I remarked recently that I was amused by reading the Sar Torah, The Prince of the Torah, an early Hekhalot text which describes God deciding to send an angel who held with him all the wisdom of the Torah to the Jews so that they could learn the Torah. The book is pretty cool, and stories about summoning the Sar HaTorah are important to the Hekhalot tradition. What was amusing was the opening narrative in which the Jewish people are basically like “God you've been a dick, and we want to learn Torah but can't because you've been a dick!” And God responds, “You're right my chosen people! You weren't cool and broke our covenant, and I got super pissed, but sending gentiles in to murder and enslave you was over reacting!” So, God recognizes that they're praying for his Wisdom and that that want to have “an abundance of Torah, a tumult of Talmud” and numerous legal discussions. God has longed to hear his Torah on their tongues. There's lots of consonance with Ts in the English translation...which adds to the humor.
My initial thought on it being amusing was who prays for that? Who prays to have legal discussions? It just sounds funny. But it's really actually quite reasonable, and beautiful. While I won't say a hundred percent that the authors of the Talmud looked at it the way that I do, I'm sure there were some who must have. The Torah is the law, as described in the first 5 books of the Bible. The law however is not simply the instruction for how people follow moral and ceremonial laws of the Jewish people, the law is a symbol of reflection of the law which underwrites the cosmos.
This is the basic concept behind the Kabbalah. The books which comprise the Torah begin with the book which describes the creation, the movement of man into the final phase of creation, the first laws causing man to participate in creation, the destruction and new beginning for mankind, the establishment of the symbolic and metaphysical nations, and ultimately the covenant and the establishment of the twelve tribes. The Genesis describes the mystical order for the foundation of mankind within the world and sets up the back story for the reception of the rest of the law. The law is received as the apex of a series of stories that sets up a very mystical symbolism for the development of the world, man, and the relationship between the world, man, and God – the very relationship which is the foundation of religion, magic, and mysticism.
The law delivered in this context is a symbol, a symbol for that relationship, for the shape of the body of God, for the flow of creation through the universe, and for the image of God which is the core of man's being. This is the basis of the Kabbalah. Moses DeLeon in the Zohar describes the mystical interpretation of the Torah. The law is explained as a series of symbols and ceremonies of mystical importance which correspond to movements within the body of God, and make changes in the mystic, and the world, by its observance.
In modern magical systems we sometimes find the same thinking. The Kybalion is essentially a series of “natural laws” based on early New Thought variations of Hermetic principles. These laws have the intention of not simply describing how we should act, or in this particular case how we improve ourselves or engage in developing occult power, they have the intention of describing the nature of the universe, our souls, and the connection there between.
For a much broader group of magicians we could look at The Book of the Law with this same structure. The Book of the Law on the surface provides “the Law of Thelema” or the instruction for the Thelemite to live by the instructions “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” and “love is the law love under will.” The rest of the text can be viewed as giving further commentary on those ideas. If we take it as surface “moral commentary” or a description of how we should act and live, or even ascribe to some sections a “ceremonial” component, assuming it describes rituals in which we should engage, there are still plenty of passages that are just weird as balls if we don't attempt to explore possible deeper elements.
Going a level deeper we can look at much of the Book of the Law as a description of alchemy, both inner and outer, and therefore of initiation and magic. Taken another way it may provide a means of understanding elements of theology, not simply the allegorical theological elements which describe initiation but also potentially a perspective from which to interpret larger elements of theology. Taken further we can explore the law as a commentary on the workings of the universe, our place in those workings, and how the two relate.
See the trend forming?
So when we talk about the desire to call upon the Prince of the Torah and receive his wisdom, which God and the angels generally refer to as if it is a secret and precious treasure hidden away in a treasure vault, we're desiring essentially to peal back the veil and understand the inner and divine workings and nature of life the universe and everything, to borrow a phrase. The whole goal of mysticism, the whole work of spiritual development, that is what the Sar Torah describes as the gift given in the summoning of the Prince of the Torah. Even for the dullard with no wisdom, the Prince of the Torah elevates him to the equal of the greatest sages.
Pretty neat. You could call on the Prince and become a Master with no other experience, no other work. Sounds like a plan. In fact, we could probably solve a bunch of the worlds problems by Magus-ing everyone up with this simple conjuration right?
Probably not. We probably wouldn't want to. The work is part of the importance, part of what gets us where we're going, what makes us what we are. The work is also part of how we transform the world around ourselves, and understand that world as well. Part of understanding that is recognizing that the journey is the thing, and also, that not everyone is made for the same work, and some people maybe don't need that.
The myths of the Prince of the Torah also talk about him coming angrily and full of wrath in clouds of fire bent on destroying the world. He comes peacefully when called correctly by a sage with divine permission. Otherwise he destroys those who call him. This kind of reminds me of people who take the Oath of the Abyss before they're ready and go crazy. Divine fire can burn away all those things which keep us from understanding who we are, what the world is, and where we're going in it, but it can also burn away everything that anchors us and gives us stability and control. It's a question of balance and preparedness.
So, when we're ready, the Prince of the Torah can be an ally in our development. Whether we're looking to find the nature of the mystical teachings hidden in the Torah, or the Book of the Law, or simply the Truth itself we have an angel for whom that is its purpose. We can prepare ourselves and call upon it like we would call upon the Prince of the Presence, or our Holy Guardian Angel, and gain insight, maybe not instant mastery, but insight is worth a lot in this line of work.
You might want more than my insight into the meaning and nature of this operation and info on the actual operation itself. I'm going to save that for another post, so follow the blog and check back soon.