom,” the “Eternity” that will be when time ends, the whole course of human existence would have been unending spiritual death.

Here again, what has so long been looked upon as part of the “curse” or “punishment” laid upon “Adam,” proves to be a provision for his ultimate salvation; a provision for preserving the “Way” to Eternal life, to the only life that can possibly be Eternal. We look in vain in the narrative for any wrathful, vindictive God putting a curse on mankind, throughout the ages, because of the “sin” of a “first” parent. We find instead a God caring for and planning for the eternal good and happiness of His children. And we have not told all the story yet.

Verse 23: “Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden to till the ground (the “Adamah”) from whence he was taken.”

Adam, now physical human being, could no longer work spiritually in the life of Nature, so he has to begin work upon himself ; he has to “till the ground” of his own being, to develop the spiritual “Adamic elements” of which he was constituted.

Note particularly that he was not sent out of any “plaisance” or “paradise” of idleness to “dig the earth,” to become a “slave of the soil.” It was not “earth”: but the spiritual “ground,” “Adamah,” that he was to “work” in, “laabod.” He was to “work”-the most honourable thing in the world, at the task of making himself, by Divine help, really and truly “man.”

Verse 24: “So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden, the Cherubim and the flame of –a sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.” (English R.V.)

It is really extraordinarily strange that the translators should so consistently choose words to translate the Hebrew text, which just miss a meaning in harmony with a true idea of the nature of God, and which give instead a suggestion of something sinister. There are two or three examples in this verse. The word which they translate “drove out” is “igaresh.” It means “to remove,” to “put at a distance,” but there is no suggestion in it of chasing out a criminal with a whip of scorpions. The only explanation one can give of that unfortunate tendency of the translators is that it must have been the outward reflection from a very primitive idea of God at the back of their minds.

But we will pass on to the really important subject of the verse: the Cherubim and their purpose. Who or what were they? The verse we are now considering is the first mention we have of them, and it gives us no information about them. The writer clearly assumes that his readers would fully understand what they were, so the name must have suggested something familiar to those for whom his book was written.

The next time we find the name mentioned is in Exodus XXV, 18-20. There we gather that the cherubs referred to were two symbolic images which were to be constructed on the so-called “Mercy-seat” which covered the “Ark” for the Tabernacle, like a lid. They were to be beaten up out of sheet gold with which the seat, like the whole of the “Ark,” was to be covered inside and outside. We judge that they must have been animal figures of some kind, and probably, in heraldic language, “couchants.” All we are told about them is that they had faces which were to “look one towards another,” and that each one was to have two wings, which were to be stretched upward and arched over the seat, so that the tips of the wings of the one Cherub touched the tips of those of the other one. They were apparently not very large figures.

Then in I Kings VI, 23-30, we are told of some other Cherubim which were also symbolic images. These were large figures, some fifteen feet high. All we are told of them is that they were to be put in a large square room and so placed that they faced the entrance, while their wings, extended sideways, were to touch one another in the middle, and the walls on each side. Evidently they were “Guardians.”

The first real description of Cherubim is given in Ezekiel 1, 4-25, the account of the wonderful symbolic “vision” of Ezekiel. But in this case they were certainly not “images,” in a material sense. We are told that they were “the likeness of four living creatures”; they had “the likeness of a man”; every one had four faces and every one had four wings”; “their feet were straight . . . and like a calf’s foot”; they had “hands of a man under their wings on their four sides”; “their wings joined (touched) one another”; “they went straight forward.” “As for the likeness of their faces: they four had the face of a man, and the face of a ]ion . . . and the face of an ox . . . and also the face of an eagle.” “And they went every one straight forward; whither the spirit was to go they went.” “The living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.” Then the symbology of the vision changes the “living creatures” into “wheels” and a “wheel within a wheel . . . for the Spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.”

Then we are told that there was “the likeness of the ‘firmament’ upon the heads of the living creatures And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings ………… as the voice of the Almighty-as the voice of speech.”

In that account the writer does not use the name “Cherubim” – it is always “living creatures”. But in chapter X of the same book, there is a repetition of the same vision, in which the word “Cherubim” is constantly used. In this account there is a further detail: “And their whole body, and their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and the wheels, were full of eyes round about.”

