July 22, 2019
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This especially beautiful portrait, created in Seville, Spain in the mid-1600s, depicts Raziel with long hair, outspread wings, and jewel-adorned, flowing garments. In his right hand he holds a key, symbolizing his status as a keeper of secrets and divine mystery. The painting is attributed to the circle of Francisco de Zurbarán, a renowned 17th century Spanish painter.

 

The Place of Raziel in Jewish and Christian Lore

Raziel (Hebrew: רזיאל‎ “Secret[s] of God”) is an archangel within the teachings of Jewish mysticism (of the Kabbalah of Judaism) who is the “Keeper of Secrets” and the “Angel of Mysteries.” [1] He is associated with the Sephira Chokmah (the second of ten) in Olam Briah, one of the Four Worlds of Kabbalistic theory. [2] Various teachings assign Raziel to diverse roles, including that of a Cherub, a member of the Ophanim, [3] and chief of the Erelim. [4] Raziel, under the alternate name Galizur, (“Revealer of The Rock”) is described as the “-ruling prince of the 2nd Heaven.-” He is said to expound the “Torah’s divine wisdom,” and protects the ministering angels from the Hayyoth, [5] the “holy Creatures” that uphold the universe. [6]

The famous Sefer Raziel HaMalach (“Book of Raziel the Angel”) attributed to this figure is said to contain all secret knowledge, and is considered to be a book of magic. [7] He stands close by God’s throne, and therefore hears and writes down everything that is said and discussed. [8] He purportedly gave the book to Adam and Eve after they ate from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (for which resulted in their expulsion from the Garden of Eden) so the two could find their way back “home” and better understand their God. Raziel’s fellow angels were deeply disturbed by this, and as such, stole the book from Adam and threw it into the ocean. God Himself decided not to punish Raziel, but instead retrieved the book by means of the angel Rahab and returned it to Adam and Eve. [9] Bertie considers this story – not attested in the Bible – to be a variant of the story of Prometheus in Greek mythology [10] According to some sources, the book was passed on through the generations to Enoch (In 3 Enoch believed to have later become the angel Metatron), who may have incorporated his own writings into the tome. From Enoch, the archangel Raphael gave it to Noah, who used the wisdom within to build Noah’s Ark. [11] The Book of Raziel was said to have come into the possession of King Solomon, and a number of texts claiming to be this volume have recently appeared.

The book cannot be shown to predate the 13th century, but may in parts date back to Late Antiquity. Like other obscure ancient texts such as the Bahir and Sefer Yetzirah, the work has been extant in a number of versions. The tradition around the book attributes it to have been revealed to Adam by the angel Raziel. The title itself is mentioned in another magical work of late antiquity, The Sword of Moses.[12] Critical historians regard it as a medieval work, most probably originating among the Chassidei Ashkenaz, [13] as citations from it begin to appear only in the 13th century. Sections of it are no doubt older. The likely compiler of the medieval version is Eleazer of Worms, [14] as “Sefer Galei Razia”, which developed to what we have now as “Sefer Raziel HaMalakh”, including more writings written by people of various theological opinions.

