Thursday, August 08, 2013

The Flame of the Rotating Sword [4]

After he had expelled the man, the LORD God placed winged angels at the eastern end of the garden of Eden, along with a fiery, turning sword, to prevent access to the tree of life.                                    --Genesis 3:24

Long have I wondered about this mysterious sword. What is this fiery, rotating sword that if traversed offer glimpses into the Garden of Eden, and tastes of the Tree of Life? Is this prevention of access definitive and total? Or is there away to circumvent this gatekeeper?

Or...maybe the fiery, turning sword--is not just the obstacle that prevents. Maybe it itself is the portal.

Maybe...that's the deeper meaning of it's turning and rotating...

Maimonides writes in the introduction to his Guide of the Perplexed--

"For this reason the prophets treat [mysterious] subjects with parables, and our Sages, imitating the method of Scripture, speak of them in metaphors and allegories…. Do not imagine that these most difficult problems can be thoroughly understood by any one of us. This is not the case.

At times the truth shines so brilliantly that we perceive it  as clear as day. Our nature and habit then draw a veil over our perception, and we return to a darkness almost as dense as before. We are like those who, though beholding frequent flashes of lightning, still find themselves in the thickest darkness of the night.

On some the lightning flashes in rapid succession, and they seem to be in continuous light, and their night is as clear as the day. This was the degree of prophetic excellence attained by (Moses) the greatest of prophets, to whom God said," But as for thee, stand thou here by Me" (Deut. v. 31), and of whom it is written" the skin of his face shone," etc. (Exod. xxxiv. 29).

 [Some perceive the prophetic flash at long intervals; this is the degree of most prophets.]

By others only once during the whole night is a flash of lightning perceived. This is the case with those of whom we are informed, "They prophesied, and did not prophesy again" (Num. xi. 25). 

There are some to whom the flashes of lightning appear with varying intervals; others are in the condition of men, whose darkness is illumined not by lightning, but by some kind of crystal or similar stone, or other substances that possess the property of shining during the night; and to them even this small amount of light is not continuous, but now it shines and now it vanishes, as if it were “the flame of the rotating sword." (Genesis 3:24)

The degrees in the perfection of men vary according to these distinctions. 

Concerning those who never beheld the light even for one day, but walk in continual darkness, it is written, “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness" (Ps. lxxxii. 5). Truth, in spite of all its powerful manifestations, is completely withheld from them, and the following words of Scripture may be applied to them, “And now men see not the light which is bright in the skies" (job xxxvii. 21). They are the multitude of ordinary men."

Notice that Maimonides likens prophecy to sudden, fleeting moments of lightning on a pitch dark night. But when he speaks of “the condition of men, whose darkness is illumined not by lightning, but by some kind of crystal or similar stone, or other substances that possess the property of shining during the night”—what is he referring to? He does not tell us to what his metaphor alludes. What are these luminous stones that shine and vanish like the flame of the rotating sword?

In my opinion, he is referring to the sense of the ineffable. The moments in life that we find utter perfection and bliss, and can be utilized to access the Divine Light. And sense the mystical in humanity. Those are the crystal stones that can illuminate our night.

One who becomes receptive to the sense of the ineffable that can be caught in the tremulous pulse of empirical reality, slowly begins to view all of the things and events in life…as parables, metaphors, hints to a higher reality. 

Your life's experiences, especially the profoundest and most moving ones...they are the fiery, rotating sword! They can keep you grounded in humanity, fulfilled and satisfied with the physical sensual plane. Those moments are so perfect, so much fun-who needs to utilize them as conduits to a Higher Plane? They then serve to prevent access to the Garden of Eden where G-d's Light shines openly. And then you can't see the sky.

Or they can become the Light that brightens the skies of your sensing the ineffable One within them. Feeling the mystical in the humanity.

Those ineffable experiences in life that are so wonderful, they can make you feel that you don't need Him. Or--that they are Him.

Do you see the world only as a world? Are you never overcome with inexplicable emotion by certain things in your life? Do you not use them as windows to Transcendence? Then you are one of “the multitude of ordinary men.”

You haven’t fulfilled humanity. You haven’t yet truly lived.

“And now men see not the light which is bright in the skies.”

See it!! See the Light which is bright in the skies of your earthly existence! In your living room…your kitchen…in all the rooms of your home.

WHERE are the tidings of union? that I may arise–
Forth from the dust I will rise up to welcome thee!
My soul, like a homing bird, yearning for Paradise,
Shall arise and soar, from the snares of the world set free.

-Translated by Gertrude Bell 

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