There is nothing else in the Old Testament that adds anything to the above description; but turning to the New Testament, in the “Book of the Revelation,” Chapter IV, there is an account of another vision, somewhat different in detail, but clearly dealing with the same spiritual material.

Verse 2: a throne set in heaven and One sat on the throne.”

Verse 6:”. . . before the Throne a sea of glass. . . and round about the Throne … four beasts full of eyes before and behind.” Verse 7: “And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.” Verse 8: “And the four beasts had each of them six wings . . . full of eyes within and they rest not day and night.”

It is quite useless to attempt to bring visions like the above into any literal coherence. They are just grand and impressive clairvoyant impressions of vast facts in the spiritual realms. The symbolic significance of every detail is quite easy to interpret. It matters little how the symbolic pictures change and interchange with one another, some new aspect of an idea finds expression in every change. The essential point is that underneath every detail that comes into consciousness, there is spiritual fact.

In the passages we have quoted, we have seen that the name “Cherubim” has been applied in two ways. Firstly, it denoted a symbolic image,” but it was not of the nature of an “idol.” There is no suggestion in the Bible of idolatrous worship being paid to “Cherubim,” and their images were amongst the furnishings prescribed for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and for the Temple in Jerusalem. In that respect it seems to have been quite an exception; most other symbolic images soon degenerated into “idols,” We gather from the available information that the Cherub” image, in its general conception, was a crouching animal body, with a human face and eagle’s wings. The body was most frequently either that of a bull or a lion. The “winged bulls” of the Assyrian Temples, when they had human faces were certainly “cherubs,” although incomplete.

Secondly, when we come to the visions of Ezekiel and St. John we see at once that, while they are still “symbols,” the Cherubim are conceived as “living creatures,” “beasts.” (We have found both words used almost indistinguishably in some of our earlier studies.) But we see also that these “living creatures” have the attributes of great Cosmic “Life forces.” We find them holding a most important position among the “Angelic powers.” We also notice that in all references to Cherubim we find certain elements, either singly, or in various combinations, and these elements are always the same: the lion, the bull, “the human face, the eagle’s wings; and we may add: the number “four.”*

We mentioned earlier in this chapter that the probable reason why the author of Genesis did not think it necessary’ to give any explanation of the Cherubim, when he first mentions them, was that the name and the idea were familiar to the people for whom he was writing. As the arguments and evidence in favour of the traditional Mosaic authorship of “Genesis” appear to the present writer very much stronger and better founded than those against it, he accepts provisionally the traditional statement.

Accepting that. it follows that “Genesis” was written within forty years of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, as he did not live to enter Canaan with them. During those forty years the Israelites had been nomads of the desert, out of touch with any but wandering desert tribes. They saw nothing of the temples and religious symbolism of the great nations to the north and east. The only recollections they would have would be of what they had seen in Egypt, where they had been for some four centuries. Therefore, if they were familiar with the idea of the “Cherubim,” they must have got the idea in Egypt. Now, what was there in Egypt from which they could have obtained the idea? The answer is obvious: Cherub-like figures were very common indeed in Egypt, sometimes a long avenue leading up to a great temple was guarded by rows of them on either side. Most of these, however, were not true “Cherubs,” they were usually merely crouching anima]s. But no people could be long in Egypt without hearing of, or seeing, one Sphinx which was a “Cherub” in every respect: the Great Sphinx of Gizeh; the greatest, most perfect, and most ancient of all. As regards size, it is probably the largest symbolic

4Kalisch’s Commentary (p. 480) on “Exodus” contains some interesting notes on the Cherubim.

figure ever made, roughly 100 feet long by 70 feet high. As age in an inscription on a stele of the time of the fourth dynasty (about 2,900 BC), discovered by Mariette, the Sphinx is spoken of as a monument which was accidentally discovered during some excavations for the reigning Pharaoh, buried -under the sands of the desert. It had been buried and forgotten for long generations. Not even a legend of its existence remained. It is more than probable that when it was originally made, the waters of the Mediterranean lapped the feet of the huge rock from which it was carved, all the land -forming the delta of the Nile having been washed down and -deposited by the river since that time.