It draws heavily on Sepher Yetzirah [15] and Sepher Ha-Razim. [16] There are multiple manuscript versions, containing up to seven tractates. The printed version of Sefer Raziel is divided into five books, some of it in the form of a mystical Midrash on Creation. It features an elaborate angelology, magical uses of the zodiac, gematria, names of God, protective spells, and a method of writing magical healing amulets. Book six of the Liber Razielis is based on the Sefer ha-Razim “Book of Secrets”, with various additions including the “Prayer of Adam” of Sefer Adam. The book becomes notorious in German Renaissance magic, named together with Picatrix [17] as among the most abominable works of Nigromantia (necromancia) by Johannes Hartlieb. The prayer of Adam is paraphrased by Nicholas of Cues in two sermons [18] and further made use of by Reuchlin in his De Arte Cabbalistica. [19] Konrad Bollstatter (professional scribe of Augsburg) in the 15th century also shows awareness of the Latin version of the “Prayer of Adam” an interpolation in Cgm 252, although he replaces Raziel with Raphael and Seth with Sem. [20] Adam in his prayer to God, apologized for listening to his wife Eve חוה, who was deceived by the snake into eating from the “Tree of Knowledge” – the עץ הדעת, according to the Book of Raziel, God sent the highest of the Angels, Raziel, to teach Adam the spiritual laws of nature and life on earth, including the knowledge of the planets, stars and the spiritual laws of creation. The Angel Raziel also taught Adam the knowledge of the power of speech, the power of thoughts and the power of a person’s soul within the confines of the physical body and this physical world, basically teaching the knowledge with which one can harmonize physical and spiritual existence in this physical world. The Angel Raziel teaches the power of speech, the energy contained within the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, their combinations and meanings of names. According to Jewish traditions, the angel Raziel was sent to earth to teach Adam, and due to the elevated soul of Abraham, Raziel returned to teach Abraham all the spiritual knowledge and spiritual laws. Raziel was sent to earth with specific purpose to teach Adam and Abraham the ways of Nature. The Book of Raziel explains everything from Astrology of the planets in our solar system, and explains how the creative life energy starts with a thought from the spiritual realms, transcending into speech and action in this physical world. The eternal divine creative life energy of this earth is love, the book explains the spiritual laws of birth, death, reincarnation of the soul, and many spiritual laws of “Change”.

Tree of Life Attributions

The archangel that presides over it is Raziel, the order of angels that reside in it are the Ophanim (the wheels).

The Archangel of the Sephirah is Ratziel and the title Ab or Abba is perhaps of help in contacting this potency.  These titles, consisting of the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabaet, Aleph and Beth, signify the formation of a second principle from the first principle and the term Ab is thus the first coming forth of divine power, and Abba, its reflection.  The Archangel could be conceived as a grey pillar against a light blue background, and the best source of the real quality of the colours is in the clouds in the sky on a bright day.  This visual context will bring in the association of interstellar space which is very pertinent in relation to the higher levels of the Tree of Life. (Gareth Knight, A Practical Guide of Qabalistic Symbolism, p. 81)

