Synchronistic Misses

Thu 11/03/05 at 3:28 pm

During my recent follow-up research for these blog entries, I found that I had been laboring under a misconception in connection with the back story I made up for Melchizedek several years ago. Specifically, as I was preparing “Us”, I was puzzled by Genesis 3:24 which provides that God “drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.” I said to Myself, “Self, that’s not right.” I was sure God had sent the Archangel Michael with his flaming sword to guard the eastern entrance to Eden. For the “Us” post, I had switched from quoting the King James Version (KSJ) of the Bible to the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). I thought that might account for the discrepancy between my memory and the verse itself, so I went back and checked. The KSJ was substantially the same; i.e., God “drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” [By the by, for those of you who may have a rather different image of cherubims in mind, according to the NRSV annotation, the cherubim were “guardians of sacred areas and were represented as winged creatures like the Sphinx of Egypt, half human and half-lion.” The divine sword “was placed near the cherubim to warn banished human beings of the impossibility of overstepping their creaturely bounds.”] And so I asked Myself, “Self, where do you suppose I got the idea that Michael was hanging around the garden?” And Myself answered, “Well, if it isn’t in the Bible, chances are you’re thinking of Paradise Lost.”

When I once again got serious about writing the novel this time around, I ordered QuickVerse 8.0, a searchable biblical software application with several different translations of the Bible and a fairly impressive assortment of biblical references including, but not limited to, Milton’s Paradise Lost (and Paradise Regained). I loaded Paradise Lost and clicked to the end. As I skimmed the final verses of this great epic, I remembered from my graduate class on Milton that Milton had envisioned a kinder, gentler Yahweh. As noted above, the Bible reports that without further ado, God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, or to quote Yahweh himself, “I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the Guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire.” Ezekiel 28:16. In Paradise Lost, Milton has God, after informing the “Sons of God” about the Fall, send Michael down to ease the transition:

O Sons, like one of us Man is become
85 To know both good and evil, since his taste
Of that defended fruit; but let him boast
His knowledge of good lost, and evil got;
Happier! had it sufficed him to have known
Good by itself, and evil not at all.
90 He sorrows now, repents, and prays contrite,
My motions in him; longer than they move,
His heart I know, how variable and vain,
Self-left. Lest therefore his now bolder hand
Reach also of the tree of life, and eat,
95 And live for ever, dream at least to live
For ever, to remove him I decree,
And send him from the garden forth to till
The ground whence he was taken, fitter soil.
Michael, this my behest have thou in charge;
100 Take to thee from among the Cherubim
Thy choice of flaming warriours, lest the Fiend,
Or in behalf of Man, or to invade
Vacant possession, some new trouble raise:
Haste thee, and from the Paradise of God
105 Without remorse drive out the sinful pair;
From hallowed ground the unholy; and denounce
To them, and to their progeny, from thence
Perpetual banishment. Yet, lest they faint
At the sad sentence rigorously urged,
110 (For I behold them softened, and with tears
Bewailing their excess,) all terrour hide.
If patiently thy bidding they obey,
Dismiss them not disconsolate; reveal
To Adam what shall come in future days,
115 As I shall thee enlighten; intermix
My covenant in the Woman’s seed renewed;
So send them forth, though sorrowing, yet in peace:
And on the east side of the garden place,
Where entrance up from Eden easiest climbs,
120 Cherubick watch; and of a sword the flame
Wide-waving; all approach far off to fright,
And guard all passage to the tree of life:
Lest Paradise a receptacle prove
To Spirits foul, and all my trees their prey;

Paradise Lost, Bk. XI. What makes my misconception a synchronistic miss? Well, I will never know what might have come to mind those years ago when first I closed my eyes and imagined Melchizedek’s back story if in my reality there had been no Archangel Michael guarding Eden’s eastern gate. See October 28, 2005 Post. Moreover, as this memory blip informed the first bit of back story for The First Voice, other elements of the novel’s back story have been informed by it, as will be revealed in later entries. In other words, I might be writing a very different novel from the one I intend to write. On the other hand, I guess it’s possible the writers of Genesis got it wrong, and Milton, being more attuned to the Collective Unconscious, got it right. At least it seems to me that Milton had to be as divinely inspired as anyone else as he dictated his magnificent poem to his long-suffering daughters.

I could end this entry here, but as I would be remiss if I failed to show you what a poet can do with the line: “and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” Milton writes:

. . . and, from the other hill
To their fixed station, all in bright array
The Cherubim descended; on the ground
Gliding meteorous, as evening-mist
630 Risen from a river o’er the marish glides,
And gathers ground fast at the labourer’s heel
Homeward returning. High in front advanced,
The brandished sword of God before them blazed,
Fierce as a comet; which with torrid heat,
635 And vapour as the Libyan air adust,
Began to parch that temperate clime; . . .

I would be further remiss if I failed to end this post by quoting the final lines of the epic which comprise one of the most poignant passages of all of literature:

. . . whereat
In either hand the hastening Angel caught
Our lingering parents, and to the eastern gate
Led them direct, and down the cliff as fast
640 To the subjected plain; then disappeared.
They, looking back, all the eastern side beheld
Of Paradise, so late their happy seat,
Waved over by that flaming brand; the gate
With dreadful faces thronged, and fiery arms:
645 Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon;
The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way.

next post: Air Hunger and the big I AM
previous post: Back Story: Melchizedek

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