The Great Sphinx is described as having “a human head springing from the body of a bull with the feet of a lion, and the wings of an eagle folded back upon its flanks.”-Ed Schure’.

“Le front d’homme du Sphinx parle d’intelligence, Ses mamelles d’amour, ses ongles, de combats,

Ses ailes sont la Foi, le Reve, l’Esperance,

Et ses flancs de taureau le travail ici-bas!”

“Si tu sais travailler, croire, aimer, te defendre, Si par de vils besoins tu n’es pas enchaine

Si ton coeur sait vouloir et ton esprit comprendre, Roi de Thebes, salut! te voila’ couronne!”!”

From “Le Sphinx,” by Eliphas Levi.

There we have exactly the elements of the “living creatures” in the – vision of Ezekiel. These coincidences are certainly not accidental; they all point back to one common source whence the idea of the Cherubim arose; and if we turn back to Chapter X, we shall see at once what that source was: the four “elements” of the Cherubim are the four “Fixed” signs of the Zodiac. This gives us the clue to the whole idea; and the farther we follow up this clue the more clearly we shall see that we are in possession of a complete explanation of every detail given us in any of the accounts of the Cherubim. The Great Sphinx of Gizeh was a symbol of the Zodiacal forces.

In,, Chapter X we considered the “Maoroth” only as signs. We indicated very briefly the way in which the

Zodiac symbolised and foreshadowed, in a broad, general way’, the whole course of human history, so far as we have any evidence to check the facts.

When we come to the “Cherubim” as pictured by Ezekiel, we have a “revelation” of quite a new and surprising aspect of the whole matter. A “Cherub” is to him no mere symbol or figure; it is a “living” creature. (The word “creature” means, of course, anything created.) He conceives it as a “Zodiacal Angel”; the spirit within the sign. We might think of it as a “great Cosmic Life force”; Ezekiel sees it as a living, active, ,serving “Angel of God.” (The word “Angel” signifies representative,’’ “messenger,” ‘‘ambassador,’’ ‘‘delegate’’; anyone receiving and exercising power or authority from a higher source. (As the same word- “melek” is also the word for

“king,” it gives us the ancient conception of human kingship.)

Half a century ago, to the “scientific mind,” the idea of distant planets, suns and constellations having anything whatever to do with human affairs would have been laughed to scorn. A certain amount of purely physical influence, the workings of the “attraction of gravitation,” the influence of moon and sun on the tides, and extra-terrestrial activity of that kind were admitted-they were simply physical matters, they came within the limits of the measurable and calculable-beyond that, science admitted nothing. But within recent years even physicists have had to take some long steps into regions of which they had never before dreamed. They now know something of light-waves, invisible to human eyes, but none the less conveyancers of “life” and energy. They have learned something of “Cosmic Rays,” which are neither of light, nor sound, nor gravitation. They have found a new universe in invisible realms ; realms as immaterial as thought and imagination. Gradually and grudgingly, and only under pressure of positive evidence, thought is becoming recognised as something more than an operation of the brain, as a “real thing, a spiritual substance” whose limits of action are not physical.

Telepathy is recognised as a “fact,” if it is not as yet under control at will. When a “witch” or wizard” cast “spells,” or an Indian fakir made himself insensible to physical pain by suggestion, such things were “absurd superstitions”; to-day, scientific hypnotists are doing the same thing constantly.

Science can no longer shut out or ignore the spiritual world entirely. What was “magic or “miracle” a few centuries ago is now seen to be within the province of “natural laws.” On what ground, therefore, can it be argued that, although physical forces may play from the stars in the physical Zodiac upon the physical earth, spiritual forces cannot do the same? That they do so, in fact, has been known well for thousands of generations, but because Science has not yet discovered the “why and wherefore” of the fact by its own particular methods, scientists have denied the fact. Well, Science is still very young, and youth is rather prone to over-assess its know ledge (and laugh at itself when it grows older). However, all we are concerned with here is to try to bring to light the real Teachings of an old Book which has been little understood in some ways. Whether those teachings agree or disagree with our preconceived ideas, is quite another matter-and of little importance to the purpose of this book. We may find the Ancient Wisdom is still wise; or we may prefer to continue to think it foolishness.