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[1] Davidson, Gustav (1967), A Dictionary of Angels, Including The Fallen Angels, Entry: Raziel, Free Press, pp. 242, 243.
[2] Lewis, James R., Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy, Sisung Kelle S. (Editor) (1996), Angels A to Z, Entry: Raziel, pp. 346, 347, Visible Ink Press. Beri’ah (Hebrew: בריאה or בריה), Briyah, or Briah (also known as Olam Briah, עולם בריאה in Hebrew, literally World of Creation), is the second of the four celestial worlds in the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah, intermediate between the World of Emanation (Atziluth) and the World of Formation (Yetzirah), the third world, that of the angels.
[3] Scarborough, Samuel (2002), “The Tree of Life”, Filing Cabinet of the Western Mystery Tradition and Methods to Recall the Information, Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition No. 3, Vol 1. Autumnal Equinox 2002; The ophanim or ofanim, also Ophde (Hebrew “wheels” אוֹפַנִּים ’ōphannīm; singular אוֺפָן ’ōphān) refer to the wheels seen on Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot (Hebrew merkabah) in Ezekiel 1:15-21. These are first construed as angels in one of the Dead Sea scrolls (4Q405), and as a class of celestial beings in late sections of the Book of Enoch (61:10, 71:7) where with the Cherubim and Seraphim they never sleep, but guard the throne of God.
[4] An Arel, Ar’el, or Er’el, more commonly referred to in the plural as “the Erelim”, are a rank of angels in Jewish Kabbala and Christian religion. The name is seen to mean “the valiant/courageous”. They are generally seen as the third highest rank of divine beings/angels below God. A specific Arel, or the erelim, are also referenced in other modern mysticism, in various ways, like the various Kabbalistic traditions, and elsewhere.
[5] The living creatures, living beings, or Hayyoth (Hebrew חַיּוֹת chayot, from חַיּ chai, “to live”) are a class of heavenly beings described in Ezekiel’s vision of the heavenly chariot in the first and tenth chapters of the Book of Ezekiel. References to the creatures reoccur in texts of Second Temple Judaism, in rabbinical merkabah(“chariot”) literature, and in the Book of Revelation.
[6] Davidson, Gustav (1967), A Dictionary of Angels, Including The Fallen Angels, Entry: Galizur, Free Press, p. 120.
[7] Sefer Raziel HaMalakh, (Hebrew ספר רזיאל המלאך “Book of Raziel the Angel”), is a medieval Practical Kabbalah grimoire, primarily written in Hebrew and Aramaic, but surviving also in Latin translation, as Liber Razielis Archangeli, in a 13th-century manuscript produced under Alfonso X.
[8] “Archangel Raziel”. Sarah’s Archangels.
[9] Lewis, James R., Oliver, Evelyn Dorothy, Sisung Kelle S. (Editor) (1996), Angels A to Z, Entry: Raziel, pp. 346, 347.
[10] Peter Bertie, “The Transmutation of Myth, Ch. 5, P. 172, 178.
[11] Ginzberg, Louis (1909), The Legends of the Jews, Volume 1, Chapter IV, at sacred-texts.com
[12] The Sword of Moses is the title of an apocryphal Hebrew book of magic edited by Moses Gaster in 1896 from a 13th- or 14th-century manuscript from his own collection.
[13] The Chassidei Ashkenaz (חסידי אשכנז “German Pietists”) were a Jewish mystical, ascetic movement in the German Rhineland during the 12th and 13th centuries. Also called Hassidei, they are to be distinguished from the Hasidim.
[14] Eleazar of Worms (אלעזר מוורמייזא) (c. 1176 – 1238), or Eleazar ben Judah ben Kalonymus, also sometimes known today as Eleazar Rokeach (“Eleazar the Perfumer” אלעזר רקח) from the title of his Book of the Perfumer (Sefer ha rokeah ספר הרקח) – where the numerical value of “Perfumer” (in Hebrew) is equal to Eleazar, was a leading Talmudist and mystic, and the last major member of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, a group of German Jewish pietists.
[15] Sefer Yetzirah (Hebrew, Sēpher Yəṣîrâh “Book of Formation,” or “Book of Creation,” ספר יצירה) is the title of the earliest extant book on Jewish esotericism, although some early commentators treated it as a treatise on mathematical and linguistic theory as opposed to Kabbalah. “Yetzirah” is more literally translated as “Formation”; the word “Briah” is used for “Creation.” The book is traditionally ascribed to the patriarch Abraham, while modern scholars haven’t reached consensus on the question of its origins.
[16] The Sepher Ha-Razim is a Jewish mystical text supposedly given to Noah by the angel Raziel, and passed down throughout Biblical history to Solomon, for whom it was a great source of his wisdom, and purported magical powers.
[17] Picatrix is the name used today, and historically in Christian Europe, for a grimoire originally written in Arabic titled غاية الحكيم Ġāyat al-Ḥakīm, which most scholars assume was written in the middle of the 11th century, though a supported argument for composition in the first half of the 10th century has been made. The Arabic title has been translated as “The Aim of the Sage” or “The Goal of The Wise”.
[18]  Sermo I, 4, 16.25; Sermo XX, 8, 10-13.
[19] De Arte Cabbalistica is a 1517 text by the German Renaissance humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin, which deals with his thoughts on Kabbalah. In it, he puts forward the view that the theosophic philosophy of Kabbalah could be of great use in the defence of Christianity and the reconciliation of science with the mysteries of faith. It builds on his earlier work De Verbo Mirifico. Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, Reuchlin-Tagung Pforzheim 2001.
[20] Cgm 252, f. 142r-144r; Encyclopaedia Judaica 1, 777.

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