But let us examine briefly how the “Cherubim” of the Ezekiel vision harmonise with the description of the Zodiac. Firstly, the “four faces”: these are the “likeness” of man, lion, ox, and eagle. These are the original symbols of the four “fixed” signs of the Zodiac. If the “Circle” of the Zodiac is divided into quadrants by two diameters at right-angles, these signs will stand, as it were, at the four ends of the arms of a cross. We notice next that each of the signs is attributed to one of the four primal “elements” into which all the ancient philosophies resolved everything in the Universe: “fire,” “air,” water,” “earth.” Those names are, of course, themselves merely “symbolic.” “Fire,” for instance, stands for “spirit,” “energy,” “force,” “motive” of every conceivable form, etc.

(We need not repeat what was explained in Chapter X.) As the complete Zodiac consists of twelve signs, three signs belong to each “element”; one of the three is called a “cardinal” sign; one “fixed”; the other “mutable.” These three signs of one “element” form an equilateral triangle. So if we consider the fixed sign as the dominant one of each triplet, and make it the apex of the triangle, the side lines of the triangle would run, one on the right and other on the left to the other two signs of the Triplicity.

In that way the whole twelve signs spring from the four and complete the circle, so “touching” one another. The whole scheme is based on “interlaced equilateral triangles” symbolic of the triune nature of the universe, and of the nature of “Man,” and of the inter-working and inter-dependence of all life and movement.

The conception of the Cherubim as “wheels” obviously arises from the wheeling motion of all the “heavenly bodies”; the orbits of all the planets (and probably of all the stars), and the apparent motion of the whole Zodiac as seen from the earth.

The words: “there was -the likeness of the “firmament” upon the heads of the living creatures” could hardly be applied to anything but the Zodiacal constellations poised in the vault of the heavens. The signs face every way, and all touch and move together, yet we are told “they went every one straight forward; whither the Spirit was to go they went.” That word “went” in the original is simply “halach”-literally “walked”; but neither “walked” nor “went” is at all suitable to translate it by here. It means that the spiritual forces of every sign flowed out directly in every direction-like light from the sun.

The account began by saying: “they (the Cherubim) had the likeness of a man.” That simply means that the “earthy” sign, the bull, ox, or calf, represented the physical body of man; the lion represented the animal passions of man; the man’s face represented the human qualities of mind and intelligence; while the eagle’s wings represent the spiritual aspirations of man his means of attaining to heavenly and eternal “Life.”*

‘The reference to the Cherubim and wheels being “full of eyes round about” is a very graphic way, of expressing the universal “perceptions” and “consciousness’ of the Divine spirit flowing through the Zodiac and permeating the whole universe -(a greater “cloud of witnesses” than even St. Paul had in mind).

The above notes are a mere “touch and go” with a subject that would need many books to deal with at all adequately. We merely wish to suggest in a general way what the Cherubim idea was, and leave our readers to think it out more fully for themselves.

The “forces” working throughout the universe, as the writer of “Genesis” conceived them, are “Living” forces. The “Cherubim” are the Lords of life ; of all Cosmic movements, all growth, development and progress. They shape the whole evolution of human life on earth, and the course of every individual human existence.

It is not man, but the Cherubim who decide the day and hour of any human conception, or birth or death. They are the spiritual forces of multiplication and increase, the builders of our lives, and the governors of our destinies.

*The reader will have noticed that the Cherubim images had only two wings The Cherubim or “living creatures” of Ezekiel’s vision had four wings each. The “beasts” of St. John’s vision had six wings each; so had the “Seraphim” in Isaiah’s vision. (The Seraphim were “angels” of a different class from the Cherubim; they were “fire” angels; their purpose ‘was to consume evil, to “purify” and to “refine.”). The number of the wings was symbolic of the “work” or purpose of the “angels” they are attributed to. The number “four” was used to denote “formation,” “building up,” “realising.” “Six” was the number of “harmony” and “perfection,” etc. The work of the Cherubim was to “organise,” “shape” and- “build up” the lives, purposes and destinies of men and nations. But here is the greatest mystery-although they hold our destinies in their hands, they never bring about those destinies by making “puppets” or us, or by destroying our freewill On the contrary, they make our Free Will the very tool through which to work out our salvation.

Back to Chapters ListForward to Chapter 30

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved